In her 53rd bestselling novel, Danielle Steel explores how a single shattering moment can change lives forever. The Kiss is at once a moving testament to the fragility of life and a breathtaking story about the power of love to heal, to free, to transform, and to make broken spirits whole.
On a warm June evening, a red double-decker bus, full of pasengers, speeds down a London street. A few blocks away, a man and a woman climb into a limousine, reveling in a magical evening of dancing and champagne. As their driver pulls into an intersection, the couple shares their first, searching kiss. For a moment, etched in time, all stands still--until, in a flash of metal and glass, their limousine is struck at full speed, crushed under the bus's tremendous weight. And a long journey begins--toward healing, toward hope, toward dreams of an infinite future...
Isabelle Forrester is the exquisite wife of a prominent Parisian banker who has long since shut her out of his heart. For lonely years, Isabelle has lived a life of isolation, pouring her passions into caring for her desperately ill son, Teddy, and into making their Paris home as happy as possible for her teenage daughter, Sophie. Isabelle allows herself one secret pleasure: a long-distance friendship by telephone with an American man, a Washington power broker who travels in the highest circles of politics and who, like Isabelle, is trapped in an empty marriage. To Bill Robinson, Isabelle is a godsend, a woman of extraordinary beauty and intellectual curiosity--a kindred spirit who touches him across the miles with her warmth and gentle empathy. Their relationship is a gift, a lifeline that sustains them both through the heartache of marriages they cannot leave and will not betray. Agreeing to meet for a few precious, innocent days in London, Isabelle and Bill find their friendship changing. Then, amidst the sudden crash of steel against steel, they are thrust onto a new path, a path fraught with pain but also with possibility.
First kisses are often explosive, but not all are quite as disaster-ridden as the one that propels Steel's latest romance. Isabelle Forrester, elegant and refined wife of cold and indifferent Paris-based banker Gordon Forrester, has spent most of her marriage caring for her desperately ill teenage son, Teddy. Isolated in her Paris home, Isabelle's only comfort is her long-distance friendship with millionaire Washington power broker Bill Robinson, also stuck in an empty marriage. Isabelle and Bill, kindred spirits satisfied with their chaste relationship, agree to meet for a few platonic days in London. Following an enchanting evening on the town, they head back to their hotel in Bill's limousine. As the couple share their first, probing kiss, their car is struck by a speeding, double-decker bus. The horrendous crash kills many and leaves both Isabelle and Bill in critical condition. The long and arduous road to recovery is filled with both physical and emotional pain as Bill must make decisions about his crumbling marriage and the future of his career, and Isabelle must confront bitter truths about her husband. From adjoining hospital beds, they pledge their love to one another, but then Isabelle heads back to Paris to tend her ailing son, and Bill returns to the States for a stay at a rehabilitation center where he hopes to regain use of his legs. Will Isabelle eventually leave her husband and reclaim her freedom? Will Bill ever walk again? Will the two soul mates ever be reunited? Despite the wacky unlikeliness of the bus-crash plot device and the his-and-her IVs, Steel pulls through with skillful plotting, steeping a gentle brew that will once again gratify her legions of fans.
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October 03, 2002
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Excerpt from The Kiss by Danielle Steel
Isabelle Forrester stood looking down at the garden from her bedroom window, in the house on the rue de Grenelle, in the seventh arrondissement in Paris. It was the house she and Gordon had lived in for the past twenty years, and both her children had been born there. It had been built in the eighteenth century, and had tall, imposing bronze doors on the street that led to the inner courtyard. The house itself was built in a U-shape around the courtyard. The house was familiar and old and beautiful, with tall ceilings and splendid boiseries, lovely moldings, and parquet floors the color of brandy. Everything around her shone and was impeccably tended. Isabelle ran the house with artistry and precision, and a firm but gentle hand. The garden was exquisitely manicured, and the white roses she'd had planted years before were often called the most beautiful in Paris. The house was filled with the antiques she and Gordon had collected over the years, locally and on their travels. And a number of them had been her parents'.
Everything in the house shone, the wood was perfectly oiled, the silver polished, the crystal sconces on the walls sparkled in the bright June sun that filtered through the curtains into her bedroom. Isabelle turned from the view of her rose garden with a small sigh. She was torn about leaving Paris that afternoon. She so seldom went anywhere anymore, the opportunities were so rare. And now that she had a chance to go, she felt guilty about it, because of Teddy.
Isabelle's daughter, Sophie, had left for Portugal with friends the day before. She was eighteen years old and going to university in the fall. It was Isabelle's son, Theodore, who kept her at home, and had for fourteen years now. Born three months premature, he had been badly damaged at birth, and as a result, his lungs had not developed properly, which in turn had weakened his heart. He was tutored at home, and had never been to school. At fourteen, he had been bedridden for most of his life, and moved around the house in a wheelchair whenever he was too weak to do so under his own steam. When the weather was warm, Isabelle wheeled him into the garden, and depending on how he felt, he would walk a little bit, or just sit. His spirit was indomitable, and his eyes shone the moment his mother came into the room. He always had something funny to say, or something to tell her. Theirs was a bond that defied words and time and years, and the private terrors they had faced together. At times she felt as though they were two people with one soul. She willed life and strength into him, talked to him for hours, read to him, held him in her arms when he was too weak and breathless to speak, and made him laugh whenever she could. He saw life as she did. He always reminded her of a tiny fragile bird with broken wings.
She and Gordon had spoken to his doctors of a heart-lung transplant, performed in the States, but their conclusion was that he was too weak to survive the surgery or perhaps even the trip. So there was no question of risking either. Theodore's world consisted of his mother and sister and was limited by the elegant confines of the house on the rue de Grenelle. His father had always been uncomfortable in the face of his illness, and Teddy had had nurses all his life, but it was his mother who tended to him most of the time. She had long since abandoned her friends, her own pursuits, and any semblance of a life of her own. Her only forays into the world in recent years were in the evening, with Gordon, and only rarely. Her entire mission in life was keeping Teddy alive, and happy. It had taken time and attention away from his sister, Sophie, over the years, but she seemed to understand it, and Isabelle was always loving to her. It was just that Teddy had to be the priority. His life depended on it. In the past four months, ever since the early spring, Theodore had been better, which was allowing his mother this rare and much-anticipated trip to London. It had been Bill Robinson's suggestion, a seemingly impossible one at first glance.
Isabelle and Bill had met four years before at a reception given by the American ambassador to France, who was an old classmate of Gordon's from Princeton. Bill was in politics, and was known to be one of the most powerful men in Washington, and probably the wealthiest. Gordon had told her that William Robinson had been responsible for putting the last president in the Oval Office. He had inherited a vast, almost immeasurable fortune, and had been drawn to politics and the power it afforded him since his youth. It suited him, and he in fact preferred to remain behind the scenes. He was a power broker and a king maker, but what had impressed Isabelle was how quiet and unpretentious he was, when they met. When Gordon explained Bill's circumstances to her, it seemed hard to believe that he was either as wealthy or as powerful as he was. Bill was enormously unassuming and discreet, and she had instantly liked that about him. He was easygoing, and looked surprisingly young, and he had a quick sense of humor. She had sat next to him at dinner and enjoyed his company immensely. She was pleased and surprised when he wrote to her the following week, and then later sent her an out-of-print art book they had discussed, which she had told him she had been hunting for for ages. With far more pressing pursuits at hand, she had been amazed that he remembered, and touched that he had gone to the trouble of finding it and sending it to her. Art and rare books were his passion.
They had talked endlessly about a series of paintings that had been found at the time, lost since the Nazis absconded with them during the war, which had turned up in a cave somewhere in Holland. It had led them to speak of forgeries, and art thefts, and eventually restoration, which was what she had been doing when she met Gordon. She had been an apprentice at the Louvre, and by the time she retired when Sophie was born, she had been thought to be both skillful and gifted.
Bill had been fascinated by her stories, just as she was by his, and over the next months, an odd but comfortable friendship had formed between them, via telephone and letters. She had found some rare art books to send to him, and the next time he came to Paris, he called her and asked if he could take her to lunch. She hesitated and then couldn't resist, it was one of the rare times when she left Theodore at lunchtime. Their friendship had begun nearly four years before, and Teddy was ten then. And over time, their friendship had flourished. He called from time to time, at odd hours for him, when he was working late, and it was early morning for her. She had told him that she got up at five to tend to Teddy every morning. And it was another six months before he asked her if Gordon objected to his calling her. In fact, she had never told him. Bill's friendship had become her secret treasure, which she diligently kept to herself.
"Why should he?" she asked, sounding surprised. She didn't want to discourage his calls. She enjoyed talking to him so much, and there were so many interests they shared. In an odd way, he had become her only real contact with the outside world. Her own friends had stopped calling years before. She had become increasingly inaccessible as she spent her days and nights caring for Teddy. But she had had her own concerns about Gordon objecting to Bill's calls. She had mentioned the first art books he sent when they arrived, and Gordon looked startled but said nothing. He evidenced no particular interest in Bill's sending them to her, and she said nothing to him about the phone calls. They would have been harder to explain, and they were so innocent. The things they said to each other were never personal, never inappropriate, neither of them volunteered anything about their personal lives, and they rarely spoke of their spouses in the beginning. His was simply a friendly voice that arrived suddenly in the dark hours of the early morning. And as the phone didn't ring in their bedrooms at night, Gordon never heard them. In truth, she suspected Gordon would object, if he knew, which was why she had never told him. She didn't want to lose the gift of Bill's calls or friendship.