Money, women and fame aren't everything they're cracked up to be. Former rock star Mason Star should know. He had it all and lost it. Now, years later, he's about to lose even more: his son and Mulligan's, the community center he's poured his heart into.
Returning to the public eye is the last thing Mason wants to do--but Anna Walsh's documentary is the only chance he has to save Mulligan's. Besides, Anna won't take no for an answer...and the beautiful, complicated woman has proved to be very persuasive. Especially on the dance floor...
But what Anna wants may be more than he can give.
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May 12, 2008
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Excerpt from His Secret Past by Ellen Hartman
GNOCCHI. ANNA shook her head as she dropped her hoodie on the arm of the sofa. Food bribes? How easy did they think she was?
Her stomach growled as she narrowed her eyes at the big pasta bowl, full and steaming on her brother's dining-room table.
Something was up.
Anna eased the front door closed and slid the key into the pocket of her track pants. She considered the table with its cheerful centerpiece of daffodils and the wine-glasses she'd bought Jake and his partner, Rob, for Christmas last year. She tugged the holder off her ponytail, freeing her curly shoulder-length hair. Someone had gone to some trouble here.
Because Rob swore that making gnocchi gave him flashbacks to his grandmother's cooking lessons punctuated by her uncomfortably sharp tongue and handy wooden spoon, he made the pasta dumplings only on special occasions. Anna's birthday. Jake's birthday. The anniversary of his nonna's death when he washed the gnocchi down with homemade wine he bought from the Italian men's club at the end of the rapidly gentrifying street.
Whenever he or Jake wanted to bribe Anna.
She let the aroma of Rob's secret family recipe spaghetti sauce wrap around her, pulling her toward the kitchen.
"Honeys, I'm home," she called out as she walked into the brightly lit room, the first Jake and Rob had remodeled since buying the dilapidated Hoboken brownstone three years ago.
Jake was leaning on a stool at the island, one leather loafer on the brass foot rail, his elbows propped on the dark soapstone counter. He turned with careful nonchalance when she came in.
Anna lifted a hand, not committing to a hello before she knew what was up. Staying with her brother and Rob had its ups and downs. On the one hand, she loved spending time with them. Eleven months out of twelve she was on location or flying back and forth to locations for Blue Maverick films, the production company she and Jake ran. If she had anything she'd call a home base, it was here with them.
On the other hand, this was their home and not hers. And because the couple were renovating the place themselves, progress on the brownstone had slowed as Jake was kept busy with the steady stream of film work. She stayed in the cramped guest room, sleeping on a foam chair that folded out into a twin-size bed. Her clothes were stowed in a footlocker Rob had had since college. She rarely bought books or CDs or clothes, or anything, really, because she didn't have anywhere to keep them. Although she relished her skill at living light, carrying your entire life in a duffel bag had limitations. "Gnocchi, huh?" Anna said as she propped a hip on the stool next to Jake. The two sat side by side under the cobalt-blue lamps, staring at the cherry-wood cabinets in front of them. "Where's Rob?" she asked.
"At the gallery. He's bringing dessert back later."
"Dessert, too? You're pulling out all the stops, little brother."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Jake asked as he got off his stool and stretched in that maddening way little brothers who outgrew their older sisters by eight inches stretched when they wanted to make a point. Point taken. Six feet tall, sporting a reddish stubble that was a shade lighter than his dark auburn hair, thirty years old, Jake wasn't so little anymore. But younger siblings never get the advantage, no matter how tall they grow. That was a universal truth.
"Rob made gnocchi so you can bribe me," Anna said.
He didn't even flinch. "You want to eat?"
"Chicken," Anna said.
"Gnocchi," he countered.
"You're a chicken. Spit it out."
Jake sank back down onto the stool and folded his hands in front of him. He opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again. Oh God, he was actually scared to tell her whatever this was. Up to that moment she'd been fooling around. Fun over, she asked quickly, "You're not sick, are you? Is it Rob? Jake? Say something."
He shook his head. "I'm fine. Everything is fine. Actually, that's the thing."
They'd been business partners for close to nine years and siblings for thirty. Anna knew when Jake was struggling with the truth. Their perfect parents had been all about putting on a front in their shrink-wrapped Long Island home, appearing normal at all costs. That life of lies was what had driven her toward making documentaries. She liked the facts, not the spin. She and Jake had a hard rule that they wouldn't lie to each other. But it was difficult sometimes.
"You're scaring me and the gnocchi's getting cold, so just say it. We'll deal with whatever it is."
That seemed to be the permission Jake had needed because he blurted, "Rob's boss is selling Traction. He offered Rob the right of first refusal and he, um, we, decided to take it. The deal's final in August."
Anna nodded, encouraging him to go on. Rob managed Traction, a gallery on Hoboken's main street. She knew he'd wanted more control and now he'd have it. So far she wasn't sure what the problem was.