Shadow Dance

Amanda Charles never expected to find herself in the middle of a murder investigation.

Tristan MacLaughlin doesn’t mix business with pleasure– ever. But when he draws a case involving showgirls in a town designed for excitement, he finds himself pulled deep into a world of pageantry and dazzle– and drawn to the glamorous dancer who keeps her secrets and emotions locked deep inside.

Read an Excerpt →

September 24, 2002
Avon Books
ISBN-10: 0380819201
ISBN-13: 978-0380819201

Between the Covers

People often ask me where I get my ideas for my books. I always give this question the weighty reflection it deserves before finally admitting, with erudite thoughtfulness, “Dunno.” With Shadow Dance, I actually do know where the idea came from– or at least the event that led to a germ of an idea that led to this book.

It all started with a weekend trip my husband and I took to Reno. I was still wide awake when he pooped out Saturday night, so I went downstairs to the lounge to catch the midnight show. My cocktail waitress turned out to be a woman I’d helped earlier that day in the elevator when a drunk had gotten a little too attentive, and we talked until she had to go back to work. Then, as I waited for the show to start, I became aware of the sounds of activity going on backstage. There were small thumps, and sounds of shuffling feet, and even a loud crash, as if someone had hit the floor.

That got me thinking about the dancers in the show, which led to the eternal ‘what if’ game. What if I set a book in Reno and made the heroine a dancer? And what if she catches the attention of a killer the papers have dubbed The Showgirl Slayer, and her reputation for holding herself aloof from the male portion of the dance world gains first his admiration, then his obsession with her? But who could I give her for a hero? I sure do love Scottish men. I wonder why Scots are always depicted as either dour or wild? What if I make my Scot both? Oh, yeah. This could work. At least it does for me.

I hope it works for you, too. ~Susan

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Awards + Kudos

  • NEW 10-03-02 : SHADOW DANCE is on its third week on the New York Times extended list! SHADOW DANCE debued on the NYT extended list at #30 on September 19. Have you read it yet? Check out an excerpt.
  • NEW 10-03-02 : SHADOW DANCE continues on for four weeks on the USA Today list! SHADOW DANCE zoomed up the USAToday list to #39 for week ending September 15th (it first debued on the USAToday bestseller list at #87!).

  • NEW 10-03-02 : WOW! SHADOW DANCE spends four weeks on the Waldenbooks list! SHADOW DANCE moved to #2 on the Waldenbooks list for the week ending September 21st! (it debued at #4 for week ending September 7th).

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Read an Excerpt

Amanda Rose Charles awoke Tuesday morning with a warm feeling of well-being that lasted about forty-five seconds. Then she remembered her conversation with Charlie just before the midnight show the previous night, and a leaden weight seemed to press down on her chest, making it difficult to draw a really deep, satisfying breath. Struggling up on one elbow, she yawned, raked her fingers through her hair, and then reached for the telephone on the nightstand. She placed it on the mattress next to her stomach, but hesitated for a moment, simply looking at it. Finally, she picked up the receiver and punched out the familiar numbers.

The phone rang ten times before she conceded defeat and hung up again. Damn.

Where was Maryanne? The idea of calling the police sure didn’t appeal to her– Maryanne would be furious if it turned out she had done so needlessly. But she and Rhonda had agreed on the way home last night that they’d call the authorities today if Maryanne didn’t come home. It had been three days since they’d seen her. Not that this was the first time she’d taken off without a word to anyone. She seemed to make a habit of it, despite the agreement the three of them had made to always let one of the others know where they could be reached and when they could be expected back if they were going to be gone for awhile. It was so blasted inconsiderate, the way she let them worry about her . . . but typical, vintage Maryanne.

But to not even bother calling in sick was sheer professional suicide, and that wasn’t typical of Maryanne at all. Amanda only hoped the guy she was with turned out to be worth it.

But she wouldn’t hold her breath. They so rarely were.

She didn’t understand this preoccupation with men that everyone except her seemed to harbor. Sometimes she felt like the only grown-up in a room full of adolescents when the conversation turned, as it invariably did, to the subject of men and sex. But that was the least of her problems this morning, and Amanda tossed back the blankets and climbed out of bed. Stifling a yawn, she crossed the carpet to rummage through her drawers for an old leotard. She’d do her morning workout, then try calling Maryanne one more time.

Despite her determination to shelve the subject, however, during her preliminary stretches her thoughts drifted back to it. As she stretched out her spine, she reflected on how much easier it had always been for her to make friends with women than with men. Perhaps that was because she had grown up with three sisters. And it wasn’t as though she didn’t like men or anything. As dance partners they couldn’t be beat, and a couple of them even made pretty handy friends. But they were definitely a different species, and she supposed it was her failure to understand their basic nature that made her erect fences between herself and most of their persuasion. It was an automatic reflexö she simply threw up guards without even realizing what she was doing half the time.

Not that her motives, whether unconsciously done or not, made a lick of difference to the gossips in the dance community, she acknowledged wryly, lying on her stomach and arching up until the bottom of her toes touched the top of her head. They couldn’t care less what her reasons were. They simply knew what they saw, and they spread the word as they saw it. From the moment she’d joined their ranks, she’d somehow managed to garner herself a reputation.

Of course, acquiring a reputation for anything was almost impossible to avoid in this business. She’d always thought that being a member of the gypsy community must be a lot like growing up in a small town. Everyone knew everything there was to know about you, and what they didn’t know for a fact, they invented. Labels were dispersed indiscriminately, and once one acquired a name for something, it practically took an act of God to lose it. Her label seemed to be ice maiden. Or maybe frigid bitch, depending on who you were talking to and how gently she’d let him down.

Shadow Dance

She preferred to call it selective.

When she’d arrived in New York as an eighteen year old, she’d been on her own for the very first time, and sporting some painful emotional scars that were only superficially healed. Teddy was gone; her family life was a total disaster, and all around her, in her permissive new environment, friends, roommates, co-workers, and fellow inhabitants of the dance world were touting the glories of sexual freedom. She’d had every intention of joining their ranks, of being wild and wicked and doing things that would blow her parents out of the water, should they ever find out.

All the things her sister Teddy would have done.

So she’d done her best to toss out her woefully outdated beliefs, but it simply hadn’t gelled. She’d managed to shed her virginity, an experience that hadn’t been any great shakes, and left wondering what all the fuss was about, it hadn’t taken her long to decide indiscriminate sex just wasn’t for her.

Amanda gave a mental shrug as she slowly uncurled and rolled to a sitting position. Spreading her legs until they formed a line perpendicular to her torso, she leaned forward, resting her weight on her forearms as she pressed her upper body to the carpet. When she’d returned to her retro ways, tales of her standoffishness with men had quickly made the rounds. And so her rep had been born.

Escalating the pace of her workout as she switched from stretches to more serious body strengthening exercises, she decided she could live with that. Sometimes she regretted her reputation, but at least she wasn’t likely to be led astray and have her entire career jeopardized, like Maryanne.

She doubted there was a man alive worth sacrificing that for.

Finishing up a while later, she headed for the bathroom, where she eyed the bathtub covetously for a moment. She decided, however, to settle for a shower in the interests of time. Leaning into the mirror while the water heated, she curled her lip at the image reflected back at her. How charmingö there must be a dozen creases pressed into her cheek from the bed linens. Averting her eyes, she reached for her toothbrush. She wished someone would invent some sort of instant energizer for people like herö something you could plug into a socket for a few minutes to make you come alive. She wasn’t at her best first thing in the morning.

Propping herself beneath the flow of hot water in the shower, she stood with her head tilted back, sleepily blowing the streaming water out of her mouth. She wondered idly how her life might have differed if her personality had been a better fit for the flamboyant environment she moved in. The thought made her smile. Because, really, you had to admire the irony.

By coming to New York on her own to pursue a career in dance, she was considered by Mother and Father to be beyond the pale. But within the dance world, she was also seen as something of an oddity. She didn’t have a bohemian bone in her body, and except when she danced, she was quite conservative by nature. Plus, she was quiet. She was friendly enough, but she wasn’t a big partier, and never having been one to rush relationships, she failed to collect friends by the dozen. Even her personal style differed radically from most of her fellow dancers. Personally, she liked her fashion sense and felt she dressed with a flair that was individualistic. But she admitted it was probably a lot more Ann Taylor than Madonna.

Shadow Dance

Well, those were the breaks. She was a product of her upbringing, and if she hadn’t been able to change that when she was eighteen and angry, hurting, and determined to forsake all the false values and pretensions of her former life, what were the chances of changing it at twenty-eight? Turning off the water and grabbing a towel, she stepped out of the tub.

She smoothed on body lotion, and a moment later, clad in her underwear and blotting the ends of her hair, which still trickled water down her back and over her collarbones, she strode into her bedroom. Draping the towel over her shoulders, she sat down at her dressing table, picked up a long-handled sable powder brush, and leaned into the mirror. She began applying make-up with a light hand, and by the time she’d finished doing her eyes, her stomach had started to growl for breakfast. She hurriedly untangled her damp curls and dressed.

It was her one day off in a blue moonö hers and Rhonda’s both, which was even rarer still. They had made plans to hit the nearest shopping center to stock up on staples and run all those errands they hadn’t had time for in the past few weeks. It was nearly noon; she had arisen earlier than usual. Being in a casino show meant keeping a timetable that was different from the rest of the world. Chorus gypsies were generally just getting out of bed about the time everyone else’s work day was half over.

In the kitchen, she put on the kettle to make a pot of coffee. Snapping on the small counter-top television set with one hand to catch the noon broadcast of the news, she reached for the coffee grinder with the other. The volume was turned low, so she missed the beginning of the sound bite over the rattle of the coffee beans she poured into the electric grinder and the high-pitched whir as it turned the beans into a fine, fragrant powder. Without looking up from her task, she reached over to turn up the sound.

“. . . woman the authorities believe to be the latest victim of the Showgirl Slayer. She is five feet eight inches tall, weighs one hundred twenty-three pounds, has dark-blond hair, hazel eyes, and a small, fine scar running through her left eyebrow. Anyone having knowledge of her identity is urged to contact Detective Joe Cash at the Reno police department, homicide division. That number again is. . . .”

Very slowly, Amanda raised her eyes to focus on the screen. She lowered the kettle, cutting off the stream of steaming water that she had been pouring through the coffee grounds into the pot below. Oh, God. It couldn’t be.

Could it? Dear God, no. Please.

Amanda finished making the coffee, automatically setting the kettle back on the stove and turning off the burner beneath it. Pouring herself a cup, she placed the glass coffeepot atop a protective wire on the back burner and turned it to low. Then she picked up her coffee cup and carried it into the living room, noticing without surprise that it was rattling badly in its saucer. Very carefully, she set it on the coffee table, then took a seat on the couch and simply stared at it for a moment.

Slowly, she reached out and picked up the telephone receiver from its unit on the small, marble-topped end table, reluctantly pressing the numbers etched in her brain. Clutching the receiver in sweaty palms, she sat rigidly upright as she listened to the telephone ring on the other end of the line. Then it was picked up, and her spine suddenly melted. Feeling boneless and light-headed, she slumped on her tailbone on the chenille upholstered cushion, clamping the receiver to her ear.

“Reno police department,” said the polite, businesslike voice.

Shadow Dance

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Shadow Dance is available in the following formats:

Shadow Dance

Avon Books

Sep 24, 2002