Child's Play

A Novel

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The lessons our children teach us are the hardest ones. What do we do when our children don’t pursue our hopes for them? In this riveting new novel, Danielle Steel explores how families can evolve and grow in unexpected ways.

A senior partner at a prestigious New York law firm, Kate Morgan couldn’t be prouder of her three grown children. Tamara, Anthony, and Claire all went to great schools, chose wonderful career paths, and would have made their father proud. A single mother for years after the death of her husband, Kate keeps a tight rein on her family, her career, and even her own emotions, never once asking herself if she truly knows her children . . . or if her hopes for them are the right ones, and what they want. She is about to find out.

During one hectic summer in Manhattan, Kate’s world turns upside down. One child has been keeping an astonishing secret while another confesses to an equally shocking truth. A wonderful match and picture-book wedding are traded for a relationship that shakes Kate to her core. A totally inappropriate love affair and an out-of-wedlock baby complete the chaos. Challenged as a mother and as a successful independent woman herself, Kate struggles to keep up with a dizzying and escalating chain of events, and begins to realize that she has a part to play in the chaos. Because Kate too has kept secrets from her children.

Sometimes the surprising choices our children make are the right ones . . . better than what we wanted for them. More often than not, parenting is about letting go of our dreams and embracing theirs.

Under the Cover

An excerpt from Child's Play

Chapter 1

It was one of the first really warm days in early June, as Kate Morgan looked at the meticulously neat stacks of files on her desk. She liked everything to be precise around her, and an orderly life. She had lived through the unexpected shocks that can happen when her husband died nineteen years before, and she’d had to make order from chaos. Her children, Tamara, Anthony, and Claire, had been thirteen, ten, and seven at the time. She herself had been thirty-­five, and had never expected to be widowed at that age.

Her husband, Tom Morgan, had been a beloved congressman. They’d met when she was in college and he was in law school, and married when she graduated. His dream had been to go into politics, hers to go to law school, but she had staunchly stood beside him instead, as the perfect political wife, raising their three children. He had died in a helicopter accident in a storm, while visiting a disaster area in Upstate New York after a flood. The news coverage about him had made him sound like a modern day saint. Friendly, open, accessible, he had been popular ever since his first election. Kate and the children had been devastated, and she had struggled to put meaning back into their lives without him. He had been a wonderful father, and a good and loving husband for most of their marriage. Now, nineteen years later, the children still revered him, and Kate had seen to it that their memories of their father were untarnished.

The insurance money he had left for them had made them comfortable though not rich by any means, and had given Kate options she hadn’t considered before. A year after Tom’s death, she had started law school at Columbia University in New York. It had been a struggle managing school and taking care of the children, but she’d hired a housekeeper and also had her mother to help her. At thirty-­six, she was the oldest student in her class, and had graduated with honors at thirty-­nine.

She had worked at Berrigan Feldman and McCarthy for the past fifteen years, since she’d passed the bar, and was a senior partner now. Her specialty was corporate law, and she was a talented litigator, handling some of the firm’s most important lawsuits.

Kate had three trials scheduled in the next few months, if they didn’t settle first. She was a tough negotiator and a strong person, though a devoted mother and gentle in her private life. Becoming an attorney had added a whole new dimension to her life. She loved her work, and her children had adjusted to her schedule as her career grew exponentially. They were as proud of her as she was of them. She worked hard and was a strong role model for them. Now that they were grown up, she had more time and worked even harder. It had been a juggling act when they were younger, helping them with homework every night, and getting them to their sports games and school performances, but she did it. She expected excellence from them, and set the bar high for her children and herself. The results had been impressive, three solid, stable, well-­balanced kids, all good students who had moved on to jobs they loved. She’d never had a serious problem with any of them, which Kate assumed was the norm, although she occasionally conceded she’d been lucky.

She had encouraged her children to pursue careers that were meaningful to them. They had survived their father’s death with no visible signs of damage, no drug or alcohol problems, no failing grades, no problems with the law. Neither of the girls had ever gotten pregnant. Kate was the envy of her friends. As adults, all three were nice human beings with social consciences, and had graduated from good schools and colleges. Her own successful career had supplemented Tom’s insurance handsomely. She loved spending time with her children, and was grateful for their time together now, despite busy lives and demanding jobs.

None of her children were married, although Anthony had gotten engaged six months before. Kate thought his fiancée was perfect for him. Anthony was twenty-­nine, Amanda twenty-­eight. Her father was an investment banker who lived in Bronxville, and had done extremely well. Amanda had gone to a respectable college, and had left school for a job as an assistant editor at Vogue. She worked for the beauty editor, and was a striking looking girl, with blond hair and blue eyes, like Kate herself. Both women were tall. Amanda could have been a model, and she had made her debut ten years before at the cotillion in New York. Her parents were socially prominent and very nice people. Kate loved the idea of Anthony being married to a girl like Amanda, and the life they would lead together.

Anthony had gone to MIT, and was almost a computer genius. He was also a graphic designer and designed videogames for the largest videogame company in the world. He was handsome, lovable, and talented, but sometimes socially awkward, and she knew that with Amanda, he would have respectable friends in good social circles, not just the geeks he worked with. Amanda would broaden his horizons beyond his computer screen, which tended to mesmerize him until he forgot everything else.

She took him to parties, and they wound up on Page Six of the New York Post occasionally, which pleased Kate. She was sure Amanda would be a terrific wife. She had no great ambitions at Vogue, but she enjoyed her job. She was more interested in marriage than her career.

For the past six months, she and her mother had focused on every detail of the wedding. She had bought her wedding dress the week they got engaged, which Anthony’s sisters thought was silly, but Kate thought was sweet. They had met at a mutual friend’s wedding in Martha’s Vineyard the summer before, and got engaged at Christmas. Their wedding was scheduled for December, which was only six months away now.

Kate left her office in perfect order, taking long graceful strides toward the elevator. She looked a dozen years younger than her fifty-­four years, with long blond hair she wore pulled back. Her body was fit and athletic. A trainer came to work out with her three times a week. She was smiling in anticipation as she walked to the French restaurant ten minutes from her office on Park Avenue and East Fifty-­Fourth Street, to meet her youngest daughter, Claire. She looked just like her father, with dark hair and dark eyes. She was smaller than her mother, with a casual sexiness she was unaware of. She had graduated from NYU law school a year before, and worked for a rival firm as an associate corporate attorney, following in her mother’s footsteps.

At twenty-­six, Claire was on an excellent career path, which pleased her mother, and she frequently asked Kate for advice. She was waiting outside the restaurant in a short black skirt and high heels, with her dark hair piled on top of her head. Kate beamed when she saw her. Claire’s office was nearby, and Kate loved having lunch with her. She was bouncy and fun and young, and irrepressibly romantic. She had gone through a string of short-­term boyfriends before, during, and after law school. Her relationships never lasted long, but they were intense and burned themselves out quickly, and then she would move to another one. She was never alone for long. There was no shortage of men in her life, unlike her older sister, Tammy, a senior vice president of marketing at Chanel, who never had time to date. She said relationships were something she’d think about later. Her rise in the company had been rapid, at the expense of her personal life, which she neglected, somewhat like her mother. Claire managed to do both, work hard and date, and men could never resist her.

- About the author -

Danielle Steel has been hailed as one of the world’s most popular authors, with over 650 million copies of her novels sold. Her many international bestsellers include The Good Fight, The Cast, Accidental Heroes, Fall from Grace, Past Perfect, Fairytale, and other highly acclaimed novels. She is also the author of His Bright Light, the story of her son Nick Traina’s life and death; A Gift of Hope, a memoir of her work with the homeless; Pure Joy, about the dogs she and her family have loved; and the children’s books Pretty Minnie in Paris and Pretty Minnie in Hollywood.

More from Danielle Steel

Child's Play

A Novel

Buy

Child's Play

— Published by Delacorte Press —