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Copyright c by Christine Feehan. Excerpt from Dark Curse copyright c by Christine Feehan. Cover handletiering by Ron Zinn. Cover design by George Long. Text design by Kristin del Rosario.

New York. New York I owe a lot to Rich Campbell, bass guitarist for the band America, who graciously took time out of his busy schedule and gave me so much help, attempting to teach me about touring and life on the road.

Last, but not least, Jeri Stahl, retired Aurora, Colorado, police detective, now doing consulting work for Denver, who answered all my questions patiently and worked through my scenes with astonishing clarity. Women pushed against the car windows, lifting their tops and mashing their bare breasts against the tinted panes. Some waved thong underwear in various colors.

They shoved at the car, pulling on door handles and screaming. She doubted any of those women knew who was in the vehicle, but they were clearly willing to sell themselves to get an invite inside. I was shocked when I got your call. She pushed her forehead into her palm. She felt like an animal trapped in a cage.

It was surprising how often she felt that way. And if the mob knew who was inside, they would have begun dismantling the car to get at her. Those first heady months as a megastar, when everything she wanted, or needed, or even thought of was handed to her and the band--that had been so long ago, a dream come true that had quickly turned to a nightmare she tried to forget.

She had been born with a legacy of gifts, but even she had been overtaken by the magnitude of what was offered to her in that first flush of success, being treated like a star, godlike, given anything, wanted everywhere. Her boys, as she called them, were more than just friends--almost family--and the excesses of alcohol, drugs and women crawling over one another for a chance to be with a member of a band, to do anything for him, had nearly destroyed their minds and their lives.

Most of the band members lost families to that lifestyle. They knew it was her voice that had taken them to the top and without her the band would topple quickly. In the end, her manager and the band members had convinced her they would set rules and abide by them.

The terms had been agreed to, and Joley rarely went to parties other than with the band immediately afterward. What do they really get out of it, Steve? They line up to give the band and even the roadies blowjobs. Actually stand in line in the halls, hoping to get the chance. All of the guards were carrying guns--and not just polite police-issue handguns beneath smooth jackets either.

Those were semiautomatic weapons cradled in their beefy arms, right out in the open like in some gangster film. Her cell phone went off, interrupting her train of thought.

Flipping it open with a little grimace, she answered. Joley snapped the phone closed and shoved it into her pocket. Joley had latched on to the excuse, dragging her driver out in the middle of the night, lying to herself that she was coming to the party to deliver the message to Logan and see to it personally that he took care of the problem. A guard tapped her window, making her jump, motioning for her to let him see her.

Her driver objected, but she rolled down the window and peered at the guard so he could visually identify her. She saw the instant flash of recognition. Joley Drake, legendary singer known simply as Joley. For one brief moment she thought he might ask for her autograph, but he recovered and waved her through the gates.

Sergei Nikitin had been inviting her to his parties for months, but she always made excuses not to go. Sergei was a wealthy man who ran in the in circles. He knew politicians and celebrities of every kind. He maintained the public image of a char ming businessman who liked the good life and surrounded himself with household names--movie stars, race car drivers, sports figures, models, public figures and of course the most famous bands.

Very few people knew he was reputed to be a Russian mobster with a violent, bloody past and a penchant for making his enemies disappear. Most of those who had heard the rumors thought they only added to his mystique.

It seemed inconceivable that the suave, charming businessman might actually order vicious, sadistic deaths to further his already abundant wealth--to everybody but those in law enforcement--and Joley--thanks to her brother-in-law, who was a sheriff. She remained in the seat, hesitating. The party was in full swing. Music blasted from the house, filling the air around it. Joley could almost feel the building expanding and contracting with every boom of the bass. Even the windows vibrated.

She sat in the car with the door open and studied the house. His security people would have radioed the house immediately so Nikitin could be ready to greet her.

It would be a victory of sorts for him. Joley Drake. Another celebrity he could be photographed with. Do you mind just waiting, Steve? I feel bad for dragging you out tonight.


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