Family secrets and hidden lives come to haunt Madison Castelli, the sexy, vivacious, and talented writer last seen in Jackie Collins's Lethal Seduction. As she digs into her father's past, trying to resolve the mystery that surrounds her mother's death many years before, Madison finds herself falling into a vortex of lust, greed, and deception, as eventually her quest of discovery turns into a race for her life. Fast-paced, sexy, and full of the glamour that pervades Jackie Collins's novels, Deadly Embrace is sure to please her fans and earn her many more.
About the Author
There have been many imitators, but only Jackie Collins can tell you what really goes on in the fastest lane of all. From Beverly Hills bedrooms to a raunchy prowl along the streets of Hollywood; from glittering rock parties and concerts to stretch limos and the mansions of power brokers—Jackie Collins chronicles the real truth from the inside looking out.
Jackie Collins has been called a “raunchy moralist” by the late director Louis Malle and “Hollywood’s own Marcel Proust” by Vanity Fair magazine. With more than 500 million copies of her books sold in more than forty countries, and with some twenty-seven New York Times bestsellers to her credit, Jackie Collins is one of the world’s top-selling novelists. She is known for giving her readers an unrivalled insider’s knowledge of Hollywood and the glamorous lives and loves of the rich, famous, and infamous. “I write about real people in disguise,” she says. “If anything, my characters are toned down—the truth is much more bizarre.”
Visit Jackie’s website www.jackiecollins.com, and follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JackieJCollins, Facebook at www.facebook.com/jackiecollins and Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/jackiejcollins.
Hometown:Los Angeles, California
Date of Birth:October 4, 1941
Place of Birth:London, England
Read an Excerpt
Chapter One: Tuesday, July 10, 2001
The American Airlines plane from New York was three hours late arriving in L.A., and Madison Castelli was not pleased. She'd planned on going straight to her best friend, Natalie De Barge's, house. However, Natalie had informed her they were meeting Natalie's brother, Cole, in a restaurant at eight, and since the plane was so late, Madison decided she'd better go directly to Mario's a small Italian restaurant on Beverly Boulevard.
"I'll see you there," she said, speaking to Natalie on her cell phone as she strode through the airport.
She was looking forward to getting together with her friends. The truth was that she couldn't wait to hash out the ruins of her life. Over the last few days everything had fallen to pieces. Her father, Michael, was being accused of a double murder. His estranged wife, Stella (Madison's stepmother), and Stella's live-in lover had been shot, execution style. Now there was a warrant out for Michael's arrest, and he'd managed to mysteriously vanish.
As if that weren't enough to worry about, her boyfriend, Jake, was also on the missing list. Her wonderful, sexy, smart Jake an ace photographer who'd been covering a drug cartel in Colombia with a couple of colleagues had not been heard from in ten days, which was pretty damn worrying. Kidnapping was rife in Colombia, and so was murder.
All of this was on her mind as she collected her luggage, hailed a cab, and headed for the restaurant. This visit west was exactly what she needed to get her head straight. A few days of hanging with her friends, doing nothing, was her plan. No work. No hassles. And then she'd fly back to New York refreshed and ready to deal with anything.
Cole was already at the restaurant when she arrived. A personal trainer, Cole was an extremely good-looking, tall black man in his twenties, with a well-toned, powerful physique and a killer smile. He was also gay, and proud of it.
They kissed and hugged. "You're lookin' hot, babe," Cole said, checking her out.
"Not me," she said ruefully. "And you're sounding very L.A."
"Could be 'cause I live here," he said, escorting her to their table in the corner.
"So that's how the men in L.A. speak to their women," she teased.
"No," he said, grinning. "That's how I speak to the guys keeps 'em comin', if you get my meaning."
"You'll have to teach me," she said, sitting down.
Madison, at thirty, was a striking-looking woman tall and slender, with full breasts, a small waist, and exceptionally long legs.
She usually attempted to play down her good looks, but her green, almond-shaped eyes, sharply defined cheekbones, full seductive lips, and clouds of black hair marked her as a beauty. A very smart beauty, because she was a well-respected journalist, who specialized in insightful profiles of the rich, famous, and powerful. She worked for a magazine called Manhattan Style, she'd recently had a book about relationships published, and she was currently working on an investigative piece about old, notorious New York crime families. Over the last year she'd discovered that her father's past wasn't exactly the way it seemed. In fact, she wasn't sure she knew him at all. She'd decided that if she wanted to find out the real truth, she had to dig for it.
"Where's Natalie?" she asked, glancing at her watch.
"Late as usual," Cole responded. "What else is new?"
"I miss her," Madison said wistfully.
"She misses you, too. It's a real shame you don't live in the same city. Think of the trouble you two could get into."
"How's her radio show going?"
"It's a big deal. She loves puttin' her voice out there. You know our Natalie gets off on the attention."
Minutes later, Natalie rushed in, looking glowingly pretty as usual. She was short and sassy, with a curvaceous body and luscious lips. "Sorry, sorry, sorry!" she exclaimed, grabbing Madison in a bear hug. "Gettin' out of the studio was a total nightmare. Wow!" she added, flopping into a chair. "I need a drink."
"Me too," Madison agreed, signaling a waiter.
The waiter came over. He was slight of build and very Italian looking, with shaggy black hair and an appealing accent.
"Wine," Natalie said. "I'm desperate."
"Red or white, signora?"
"House red for everyone."
"Good idea," Madison said.
The waiter hurried off.
"Hmmm...," Natalie said to his retreating back. "Nice booty."
"Yeah, I noticed that," Cole said. "Wonder what team he plays on."
"Mine!" claimed Natalie. "I can always tell."
"I wouldn't be too sure," Cole said, grinning.
"You two!" Madison exclaimed. "Nobody's safe around either of you."
"That's not true," Natalie objected. "Old people, and anyone under fifteen."
"Shocking!" Madison scolded.
"No, merely honest," Natalie said.
Suddenly their attention was taken by a huge commotion at the front desk.
"What the hell is goin' on?" Natalie said, peering over.
"Dunno," Cole replied.
And then the unthinkable happened. Three men burst into the center of the restaurant brandishing guns. "Don'tcha move, assholes, or I'll blow your mothafuckin' heads off." The chilling words, yelled by a ski-masked male holding an Uzi machine gun, immediately silenced the busy restaurant.
Madison stared at them in disbelief. It had been a tough week, and now this. No way. This couldn't possibly be happening.
But it was. Mario's was under siege, and they were right in the middle of it as the three armed bandits, dressed all in black, with face-and-head-covering knit ski masks, commandeered the room, blocking the exit and the entrance to the kitchen.
"Jesus Christ!" Cole muttered, while Natalie sat perfectly still, frozen with fear.
Madison knew why. Ten years ago, when they were college roommates, Natalie had experienced a traumatic gang rape. She'd gotten over it and gone on to succeed in her profession as a celebrity interviewer now this random holdup had put her into shock.
"Stay cool, both of you," Cole warned. He was ready to deal with anything, although even he knew it wasn't smart to argue with a gun.
Automatically Madison leaned over to comfort Natalie, murmuring, "I don't believe this," as she pushed back her long dark hair, her green eyes darting around the room, her journalist's mind taking in every detail.
"You'd better believe it," Cole said in a low voice. "This is L.A. Shit happens."
"Shut the fuck up!" yelled the leader, the one with the Uzi. He was nervous and jumpy, moving around on the balls of his sneaker-shod feet like a stoned runner at the end of a particularly invigorating race.
Madison noticed his eyes staring at them through the slits in his mask. They were angry eyes, filled with undisguised hate. She reckoned he was young, probably still in his teens.
Young, agitated, and pissed off at the world. Just what they needed.
"Empty your fuckin' purses, take off your jewelry, an' do it now!" he screamed.
A second bandit, armed with a handgun and a crumpled black garbage bag, began running from table to table collecting money, wallets, watches, rings, cell phones, anything of value, while the third masked man herded the kitchen staff into the center of the room.
Madison willed herself to remain calm, but her heart was already pounding. She had no desire to be a victim; she was in the mood to do something, anything not just sit there and hand over her stuff like an obedient sheep.
The elderly woman at the table next to them was attempting to remove her pearl necklace. Her hands were shaking so much that she couldn't quite manage it. The younger woman with her leaned over and tried to help.
Whack! The bandit collecting the loot hit the younger woman in the face with the butt of his pistol. She slumped over, blood pumping from a vicious cut to her temple.
"Oh my God!" gasped the elderly woman. "What have you done to my daughter!"
Madison couldn't help herself; it was an unprovoked act of violence and she wasn't about to stand for it. "Coward," she hissed at the ski-masked robber. "Big man with a gun in your hand."
"Don't go there," Cole managed, his voice an urgent command. "Stay cool stay quiet."
Too late. The guy turned on Madison, waving his gun recklessly in her face. "Keep outta my business, ho, an' gimme your watch." He jerked his gun toward Natalie. "You too."
Natalie was still frozen to the spot, her brown eyes wide with fear.
"Give him your watch, Nat," Madison urged in what she hoped was a calm and steady voice.
Natalie didn't move.
"Come on, sweetie, do it," Madison cajoled.
Natalie still didn't move.
Without warning, the gunman grabbed Natalie's arm, tearing the gold Cartier watch off her wrist.
Natalie screamed, a loud, piercing scream that almost drowned out the sound of police sirens in the distance.
"Mothafucker!" yelled the leader, turning on Cole, eyes glinting dangerously through the slits in his mask. "Which one a you shit-ass fucks called the cops?"
"Hey, man," Cole said evenly. "Don't look at me."
As he spoke, the burly-looking man at the next table made his move, suddenly producing a pistol from under his jacket and aiming it at the ringleader.
"Drop your weapon," the man commanded in a salty voice. "Give it up now before you get into even more trouble."
For a second, Madison thought the ringleader was about to comply and instruct the other two to do the same. But no even though the lights of police cars now flashed outside the shuttered front windows, he was not prepared to give up. "Drop your fuckin' weapon," he sneered. "Or you got any fuckin' idea what I'm gonna do?"
The burly man stood his ground. He was a retired detective ready to make his final stab at being a hero, and no punk with a gun was about to stop him. "Listen, sonny, don't be dumb ," he began in a patronizing tone with the slightest hint of an Irish accent.
The word "dumb" triggered immediate action from the gunman, who let loose with a sudden burst of gunfire. Everyone screamed. The burly man fell to the ground, a look of complete surprise on his face.
"Who th' fuck's dumb now?" sneered the leader, waving the Uzi threateningly around the room. "Not me!"
Then he began yelling at his two cohorts to lock the doors and get everyone into the center of the restaurant.
"Christ!" Cole muttered. "We're screwed."
And Madison had a gut feeling he was right.
Vincent Castle watched his pretty wife, Jenna, through hooded eyes. Jenna wasn't merely pretty. She was a true peach, with soft-as-satin skin, natural honey blond shoulder-length hair, wide-apart pale blue eyes, real breasts, and extraordinarily long legs.
Vincent was no slouch in the looks department himself six feet three inches tall, with dark curly hair, intense black eyes, a straight nose, dimpled chin, and worked-out body. Women creamed themselves over Vincent Castle. Not only was he a partner in the extremely successful Castle Hotel and Casino, he was also hot, and rich, and still only thirty-six. But unfortunately for the women who continually circled this fine prospect, he was married to the delectable Jenna.
And even more of an obstacle, he was faithful.
Of course, they had not been married a year yet, so there was still time.
"Jenna seems happy tonight," the woman sitting next to Vincent in the red leather booth said in a sly, seductive voice, placing an elegant hand on his thigh. Her name was Jolie Sanchez, and she was the wife of Vincent's business partner and childhood friend, Nando. Jolie was also a beauty. In her early thirties, she had catlike amber eyes, turned-down sensual lips, and long raven hair.
Vincent knew that if he wanted to, he could avail himself of everything she had to offer.
He didn't, because other men's wives were not his style, and he would certainly never go near his partner's wife. Besides, Nando who was half Colombian and half French had an out-of-control temper. He'd once cut off the ear of a rival he believed had screwed him in a deal. Unfortunately, the man had almost bled to death, causing Nando to think three times before losing his violent temper again.
"She admires movie stars," Vincent said, casually shifting his leg so that Jolie was forced to move her hand.
"Ah, but no movie star is as gorgeous as her husband," Jolie murmured, flattering him, which was her way.
Vincent gave a thin smile, keeping his rising anger under control. Jenna was disrespecting him, the way she was draping herself all over Andy Dale a one-hit movie wonder with lank dirty blond hair and a boyish grin. Andy Dale was in town for the big fight taking place the following night. He was accompanied by Anais, a surly black supermodel who was quite obviously coked out of her head and couldn't care less who he came on to. Nando had invited them for dinner and then promptly left, making the excuse that he had a business meeting.
Lately Vincent was beginning to wonder if he'd made a wrong move marrying Jenna. She was a very young twenty-two-year-old and surprisingly inexperienced. Unlike him. He'd covered the waterfront, exactly the way his father, Michael, had taught him to. At the age of seventeen, Michael had set him up with a twenty-year-old call girl in a suite at the MGM Grand for twenty-four hours, all expenses paid. What a deal! What a dad!
The young girl had taught him everything he was supposed to know about pleasing a woman, and although at the time he had not appreciated sticking his tongue between her legs and eating her out, he'd soon learned how much girls got off on it.
"Good looks are not what's gonna get you places," his father had lectured him. "You have to be the fastest an' the smartest in business, and you gotta know how to treat a woman in bed. That way you'll have the world by the balls. Believe me, son, that's what makes a man."
Michael Castelli was a man who did indeed have the world by the balls. Vincent looked up to him in spite of the fact that Michael had never married Dani, Vincent's mom.
Vincent had not yet heard about the arrest warrant and his father's disappearance. He was hardly in contact with his half sister, Madison whom he'd only met once, several months ago, under strained circumstances. Michael had called him up and said he needed a favor. Naturally, Vincent had obliged.
It galled him that Madison had no clue about Michael's other family. How come he'd been told the truth, and yet she'd led some kind of sheltered life, believing she was an only child?
Well, she wasn't. There was him and his younger sister, Sofia. And if Madison thought she was any better than them, she was very much mistaken.
"Oooh, stop!" Jenna squealed, smooth cheeks flushed as she playfully pushed Andy Dale away.
"What's going on?" Vincent asked, keeping his slow-burning temper under control.
"Andy's trying to see if I'm ticklish," Jenna giggled.
"Bet you are!" Andy said, lunging once again, his groping hands brushing up against her perky breasts.
Vincent stood up. "Andy," he said pleasantly. "Got something to show you."
"What?" Andy questioned. He was young, famous, and full of himself. He was a fucking movie star, for crissakes. He could have anything or anyone he wanted.
"You'll like it," Vincent promised with a thin smile.
"Not," Jolie murmured under her breath.
Andy stood up. He was five feet eight, thanks to cleverly concealed lifts in his custom-made shoes without them he barely grazed five six. "Where we goin'?" he asked, following Vincent out of the plush restaurant into the packed casino.
"There's something in my office that might interest you," Vincent said evenly.
"If I can snort it or fuck it, I'm your man," Andy chortled.
Cretin, Vincent thought. Two more movies and you're over.
Sofia Castle was a wild one. Tall, tanned, lean, and street smart, she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. A school dropout at fifteen, she'd rejected the very thought of college, and for three years had backpacked her way around the world with two girlfriends and a gay guy. One by one they'd all gotten into trouble. First, one of her girlfriends was arrested in Thailand for smuggling drugs. A year later, in Hawaii, her other girlfriend ran off with a married surfer she'd only known for five days. And Jace, her gay friend, managed to get himself beaten up wherever they went.
"Like what the hell do you do?" she'd demanded of him.
"Nothing," he'd answered primly, "except be myself."
Which was too gay for most people.
So eventually Sofia had ended up alone, apart from a series of transient boyfriends.
In spite of being by herself, Sofia had no desire to go home to Las Vegas, where her big brother, Vincent, bossed the crap out of her and her mom was always trying to tell her what to do. Yes, the gambling capital had lost its appeal long ago, so instead of heading home, she'd moved on to Marbella and landed a job as a roving photographer covering the nightclub scene during the tourist season.
At eighteen, Sofia was a free spirit, and nobody could stop her. Not her mother who, God knew, had tried. Nor Vincent with whom she enjoyed a love-hate relationship. And certainly not her father, Michael a man she resented big time because he'd never been around when she'd needed him.
Sofia was her own person. Only, tonight she wasn't so sure. Tonight she was trapped in a penthouse apartment with two drugged-out Spanish playboys who were old (at least forty) and very, very horny.
Earlier she'd hooked up with a group of people at one of the clubs and thought they were fun. Never one to turn down free champagne and plenty of grass, she'd gone with the group to the penthouse, and suddenly everyone else seemed to have vanished, leaving her stuck with two horny old men.
"Gotta go," she announced nonchalantly.
"No!" horny Spaniard number one said. His name was Paco and he had slit eyes and slicked-back boot-polish brown hair.
"You stay with us," horny Spaniard number two said, making kissing noises with his lips. He was a thin man in an off-white seersucker suit and shiny two-tone patent leather shoes. He smelled of lavender.
Stoned as she was, Sofia knew it was time to get out. She also suspected that they'd locked the front door, which was not a good sign.
"Sorry, guys," she said, heading for the door and trying the handle. Yes, it was locked. Damn! "My old man's a cop," she said sharply, furious that she'd gotten caught in such a sucker situation. "So we don't want any trouble, do we? You'd better let me out. And I do mean now."
"No, no you come here, cara," Paco crooned, coming after her and pawing her bare shoulder with his sweaty palm. "We show you sexy time."
"No thanks," she said, twisting away from him. "And open this fucking door before I kick it in."
The men exchanged conspiratorial looks, then Paco grabbed her while the other man moved in.
Sofia experienced a shiver of fear for the first time in her young life.
She knew she was in trouble, and it wasn't a feeling she appreciated.
My daughter is in trouble. The thought kept running through Dani Castle's mind. She'd awoken that morning after experiencing a vivid nightmare about Sofia, and hadn't been able to stop thinking about her since. Now it was nighttime, and she was having dinner with the man she should have married, but even so, she couldn't concentrate her mind was elsewhere.
Dean King, a distinguished-looking man in his sixties, tall and barrel chested, with a thick head of silver hair, had never failed her, never let her down. However, in spite of their long relationship, she still lived with the hope that one day Michael would marry her and legalize their union.
Michael Castelli. The love of her life.
The father of her two children, Vincent and Sofia.
She loved him. She always would.
Dani was, at fifty-three, a beautiful woman tall and naturally blond, with smooth skin, ocean blue eyes, and a showgirl's body. Once a headline performer in Vegas, she now organized the occasional PR event at her son's hotel. She was very proud of Vincent; he'd done so well with only a small amount of help from his dad.
Yes, Vincent could certainly take care of himself. It was Sofia she was worried about.
Both of her children bore a strong resemblance to Michael. They had inherited his deep olive skin and jet black hair. And Sofia had definitely inherited his wild streak. One memorable day, after a big fight with her dad, she'd dropped out of school and taken off, leaving only a short note.
Fifteen years old and she was gone. The only contact Dani had had with her since then was the occasional phone call or postcard.
There was nothing she could do about it. Sofia possessed a will of steel, exactly like Michael, who had not seemed at all concerned by his daughter's taking off. "The kid can look after herself," he'd assured her. "You gotta stop worrying."
Easy for him to say.
Sometimes Dani thought the only offspring he really cared about was Madison, his daughter from another woman.
"What are you thinking?" Dean asked, leaning across the table and attempting to take her hand.
She pulled back. Dean's devotion was endless; maybe rejection did make the heart grow fonder. It certainly did in his case.
Dean lived in Houston. He owned oil wells, and was extremely rich and quite powerful in his own way.
So why didn't you marry him, Dani?
Because I never loved him.
"I'm thinking about Sofia," she sighed, sipping her wine. "I worry about her so much. I wish I could see her."
Dean studied her face. "Have you heard from her lately?" he asked.
"A few weeks ago. She's in Spain somewhere, she never says exactly where."
"I've told you many times," he said. "If you want me to, I can hire people who'll find her and bring her home."
"No." She shook her head. "Sofia will come back when she's ready."
"Then you've got to stop worrying."
God! He sounded like Michael!
"I have an early meeting," she said, placing her napkin on the table and pushing her chair back.
"Does this mean dinner is over?" he asked, raising a quizzical eyebrow.
"You don't mind, do you?"
"Would it matter if I did?" he said, thinking that this woman drove him insane she always had. The problem was that he couldn't stop being crazy about her. Two marriages to other women along the way had done nothing to extinguish the flame.
"Of course it would," she lied, trying to figure out why she kept Dean in the wings.
"Well...," he said hesitantly. "I can postpone leaving and stay another day."
It won't do you any good, she wanted to say, but she didn't. Dean lived to please her, and she lived to please Michael, whom she hadn't heard from in months. She wondered where he was and what he was doing.
She refused to call him. She had her pride.
Thirty-six years ago, at the age of seventeen, she'd given birth to his only son and then eighteen years later, a daughter. He'd never married her, and yet there was no way she could ever stop loving him.
Yes, it's true, she thought ruefully, rejection does make the heart grow fonder.
I'm running, Michael Castelli thought. I'm running like a rat being chased through the sewers, and I hate myself for doing this.
But I have no choice.
I have no fucking choice.
His past had finally caught up with him, and it was either run and discover the truth, or rot in some lousy jail.
Michael knew that if he was ever incarcerated again, he would never survive.
And in Michael's world, survival was the name of the game.
Copyright © 2002 by Chances, Inc.