#1 New York Times bestselling author Iris Johansen provides her trademark blend of seductive romance and pulse-pounding suspense in this classic tale of a woman who unexpectedly finds herself living--and loving--on the edge of danger.
Lisa Landon makes her living with her voice--a voice fueled by a heartbreak she vows never to experience again. But despite her renown, Lisa's real ambition is to escape the memories that follow her from one sold-out engagement to the next. Perhaps that's what brings her to the exotic desert nation of Sedikhan and the nightclub where she meets Clancy Donahue.
Clancy takes one look at the beautiful, vulnerable chanteuse and knows she is exactly the woman he's been searching for. The Sedikhan security chief needs to bait a trap for a terrorist moneyman, and Clancy is certain that Lisa will be irresistible. What he doesn't count on is that he won't be able to resist her either--and that he'll do anything to protect her, even if it means risking his own life. With deadly plans in motion and Lisa in the crosshairs, Clancy realizes that before their romance can get to always, it will first have to reach tomorrow.
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March 22, 2011
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Excerpt from Always by Iris Johansen
Clancy Donahue leaned back in the plush visitor's chair and stretched his long legs out before him. "So she arrived four days ago in Paradise Cay," he commented. His eyes narrowed as Len Berthold nodded, then nervously shifted papers on the desk before him. "And what the hell's wrong with you, Len? You're acting skittish as the devil."
"I am skittish." Berthold grimaced. "I don't like being part of one of your games, Clancy. I'm an administrator now, out of the line of fire. I'd like it just fine if you set your little trap somewhere else."
"Too bad," Clancy said, and shrugged. "Your safe haven was the most convenient place to put the bait." His indolent position hadn't changed, but he was suddenly exuding a force that was almost tangible. "Paradise Cay is one of Sedikhan's possessions; this hotel casino is in Paradise Cay. I made you manage here two years ago because you're tough, honest, and obey orders." His voice lowered to a silky murmur. "Do I have to tell you what would happen if I found you lacking in any of those qualities?"
Len moistened his lips. No, Donahue didn't have to tell him. It was all right there in the expression in those ice-blue eyes. He had known Donahue; security chief and right-hand man to Alex Ben Raschid, reigning head of Sedikhan, for over six years. Personally he had never run across a situation that didn't yield to the power Donahue wielded so effortlessly. But he had heard stories about the security chief's more direct methods, a number of which were violent and ruthless.
From the time word arrived that Donahue was flying in to handle personally the Landon matter, Len had known his comfortable berth here in Paradise Cay would probably heat up to a far from comfortable temperature. He cleared his throat. "It was just a comment, Clancy. You know I'll cooperate fully. I've obeyed your instructions to the letter. The Landon woman has been singing in the cafe since night before last." He frowned thoughtfully. "You know, she's not bad. She's got . . ." He hesitated as if searching for the appropriate word, then shrugged. "I don't know. Something."
"I'm not here to enjoy her singing talents," Clancy said a bit sarcastically. "Have you got Galbraith watching her?"
"Of course; I've had her under total surveillance since the moment she checked in." Berthold smiled faintly. "I haven't gotten that soft in the head since I left your service. She hasn't drawn a breath that we haven't known about. Baldwin definitely hasn't contacted her yet. I've also had a man calling the other hotels on the island every evening, and no man of his description has checked in."
Donahue frowned. "You're sure?"
"I'm sure. We circulated copies of that picture you sent, of course. He hasn't shown." Berthold brightened. "Maybe he's lost interest in the woman."
"No way. He'll show," Clancy said grimly. "Wherever Lisa Landon appears, he pops up like a jack-in-the-box. He's obsessed with her, and obsessions like that don't just lose their hold all of a sudden."
"But she divorced him over three years ago, according to what you told me," Berthold said. "Maybe he's finally taken the hint that he's not wanted."
Clancy shook his head. "She's an obsession," he repeated. "It's all in the dossier we've compiled on him: Jealous scenes, violence, even public threats. The works. He'll be here all right. He keeps a very close eye on the ex-Mrs. Baldwin. What time is she performing tonight?"
"The second show is at ten o'clock." Berthold glanced at the thin gold watch on his wrist. "That'll be about fifteen minutes from now. Do you want to watch it?"
Donahue nodded as he rose to his feet. "I'm going to talk to her tonight after the show to try to get her cooperation."
"And if not?"
"We'll use her anyway." His smile was a mere baring of teeth. "I want that bastard Baldwin so bad I can taste it. Where's Galbraith now?"
"He should be in the cafe."
"Good." For a moment there was a thread of mischief in Clancy's smile. "Sorry to be a disgrace to your exclusive establishment, Len, but I won't have time to change. You'd better phone your headwaiter and tell him not to throw me out."
"I doubt if he'd try that." Berthold's glance traveled over Clancy's tall, massive build that did look as if it belonged more in a heavyweight boxing ring than an exclusive nightclub. Berthold remembered suddenly that Clancy had told him he had been a fighter once. But then Clancy had been something of a jack-of-all-trades before he became security chief of Sedikhan--and definitely master of the more lethal ones. "I will give Monty a ring, though, and tell him to extend all courtesies."
"Do that." Clancy turned to leave, moving with the lithe grace of absolute fitness and trained coordination. "I'm tired as hell and not in any mood for a hassle."
"Have you checked into the hotel or shall I do it for you?"
Clancy paused at the door. "I'll stay at my villa down the beach. It's close enough so that I can be on the spot in five minutes if I need to be. I'm tired of living in hotels. I've spent the last six weeks moving from city to city on Baldwin's trail." He took a key ring out of his pocket and tossed it across the room. It landed on the blotter in front of Berthold. "Send a maid down to open the villa for me right away, will you?" He didn't wait for an answer but shut the door behind him and set off briskly.
As he crossed the lushly carpeted foyer of the reception area, he made an effort to relax the tense muscles in his neck and shoulders. He hadn't lied when he'd told Len Berthold he was tired. He hadn't slept more than a few hours today on the long flight from Los Angeles to this tiny island in the Bahamas. L.A. had been a blind alley, too, dammit, he thought. Baldwin had gone underground without a ripple. Oh, well, if he couldn't find the rat's bolthole, he'd wait patiently until that rodent ventured out to nibble at his favorite delicacy, namely Lisa Landon.
The cafe was small and darkly intimate, like a thousand others he'd seen over the years. Postage-stamp-sized tables were covered with white damask cloths; candles in translucent cylinders cast half shadows over the faces of the guests speaking in quiet tones over drinks and hors d'oeuvres. A trio was playing soft, evocative jazz on the tiny stage at the far end of the room, and Clancy paused a moment in the doorway to listen. He'd always liked jazz. That fact had never failed to surprise Alex, and he could understand why. Jazz was the most lazily sensual and mellow music on the face of the earth, and laziness, mellowness, and sensuality were qualities that were absent in his personality. He was highly sexed and required women fairly frequently, but it was always just a hunger to be appeased and then forgotten. Sensuality required softer, gentler emotions, the kind his profession had allowed little time to cultivate. Still, he did like jazz, and this trio was surprisingly good.
His head swiveled quickly to the left. Galbraith.
"John." Clancy nodded in acknowledgment to the man standing close to him. Galbraith was dressed in impeccable evening clothes and blended into his elegant surroundings with the adaptability of a chameleon. His features were handsome, but not too handsome. His brown hair was cut in a trendy but not avant-garde style, and his smile was as deceptively cheerful and wholesome as a college boy's. Not that college kids were more wholesome than anyone else these days, Clancy thought wearily. Childhood didn't last much past puberty in a world as crisis-shadowed as this one. "Do you have a table?"
Galbraith gestured. "Ringside. I usually sit toward the back when I'm doing surveillance, but I thought you'd prefer to have a closer look at her. You said on the phone that you were going to talk to her, anyway." He turned and led the way through the thickly clustered tables. He dropped into a chair at the ringside table he'd indicated and picked up a half-empty highball glass. His eyes, set deep in his round, tanned face, were as bright and inquisitive as a squirrel's. "You look really beat, Clancy. What the hell have you been doing to yourself?"
"The usual." Clancy sat down and shook his head at the waiter who paused to look at him inquiringly. He wanted to keep a clear head, and he was too tired to risk even the slightest alcohol haze. "No sign of Baldwin?"
"Not one. She's made no telephone calls since she's been here. She takes long walks on the beach every day, but she doesn't speak to anyone." He shrugged. "Or no one important. She stopped this afternoon and helped a little kid build a sand castle. Then she came back to the hotel, rehearsed with the trio, and had dinner in her room. She does two shows a night here and then goes back to her room. No men since she's arrived on the island."
"Not off the island, either," Clancy said slowly: "Odd. It could mean she's still carrying a torch for Baldwin." His lips twisted. "Or maybe she's frigid and that's the challenge she poses for him."
"No," Galbraith said quickly and with utmost certainty. Then, as Clancy looked at him in surprise, he muttered sheepishly, "I mean, I can't imagine her being cold to anyone she cared about."
"She seems to have impressed you," Clancy said. "Is the lady that much of a femme fatale?"
Galbraith shifted uncomfortably. "No. Hell, you know I've never had a thing for older women."
"And she's all of thirty-seven. Practically ancient," Clancy said dryly. "She must be very beautiful to make you overlook her rapidly advancing decrepitude."
"No." Galbraith was frowning abstractedly and Clancy doubted if he even caught the sarcasm. "At least, I don't think she is. It's hard to tell." He made a little gesture with one hand. "She's just got something. . . ."
"That's what Berthold said." Clancy smiled faintly. "I'm beginning to be a bit curious about this singer who makes tough bastards like the two of you inarticulate. Does this phenomenon have a decent voice, or shall I put on my ear plugs?"
"She's damn good," Galbraith said. "Too good for a place like this. She reminds me a little of Streisand."
Clancy lifted a brow. "Praise indeed. I can hardly wait to hear the lady and formulate my own definition of that special 'something' you think she has."
"Well, you won't have to wait long." Galbraith nodded at the pianist, who had pulled a stool in front of the microphone and was carefully adjusting it. "She's on right now."