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Authors: Roberta Latow

Take Me Higher

BOOK: Take Me Higher
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Take Me Higher

Roberta Latow

Copyright © 1999 by Roberta Latow

For
Vic Norman, Nick Mason, the Earl of Suffolk
and their magnificient flying machines

My sensual life

Rich and full of a rage to live

My passion for beauty in its various forms

Is to soar that little bit higher

Always that little bit higher

The Epic of Artimadon

Chapter 1

Diana George and her godson Keoki Richebourg heard the muffled hum of motors from somewhere out of sight over the Pacific Ocean. They both raised a hand to their forehead to shade their eyes as they scanned the sky, but all they could see was endless blue, clear of cloud, and the fiery red sun. A rose-coloured mist rolling in from the ocean hovered above the waves lapping on to the beach: a fringe of white froth on wet sand. Diana was aware of the unusual quiet. There was just one sound: waves as they broke, water rushing on to damp sand. Several hundred people, silent with anticipation, waited on balconies, terraces, roofs; they were standing two or three deep in front of Malibu beach houses and behind temporary barriers.

Diana felt her heart race as a droning sound broke the silence. She squeezed Keoki’s hand then pointed to the sky. Fifteen vintage bi-planes: Gypsy, Tiger and Leopard Moths and Boeing Stearmans, handsome in their jewel colours, looked like huge prehistoric insects flying in formation. Coming in head on and at considerable speed, the vintage planes brought murmurs of delight from the crowd, broad smiles to Diana’s and Keoki’s face. Excited, anticipation caused him to shout, ‘Here comes my mom.’

Syrah Richebourg, Diana’s best friend and Keoki’s mother, was flying her Boeing Stearman in yet another of the day’s aerobatics stunts: a kind of hopscotch while keeping in formation and never cutting speed. Just seconds before the bi-planes crossed the shoreline they pulled up sharply into a breathtakingly steep climb to miss the houses, made a barrel roll and flew out over the ocean from whence they came.

Diana and Keoki joined in the roar of approval and applause raised by the guests balancing their drinks: Tequila Sunrises, Margaritas, Mexican beer laced with lime. Children were licking ice
cream cones and eating boxes of Crackerjacks.

Returning from a different direction, the bi-planes were flying one behind the other down the length of the cordoned-off beach. They peeled off in turn to land, taxi down the runway, line up and cut their motors. Syrah Richebourg’s tangerine-coloured, double-winged Boeing Stearman was the last plane in the sky.

She flew it over the stretch of beach designated as an air strip with less bravado and more elegance than the others: an aerobatic ballet of pirouettes before she pulled out of a roll to bank and come in for a landing.

The double-winged craft raised the ocean spray in a spectacular finale. Diana was filled with a sense of joy for Syrah’s triumph as she watched her friend finally swing her plane away from the water’s edge to come to a full stop in line with the others.

The crowd, exhilarated by her performance, hooted and hollered, and a twenty-four-piece sombrero-wearing Mariachi band struck up brassy Mexican sounds. A shoal of thousands of white and silver balloons floated upward, reaching into the sky. Several pilots dressed in the fun flying gear of the twenties and the thirties, worn by all dashing lovers of vintage planes and flying, gave Syrah and her tangerine Stearman a thumbs up and a broad smile.

Jack Bowater, standing in the crowd, watched Syrah’s performance with his usual admiration for her love of life and adventure. His mind tripped back to the early hours of that very morning. He went over the scene meticulously, trying to come to terms with what had happened when Syrah, sitting on the edge of the bed pulling her jeans up over her legs, felt his arm slip around her waist and a hand caress her nakedness. Jack smiled to himself at the memory of how much he had enjoyed pulling her back to fall across his naked body, laughing.

‘I thought you were asleep,’ she told him.

‘And so you could sneak away? Treat last night as you always do, nothing more than a one-night stand?’ he asked her as he drew her on to the bed alongside him.

There had been no anger in Jack’s voice. He and Syrah were too friendly, had too much fun together, were too honest with one another, for such an emotion to flare up between them. It had been easy for Jack
to set any indignation aside, he was not in love with her.

While still wriggling into her jeans, feeling replete after a night of sex and filled with a sense of vitality and excitement at the day ahead of her, Syrah had faced her lover and answered him, ‘Let me go, Jack. We
are
casual sex, the exciting one-night stand. Last night was great, the erotic life always is, but it’s no longer enough for me. I want more.’

‘Love that comes with every beat of a man’s heart,
and
sex unbound? A young girl’s dream. Oh, come off it, Syrah. That’s not you at all.’ The facetious tone of his voice had been followed by nervous laugher.

‘Laugh at me all you like, Jack, but grand passion that can happen between two people who are not afraid to commit themselves to each other
is
what I want. I’m suffering burn out from loving and being loved erotically and only for the moment. That kind of life is like quicksilver: it runs away with itself and in the end there’s nothing left,’ she had told him.

‘You’re serious about this!’ was his shocked reply.

Syrah was slipping into a cream-coloured silk blouse with dramatic balloon sleeves, buttoning them tight to her wrist while gazing at her long-time on again, off again lover. ‘Don’t look at me askance, Jack, I’ve had a cracking good time. But affection, the momentary trip into sexual oblivion … great as that is, there has to be more for me. It’s been a hell of a flight from real life and love and one I wouldn’t have missed, but the time for escaping is over. I wouldn’t like my tombstone to read, “Here lies Syrah Richebourg, playgirl, who not so cleverly managed to live and die alone”.’

‘Why this sudden awakening, the yearning to change your life?’ he asked, not bothering to hide the annoyance in his voice.

‘It isn’t so much that I want to change it as to add something more to it. It’s not a very good feeling to realise that you’ve been short changing yourself in the love stakes, have been an under-achiever, too weak-willed to do anything about it. I want to leave more of a legacy than that for my son. This morning as I was watching the sun rise over the ocean I had a moment of total awareness, felt new strength in my heart and soul. Jack, be happy for me. I feel closer now to where I came from. And indeed I am my father’s daughter, another Richebourg who wants to add something of value to our dynasty.’

Jack Bowater would miss her. She was quite a lady, adventurous, a
cut above the other playgirls he dated. He and Syrah were gazing into each other’s eyes when he told her, ‘You’re suddenly different.’

‘Yes. It’s quite inexplicable, a little frightening but thrilling,’ she answered.

‘I’ll miss you. The old you.’ There had been genuine sadness in his voice because he knew then it was over for them. She was a lady who would have what she wanted.

‘Who knows? You might even like the new one better,’ she had told him before kissing him farewell.

Jack knew that he would not like the new Syrah Richebourg, whoever she might be. An emotion he was not prone to, fear of loss, took a grip on him then and he experienced a moment of regret for what he had not become in Syrah’s life.

Syrah, still seated in her bi-plane, knew she would remember this particular demonstration and the landing on the beach in Malibu as the beginning of the end of her life, her whole world, as she had always known it.

She removed her flying goggles, unbuckled the chin strap of her leather cap and pulled it off. A mass of auburn hair tumbled on to her shoulders to frame her beautiful face. She shook it out and ran her fingers through it. The green eyes flashed with excitement, the wry smile displayed satisfaction for an inspired fly over and declared her to the crowd as naturally happy-go-lucky, a thrill seeker and adventurer. Heaving herself from the rear cockpit of the plane, she vigorously waved the white silk scarf she had pulled from round her neck.

Syrah was not waving to the crowd or to her peers but to her handsome, exotic-looking child and her best friend, Diana George. The boy was Syrah’s nine-year-old illegitimate son, issue of a passionate love affair with an Hawaiian. She watched the two racing across the sand towards her and, lagging behind, her faithful housekeeper, Melba Morissey.

‘Mom, Mom, you were fantastic!’ shouted Keoki, beaming as he sprinted past Diana, his cap flying off his head.

She threw her head back and laughed. How she loved her son, adored his sweetness, his incredible capacity for happiness. While still making a dash for his mother, Keoki called out as he attempted to pass two of
the pilots standing next to a Leopard Moth, ‘Hi, Vic! Hi, Nick!’

The two men caught the boy, hoisted him on to their shoulders and carried him over to Syrah’s plane as if he were the star of the day instead of his mother.

Syrah, looking glamorous in her black leather jump suit, hopped down from her plane to hug her son, tousle his hair and greet her friends.

She felt happy. The feeling had started at dawn that morning when she’d walked away from Jack, somehow changed by a moment of awareness. And the day just kept getting better. The air show was a triumph thanks to more than thirty pilots who had flown their vintage planes in from far-flung places to be there and participate in the show. They had been daring and inspirational. From the moment of their arrival earlier in the day they had created an atmosphere that was electric and fun. The air even now, late in the day, was still crackling with it. This sense of fun, all different sorts of adventure and thrills, made up a great part of Syrah and Keoki Richebourg’s lifestyle.

Diana arrived, and not far behind her a huffing and puffing Melba, badly out of breath. There were pats on backs, hugs and kisses for Syrah, comments about the display and praise for a spectacular turn out on behalf of the California Save the Children Fund.

Syrah felt high with happiness, delighted that she had everyone she loved around her except for Ethan Richebourg, her father, the most important man in her life. It was he who would instinctively understand that a fundamental change was about to take over her life. Ethan loved her and would help her to realise her new dream, she knew. Syrah couldn’t help but smile; she had always been his child of many dreams and he had always supported her in them. Knowing that Ethan had wanted to be there but had been prevented by a long-standing business engagement did not stop her from gazing around hopefully. He was all that was missing to make her day perfect.

The show now over, the crowd, who had paid five-hundred dollars a ticket to the charity for a finger-food luncheon of California and Mexican cuisine, which included whole roasted pigs, lambs over charcoal pits dug in the sand, mountains of strawberries capped with whipped cream and drizzled with Vermont maple syrup, and an all-day air display, began to thin out.

Syrah and her friends were walking towards the grandstand where
the corporate and private patrons, donating a hundred thousand dollars and upwards, had been seated when they were joined by Ira Rudman, one of the charity’s more important sponsors. He was, in fact, the man who had organised the event down to the last detail, including dealing with the authorities and Malibu residents to gain permission to close off and prepare a section of the beach for a runway and create a strip for the scores of private planes that had flown in conveying guests. It was he who had cajoled a number of beach house owners into opening their houses to selected VIP guests: a Hollywood contingent of stars, moguls, writers, producers, actors, movie people both old and young who had turned out to support the charity and for a fun day where they and their families might be seen but were not the centre of attraction. The mega-rich Californian businessmen and politicians who wheeled and dealed for the success and glory of the state were there too in force.

Ira went directly to Syrah and slipped his arm through hers. He beamed down at her with all the charm and rugged good looks that had captured Diana George’s heart and made them live-in lovers for so many years. Syrah felt the power of Ira’s sexual charisma and as usual automatically rejected any thought of a liaison, brief or otherwise, with him. She had after all been fending off Ira’s erotic hunger for her for years.

Having to remain not only civil but friendly towards him for Diana’s sake had not been easy but very necessary since she had no intention of losing her best friend because of a man.

The way Ira stroked her hair, fawning over her in front of Diana, Keoki and her friends, embarrassed Syrah. She made an attempt to separate herself from him, but in vain. He tightened his grip on her arm. Syrah understood only too well the attraction he had for women. He was handsome and sexy, intelligent, a man who adored women and knew how to flatter them, make them feel marvellous about themselves and about loving him. He could be generous and kind when he wanted to be, amusing, a powerful personality who knew how to get what he wanted and was ruthless in the pursuit of his goals. But looking at him served only as a reminder to Syrah that the love of a good man and true commitment, not sex with a successful, powerful cad who treated women like chattels, was what she must find now.

She had always recognised the shark in Ira but never more so than she did while he held her in his grip. She saw the danger in his eyes: sensuous dark pools; manipulative, corrupting eyes. She suddenly felt her own strength. This was
her
day,
her
success, and though he had helped make it happen for her those soulful eyes, brought to bear on her to enslave her to him, very nearly made her laugh. Ira’s eyes might as well have been shut, for they had no effect on her. Diana was through with Ira.
Ipso facto
Syrah no longer needed to play the friendship game with him. He was one of the people she would happily leave behind now that she had plans to forge ahead, seeking a new and more meaningful place for herself in the sun. The future opened before her, new and fresh and exciting. She could hardly wait to talk her new plans over with her son, her father – who would be delighted at this new turn in her life – and of course with Diana. She and her friend told each other everything.

Ira caressed her shoulder and Syrah, not wanting to make a scene, did not pull away but glared disapprovingly at him.

BOOK: Take Me Higher
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