Suddenly it all came back to her.
The Patel protesters. The clicking cameras. The eyes full of hatred, blazing out at her.
The words came out so faintly she could barely hear them herself, but they were enough to bring the staff nurse running.
“You were shot, Mrs. De Vere, but you’re going to be fine. Try not to panic.”
Alexia smiled wanly. “I never panic. Will I need an operation?”
“You’ve already had it. Everything went perfectly. Try to rest. I’ll page the surgeon now and he’ll come and explain things.”
The nurse ran out. Almost immediately there was a knock on the door.
Roxie looked awful. White as a sheet and with her mascara running all over her face, she had clearly been crying. She wheeled herself over to Alexia’s bedside.
“I saw it on TV. I thought you were dead.” To Alexia’s astonishment, her daughter reached over the bed and took her hand. For a moment Alexia was too stunned to respond. It was the first genuinely kind gesture Roxie had made toward her in so many long years. But then she pulled herself together and squeezed back, caressing her daughter’s fingers as though they were precious jewels.
“You’ve been crying,” she said gently.
Roxie nodded. “I’ve already lost Michael. I . . . I can’t lose you too.”
Alexia’s eyes welled up with tears. All the emotion she’d repressed since Michael’s accident erupted out of her now, like floodwaters breaching a levee.
“You’re crying!” Roxie sounded astonished.
“It’s the drugs.” Alexia laughed, then winced as the pain in her side reasserted itself,
“What the devil’s going on here?” An overbearing man in a three-piece suit, obviously a surgeon, came storming into the room. “I gave very clear instructions. You need rest. No visitors.”
Roxie swiveled around in her chair. “Bugger off,” she said firmly. “I’m her daughter and I’m not going anywhere.”
“Oh, yes you are, young lady.”
Watching the two of them argue, Alexia felt suffused with happiness.
Her daughter had come back to her.
Nothing, absolutely nothing else mattered anymore.
The mechanic looked at the mangled Ducati Panigale and shook his head sadly.
“That’s a shame, that is. A real shame. Beautiful bike.”
Summer begged to differ. As far as she was concerned, Michael’s bike was the ugliest thing she’d ever seen, a hideous, lethal weapon.
Armed with the ownership papers that Teddy had given her, Summer had convinced the Oxfordshire police to release what was left of the motorbike into her care. No tests had been done on it. As far as the police were concerned, Michael De Vere’s accident was just that: an accident, not a crime to be investigated. As such, the bike wasn’t evidence, it was simply private property. His girlfriend was welcome to it.
In full investigative journalist mode, Summer chipped away at every possible angle, determined to uncover Michael’s “secret” and what relation it might bear to his accident. With this in mind, she’d hired a van, dumped the bike’s twisted hulk in the back with the help of a neighbor, and driven down to East London at the crack of dawn. According to the Internet reviews, St. Martin’s Garage and Body Shop in Walthamstow was the top Ducati specialist in the country. Certainly the young man in front of Summer now seemed to know what he was talking about, earnestly informing her about belt drives and cylinder heads and twist-and-go transmissions as he ran his hands lovingly over the Panigale’s scraped red chassis.
“It’s not salvageable, I’m afraid. I mean, technically we could rebuild it. But it’d be more new parts than old and it’d cost a fortune.”
“What if I needed you to look at individual parts for me?”
“I don’t know. The steering. The brakes. If there were a technical fault of some kind, would you be able to find it? Or is it too far gone for that?”
The mechanic looked up at the gorgeous girl in front of him. Not many of St. Martin’s clients looked like Summer Meyer, with those endless legs and that glossy mane of hair, like polished wood, rippling down her back. But there was something else about the girl, a steely determination in her eyes and the jut of her jaw that he hadn’t noticed when she walked in. It was seriously sexy.
“I won’t know for sure till I take her apart,” he said. “But if there was a fault with the bike, then yeah, I reckon I’d clock it.” He hoped he was impressing her. “I know these bikes like the back of me ’and.”
“And how long might that take? Roughly.”
“Come back at six and I should have some answers for you. I gotta tell you, though, these bikes are beautifully made. I’d be surprised if you find anything wrong with her.”
Summer left her car in the garage forecourt—it was impossible to park in central London, so she might as well keep it here—and took the tube to Sloane Square. If the bike wouldn’t be ready till six, it made sense to stay the night in town and head back up to Oxford tomorrow.
Everywhere she went, people were talking about the attempt on Alexia De Vere’s life. Pictures of Gilbert Drake, the man who’d shot her, were on the front page of every newspaper, and updates on the home secretary’s condition remained the lead item on every radio station’s news. Summer had watched the thing happen live on television. Sitting at Michael’s bedside, she’d even seen the glint of Drake’s gun before he fired the shot. She wanted to call Teddy immediately, then realized this might be seen as an intrusion. Besides, with her mother calling her every five minutes for updates on Alexia’s condition, she barely had time.
Now that she was up in London, however, and a few days had passed, she probably should give Teddy a call. She checked into the Orange, a pretty pub-cum-hotel on Pimlico Road and had a long soak in the Victorian copper bath before lying down on the bed with her phone. Her first call was to the John Radcliffe to check on Michael. (No change.) Then, steeling her nerves, she dialed Teddy De Vere’s number.
To her surprise, he answered immediately. “Summer! How lovely to hear from you, my dear.”
His voice was full of genuine warmth.
“You’ve heard the news, of course?”
“Of course. How is she?”
“Believe it or not, she’s in the pink,” Teddy said cheerfully. “The doctors say she’ll be able to come home in a day or so. Better yet, she and Roxie finally seem to have patched things up.”
“They have?” Summer couldn’t hide her surprise.
“I know. Wonderful, isn’t it? I think the prospect of Alexia actually dying was what made things shift. Anyway, Rox showed up at the hospital and the pair of them have been thick as thieves ever since. I wouldn’t have believed it myself if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. That bastard Drake might have actually done us all a favor. But enough of our dramas. How are you?”
“I’m fine. I’m in London, actually, just for tonight.”
“Are you? Marvelous. We must have lunch tomorrow.”
“Oh, no no no,” Summer said hastily. “I wouldn’t want to intrude at a time like this. You should be with your family.”
“Nonsense. You are family,” Teddy said kindly. “Besides, Alexia and Roxie only have eyes for each other at the moment. They barely know I’m there.”
“Honestly, Teddy, it’s a sweet offer, but I couldn’t.”
“Nonsense. Lunch tomorrow, twelve-thirty sharp. I insist. I’ll book somewhere decent and let you know.”
Teddy took her to the Arts Club in Mayfair. Completely revamped a few years earlier, the Dover Street town house was now one of the smartest, most exclusive members’ clubs in London. Unfortunately it no longer lived up to its name, its clientele being made up almost wholly of investment bankers and hedge fund types. Summer felt their lecherous stares on her back as she made her way to Teddy’s table.
“What a pleasure!” He stood up to greet her, looking like a disheveled Rupert Bear in a loud tweed suit and waistcoat, a jaunty red silk cravat tied at his neck. “You look delightful, as ever.”
“If I’d known it was so formal, I’d have dressed up,” said Summer, feeling awkwardly low-key in her Hudson corduroy jeans and dark green Gap T-shirt. Although after the shocking news she’d received last night, the Arts Club’s dress code had been the last thing on her mind this morning.
“I’d have been just as happy in McDonald’s, you know,” she told Teddy.
“McDonald’s?” Teddy shuddered. “I should hope I know how to treat a young lady a bit better than that.”
They ordered food—salt-encrusted sea bass for Summer and a steak and kidney pie for Teddy—and conversation turned to Alexia and the shooting.
“Isn’t it funny how often good things seem to come out of bad?” Teddy observed philosophically. “Like phoenixes rising from the ashes. I’d almost given up hope that Alexia and Roxie would ever reconcile. It’s a shame it took a bullet in the ribs to do it, but there you are. And that’s not the only positive change. On doctors’ orders, Alexia has finally agreed to take some time off work. She’s talking about flying out to the States and spending some time with your mother, actually.”