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About the author:
By the time Marta Tandori reached fifth grade, she was an avid reader and writer with a stack of short stories collecting dust in a box under her bed but it wasn’t until she began studying acting in her early twenties at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York that Marta realized acting wasn’t really her passion – writing fiction was. What followed was years of writing workshops as well as correspondence courses in writing for children through the Institute of Children’s Literature in Connecticut. She credits the award winning author, Troon Harrison, as the instructor who helped her find her literary voice. Marta’s first work of juvenile fiction, BEING SAM, NO MATTER WHAT was published in 2005, followed by EVERY WHICH WAY BUT KUKU! in 2006. With her more recent endeavors, Marta has shifted her writing focus to “women’s suspense”, a genre she fondly describes as having “strong female protagonists with closets full of nasty skeletons and the odd murder or two to complicate their already complicated lives”. To learn more about Marta, visit her website at http://martatandori.com.
What inspired you to write your book?
I think that anyone who ends up working in Vegas at some point in their lives as an interesting story to tell. Brooke’s story had been wanting to be told for a long time. I just wanted to put a bit of an unusual spin on it which I had hoped my readers would appreciate.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Thirty-two-year-old Brooke Connelly’s day had been on a downhill slide since early morning. One of her bartenders had a case of the clap and was going to be off work for a few weeks. Another was on holiday. She’d spent the better part of her lunch refereeing a dispute between two of her wait staff and, to top things off, one of the toilets in the women’s restroom had backed up and she was having problems getting hold of the hotel plumber.
Normally, she took a day like today all in stride as the general manager of Elegance, the Beverly Highlander’s two-year-old restaurant that was exactly everything its name implied. And thanks to its world-class menu and service bar none, it was the place to be seen, where the movers and shakers could connect. Elegance was the ultimate venue with its fair share of impressive clientele. Warren Dalesman always stopped by when he was in town, Steven Spielberg had a regular table and everyone from Tiger Woods to Arnold Schwarzenegger had graced the restaurant’s entrance at one time or another. Brooke had the power to orchestrate those connections or deny access by virtue of a quick shake of her elegantly-coiffed head.
Unfortunately, none of that seemed particularly important at the moment as she tried to focus on the five resumes in front of her. With less than a few months to go before the re-opening of Sins Ultra Lounge, the revamped nightclub attaching to the restaurant, Brooke was short one very critical element to the success of the nightclub – a hot DJ. A DJ could make or break a nightclub and when their last DJ unexpectedly up and left, business all but dried up, necessitating the current revamp.
Two of the five applicants boasted spinning in South Beach, Vegas and New York; pretty impressive, but then resumes were meant to be embellished and rarely contained the entire truth. The third applicant she’d vaguely heard of. The fourth, she’d actually heard spin, while the last one was an unknown – slim pickings as far as Brooke was concerned, but a choice had to be made soon. Her frustration was cut short by the ringing of her cell phone rang.
“This is Brooke.”
“It’s good to hear your voice again.” The voice was direct and unmistakable.
Brooke cleared her throat nervously. “Clint. How are you?”
“Why don’t you find out for yourself? I’m upstairs.”
Brooke tried to keep her tone even, despite her immediate apprehension. “I’ll be up shortly.”
Disconnecting the call, she stood up and gathered the resumes, slipping them back in the file on her desk before heading over to her small bathroom to freshen up. She emerged ten minutes later, her beautiful face unreadable as she locked her desk and left her office.
The lobby of the Beverly Highlander was a throwback to the sophisticated style and clean lines of mid-century modernism. However, Brooke was oblivious to her familiar surroundings as she made her way across the lobby to the bank of elevators on her right. Stepping inside the elevator reserved exclusively for penthouse guests, she inserted her key card before pressing the UP button. Nervously checking her appearance in one of the narrow mirrored panels, she hoped her outfit would pass muster, especially since her summons to the penthouse had caught her by surprise.
Clint Staebler, the owner of the hotel, hated traveling and aside from his scheduled visits in May and November, he rarely left Las Vegas, preferring to run his hotel empire from the top floor of his flagship hotel, The Equinox. Rumor had it that Clint’s grandfather and Mafia boss Meyer Lansky had been business acquaintances and, in appreciation for his grandfather’s help with getting the trades to bring in The Flamingo on time, Lansky had lent Clint’s grandfather some seed money to start his own hotel. That hotel had been The Equinox and upon his death, Clint had inherited his grandfather’s entire empire which included 84 luxury hotels around the world. The Beverly Highlander was one of them.
The elevator door opened onto the penthouse suite. Unaccountably nervous, Brooke took a deep breath to fortify herself before leaving the security of the elevator. Waiting for the butler to announce her presence, she glanced around the penthouse suite. It was 4,000 square feet of unrivaled luxury, where the floor-to-ceiling windows offered breathtaking views of Los Angeles. Mid-century modern artwork complemented the elegant, yet comfortable furnishings while a baby grand piano took center stage. Clint always took this suite when he was in town. She walked over to the window and stared unseeingly at the spectacular view. All of Los Angeles lay at her feet yet ironically, she felt no more than a few inches tall.
“I hope I didn’t keep you waiting too long, my dear.”
Brooke turned at the sound of his voice. Standing five feet nine inches tall, Clint Staebler was a package of bulging muscles, barely sheathed in the custom-made black suits he always wore. Sporting a closely-trimmed beard and an insignia ring on the pinkie finger of his right hand, he exuded the controlled menace of someone who had grown up always on the lookout for his next fight.
“Not at all, Clint.” Brooke was quick to school her features into some semblance of a welcome before crossing the room to give him a perfunctory kiss on the cheek. “Good to see you again.”
He motioned for her to sit on the sofa before seating himself across from her. The butler materialized at his side with a tray of iced lemonade which he placed on the coffee table before exiting.
“Would you do the honors, my dear?”
“Of course,” Brooke replied, hoping that her hands wouldn’t shake as she poured the lemonade into the crystal glasses. Handing Clint his glass, she nervously took a sip from her own. She waited for him to speak, not wanting to appear too eager or too worried. An unscheduled summons to the penthouse was never a good thing.
“I understand we’ve scored quite a coup in hosting the upcoming dinner dance following the democratic fundraiser at the Kodak,” he began, watching her carefully. “Congratulations are in order.”
Brooke was momentarily thrown off guard. “I certainly can’t take all the credit for that, Clint.”
“Nonsense!” He took another healthy swallow of his lemonade. “While Cyrus Lomax is a friend of mine, your boyfriend and he go way back. It was a smart move on your part to suggest our humble hotel.”
“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” she said with a grin. “Too bad Sins won’t be open yet to benefit from the residual business.”
He smiled. “That will soon be remedied.”
She became more confident. “Elegance is also hosting a private soiree for Mandalay Parkes in a few weeks. After her concert at the Hollywood Bowl, she’s having 150 of her nearest and dearest get together.”
“Any headliners?” he asked, immediately interested.
“So far, Slash, Gene Simmons, Heather Locklear and Madonna.”
He nodded approvingly. “Good. Play it up, full press coverage, the works.”
“Next month, we’ve got the Victoria Secret benefit and Jude Monaco’s birthday bash.”
“Have we been provided with a guest list yet?”
Brooke shook her head. “No, just a head count of 250.”
“Find out if the studio’s footing the bill. If it is, offer to close Elegance for their party – very exclusive and, needless to say, very expensive.”
Just as Brooke was beginning to relax, Clint dropped the gauntlet. “And how’s the search going for the DJ?”
“Not very well, I’m afraid.”
“Oh?” That one word conveyed a wealth of meaning that sent a chill down Brooke’s spine.
“I’ve gone through about twenty-odd auditions so far,” she explained hastily, “but nothing promising as of yet.”
“I’ve put out feelers in Vegas and South Beach,” she continued, “but most of the recognized names are already signed to exclusives.”
He stood up and began pacing, which had the effect of shrinking the otherwise huge room. “I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how important the right DJ is. MTV’s planning a live telecast of Sins’ opening night. We’ve got full media coverage but no DJ.” He stopped suddenly and smiled at her but the smile didn’t reach his eyes.
Brooke tried quickly to reassure him. “I know, Clint, but—”
“Stop!” He put a finger to his lips. “I don’t care how you do it, Brooke. Sweeten the pot and if that doesn’t work, steal a DJ if you have to.” He came and stood directly in front of her. “Am I making myself clear?” It felt as though the temperature in the room had suddenly dropped.
She nodded. “Actually, I think I’ve got another idea that may work even better.”
“Since MTV is already planning a live telecast of the opening, I was thinking that perhaps we could hold open auditions across the country and televise them – sort of like American Idol – but for DJs. The DJ playoffs, if you will, would then be held on Sins’ opening night.”
Clint nodded slowly as he thought over her idea. “It could amount to huge publicity.”
“With any luck, we’ll end up finding someone amazing and we could sign him or her to an exclusive five-year contract. Sins’ reputation will have been made.”
“There will have to be publicity to promote the search.” He looked at her expectantly. “I expect you to pitch this idea of yours.”
“Good,” he said brusquely. “I’ll make some calls and will let you know as soon as I have everything in place. And now that we have business out of the way—”
Taking that as her cue, Brooke stood up, towering over him. She slowly took off her elegant jacket and let it drop to the sofa, with her pants following a moment later. What remained was a halter that wrapped around her neck, going down through her legs before narrowing to a thong. The whole thing could come off with the flick of a single clasp. Brooke watched as his hungry eyes devoured her body, striving for a nonchalance she was far from feeling.
“Excellent choice, my dear,” he whispered. “Business-like, yet brazenly slutty at the same time.” He licked his dry lips. “Come here.”
She obeyed his command. She had long ago learned that it heightened his erotic pleasure if she was subservient.
“What shall I do with you now?” Each time, his question was the same.
Her eyes unaccountably clouded over with tears as she fought for composure, wishing she could be free of him. “Release me.” Her words were meant as an entreaty but they had little effect on him.
His hand shot out, cupping her pubic mound before feasting on the swells and valleys of her body, barely concealed by the scrap of silk. He stood up and deliberately slid his fingers down her spine and across her waist before going up her front. They momentarily stopped to finger one of her nipples but then his fingers continued their journey upwards, locating the clasp behind her neck. In one fluid motion, he released the scrap of silk, watching it slither to a puddle at Brooke’s feet.
“Now for my reward,” he whispered hoarsely.