Tasting Fear

Tasting Fear

by Shannon McKenna

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780758228642
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 04/01/2012
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 868,699
Product dimensions: 4.11(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Shannon McKenna is the New York Times bestselling author of numerous romantic thrillers and several novellas. After a bizarre assortment of jobs, from singing cocktail waitress to medical secretary to strolling madrigal singer, she decided that writing hot romantic suspense suits her best. She lives with her husband and family in a small seaside town in southern Italy. Write to Shannon at her website www.shannonmckenna.com.

Read an Excerpt

Tasting Fear

By Shannon McKenna


Copyright © 2009 Shannon McKenna
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-2863-5

Chapter One

"Are you girls going to be all right?" Elsie's white brows knitted anxiously above her faded blue eyes. "I can stay, you know."

Nancy plastered what she hoped was a calm, reassuring look on her face as she gently nudged the old lady out the door. She gave Elsie's wrinkled cheek a kiss. "We'll be fine. We just need some downtime."

"But ... but I'm sure Lucia wouldn't have wanted you girls to be all alone, at such a terrible time," Elsie fussed.

"We have each other, Auntie Elsie." Nancy's sister Nell grabbed the elderly neighbor's hand. "Thanks for the casserole. You've been wonderful. Lucia was lucky to have you for a neighbor. We all are."

When Elsie was finally nudged and flattered out the door, Nancy collapsed against it, sliding until her butt hit the floor. "God. It took forever to get rid of them all. Lucia must have known everyone in town."

Nell sank down to join her. Vivi flopped onto her back onto the scratched floorboards. She clapped a hand over her eyes to block the late afternoon sun. They were all in black, for the graveside service, and Vivi's fiery locks seemed the only color in a room leached of color.

Nancy stared at her sisters, feeling empty. She always felt as if Lucia's house was a benevolent entity, enveloping and protectingits people. Now, it just felt tired and old. As if the life had been sucked out of it.

Well, it had. The warmth, the benevolence, the life that had been Lucia. The house was just a house, faded and creaking with age.

Nothing like a funeral to pop the bubbles of one's imaginative fancies. She was desperately glad Vivi and Nell were there with her.

Nell blew out a sharp breath. "I can't believe it," she said. "I hadn't been up here to see her for over a month. I thought, we'll be celebrating her birthday soon enough, so I just took on extra shifts and put it off."

"Me, too," Nancy said wearily. "I've been swamped. Two albums to cut. Mandrake going on tour. Blah blah blah. Who gives a shit, right?"

"Lucia's birthday was today," Vivi said. "We should have been drinking port wine, eating one of those grape focaccias she made. Funny. I hated that thing, but I'd give anything to be crunching grape seeds in my teeth, telling her to get with the new millennium and make fudge brownies. Getting the lecture about the importance of tradition."

"God, Vivi, please, no," Nancy pleaded. "Don't get us going."

The warning came too late. Vivi's face convulsed. The grape focacia set the three of them off. For the umpteenth time.

They carefully avoided each other's eyes when the sobbing eased down. Nell's fingers found Nancy's. "I'm so sorry you had to find her alone," Nell said. "I don't know what I would've done if it had been me."

"Same thing I did," Nancy said wearily. "Called nine one one. Fallen to pieces. I was already nervous. I'd called her two evenings in a row. She didn't pick up. Not like her. So I guess I was braced for it."

"The asshole might have called an ambulance when he saw she was having a heart attack," Vivi said. "The bastard murdered her, even if the coroner did decide not to call it that. Natural causes, my ass. Since when is being scared to death a natural cause?"

"Ironic, isn't it?" Nell mused. "The thief takes the jewelry, the stereo, and the TV, and leaves the Fabergé picture frame and the Cellini bronze. Ignorant dickhead."

"Speaking of which. We can't leave Lucia's fine art here," Nancy said. "You're the sculptor, Vivi. Why don't you take the bronze?"

"Yeah, a priceless Cellini satyr would look great on the dashboard of my van. Right next to the air freshener and the plastic Madonna."

"I thought you were through with the crafts fair circuit," Nancy said. "Didn't you say you wanted to stay in one place these days?"

Vivi shrugged. "Theoretically. Maybe someday. I guess two studio apartments in Manhattan the size of gnats' asses aren't much better than a Volkswagen van for museum-quality art exposition, huh?"

"No way," Nell said. "All I've got are books. Volumes of epic poetry don't have much direct trade value for crystal meth or heroin. How about you, Nance? Isn't your block protected by the Hells Angels?"

Nancy shrugged. "Yeah, but even so. The crack houses the next block over do not inspire confidence. So, what? A safety-deposit box?"

"We can't put Lucia's precious intaglio writing table in a safety-deposit box," Vivi said. "Damn."

The three of them dubiously regarded the table in question.

"Should we get an alarm?" Nell suggested, her voice full of doubt.

Vivi harrumphed. "Seems silly, since the house is empty."

"I'll go out tomorrow and buy a plastic tablecloth," Nancy said. "Something hideous, for camouflage. I'll take the bronze, and you take the picture frame, Nell, until we come up with a better plan."

This attempt at brisk practicality petered out into sad silence. Vivi rolled onto her side. Nancy slid her hand into her sister's long, silky mane.

"It feels so strange," Vivi said quietly. "She was our foundation, wasn't she? Now she's gone, the world's lost all its structure."

Nancy tugged Nell into the embrace. "We'll make a new structure. We've got each other, right? That's what Lucia would have said."

The group hug was a sure detonator for another sob explosion. The doorbell jangled in the middle of their sobfest, making them jump.

"I can't handle another condolence call," Nell whispered, mopping her face. "Check the peephole. Don't make any sound."

Nancy peeked out. A bored-looking young man stood there, holding a box. "Looks like a delivery guy," she told her sisters.

"More flowers?" Vivi asked.

"No, it's a smallish white box." Nancy pulled the door open. "Yes?"

"Special hand delivery from Baruchin's Fine Jewelers," the guy said. "For Lucia D'Onofrio."

"She died a week ago," Nancy said. "Today was the funeral."

The guy blinked rapidly, mouth open. This scenario was not covered by the very simple flowchart in his head. He looked helpless.

Nancy took pity on him. "I'm her daughter. I'll sign for it."

"Ah ... ah ... lemme call my boss." He called, muttered for a moment into his cell, passed the clipboard, waited as she scrawled her name. "Uh, sorry for your loss," he mumbled, abashed.

Nancy took the box into the house. "Baruchin's Fine Jewelers since nineteen thirty-eight," she read. "Anybody else want to do the honors?"

Vivi and Nell exchanged nervous glances. "Go for it," Nell said.

Nancy pried open the seals. Inside were three small identical leather boxes. Nell flipped open each box. They leaned over. Gasped.

A rectangular gold pendant was inside each box. Each was adorned with a delicate cursive letter, each done with a different color of gemstone. The N for Nancy was done in tiny sapphires, the A for Antonella in rubies, and the V for Vivien in emeralds. Diamond brilliants clustered around the letters for contrast. Each pendant had a halo of white, lacy white gold openwork swirling above the top of the rectangle. They were exquisite. It was cruel. The three of them turned away from the table and totally lost it. For at least ten minutes.

Finally, Vivi dragged a shredded Kleenex out and blew her nose. "She was going to give them to us on her birthday," she said.

Nancy nodded, loosening the V from its velvet nest. She reached around Vivi's neck, fastening the clasp. She did the same for Nell, and then her own. "We'll wear them always," she said. "In her honor."

Vivi fled to the kitchen, clutching her pendant in her hand.

Nell clutched hers, her wet eyes faraway. "She saved us, you know," she said. "At least me and Vivi. Maybe not you, Nance. You were born grown up. You could have saved yourself from the cradle. "

"Ouch," Nancy said sourly.

"It's a compliment," Nell said. "I respect and admire you for it."

"Right. Stolid old Nancy," she muttered. "Hit me over the head with a brick. I barely even blink."

"Wrong," Nell snapped. "Solid. Solid is different from stolid. You're tough. Not flaky. Tough is sexy. There's nothing sexy about flaky."

Nancy grunted. "Yeah? Ask any of my ex-fiancés."

"Hell, no." Nell made an exaggerated pantomime of spitting on the ground. "Not unless you want me to slug them out for you."

Vivi burst out of the kitchen, eyes alight. "I found it!" She waved a yellowed scrap of paper in one hand and a wine bottle in the other.

"Found what?" Nancy asked.

"The recipe! For that horrendous grape thing! Schiacciata all'uva! We even have some grapes, with seeds! Elsie left some with the casserole. The recipe's in Italian, but you read Italian, right, Nell?"

Nell adjusted her glasses, took the paper out of Vivi's hand, and peered at it. "The measurements are metric, but we can find a conversion table online with Nancy's BlackBerry," she said.

Nancy was bemused. "I thought you hated the grape thing!"

"Oh, I do," Vivi assured her. "But that doesn't matter. It's the perfect thing for Lucia's wake. Just us three all sniveling together, a couple of bottles of port, and the gross grape focaccia."

Nancy grabbed her and hugged her hard. "Okay," she whispered.

None of them were good at pastry, but they put their hearts into it for Lucia's sake. Their ragged version of sciacchiata all'uva was a far cry from Lucia's elegant traditional Tuscan dish, but whatever. The oven timer did not go off. The smoke detector did. But the quantity of port they had drunk made them indiscriminating enough to actually eat some of it. It was as wonderfully awful as ever, especially burned.

They toasted Lucia until dawn, alternately laughing and crying at the impenetrable mysteries of life and death. The cruelty and the beauty of it. Il dolce e l'amaro, as Lucia would've said. The bitter and the sweet.

Nell leaned out of the passenger-side window of Vivi's gaudily painted Volkswagen van the next morning. "Take-out dinner, eight o'clock, my place," she reiterated forcefully. "Be there."

"If I can," Nancy hedged. "I've got a million things to take-"

"To take care of, yes. You always do, but you still have to eat," Vivi scolded, leaning over Nell's lap from the driver's side.

"If you're not there, we'll think you don't care," Nell warned.

Vivi's taillights glowed in the morning mist until they turned at the corner and were gone. The sky was heavy with bruised-looking clouds. Nancy's head felt bruised, too. No surprise, considering the port they'd sucked down in their drunken revels. Cathartic, yeah, but this morning she felt like something scraped off the bottom of a shoe.

Too bad. Time to get busy and do all the normal things in her crazy schedule, plus everything that had been put off last week because of Lucia's death and funeral. Fortunately for her, frantic activity was her favorite coping mechanism, considering her career choice-an agent manager for singer-songwriters and folk bands. Back in college, she'd wanted to be a musician herself. She'd learned, to her cost, that she didn't have the chops for it, and decided to make the best of it, and help the musicians who did. And that she was good at. Damn good. She had just the detail-minded, dogged determination for it.

She had nudged her handpicked group of folk artists and ensembles out of the pub and coffeehouse concert series circuits and into theaters and more prestigious folk festivals. They were getting better record deals, more airtime on radio stations. Some were poised to break into the big time. If that happened, her hard work would start to pay off. This was the last push toward that glorious day when she could hire a staff, instead of being a one-woman agency. She'd been working sixteen-hour days, sometimes working nights as well, for years.

But that was fine with her. A woman zipping around at three hundred miles an hour, six hands waving like a dancing Shiva, a cell phone in every one of them, did not have time to feel this sour, sucking hole of grief inside her. Or at least, if she did feel it, it would be on the periphery of her consciousness, not smack-dab in the center.

Even so. She pressed her hand against the ache in her middle. It was going to take some crazy scrambling to distract herself from this.

First, something hideous to cover the writing table. She got into her car, zipped down to the dollar store, and stood in the aisle for several minutes pondering the merits of hideous florals or plastic plaid in dull hues of beige and taupe. She concluded that in the understated simplicity of Lucia's front room, the quietly ugly beige and taupe mumbled "Don't notice me," whereas the checks and hideous floral squawked "What's wrong with this picture?" Or perhaps she was giving the burglars too much credit. As if those drugged-up bottom-feeders were going to be listening to what plastic tablecloths whispered to them.

It was raining when she got back. She held the package that held the tablecloth over her head as she darted up the steps.

"Excuse me, miss?"

The deep voice jolted her, and she let the package drop. It slid down the stoop, landing at the feet of a man who stood there. He stooped to pick it up. Rain sparkled on the spiky tips of his short brown hair. He stood, looked up, and her breathing stopped. Everything stopped. Time stopped. Or seemed to.

"Sorry to startle you." His words started the clock again.

That's okay, her lips tried to say, but her lungs were still immobile.

She gave him a jerky nod. Her glasses were spotted with rain. She dried them on her sweater. Even out of focus, he was amazingly good-looking. No, good-looking was too pallid a term. Cut it down to just "amazing."

She couldn't focus in on any particular detail. His broad, strong-boned face was wet with rain, but it was his eyes that did it to her. Beard stubble accented all his chiseled planes and angles of his jaw. His eyes were silvery green, the color so bright it seemed to catch the light and reflect it back. Huge shoulders. Fabulous thighs, nicely shown off by faded jeans, although she'd bet money he wasn't conscious of it. She'd also bet money that he had an ass to match.

He looked solid. Strong. Balanced. Like a rock, an oak, the earth.

He observed her for a timeless moment as the rain pattered down, and she had the sensation that everything important about her was written in a language that he could read in a glance.

She put her glasses back on. In that moment of grace before they spotted up again, she flash memorized every detail. The sweep of the dark hairs of his brows, the grooves that bracketed his mouth.

He wiped rain off his forehead with the sleeve of his wool shirt.

"Are you Nancy D'Onofrio?" he asked.

This epitome of manhood knew her name? She nodded, wishing she hadn't opted not to wash her hair. She'd slicked it into a tight bun. The peeled-onion look. She was still in yesterday's funeral black, and her breath must reek of liquor, considering how hungover she felt.

This guy, by contrast, looked clear eyed, clean living. He'd probably gotten to bed at ten and was up at five to meditate, or do yoga or some such. He probably drank something austere, like green tea. Not the sugared-up, high-test espresso she guzzled to get revved for her crazy days. She saw him in her mind's eye. Shirtless, in a yoga pose.

And, God, what was she even doing having thoughts like this, at a time like this? How freaking shallow was she, anyway?

Distraction, came the answer from a calmer place deep inside. He was eye candy. Fantasy material. Better even than frantic work as a way to not think about the ragged hole in her life. Her eyes were fogging up, and the guy's mouth was moving, and had been for some seconds already. And she'd just been staring at him.

Mouth open, no doubt.

"... Mrs. D'Onofrio here?"

Ah, God. Not again. Irrational anger flared inside her. Why was it always her goddamn duty to announce it to the world? She'd been the one to find Lucia's body. She'd called the cops. She'd called her sisters. She'd told the neighbors. She'd told the delivery people. She'd written the obit. Could somebody else please take a fucking turn?

Not his fault, she reminded herself. She shook her head.

"Lucia's dead," she croaked.

The man's face went blank. "Oh, my God," he said. "When?"

She swallowed hard, rubbed her eyes under her glasses, and tried again. "Last week," she said thickly. "The funeral was yesterday."

He was silent for a long moment. "I am so sorry," he said finally.

There was no good response to that. She'd learned that this week. Painfully. Nancy sniffed and said, "Me, too. Who are you?"


Excerpted from Tasting Fear by Shannon McKenna Copyright © 2009 by Shannon McKenna. 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.

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Tasting Fear 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
curlyloulou More than 1 year ago
Okay Shannon...what is your deal lately??? Seriously. Cutting this book into three parts and making them into little mini rushed romances was annoying. What happened to the good ole days of "Behind Closed Doors" and the like. Do you wanna become a Harlequin novelist with some crazy psychos mixed in??? I did not like Nancy's story at all. She seemed like a snotty bag and he seemed like a wash rag. My fav story was Nell and Duncan. Vivi's story started out promising but nose dived. Sorry but not one to brag about.
jjmachshev on LibraryThing 7 months ago
Stayed awake WAY too late just to finish "Tasting Fear". Shannon McKenna has delivered three stories in one (really thick) volume. The stories are interconnected with an overarching storyline, yet each story could have been published as a standalone and tortured fans into waiting for the next one. For that alone, this is a wonderful book!Three women, adopted as girls by an Italian woman, become sisters. Each 'daughter' has her own personality and her own path to follow. The book opens with the death of the mother, and the early realization by the daughters that it was murder. Their determination to catch the killer is only heightened by the fact that THEY are now being hunted too. A wacko bad guy (or two), a hunky carpenter, a sexy, rather OCD agent, and a former Special Ops turned gardener comprise the main masculine characters. And let me just say...YUM! McKenna sizzles the pages with her special blend of Alpha male dominance and caring. This time out, each of the daughters learns to be strong in her own way and how to depend and care for that most rare of beast...a caring Alpha.Mystery, hot sex, danger, smoking sex, and action (and did I mention the hot sex?) come together to create a page-turning story that demands all a reader's attention. I meant to just read 'one' of the stories and then finish up...HAH! I couldn't put it down and HAD to finish. I enjoyed how each of the sisters had a different personality and that was reflected in their story and their seduction. There weren't too many TSTL (too stupid to live) moments, I could see how and why each one happened and it wasn't outside the realm of possibility. The bad guy is really bad and a real sicko...and so's his boss (think Nazi offspring with all the bad traits). The mystery involves a mysterious hidden 'something' whose story and history gradually unfold throughout all three stories. McKenna's characters all have foibles and strengths in equal measures. Nobody's perfect or a prince, etc. Both heroes and heroines work hard for what they have and have to make life-changing decisions under pressure. These things provide her stories with the aura of reality while still providing a great escape and maybe even make me think about what I would do in the same situation. (Scream and faint most likely...or just jump the hottie!) In any event, while I didn't love ALL three of the stories, I did enjoy the heck out of them. And rather than tell you which one was my favorite, I'll just let you read and guess it on your own.
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MyBookAddictionandMore More than 1 year ago
First off, I have to say I am a huge fan of Shannon McKenna. Her writing was incredible, stories face paced, intriging with great characters and fantastic storylines. This book was different. It was three storylines with the same plot. The women have problems with relationships and sex. Having said this, I still enjoyed the book, but just not as much as her previous ones. Rating: 3 Reviewed by: KellyR,My Book Addiction Reviews
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written, suspenseful, with people who are at least semi-believable. And the love stories are hot and romantic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To much cursing, to much sex to enjoy the story. Not a good read for a person who likes a more wholesome book.
AVoraciousReadr More than 1 year ago
Not the greatest book I've read. The D’Onofrio sisters were adopted by Lucia D’Onofrio when they were young teens in foster care, but they are as close as blood sisters. When their mother is murdered in a burglary, the house is vandalized after the funeral and a scrap of letter is found and a jeweler’s family connected to Lucia’s last gifts to her daughters are murdered the sisters get a bad feeling. A really bad feeling that more is going on and they could be the next targets. This story is told in three parts with each sister getting her own story complete with her own danger and her very own knight in shining armor. It was a bit too convenient that these guys showed up at just the right time when the poor idiot women needed them. Ok. The only thing that kept me reading was the mystery of the homicidal serial killer, his employer and what they were looking for that they were going to such lengths and expense to find. The mystery wasn’t a bad one, but the serial killer was an inept idiot. Though in his own thoughts he did say that while he was a professional (I had my doubts) everything about this job had gone wrong from the very beginning. Ok, I can believe that he was probably usually good at his job and this one was one of those jobs where Murphy’s Law takes over. It happens. He was just a bit too bumbling idiot for me though. The first story with Nancy and Liam did nothing for me but make me alternate between rolling my eyes and grinding my teeth. Nancy was a wimp of the first order and Liam was one of the biggest jerks I’ve come across in a long time. Didn’t like either of them. At all. The second story with Nell and Duncan was my favorite. I actually liked them even though Nell made me mad with all her carelessness when she knew someone was after her. The last story with Vivi and Jack was better than the first, but not by much. I liked Vivi, but Jack was also a jerk. Though it turns out he had his reasons and it’s not always easy to let go of our childhood experiences. So, I hung in there for the mystery and to see the bad guys get what’s coming to them, but it’s not a book I’ll ever reread. Well, ok, I might reread Nell and Duncan’s part, since I liked them and it was a hot story, but not the rest of it. *The publisher provided a copy of this book to me for review. Please see disclaimer page on my blog.
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