- Publisher: Grand Central
- Release Date: 1995, 2001, 2005, 2014; Dell 1982
- ISBN-13: 978-0446616829
- Available Languages: French, German, English (UK), Indonesian, Italian, Swedish, Russian, Dutch, Hebrew
- Available Formats: Audio, e-Book, Print
Lauri is a dedicated young teacher for the deaf. Her past conceals a wound still unhealed, her present is a facade, and she uses her career to hide her loneliness. Drake, daytime TV’s most popular star, has two heartaches – the daughter he believes will never have a normal life and the dead wife he can’t forget. Jennifer is the hearing-impaired child who may become a pawn between her father and the woman she needs the most. Now, in the heart of a New Mexico arts community, the three may become a family…but only if each one dares to find a voice and lets his or her fears and needs speak for themselves.
“Do you think your husband knows about us, darling?” The man brushed his lips across the woman’s forehead as he clasped her in a desperate embrace.
“Even if he does, I don’t care,” she declared. “I’m tired of hiding. I want to proclaim our love to everyone.”
“Oh, my love, my love.” The man lowered his head. His nose bumped into the woman’s in a most unromantic way.
Lauri Parrish jumped when the exasperated command thundered from the loudspeaker in a voice that reverberated like God’s from Mount Sinai.
“What in the hell is going on today? Can’t you two get anything right? We’ve been on this same damn scene for an hour and a half.” A brief silence hung in the air while the actors and crew shifted uncomfortably. “I’m coming down.”
Lauri watched in fascination as the actress turned to her leading man and said scathingly, “I was to lean into Camera One, Drake. Not you.”
“Then you’d better learn to count, Lois. That was Camera Three. Besides, aren’t you afraid Camera One will detect your facelift scars?”
“Bastard,” hissed the actress as she shoved past the amused cameramen and tapped across the concrete floor of the television studio in the direction of the dressing rooms.
The whole episode intrigued Lauri Parrish, who had surprisingly found herself on the set of The Heart’s Answer, a popular daytime soap opera. She never watched television during the day, because she was always working, but everyone in America knew about this particular program. Many working women planned their lunch hours around the drama’s telecast in order to keep up with the sexual exploits and personal crises of Dr. Glen Hambrick.
A few days before, Dr. Martha Norwood, founder of the Norwood Institute for the Deaf where Lauri was a teacher, had approached her with an offer.
“We have a student here, Jennifer Rivington, whose father is thinking of taking her out of the school.”
“I know who Jennifer is,” Lauri said. “She’s only partially impaired, but she’s totally uncommunicative.”
“For that reason her father is very concerned.”
“Father? No mother?”
Dr. Norwood hesitated a moment before she said, “No, her mother is deceased. Her father has an unusual job. It has been necessary for him to board Jennifer with us since she was an infant. She hasn’t adjusted well. Now he wants to hire a private tutor to stay with her at home. I thought you might be interested.”
Lauri frowned. “I don’t know. Could you be more specific?”
The gray-haired lady with the intelligent blue eyes studied her most dedicated teacher. “Not just now. I will tell you that Mr. Rivington wants the tutor to take Jennifer to New Mexico to live. He has a house in a small community in the mountains.” Dr. Norwood smiled gently. “I know you’d like to get away from New York. And you’re certainly qualified to take on a job like this.”
Lauri laughed softly. “Having grown up in Nebraska, I find New York somewhat stifling and crowded. I’ve been here eight years, and I still miss the wide open spaces.” She brushed back a vagrant auburn curl. “It sounds to me as if Mr. Rivington is shirking his responsibility to rear his own daughter. Is he one of those parents who resents the child for being deaf?”
Dr. Norwood looked down at her well-manicured hands, which were clasped together on top of her desk. “Don’t be so quick to judge, Lauri,” she chided gently. Sometimes her protégée let her temper get the best of her. If Lauri Parrish had a fault, it was jumping to conclusions. “As I mentioned, the circumstances are unusual.”
She stood, indicating that the meeting was over. “You don’t have to make a decision today. I want you to observe Jennifer for the next few days. Spend some time with her. Then, when it’s convenient, I think you and Mr. Rivington should get together and talk.”
“I’ll cooperate any way I can, Doctor Norwood.”
When Lauri reached the frosted-glass door, Dr. Norwood halted her. “Lauri, in case you were wondering, money is no object.”
Lauri answered with complete honesty. “Doctor Norwood, if I accepted any private tutoring job, it would be because I thought that is what the child needed.”
“I thought so,” Dr. Norwood replied, smiling.
This morning Dr. Norwood had slipped her a piece of paper with an address on it and said, “Be at this address at three o’clock today. Ask for Mr. D. L. Rivington. He’ll be expecting you.”
Lauri had been astonished when the cab driver stopped at the specified address and she saw that it was a building that housed studios for a television network. She had entered the building with her curiosity in the mysterious Mr. Rivington piqued. When she asked for him at the reception desk, the beautiful young receptionist looked puzzled for a moment then giggled as she said, “Third floor.”
Lauri started for the elevator but the girl said, “Just a minute. What’s your name?” Lauri gave it. The receptionist ran her finger down a typed list, then said, “There you are. Miss L. Parrish. You can go right up, but be very quiet. They’re still taping.”
Lauri stepped off the elevator and found herself in a cavernous television studio. She gaped in awe at the equipment and activity.
The barnlike studio was sectioned off into the various sets for the soap opera. One set was furnished with a hospital bed and dummy medical equipment. Another was a living room. There was a tiny kitchen set barely four feet across. She wandered around the studio, peeking curiously at the sets, trying not to trip on the miles of cable that snaked over the floor and coiled around the studio cameras and monitors.
“Hey, cutie, whaddaya need?” a jean-clad cameraman asked her in a fresh chirp.
Startled, Lauri stammered, “I—uh—yes. Mr. Rivington? I need to see him.”
“Mr. Rivington?” the cameraman crowed as if she had said something funny. “That’s heavy. Did you pass muster downstairs?” She nodded. “Then you can see him. Can you wait till we get this scene in the can?”
“I—yes,” she said, agreeing to whatever his jargon was supposed to mean.
“Stand over here and be quiet and don’t touch anything,” the technician warned.
Lauri stood behind the cameras that were focused on a set of what looked to her like a hospital lounge.
Now, during this unexpected break, she watched the actor who was the heartthrob of millions of American women. He was sitting leisurely on one of the prop tables, eating an apple he had pilfered from the basket on the table. Lauri wondered if his fans would be so enthralled with him if they had heard Drake Sloan speak so unchivalrously to his co-star. But then, that rudeness was part of his appeal, wasn’t it? He was the macho male doctor who ran roughshod over everyone else in the fictitious hospital and reduced all the women to quivering jelly with his domineering manner and seductive good looks.
Well, thought Lauri objectively, that many women couldn’t all be wrong. He did have a certain animal appeal—if you liked that type. It was his coloring that first attracted one’s attention. His hair was an unusual ash-brown, but under the studio lights it appeared almost silver. Contrasting with that strange silver hair were dark, thick brows and a dark mustache. The mustache added to the insolent sensuality of his bottom lip and drove housewives, career girls, and grandmothers wild with desire. His most arresting feature was his eyes. They were a vibrant green. In close-up shots, they smoldered with a fire guaranteed to melt the heart of the most frigid female.
From her observation point outside the circle formed by the intense studio lights, Lauri watched Drake Sloan as he stood up, stretched like a lazy cat, and tossed the apple core into a wastebasket with an expert hook shot.
Lauri scoffed at his costume. She doubted that any doctor wearing pants that tight could go about the business of healing the sick. The green surgical attire had been tailored to fit Drake Sloan’s tall, lean frame like a second skin. The shirt was cut in a deep V that revealed a chest furred with dark hair. As if that would be allowed in an operating room! Lauri thought.
Hearing a soothing voice behind her, Lauri turned. The man she assumed to be the one who had spoken from the control room above was coming toward the set with the offended actress under his solicitous arm.
“He won’t take direction,” she was complaining. “He knows the blocking, but when the camera comes on, he does whatever he damn well pleases.”
“I know, I know, Lois. Can’t you be my dependable girl and tolerate him for me?” the director asked. “Let’s get through today’s schedule, and then we’ll talk about it over a drink. I’ll speak to Drake. Okay? Now, let me see that dazzling smile.”
What rubbish. Lauri groaned silently. Artistic temperament. She knew all about it. Tell them what they want to hear and alleviate the paranoia until the next outbreak.
The two joined Drake Sloan on the set, and the three of them held a brief discussion. The crew, who had been smoking cigarettes, reading magazines, or talking together, resumed their positions behind the cameras and adjusted the connecting earphones onto their heads. It was through these that each one received his instructions from the director in the control booth.
The boom-microphone operator was toying with his intricate machine. With its erratic, disjointed movements, it resembled the skeleton of some prehistoric animal.
The director kissed Lois on the cheek and stepped back off the set. “Before I go back upstairs, let’s walk through the scene one more time. Kiss her like you mean it, Drake. She’s your lover, remember?”
“Has your lover ever had anchovy pizza for lunch, Murray?”
Lois screamed in indignation.
The crew burst out laughing at her expense.
Murray managed to calm her down once again. Then he said, “Tape’s rolling.”
One of the cameras had assumed a new position that blocked Lauri’s vantage point. In spite of herself she had grown interested in this videotaping session. She moved to an unobstructed spot where she could see and hear clearly. This time when their trite dialogue was completed, Drake Sloan took Lois in his arms and kissed her fiercely.
Lauri’s heart skipped a beat as she watched his lips close over the actress’s. One could almost feel that kiss, could almost imagine… She leaned against the prop table to get a better view. The sound of shattering glass swept everyone’s eyes away from the actors on the set. They were all staring at her!
“Sandra Brown is known for her memorable storytelling.” -Tulsa World
“Sandra Brown proves herself top-notch.” -Associated Press
A Note From Sandra
Originally published under the pseudonym of Rachel Ryan as a Dell Candlelight Ecstasy Romance