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The Novels of Nora Roberts Volume 1

Nora Roberts

  The Novels of Nora Roberts, Volume 1

  Honest Illusions

  Private Scandals

  Hidden Riches

  True Betrayals

  Montana Sky

  Nora Roberts

  Nora Roberts

  Hot Ice

  Sacred Sins

  Brazen Virtue

  Sweet Revenge

  Public Secrets

  Genuine Lies

  Carnal Innocence

  Divine Evil

  Honest Illusions

  Private Scandals

  Hidden Riches

  True Betrayals

  Montana Sky



  The Reef

  River’s End

  Carolina Moon

  The Villa

  Midnight Bayou

  Three Fates


  Northern Lights

  Blue Smoke

  Angels Fall

  High Noon


  Black Hills

  The Search

  Chasing Fire



  Born in Fire

  Born in Ice

  Born in Shame


  Daring to Dream

  Holding the Dream

  Finding the Dream


  Sea Swept

  Rising Tides

  Inner Harbor

  Chesapeake Blue


  Jewels of the Sun

  Tears of the Moon

  Heart of the Sea


  Dance Upon the Air

  Heaven and Earth

  Face the Fire


  Key of Light

  Key of Knowledge

  Key of Valor


  Blue Dahlia

  Black Rose

  Red Lily


  Morrigan’s Cross

  Dance of the Gods

  Valley of Silence


  Blood Brothers

  The Hollow

  The Pagan Stone


  Vision in White

  Bed of Roses

  Savor the Moment

  Happy Ever After

  Nora Roberts & J. D. Robb

  Remember When

  J. D. Robb

  Naked in Death

  Glory in Death

  Immortal in Death

  Rapture in Death

  Ceremony in Death

  Vengeance in Death

  Holiday in Death

  Conspiracy in Death

  Loyalty in Death

  Witness in Death

  Judgment in Death

  Betrayal in Death

  Seduction in Death

  Reunion in Death

  Purity in Death

  Portrait in Death

  Imitation in Death

  Divided in Death

  Visions in Death

  Survivor in Death

  Origin in Death

  Memory in Death

  Born in Death

  Innocent in Death

  Creation in Death

  Strangers in Death

  Salvation in Death

  Promises in Death

  Kindred in Death

  Fantasy in Death

  Indulgence in Death

  Treachery in Death


  From the Heart

  A Little Magic

  A Little Fate

  Moon Shadows

  (with Jill Gregory, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Marianne Willman)


  (with Jill Gregory, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Marianne Willman)

  Once Upon a Castle

  Once Upon a Star

  Once Upon a Dream

  Once Upon a Rose

  Once Upon a Kiss

  Once Upon a Midnight

  Silent Night

  (with Susan Plunkett, Dee Holmes, and Claire Cross)

  Out of This World

  (with Laurell K. Hamilton, Susan Krinard, and Maggie Shayne)

  Bump in the Night

  (with Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Mary Kay McComas)

  Dead of Night

  (with Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Mary Kay McComas)

  Three in Death

  Suite 606

  (with Mary Blayney, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Mary Kay McComas)

  In Death

  The Lost

  (with Patricia Gaffney, Mary Blayney, and Ruth Ryan Langan)

  The Other Side

  (with Mary Blaney, Patricia Gaffney, Ruth Ryan Langan, and Mary Kay McComas)

  Also available…

  The Official Nora Roberts Companion

  (edited by Denise Little and Laura Hayden)

  Table Of Contents

  Honest Illusions

  Private Scandals

  Hidden Riches

  True Betrayals

  Montana Sky

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.


  A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author

  All rights reserved.

  Copyright © 1992 by Nora Roberts

  This book may not be reproduced in whole or part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission. Making or distributing electronic copies of this book constitutes copyright infringement and could subject the infringer to criminal and civil liability.

  For information address:

  The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  The Penguin Putnam Inc. World Wide Web site address is

  ISBN: 1-101-14616-8


  Jove Books first published by The Jove Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  Jove and the “J” design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Putnam Inc.

  Electronic edition: May, 2002

  To Bruce, Dan and Jason,

  the magic in my life










































  O brave new world,

  That has such people in’t!



  The Lady Vanishes. It was an old illusion, given a modern twist, and never failed to leave the audience gasping. The glittery crowd at Radio City was as eager to be duped as a gro
up of slack-jawed rubes at a dog and pony show.

  Even as Roxanne stepped onto the glass pedestal she could feel their anticipation—the silvery edge of it that was a merging of hope and doubt glued together with wonder. Those inching forward in their seats ranged from president to peon.

  Magic made equals of them all.

  Max had said that, she recalled. Many, many times.

  Amid the swirl of mist and the flash of light, the pedestal slowly ascended, circling majestically to the tune of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. The gentle three-hundred-and-sixty-degree revolution showed the crowd all sides of the ice-clear pedestal and the slender woman atop it—and distracted them from the trickery at hand.

  Presentation, she’d been taught, was often the slim difference between a charlatan and an artist.

  In keeping with the theme of the music, Roxanne wore a sparkling gown of midnight blue that clung to her long, willowy form—clung so closely that no one studying her would believe there was anything under the spangled silk but her own flesh. Her hair, a waterfall of flame curling to her waist, twinkled with thousands of tiny iridescent stars.

  Fire and ice. More than one man had wondered how one woman could be both at the same time.

  As in sleep or a trance, her eyes were closed—or seemed to be—and her elegant face was lifted toward the star-pricked ceiling of the stage.

  As she rose, she let her arms sway to the music, then held them high above her head, for showmanship and for the practical necessity that underscores all magic.

  It was a beautiful illusion, she knew. The mist, the lights, the music, the woman. She enjoyed the sheer drama of it, and was not above being amused by the irony of using the age-old symbol of the lone, lovely woman placed on a pedestal, above the common worry and toils of man.

  It was also a miserably complex bit of business, requiring a great deal of physical control and split-second timing. But not even those fortunate enough to be seated in the first row could detect the intense concentration in her serene face. None of them could know how many tedious hours she had put in, perfecting every aspect of the act on paper, then in practice. Unrelenting practice.

  Slowly, again to Gershwin’s rhythm, her body began to turn, dip, sway. A partnerless dance ten feet above stage, all color and fluid movement. There were murmurs from the audience, scattered applause.

  They could see her—yes, they could see her through the blue-tinted mist and spinning lights. The glitter of the dark gown, the flow of flame-colored hair, the gleam of that alabaster skin.

  Then, in a breath, in a gasp, they could not. In less time than it takes to blink an eye, she was gone. In her place was a sleek Bengal tiger who reared on his hind legs to paw the air and roar.

  There was a pause, that most satisfying of pauses to an entertainer where an audience held its stunned collective breath before the applause thundered, echoing as the pedestal descended once more. The big cat leaped down to stalk stage right. He stopped by an ebony box, sent up another roar that had a woman in the front row giggling nervously. As one, the four sides of the box collapsed.

  And there was Roxanne, dressed not in shimmery blue but in a silver cat suit. She took her bows as she’d been taught almost from birth. With a flourish.

  As the sound of success continued to pound in her ears, she mounted the tiger and rode the beast offstage.

  “Nice work, Oscar.” With a little sigh, she bent forward to scratch the cat between the ears.

  “You looked real pretty, Roxy.” Her big, burly assistant clipped a leash to Oscar’s spangled collar.

  “Thanks, Mouse.” Dismounting, she tossed her hair back. The backstage area was already hopping. Those trusted to do so would secure her equipment and guard it from prying eyes. Since she’d scheduled a press conference for the following day, she would see no reporters now. Roxanne had high hopes for a bottle of iced champagne and a stingingly hot whirlpool bath.


  Absently she rubbed her hands together—an old habit Mouse could have told her she’d picked up from her father.

  “I’ve got the fidgets,” she said with a half laugh. “Had them all damn night. It feels like someone’s breathing down my neck.”

  “Well, ah . . .” Mouse stood where he was, letting Oscar rub against his knees. Never articulate under the best of circumstances, Mouse fumbled for the best way to phrase the news. “You got company, Roxy. In the dressing room.”

  “Oh?” Her brows drew together, forming the faint line of impatience between them. “Who?”

  “Take another bow, honey.” Lily, Roxanne’s onstage assistant and surrogate mother, swept over to grab her arm. “You brought down the house.” Lily dabbed a handkerchief around the false eyelashes she wore onstage and off. “Max would be so proud.”

  The quick twist in Roxanne’s gut had her willing away her own tears. They didn’t show. They were never permitted to show in public. She started forward, moving into the swell of applause. “Who’s waiting for me?” she called over her shoulder, but Mouse was already leading the big cat away.

  He’d been taught by the master that discretion was the better part of survival.

  Ten minutes later, flushed with success, Roxanne opened the door of her dressing room. The scent hit her first—roses and greasepaint. That mix of fragrances had become so familiar she breathed it in like fresh air. But there was another scent here—the sting of rich tobacco. Elegant, exotic, French. Her hand trembled once on the knob as she pushed the door fully open.

  There was one man she would forever associate with that aroma. One man she knew who habitually smoked slim French cigars.

  She said nothing when she saw him. Could say nothing as he rose from a chair where he’d been enjoying his cigar and her champagne. Oh, God, it was thrilling and horrible to watch that wonderful mouth quirk in that very familiar grin, to meet those impossibly blue eyes with her own.

  His hair was still long, a mane of ebony waving back from his face. Even as a child he’d been gorgeous, an elegant gypsy with eyes that could freeze or burn. Age had only enhanced his looks, fining down that compelling face, the long bones and shadowy hollows, the faint cleft in the chin. Beyond the physical, there was a drama that shivered around him like an aura.

  He was a man women shuddered over and wanted.

  She had. Oh, she had.

  Five years had passed since she’d seen that smile, since she’d run her hands through that thick hair or felt the searing pressure of that clever mouth. Five years to mourn, to weep and to hate.

  Why wasn’t he dead? she wondered as she forced herself to close the door at her back. Why hadn’t he had the decency to succumb to any of the varied and gruesome tragedies she’d imagined for him?

  And what in God’s name was she going to do with this terrible yearning she felt just looking at him again?

  “Roxanne.” Training kept Luke’s voice steady as he said her name. He’d watched her over the years. Tonight he’d studied her every move from the shadows of the wings. Judging, weighing. Wanting. But here, now, face to face, she was almost too beautiful to bear. “It was a good show. The finale was spectacular.”

  “Thank you.”

  His hand was steady as he poured her a flute of champagne, as hers was when she accepted it. They were, after all, showmen, cast in an odd way from the same mold. Max’s mold.

  “I’m sorry about Max.”

  Her eyes went flat. “Are you?”

  Because Luke felt he deserved more than the slash of sarcasm, he merely nodded, then glanced down at his bubbling wine, remembering. His mouth curved when he looked back at her. “The Calais job, the rubies. Was that yours?”

  She sipped, the silver sparkled on her shoulders as she moved them in a careless shrug. “Of course.”

  “Ah.” He nodded again, pleased. He had to be sure she hadn’t lost her touch—for magic or for larceny. “I heard rumors that a first edition of Poe’s House of Usher was lifted from a vault in London.”

ur hearing was always good, Callahan.”

  He continued to smile, wondering when she’d learned to exude sex like breath. He remembered the clever child, the coltish adolescent, the irresistible bloom of the young woman. The bloom had blossomed seductively. And he could feel the pull that had always been between them. He would use it now, with regret, but he would use it to gain his own ends.

  The end justifies everything. Another of Maximillian Nouvelle’s maxims.

  “I have a proposition for you, Rox.”

  “Really?” She took a last sip before setting her glass aside. The bubbles were bitter on her tongue.

  “Business,” he said lightly, tapping out the stub of his cigar. Taking her hand, he brought her fingers to his lips. “And personal. I’ve missed you, Roxanne.” It was the truest statement he could make. One flash of sterling honesty in years of tricks, illusions and pretense. Caught up in his own feelings, he missed the warning flash in her eyes.

  “Have you, Luke? Have you really?”

  “More than I can tell you.” Swamped by memories and needs, he drew her closer, felt his blood begin to pump as her body brushed his. She’d always been the one. No matter how many escapes he’d accomplished, he’d never freed himself from the trap in which Roxanne Nouvelle had caught him. “Come back to my hotel.” His breath whispered over her face as she went fluidly into his arms. “We’ll have a late supper. Talk.”

  “Talk?” Her arms wound sinuously around him. Her rings flashed as she dipped her fingers into his hair. Beside them the makeup mirror over her dressing table reflected them in triplicate. As if showing them past, present, future. When she spoke, her voice was like the mist she’d vanished into. Dark and rich and mysterious. “Is that what you want to do with me, Luke?”

  He forgot the importance of control, forgot everything but the fact that her mouth was an inch from his. The taste he’d once gorged on was a wish away. “No.”

  He dropped his head toward hers. Then his breath exploded as her knee shot up between his legs. Even as he was doubling over, she slammed her fist onto his chin.

  His grunt of surprise, and the splintering of wood from the table he smashed on his way down gave Roxanne enormous satisfaction. Roses flew, water splashed. A few slender buds drifted over him as he lay on the dampening carpet.

  “You . . .” Scowling, he dragged a rose from his hair. The brat had always been sneaky, he remembered. “You’re quicker than you used to be, Rox.”