Sometimes Your Biggest Fan ...
Science-fiction writer Nicole Collins is delighted to learn her first book will be made into a movie by Celestial Productions -- until she finds out who owns the company: Malcolm Bryant, her ex-husband. Nicole still loves him, but she knows Malcolm is still the same man who crumbles in the face of adversity. And then there are those threatening letters ...
Somewhere out there is a deranged fan, one who has adopted Nicole's characters as his own family ... and he's not about to see his loved ones distorted by the camera lens. Once Malcolm's business partner is mysteriously killed, Nicole realizes this is no movie script -- her life is now in danger. With a demented killer fan closing in, the only person who may be able to save Nicole is Malcolm -- the man she so desperately hopes will finally make a stand ...
|Product dimensions:||4.26(w) x 6.80(h) x 0.87(d)|
Read an Excerpt
You Belong To Me
By Patricia Sargeant
Kensington Publishing Corp.Copyright © 2006 Patricia Sargeant-Matthews
All right reserved.
Chapter One"What are you doing here?"
Nicole Collins pitched her voice low in the elegant hotel restaurant. Still, she managed to interrupt the introductions between her literary agent, Denise Maitland, and the two men who stood in front of their table.
Malcolm Bryant turned toward her, a wariness in his cocoa eyes. His chiseled brown face hadn't changed much in the past four years. Perhaps it was even more appealing now, as was his six-foot-plus frame. No, appealing was the wrong word. The writer in her searched her mental thesaurus for something more appropriate. Compelling, she decided. He was more compelling and more confident. A self-assured stranger in a tailored, dark blue suit.
"I co-own the company that optioned for the movie rights to your book." His deep-sea voice washed over her. It still had the power to sweep her away.
"You own the production company?" She spoke through numb lips.
"Co-own." He inclined his head toward the tall, well-dressed man beside him. "This is my partner, Tyrone Austin."
Nicole glanced at the smiling stranger before returning her attention to the man in front of her, and the memories of broken vows and tragic loss. She folded her hands in her lap, hoping that would stop their shaking.
"Nicky,what's wrong?" Denise asked.
She turned toward her agent. "Did you know he owned the company?"
"Of course." Denise regarded her with a confused expression on her dark, round face. "Does it matter?"
"It matters." If she had known Malcolm was Celestial Productions, she wouldn't be here.
Nicole scanned the room. Couples and groups of friends enjoyed lunch and quiet conversation. Now and then, bubbles of laughter floated across the silence, then faded away. He had brought her here. Paid for her to fly first class across the country to Los Angeles, back to his territory. Reserved a suite for her in a luxury hotel. Invited her to a business lunch in the hotel's four-star restaurant. And then, once she was lulled into a false sense of security, he'd changed her dream to a nightmare by reappearing-and bringing the painful past with him.
Nicole returned her attention to him as she stood. His gaze tracked her, and his firm lips stopped moving. She hadn't heard a word he'd said.
"I can't do this," she stated.
"What?" Denise half-rose from her chair.
Nicole picked up her purse and walked out of the dining room. She squared her shoulders, tilted her chin, and kept her vision straight ahead. She couldn't do anything about her shaking knees, though. She'd lost her temper-and probably her agent. She hated herself for running away from Malcolm. But she'd hate herself more if she stayed and did something stupid, like burst into tears.
A crowd waited in front of the elevators. The doors opened as Nicole approached. She stepped on and noticed someone had selected her floor. The crowd thinned as the elevator rose, seeming to stop at every floor. Nicole stood, outwardly calm in the center of the packed car, but inside turbulent emotions filled her. Anger. Sorrow. Regret.
Finally reaching her floor, Nicole and several other passengers disembarked and separated in the hallway. She located her room and pulled her key card from her purse. She started to slip it into the security lock when a dark hand grasped her wrist, the long fingers warm against her pulse.
"We have to talk," he murmured.
Malcolm Bryant felt the pulse jump in Nicole's delicate wrist as he leaned over her, his chest against her slender back. He could feel her warmth as he breathed her soft fragrance-a mixture of the soap she used and her natural scent that still stirred him, even in his dreams.
"We have to talk," he repeated.
An older couple stepped from the room across the hall. Malcolm caught their curious stare before they moved along.
"We can stay out here if you want," he murmured into the shell of Nicole's ear. "But we'll probably attract a lot of attention. Personally, I'd prefer to talk in your room. Either way, we will talk."
"Fine." She pulled free of him and pushed open the door. "We'll talk in the room."
Nicole crossed the thick, turquoise carpet, walking past the dining section and small living area to the sliding glass doors on the opposite side of the suite. She tossed her purse on the mahogany conversation table between two matching overstuffed chairs, folded her arms across her chest, and turned to face him.
She was backlit by the window, which offered a glimpse of the sun straining to penetrate the Los Angeles skyline. The cream-colored pantsuit flowed over her, masking her figure. But he could tell from her face that she was a lot more slender, almost fragile. Her thick, nearly black hair was longer and was gathered in a clip at the nape of her neck. Small stud earrings were her only accessory. The conservative, polished businesswoman before him was very different from the free spirit he had known four years ago.
The scene is set, Malcolm thought, strolling into the living area. He shoved his hands into his trouser pockets, biting back the urge to ask how she'd been the past four years. Business, he told himself. Stick to business. Emotions always got him into trouble.
"Celestial Productions offered a fair market price for the movie rights to InterDimensions. And we've agreed to your other terms," he began.
"You misrepresented your company, Malcolm. You knew I wouldn't have anything to do with Celestial Productions if I knew you owned it. Can you deny that?" she prompted when he didn't speak.
"No." He watched resentment darken her catlike eyes. She lowered her arms and balled her hands into fists. Even from across the room, he could feel her vibrating with anger.
"You were probably disappointed when I insisted on meeting Celestial Productions's principals." Her smooth inflection barely masked the throb of fury in her voice.
"No, I wasn't." Malcolm kept his tone reasonable. "If I'd wanted to keep my identity a secret from you, I could have. I didn't have to come to lunch today."
"Then how would your partner have explained your absence?"
"We would have thought of something. The point is, I never hid from you. When your agent asked for information about our company, we gave her everything. You must not have asked to see it. My name was all over those papers."
Malcolm saw the flicker of doubt in Nicole's eyes before she lowered her gaze.
"After you walked out on me, I never thought you would willingly come anywhere near me again," she said. "But Denise told me Celestial Productions approached her."
Malcolm pushed away the guilt her words evoked, reminding himself he wasn't the only one to blame for their relationship failing.
"Nicky, you pushed me away. After-"
"Don't." She held up a slim hand, pain clouding her ebony eyes. "I don't want to talk about it, Malcolm."
He dropped his gaze to hide his own pain. "Fair enough." Business. Stick to business. "Ty and I are very excited about the idea of owning the movie rights to InterDimensions. We enjoy science fiction, and we'd do a good job with your book."
Nicole turned toward the window. "And you'd give me everything I asked for. Allow me final approval on the screenplay and input on the shooting locations, the cast, and the final cut."
"Yes." Malcolm frowned at the tightness of her tone.
"Tempting." Nicole turned back to him. "But deals with the devil usually are."
Malcolm felt his nostrils flare. Heat rushed into his cheeks. "You've gone too far. I understand this is a shock to you. I had time to get used to the idea of seeing you again. You didn't have time to get used to seeing me. But there's no reason for personal attacks."
"There's every reason." Nicole seemed to gather herself. Her deep breaths lifted her chest beneath the loose-fitting jacket. "Does Denise know about us?"
"Of course not. That's personal. This is business."
She looked troubled. "Malcolm, I can't do business with you. There are too many ... difficult memories behind us."
"Please leave." Her tone emerged between a plea and a command.
Malcolm started to speak, then reconsidered. She was too agitated to continue this discussion. A discussion that hadn't started well and had deteriorated badly. His gaze lowered to watch her hand press against her abdomen. He flinched, and her hand dropped away.
"You're right." His voice sounded rough to his ears. "We both need some space. We'll talk more tomorrow."
"No, we won't. I'm getting a flight back to New York tonight."
He frowned. "Nicky-"
She shook her head, her voice resigned. "Good-bye, Malcolm."
He looked into her shuttered eyes. She'd closed him out as firmly as if she'd locked a door against him. Pleading with her wouldn't remove the barrier; beating against it wouldn't make it go away. He'd tried those tactics unsuccessfully more than four years ago.
He studied her, this remote, composed woman, and wondered with regret how deep she'd buried the Nicole Collins he'd known. And how much of her demise was his fault. A part of her must still be alive, though, Malcolm thought. The part that had created the fantasy world of the InterDimensions series with its warm, close-knit family. That was the Nicole he needed to reach. But, he realized, looking into her eyes again, not today. She wouldn't listen to him today. Without a word, Malcolm turned and walked out, shutting the door behind him.
Nicole was shaking so much, she couldn't convince her legs to carry her to the overstuffed chairs. Instead she sank onto the carpet.
Her mind stayed blank for several minutes before clicking back on. But the memories weren't happy ones. She pressed a damp palm to her stomach. Years ago, their lives had been perfect. But then the foundation had crumbled, and she and Malcolm hadn't been able to regain their footing. At least not together.
An impatient fist pounded on her door. Nicole closed her eyes. Please let it not be Malcolm. They had nothing more to say to each other.
"Nicky, open up," Denise commanded. "I know you're in there." Denise. Nicole groaned. Could we try curtain number three? Still, Denise was her agent and her friend. She knew the other woman deserved an explanation for her seemingly bizarre behavior. After all, Denise had worked hard to put this deal together for her-at her request. Nicole scrubbed her palms over her face, then pushed herself to her feet and walked across the room on still-wobbly legs. She checked the peephole to make sure her agent was alone, then let her in.
Denise marched across the plush carpet in three-inch, fire-engine-red stilettos. A form-fitting, scarlet dress wrapped her curvaceous figure. She stopped in front of the glass doors and spun back toward Nicole.
"What's the problem? Why did you call off the deal? Do you know how long and hard I worked to pull this off?"
"So this is about you?" Nicole knew from past experience that putting Denise on the defensive was the fastest way to calm her so they could discuss things reasonably.
"You know this isn't about me." Denise frowned, pointing one cherry-red fingernail in Nicole's direction. "But after all the time and energy I put into this deal, I deserve to know why you pulled out of it."
"Because I knew I wouldn't be able to work with the producers." "How did you know that?" Denise's voice hovered less than one pitch below exasperation. "You hadn't even met them."
Nicole wandered into the living area and sat on the armchair facing the window. Denise was right, Nicole thought. Her agent deserved to know why she had walked away from Celestial Productions's offer. Nicole wondered how much she could tell Denise without revealing the painful details. What would her friend accept?
"You knew Malcolm," Denise accused. "You've met him before. When?"
Nicole sighed. "I met him in college."
"And, Denise, the rest is private."
Denise studied her with a shrewd, dark gaze. Nicole hated that look. It made her feel as though her friend could reach into every dark corner of her mind and find out what she'd had for breakfast, how many hours of sleep she'd had, and the date of her last confession.
"So, this is personal?" Denise's understanding tone put Nicole on instant alert.
"And you're going to let it affect your professional life? Our professional lives?" Denise baited.
Nicole drew a sharp breath and inclined her head. "Direct hit."
It was frightening how well they knew each other's strengths and weaknesses after three years. Her agent knew Nicole wore her professionalism like a shield.
Denise slapped her full thigh in frustration, her cherry-red lips drawn tight. She turned away, running her hand through her close-cropped hair. The dangling globes she called earrings spun.
With a gusty sigh, Denise propped her hands on her well-rounded hips and turned back to Nicole. "Then how about fairness? I put six months into this deal. That's a lot of time and a lot of work. I deserve to know how you think I failed you."
"You didn't fail me," Nicole retorted instantly. "He did. He failed me four years ago." She bowed her head and rubbed her eyes with a thumb and two fingers, furious with herself for the sting of tears.
"Who did? Malcolm Bryant?"
"Yes," Nicole whispered.
"How?" Denise's tone was a perfect blend of confusion and frustration.
Nicole hid her face in her hands, unable to face her admission. "He left me." She lowered her hands and stared at the floor. "Four years ago, he walked out on me. The next thing I knew, I was being served with divorce papers."
The silence was deafening.
"Divorce papers?" Denise breathed.
Nicole lifted her gaze to Denise's wide eyes. "Malcolm Bryant is my ex-husband."
"That went badly," Tyrone remarked.
Malcolm noted his partner's bland tone and judged the other man had counted to ten a thousand times while they waited for the valet to retrieve his car. Now, as Tyrone inched the car south on the interstate toward their Inglewood office, he apparently considered himself calm enough to discuss the aborted meeting.
Malcolm sighed silently and prepared to relive his most recent failure. "We knew going in we had a fifty-fifty chance of pulling this off."
"We should have called her before she came to L.A.," Tyrone said, repeating his previous argument.
"She wouldn't have come," said Malcolm, restating his previous response.
"Well, she came, took one look at us-or rather you-and walked out. Now what?" "I don't know."
In his mind, Malcolm imagined warm, laughing eyes growing cold and distant over the years. The Nicole he knew would have listened to him, if not today, then the next day. She had a temper like a summer storm. It rained briefly, and then the sun came out. The Nicole he had confronted today had frozen over. How was he going to get her to talk to him now when he hadn't been able to convince her in the past?
"You're going to have to think of something." Tyrone's voice grew terse. "When we get back to the office, send her flowers."
"I can't," Malcolm admitted.
"Two reasons. First, flowers wouldn't work with Nicole. This is business." Malcolm paused. "Second, she's probably on her way to the airport by now. Or she will be by the time we get back to the office."
"What?" Tyrone snapped his gaze from the crawling traffic to stare at Malcolm. With his small, rimless glasses, he looked like an angry math professor. "She's supposed to stay through Friday."
"She dropped the deal, remember? Apparently, she doesn't think she has a reason to stay another two days."
"Great." Tyrone struck the steering wheel with his broad palm. His dark face flushed. "That's just great." He sat glaring at the traffic. "You need to fix this, Mal. I don't care how. Just fix it."
"I will, Ty." (Continues...)
Excerpted from You Belong To Me by Patricia Sargeant Copyright © 2006 by Patricia Sargeant-Matthews. Excerpted by permission.
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
This is a solid read which means that while it's decent there is something missing. It's not the best and definitely not the worst story that I've read; albeit that determination is subjective in nature. I recommend the read so that you can judge for yourself.
I fell in love with this book. This was my first romantic novel and I was not dissapointed at all. The author illustrates the plot in great detail and explination that I truly felt I was in the story. The characters were very down to earth for that reason, I related to them in several ways. Alhough this is true, they still had their own unforgetable identity. The plot of this novel was suspenseful and unpredictable. I was shocked at countless points in this story. I was on my toes throughout the entire thing. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who loves suspense and a good love story.
You Belong to Me is a keeps-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat romantic suspense from an exciting new author, Patricia Sargeant. A divorced couple, Nicole Collins and Malcolm Bryant, are reunited when his movie production company buys the rights to her science-fiction book series. Not only does the couple have to face unresolved emotions, but they discover there's someone who's deadly determined to stop their movie from being made. Their very survival depends on their ability to work together to catch a killer. I enjoyed taking the roller-coaster ride along with Nicole and Malcolm, as they faced a murderous threat and struggled to deal with their past and their love. The insider look at the publishing industry and the movie-making business was fascinating and added a layer of detail to an already outstanding story. The characters were compelling--including the secondary ones--and easy to root for. And the plot twists were clever and unpredictable. I look forward to reading more by this talented author!