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From a seductive storyteller who dares to plumb the dark, passionate depths of the heart and soul comes an absorbing new erotic thriller that is also a gripping tale of psychological suspense.
Grief-stricken Justine Pagett fled to Paris after her mother’s death, but scandal forces her back to the States to redeem her tarnished reputation as a journalist. Commissioned to write a piece on the eccentric classical composer Sophie DeLyon, Justine finds herself part of a mysterious deception. At Euphonia, the exclusive institution DeLyon created to nurture America’s most gifted music prodigies, a malevolent presence is composing a deadly work. Threatening cybermessages meant to intimidate convince a determined Justine that fascinating secrets await her. But when Sophie suddenly disappears, Justine’s assignment to mine the story behind the legend becomes an even greater challenge.
The disharmonious DeLyon family seems more interested in Sophie’s estate than in her artistic legacy, and a group of devoted fans is fiercely defending the name of the enigmatic genius. Wrestling with her own demons while searching for the truth, Justine is clear about one thing: Someone is orchestrating a deadly deceit . . . from which no one will emerge unscathed.
An expertly crafted opus of obsessive passions and poisonous shame, of brilliant achievements and brutal deception, Sheet Music confirms M. J. Rose’s place at the forefront of today’s top psychological suspense writers.
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M. J. Rose is the author of Flesh Tones, In Fidelity, and Lip Service. She lives in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Visit her Web site at www.mjrose.com.
He is addicted to a certain look of pleasure I bestow upon him when he brings me treats. And so he makes an effort with our postcoital feasts. He knows I am always hungry. He doesn't know that, no matter what I eat, I am never full.
Tonight after we make love he brings out a china white plate of thin slices of apple and a pot of honey from Provence.
Apples remind me of home, a place that exists nowhere but in memory. Closing my eyes, I get closer to the reminiscences: to see and feel, smell and taste that past.
He thinks my contented sigh is for him.
Doesn't he know it's dangerous to make assumptions?
In the fall, my mother would take me upstate to an orchard to get real apples--not the mealy substitutes sold in the supermarkets. Those, she explained, were only good for applesauce. "Eating bad fruit is a sin, a waste of a meal. And there are too many wonderful meals to waste even one. Only fresh food, and only in its season," she advised.
Together we baked apple pies, apple turnovers, tarte tatins, apple cobblers, and my favorite--Pauline Pagett's own invention--Apple Humpty Dumplings.
For weeks after visiting the orchard, our Greenwich Village apartment was redolent with the scent of the fruit.
I'd play a game with Maddy, my older sister, who didn't cook back then, making her sniff the air and guess, based on the cinnamon and nutmeg, or the vanilla and butter, what dessert we would be having that night . . .
He pulls me back. To Paris. To the night. To his bed. I watch him slather another slice of apple with honey, and, instead of handing it to me, he holds it to my mouth.
It is easier to be in this present than in that past.
My lips close over the firm flesh. I bite down. Smell lavender. Feel sunshine. Taste a combination of tart and sweet. Hear the crisp snap. I try to forget about remembering.
He offers more fruit.
The shining look of thanks I fix on him draws him nearer. He is unaware that he is moving closer, as close as he can get.
He listens. "I love the sounds you make when you eat my food."
Taking another bite, I lean closer to his ear.
He smiles and licks his own lips.
I feel the rush of power. When did I learn that the easiest way to be in control is to give it up? It doesn't matter. All that is important is how well my pretense of submission manages to get me what I need. With people I interview. With editors I work for. With lovers. Though I seem to give up control and let the other set the course, I can still navigate.
From the bedside table he lifts up the balloon of Calvados, swirls the liquid, takes a sip, and then holds the glass out for me to drink. The scent floats up and, for a moment, that is all there is. The aroma of apples, the sting of brandy, the burn at the back of my throat.
Leaning forward, he licks my lips, tasting them.
I shut my eyes.
This is how he seduces me--with food and drink--with tastes and with tasting. And my gift back is to try to show him how I delight in him. Knowing this makes him appreciate himself even more.
Our bond is not one of emotion but of common need. This tremulous, fleeting feeling is why we are willing to go through these charades. We manipulate and call it romance. We lust and call it love and then pretend it will save the world.
I am not going to call anyone's bluff; I know better. Romantic love doesn't rescue, it doesn't resolve. At best it's a buffer between levels of loneliness. Oh, I suppose it's better to have than to have not, but as an eternal quest? Not worth my time.
I've seen the remnants of those searches and seen the residue of that kind of love when, as it must, it cools and calms.
Henri refills his glass with two more inches of Calvados, drinks from it, and then holds it again to my lips. This time he tips it too far: a trickle of the brandy slides down my chin. He grins, suggesting he's done this on purpose so that he can do what he does next--follow the path of the liquor with his tongue as it runs down my neck and onto my breast.
My head falls back against the pillow; his head falls forward against my chest. My fingers play with the blond curls that tickle my skin.
Suddenly the sharp smell of cocoa beans wafts in on the air.
"Stay there. When I tell you, close your eyes and open your mouth. I want you to taste it before you see it," he says as he gets up.
Grabbing the glass of brandy, he takes it with him as he pads toward the kitchen, leaving his robe on the end of the bed.
He is modest when he's sober, but after a few glasses of wine or a few inches of brandy, he relaxes into his nakedness. In this gap--between who he is and who he becomes--an other emerges who keeps me interested.
In my work, as a journalist, I have permission to search for these hidden souls, and it is my conceit that I am good at finding and exposing them. Certainly I am dogged in the pursuit. Strip away the careful constructions and mythology we each create out of pride or delusion or even hope, and there is the other, ready to either ruin, illuminate, or enrich the public facade.
This secret self is often the key to how someone lives, explains what choices they make, what drives them out into the world or away from engaging in it. And if I do my job well and with passion, when you read my profiles you will make discoveries. Sweet or foul, the other fascinates me. By uncovering what individuates us, we grope toward an understanding of those we know and, ultimately, ourselves.
I'm not sure it's always a good thing, but understanding that people have others secreted away keeps me from trusting my first impressions of anyone. And not just first impressions. I have to know someone for a long time before I take any personal chances. Others can destroy relationships or build them, ruin friendships or cement them, separate fathers and daughters, bring mothers and sons together.
Others do damage or make repairs. Define our humanity. Or inhumanity.
As for Henri, he has hidden his other self from me longer than most and the search is what has kept me here. And that he feeds me.
Usually I find my own stories and choose the people I want to profile and write about. But I first met Henri because Kurt Davis--my editor at the foreign office of the American magazine I have been writing features for since I moved to Paris--had suggested I interview St. Pierre to ascertain if he was a candidate for a story about chefs who might qualify for the title--"Enfants Terribles of Post-Nouvelle Cuisine."
Henri St. Pierre had come out of his restaurant's kitchen that first afternoon holding a bottle of cold wine and two glasses in one hand and a plate of hot pomme frites in the other. To his offerings on the table, I added my notebook and pen.
"Mais non. You have to eat these while they are hot," he said, pushing away the work supplies and offering me a sizzling potato with his fingers.
I took it, ate it. Smiled. And before I could tell him how good it was, he was offering me another.
He poured us wine. Took a potato for himself, scarfed it down. Lifted one more and put it between my lips.
A bond--intimate and immediate--was forged.
A few days later I was more than a little relieved to tell Kurt that St. Pierre wasn't the right chef for the article--there wasn't a story. He was fair to his staff and welcoming to his guests.
I moved on to other interviewees, and Henri and I moved toward each other.
"You understand people who cook for a living and who live to cook," he told me one night while he offered bite-size pieces of freshly baked brioche and sections of mandarin oranges soaked in cognac.
Afterward he licked the buttery flakes from my fingers. His recipe for good sex always includes amazing food and, after a month of spending a few nights a week with him, I am now five pounds heavier, rubbed raw and satiated from the way he devours me in bed. There is no part of my body that he has not licked or tasted and no food that he has offered that has not been delicious. And yet despite that, he doesn't fill me up.
He compares the color of my hair to espresso and my skin to clotted cream. He roasts chestnuts to show me the exact shade of my eyes. And he buys different berry jams until he finds a raspberry preserve that matches my lips. He charms me, cooks for me, makes me laugh with the stories about life in a French kitchen, and treats me like a piece of ripe fruit.
In return I take him in my hand or in my mouth or inside my body and tell him how his pleasure pleasures me. I say it in the dark but with my eyes open, looking far into him, as if penetrating his soul with my eyes. He bows his head as if hearing gospel.
"Justine, close your eyes."
We have moved away from the apples and are on to the next delicacy of the night. My mouth is filled with something hot, moist, and intensely chocolate. Not a souffle. There is more crunch to this dessert, and the center is creamy rather than breadlike.
I stick out my tongue to lick my lips, but his tongue gets there first. We kiss, chocolate flavoring the embrace.
"Umm. More," I say.
Another spoonful for me and then more brandy for him.
"I stole the recipe," he whispers as if it is a serious secret. "From Andre," he names his mentor and one of Paris's gastronomic treasures.
I open my mouth again, knowing how much he wants to feed me.
"I stole all his recipes," he says with a pinch of bravado as he offers another spoon of melting chocolate.
I swallow. Licking my lips. "I'm glad."
He proffers more. My lips clamp down and I suck the spoon clean.
"Smart thief," I say, watching him become erect. Again. So soon. I lean in so my thigh presses against him. It is all the encouragement he needs.
"Actually, I stole mor...
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Book Description Ballantine Books, 2003. Hardcover. Condition: New. 0345451066 As New/As New. First Edition, First Print. Hardcover. Signed By Author on Title Page. 8vo - over 7?" - 9?" tall. Seller Inventory # 002974
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