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Table of Contents
A Preview of Lifeguard
A Preview of Truth or Die
About the Authors
Books by James Patterson
In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author's intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at email@example.com. Thank you for your support of the author's rights.
NORA COULD FEEL Connor watching her.
He always did the same thing when she packed to leave on one of her trips. He'd lean his six foot three frame against the doorway to his bedroom, his hands buried in the pockets of his Dockers, a frown tugging on his face. He hated the thought of their being apart.
Usually he wouldn't say anything, though. He'd just stand there in silence as Nora filled her suitcase, occasionally taking a sip of Evian water, her favorite. But that afternoon he couldn't help himself.
"Don't go," he said in his deep voice.
Nora turned with a loving smile. "You know I have to. You know I hate this, too."
"But I already miss you. Just say no, Nora—don't go. To hell with them."
From day one, Nora was captivated by how vulnerable Connor allowed himself to be with her. It was in such sharp contrast to his public persona—a very rich and hard-driving hedge-fund manager with his own successful company in Greenwich, with another office in London. His puppy-dog eyes belied the fact that he was built like a lion. Powerful and proud.
Indeed, at the relatively young age of forty, Connor was pretty much king of all he surveyed. And in Nora, thirty-three, he'd found his queen, his perfect soul mate in life.
"You know I could tie you up and keep you from leaving," he said jokingly.
"That sounds like fun," said Nora, playing along. She lifted up the top of her suitcase, which was lying open on the bed. She was searching for something.
"First, though, could you maybe help me find my green cardigan?"
Connor finally chuckled. He got such a kick out of her. Good jokes, bad jokes—it didn't seem to matter. "Do you mean the one with the pearl buttons? It's in the master closet."
Nora laughed. "You were dressing up in my clothes again, weren't you?"
She headed for the cavernous walk-in closet. When she returned, green sweater in hand, Connor had moved to the foot of the bed. He stared at her with a grin and a twinkle in his eye.
"Uh-oh," she said. "I know that look."
"What look?" he asked.
"The one that says you want a going-away present."
Nora thought for a moment before flashing a grin of her own. She dropped the sweater on a chair and slowly walked up to Connor, purposefully stopping just inches from his body. She was wearing only her bra and panties.
"From me, to you," she whispered in his ear, leaning in.
There wasn't that much to unwrap, but Connor took his time anyway. He gently kissed Nora's neck, then her shoulders, his lips tracing an imaginary line downward to the jutting curves of her small, pert breasts. There he lingered. One hand stroking her arm, the other reaching around to remove her bra.
Nora shivered, her body tingling. Cute, funny, and very good in bed. What more could a girl ask for?
Connor knelt and kissed Nora's stomach, his tongue lightly drawing circles around her little wink of a belly button. Then, with a thumb resting on either side of her hips, he began to roll down her panties. He charted the progress with kiss after kiss after kiss.
"That's… very… nice," whispered Nora.
Now it was her turn. As Connor's tall, muscular frame straightened out before her, she began to undress him. Quickly, deftly, but sensually.
For a few seconds they stood still. Perfectly naked. Gazing at each other, taking in each and every detail. God, what could be better than this?
Suddenly Nora laughed. She gave Connor a quick, playful shove, and he fell back onto the bed. He was fully aroused. A prodigious human sundial lying there on the duvet.
Nora reached into her open suitcase and removed a black Ferragamo belt, pulling it taut in her hands.
"Now, what was that about tying somebody up?" she asked.
THIRTY MINUTES LATER, donning a plush pink terry-cloth robe, Nora descended the sprawling staircase of Connor's 11,000-square-foot, three-story neoclassic Colonial. Even by the standards of Briarcliff Manor and the other surrounding towns of tony Westchester, his home was impressive.
It was also impeccably furnished—every room a superb blending of form and function, style and comfort. The very best New York City antiques shops meet the best of Connecticut—Eleish-Van Breems, New Canaan Antiques, the Silk Purse, the Cellar. Signature works by Monet, Hudson River School star Thomas Cole, Magritte. A George III secretary in the library that had once been owned by J. P. Morgan. A humidor originally presented to Castro by Richard Nixon, with provenance documentation. A walk-in wine cellar that held four thousand bottles and was nearly full.
True, Connor had hired one of the very best decorators in New York. In fact, he was so impressed with her, he asked her out on a date. Six months later she was tying him up in bed.
And he'd never felt happier, more excited, more alive in his entire life.
Five years before, he'd found love, marveled at it, treasured it, but his fiancée, Moira, had died of cancer. He'd thought he could never find love again, but suddenly there she was, the amazing Nora Sinclair.
Nora walked through the marble foyer and past the dining room. Before she had to leave, there was just enough time to take pity on the appetite she'd worked up in Connor.
She entered the kitchen, her favorite room in the house. Prior to enrolling at the New York School of Interior Design, she'd thought about becoming a chef. Even gone as far as taking courses at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.
Though she chose to decorate homes instead of plates, cooking remained one of Nora's passions. It relaxed her. Helped clear her mind. Even making something as basic as Connor's favorite: a big, juicy double cheeseburger with onions—and inside, caviar.
Fifteen minutes later, she called out to him, "Honey, it's almost ready. Are you?"
Back in cutoff Dockers and Polo shirt, he made his way downstairs and ambled up behind Nora at the stove. "No place else on earth…"
"… I'd rather be," she said, taking her cue. It was one of their things. A shared mantra. Little testaments of making the most of their time together, which, given their bustling careers, was always at a premium.
He peered over her shoulder as she sliced into a large onion. "They never make you cry, huh?"
"No, I guess they don't."
Connor took a seat at the kitchen table. "When is the car service picking you up?"
"Less than an hour."
He nodded, fidgeted with a place mat. "So where is this client of yours who's making you work on a Sunday?"
"Boston," she answered. "Retired guy who just bought and renovated a huge brownstone in the Back Bay."
Nora cut a kaiser roll and loaded it up with the sizzling double cheeseburger and onions. She grabbed an Amstel Light for Connor and another Evian water for herself from the fridge.
"Better than Smith and Wollensky," he said after the first bite. "With a far more attractive chef, I might add."
Nora smiled. "I've got some Graeter's for you, too. Raspberry Chip." Graeter's was the best ice cream she'd ever tasted, good enough, great enough, to have it shipped all the way from Cincinnati.
Nora took a sip of water and watched him make quick work of her cooking. He always did. Such a healthy appetite! Good for him.
"God, I love you," he suddenly gushed.
"And I love you." Nora stopped and stared into his blue eyes. "I do. I adore you, actually."
He raised his palms in the air. "Then, really, what are we waiting for?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, you've already got more clothes here than I do."
Nora blinked a few times. "Is that your idea of a proposal?"
"No," he said. "This is my idea of one."
He reached into the pocket of his shorts and removed a small box, Tiffany blue. Dropping to one knee, Connor placed it in her hand. "Nora Sinclair, you make me incredibly happy. I can't believe that I found you. Will you marry me?"
With a completely stunned look on her face, Nora opened the box to see an enormous diamond. Tears welled in her green eyes.
"Yes, yes, yes! Yippee-yes!" she cried out. "I'll marry you, Connor Brown! I love you so much."
Pop! went the champagne. Dom Pérignon '85 that he'd chilled in anticipation. He'd also bought a bottle of Jack Daniel's for himself, just in case Nora said no.
With two glasses poured, Connor raised his high and made a toast. "To happily ever after," he said.
"To happily ever after," echoed Nora. "To yippee-yes!"
They clinked glasses, they sipped, they held hands. Madly in love and giddy with excitement, they hugged and kissed.
Soon, though, the celebration was interrupted by a horn in the driveway. Nora's car service had arrived.
She quickly dressed, and moments later, as the limousine started to drive away, Nora called to Connor out the open back window. "I'm the luckiest girl in the world!"
NORA COULDN'T STOP staring at the dazzling ring for most of the ride to the Westchester airport. Connor had done well. The diamond was at least four carats, a brilliant round stone, at least D or E color, and flanked by baguettes. All set beautifully in platinum. It looked amazing on her, she thought. It looks like it belongs.
"Will you be needing a pickup upon your return, Ms. Sinclair?" asked the driver, guiding her out of the Lincoln Town Car in front of the terminal.
"No, I'm all set," she said. "Thank you." She handed the man a handsome tip, popped up the handle on her suitcase, and rolled on inside—past the exceedingly long line for coach check-in and right up to the first-class counter. With each step she could practically hear Connor's voice and the start of one of their other shared mantras.
"Less hassle…," he'd say.
"Is always worth more money," she'd respond.
After a smooth takeoff and a climb to cruising altitude, Nora finally took her eyes off her engagement ring. She opened up the latest issue of House & Garden. One of the feature pictorials was a home she'd decorated for a client out in Connecticut. DARING IN DARIEN, read the title. The shots were glorious, and the accompanying article glowing with praise. The only thing missing was any mention of her name.
Precisely how she wanted it.
An hour later, the plane touched down at Logan Airport. Nora picked up her rental car, a Chrysler Sebring convertible. With the top down and her sunglasses on, she started on her way toward the Back Bay section of Boston.
The presets on the radio led her to believe two things. First, Beantown had too many all-talk stations. Second, the previous driver had no business renting that car. A convertible requires music.
She hit the SEEK button and found a tune to her liking. With her hair blowing freely in the wind and her tan skin soaking up the mid-June sun, she sang along with a classic. "I Only Have Eyes for You" by the Flamingos.
Soon Nora pulled up to a magnificent old brownstone on Commonwealth Avenue just down from the Public Garden. The relative quiet of a summer Sunday afternoon had lent itself to a bit of luck: a visitor space in front. "Goodie," Nora said.
She shifted into park and spent a moment making a minor adjustment to her hair. Barrette? No barrette? Barrette! Before reaching for the door, she glanced at her watch. It was showtime.
AS SHE WALKED up to the oversize double doors of the old brownstone, Nora reached inside her purse for the key she'd been given when Jeffrey Walker first hired her. With the place so big and the buzzer a little temperamental, he'd asked that she just let herself in. A little voice in her head whispered, Sweet.
"Hello? Is anyone here?" Nora called as she stepped inside. "Hello? Mr. Walker?"
She stood in the center of the foyer and listened. Then she heard the distant sound of Miles Davis and his magnificent trumpet trickling down from the second floor.
She called out again. This time she heard footsteps overhead.
"Nora, is that you?" came a voice from atop the stairs.
"Were you expecting someone else?" she answered. "You better not be."
Jeffrey Walker hurried down to the foyer. Then he swept Nora up in his arms. He twirled her around as they kissed for a full minute. Then they kissed again.
"God, you're so beautiful!" he said, finally lowering her back to the floor.
She gave him a playful punch to the stomach with her left hand. Connor's four-carat diamond had already been replaced by Jeffrey's six-carat sapphire set with diamonds in a three-stone arrangement.
"I bet you say that to all your wives," she said.
"No, just the gorgeous ones like you. God, I missed you, Nora. Who wouldn't?"
They laughed and kissed again, deeply and passionately.
"So, tell me, how was your flight?" he asked.
"Good. For commercial anyway. How's the new book coming?"
"It's no War and Peace. No Da Vinci Code, either."
"You always say that, Jeffrey."
"It's always true."
At age forty-two, Jeffrey Sage Walker was an international bestselling author of historical fiction. He had fans numbering in the millions, the majority of them women. They liked his writing and strong female characters, but his rough-hewn handsomeness on the dust jacket certainly didn't hurt. Never had tussled bleached-blond hair and razor stubble looked so good.
Suddenly he swooped Nora up and threw her over his shoulder. She howled as he climbed the stairs.
Jeffrey was headed for the bedroom, but Nora grabbed a doorjamb and made him turn into his library. She had her eye on his favorite chair—the one he did his writing in. "You always say you do your best work in it," she said. "Let's see about that."
He lowered her into the worn brown leather seat cushion and changed the music. Norah Jones, one of their favorites.
As the singer's strong smoky voice began to build slowly and engulf the room, Nora leaned back and lifted her legs. Jeffrey removed her sandals, her capri pants, her panties. He helped her off with her favorite green cardigan while she reached down into his jeans.
"My handsome, brilliant husband," she whispered as she pulled down his pants.
THAT EVENING NORA COOKED, a penne with a vodka sauce she made from scratch. A tossed salad and a bottle of Brunello from Jeffrey's private cellar. Dinner was served. Everything just so. The way he liked it.
They ate and talked about his new novel, which was set during the French Revolution. Jeffrey had only just returned from Paris days earlier. He was a stickler for authenticity in his writing and insisted on traveling for research. With Nora having her own busy work schedule, they were apart more than they were together. In fact, they had been married on a Saturday, in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and had flown home on Sunday. No mess, no fuss, no records in the States, either. It was a very modern marriage.
"You know, Nora, I was thinking," he said, digging his fork into the last of his penne. "We should really take a trip together."
"Maybe you can give me that honeymoon you've been promising."
He put a hand to his heart and smiled. "Darling, every day I spend with you is a honeymoon."
Nora smiled back. "Nice try, Mr. Famous Writer, but I'm not letting you off with a cute line."
"Okay. Where do you want to go?"
"How about the south of France?" she offered. "We could shack up at the Hôtel du Cap."
"Or Italy?" he said, holding up his glass of wine. "Tuscany?"
"Hey, I know—why don't we do both?"
Jeffrey threw his head back and roared laughter. "There you go again," he said, his index finger waving in the air. "Always wanting it all. And why not?"
They finished up dinner, talking more possible destinations for the honeymoon. Madrid, Bali, Vienna, Lanai. The only thing settled as they split a pint of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia was to get a travel agent involved.
By eleven they were snuggling in bed. Husband and wife. So very much in love.
THE NEXT DAY at a few minutes past noon, on the corner of Forty-second and Park in front of Grand Central Station, a woman screamed. A second woman turned her head to look and she screamed, too. The man beside her muttered, "Holy shit." Then they all ran for cover.
Something very bad was happening. A train wreck, so to speak, just outside one of the most famous train stations in the world.
The chain reaction of fear and confusion quickly cleared everyone from the sidewalk. Everyone, except for three people.
One was a fat man with dense sideburns, thinning hair, and a dark mustache. He was dressed in an ill-fitting brown suit with wide lapels. Wider still was his shiny blue tie. On the ground by his feet was a medium-size suitcase.
Next to the fat man was a young woman, perhaps mid-twenties, attractive. She had red hair that hung straight down to her shoulders, lots of freckles on her face. She wore a short plaid skirt and a white tank top. A beat-up knapsack hung over one shoulder.
The fat man and the young woman couldn't have looked any more different. However, at that moment they were very much connected.
By a gun.
"If you come any closer, I'll kill her!" barked the fat man with a thick, Middle Eastern accent. He jammed the cold steel of the barrel hard against her temple. "I swear, I'll shoot her dead. I'll do it in a second. No problem for me."
The threat was directed at the third person remaining on the sidewalk—a guy standing maybe ten feet away, wearing baggy gray khakis and a black T-shirt. He looked like a typical enough tourist. From the Pacific Northwest, perhaps. Oregon? The state of Washington? A runner maybe. Somebody in decent shape anyway.
And then he pulled a gun.
The Tourist took a step closer, his gun pointed at the forehead of the fat man with the mustache. Dead center, actually. The Tourist didn't seem to care that the young woman was in his line of fire.
"No problem for me, either," he said.
"I said stop!" said the fat man. "Don't come any closer. Stay where you are."
The Tourist ignored him. He took another step.
"I swear, I'll fucking kill her!"
"No, you won't," said the Tourist calmly. "Because if you shoot her, I'll shoot you." He took another step forward but then stopped. "Think it through, friend. I know you can't afford to lose what's in that suitcase. But is it worth your life?"
The fat man squinted and suddenly looked to be in great pain. He appeared to be thinking about what the Tourist had said. Or maybe not. Then a maniacal smile filled his face. He cocked his gun.
"Pleeeeease," begged the young woman, trembling. "Pleeeeease." Tears poured from her eyes. She could barely stand.
"Shut up!" the fat man yelled in her ear. "Shut the hell up! I can't hear myself think!"
The Tourist stood his ground, his flinty blue eyes locked on one thing: the man's trigger finger.
He didn't like what he saw.
The fat bastard was going to shoot the girl, wasn't he? And that just wasn't acceptable.
"WHOA," the Tourist announced with a raised palm. "Take it easy, my man." He took a step backward, chuckled to himself. "Who am I kidding, right? I'm not that good of a shot. No way I could be sure to get you and not the girl."
"That's right," said the fat man, hugging the young woman even tighter with his puffy right arm. "So, you tell me now, who's in charge?"
"You are," said the Tourist with a deferential nod. "Just tell me what you want me to do, my friend. Hell, if you want, I'll lay my gun down on the sidewalk, okay?"
The man stared hard at the Tourist. His squint returned. "Okay, but slowly you do this," he said.
"Of course. Easy-peasy-Japaneasy. Wouldn't have it any other way."
The Tourist began to lower his gun, and a gasp could be heard from behind a nearby telephone kiosk. Another gasp followed from behind a parked delivery van on Forty-second Street. The looky loos who'd run for cover but still had to watch the unfolding events were all thinking the same thing: Don't do it, buddy. Don't give up your gun. He's going to kill you! And her, too!
The Tourist bent his knees and crouched down. He gingerly placed the gun on the sidewalk.
"See, nice and easy," he said. "Now what do you want me to do?"
The fat man began to laugh, his fluffy, unkempt mustache bunching up beneath his nose. "What do I want you to do?" he said. The laughing grew even louder. He could hardly contain himself.
Suddenly he stopped laughing. His face went rigid. The man removed the gun from the side of the young woman's head and aimed it straight in front of him. "What I want you to do is die."
That's when he made his move.
In the blink of an eye, in one fast, efficient move, he reached up his pant leg and pulled a Beretta 9 mm from his shin holster. He whipped his arm forward and fired, the crack! echoing before anyone knew what had happened. Including the fat man.
The hole in his forehead was about the size of a dime, and for a moment he froze like a statue, an oversize Buddha. The onlookers screamed, the young woman with the knapsack fell to her knees, and with a horrific thud, the fat man collapsed to the dirty, littered sidewalk. His blood spurted like a water fountain.
As for the Tourist, he returned the Beretta to his shin holster and the other gun to his fanny pack. He stood up and walked over to the suitcase. He picked it up and carried it to a blue Ford Mustang that was double-parked on the street. The engine had been running the entire time.
"Have a nice day, ladies and gentlemen," he said to the people who'd been watching him in stunned silence. "You're a lucky girl." He saluted the woman holding the knapsack tightly in front of her chest.
The Tourist then climbed behind the wheel of the Mustang and drove off.
With the suitcase.
THE LIGHT TURNED GREEN and the New York City cabbie hit the gas pedal as if he were trying to squash a bug. What he really almost squashed was a bike messenger—that rare breed of daring and death wish for which red lights and stop signs are merely a crazy suggestion, an un-joke.
As the cabbie slammed on his brakes in the middle of the intersection, the messenger swerved and kept right on going, his speeding bike missing the bumper of the cab by no more than an inch.
"Asshole!" screamed the messenger over his shoulder.
"Up yours!" the cabbie yelled, flipping him the bird. He glanced at Nora in the backseat and shook his head in disgust. Then he floored it again as if nothing had happened.
Nora shook her head and smiled.
It was good to be home.
The cabbie continued his mad dash south on Second Avenue toward lower Manhattan. After a few blocks of relative silence, he switched on the radio. It was 1010 News.
A man with a deep, mellifluent voice was just finishing up a report on the latest city-budget crisis when he announced that there was breaking news in midtown. He turned it over to a female reporter who was at the scene.
"Just about a half hour ago, a tense, if not somewhat bizarre, situation unfolded here at the corner of Forty-second and Park Avenue outside Grand Central Station."
The reporter described how a man took a young woman hostage at gunpoint, only to be shot dead by another man whom onlookers believed to be an undercover police officer.
"Except when the police finally did arrive, it became clear that the man was not affiliated in any way with the NYPD. In fact, at this time, no one seems to know who he is. After the shooting he fled from the scene—but not before first absconding with a large suitcase belonging to the dead man."
As the reporter promised more on the story as it developed, the cabbie let out a long sigh and glanced in his rearview mirror. "Just what this city needs, huh?" he said. "Another vigilante on the loose."
"I doubt that's what it is," Nora said.
"The suitcase. Whatever happened—and why—obviously has to do with what's inside it."
The cabbie shrugged his shoulders, then nodded. "Yeah, you're probably right. So what do you think it is?"
"I don't know," said Nora. "But you can bet it wasn't dirty clothes."
THERE WAS A QUOTE from someone, somewhere, that Nora loved and also believed with all her heart: One's real life is almost always the life one doesn't lead.
Well, not this girl's life.
- On Sale
- Jan 2, 2006
- Page Count
- 400 pages
- Grand Central Publishing