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Authors: Barbara Taylor Bradford

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Two long, one
short ring on the bell. It was Hayley. Fiona buzzed her in, happy for company. Hayley
had been fantastic throughout the mania. Usually she could be moody, or at the
very least quixotic, but from the moment she showed up in Fiona’s hospital room
at New York Presbyterian, she had been a model of sympathy, good cheer, and
compassion.

Fiona hugged
her and told her how grateful she was, the minute she walked in the door.

“No need to
thank me, Fiona,” Hayley said, putting down a large bundle of papers. “I keep
telling you, it could have been me on that train with Luke, me who was thrown
from the cliff, me who could have ended up half-dead in a fishing cabin with
Luke. None of this would have happened, if only I’d listened to you and taken
that meeting myself.”

“Be glad you
didn’t listen to me, Hayley. It was no picnic.”

“I’m sure it
wasn’t,” Hayley said quietly, and lapsed into a long silence.

Fiona hugged
her again. Despite her good cheer, it was clear the near-deaths of the two people
closest to her in the world had had a profound effect on Hayley.

“Of course
listening to me about losing the blue hair might be something worth
reconsidering.” Hayley absently touched the tangle of blue polyester curls that
had not left her head in public since the train accident.

“I like it
this way,” Hayley had said each time Fiona questioned the look. “Time for me to
make peace with who and what I am.”

“Who you are
is a great friend,” Fiona said. “And if you like looking like a Smurf, I like
it too. I won’t even complain when you walk down the aisle as my maid of honor.
I might shock the world and wear a pink wig.”

“I think it’s
about time you shocked the world,” Hayley said pleasantly. And I intend to help
you every step of the way, she thought, but did not say.

She dumped an
envelope filled with DVDs onto the table. “For the film clips. You usually do
them.”

“Problem is, I
can’t get near the office.”

“No worries,” Hayley
said with a small smile. “I’d like to handle it this time. Seating charts done?”

“All done. It’s
quite a cast of characters. The mayor is coming, the governor, heads of crime-fighting
units from all over the country,” Fiona confided. “They’re even going to show
the presentation
live
on CNN. This is a really big deal.”

“People have
been trying to nail Eddie Rivers for years and maybe this will do it.” Hayley
appeared to be concentrating on the stack of DVDs. “Does Luke know about…you
know…you and Eddie Rivers?”

Fiona shot her
a sharp look. “You mean, you and me and Eddie Rivers? When we were waitresses
in his bar?
Not accomplices
. We had no money. It was a job.”

Hayley looked
hurt. “Hey, I meant nothing by it. I just know Luke is a maniac on the subject,
and I wouldn’t want him to get the wrong idea if he felt you were keeping
things from him.”

“I plan to
tell him about it when the time is right.”

“What’s the
point of making a big deal out of it?” Hayley asked. “Like you said, we were
just waitresses.”

Fiona felt
strangely uneasy, but before she could discuss this with Hayley, the door burst
open and Luke came bounding in. He picked Fiona right off her feet and whirled
her around.

“I missed you,”
he announced, covering her face with kisses.

“Put me down,”
Fiona laughed, loving every minute of it. “You’ve only been gone four hours.”

“They were a
very long four hours,” he replied, reluctantly returning her to the floor.

They were so
lost in one another, neither saw the look of raw pain on Hayley’s face. She
gathered up the DVDs and put them back in the envelopes.

“I will leave
you two to drool over one another. I’m still waiting for a few clips, but I can
put them together later.”

“Not so fast,
there, lady,” Luke said, sweeping her up in a brotherly hug. “We need to
discuss your hair, and how great you look in blue.”

“Button it,
Fred,” she said, feigning a lightness she did not feel. “Every bride needs
something blue and I’m it.”

“Okay, okay, I
can’t fight both of you.” He gave her an affectionate kiss on the head, which
did nothing to improve Hayley’s mood. “How’s everyone’s favorite gambler these
days?”

“I assume you
mean my baby brother.”

“Do you know
another arch criminal?” Fiona asked.

Hayley shot a
nervous look at Fiona. “What do you mean?” she said, and scrambled around to
finish packing up her things. “You guys have a great night. I’ll be back
tomorrow to finish this.”

And she was
out of the door.

Luke had great
instincts. It was one of the reasons he was a successful investigative
reporter. “What was that all about?”

“Oh, you know
Hayley.” Fiona wasn’t looking at him.

“Yes, I do. I’ve
known her all my life. And I know when she’s covering something up. You want to
tell me about it?”

Fiona went
back to the terrace. The sun was beginning to set over the Hudson River.

“We started to
talk about this on the train,” she said, studying the colors in the sky. “Just
before the crash.”

“I remember. I
asked if you knew Eddie Rivers and you said ‘look at the river’.”

“I explained that
when Hayley and I were trying to start our business, we took any job we could
find to make money to rent the office, do advertising, stuff like that.”

“What does
that have to do with Eddie Rivers?”

“We applied
for jobs at a restaurant. Well, a bar, really. It was kind of seedy, but since
neither of us had any experience we were just glad they hired us, and didn’t
ask too many questions.”

Luke studied
her. “What kind of bar?”

“According to
Hayley, it was a wise-guy bar. She said it reminded her of the Badda Bing Club
on “The Sopranos”. They tipped really well.”

“The Velvet
Swing? On Eleventh? Naked dancers?”

“Yep. That’s
the place.” She tried to lighten the moment. “One of your haunts?”

“One of Eddie
Rivers” places. Where he brings some of the women he imports from Asia.”

“Luke, we knew
nothing about that!
Nothing
. We quit after two months.”

“Tips fall
off?”

“Mikey fell
in.”

“What do you
mean?” Luke didn’t take his eyes off her.

“He started
coming around, you know, to hit Hayley up for money,” Fiona explained. “But
then he found a better source of cash. A nice little loan-sharking business
went on in one of the back rooms, and Mikey always needed a couple of bucks.”

“A lot more
went on in those back rooms.”

“We didn’t
know that, Luke. We were dumb, just out of college. We quit as soon as they
started threatening Mikey.”

Luke studied
her. “I wish you'd told me this up front.”

“I got a
little busy jumping off a train, and nearly drowning. Forgive me if I didn’t
think to give you my résumé.”

Luke pulled
her to him. “I’m sorry. Sorry. I’m just a little nutty on the subject of Eddie
Rivers. It could have happened to anyone. I’m glad you told me about it.”

Fiona didn’t
respond.

“Sorry to be
such a jerk.”

“I’m the one
who was a jerk. But I can’t go back and fix it. If this changes things for us—”

He interrupted
her. “Nothing will change things for us! Whatever happened back then, between
you and Eddie Rivers, is the past, over and done with!” He held her to him tightly.

Is the past
ever really over, Fiona wondered silently, clinging to this man she loved more
than her own life. She breathed a silent prayer that it could be.

TWENTY-FOUR

It
was early on the day of the Edward R. Murrow Awards dinner. The morning had
dawned clear and sunny. A perfect beginning for an unforgettable occasion.

Hayley was
curled up in her green chair, surrounded by the past. Her ever-present talisman,
the scrapbook she had carefully kept on Luke from the time they were kids, was
on the floor, open to the page showing him grinning at the camera from his
first anchor desk, somewhere in Iowa.

Yearbooks from
Miss Porter’s were stacked on the table next to the chair. On her lap sat the
memento of her first year there. The year Fiona saved her. She looked at the
picture of the two of them, standing arm in arm in front of the gates to the
red-brick campus. Even in fifth grade, Fiona already had the look of a winner.
She would be the one to score the winning goal, to win the debate with her arch
rival, Ethel Smith, to get the lead in the play. To get the guy.

Next to Fiona,
Hayley looked like the school mascot. Skinny, sallow from too many summers in
her only playground, the junk-strewn space underneath the Triborough Bridge. She
looked every bit like the scholarship student she was. Yet there she was,
basking in the radiance that surrounded Fiona, beaming like she’d just won an
Olympic medal.

What a fool
she had been. Fiona hadn’t wanted a friend; she’d wanted a disciple. And Hayley
was only too happy to take the job. She couldn’t blame Luke, not really, for
falling under her spell. It happened to everyone. It had happened to her and
she hadn’t figured it out for twenty years.

But she knew
where she stood now. No more second fiddle! No more! Soon everyone would know
who and what Fiona truly was.

The door burst
open, but was kept in check by the chain lock. It was Mikey.

“Hayley! Let
me in!”

“Hold on for a
minute.” She quickly collected the yearbooks and scrapbooks and locked them
safely away in the desk, while Mikey continued to pound incessantly on her
door.

“Open the
door. You’re going to get me killed.”

Hayley took
her time getting to the door. Mikey dashed in, out of breath and looking afraid.

“Jeez, Hayley,
I need a drink. Get me a drink.”

“I have some
wine but it’s not cold.”

“Don't you
have any booze? What’s the matter with you?”

“What’s the
matter with
you
! Do you want the wine or not?”

Mikey grabbed it,
unscrewed the cap and chugged right from the bottle. “God, this is crap!”

“You’re
welcome,” she said, taking the bottle from him, wiping the top and depositing
it in the refrigerator. “So did you get it?”

“If Rivers ever
finds out about this, I’m a dead man.”

“You're as
good as dead anyway, unless you’ve come up with another way to get the twenty grand
to pay off your loan. Give it to me.”

His hands were
shaking as he pulled a DVD out of his jacket and handed it to her. “How did you
even know these things existed?”

“I worked
there, remember? I kept my eyes open.” Hayley studied the DVD, turning it over
and over in her hands.

Mikey took the
wine out of the refrigerator and downed another slug. “Where’s my money?”

“What money is
that?” Hayley was rather enjoying tormenting her brother. It was a nice change
of pace.

“Don’t pull
that!”

Hayley
extracted a large wad of bills from under the icemaker in her freezer. “I want
you to go directly to that blood sucker, Eddie Rivers. Give him this, get a
receipt, and get out of there, for good.”

Mikey counted
the money eagerly. “I don’t know how to thank you.”

“Did you hear
me? This is the end of the line. I mean it, Mikey. You mess up again, you're on
your own.”

Mikey turned
on the charm, hugging her. When she tried to pull away he picked her up and sat
her on the kitchen counter. “You say that, but we’re a team, you and me. When
one of us needs something, the other provides.”

“Gee, Mikey,” she
said. “Seems to me like one of us is always the needy, the other the eternal provider.”

“Families don’t
keep score,” he said, planting a big kiss on her cheek. He headed for the door,
taking the half-empty bottle of warm wine with him.

“Hey, I didn’t
ask. Is this for some bachelorette party prank on Fiona?”

“Something
like that,” she said, sliding the DVD into her handbag. “Something like that.”

TWENTY-FIVE

There
was an enormous turnout of dignitaries who wanted to honor Luke and his team
from CNN, when they were presented with the Edward R. Murrow Award for
excellence in electronic journalism.

Even before
the train crash, demand for tickets and prime seating had been brisk. After the
crash, and the tidal wave of publicity, the dinner had become the hottest
ticket in town.

Fiona arrived
early. She was dressed in a delicate lavender lace creation that clung
gracefully to her voluptuous body. Her earrings, an engagement gift from Luke,
were emerald-cut amethysts surrounded by diamonds, and they enhanced the color
of the gown. She had been nervous about not being on the floor, but she had
checked everything half a dozen times, and Hayley assured her she could handle
things perfectly well. Their crew had been trained by both of them, and most
events went off without a glitch.

“You deserve
everything you’re getting tonight,” Hayley told her, hugging her fiercely. “Now
you go up to the dais and join Luke. I’ll take care of everything.”

Fiona hugged
her back. “You have been so great through all this. Tonight wouldn’t be
happening without you.”

Hayley ran her
fingers through her electric blue wig. “Go. We’re starting.”

Up on the dais,
Luke was looking around for Fiona. He caught her eye and smiled.

“Okay, I’m
going.” Fiona walked a few steps, and then turned back. “And you're sure the video
clips are in the proper order? I haven’t even had a chance to screen them, and
I always do that several times.”

“There’s been
no time,” Hayley said. “The network held up the footage of Eddie Rivers’ joints,
until the lawyers could tell them categorically that they wouldn’t be sued. Stop
being a nervous nelly. It’s all good. Now let me go and change into my party
clothes.”

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