Jess Story checked the address one last time, removed his hat, and entered the lobby of San Francisco’s Hotel Excelsior. Polished marble covered the floors, and crimson velvet curtains and valances trimmed the windows. He looked as out of place in his old gray suit and starched collar as a weed in one of his flowerbeds. The professional gardener tugged at his too-short sleeves and wiped his brow. A man delivering a box of long-stemmed red roses spoke to the clerk. He compared them to his bouquet of pink chrysanthemums and hid them behind his sleeve. The man behind the desk signed for the roses handed them to a bellhop, and motioned Jess forward.
“May I help you, sir?”
“Yes, could you direct me to Jackie Story’s apartment?”
“I will need to see your cash and proof of an appointment.”
Jess’s heart sank. “Uhm. She’s, my daughter. I wrote that I was coming.”
The clerk’s face turned red. “You’re Jaclyn’s father?
“Yes, I need to see her.”
The clerk hesitated before picking up the phone. “Miss Story? I’m sorry to bother you, but a man here says he’s your father. He said he wrote that he was coming. Should I tell him to go away? No? Are you sure? Very well, I’ll send him up.”
He lowered the phone but never raised his eyes. “Mention Jaclyn’s name to the elevator operator. He’ll take you to her floor.”
The elevator stopped on the penthouse level. The bellhop who’d delivered the roses stepped in as Jess stepped out. The doors slid shut, and he was left standing in a luxuriously carpeted hallway that led to a polished mahogany door. A raven-haired beauty wearing a flimsy pink robe who smelled of cigarettes and men’s cologne answered his knock.
“Jackie?” Jess noticed the box of long-stemmed red roses and a note lying on a low table.
The beauty’s eyes flashed. “It’s Jaclyn, Father. I’m not your little girl anymore.”
“I can see that.” He extended the chrysanthemums. “May I come in?”
The pink robe exposed her cleavage when she reached for them.
“For a few minutes. I need to freshen up before my next appointment.” She stepped aside, closed the robe, and dropped the flowers in the garbage. Her eyes dared him to say anything.
Jess fidgeted with his hat. “Could you reschedule?”
Her blue eyes smoldered. “Why should I?”
“I have a brain tumor…, Jaclyn. The doctor says I’m going to die.”
Her expression softened. “I’m sorry. Can’t anything be done?”
Jess’s eyes roved around the lavish suite. “That’s up to you.”
She lit a cigarette. “Me?”
He nodded. “I’ve committed a sin of omission. I must atone for it before I die.”
She blew smoke toward the ceiling. “Good luck.”
“I can’t do it without your help, Jackie.”
“It’s Jaclyn.” The robe opened when she crossed her arms. “I know what you think of me. Why should I help you?”
He looked at his only child. “Because you are the only one who can.”
Princeton Porter parked his 1947 Chrysler New Yorker, where Dalton Prewett would see it. He needn’t have bothered. Nothing happened in Prewettville without Dalton’s knowledge or permission. It was his town. He’d dug it out from a seemingly endless lode of silver three feet wide and two feet high.
Porter stepped out of the Chrysler, put on his businessman’s fedora, and looked down the flag-draped Main Street. It disgusted him. He walked to the only building without one, the office of The Prewettville Examiner.
The bell above the door jingled. A woman with short brown hair looked up with worried eyes. “May I help you, sir?”
Porter carefully removed his hat. “I’m Princeton Porter. You must be Sharon. You can put the pistol down.”
She set a snub-nosed 38 on her desk, stood, and extended her hand. “Sorry, general, we’ve been getting a lot of threats. You can’t be too careful. Thank you for coming.”
Porter eyed her extended abdomen. “Congratulations. Please sit down. Princeton’s fine: the war’s over. Fill me in on what’s happened.”
She took a few steps. “I should get Wes.”
He blocked her. “I’ll talk to him later. I’m talking to you now.”
She looked out at the flags. “The whole town’s gone crazy, Gen… Princeton. Everyone knows Dalton Prewett either murdered Jess Story or hired it done, but nobody cares. If business is good, and people are making money, the murder doesn’t matter.”
Porter narrowed his eyes. “Why do you think Prewett’s involved?”
“Jaclyn, Jess’s daughter. She’s drop-dead gorgeous and learned she could use her body to get whatever she wanted a long time ago. She moved back to Prewettville and set her sights on Dalton. Prewett asked Jaclyn to marry him, but Jess wouldn’t give his permission.”
Porter’s eyes went to hers. “Is she over twenty-one?”
Sharon nodded. “Maybe Jaclyn’s old-fashioned or something. She told Dalton there’d be no wedding unless he could get her father to change his mind. I think Dalton’s ‘persuasion’ got a little out of hand, and he killed Jess.”
“What did the police say?”
She laughed. “Prewett owns them. They blamed it on a passing tramp.”
“What about Story’s daughter?”
“Jaclyn? She wore black to the funeral, but nobody saw her cry.”
Porter leaned on the counter. “Tell me about the threats.”
“They started when The Examiner printed an editorial about the killing. We lost eighty percent of our subscribers and advertisers over it. Wes didn’t mention anything about Dalton Prewett. He just said there should be an outside investigation. Prewett calls our news “phony,” and he’s threatened to start another newspaper.” She took a breath. “Things are pretty tough for us right now.”
Wes Archer stepped out of the press room wearing an ink-stained apron.
“General. How long have you been here? Honey, how come you didn’t get me?”
Porter extended his hand. “That’s my fault, Wes. I thought I’d talk to Sharon first. It’s good to see you. I see congratulations are in order.”
“Thanks, and thanks for coming. I didn’t know who else to call.”
“I’m always glad to help an old friend.” Porter pointed toward the street. “What’s with the flags?”
“That’s Prewett’s idea of patriotism. The old bastard never served a day and probably made millions off the war. It makes me sick. That many flags hanging around looks more like laundry day than a patriotic display.”
The bell above the door jingled. A man with a bald head and no neck stepped inside. His tight brown suit made him look like a sausage.
Wes’s jaw clenched. “What are you doing here, Warner? Did Prewett send you?”
“What if he did? I don’t see a DO NOT ENTER sign. I came for him.” He pointed to Princeton. “Mr. Prewett wants to see you at the mansion, General.”
Porter’s gaze shifted between Archer and his wife. “Looks like news travels fast. I wouldn’t mind talking to Mr. Prewett. Give me a quick appraisal of Jess Story before I go, Wes.”
“Practicing Catholic. Honest. Hardworking. A good man to have as a neighbor.”
Porter put his hat on. “Married?”
“His wife died when Jaclyn was fourteen,” Sharon replied.
“Thanks.” Princeton turned to the man in the brown suit. “I’ll drive myself.”
Warner stepped in front of him. “The boss said I should deliver you.”
Porter shook his head. “I said I’d drive myself.”
Warner puffed his chest out and stared at Porter. He blinked. Porter didn’t, and he stepped aside.
Princeton’s first impression of Prewett’s mansion wasn’t favorable. Vue Sur La Vallée looked like a cross between a French manor house and Yellowstone Lodge. He parked the Chrysler and walked up a wide flagstone path to the front door. A maid answered the bell.
“Princeton Porter. I’m here to see Mr. Prewett.”
She took his hat. “He’s expecting you, General. Please follow me.”
The inside was as ugly as the outside. Tacky red velveteen wallpaper covered some walls—others knotty pine paneling. Gilded framed portraits of European royalty hung next to paintings of voluptuous saloon girls. Expensive mismatched furniture and taxidermized bears and pronghorn antelope completed the décor.
The maid showed him a room with a large, windowed wall and told him to wait. The wall looked out onto a smooth concrete deck and a large swimming pool with a fountain at one end. A nude young woman with long black hair rose from sunning herself. He turned away.
Prewett came in a few minutes later with a wrinkled face and dyed yellow hair. He moved to the windowed wall and leered at the young woman.
“Shouldn’t a gentleman avert his eyes?”
“She doesn’t care. We’re going to be married.”
“Lucky girl,” gibed Porter.
“Damn right, she is! I’m a hell of a catch!”
“Aren’t you at least forty years older than her?”
Prewett’s face turned orange. “I didn’t have you come so you could flap your damn jaws. I had you come so I could warn you. You, that newspaper publisher, and his pretty little wife should leave while you can. I own this town. What I say goes.”
Porter glared at him. “No man’s above the law, Mr. Prewett. You can’t kill a man and not expect to face justice.”
He chuckled. “I didn’t kill anyone, Porter. The town marshal and the state police have exonerated me.”
“I don’t believe them, and I don’t believe you,” Porter replied. “As long as you’re mine is the main employer and the price of silver is high, these people will let you get away with murder. They might already have.”
Prewett pulled a pistol from his jacket pocket. “I told you this is my town. I could kill you right now, and nothing would happen.”
The glass wall opened. The young woman came in wearing a short robe and sandals. She took the pistol from Dalton and set it on the desk. “That’s not going to work this time, darling. General Porter is a certified war hero.” She removed her hand from the robe’s pocket and extended it to Porter.
“I’m Jaclyn Story.”
Jaclyn had soft hands and smelled of tanning oil. “Princeton Porter. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“I’ve heard a lot about you too, General.” She held his hand for a fraction of a second longer than necessary. “You should leave. Everything here is fine.”
Porter took a handkerchief from his pocket. “You feel greasy.”
She whispered so only he could hear. “Sometimes.”
The black-haired beauty sauntered over to the old yellow-haired tycoon. “Come on, baby. I’ll give you a back rub.”
Prewett smirked and patted her on the butt. “Remember what I told you, Porter.”
Jaclyn appeared in the Chrysler’s headlights dressed in jodhpurs, black boots, and a white blouse. Princeton eased the New Yorker to a stop and unlatched the passenger door. “I was surprised to get your note, Miss Story.
She slid in beside him. “Thanks for meeting me. Drive on ahead. I’ll tell you where to turn.” She twisted toward him. “The magazines say you went back into the family business. Is that true?”
Porter felt Jaclyn’s warmth and smelled her perfume. “Yes, I’m practicing law.”
She pointed. “Turn down that path up ahead and park.”
Princeton did as she directed and switched everything off except the dash lights.
Jaclyn pushed a bundle of papers across the seat. “I need you to fix this.”
“What is it?”
“Dalton’s Will. You need to change it. This one says I can’t inherit his estate unless we’ve been married for five years. You need to take that out.”
He shook his head. “It doesn’t work like that, Miss Story. You made your bed. Now you’ll have to sleep in it.”
Jaclyn set the bundle in her lap. “It’s not like that, General. My dad hated Dalton Prewett. He hated the power he held over the people of Prewettville, and he hated most of the people of Prewettville for putting their money before the law. Dalton is a power-hungry, vicious, evil man, and Dad said he couldn’t rest unless he knew Dalton would face justice.”
“Your father was dying?”
“He had a brain tumor. The doctors said his death would be slow and painful.”
“Is that why you moved back home? Did your father ask you to arrange Prewett’s justice?”
Jaclyn nodded. “Men are attracted to me, General. I can make them do anything I want. It wasn’t hard to get Dalton to fall in love. It was even easier to get him to ask me to marry him.” Her eyebrow raised. “I get asked all the time, and I’ve always said no. This time I said yes. But only if Dad gave his blessing.”
“Dad wanted to humiliate Dalton Prewett. He wanted to spread it all over town that there was finally something or someone he couldn’t buy. I told Dalton the wedding was off if he couldn’t get Dad’s blessing. Dad knew he would do anything to get me to marry him, and he knew Dalton carried a gun.”
Porter’s eyes widened. “Your father wanted Prewett to kill him. He probably even egged him on because the Catholic Church frowns on suicide.”
Jaclyn’s eyes flashed. “Damn it, General. They’ll put a dog down to keep it from suffering, but they’ll let a man wither away in agony! Does that make any sense?”
Porter’s eyes hardened. “No, it doesn’t.”
“Everything went as planned until I found out about the will.” She looked down and shook her head. “The things he makes me do.” Jaclyn pushed the bundle toward him. “You need to change it. You need to remove that five-year clause.”
“That’s why you got Wes to call me, right?”
“Uh-huh. I needed an attorney, and Dalton wouldn’t let me leave the estate unless Warner went with me. I needed an attorney that could come to me. Sharon and I’ve known each other for years, so getting her husband to call was easy.”
“And now you’re out riding?”
Jaclyn nodded. “I normally ride in the evening. My horse threw a shoe tonight, so I’ll get back a little later than usual.”
Porter gave her a tight smile. “I’m glad you were on our side during the war.”
Jaclyn’s brow wrinkled. “Is Sharon’s husband a good man?”
“Wes? He’s one of the best.”
“She’s lucky. I’m not sure I’ve ever met one of those.” She peered at Porter. “Will you help me? If you don’t do it for me, do it for Dad.”
The dash lights made a grid of light and shadow, accentuating Jaclyn’s deep blue eyes. Princeton felt himself being drawn into them and looked away. “What if Prewett’s attorneys have copies? What about notes and rough drafts?”
She patted the papers. “Everything should be in the bundle.”
“How do you know?”
Her expression changed. “Do I need to tell you?”
Porter got a lump in his throat. “It’s not necessary.”
“Good.” Jaclyn placed the bundle on the seat. “I’ll need them by tomorrow. I’ll meet you at the same place and time. Okay?”
“That might be pushing it.”
She unlatched the door. “Pushing it? I arranged for you to have access to a print shop and two assistants. What more do you need?”
Princeton smiled. “You’re quite a woman, Miss Story. Don’t worry. I’ll have them for you tomorrow.”
“Thank you, General, and please call me Jaclyn.”
He nodded. “I’m Princeton.”
Porter rubbed his eyes and focused across the room to give them a break from the fine print.
The intercom buzzed.
“Mr. Porter, Jaclyn Prewett’s on the line.”
“Send it through.” He cleared his throat and picked up the telephone handset.
“I need you, Princeton. They’re reading the Will, and Dalton’s estate has attorneys.” She sounded worried. “I want someone there who’s on my side.”
“Of course. Where and when?”
“Ten o’clock Monday morning in the Prewettville Bank & Trust boardroom.”
Porter marked his calendar. “How are you?
“You mean now that the whole world thinks I’m a gold-digging, murdering whore? I’d be in the electric chair if Dalton didn’t have a history with prostitutes. Erotic asphyxiation. I didn’t even know there was a term for it. Choking made him aroused. I loosened the strap more than once. I, uh, misjudged this time.”
“Just be there, okay.”
“Don’t worry. I will.”
Porter parked the Chrysler the same as before. He settled his fedora, picked up his briefcase, and walked across the street. The town wasn’t the circus of red, white, and blue it had been. Now the only flag displayed was by the door of The Prewettville Examiner.
Jaclyn was the lone woman in a room of men and stood in the corner facing the entrance. Her face lit up when she saw him. “Thank God you’re here. I feel practically naked.”
Porter eyed her clear complexion, conservative black jacket, skirt, and white blouse. He wanted to hold her and tell her everything would be alright. “I told you I’d come.”
She grabbed his hand. “I know. I want it to be over.”
“The reading of the Will?”
“Everything. I want everything to be over.”
One of the suits tapped on the table. “Could everyone please be seated? I think we’re ready to begin.”
A middle-aged man sat down at the head of the table and waited until everyone was seated. “Good morning. I’m Robert Brown, and I’ll be representing the law firm of James, Enoch, and Brown, the attorneys for the Prewett estate.” He turned to Jaclyn. “Mrs. Prewett, let me express the firm’s sincere condolences for your loss.”
“Where’s Mr. James?” she asked.
“Mr. James is unable to attend because of health issues. He sent his assistant, Mr. Urie, in his place.”
A young man with close-cropped blond hair and blue eyes gave her a smug look. “I’ll ensure you get everything you deserve, Mrs. Prewett.”
Mr. Brown opened the document and studied it. “There are a few perfunctory bequests, but we can go over those at another time.”
He focused on Jaclyn. “As Mr. Prewett had no children or relatives, the bulk of his estate and
controlling interest in Prewett Silver Mining, Minerals, and Shipping go to you. The estimated
value is thirteen million dollars.”
Mr. Urie interrupted. “Mr. Prewett stipulated that he and Mrs. Prewett needed to be married for five years before she could inherit. It hasn’t even been one. The Will should be declared null and void.”
Jaclyn turned pale.
“There is no such clause in Mrs. Prewett’s copy,” said Porter.
“It’s here in my original notes.” The assistant started to hand them to Mr. Brown. He brushed them away.
“I have both of the firm’s signed copies; neither contains a five-year marriage clause.”
Urie’s eyes bulged. “It’s right here!”
“Dalton Prewett’s signature overrides your notes, Mr. Urie. The Will has been signed, witnessed, and probated. It stands as read.” Mr. Brown turned to Jaclyn. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Prewett. We’re not usually this unorganized. It won’t happen again.”
Urie jumped up and pointed at Jaclyn. “She’s a damn whore. She doesn’t deserve a goddamn dime!”
Jaclyn burst into tears.
The senior attorney yelled at the assistant. “Leave the room, Mr. Urie! Now!”
Porter’s briefcase snapped shut. “We’re finished. If you need to contact Mrs. Prewett, you’ll do it through me.” He took Jaclyn’s arm and guided her out of the room.
“Will you take me home, Princeton?”
“Of course. I’m just across the street.”
Porter didn’t say anything until they were halfway to Vue Sur La Vallée. “Arranging Mr. James’s absence was a nice touch. What’d you use, untraceable poison?”
“No.” Jaclyn’s lips curved. I sent him a basket of smoked salmon, liver pâté, quail eggs, and wine.”
“He has gout and very little self-control.”
“Nicely played. I’m always amazed by you.”
Porter tooled the Chrysler along the windy road until they reached the manor house. He parked in front of the flagstone path and opened her door. Jaclyn stepped out and stared at the majestic view. “Did you know all Vue Sur La Vallée means in English is valley view?”
“Yes, I knew.”
She started up the walk. “Will you come in? I need to speak with you.”
The maid met them at the door. “Margie, take Mr. Porter to the windowed study.” Jaclyn paused at the bottom of a large staircase. “Would you like anything to eat or drink, Princeton? Some sandwiches and iced tea, perhaps?”
“That would be nice, thank you.”
“Very well. Margie, take Mr. Porter to the study and bring sandwiches and iced tea. I’ll join you in a few minutes.”
Porter stared through the glass at the concrete deck, sparkling pool, and cascading fountain. An image of Jaclyn sunning herself flashed before his eyes. He pushed it aside and turned. She stood a few feet away. Her long hair was in a ponytail, and she wore blue capris, a pink cotton blouse, and a pair of tan beaded moccasins. She took his breath away.
“I didn’t hear you come in.”
“I didn’t want to disturb you.” She walked to the window wall. “This is the only room I like. Oh, I spoke to Sharon Archer. The Examiner is doing better than ever now that Dalton’s gone.” She covered her mouth. “That sounded cold, didn’t it?”
“I knew what you meant.”
Jaclyn went silent. “I’ve decided to give most of Dalton’s money away. I want to make a charity named after Dad. The Jess Thomas Story Charitable Fund, or something like that. Can you do it?”
“Are you sure? Perhaps you should give yourself some time?”
Her shoulders drooped. “I’m done. I’m done with it all.” She stepped away from the window, sat in an oversized chair, and tucked her legs underneath.
There was a knock on the door. The maid entered, pushing a linen-covered cart with two plates, a tray of diagonally cut sandwiches, and a pitcher of iced tea.
Jaclyn swiveled. “Thank you, Margie. We’ll serve ourselves.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” She curtsied and left.
Jaclyn walked to the cart, arranged two sandwiches on a plate, and poured a glass of tea. She set them on a low table in front of Porter and did the same for herself.
“Did I ever explain why I did this?”
“For your Father, wasn’t it?”
“Mostly. Dad said he’d committed a sin of omission because he hadn’t done everything to stop Dalton, including using me like a whore.” She started to cry. “My Dad thought of me as a whore, Princeton. A whore!”
Porter gave her his handkerchief.
She wiped her eyes. “For the first time in my life, I felt dirty. Before, I’d seen men as chumps who’d do anything to be with me. Now I realized Dad was right. I’m a whore. I’m going to hell, aren’t I?”
He didn’t say a word.
She jerked forward in the chair. “Damn it, Princeton. Say something! What’s going on behind those calm brown eyes? Are you trying to picture me naked? Are you trying to imagine what it’d be like to lay me? You should do it. My client’s said I’m a good one.” She began to unbutton her blouse.
“Stop it! Just stop it, Jackie. I’m not saying anything because I don’t know what to say. I’m used to dealing with men. Women have never been anything but a pleasant distraction.”
“Jackie.” Her eyes went to his. “Dad used to call me Jackie.”
Porter took a deep breath. “You’re not Jaclyn anymore. For God’s sake, button your damn shirt.”
He took a few seconds to collect his thoughts. “You say you’re going to hell. Well, I’ve been there. I’ve seen friends die a hundred different ways. My days of black and white, right and wrong, good and evil are long gone.” He stared over her head. “There’s a lot of grays in the world. I’ve sent men to fight and die for a few square miles of dirt that didn’t mean anything two months earlier and doesn’t mean anything now. But the men are still dead. You’re young. Don’t give up on yourself.” He stood and stared through the window wall.
She stood beside him. “What are you staring at?”
He turned. “A sin of omission. You said it’s when you know what’s right, but you don’t do it.”
She moved closer and looked up at him. “It’s something like that.
“How old are you?”
“I’ll be twenty-nine in December. Why?”
“That’s how much older I am than you.” Her blue eyes drew him in. “You’re everything I’ve ever wanted in a woman. You’re intelligent and strong and beautiful.” He started to reach for her. “No, I need to give you time. Maybe next year.”
Jackie moved so that they were touching. “Why?”
“You need to get used to being Jackie or whoever you are,” Princeton replied. “I’ll get some preliminary paperwork drawn up and send it over.”
She kissed him on the cheek. “So, this is what it’s like?”
“What, what’s like?”
“To meet a good man. Come, we can talk more about it over lunch. She moved her plate next to his.
“Are you sure you want to be with someone like me? Someone with my past?”
He smiled softly. “I’ve got thick skin. Don’t worry about it.” He looked at his watch. “I need to be getting back to the city. I have a late appointment this afternoon.”
“Can I catch a ride? I planned to leave tomorrow but would rather go with you.”
“How soon can you be ready?”
Porter squeezed her hand. “I’d like that.”
Princeton opened the door for her and put her case in the trunk. Jackie watched him walk to the driver’s side and step in. “Thanks for the lift. I hope I didn’t keep you waiting too long?”
“I called my secretary and had her move the meeting back an hour.
“It took me a little longer than I thought.” She slid next to him. “Do you mind?”
He smiled. “No, I like it.” They fueled up and headed for the state capital.
Jackie noticed Princeton glance into the rearview mirror several times and felt the car swerve.
“What is it?” She looked over her shoulder. A dark green car was racing up behind them. “It’s Warner! He wasn’t thrilled I was acquitted and inherited Dalton’s estate. This could mean trouble.”
Porter sped up. Warner matched him.
Princeton looked at her sideways. “Can you shoot?”
Jackie nodded. “I’m a country girl, remember.”
“Good. There’s a revolver in the jockey box. Get it out but don’t shoot unless he fires first, or I tell you. Got it?” She grabbed the pistol and climbed into the back seat. “Tell me when.”
Warner tried to get around them, but Porter kept blocking him. The goon finally squeezed past and raced up to the driver’s side. He slammed into the New Yorker, trying to flip it around. Porter countered, and Warner slowed. Jackie held on to the seat back and noticed a tight right curve sign up ahead.
“You see the curve?”
“I do.” Porter hit the brakes. “If we get out of this alive, I’ll marry you next week.”
Jackie sighted the pistol on the hired goon. “I’m going to hold you to that, Princeton.” Metal shrieked as the green car screeched past. Warner pointed a gun at Porter through the passenger side window.
“He’s going to shoot!” yelled Jackie. She squeezed off two shots, and both cars careened off the blacktop.
Porter returned the three-month-old Look magazine to the rack and refilled his cup from the coffee maker. It tasted as old as the magazine. A man in a long white coat entered the room. Porter jumped. “Any word, doctor?”
“We should know soon.” The doctor patted him on the shoulder. “She’s a strong woman. I’m sure she’ll be fine. Try not to worry, counselor.”
Porter removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “That’s easier said than done.”
“These things take time. I’ll make sure you’re kept informed.” The doctor gave a tight smile and left the room.
Porter thought about the car wreck. Jackie’s shots were on the mark, but Warner’s death grip on the steering wheel was enough to send them over the embankment. He remembered his promise to marry her. Now, he had to deal with this, too.
“General Porter?” A nurse stood in the doorway.
He rose to his feet. “How is she? Can I see her?”
“Yes, she’s resting comfortably. If you follow me, I’ll take you to her room.”
Jackie smiled when she saw him. “Hi, darling.”
“How are you? Are you in pain? Can I get you anything?”
“No, I’m doing okay. The doctor said everything was fine.” She took his hand. “I never thought this would happen.”
Porter kissed her cheek. “All I care about is that you’re healthy.”
“Excuse me.” The same nurse stood in the doorway. “Here’s another visitor to see you.” She placed a baby in the crook of Jackie’s arm. “General and missus Porter, I’d like you to meet your daughter.” She smiled. “Have you picked out a name?”
Jackie looked at her husband. “I’d like to call her Jessica, after my dad. We could have her middle name be your mothers.”
“Dorothea?” He smiled. “Jessica Dorothea Porter. I like it.”
A woman’s voice echoed down the hallway.
“That will be her now,” said Porter.
A white-haired woman in an attractive blue dress and hat stormed through the doorway.
“There you are, Princeton. I can’t believe you made me come here alone to find you.” Her mouth opened in a smile. “Jackie, you look beautiful. Do I have a granddaughter or grandson?”
“A granddaughter.” The new mother answered. “We’re calling her Jessica Dorothea after you.”
“How delightful. Thank you.” She reached toward the baby. “May I?”
Jackie put the baby in her arms. She looked at her son. “Finally! I had to wait until I was over eighty for my first grandchild.”
Porter looked at Jackie. “I’m sorry, Mother. There was a world war, after all.”
She rocked from side to side. “I suppose I can make allowances.” She smiled at her daughter-in-law. “I’m certainly glad he found you. I’d just about given up hope.”
Jackie patted Princeton’s hand. “I am too. I never expected to be a mother.”
Dorothea handed the infant back. “It’s a man’s world, Jackie. We, daughters of Eve, need to use the gifts the good Lord gave us.”
Princeton kissed his mother, his wife, and his daughter. “It may be a man’s world, but I’m outnumbered in this household.”
Dorothea patted her son’s shoulder. “Yes, Princeton, and don’t you ever forget it.”