Read an Excerpt
The Secret Sister
By Elizabeth Lowell
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Elizabeth Lowell
All right reserved.
Christy McKenna looked at the date on the message call slip. Three days old. Just one of the many notes that had built up during her two-week vacation. But reading this note made her stomach feel as though the bottom of the world had just fallen out.
She hadn't heard from her younger sister in twelve years. It had been bad news then.
It would be bad news now.
Christy felt the old familiar mixture of love and guilt and unease wash through her. Jo-Jo couldn't help that she'd been born with the kind of beauty that literally made people stop and stare. It wasn't Jo-Jo's fault that most people tripped over themselves in their rush to please her. Against an everyday setting, the kind of beauty she had was stunning.
As a result, Jo-Jo thought the universe revolved around her perfect body.
You like people because of certain things, Christy reminded herself wryly. You love them despite certain things. Like a beauty that's equaled only by her selfishness.
For better or for worse, Christy loved her dazzling younger sister. She always had. Twelve years couldn't change that. Nothing could.
But Christy really wished she could like her sister.
As she flipped through more telephone messages the cool breath of the past chilled her spine. After twelve years of silence, Jo-Jo had called five times in two weeks.
What's gone wrong in my baby sister's life that a smile and an extra swing of her fabulous hips can't fix?
Nothing answered Christy's silent question but the equally silent slips of paper clenched in her hand. She had a gut-deep certainty that something was very wrong.
Something Jo-Jo would expect Christy to fix.
"Shit," she muttered.
Nobody responded to the unhappy word. She was alone in her office with the door closed because she didn't want to be interrupted while she did triage on the work that had been piled on her desk while she was gone.
"Why me, Jo-Jo?"
That was easy enough to answer. There wasn't anyone else left of their "family" but the two of them.
"What makes you think I'll drop everything and come running?"
Twelve years of it.
Christy had never entirely forgiven Jo-Jo for taking whatever caught her eye on her way through life--Christy's clothes, shoes, boyfriends, girlfriends.
Grandmother McKenna's gold nugget necklace.
Of all that Jo-Jo had taken, only the necklace still rankled. It was the only piece of the past that Christy wanted. Jo-Jo had known it.
That was why she took it.
"So what?" Christy said impatiently to the messages. "Gramma is dead. I'm in New York. Jo-Jo is wherever Jo-Jo wants to be. I'm doing what I love. Right?"
Silence and years and guilt for not being able to make it all turn out right.
Frowning, Christy looked around her office. The shelves were still crammed with books on art, fashion, philosophy, and human adornment, from Stone Age body painting to Tiffany's most astonishing diamond necklaces. The lone window still needed washing and still had a view of another Manhattan high-rise an arm's length away. The nameplate on the door still said Christa McKenna, Contributing Editor.
Nothing had changed.
Yet she had an uneasy feeling that everything had changed. Maybe it was as simple as wanting a few more weeks of vacation. Maybe it was as complex as the restlessness that had overtaken her in the months since her thirtysecond birthday.
Maybe it was the past, wounded, bleeding, never healed.
The past, and the hope that this time would be different. This time the old wounds would be healed because Jo-Jo was finally old enough to understand that other people hurt, other people cried, other people bled. Not just Jo-Jo. Everyone.
Even her older sister.
Christy reached across her desk for the newest Horizon magazine and flipped to Peter Hutton's standing six-page ad package. The layout had been shot on the deck of a yacht off Martha's Vineyard and featured Hutton's signature model, an internationally famous beauty known to the world by only one name: Jo.
Leggy, blond, innocent and wicked in the same instant, Jo-Jo wore a pastel silk pullover sweater and white silk slacks. The sea wind swept her straight hair to one side, letting her look up from under dense eyelashes at the world. She had wide green eyes. Cat eyes. Waiting for the next stupid mouse to move.
Christy stared at the ad, looking for some reason, some hint that would tell her why Jo-Jo was calling after all these years. Nothing came but the sheer physical presence of an internationally successful model.
Jo-Jo wasn't a swizzle stick kind of clothes rack. Her waist was as narrow as a girl's, but she had a woman's hips and high, full breasts. The weave of the silk sweater was so loose and the yarn so fine that her nipples stood out clearly. The silk of the slacks was equally thin, almost sheer. A brunette would have had to shave up to her navel to get away with the pants. On Jo-Jo, the clingy material was an "accidental" striptease frozen just before the moment of total nakedness.
Pure Hutton. Pure Jo-Jo. Seemingly casual, sexually challenging, and manipulative as hell.
Hutton's vision of fashion skated dangerously close to being coarse, yet somehow always managed to avoid the label. Jo-Jo's sheer beauty had a lot to do with it.
"What's the matter?" Christy asked the ad. "Did Hutton finally discover you aren't his alone? Is he going to throw you out on your fantastic ass?"
Christy shivered and set aside the magazine. She could no more ignore her sister's needs now than she had been able to long ago, far away, in another part of the country.
Get it over with. Call and find out what's wrong. Because you know something is.
The call-back number had an area code of 305. Christy pulled out a phone book and flipped to the map in the front.
Excerpted from The Secret Sister by Elizabeth Lowell Copyright © 2005 by Elizabeth Lowell.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.