BEAUTY TO DIE FOR
By Kim Alexis
and Mindy Starns Clark
This exciting new cozy mystery goes to a luxurious spa—and behind
the scenes of the beauty industry—as it weaves a fascinating tale
of betrayal, intrigue, and murder.
Former supermodel Juliette Taylor is on her way to Palm Grotto spa when she runs into Raven, an old colleague known for her fiery red hair and even fierier temper. Two hours later, Raven is found dead. Now Juliette must try to learn who killed her old modeling rival and why—before she becomes the prime suspect.
Or the next victim.
From Chapter One
Kill me now.
Juliette froze at the end of the jetway, staring at the vivid flash of red hair in the crowd up ahead. The woman was just one of many pouring out from a nearby gate, but all it took was a glimpse of those distinctive red waves for Juliette to know exactly who she was.
Not today, not when Juliette was already dealing with so much. Please, not her.
But it was her, it had to be. Juliette would know those flaming tresses anywhere. Only one person on earth could carry off that height and color and style with such absolute flair.
The great Raven herself.
Juliette ducked, hiding among the throng spilling out around her, then worked her way to one side and moved behind a wide pillar. Cheeks burning, she adjusted a strap on her carry-on as the crowd swept past.
What were the odds of ending up in the same gate area of the same airport on the same day as her former cohort? Yet it had happened, even way out here in the middle of the California desert—a near-encounter with a fellow supermodel, one who'd been in the business at the same time as Juliette, back in the '80s. Raven, of all people. Ugh.
The phone in Juliette's pocket gave off the signal for a text, so she pulled it out and checked the message. It was from Didi, her best friend and business partner, who had flown out two days before to prepare for the big event they would be hosting over the weekend at one of the spas that carried their "JT Lady" line of beauty products. The message said: Am in cell lot. Text when you get in.
Thumbs flying, Juliette replied: I'm here, but u'll never guess who else is.
Didi's response was quick: ?
Smiling to herself, Juliette typed, THE RED DRAGON
Didi's reply—!!!!!!!—was followed by a second text: RAVEN? No way!
Juliette nodded to herself as she typed. Yep, am hiding now. Can't come out till coast is clear.
Didi's final response: No prob, take ur time. Oh yeah, be sure to check out billboard at carousel 3.
Juliette slipped the phone into her pocket and shifted around the pillar to take another look. Scanning the crowd, she spotted the regal redhead moving through the exit at the end of the long hallway. Glad to have dodged that particular bullet, she gripped the handle of her carry-on and moved from behind the pillar then made her way to baggage claim and carousel three.
The moment she spotted the sign, her face eased into a smile. Mounted on the back wall, the huge billboard featured an inviting photo of Palm Grotto Spa's world-famous mineral pool, a handsome couple floating side by side in its turquoise waters. In the lower half of the sign, in blazing white text against even deeper blue water, were the words:
It's Your Turn . . .
A Juliette Taylor Event
Under that was her company's brand new slogan:
Isn't it time someone took care of you for a change?
The whole thing was just so striking. She sent Didi a text that she was ready and waiting at baggage claim then spent a minute a two taking in the gorgeous new sign from various angles. She was snapping a final photo with her phone's camera, about to head outside, when she was startled by a nearby scream.
Juliette spun around to see Raven standing not ten feet away, yelling and cursing at an elderly luggage porter who seemed to have dropped one of her bags.
Time for a quick getaway, before Raven spotted her. Juliette scanned the area for a hiding place, but even as she saw a restroom she could duck into, she hesitated. The poor old man didn't deserve to be spoken to like that. It wasn't right. Juliette let loose a sigh. She couldn't run and hide. In the past she'd seen Raven go on like this for a full five or ten minutes, but she'd also seen the woman's attitude change on a dime, even in the midst of her most vicious rant, if she felt like it. Hoping that would be the case here, Juliette took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and strode forward.
Time to slay the fire-breathing dragon—or at least keep her from burning someone else.
Marcus Stone stood in the doorway of the old warehouse, looking around at the near-empty space inside. For the past six months this had been command central for JATFAT—the Joint Atlanta Task Force Against Terrorism. Filled with personnel and equipment, it had served as a top-secret beehive of activity, everyone working together toward a singular goal: the seizure of a newly activated terrorist cell based in metro Atlanta. That goal had been achieved last month with the arrest of all the cell's members, and now, after several weeks of processing, investigating, and debriefing, things had finally begun to wind down.
At this point the place held only a few workstations and a handful of people, the core members of the team. Marcus spotted the man he was there to see, Special Agent in Charge Nate Anderson, near the back of the room, trying to close a window.
He headed that way. "Need some help?"
Nate turned. "Hey, Stone, how you doing?"
The two men shook hands. "Fine. You?"
Nate gestured toward the window. "Not too good at the moment. Somebody thought we needed some fresh air in here today, and now it's stuck open." With a shrug, he added, "It's the crickets. Still can't tolerate that sound."
Marcus could hear the cacophony of chirps outside, typical in Georgia for this time of year. He stepped forward to lend a hand, and the two men wrestled with the stubborn windowpane until frame met sill with a thud.
"It's been eleven years." Nate's voice was guttural and low. "But the minute I hear the chirping, might as well have been yesterday. Three hundred and forty-three of 'em under the rubble, all going off at once, and not a thing we could do about it."
Marcus could feel a tightening in his chest as he, too, remembered. "You're talking about the PASS alarms after 9/11." Short for Personal Alert Safety Systems, the distress signals were designed to go off whenever the emergency workers wearing them became immobile for more than thirty seconds, to indicate they were in trouble. After the towers fell, more than three hundred firefighters had been trapped, immobile, below the rubble.
Less than a minute later, their alarms began to go off.
Nate nodded. "Those alarms sounded just like a bunch of crickets to me. It was bad enough at the beginning, when there were so many and we couldn't get to any of them. But it was even worse when things started quieting down. Batteries dying one by one."
Marcus remembered. It had taken more than a day for the last of those beeps to stop. He'd hated the silence even more than the noise.
Nate grabbed a rag to wipe his hands. "Anyway, what's up? Can I do something for you?"
Marcus took a deep breath and blew it out, not sure how to broach the topic he'd come here to discuss. "I need to talk with you for a minute. It's about that list of names we found among the papers recovered from the terrorist cell."
"Oh?" Nate moved toward his desk and gestured for Marcus to have a seat on the other side as he dug through the file drawer and located a copy of the paper in question, the name list. Among the evidence that had been collected in the wake of the capture of the terrorist cell last month had been a typed list of ten names, most of them recognizable to those on the task force. Three were public figures who spoke out against the counterfeiting of designer goods, such as knock-off purses, counterfeit DVDs, and fake perfumes and cosmetics. Four were members of Congress who were working to toughen federal anti-counterfeiting laws. The connection for the remaining three names was less clear, but with some investigation it was determined that the list was comprised of ten people whose actions could be financially detrimental to the cell's counterfeit-based money raising activities in one way or another.
Marcus skimmed the names upside down now, remembering the first time he'd seen that list, just a few weeks before, and shock he'd felt when he'd come to her name
"Number six," he said gruffly.
Nate ran his finger along the list and stopped there. "Oh yeah, the former supermodel?"
Marcus nodded, swallowing hard. "Yep, that's the one. I'm here because I need to talk to you about her, about Juliette Taylor."
Mindy Starns Clark is the #1 bestselling author of 20 books, fiction and nonfiction including the Christy award-winning The Amish Midwife, the ever-popular nonfiction guide The House that Cleans Itself, and more. Visit her website at www.mindystarnsclark.com.
Kim Alexis was an original supermodel of the 80's, appearing on more than 500 magazine covers and in numerous beauty advertisements. Today she is a television host, author, speaker, and fitness enthusiast. Visit her website at www.kimalexis.com.
Beauty to Die For is available wherever books are sold, including christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, and amazon.com.
Copyright ©2012 by Mindy Starns Clark and Kim Alexis Pro. Inc.
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