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By PAMELA MARTIN
Live Oak Book CompanyCopyright © 2013 Pamela Martin
All rights reserved.
Pamela Graham flipped a few more pages of the magazine and then checked her watch for about the millionth time in the last fifteen minutes. Where the hell was Roxy?
Actually, Pam knew exactly where Roxy was—she was late ... unless, of course, she was a no-show. With Roxy Reynolds it was always one or the other, and it was usually impossible to tell which until you were already inconvenienced to the max.
As soon as Pam had told Roxy about her plans for going to Russia after graduation, Roxy had insisted on reserving the last night she would be in Dallas for, as Roxy phrased it, painting the town red. Of course, as Pam knew from experience, Roxy was more likely to smear the town than paint it. Pam recalled Roxy's words that morning, "Just be ready at seven thirty and let me handle all the details, okay?" Pam noted that the current time was well after eight. With the extra moments she was sure Roxy was going to allow, she went over her travel checklist again. Then, she picked up her pocket journal and started on the latest version of her will.
This was maybe the fifth will Pam had written for herself. It had started as an assignment in a high school English class: "Write your will, as if you were going to die tomorrow, and account for everything of value in your life." For some reason, Pam had taken the assignment to heart. She had gone through maybe a dozen of these small pocket journals, writing down ideas for the most valuable things in her life, then crossing them off and replacing them with others. In a box somewhere, Pam had all the journals she had ever written in. Now and then, it was interesting to read what she had written in her younger years.
Lately, Pam's wills had less to do with things and more to do with accomplishments. That was a good thing, she supposed. But her evolving consciousness was having the uncomfortable result of placing her more and more at odds with her father's plans for her life. She looked at her will, changed a couple of words in the last line, and sighed.
Pam had considered passing on the celebration with Roxy several times before she finally accepted. With an early morning flight the next day, partying with Roxy the night before smelled of disaster. In the end she surrendered to the idea more for Roxy and less for herself. Roxy had been a good friend for a long time—well before SMU. Even after they'd graduated and Roxy had gotten her dream job with the television station, she and Pam had stayed close. Roxy was an airhead and a little bit of a user, but she was Roxy, and Pam just couldn't bring herself to ditch her best friend's party plans.
The doorbell chimed. Pam checked the time again as she made her way to the front door of her penthouse apartment: a little past eight thirty. Pam opened the door and blocked the entry with her body, giving Roxy an annoyed stare. "Sooo ... seven thirty, huh?"
Roxy gasped, tapping her watch. "Really? Am I late?"
As usual, Roxy wore an outfit suspiciously similar to the one Pam had had on the last time they went out. Pam had long ago taken a vow to stop telling Roxy the names of her favorite stores. She gave Roxy a once-over, twisting her mouth to one side. "Cute outfit."
If Roxy even noticed the sarcasm, she let it fly right over her hair extensions. She slid past Pam into the apartment. "Really? You like? Just picked it up today," she said, giving Pam a catwalk twirl.
"Yes, how did you guess?"
"Psychic." Pamela shook her head and smiled.
Roxy, in her customary fashion, did not come empty-handed. She placed two bottles of champagne on the bar. If this evening went as others had, one of the bottles would be for Roxy and the other would be ... for Roxy.
Pam remembered her resolve to brush aside any exasperation she might be feeling toward Roxy. As much as Roxy tended to either purposely or inadvertently irritate her—and Pam usually couldn't be sure which it was—it had to be forgiven; she was just being herself. Most of Pamela's friends had entered her life as compatible spirits; Roxy had sort of grown on her.
Roxy and Pam met in high school but had never really hung out until a couple of years after graduating. If anyone asked Roxy, she would say that she and Pam had been buddies since the tenth grade. In reality Pam befriended the adolescent Roxy, who sported thick glasses, frizzy hair, and braces, because no one else would. In those days, Roxy Reynolds was called "R Square." Unfortunately, the "square" part of the epithet referred to her peers' assessment of Roxy's lack of coolness rather than her double-R initials, as Roxy had led herself to believe. Pam never had the heart to tell her any differently.
As usual, Roxy made a beeline for the mirror. She teased her dark brown curls with a small comb, creating a difference that only she could see. The long curls fell past her shoulders, bouncing as she turned from one side to the other. Pam realized once again that her friend's outer appearance suited her occupation as an entertainment reporter. Her slim figure and semi-natural beauty complemented the guest stars instead of detracting from them. And, Pam had to admit, in a very short time Roxy had established herself as the go-to girl for numerous red carpet interviews. Production managers desired someone who was somewhat beautiful but would not overshadow the main subject; Roxy fit the bill to camera-ready perfection.
"I don't know about you, girl, but I needed this night," Roxy said over her shoulder, maintaining eye contact with herself in the mirror. She leaned toward the mirror, peering into her own eyes. "I have been feeling like shit the past few days."
"Yeah. I was fine till I took that damn flu shot. Hey, Pam, can I borrow some mascara? I can't find my purse that had my makeup in it."
Rolling her eyes, Pam retrieved an extra mascara from the bathroom and brought it to Roxy. "I never take those shots," she said. "Need anything else?"
"Yeah, some blush, if you don't mind. Well, I might have to stop taking them too. I don't have time to be sick."
Lecturing herself to not get angry with Roxy, Pam went back to her bathroom vanity and found a container of blush. "Was your ID in your purse, you doofus? What were you planning to use at the bars?"
"Oh, I just brought my passport," Roxy said. "Thanks," she said, grabbing the blush from Pam's open palm.
"No problem. What are friends for?" Pam went to her bedroom to retrieve from her half-packed luggage a Marc Jacobs purse she had purchased for the trip. Coming back out, she met Roxy in the hallway. Her eyes went directly to Pam's purse. She reached over and pulled it out of Pamela's hand. "Hey, nice purse! Where did you get it?"
Pamela pulled it back. "Walmart."
"Touchy, touchy! What the hell, you never put anything in your purse anyway."
"Yeah, I know, but I still like to carry one around."
"I would die without my purse. I keep everything in mine."
"Hope you survive the evening, then."
Roxy stuck her tongue out at Pam. Still, she could not take her eyes off the Marc Jacobs.
"Come on, Rox, let's get going before I change my mind. I still need to finish packing before I fly out in the morning."
"Oh God, Pamela, let's worry about that later. I'll help you pack and take you to the airport, so relax."
Pam looked back through her bedroom door at the large, open suitcase. "You may be on to something."
"Of course I am, dear. Might as well enjoy tonight before you go all save-the-world on me. I still don't know why you think you've got to go all the way to Russia to work with underprivileged kids. There are plenty of needy kids right here in Dallas, girl."
"Are we really going to go through all this again, Rox? First of all, it's only for three months, before I start with Formula 1. And second, not underprivileged—orphans. And if you could see some of the stuff I've seen on the Internet about how bad the Russian orphanages are—"
"Yeah, I know, I know. I get it, Pam. Don't start the sermon again."
"Okay. And besides, I've spent all that money on those Russian language CDs—"
"Enough, already! I give up. You're going halfway around the world, and I just want my bestest buddy to be safe!"
"Aww! That's so sweet of you to care, Roxy."
"Speaking of which, I heard on the news that some human rights guy just disappeared from Russia. I didn't catch the details, but they think that he was gotten rid of ... you know, like Jimmy Hoffa. Some kind of activist."
"Yeah, I saw that too," Pam said. "Evidently he was kicking up a fuss about some kind of health-related plan the government had going. Immunization? Sterilization? I can't remember."
"So, anyway, just be careful over there, okay?"
"I will, I promise. And speaking of careful, please take care of my place when I am away, and don't forget to come and get my mail every week and forward it to me."
"How can I? This is only like the hundredth time you've reminded me," Roxy said, rolling her eyes. She went to the bar and began unwrapping the cork on one of the bottles of champagne. "Right now, let's get the party jump-started, what do you say?" Roxy popped the cork off the champagne bottle. The bubbly liquid flowed from the bottle onto Pam's thick white carpet. Giggling, Roxy covered the bottle's opening with her mouth to catch the excess.
God, I hate to think what this place is going to look like by the time I get back, Pam thought.
Roxy turned, holding out the bottle toward her. "Drink up, Pamela, my dear! Tonight, Pam and Roxy do Dallas as it has never been done before."
"Okay, but first, remember how we spent half the night trying to locate your ID last time we went out? So how about you give me your ID this time, and I'll keep it in my purse."
"Works for me, but I don't have it on me."
"You drove over here without your driver's license?"
"Nope, it's in the car, downstairs. Got a man driving us!" Roxy rotated her hips seductively.
Pam took the bottle from Roxy and took a long pull, figuring she was going to need all the fortification she could get.
After they had traded a few shots of Patrón and finished most of one bottle of champagne, they went downstairs. Their car, a sleek, silver BMW 750Li limo, was waiting by the front curb. As they came outside, Roxy's "man" jumped out and opened the rear passenger door for them. Judging by the bulge of his biceps against the tight black T-shirt he was wearing above his snugly fitting khakis, his driving ability wasn't all Roxy had been concerned about.
"Rox, how did you score a limo?" Pam said, genuinely surprised. "It's the height of prom season. Are you sure you can—"
"Not to worry, girlfriend," Roxy said. "I know the owner of the company ... know him really well." she winked, giving Pam a knowing elbow. "Anyway, we've got the car—and Ricky, here—for as long as we want, no charge."
"I don't even want to know—"
"Sure you do!" Roxy was all too eager to brag about her accomplishment. "See, Beau—he's the owner of the company. Beau and I have a real good understanding, especially when it comes to his wife and her need-to-know status." Roxy pranced toward the driver, all smiles and flounce. "Thanks, Ricky," she said. "This is my friend Pam. You're going to take good care of us tonight, aren't you?"
Ricky grinned. Pam groaned inwardly. Lord, save us ...
A few seconds later, they were headed toward the nightclubs in downtown Dallas. Roxy leaned toward Pam. "So, how did it go when you told dear old Dad about your save-the-planet plans, huh? Bet that went well."
"Well, Rox. First of all, taking on a temporary volunteer position at an orphanage hardly constitutes saving the planet. Second, it went okay ... I mean, Dad is Dad; unlike the Texas weather, he ain't changing anytime soon."
"True that," Roxy said, pulling Pam's compact from the Marc Jacobs purse and flipping it open to check her makeup. "How long do you think you can put him off pressuring you to run the family biz before he pulls the drawstring on your trust fund?"
Sure, Rox, you can use my mirror. "Don't worry, Roxy. Dad isn't ruthless. Just ... extremely persistent, that's all."
Roxy dropped the compact back into Pam's purse. Pam wasn't sure if Roxy was actually listening to the answer or not; most of the time there was only about a ten-second span before Roxy's mind drifted off. "Well, that's good. Oh, and here's my passport," she said, dropping it into Pam's purse on top of the compact. She slid forward to the front of the limo and draped a hand casually across Ricky's shoulder. "Take us to Hotel ZaZa first, Ricky, okay?"
"Oh come on now, that's way too formal. Call me Roxy, rhymes with—"
"Don't even say it!" Pam interrupted. If she heard that corny-ass Roxy-Foxy line one more time, she was going to throw up.
This is gonna be a long night. Pam rolled her eyes at the back of Roxy's head.
* * *
Pam's last night in Dallas before leaving the country would be one to remember—or forget, depending on which part of the night was under consideration.
After a few tequila shots at the bar inside Hotel ZaZa, they headed for the Glass Cactus at the Gaylord resort. The Ghost Bar at the W Hotel followed, then a list of other hot spots filled in the rest of the night.
After the first five clubs, the remaining stops were a blur in Pam's mind—a hazy series of vignettes composed of thumping music, gyrating bodies, garish lighting, and far too many mixed drinks—all blended together with a liberal mixture of Roxy's uncontrolled giggling and shameless flirting with just about anything that moved.
The seesaw aspect of the night caused it to fade in and out of memory. Portions of the evening died away and then resurfaced in Pam's recollection as fast as they were created, while other parts of the night faded into obscurity, washed away on a tide of mimosas and Manhattans.
At one point, Pam realized that a truly accurate account of this night would never be fully known. It was forever lost in an alternate universe of Roxy's design. Sometime well after midnight, for reasons that probably made no sense at all to Roxy, Pam convinced Ricky to drive them home. Then she convinced Roxy to leave Ricky in the car, rather than dragging him up to the penthouse. Pam managed to get inside, walk to her room, and collapse across her bed.
And then ... nothing.CHAPTER 2
As soon as Pam's eyes opened the next morning, she knew that something was not right. Ignoring the questionable feeling in her stomach, she rolled over and managed to focus her eyes enough to see the red numbers on her bedside clock.
It was 8:45. Her flight left DFW International in just over two hours.
Shit, shit, shit!
She bolted from her bed and ran to the closet. Who am I kidding? I don't have time for any more packing. She went to the half-packed suitcase, still lying open on the floor where she had left it last night, and flung inside fistfuls of panties, bras, tops, and slacks, grabbed at random from her bureau drawers and various piles that were probably waiting to be laundered. She heaved the suitcase closed and then pushed one of the prepacked bags back inside the closet for Roxy to send later. She grabbed her carry-on bag and dashed to the bathroom, raking into the bag a random armload of cosmetics and personal-care items. Then she ran into the living room and froze in her tracks.
Roxy, Pam's designated driver, was passed out on her couch. Her body was slumped awkwardly, with one arm dangling to the floor and the other one twisted beneath her.
"This can't be happening!" Pam shouted, then immediately regretted it; the sound of her voice caused an even greater pounding in her head.
"Rox! Roxy!" Pam shook her. Roxy moaned and rolled away from Pam. Well at least she's still alive.
Time for plan B. One semipacked bag, her purse, and a carry-on had just become the only items she would take on the trip—for now, at least. She flipped open her cell phone and made a frantic call to the building concierge.
"Gabe, it's Pam Graham. Can you please be a sweetheart and call a cab for me? And is there any way you could help me get some luggage downstairs? I'm running kind of late for a flight ... Thank you so much, Gabe, you've saved my life—again!"
Barely five minutes later, Gabe was slamming the cab's trunk and telling Pam—for the fifth time—not to worry, he would take care of everything and make sure Roxy was okay. Pressing a twenty into Gabe's palm, Pam hopped into the back of the cab and began applying light makeup. Her blurred image in the small compact mirror revealed red veins crisscrossing a pair of sleep-deprived light green eyes.
Excerpted from HARD WHISPERS by PAMELA MARTIN. Copyright © 2013 Pamela Martin. Excerpted by permission of Live Oak Book Company.
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