Erin McCabe is taking the trip of a lifetime to Soviet Russia. Before she even crosses the border, she has a series of run-ins with the ruggedly handsome American diplomat Jarod Steele. But how coincidental are these encounters? In a flash, Erin finds herself at the center of a wild spy plot, where truth is indistinguishable from falsehood, and the difference between good guys and bad guys is impossible to tell. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Heather Graham including rare photos from the author’s personal collection.
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About the Author
Heather Graham (b. 1953) is a bestselling author of more than 150 romance, suspense, and historical novels that have sold seventy-five million copies worldwide. Raised in Florida, Graham went to college for theater arts, and spent several years acting, singing, and bartending before she devoted herself to writing. Her first novel, When Next We Love, was published in 1982. Although she became famous as an author of romance novels, Graham has since branched out into supernatural horror, historical fiction, and suspense, with titles such as Tall, Dark, and Deadly (1999), Long, Lean, and Lethal (2000), and Dying to Have Her (2001). In 2003 the Romance Writers of America, whose Florida chapter Graham founded, granted her a lifetime achievement award. She lives, writes, and scuba dives in Florida with her husband and five children.
Read an Excerpt
By Heather Graham
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1984 Heather Graham Pozzessere
All rights reserved.
Heads turned when she walked into the room, and not because she was recognized. Her hair was pulled into a severe chignon, and her navy business suit, though expertly tailored to the trim lines of her form, was strictly conservative, offset only by a wide silk ascot that hinted at an inability to hide completely her femininity. Finely etched matching gold bracelets on her wrists—her trademark, a personal whimsy—might have identified her as one of the world's most seductive models, but at the moment they were concealed by the sleeves of the shirt and blazer.
Heads turned because in three-inch heels she was a sleek six feet, and she carried her height with grace. No severity of hair style could hide the exquisite angles of her china fine features, nor the unaffected assurance that made her seem to glide across the room.
As she walked into the handsome lunchroom of the St. Regis that afternoon, Erin McCabe was totally unaware of the appreciative glances she received. She spoke quietly with the maître d' for a moment, then her quicksilver eyes began to seek a certain face as she followed the man to a table in the sunshine-lit rear of the room. Seeing her friend Mary Terrell waving, she smiled, her brows raised in anticipation and query.
Mary laughed and nodded as Erin was seated, then lifted a glass of wine and waited until Erin's was poured to clink a toast.
"You're all set!" Mary said excitedly. "Two weeks from today you fly out of JFK for Oslo. That first week you can do whatever you want, but Erin, you must be at the train station in Helsinki on time on the fourteenth. Russian trains are never late and they leave on time!"
Erin laughed and sipped her wine as she accepted the black leather visa and passport Mary handed her. "Mary, I'm always on time. Oh, Mary!" Her famous silver eyes blazed enthusiasm and warmth. "I do appreciate this so much! It's going to be wonderful."
Mary grimaced. "I hope so, Erin. I still wish you'd reconsider. Think of Paris in the springtime! The Côte d'Azur, Nice, Monte Carlo—London is beautiful in the spring—"
"Mary," Erin murmured, shaking her head with a smiling determination, "I've been to all the above—"
"Jeez. Hard life!" Mary interrupted dryly, but immediately regretted her outburst. She might be the one person in the world who was fully aware that Erin McCabe had endured a hard life. No, not for all the beauty and glamor and travel could Mary really envy her childhood friend. She had watched Erin bury both her father and mother and then her beloved fiancé, a victim of a cerebral hemorrhage at twenty-two. She had seen Erin leave college to support her aging parents until their deaths, and give up her simple dream of becoming a teacher of social sciences and government.
Mary had also watched Erin rise to the top of the modeling field, work she had chosen when she was desperate for income, work which had become habit. And then Mary had shared her friend's happiness when she had fallen in love with Marc Helmsly, the handsome, charming, world-renowned photographer. She had laughed and cried at the wedding that had made front-page headlines, so pleased that Erin had finally found happiness.
She had also been the one to receive Erin on her doorstep in the dead of night three months after the fabulous wedding, an Erin in shock, so profoundly hurt and disillusioned that to this day Mary didn't really understand fully all that had happened.
Marc Helmsly had spoken to the papers; he had labeled Erin a beautiful and charming woman unable to accept the commitments and responsibilities of marriage.
Erin had made little comment. She had pursed trembling lips that would never falter again; her silver-blue gaze had become opaque, forever hiding her secrets and emotions. Her words to the press had been simple and noncommittal: she and Mr. Helmsly had made a terrible mistake—their differences were irreconcilable.
That had been six months ago. Erin had gone back to work, more beautiful than before, her unique and stunning eyes touched by a new, haunting enigma. Those eyes of deep, seductive silver seemed on camera to hold all the intoxicating mystique of the ages.
And of course, there were always the gold bracelets. No matter what the product or costume, Erin wore the bracelets that had come from the one person who had come to mean the world to her. But it had been only since the breakup with Marc that she had nervously played with the bracelets. When agitated, she absently slid them in circles around her wrists.
Mary knew why Erin had become so attached to the bracelets in the first place, and she shrewdly assumed she now knew why Erin—unknowingly—used the bracelets like another woman might chew her nails. She wished she could help, but she really couldn't. Certain things had to take time to work themselves out.
Erin was ready for a vacation: Mary was well aware of that fact, and certainly agreeable. She knew that the glamor of Erin's work was only the finished product. Erin spent hours and hours doing the same thing over and over to perfection in the photographer's eye. She silently endured the elements and grueling hours. It had been good for her, it had kept her from thinking.
But the divorce was final now, and Erin had firmly cleared her schedule. A change of scenery was needed.
"Think of it, Mary," Erin was laughing. "If I ever do get to teach, I'll actually know what I'm talking about! The history fascinates me—everything about the U.S.S.R. is so relevant and vital to the times we live in! And Mary, you've been there! I remember when Ye Journey Shoppe first became a qualified Intourist office. You and Ted went, and you told me what a wonderful time you had."
"Erin," Mary protested with a frown, "Ted and I went with a tour. We had a Russian-speaking American guide—as well as the government Intourist guides—with us all the way. You're going all alone, by train! I've warned you that you're not going to find the majority of the citizens on the streets speaking English like in Oslo or Stockholm."
"I know, I know," Erin soothed her friend with patience. "I have the book you gave me, and I've been reading up on rules and regulations and language! Trust me, Mary, I'll be okay. Contrary to popular opinion, I do have a mind, a rather quick one at that. You're not letting an illiterate waif loose in the big bad streets!" Erin laughed. "I've survived New York for twenty-eight years! Surely, I must have acquired a certain amount of survival savvy."
Mary smiled. "I just worry about you, Erin."
Erin clutched Mary's fingers on the snowy white tablecloth. "I know that, Mary, and I appreciate it. But I'll be fine. I'll never discuss politics or religion or government. I'll steer clear of anything that looks remotely military, and I'll never take a picture without permission. I won't cross the border with anything that could be called subversive literature. And"—Erin hesitated a moment—"I'll be so absorbed by the uniqueness of my surroundings that I'll be able to forget the past. Mary, I need this!"
Mary felt a little clutch in her throat. Ever since that night Erin had called her in tears, asking desperately if she could come over, she had closed herself in. She had needed to talk that night but she hadn't been completely coherent. Mary understood Erin's total disillusionment but not exactly what had happened. And after her fit of rambling tears and a night's sleep, Erin had sweetly thanked Mary and begged that they not discuss her marriage—or the reasons for its dissolution—anymore.
Mary had agreed reluctantly, fearing that the short-lived marriage had done Erin serious damage. In all this time she hadn't had so much as a lunch date with a man.
But they had been through that round of discussion before. Erin would answer coldly that she simply wasn't interested in dating, and had no desire ever to marry again. She had her work; she planned to go back to school. That was enough for her.
"Jeans," Mary said aloud.
Erin smiled with amusement and query. "Pardon?"
"Jeans," Mary repeated. "Remember, it's illegal to sell your jeans."
Erin laughed, and Mary had to admit that the sound was free and real after a long time when she had barely smiled naturally.
"Mary! Of all things. I don't think I'm going to run around trying to sell my jeans! We'd better order," she said, picking up her menu and turning her interest to the entrees. "I think I'll have the beef Wellington. What about you?"
Mary grimaced. "No—I'll have the spinach salad. Some friend you are," she moaned. "Models are always supposed to be dieting—and here I am, the green eater. It's disgusting. I gain weight just by looking at food!"
"Mary," Erin protested, "your weight is all in the right places! Ted always says he wants a woman he can hold on to!"
Mary grinned slowly. "Oh, what the hell. I'll have the beef Wellington. For Ted."
Their waiter came to take their orders. Erin lowered her lashes and smiled as Mary ordered the Beef Wellington, chocolate mousse—and a Diet Pepsi.
Erin entered her small apartment off Central Park that night with a long sigh, slipping off her heels and edging them beneath the antique deacon's bench in the entryway. The cool tile welcomed her weary nylon-covered feet, as did the soft pile of beige carpeting as she moved into the living room and tossed both shoulder and tote bags on the old sofa she had just had recovered in soft brown corduroy. She hesitated a minute, then decided that if she gave in. to temptation and tossed her body along with the bags on the sofa she would never get up again. And she sorely needed a cup of tea.
Erin walked into the kitchen with its cheerful pale yellow accents—a complement to the earth tones of her apartment—and filled the kettle. While she waited for the water to boil, she glanced idly around. Handsome copperware and plants hung from high decking above the island range; the overpass gave view to the comfortable living room and the plate-glass windows that let out to a small balcony—and a view of the city far below. Her home was coming along, she thought with pleasure. For years she had collected antique furniture, delighting in refinishing it herself. She knew the period of each piece she collected, and loved to envision the lives of the previous owners. It was a hobby, it was a relaxation. It was a way of reminding herself that she had come within a stone's throw of finishing her studies and that one day she would go back.
The divorce had cost her many of her most prized possessions. She had moved her belongings into Marc's penthouse before the wedding, and when she had moved out, the last thing on her shattered mind had been material objects. But she had had this place six months now, time enough to fill it with pictures and plants, time enough to make it home.
The kettle whistled. Erin made her cup of tea and took it out to the sofa, where she curled into a corner to sip it while watching the moon through the plate-glass windows. A long sigh escaped her. She had spent the day dancing across Fifth Avenue countless times in fur coats. She shook her head at the incomprehensible genius of the advertising agencies. Did dancing in the street make women crave thick fur coats? Surely, winter was enough in itself to get that point across.
She shook her head again, wondering why she was still modeling. She was always telling herself that she would go back to college and get her degree.
She had always meant to get out of modeling, but somehow the time had just kept passing. She had forgotten about everything else when she had fallen in love with Marc. And, she admitted dryly, the more time passed, the harder it became to leave this life-style behind. She was accustomed to writing checks on a whim, purchasing things when they caught her eye. Her apartment alone was beyond a teacher's salary—far beyond a student's income. But since the breakup of her marriage she had begun to take steps in the right direction. More and more of her income was finding its way into a savings account. This trip to Russia was diminishing the savings account, but it was necessary for her sanity, and it was a part of the circuitous road toward her dream.
A soft scratching at the door interrupted Erin's thoughts, and she uncurled her long legs from the sofa. With a smile on her face she opened her door to the perpetrator of the sound—a sleek gray Persian torn with the unpretentious name of Bill. "What are you up to, huh, Bill? A little scrounging-around-town time?" Erin stooped to collect the highly independent animal into her arms and stroked his silken coat until Bill decided he had had enough of such coddling. His purr became a protesting meow and she set him back down. "You know, Bill, you don't live here. You have an owner who feeds you and cares for you! But I always was a sucker for a pretty face. I bought you a can of sardines just the other day."
I sure as hell was a sucker for a pretty face, Erin thought with a stab of chilling pain as she led the cat into the kitchen. A total fool. But I really wasn't so terribly foolish, she defended herself. Marc wasn't just pretty, his appeal had been devastating. Tall, suave, and sleek. Omar Sharif eyes. Many women had fallen head over heels in love with him before Erin, and many would do so in the future.
He had always been charming; he was athletic and rugged. For the first time in her life Erin had been enchanted beyond control.
How was I to know? she tormented herself with the same question she had asked a million times. But she should have known. Her job had given her exposure to the sophisticated world of fame and wealth. She had been verbally warned, but she had been sure Marc's ex-mistress was merely jealous, and she listened with kind patience only to the hints given.
Yes, she should have had a certain sophistication. But she hadn't. She had lived too long with tragedy not to welcome happiness with open arms. But oh, God, Marc himself had given her warnings. Yet she had never thought anything about his comments regarding other women. Marc was a photographer. She had always assumed he would have a normal, professional interest in other beautiful women.
When she thought of it now, her naiveté seemed mere stupidity. But her parents had been so loving, so traditional ... it had simply never occurred to her that marriage could be based on any other values. She hadn't believed any of the rumors that had begun before their honeymoon ended. Her mind must have truly been in a cloud. Remembering wasn't good for her. She could feel the blood draining from her face as she thought of the night when she had been so cruelly slapped in the face with the truth. The night when she had walked into her own home to find another man, a friend of Marc's, an acquaintance of hers ... a photographer ... waiting for her.
He laughed disbelievingly at her when she asked him to leave.
She was shaking as she tried to lift the lid of the sardines with the key supplied. She froze. She would never, never, forget that night. She had been so shocked, and then so panicked, struggling desperately as he kept chuckling and telling her how much he loved a spirited woman. And she had so stupidly kept calling for Marc, Marc who was with another woman, who thought she knew the score ... Marc, who really wouldn't have cared.
Finally breaking free, she had run from her own home in tears and dishabille, begging for a dime from a man on the street to make that call to Mary, praying that she would be there....
Bill broke through Erin's remembrances with a yowl. Erin started, then smiled and apologized. "Sorry, Bill. Sardines coming right up."
Of course, she wasn't a child. When faced with the facts she had simply accepted them. Marc had never had any intention of changing his life. He might have loved her in his way, but there hadn't been a single second when he had even considered a conventional marriage.
She had spoken to him only once after that night, and he had been truly mystified. Surely she knew ... surely she accepted his life-style ... she did, after all, move in the same fast lane. He had been very apologetic about his friend. Marc believed in the old Live and Let Live. He would never have forced Erin into anything.
But the physical force of the situation had been shattering, more shattering than even she had realized at the time. Shock had given way to pain, and she had wondered just what she had been lacking. She was supposed to be one of the most beautiful women in the world, yet she wasn't woman enough to hold her husband. Yes, her ego had been badly bruised. But she had been able to go beyond that and understand that no one woman would ever be enough for Marc. Yet she hadn't been able to get past the terror of that night.
Erin shuddered and felt her involuntary movement become a whole race of shivers. I was so pathetically naïve. I can't make matters worse and start blaming myself. She stretched her fingers and forced them to stop trembling with the sheer strength of willpower.
Excerpted from Red Midnight by Heather Graham. Copyright © 1984 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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