Magic and love intertwine in this tale of romantic suspense by bestselling author Heather Graham.
Regina Delaney loves making children happy. Playing Dierdre Dinosaur for adoring audiences at the theme park she started with her twin brother Max gives the local kids—and Reggie—countless hours of innocent pleasure. But make-believe morphs into suspicion of murder when Max's ex-wife vanishes...and Max becomes the prime suspect.
Reggie is determined to uncover the truth and clear her brother's name. So is Wesley Blake. The ex-military intelligence officer believes in his best friend's innocence—which means someone has set Max up. Gathering intel is the easy part. Resisting Max's gorgeous sister is something else. But soon Wes has a more critical mission: stopping a diabolical plot and protecting Reggie from someone who has marked her for extinction.
|Product dimensions:||6.50(w) x 5.50(h) x 0.62(d)|
About the Author
Heather Graham (b. 1953) is a bestselling author of more than 150 romance, suspense, and historical novels that have sold seventy-five million copies worldwide. Raised in Florida, Graham went to college for theater arts, and spent several years acting, singing, and bartending before she devoted herself to writing. Her first novel, When Next We Love , was published in 1982. Although she became famous as an author of romance novels, Graham has since branched out into supernatural horror, historical fiction, and suspense, with titles such as Tall, Dark, and Deadly (1999), Long, Lean, and Lethal (2000), and Dying to Have Her (2001). In 2003 the Romance Writers of America, whose Florida chapter Graham founded, granted her a lifetime achievement award. She lives, writes, and scuba dives in Florida with her husband and five children.
Read an Excerpt
Mistress of Magic
By Heather Graham
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1992 Heather Graham Pozzessere
All rights reserved.
Large and green, shaded with yellow around the smiling mouth, the great eyes a brilliant, cornflower blue, the cuddly creature made of latex and foam came smacking lightly against the man as he absently turned away. The creature and the man turned to each other in surprise at the contact. Delighted laughter at the accidental interchange rose among the crowd.
The audience was ready to be delighted. It was fairly early, and though the day promised an intense heat, there was still a whisper of a breeze on the morning air. Beautifully manicured palms and hibiscus and crotons just bowed lightly to that breeze. Excitement and eagerness and even fun seemed to hang in the air like tangible things that could be swept up, grabbed and held tight.
The sudden, startling collision of the man and the latex monster seemed to add to it all.
The crowd laughed again. But between the man and the creature, there was a moment of silent surprise.
Then the man's face was split with a broad, handsome smile, and he bumped the creature in return—as if in a payback gesture. As if the creature had bumped into him on purpose.
The creature skittered away, then returned, then skittered away again, anxious, concerned, shy once again. The creature had a personality, one that was all her own, one that any child there knew and knew well.
"Pet her! Give her a pat on the nose, mister! Dierdre is really a nice monster, sir!" some young observer called out.
The man laughed. It was a nice laugh. The kind of laugh that somehow seemed to reach through all that latex and foam and padding and touch Reggie right against her spine, sending small electric tingles to race along it.
"A nice monster?" he said skeptically.
He had a nice voice, too. Deep, rich, very masculine. Reggie felt a peculiar trembling seize hold of her, just as if that voice could really touch her.
"Of course!" a little girl said.
"She'th thweet, she'th good, she'th wonderful!" added a stalwart tot who slurred out the words—he was missing his two front teeth.
"Then I'd better give her a pat, huh?" the man said.
"Yes, oh, yes!" the children all called out. A good sized crowd was gathering. Neither parents nor children seemed to mind that they would wind up running a little late to stand in their next line. They all seemed to enjoy the live drama—or comedy—that was taking place before them.
"A good monster. All right, nice monster!" he said, setting a hand on her latex nose.
Reggie felt another peculiar little trembling cascade through her. He wasn't even touching her. He was stroking latex. And still ...
There could be definite advantages to wearing a dinosaur suit, she decided. Advantages she had certainly never imagined when Max had asked her to come out of the cave and play Dierdre for the first early morning crowd.
Really, Regina! she chided herself in dismayed silence. There had always been wonderful advantages to playing Dierdre Dinosaur!
For one, the children were wonderful. Reggie knew that a number of employees quickly tired of the heavy costumes and the multitude of children—big and little—who wanted to shake Dierdre's hand, stroke her synthetic cheek or just receive a big dinosaur hug.
Reggie had never minded. Of course, Dierdre Dinosaur was her invention, almost as much as the character was Max's creation. Dierdre had been their first. She was nearest and dearest to their hearts. Maybe Reggie felt something special for Dierdre.
Or maybe it was just the children. It was little faces alight with smiles. It was tiny hands, reaching out. Sometimes there were children in wheelchairs, children with terminal illnesses. Beautiful children with bright eyes and hope- filled faces, and then it was exceptionally wonderful to be Dierdre Dinosaur, just to see those extraordinary and very special smiles.
And, of course, there were times like this morning. Times when being Dierdre just turned out to be fun. Because the very big kids could sometimes be just as much fun as the little ones.
And as stunned as she might be with herself for such a volatile and startling reaction to a man, she would have to say that there was truly something especially fun about this particular big kid.
Well, he was very big, for one. Reggie was certain that he had to be over six two, probably closer to six three. He had a nice athletic build without being overly muscular, appealing broad shoulders, a narrow waist and trim hips. He wore his casual striped cotton tailored shirt with a pleasant ease, and seemed cool despite the rising heat.
And admittedly, he wore his tight jeans with an even greater appeal. The denim hugged his body quite nicely, and Reggie couldn't help but simply like the way the man was able to wear clothes.
And that, unfortunately, led her to wonder just what he looked like when he wasn't wearing clothing.
She groaned and reminded herself that she was a large, walking prehistoric animal-of-the-imagination and that she was out here to amuse children, not to think these thoughts that were causing her to blush beneath her mask. She wasn't like that. She never thought thoughts like that. Never. She always just had good, clean fun, enjoying her anonymity—
Oh, come now, Reggie! she told herself. This was still clean.
Nope. Not when she was using a dinosaur mask as a cover while discreetly studying the way he wore those jeans.
Look at his eyes, Reggie. Look at his eyes.
His face was even nicer than his body. He had a head of thick, sandy, fairly close-cropped hair. His face was the ruggedly handsome type, hard planed, lean, with a set of wide, hazel-gold eyes that gleamed sharply in contrast to the deep bronze hue of his skin. There was nothing soft or pretty about him. His were the rough-cut good looks that had given men like Clint Eastwood such a broad appeal. And still, despite the somewhat macho ruggedness of his appeal, he had a smile that could make her breath catch. Maybe because the full sensuality of his smile and that mischievous glitter in his eyes were somewhat in opposition to the severity of his face. Maybe he had been places and seen things. Maybe he'd weathered a lot.
But he seemed like the type who had come out of it all okay. With a sense of humor and a rich love of life still intact.
And maybe she was reading far too much into a stranger she was meeting as Dierdre Dinosaur, a stranger she would probably never meet in real life.
Well, it was fun. It was one way to pass the time. She received smiles from men in khaki shorts and women in halter tops and cutoff jeans all the time. She read the children's faces, and she even saw their lives back home in Des Moines or Charleston or whatever city they had traveled from to come here for their fun in the sun. She liked people, and she was a dreamer. It was what she and Max did for a living. The dreaming was the magic.
And still ... Still, maybe she was imagining just a bit too much about this particular stranger.
Max had been telling her that she worked too hard, that she needed to get a life.
Mmm, but while he was in the midst of telling her that, he was also begging that she run out and be Dierdre again. With the employees beginning to leave since this new, ugly business had come up—
She didn't want to think about that! She didn't want to get angry or feel protective. She didn't want to feel hateful and furious, not when she was being Dierdre.
And that left ...
The man. The man with his great, sexy smile and hazel-gold eyes. The man who was laughing now. He had withdrawn at first, like someone who quickly became wary. Why? Was he a cop? A government agent? Hmm.
He had actually seemed as if he was here on business, at first. As if the being accidentally bumped by a park creature had been an annoyance. She had seen that first look in his eyes....
But this was an amusement park, a theme park. People came here to have fun. To see Dierdre Dinosaur, especially. And no one would be annoyed, unless it was a father who had stood in one too many long lines or a brother who had been dragged here by a younger sibling....
This man was alone, or so it seemed.
And he had come around, she reminded herself. That annoyance had been in his glittering eyes for the very briefest of seconds. And then he had laughed and had joined right in the play, and the children were enjoying his impromptu performance just as much as they were enjoying the show being put on by the dinosaur.
Still smiling, he gave her another pat on the big dinosaur nose.
Dierdre, as shy and sweet as a dinosaur could be, bowed her head shyly. She half turned away.
"Oh, don't let him go! Don't let him go!" a little girl called out.
Reggie wasn't about to let him go. Actually, she decided, this could be really fun. As Miss Regina Delaney, she could certainly never flirt with a man like this.
But as Dierdre Dinosaur ...
She turned quickly, using her three-pronged dinosaur hand to ruffle his close- cropped sandy blond hair. That stopped him. Stopped him quick. He turned back, his brows arched, a glimmer of high mischief in his eyes again. Even as he turned, she played the blushing dinosaur, hiding her face in her big dinosaur paws. She sneaked a peek. He was watching her, his head slightly cocked, his hands on his hips.
Good-looking fellow. Really good-looking fellow. Handsome smile, nice voice.
Not the type I ever get to meet as a human being! she said to herself. But I have him now ...
And so she approached him again, setting her flopping arms around him and giving a little hug as she let her felt chin rest on his shoulder.
There was a pen in his pocket. Dexterous even in the costume—she had worn it often enough—Reggie slipped the pen from his shirt. Then she quickly sidled away again, shy. So shy.
A little boy chortled with laughter. "She's got your pen, mister!"
"You've got to give her a hug if you want it back!" another youngster warned.
"Hug a dinosaur?" he said in disbelief.
"Yeth!" the toothless child told him.
He shook his head in dramatic disbelief, then walked to the waiting dinosaur. Inside the costume, Reggie grinned at his whisper.
"There is a woman in there, I hope?"
Dierdre Dinosaur did not speak to the crowd. It was part of her magic, and that was the premise of the park—magic. The magic of the imagination, the magic of wonder. The magic of fantasy and the magic of belief.
"Please, have mercy, will you? You are a woman, right?" the man asked.
Dierdre Dinosaur gave him a slow nod. Then she realized that this stranger was a showman whether he had suspected it or not, for he threw his arms wide and enveloped her—massive costume and all—into a giant bear hug.
The children roared.
"Now, creature, my pen, please!" he commanded.
Dierdre gave him the pen. As he turned and started to walk away, she placed her three-toed hands together and set them palpitating over her heart. Once again, the children roared.
The man turned. Of course, by then, he was far too late. Dierdre was standing just as innocently as a creature of latex and foam could possibly stand.
"She wants a kiss goodbye!" a child called out.
"A big kith!" added the toothless one, passionately.
"You want me to kiss a monster?" the man asked.
"She's not a monster!"
"She's Dierdre Dinosaur!"
"And she loves you!"
"She loves everyone!"
"Hey, mister, don't you know? She's Dierdre Dinosaur!"
He knocked his palm against his head. "Of course! I know that! A kiss goodbye, huh?"
Through the big gauze eyes, Reggie could see his only slightly disconcerted expression as he walked toward her.
"You swear you're a woman, right?" he said again.
He was so damned uncomfortable. She should shake her head. Make him really sweat. But she didn't. She inclined her head instead.
"You've got me at one heck of a disadvantage, lady!"
She presented her cheek for a big kiss.
He sighed and planted a big kiss on it. "I don't kiss monsters for just anybody," he said.
She lifted a hand, indicating the gathering of children.
"You're right!" he said very softly. "Kids are just kind of worth it, huh?"
She started to nod, but he was wagging a finger at her in warning. "Still, lady, you've had me at a disadvantage. Remember that!"
Then he turned and walked away. The kids were laughing and calling.
Dierdre Dinosaur stood still for a moment, watching him.
Then Dierdre lifted her three-toed hand and beckoned to a little boy, and suddenly she was thronged with children.
Dierdre signed autographs awkwardly.
But the woman inside the dinosaur costume kept watching the man. She watched him as his broad shoulders and sandy head disappeared into the crowd.
The sun seemed to disappear behind a cloud, right along with him; the day had grown a little bit darker.
I don't even know him! she scolded herself. And there were so many serious things to worry about today.
But just like Dierdre, she felt as if her heart was palpitating hard against her breast.
And the day had, indeed, grown darker.
Fifteen minutes later she had managed to slip into the dinosaur cave from which she had come. As much as she loved playing Dierdre—and as well as the suits were crafted—the costumes could become unbearably hot in the kind of weather they were having, even though it was still early, not even summer yet. The rocky barriers of the cave gave way to one of the costume shops and to two dressing rooms, marked by some fun-loving employee as Dino Gals and Dino Guys. Dolly Duckbill—another of Reggie's favorites of their character creations—had come into the cave behind her. Already removing Dolly's headpiece was Dan Laredo, an old friend, a good friend, one who had been with her and Max from the beginning.
"Damnation, but it's going to be a scorcher!"
"Hot as Hades," Reggie agreed solemnly, "and watch that language with the kids."
Dan shrugged. He was dark, with a crinkled, good-humored face. He let out an expletive that seemed to let her know how he felt about the whole day—no children could hear him here.
She grimaced, but laughed at his exaggerated, pained expression. Then she sobered quickly. "Thanks for still being here, Dan."
"And playing a female dinosaur, at that!" he moaned.
"That should be the very least of your worries," she told him. Dan was a good friend, all right. And a long-time employee. He and she were both playing dinosaurs this morning because so many of the employees had already resigned.
It was going to be a long day for him. Just as it was going to be a long day for her. The big meeting was scheduled to take place at noon.
The fate of the park was at hand.
"How true," Dan said. Touchingly, he reached out a felt-clad hand. "Reggie, I will be here, you know. Till the very end."
Something hollow seemed to echo in her heart. Dan seemed to believe that there would be an end. Soon.
Well, everyone believed that. Everyone who heard the story. And the story was becoming very widespread. There were so many whispers going around. So much was rumor.
So much was truth.
And Max. Max was being made to pay for it all.
For the thousandth time, Reggie damned her ex-sister-in-law. Then she was sorry she did so, and she silently, quickly prayed that the woman might be all right.
But something was wrong. Dreadfully wrong. Her ex-sister-in-law was missing.
Nothing had ever been enough for the woman. Nothing had ever been right. She and Max had seemed mismatched from the start. And Reggie had stayed away, determined never to let Max know her feelings. Never to be even the ghost of a note of discord between them. But then things had exploded on their own, the messy, sticky divorce had come about and now ...
And now the woman was missing, and the police thought she was dead.
And they were making everyone think Max was responsible.
And while the rumors surfaced, the resignations began to pour in. Financial backers were pulling out. The park was in the midst of a crisis. Max's silent partner was planning on making an appearance at the meeting, Reggie had heard, and she was nervous. She had never met W. D. Blake, but she could picture him—a stuffy old millionaire, ready to pull the curtains on Max.
Excerpted from Mistress of Magic by Heather Graham. Copyright © 1992 Heather Graham Pozzessere. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Great read; however, Heather Graham fans, beware this is a reprint.