Authors: Iris Johansen
Hooray! I've always wanted these two books to come out in one volume.
Tempest at Sea
were the first two stories I wrote and they reflected all my hopes and romantic dreams of that period of my life. There's always something special about beginnings—the curiosity, the passion, the excitement. These were also the first of many books to come that had continuing characters. It wasn't intentional, just as it wasn't intentional in my later books. They just became too interesting for me to walk away from them. I hope you find the same joy in reading these stories as I did writing them.
AN UNEXPECTED SONG
ON THE RUN
NO ONE TO TRUST
BODY OF LIES
THE KILLING GAME
THE FACE OF DECEPTION
AND THEN YOU DIE
LONG AFTER MIDNIGHT
THE UGLY DUCKLING
THE BELOVED SCOUNDREL
THE MAGNIFICENT ROGUE
THE TIGER PRINCE
LAST BRIDGE HOME
THE GOLDEN BARBARIAN
REAP THE WIND
THE WIND DANCER
BRENNA SLOAN TURNED SLOWLY IN FRONT
of the mirror appraising her reflection with critical eyes. A frown creased her forehead and she chewed her lower lip. The simple black wool skirt and white silk blouse had seemed an understated yet chic ensemble when she had chosen it twenty minutes ago, but now she was having second thoughts. Was it perhaps too understated? She definitely wanted to make an impression in what might be the most important interview of her career.
She shrugged and turned away with a sigh. It would just have to do. Her wardrobe wasn't that extensive anyway. She quickly gathered her suede jacket and purse and hurried into the living room.
A chubby golden-haired two-year-old cherub looked up at her from the center of a fiberglass playpen and smiled amiably. He pulled himself up on sturdy legs, looking absurdly adorable in his blue corduroy pants and a T-shirt with
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
emblazoned across the front.
“We go, Mama?” he asked contentedly. Randy always wanted to go, Brenna thought wryly. For him, every trip was a pleasant adventure, and he certainly had enough of them.
She swung him out of the playpen, planting a kiss on his satin cheek and gathering him close for a quick hug.
“We go,” she affirmed. She put him down on the floor while she folded the collapsible playpen, then picked up a canvas bag of toys that was always kept handy. He watched her serenely, familiar with the ritual that was repeated sometimes twice or three times a day.
Tucking the playpen under her arm, she gathered her jacket, purse, and the toy carryall and headed for the door. Randy toddled beside her happily as they left the apartment and crossed to the elevator.
“Mama carry?” he asked. That, too, was part of the ritual. He really didn't expect it, but he tried every time just the same, Brenna thought tenderly.
“No, Randy must walk,” Brenna said firmly, as the door to the self-service elevator opened and they entered the small shabby cubicle. The apartment building was only two stories and an elevator was not really necessary, but she blessed it fervently each time she took Randy out. Loaded like a pack horse, as she usually was, she never would have made it without a major catastrophe if she had had to help Randy down the stairs. Besides, Randy loved elevators. It was another magic adventure for him—not as intriguing as the fascinating escalators in the department stores, but interesting all the same.
The elevator door opened, and she shepherded Randy out and down the hall to the manager's apartment. Randy knew the way well and nodded with satisfaction as they paused before the door.
“Auntie Viv,” he said placidly, knowing that behind the door was another disciple who provided toys, cookies, and caresses.
“Yes, sweetheart,” Brenna said. “She's going to watch you while mama goes out.” She rang the bell.
“Come in, Brenna,” Vivian Barlow called, and when Brenna and Randy entered, she waved a freshly manicured hand from where she was sitting on an early American couch, applying a coat of clear gloss to her nails. “Sorry, love,” she said with an absent
smile. “I know you're in a bit of a hurry, but would you mind getting Randy settled before you leave. I have a photography session later on this afternoon, and my polish isn't dry yet.”
“Another dishwashing detergent commercial?” Brenna asked, as she unfolded the collapsible playpen and set it up swiftly.
Vivian Barlow nodded her sleekly coiffed gray head. “Yep,” she drawled with eyebrows raised wryly. “One of those comparison jobs, where the granddaughter loses to grandma in the beautiful hands sweepstakes.” She simpered coyly. “And all because I've washed my china all my born days with antiscum.”
“Antiscum!” Brenna laughed.
“Well, it's something like that,” Vivian said vaguely. She got briskly to her feet, strolled over to where Randy was sitting on the floor, and kissed him on the top of his head. “How are you, slugger?” she asked fondly. She was an ardent baseball fan, and it was she who had gifted Randy with the Dodger T-shirt. In her early sixties, Vivian Barlow was attractive, well dressed, and beautifully preserved. She also had the warmest smile and the most humorous gray eyes Brenna had ever seen.
A short time after she had become friends with her ultra-modern landlady, Brenna had learned that Vivian had been divorced twice and widowed once. In a moment of confidence Vivian had confessed wistfully, “I've always been afraid of missing something along the way, so I reach out and grab.” She'd made a face. “I've made some pretty dumb grabs in my time.” Vivian had been an actress all her adult life, playing bit parts and walk-ons in hundreds of films and stage productions. When husband number three died and left her a small apartment complex and an adequate income, she had retired, only to find herself completely bored. It wasn't long before she discovered the perfect outlet for her energy in the world of television commercials. She was much in demand these days in the role of the modern older woman who was the antithesis of the crochety granny figures of the past.
“I still think you'd be perfect for shampoo and soap commercials,” Vivian said critically. “You have a certain dryad look. It's as though you grew up in some forest glade.”
She looked appraisingly at Brenna who was putting Randy's favorite toys in the playpen before lifting him into the center of the mat. Brenna straightened and a grin lit up her face with breathtaking poignancy.
“The John Harris Memorial Home was not precisely a sylvan glade,” she said dryly. On the contrary, the orphanage where she had grown up had no time for such foolishness as nymphs and dryads, she thought wistfully.
Vivian looked up sharply, but made no comment.
“You're quite dressed up today,” she said.
Brenna didn't look at her as she gathered up her jacket and purse. “I have an audition,” she said, almost beneath her breath.
“An audition? Why didn't you tell me?” Vivian asked delightedly. “Where is it? Tell me all about it.”
“There isn't much to tell,” Brenna said with feigned casualness. “Charles arranged for me to try out for a part in a picture a former pupil of his is producing. It probably won't come to anything.”
“I didn't know that Charles had any contacts in films,” Vivian said speculatively. “Who is it?”
Brenna drew a deep breath and turned to look at her friend, revealing the tenseness in her face. “Michael Donovan.”
Vivian's brows shot up, and she gave a low soundless whistle. “Michael Donovan! What a break for you.”
Everyone in films knew of Michael Donovan. Only in his late thirties, he was already a legend. He had shot across the Hollywood firmament like a fiery comet. He was a writer-director without equal, and had recently turned to producing his own films with similar success. He had directed three of the biggest money-making films of all time, and as he had put up the money for two of them, he had become a multimillionaire from the proceeds
. He had invested a portion of that wealth in his own film colony in southern Oregon, where he had gathered the best talents in film-making. His image had grown to such proportions that even his name gave off a Midas-like glitter.
Brenna shrugged. “It's only an audition. I'm to read for the casting director, Josh Hernandez.” Her composure cracked, and she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Oh, Vivian, I'm so nervous.”
Vivian patted her on the shoulder. “You'll do just fine,” she said bracinglv. “You're good, Brenna, really good.”
“There are hundreds of talented actresses in this town,” Brenna said gloomily. “And most of them are out of work.”
Vivian nodded sympathetically. “It's a competitive business,” she said. “I doubt you would even make it past the first receptionist at Donovan's casting office without a personal introduction. I had no idea Charles knew Michael Donovan.”