“Intrigue, tension, smokin’ hot love scenes and fascinating characters all work together to make a fun, sexy, and rockin’ read! – Elizabeth Corva, author of the Angel Interceptors series
SONG WITHOUT WORDS
Fantasies can come true. But they might kill you.
Spencer Moretti knows what she wants—a spot on one of the big radio networks with her own interview show, and she’s determined to get it. She has a knack for getting musicians to relax and blurt out things that make their agents clutch their heads whenever she interviews bands on the top rated radio station in New Orleans. When she’s thrown—literally—into close proximity to Geoff Lane, she hears him utter a closely guarded secret that can shoot her right up to a network contract. If she can get him to let her interview him about it, that is.
The former lead guitarist for Axis certainly didn’t intend to reveal anything about his top secret project, but the fact that he’s leaking his plans to a successful radio announcer flies right out of his head. Maybe it’s because she’s so cute and feisty sitting there across from him. That Cheshire Cat smile on her lips kinda makes him want to tell her anything she wants to hear. Against the advice of his manager, Geoff agrees to let Spencer interview him.
Once they’re alone, though, things go sideways, and Spencer leaves without her interview and with her illusions shattered about a man she’d always admired.
Even though they ended on a bad note, Geoff can’t get Spencer out of his mind, and returns to New Orleans to try to make things right. But someone doesn’t want him anywhere near her, and they’re going to great lengths to scare Geoff off. When it becomes clear Spencer’s being stalked by a madman, can Geoff protect her, or will the killer silence her forever?
Released November 2013
READ CHAPTER 1
Copyrighted Material Juli Page Morgan 2013 – All Rights Reserved Carey On Publishing LLC
New Orleans, Louisiana, April 1982
The measured beat of the car’s turn signal kept perfect time with the song playing on the radio. Spencer Moretti, always aware of anything that happened on any radio, tapped her fingernails on the steering wheel providing a counter-rhythm as she stared at the traffic light in front of her. When the left turn arrow glowed green, she checked her usual impulsiveness and looked for oncoming traffic. New Orleans drivers were notorious for believing there was a five-second grace period allowing them to breeze through after the light turned red. Sure enough, a canary-yellow Crescent City Laundry Service truck barreled through its red light, the driver studiously ignoring the indignant honking of horns from cars with the right of way. Spencer was not one of those who honked; she’d squeaked through enough red lights on her own, and couldn’t get annoyed when someone else did it, too. As soon as the truck cleared the intersection, the coast was clear, and Spencer navigated her turn without mishap.
One block down, she sped into the fenced parking lot behind the WROK building, and found an empty spot next to the cinder block wall. Before exiting her bright red Camaro, she took a minute to scoop her belongings back into her purse. They’d spilled out onto the passenger seat when she locked her brakes to avoid rear-ending a Subaru with Alabama plates that had the audacity to stop at a red light without observing the five-second rule. Her movements were hurried as she shoved her wallet, lip gloss, pen and about a hundred crumpled receipts from fast food places into her purse. The receipts reminded her that Mr. Alabama had not only made her dump her purse, she’d also dropped her donut onto the floorboard. It may not have been the breakfast of champions, but it and a cup of coffee had been all she’d had time for after over-sleeping.
Teeth fastened on her bottom lip, she bent and managed to snag the pastry from between her feet without banging her head on the steering wheel. As she straightened with the donut in her hand, she noticed for the first time she was wearing a fine dust of powdered sugar from her shoulders to her thighs. She brushed most of it from her jeans, but it clung with tenacity to the black Rolling Stones tour T-shirt she’d scored when the band played the Superdome back in December. Just friggin’ great; she was going to have to spend the day looking like she’d sneezed out a nose full of blow. That would go over big at work. All her co-workers knew she avoided drugs like the plague, and there was no way they’d pass up the opportunity to get in a few non-malicious jokes at her expense.
She jumped out, tossed the remains of the donut on the ground for the birds to enjoy, and entered the building through the back door. Though taking the service elevator was tempting, she passed it by and sprinted up the stairs to the second floor. There; that was her exercise done for the day, and she could forego a visit to the Kelly Lynn exercise studio with her friend Tonia for another week. They’d joined on the buddy plan, but Spencer had only gone one time despite Tonia’s nagging. Flapping around with leotard-clad strangers while chanting things like, “You can do it! You can win! You can do it with Kelly Lynn!” just wasn’t her thing at all. Besides, no amount of exercise would erase her genetic propensity toward a pear-shaped body, so why bother? This was also her rationale for leaving her thick mouse-brown hair un-permed, despite the constant urging of the girls at the salon to follow the new style. Why spend money to look like she was wearing a frizzy rodent on her head? All she needed was a quarter-inch trim every month to keep the ends that hung just past her shoulders free of split ends, and she didn’t have to worry about trying to change something that would never fit with the latest trends.
The scents of cigarette smoke, coffee, and the indefinable smell of magnetic tape used to record commercials surrounded her as she made her way to the front of the building where the station’s offices were located. Her nose wrinkled, but not because of the familiar aromas. No, it was the sappy Easy Listening music coming from the speakers embedded into the ceiling every six feet that made her cringe.
The company’s AM station was automated, which meant someone had to listen to it at all times in case of programming glitches. Since it was piped through every room on the second floor, with the exception of the FM deejay lounge and control room, someone was sure to notice when the tapes became tangled or a commercial break went silent. As the strains of what sounded like a choir of overwrought housewives competed with the swelling overture of a full orchestra, Spencer resisted the urge to clap her hands over her ears, and hurried into the reception area.
“Mornin’, Spencer. You got some messages.”
The somewhat nasal voice with its hint of Cajun spice was a welcome distraction, and Spencer changed her trajectory to get the latest station gossip to start her day.
Proudly wearing an out-of-date beehive hairdo and cat’s-eye glasses, WROK’s secretary June Bienvenu sat behind her immaculate wood veneer desk, holding out a sheaf of pink message slips. She had been employed by the station longer than anyone, even the General Manager, knew everything that went on from sales to air staff, and could probably recite the runtime of every record in the vast music library. Spencer figured if it hadn’t been for June and her organizational skills and mothering instinct, the entire station would have fallen to pieces long ago.
“Thanks, June.” Spencer took the phone messages and tucked them in her purse without glancing at them. With a stern finger, she pointed toward the speaker just over June’s desk. “What in the world is that noise?”
“God-awful, idn’t it?” June drawled with a quick glance up at the speaker. “I’ll be the happiest woman in Loosiana when we switch the AM over to sports-talk.”
Interest piqued, Spencer sat on a corner of the desk. “Oh, c’mon. They’re really going to change formats?”
“High time, too, if you ask me. I bet there aren’t ten people who tune in anymore. And when’s the last time you cut a commercial that aired on the AM?” June plowed ahead without waiting for a response. “Can’t sell that mess anymore, no ma’am.”
In the two years Spencer had worked at WROK, she had never recorded a commercial for the AM, not even during the holiday season when the FM was so congested with spots that they turned away advertisers.
“So, will this sports thing be live?” she asked while surreptitiously crossing her fingers behind her back. Automated radio was one of the things she hated like fire, and would be more than happy to see her bosses kick it to the curb.
“Hauled off the satellite dishes, if you can call that live. If it starts to pick up listeners, they’ll probably add some local stuff later on.” The sharp hazel eyes behind the glasses looked Spencer up and down. “Did you dress out of the dirty clothes hamper or something this morning?”
Reminded of the white speckles adorning her shirt, Spencer looked down at herself with a sigh. “Dropped a donut driving in.” In an effort to forestall a lecture about the unprofessional way she looked, she appealed to June’s love of gossip. “Anything interesting going on this morning?”
June rose to the bait. “It’s crazy, honey. It’s just crazy.” She tucked a stray strand of brightly dyed red hair back into place and leaned forward, dropping her voice to a low, confidential tone. “Cricket lost the River Rat Café account this morning. I told her she needed to service them, but does she ever listen to anything anyone says who isn’t selling her coke? And Ralph slipped up this morning and said ‘shit’ on the air. Again.” June shook her head, the chain from her eyeglasses slapping lightly against her cheeks. “Dewayne is in a state about it, and y’all’ll probably have a staff meeting again before the day’s out.”
“Yeah, I heard Ralph this morning. It’s inspired me to spew obscenities during my show, too.” Spencer dimpled and slid off the desk to her feet. In spite of the secretary’s censuring frown, she knew June loved this stuff. “And Cricket’ll get River Rat back. She’ll just blow the owner again and he’ll cave. He always does.”
June snorted in surprise, and Spencer laughed, backing away from the desk. If given half a chance, the older woman would keep her there gossiping until Spencer’s air-shift began, and then fuss at her for being late. With a quick wave to the secretary, Spencer made her way to the empty DJ’s lounge where she flopped onto the sagging black vinyl sofa. She pulled the phone messages from her purse and went through them with quick efficiency. As expected, most were from male listeners who wanted a date, and these she balled up and tossed into the dented metal trash can in the corner next to the sofa. The last one was from her mother, and Spencer couldn’t help but laugh at the message June had scrawled across the bottom: You need to call your mother more often!
A glance at the clock showed Spencer there were only fifteen minutes before she had to be on the air, and that wasn’t enough time to get through one of her mother’s rambling phone calls. She’d bet her bottom dollar it wasn’t anything important, anyway. Even though Spencer was twenty-two and her brother Skip was twenty-five, their mother still expected to be kept abreast of every facet of their lives, and if they didn’t call on schedule she wasn’t shy about picking up the phone herself. Why she felt the need to call just before Spencer went on the air was anyone’s guess.
As the last wadded piece of pink paper hit the trash can, the door to the lounge opened to admit a short, skinny woman, brow puckered in a distracted frown. Her bleached blonde hair was permed to within an inch of its life, and her wiry body was clothed in a thin sweater and skirt that were two sizes too small, the fabric hugging every inch of her frame, accentuating the few curves it possessed.
With a quick wave to Spencer, the woman made her way to the soft drink dispenser in the far corner. She plugged in the necessary coin and pressed the button for Dr. Pepper. Nothing happened.
“Damn it!” She stomped her foot, clad in bright blue sandals with three-inch stiletto heels. “The machine up front’s empty, too. Why the hell is there never any Dr. Pepper?”
“Maybe because you drink it all the day they refill the machine?” Spencer ventured.
“Oh, funny.” The woman pressed the button for Diet Dr. Pepper, and the can clunked into the slot. She pulled the flip top and tossed the tab into the trash. Eyes bright with speculation, she scanned Spencer from head to toe. “Nice look, doll,” she purred in a raspy voice that was the result of too many cigarettes, too much booze, and not enough sleep. “Nose candy for breakfast?”
“Ha ha.” Spencer frowned, and gave another ineffective swipe at her shirt. “Never eat a powdered sugar donut while driving on Esplanade. Too many idiot drivers making you slam on your brakes.” Wardrobe repairs abandoned, she attempted to change the subject. “How’s your day going, Cricket?” Too late she remembered June’s news flash, and kicked herself as Cricket pulled her face into an expression of woe.
“Have you heard? River Rat cancelled today. I can’t lose another commission. I’m close to living in my damn car as it is.”
“The town crier gave me the scoop.” Spencer grinned in an effort to ward off a full scale pity party. “Don’t get your panties in a wad. Just go and see Allen privately, and he’ll be back. You know he always does this when you ignore him for more than two weeks.”
Cricket’s look of sorrow vanished as fast as it had appeared, and she narrowed her eyes at Spencer. “You know, it would help if y’all would quit cussing on the air.” A collection of gold bangle bracelets that adorned one bony wrist jingled as she fluffed her over-processed mane, seemingly unaware of the crackle of dryness it produced. A mental picture of Cricket’s poor hair had more than once bolstered Spencer’s decision to keep her own hair straight and shiny.
“He slipped up, that’s all.” It was clear what was coming, and Spencer picked up her purse and sat on the edge of the sofa, poised to flee.
Cricket didn’t disappoint. “Slipped up, my ass. He does it all the time, and so does Chad. Even you’ll be getting a potty mouth next thing you know, and who has to do damage control? Us!” She pointed a finger toward the door leading to the sales staff’s offices. “Y’all sit in that control room like little kings or something, and don’t give a tinker’s damn what the accounts think about what y’all say.”
“Whoa! Look at the time.” Spencer jumped to her feet so fast Cricket teetered on her heels. “I’m on the air in ten minutes. ‘Bye!”
Eager to escape another recitation of the oft-heard Account Executive’s Lament – sub-titled Blame The Talent For Everything – she dashed out of the room. She liked Cricket for the most part, but the great divide between Sales and Talent kept them ever at odds. The Account Executives blamed lagging sales on errors, real or imagined, by the air staff, and the on-air personalities blamed lower ratings on too many commercials sold by overzealous sales people. No matter how much Spencer enjoyed Cricket’s irreverent humor or her bold way of tackling life head on, their work differences were always going to get in the way of their being real friends.
Though Spencer understood very well that the revenue from those commercials paid her salary, she wished there was some way to do away with them so she could just sit in the control room and play nothing but music. Her passionate love of rock ‘n roll was the sole reason she got into radio in the first place. To play the records she loved so much and get paid for it was her absolute dream, and was what kept her going through her first year as an unpaid intern when she was only sixteen. The fact that radio jobs meant long hours, low pay, no retirement benefits or insurance of any kind paled beside the joy of being part of the world of Rock. Not only did she get to play the music, there were also free records and, best of all, free concert tickets that frequently came with backstage passes. She didn’t give a rat’s ass that she’d had to work every holiday from the time she was a teenager; not when it meant that she got to meet Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Heart, The Moody Blues and KISS, all before she graduated high school.
Now that she was no longer the low man on the totem pole, crappy hours and working holidays were a thing of the past. She had moved on to a bigger market and a more prestigious job, but she never lost that incredulous joy that came from being in close proximity to the music she loved and the bands who made it.
Ready to begin another day of playing the best music in the world for her devoted listeners, she wove her way through the convoluted hallways to the control room. Ignoring the lighted “On Air” sign above the door, she slipped into the room without making any noise.
“Highs today will be around 75, and tonight’s low at 62. Look for it to be pretty much the same all weekend, with no chance of rain and low humidity, so get out and enjoy it while you can.” A short, muscular man with curly salt-and-pepper hair and a neatly trimmed moustache spoke into the microphone with a deep voice that was just husky enough to make a large portion of New Orleans’ female population quiver in delight when they turned on the radio every weekday morning. He glanced up at Spencer as he continued speaking into the mic, his lips a scant half-inch from the foam windscreen.
“That’s it for me. See you bright and early Monday morning. Stick around for the very sultry, very sexy, very unattainable rock goddess Spencer at 10:00. Right now it’s the Stones on Rock 107.” As he spoke, he reached to his right and flipped the switch on the turntable. Spencer heard the opening guitar riff of “Start Me Up” through the headphones over Ralph’s ears, and got the full brunt from the overhead speakers as he turned off the mic.
After two years of following Ralph’s show, she was well aware that he considered his morning shift over after his last commercial break, and he never left any music cued up and ready to go. If she didn’t want any dead air she had to hurry. She stepped to the floor-to-ceiling shelves that housed the record albums, and made haste to pull discs for her show. Her absolute favorites came first – Led Zeppelin, Heart, and Axis – and she added ELO, Steve Winwood, and John Lennon’s last album to appease the at-work crowd who couldn’t rock out too hard in an office setting.
“Shit,” Ralph enunciated as he dropped the headphones to the counter. “Shit shit shit shit shit.”
Without turning around, Spencer replied, “Yeah, I’m gonna say ‘fuck’ a time or two on my show. Get you off the hook for once.”
The ancient rolling chair squeaked as Ralph got to his feet and cleared away the evidence of his morning show, scooping sheaves of paper into the trash and blowing cigarette ash off the counter. “Very funny. Don’t even think about it, or he’ll blame that on me, too. I’ll be lucky if I don’t get fired this time.”
Spencer laughed as she turned toward him, her arms full of records. “Right, that’s gonna happen with your show ranked at number one again.” The quarterly Arbitron ratings had been released the week before, showing all of WROK’s jocks at the top of the ratings heap. Dewayne Charles, the station’s General Manager, might yell and lecture, but he wasn’t going to fire any of them for cussing on the air a time or two, not as long as they continued to bring in the ratings.
Ralph brushed past her to begin reshelving some of the records he’d played during the previous four hours, and Spencer rushed to cue up a song before the Stones could end.
“You know what he’s going to want to do.” Ralph’s tone was nonchalant, but Spencer wasn’t fooled.
“He can kiss my ass,” she said, holding the headphones to one ear as she spun the record on the front turntable to cue it up to the beginning of the cut she wanted. As the station’s Program Director, Ralph was technically her immediate superior. But he was also her friend, and she was never shy about speaking her mind to him. “I’m not getting up at the crack of dawn to do a morning show with you, no matter what management wants.” With the record cued, Spencer grabbed a cart, a device that looked like an 8-track tape that all commercials and liners were recorded on, and shoved it into the machine. As the Stones song faded out, she pushed a green button and listened as the canned announcer on the cart roared out, “It’s mid-day on WROK, New Orleans’ premiere rock radio, with the ultimate rock goddess, Spencer!” A split second before the voice faded, she turned on the front turntable, and John Lennon’s voice filled the control room.
“It’d be more money, sweetheart, and you’re always bitching about how you’re not paid enough.” Ralph turned the full power of his soft brown eyes on her, and smiled.
“I’m not paid enough.” Immune to Ralph’s patented look that made most women melt into puddles of senseless goo, Spencer popped the Stones record back into the album cover. “I whipped hell out of Jennifer Blair at Z98 this quarter, and I deserve to be rewarded for it.” She began the tedious job of cueing up another record, a satisfied smile curving her lips as she thought about how her ratings had decimated those of her on-air rival across town. “But they don’t print enough money to get me to do another morning show.”
“Your decision.” Ralph shoved a last album onto the shelf. “But I’d let you say ‘fuck’ every now and then. We’d make a great team, and it’d be good for the station.”
Spencer made a shooing gesture toward the door. “Outta here, buddy. I’m already good for the station.”
Two hours into Spencer’s five-hour shift, June entered the control room with a cold can of Diet Pepsi and half a shrimp po’ boy sandwich.
“Here you are, hon. I can’t eat all this,” she said, placing the items on a clear section of the counter next to Spencer. “And your staff meeting is at one, by the way.”
“Dammit!” Spencer frowned. “Why does he always schedule these things during my shift? Let Chad run back and forth for once.”
June snorted. “Mr. Wonderful doesn’t run for anyone, you know that.”
The women shared a silent, meaningful look about their conceited afternoon drive jock. Always arrogant and cocky, Chad Ryker had been particularly hard to live with since the latest ratings. He was still number one in his time slot, but had dropped a couple points from the previous Arbitron cycle. It wasn’t in his nature to believe his exalted self had anything to do with it, and he’d been stomping around for a week like a sulky toddler while he hunted for someone to blame.
“Prick,” Spencer muttered. When the numbers came out, Chad tried to hold Spencer responsible since her shift was immediately before his, but had endured a stern lecture from Ralph who’d pointed out Spencer’s numbers had risen. Since then, Chad had made snarky comments under his breath about Spencer stealing his listeners. Enough was enough, and if he said anything today she intended to call him on it, staff meeting or no.
“Hey, thanks for the sandwich, June,” she said, dismissing Chad and his attitude. “You didn’t have to do that.”
“I know I didn’t. But I know you like these, and a whole one is always too much for one person.” June turned at the door. “Hey, will you play that song for me?”
Spencer waved a hand at the wall of records and arched a brow. “You’ll have to be a little more specific.”
“Oh, you know, that new one. It’s about a wolf, and some woman moans all through it at the end.”
“Have you been listening to Z98 again on the sly?” Spencer mimed sticking a finger down her throat. “Not even for a woman who brings me a shrimp po’ boy will I play Duran Duran. Sorry, June.”
June sighed. “It was worth a try.”
Alone again, Spencer took a huge bite of the sandwich and sighed with delight as the tang of the remoulade exploded on her tongue. Still holding the po’ boy, she went to the record wall to pull albums that contained extra-long cuts. She’d need them if she was going to have to attend that stupid staff meeting.