Why is everyone calling her "Lila"?
Music teacher and part-time lingerie saleswoman Marnie Lundy's biggest thrill is playing piano at the local mall . . . until the night everyone seems to think she's somebody else!
Suddenly she's being addressed in code, menaced by a man who claims to know her intimately and rescued by a handsome spymaster who thinks she's a threat to national security!
But OPUS agent Noah Tennant has the feeling she's more Mata Hari than Mother Teresa. Could a woman this sexy truly be innocent, or is Marnie his opponent in a deadly game of spy vs. spy?
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April 30, 2008
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Excerpt from Express Male by Elizabeth Bevarly
An awed silence fell over Carnegie Hall as Marnie Lundy strolled confidently across the stage in her elegant black formal, the flowing crepe whispering about her wrists and ankles with every step. The darkness of the auditorium hid the thousands of eyes she knew were fixed upon her, but she wavered not once. Smiling to herself, she recalled, as she always did when she took the stage, the old Bugs Bunny cartoon where the celebrated symphony conductor Leopold appeared amid hushed and reverent murmurs of "Leopold. Leopold. Leopold."
Tonight, however, there was no symphony. Tonight, there was no conductor. Because tonight, Marnie Lundy, concert pianist, would solo for thousands of her admirers. Tonight, the hushed and reverent murmurs were of "Marnie. Marnie. Marnie."
She threw back her head, shaking silvery blond hair over her shoulders, and seated herself gracefully on the bench. Her posture was impeccable, the piano was tuned to perfection and her knowledge of the music was complete. The gods were smiling, the planets were aligned and all was right in the universe. Lifting her hands to the keys, she gently stroked the ivory, filling her ears and her mind and her heart with the lovely, lilting strains of--
"Hey, lady, where's the bathroom?"
She squeezed her eyes shut tight, sighing with much eloquence as her fingers went still. "It's behind you," she said glumly. "Through ladies' hosiery and designer handbags, in men's sportswear. Next to the Tommy Bahama display."
When she opened her eyes, it was to see a stout, balding man in an ugly Hawaiian shirt and enormous pants waddling away in the direction into which she'd sent him. Instead of a darkened Carnegie Hall, she was seated in the middle of a brightly lit department store--Lauderdale's of Cleveland, to be precise--where Marnie Lundy appeared every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening playing the piano. And where she appeared hawking overpriced underwear in the lingerie department other days. The black crepe formal was actually a straight, gray cotton skirt and light blue sweater set, and the silvery blond hair was really more of the dishwater variety. It was long enough to throw over her shoulders, though, if she wanted to. But that didn't happen often, since it was generally twisted into a loose knot atop her head, as it was now.
Alas, the thousands of adoring eyes Marnie had imagined worshipping her actually amounted to only eight, mostly indifferent ones: two on the face of a young mother seated on a sofa near the piano (the two on the baby to whom she was feeding a bottle were closed), two on the bored saleswoman in ladies' hosiery, two on a teenage girl who was clearly trying to decide if anyone would notice her tucking the Kate Spade wallet she was fingering into her jacket pocket and two on the face of the store manager, who really should have been keeping his eyes on the teenager in Kate Spade instead.
Fortunately, those final two eyes were approving of Marnie. Unfortunately, they were a little too approving. In spite of his name, Bob Troutman wasn't much of a catch. Not just because he was a greasy, revolting little fish-faced man--though, granted, that part was pretty off-putting. But also because he had a wife and four little Troutmans living with him at the bottom of whatever contaminated body of water he called his habitat. All told, it was enough to put Marnie off her lunch whenever she saw the guy. Which was why she always looked away whenever she caught him watching her. Like, for instance, now.
Dropping her gaze back to the piano keys, she repositioned her fingers and played the opening bars of "Stardust." In her Carnegie Hall fantasy, she would have flawlessly performed Chopin's Polonaise in A flat, but here at Lauderdale's, old standards were de rigueur, since so many of Lauderdale's shoppers were little old ladies who remembered when cotton briefs only cost ten cents a pair. And, boy, don't think Marnie didn't hear about that every day of the week, either.
Still, it was a decent job, as jobs went. The pay wasn't great, but it had flexible hours and gave her the time she needed for other pursuits, like writing her music and giving lessons to her young students. She'd never been one for setting the world on fire, Carnegie Hall fantasies notwithstanding. Having grown up as the only child of a widowed, never-again-married English professor father, hers had always been a quiet life, and that still suited her. Working for Lauderdale's enabled her to keep living that way.
Well, except when Bob Troutman's scaly bad self was on the prowl. On the swim. Whatever. But if he was the worst thing that ever happened in her life--and so far, hands down, he was--Marnie would die a happy, tranquil woman.