In Return to Hope’s Ridge, we met Susan Lewis who was out for revenge after her mother had been put in a terrible situation over thirty years earlier. Let’s go back and see the moment Susan found out what had happened to her mother and what that might mean for her own parentage. Please read book three before you read these scenes to avoid any spoilers. If you haven’t read the book, click here to read now
Bonus Scene #7
Susan rubbed a dusty hand across her sweat-streaked forehead and sat back on the floor of the near-empty attic. After months of promising her mother she’d help clean out both the basement and attic, here she was, having run out of excuses as to why she couldn’t, cleaning it out. Over the last two days, she’d moved box after box out of the overcrowded attic, down into the house for sorting, and then the majority of things had either been tossed or boxed up, ready for delivering to the local thrift shop. They’d kept very few of the items that had been stored and untouched for years.
Susan’s foot tapped against a box she’d deliberately left in the attic. She wanted to look through it on her own before showing it to her mother. The top was open, and although she’d seen several photos of her father before, Susan had never met him.
She leaned forward and pulled the box toward her, opening it and lifting a photo album from it. She opened the first page to find a much younger version of her mother, smiling at her. She turned the page to see three photos of her mother and father at the beach. The sky was blue, and they were smiling at the camera, her father’s arm draped across her mother’s shoulders. They looked so happy. She continued to turn the pages wishing with all her heart she’d had the opportunity to meet this man. His death, only a few months before her birth, must have been devastating for her mother.
She continued to turn the pages. Photos on regular days appeared interspersed with holiday photos—Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter. So many memories of a time so long ago. She turned to the last page and discovered an envelope addressed to her mother. She hesitated for only a second. She really shouldn’t be reading this, but what if it was from her father? She would love to see his writing and hear his voice shine through his words.
She opened the letter and started reading.
Twenty minutes later, Susan’s legs shook as she climbed down the ladder that led to the attic, the letter tucked in the back pocket of her jeans. How could she? The letter hadn’t been from her father, but it had been about him, and the content wasn’t just shocking. It was devastating.
Susan could hear her mother moving about in the kitchen when she came down the stairs to the ground level of the two-story house. She took a deep breath and walked through the living area into the adjoining kitchen. Her mother was leaning down into a drawer retrieving a dish. She looked up as Susan entered the room.
“Hey, hon, how’s it all going?” She took the dish out and placed it on the counter, smiling at Susan. “I know I’ve said it before, but I’m going to repeat it. I appreciate that you’re doing this for me.”
Susan stared at her mother. This woman had lied to her. For over thirty years, she’d lied. And not just a little white lie; a colossal, life-altering lie.
“You okay?” Veronica asked. “You look, I don’t know, a little strange.”
“I need to ask you something.”
“Okay,” Veronica said, folding her arms across her chest. “Go ahead. I’ve no secrets.”
Susan cringed at her mother’s choice of words. Words she’d heard many times throughout her life and had assumed, until twenty minutes ago, were true. “Are you sure about that?”
“Susan, what’s this about? I can’t answer your question if you don’t ask it.”
Susan slipped the letter from her back pocket and placed it on the countertop. “I’d like to know who my father is.”
Veronica’s face paled, and she grabbed the counter for support, swaying scarily as she did.
Susan hurried to her and put a supporting hand under her arm. She wasn’t sure what she’d expected—denial perhaps, but not this.
She pulled out one of the stools for her mother and helped her into it. Veronica immediately placed her head in her hands.
“Mom,” Susan said. “Is this letter true? That Dad might not be my biological father?”
Veronica gave a slight nod, not lifting her head.
Susan stared at her. Clearly her mother had expected to keep this secret to herself, so no doubt it was a shock, but she needed an explanation. “The letter’s from Aunty Liddie,” Susan said. “Replying to your letter, from what I can tell, when you told her you weren’t sure who my father was. All I know from the letter was that she was shocked and wanted to come and see you. Said she felt awful that you’d gone through that on your own and wished you’d confided in her earlier.”
Veronica lifted her head slowly and nodded. “In hindsight, I wish I had too. Who knows, things might have turned out differently.”
Susan moved to the fridge, opened it, and took out a bottle of wine. She took two glasses from the cabinet above the stove and poured them each a drink. She placed one in front of her mother and sat on the stool next to her, taking a large gulp of her own. “What happened, Mom?”
Veronica closed her eyes momentarily before reopening them and taking a generous swallow of her wine. “Sorry, it’s just such a shock to be having this discussion.” Her hand shook as she replaced her wine glass on the counter. “I hoped I would never have to discuss this with you.”
“You have to, Mom. I have a right to know.”
Veronica nodded and took another deep breath. “As you know, your father worked as a financial controller for many years and was very proud of what he did.”
Susan nodded. She’d heard about her father’s career many times.
“The owner of the company he worked for, Walter Law, was a powerful and influential man. Your father held him in high regard, but we were both very aware that if you crossed Walter Law, your career was over.”
“He sounds like an awful man.”
Veronica didn’t correct her. “I met Walter Law for the first time at a function. He was very charming and made a point of talking to me at that function and many others in the months that followed.”
“And you cheated on Dad and had an affair?”
Pain flashed in Veronica’s eyes at the accusation. “Of course not. Let me finish, please.”
Susan nodded and waited.
“Walter Law made a pass at me, which was flattering, and I was careful to be polite when I rejected him.”
“What did Dad say?”
“I never told him,” Veronica said. “Walter Law wasn’t going to take no for an answer, though. At first, he continued to try and charm me into bed, and after many weeks of this, he gave me an ultimatum. He said,” her voice wavered, “he said if I didn’t sleep with him, he’d fire Dad and make sure he never worked in finance again. I thought if I got it over with, then he’d leave me alone, and things would go back to normal. But it didn’t. Each time he wanted more.”
Susan’s mouth dropped open. “Surely there was another way. What if you’d told Dad? Wouldn’t he have flattened Walter?”
“And never have worked again,” Veronica said. “What you don’t realize is just how proud your father was. To be fired and then not to have found another job, I was afraid it was more than he would be able to bear, and I was right.”
“So you did tell him?”
Veronica shook her head. “No, after about two months of hiding this from your father, I discovered I was pregnant. I didn’t know who the father was, and I have always prayed it was Terrance. I told Walter Law that it was over. I hoped his threats of firing Dad were empty, but they weren’t. He fired him at four that afternoon and just before six, your father’s body was found at the bottom of the cliffs at Morningside.”
“He killed himself?”
Veronica nodded, tears now streaming down her cheeks. “He did, and I’m to blame.”
“Oh, Mom,” Susan said, “the only person who was at fault was this Walter guy.”
“Walter Law,” Veronica immediately said. “Don’t just call him Walter. It makes him sound human, not like the animal he was.”
Susan picked up her wine glass and took a large sip. That animal was quite possibly her biological father.
“I never knew what your dad was told at that meeting,” Susan said. “Whether Walter Law told him I’d slept with him or whether he just fired him. I tried to see Walter Law after it happened, and he refused to meet with me. I’ve lived not knowing and full of guilt since that day.”
Susan wasn’t sure what to say. She felt overwhelmed with the information she’d just learned. She stood, leaned in, and hugged her mother. “I’m so sorry you went through that, but right now, my mind is a complete jumble. I’m going to go for a run and try to get my head around all of this.”
“Will you be okay?”
Her mother picked up her wine glass and nodded. “I’m sorry, hon, really I am. I’ve always referred to Terrance as your dad because if he’d lived, he would have been your father in every aspect, even if it had turned out he wasn’t your biological father. I never wanted you to know the truth. I don’t think it serves any purpose other than placing a weight on your shoulders you shouldn’t have to carry.”
A weight on your shoulders you shouldn’t have to carry. Her mother’s words played over in her head as the rhythmic thud of Susan’s Nikes hit the pavement. She’d been running for over forty minutes with no destination or planned end time. What should she even do with this information? She hadn’t known the father that she’d grown up believing to be her dad, so it wasn’t like she had a lifetime of memories with him that had now been destroyed. All she had was the stories her mother had told her about him and that she’d believed her genes had originated from this honorable, hardworking, and funny man her mother spoke of highly. The man who’d tragically died in a car accident. Instead, her genes might be linked to that of what, a rapist? She stopped and doubled over as she had this thought. That was the case, though, wasn’t it? He’d forced himself on her mother. If he was her father, there was no other way to describe her conception other than rape. Her stomach heaved, and she hurried to the road, the contents of her stomach emptying into the gutter. Thank goodness the street was quiet, and there was no one around to witness her unraveling.
Once she was finished, she walked slowly in the direction of her mother’s house, taking deep breaths, willing her stomach to settle. He couldn’t get away with it. She wondered if he was still alive. She pulled out her phone and typed Walter Law into the search bar. Several results appeared, the third being Walter Law Investment and Property Development. She clicked on it and was taken immediately to his company’s website. She scrolled through the pages, stopping on the Company page, which showed a photo of a man in his sixties. His hair was thinning and gray, and he had plenty of wrinkles to suggest he’d had a stressful life. There was something about him, though, something that made him look powerful, not a man you’d mess with.
Susan turned the phone off and slipped it back into her pocket. She wasn’t someone you messed with either. Regardless of whether he turned out to be her biological father, and she was determined to find out, he was going to pay for what he’d done to her mother. She was going to make sure of it.
Exactly four weeks after learning the truth from her mother about Walter Law, Susan stepped out of an elevator, steeling herself for what she was about to do. She’d only told her mother part of the story. That two weeks earlier, she’d contacted Walter Law and spoken to him on the phone. She’d explained that she was Veronica Lewis’s daughter and believed he might be her biological father. The phone line had gone dead for close to a minute as he digested this news.
“Are you still there?” she’d finally asked.
He’d cleared his throat, and she’d continued, not allowing him to speak.
“I’d like to arrange for a DNA test. Would you be willing to meet with me for a few minutes to get the swabs done? We don’t have to discuss anything else until we have the results of the test.”
“Okay,” Walter said. “Where should I meet you?”
They’d arranged to meet in a small cafe near Walter’s offices the following day. It had been a quick and extremely awkward catch-up, and Susan had been surprised when Walter turned to her after they’d completed the samples for the test and had said their very brief goodbyes.
“Susan, if I am your father, I’d like to get to know you. We’ve missed out on thirty years together, and there’s a lot I’d like to learn about you. I hope you’ll be open to that.”
A lot to learn. She knew enough about him already. He was a rapist, regardless of their genetic link. But she’d nodded, still not entirely sure of her plan.
When the DNA test results had arrived, she’d breathed a sigh of relief. He wasn’t her father. Her mother, who she hadn’t told up until that point that she’d met with Walter, had cried tears of relief. “Oh, thank goodness,” she’d repeatedly said, wiping her tears. “We can put that behind us now. You are Terrance’s daughter, and you should be proud of that fact, very proud indeed.”
Susan hadn’t said much, just allowed her mother to believe that she had put it behind her too. But she hadn’t. She’d looked into Walter Law. He had a hugely successful business and was worth a small fortune. Millions. He was the reason she’d grown up without a father, and he was the reason her mother had lived with unbearable shame and guilt for over thirty years. He was going to pay.
She announced herself to the receptionist, who suggested she take a seat in the waiting area while waiting for Walter.
“He’ll only be a few minutes,” she’d said with a smile.
Susan’s stomach was doing flip-flops by the time Walter appeared. He had a guarded look on his face and ushered her down a long corridor to his spacious corner office. He indicated for her to take a seat across from him and sat down himself. He forced a small smile. “Sorry, I’m a bit nervous about what you’re going to tell me. It’s not every day you find out you might have a daughter.”
Susan hadn’t shared the DNA results with Walter. She’d paid good money to have them falsified and now took the document from the folder she was carrying and passed it across the desk to him. He opened it and quickly scanned the information before placing the file on his desk and meeting her eyes.
“How do you feel about this?”
“Shocked,” Susan said.
Walter leaned back in his chair and studied her. “What did your mother tell you about our relationship?”
The guarded look on Walter’s face was impossible to miss. He appeared worried about what she was going to tell him.
“Not a lot,” Susan said. “Just that she’d had a relationship with you for two months, and she’d never been certain whether you or her husband, Terrance, was my father. As you probably recall,” because you basically killed him, “my father died while Mom was pregnant with me.”
Walter nodded. “He did. It was a shock to all of us. A day I’ll always regret.”
“I had to let Terrance and some other staff go that day. We were struggling financially, and there were some tough decisions to be made. I always worried that this might have pushed him over the edge.”
“Literally,” Susan said.
Walter’s cheeks flamed red as he appeared to recall Terrance’s suicide at the cliffs. “Sorry, I wasn’t trying to be flippant. I’d like to get to know you, Susan. I realize you’re a grown woman, and we’ve missed many years together. I’d like that to change.”
Initially, when she’d debated how she would handle this meeting, she’d imagined herself yelling abuse at Walter. Calling him out for being the rapist he was. But venting with words wasn’t enough. He needed to pay. Her mother was in her sixties and had some health issues. A cash injection would make a massive difference to her retirement and old age and, of course, any hospital bills that she might incur in the future.
Susan forced a smile, the plan she’d spent days devising at the forefront of her mind. “I’d like that, Walter. It all feels a bit strange, but we’re blood, and that’s important to me.”
“And I’d like you to meet Matt, my son, too.”
“My half-brother,” Susan said, injecting as much wonder into her voice as she could. “I grew up an only child, and now I find out I have a brother. What are you going to tell him?”
Walter flushed a deep shade of red. “I’m not sure. For now, I’d love to get to know you better and just go from there.” He pushed his chair back and stood. “Would you have the time for me to take you out to lunch?”
“Definitely,” Susan said, standing. Her mother had been right when she’d said he was a charming man. He was, and if Susan hadn’t known that he’d raped her mother and caused her father’s death, she might fall for his charm. For now, she would be pleasant and play the role of a woman getting to know her biological father. At the same time, she continued to formulate her plan to achieve her ulterior motive—to make Walter Law pay for his past in the way she knew would hurt him most—by taking away his success in the form of his fortune. It was time to redistribute Walter’s wealth, and this lunch would be her first opportunity to start planting seeds.