THE FALCON DYNASTY SERIES

 


 

 

Harlequin Romance

NORTH AMERICA

- June 2012 -

 

 

 

Cherish

UNITED KINGDOM

- June 2012 -

 


 

 

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~ PLAIN JANE IN THE SPOTLIGHT ~

 

 

Travis Falcon, Amos’ third son, couldn’t be more different from Darius and Marcel, his two older brothers.  American by birth, he lives in Los Angeles, where his stunning looks and charm have made him the star of a television series.

   But he needs to preserve a good image, and right now his career is under threat because of pictures that appeared in the press, showing him with a lap dancer.  He needs to recover his reputation, and fast.

   Then he meets Charlene, a demure English girl who’s come to LA to find Lee, an actor who seduced her in England and may have left her pregnant. She’s modestly attractive but not not beautiful, and her air of respectability is just what Travis needs.  He, in turn, can help her deal with Lee.

   They team up, friends, allies, perhaps something more.

   They begin by going to a glittering party so that everyone can see them as a couple.  There they meet Frank Benton, the man who set Travis up with the lap dancer, and is trying to ruin him.

 

 


   

  

   Cheers erupted from the crowd as they saw Travis emerge, smiling, waving, then reaching in to draw Charlene out into the spotlight.

   He was playing his part perfectly, leading her slowly along the carpet so that everyone could get a good view of her quiet, restrained appearance.

  She smiled, turned to meet his eyes, and almost gasped at the adoring look her was giving her.  If she hadn’t known better she could almost have believed him about to fall on his knees and worship her.

 What an actor! she thought.

 She lowered her eyes, apparently overcome, and felt him draw her close.

 “Well done,” he murmured in her ear.  “Keep it up.”

There was a flicker of interest from  behind them.  Turning, they saw another car arrive, the door open and Lee emerge, accompanied by Penny.  Lee was  laughing, preening in the spotlight.  But his smile died as the photographers passed him by to surround Travis and Charlene.  Then Travis swept her into the building.

 Inside the hotel they were escorted to a table, where he settled her with every attention.

 “You’ve saved my neck, you know that?” he said.  “I have a career again.”

  “Just like that?”

  “It can happen that way in this city.  Here today, gone tomorrow, back again the day after.”

  “Don’t you ever find the life exhausting?”

  “Well, I do end up living on edge a lot of the time, but it can feel worth it.”

  “I suppose success is wonderful.”

  “Yes.  Not that I’ve been a success long enough to know very much.  But it matters to me to achieve everything I can, just to stop my father disowning me.”

  “But surely you don’t need him?  You’re independent.”

   “I meant disowning me in spirit.”  Travis gave a brief laugh.  “It’s odd isn’t it?  I disapprove of Amos, sometimes I even dislike him.  But I still hate the feeling that I’m the one on the outside of the family.   He despises me for not being like him, the way my brothers are.”

   “All of them?”

   “Mostly.  Darius is a big man in finance, just like Amos.  He’s been hit by the credit crunch, and now he’s living on Herringdean, an island off the south coast of England that one of his debtors used to pay him off.  He started out hating it, but he came to love it.  Falling in love with a local girl helped.  I was at their wedding a few weeks ago and if ever two people were crazy about each other it’s those two.”

   “You sound as though you envy them.”

   “In a way I do.  It’s nice to know your final destination, and be able to reach it.  Darius has been married before and it didn’t work out, but he’s safe with Harriet.  Plus his first wife likes her and is glad for the children to know her.”

   Charlene recalled him talking about his father and all the children Amos had by different women.  His brother’s arrangement sounded so much happier that she began to understand the touch of wistfulness in his voice.

   He can’t really be jealous, she thought.  Just an ordinary domestic set-up,  but the great star actually wishes – no, I’m imagining things.  Shut up, Charlie.

   “What did you say?” Travis asked, staring at her suddenly.

   “Nothing.”

   “I thought you whispered, ‘Shut up, Charlie.’

   “Did I say that out loud?  Oh heck!”

   “You actually call yourself Charlie?”

   “When I’m trying to remember to be sensible.  It’s not easy in a place like LA.  Common sense seems the last thing you can manage, and actually the last thing you want.”

   “I know the feeling,” he said wryly.

   “So your brother’s settled for common sense?”

   “That’s not what Darius calls it.  To him it’s finding out what his life is really all about. Mind you, he’ll climb to the financial top again.  It’s in the Falcon genes.  Marcel is like Amos too, except for being half French.  He makes his money from hotels.  He’s got a big, glamorous place in Paris and he’s recently bought another one in London to ‘extend his empire’.  Amos loves that.  To him, that’s how a Falcon should think, in terms of empire.”

   “Perhaps you need to play a Roman emperor,” Charlene mused.  “How about Julius Caesar?”

   “Better still, Nero,” he said, catching her mood.  “Or Caligula.”

   “But Nero was a tyrant,” Charlene objected.

   “Great.  That makes him a true Falcon.

   “And Caligula was mad.  Wouldn’t your father hate that?”

   “Not if it made money.”

   They laughed together.

   “Haven’t you got two other brothers?”

   “Yes, there’s Leonid, who’s Russian and lives in Moscow.  We don’t know a lot about him, but he must be successful because Amos always speaks of him with respect.  Jackson’s different.  He’s a naturalist.  He’s written books and has a television series about wildlife all over the world.”

   “That doesn’t sound like it makes him a millionaire.”

   “No, he’s not.  But Amos respects him, nonetheless, because the world knows him as a ‘serious man’ doing a ‘serious job’.  I just ‘flaunt myself for the press’, but Jackson ‘defends the environment’ and that elevates the name Falcon, even if not in business.

   “He actually told me once that I should change my name because he didn’t want to be connected with someone ‘prancing around for the cameras’.”

   “Your father doesn’t want you to be called after him?” she asked, aghast.

   “He despises what I do.  He was furious when I wouldn’t take a different name.  I think he’s just hanging on in the hope that one day I’ll change into a mini-Amos.”

   “You could always act it,” she suggested.

   “Not if I want to stay sane,” he said hastily.  “This way at least I know who I am.  Or I would, if people didn’t keep wanting me to put on a performance in private as well as in front of the cameras.”

   “You poor soul,” she sighed.  “The burdens of fame.  Just think of all those unemployed actors out there who must be so grateful they don’t have your problems.”

   He scowled for a moment, but then relaxed and squeezed her hand, smiling ruefully.

   “Yeah, right.  I must be coming across as a bit of a wimp, eh?  It’s your fault.  You’re such a tempting, sympathetic shoulder to cry on that I gave in.  But no more.”  His voice deepened and he assumed a haughty mien.  “From now on, just macho authority and stern resolve.”

   “Ouch, please no!” she said.  “I can’t stand men like that.”

   “Neither can I,” he admitted.  “Perish the thought that I should ever be one of them.”

   “Nothing could be less likely,” she reassured him.

   He met her eyes in a look of total understanding, and suddenly she had the strangest feeling of having known him all her life.  It made no sense but instinctively she was his friend, and she sensed him becoming her friend.

  “You see right through me, don’t you?” he said, amused.

  “I guess I do.  Do you mind?”

  “Not a bit.  Know what?  I think we’re going to get on really well.”

  “Me too.  Here’s to a great evening.”

   They raised their glasses, and were about to clink when a voice cut in between them like a knife.

  “Well, well!  Look who’s here?”

   Looking up, Charlene saw a tall, hard-faced, middle-aged man, regarding them  coldly.  She heard Travis groan, then say,

  “Charlene, this is Frank Brenton.  Brenton, this is Miss Charlene Wilkins.”

  Brenton flickered cool, angry eyes over her, nodded, then spoke to Travis in a rough voice..

  “Some people have a gift for escaping from awkward situations.  I congratulate you.  You got away with it this time, but there’ll be others.  That’s guaranteed.”

   “Nothing’s guaranteed,” Travis said.

  “I think you’ll find you’re wrong.  You go about inviting trouble, Travis, and such an invitation always gets accepted.”

  There was frank dislike in his eyes.  His glance at Charlene was almost insulting, and an incredible suspicion came to her, making her temper flare.

She slipped her arm about Travis’ neck, leaning her head against him.

  “You never know what life holds next,” she said sweetly.  “Of course, some people think they do, but then they get taken by surprise.”

  “Oh, I don’t think I’m going to be surprised.”

  She met his eyes.  “Nobody ever does until it happens.”

  “Perhaps you’ll be the one surprised.”

  She shook her head.  “That won’t happen, because I believe the worst of people.”  She fixed him with a hard, steady gaze before saying, “The very worst, more than most people would ever dream of, because I have a nasty, suspicious nature.  But like you say, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

  Brenton seemed on the verge of answering, but then he thought better of it, scowled and walked away.

  Travis stared at her in astonishment.  “Did you just do what I thought you did?  You drove the enemy off and now he’s taking cover.”

   “I think he might be more the enemy than you realised.  That girl in the night club, did she really just appear out of nowhere?”

   “Well yes, it was stag night and – hey, what – are you saying – ?”

   “That he fixed it?  I don’t know.  But it’s possible isn’t it?  He knew you’d be there, it would have been easy for him to arrange.  You’re far too trusting.  Now I’ve met him I can see that he’s exactly the kind of man who’d do that.”

 “All in five minutes?  You saw it and I didn’t.”  His shoulders sagged.  “And I think of myself as worldly-wise.”

 He sounded depressed and she smiled at him fondly.  There was something about Travis that was the complete opposite of worldly-wise, and which drew her towards him.  He was, as he’d said, too trusting.  In this sophisticated city that part of him was dangerously vulnerable.

 “Thank goodness for you,” he said.  “What would I do without you?”

 “For the moment you don’t have to.  You’ve got a big sister keeping an eye out for you.”

 He rubbed his eyes, then looked at her again closely and spoke in a voice of awed discovery.

  “I’m beginning to think meeting you was the best things that’s ever happened to me.”

 

From the book PLAIN JANE IN THE SPOTLIGHT by Lucy Gordon.

Copyright 2012 by Lucy Gordon

 ISBN: 9780373178148

Cover Copyright © 2012 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited. ® and tm are trademarks of the publisher.  The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
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