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Election Eve, October 1940
Beverly Hills, California
The orchestra played a mellow rendition of "Moonlight Serenade" as Cameron Hayes drew in a deep breath and made her move. Seated several tables away from where she stood by the refreshment table, industrialist Donald Farr looked like a benevolent grandfather. The perfectly styled graying hair, the aquiline features, even the crows-feet at the corners of his pale blue eyes made him seem harmless indeed.
Farr, however, had been in a lot of hot water lately over some dubiously acquired government contracts. He'd testified before a Senate investigative committee, and his smooth-talking, high-priced lawyers had reprieved him. But Cameron was not as easily swayed as a few senators. She'd broken the story in the first placethe kind of journalistic coup that had six months ago finally propelled her into a position as a hard-news reporter at the Los Angeles Journal's city desk. Not an easy feat, even at the beginning of the fourth decade of the twentieth century, for a mere woman who was also only twenty-four.
She hadn't been enthusiastic about attending her father's fiftieth birthday party until now. But seeing the infamous industrialist had dramatically changed her attitude. Here was Farr, completely at her mercy. He would never know of the butterflies in her stomach or of her mild trepidation at defying her father's wishes. She would approach him with the cool aplomb of a seasoned veteraneven if it killed her.
Not that she would wage a frontal attack on the unwitting party guest. She could be subtle, despite what many of the "victims" of her incisive style might say. Allowing a smile to slip across her face, she began to cross the expansive lawn of her family's Beverly Hills home, now dotted with tables where many of the two hundred guests reposed. Farr would not know what hit him.
Seated with Farr was his wife, an attractive blonde easily twenty years his junior. Also at the table were four other guests, including the Los Angeles police commissioner. There were no vacant chairs at the table. Undeterred, Cameron reached the table, broadened her smile, and greeted the industrialist and his companions.
"A lovely day for a party, don't you think?" She thought that sounded very subtle.
"Your father is lucky to have been blessed with such a balmy day for February," said Mrs. Farr.
"Even Mother Nature does obeisance to dear old Dad." Cameron grabbed a vacant chair from an adjacent table and squeezed it into a small open space next to Farr. Smiling sweetly, she added offhandedly, "You don't mind if I join you for a minute?"
"Well" Farr began.
"It was so kind of you to come to Daddy's party, Mr. Farr," Cameron hurried on, ignoring Farr's attempt at a protest. "I know you've been busy lately. Haven't you just returned from Washington?"
"Yes, a few days ago."
"I am so glad to be back," added Mrs. Farr. "It snowed while we were there."
"Then it must be quite a relief to be homein more ways than one. I trust your trip was successful?"
Farr smiled. His gray hair might give him a grandfatherly air, but his eyes, even when he smiled, were hard. "Indeed it was; nevertheless, I am glad to be away from there."
"Surely you weren't nervous about appearing before the Senate."
"I had nothing to be nervous about"
"There you are, Cameron!" interrupted a feminine voice. "Daddy sent me to fetch you."
Cameron turned and saw her youngest sister, Jackie. "What could he want?" She was not at all pleased at the interruption.
"Come along with me, and you can find out," Jackie replied.
"But we were just having such a nice conversation here"
Farr hurried to his feet. "Please, don't let us keep you, Miss Hayes. It's your father's birthday, after all."
Cameron hesitated, but her sister gently tugged at her arm. "He's waiting."
As she rose Cameron said to Farr, "Perhaps we can finish our conversation later."
"I'd love to." But Farr's steely gaze indicated he'd sooner see the Los Angeles basin freeze over than do such a thing.
When Cameron and her sister were several paces from the Farr table, Cameron stopped. "What's this all about? Dad is over there." She jerked her head in the opposite direction from where they were heading.
A bit sheepishly, Jackie answered, "He sent me to rescue youor rather poor Mr. Farr. Told me to tell you no work."
"Who said I was working? I was just having"
"I know, 'a nice conversation.' I'm just doing what I'm told, Cameron."
"Oh, little Jackie, when are you going to wise up?"
"It is his birthday. Can't you do what you're told just for today?"
"Well, I guess I owe him at least one day of the doting daughter routine."
Jackie smiled. At barely twenty, she was a sweet child, so pretty and innocent in appearance that she did not look the least bit silly in the lavender frock of organza with its ruffled décolletage. Her wavy light brown hair, pinned with lavender bows on each side of her head, fell to her shoulders. She was the very picture of the college co-ed that she waswide-eyed, eager to please, enthusiastic, not to mention naïve about her future.
The only obvious similarity between the two sisters was the wide-set eyes inherited from their mother. But where Jackie's were a pure brown, Cameron's were green, or hazel, or dark brown, depending upon many factors, such as her clothing, her surroundings, her moods. But Cameron was attractive, no question about that. The auburn hair framing a heart-shaped face could have been as feminine and ingenuous as Jackie's, especially when she let it hang in loose waves, as it was now, but Cameron tried hard to camouflage those features. When working, she usually wore plain wool suits and crammed her hair under a simple matching hat. Today was the exception, and in a dark burgundy crepe dress with a draped neckline and a trim, belted skirt, she proved she could look stunning. But her looks were of little importance to her. All she wanted to prove was her ability as a journalist and so allowed herself little time for social pleasures.
The two sisters began walking once more, but in a few moments, Jackie nudged Cameron to a stop, scanning the crowd.
"I wonder where Blair is," she said.
"Don't tell me you are going to ruin her day, too," Cameron said with a slight groan.
"Daddy's going to make a speech, and there will be some pictures taken. He wants us there."
Blair was the middle sister, and they found her, not surprisingly, in the midst of a small herd of young men, looking every bit like Scarlett O'Hara in the scene at the Twelve Oaks barbecue in the movie Gone With the Wind. Of course, Cameron did not usually go to moviesshe found real life far more stimulating. But she had been assigned to cover the Hollywood premierenot even the star-studded Atlanta premiere. Regardless, it galled her to no end that she was still shuffled off to the society beat when the paper was shorthanded. No one would dare throw a society story at Johnny Shanahanbut that was another matter entirely.
Cameron half expected to hear Blair utter a simpering "Fiddledeedee!" when she and Jackie penetrated the circle of her male admirers. Instead, she had a sip of champagne, as if to fortify herself, then said, "My, I think the competition has arrived!"
"We could never compete with you, Blair, love," Cameron said snidely. She loved her sister but had a difficult time understanding her.
Blair lived for the social pleasures Cameron so pointedly eschewed. She seemed to have no greater ambition in life than to shop for the latest styles and to wear her purchases to beguile men. Her mother, in a desperate attempt to get her to settle down, nagged her often about marriage, but Blair liked men too much to limit herself to just one. In fact, she often said she had no intention of marrying at all in the near future. She thought she might like to be an actress or a singer and spent a lot of her time with the Hollywood crowd toward that end. But it wasn't a burning ambitionnothing, in fact, was. Her time as a wealthy society girl was spent partying, drinking way too much, and building on her already notorious reputation with men. Her lifestyle shocked her parentsan achievement that might well have been her highest ambition in life.
Blair drained her glass of Dom Pérignon and held it out to one of the men. "Do be a dear and fetch me another."
Cameron caught the glass before it reached a proffered hand. "Later, Blair. Daddy wants us."
"Oh, pooh on him! I'm busy." Blair's full red lips puckered into a coy pout.
"Now, now, Blair, don't be stubborn. Daddy calls."
"And since when are you the obedient daughter?"
It was a rather uncharacteristic position for Cameron to take, but she understood the value of expediency better than her sister. "Just for the time being, Blair. It won't kill either of us."
Blair glanced at the bevy of handsome young men, then shrugged. "Duty calls, boys. But I'll be back."
She swung her lithe body into line with her sisters', and with arms linked, they turned in the direction of the head table.
Written on the Wind (DAUGHTERS OF FORTUNE)by Judith Pella
Copyright � 2002, Judith Pella
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.