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Face of Danger
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around May 1, 2011. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Assistant Special Agent in Charge Colton Lang isn’t above using his well-worn rulebook to stop Vivi’s latest walk on the wild side. But when they learn her client is involved in something far more insidious than bad acting, Vivi and Colt must work together despite the electrifying attraction arcing between them. For each new clue is bringing them closer to a high-profile crime with a dark and deadly truth at its core . . . and a cold, calculating murderer with nothing left to lose.
Table of Contents
A Preview of Edge of Sight
A Preview of Shiver of Fear
ACTRESS ISOBEL DESOTO FOUND DEAD IN HER HOME
Second Oscar Winner's Death Fuels Conspiracy: Coincidence, Curse, or Red Carpet Killer?
Los Angeles, California, April 18
The body of Oscar-winning actress Isobel DeSoto, 36, was found in her Malibu Canyon home early this morning by her housekeeper. Sources close to the investigation say numerous prescription medications were found at the scene.
The actress was last seen leaving the Hollywood Hills home of director Angus Gaites, where she attended a dinner party given in honor of her recent Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as a young widow in the film The Devil's Compass, directed by Gaites. Ms. DeSoto's death is fueling a groundswell of Internet and media speculation regarding the untimely deaths of two consecutive winners of the Best Actress Oscar. One year ago, just weeks after winning the Academy Award for her leading role as Madame de Pompadour in the blockbuster film Hall of Mirrors, actress Adrienne Dwight lost control of her car and careened over a Los Angeles hillside to what has been officially called an accidental death.
Assistant Director Joseph Gagliardi, head of the Criminal Programs Division of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office, has confirmed that the investigation is being turned over to the FBI, indicating that authorities think these deaths could be the act of a serial killer.
When asked about the reaction of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, President Gilbert Gordon confirmed that nothing about the Oscar tradition would change. However, a source within the Academy added that "if there's a Red Carpet Killer, then next year's nominees may very well be hoping to lose."
The Bunker Hill Bridge cast a long shadow over the sea of slate gray concrete bowls and ramps, the whine of traffic competing with the constant whirl of BMX and skate wheels on concrete. It was music to Vivi Angelino's ears.
Trotting down the hill from one of the viewing areas, she scooped up a discarded napkin that had blown from the refreshment stand and popped it into the trash. Charles River Skate Park was her baby, and even the smallest piece of trash marred its perfection.
Switching her board from one hand to the other, she paused at the bottom of the half-pipe to watch as some kid attempted a five-forty McTwist. A thrum of empathetic exhilaration pulsed through her as the skater sailed into the air and spun gracefully into the move.
Vivi had yet to land the five-forty, but when she did it would be here, at the Boston park she'd spent every spare minute raising money and corralling support to build.
The McTwister wiped out right in front of her with a slam and a loud "Sonofabitch!"
Vivi walked over to help the kid up, offering knuckles to the failed skater. "You'll get it."
"Damn right I will," he said, popping up even though his butt had to burn. "The McTwist is better than sex."
"I wouldn't know," she said, half to herself as she checked out the top of the ramp. "Haven't tried it yet."
The cement reflected silver white in the rare winter sunshine, a gift on a Sunday in February, when the weather gods usually tortured Boston with snow.
The pipe was crowded, so she decided to cruise the park some more and give herself mental back pats for the all the hard volunteer work she'd done. All the years of trips to City Hall, all the presentations to council members, all the free time she'd sacrificed had been worth it to give the skaters of Boston a home for their passion. These kids, city rats most of them, had no idea how to rally politicians and city leaders to get what they wanted. But Vivi was older—though no less passionate about her pastime—and remembered how frustrating it could be to be a teenager with no voice.
So she'd been their voice, and this glorious jigsaw of concrete and grass was the result. She eyed the strategically placed viewing areas where parents and partners, newbs and wannabes looked out over the courses and—shit. Her heart dropped like a longboard on the eight-foot ramp.
"What the hell is he doing here?"
Assistant Special Agent in Charge Colton Lang stood with strong hands gripping the rail, broad shoulders tensed in determination, his relentless gaze sweeping over the ramps like a deadly sniper intent on finding his next victim.
Lang was the very last person she'd ever expect to see at Charles River Skate Park.
He'd only make fun of it. Tease her for being a little old for a skateboard.
Not that his opinion mattered. He was a client of her security and investigation firm, and this was a nonworking Sunday morning. Who cared if he saw her hanging at the park she had built?
She did. She cared too freaking much about everything that concerned Colt Lang. And that was her problem. Her dirty little secret problem.
So what the hell was this uptight white-bread FBI agent doing on her sacrosanct skate park grounds, wrecking her perfectly awesome Sunday morning? How could he have found her here?
And now he would see her with three inches of hair standing on end from her last trip down the vert pipe, her face damp with sweat, her clothes hanging off her like she'd grabbed them from her bedroom floor and stepped in without even glancing in the mirror. Because, well, she had.
But it doesn't matter, right, Viviana? He's just a client.
She stole another look, and saw him take his phone out of his pocket.
Maybe he wouldn't recognize her—he'd have to have a really excellent eye to pick her up in this sea of skaters, every single one wearing the same uniform of baggy top and cargo pants, sunglasses, and helmet.
Inside the pocket of her cargo pants, her phone rang. Damn. He was calling her.
She turned, trying to use her board to shield herself as she slipped the phone out, hoping he wasn't scanning the crowd to spot anyone answering a cell phone at that moment. It would be so like him to use that sneaky tactic to find her.
"Yeah?" The word sounded as on edge as he made her feel.
"Yeah?" His baritone tickled her ear. "That's how you answer the phone?"
"Oh, so sorry, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of Proper Phone Etiquette and Manners. Let's have a do-over." She cleared her throat. "Good morning, Mr. Lang. Viviana Angelino at your service—despite the fact that it is Sunday morning and I am not anywhere near the Guardian Angelinos office. How can I help you?"
He laughed, a mix of a grunt and a low catch in his throat, hating, absolutely hating, that the sound sent a little jolt right down to her toes.
"Turn around," he ordered.
Goddamn him. "What are you talking about?"
"I think I see you, but I need you to turn around."
"You see me? I'm in church right now, so I seriously doubt that you see me."
"Church? Right. You're worshipping at the altar of Airwalk."
How'd he know that brand? And what made her think she could lie to him?
"Turn around, Vivi." He said her name just the way she liked it: Vee-vee. He drew out those twin syllables and made those long e's sound… sexy.
Still, she refused to move. "Just tell me what you want, Lang." She'd long ago dispensed with his unwieldy title, since she got it wrong most of the time anyway. He'd told her it was proper to call an ASAC "Mr. Lang" but she'd dropped the "Mr." after their first case together. And he didn't seem to care.
"I want you to turn around."
"Do you have a job for the Guardian Angelinos?" she asked.
The single syllable, invasive, and, oh Lord, sexy, punched her gut. "Do you need a report on the assignment that Zach is currently working on?"
"Do you have a big fat check to give me for all the consulting work we do on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation?"
"Then go away and I'll see you at our scheduled meeting Monday at eleven o'clock."
A hand landed on her shoulder, making her jump.
"No." He tightened his grip and eased her around. "Turn around."
She felt the heat of his body behind her, his presence so strong it made her go weak behind the knee pads.
"Damn you, Lang." She pivoted, her gaze landing on the Izod logo on his chest, his jacket hanging open to confirm what she already suspected. He was a nerd who wore collared pullovers. And they fit like a dream.
With one finger, he gently tapped the brim of her helmet. "This is very cute, Angelino."
"I told you I hate to be called—"
"Cute. I know."
The air cooled her sweaty head when he took the helmet off. Great. Helmet hair.
His smile deepened and his hazel eyes glinted gold and green. "What else could you call this, other than cute?"
She stepped back and glared at him. What the hell did she care what Lang thought of her? "This is my Sunday special. I'm off the clock right now, Lang, so what do you want?"
"A good security specialist and investigator is never off the clock," he said, all condescension and good reason. "I thought you were a little business-owning tigress, working tirelessly to build your new organization into a force in the security industry."
"Remind me never to confide anything in you again." Anything. Especially her fantasies.
She eased the longboard between them, desperate to put any kind of barrier between them.
Lang seemed to be getting way too much enjoyment from her disheveled state. Of course he was amused. He'd cruised into her world like a package of perfection—not a chestnut hair out of place, his stupid preppy shirt pressed like it just came off the rack at Bloomingdale's and fitting so snug over his expansive shoulders. She'd bet her life he was carrying a Glock under that jacket, too.
"What are you looking at?" he demanded.
"You shaved, Lang? On a Sunday? What's wrong with you?"
He brushed his whiskerless face. "It's the former Boy Scout in me."
She rolled her eyes. It was the nerd in him. And, God, that nerd did unholy things to her insides.
"Want something to drink?" he asked, putting a casual hand on her shoulder like he owned her. She'd tied her sweatshirt around her waist after her last run, so no doubt her skin felt damp through the cotton T-shirt he touched. Oh, fabulous. Now he was sticking to her. "There's a refreshment stand over there."
"I know." She dropped the board and hopped on, zipping a few feet ahead of him. "I built it."
Before he could answer, she kicked to the ground and took off ahead of him, rounded a concrete hill, swerved up the side, twisted the board into a perfect one-eighty, then landed hard.
"You built it?" he asked, reaching her just as she toed the board and gave him a cocky look.
"I supervised the fund-raising team that scared up the dollars to build it," she explained. "Charles River Skate Park is the result of the hard work of a major community volunteer organization. One that I happen to be extremely involved with."
"Really." He scrutinized her for a moment, like an art dealer who kind of saw something worthwhile—but then he looked away. Like he'd rather pass.
She hated that his disinterest torqued her.
Disinterest is good, Vivi. He's a client. Client. Cli-ent. How often did she need to remind herself of that?
He slipped her helmet back on her head. "Don't skate without this."
She took it back off again. "I'm walking, not skating. What do you want from me today, Lang?"
"I just came to tell you I have to cancel our meeting tomorrow. I had a change in my schedule. I can come over to your offices on Wednesday if you have time."
Like he couldn't have called to tell her that. Or sent a text, since they seemed to be exchanging plenty of them on a regular basis. Couldn't he just leave a message with Chessie? Why did control-freak Lang always need to do business in person?
Was it because he didn't trust the efficient delivery of an e-mail message, or because he wanted to see her? She squashed the thought, and considered how much to tell him when she replied.
"You'll have to meet with my brother on Wednesday. I'll be out of town."
He gave her an interested look. "Work or fun?"
"Work is fun. Maybe not for hardened FBI agents, but we budding security-business owners have a blast."
That made her laugh. "You were born serious, Lang."
He almost smiled. But not quite. "Where are you going?"
"Need-to-know basis. And sorry, but you don't." He'd just scoff at the whole idea anyway. "You're not our only client, you know."
"I'm the only one here."
Just the way he said it sent warmth rolling through every female corner of her body.
"You can meet with Zach," she said. "My brother is up to speed on all our open cases. You'll never miss me."
His brow twitched upward, ever so imperceptibly. Like… like maybe he would miss her. "I was hoping you'd give a full report on the Berkower case I handed over to the Guardian Angelinos last month. That case is in your bailiwick."
"Bailiwick?" She choked a derisive laugh. "Where do you get these words? Everything's in my bailiwick, but I'm going to be in L.A., so—"
"You've got clients in L.A. now?" He sounded surprised, and way too interested. "I didn't realize your little company was going national."
Your little company. She should be used to slight put-downs from Lang by now. They were a fact of life, no different from the teasing she took from the cousins she and Zach were raised with. She knew it was just his way of maintaining control. Still, they irked her.
"If you knew why I was going, you wouldn't be so liberal with your thinly veiled insults."
"Then tell me."
Some skaters whizzed by, swerving to miss Lang, who strode down the path like he'd built the place instead of Vivi and her band of volunteers.
"Can't," she said simply. "It's client confidential." Or it would be. As soon as she got the job.
"So you do have a California client? That's interesting."
She almost lied, but her mother's well-painted image of St. Peter at the pearly gates counting up her lifetime tally stopped her, as it always did. "To be honest, it's just a pitch for new business, but I think we have a shot." A very long shot. But that was her favorite kind. "Why is that interesting?"
"Because…" He hesitated, sliding a glance at her. "I may be moving out there."
Her heart dropped so hard and fast she felt it hit bottom. "Really?"
He shrugged, feigning a casualness that something told her he didn't feel. "Possibly. There's an opening for an SAC position out there that I've been interviewing for."
"Whoa, Lang." She gave him a playful punch in the arm, using the opportunity to let her knuckles enjoy the hard bump of his bicep. "Big promotion to Special Agent in Charge, losing that pesky 'assistant' handle." A promotion that would put him three thousand miles away. "You'd be running the whole office?"
"God, no. Only the Criminal Programs Division, which is pretty big. There are multiple SACs in an office that size, so it'd still be a move out—er, up."
And out. "You're from L.A., aren't you? Your family's there?"
"Just my dad, and he's getting on. I'm the only kid around to help, since my brother lives in Europe and is a complete waste of a human."
She snorted softly. "Nice."
"Maybe not, but it's true."
He guided her toward the snack shack. "Tell me about the L.A. job."
"No, thanks. I try to avoid your ridicule whenever possible."
"I won't ridicule you." He walked up to the window. "Want a Coke?"
He rolled his eyes. "And you make fun of me."
"See? Ridicule because I want a slurpy."
"Vivi, you're thirty-one years old."
"Right. So make it a vodka slurpy and meet me at that table." She walked to an empty round table with matching cement benches and sat down. There, she positioned herself to watch Lang buy their drinks.
And think about him moving to Los Angeles.
Lang leaving was a good thing, she told herself, but she couldn't deny the pressure on her heart. She would be able to work with another ASAC, someone who didn't wreck her balance and make her freaking heart stutter every time his ID showed up on her phone. Like the man said, she was thirty-one years old and way past the time of teenage crushes.
But look at him. Even his doofus Izod shirt looked… hot. And as much as she loathed a pair of khaki Dockers, his covered a world-class backside and had just enough of a bulge in the front to send her imagination into overdrive and make her little vibrator seem inadequate.
Sunlight pouring over him, he was all goodness and strength. The gold flecks in his eyes and hair looked like God had dipped him in bronze when he was born. The sun highlighted the sharp angle of his cheekbone and jaw and the fullness of a mouth that rarely smiled, but when it did, stupid things happened in her lower half.
She blew out a shaky breath. So, yeah. L.A. Good move for everyone.
He strolled over with the drinks, his eyes locking on her as if he knew what she was thinking. Thank God that was impossible, because Lord knows if he had even an inkling of the direction her thoughts took when she looked at him he'd laugh himself silly. She was a colleague, a consultant, a friend at best. Nothing more to him. Nothing would be more humiliating than him knowing just how many times she'd fantasized about tearing off that golf shirt. With her teeth.
"Interesting hairstyle," he said, placing the drinks on the table. "Even for you."
Yeah. They were most definitely not on the same wavelength.
"Is this your way of sweet-talking information about my new client out of me? So effective." She took the slurpy and tore the paper off the top of the straw, turning it around to blow the wrapper in his face.
He snapped it midair with one lightning-fast hand. "You know you want to tell me." He leaned over the table. "Just give in to it, Vivi."
Her nether regions took another thrill ride.
"Give me one good reason why I should tell you anything."
"Because," he said, lowering his voice to that I-call-the-shots tone she found maddening and sexy and, every once in a while, a little scary, "I want to know."
And just like that, she capitulated. No man had ever had that effect on her. Ever.
When Vivi Angelino closed her mouth over a wide straw and sucked hard enough to hollow her delicate cheeks, Colton Lang almost got a boner.
The state of damn-near-hard was status quo around this woman, so in the few months he'd been sending consulting jobs to her firm, Colt had learned a couple of tricks to ensure that "almost" didn't become "obvious."
Like focusing on her outlandish black hair, made even more so today by the helmet and what appeared to be yesterday's hair gel. Or he'd let his gaze settle on the diamond dot in the side of her nose, concentrating on how much that puncture had to hurt instead of how it would feel to run his tongue over the stone.
Or he'd simply remind himself that this skateboard-riding, sneaker-wearing, guitar-playing tomboy happened to have some of the best investigative instincts around, and if he wanted to keep the Guardian Angelinos in his back pocket for certain jobs, acting on a mindless surge of blood to his dick would be not only unprofessional, but also foolish.
That was usually enough to quell the erection. Sometimes. Today, finding her in this skate park with a little sheen of perspiration making her pixie-like features glisten and her coffee-brown eyes spark with unexpected interest, the boner might win this battle.
But look at that outfit, Colt. A long-sleeved cotton T-shirt that dangled off her narrow frame and faded green cargo pants frayed at the cuffs. He could never be attracted to a woman who cared so little about her appearance that she rolled around Boston dressed like she'd shopped at Goodwill.
He preferred a woman who looked like a woman, who wore a little makeup, had hair falling to her shoulders, and maybe strolled—not rolled—through a park in a pretty sundress. He'd bet his bottom dollar she didn't own a dress.
"All right, I'll tell you," she said after swallowing. "But I swear to God, Lang, don't try to talk me out of it, because I want this job."
"You've heard about the Red Carpet Killer, of course."
He held his Coke, frozen midway to his mouth. "You don't buy that malarkey, do you?"
She smiled. "Lang, malarkey hasn't been sold for forty years. Can you get with this century? And do you really think two Oscar-winning actresses being killed in two consecutive years, weeks after winning, isn't more than simple coincidence?"
"One was an overdose, one was an accident. No matching MO, no serial killer. But I do know there's an FBI task force out of L.A. with an eye on the possibility of a copycat killer."
"Exactly." She pointed at him. "I don't happen to think there's a serial killer, but I do know there are five women in Hollywood who are scared spitless right now. They are ramping up security like you wouldn't believe."
"You think they're going to hire your firm for protection?" He tried not to scoff, he really did. But it was ludicrous. "A brand-new firm made up of an extended family of renegade Angelinos and Rossi cousins?"
No surprise, her espresso eyes narrowed in disgust. "We are not renegades, for God's sake. I'm a former investigative journalist, in case you forgot, so getting a PI license was a natural move. Zach is a former Army Ranger. And, yeah, our core employee base happens to be a few cousins my brother and I were raised with—"
"Don't forget Uncle Nino, providing pasta and daily encouragement."
"Don't knock my Nino," she shot back. "And, for your information, we're interviewing protection and security specialists, including some highly qualified bodyguards. The Guardian Angelinos are experiencing a growth spurt."
He angled his head in acknowledgment. "I know that, Vivi, especially since I keep throwing FBI consulting jobs at you. I just think the actresses who are worried about being victims of a curse or a killer will hire the biggest and best in the protection industry."
"Maybe." She took another drink, her eyes dancing with some untold secret. "What do you think of Cara Ferrari?"
"I think I wouldn't kick her out of bed for eating crackers."
She looked skyward with a loud tsk. "I meant of her chances to win."
"I don't follow Hollywood too closely, but I did see that remake of Now, Voyager. My opinion? She was too melodramatic."
"Fortunately, your opinion doesn't matter. She's got a chance." She gave him a slow smile, revealing that tiny chip on her front tooth. God, he'd thought about licking that, too. "So I think I have a chance, too."
He just shook his head, not following, but maybe because his body was betraying him again.
"Look at me," she demanded, leaning back to prop her hands on her hips and cock her head to one side.
"I'm looking." That was the problem. She was so damn cute he forgot what they were talking about.
At what? The way her position pulled the T-shirt just tight enough to outline her breasts? They weren't big but perky and sweet, just as spunky as she was and, well, even on Vivi some things were feminine. Was that what she wanted him to look at? Because if he eyed them any longer, his hard-on was poised to make a reappearance.
- 4 ½ stars "St. Claire has become the go-to gal for romantic suspense. Rip-roaring fun, gripping intensity and sizzling passion span the pages of Edge of Sight."—RT Book Reviews
- "A bold new series with this taut, complex and intelligent page-turner ...Readers will thrill to this dynamic tale and its nonstop action, sweet and sexy romance, lively characters, and celebration of family and forgiveness."—Publishers Weekly
- "When it comes to dishing up great romantic suspense, Roxanne St. Claire is the author you want."—Romantic Times BOOKreviews Magazine
- On Sale
- May 1, 2011
- Page Count
- 432 pages