Read an Excerpt
She was extraordinary. Compelling. Exquisite. Waves of smoldering sensuality emanated from her striking silvery eyes and slender body to hold the audience spellbound. Her sequined gown was a shimmering silver, molding to her like a second skin: the bare flesh it revealed was tanned a smooth gold. Her thick, shining ebony hair hung about her shoulders in a living curtain of darkness. And her voice . . . throaty, sensual, filled with an odd defiant yearning, endowing the words of the song with a wild plea that touched every person in the audience. Women, old and young alike, felt their throats constrict and eyes fill with tears as the passionate words seemed to rise from their own deepest selves. And men of all ages felt their hearts thudding dully in their ears, conscious of a desperate desire to go out and slay dragons. . . .
The man standing in the wings felt the compulsion toward heroic deeds, felt his heart pounding fiercely. A distant part of his mind marveled silently at the effect of the woman and the woman’s voice. In little less than a year, she’d won over popular music fans throughout the country. The world, her manager had mentioned casually, happily, was next.
Travis Foxx, standing next to that manager now was conscious of a dozen questions he wanted to ask. But he listened, instead, to a voice rich with a woman’s passion and to words that stripped that woman’s soul naked as she sang of the dearth of heroes.
“Isn’t she something?” Philip Saunders asked cheerfully, clearly expecting a positive response.Travis reluctantly pulled his gaze from the stage as Saber Duncan instantly went into another song, barely giving the stunned audience time to applaud.
“Yes. Yes, she’s certainly something.” Travis’s resonant voice added coolly, “But is she the same woman who released a couple of—in all honesty— forgettable songs just about two years ago?” Saunders blinked, then laughed. “You’ve heard the rumors, I see.”
“That perhaps she isn’t Saber Duncan at all, but a ringer brought in by Mosaic Records? I’ve heard. And now I wonder.” With an effort Travis closed his ears to that enchanting voice scant feet away, focusing his attention on the man at his side. “I heard those forgettable songs when the records were released. And that voice wasn’t the one I’m hearing tonight.”
“You’re so sure of that?”
Travis ignored the mild question. “That voice was as sweet as honey and just as bland. No power. Certainly no passion. And I have copies of the studio photos released to the press then. That Saber was a girl, a hothouse flower with the dew still on its petals.”
“Nice imagery,” Saunders murmured, clearly amused.
He was ignored again. “This Saber”—Travis gestured toward the performer onstage—“is part jungle cat and part siren. And her voice holds more power, more raw passion, then I’ve heard from a performer in fifteen years.” He lifted an eyebrow at the smiling manager. “Such a change in a single year? Sorry, Saunders, but I’m having a hard time swallowing that.”
“Hence the book?” Saunders questioned dryly. Travis turned his gaze back to the stage, his eyes drawn like a lodestone to the woman pouring her heart out so compellingly. “That’s partly the reason,” he answered honestly. “I’ve never written a biography before, as I told you. . . .”
“But you want to write hers.” Saunders filled in the sudden silence between them with wry words. “Well, I warned you. Saber’s a very, very private person. I honestly think she’ll refuse to authorize you to write about her.”
Shifting his weight restlessly in an unconscious movement, Travis frowned, not noticing the thoughtful gaze of the other man. “I’ll talk her into it. There isn’t enough material for a single chapter in that scanty bio you release to the press; I haven’t been able to build a profile on her.” His frowning eyes returned to the manager’s expressionless face. “One thing I have been able to find out: Saber Duncan was born just about two years ago. The bio that Mosaic—or you, or she—concocted is just that. Concocted.”
Philip Saunders was silent for a long moment, his level hazel eyes weighing, considering. Then he sighed. Softly he quoted, “ ‘You would pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass.’ ” It was Travis’s turn to blink. “Shakespeare. Hamlet.” He identified the quote easily, then the words sank in. Before he could comment, Saunders was explaining.
“That’s something Saber quoted to me about a year ago, when I signed on to manage her career. When—not to put too fine a point on it—I was asking a few questions about her life before I entered it.”
Travis was more than a little surprised, and slightly suspicious. “Are you trying to tell me that you’re no better informed about her than the public?”
Saunders was unoffended. “That’s what I’m telling you. Oh, if you want to write that highquality stuff, like what she eats for dinner or what her favorite colors are, I could probably oblige. But if you want the sordid details of her shady past—” Travis cut him off with an impatient gesture. “I don’t want to write a damned ‘Meet the Latest Superstar’ book, whether you believe that or not.” “Oh, I believe it.” Saunders’s voice was abruptly sober. “I’ve read some of your stuff, Mr. Foxx. You write exceptionally strong fiction and stunning nonfictional exposés. Your books hit the bestseller lists as soon as they land in the bookstores.”
Travis’s green eyes sharpened. “But you don’t want me probing into your client’s background?” “She doesn’t want it. And that’s good enough for me. Look, Foxx, there’s almost a year missing from Saber’s professional life. And, as you pointed out, that professional life covers only a scant two years. She cut two quick singles, vanished for months, then reappeared and, virtually overnight, became a star.” He folded his arms across his chest and stared broodingly at the other man. “Now I don’t know where she was during those missing months, but I’m reasonably certain she went through hell; I’ve seen the studio pics and heard the ‘forgettable’ songs, too, you see.”
“And you aren’t curious?”