Once Bitten, Twice Shy Before she joined Reaper in hunting Gregor's gang of rogue bloodsuckers, privileged princess Topaz was gunning for just one vamp: Jack Heart. The gorgeous con man had charmed his way into her bed, her heart and her bank account, taking her for half a million dollars and vanishing without a word.Now she and Jack--maddeningly attractive as ever--are supposedly on the same side. As Reaper's ragtag outfit scatters, Topaz sets out to solve a mystery that's plagued her all her lives, mortal and immortal: what really happened to her movie-star mother, who died when Topaz was just a baby? With four men claiming to be her father, why has she always been alone? And what stake does Jack have in discovering the truth about her past? Topaz is sure he's up to something--but her suspicions are at war with her desires...
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April 30, 2008
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Excerpt from Lover's Bite by Maggie Shayne
Mirabella DuFrane exited the beachfront adobe mansion as if she were floating, rather than walking. The skintight gown--paisley print, plunging halter neckline, slit up to her slender hip--clung to every perfect curve, despite the fact that she'd given birth only three months ago. No one would have known it to look at her.
Speculation about the identity of her baby girl's father was rampant, but no one except Mirabella knew for sure. And Mirabella wasn't saying. It just added to the mysterious allure of Hollywood's brightest star.
She was the silver screen's flavor of the year. An exotic blend of Italian and Spanish, with copper skin, almond eyes, a figure most women would die for and many men would kill for--she was the ideal. And that she was so elusive--never married, and promising that she never would be--only added to her massive appeal. She was fond of telling the press that she was too free a spirit to ever be tied down, that no man could ever own her, possess her, or even hold her for very long. She would never be tamed. The tabloids were constantly pairing her with one man or another. Politicians, businessmen, actors. Any photo of her with a male was fodder for gossip in the rags. She never denied or confirmed any of it, just smiled her mysterious smile and answered questions with more questions when the reporters cast their lines into her waters on their fishing expeditions.
That was Mirabella.
And yet, there was something else about her. Something frail and otherworldly that rarely showed. It lingered beneath the surface, like a fragile seashell resting on the ocean floor and hoping no rough currents stirred it up to the surface.
Mirabella floated toward the black stretch limousine that waited at the curb, her gown's hemline skimming just above the sidewalk, creating that airborne illusion she so loved. Paparazzi swarmed, held at a distance by Bella's ever-present bodyguards.
Once it had been unusual for the press to be in Santa Luna in such droves, but this small coastal town, twenty-five miles south of Los Angeles, had become a haven for the rich and the famous. Too expensive for common folk, too remote for fans, it had become the hot spot for celebrity getaways--quick ones, when there was no time to go on a real trip. Mirabella had been a guest at an exclusive party at the mansion known as Avalon. Its fanciful and somewhat pretentious name had been thought up by its former owners, a Hollywood pair who'd peaked in the fifties before retiring here. The Avalon Ball had become an annual event, and Hollywood's elite hungered to see their names on the guest list. Because being invited was such a coup, no one complained too much about the press.
Cameras flashed in the night as Mirabella made her way along the clear path to the waiting car, smiling and waving all the way.
Then there were different kinds of flashes. Three of them. Bella's smile froze in place as her body jerked in perfect synch with those bright eruptions. Her milk-chocolate eyes fluttered, lashes lowering as she looked down. Blood flowers blossomed in slow motion like a Hollywood depiction of an acid trip over the front of her designer gown. She lifted her head, the huge gold hoops in her ears jangling. One hand rose, as if reaching out for help, and then Mirabella's heavily lined eyes fell closed, and she folded over herself and sank to the sidewalk, graceful, even with three bullets in her abdomen.
The press swarmed as her bodyguards fought to hold them off. Police on crowd control duty closed in to help, and within a minute, sirens could be heard as more police and an ambulance arrived.
"It was too late to save Mirabella DuFrane," a vaguely familiar male voice said.
It was some retired news anchor, Jack Heart thought, hired to narrate documentaries once he was replaced by a younger model at the news desk. He couldn't remember the guy's name.
"She died in the hospital that very night. But that's far from where this story ends. The starlet's body was stolen from the hospital morgue, and to this day, it has never been found, leading to numerous reported sightings in the years since. And her murder? Never solved."
There was a knock at the motel room door. Jack looked up, irritated at the interruption. Then he sensed who was on the other side. Topaz.
Jumping to his feet, he popped the DVD out of his portable player, returned it to its case--a case that bore Mirabella's image, and the title DEATH OF A GODDESS: The Mirabella DuFrane Story--and closed the lid. "Just a minute." He quickly stuffed the documentary into his backpack, zipped it closed and tossed it into the closet. "Come in, Topaz," he said as he opened the door to greet her.