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The alarm went off just after six. She stirred, reached an arm out from under the covers, and turned it off. She could still pretend that she hadn't heard it. She could go back to sleep. She didn't gave to go... it wasn't as if... and the phone rang.
"Damn." Kaitlin Harper sat up in bed. Her long brown hair hung over her shoulders in the braids she had worn the day before, and her face was brown from the sun. The phone rang again, and with a sigh she answered it, crushing a yawn between her teeth. She had a delicate mouth, which smiled abundantly when she was happy, but today her green eyes already looked too serious. She was awake now. It was so much easier to sleep and forget.
"Hi, Kate." She smiled at the familiar voice. She had know it would be Felicia. Nobody else knew where she was.
"What are you doing up at this hour?"
"Oh, the usual."
Kate broke into a broad grin. "At six o'clock? Some usual." She knew Licia better than that. Felicia Norman could barely make it out of bed by eight, and at her office her secretary was carefully instructed to shield her from any undue shocks until at least ten. Six o'clock in the morning was hardly her hour. Except for Kate. For Kate, she would even get herself up at that ungodly hour. "Don't you have anything better to do than check on me, Licia?"
"Apparently not. So what's new?" You could almost hear Felicia trying to force herself awake. The well-cut blond hair, which hung straight to her shoulders, now lay flat on her pillow as a carefully manicured hand covered the ice-blue eyes in her chiseled face. Like Kate, she had the face of a model, but she was older than Kate by twelve years.
"Nothing's new, silly. And I love you. But I'm fine. I promise."
"Good. I just thought maybe you'd like me to meet you there today." There. An anonymous word for an anonymous place. And Felicia was willing to drive for two hours just to meet her friend "there." And for what? Kate had to do it alone now. She knew that. You couldn't go on leaning on people forever. She'd done that long enough.
"No, Licia, I'm okay. Besides, the store will end up divorcing you if you keep running off in the middle of the day to baby-sit for me." Felicia Norman was the fashion director of one of San Francisco's most elegant stores, and Kate had met her when she was modeling.
"Don't be silly. They don't even miss me." But they both knew that was a lie. And what Kate didn't know was that Felicia had the Norell show to oversee that afternoon. The whole winter line. And Halston in three days. Blass next week. It defied the imagination. Even Felicia's. But Kate was removed from all that now. She wasn't thinking of seasons and lines. She hadn't for months.
"How's my little friend?" Felicia's voice softened when she asked, bringing a smile back to Kate's eyes. A real one this time, as she ran a hand over her full stomach. Three more weeks... three weeks... and Tom...
"How can you be so sure it's a boy? You've even convinced me." Felicia smiled at the thought of the stack of baby clothes she'd ordered on the seventh floor last week. "Anyway, it better be!" They both laughed.
"It will be. Tom said--" And then a silence. The words had slipped out. "Anyway, love, I don't need a baby-sitter today. I promise. You can stay in San Francisco, get another two hours sleep, and go to work in peace. If I need you, I'll call. Trust me."
"Where have I heard that before.?" Felicia laughed a deep soft laugh into the phone. "If I waited for you to call, I'd die of old age. Can I come down this weekend, by the way?"
"Again? Can you stand it?" She'd been there almost every weekend for the past four months. But by now Kate expected her; Felicia's inquiry and Kate's response were only a formality.
"What can I bring you?"
"Nothing! Felicia Norman, if you bring me one more maternity anything, I'll scream! Where do you think I wear that stuff? To the supermarket? Lady, I live in a cowtown. You know--the men wear undershirts and the women wear housecoats. That's it." Kate sounded amused.
Felicia did not. "That's your own goddamn fault. I told you--"
"Oh shut up. I'm happy here." Kate was smiling to herself.
"You're nuts. It's just this nesting instinct you've got from being pregnant. Wait till the baby comes. You'll come to your senses." Felicia was counting on it. She was even keeping an eye out for available apartments. There had already been two or three gems in her neighborhood on Telegraph Hill. Kate was crazy to stay down there. But she'd come out of it. The furor was already dying down. Another couple of months and she could come back in peace.
"Hey, Licia"--Kate looked over at the alarm clock--"I'd better get moving. I have a three-hour drive ahead of me." She stretched gingerly in her bed, hoping her legs wouldn't cramp and send her leaping out of bed--as best she could "leap."
"And that's another thing. You could stop going up there for the next month, at least until after the baby. There's no point--"
"Licia, I love you. Good-bye." Very gently, Kate hung up. She had heard that speech before. And she knew what she was doing. It was what she had to do. What she wanted to do. Besides, what choice did she have? How could she stop going now?
She rolled slowly to a sitting position at the edge of the bed and took a deep breath as she looked at the mountains beyond her window. Her thoughts were years and miles away. A lifetime away.
"Tom." She said it gently. Just the one word. She wasn't even aware she'd said it aloud. Tom... how could he not be there? Why wasn't he running his bath, or singing from the shower, teasing her from the kitchen... was he really gone? It had been so little time since she could just call his name and hear his voice. He had been right there with her. Always. Big, blond, beautiful Tom, full of laughter and hugs, and a gift for making wonderful moments. Tom, whom she had met during her first year in college, when the team happened to be in San Francisco, and she happened to go to the game, and then happened to go to a party, and someone knew someone on the team... madness. And luck. She had never done anything like it before. She had fallen in love with him on the spot, at eighteen. And with a football player? The idea had seemed funny to her at first. A football player. But he wasn't just that. He was special. He was Tom Harper. Loving, warm, thoughtful in infinite ways. Tom, whose father had been a coal miner in Pennsylvania, and whose mother had worked as a waitress to help put him through school. Tom, who had worked nights and days and summers himself to get to college, and then had finally made it after all on a football scholarship. He had become a star. And then a pro. And then a real star. A kind of national hero. Tom Harper. And that was when she had met him. When he was a star. Tom...
"Hello, Princess." His eyes had run over her like a trickle of warm summer rain.
"Hello." She had felt so foolish. Hello... it was all she could think of to say. She had nothing to say to him really. But something small and tight had turned over in the pit of her stomach. She had had to look away. His bright blue eyes were too much for her, the way he searched her face, the way he smiled. Meeting those eyes was like trying to stare into the sun.
"Are you from San Francisco?" He had been smiling down at her from his immense height. He was a huge, powerfully built man, with the classic shape required for his profession. She was wondering what he was thinking about her. He probably thought she was ridiculous. A groupie, or just a kid.
"Yes. I'm from San Francisco. Are you?" And then they both laughed, because she knew he wasn't. Everyone knew where Tom Harper was from. And the team was based in Chicago.
"Why so shy?"
"I... it... oh damn." And then they had laughed, and it was better after that. They had slipped away from the party and gone out for hamburgers.
"Will your friends be upset?"
"Probably." She sat at the counter on a stool next to him, swinging one long leg, and smiling happily over her dripping hamburger. She had had a date, somewhere, back at the party. But not anymore. She was out with Tom Harper. It was hard to get used to the idea. But he didn't seem to match the legend she had heard about. He was just a man. She liked him. But not because of who he was. Just because he was nice. No... more than that... but she wasn't quite sure what it was. She only knew that a strange tiny butterfly was soaring happily through her gut. It happened every time she looked at him. She wondered if he could tell.
Excerpted from Season Of Passion by Danielle Steel. Copyright (c) 1979 by Danielle Steel. Reprinted by permission of Dell, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or republished without permission in writing from the publisher.
From the Paperback edition.