He dressed carefully before he went to see her, wanting to strike precisely the right note. So much hung in the balance. He contemplated the limited range of clothing in the closet. Unfortunately he had left many of his best shirts and ties behind in Portland. He hadn’t expected to need them here on the coast. But he was not entirely unprepared. He was never entirely unprepared. He wanted her to know that.
After due consideration he went with a pale-blue shirt that matched his eyes and an Italian knit sweater that made his shoulders appear a little broader. The trousers and loafers worked well with the sweater.
He stood in front of the mirror studying the effect. Not quite right. He took off the sweater and went back to the closet for a tie and the corduroy jacket. The tie showed respect. The cord jacket said he was a deep thinker.
Satisfied, he left the room and went outside to the parking lot. He got into the car and drove the short distance to the Eclipse Bay Policy Studies Institute.
Ten minutes later he was standing in front of her secretary’s desk.
“I’m here to see Mrs. Thornley,” he said.
The secretary looked skeptical and apologetic at the same time. It was probably a natural-born talent.
“Do you have an appointment?”
“No, but please give her this card. I think she’ll see me.”
The secretary examined the card and the note he had jotted on it. She got to her feet, went to the closed door behind her desk and opened it.
He waited until she disappeared inside before checking his reflection in the highly polished chrome base of her name plaque.
He straightened quickly when the door opened again.
“Mrs. Thornley will see you, Dr. Flint.”
He took a deep breath, preparing himself for acute disappointment in case he had gotten the wrong impression about her last night. The scene in the restaurant had happened so quickly.
He went through the door, closed it firmly and stood looking at his fate.
She studied him from where she sat behind her desk, a vision in a fitted red knit jacket that was accented with gold buttons and well-defined, padded shoulders. She toyed with the small card he had sent in a moment earlier.
He gave the office a quick once-over, checking the quality of the furnishings. First class all the way. The lady had style and taste. The room was spacious with a view of the town and the bay spread out below in the distance.
There was another door on the far side of the office. It stood open a crack. Someone was moving around in the adjoining room. Probably an assistant or a speech-writer. He heard a desk drawer slam.
“Please sit down, Dr. Flint,” Marilyn said. Cool self-possessed authority rang in the words.
He felt his blood heat. He had not been wrong. She was magnificent. A goddess.
He lowered himself into one of the sleek black leather chairs.
Marilyn rose, crossed the room to the door that separated her office from the smaller one on the far side of the room and closed it very firmly. She smiled at him.
“We need to talk,” Anderson said.
“I found out that she had an affair with Trevor,” Marilyn said. She went to stand at the window of the cottage and looked out over the bay. “I could hardly keep her on as my campaign manager after I learned the truth.”
“Guess it would be a little awkward,” Lillian admitted. She glanced at her watch. Another morning’s work shot. The last thing she had needed today was to open the front door and find Marilyn Thornley on her front porch. Why me? she wondered. She did not relish being a politician’s confidant.
“I knew that he was probably screwing someone but I just assumed it was one of his perky little campaign workers. Someone unimportant. Lord knows, it wouldn’t have been the first time. Trevor and I had an understanding, you see. As long as he was reasonably discreet about it, I could ignore it.”
Marilyn looked different this morning, Lillian thought. No longer the battlefield general with antifreeze running in her veins. More like a woman who has learned the name of her ex-husband’s lover. Hurt.
“I’ve heard about understandings like that,” Lillian said neutrally.
Marilyn’s mouth twisted. “You sound very disapproving.”
“Let’s just say I wouldn’t want a marriage based on that kind of unwritten contract.”
“You’d rather be married for your family’s company, is that it?”
It wasn’t easy but Lillian managed to hold on to her temper. “I don’t know why you came here this morning to tell me this, Marilyn. It’s none of my business.”
“Don’t you understand? I had to talk to someone. I don’t know anyone else I can trust here in town.
Not with something this personal. I certainly can’t talk to anyone on my staff. I would look weak and emotional.” Marilyn took a deep breath and exhaled, making a visible effort to compose herself. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have made that crack about being married for Harte Investments. That was uncalled for.”
Lillian lounged back against the counter. “Forget it. Not like you’re the first person to leap to the conclusion that Gabe is only interested in me because of Harte.”
“Still, it wasn’t right. I apologize. I’m not at my best this morning. The thing is, even though I knew Trevor was sleeping with someone, I never dreamed it was Claire.”
“You’re sure it was Claire who had the affair with Trevor?” Lillian asked.
“How did you find out?”
“Pure accident. I was going through some old expense account statements the other day, gathering data for my divorce attorney. I came across records of some reimbursements Trevor had made to Claire. At first I thought they were legitimate expenses associated with the campaign. Something made me dig a little deeper. Turned out the expenses were incurred at a series of cheap hotels over a period of several months. In each case Trevor and Claire had registered as Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Can you believe it?”
“Very. Once I started looking, I turned up a few other unusual receipts. When it comes to sex, Trevor has his little, uh, eccentricities. Apparently Claire catered to them.”
“I see. What did Claire say when you confronted her?”
“She denied it, of course. Claimed Trevor must have been with some other woman, not her.”
“But you didn’t believe her.”
“No.” Marilyn rubbed her temples in a gesture of weariness that seemed uncharacteristic. “Naturally I had to let her go. Wouldn’t you have done the same?”