Tuesday, August 05, 2008

FINDING STEPHANIE

Book 3 in the Noble Legacy series


When she put her dreams on hold to help run the family ranch, she never imagined they would slip out of sight. Luckily for Stefanie, those dreams are about to come knocking at her door.

Lincoln Cash has gained fame and fortune on the big screen, but a crippling secret leaves him one last chance to make his mark on the movie industry. With dreams of hosting a new film festival, Lincoln intends to remodel a sprawling ranch in eastern Montana to make it the new Hollywood hot spot.

Unfortunately, a house fire threatens his plans. So does opposition from his new neighbor Stefanie Noble, who's not thrilled about his Tinseltown changes. What Lincoln and Stefanie don't know is that the fire won't be the last disaster to threaten Lincoln or his future. Someone is out for revenge... but who? And who is the real target?
To find out more about Susan, check out her website at www.susanmaywarren.com

Here's a sample: Finding Stephanie

Chapter 1

The invincible Lincoln Cash—as his press agent called him—had survived jumping out of airplanes, rolling from fiery car crashes, leaping from stampeding horses, and falling from sky-soaring buildings. He’d even weathered bad lines and an occasional tabloid scandal. So it seemed particularly ironic to him that he could be taken out by a button.

Just a simple, pearly tuxedo button, no bigger than his fingernail, one down from his collar, sewn into his designer shirt. He should have ripped it off, made it a part of the scene, but instead he’d fumbled with it as his director, Dex Graves, and beautiful Elise Fontaine looked on with a host of other grips, makeup artists, camera people, and extras.

Watching his career crash into smithereens.

He broke out in a sweat as he tried to open his shirt, and even before Dex called, “Cut,” Lincoln knew the charade was over. As silence descended on the closed set, thirty people staring at him, he released the infuriating button and watched his hand shake.

For once, Elise had nothing to say. She sat, her dress up past her knees, her blonde hair tumbled down to her shoulders, and looked at his hand in horror.

The horror that thickened with each thump of his heart.

Lincoln blew out a breath and ran his hand through his hair, then went to shove the offending extremity into his tuxedo pants pocket—only he didn’t have a pocket in this costume. So instead, he simply walked off the set and didn’t stop until he got into his trailer and locked the door.

He paced in the confined space. He’d had the trailer outfitted with all the comforts of home—two televisions, wireless Internet, a fully stocked fridge with freshly catered food every day. Despite its state-of-the-art gadgetry, the trailer also helped him escape to the hills of Montana, with the dark leather sofa, the panorama picture of the property he’d recently purchased, the lineup of Louis L’Amour Westerns on the bookshelf.

His hand had stopped shaking, and he stared at it, frustrated. Maybe he should quit now, while still at the top of his game.

“Lewis, where are you?” The voice traveled from the places he’d fought to hide it, crept out, and crawled over him. “Don’t you know I’ll find you?” Old, rancid fear prickled Lincoln’s skin; he was ten years old again, skinny and weak.

He’d escaped that life. And never looked back.

He grabbed a towel and brought it to his sticky forehead before he realized he’d be wiping off his makeup. His hand twitched again, and he dropped the towel, grabbing his wrist, holding it still. Pinpricks of a limb just emerging from sleep encased his hand and he tried to shake them away.
Nothing.

Something had to be wrong with him. Dreadfully wrong. To make matters worse, today he’d had to pause, blink, and fight to scrape up the words he’d memorized last night. His short-term memory had never been stellar, but recently it lobbied to expose him.

“Lewis, I’m going to find you.”

Banging at the door made him jump.

He opened it, half expecting to see Elise in all her diva glory. She’d been feeding the press juicy nontruths about their so-called torrid backstage relationship and doing her best to make them come true over the past three months. And he would have to be an ice block not to notice her long, tanned legs and perfect curves. But ever since his body had begun to short-circuit on him, fear had driven from him any desire to let someone close enough to discover that he was . . . what?

Lincoln hadn’t the faintest idea why he felt as if his body were walking through sludge, always a second or two behind his brain’s commands.

Dex, bless him, stood at the door, his baseball hat backward, a slight sweat filming his forehead, to match the tenor of Lincoln’s pulse. “You okay?”

“I’m fine,” Lincoln snapped.

Thankfully, Dex didn’t take it personally. Round and rough around the edges, with hair that looked more like a string mop and enough padding around his waist to evidence his propensity to linger over dinner, usually brainstorming a scene, Dex personified a man who lived for films. He was always rethinking a scene, reshooting with new angles, always reviewing the dailies. He’d known Lincoln since he’d been a fresh-off-the-street extra, had plucked him out of the crowd, shined him up, and made him into a star. Lincoln would do just about anything for Dex—and did, most of the time. Including Dex’s crazy stunts that nearly got him killed.

“You sure you’re okay?” Dex said, pushing his bulk into the trailer. “Were you out late last night?”
Lincoln hadn’t been out late, with anyone, for months. No, last night he’d been locked in his trailer, trying to figure out how to rebuild his life should it all come crashing down around him. How to take care of Alyssa and how to not be a has-been at the age of thirty.

No wonder he looked rough today, according to his makeup artist.

“No,” Lincoln said, moving aside for Dex to sit on the leather sofa. “I was working on the script.”

"I’d rather you get your rest. I have people to prompt you, you know. I don’t know why you push yourself so hard, Linc.”

Because he wanted to be known as a professional in the industry? Because he needed this gig more than anyone really knew, and he had to have his game on each and every minute? Because he, better than anyone, knew that fate could turn on him?

Lincoln stared out the window of his air-conditioned trailer at the grips delivering messages and supplies to the various costumers and set designers. “You know why.”

Dex was perhaps the only person who knew about his crimes and about the person Lincoln had left behind.

“Listen, I don’t know what’s wrong, but you know you can tell me, huh?” Dex said.

Tell Dex that sometimes, when Lincoln got up, the room spun and he found himself face-first on the carpet? Tell Dex that occasionally his vision cut out or got fuzzy around the edges? Tell Dex that the thought of doing his own stunt in the next scene—the one where he was supposed to bail out of a car before it launched off a pier into the ocean—had him cold with fear?

“Please tell me that you’re not, uh . . . nervous about your love scene with Elise.” Dex gave him a look.

Lincoln answered with a dry smile, but yes. His previous scripts hadn’t contained nearly as much skin as this movie—a thriller about a Miami high roller. How he longed for a good Western, where he might strap on a six-shooter, jump on a horse, and chase after the bad guys.

Then again, maybe the people who ran his career knew he needed fast cars and lots of brawls to keep the momentum of his career at a decent clip. If someone got too close, they might actually see that really, he didn’t know a thing about acting.

“I’ll find you, Lewis.”

“No, c’mon, of course it’s no big deal, Dex.” Lincoln laughed and shook his head. “Kissing Elise? I think I can handle it.”

“You know, it wouldn’t hurt your press to be seen with Elise Fontaine on your arm. She’s the next big thing, and I’m fairly sure she has a thing for you.”

Maybe, but lately Lincoln had a hard time stomaching the life he’d found so enticing at nineteen. Ten years did that, he supposed. “I’m sure it would.” He didn’t bother to hide his opinion in his tone. Elise and her flock of paparazzi were the last thing he needed right now.

Dex sighed. “I was thinking that after this, maybe you should take a break. Go somewhere. Go to your new place in Montana. Have you even set foot on the property since you bought it from John?”
Lincoln shook his head. He had met author John Kincaid last summer while taking location shots for the film based on a book Kincaid had written. Lincoln had fallen in love with the land, the smells, the wide-open spaces that allowed him to think, and when Kincaid’s ranch came up for sale, he’d bought it on a whim.

“Then maybe it’s time.” Dex stood. “Let’s get through this scene and the final action shot, and then we’ll talk about you taking a hiatus.” He slapped Lincoln on the shoulder and opened the door. “Five minutes, pal.”

“I’ll be right out.” Lincoln closed the door behind Dex and let out another long breath, surprised that he’d been holding it. Get ahold of yourself. He closed his eyes, tried to center on that place inside him that helped him crawl out of his skin and into the psyche of his character. Be Barklay Hamilton, multimillionaire, cigarette-boat racer, winner. Be a champion.

Lincoln needed a drink. Opening the fridge, he took out a glass bottle of energy drink, set it on the counter, and unscrewed the top. His hand had stopped shaking. But he never knew for how long.
“Lewis—”

No. He shrugged the voice away, refusing to listen.

He wasn’t Lewis, hadn’t been for a decade—more, even. He was Lincoln Cash—superstar, Oscar nominee, winner of the Golden Globe. He was a winner. A man the people respected. A hero.
He reached up and, with a flick of his fingers, opened the button. See, that wasn’t so hard. Dex was probably right—he was just tired and needed a vacation.

Lincoln opened the door and stepped out into the sunshine of the lot. The sun baked the pavement, heat radiating into his dress shoes. Cables snaked along the parking lot leading toward the hotel they’d rented for this scene. How he’d rather be on a sound lot, but no, Dex loved to shoot on location. And this location had to be Miami in March. Thousands of spring breakers lined the set, hoping to ogle him. He waved to his fans as he took a swig of his water.

The dizziness hit like a bullet. One second he stood vertical, a picture of health. The next he was sprawled on the pavement, the bottle shattered, his body twitching in an all-out seizure.

And he couldn’t even scream.
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