Danielle Steel: The Kiss

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The Kiss: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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The idea of the trip to London had come up purely by accident, during one of their early-morning conversations. She'd been talking about an upcoming exhibit at the Tate Gallery, which she was dying to see, but knew she never would, as it wasn't scheduled to come to Paris. And Bill suggested that she fly to London for the day, or even two days, to see it, and enjoy a little time there on her own, without worrying about her husband or her children for a change. It had been a revolutionary idea to her and something she'd never done before. And at first, she insisted that she couldn't possibly go. Leaving Teddy was something she never did.

“Why not?” Bill asked finally, stretching out his long legs, and resting his shoes on his desk. It was midnight for him, and he'd been in the office since eight that morning. But he had stayed just a little later, so he could call her. “It would do you a world of good, and Teddy's been better for the past two months. If there's a problem, you could be home within a couple of hours.”

It made sense, but in twenty years of marriage, she had never gone anywhere without Gordon. Theirs was a remarkably old-fashioned European marriage, unlike the very liberated arrangement he had shared in recent years with Cindy. In fact, these days, it was far more common for Bill and Cindy to travel separately than together. He no longer made any effort to spend vacations with her, except for an occasional week here and there in the Hamptons. And Cindy seemed much happier without him. The last time he had suggested they take a trip together, she had come up with a million excuses, and then left on a trip to Europe with one of their daughters. The message was clear between them. The spirit of their marriage had long since disappeared, although it was something neither of them was willing to acknowledge. She did whatever she wanted, and with whom, as long as she wasn't too obvious about it. And Bill had the political life he loved, and his phone calls to Isabelle in Paris. It was an odd disparity between them.

In the end, after several conversations, Bill convinced Isabelle to go to London. Once the decision had been made, she was excited about it. She could hardly wait to see the exhibit, and do a little shopping in London. She was planning to stay at Claridge's, and perhaps even see an old school friend who had moved to London from Paris.

It was only days later that Bill discovered he needed to meet with the American ambassador to England. He had been a major donor to the last presidential campaign, and Bill needed his support for another candidate, and he wanted to get him on board early, to establish a floor for their contributions. With his support, Bill's dark horse candidate was suddenly going to become a great deal more attractive. And it was a pleasant coincidence that Isabelle would be there at the same time. She teased him about it when he told her he would be in London when she was.

“Did you do that on purpose?” she asked with her slightly British-tinged English. And along with it, she had the faintest of French accents, which he found charming. At forty-one, she was still beautiful, and didn't look her age. She had dark brown hair with a reddish tinge, creamy porcelain skin, and big green eyes flecked with amber. At his request, she had sent him a photograph two years before, of herself and the children. He often looked at it and smiled while they were talking during their late-night or early-morning phone calls.

“Of course not,” he denied it, but her question wasn't entirely inappropriate. He had been well aware of her travel plans, when he made the appointment with the ambassador in London. He had told himself that it was convenient for his schedule to be there then, but in his heart of hearts he knew there was more to it than that.

He loved seeing her, and looked forward for months to the few times a year he saw her in Paris. He either found an excuse to go, when he hadn't seen her in a while, or stopped to see her on his way to somewhere else. He usually saw her three or four times a year, and when he was in Paris, they saw each other for lunch. She never told Gordon about it when they met, but insisted nonetheless to Bill, and herself, that there was nothing wrong or clandestine about their seeing each other. The labels she and Bill put on things were polite, concise, appropriate. It was as though they met each other carrying banners that said “friends,” and they were of course. Yet he had been aware for a long time that he felt far more for her than he ever could have said to her, or anyone else.

He was looking forward to being in London. His meeting at the embassy would only occupy him for a few hours, and beyond that, he planned to spend as much time as possible with her. Bill had assured her that he was dying to see the exhibit at the Tate as well, and she was thrilled at the prospect of sharing that with him. It was after all, she told herself, her principal reason for going to London. And seeing Bill was going to be an unexpected bonus. She had it all sorted out in her head. They were the perfect friends, nothing more, and the fact that no one knew about their friendship was only because it was simpler that way. They had nothing to hide, she told herself. She wore a cloak of respectability in his regard that seemed to be desperately important to her. It was a boundary she had long since established for them, and one that Bill respected, for her sake. He would never have done anything to upset her or frighten her away. He didn't want to jeopardize anything, or anyone, that had become so infinitely precious to him.

As she stood in her bedroom in the house on the rue de Grenelle, she looked at her watch, and sighed. It was time to leave, but at the last moment, she hated the thought of leaving Teddy. She had left a thousand instructions for the nurses who would be caring for him while she was away. They were the same nurses he always had, but they were going to be sleeping in the same room with him while she was away. And as she thought of Teddy, she tiptoed softly next door, to the bedroom next to her own. She wanted to check on Teddy one last time. She had already said good-bye to him, but she felt her heart give a tug as she thought of leaving him. And for just an instant, she wondered if it was a good idea for her to go to London. But he was sleeping peacefully when she looked in, and the nurse looked up with a smile and a wave, as though to shoo her on her way. The nurse on duty was one of Isabelle's favorites, she was a large, smiling, sunny-faced girl from Bretagne. Isabelle waved back at her, and then gently backed out of the room and closed the door. There was nothing left for her to do, it was time for her to go.

Isabelle picked up her handbag and a small overnight case, straightened the simple black suit she wore, and glanced at her watch again. She knew that at that exact moment Bill was still on his plane traveling from New York. He had been working there for the past few days. Most of the time, he commuted to Washington.

She put her suitcase on the backseat of her car, and put her black Hermes Kelly bag on the passenger seat next to her. She drove onto the rue de Grenelle with a smile in her eyes as she turned the radio on, and set off for Charles de Gaulle, as Bill Robinson sat staring out the window of the Gulfstream he owned and used constantly. He was smiling to himself as he thought of her. He had coordinated his flight to arrive in London at the same time as Isabelle's. And he was overwhelmed by a sense of anticipation.

Chapter 2

Bill Robinson went through customs at Heathrow with a purposeful air, looking as though he were in a hurry. And he was. It took him only a few minutes to collect his bag, and with his briefcase in his other hand, he strode toward the driver from Claridge's, standing discreetly to one side with a small sign bearing his name. He stayed at Claridge's whenever he was in London, and had convinced Isabelle to stay there as well. It was full of ancient traditions, was always cited as the best hotel in town, and he had been staying there for thirty years. In great part, the hotel appealed to him because they knew him.

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