CHAPTER ONE

Lisa Radwin could not believe how much pain she was feeling despite the luxurious Bel-Air surroundings in which she now lived. As she sat in the round redwood Japanese tub in her yard, with birds chirping all around her, with ripe oranges on some trees and bright red berries on others, she thought that truly southern California was as close to paradise as anyone could ever know. Then why, oh why, did she feel like crying. The sky was a brilliant turquoise and, though the air was cool, the sun felt deliciously warm, and it was hard for the Pennsylvania-bred young woman to believe that it was February. It was heaven… and she felt like hell.

The water in the tub was sensuously warm and the Jacuzzi heads sent whirlpools of water into the hidden crevices of her voluptuous young body. Stretching her smooth arms up above her beautiful blonde head and stiffening her long, well-formed legs against the redwood sides, she raised her slender body halfway out of the water and allowed the gentle breeze and the warm sun to play on her belly. Her skin stretched tautly against her rib cage, further accentuating the curves that ran from her proud shoulders down to the slight jut of her pelvis that pointed out softly near the crest of her slender hips. It had taken her a long time and much assurance from her husband Charles that she had total and utter privacy in their yard, for Lisa to feel free enough to enjoy her body outdoors like this. Lisa had been the most beautiful girl in the small town where she was raised, and had always been very modest about her body, understanding that it gave her a great deal of power over men, yet knowing too that she was too unsophisticated to really handle it.

As she settled back down into the warm whirling water, her thoughts began to wander to their plans for tonight. She was very excited about this evening, for she and Charles had been invited to dine with their neighbors, Rachel and Don Carpenter, one of Hollywood’s most celebrated couples. Lisa and Charles had moved to their Bel-Air home only a few weeks ago, and, though it was all like a dream come true, Lisa had been feeling a bit lonely.

Los Angeles was so different from her hometown and even from New York City, where she had worked as a secretary for Charles at United International Film, until they realized they were in love and Charles fired – then married – her. At first Charles had been merely one of their staff of lawyers until Farley Greendawn, the Chairman of the Board, realized that Charles had a brilliant talent for producing. They groomed him for awhile in New York and then, having rented this Bel-Air mansion for them, sent Charles out to Hollywood.

Yet, despite the incredible success and the luxury in which they now lived, Lisa was not actually happy. She was bored and lonely and she missed terribly the sense of excitement she had known in New York. Of course, when Charles was courting her life had been too wonderful for words… a constant whirl of parties and shows and romantic dinners in the best restaurants. But now, Charles was so busy with his work, she hardly ever saw him. He had been working twelve to eighteen hours a day on the first picture that would be his sole responsibility – a remake of Gone with the Wind starring Jack Nicholson and Fay Dunaway. And when he came home from the studio he was usually so exhausted that he could only eat dinner and fall into bed. Lisa had tried her best to reconcile herself to this state of affairs, but despite the lush surroundings, she found herself yearning for the exciting days when they’d first been married, when everything was new and wonderful. She yearned for those days – could it have been only a few months ago? – and was beginning to fear that they were gone forever.

Suddenly, her thoughts were broken by the loud ringing of the telephone on the patio. She muttered a little curse under her breath, having forgotten once again, to bring the phone on its long cord out to the tub, then lifted herself quickly out, throwing a large orange towel around her and hurried to the phone.

“Hello…”

“Hello, Mrs. Radwin… This is Mrs. Lucas…” Mrs. Lucas was Charles’ secretary, a gray-haired middle-aged woman who had been with United International since the golden age of Hollywood in the thirties. “Charles asked me to call you to say that he couldn’t join you at dinner tonight… the first rushes of the film are in, and we’ll be screening them pretty late… He says you should just go on yourself and have a good time…”

Suddenly Lisa, who rarely got angry, was furious. “Why couldn’t he call me himself?” she almost screamed into the phone, feeling almost as if she’d been slapped in the face by her husband.

“Oh, dear, Mrs. Radwin… I’m afraid it would have been impossible… Mr. Greendawn is out from New York, and your husband has been tied up in meetings all day…”

“Thank you… I-I didn’t mean to yell at you.”

“That’s all right dear… now you go on to your party and have a good time – and take it from me, if I may be personal for a moment – your husband loves you very much… I can tell… I’ve been around a long time, honey.”

“T-thank you, Mrs. Lucas… Goodbye.”

With tears in her eyes, Lisa hung up the phone, and went inside the house to dress.

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