Excerpt from Journey
The long black limousine pulled up slowly, and came to a stop, in a long line of cars just like it. It was a balmy evening in early June, and two Marines stepped forward in practiced unison, as Madeleine Hunter emerged gracefully from the car in front of the east entrance to the White House. A brightly lit flag was fluttering in the summer breeze, and she smiled at one of the Marines as he saluted. She was tall and thin, in a white evening gown that draped elegantly from one shoulder. Her hair was dark and swept up in a neat French twist which showed off her long neck and single bare shoulder to perfection.
Her skin was creamy, her eyes blue, and she moved with enormous poise and grace in high-heeled silver sandals. Her eyes danced as she smiled, and stepped aside as a photographer flashed her picture. And then another, as her husband stepped out of the car and took his place beside her. Jack Hunter was powerfully built, a man of forty-five, he had made his first fortune in the course of a career in pro football, invested it brilliantly, and in time had traded and sold and bought first a radio station, then added television to it, and by forty owned one of the major cable networks. Jack Hunter had long since turned his good fortune into big business. And he was very big business.
The photographer snapped their photograph again, and then they swiftly disappeared into the White House. They made a striking couple, and had for seven years. Madeleine was thirty-four, and had been twenty-five when he discovered her in Knoxville. Her drawl had long since disappeared, as had his. Jack was from Dallas, and he spoke in powerful, clipped tones that convinced the listener instantly that he knew exactly what he was doing. He had dark eyes that pursued his quarry to all corners of the room, and he had a way of listening to several conversations at once, while still managing to seem intent on the person to whom he was speaking. There were times, people who knew him well said, when his eyes seemed to bore right through you, and other times when you felt he was about to caress you. There was something powerful and almost hypnotizing about him. Just looking at him, sleekly put together in his dinner jacket and perfectly starched shirt, his dark hair smoothly combed, he was someone one wanted to get to know and be close to.
He had had the same effect on Madeleine when they met, when she was barely more than a girl in Knoxville. She had had a Tennessee drawl then, she had come to Knoxville from Chattanooga. She'd been a receptionist at the television station where she worked, until a strike forced her into doing first weather, and then news, on camera. She was awkward and shy, but so beautiful that the viewers who saw her sat mesmerized as they stared at her. She looked more like a model or a movie star, but she had a girl-next-door quality about her that everyone loved, and a breathtaking ability to get right to the heart of a story. And Jack was bowled over when he first saw her. Her words as well as her eyes were searing.
"What do you do here, pretty girl? Break all the boys' hearts, I'll bet," he'd said to her. She didn't look a minute over twenty, though she was nearly five years older. He had stopped to talk to her when she came off the air.
"Not likely," she laughed. He was negotiating to buy the station. And he had, two months later. And as soon as he did, he made her co-anchor, and sent her to New York to teach her first everything she needed to learn about network news, and then how to do her hair and makeup. And the effect, when he saw her on the air again, was impressive. Within months, her career was off and running.
It was Jack who helped extricate her from the nightmare she had been living, with a husband she'd been married to since she was seventeen, who had committed every possible kind of abuse on her. It was no different from what she had seen happen in Chattanooga as a child, between her parents. Bobby Joe had been her high school sweetheart, and they'd been married for eight years when Jack Hunter bought the cable network in Washington, D.C., and made her an irresistible offer. He wanted her as his prime-time anchor, and promised her that if she came, he'd help her sort her life out, and cover all the most important stories.
He came to Knoxville himself in a limousine. She met him at the Greyhound bus station, with one small Samsonite bag and a look of terror. She got into the car with him without a sound, and they drove all the way to Washington together. It took Bobby Joe months to figure out where she was, and by then she had filed for divorce, with Jack's help, and a year later, they were married. She had been Mrs. Jack Hunter for seven years, and Bobby Joe and his unthinkable abuse on her were a dim nightmare. She was a star now. She led a fairy-tale life. She was known and respected and adored all across the country. And Jack treated her like a princess. As they walked into the White House arm in arm, and stood in the reception line, she looked relaxed and happy. Madeleine Hunter had no worries. She was married to an important, powerful man, who loved her, and she knew it. She knew that nothing bad would ever happen to her again. Jack Hunter wouldn't let it. She was safe now.
The President and First Lady shook hands with them in the East Room, and the President said in an undervoice to Jack that he wanted to catch a private moment with him later. Jack nodded, and smiled at him, as Madeleine chatted with the First Lady. They knew each other well. Maddy had interviewed her several times, and the Hunters were invited to the White House often. And as Madeleine drifted into the room on her husband's arm, heads turned, people smiled and nodded, everyone recognized her. It was a long, long way from Knoxville. She didn't know where Bobby Joe was now, and no longer cared. The life she had known with him seemed entirely unreal now. This was her reality, a world of power and important people, and she was a bright star among them.
They mingled with the other guests, and the French Ambassador chatted with Madeleine amiably and introduced her to his wife, while Jack moved away to speak to a Senator who was the head of the Senate Ethics Committee. There was a matter before them that Jack had been wanting to discuss with him. Madeleine saw them out of the corner of her eye, as the Brazilian Ambassador approached her, with an attractive Congresswoman from Mississippi. It was, as always, an interesting evening.
From Journey, by Danielle Steel. © October 31, 2000, Danielle Steel used by permission.