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The Diva Diaries
By Karen Anders
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Karen Anders
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHis hands were smooth and hot against her bare shoulders.
The moment he touched her, the strains of a haunting aria wafted through her head, a piece she should know but couldn't identify, drifting over her like the gentle palms that played over her body.
Piercing blue eyes, strong jaw and a full, sensuous mouth were attributes that had caught her attention, but the man he was inside was the true prize.
His hands moved over her shoulders, gliding up to her face. His mouth was greedy when he kissed her, as greedy as she was for his kiss. And still the aria played in her head and he became part of the magic, twining and infusing the chords into solid limbs to hold her, hands to touch her, a heart to enfold her. In his arms, the music inside her came alive.
The dress slipped from her body, a glittering, shining treasure of silver and gold, pooling at her feet. She stepped out of it as easily as she vowed she would step away from the opera. Susanna Chandler would not look back.
Her hands pressed against the hard muscles of his chest. Her arms went around him to hold him close, like something precious once lost, now found. And she knew this was the perfect passion she'd searched for since her journey began.
She whispered his name.
He seemed to slip out of her grasp, his face swimming and indistinct. No, she fought against waking up. There was something she knew was there, something elusive, real ...
"Gran. It's me."
"Jenna." Her granddaughter was petite with long, dark wavy hair. Her face mirrored perfect bone structure, her wide brown eyes almond-shaped, lined subtly in black with a shimmering rose eye shadow, her high, delicate cheekbones smooth, dusted with a muted dusky pink.
"Dreaming of Gramps again?" Jenna bent over the hospital bed, the scent of her exotic perfume familiar and welcoming to Susanna. Proud of the woman her granddaughter had become, Susanna offered up her cheek for a kiss. Smoothing down the rumpled sheet and blanket, Jenna sat in a chair beside the bed.
"Lately it's the same dream."
Jenna reached out and squeezed her hand. Turning to the nightstand, she picked up a glass and poured some ice water into it. Adding a straw, her granddaughter offered the cup to her. "You miss him, don't you?"
"Yes, immensely. He was the only man for me," Susanna said before she took a sip of the cold water.
"I miss him, too." When she held out the cup again, Susanna waved it away. Jenna set it back on the nightstand.
Susanna moved her frail hand and clasped her granddaughter's. Her other one clasped a small rubyred book and something infinitely more precious.
When Susanna had been young, she had wanted to experience all that life had to offer. But unlike her, Jenna retreated and hid in the shadow of her music, convinced that was all she really wanted. It broke Susanna's heart, knowing that her own daughter had had a hand in her granddaughter's plight.
Jenna was at the pinnacle of her fame and had achieved utter perfection on the violin. It was no wonder that her granddaughter was so proficient. Jenna gave all that she had to the instrument that, in Susanna's opinion, couldn't give anything back. Inanimate objects couldn't take the place of flesh and bone, muscle and strength, heat and fire.
And Jenna had never experienced fire.
Susanna studied her granddaughter's clothing, dressed as she was in a pair of tailored gray pants, pink silk blouse and a classic gray blazer. She was the epitome of the sophisticated prima performer, yet there was a core of steel in this young woman, a formidable will and a heart of gold.
Before she went, Susanna was determined that she would give her granddaughter a chance at love.
"There is something I must tell you." The weariness was dragging her down and she knew there wasn't enough time to tell Jenna everything.
"What is it?" Jenna said in alarm.
"Time is running out and I'll not be with you much longer."
"I know that, Gran." The pain and sadness in Jenna's voice pulled at Susanna's heart. Susanna's life was over, and she would never leave the hospital, but Jenna still had time, time to change.
"Do you?" She lifted the book from its resting place against her breast. "This is the last of my two diaries. The other one is in the desk."
"Jenna, get the missing diary and protect them both. I was wicked - parties, men, scandal. Now those diaries could hurt them."
"There's sensuous jewelry." She grabbed Jenna's arm. "Keep all of it safe. Those men have families, important lives. Please, the diaries ... the jewelry ..."
Susanna closed her eyes, felt her strength slipping away. She squeezed her granddaughter's hand for the last time. "Promise me!"
"Come closer, child," Susanna said. Jenna's face swam before her eyes. When Jenna complied, Susanna pressed the delicate gold heart and fine chain into her hand. "Cherish this locket ..."
"Find the diaries. Protect them. Read them."
Jenna was speaking to her, but the warm hand on Susanna's face distracted her. When she turned her head, her husband was there. With a deep sigh, she let go. Jenna would have to learn on her own that there was more to life than music.
As she slipped further away from the corporeal world, her final thought was for Jenna. There had been no contest between her husband and her music. She'd chosen the man she loved more than life. Her own daughter had chosen music and paid the price in heartbreak.
As she flew on the wings of happiness to her final destination, with her husband's hand clasped in hers, Susanna hoped it wasn't too late for her granddaughter to change the decision she'd made.
Excerpted from The Diva Diaries by Karen Anders Copyright © 2003 by Karen Anders
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.