Marina stood on the balcony of her suite at Le Meurice and looked out at the glistening lights of Paris. The view was spectacular, particularly at night. To the west, the Eiffel Tower and Roue de Paris stood illuminated against the night sky. Across the rue de Rivoli, les Jardin des Tuileries glowed, as if lit from within. Marina considered waking up her fiance, Grant, so he could enjoy the view with her. But there would be time for that. Their trip had just begun. Instead, Marina sat down at the table. She sparked a cigarette, inhaled. It felt good to have no work to do, no functions to attend, no emails begging response. She could read a book. She could do her nails. She could do nothing at all. The night was hers. Here in Paris, it was just beginning.
Her phone rang, jarring her. Marina felt a prick of irritation when she saw who was calling.
"Duncan," she said, her voice curt. "It's past midnight here."
"Were you sleeping?"
"Of course not. You're still on New York time. You don't sleep, anyway."
"That doesn't mean you're allowed to call me during my first vacation in almost ten years."
"I need you to do something for me."
Marina cringed. This was exactly the reason that Grant wanted her to leave Press magazine. In the near decade she'd worked for Duncan, she'd never once taken a vacation. She worked most weekends, countless holidays. She answered her phone at all hours of the night. She had begun her career as Duncan's assistant. Now, nine and a half years later, despite her senior status on the magazine masthead, he still occasionally treated her as such. Twenty-four hours into this trip, and already, he was tasking her with something. It was unbelievable, really, though not entirely surprising.
Marina intended to quit. She'd promised Grant she would, right after the wedding. The rumors that Grant's father, James Ellis, was going to run for president were true. The campaign would move into high gear in a matter of weeks. He had already assembled a team of campaign advisors and publicists. He would need it. A hotheaded billionaire from New York, he wasn't exactly the people's candidate. But once the spin doctors had done their magic, James Ellis would be transformed into a hardworking success story, a professional deal maker, a fresh alternative to the presumed Democratic nominee—and consummate DC insider—Senator Hayden Murphy. That was the plan, anyway. Murphy, who had been dogged for years by rumors of corruption and cronyism, was a formidable but flawed candidate. Ellis knew this; he was banking on it.
Quietly, Marina had her doubts that her future father-in-law was fit to be the leader of the free world. She'd seen him lose his temper at kind people who made the smallest of errors: at a new housekeeper who stocked the wrong kind of bottled water at the Southampton house, for example, or at a driver who missed the turnoff for Teterboro Airport. She also knew that Grant was a calming influence on his father. Grant would resign from his investment banking job and take over the family business while his father was out on the campaign trail. In his new capacity as president of Ellis Enterprises, Grant would travel constantly, and he would expect Marina to accompany him. There were things one had to do as the wife of a CEO of a multinational corporation. Not to mention the wife of the president's son, should it come to that. She couldn't work and be Mrs. Grant Ellis. At least, not at the same time. There was no question what was more important to her. She had to quit. That was part of the deal, and on some level, she'd always known it.
For a moment, Marina considered quitting right then, over the phone. It was justified, certainly. People at Press quit all the time. Duncan was a famously difficult editor in chief, and he paid his staff below the paltry industry standard. But it didn't feel right. After everything Duncan had done for her—and everything they'd done together—she wanted to resign the right way: in person, at a time that made sense not just for her, but for the magazine, too.
"You're unbelievable," Marina said. She stubbed out her cigarette and slipped back inside to find a pencil. "Aren't you supposed to be on a sabbatical?"
Duncan didn't answer the question. The topic of his sabbatical was a sore one. It was not something he had agreed to voluntarily. Rather, it was mandated by Philip Brancusi, the CEO of Press's parent company, who insisted that Duncan use the six weeks to dry out, once and for all. The drinking had become a problem, and everyone in publishing knew it. Everyone except Duncan himself.