Sophie was the last one awake. She lay tensely in the queen-size bed next to her mother’s until she heard Marie’s soft, even breathing. Certain that her mother was deeply asleep, she slipped out of bed, tiptoed to her suitcase, and took out the little pink and red bag. Inside nestled a print scarf and a multi-colored beaded bracelet. Both items still bore their price tags. She’d snipped the tag off only the tortoiseshell hair comb so she could wear it today. She took it from the nightstand, looked at all three items, shook out and stroked the glossy material of the scarf, then quietly tucked all of them back in the bag, which she pushed deep into her suitcase. She wouldn’t take them out again until she left Dallas. She’d never wear that stupid hair comb again. She told herself it wasn’t as pretty as she’d thought when she first saw it in the store. The stern little voice inside her head told her that wasn’t the reason.
Sophie refused to allow herself to know what the real reason was.
She hadn’t left Colorado with those items in her suitcase. Her mother didn’t know she had them. She couldn’t explain where she’d gotten them.
But taking them had made her feel better. Everybody did it, at least once or twice. No big deal. She took a deep relaxing breath, thinking about how the act of lifting them from the counter made her feel, and realized she was finally getting drowsy. She crawled into bed, turned over, and was deeply asleep in three minutes.
Liz liked him like this—listening to other people’s problems, thinking about how to help them. This was the Robby whose principles in coaching and teaching had been the basis of his bestselling book. They were solid principles, and he’d taught them for years, and Liz knew herself that they did change people’s lives.
The Robby she had trouble admiring had emerged as the book shot up the bestseller lists. Always neat and well groomed, he’d now become fanatically clothes-conscious. He’d recently begun to order custom-made suits and add monograms to his expensive English shirts. While she decided how many new computers they needed for the office, he flew to New York for fittings with the city’s most exclusive tailor. She hired and trained new staff, and he consulted a professional colorist and lightened his hair.
When Robby solicited her opinion afterward, Liz asked, “What about the people who were fans before, some of our biggest customers? Won’t these flashy changes bother them?”
“You’re not looking at the big picture,” he said patiently. “These people are coming to me for answers. They expect to see someone who has them.”
Liz chose her words carefully. “And someone who has the answers is—attractive? Youthful? Using a facelift?”
“Stop it.” He glared at her. “The spa people I talked to said weekly facials were a good idea. They said it would make my skin softer and make me seem more approachable.”
Liz couldn’t think of any polite answer to that.
The current Robby had shown up after Marie moved out. It didn’t help that Liz knew why. But what did his wife expect him to do, now that he was finally creating a national impression?
It’s difficult seeing him humbled, Liz thought. Robby had worked a long time for success and done whatever was necessary, cheerfully and willingly, to achieve it. Yeah, he’d gone overboard with the glitzy success guy. It was still hard watching him hurt—not because he’d failed, but because he’d succeeded, after years of striving. And seeing him hurt over his family’s defection upset Liz. It wasn’t right, but there was nothing she could do about it.
Liz thought all these things while she watched Robby stare out the window. Sad that things hadn’t been good for him personally since the publication of Realizing You.
Professionally, things were fantastic. The book was a runaway bestseller, the website hits had gone crazy, Robby’s online presence had gone viral. One month after the book shot to number one, Liz arranged joint ventures, after five years of trying, with three of the top personal-development people in the country, all who eagerly endorsed Robby’s work and sought his endorsement as well.
They’d taken a huge step forward. Robby’s plan, scrawled on a piece of paper torn from a dime-store notebook, was starting to come true, in a big way. He’d been aiming at this success for a decade, and he’d brought in Liz five years ago to set up the structure and foundation while he set about becoming the persona in whom people could put their faith.
Both of them had succeeded, but now Robby was failing in all the important areas of his life.