15th Affair Page 1



ALISON MULLER WASN’T classically beautiful, but she was striking, with swinging blonde hair and peekaboo bangs brushing the frames of her wraparound shades. Her black leather coat flared above the knees of her skinny jeans, and her purposeful stride was punctuated by the staccato clacking of her high-heeled boots.

That afternoon, as she cut through the golden-hued lobby of San Francisco’s Four Seasons Hotel, Ali checked out every man, woman, and child crossing the floor, on the queue at reception, slouched in chairs in front of the fireplace. She noted and labeled the tourists and businesspeople, deflecting the stares of the men who couldn’t look away, while on the phone with her husband and their younger daughter, Mitzi.

“I didn’t actually forget, Mitz,” Ali said to her five-year old. “More like I lost track.”

“You did forget,” her daughter insisted.

“Not completely. I thought your big day was tomorrow.”

“Everyone wanted to know where you were,” her daughter complained.

“I’ll make it up to you, sweetheart,” Ali said.

“When? With what?”

Ali’s thoughts ran ahead to the man waiting for her in a room on the fourteenth floor.

“Let me speak to Daddy,” Ali said.

She passed the stunning exhibition of modern art and reached the elevator bank at the northwest end of the lobby. She stood behind the couple in front of the doors. They were French, discussing their dinner plans, agreeing that they had enough time to shower and change.

Ali thumbed her phone, checked her e-mail and the Investors Business Daily headlines and the text from Michael asking if

she’d gotten lost. Ali’s husband came back on the line.

“I did my best,” he said. “She’s inconsolable.”

“You can handle her, dear. I’m sure you can do it. I’ll order her something online when I get home.”

“Which will be when?” her husband asked.

God. The questions. The never-ending questions.

“After dinner,” Ali said. “I’m sorry. I wouldn’t blow you off if it wasn’t important.”

The elevator doors opened.

“Gotta go.”

Her husband said, “Say good-bye to Mitzi.”