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Authors: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Women

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BOOK: Call Me Irresistible
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He cut right to the chase. “You seem to have some doubts about Lucy and me.”

Lucy confirmed every one of Meg’s misgivings by toying with her lame-ass pearls instead of jumping in to defend her decision to marry. Meg dug in. “You’re obviously a terrific guy.” She couldn’t make it sound like a compliment. “What if you’re too terrific?”

“I’m afraid I’m not following you.”

Which must be a new experience for someone so crazy smart.
“What if . . .” Meg said, “ . . . you’re a little too good for her?”

Instead of protesting, Lucy set her mouth in her White House smile and fingered her pearls like they were prayer beads.

Ted laughed. “If you knew me better, you’d understand just how ludicrous that is. Now if you’ll excuse us, I want Lucy to meet my old Boy Scout leader.” He slipped his arm around Lucy’s shoulders and drew her away.

Meg needed to regroup, and she made a dash for the ladies’ room only to get ambushed by a short, fireplug of a woman with razor-cut vermilion hair and lots of carefully applied makeup. “I’m Birdie Kittle,” she said, taking Meg in with a sweep of her heavily mascaraed eyelashes. “You must be Lucy’s friend. You don’t look anything like your mother.”

Birdie was probably in her mid to late thirties, which would have made her a child during the heyday of Fleur Savagar Koranda’s modeling career, but her observation didn’t surprise Meg. Everyone who knew anything about celebrities had heard of her mother. Fleur Koranda had put modeling behind her years ago to establish one of the most powerful talent agencies in the country, but to the general public, she’d always be the Glitter Baby.

Meg plastered on Lucy’s White House smile. “That’s because my mother is one of the most beautiful women in the world, and I’m not.” Which was true, even though Meg and her mother shared more than a few physical characteristics, mainly the bad ones. Meg had inherited the Glitter Baby’s marking-pen eyebrows, as well as her big hands, paddleboat feet, and all but two inches of her mother’s nearly six feet of height. But the olive skin, brown hair, and more irregular features she’d inherited from her father kept her from staking any claim to her mother’s extravagant beauty, although her eyes were an interesting combination of green and blue that changed color depending on the light. Unfortunately, she hadn’t inherited either the talent or ambition both of her parents possessed in abundance.

“You’re attractive in your own way, I guess.” Birdie ran a manicured thumbnail over the jeweled clasp on her black evening bag. “Kind of exotic. These days they throw that supermodel word at anybody who stands in front of a camera. But the Glitter Baby was the real thing. And look at the way she turned herself into such a successful businesswoman. As a businesswoman myself, I admire that.”

“Yes, she’s remarkable.” Meg loved her mother, but that didn’t keep her from wishing Fleur Savagar Koranda would sometimes stumble—lose a top client, blow an important negotiation, get a zit. But all her mother’s bad luck had come early in her life, before Meg was born, leaving her daughter with the title of family screwup.

“I guess you look more like your daddy,” Birdie went on. “I swear I’ve seen every one of his pictures. Except the depressing ones.”

“Like the film that earned him his Oscar?”

“Oh, I saw that one.”

Meg’s father was a triple threat. World-famous actor, Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright, and best-selling book author. With such mega-successful parents, who could blame her for being seriously messed up? No child could live up to that kind of legacy.

Except her two younger brothers . . .

Birdie adjusted the straps on her heart-necked black sheath, which fit a bit too snugly around her waist. “Your friend Lucy is a pretty little thang.” It didn’t sound like an accolade. “I hope she appreciates what she has in Teddy.”

Meg worked at keeping her composure. “I’m sure she appreciates him just as much as he does her. Lucy is a very special person.”

Birdie jumped at the opportunity to take offense. “Not as special as Ted, but then you’d have to live around here to understand.”

Meg wasn’t getting into a spitting contest with this woman, no matter how much she wanted to, so she kept her smile firmly in place. “I live in L.A. I understand a lot.”

“All I’m saying is that just because she’s the president’s daughter doesn’t mean she’s got anything on Ted or that everybody’s going to give her special treatment. He’s the finest young man in this state. She’ll have to earn our respect.”

Meg struggled to hold on to her temper. “Lucy doesn’t have to earn anyone’s respect. She’s a kind, intelligent, sophisticated woman. Ted’s the lucky one.”

“Are you saying he’s not sophisticated?”

“No. I’m merely pointing out—”

“Wynette, Texas, may not look like much to you, but it happens to be a very sophisticated town, and we don’t appreciate having outsiders come in and pass judgment on us just because we’re not big Washington hotshots.” She snapped her purse shut. “Or Hollywood celebrities.”

“Lucy is not—”

“People have to make their own mark here. Nobody’s going to kiss anybody’s bee-hind just because of who her parents are.”

Meg didn’t know whether Birdie was talking about Meg herself or about Lucy, and she no longer cared. “I’ve visited small towns all over the world, and the ones with nothing to prove always seem to welcome strangers. It’s the down-and-out places—the burgs that have lost their luster—that see every new face as a threat.”

Birdie’s penciled-in russet eyebrows shot to her hairline. “There is not one thing down-and-out about Wynette. Is that what

“No, it’s what

Birdie’s face pinched. “Well, that tells me a lot, now doesn’t it.”

The door flew open, and an older teen with long, light brown hair stuck her head in. “Mom! Lady Emma and the others want you for pictures.”

Darting Meg a last hostile glance, Birdie shot out of the room, primed to repeat their conversation to all who would listen.

Meg grimaced. In her attempt to defend Lucy, she’d done more harm than good. This weekend couldn’t be over soon enough. She retied her dress at the shoulder, ran her fingers through her short, crazy haircut, and forced herself back to the party.

As the crowd raved about the barbecue and laughter spilled over the veranda, Meg seemed to be the only one who wasn’t having fun. When she found herself alone with Lucy’s mother, she knew she had to say something, but even though she chose her words carefully, the conversation didn’t go well.

“Are you really suggesting that Lucy shouldn’t marry Ted?” Nealy Jorik said in the voice she reserved for the opposition party.

“Not exactly. Just that—”

“Meg, I know you’re going through a difficult time, and I’m truly sorry about that, but don’t let your emotional state cast a shadow over Lucy’s happiness. She couldn’t have chosen better than Ted Beaudine. I promise, your doubts are groundless. And I want your promise that you’ll keep them to yourself.”

“What doubts?” said a voice with a faint British accent.

Meg spun around and saw Ted’s mother standing at her elbow. Francesca Beaudine looked like a modern-day Vivien Leigh with a heart-shaped face, cloud of mahogany hair, and moss green wrap dress hugging her still-trim figure. For the three decades that
Francesca Today
had been on the air, she’d challenged Barbara Walters as queen of the prime-time celebrity interviewers. While Walters was the superior journalist, Francesca was more fun to watch.

Nealy quickly smoothed the waters. “Bridesmaid jitters . . . Francesca, this is the loveliest evening. I can’t tell you how much Mat and I are enjoying ourselves.”

Francesca Beaudine was no fool. She gave Meg a cool, assessing look, then led Nealy away toward a group that included the red-haired fireplug from the ladies’ room and Emma Traveler, the wife of Ted’s best man, Kenny Traveler, another of professional golf’s superstars.

After that, Meg sought out the most unsuitable guest she could find, a biker who professed to be one of Ted’s friends, but even the distraction of a great set of pecs couldn’t cheer her up. Instead, the biker made her think about how overjoyed her parents would have been if she’d ever brought home anyone remotely resembling Ted Beaudine.

Lucy was right. He was perfect. And he couldn’t be more wrong for her friend.


No matter how Lucy adjusted the pillows, she couldn’t get comfortable. Her sister Tracy slept soundlessly at her side after insisting she share Lucy’s bed tonight.
Our last night to be just sisters . . .
Still, Tracy wasn’t sad about the wedding. She adored Ted just like everyone else.

Lucy and Ted had their mothers to thank for fixing them up.
“He’s incredible, Luce,”
Nealy had said.
“Wait till you meet him.”

And he was incredible . . . Meg shouldn’t have planted all those doubts in her head. Except the doubts had been there for months, even as Lucy kept reasoning them away. What woman in her right mind wouldn’t fall in love with Ted Beaudine? He dazzled her.

Lucy kicked the sheet free. This was all Meg’s fault. That was the problem with Meg. She turned everything upside down. Being Meg’s best friend didn’t make Lucy blind to her faults. Meg was spoiled, reckless, and irresponsible, looking for purpose over the next mountaintop instead of inside herself. She was also decent, caring, loyal, and the best friend Lucy had ever had. Each of them had found her own way to live in the shadow of famous parents—Lucy by conforming, Meg by racing around the world, trying to outrun her parents’ legacies.

Meg didn’t know her own strengths—the considerable intelligence she’d inherited from her parents but never figured out how to use to her advantage; the gangly, unconventional appearance that made her far more arresting than more predictably beautiful women. Meg was good at so many things that she’d concluded she wasn’t good at anything. Instead, she’d resigned herself to being inadequate, and no one—not her parents, not Lucy—could shake her conviction.

Lucy turned her face into her pillow, trying to shut out the memory of that awful moment tonight after they’d returned to the inn when Meg had pulled Lucy into a hug. “Luce, he’s wonderful,” she’d whispered. “Everything you said. And you absolutely cannot marry him.”

Meg’s warning hadn’t been nearly as frightening as Lucy’s own response. “I know,” she’d heard herself whisper back. “But I’m going to anyway. It’s too late to back out.”

Meg had given her a fierce shake. “It’s not too late. I’ll help you. I’ll do whatever I can.”

Lucy had pulled away and hurried into her room. Meg didn’t understand. She was a child of Hollywood, where the outrageous was ordinary, but Lucy was Washington’s child, and she understood the country’s conservative heart. The public was invested in this wedding. They’d watched the Jorik kids grow up and embraced them through more than a few youthful missteps. News outlets all over the world had shown up to cover the wedding, and Lucy couldn’t call things off for a reason she wasn’t able to articulate. Besides, if Ted was so wrong for her, wouldn’t someone else have noticed? Her parents? Tracy? Wouldn’t Ted, who saw everything so clearly, have figured it out?

The reminder of Ted Beaudine’s infallible judgment brought her just enough comfort to settle into a shallow, uneasy sleep. By the next afternoon, however, that comfort had vanished.

he narthex of the Wynette Presbyterian Church smelled of old hymnals and long-forgotten potluck dinners. Outside, organized chaos reigned. The special section set aside for the press bulged with reporters, and spectators packed the bleachers, with the overflow spilling onto the side streets. As the bridal party lined up to enter the sanctuary, Meg glanced back at Lucy. The perfectly fitted lace gown flattered her small frame, but not even skillfully airbrushed makeup could mask her tension. She’d been so jittery all day that Meg hadn’t had the heart to say another word about this ill-advised wedding. Not that she could have anyway with Nealy Case Jorik watching her every move.

The chamber ensemble concluded the prelude, and the trumpets rang out announcing the beginning of the bridal procession. Lucy’s two youngest sisters stood at the front, with Meg next, and then eighteen-year-old Tracy, who was Lucy’s maid of honor. They all wore simple gowns of champagne silk crepe de chine accented with the smoky topaz earrings that were Lucy’s gift to her attendants.

Thirteen-year-old Holly started down the aisle. When she reached the midpoint, her sister Charlotte stepped off. Meg smiled over her shoulder at Lucy, who’d elected to enter the sanctuary by herself and meet both her parents halfway down as a symbol of the way they’d come into her life. Meg moved into position in front of Tracy for her own entrance, but as she got ready to take her first step, she heard a rustle and a hand shot out to grab her arm. “I have to talk to Ted right now,” Lucy said in a panicky whisper.

Tracy, whose blond hair had been arranged in an intricate twist, gave a choked gasp. “Luce, what are you doing?”

Lucy ignored her sister. “Get him for me, Meg. Please.”

BOOK: Call Me Irresistible
2.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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