Authors: Nina Berry
Pagan Jones is back!
Celebrating her escape from East Germany and the success of her new film, teen starlet Pagan Jones returns to Hollywood to reclaim her place among the rich and the famous. She's thrilled to be back, but memories of her time in Berlinâand elusively handsome secret agent Devin Blackâcontinue to haunt her daydreams. The whirlwind of parties and celebrities just isn't enough to distract Pagan from the excitement of being a spy or dampen her curiosity about her late mother's mysterious past.
When Devin reappears with an opportunity for Pagan to get back into the spy game, she is eager to embrace the role once againâall she has to do is identify a potential Nazi war criminal. A man who has ties to her mother. Taking the mission means that she'll have to star in a cheesy film and dance the tango with an incredibly awful costar, but Pagan knows all the real action will happen off-set, in the streets of Buenos Aires.
But as Pagan learns more about the man they're investigating, she realizes that the stakes are much higher than they could have ever imagined, and that some secrets are best left undiscovered.
The Notorious Pagan Jones
“Blends the blinding spotlight of Hollywood, the sexy world of espionage, and a smattering of real-life events and figures to create a fast-paced spy thriller.”
“Well-paced historical thriller. Scary in all the right places,
with a strong setup for the sequel.”
“Fast-paced and furious, this work will be a certain hit with those who love historical fiction, Hollywood, and stories of redemption.”
School Library Journal
“A well-plotted balance of Hollywood glitter and international political conspiracies during the Cold War, and the historical backdrop is meticulously set. Pagan is a smart, charismatic heroine given depth by her struggles with alcoholism.”
“With a hint of Hollywood glam, mystery and a time period unique to the YA genre, Berry treats readers to a can't-miss story. She finds a winner in Pagan, creating a Marilyn Monroeâlike teen actress with a tale that will appeal to younger and older fans alike.”
RT Book Reviews
Available from Nina Berry
and Harlequin TEEN
The Notorious Pagan Jones series
(in reading order):
The Notorious Pagan Jones
City of Spies
was born in Honolulu, studied writing and film in Chicago, and now works and writes in Hollywood. She is the author of the Otherkin series and
The Notorious Pagan Jones
. When she's not writing, Nina does her best to go bodysurfing, explore ancient crypts or head out on tiger safari. But mostly she's on the couch with her cats, reading a good book.
For Paul “Doc” Berry.
Father, writer, teacher.
Hollywood is wonderful. Anyone who doesn't like it is either crazy or sober.
We dance tango because we have secrets.
âMarilyn Cole Lownes
December 15, 1961
A tango party
Going to Frank Sinatra's after-party was a mistake. But it wasn't the raucous laughter coming from darkened dens, the half dozen nearly naked women splashing in the fifty-foot swimming pool or Frank and Dean Martin fighting over Angie Dickinson that bothered Pagan Jones.
No, the trouble for Pagan came from the gentle clink of ice in a tumbler and the quiet sloshing of Scotch, vodka and rum. It came from the overstocked bar in every room, dozens of tiny paper umbrellas discarded on tables and the bright scent of cut limes.
Pagan clung to Thomas Kruger's muscular forearm with one hand, a bottle of Coke in the other, as they wound their way into the half-lit, high-ceilinged house with its glass walls and low-slung black leather sofas.
Thomas had been a big star back in his home country of East Germany before he and his family escaped to the West. Here in Hollywood he wasn't a star yet, but he was tall, blond and ridiculously handsome, with comedic timing that made casting directors swoon. He and Pagan had bonded as friends for life during a movie shoot and a secret, breathless escape from East Berlin back in August.
“My first big Hollywood party,” he whispered to her, trying not to stare at the sparkling company lurking in every corner of the house. “That's Jack Lemmon!” He stared at the dapper, Oscar-winning actor, who, pool cue in hand, was playfully holding it up to his eye like a telescope, pointing it at a petite blonde actress with the world's tiniest waist. She aimed her own cue back at him like a rifle, sticking out her tongue. “He's playing billiards with Janet Leigh! From
“If you get too overwhelmed, imagine them naked,” Pagan said, an in-joke they'd shared many times whenever actor nerves overwhelmed them. She caught a powerful whiff of Scotch as two men tottered past, drinks in hand. Suddenly she needed to breathe anything other than alcohol-soaked air. “Let me show you the rest of the estate.”
They stepped out onto the long, roofed arcade beside the pool. The cool night air banished the scent of liquor, but not her longing for it. Above, the quarter moon was a silver barrette clipped into the clouds.
“Sorry,” she said, knowing Thomas would understand. “It's
first big party since the night we danced on top of the Hilton in West Berlin. Don't let me get too close to the booze.”
He put a hand over hers. “Of course.”
She didn't say it, but the real problem with parties like this was how fun they were. Here everyone was an adult, and anything was permitted so long as you did it with style. Sinatra's parties were secret and exclusive, and once you were in, nobody but Frank himself could question you.
Pagan hadn't attended a Hollywood party since the car accident where she'd driven drunk off Mulholland Drive, killing her father and little sister, and this was her first party of any kind since her last drink, back in August. She'd forgotten how much she craved the rampant creative juices fueled by a gathering of talented people, ramped up by alcohol, music and laughter. Random couples danced entwined in dark corners; heated debates became sudden duets.
Before she stopped drinking Pagan had attended many get-togethers like this one, some in this house, and she'd danced on top of a piano or two. She and her now ex-boyfriend Nicky Raven had been buddies with Nancy Sinatra and her husband, singer Tommy Sands, and Nancy's father, Frank, had taken Nicky under his wing, tried to win him away from his record contract to record with Sinatra's label.
But that was a lifetime ago. Nicky was married, for crying out loud. His wife was due to have their baby in a few months.
Pagan watched Thomas tug on his beer, eyes wide as he took in the sleek modern marvel of Farralone, Sinatra's current digs hidden high on a hill where no one ever complained about the noise, and all the beautiful, famous faces inside it.
“Was that Marilyn Monroe?” Thomas asked, glancing over his shoulder to watch a platinum-blond head disappear into the darkness at the edge of the grassy lawn.
“She's staying in Frank's guesthouse,” said Pagan.
Thomas squinted at the distant white building gleaming next to its own pool. “That's a guesthouse?”
“It's a bit different from East Berlin, isn't it?” She shot him a half smile.
“A little.” He tilted his head toward the splashing limbs in the pool. “It's December. Why aren't they freezing?”
Pagan contemplated the women in bikinis pulling on the arms of grinning men in suits at the water's edge. “Frank's money generates a lot of warmth.”
Thomas shot her a look.
“And the water's heated.”
“There you are! Looking marvelous.” Nancy Sinatra emerged from the house, smiling. Her dark hair was piled high; the scooped neck of her black dress was cut low. Waving from the doorway was her husband, Tommy Sands, sucking on a cigarette, his thick dark hair swept back in an Elvis pompadour. “We so enjoyed the movie tonight. I hope it makes a million dollars.”
“Oh, Nancy, a million's a lot!” Pagan released Thomas's arm to take Nancy's hand and leaned in for a cheek kiss, catching a whiff of hair spray and Chanel No. 5. “You look fantastic. And the honor of attending your party after his first Hollywood movie premiere has gone straight to Thomas's head.”
Nancy's long-lidded eyes, heavily lined in black, slid over the tall, tan hunk of man that was Thomas Kruger. She pursed her lips and extended her hand. “You were even more gorgeous and hilarious than Pagan in the movie tonight.”
Thomas lifted her hand to his lips, bowing as he did so. “A delight to meet you, Mrs. Sands. Thank you so much for your kind hospitality.”
One corner of Nancy's wide mouth deepened in approval. “We like 'em fancy, don't we, Pagan? To hell with Nicky Raven. Don't worry, we didn't invite him.” To Thomas: “Please. Call me Nancy.”
Thomas didn't bother to correct her, and neither did Pagan. But she and Thomas weren't dating, not in the way Nancy meant. Their bond of friendship and trust went far deeper than that. But no one could ever know why. Just as no one could know that Thomas preferred the romantic company of men.
“You okay?” Thomas murmured to Pagan as Nancy turned to say something to Tommy. Nancy's cavalier mention of Nicky might once have upset Pagan. But now her thoughts drifted off to an annoyingly charming dark-haired, blue-eyed Scot with a gift for accents and intrigue. Devin Black may have blackmailed and lied to get her out of reform school and back in the Hollywood game after her family tragedy, but he'd done it so MI6 could track down a double agent in Berlin, not to help her. Well, not at first. He'd posed as a publicity exec from the movie studio to recruit Thomas Kruger as a spy for the West and then used Pagan's desire to learn more about her mother's past to lure her to act in a movie shooting in Berlin. He'd gotten a judge to temporarily declare him Pagan's legal guardian, even though he was barely two years older than she was. All to use Pagan's fame to get Thomas to a garden party thrown by the leader of East Germany so he could search the place. Thomas had been caught, and it had taken every ounce of Pagan's determination and cunning to help get him and his family to safety.
Pagan could still remember the relief as she collapsed into Devin's arms. How safe she'd felt, how tenderly he'd cared for her. But even after all that, after all those nights sharing a hotel suite, after all their flirtations, deceptions and secret investigations of each other, when you got right down to it, one amazing kiss was all they'd shared.
“Damn Devin Black, anyway,” Pagan whispered back. “I know I'm single. Why don't I feel that way?”
“Have you heard from him since Berlin?”
“Not a peep.”
She'd been kissed before. And more. So why couldn't she stop thinking about him?
“I said, thanks!”
Pagan focused. Nancy was waving a 45 at her, the record Pagan had brought her as a hostess gift. Thomas had kindly carried the 45 in from their car, tucked under his arm, and she must've daydreamed about Devin Black right through him handing it over to Nancy. They were all now in the crowded living room with its white baby grand and Mark Rothko paintings.
“You're going to love it,” Pagan said, gesturing at the record. “It hit the R & B charts earlier this year, but it should've been a huge crossover hit. She sings like nobody you've heard before.”
“Aretha Franklin, âWon't Be Long,'” Nancy read off the label. “Let's play this hot plate.”
She pushed through the crowd toward a huge console where they kept the record player. “Hang on, Sammy,” Nancy said to the slender man noodling on the piano. “Pagan says we need to check this out.”
Pagan shrank back a little. She hadn't planned on her record taking over the party or interrupting Sammy Davis, Jr., at the piano. She was already infamous thanks to her drunken exploits. The last thing she needed was to upstage anyone.
But Sammy shrugged, took his hands off the keys and flashed her a grin. “Hey, Pagan, baby,” he said. “Looking good.”
“Same, Sammy,” she said, smiling back. “Sounding good, too.”
Nancy dropped the needle and stepped back. A jazzy piano riff and some cymbals ruffled over the conversational murmur in the room. Sammy nodded his head in time with the beat. Nancy followed suit.
“Baby, here I am...” A woman's voice cut through the air like a preacher's, lit with heavenly inspiration, except she was singing about how she couldn't wait for her lover to return.
Nancy's eyes widened. She elbowed her husband, and he nodded, his foot tapping. Three tipsy women sprawled on the couch stopped talking and sat up.
The beat was good, if conventional. The piano riff was catchy, and the woman's longing for lovemaking was a tad scandalous. But that voice. It lifted everything higher and then tore it all apart, igniting a desire to move.
“Dig it!” Sammy said, and grabbed Pagan's hand to spin her around. He had a light touch and lighter feet. Others watched as they danced in a low-key, exploratory way. The beat became familiar, and they picked up speed.
Nancy tapped her feet as she sidled up to Thomas, holding out her hand. He bowed and expertly swung her out. Her skirt fanned like a cape.
The piano rumbled with anticipatory joy as Aretha sang, “My daddy told me...”
Frank wandered in with Juliet Prowse and watched as the girls on the couch jumped up to jive. Juliet pirouetted, and Frank took her hand out of midair to do the Lindy Hop.
“Her voiceâit's like a lightning strike,” Thomas shouted to Pagan. “Or no, maybe my English isn't good.”
“Sounds cool to me!” Sammy said, twirling Pagan as he brought her back in. They circled Nancy and Thomas, then crossed, changing partners in one smooth move on the beat. Nancy was laughing, waving at her husband, who grabbed a girl from the couch and jumped in to join the fray.
A few men in casual suits watched by the sliding glass doors, until the bikini girls from the pool noticed the crowd moving in time and stormed the living room to dance in their own wet footprints. The room filled with hoots and shimmying bodies. They were one now, connected by that clear, dangerous voice.
It reached a crescendo, crying out to her lover to hurry, hurry! The urgency convulsed inside Pagan's heart. It became her voice, calling out to Devin Black.
The song ended and the girls in bikinis, Frank, Thomasâeveryone was laughing, raising their glasses in salute, yelling at Nancy to play it again.
Who was that?
But Pagan's head was spinning. Her self-control was diffusing like cherry syrup in a Shirley Temple. She took a deep breath of the ever-present cloud of cigarette smoke. The pungent scent pushed a pang of longing through her. When she drank, cigarettes and alcohol had been twin siblings in her hands. She had a vivid memory of Devin Black handing her a pack of Winstons, and the longing for the old days before she'd become a killer, for a drink, for Devin, all tangled up into a huge knot under her breastbone.
But Devin wasn't here. She might never see his sardonic smile again, and the martini in Sammy Davis, Jr.'s hand would go very nicely with a cigarette instead.
Who do you want to be, Pagan?
After four months of daily AA meetings, weekly therapy and gratitude for every sober breath. She could be the girl who didn't drink. Or she could be the messed-up loser who did.
“Going to get some air,” she said to Thomas, and wound her way through the bodies, out into the clear air of the arcade. The swimmers and couples drinking and talking out there pushed her farther past the lounge chairs out onto the lawn.
Peace at last. She took a deep breath, removed her heels and sank her stocking feet into the damp grass. Above, the stars were startlingly clear, and the noise from the glowing glass mansion sank away into the night.
A shadow moved to her left. She startled, spinning.
“Well, if it isn't the notorious Pagan Jones.”
Out of the darkness beside the arcade stepped a familiar form, tall, knife-thin, with dark hair and eyes like the ocean during a storm.
Her whole body wanted to open itself, to stretch out to him. Her pulse thrummed through her veins all the way down to her fingertips.
Devin Black was back.