The son of a bitch was going to make her lie.
Sons of bitches, Alison Carter corrected herself, because her adorable new friend Hugh was part of this
hideous charade. In fact, it was rapidly becoming crystal clear that this - her impending lie-was the young
production assistant's reason for bringing her here, to this undetermined level of hell. Oh, it looked like the
dusty street outside of movie star Trace Marcus's huge trailer, but it was definitely hell.
The morning sky was clear and so blue it hurt Alison's eyes. It was barely 8:30, and the desert sun was
already much too hot on the back of her neck.
"Who is she?" Trace's wife demanded through her tears, her mascara making black streaks down what had
once been a ridiculously pretty face. Now she just looked ridiculous, the plastic surgery she'd had leaving her
looking perpetually surprised as she confronted her philandering husband. "I want to know-I deserve to
"I hate you," Alison murmured to Hugh, who, with his tastefully messed red hair, hazel eyes, and athletically
trim body, remained adorable despite his dragging her into this.
"Trace needs to be in makeup in twenty minutes," he murmured back as he pulled her closer to this snake pit
of domestic non-bliss. "Ninety-seven thousand dollars an hour..."
That was his default answer to almost anything - his recitation of the enormous amount of money it was
costing director Henry Logan's production company to bring this movie - Quinn -- to the big screen.
And it was true that if an actor were late to the set, money would, indeed, pour from the company's veins as
dozens of crew members stood around, uselessly waiting for the star to undiva his or her ass and get down to
So far, it had happened four different times, courtesy of Trace Marcus.
"Who is she, Tracey?" Marcus's wife asked him again. His creepy and ever-present personal assistant, Skip,
mumbled something in his low-talker's voice that Alison couldn't hear, but the wife could and she snapped,
"Shut up, Skippy, I wasn't asking you."
Alison couldn't remember Mrs. Marcus's name, but she, like her husband, had been a huge star back when
she was in her late teens, early twenties.
Which really wasn't that long ago.
Trace had started celebrating his thirty-third birthday last night. Thirty-three, and he was in desperate need of
a comeback, which playing Silas Quinn was designed to provide.
No doubt about it, this was a crazy, crazy business Alison was dipping her toe into here. And she'd always
thought the academic world was a little nuts.
But here she was, standing in the dust beneath the blistering hot sun, ready to provide an alibi for a man who
wasn't just a crazy actor, but was also a card-carrying moron. It was his freaking birthday. Today. A degree
in rocket science wasn't needed to theorize that since it was his birthday, it was highly likely that his loving
wife was going to show up here on location, to surprise him with a visit.
Instead Trace had surprised her. Eleanor. That was her name. Although it really shouldn't have been that big
of a surprise for Eleanor to find her husband's trailer rocking, not after ten long years spent married to the
man. He was a dog. Surely she knew that by now. He couldn't keep his pants zipped to save his life; forget
about saving his marriage.
The day Trace had arrived on set, not five minutes after stepping into the much smaller trailer that was
Alison's new office, he'd hit on her - and she'd been so startled she'd laughed in his face.
Which was a mistake, because he now avoided her like the swine flu.
As the official historical consultant for this film, as the author of the latest definitive book about the shoot-out
at the Red Rock Saloon, Alison had a wealth of information about the details of Silas Quinn's life. She had a
file with newspaper clippings and rare photos. Pictures of Quinn with Melody, taken shortly after their
wedding. Pictures of the deceptively pleasant-looking Kid Gallagher gambling in San Francisco. Pictures
Trace should want to see as he worked to bring Quinn back to life in this big-budget, high-profile movie.
Alison even had an actual cigar box that the marshal had once kept upon his desk, along with the Bible that
the man had carried with him for most of his too short life, even though he'd never had time to learn to read.
Filming had started, but Trace wasn't interested in seeing any of that material, because Alison had thought he
was joking when he'd offered to do her on her desk, the way he'd done to Gina Gershon's character in Last
And yes, the man was almost freakishly handsome with his dark hair and brown eyes, with that trademark
Marcus smile. All of the excess weight he'd put on in his late twenties had finally turned into man-muscle.
True, he no longer could play a scene without his shirt, but he was now the perfect size to play Silas Quinn,
who'd been a full-grown, incredibly attractive bear of a man.
Still, Trace's offer had been absurd.
And maybe Alison was unused to the ways of Hollywood, coming as she had from Boston College's history
department, where doing it on one's desk with a married man was usually frowned upon, independent of
whether or not one was a Gina Gershon fan.
And so she'd laughed at his proposal. Loudly.
In Trace's handsome face.
She'd seen, right away, that he was affronted, and she'd immediately apologized and even thanked him -
which felt beyond strange-telling him that casual sex just wasn't her thing.
Which was not a lie. It was just not usually something she had to tell a man within five minutes of meeting him.
"Let's move this inside," Hugh suggested now, talking to Skippy, who tried to herd them toward the trailer
door, but Eleanor clearly liked having an audience.
"I heard him in there, fucking some slut," she told them, the crass language oddly jarring, spoken as it was in
her little-girl voice. She spoke loudly enough so that the growing crowd of extras and crew could hear her,
too. "So I left, but then I thought, Why am I always the one running away? So I came back, but she was
already gone, and now he says it wasn't him in there, that he was at a meeting - at eight o'clock in the morning
when his call isn't until eleven...? Like I'm supposed to believe that?"
"Trace was in a meeting," Hugh lied effortlessly as he tried to pull Alison even closer.
But she'd gone as far as she was willing to go. She pinched him and he released her, giving her a look that
meant... what? That she was disappointing him? Seriously?
"See, I was in a meeting," Trace echoed, the slightest tinge of relief making his words rush together as he
looked at Hugh and realized that they had come to rescue him. Particularly after Hugh pointed surreptitiously
toward Alison. "Researching my character. With Professor, um..."
"Carter," Hugh helpfully filled in, because the man had apparently forgotten Alison's name. He thumbed his
BlackBerry as if the star's schedule were on his personal calendar. "It was... Yes, at seven-thirty A.M. A
breakfast meeting. In Dr. Carter's office. Which is over with the rest of the production trailers."
And now Eleanor was looking at Alison, sizing her up with her neon blue contact lens-enhanced eyes, her
fading suspicion mingling with her hope and relief as Hugh kept spewing his bullcrap.
"She's tremendously busy. Dr. Carter. She needs to approve the costumes for every extra - and we've got a
lot of them on set for the next few weeks. Plus she looks at every single script revision, every tweak in the
dialogue. The only open time she had to talk to Trace was early this morning."
Alison stayed silent, holding her breath, praying that Eleanor didn't ask her outright about this alleged
breakfast meeting - uncertain as to whether or not she'd actually go along with Hugh's bald-faced lie when
Except, really, she was already going along with the lie, just by standing there as Hugh's exhibit A.
But Eleanor turned back to Trace to ask, "Why didn't you just say so?"
"I did," he lied again, indignant now at the injustice of her accusations. What a prick. "I said, Someone
must've been in my trailer, because it wasn't me, but you weren't listening. You were blah, blah, blah, bitching
and moaning, ready to assume the worst the way you always fucking do-"
"When you left for your meeting at Dr. Carter's office," Hugh interrupted Trace, probably because he was
good at reading body language, and he knew that Alison was about to reach out and smack the actor, or
denounce them all for the liars that they were, "did you lock your trailer door?"
"I didn't." Trace looked properly chastised and subdued. "Did you, Skip?"
His assistant shook his baseball cap-covered head, no.
"I didn't think we had to," Trace said.
"You better lock it from now on," Hugh advised him, making a very real-seeming note in his BlackBerry.
"Someone probably invited an intern in to take a look, and got a little early payback. I'm sorry about the
inconvenience, and the misunderstanding," he added with an adorable smile at Eleanor, who was now in
Trace's arms, apologizing, which was giving Alison heartburn. "I'll have a cleaning crew come in and... Have
you checked to see if anything was stolen?"
Trace shook his head. "I don't think anything was." He looked at Skip, who shook his head, too. "No."
"That's good at least," Hugh said. "I'll make sure it gets cleaned and is ready for you by your break. But right
now, Mr. Marcus, sir, I hate to do this to you after such an upsetting morning, but your makeup call is in ten
minutes. You need to get to work."
"As do I," Alison spoke up, because she was damned if she was going to be part of this ugly conspiracy and
not gain something from it. "Although, Mr. Marcus, perhaps we can schedule another breakfast meeting for
tomorrow. I know how interested you are in finding out all that you can about Silas Quinn and we've barely
gotten started." She turned to Hugh and gave him a tight smile. "I'll let you check our schedules and set that up
for us." The Because you owe me, you little bastard, was silent.
But understood. Hugh nodded. Message received. "Ninety-seven thousand," he started.
"Yeah, yeah," she said, as she turned away.
But this charlie foxtrot wasn't over yet.
Yes, that was Eleanor Marcus calling her name, in that Betty Boop voice that Alison had never found
particularly appealing, even when the actress was a dewy-eyed teenager.
Most of the crowd had dispersed, which was good. Still, she turned back, trying to unclench her teeth enough
to give the poor deceived woman a smile rather than a grimace. "Mrs. Marcus," she said, bracing herself.
Trace had gone into his trailer, but Skip was still out there, watching them from behind his mirrored
"I'm not acting anymore," Eleanor said. "It's a choice. My choice."
It seemed like a non sequitur, a change of subject, which was a relief, but she appeared to want a response,
so Alison nodded. "I'd heard that," she said. "It's a tough business."
"I hurt my back," Eleanor said, indulging in a little lying herself. Apparently it was a hobby for these people. In
truth, the actress had stopped appearing in movies because, at the ancient and gnarly age of twenty-nine,
she'd refused to let go of her youth-and the doctors who'd tried to make her look eighteen again had
somehow botched the procedure, damaging the muscles in her face. She was still beautiful, but she now had
only one expression. She'd had additional surgeries over the past five years - or so the tabloids reported -
trying, and failing, to make it right.
"I'm sorry about that," Alison said as gently as she could. She backed away, gesturing back the way she and
Hugh had come. "I'm melting out here. And I really need to..."
"I've seen pictures of Melody Quinn," Eleanor said. "She always looked so sad, so haunted-as if she knew
what was coming. She was so young when she died."
Melody Quinn had always stared soberly into the camera, as did everyone who had tintypes taken at that
time. Say cheese! wasn't a photographer's battle cry until well after the turn of the century. Until long after
Melody Quinn had met her tragic end.
"I would've loved to play her," Eleanor continued. "Not now," she added with the slight movement of her lips
that was now her smile. "But back when I was her age. She was only twenty-one, right?"
"She was," Alison said. "And yes, ma'am. You would've been great."
It wasn't a lie, but Eleanor rolled her eyes as if it were. "Whatever," she said, turning to go into the trailer
where her skunk of a husband was showering in preparation for stepping into Silas Quinn's giant, honorable
Excerpt Page 2...
by Suzanne Brockmann
New York Times Bestselling Author