In two short months, Susan Mabry will achieve her dream of marrying Warren Sullivan, her boss and the man she’s harbored a crush on for years. An attorney, Warren isn’t the most romantic of men, but he’s handsome and knows how to make her feel special—at least when he’s not too busy working. So when an attractive stranger brazenly intrudes on them at a restaurant, Susan can’t understand why she feels butterflies.
Later that night, she sees her blue-eyed admirer on television: Mitch Braden is a champion racecar driver in town for the upcoming Indianapolis 500. Despite giving him the brush-off, Susan can’t help seeing Mitch everywhere, including the Mabry home, where he quickly charms her entire starstruck family. Susan does her best to discourage Mitch and keep Warren from becoming jealous, but when an Indy Man sets his mind on a prize—he races to win.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Indy Man
The Americana Series: Indiana
By Janet Dailey
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1977 Janet Dailey
All rights reserved.
THE candle flame flickered briefly despite the colored pear-shaped glass that rose protectively around it to keep away the drafts. It was a touch of intimate atmosphere in an otherwise well-lit lounge.
As Susan sipped the drink from her stemmed glass, the wavering light caught and reflected a red fire in the sleek curls of her dark brown hair. Salt rimmed the edges of her glass with crystal white thickness, some of it clinging to her lips when she replaced the glass on the small table. Unconsciously her tongue moistly cleansed the lower lip of its salt traces.
Her soft brown gaze swung to the man sitting opposite her. For the thousandth time Susan studied his aloof, almost arrogant features, the firm jaw, the thin hard mouth, the aristocratically straight nose, the impassive dark, nearly black, eyes beneath thick brows of an equal shade. His hair was as dark as hers, but in this light it had a raven black sheen without the red casts hers possessed.
Warren Sullivan was not looking at Susan, though. His dark gaze was shifting about the lounge in that ever alert manner of his. He seemed suddenly withdrawn and remote, not actually with her but apart.
Leaning forward, Susan reached out with her hand to touch the long masculine fingers that held his glass. The movement caused the ruffled vee of her white blouse to open, revealing a tantalizing glimpse of her lacy bra. The nearness of her hand to the candle flame illuminated the gold ring with its diamond fire. Her fingernails were impractically long and manicured, the way Warren liked them.
The touch of her hand against his brought the dark gaze to center on her face, cameo-smooth in tenderness. A semblance of a smile curved his mouth as Warren released the glass to let his fingers close over the tips of hers. Susan ignored the lack of warmth in his smile because she saw the look of approval in his eyes.
'We're going to have a good marriage, Susan.' The matter-of-fact announcement was issued quietly as if he had been pondering the question and was now satisfied with his conclusion.
Susan smiled, letting her dark lashes flutter down. She had become accustomed to Warren's statements. They were rarely romantic, but she didn't mind. He had never proposed to her, merely told her they were getting married. Her acceptance of his decision was taken for granted.
'May I ask the learned attorney what prompted him to reach such a verdict when the jury is still out?' she murmured, her lashes sweeping up so she could gaze at him with undisguised tenderness.
His mouth moved again into that thin line that was never quite a smile. 'Because, my dear, during the day you are level-headed and efficient. There's only the slightest trace of the womanly, feminine creature that you are at this moment. That is why we will have a good marriage: you are like me in that you don't want private emotions entangled with business.'
'Or business entangled with private emotions.'
'That too, of course.' His broad shoulders moved in an agreeing shrug as if that was of secondary importance. Susan held back a sigh.
There were times when she wondered if Warren really loved her. Fortunately there were times when he convinced her of it very thoroughly. She silently wished they were not here in this public place so that he would take her in his arms and convince her again.
Her fingertip trailed around the salted edge of her glass. Glancing up, she saw his gaze wandering about the room again. Almost as if he felt her watching him, he met the soft adoration of her look.
'I often wonder,' he mused, 'how long it might have been before I noticed you if my father hadn't become ill and I was not forced to stand in for him at the Christmas party. You had worked there for—how long—two years?'
'Four years,' Susan corrected gently. 'Two years in the typing pool and two years as your secretary.'
'I always thought you were very attractive,' Warren continued, not the least bit perturbed that he had not known how long she had been employed. 'But you were always so cool and practical that I never guessed such a warm, vibrant woman lived beneath that cloak of efficiency, not until you shed it that day at the party.'
'You have no idea, darling,' Susan murmured huskily, 'the cheer that went up that day when the female staff members of Sullivan, Sullivan and Holmes learned that you were going to attend the Christmas party.'
'Including from you?'
'My cheer was perhaps the loudest of all,' she smiled deeply. 'I told you I've been infatuated with you since almost the first day I saw you. But with all the socialites that paraded through your life, I never thought I had a chance.'
'Those empty-headed pieces of fluff,' he laughed in derision. 'I was never interested in any of them. I was looking for someone like you, intelligent and understanding, capable of appreciating the demands of my career and supporting my ambitions. Until I came to know you, I thought all women threw tantrums or became piqued if business interfered with the time I spent with them.'
'You should have dated a doctor's daughter before,' Susan laughed. 'I don't remember taking part in any school function that my father was able to see through to the end. Invariably some woman decided to have her baby in the middle of the performance. Not that I wasn't hurt sometimes, but my mother taught me patience and understanding. She had had plenty of time to learn.'
Susan knew Warren was listening to her, yet his head was half-turned to glance around the lounge. They were not expecting to meet anyone tonight and she wondered fleetingly why he was so interested in the other occupants. The budding curiosity didn't last longer than it took his look to return to her.
'I'm glad you're understanding,' he stated. Was it her imagination, or was his expression sterner than before? 'It's going to be a trying time at the office next week with my father going into hospital for surgery.'
'I'm certain the doctors will find that the tumor is benign,' Susan offered, realizing Warren's harshness had probably been a show of concern for his father's health. They were very close.
'Of course it will be,' he nodded curtly, sliding a glance again to the side, his mouth tightening grimly. 'Though naturally they'll have to run a biopsy on it to be certain.'
'Warren,' Susan tilted her head to the side, a tiny frown drawing her brows together, 'what's wrong?'
Impatience laced his expression. 'The man at the second table— No, don't look now,' he reprimanded in a low sharp voice. 'He's been rudely staring at you for the last ten minutes.'
'At me?' she repeated in disbelief. 'Are you certain?'
'Very,' Warren retorted.
'Maybe I know him. Maybe he's someone I went to school with,' Susan suggested hesitantly. 'The second table, did you say?'
'Yes. Take a look, but for heaven's sake don't be obvious about it,' he commanded.
An order that was much easier given than carried out. With forced nonchalance, Susan leaned back in her chair. She let her gaze wander idly about the lounge until it was caught by the man at the second table and held by his intent regard. There wasn't any doubt in Susan's mind that he was looking at no one else but her.
The man was alone at the table, leaning somewhat indolently back in his chair. A thumb was hooked in the waistband of his suit trousers, holding the jacket open to reveal a vest in the same unusual tobacco brown color as his suit. Even at this distance Susan could recognize the expensive tailoring.
His hair was a tawny shade, brown unusually gilded with dark gold, a trifle long judged by the clean-cut standards Warren adhered to, and its careless style gave the man a look suggesting the untamed. The lean, handsome face held deeply grooved lines around his mouth and eyes that said he smiled often. Boyish was an initial adjective that Susan wanted to use to describe the man, but he was much too virile and too masculine. That faintly boyish charm she detected was really the rakish air of a rogue. The stunningly handsome face and devastating smile had probably overwhelmed many women.
Her inspection finally stopped at his eyes, blue and glinting with undisguised amusement. Susan couldn't shake the feeling that there was some thing about him that was vaguely familiar. She stared at him a minute more while she tried to place what it was.
The stranger used that minute to inspect her insolently. As his blue eyes ran over her figure, Susan felt her clothes being stripped away little by little. The caressive quality of the sensation sent flames shooting through her veins but without any feeling of revulsion. She glanced away before she could ascertain why she had thought she might know him.
'Well?' Warren demanded impatiently.
A black anger was in his expression and Susan knew he had recognized the stranger's intimate appraisal of her at the last. Perhaps the only major fault that Warren possessed was his foul, brooding temper. She almost wanted to say that she knew the man, but at this point she didn't think Warren cared whether she did or not.
'I don't think I know him, although I have the feeling I've seen him somewhere before,' she replied evenly. It wouldn't do to let Warren see she had been embarrassed.
Warren flashed another glance at the man, his jaw tightening ominously as he let his gaze slide back to her. 'I can't believe the insolence of that man!'
'Just ignore him,' Susan shrugged.
'How can you ignore such a blatant disregard of good manners?' he snapped. 'It's about time someone taught him some.'
'Then you would be behaving as boorishly as he is,' she pointed out. Logic was the only way to penetrate Warren's temper. 'Besides,' she glanced out of the corner of her eye and saw the movement of the man rising to his feet, 'he's leaving anyway.'
Warren wasn't satisfied with Susan's word that the man was leaving and had to look for himself. His eyes were dark as pitch as they swung back to narrow on her face.
'Are you quite certain you don't know that man?' he demanded.
'I—-' Susan hesitated, then invisibly shrugged away that vague sensation of something familiar about him. 'I'm quite certain,' she concluded with a firm nod of her head.
'Then would you tell me why,' Warren continued in the same ominously low tone, 'he's walking to our table?'
Her brown eyes widened in surprise. A hand moved bewilderedly to a wing of dark hair at her temple, smoothing it back to glance surreptitiously at the man. He was approaching their table with a rolling, supple walk totally unlike Warren's firm, almost military stride.
There was the faintest suggestion of a smile on the man's mouth, but his eyes were decidedly crinkled at the corners, a wicked glitter in their blueness. She had barely met his mocking look and she was glancing swiftly away.
Her mind raced. She didn't know him, did she? How could anyone forget someone like that? She didn't know him, she was sure of it. Yet why was he coming to their table? Warren never forgot a face or a name, so it couldn't be him the stranger was coming to see.
When the man stopped beside the table, Susan wasn't able to raise her head in inquiry. Her hands were trembling and she clasped them together, silently praying that Warren wouldn't notice how unnerved she was, and that he wouldn't make a scene.
'Excuse me,' the man spoke in a voice that was low and musically pitched.
Unwillingly Susan lifted her chin, determined to show the man how completely indifferent she was to his presence. But the laughing blue eyes weren't looking at her. The man's falsely solemn expression was directed at Warren, whose head tilted challengingly toward the man.
'You don't know me,' the man continued, erasing at least one of Susan's doubts. 'My name is Mitch Braden.' A bell rang in her mind, but not loudly enough for her to know why. A hand was extended toward Warren in greeting. 'I came over to offer an apology for my rudeness. I'm afraid I might have offended you by staring at your date.'
For only a brief second did the man's gaze swing to Susan before it centered again on Warren. The hand remained outstretched. In the face of Mitch Braden's apology, Warren grudgingly shook the man's hand, not mollified by the apology but unable to disregard it without displaying bad manners himself.
'Your apology is accepted,' Warren responded curtly, releasing the man's hand almost abruptly.
'Thank you, Mr.—I'm sorry, what was your name?' A smile flashed across Mitch Braden's face, deepening the grooves around his mouth and proving as devastatingly attractive as Susan had thought it would be.
'Sullivan, Warren Sullivan,' was the reluctant reply.
At that moment Warren had released the man's gaze so he missed the sudden twinkle that sparkled in the man's eyes, but Susan saw it. As if feeling her gaze, the man named Mitch Braden looked at her.
'I don't suppose you need me to tell you what a very beautiful woman your date is, Mr. Sullivan. Obviously you've had more opportunity to appreciate her looks than the few moments I have spent admiring her. It isn't often that a face as beautiful as hers has a figure to go with it.'
Susan breathed in sharply, unable to believe the man could speak so audaciously. Warren seemed momentarily stunned by the man's boldness as well.
'Mr. Braden,' he said cuttingly, 'I don't like your comments.'
An eyebrow of golden brown, the same color as the man's hair, raised in surprise. 'Don't you think she has a beautiful shape? I would say she's almost perfectly proportioned. Maybe you haven't taken a good look at her recently—-'
'Susan is very beautiful,' Warren interrupted angrily, black fire flashing from his eyes. 'But I certainly don't appreciate you saying things like that—-'
'I see,' Mitch Braden interrupted calmly. His laughing gaze swung to Susan's face, taking note of her heightened color. When he was looking at her, the man didn't attempt to conceal his mockery with pseudoinnocence. 'You're afraid too many compliments will go to her head, isn't that it? That's a pity, because she has such a pretty little head.' He glanced back at Warren's smoldering expression. 'Susan, did you say her name was Susan?'
'It happens to be Mrs. Sullivan. She's my wife!' Warren snapped.
Partially angered by the man's flirtatious remarks deliberately intended to rile Warren, Susan had still found herself hiding a smile. The tiny dimple in one cheek vanished at Warren's announcement.
'Congratulations,' Mitch Braden responded easily to the news, not displaying disappointment or surprise. 'You're a very lucky man, Mr. Sullivan.'
'Thank you,' Warren returned acidly.
When Mitch Braden glanced again at Susan, his vocal blue eyes said it was such a pity she was married, but his smiling voice spoke of something else.
'May I buy you two a drink and we can toast the happy couple?' he offered with a flashing smile.
Susan's heart accelerated slightly. 'No, thank you, Mr. Braden,' she refused in a swift, husky voice.
'We were just going into the dining room to eat,' Warren inserted to rescue her. 'Thank you just the same.'
The man inclined his head in shrugging acceptance. 'It was the least I could do to make up for my earlier bad manners.'
Warren rose to his feet. Susan was faintly surprised to see that Warren was an inch or so taller than Mitch Braden. The man's presence had so completely dominated the table that she had presumed him the taller of the two. Even now Mitch Braden was the more compelling.
'Your apology has been accepted, Mr. Braden,' Warren said coolly, touching Susan's shoulder to prompt her to her feet. 'Now please excuse us!'
'Of course.' The stunning smile seemed permanently carved on the handsome face, the sparkling blue eyes directed at each of them in turn. 'I hope you two have a long and happy marriage. If not,' the wicked glint returned as his gaze rested momentarily on Susan, 'I hope I'm around to pick up the pieces.'
Susan slipped her hand under Warren's elbow. 'We shall have a long and happy marriage, Mr. Braden. Good evening.'
With a curt nod in the general direction of Mitch Braden, Warren turned Susan toward the door. The muscles in his arms were rigidly hard as his striding walk practically carried her out of the lounge. She guessed at the taut hold he had on his temper. There was no need for her to turn around because she could feel Mitch Braden's eyes watch them leave.
Free of the room and Braden, Warren's rein on his temper relaxed. 'That man is insufferable!' he muttered beneath his breath. 'He apologizes, then tries to steal you from under my nose. It didn't even faze him when I told him you were my wife!'
Excerpted from The Indy Man by Janet Dailey. Copyright © 1977 Janet Dailey. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.