Jane Dunne has a future in Hollywood. After years of striving, she’s finally landed a juicy part on Valentine Valley, the highest-rated soap on daytime TV. Fame will be hers, no matter whom she has to hurt to get it. But fate, it seems, has other plans. As Jane readies for her first close-up, a stage light falls from above, breaking Jane’s neck on her first day of work. The tragedy shocks the set, and terrifies Valentine Valley star Serena McCormack, who fears the deadly blow was meant for her. When death threats flood Serena’s dressing room, the show’s producers hire her former lover, private investigator Liam Murphy, to protect her. He is a handsome, courageous bodyguard, and as they grow closer Serena thinks she might be on the verge of true love—unless death finds her first. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Heather Graham including rare photos from the author’s personal collection.
Dying to Have Heris the 2nd book in the Valentine Valley series, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
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Dying to Have Her
By Heather Graham
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2001 Heather Graham Pozzessere
All rights reserved.
Jane Dunne entered the dressing room and paused, vaguely aware that even her pose on the threshold was dramatic. She was a dramatic person, and she did everything with a flair—whether or not she had an audience. At the moment, her curiosity and careful perusal were natural.
She was using another woman's dressing room. For now. But maybe not for long.
There were flowers on her dressing table. A wonderful, extravagant display. A dozen red roses in the center were surrounded by pinks and yellows, then encompassed by magnificent flowers in a shade of magenta unlike any she had ever seen before.
Yes, she had come a long way.
She had gone to the right parties, pulled the right strings, played the right games. Not to mention the fact that she did have talent. It had taken her a while. She wasn't exactly a spring chicken anymore, and this was a young town. But she was on the rise.
She had a nice spot in a major movie about to open, plus a choice role on what might very well soon be the most popular soap on the air, even if it was temporary.
She swept into the room and sat.
There was a note on the dressing table by the flowers. She ignored it at first, certain that it was some gushing memo from the producers, directors, or even her fellow actors. Sitting before the mirror, she fluffed out her hair, studied her reflection with total objectivity—and nodded slowly, approving what she saw. Two tons of thick, platinum blond hair. Enhanced by Bobby at the Tahi Salon, to be sure, but then ... what was life without a bit of enhancement and drama? Her eyes were her best feature. Huge and blue—no, violet. Her smile deepened. It felt good to be where she was.
She smiled, leaned forward, still gazing deeply into the mirror, and said softly, "Life has just begun. I'm gonna live forever. Yeah, baby. I am gonna live forever."
She sat back again, glancing at her watch. She inhaled on a deep breath, closed her eyes, and opened them. Her gaze fell on the note. Perhaps she'd better open it.
She slipped open the envelope and quickly read the words.
Roses are red
And blood makes you dead.
Violets are blue
Baby, death you are due!
She threw the note down in anger, alarmed to realize that she was shaking, and reached into her purse for a cigarette. She'd tried to quit smoking. Hell, you couldn't smoke anywhere in California anymore. Bad for your own health, secondhand smoke, killing the neighbors and all that. Frankly, she'd tried to quit because she'd seen what wrinkles years of smoking eventually caused. But then, she'd smoked to begin with to keep from eating.
Right now she wanted a cigarette, and so she lit one with her monogrammed lighter.
She wasn't supposed to be smoking here. No ashtray in Miss Connolly's dressing room. She rose anxiously and found coffee cups and saucers on a ledge. She brought a saucer to the dressing table, stared at her reflection again, and then at the note.
"Ass!" she hissed. She tossed back her hair. "I'm going to live forever. And you'll be sorry as hell, you fool!"
She squashed out the cigarette, refusing to need it. Using her monogrammed lighter, she set fire to the note and watched as it burned over the saucer. Most of it. She realized the saucer was slightly wet, and part of the paper had stuck to it. Someone, probably that mousy little Jinx, had just washed it.
"Burn, dammit," she muttered. She started to lift the paper, but a tap on her door made her jump. Unnerved, she snapped out her words in a voice far too loud for poise. "Come in!"
A small blonde poked her head in. She was carrying a makeup bag that seemed to be bigger than she was. "Miss Dunne—"
"You again? What are you doing here?"
"Martha, Miss Dunne. I'm your assigned makeup person—"
"The hell you are!" Jane snapped. "When I started three weeks ago, I was promised Gilby Sayres, a personal makeup man."
Martha retreated into herself, like a turtle. "I'm sorry. Jim Novac told me this morning that I was still working with you."
"Jim Novac is the director. I was promised by the producers—" She broke off, wondering why she was making such a big deal out of this, arguing with this ... nothing of a girl. No, it was a big deal. She had to establish her star status once and for all.
"Miss Dunne," Martha began again, "I am so sorry—"
"No, baby, don't you be sorry. But someone will be."
Jane swept out of the dressing room. She was tall, thin and elegant, and one thing she had learned to do over the years was sweep. She stormed onto the soundstage.
An assistant director was blocking stand-ins where she and Serena McCormack would soon be filming their first scene together. Lighting technicians were raising the long horizontal poles that held the overhead lights. The setting was an Italian restaurant where the characters were to have an argument. Full of self-righteous anger, Jane strode onto the set, staring at the befuddled little nobodies standing in for the real talent.
"Where's Novac?" she barked. "You all heard me. Where's Jim Novac?"
The assistant director—a kid who looked like he could hardly be out of high school—spoke quickly to the stand-ins. "Thank you, we're through for now."
"Hey! I'm talking to you!" Jane persisted.
The stand-ins fled from the set. The sandy-haired kid spoke to her politely. "I'll find Mr. Novac."
She watched him scurry away. She looked around the set, feeling the heat from the overhead lights. A lighting tech on a huge A-frame ladder was staring down at her. "You! What are you looking at?" she demanded.
He didn't answer, but slid down the ladder, exiting the set.
"Jane, there you are!"
Serena McCormack was striding toward her now. Serena, with her beautiful turquoise eyes and thick mane of auburn hair, ready smile, and easy sway. Her words seemed sincere. Her elocution was perfect, her voice melodious. Jane hated her, but of course Serena didn't know that. It wasn't personal. Serena was simply in her way. Always at ease. Loved by the press. Adored by directors. Enough to make you want to throw up.
"Um, hello, Serena."
"What's the matter?" Serena asked.
"These people don't stand by their agreements!" Jane said angrily.
Jim Novac, with the sandy-haired assistant at his side, came out onto the set. An attractive man nearing middle age, he didn't seem to see her at first, though surely the assistant had told him she wanted to see him. Consulting a clipboard, he walked across the set, stopping at a table not far from where she stood.
"Fresh flowers, guys," he told his assistant. "Did I ask for withered flowers, day-old flowers? No, I do not think so. Do you know the meaning of fresh? Now—"
"Mr. Novac!" She was distressed to realize that she had to snap out his name to draw his attention.
"Jane?" He turned, looking at her expectantly, a warm smile on his face. "Good, you're right in place. Now—"
"I'm not in place! I'm not going on until we have things straightened out."
"Oh?" He folded his arms over his chest. "What things?"
Makeup people, set people, camera people, the prop peons—all were watching them. She had to play this carefully. She walked around the table to him. She noticed that there was a mark on the floor, indicating Serena's first blocked position.
Smoothly, calmly, with determination, she put her hands on her hips. She was vaguely aware of a light creaking sound above her head, but, set on her purpose, she ignored it.
"Three weeks ago I was promised my own makeup man, Novac." She purposely left out the Mister. "Promised. Do you know the meaning of promised!"
She saw his face redden. "Your makeup man wasn't in the budget."
She plucked one of yesterday's roses from the vase on the table and waved it beneath his nose. "Maybe fresh flowers weren't in the budget. I have some in my room. From the producers." Well, that was a lie, but how would he know? "The producers. Who made a promise to me. Do you want to know another word used frequently with promise! It's contract. A contract is one of those things that helps see to it that people who make promises keep them."
She saw Jim's Adam's apple bob.
Suddenly the creaking noise grew louder. She looked up.
The lights appeared to be moving. The entire light pole was dropping. She heard a noise—a whir, a gasp, a collective gasp from everyone watching. The lights were coming down—fast.
A scream rose to her throat. It never left her lips.
A huge spotlight landed directly on her. It struck her on the head and scraped down her cheek, knocking her to the wood stage floor. She was aware of blinding pain. She stared up to the rafters, seeing double. Then her vision started fading. She knew that she was bleeding. The pain was so sharp ... and then she felt her limbs growing numb.
She was aware only of the visions ... So much light. So bright. Blinding her. Then ... the light was fading. All vision nearly gone.
I'm going to live forever! her heart cried out in panic.
No. Nobody lived forever.
Someone on the set screamed at last. She was only vaguely aware of the sound.
Fade to black.
Her fingers, which had clutched the rose, uncurled. It fell free from her hand. Yesterday's rose.
Nobody lived forever.CHAPTER 2
Serena Mccormack never came to work expecting the ordinary. The people with whom she worked were just simply too ... artistic. Or one might say eccentric. The term crazy might work just as well.
But this morning the totally unexpected, the tragic, had occurred.
They were all shell-shocked. A member of their cast had just died in a horrible, bizarre accident. The paramedics had come, and with little hope except for a faint pulse, Jane Dunne had been rushed off to the hospital, where she had been pronounced dead on arrival.
Serena had stood there and watched it all. She'd been frozen in place at the shattering sound as the lights had fallen. Like everyone else, she had rushed to Jane, struggled to free the woman. The paramedics had responded within a matter of minutes, but it had seemed like eons.
Now the police were the only ones remaining. First had come a pair of uniformed officers, who tried to maintain the remaining integrity of an accident scene that crew members had already compromised in their efforts to reach Jane. Then a plainclothes detective named George Olsen arrived, taking charge. With him came a photographer and a forensics team, bagging and labeling bits and pieces and lights and equipment. Olsen listened gravely to the lighting technicians explain that this couldn't have happened, that they were good, they were thorough when they mounted the lights. They had safety systems in place, and they always double-tied electrical cords and support wires. Olsen actually was calming and reassuring to the crew, telling them that they would get to the bottom of the incident. The restaurant set was roped off with yellow crime tape, and though Jane had died in the ambulance and not on the floor, a chalk mark had been drawn to show where she fell. The photographers took pictures of the area from every angle. The forensics team picked up every tiny piece of the spotlight they could find, carefully handling it all with their gloved hands, and then duly marking each of the plastic bags.
"Routine," they had all been assured. They were all being questioned again, one by one, alone. This was shocking to them, but it was business as usual to the police.
"Jane Dunne. Dead, on her first day of work." It was Kelly Trent, seated with Serena just outside the office of producer Joe Penny—a space now taken over by the police—who spoke. Kelly played Serena's younger sister on the set. Five-seven, slim, sweet, with wide eyes and a look of innocence, she was the middle sister. Serena herself had deep auburn hair, Kelly's was a shade lighter, and Jennifer Connolly—whose maternity leave had brought Jane Dunne to the set—was a strawberry blonde, an inch taller than Kelly, an inch shorter than she. They'd been perfectly cast as sisters. All three had been with Valentine Valley since the show's first day, and though they were constantly at odds on the show, they were close friends off the set. The cast had supposedly been an assembly of "beautiful people." As the oldest sister, and the oldest of the three cast members, Serena was usually the one to reassure the other two. She was the take-charge sister. But right now she was feeling awfully unnerved herself. It didn't help that everyone had been so concerned for her because she had been so close to Jane when the light fell.
"It's so sad," Serena said. That sounded lame. Was that the best that she could come up with?
"Poetic justice!" snorted someone nearby. Startled, Serena turned to see Allona Sainge, one of the writers on the show. She was being as outspoken as usual. Allona was a striking African American woman with skin a stunning shade of copper and eyes that were almost yellow, gorgeous cat eyes. Allona was often frustrated because plot lines seldom had much to do with reality. She was still astonished when the producers would ask her opinion and then come up with ideas that totally disregarded everything she'd said.
Allona let out a sigh as she saw the way Serena looked at her. "Oh, I am sorry," she said. "That did sound awful, didn't it? But what a bitch she was."
"Allona!" Kelly whispered. "She's dead!"
"That's why I say that it was poetic justice. The spotlight didn't hit Serena—and it might have. That is what scares me most—you were on that set. This could have happened to you. I'm sorry, but you would have been a real loss to both humanity and the show. Jane Dunne ... all right, I'm sorry she's dead. It's tragic. But she was scratching and scrounging her way up the ladder, wanting a rewrite on every scene so she could take center stage. She meant to get in so tight that Jennifer wouldn't be wanted back after her maternity leave."
"Allona, I'm glad that you're grateful it wasn't me, but God is going to strike you down. What you're saying is terrible," Serena said.
"Serena, you're too kind. God has spoken—He struck down Jane Dunne."
"It was a freak accident," Kelly said. "That's all."
"It was the hand of God," Allona muttered.
"The police aren't acting much like it was the hand of God," Kelly said. "Look, here comes poor Jinx. She's nearly in tears."
Serena's assistant was emerging from the door to Joe's office, where they were doing the interviews.
Jinx had come on the show about six months ago, and now Serena wondered what she had ever done without her. She helped Jennifer Connolly out, too, since she and Serena had always received the most fan mail and gifts. Even though Jennifer was on leave, her mail continued to pour in. Jinx was charged with the responsibility of responding.
A tiny person with huge blue eyes and sable hair, she was young, adorable, slim—and painfully shy.
"Jinx!" Serena jumped up. She always felt like the Jolly Green Giant next to Jinx, towering over her assistant's five-foot-two-inch frame. "Are you okay?"
"I think so," Jinx muttered. "I'm so confused. When they finished with me, I wasn't even sure that I was there, sitting in the office anymore. Oh, my God, Serena, it's just so horrible ..."
"Yes, of course, it really is horrible," Serena said. "But you're done now. Go on home. Go relax, try to forget about it."
"There's so much mail ... I'll take it with me," Jinx said.
"Don't you dare. Go home, go to the movies, do something that will take your mind off this. The rest of us will be leaving when we're done. They're closing the set. Don't you dare work, do you hear me?"
Jinx was almost smiling. "Thanks. But if you need me for anything—"
"I'm going to go home; the show will wait, and the mail will wait. We'll make it all up when this is over—"
She broke off when she spied Jay Braden coming down the hallway. Dark-eyed, tall, and sleek, he was the actor who portrayed Randy Rock, muscled hunk and estranged husband of Jennifer's character on the show. Seeing him these days still gave her a start. Last year he'd had sandy blond hair. Because his character had gone through an almost-twin plot twist a few months back, he'd gone back to his own deep brown color. He looked good that way, she thought.
Excerpted from Dying to Have Her by Heather Graham. Copyright © 2001 Heather Graham Pozzessere. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Jane Dunne felt she finally was on her way to becoming a star. Though not quite there, Jane is a prima donna known for her temper tantrums on the set of the soap ¿Valentine Valley¿. During a fit over having the TV show hire her own personal makeup man, a huge spotlight falls from the ceiling, killing Jane. Is the incident a tragic accident or was homicide committed and if the latter, occurred, who was the intended target as other people such as the director Jim Novac and the star Serena McCormack have enemies. To protect Serena, the show hires the best private investigator in the area, Liam Murphy. They were once a hot entry before he dropped her. As the old attraction ignites, accidents pile up with Liam doing double duty to protect the woman he loves from an unknown assailant. DYING TO HAVE HER just substantiates what the romance world has known for years and fans of suspense thrillers should discover quickly if they want to read a taut tale. Heather Graham is one of the best at providing suspense-filled and action packed story line containing two understandable lead charcaters and a strong secondary cast. Ms. Graham does it once more with this Valentine Valley tale that never slows down for a moment. Readers who try Ms. Graham for the first time will quickly be DYING TO HAVE HER long list of fantastic romantic suspense thrillers. Harriet Klausner
Love Heather Graham Books ! love this one as well (sec. in the series and Killing Kelly is the third and last for the Val. Valley girls) Keep Em' Comin' Girl!
This book i found to be as good as the sequel. I really liked the return of characters I know, and couldn't put it down. The twists were interesting.
I loved this book, and the previous one Long, Lean and Lethal now I'm trying find out how it all ends but I can't seem to find the 3rd book to the trilogy does anyone know what the title is??
Ms. Graham has once again puts together a very suspenseful story that lets you guessing till the very end. Not to be missed. Highly recommended for readers who love romantic suspense stories.