Home > Past Perfect

Past Perfect
Author: Danielle Steel


Chapter 1


Blake Gregory sat looking out his office window in New York, pondering the offer he had just been made to be the CEO of a new high-tech social media start-up in San Francisco. He’d had other offers before, in Boston and other cities, though none as enticing as this one, and he’d turned them down without hesitation. But this was different, it had several exciting twists. The company’s founders were two young men with golden track records who had made vast fortunes with their earlier ventures. As a result they had plenty of money to invest in their new start-up. Their previous companies had been based on simple concepts, and so was this one, combining the principles of a search engine with social media, and the potential growth rate was astronomical.

Blake was in high-tech venture capital, with an established, extremely respected firm. But the idea they had outlined made sense to him, and even made him want to join their team, although he had done well where he was, and a new company was never certain to succeed. But if it worked, he could see it making billions. There were possible pitfalls involved, but he thought they could be overcome in the developmental stage. The offer had come out of the blue, based on some business contacts he had and his professional reputation as a smart, forward-thinking analyst of new ventures, highly adept at assessing risk and how to get around it to create a successful business. They were offering him twice what he was making at the firm where he worked in New York. His future was secure where he was now, and he had been there for ten years and liked his co-workers. Everything was unknown about the situation at the start-up in San Francisco, including how he’d like the people he’d be working for. He knew they were gutsy, brilliant, and ruthless, and they always made big money. It was so damn tempting, although he wasn’t usually a risk taker. But the money was appealing, and so was the stock he’d own in the company when they went public, which was their goal.

It made him feel young again, thinking about doing something new and different. At forty-six, he had been on a safe, predictable path for a long time. Married, with three kids, he wasn’t one to throw caution to the wind. He couldn’t even imagine what his wife, Sybil, would say if he told her. They were both inveterate New Yorkers, loved the city, and had grown up there, as their kids had. Blake had never considered taking a job in another city, but he was now. If the start-up succeeded, he could make a fortune. It was going to be hard to turn down.

Sybil was thirty-nine years old, and had had a diversified career. She had been an art history major at Columbia, which was where she had met Blake, while he was at business school getting his MBA. She had been passionate about Frank Lloyd Wright, I. M. Pei, Frank Gehry, and all the avant-garde architects of modern times. She had gone back to Columbia to study architecture, after she married Blake and had kids, and then changed direction to pursue interior design, and had become a consultant to high-end furniture design firms, and she had created several pieces herself that had become iconic. She was a regular consultant to both MoMA and the Brooklyn Museum, advising them about their acquisitions of important pieces for their permanent collections, and curating shows for them. Everything she touched had a sleek, streamlined look to it, and in her nonexistent spare time, she was working on a book about the best of twentieth-century interior design, and her publisher was clamoring for it.

Blake was certain her book would be a success. She was a thorough, thoughtful writer, about the subjects she knew best. She wrote frequent articles for important interior design magazines and the New York Times design section, and was considered an expert in her field. Her personal favorite was mid-century modern, and anything designed earlier than 1950 was of less interest to her, but she wrote about all of it. Their two-story Tribeca loft apartment on North Moore, in an old textile warehouse, looked like the modern wing of a great museum. Every important designer was represented with pieces that could instantly be attributed to them by any expert. Sybil was, above all, very talented herself, and had a way of picking decisively what was new and chic. Blake didn’t always understand it, but readily admitted he liked the effect.

Sybil had a respect for other periods and enjoyed exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum, and they both loved the archaic turn-of-the-century elegance of the Frick Collection, but what made Sybil’s heart beat faster, what she was drawn to and created, was anything at the outer, forward edge of design. Their own apartment had a coolness to it, and a spare airy feeling. She had designed some of the furniture herself from a line she had created. Museums around the country asked her to curate exhibits for them. She almost never took on private decorating clients anymore, because she didn’t want to be limited by other people’s ideas and tastes. And the hub of all her creative activities was New York. Blake didn’t think it would be fair to ask her to move to San Francisco for him. Normally he wouldn’t have considered it, but the job he’d been offered was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He wondered if he could do it for a couple of years, but if the business was a success, he’d want to stay longer.

His kids wouldn’t welcome a move either. The offer in San Francisco had come the first week of school. Andrew had just started his senior year of high school, and would be applying to college that fall. Caroline was a junior, and firmly embedded in her life in New York. The prospect of moving at sixteen and seventeen would horrify them both. Only Charlie, their six-year-old, wouldn’t care where they lived, as long as he was with them. He had just started first grade.

Sybil was in Philadelphia for the day, consulting with a museum about a show they wanted her to curate in two years. He didn’t know if he’d tell her about the offer or even whether he should. Why upset her about a job he wasn’t going to take? But they wanted him to go to San Francisco and see them that week to discuss it further, and he was sorely tempted to. They’d been incredibly persistent. It was Monday, and he had already figured out that he could get away on Wednesday afternoon, and had moved some meetings to do it.

He was distracted, thinking about it, when Sybil walked into their apartment that night, her long blond hair pulled back tightly in a bun, and wearing a very severe but chic black suit. She looked every inch a New Yorker, and always did. She was a beautiful woman, and their daughter had her tall, lean, classic appearance. Both boys resembled Blake more clearly, with dark hair, dark eyes, and all-American athletic bodies. They loved sports and were good athletes.

“How’d it go?” Blake asked, as she smiled at him, put down her bag, and took off her shoes. It was a hot Indian summer day, and she’d left the house at six A.M. to catch the train and be in Philadelphia in time for her meeting. Their housekeeper had picked Charlie up at school, Caroline and Andy took the subway home at different hours. One of the things Sybil liked about her eclectic work life was her flexible schedule, so she could usually pick Charlie up. Charlie had come as a surprise to both of them, but after the initial shock and adjustment, they’d agreed that he was one of the best things that had ever happened to them. He was their easiest, most loving child, and always happy whatever he was doing. Both his older siblings enjoyed spending time with him too.

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