Chapter One When it snows on Christmas Eve in New York, there is a kind of raucous silence, like bright colors mixed with snow. Looking at Central Park from a window, you can see the snow fall steadily, shrouding all in white. Everything looks so still, so quiet...but down below, in the streets, there are the inevitable sounds of New York. Horns bleating, people shouting, the clatter of feet and traffic and excitement, only muffled, somewhat dimmed. And in the last-minute furor of Christmas Eve, there is something more, a kind of wonderful tension waiting to explode in laughter and gifts...people hurrying home, with packages stacked high in their arms, carolers singing, the innumerable Santa Clauses, tipsy and red-faced, celebrating their last night in the deadly cold, women holding tight to children's hands, admonishing them to be careful not to fall, and then smiling, laughing. Everyone in a rush, in high spirits, in unison for this one night of the year...Merry Christmas!...doormen waving, happy with their Christmas tips. In a day, a week, the excitement will be forgotten, the gifts unwrapped, the liquor drunk, the money spent, but on Christmas Eve nothing is yet over, it has only just begun. For the children it is a culmination of months of waiting, for the adults the end of frenzied weeks, of parties shopping, people, gifts...bright hopes as fresh as falling snow, and nostalgic smiles, remembering distant childhoods and long-forgotten loves. A time of memories, and hope, and love. As the snow fell steadily the traffic began to thin at last. It was bitter cold, and only a few hardy souls were walking in the snow as it crunched beneath their feet. What had turned to slush earlier that day had now turned to ice, which slid wickedly beneath the six inches of fresh snow. It was treacherous walking, and by eleven o'clock traffic had all but ground to a halt. For New York it was unusually silent. Only an occasional horn sounded in the distance, a random voice calling out for a cab. The sound of a dozen people leaving the party at 12 East Sixty-ninth Street rang out like bells in the night. They were laughing, singing, they had had a wonderful time. The champagne had been abundant, and there had been hot buttered rum and mulled wine, a huge Christmas tree and bowls of popcorn. Everyone had been given small gifts as they left, bottles of perfume, boxes of chocolates, a pretty scarf, a book. The host was a former book reviewer ofThe New York Times,his wife a celebrated author, their friends an interesting crew, from budding writers to concert pianists of repute, great beauties and great minds, all crushed into the huge living room in their town house, with a butler and two maids passing hors d'oeuvres and serving drinks. It had been planned as their annual Christmas cocktail party, and as always it would go on until three or four. The group that left just before midnight was small, and among them was a tiny blond woman wearing a large mink hat and a long dark mink coat. Her whole body was enveloped in the rich chocolate fur, her face barely peeking above her collar in the wind as she waved for a last time at her friends and began to walk home. She didn't want to share a taxi with them. She had seen enough people for one evening, she wanted to be alone. For her, Christmas Eve was always a difficult evening. For years she had stayed at home. But not tonight. Not this year. This time she had wanted to see friends, at least for a while. Everyone had been surprised and pleased to see her there. "Nice to see you, Daphne. You're back. Working on a book?" "Just starting one." The big blue eyes were gentle and the delicate sweetness of her face belied her age. "What does that mean? You'll finish it next week?" She was notoriously prolific, but had been working on a movie for the past year. She smiled again, thSteel, Danielle is the author of 'Once in a Lifetime' with ISBN 9780440166498 and ISBN 0440166497.