#1 New York Times bestselling author Tami Hoag mixes mystery and romance in this moving classic novel of a missing woman and the search that brings together the unlikeliest of lovers....
She was a blond goddess, a box office megastar. Every woman wanted to be her; every man wanted to bed her. But over a year ago Devon Stafford vanished without a trace. As a biographer, Jake Gannon had taught himself to follow the clues of a person's life story like a detective. As an ex-Marine, he was accustomed to being firmly in control. But when his car died in a little town called Mare's Nest on the Carolina coast, he had to admit he'd come to a dead end.
There he met a .38-toting tow-truck driver named Dixie La Fontaine. She was no celebrity, but Dixie had an irresistible sex appeal all her own. What did this down-to-earth woman know about a missing movie star? Surprisingly, quite a lot. And Jake was going to uncover it all...if Dixie didn't end up shooting him first.
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April 28, 2008
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Excerpt from Heart of Dixie by Tami Hoag
The Porsche sped along the coastal highway north of Charleston. Jake Gannon sat back in the butter-soft leather seat, his right hand on the steering wheel, his left arm resting on the frame of the open window. To his right, the Atlantic stretched into infinity, bluer than the sky and dotted with whitecaps. The cool air that blew through the car was scented with the crisp tang of the sea.
On one level Jake could appreciate the beauty around him. But for the most part his mind was focused on more important things. Jake Gannon tackled every task with an eye to perfection. So far, perfection concerning this business wasn't even a dot on the horizon. The trail had gone utterly cold. It was as if Devon Stafford had simply ceased to exist.
The need for discretion was making his task difficult as he homed in on the area she might have run to. He couldn't flat out ask anyone if they had seen her because questions that blatant would alert too many people, not the least of whom might be Ms. Stafford herself. But he would gladly suffer the inconvenience of anonymity if it meant being the one to find the missing actress and chronicle the story of her rise to fame and her subsequent flight from it.
In three short years Devon Stafford had rocketed to the top, from would-be star to household name. She had become America's darling of both the large and small screen, scoring three big wins in feature films and landing her own weekly television series--Wylde Time, the tales of Chyna Wylde, trauma surgeon and amateur sleuth. She had become the latest idol to emulate, the world's newest icon of sex appeal and glamor. And then she had vanished.
All that was known was that she had argued with her producers over having gained a couple of pounds when she'd quit smoking. Hardly a reason to turn her back on success, but she had gone nevertheless. No one had seen or heard from her in a year.
As a biographer, Jake had to unearth the secrets of people like Devon Stafford. Not to expose them in the way of the tabloid reporters, but to find out what made them tick, to bring to the surface all the hidden dreams, the emotions that drove them, the pasts that haunted them; to show both their polished surfaces and the hairline cracks that ran beneath those surfaces. To present the famous to their public as ordinary people who had for whatever reason become larger-than-life legends.
It was a career he more or less had fallen into, but he had discovered in short order that he was good at it and that he liked it. For the past six years, ever since leaving the Marine Corps, he had made his living at it, writing as A. J. Campion. He saved his own name for the day when he would finally get a mystery novel sold and published. Mystery was his first love, but biographies were in some cases mysteries in their own right. Like now. Devon Stafford was a mystery, one he had every intention of solving.
Never mind that people had hunted for her like bloodhounds the first few months after her disappearance from Hollywood. He was going to find her. Devon Stafford was his objective, and with the thorough perfectionism he was known for, he had dug for every scrap, every tidbit of information about her, no matter how insignificant, no matter how trivial. When Jake Gannon set an objective, he attained it. Period.
He admitted having personal reasons for wanting to be the one to find the actress and convince her to tell her story through him. He had been captivated by Devon Stafford the first time he'd seen her on a movie screen. She was drop-dead gorgeous with her wild waist-long mane of thick icy blond waves, her vibrant green eyes and bee-stung lips that begged a man to kiss them. Her body was the stuff of dreams--reed-slender and strong with subtle curves. She was Venus in a leotard. She was Aphrodite. She was perfect. Like every other red-blooded man on the planet, he felt his hormones go on overload every time he watched her on the screen. But there was something else about her that made her special. Beautiful women weren't difficult to find. There were plenty of beautiful women who never achieved the kind of fame Devon Stafford had. There was something else about her, an intangible, a special something that made her seem almost incandescent on the screen. She had a way of touching the heart of every person watching her. It was that special something Jake most wanted to try to capture in print. He wanted to examine the puzzle that was Devon Stafford and explain her to the world in a way that would make all the pieces fall into place.
But first he had to find her.
Suddenly the Porsche gave a lurch and sent up a racket that sounded as if someone were hammering under the hood. Jake bolted forward on his seat, muscles in his broad shoulders tensing to the hardness of granite, his eyes intently searching the gauges for signs of distress.