The Third Sin: A Sonya Iverson Novel (Sonya Iverson Novels)

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9780765314468: The Third Sin: A Sonya Iverson Novel (Sonya Iverson Novels)

Elsa Klensch, host of the groundbreaking CNN news magazine, Style with Elsa Klensch, is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Style with Elsa Klensch. When she retired from television, Elsa took with her many secrets, stories she'd never been able to tell...until now in The Third Sin.

Television producer Sonya Iverson has a habit of stumbling over dead bodies. Wade Bruckheimer decides to sell a fabulous diamond that once belonged to his late mother. He needs money, and selling the Braganza seems the best way of getting it. His stepmother, Irina, is furious―that diamond is her ticket to every A-list party in New York. A few days before the sale, Wade is found dead in his luxurious apartment.

Sonya was already working on a story about the diamond and immediately begins to cover the murder, to the dismay of her boyfriend, who fears that Sonya is putting herself in danger. Irina Bruckheimer is the first, but not the last, suspect. Esperanza's family want the Braganza back. There are long-standing rumors that Wade's high-maintenance wife is having an affair. Only Sonya, with her outsider's viewpoint, can sort through Wade Bruckheimer's life and find his killer.

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About the Author:

Elsa Klensch was the producer and host of CNN's groundbreaking fashion and design program, "Style with Elsa Klensch." Klensch has anchored Spring and Fall fashion show coverage for the cable channel Trio and has written articles for House Beautiful, Elle Décor, and other magazines and newspapers, and writes a monthly column on jewelry for gem.net.

Klensch has lectured about fashion and design at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Chicago Historical Society, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and elsewhere.

Among the many awards Klensch has received are the Woman of Achievement Award from the Anti-Defamation League and an Order of Merit from the Italian government. She has been elected to the International Best-Dressed List Hall of Fame.

Klensch's first book Style, a heavily illustrated compendium of fashion tips and tricks, was a New York Times bestseller. Her series of mysteries starring television fashion journalist Sonia Iverson begins with Live at 10:00, Dead at 10:15.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

 

I’ve never killed anyone before. But I’ve never needed to.

The pills look innocent. Freshly pried from foil sheets. Enough to stop a heart quickly, painlessly, quietly.

Take the pestle and grind the pills to dust. Mix in some powdered sugar?

No. The ice cream won’t be tasted. It will be gulped down, as it is every night, without thought, without a pause to actually experience the flavor.

Carefully scoop out half the ice cream. Sprinkle the powder equally through the chocolate layer. The flavor mustn’t vary.

Ladle the rest back into the carton. Open the freezer door. The containers look like rows of soldiers, dressed for war.

Put my special package in the front so it’s first to be eaten.

Close the door.

No regrets.

 

Chapter 2

WEDNESDAY, 11:15 A.M.

Sonya Iverson’s office

TV producer Sonya Iverson stared at her computer, intent on the script sent for her approval by one of the writers for The Donna Fuller Show. She wasn’t satisfied with it, and was annoyed that she would have to stay late to help with a rewrite. She had promised to meet her boyfriend, Keith, for a leisurely dinner, and this meant disappointing him—and herself—again.

The show’s writing staff complained that Sonya was too demanding. She knew that behind her back they called her a “tough, hard-nosed, tight-ass.” And that was true, at least when it came to work. She was a perfectionist, and proud of it. Almost every year, one of her segments won an Emmy.

Sonya began to add feedback to the script. Her concentration was broken by loud knocking on her door, followed by a shrill, familiar voice.

“It’s me. It’s important.”

When Sonya’s office door was closed, it was a signal to leave her alone unless there was an emergency. Even Donna Fuller, the program’s star and Sonya’s ultimate boss, respected a closed door. But not Sonya’s intern, Kirsten Sacco. Sonya frowned as the knocking continued, already sure that Kirsten was responsible.

With a sigh of resignation, Sonya uncrossed her long legs, got up from her desk, released the lock, and opened the door.

As she’d anticipated, Kirsten stood breathless in the doorway. The tall young woman stepped into the room as Sonya moved back behind her desk and sat down.

“I’m so excited. I’ve got the most awesome news ever. It looks like the family’s going to have to live with Wade selling the diamond. I just hope they stop fighting now that he’s made up his mind.”

“My door was closed,” Sonya said pointedly, ignoring Kirsten’s news, “and I specifically asked you not to interrupt me when my door is shut. So say whatever it is you have to say and let me get back to work.”

“I just did—I told you about the sale of our exquisite diamond, the Braganza.” Kirsten was quite pale as a rule, but today Sonya noticed a tinge of pink to her skin, reflecting Kirsten’s excitement about her news.

Sonya felt angry at herself for being impatient. What bothered her so much about Kirsten? Was it that the inexperienced intern assumed she had special privileges because of her mother’s long friendship with Donna Fuller? Or was it that Kirsten never missed an opportunity to remind everyone that her grandfather, Daniel Lewis, had started the network news division and made it the success it was today? Or was it Kirsten’s naked ambition that set her teeth on edge?

Whatever the answer, Sonya wasn’t eager to have one of Kirsten’s usual endless chats. She leaned back in her chair and examined the twenty-two-year-old. Kirsten had a beguiling, childish way of dropping her chin whenever she was being criticized, as she was now. Sonya knew it was an artificial, practiced look of vulnerability, but felt a grudging admiration for Kirsten’s determination to keep it up.

“Yes, okay, Kirsten.” She made an effort to keep her voice low and in control. “What did you say? What is it this time?”

“Mother just phoned me and I knew you’d want to know.”

“Know what?” Sonya asked.

Kirsten did a little jig and announced in a triumphant voice, “The Braganza diamond will be sold at auction after all. Uncle Wade decided last night. Uncle Wade told the family he doesn’t care how angry any of them are, or whatever they threaten. Harold and my mother, Blair—you know, she’s Donna’s friend—say he hopes to get as much as thirty million dollars for it. Could be more.”

She stopped and smiled. “Then he’ll be one of the richest men in New York City.” She put a serious expression on her face, one Sonya wasn’t used to seeing. “Mother doesn’t know I’m telling you all this, but I’m sure I can get us an exclusive. Uncle Wade usually does what I ask.”

Sonya remembered when Kirsten had first pitched the story of the Braganza diamond a few weeks earlier. Kirsten had told Sonya, “It has an unbelievable history, you know. It’s said to be the biggest yellow diamond ever found, and it once belonged to queens of Portugal and Brazil.”

Sonya had briefly researched the stone’s history, which was fascinating, but the sale of a single, not-very-notorious diamond was hardly worthy of a block of network prime time. Later, Kirsten told her the sale had been canceled, so she’d put it out of her mind.

Now, apparently, the auction was on again—and this time, there was a family conflict attached. That might make good television.

“What do you mean about the family being angry, Kirsten? Who’s angry, and what kinds of threats have been made?”

“Well, not really angry,” the intern replied, obviously choosing her words carefully. “It’s just differences of opinion. You know, like any family.”

Sonya decided not to press for details. There would be time for that later if the story developed.

“It’s definitely being put up for sale?”

“Yes. Mother said the auction house is picking it up the day after tomorrow. They want to send it on tour immediately. It’ll be displayed at the major branches of the auction house around the world—I think Geneva, Hong Kong, and maybe London. They’re announcing the sale and the display schedule as soon as Uncle Wade turns over the diamond on Friday morning.”

Sonya sighed at the thought of the problems that lay ahead. Putting together the story would be a lot easier without Kirsten’s interference, but she might be the key to getting the family members to agree to interviews.

Now that she had Sonya’s attention, Kirsten sat in the visitor’s chair opposite Sonya’s desk and leaned forward. “I’m sure Uncle Wade will do an interview. He loves being the center of attention and I’m sure he’ll understand that appearing on The Donna Fuller Show will be great publicity for the sale. He really needs the money, so he wants as many people as possible to bid on the diamond.”

Sonya was surprised by the sudden, undisguised malice in Kirsten’s voice. Usually the blonde spoke of how close she was to her uncle.

“I’ll go talk to Donna,” Sonya said. “If we do a story, she may want to schedule it to coincide with the diamond’s tour and then air a follow-up when the auction takes place. I’ll let you know what she says.”

“I’m coming with you,” Kirsten said swiftly.

“No,” Sonya said firmly as Kirsten rose. “Interns aren’t allowed in Donna’s meetings. You’ve been here long enough to know that.”

“Well, maybe she’ll make an exception in this case, since she’s my mother’s close friend—and it’s really my story.”

Sonya flushed and pushed her red curls behind her ears as she stood up. She wanted to stride past Kirsten, who was intent on blocking her path to the door, but given the disparity in their heights, wound up edging around the woman.

“Don’t take it personally. It’s policy.” She escaped from her office into the hall.

Kirsten followed, her voice rising. “Why can’t I come? The only reason you’ll get an exclusive is because I set it up.”

“You’ve made your point, Kirsten. But the answer is no.” Sonya walked away quickly. She could hear Kirsten following her but decided to ignore her.

*   *   *

Donna’s assistant was not at her desk and Donna’s door was open. As Sonya approached, she saw the television host sitting at her desk, putting files into a Louis Vuitton tote. “Sonya, come in,” she called, smiling. “I’m in a hurry to leave but I want to go over several things for Friday’s show.”

Sonya entered and sank into one of the comfortable, round chairs in front of Donna’s desk. Kirsten stood behind her.

“Do you want something, Kirsten my dear?” Donna asked sweetly.

“Yes. Mother told me Wade will auction the diamond after all. She sends her love and wants you to call her tonight.”

“Well that’s nice. Of course, I’ll call.” Donna smiled. “Now, Sonya and I have things to discuss.”

Kirsten started to speak, but Donna nodded toward the door. The signal was clear and Kirsten left, closing the door behind her. Sonya and Donna exchanged smiles. They both knew that if Kirsten could, she would stand right outside, with her ear pressed against the door, eager to hear what was said.

Donna put another file into the tote before setting the bag aside. “I hope she’s not giving you too much trouble, Sonya. I know she’s aggressive, but she’s also intelligent and ambitious. Her mother expects great things of her.”

“She’s all of those things,” Sonya agreed, “but she’s extremely needy. She wants constant reassurance. Maybe her parents’ divorce and her mother’s remarriage sapped her confidence.”

“I don’t think so. Kirsten was a baby when her mother and Giorgio were divorced, and she was only around three or four when Blair married Harold.” Donna shook her head. “Give her time. I remember what I was like at twenty-two. I wanted the world and I didn’t care what I did to get it.”

It was hard for Sonya to believe the great Donna Fuller had ever been as neurotic as Kirsten. She thought about her intern’s eating habits as an example. A Buddhist and a vegetarian, Kirsten’s main source of food seemed to be dark green spirulina balls, which she proudly explained were made from algae grown on a lake in California. Kirsten said they were a great source of protein, but Sonya wondered if the blonde was just dangerously thin or actually anorexic.

She wondered if the way Kirsten ate was a rebellion against her mother, Blair Bruckheimer. Blair was a well-known cookbook author; Sonya had seen her two or three times as a guest on The Food Network.

Kirsten was also a shopping junkie who spent her free hours at H&M, Express, and other stores aimed at young women. Kirsten didn’t want her mother to know how much she was spending, so she’d hide her shopping bags in Sonya’s closet and take her purchases home gradually. Sonya had no idea where she got the money—certainly not from the little she earned as an intern. Perhaps her father provided it. Or dear Uncle Wade.

Sonya swallowed and flipped open her notebook. This was not the time to tell Donna her opinion of Kirsten’s behavior. It could only cause trouble, especially if Donna repeated the story to Kirsten’s mother. She would need the family’s cooperation for the story.

Donna smiled. “So Sonya, I gather from Kirsten’s outburst that you are about to recommend that we do the diamond story after all.”

“Yes. According to Kirsten, Wade Bruckheimer estimates the diamond will bring thirty million, so there should be some interest in who buys it. Of course, there’s a risk that it could wind up being a private sale with an unnamed buyer. Then there wouldn’t be much of a story. Still, the stone has a romantic history and we can cover that.”

“Do you really think you have enough to do a full segment of the show?”

“There’s an additional angle that makes it stronger—the family. Kirsten says there are lots of hard feelings there. I’d work on the Bruckheimers. Why did Wade decide to sell, who gets the money, how do the Brazilians feel about seeing a piece of their history on the auction block? That kind of thing. Conflict. What do you think?”

Donna stared at Sonya for a moment before leaning forward intently, nodding. “Yes,” she said, “that would work. But Sonya, go lightly. I know that family; they’re complicated. The fact that Wade kept changing his mind about the sale…” Her voice trailed off. “There could be some real anger there.”

Anger. That was exactly the way Kirsten had put it. Sonya frowned, musing. It wasn’t like Donna to warn her off; usually, the boss insisted on having conflict in every story. That’s what made the show successful. She wondered what was in Donna’s mind, and was about to ask when the other woman rose to her feet, picking up her tote. Sonya stood as well, saying, “Okay, I understand. But I need to be able to go where the story takes me. I’ve gathered from Kirsten’s hints that Wade Bruckheimer’s high living has made him desperate for money. If that’s true, the sale of the diamond could be a real blessing. Others in the family might be hoping for part of the money. At this point, I have to take Kirsten’s word for it that the stone belongs to Wade, though I’ve found dozens of photos of his stepmother, Irina, wearing it at big parties. I wonder how she feels about the auction.”

Donna nodded. “I’ve seen her with it. I must say it is a spectacular stone.”

“What’s Irina Bruckheimer like?”

“I don’t know her well, just from casual encounters at parties. But Irina certainly behaves as if the Braganza were hers, so I always assumed it was. I know she’s used to getting her own way and I’ll bet that she’d do anything to avoid giving up that diamond.”

“I did a little research on the family when Kirsten first raised the possibility of a sale, and as I remember, Wade’s mother—Douglas Bruckheimer’s first wife—was a sensational beauty. That’s how the diamond came into the family in the first place: Esperanza Dias Bruckheimer’s father gave her the diamond and she brought it to New York when she married Douglas.”

Sonya had come to the end of her notes. “That’s all I’ve got. I didn’t go much further because it didn’t seem like we would do the story. Now I’m not sure what happened to her. I remember something about a murder. Or was it just a divorce?”

“No, never,” Donna laughed, “not in that Brazilian family. They would have killed Douglas before they’d let him disgrace their family with a divorce. Blair told me Esperanza died in a violent car crash two years into the marriage—shortly after Wade was born.”

“Does Blair know all the family dirt?” Sonya asked lightly.

“Only some of it. She told me that Douglas once got drunk and told her about his ‘beautiful Esperanza.’ She came to New York in the sixties as Douglas Bruckheimer’s bride and was an instant celebrity, with her pictures all over the tabloids and fashion magazines.”

“Yes,” Sonya said, “I’ve seen some of those pictures online. How does Irina, wife-number-two, feel about worship of wife-number-one? Not happy, I’ll bet.”

“I’m not sure. Most of what I know is just hearsay from Blair, but she’s got a good nose for family secrets.”

“Like her daughter, huh?” Sonya joked. “But the more I hear, the more I’m convinced this can be a great story for us.”

“Sonya, keep in mind that Blair is married to Irina’s son, Harold, and might have her own slant on the family, as well as a stake in the sale.”

Sonya responded with a burst of enthusiasm as something leaped out at her from her memories of the research she’d done on the Bruckheimers. “I remember! Esperanza came from a rich, politically powerful family. When she died, her father built a church in a small Brazilian town as a memorial. It’s called the ‘C...

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