DARK HOLLYWOOD NIGHTS

Excerpt:

Copyright © Isabelle Santiago, 2008

All Rights Reserved, Freya’s Bower

“Miss Pickens?” She knocked again. “I have your lunch available. I’m really sorry I’m late.”

No response. Chase reached across the cart. His hands grazed the skin of Miss Grant’s neck. Soft, smooth skin, like snow-white velvet. His fingers lingered.

“What are you doing?” she asked, her voice tight with panic.

“Making sure she’s in the room.” He removed the long chain with the heavy set of keys from her neck.

She stared at him, wide eyed. “You can’t just walk in.”

“It’s room service. Of course you can walk in.” He rummaged through the keys until he found one that looked like a master key. “Besides, you knocked. She didn’t answer.”

He turned the key, clicked the tab of the handle, and stepped inside. The door slid open, revealing a small foyer and three steps that led into the main suite.

“Miss Pickens,” Miss Grant called out.

There was no trace of panic in her voice. It came out light, musical, carefree. Interesting, he thought to himself. That kind of control was impressive. She left the cart near the door and rushed toward the steps. Chase caught the scent a minute too late. A rusty, foul metallic scent that put him on alert.

“Wait, Miss Grant, wait!”

She stopped short at the top stair. Her face blanched. Her words bled into an unintelligible concoction. Chase rushed to stand beside her.

The sight verified his suspicion. A voluptuous female body lay sprawled on the ground. Her crimson blood seeped into the sandy brown carpet.

“Valerie Price,” he said.

Alexis Grant fainted.

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BONUS: DELETED SCENE- Chase On A Mission

Cut for pacing. Not edited.

A fly on the wall. To everyone else, Chase Branton wasn’t even there. That’s how he liked it. He worked hard to ensure that when he left a room, not one soul could remember if he’d even been there.

He could do that just about anywhere. Even here, in the very public, very busy lobby of The Winmont Hotel. He sat completely still, his face covered by the large, open newspaper he held between his hands. He kept his legs crossed, the way most wealthy men of the time did when busy with something that gave them great comfort. And every once in a while, he peeked over the paper’s edge, to watch the frenzy of activity at the reception desk.

He restrained the need to roll his eyes. In the thirteen years he spent watching people, he was absolutely certain he’d never met someone with more ‘tells’ than the fumbling, nervous woman who just walked past him toward the dining hall.

He closed the paper, careful to keep the noise to a minimum. He stood, with the ease and grace of a man confident in all his steps. Not that that was a cover. Chase knew exactly where he was going. Knew exactly where she was going as well.

Thanks to hotel gossip, Chase knew Alexis Grant lacked the poise and control to run an establishment that demanded such secrecy. Unlike her cousin. Charles Witmore wore one of the best poker faces Chase had ever seen. He highly doubted, however, that Alexis Grant even knew what poker was.

Which, of course, worked to his advantage. Quietly, he crept into a rhythm behind her, down the long hall toward the Parthenon. Her face, when given instruction regarding lunch for a particular guest, told him everything he needed to know. He’d found her. Finally, after nearly three days of searching. Miss Valerie Price, Hollywood’s most expensive commodity, was staying in the Grecian Suite.

Chase admired her determination to remain hidden. He’d checked several of the top notch hotels in the area and come up short. When he came to The Winmont, he assumed she would be in the penthouse. He was wrong. The penthouse, it seemed, was inhabited by hotel owner Charles Witmore. The Grecian Suite was the next logical choice.

Only problem with that was, a woman by the name of Lucy Pickens was registered to that room. He grinned. Miss Georgina Laroux had been generous with that information. He played the game well. A little wine, a little music. Women generally found him easy to talk to.

… … …

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