Low Pressure

By: Sandra Brown

Prologue





The rat was dead, but no less horrifying than if it had been alive.

Bellamy Price trapped a scream behind her hands and, holding them clamped against her mouth, backed away from the gift box of glossy wrapping paper and satin ribbon. The animal lay on a bed of silver tissue paper, its long pink tail curled against the fat body.

When she came up against the wall, she slid down it until her bottom reached the floor. Slumping forward, she removed her hands from her mouth and covered her eyes. But she was too horror-stricken even to cry. Her sobs were dry and hoarse.

Who would have played such a vicious prank? Who? And why?

The events of the day began to replay in her mind like a recording on fast-forward.

“You were terrific!”

“Thank you.” Bellamy tried to maintain the rapid pace set by the publicist for the publishing house, who functioned as though her breakfast cereal had been laced with speed.

“This show is number one in its time slot.” Her rapid-fire speech kept time with the click of her stilettos. “Miles ahead of its competition. We’re talking over five million viewers. You just got some great national exposure.”

Which was exactly what Bellamy wished to avoid. But she didn’t waste her breath on saying so. Again. For the umpteenth time. Neither the publicist nor her agent, Dexter Gray, understood her desire to direct the publicity to her best-selling book, not to herself.

Dexter, his hand tightly grasping her elbow, guided her through the Manhattan skyscraper’s marble lobby. “You were superb. Flawless, but warm. Human. That single interview probably sold a thousand copies of Low Pressure, which is what it’s all about.” He ushered her toward the exit, where a uniformed doorman tipped his hat as Bellamy passed.

“Your book kept me up nights, Ms. Price.”

She barely had time to thank him before being propelled through the revolving door, which emptied her onto the plaza. A shout went up from the crowd that had gathered to catch a glimpse of that morning’s interviewees as they entered and exited the television studio.

The publicist was exultant. “Dexter, help her work the crowd. I’m going to get a photographer over here. We can parlay this into more television coverage.”

Dexter, more sensitive to his client’s reluctance toward notoriety, stood on tiptoe and spoke directly into Bellamy’s ear to make himself heard above the Midtown rush-hour racket. “It wouldn’t hurt to take advantage of the situation and sign a few books. Most authors work their entire professional lives—”

“And never receive this kind of media attention,” she said, finishing for him. “Thousands of writers would give their right arm for this. So you’ve told me. Repeatedly.”

“It bears repeating.” He patted her arm as he steered her toward the eager people straining against the barricades. “Smile. Your adoring public awaits.”

Readers who had become instant fans clamored to shake hands with her and have her sign their copies of Low Pressure. Being as gracious as possible, she thanked them and smiled into their cell-phone cameras.

Her hand was being pumped by an enthusiastic fan when she spotted Rocky Van Durbin out of the corner of her eye. A writer for the daily tabloid newspaper EyeSpy, Van Durbin was standing slightly apart from the crowd, wearing a self-congratulatory smirk and giving instructions to the photographer accompanying him.

It was Van Durbin who had uncovered and then gleefully disclosed that the writer T. J. David, whose first book was generating buzz in book circles as well as in Hollywood, was, in fact, Bellamy Price, an attractive, thirty-year-old woman:

“Why this native Texan—blue-eyed, long-legged, and voluptuous, and isn’t that how we like them?—would want to hide behind an innocuous pen name, this reporter doesn’t know. But in spite of the author’s coy secrecy, Low Pressure has soared to the top of the best-seller charts, and now, apparently, Ms. Price has come out of hiding and gotten into the spirit of the thing. She’s eschewed her spurs and hat, abandoned the Lone Star state, and is now residing in a penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park on the Upper West Side, basking in the glow of her sudden celebrity.”

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