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Kathryn had loved Brent McQueen before he was a rock star, when he was just a struggling musician and they were just two people in love. But now their marriage was in tatters, torn beyond repair.
Then Brent's boat was destroyed, killing a man on board....
Brent survived the explosion, but someone was after him. The only person he trusted was the woman he'd been trying to forget—his wife. Brent needed Kathryn's help to find what the killer wanted—before he took the one thing Brent couldn't live without.
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New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Heather Graham has written more than a hundred novels. She's a winner of the RWA's Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Thriller Writers' Silver Bullet. She is an active member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America. For more information, check out her websites: TheOriginalHeatherGraham.com, eHeatherGraham.com, and HeatherGraham.tv. You can also find Heather on Facebook.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Kathy heard the music long before Shanna called her to the living room to watch the television. And despite the years, the pain and the endless things that had gone wrong, she felt the poignant tug on her heart that she always felt whenever she saw Brent, heard a piece of his music, saw his picture in a newspaper or heard the husky whisper of his voice.
"Mom! Come out and see Dad!"
Kathy gritted her teeth and smoothed out the comforter she had just tossed over her bed. Don't growl, smile, she warned herself. If there had been one decent thing she and Brent had managed to do, it was their raising of Shanna. Neither of them had ever said a negative thing about the other to their daughter.
And now she was almost grown up, a beautiful young woman with white-gold hair, fabulous blue eyes and a figure that was both slim and curved, and entirely enchanting.
It was getting harder and harder to believe that she was no longer a child, Kathy thought. Sometimes she found it amazing that she and Brent had created a child with such startling beauty, and then again, sometimes she smiled wistfully and thought, why not? Had she been so very different herself way back when?
And hadn't Brent been the most gorgeous man she had ever seen when she had first met him?
"Mother!" Shanna called.
For a moment Kathy's fingers curled tightly around the quilted comforter, then she straightened, inhaling, exhaling. She knew Shanna was watching Brent's new video.
He and the other four musicians that formed the Highlanders had just cut a new album. She had read about it in People. She knew Johnny Blondell fairly well, and had never been especially fond of him. He had a penchant for high living and verbally abusing his wives—she had lost count of how many. Keith Montgomery was originally an Iowa farm boy, and he had never lost the sense of home and old-fashioned values. Kathy was sorry for Keith. He was the one who deserved the breaks, and she had read that his wife had recently been killed in a car accident, leaving him with an infant son. Then there were Larry and Thomas Hicks, brothers famous for their haunting harmonies. Kathy knew them from the old days but knew practically nothing personal about them except that they were both very talented, and as rumor held true, equally temperamental.
The band was quite an array of talent all the way around, Kathy thought. Brent was supposed to be one of the top five guitarists alive, ranking number one at times, depending on the opinion of the reviewer. Johnny was an ace drummer, Keith was extraordinary on keyboards, and the Hicks brothers had their fantastic harmony. The group was destined for success once again.
If only she could distance herself, their new video would probably be wonderfully entertaining to watch.
If only Brent wasn't among the company....
It wouldn't be as bad as watching the old videos, Kathy assured herself. She wouldn't see the Brent she had fallen in love with—the tall, rangy man with the sensual amber eyes, the rugged face, the dark sandy hair that fell so seductively over one eye.
This was a new video. With any luck, Brent would be half-bald, liver-spotted, bent over and full of warts.
In the doorway she paused with a certain amusement. She'd better hope that he wasn't in that bad a condition. He was only four years her senior, and she didn't want to think that she was rotting away herself. Not quite yet, anyway.
She hurried down the hallway to the large living room. The television was against the wall near the brick fireplace. The floor was laid with Mexican tiles and little studs of old English coats of arms at the angles where four tiles met. Shanna was stretched out on a rug that she had dragged to within a few inches of the television set.
"Dad let me watch them filming one day," Shanna said excitedly, aware that her mother had come at last, but not turning her glance from the television. "Of course, it isn't the same at all, because all the images have to be combined. Well, you know!"
Kathy knew. She still knew something about the business, even though they had been divorced for three years.
Three years didn't erase fifteen. She had never realized that more thoroughly than now, standing barefoot, her hands shoved into the pockets of her cutoffs, staring at the television.
He hadn't gone bald. He hadn't changed a bit.
And the video might be a group effort, but this particular song was Brent's. All Brent's. He was the one singing. His distinctive voice carried the melody with a husky hypnotism that was his trademark.
He was seated on a tall stool, his old guitar on his lap, his smile easy and friendly as he strummed the strings or glanced at one of the other musicians. If anything, his shoulders had broadened in acceptance of the fact that he was forty-one now, and she had a sneaky suspicion that his chest was more richly haired. He wore age well, she thought, very well.
He was even more striking than when she had first met him. Some of the years that had gone past were evident in his eyes. They were still full of enigma, but she thought their whiskey-colored depths betrayed a few other emotions—pain, loss, wisdom and acceptance. Did her eyes look like that? she wondered.
"Doesn't he look great, Mother?"
"Yes," Kathy answered evenly. "Yes, he does."
As videos were prone to do, this one changed suddenly. The musicians were no longer in the studio. They were out on a yacht. Brent was in a chair, lounging. A young bikini-clad beauty was behind him, laughing delightedly, draping her near-naked body over his naked back.
She had been right, Kathy thought. That chest of his was more richly furred than ever with fine gold-tipped hairs. He was tanned and bronze, and his stomach was still as lean as a whipcord. She felt a tremor somewhere in the pit of her belly and for a moment she intensely hated the blonde girl.
It's over between us, Kathy told herself. It had been over for a very long time. Their marriage had fallen apart just like Humpty Dumpty. It had shattered in so many pieces that no one could ever put it together again. And it hadn't been the music business or a blonde or a brunette that had caused the breakup. It had been the big blows of life, followed by the darkness that had suddenly covered them. They hadn't been able to pull together, and so they had fallen apart. Only then had the blondes come into it, and they had both known it. They might have remained friends if they hadn't quarreled quite so passionately at the end.
There had been the last awful fight with its tragic consequences. Afterward he had treated her like a fragile rose, and he had kept his distance. If he had cried, he had never let her see. She knew he had sworn he would never hurt her again, but all that really hurt was that he wouldn't come near her.
Yes, it was over.
Kathy gritted her teeth and managed to put a tight clamp on the emotions that should have passed away with the years. She swallowed the hurt and tried to remind herself that she really wished him well. She wished Brent happiness.
But she still hated the blonde, she decided.
"Marla Harrington. She's a twit!" Shanna said disgustedly.
"You know her?" Kathy curled up on the leather sofa.
Shanna's golden head was nodding. "She's a twit," she repeated.
"A good-looking one," Kathy commented.
"She hangs all over Dad, and he isn't interested."
Kathy doubted that. Brent was looking at the woman, smiling, laughing. Marla Harrington was tall, with short silky hair that moved with her, like the hair in a shampoo commercial. She was lean and lithe, except around the cleavage area. She had a beautiful smile and mahogany eyes. Laughter was touching those eyes, just as it touched Brent's. It was a fun song they were singing, with an easy pop rhythm. Kathy knew already it would be a big hit. The single would probably reach number one immediately. Shanna had told her that the album had several great songs and that she would love it. Kathy believed her daughter, but she didn't want to hear the album.
"What makes you think your dad isn't interested?" Kathy asked idly. She stared at her toes.
Then she had Shanna's attention. Shanna turned from the television to stare at her. "He just isn't. I know it. He hasn't been interested in anyone since you two broke up."
"Oh." Kathy tried to speak lightly. "That isn't true. Give him a chance. He'll find the right woman."
"He's still in love with you. And you're still in love with him."
She breathed deeply. "Shanna," she said very softly. "Children of divorced parents always want to believe that. But it just isn't true. I haven't even seen your father in three years."
"It doesn't matter," Shanna said. She turned to the television. The video had come to an end, and the DJ was announcing it as a surefire hit. She went on to introduce the musicians, ending with Brent McQueen. "The master is surely back to it here! Some thought that he'd never really be back after the death of his infant son four years ago, but as you've heard today—"
The television was off. Shanna had leaped to her feet to flick it off. Now she stared at Kathy. "Mother, I'm sorry, I didn't mean—"
"It's all right," Kathy told her. She managed to smile and get to her feet. "It's all right, really, sweetheart. It happened so long ago, and I've still got you." She gave Shanna a fierce, tight hug, and her daughter, warm, protective, giving, hugged her back. Suddenly, there were tears stinging Kathy's eyes. She held tight to her daughter. "Honestly, Shanna, I have you, and you're precious to me, you know that, don't you?"
She pulled away and managed a huge smile. "And you're taller than I am, too, now. That's not quite fair."
Shanna laughed. "Mom, neither of us is exactly an Amazon."
Kathy grinned. It was all right. She had control again. She could push it all into a far corner of her heart, where it belonged. She released Shanna, certain that no matter how good and loving her daughter was it wasn't good to hold too tight. "Aren't you going to be late for that trip of yours?" she asked Shanna.
Shanna glanced at her watch. "Oh! Gosh, I just might be running late. David should be here any minute. Now, Mom, you're really not going to worry, are you? His parents are both wonderful sailors, and you know that I'm a darned good diver and—"
The doorbell rang. Patty McGiver, Kathy's secretary and housekeeper, chirped merrily, "I'll get it!"
Patty had a pretty, wholesome face, but she insisted on wearing her steel-gray hair in an old-fashioned bun on top of her head. She had the look of a resolute old maid, and though Kathy wondered why Patty had never wanted a family of her own, she was too grateful to have the woman to ponder the question often.
Kathy went by her maiden name, O'Hara, and she lived in an old, quiet section of Coconut Grove, Florida, where her neighbors were discreet and respected their privacy. She had her own business, an advertising firm, and needed the help at home. She liked the house, and she even liked cleaning—it helped her think—but there just weren't enough hours in the day for everything. Patty was a godsend.
"Hello, there, young man!" Patty greeted David Brennan.
"Mom, now—" Shanna began.
"I'm not worried. I know the Brennans are exceptional sailors, and I trust you and David." She had been an overprotective parent for a long time. She hadn't been able to help it. Now she was trying very hard to let loose a little. If she didn't, she knew she would smother her child. And Shanna was an angel. She'd seen enough of some of the music crowd to stay away from drugs. A senior in high school, she got excellent grades, and she seemed to love her mother and father equally. She lived with Kathy, but she spent every other weekend with her father, and shared her holidays carefully.
Brent had always been there for Shanna, Kathy thought. No matter what he had been doing, he had never failed his daughter. She would have to say that for him.
There was much more to be said for Brent, she knew. She also knew she was still in love with him, that she always would be.
But life went on. She had learned that the hard way.
"Honest, I'm not worried," Kathy reassured Shanna. She walked with her daughter to the doorway where David—six foot two, blond, all-American with a wide grin—was waiting.
"Hi, Mrs. McQueen." David never had comprehended why she chose to use her maiden name. "Please don't worry—"
"I'm not worried," Kathy vowed again.
Shanna laughed, stood on tiptoe and gave David a kiss on the cheek. "She's already been through it, Dave. I'll just get my things."
"You're going out from Key Largo, right?" Kathy asked as Shanna ran to her room.
"Right. We can be reached by radio, you know," David assured her. "And you are still invited."
Kathy shook her head. "Thanks, David. I'm having dinner with Axel Fisher."
Shanna had appeared with a duffel bag. "Of Axel Fisher Skin Care Products," she said sweetly. Shanna didn't like Axel. He was tall, urbane and attractive, but he knew very little about dealing with young people. He was attractive in a very studied way, like the male models who showed off his products. He was tanned, his hair was styled, not just cut, and he carefully allotted so many hours of the week to his health club.
He was nice, though. Attentive and caring. Kathy wondered if she would find fault with any man, and if Shanna would do the same.
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Book Description Harlequin, 2010. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0373389914
Book Description Harlequin Bestselling Author Collection, 2010. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0373389914