I met him at a dinner party hosted by my dear friend and her husband, Sybil and Anthony Rosenni. I knew who he was the minute I saw him. Anyone living in New York City would have to either be living under a rock or stoned 24/7 not to know who he was.
He was Francis “Frank” Reagan, New York City Police Commissioner. The Reagan’s were a well-known family of New York City police officers. Frank had served the New York Police Department for years before his appointment as Police Commissioner by Mayor Frank Russo. His father and grandfather had served before him. His father, Henry Reagan, had also served as Commissioner. Frank’s three sons had followed in the Reagan footsteps. His oldest son, Danny, was a top detective for the NYPD, and his youngest son, Jamie, a graduate of Harvard with a law degree, was a patrol officer. His middle son, who also served as a detective for the force, had been murdered in the line of duty. Frank’s only daughter, Erin, served as assistant district attorney.
Sybil and I had been friends for years. She had recently married Anthony Rosenni, a well-known businessman in Manhattan. Rumor was that he had his sights on the mayor’s office. Rosenni was Sybil’s fourth husband. She had divorced the first two husbands; the third one, several years older than her, had died of a massive heart attack a year ago, leaving her a very wealthy widow. It was also rumored that Rosenni had married Sybil for her money. Sybil didn’t seem bothered by the rumors, she liked being in the spotlight, positive or negative. I was aware that several of the Manhattan social crowd considered her as fake as her large breasts, and perhaps she was, but I loved her, she had always been there for me when I needed her. I had always admired her strength and her blasé attitude about everything. She was confident about who she was, happy with her life, and didn’t care what others thought. She did, however, enjoy any and all attention, whether it came from the most recent man in her life or the most recent tabloid gossip. I had no doubt she would relish the attention she would receive as the wife of the mayor of New York City. I often wondered if Anthony’s interest in politics was what attracted her to him. She was a brilliant, beautiful woman; he was short, round, with a receding hairline. I had a difficult time seeing the attraction, but she appeared deliriously happy; all signs indicated she adored Anthony. What did I know about love? I hadn’t been in love for over thirteen years. Just because I made a living writing romance novels, it didn’t make me an expert. My heroines were always as beautiful as Sybil; their leading men were equally attractive. They were never short, fat, or bald. But I wrote fiction. Perhaps Sybil was madly in love with Anthony, as he was with her. I chose to give them both the benefit of the doubt.
Sybil had mentioned when she extended the dinner invitation that she had someone she wanted me to meet. I had no doubt she had intentions of setting me up. My dear friend was always trying to set me up with the perfect man. I had no idea the perfect man she had in mind for this evening was New York City’s own Frank Reagan. Frank Reagan was an attractive widower with three grandchildren. We shared the widowed part, and were somewhat close in age — I was fifty-three, he was in his early sixties. Frank had been a first responder when the twin towers collapsed on September 11, 2001. He had spent days at Ground Zero, working with other officers to recover the bodies from those towers. My husband had been working in the South Tower that day; his remains had been among those recovered.
I had arrived at the dinner party late, by about thirty minutes. I had been to enough of Sybil’s dinner parties to know that dinner was served well over an hour past the time indicated on the invitation. The cocktail hour always seemed endless, with boring conversations with people I cared nothing about, had nothing in common with. I was not the socialite of my dear friend. I was much more content to stay home, by the fire, with a good book, and an even better glass of wine. I hated dinner parties, and I hated being set-up, but I loved my dear friend, and so I attended and made an effort to feign interest in every annoying person I met, every new man Sybil was confident I would discover I couldn’t live without. I didn’t, however, have to pretend when I met Police Commissioner Frank Reagan. The man interested me. Everything about him intrigued me. He certainly fit the physical criteria. He was tall, dark, and extremely attractive.
He had arrived even later than me. I wondered if he had been detained, or merely chose to enter late as I had. I was sipping on a glass of red wine while conversing with a Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Wainwright when Sybil brought him over.
“Frank, I’m sure you know the Wainwright’s,” she said. “I would also like you to meet my dear friend Nicole Richardson. Nicole is a long time New Yorker, and also a published writer.”
“Very nice to see you again, Mr. and Mrs. Wainwright. A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Richardson.”
He extended a hand to the three of us.
“Nice to meet you as well, Commissioner. Please, call me Nicole.”
“Nice to meet you, Nicole. And please, call me Frank.”
“Nice to meet you, Frank.”
“So, how’s it going, Frank? Keeping that mayor in line?” Mr. Wainwright asked.
“Doing my best, sir. Not always an easy task, I must say.”
“I’m sure of that,” Mr. Wainwright replied, chuckling.
“I hate to be rude,” Mrs. Wainwright said, “but we really must say hello to a few others. A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Richardson. Great to see you, Commissioner.”
“Great to see you as well, ma’am.”
“I must mingle as well,” Sybil said. “You two get to know each other.”
“Well, I guess we should do as our lovely hostess requests,” Frank said after Sybil left the two of us standing alone together. “Have you known the Rosenni’s long?”
“Sybil and I have been friends for many years. I’ve known Anthony for about as long as Sybil has.”
“I see,” he replied, raising his eyebrows. “So, you’re a writer?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Anything I might have read?”
“Doubtful. I write fiction. Fiction aimed at female readers.”
“Frank Reagan! Just the man I wanted to see.”
Our conversation was interrupted by an elderly gentleman I did not recognize. I excused myself, saying I was in need of a refill, raising my empty wine glass.
“Nice to meet you, Nicole. Hope to visit with you more before the evening is over,” Frank said.
“I’m sure we will.”
About the time I located a waiter with a tray of red wine, the dinner bell rang. Sybil loved her formal dinner parties and her dinner bells. She would have fit in perfectly with the royals of the hit television show Downton Abbey. I followed the other guests into the large dining room where we all checked the place cards on the table for our proper seating.
“Ah, so, we meet again, Nicole,” Frank said, finding his name on the place card next to mine.
“Yes, so we do.”
“If I didn’t know better, I would say a certain joint friend planned this.”
“I know Sybil well. I assure you, she did.”
“Ah. I see. Well, can’t say I’m disappointed.”
Frank pulled my chair out, waited for me to sit, and then sat in the chair to the right of me.
“So, what do you think of the rumors going around? Should I butter up to Anthony, just in case he becomes our next mayor?”
“I think that might be a wise thing to do.”
“Perhaps you can put in a good word for me, should I need one.”
I didn’t have a chance to reply. Anthony had stood, tapped his wine glass to gain the guests’ attention, and then proceeded to make a toast, thanking everyone for coming, and ending the toast thanking his beautiful bride.
Sybil beamed with pleasure.
Frank and I chatted throughout the dinner. I wasn’t sure if he genuinely found me good company, or if I was just the lesser of two evils. Isabel Delaney sat to his right, and she had a reputation as the most aggressive gossiper in New York City, suspected of spreading more gossip throughout the city than Page Six of the New York Post. Most of New York’s elite loathed her. Sybil found her “fabulously entertaining.”