The Wedding

Danielle Steel


Chapter 1

The traffic moved along the Santa Monica Freeway at a snail's pace, as Allegra Steinberg lay her head back against the seat of the midnight blue Mercedes 300. At this rate, it was going to take forever. She had nothing particular to do on the way home, but it always seemed such an incredible waste of time just sitting there in traffic.

She stretched her long legs, sighed, and flicked on the radio, and she smiled as they started playing Bram Morrison's latest single. He was one of her clients at the law firm. She had represented him for over a year. She had a number of important clients. At twenty-nine, four years out of Yale law school, she was a junior partner at Fisch, Herzog, and Freeman. They were one of the most important firms in L.A, and entertainment law had always been her passion.

Allegra had known years before that she wanted to go into law, and it had only been for a brief, little while, after two years of summer stock in New Haven during her sophomore and junior years at Yale, that she had thought she might want to be an actress. It wouldn't have surprised anyone in her family, but it wouldn't necessarily have pleased them. Her mother, Blaire Scott, had written and produced one of the most successful shows on television for nine years. It was a comedy, well peppered with serious moments, and some occasional real-life drama. They had had the highest possible ratings for seven of their nine years, and it had earned her mother seven Emmies. Her father, Simon Steinberg, was a major movie producer, and had made some of Hollywood's most important movies. He had won three Academy Awards over the years, and his reputation for box office successes was legend. More importantly, he was that rarest of commodities in Hollywood, a nice man, a gentleman, a truly decent human being. He and Blaire were among the industry's most unusual, and most respected couples. They worked hard, and had a real family, which they devoted a lot of their time to. Allegra had a seventeen-year-old sister, Samantha, Sam, who was a senior in high school and a model, and who, unlike Allegra, did want to be an actress. Only their brother, Scott, a junior at Stanford, seemed to have escaped show business entirely. He was in pre-med, and all he wanted in life was to be a doctor. Hollywood and its alleged magic held no lure for Scott Steinberg.

Scott had seen enough of show business in his twenty years. And he even thought Allegra was crazy to be an entertainment lawyer. He didn't want to spend the rest of his life worrying about the box office, or the gross, or the ratings. He wanted to specialize in sports medicine, and be an orthopedic surgeon. Nice and sensible and down-to-earth. When the bone breaks, you fix it. He had seen enough of the agonies the rest of his family went through, dealing with spoiled, erratic stars, unreliable actors, dishonest network people who disappeared in six months, and quixotic investors. There were highs certainly, and perks admittedly, and they all seemed to love what they did. His mother derived tremendous satisfaction from her show, and his father had produced some great movies. And Allegra liked being an attorney for the stars and Sam wanted to be an actress. But as far as Scott was concerned, they could have it.

Allegra smiled to herself, thinking of him, and listening to the last of Bram's song. Even Scott had been impressed when she was able to tell him that Bram was one of her clients. He was a hero. She never said who her clients were, but Bram had mentioned her on a special with Barbara Walters. Carmen Connors was one of her clients too, the Marilyn Monroe look-alike who was the decade's new blond bombshell. She was twenty-three years old, from a town in Oregon the size of a dinner plate, and she was an ardent Christian. She had started out as a singer, and recently she'd done two movies back to back, and it turned out she was a sensational actress. She'd been referred to the firm by CAA, and one of the senior partners had introduced her to Allegra. They had hit it off instantly, and now she was Allegra's baby, literally sometimes, but Allegra didn't mind it.

Unlike Bram, who was in his late thirties and had been around the music business for twenty years, Carmen was still fairly new to Hollywood, and seemed to be constantly beset by problems. Trouble with boyfriends, men who were in love with her and she insisted she barely knew, stalkers, publicists, hairdressers, tabloids, paparazzi, would-be agents. She was never sure how to handle any of them, and Allegra was used to getting calls from her anytime, day or night, usually starting at two in the morning. The young beauty was often terrified at night, and she was always afraid that someone would break in and hurt her. Allegra had been able to control some of the terror for her with a security company that patrolled her house from dusk to dawn, a state-of-the-art alarm, and a pair of incredibly unnerving guard dogs. They were rottweilers and Carmen was afraid of them, but so were her would-be attackers and stalkers. But in spite of all that, she still called Allegra in the middle of the night, just to talk out problems she was having on the set, or sometimes just for comfort. It didn't bother Allegra; she was used to it. But her friends commented that she was as much baby-sitter as lawyer. Allegra knew it was part of the job with celebrity clients. She had seen what her parents went through with their stars, and nothing surprised her. Despite everything, she loved practicing law, and she particularly enjoyed the field of entertainment.

As she sat and waited for the traffic to move again, she pressed another button on her radio, and then thought about Brandon, as the traffic finally began to edge forward. Sometimes it took her an hour to crawl ten miles on the way home from a meeting or seeing a client at their home, but she was used to that too. She loved living in L.A., and most of the time she didn't mind the traffic. She had the top down on her car, it was a warm January afternoon and her long blond hair shimmered in the last of the winter sunlight. It was a perfect southern California day, the kind of weather she had longed for during her seven long New Haven winters while she was at Yale, first for undergraduate, and then for law school. After Beverly Hills High, most of her friends had gone to UCLA, but her father had wanted her to go to Harvard. Allegra had preferred Yale, but she had never been tempted to stay in the East after she graduated. Her whole life was based in California.

She thought of calling Brandon at the office as she picked up speed again, but she decided to wait until she got home. She returned some of her business calls from the car sometimes on the way home, but she wanted to get home and relax for a few minutes before she called him. Like her own, his workday stayed hectic right until the bitter end, sometimes even more so at the end of the day, as he met with clients he had to go to court with the next day, or arranged conferences with other attorneys or judges. He was a defense attorney, a litigator, specializing in white-collar crime, mostly federal offenses involving banks, embezzlement, and extortion. Real law, as he called it, not like what she did, he said blithely. But even Allegra had to agree that his work was as far as you could get from her practice. His personality was just as different too, he was far more tightly coiled, much more serious, and had a more intense view of life. In the two years she'd been dating him, more than once her family had accused Brandon Edwards of not having much of a sense of humor. To them, it was a definite deficiency in his character, since most of her family was capable of being somewhat outrageous.

There were a lot of things about Brandon that Allegra liked, their common interest in the law, the fact that he was both reliable and solid. She liked the fact that he had a family. He had been married for ten years to a girl he'd married while he was in law school. He had gone to Boalt at UC Berkeley, and Joanie had gotten pregnant. He had been forced to marry her, he said, and he still had feelings of resentment about it. But in some ways Joanie was still very close to him, after ten years of marriage and two children. Yet at times, Brandon still talked about how much he had hated being married to her, how confined he felt, and how much he had resented their shotgun wedding because she was pregnant. They'd had two little girls, and after law school he had gone to work for the most conservative law firm in San Francisco. It had only been by chance that they had transferred him to their L.A. office, just after he and Joanie had agreed to a trial separation. He had met Allegra the third week he'd been in town, through a mutual friend, and they had been going out for two years now. She loved him, and she loved his kids. Joanie didn't like letting them come to L.A., so usually Brandon went to San Francisco to see them, and whenever she could, Allegra went with him. The only problem was that in two years, Joanie had still not been able to find work, and she claimed it would be too traumatic for the girls for her not to be at home for them. So she was completely dependent on Brandon. And they were still arguing about their house, and their condo near Tahoe. In fact, in two years, very little had been resolved, the divorce had not yet been filed, and the financial arrangements never completed. Allegra teased him about it from time to time, about being a lawyer who couldn't get his own wife to sign a contract. But she didn't want to push him. For the moment, it meant that their relationship had to stay where it was, comfortable, but on hold, and it could go no further until he tied up all the loose ends with Joanie.

As she thought about him, and took the turnoff for Beverly Hills, she wondered if he'd be in the mood to go out to dinner. She knew he was preparing for a trial, and more than likely it would mean that he'd have to stay at the office until late that night. But she was hardly in a position to complain. Allegra had to work many nights, though usually not preparing trials. Her clients were writers, producers, directors, actors and actresses, and she did everything for them from contracts to wills, to negotiating deals for them, and handling their money or their divorces. The legal component of her activities interested her the most, but Allegra recognized better than most attorneys that with celebrity clients, or at least clients in show business, you had to be willing to handle every aspect of their complicated lives, not just their contracts. And there were times when Brandon seemed not to understand that. The field of entertainment had remained a mystery to him, despite all of the times when Allegra had tried to explain it to him. But he said that he preferred to practice law with and for normal people and in legal circumstances he understood, like a federal courtroom. He hoped to become a federal judge one day, and at thirty-six that already appeared to be a reasonable aspiration.

The phone rang in the car as Allegra made a turn, and for a minute she hoped that it would be Brandon, but it wasn't. It was her secretary, Alice. She had worked at the firm for fifteen years, and she was a lifesaver for Allegra. She had lots of common sense, a bright mind, and a soothing, maternal way of handling their more irascible clients.

Hi, Alice, what's up? Allegra asked, keeping her eyes on the road and nipping the phone on speaker.

Carmen Connors just called. I thought you'd want to know. She's very upset. She's on the cover of Chatter. It was one of the nastiest tabloids around, and they'd been eating Carmen alive for months, despite repeated warnings and threats from Allegra. But they knew just how far to go, and they were masters at going no further. They always stopped just shy of libel.

What now? Allegra asked, frowning, as she rapidly approached the little house her parents had helped her buy when she finished law school. She'd paid them back since, and she loved her little cottage, tucked away off Doheny.

The article said something about going to an orgy with one of her doctors, her plastic surgeon, I think. Poor Carmen had been foolish enough to date him once. They'd had dinner at Chasen's, and according to what she'd told Allegra, there hadn't even been sex, let alone an orgy.

Oh, for chrissake, Allegra muttered, as she pulled into her driveway with a look of annoyance. Do you have a copy there?

I'll get one on the way home. Do you want me to drop it off?

That's all right. I'll take a look at it tomorrow. I'm home. I'll give her a call right now. Thanks. Anything else?