MacNamara's Woman, page 1
Before there was Lisa Gardner, there was Alicia Scott. It’s true. I started my publishing career in the 1990s, writing thirteen really fun romantic suspense novels under the pseudonym Alicia Scott. Even back then, I was drawn to twisted plots and complex characters. I liked to take ordinary people, totally mess up their lives, then see if they could both save the day and find true love.
The Family Secrets trilogy—Maggie’s Man, MacNamara’s Woman, and Brandon’s Bride—represent three of my Alicia Scott titles. Written around the same time I was writing The Perfect Husband, these books include many of the traits I like to think I’m still known for today: great characters, shocking plot twists, and really fun research. For example, I attended a high-performance driving school for MacNamara’s Woman, learning how to turn at the apex, and, even more importantly recover from a spin. For Brandon’s Bride, I spent an afternoon interviewing a Hot Shot, a wildland firefighter. He was sitting in a watchtower in Oregon at the time, while I was calling from a small apartment in Boston, which made it even more interesting.
How do these books differ from Lisa Gardner? For starters, they were written pre–September 11 and pre–cell phone. So from a suspense point of view, you have to remember you didn’t need photo ID to purchase plane tickets, which made life on the run easier, but you also couldn’t immediately call for help, which made life running from a serial killer harder. Also, these books definitely have more sex. Yep, sex and violence. If that’s not your idea of a fun reading experience, then these books are not for you.
But for readers interested in meeting three half siblings Maggie, C.J., and Brandon and following their quest to find love while solving the mystery of what happened to their enigmatic father, I hope you enjoy some of the best books my predecessor, Alicia Scott, has to offer.
“Catch Me is the best thriller [Gardner] has written to date. It is full of twists and turns, but best of all it is filled with fascinating characters who come to life on her pages.”
—The Huffington Post
“The compelling characters, the shocking plot, and the realistic atmosphere of how police operate make this a ‘must read’ for any suspense aficionado.”
—The Associated Press
“Irresistible high-wire melodrama.”
“A page-turner . . . will definitely appeal to the lovers of psychological thrillers.”
“Lisa Gardner is one of the best thriller writers around, and this latest . . . really ratchets up the tension.”
“Gardner always plays in the big leagues, but this scare-your-socks-off thriller is a grand slam. . . . Fans of Michael Connelly and Harlan Coben will delight in Gardner’s scare fest.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“The creepy meter is off the charts. . . . And, somehow, miraculously without any contrivance, Gardner’s conclusion delivers a welcome glimmer of hope.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“A pulse-pounding, earth-shattering thriller that will take you on the ride of your life. . . . This is, without a doubt, Lisa Gardner at her finest.”
—The Best Reviews
“A great, twisting psychological thriller. Fans will immensely enjoy this taut, strong suspense tale.”
—Midwest Book Review
“Gripping, exciting, thrilling. One of my favorites. I ripped through it in no time at all and enjoyed every page. Highly recommended.”
—The Book Whisperer
MORE PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS
OF LISA GARDNER
“No one owns this corner of the genre the way Lisa Gardner does.”
“You can’t wait to see what happens next.”
“Riveting, hold-your-breath suspense.”
“Lisa Gardner is an amazing writer.”
“Emotionally true, harrowing, and unputdownable.”
“Gardner keeps us guessing.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Gripping . . . the pages turn with speed.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“The Mozart of thriller writers.”
“Gardner continues to break ground no other writer dares to tread.”
—The Providence Journal
ALSO BY LISA GARDNER
The Perfect Husband
The Other Daughter
The Third Victim
The Next Addict
The Survivor’s Club
The Killing Hour
Live to Tell
Love You More
Touch & Go
BY LISA GARDNER WRITING
AS ALICIA SCOTT
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA), 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, USA
USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
For more information about the Penguin Group visit penguin.com.
Published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA). Previously published in a Silhouette edition.
Copyright © Lisa Baumgartner, 1997
Excerpt from Brandon’s Bride copyright © Lisa Baumgartner, 1998
Excerpt from Touch & Go copyright © Lisa Gardner, Inc., 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
Letter to Reader
Also by LISA GARDNER
Excerpt from FEAR NOTHING
Excerpt from BRANDON’S BRIDE
Excerpt from TOUCH & GO
Special thanks to Patricia Stancliff, PT, for breaking my heroine’s bones, then teaching her to walk again. And thanks to SCCA drivers A. J. Ruddy and Jim Biondi, as well as Dick and Bob of Shine Racing Services, for attempting to instruct me on how to race. As always, all mistakes are mine.
They called him Spider, but that wasn’t his real name. He’d been born Frank or Bob or something generic like that. It had never suited him, so Spider worked well enough.
He’d been a small, scrawny kid who’d grown into a small, scrawny man with overly long arms and legs. When he ran, his limbs bounced around like disjointed attachments, ungainly and awkward. He didn’t run often.
Mostly, he tended to his graveyard.
It wasn’t his graveyard, per se. Really, it belonged to the dead souls who’d been laid to rest here. He supposed it also belonged to the fine people of Sedona, as one corner of the cemetery was maintained by the Historical Preservation Society. In that corner, all the hundred-and-fifty-year-old slate tombstones and wooden crosses were tumbled together. Some of them had been scoured blank by the dust and wind. Others still bore morbid little rhymes such as “Abe took six in the shoulder, now he ain’t gettin’ no older.”
Spider made sure he dusted these tombstones every night; otherwise the thick red dust made the inscriptions hard to read. He also checked the integrity of the black wrought-iron fence bordering the cemetery. Finally, he inspected the markers themselves for any fresh nicks or chips—you wouldn’t believe what people tried to take as souvenirs these days.
Spider took great pride in the fact that during his twenty-five years as caretaker, there hadn’t been a single incident of vandalism. Something like that shouldn’t mean much, but it did. Time had made people crazy, and these days there wasn’t nothing people wouldn’t do to a cemetery. Young kids covering loving inscriptions with spray paint. Drunken teens pelting century-old mausoleums with empty beer bottles. Sneaky tourists trying to hack off a piece of history.
As far as Spider could tell, not even dead people were safe. And it was up to him, as the caretaker, to provide the last bastion of protection to those who could no longer help themselves.
Graves were important. People came to remember the past, and they came to seek comfort from the ones they’d loved. Walking through the cemetery late at night, a man could hear the strangest things. A son telling his departed father about the birth of his first child. An old man passing on the day’s events to his wife, dead five years now. A mother swearing to her recently buried child that she wouldn’t forget, would never forget. Graves were like confessionals. Spider had read once that the FBI even used them to trap killers seeking forgiveness from the ones they’d harmed. Spider knew a thing or two about that. Over time, he’d overhead things he shouldn’t have. Over time, he did his best to forget those utterances.
Now he was trying to uncover the nine-year-old riddle of the cognac bottles, which was why he was still up after the time polite folks had gone to bed. The moon was big and clear in the sky, perfect for a midnight vigil. He could hear crickets as he huddled behind Sedona’s first mayor’s tombstone. He could hear the dry, sandy rustle of the lonely wind.
He waited to hear more.
He waited, as patiently as he could, to hear footsteps.
It was October 15. The night the cognac bottle always appeared.
It had taken Spider until five years ago to put that together. Once a year, he’d find a bottle of fifty-year-old cognac next to this group of three graves. The first year, he’d thought nothing of it. He’d figured some of those white-bread, preppy brats from one of the resorts had left it. Seeing that most of the bottle remained, he’d commandeered it for himself. He wasn’t much of a cognac man—the stuff could burn a hole in your belly—but if the rich folks could drink it, so could he.
The next year, he’d been surprised at finding the same bottle in the same spot. He’d marked the date on his calendar.
The third year, he’d been curious. The date had held true.
The fifth year, he’d figured it out. These graves were newer graves, a small family plot. Must’ve been some accident or fire or something, because all three tombstones bore the same date: October 15. He had a mother, a father and some young man with a different last name. Maybe a nephew. He wasn’t sure. They were nice markers—two-foot-high pink marble on a granite foundation. The top of each stone had a carving of an angel, and that stuff wasn’t cheap. The inscriptions reported the name, dates and a generic “May they rest in peace.”
Spider decided that they had died in a fire, because fire had always sounded like a big way to go.
But somebody still missed them. Somebody drank fifty-year-old cognac in their honor every year, then left them the bottle. Spider wanted to know who that somebody was.
Last four years, he’d waited up without success. Twice he’d fallen asleep. Once he’d heard a noise and gotten sidetracked chasing it down. When he’d returned, there had been the cognac. The fourth time had been the scariest. He must’ve fallen asleep, because he could’ve sworn there was nobody there; then suddenly a shape appeared before him, swathed in black from head to toe. He remembered seeing blazing red eyes; then he’d cried out and passed out cold.
He’d woken up and found the cognac at his feet.
Maybe he should’ve given up then. The demon trespasser wasn’t hurting the graves, and that’s what mattered. But he couldn’t. Somebody—something—came into his place every year. Somebody treaded on the slow, sweet silence of the only land Spider could call home.
He wanted to know who.
He’d planned it better this year. He’d eaten simple foods for the last few days so nothing would upset his stomach. Then he’d drunk coffee instead of his nightly beer. He was ready. Bring on the demon. Spider could handle him.
The moon rose higher and higher. The crickets grew faint.
Midnight came and went. One o’clock followed suit.
Spider’s eyes began to sag, his lashes touching his cheeks.
He jerked himself awake.
And finally heard footsteps.
They were fast but steady. Spider grasped a leering gargoyle with his fingertips and peered out from behind the mayor’s grave.
At first he saw nothing. Then his nose began to twitch. He caught the unmistakable odor of perfume.
A woman materialized before him, and he sucked in his breath.
She looked like she’d been cut out of the night. A formfitting black suit smoothed down a figure Spider had only seen in girlie posters. Black-encased legs that went on forever. Dainty feet tucked into spiky black heels. A waist belted so tiny he ought to be able to span it with his hands. And that chest . . .
She’d swathed her head in black, as well, a veil covering her face. Long, black gloves hid her hands.
She stopped before the graves. She said nothing; she didn’t even nod her head. She simply uncorked the cognac, poured the rich, amber liquid into a crystal globe and swirled it three times. She offered a silent toast to the pink marble graves.
Then she raised her veil and tossed back the cognac.
And for one moment, the moon was clear and brilliant on her exposed alabaster face.
Spider shrank back, stunned and terrified. He whimpered without meaning to, and immediately, she stilled.
Was it just his imagination, or for one small moment, did she tremble?
She said softly, without looking at him, “Come out, Spider. I know you’re there.”
The demon had gotten him after all. He came out of hiding, his head hung between his shoulders.
“I never told anyone,” he muttered. “I didn’t know it was you comin’ each year. I thought they’d died in a fire or somethin’ . . . I d-d-didn’t know. . . . P-p-please . . .”
Her face remained impenetrable behind the veil. Abruptly, she
“I won’t tell, I won’t tell,” he gushed. “Swear it, swear it, swear it. Miss—”
A gun appeared. His eyes widened. His throat closed up; he couldn’t speak, couldn’t beg no more.
Her arm was trembling. God almighty, the demon actually shuddered.
“I . . . I have to.”
She pulled the trigger.
He fell bonelessly beside the graves he’d labored to maintain. And the rhythmic singing of the crickets filled the hushed night once more.
The woman in black drove away. She made it two miles before she pulled over beside the deserted road and vomited helplessly. There was still no one to see. Still no one to know. But it had been like that for a long time now. It had been that way for the last ten years.
She climbed back into her car and continued driving.
“There are two ways of doing this—the easy way or the hard way.”
The big man appeared unimpressed. He leaned back in the old wooden chair and crossed arms that were as thick as oak beams over his chest. His eyes carried a dangerous, glassy sheen C.J. knew too well.
He should’ve never let the big man into his bar. It was obvious the guy and his companions had already had a few too many before ever stepping into the Ancient Mariner. Now C.J. got to clean up some other bartender’s mess.
“I don’t gotta do nothing,” the big man said sullenly. He bent his thick neck toward his burly buddies. “Right?”
Twiddly Dee and Twiddly Dumb both nodded.
C.J. forced himself to stand loose and keep the grin on his face. It was Wednesday night, and on a Wednesday night of all nights, he didn’t want a fight in the middle of his joint. But principles were principles, and poor Sheila was still huddled in the corner, terrified, after being pinched by Paul Bunyan here. C.J. didn’t stand for disorderly conduct in his place, and he definitely didn’t stand for any guy manhandling a woman.
Other author's books:
- Never TellTouch & GoMacNamara's WomanLove You More: A NovelThe Neighbor3 Truths and a LieCatch MeRight Behind You
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