Insatiable Appetites: A Stone Barrington Novel

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9780451473097: Insatiable Appetites: A Stone Barrington Novel
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Secrets and seduction are temptations Stone Barrington can’t resist, and in this action-packed thriller in the #1 New York Times bestselling series, he encounters plenty of both...

It’s a time of unexpected change for Stone Barrington. A recent venture has achieved a great victory, but is immediately faced with a new challenge: an underhanded foe who’s determined to wreak havoc at any cost. Meanwhile, when Stone finds himself responsible for distributing the estate of a respected friend and mentor, the process unearths secrets that range from merely surprising to outright alarming. And when a lethal beauty from Stone’s past resurfaces, there’s no telling what chaos will follow in her wake...

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About the Author:

Stuart Woods is the author of more than sixty novels, including the #1 New York Times bestselling Stone Barrington series. He is a native of Georgia and began his writing career in the advertising industry. Chiefs, his debut in 1981, won the Edgar Award. An avid sailor and pilot, Woods lives in Florida, Maine, and New Mexico.

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Election night, late.

Stone Barrington sat on a sofa in the family quarters of the White House, watching the presidential race unfold on television. Things were not going as he had hoped. The race, between Katharine Lee, First Lady of the United States, and Senator Henry Carson of Virginia, seemed to be a dead heat.

Kate Lee and her husband, President Will Lee, were Stone’s friends, and he had looked forward to their invitation to spend election night in the family quarters with a couple of dozen good friends. He had not looked forward to seeing her lose the race to a cardboard cutout of a Republican senator, which was how he saw Henry Carson, known in the Lee campaign as Honk, due to a failed attempt to get the nation to think of him as a Hank, instead of a Henry. A mispronunciation by a French official had rechristened him.

Ann Keaton, the Lee deputy campaign manager, to whom Stone was very, very close, came and sat beside him.

“How do you feel about all this?” he asked Ann.

“Nauseous,” she replied.

“What’s going wrong?”

“We’re not getting the turnout our pollsters told us to expect,” she said. “Young people and independents are not voting in the numbers we had hoped. At least, that’s what our exit polling is telling us. Also, Florida is taking a hell of a long time to count. They’ve got a Republican governor, and we’re worried about hanky-panky. It could be Bush–Gore all over again. On top of that, Ohio is neck and neck.”

“The West Coast polls close in ten minutes,” Stone said. “Those states should give Kate a boost.”

“They should, yes, but California can’t put her over the top, if Florida and Ohio go the other way. This could be a very big upset.”

“Something’s happening,” Stone said, pointing at the TV. Chris Matthews and Tom Brokaw were on screen.

“Based on our own exit polling and with eighty-nine percent of the precincts reporting,” Brokaw was saying, “our desk is calling Florida for Senator Henry Carson.”

“No!!!” came a shout from around the room. “Not possible!” Senator Sam Meriwether of Georgia, Kate’s campaign manager, yelled.

“Easy, Sam,” Will Lee said. “It’s not necessarily over because a network has called it.”

“CBS has called it that way, too, but ABC is holding out,” a woman watching another TV set called.

“Fox called it for Honk half an hour ago,” somebody said.

“I regard that as encouraging,” Stone said, and everybody laughed, releasing some tension in the room.

Kate Lee emerged from the Presidential Bedroom with a coat over her shoulders. “I’d better get over to the armory,” she said. “I’m going to have to make a statement soon.”

“It’s not over yet,” her husband said.

“I hope you’re right,” Kate said, kissing him, “but I’d better be ready.” She started for the door, two Secret Service agents in tow.

“Wait a minute!” Sam Meriwether shouted. “CBS is reconsidering their call.”

Kate stopped. “Have they reversed themselves?”

“No, but they’re saying that Florida is back in the undecided column.”

“That has to be a good sign,” Ann said to Stone.

“I hope so.”

“New totals from Florida,” Sam called out. “With ninety-six percent of precincts reporting, Kate leads by three thousand votes!”

Kate walked back toward the TV set. “That’s too narrow a margin. What precincts haven’t reported?”

Sam pointed at a north Florida county.

“That county is nearly all African-American,” Kate said. “It should be ours by a big margin.”

“I’m thinking hanky-panky,” Sam said.

“Have we got anybody in the courthouse there?”

As they watched, cars pulled up in the courthouse square and men in suits got out.

“Republicans?” somebody asked.

“FBI agents! I see badges.”

The men swept into the courthouse.

Will came and stood beside Kate. “You’re right,” he said, “you’d better get over to the armory. They’ve got a comfortable room for you to wait in there. Don’t do anything precipitous.”

Kate kissed him again and ran for the door.

“The West Coast has closed,” somebody called.

“MSNBC is backing away from their call in Florida,” somebody else said.

“What do they know that we don’t?” Stone asked Ann.

“I don’t know anymore,” Ann said. “I’m through reading exit polls and guessing. We’ll know soon anyway.”

“One precinct in north Florida has reported and that, alone, has widened Katharine Lee’s lead by another two thousand points,” Chris Matthews said. “And we’re hearing that they’ll have a statewide count at any minute.”

“Here’s some good news for the Lee campaign,” Brokaw said. “Now that the polls in the West have closed, we can tell you that our exit polls show Katharine Lee winning California by nearly thirty points.”

A cheer went up around the room.

“We’ve got a report from Ohio,” Brokaw said. “Let’s go to Amy Roberts there. Amy?”

“Tom, this is official. All Ohio votes are in, and Kate Lee has won by less than twenty thousand votes!”

There was a roar of glee from the people present. Will Lee was on his cell phone, and everybody knew who he was calling.

Five minutes later, Florida came in with a final vote. “Katharine Lee has won Florida by thirty-one thousand votes!” Chris Matthew said. “We can now call the election. The next president of the United States will be Katharine Lee!”

“Will,” Stone called, “did you reach Kate?”

“Yes, and she’s hearing that Henry Carson is about to speak.”

Carson came on camera before a big crowd and waved for silence. “Well,” he said, “we haven’t heard from Guam, yet.” His crowd both laughed and moaned. “But it’s clear that our next president will be Kate Lee. I congratulate her for the campaign she ran and the victory she has won. I will do all I can to help her.”

The TV switched now to the armory, where Kate was making her way to the podium. Will was not with her by design; he had wanted her to accept or concede on her own terms. She stood for nearly ten minutes, waving at the crowd and waiting for the noise to die down. Eventually, the floor was hers.

“Thank you all,” she said, “and my thanks to every American who voted today, no matter for whom. Once again, we are on the brink of new leadership in our country, just the way the framers of the Constitution wanted it. I promise you the best government I can put together, and I invite our Republican friends to help us make this country better than ever!” Finally, when she could speak again, she said, “Will, I know you’re watching. Unpack!”

Back at the family quarters, people were pounding Will Lee on the back and opening more champagne.

Stone sank into the sofa, relieved and grateful, happy to be in this room on this night.

Stone felt Ann ease from his bed, then heard her get into a robe and slip from the Lincoln Bedroom. He looked at the clock. Half past five.

Wide awake now, he got out of bed and into some trousers and a shirt, then left the room, looking for coffee, following the scent. He walked into the big oval room and found a table of pastries and a coffee urn. He drew himself a mugful and turned to find a seat.

“Good morning,” a female voice said.

Stone turned to find Kate Lee sunk into an armchair, coffee in her hand. “Good morning, Madame President-Elect,” he said. “May I be the ten thousandth to congratulate you?” He took a chair facing hers.

“I couldn’t sleep,” she said. “Will is out like a light, but my mind is still racing.”

“I’m not surprised.”

“For years I couldn’t let myself believe this could happen, and now it has, and I still can’t believe it.”

“Enjoy your disbelief,” he said. “It will get real soon enough.”

She checked her watch. “Right now, it’s just another early morning at home. In a couple of hours all hell will break loose. I must remember to find time to write in my journal today.” She patted her belly. “He/she will want to read that someday.”

“You still don’t know?”

“I know I’m out of fashion, but I don’t want to know until I can hold him/her in my arms. Neither does Will.”

“Maybe this is callously political of me,” he said, “but I think your being pregnant is going to be a material advantage to your presidency.”

“I hadn’t allowed myself to think of that,” Kate replied. “How an advantage?”

“It’s going to be hard for your opponents to criticize a pregnant woman,” Stone said. “I’ve noticed that men are very delicate with women who are carrying a child.”

“That’s true in its way.”

“I think you should try to get as much as possible accomplished before you give birth.”

“After that, I’ll just be another mom, huh?”

“Men aren’t afraid to argue with their moms.”

Kate laughed. “God knows I wasn’t afraid to argue with mine. What about you?”

“I learned early on that my mother had an annoying tendency to be right. It was daunting, and I thought twice before I opposed her.”

“You were a smart boy.”

“That’s what she used to tell me.”

“Stone, I want to appoint you to something.”

He held up a hand. “No, please, Kate.”

“Shut up. This is your president-elect speaking. You are now, officially, the first member of my Kitchen Cabinet.”

Stone laughed. “How could I not accept that post? I’m honored beyond words.”

“And you will serve for the entire eight years.”

“That’s thinking ahead.”

“A president can get things done in a first term, but she needs a second to keep her opponents from dismantling her accomplishments.”

“You’ve got a narrow majority in both houses—that should help.”

“The next congressional campaign starts today,” she said, “and so does my charm offensive with Republican congresspeople and senators. They may vote against me a lot of the time, but I’m going to make their hearts break when they do.”

“I believe you.”

“I heard Ann sneak back to her room a few minutes ago.”

“Oops.”

“I’m happy that you two were able to get together for a while, and, believe me, I’m sorry that I’m going to be keeping you apart for a long time.”

“Thank you. We’ve talked about that, and we know it has to be done.”

“What is it the mafiosi say? This is the business we’ve chosen.”

“Ann knows that.”

“I’m glad she does.” Kate got to her feet. “I hope you’ll be around for a few days.”

“No, I have to get back. I’ve been away from my desk for too long, what with the Paris trip, and I flew a borrowed airplane down here that has to be returned.”

“I hear you bought a house in Paris.”

“I did, and I have to be careful about doing that every time I get a little depressed. If you and Will ever need a hideaway, it will be waiting for you.”

“That’s sweet of you,” Kate said, patting his cheek, “but the only hideaway we’re going to have is the one we have now at Camp David. And that’s sort of like a White House in the woods. We’ll take you up on your Paris house when they kick us out of town.” She kissed him on the forehead and padded out of the room.

Stone thought maybe he should start a journal of his own.

Stone said his goodbyes to Ann over a second cup of coffee and was back in his home office in New York in time for a sandwich at his desk, while he went through mail and phone messages. Joan stuck her head in. “Herbie Fisher wants to come by after lunch to catch up.”

“Sure. He’s been keeping an eye on my clients.”

“You’re starting to get phone calls from people that sound like they want your ear, because you know our new president.”

Stone sighed. “I suppose that’s inevitable.”

“Especially when your name is on the Lees’ guest list for the White House on election night. Did you really sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom?”

“I did, and quite well.”

“What’s it like?”

“Very Victorian. Lincoln never slept there, but he used it as an office.”

“Any ghosts?”

“I was sleeping too soundly to notice.”

“How’s our Kate looking?”

“Just great. Didn’t you watch her on TV?”

“Sure, I did.” The phone rang and she went to answer it.

Stone found four letters in his mail that alluded to his friendship with the Lees, and he dictated perfunctory replies.

Herbert Fisher turned up at two o’clock, with a catalog case full of files to return. He accepted a cup of coffee and settled into the sofa.

“Thanks for riding herd on my clients while I was gone, Herb,” Stone said.

“Don’t mention it. Just vote for my partnership tomorrow.”

“Is it tomorrow? I’ve lost track. You shouldn’t have anything to worry about, you know. You’ve brought more business into the firm than a lot of the partners.”

“I still feel a chill here and there.”

“That’s envy, not doubt.”

“I hope you’re right.”

“You’ll be the youngest partner.”

“That’s what I hear.”

“And you’ve set a record for going from new associate to senior associate to partnership.”

“I hear that, too. I think it was too fast for some of the partners.”

“Has Bill Eggers offered you a better office?”

“I’m happy where I am. I did ask for another associate and another secretary, though.”

“If the workload demands it, he’s not going to turn you down.”

“Do you think you’ll get new business because of your relationship with Kate Lee?”

“I never got any because of my relationship with Will, and I’d decline anything I thought was nakedly political—or refer it to you.”

“Referrals are appreciated.”

“Herb, you seem a little down at a time when you should be elated.”

Herbie shrugged. “I’m just not sure how I’ll like being a big boy in the firm. Being the kid was fun.”

“You’ll like it at bonus time.”

“I already like it at bonus time.”

“Bonuses get bigger when you’re a partner.”

“I guess.”

“Herb, is there anything wrong? Anything I can help with?”

He was about to answer when Joan buzzed Stone.

“Yes?”

“Eduardo Bianchi on one.”

Bianchi was a kind of mentor to Stone. He knew everybody in town, served on the most prestigious boards, and had his fingers in many pies. He had also been long rumored to have been a power in the mob as a young man and an adviser to it in his maturity, but nobody had ever proved anything.

Stone picked up the phone. “Eduardo, how are you?”

“Better than I have any right to be, Stone.” Bianchi was well into his eighties. “Will you come to lunch tomorrow?”

“I’d love to.” He had an idea. “May I bring a friend? A young attorney?”

“Of course. I’m always happy to meet your friends. Twelve-thirty?”

“See you then.” He hung up. “Herb, I have a lunch invitation for you tomorrow.”

“Sorry, I’ve got a date—new business prospect.”

“Reschedule,” Stone said.

“Who’s lunch with?”

“Eduardo Bianchi.”

“I’ll reschedule.”

Stone walked up to the Seagram Building the following morning and took the elevator to the highest of the four floors occupied by the law firm of Woodman & Weld. The firm’s grandest conference room had rows of folding chairs set up, and all the partners filled the room.

Bill Eggers, the managing partner and Stone’s friend from law school, strode into the room, sat down at the head of the conference table, and rapped sharply with his gavel. “The partnership meeting will come to order.”

Everyone took ...

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