Twenty years ago, ex-beauty queen Didi Storm worked the Vegas strip as a celebrity impersonator. Now, in death, she’s finally getting the publicity she always craved. To the police, it looks like suicide, or a stunt gone wrong. Her estranged daughter, Remmi, knows the answer isn’t so simple. Though dressed in Didi’s clothes and wig, the broken body on the sidewalk isn’t Didi . . .
THERE’S NO DOUBT
Remmi was fifteen when she last saw her mother. En route to meet her crush, Noah Scott, Remmi secretly witnessed Didi handing over one of her newborn twins to a strange man. Then Didi disappeared, as did Remmi’s other half-sibling. Remmi pleaded with the authorities to find them, with no success. Yet she’s always sensed that someone is watching her . . .
YOU WILL DIE
Noah, now running his own PI firm, resurfaces in Remmi’s life, determined to find out what happened that long-ago night. As they dig deeper, the truth about Remmi’s family begins to emerge—a story of greed and twisted lies that someone will kill again and again to keep hidden . . .
|Product dimensions:||4.12(w) x 7.50(h) x (d)|
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Las Vegas, NevadaTwenty Years Earlier
"You can do this," Didi told herself as she drove her vintage, specially equipped Cadillac through the city. Neon lights sparkled and shone as daylight slipped away and Las Vegas became a beacon in the twilight desert.
God, she loved this town, with its hot, dry air, bustle, and excitement, and, most importantly, the glamour and glitz of the tall buildings that spired upward into a vast, star-spangled sky. The city itself was almost surreal in its stark contrast to the quiet, serene, eerie desert at night.
Well, it wasn't quite night yet, and she had no time to think about anything but her mission, one she'd been planning for the better part of a year. A tiny frisson of excitement sizzled through her blood, and the back of her mouth was suddenly dry with anxiety.
"You can pull this off," she said, the words a familiar mantra intended to calm her jangled nerves, push back her fears. She stepped on the gas as she reached the outskirts of town. Her chest was tight, her fingers clammy over the steering wheel, a million doubts creeping through her mind.
She would have preferred to have the top down on the big car, to let the warm Nevada breeze stream across her face and through her hair, but she didn't want to muss her makeup, nor her hair, and, really, with the twins, it was best to keep the convertible's roof snapped into place and just leave the windows cracked enough to let in some air.
In the back, strapped into their car seats, were her two infants. Her heart twisted at the thought of her precious little ones. A boy and a girl, six weeks old and sleeping, cooing softly as she drove, not knowing their fates. "Oh, babies," she whispered, guilt already gnawing through her soul. What she was planning was unthinkable. But she was desperate, and everything would work out for the best. No one would get hurt.
Despite herself, she crossed the fingers of her right hand as she gripped the wheel. Was she making a mistake? Probably. But, then, it certainly wasn't her first — or fiftieth, for that matter.
Swallowing hard, she fought a spate of hot tears and steeled herself. She had to do this, had to; it was her one chance, their only chance for a better life. Sniffing, she blinked and wouldn't let the tears fall and ruin her mascara. She needed to look good, perfect, to pull this off. Not like a sad sack of a clown with black streaks running down her cheeks.
Involuntarily, seated in the soft white leather, she straightened her shoulders. You can do this, Didi. You can. She pressed a high heel a little more firmly on the gas pedal, and the Caddy responded, leaping forward, tires eagerly spinning over the dry, dusty asphalt.
But what if something goes wrong?
Just to be on the safe side, she sent up a quick prayer, something she hadn't done much of since she'd shaken the Missouri dust off her boots, bought a bus ticket, and headed west when she was still a teenager. She'd left her family, and God Himself, in the huge Greyhound's exhaust.
Tonight, everything would turn around.
Over the roar of the car's big engine, she heard a soft sigh, one of the babies probably dreaming.
Setting her jaw, she flipped her visor down to shield her eyes against the sun's glare and reminded herself that she couldn't back out now — her plan was set, the wheels in motion. As Las Vegas became a strip of glorious lights reflected in her car's oversize rearview mirror, she pushed in the cigarette lighter, then let her fingers scrabble on the seat beside her for her purse. She shook a Virginia Slims from the glittery cigarette case she scrounged out of her clutch. A few hits of nicotine would calm her. She cracked open the side window and, after lighting up, held her cigarette near the window — no second-hand smoke for her babies! That was definitely a thing these days, and as long as she was a mother ... oh, Jesus, how long would that be? ... she would keep the babies safe.
Really? Who are you kidding?
Condemning eyes reflected back at her in the mirror as she headed steadily west, where the blazing sun was settling over the cliffs of Red Rock Canyon. While the nicotine did its job, she turned on the radio to an oldies station and heard the Beatles singing "Let It Be."
Paul McCartney's voice was drowned out as she hit a pothole, and the car shuddered, a loud thud sounding from the rear end of the Caddy.
She couldn't break down. Not now. Not when she'd finally screwed up her courage and set her plan in motion. Fearing that one of the car seats was too loose, that the strap securing it might have failed in this old car, she glanced over her shoulder. Nothing seemed out of place. And the car was running well, no popped tire, no bent axle. The babies were still safely bound in their car seats.
"It was nothing," she said aloud. Maybe something had shifted in the trunk or a prop had gotten away from its bindings in the specialized cargo space she'd had retrofitted into the big car so that she could use it in her act. God, how she loved to pop out of the "empty" white Caddy, in a scanty outfit ... well, those days were gone, at least temporarily, until she got rid of the remaining fat and sagging skin from her latest pregnancy with the twins. So far, she'd lost a lot of that weight, but things had shifted, and her skin was not as taut as it used to be when she'd been a nubile teenager, and tonight she'd had to wiggle into some damned tight undergarments to even slip into her current outfit — her favorite pink Marilyn Monroe dress.
The jeweled gown's seams were straining, but scarcely being able to breathe was well worth the trouble. Didi knew she looked spectacular.
Cutting the radio, she kept the pedal to the metal, all the while listening for that disturbing noise again. She detected nothing more than the thrum of the engine, the whine of the tires, and the rush of wind through the partially opened window. Since the clunk had stopped, and there didn't appear to be anything mechanically wrong with the car, thank God, she clicked on the radio again, this time to a current pop station. She squashed her cigarette on the tab in the ashtray, adjusted her sunglasses to fight the glare of those last eyeball-searing minutes before the sun sank over the ragged mountaintops, and told herself she was ready.
Tonight, her bad luck was going to change.
* * *
Remmi hardly dared breathe in the tight cargo space of her mother's ancient Cadillac. She rubbed the back of her head where it had bumped against the inside of the wall when Didi, at the wheel, had hit something and Remmi had bounced enough to slam the back of her head against the metal roof. Ouch! She was surprised her mother hadn't heard the thud, stopped the car, and discovered her oldest daughter stowed away in the area where Didi usually hid the props for her stage act, a part of the voluminous trunk sectioned off in this boat of a white Cadillac.
Fortunately, Remmi had bit back a scream despite the radiating pain.
Now, she was sweating. A lot. Drops drizzled down her forehead and off her chin, and covered her back. The space she was wedged into was tight. Claustrophobic. But she didn't want to think about how she could so easily be trapped inside. There was a latch of course, but it could jam. She didn't want to think about it and swiped at the beads of sweat on her chin.
For a split second, as the huge car's speed increased and she felt as if Didi were being intentionally reckless, Remmi considered calling out, letting her mom know she was hiding in the space, but she held back. Didi would kill Remmi if she found out her teenager had stowed away in the car. Well, actually, Remmi hadn't intended to stow away at all. She'd been hiding. From her mom.
And it had backfired.
Cautiously, Remmi peered through a small slit between the cargo area and the back seat, a tiny peephole Didi had installed. The scent of cigarette smoke reached her nostrils, and she heard music from the radio. The twins, her half siblings, were silent for once, not crying, but Remmi couldn't see them. From her vantage point, she saw little more than the back of her mother's head, Didi's blond "Marilyn" wig securely in place.
Why the costume?
Remmi hazarded a quick glance toward the wide rearview mirror and caught a glimpse of her mom's face, sunglasses over the bridge of her nose, lips pouty and colored a glossy pink, even a signature mole drawn near the corner of her mouth.
Oh, Mom, what're you doing?
Remmi wished to high heaven that she hadn't decided at the last possible second to hide in the cargo space. She'd thought Didi was working, and Seneca, the twins' nanny, had retired to her room for the night as the babies had fallen asleep in their shared crib. Remmi, whose room was part of the converted garage on the far end of the house, had thought she was safe, that no one would check on her until her mother returned sometime after her last show, usually after 2:00 AM. She'd planned to sneak out her bedroom window, and with the keys she'd already lifted out of the drawer in the kitchen, she'd intended to drive her mother's crappy old Toyota into the night. The windows of her room were mounted high, slanted panes near the apex of the sloped ceiling, accessible by climbing onto the headboard of her bed and scrambling over, impossible to reach from the outside without a ladder.
But she'd done it.
She'd slid through the narrow opening, hung by her fingers from the sill, then softly dropped to the dusty ground below, the heat of the desert still simmering, the sun beginning to sink in the western sky.
All to meet a boy.
A boy who was probably bad news. Or worse. But there was something about him, something that caught her attention and made the blood pound a little in her ears when his dark eyes found hers. Even now, stuck in the sweltering cargo space, her heart trip-hammered and the back of her throat went dry at the thought of Noah Scott. Older, with a bad-boy reputation, he was definitely not Didi-approved. Which made him all the more attractive, she decided. But she couldn't help herself. God, he was sexy. She had dreams about his hands on her body and how kissing him made her tingle all over, even in places she hadn't realized were meant to tingle.
She couldn't think about him — fantasize about him. Not when she was trapped in Didi's Cadillac, going to God-only-knew-where.
Earlier, she'd snagged the keys to the Toyota, just after dinner, waited for Seneca to close her door, gave it another ten minutes, then slid out of the window and dropped lithely to the ground. She'd just settled behind the wheel of the Camry (she'd taught herself to drive on the sly and was fairly adept, even though she was still only fifteen) when she spied her mother's Caddy rounding the corner of the street leading to their driveway in this crummy part of town.
She'd sunk down in the Toyota's battered driver's seat, barely peeking over the dash as Didi had driven into the garage. Counting out three minutes in her head, she'd waited for Didi to head into the house. The second her mother was inside, Remmi had slipped into the open garage and thought she could sneak into her room, as it was just a few steps down the short hallway. Once Didi was past the kitchen, Remmi would be able to quietly ease the door open and make her way to the bedroom.
No one, especially her mother, would be the wiser.
Listening over the thudding of her own heartbeat, Remmi had wrapped her fingers around the doorknob when she'd heard the distinctive click of Didi's heels approaching her direction.
Rather than try to make it outside, where, if Didi chose to lock up, Remmi wouldn't be able to get back into the house, she'd slipped away from the garage door and silently opened a back door of the monster of a car. Without thinking, she'd rolled into the back seat of the Caddy and engaged the secret lever Didi had installed. The seat back had flipped down, and Remmi had forced her body into the cramped cargo space. Without really thinking, she'd found the inside latch, and the rolled leather seat had sprung into place once more, clicking into place as Didi emerged from the house with one of the baby carriers.
Remmi, peeking through the specialized peephole, had held her breath and silently prayed, Don't let her find me, oh, please God, don't let her —
The Caddy's back door flew open. Muttering to herself as she'd secured the carrier into position, Didi didn't seem to notice anything was amiss. She'd quickly returned to the house. Remmi had reached for the lever but never got the chance to escape. Less than a minute after strapping in the first carrier, Didi had reappeared with the second.
Once both car seats had been locked into place, Remmi had been trapped.
Only then did she notice that Didi was dressed in her favorite Marilyn Monroe costume, all pink and shimmery. She'd climbed behind the wheel and jammed her keys into the ignition. The massive car with its huge engine had roared to life, and Didi had backed out of the garage without a word.
Five seconds later, she'd rammed the Cadillac into drive, hit the gas, and headed to the desert. With her infants strapped into the back seat of this boat of a car, and Remmi hidden in the trunk, Didi drove as if the devil himself were chasing her.
What was with the full-Marilyn regalia?
And where to?
Remmi bit her lower lip nervously.
Where the hell was she headed?
* * *
"Son of a bitch!" Noah kicked a rock hard enough for it to hit against the weathered side of the barn and bang so loudly that the dog sleeping on the porch gave a startled bark. Roscoe, who was a mix of some kind of sheepdog and who knew what else, raised his speckled, shaggy head, yawned, wagged his stub of a tail, then settled back on the old rag rug that was his bed, his nose buried in the faded fabric, eyes bright and focused on Noah.
"It's okay," Noah grumbled, but it wasn't. Not by a long shot. Noah was itching for a fight. He was supposed to meet a girl. Not just any girl, but a girl he'd just met the other day at the lake. She wasn't his usual type, was a little on the nerdy side, and young, too, but she was smart and hadn't been intimidated by him. The daughter of some weird showgirl, a woman impersonator, he thought. Didi Storm. Yeah, that was the mother's name. Like him, the girl, Remmi, had no real dad in the picture, and he could see she would soon become a knockout. Her brown hair was streaked a reddish gold — naturally, he'd guessed, from the blasting Nevada sun. Freckles dusted a long but straight nose, and her eyes, somewhere between green and gold, flashed with intelligence and humor. He'd tested her, and she could give as well as she could take. Built tall and lean, with small breasts and hips that barely flared, she didn't seem to care that she wasn't as curvy as some of the girls she hung out with.
Including that bitch Mandi Preston, who, while they'd all been swimming in the lake, had made a point of pressing her impressive boobs up against him. She was a tease, and as those massive breasts, held in place by a slip of a red bikini bra, had grazed the bare skin of his back, he'd had an immediate reaction, a hard-on forming despite the cool water. He'd tried to hide his boner, but it had been impossible, and Mandi had known just what she'd accomplished. It was a game with her, but he wasn't interested in her. Never had been. All blond tousled hair, bubblegum-pink lipstick, and high-pitched giggling, he'd found her too ... commercial? Too much like a TV bimbo? No, maybe she was just a fake. He knew she was smarter than she pretended to be; he'd seen flashes of it, and the flirty dumb act bothered him.
Not so Remmi.
She said what was on her mind and didn't seem to care what anyone else thought. She'd seen the display in the lake as she'd lain on a towel and read a book. Over the cover, she'd watched as Mandi had splashed and rubbed up against Noah. Arching a dark eyebrow, she'd caught Noah's eye, given her head a shake, and closed the paperback. As she'd scooped up her towel, flip-flops, and small cooler, he'd waited for his damned cock to cooperate; then he'd followed her to the parking area.
"What?" she'd asked when she unlocked the door of a beat-up Toyota and slid into the sunbaked interior.
"I don't know you."
"You're right. You don't." She'd jabbed her keys into the ignition.
"You got a license?" he asked. If she was sixteen, he'd be surprised.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Liar, Liar"
Copyright © 2018 Lisa Jackson LLC.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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