Hot Shot(3)

By: Susan Elizabeth Phillips


She was so anguished that she couldn't even think about the embarrassment she was suffering in front of her guests, the personal humiliation of what was happening. Stay in control, she told herself. No matter what happens, stay in control.

The man on the bike held out his hand toward her. "Come with me."

"Susannah?" Cal said behind her. "Susannah, who is this person?"

"Call the police!" someone else exclaimed.

The man on the Harley continued to hold out his hand. "Come on, Suzie. Climb up on the back of my bike."

The Bennett family choker gave way under Susannah's fingers, and heirloom pearls tumbled down onto the white cloth that had been laid for the ceremony, some even rolling off into the grass. It was her wedding day, she thought wildly. How could such a vulgar, untoward event happen on her wedding day? Her grandmother would have been prostrate.

His arm slashed the air in a contemptuous gesture that took in the garden and the guests. "Are you going to give cocktail parties for the rest of your life, or are you going to come with me and set the world on fire?"

She pulled away from Cal and pressed her hands over her ears—a shocking, awkward gesture from proper Susannah Faulconer. Words erupted from her throat. "Go away! I won't listen to you. I'm not listening to you." And then she began moving away from the altar, trying to separate herself from all of them.

"Follow me, babe," he crooned. "Leave all this and come with me." His eyes were hypnotizing her, calling to her. "Hop on my bike, babe. Hop on my bike and follow me."

"No." Her voice sounded choked and muffled. "No, I won't do it."

He was a ruffian, a renegade. For years she had kept her life under perfect control. She had done everything properly, followed all the rules, not stepped on a single crack. How could this have happened? How could her life have careened out of her control so quickly?

Behind her stood safe, steady Cal Theroux, her twin, the man who kept the demons away. Before her stood a street-smart hustler on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Impulsively, she turned away from both of them and looked toward her sister, only to see the frozen shock on her face. Paige wouldn't help her. Paige never helped.

Susannah clawed at her neck, but the pearl choker was gone. She felt the old panic grip her, and once again she found herself being drawn back to the horror of that spring day in 1958—the day when she became the most famous child in America.

The memory washed over her, threatening to paralyze her. And then she grew aware of her father freeing himself from the row of chairs, and she summoned all of her strength to shake away the past. She had only an instant, only an infinitesimal fragment of time to act before her father took control.

Calvin Theroux stood to her right, promising love, security, and comfort. A messiah on a motorcycle stood to her left, promising nothing. With a soft cry, proper Susannah Faulconer chose her destiny.



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ONE



THE

VISION



Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

—Goethe





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Chapter 1





Susannah's real father wasn't Joel Faulconer, but an Englishman named Charles Lydiard, who met Susannah's mother when he visited New York City in 1949. Katherine "Kay" Bennett was the beautiful socialite daughter of a recently deceased New York City financier. Kay spotted Lydiard on the afterdeck of a friend's yacht, where he was leaning against the mahogany rail smoking a Turkish cigarette and sipping a Gibson. Kay, always on the lookout for handsome unattached men, immediately arranged an introduction, and before the evening was over, had fallen in love with Lydiard's finely chiseled aristocratic looks and cynical world-weary manner.

Kay was never the most perceptive of women, and it wasn't until a year after their marriage that she discovered her elegant husband was even more attracted to artistic young men than he was to her own seductive body. She immediately gathered up their two-month-old daughter and left him to return to her widowed mother's Park Avenue penthouse, where she threw herself into a frantic round of socializing so she could forget the entire unsavory incident. She also did her best to forget the solemn-faced baby girl who was an unwelcome reminder of her own lack of judgment.