Read an Excerpt
By Heather Graham
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1987 Heather Graham
All rights reserved.
The curtains on the next balcony were open to the night, fluttering gently in the breeze. Tracy hesitated briefly—the two balconies were not a foot apart, but still, the ground was over forty stories below.
She shrugged, wryly admitting that anyone seeing a woman in a nightgown crawling from balcony to balcony this high in the air would have to assume that she was mad.
But she had to see Jamie, and she had to see him alone. He had bodyguards these days, and a host of personnel, and she didn't want to go through any of them—not now. Not this first time.
She thought about running back into her room and dressing in something more substantial, but by then he might have locked himself into one of the suite's bedrooms and she would never reach him. She should have stayed dressed, of course, but when midnight had come and gone, and then one A.M. and two A.M., she had about given up hope that he was returning to the suite at all.
It was really no big deal. Maybe eight inches.
She bunched her gown together, gripped the concrete railing across from her, and smoothly made the little leap. And well timed, too—he was still humming in the hallway, surveying his new domain. She grinned watching him. You little egotist! she thought affectionately. He was just twenty. A little ego wasn't such a bad thing—when she thought of the things she had done in her youth, her brother was way ahead of her.
She leaned back, though, watching him. It had been years since she had seen him. He might not even remember her. But she was convinced that he would welcome her—and help her. They were both Jesse's children, and she was certain that blood would win out.
There was a small, smug smile upon Jamie's face as he closed the door to his luxurious suite and ambled into the salon, looking about himself, as if he were in awe.
Suddenly, he grinned deeply and leapt into one of the beautifully upholstered Victorian chairs—and planted his booted feet upon the gleaming oak coffee table. At his side lay an ice bucket containing an expensive vintage bottle of champagne. Jamie poured himself a crystal glass of the stuff, surveyed the bubbles, laughed delightedly, and downed the glass. Then he poured some more.
Watching him, Tracy hid a wry and secret smile. Oh, yes, he was smug! But why not—the world was his. Far below his penthouse windows, fans were still screaming on the street. All this—for him!
He started to sip his second glass of champagne, then paused, catching sight of himself in the mirror across from the chair.
He looked a lot like their father, Tracy thought, and wondered if he wasn't thinking the same thing.
Jamie Kuger was thinking exactly that as he surveyed his assets. Blue eyes, blond hair, slim—artistic—face. Long, lanky build, a certain, melancholy and mysterious appeal. James, my boy, he silently told himself, you are just like the old man. Just like the old man. Oh, yeah ...
But at that thought, he closed his eyes and swallowed back a host of tears. That was why he was here, wasn't it? Because he was so much like his father!
Chills riddled him. He'd been feeling on top of the world when he'd come in, and suddenly it was all different. He didn't feel like a twenty-year-old millionaire. He felt like a little boy—alone, lost, confused, utterly miserable. The loss was still such a horrible shock.
Jesse Kuger was dead, and had been dead for almost a year. But he had been a magic man. A magical music man. Together with Leif, Tiger, and Sam, Jesse had been part of the Limelights—a group to rival the Beatles, the Stones—any and every rock group that had ever come along. They were musicians who created songs and lyrics that were already considered classic—changing, flowing, growing constantly. And Jesse had been known and loved, admired and gossiped about the world over. He had been a personality belonging to everyone, to the world.
To Jamie, though, good and bad, he had been so much more. He had been his father. A comet, a burning, blinding star—but above all, his father. Loved and adored for his genius—and his faults. I'm going to start crying, Jamie warned himself. And I've already cried and cried, and it's useless to do it again ...
He started, hearing a rustling from the balcony. He frowned, wondering who could have gotten past the hotel's security system and his own bodyguards to crawl around his balcony.
He stood with youthful and agile grace, then trod silently across the plush carpeting to the drapes that just whispered in movement from the soft breeze that came in from the park.
He parted the drapes slightly.
Night was upon the city. A haze of neon shed magical light upon the elegant balustrade, clearly outlining the slender form of the sylph of a girl who seemed to be awaiting him. She was leaned against the wall, casually staring out into the night. Her hair was a rich mahogany, burnished and radiant, softly curling around her shoulders. Her eyes were blue, dark as India ink in the night, staring curiously into his. She wore the most entrancing outfit—some soft, slinky, silky thing that clung to her in the breeze. She was small but she was mature. Definitely mature. Slim and tiny but with curves, too, defined by the bedroom outfit—and stunning.
Jamie smiled slowly. "Hi," he told her. He assumed that one of the guys in the band had sent her, as a present, or a gag. They'd been teasing him about his youth.
"Jamie. You're back, at last," she said with a note of annoyance.
"Ah, yes," he returned, smiling and stepping out on the balcony. "'At long last love!'"
She gave him a most peculiar look, then strode past him impatiently. Watching her, Jamie frowned again. This was certainly not the attitude he would have expected. He was adored—idolized!—by millions of screaming girls. He was supposed to have a smile that could kill—or captivate for life at any rate. And "bedroom eyes." Hadn't one of the magazines described him that way?
And a rich voice, of course. Just last week that senator's daughter had told him that his voice alone could send her into spasms of ecstasy.
So what went? Someone had hired him a stunning and voluptuous little doxy—and she seemed to be clock-watching! He was irritated for a second, then shrugged, his natural humor coming to the fore. Ah, well. He'd be more charming—and she'd forget all about the time.
He followed her back into the room, watching her. She sat on the sofa rather primly, bare feet flat on the ground, hands folded on her knees. A sizzle swept through him again as he appreciated her assets. She was an "older" woman, he decided. At least twenty-five, maybe twenty-eight. Her face was a beautiful heart shape, with full red lips, small, slightly tipped nose, and rich mahogany brows that arched over her deep blue eyes. Sophisticated, yes—it was a sophisticated face, as elegant as the soft, silky material that floated around her. He could already imagine her lips damp and parted from his expert kiss, breasts heaving with the rush of her breath as she responded to his touch. Those eyes, soft and liquid ...
Only they weren't soft and liquid at all. They were studying him quite sternly.
Keep your cool, keep your cool, Jamie! He warned himself. And he did. Half grinning, he moved around the couch, keeping his eyes on her—bedroom eyes, of course. He'd take his time; she could make the moves
"Champagne?" He asked her, coming around to the bucket.
She shrugged, then smiled at last. "Sure, why not?"
He managed to pour the champagne without taking his eyes from hers. Cary Grant couldn't have done it a whit better, Jamie decided, congratulating himself.
He brought the glass of champagne around to her, handed it to her, procured one for himself, and sat beside her—giving her distance, of course.
But he rested his arm against the rise of the sofa, just beyond her back. Then he gave her his absolute best smile, inclining his head close to hers—and touching her, touching her at last. Just letting his fingertips dangle upon her bare flesh at her shoulder.
She seemed to freeze for a minute. Her lips tightened and her eyes narrowed.
She shook his hand impatiently away.
"Oh, for God's sake, Jamie! Are you trying to pick me up?"
"I beg your pardon!" To his horror, he flushed with embarrassment. "Hey—wait a minute, what is this? You were out there on the balcony. All dressed up for an intimate encounter!"
"I am not dressed up for an intimate anything!" she replied with irate indignity. "My, Lord, I'd about given up on reaching you tonight. I was ready to go to bed."
"Your bed or my bed?"
"Oh, no, I don't believe this!" she exclaimed.
Jamie shook his head in confusion. "You don't believe this!" He swallowed down his champagne and shuddered, staring at her reproachfully. "I find a negligee-clad woman on my balcony and when I invite her in, she goes bananas! Who the hell are you and what are you doing on my balcony if you're not trying to pick me up?"
She returned his gaze in amazement, then broke into laughter.
Jamie was suddenly on his feet. "What are you laughing at! Honest! Hey! You're barely dressed, and in my room, and—"
"And it never—never!—in a thousand years occurred to me that you might try to pick me up!" she interrupted him, smiling ruefully.
God, was she lovely! he thought. But what on earth ...
"Jamie—give it up. That lovely, lanky charm means nothing to me. I'm your sister."
He gasped in startled surprise and staggered back. He reached for the champagne bottle and didn't even think about getting a glass—he just chugged down a good swallow, which made him cough. She jumped up and started patting his back. Teary-eyed, he kept looking at her, in awe.
"Yes, I'm Tracy!"
"Oh, my God!"
"No," she grinned. "Just your sister!"
"Oh!" He sank into the sofa. She sat beside him, curling her feet beneath her. Jamie stared at her, totally intrigued, totally fascinated; she studied him in the same fashion, as if they could absorb all the lost years by learning the little visual nuances of one another.
"And I was trying to pick you up!" Jamie breathed.
She laughed a little breathlessly. "Yes. Shame on you!"
Jamie grinned in embarrassment, then he sobered. "Tracy ...why didn't you call? Why didn't you write? Why did you have to sneak over the balcony like a thief? Or a hooker, which is what I thought you were." He paused for just a second. "Why didn't you come to the funeral?"
She sighed softly, staring idly down at her hands. "I didn't come to the funeral because it was a public circus." She looked up at him suddenly, and in her huge blue eyes Jamie saw a sorrow to match his own. He wasn't surprised. They could say what they wanted about Jesse Kuger, and, sure, some of it would be true. He'd caused a lot of grief in his day, but there'd been magic about him, too. Something unique. Tracy had loved him, just as Jamie had himself. And Tracy had gotten a really raw deal from both of her parents.
"You loved him, huh, Tracy?"
"Yes," she said softly.
"I would have resented them both."
"Oh, I did. But then I got older. I've never changed my opinion about the way they handled things. I just understand a little better that decent people can do rotten things. But that's beside the point. Jamie—someone murdered him."
He stared at her a little blankly, wondering at the tension in her tone, wondering if the trauma that had filled both their lives had taken a toll upon her. "Tracy," he said softly, feeling the more mature of the two of them for the moment. "Tracy, of course he was murdered. He was mugged, robbed and stabbed in Central Park. The police shot the guy who killed him."
She shook her head impatiently. "Jamie, I know that. But someone paid that man to kill Dad."
He inhaled sharply. "What are you talking about?"
She stood, and restlessly wandered back to the drapes that rustled so gently in the night air. "Jamie, I checked into the guy who stabbed him. His name was Martin Smith. He had a record—nothing major, which is, of course, what the police discovered. But I went further. Over the last year, Martin Smith had been carefully depositing large sums of cash in a savings account."
"How do you know?" Jamie gasped.
"I hired a private investigator a couple of months ago." She bit her lower lip and continued introspectively, "You see, I was in such shock at first, so hurt that I accepted the obvious as the truth. That a mugger had simply killed him. But then it occurred to me that we would never know the full truth—because our father's murderer had been killed before he could say anything to anyone. If there had been a conspiracy, he certainly wouldn't be around to admit it. I'm not sure what triggered my suspicions, but I was suspicious, and on that hunch I had Martin Smith's affairs investigated and found out about the money."
Jamie swallowed. "Maybe, maybe he, uh—"
"He—uh—what? Jamie?" she inquired tightly. "Smith was a loser, a petty thief. And a junkie. Jamie, I'm telling you, someone paid that man to kill Dad."
So this was his sister, Jamie thought, chilled and swallowing again. He didn't want to hear the words she was saying. He just stared at her. Small and slim, so elegant and so pretty—and so passionate now, hurt, as he was, and more. Outraged, stricken, and determined. He didn't doubt her. He just didn't want to face it. It had been bad enough to think that their father had died, wounded and alone, the victim of random crime.
It was much more horrifying to believe that someone had coldly and meticulously plotted that crime.
"Jamie?" She spoke softly now, standing tall for her diminutive size, her chin raised. "We have to find out what really happened."
He didn't feel that he could talk. "Who—who—"
"I don't know. The other guys; Leif, Tiger, or Sam. My mother, your mother, or his last wife."
"Mine is innocent, of course. To me. So is yours—to you. Oh, Jamie, I don't know. But that's why I had to see you! We have to know!"
"I didn't have to know," he said glumly. "I never suspected anything until you came."
"Okay, okay." He lifted his hands. "So where do we start? What do we do? And you left out your grandfather and your stepfather. Neither of them was fond of Dad. And you still didn't explain why you crawled over the balcony like Spiderwoman. Or Mata Hari."
She laughed. "I'm sorry, baby brother. The last time I saw you, you were wearing Pampers. I didn't want to meet you with anyone else around. I must say you've grown—but you're still my brother."
"But I'm not, Tracy," a harsh male voice suddenly interrupted.
They both froze; Jamie with surprise, Tracy with—something else.
Jamie was just startled. He hadn't heard Leif Johnston come into the suite. But then, Leif was like that. He could walk without the sound of a tread, and stand silently, watching any situation, until he decided to talk. Strange, too, because he was a tall man. And once you noted his presence, that presence dominated the room.
Jamie started to smile at Leif, then he noticed Tracy, dead still by the window, pale, still staring at Leif, still—frozen.
He thought to introduce them. He didn't know if they had ever met or not. He and Leif had never discussed Tracy, and, of course, all he knew about Tracy was what his father had told him.
"Tracy, Leif—" he began, but then he shut up, because they were both staring at each other, and evidently they did know one another, and evidently they didn't like a single thing they knew about each other. The hostility and tension was so thick in the room that he felt like he was cast in the middle of a brewing storm.
But then Leif moved on into the room, casually sitting on the back of the couch, idly lighting a cigarette that he pulled from the pocket of his denim western shirt—and still staring at Tracy.
"So, Tracy makes an appearance—at last," he mused dryly. "And a nice appearance at that. Where'd you buy that frothy piece of near nudity? Paris? Rome?"
Jamie could hear the sizzle as his sister sharply inhaled. Her eyes might have been twin points of flashing blue diamonds.
"None of your business, Mr. Johnston."
Excerpted from Liar's Moon by Heather Graham. Copyright © 1987 Heather Graham. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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