A picture of Parker swinging at Matt and missing flashed on the screen, followed by one of Matt leveling Parker.
"If you put your money on Matt Farrell, you won," she concluded, laughing. "Second place in the match goes to Miss Lisa Pontini, a friend of Miss Bancroft's, who, we're told, landed a right hook on Matt Farrell right after that picture was taken. Miss Bancroft didn't wait around to congratulate the winner or console the loser. We're told she made a hasty getaway in Matt Farrell's limousine. The three combatants left together in a taxi and—"
"Dammit!" Meredith exclaimed, punching the remote control's off button, then she stood up and headed into her bedroom. As she passed her dresser, she automatically turned on the radio. "And now for the nine o'clock local news," the announcer said. "Last night, at the Manchester House on the North Side, open hostilities broke out between none other than industrialist Matthew Farrell and financier Parker Reynolds. Farrell, who is married to Meredith Bancroft, and Reynolds, who is engaged to her, were reportedly both having dinner with her when—"
Meredith slapped the off button on the top of the radio. "Unbelievable!" she gritted out. From the instant Matt crossed her path at the opera, nothing in her life was the same. Her entire world was being turned upside down! Sinking down on the bed, she picked up the phone and called Lisa's number again. She'd tried until late last night to reach her, but either Lisa wasn't answering her phone or she wasn't home. Neither was Parker, for that matter, because Meredith had tried to call him too.
Parker answered on the fifth ring, and for a split second Meredith went blank. "Parker?" she uttered.
"Mmmm," he said.
"Are—are you all right?"
"I'm fine," he mumbled, sounding groggily as if he'd been up all night and had just fallen into a deep sleep. "Hung over."
"Oh. I'm sorry. Well, is Lisa around?"
"Mmmm," he said again, and a second later Lisa's husky whisper murmured sleepily into the phone, "Whosethis?"
"It's Meredith," she answered just as it hit her that they were both sleeping in such proximity that Parker could hand Lisa the phone. Lisa had two phones in her apartment—one in the kitchen, and one beside the bed. They weren't sleeping in the kitchen. Shock sent her to her feet. "Are—are you in bed?" Meredith blurted out before she could stop herself.
With Parker? Meredith thought, but she didn't ask. She already knew the answer, and she clutched the headboard to steady herself in a room that seemed to tilt crazily. "Sorry I woke you both up," she managed to get out, and hung up. The world had spun off its axis ... or she was spinning off hers. Everything was completely out of control. Her best friend was in bed with her fiance. Equally shocking, she didn't feel betrayed or crushed. She felt dazed. Turning, she glanced around at the bedroom as if to assure herself that it, at least, hadn't changed completely in the last few hours. The cream lace and satin bedspread was where it belonged with its ruffles cascading to a half inch above the Oriental carpet, like they always did. All ten of the matching throw pillows were artfully propped in exactly the order she always placed them. She was so shaken by everything else that she felt absurdly better knowing her bedspread hadn't picked itself up and left the room, taking all her throw pillows with it. But then she looked up and caught the reflection of her face in the mirror. Even that had changed.
An hour later Meredith picked up her keys, slid a pair of large, dark sunglasses onto her nose, and left her apartment. She would go to the office and spend the day working. That at least was something she could understand and control. Matt hadn't bothered to call, and that would have surprised her if she hadn't passed the point where anything could do that The elevator doors opened on the lower level parking garage beneath her apartment building, and she headed toward her reserved parking space. She rounded the corner, car keys in hand, and stopped dead.
Her car was gone.
Her car was gone, and someone had already parked a new Jaguar sports car in her space.
Her car had been stolen! Her parking space had been usurped!
That did it! She had finally reached her breaking point. She gaped at the shiny, dark blue Jaguar, and she had a sudden insane impulse to shriek with laughter, a mad urge to put her thumb to her nose and wiggle her fingers at fate. There was nothing else, absolutely nothing more that fate could do to her! She was ready to fight back— spoiling for it.
Turning on her heel, Meredith went back to the elevator, slapped the button for the lobby level, and walked up to the security clerk at the lobby desk. "Robert," she said, "there is a blue Jaguar in my parking space—L12. Please have it towed out of there, immediately."
"But it's probably just a new tenant who doesn't—"
Meredith picked up the phone on the desk and held the receiver toward him. "Now," she said in a dangerously strained voice, "call that garage on Lyle Street and tell them to get that car out of my space in fifteen minutes!"
"Okay, Miss Bancroft. Okay. No problem."
Partially satisfied, Meredith marched toward the lobby doors, intending to take a taxi to her office and call the police from there about her stolen car. Determined to flag down the taxi that was just pulling up at the curb, she rushed forward, then halted abruptly when she saw the throng of reporters milling around outside her building. "Miss Bancroft—about last night," one of them called, and two photographers took pictures of her through the glass windows. Unaware that the man climbing out of the cab wearing pilot's sunglasses was Matt, Meredith turned on her heel and stalked to the elevator. So what if she was now a prisoner in her own apartment building? No problem. She would go upstairs and phone for a taxi to pick her up at the delivery entrance, then she'd sneak out there, crouch down behind the trash cans, and leap into the cab when it pulled up. No problem at all! She could do that. Of course she could.
She had just picked up the telephone in her apartment when someone knocked on her door. Completely overwhelmed by the trials and tribulations of her recent life, Meredith opened the door without bothering to ask who was there, then she gazed distractedly at the sight of Matt filling her doorway, his sunglasses reflecting her own image back at her. "Good morning," he said with a hesitant smile.
"Oh, is that what it is?" she replied, letting him in.
"What does that mean?" Matt asked, trying to see her eyes behind the big round amber sunglasses perched on her small nose so that he could gauge her mood.