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A SIGNET BOOK SIGNET Published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA Penguin Group (Canada), 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M4V 3B2, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India Penguin Group (NZ), cnr Airborne and Rosedale Roads, Albany, Auckland 1310, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England First published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. First Printing, February 2005 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Copyright � Penguin Group (USA) Inc. ``Slay Belles'' copyright � Nancy Martin, 2005 ``Killer Blonde'' copyright � Elaine Viets, 2005 ``Dead Blondes Tell No Tales'' copyright � Denise Swanson Stybr, 2005 ``Blind Sighted'' copyright � Victoria Lane, 2005 All rights reserved


Printed in the United States of America Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publi- cation may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copy- right owner and the above publisher of this book. PUBLISHER'S NOTE These are works of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resem- blance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as ``unsold and destroyed'' to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this ``stripped book.'' The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated. CONTENTS


Nancy Martin



Elaine Viets



Denise Swanson



Victoria Laurie




In the hope of starting a Christmas tradition that didn't end with throwing food at a sibling, I took my niece Lucy to visit Santa at Haymaker's department store. Afterward, we snagged the best table in the Mrs. Claus Tearoom on the mezzanine, where Lucy licked the sprinkles off half a dozen cookies and told me family secrets while we waited for her mother.

``Mummy says she has too much juice in her caboose right now, Aunt Nora, and she can't face Christmas,'' Lucy volunteered. ``So she's getting a massage every afternoon from Jason and yelling about electrolysis and her chin. What's electrolysis?''

After I told her, I asked, ``What kind of massage does Jason give, exactly, Luce?''

My niece was saved from ratting out her mother when Libby arrived. ``Hello, darlings!''

My sister swept up like a zaftig Italian film star with her whoosh of auburn hair and a red sweater so revealing that three of Santa's teenage elves nearly suffered whiplash as she sailed by. She carried enough shopping bags to cripple a Nazareth donkey, and dropped the loot on an empty chair with triumph. ``What a night!''

``Mummy,'' Lucy said with a Machiavellian gleam in her eyes, ``Santa didn't ask if I was good this year.''

I said, ``We were very relieved. Waiting in line was begin- ning to feel like a perp walk.''

``What about you?'' Libby skewered me with a look as she sat down. ``Have you been naughty or nice lately?''

``Santa didn't ask me.''

``You hardly look angelic,'' Libby observed. ``In fact, you

3 4 Nancy Martin have a distinctly postcoital glow. Have you been seeing the gangster again?''

``He isn't--''

``Because I just bumped into Alan Rutledge at the top of the escalator. And he's looking adorable these days.''

``Does owning a department store make a man adorable?''

``It helps.'' Libby fluffed her hair and adjusted her decol- letage. ``He isn't bad to look at, really. Rather like a teddy bear--cute ears and that little tummy, of course. And he always smells divine.''

My sister had been widowed twice and still enjoyed men of all shapes, sizes, and proclivities. With her uncanny radar for available partners, I firmly believed she could find an eligible man if she were cast adrift in the Amazon River. I said, ``You got close enough to smell him?''

``It was a friendly holiday greeting, that's all.'' She took out her compact and checked her lipstick for damage. ``I'm not interested in him in the least, despite all his money. I need someone with more fire. But you've been a widow for two years now, and Alan might be exactly the person to bring you to your senses.''

``Too late,'' I said.

She forgot about her lipstick. ``Oh, dear heaven, you haven't eloped, have you?''

``No. Alan's engaged.''

``How disappointing! Not to Bitty Markham, I hope. Ever since her poor Stanley's little financial mixup, she's been looking for another meal ticket.''

``Poor Stanley bilked his best friends, Libby, and it's for- mally called investment fraud, which is why he's in jail. No, Alan is engaged to Cindie Rae Smith.''

``You're kidding!''

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