As a partner at one of New York's most prestigious law firms, Alexandra Parker barely manages to juggle husband, career, and the three-year-old child she gave birth to at forty. But Alex feels blessed with her life and happy marriage--until lightning strikes her. Suddenly a routine medical check-up turns her world upside down when tests reveal shattering news.
Sam Parker is a star venture capitalist, a Wall Street whiz kid, and is as proud of his longtime marriage to Alex as he is of his successful career. As a major player in New York's financial world, Sam is used to being in control--until he is caught off guard by Alex's illness. Terrified of losing his wife and family, and haunted by ghosts from his past, Sam is unable to provide any kind of emotional support to Alex.
The latest offering from the indefatigable Steel is as much a cancer-survival manual as it is a romance novel. Alexandra Parker has it all?a partnership at one of New York's most prestigious law firms, a lovable husband of 17 years and a beautiful little girl. Then a routine checkup reveals breast cancer. Like lightning, her whole world is shattered. At 40, Alex loses not only her breast and hair but also her husband and happy home. Wall Street wizard Sam Parker loves his wife, but Alex's illness terrifies him (his mother died of cancer). So, instead of supporting her, he turns to a younger, healthier woman. Alex, devastated by Sam's emotional abandonment and scared to death of what is happening to her body, is ready to give up on herself and life when in steps a wonderful younger man who helps her regain her spirit, her courage and her sense of worth. Planning to remarry, Alex is about to ask Sam (now living with his girlfriend) for a divorce when lightning strikes again. This time, it's Sam who's on the brink of disaster: his partners have embezzled their clients' money. Suddenly, Sam realizes how much he needs and loves a cancer-free Alex; but will the spurned heroine return to him? Steel's message?that women are stronger than men but more foolish in love?may annoy some readers, but Alex's brave struggle to survive is inspiring and will have most of the author's fans cheering as usual by the novel's sentimental, three-handkerchief finale. Major ad/promo; rights: Janklow & Nesbit.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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July 02, 1996
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Excerpt from Lightning by Danielle Steel
The voices droned around the conference room as Alexandra Parker stretched long legs beneath the huge mahogany table. She jotted a note on a yellow legal pad, and glanced across the table briefly at one of her partners. Matthew Billings was older than Alex by a dozen years, he was in his mid-fifties, and one of the firm's most respected partners. He rarely asked for help from anyone, but it was not unusual for him to ask Alex to sit in on a deposition. He liked to pick her brain, admired her style, her sharp eye for the opponent's fatal weakness. And Alex was merciless and brilliant once she found it. She seemed to have an instinctive sense for where the point of the dagger would do the most damage.
She smiled at him now, and he liked what he saw in her eyes. She had heard just what they needed. A different answer from the time before. The very merest inflection. She slipped him a note on her yellow pad, and with a serious frown, he nodded.
The case was an extraordinarily complicated one, and had already been in process for years. It had been to the New York Supreme Court twice, with various motions, and involved the careless dispersal of highly toxic chemical pollutants by one of the most important corporations in the country. Alex had sat in on these depositions for Matt before. And she was always glad that this particular case wasn't her problem. The suit was being brought collectively by some two hundred families in Poughkeepsie, and represented millions of dollars. The case had been referred to Bartlett and Paskin years before, just after she had become a partner.
She liked her cases tougher, shorter, and smaller. Two hundred plaintiffs were not her cup of tea, although more than a dozen attorneys had worked on it, under Matthew's direction. Alexandra Parker was a litigation attorney too, and she handled an interesting assortment of difficult cases. She was the firm's first choice when the fight was going to be hard and dirty, and you needed an attorney who knew case law and was willing to spend a million hours doing meticulous research. She had associates and younger partners to help her of course, but Alex wanted to do as much of the work as she could herself, and she had a remarkable rapport with most of her clients.
Her real forte was labor law and libel. And she did a fair amount of litigation in both fields, though certainly, a lot of cases were settled. But Alex Parker was a fighter, a lawyer's lawyer, someone who knew her stuff and wasn't afraid of hard work. In fact, she loved it.
They broke from the deposition for a recess, and Matthew came around the table to talk to her after the defendant from the chemical company left the room with all his attorneys.
"So what do you think?" Matthew eyed her with interest. He had always had a soft spot for her. She had a fine mind and great skill as an attorney. Besides which, she was one of the best-looking women he knew, and he liked just being around her. She was solid, she was smart, she knew the law, and she had great intuition.
"I think you just got what you wanted, Matt. When he said that no one knew back then of the possible toxic effects of their materials, he was lying. That's the first time they've come right out and said it. We have the government reports from six months before that."
"I know." He beamed. "He walked right into it, didn't he?"
"He sure did. You don't need me here. You've got him." She dropped her legal pad into her briefcase, and glanced at her watch. It was eleven-thirty. They'd break for lunch in another half hour. But if she left now, she could get a little more work done.
"Thanks for coming in. It's always nice having you around. You look so innocent, you throw them off-guard. While he's staring at your legs, I can throw the net over him and grab him." He liked teasing her and she knew it. Matthew Billings was tall and attractive, with a full head of white hair, and a beautiful French wife who had been a fashion model in Paris. Matthew Billings liked pretty women, but he also respected talented and smart ones.
"Thanks a lot." She looked ruefully at him, her red hair pulled back in a severe bun, her face so lightly made up you could hardly see it, and her black suit in sharp contrast to the vivid natural colors of her red hair and green eyes. She was a striking woman. "Just what I went to law school for, to become a decoy."
"Hell, if it works, go for it." He laughed, teasing her again, as one of the defense attorneys drifted back into the room, and they lowered their voices.
"Do you mind if I leave now?" she asked Matt politely. He was, after all, one of the senior partners. "I've got a new client coming in at one, and I've got a few dozen cases to cast an eye on."
"That's the trouble with you," he pretended to frown at her, "you don't work hard enough. I've always said that about you. Just plain lazy. Go on, go back to work. You've served your purpose here." His eyes twinkled at her then. "Thanks, Alex."
"I'll have my notes typed up and sent to your office later," she said seriously before she left. And he knew that, as always, her careful, intelligent notes would be delivered to his office by the time he got back there. Alex Parker was a remarkable lawyer. She was efficient, intelligent, capable, wily in just the right ways, and beautiful in the bargain, not that she seemed to care about her looks particularly, or notice the attention they brought her. She seemed to be completely unaware of herself, and most people liked that about her.
She left the room quietly, with a brief wave at him, as the defendants came back into the room, and one of the attorneys glanced admiringly at her retreating figure. Unaware of it, Alex Parker hurried down the hall, and down several corridors to her office.
Her office was large and well decorated in quiet grays, with two handsome paintings on the wall, a few photographs, a large plant, some comfortable gray leather furniture, and a splendid view up Park Avenue from the twenty-ninth floor where Bartlett and Paskin had their offices. They occupied eight floors, and employed some two hundred attorneys. It was smaller than the firm where she'd worked before, on Wall Street, when she'd first graduated from law school, but she'd liked this a lot better. She'd worked with the antitrust team there, and she'd never really liked it. It was too dry, although it taught her to pay attention to details and do thorough research.
She glanced through half a dozen messages when she sat down, two from clients, and four from other attorneys. She had three cases ready to go to trial, and six more she was developing. Two major cases had just settled. It was a staggering workload, but it wasn't unusual for her. She loved the pace and the pressure and the frenzy. That was what had kept her from having children for so long. She just couldn't imagine fitting children in, or loving them as much as she did her law work. She adored being a lawyer, and thoroughly enjoyed a good fight in the courtroom. She did defense work primarily, she enjoyed difficult cases, and it meant a great deal to her protecting people from frivolous lawsuits. She loved everything about what she did. And it had eaten most of her life up. There was never time for anything more than that, except Sam, her wonderful husband. But he worked just as hard as she did, not in law, but in investments. He was a venture capitalist, with one of the hottest young firms in New York. He had come into it right at the start, and the opportunities had been remarkable. He'd already made several fortunes, and lost some money too. Together, they made healthy salaries. But more than that, Sam Parker had a powerful reputation. He knew his stuff, took amazing risks, and for twenty years now, almost everything he touched turned to money. Big money. At one point, people had said he was the only man in town who could make fortunes for his clients with commodities. But he was smarter than that now. Sam was never afraid of a risk, and he rarely lost funds for his clients. He'd been deeply involved in the computer world for the past dozen years, had made huge investments in Japan, done well in Germany, and had major holdings for his clients in Silicon Valley. Everyone on Wall Street agreed, Sam Parker knew what he was doing.
And Alex had known what she was doing when she married Sam. She'd met him right after she graduated from law school. They'd actually met at a party given by her first law firm. It was Christmas, and he'd arrived with three friends, looking very tall and handsome in a dark blue suit, his black hair flecked with snow, his face bright from the frigid air outside. He'd been full of life, and when he stopped and looked at her, she felt weak in the knees as she watched him. She was twenty-five years old, and he was thirty-two, and he was one of the few men she'd met who wasn't married.
He tried to talk to her that night, but she'd been distracted by another attorney from the firm, and Sam had been called away by his friends to talk to someone they knew, and their paths hadn't crossed again, until six months later. Sam's firm had consulted hers on a deal they were trying to put together in California, and she'd been called in with two other associates to help a senior partner. She'd been fascinated by him then, he was so quick and so smart and so sure. It was hard to imagine Sam being afraid of anything, or anyone. He laughed easily, and he wasn't afraid to walk a tightrope of terrifying decisions. He seemed to be unafraid of any risk, although he was fully aware of the dangers. And it wasn't his clients' money he was willing to risk, it was the whole deal. He wanted it his way, or to walk away from the deal completely. At first, Alex thought him a brazen fool, but as the weeks went on, she began to understand what he was doing, and she liked it. He had integrity and style, and brains, and that rarest of all things, courage. Her first impression of him had been correct, he was afraid of nothing.
But he was intrigued by her too. He was fascinated by her intelligent, thoughtful analyses, her perception of a situation from three hundred and sixty degrees. She saw all sides and expressed the risks and the advantages brilliantly. Together, they had put together a most impressive package for his clients. The deal had been made, and the company had done brilliantly and been sold for an astronomical amount five years later. By the time Sam and Alex met, he had a reputation for being a young genius. But she was gaining a powerful reputation too, though she was building solidly and more slowly than Sam was.
Sam's business allowed for more glitter and dazzle, and he liked that about it. He thrived on the high life, and the enormous power of his high-flying clients. In fact, the first time he took Alex out, he borrowed one of his clients' private jets and took her to Los Angeles for the world series. They'd stayed at the Bel-Air, in separate rooms, and he'd taken her to Chasen's and L'Orangerie for dinner.
"Do you do this for everyone?" she had asked, amazed at all his little attentions. She was more than a little in awe of Sam. She'd had one serious relationship with a boy her own age at Yale, and nothing but a series of meaningless dates during her brutally hardworking years in law school. The relationship while she was at Yale had dissipated by her junior year, and he had long since gotten married. But Alex didn't have time for relationships. She wanted to work hard and be someone. She wanted to be the best lawyer in her law firm. And Sam's wild flash and dash didn't quite fit with that profile. She could see herself with attorneys like the ones in her firm, who had gone to Yale Law School, like her, or Harvard, sober, quiet guys, who spent a lifetime as partners of Wall Street law firms. In his own way, Sam Parker was a wild man, a cowboy. But he was great-looking, nice to her, and fun to be with. It was hard to remind herself that he wasn't really what she wanted. Who wouldn't want Sam? He was smart, gorgeous, and he had a terrific sense of humor. She would have had to be crazy not to want him.