Chaper 1, pages 1-2:
July 4, 1989
MICHAEL ROMANO PULLED the front right and back left ends of his bowtie apart to loosen it, then pulled the front left and back right apart to tighten it. There. It had only taken him two tries tonight. He was pleased.
Governor Romano had several other reasons to be pleased this particular evening. A record-breaking political fundraiser for his re-election was taking place this July fourth in the downstairs salon. Caroline was getting the house in France ready for a short vacation. And yesterday the Supreme Court had finally ruled in Webster v. Missouri. In a 5-4 decision, the Court had voted to uphold a Missouri law that could mean the beginning of the end of Roe v. Wade.
With a gratified smile, Michael refocused on his image in the mirror. Every strand of his dark, thick hair was in place. The gray cummerbund accented his flat stomach, and the cut of the tux jacket enhanced his broad shoulders and tapered waist. The hands that adjusted the bow tie were strong and well groomed, and the even, white teeth looked dazzling set in the tanned, olive complexion of his face.
He couldn’t help noticing that also reflected in the mirror was the vivid play of moonlight on the ocean. Michael turned away from his unabashed self-admiration and crossed the wide expanse of the bedroom, where he opened the French doors that led out onto the balcony overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. He stepped outside and observed that the tide was in, and that the pungent, salty smell of the ocean was strong. He looked up, hoping to see stars, but they were obliterated by Palm Beach’s own glittering lights, though the full moon cast enough light on the ocean to illuminate the waves that broke gently onto the shore.
Michael was grateful for the luxurious haven this estate of his wife’s father provided for them. The ocean was a sight he never tired of, the privileged view one he never took for granted.
As he stood there, peering out over the ocean and recalling the words of the Supreme Court ruling he’d read just that afternoon, he felt deep satisfaction that the Supreme Court had upheld Missouri’s law requiring doctors to determine if a fetus was capable of surviving outside the womb before aborting it .
Yes, the justices had finally done it. Upholding Missouri’s law was the beginning of the end for the Roe v. Wade decision that had been handed down in January, 1973—almost seventeen years before. Michael didn’t want to think about the millions of babies that had been aborted in those years.
Instead, he considered that the true significance of this whole thing was that the Supreme Court, in the same ruling, was giving each state the right to limit abortions. While he was disappointed that the Roe v. Wade ruling was still intact, he felt that the justices had made a sharp turn from defending abortion rights.
“About time,” Michael said aloud. He knew that since the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, nineteen states had repeatedly enacted legislation designed to limit access to legal abortion services. Many of the laws had been struck down by the Court, and those few upheld were ineffective on the whole.
But this…This was a clear statement, a turning of the tide, and he would now have to determine the best means of coaxing his own Legislature to enact the same restrictive laws for Florida.
He wondered again at this place and time in life to which fate had brought him, to this pivotal time in history when he was in a position to do something about the killing of innocent babies. Millions of babies had died at the will of the mother and the sharp instruments of doctors, solely because they were unwanted. Unlike him and Caroline, who had wanted a baby more than any other single thing in their lives. But it hadn’t happened, and it never would.
Shaking off the melancholy these thoughts brought, he instead acknowledged, as he often did, the abundance of the good things that had come his way. “God, I’m a lucky son-of-a-bitch,” he mumbled to himself for the ten-thousandth time. It was his way of giving thanks without being too humble, but it needed to be said often so that no jinx was laid upon him. Michael was too superstitious to take any chances. Life was just too dicey. The tide could go out as quickly as it had come in.
Chapter 3, pages 19-20:
“Hey, Governor Romano,” a very familiar and boisterous voice behind him penetrated the other voices in the room. Michael turned to look for the owner of the boisterous voice, his friend Gary Williams, but instead he found himself looking into a pair of captivating eyes. The din of the room faded slightly as Michael stood there, staring at a woman he had never seen before. He would have remembered her if he had.
Her eyes were silvery-gray clouds ringed by a deep, dark blue. They were actually sparkling. If anyone had told Michael before this moment that eyes really sparkled, he would have accused them of reading too many cheap romance novels.
But there was something more. It was vague, to be sure, but there was a resemblance to his college sweetheart, Alison. Although the eyes were silvery-gray, rather than hazel, there was something about the shape of her dark brows, the thickness of her lashes, the tilt of her head, and the soft but intelligent expression in those eyes, that evoked memories of Alison.
After an unseemly and lengthening pause, Michael found his voice. “Uh, hello.” Well damn, was that all he could manage? Why did he feel so off kilter?
“Hello, Governor.” She seemed shy, maybe even a little awestruck.
He wondered if she had picked up on the effect she was having on him. Did it show? No, he decided. In reality, only a few seconds had passed before he had spoken.
“It’s such a pleasure to meet you,” she said in a soft, sultry, voice. Michael took in the total face, as a whole and not in parts, as she spoke. He thought she was a damn good-looking woman.
He was staring. He knew he was staring, but he couldn’t help himself. He had never seen eyes that color. And what made them even more appealing was the strange yet suitable way they were offset by a shock of silver hair along the front of her hairline. It stood out, yet it blended with the rest of the luxuriant locks of her raven-black hair. Alison’s hair had been raven-black, too, but she had worn it in a long, thick braid most of the time.
“I’m sorry for staring,” Michael said, pulling back from the memory of Alison, “but you look like someone I used to know.”
“Really? No one has ever told me that before. Just the opposite. ‘You don’t look like anyone I’ve ever known’ is much more familiar to me.”
Was she playing with him, Michael wondered? No, she seemed sincere, not a trace of sarcasm in her voice.
“Well, just a resemblance, really.” And it was just a resemblance, he decided. He was being prodded into comparison by a memory of Alison that recently had been taken off the shelf and lightly dusted. Besides, Alison had been a very pretty girl, but before him stood a very beautiful woman.
Chaper 10, pages 77-78:
Michael started to reply, but was cut off by Representative Eleanor Ferguson, a Democrat from Orlando.
“Governor, if you have to address this law,” she said, “why not hold off until the regular session next year? That certainly makes a lot more sense.”
“Eleanor, this needs to be addressed now,” he responded.
“Why does it have to be addressed now, Governor Romano? The law as it stands has been in effect since 1973. What’s the urgency?”
He kept getting cut off. Before he could answer, Sarah Beeson charged him with “striking while the iron was hot.”
He admitted to them that the Supreme Court’s ruling indicated that they were more willing to tamper with the Roe v. Wade decision, and that, indeed, he felt that was an indication that the general population was ready to address it in more serious ways, too.
“Really, Governor,” Eleanor countered, “I think that the population, so to speak, is more concerned with providing access to safe medical abortions for women. Surely you remember how it was before Roe? Women died as a result of abortions that were so-called ‘banned,’ but that didn’t prevent them from having abortions anyway. You know what happened when they went to backroom butchers, and you must believe they have the right to have safe clinics and hospitals available to them.”
Michael calmly answered her, “The unborn child’s rights have to be the first consideration, Eleanor.”
“You can’t really set aside the law and a woman’s rights like that,” Eleanor replied, shaking her head in disbelief.
The other women vigorously echoed her sentiments.
“Eleanor, the rights of the unborn are not just a woman’s concern. The rights of the unborn transcend either male or female concerns. It’s simply a concern for life, period.”
Chapter 13: page 113:
For a Monday morning, Michael felt particularly fine. He was glad he had gone to Palm Beach yesterday. He and Caroline had a wonderful afternoon, making love and taking a nap in each other’s arms. When he was with her, he was whole.
True, guilt had intruded once or twice during their lovemaking, and there was a brief, surreal moment when the two women were juxtaposed. But what was done was done, and since it would never happen again, Michael made an uneasy truce with his sole infidelity.
Getting down to business, he sifted through the letters, faxes and phone messages that had piled up on his desk. Henry had left a note, written in bold red ink, which said, “Five to one against the special session.” Too bad, Michael thought. As long as he had the power to call a special session, which he did, he would do it. These pro-choice people had just gathered up a bigger head of steam than he had anticipated. The tide would turn before the session.
Chapter 20, page 171:
MICHAEL WAS WEARY from the day-to-day battles he was fighting over the special session. September had been a grueling month of working with key members of his staff, and several supportive legislators, to finalize the bills.
Every newspaper in Florida was at his throat, as were legislators and his own staffers—Andy most of all. He knew these people thought they were right, but they weren’t. This was an issue that had to be addressed now, while it was still hot.
It didn’t hurt that the President of the United States had called him personally to encourage him in his quest. His call had bolstered Michael at a time when he was actually considering throwing in the towel, despite the months of work in crafting the bills.
Besides the moral obligation he felt for holding the session, there was the matter of pride. He hated to admit it, but to back down now would be a sign of weakness. He wouldn’t do it. Besides the president’s support, he still had the support of a tight group of conservatives who were donating at record rates to his re-election campaign. And even more than that, his family had been watching the national news regarding his efforts, and they had all called and written to encourage him.
He wondered again what effect a defeat at the special session would have on his chances of being re-elected. The polls supported the theory that he would be badly hurt if he failed to convince the lawmakers to enact stricter abortion regulations. But the session was only a week away, while the election was still a year away. He would have plenty of time to make up lost ground if things didn’t go his way.
He re-read the last paragraph of the editorial in the Miami Herald. It ended with, “Governor Romano has created a lose-lose situation for himself.”
Could that be true?
Chapter 21, page 183-184:
Michael knocked at the door and held his breath. What to say? How to handle this?
“Come in, Michael,” she said hesitantly, stepping back from the doorway.
“Kristin, I haven’t got much time. Tell me what’s really going on.”
“I told you, Michael—I’m pregnant.”
“But it can’t…”
“Don’t you dare say it can’t be yours! It is yours, vasectomy or no vasectomy. You are the only man I’ve been with. The only one. Are you hearing me?” she shouted the last question at him.
He feared this could get ugly real fast. Michael wasn’t going to let that happen.
In a measured voice he said, “I understand that I had a vasectomy almost three years ago. I understand that I’ve made love to my wife hundreds of times since then, and had sex with you…What, seven or eight times? Now if you were me, what would you believe?”
“I don’t care what you believe. I know the truth. This baby is yours, Michael. No one else’s. I won’t let you shirk your responsibility.”
Damn if she didn’t seem to be telling the truth. Still, she wasn’t going to push him into a corner that easily. If she was trying to intimidate him, she was dealing with the wrong guy.
“You’re forgetting who you’re dealing with, Kristin. I’m the most powerful man in this state. I could get six different guys to say they all screwed you.”
“You bastard, you just try it. I’ll file a paternity suit, naming you, the most powerful man in this state,” she mimed sardonically, “as the father. There are blood tests, you know.”
“Yeah, and I have type ‘O’ like the majority of the population.”
“There are much more sophisticated tests available now, Michael, like DNA testing. I can afford to do anything I have to do to prove you’re the father. You forget who you’re dealing with.”
He felt acute physical pain, as if he had been punched in the gut. A sense of dread overcame him as the truth of what she said hit home. She was right, and she was a lot tougher than he had thought possible. He had always been able to intimidate, to get people to back down. He realized that tactic wasn’t going to work this time.
“Okay. Let’s say it is mine. What can I do about it? I know you don’t need child support, but I’ll make any financial arrangements you think are fair. More than fair.”
“You cold bastard. Your baby is growing inside me, and you’re talking about, what, a trust fund or something?”
“What do you want me to say or do then, Kristin?”
“I want you to say you’ll leave your wife and marry me and have this baby with me.”
© Rebecca Warner 2014