The idea of a doppelgänger, or identical look-alike, is something I’ve read about, heard about, and thought about—so much so that it sparked the idea for A FACE TO DIE FOR. What could be more fascinating than the existence of another human being who is your “identical stranger” living somewhere else in the world right […]
It’s May 17th and that means that THE MURDER THAT NEVER WAS is officially on sale! With that comes excitement, anticipation, joy… and more butterflies in my stomach than you can count. You’d think I’d be over that extreme reaction. After 27 published novels, you’d think that the release of a new book would bring […]
I’m often asked how long it takes me to write a first draft. The answer? I’ve never written one. Let’s start with the basics. Every author’s writing process is different. Some write detailed outlines. Others let their muse carry them in the direction that feels right. Many set a daily word count for themselves, not […]
"I'll be watching you," the e-mail read. For radio personality Taylor Halstead this was not a random threat from an overwrought fan. No, these words brought back nightmarish memories of Gordon Mallory, the man who had attacked her. Gordon had been her cousin's boyfriend -- now, both are dead . . . killed in an accident the same day as her assault. And Taylor, who thought she had moved on, now lives each day, and night, in a world of almost unbearable tension.
And whom should she trust? Gordon's twin, Jonathan, who swears he is different than his brother? Or Reed Weston, who seems to understand Taylor's fear? He acts as protector, bodyguard, and, unexpectedly, lover. But as a web of terror grows tighter, and the killer grows closer, Taylor realizes that the only person who will truly watch out for her is herself.
It had been a day from hell.
Four hours in Dellinger Academy's conference room. Two five-minute bathroom breaks. Three sets of hostile parents in total denial. And another one of Taylor?s precious Saturdays wasted by an elite private school administration who didn't want to rock the boat.
All the parties involved were so caught up in their own agendas, they seemed to forget that at the center of this storm were three seventeen-year-old kids about to implode.
As a counselor, Taylor had tried desperately to speak for the teens. She knew their fears -- fears of failure, of inadequacy, of letting down their parents.
Fears of growing up.
Didn't anyone remember how traumatic that transition was?
Apparently not. Because today's scenario had been as maddening and familiar as always.
After doing her tactful, psychological dance for half a day and getting nowhere fast, Taylor left the board room at the close of the meeting, frustrated, worried, and with a splitting headache.
By the time she got home and blew through the lobby of her apartment building, she was counting her blessings that her roommate, her cousin Stephanie, was en route to the Hamptons. Taylor had the place to herself. All she wanted was a hot bath, two extra-strength Excedrin, and a long nap.
The last thing she expected, or needed, was to find Gordon Mallory in her living room, as comfortable as if he owned the place.
She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw him, wishing she wasn't already halfway to her bedroom and in full view. If she'd just realized he and Steph were still at the apartment, she would have retraced her steps, waited until they'd taken off, then returned when she could have her peace and solitude.
But it was too late. She was directly across from the living room, and from Gordon. Steph was nowhere to be found, but knowing her cousin, Taylor assumed she was in her bedroom, throwing together some last minute surprises for her night-long bash on Gordon's yacht -- a bash she'd be enjoying with about twenty other party-goers. After all, it wasn't every day that a bunch of lucky young Turk investors made a windfall off an investment partnership like the one Gordon had orchestrated. Kudos for the fast crowd.
"Taylor." Gordon tipped his lean, dark head in her direction, raising his old-fashioned in greeting. He'd been strolling from the sideboard to the sofa, sipping at his scotch while he reorganized the contents of Steph's overnight bag. The picture of self-assurance. Right at home.
Then again, Steph had made sure he felt that way from day one. Gordon fit her boyfriend check list to a tee and then some; a rich and successful investment advisor, good-looking, grand of gesture, glib of tongue. Really smooth. He knew all the right people, went to all the right clubs. On top of that, he was older, sexy, experienced, ambitiou s-- fast-track all the way. Definitely the kind Steph fell for.
Except that this one had a dangerous edge to him that worried the hell out of Taylor. It was there in his hard brown eyes -- a kind of detached ruthlessness. Taylor just didn't trust the guy.
Unfortunately, Steph did.
"Hello, Gordon." Taylor's tone was cordial, but aloof.
He was dressed casually, in khakis, a golf shirt, and docksiders, but there was nothing casual about the way he carried himself, or about his expression as he eyeballed Taylor. He was scrutinizing her, as one would assess a fine piece of art.
"What a beautiful interruption," he said. "I didn't hear you come in."
"So I gathered." Taylor was used to Gordon?s I-want-you signals. It was all part of his MO. But this time he was blatant. His intensity was palpable. And the bottle of scotch was sitting open on the sideboard, ready for him to pour his next refill. How many drinks had he had?
Taylor tossed down her purse and folded her arms across her breasts, her eyes narrowing on his tumbler. "How many scotches does that make?"
"Two." He set down the glass. "Don't worry. I'm chilling out. But I'm sober."
Yeah, right, she thought. Chilling out. More like revving up. "Good. Because you and Steph have a big weekend planned. Get drunk during the party, not before."
"Sage advice. I'll keep it in mind."
Her headache was getting worse. Taylor didn't want to spar with Gordon; she wanted him to go away. "I didn't realize you and Steph would still be here," she said pointedly. "It's almost three o'clock. Doesn't your charter leave for Montauk soon? I wouldn't want you to miss it."
Gordon's sculpted features tightened. "That's why it's called a private charter. The helicopter will wait until we get there. As for your subtle shove out the door, why rush? Are you expecting someone?"
"Just my privacy. Look, I didn't mean to be rude. But my day was a killer. I've got a miserable headache. I was hoping for some down time -- a hot bath and a long nap."
"Poor baby." The hostility vanished. Gordon closed the gap between them and planted his hands on her shoulders, gently kneading them. "Tension has no right ruining such a perfect package. How about a back rub to ease the stress?"
His words creeped her out. His gesture wasn't friendly. It was intimate. So was his proximity. And where he'd positioned himself was like a roadblock.
Taylor's instincts took over. She took an exaggerated step backward, breaking all contact. "No, thanks." She threw a quick glance at her cousin's bedroom, wondering when Steph would emerge. Now that she considered it, the apartment seemed strangely silent. No banging of closets, no thudding of drawers, no cheerful chatter emanating from Steph's neck of the woods. That was weird. Steph was animated and exuberant; you always knew when she was around.
A frisson of apprehension crept up Taylor's spine.
"Is Steph in her room?" she asked. "I'll go give her a hand."
"She's not here."
The frisson turned into a full-fledged knot. "What do you mean, she's not here? Where is she?"
"Finishing up an audition." Gordon glanced at his watch. "She's running late. I assume she'll meet me at the heliport."
"Then how did you get in?"
A hard smile curved his lips, and he jiggled a set of keys in the air. "With these. Steph asked me to stop by and pick up some last minute things for her. Didn't Harry tell you?"
Harry. Their doorman. Come to think of it, he hadn't been in the lobby when she dashed through. "I didn't see him."
"Oh. Right. I forgot. He left for his break."
"Really." Taylor's heart was beginning to pound. She took another backward step, gauging whether or not she'd left herself enough room to dart around Gordon and make a break for the door. "That's odd. He doesn't usually take breaks in the middle of the afternoon."
"It's hot. He was thirsty. I gave him a few bucks so he could run over to Starbucks for an iced coffee."
"How long ago was that?"
"Ten minutes. When I glanced out the window and saw you heading up the street." Gordon moved closer, effectively cutting off her escape path. "I wanted this little visit of ours to stay private." He reached out, rubbed a lock of her dark red hair between his fingers. "Now, about that stress you were complaining about . . ."
That did it. Taylor didn't know if Gordon was drunk or delusional. And she wasn't sticking around to find out. She had to get out of here.
She lunged toward the door.
Gordon grabbed her, his grip punishing. He locked one hard arm around her waist, capturing her wrists in his other hand. "Sh-h-h," he muttered against her face, and she could smell the scotch on his breath. "You're going to aggravate your headache." He half-lifted her, carrying her toward her bedroom. "I know how to make it better."
"Let me go!" Taylor began struggling, jerking her arms around in an attempt to free them, throwing her body weight against him to slow his progress toward her room.
It wasn't working. They were already at her room.
"Stop fighting me," he commanded. "You want this as much as I do."
"No. I don't. It isn't happening. Not now. Not ever." Taylor hooked her feet on either side of the door frame, anchoring herself and giving her the leverage she needed to halt Gordon. She raised her head, gazed straight at him, and strove for reason in the midst of insanity. "I don't know what made you think I wanted this. But we got our signals crossed. So just put me down and leave. We'll forget this whole ugly scene ever took place."
He looked amused, using his legs to break her tenuous hold on the door jamb. He then carried her the remaining distance to her bed. "You're wrong on all counts. This is going to happen. It won't be ugly. And you definitely won't want to forget it ever took place."
White panic took over.
"No! No!" Taylor began fighting like a trapped animal, using every drop of strength. But the man had a grip of iron. And he seemed absolutely sure they were in this together. "Let me go!"
He pinned her to the bed, dodging the blows of her fists, the sharp jabs of her knees as she tried to kick him in the groin. He straddled her body, locking her legs in place and capturing her wrists over her head in one hand. His other hand massaged her neck as if to sooth her, his fingers threading through her hair. He crushed his mouth against hers to silence her screams. "Sh-h-h," he whispered. "You have no idea how good this is going to be."
Taylor thought she was going to be sick.
"I know exactly what you need. I'll give it to you -- all of it, and more."
"But . . . I . . . don't . . . want . . . you." She ground out each word, desperate to get through to him, to shatter whatever fantasy his mind had conjured up regarding the two of them.
"Yes you do. I'll prove it to you. In a few minutes, you'll be begging for me. I promise." He was unbuttoning her blouse, caressing her as he did -- her shoulders, her arms, her cleavage. His grasp on her wrists tightened as she flinched away from his touch. "Enough games, Taylor. No more fighting. And no more waiting. It's time."
"No it's not!" She bit his lip, and he recoiled in pain. She used his moment of weakness to yank her arms free, slamming her fists against his chest with all her might. "Let me go, you crazy bastard! Get your filthy hands off me!"
The outburst would cost her. Taylor knew it the instant she saw Gordon's reaction.
A violent jolt of tension rippled through him. He went still, raising his head to stare down at her. Something scary and hard glinted in his eyes, darkening them to near-black. A heartbeat later, one hand was encircling her neck, his palm pressing down on her windpipe. "Don't ever speak to me like that again. Is that understood? I won't take that from anyone."
Icy fear speared Taylor like a knife, and she rasped in air, struggling to breathe. "I . . . understand . . ."
"Yes . . . I'm . . . sorry . . ."
The hard glint in his eyes ebbed. "That's better."
"You're . . . hurting me . . ."
"Am I? That's not what I had in mind." The pressure against her throat disappeared, and he bent his head, nuzzling the hollow between her breasts, tracing the path with his tongue.
Taylor's guts twisted. Think. She had to think. "Steph . . ." she managed. "She'll be devastated. We can't do this to her."
"She won't ever find out."
"Gordon, she loves you."
He laughed, his breath hot against her skin. "Not love; passion." He was stroking her waist, fumbling with the button of her slacks. "Steph's fire," he muttered. "Exciting. Hot. Irrepressible." He slid down her zipper. "You're smoke. Elusive. Intangible. Hard to capture." His palm kneaded her abdomen, his fingers rubbing up against the top band of her thong. "The ultimate turn-on. But you knew that. You've been taunting me with it."
"No." Taylor sucked in her breath, receding from his touch. "You're wrong . . ."
"I'm right." He cut off her protest with another kiss. "I don't misread signals. Yours were crystal clear. We just had to wait for the right moment. Well, it's here. This is the perfect time to have each other. I want you frantic for what I can give you. You will be. Soon." His fingers slipped under her panties, glided down. "Stop talking. Feel. Just feel."
Like a drowning person, Taylor began struggling again, kicking and flinging her body as hard as she could.
From out in the hall, the intercom sounded.
"Gordon?" Steph's voice, tinny since it came from the lobby, drifted to their ears. "I'm back. Harry says you're still up there. Hurry down. I can't wait to see your yacht."
Freezing, Taylor watched Gordon's face, wondering if he was going to stop, wondering if Steph's voice had even registered in his passion-clouded mind.
"My cousin . . ." she whispered. She couldn't risk setting him off again. "She's waiting for you."
A muscle worked in his jaw. "It seems that way."
"So this isn't the right time for us after all."
Taylor felt her first real surge of hope. "You'd better go."
Her hope was dashed as his lips thinned into a grim line, and his palm clamped down on her windpipe. "I hope that's not an order."
"Not an order . . . A suggestion . . . A . . . request . . ."
"Good." He didn't release his hold. Keeping his hand locked around her throat, he groped in his pocket for something. Taylor saw him pull out a dangling silver object that glinted in the late afternoon sunlight. Then, the pressure on her windpipe intensified as he strengthened his choke hold. "We'll finish this, Taylor," he vowed. "You have my word. I'll be back. Next time, we'll have all the time we need. Be patient. Be good. Be mindful."
He squeezed down harder, until the room began to fade, black spots dancing before Taylor's eyes.
Leaning over, Gordon brushed her lips with his. "Until then," he whispered just before she lost consciousness. "I'll be watching you."