In the first tantalizing installment of Jeffe Kennedy's ravishing serial novel Master of the Opera, an innocent young woman is initiated into a sensual world of music, mystery, passion--and one man's private obsession. . . Fresh out of college, Christine Davis is thrilled to begin a summer internship at the prestigious Sante Fe Opera House. But on her first day, she discovers that her dream job has a dark side. Beneath the theater, a sprawling maze of passageways are rumored to be haunted. Ghostly music echoes through the halls at night. And Christy's predecessor has mysteriously disappeared. Luckily, Christy finds a friend and admirer in Roman Sanclaro, the theater's wealthy and handsome patron. He convinces her there's nothing to fear--until she hears the phantom's voice for herself. Echoing in the labrynths. Singing of a lost love. Whispering her name: Christine. At first, Christy thinks she's hearing things. But when a tall masked man steps out of the shadows--and into her arms--she knows he's not a phantom of her imagination. He is the master of her desire. . . 15,568 Words
January 2, 2014
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The sky soared impossibly blue, studded with cotton clouds worthy of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting. Driving with the convertible’s top down, Christy soaked up the Southwestern sunshine as she planned to do with absolutely everything.
The wind blew her hair, the short ends whipping around her face, stinging her skin with the perfect thrill of being alive and the mistress of her own destiny. No more classes, no more books, she thought to herself with a grin. No more East Coast gloom and city pressure. Free to be her own person, she zoomed down the highway and into her brand-new life.
The Santa Fe Opera House came into view, the elegant, arching lines of it an extension of the red rock cliff it perched on. Like a raptor of copper and steel, it gazed over the vast basin, a temple to pure sound, a place for the worship of ancestral theater.
Following the signs, she found the backstage area and parked. Grabbing purse, cell phone, and tablet, she swung her legs out of the car. They looked damn decent, thanks to the time she’d put in at the gym. The new stiletto heels she’d squandered some of her graduation money on helped enormously. She strode toward the building and around to the back apron, ready for her first day on the job.
The vaulting ceilings of the open-air theater, designed to look like swathes of fabric but made of steel, cast a deep shadow that made her shiver from the abrupt chill. Pushing her sunglasses onto her head, which also served to hold back her wind-ruffled hair, she opened the back door and peered into the gloom of below stage.
No one seemed to be about, though the door had been unlocked. Her heels clicked on the poured concrete floor, echoing in the perfect acoustics of even this dark working space. Here and there, shrouded stage pieces loomed with dusty magnificence. Where a cover had been shrugged off, a shoulder of gold filigree gleamed. In the deeper shadows, a mirrored sapphire elephant raised its trunk, forever frozen.
“Can I help you?”
Choking back a startled shriek, she whirled on the man who seemed to have crept up behind her. She threw an accusing look at his soft sneaker treads and he gave her a rueful smile.
“Sorry about that. Charles Donovan—Charlie—general manager of the opera. And you’re Christine Davis?”
“Everyone calls me Christy.” She shook the hand he offered. “Sorry—I wasn’t sure which way to go to find your office.”
“Some days even I don’t know.” He flashed her a comfortable grin and tucked his thumbs in the loops of his faded Levi’s. “For all that this theater isn’t as old as the European opera houses, somehow it ended up with labyrinths below stage. This way.”
She followed as he wound back in the other direction. “At least there aren’t catacombs or ancient sewers to get lost in.”
He chuckled, arriving at the door to a tiny office, bright with fluorescent light, and gestured her inside. “No. But to hear the New Agers talk, there’s plenty of Native American burial sites, hidden tunnels, subterranean dwellings, and so forth.”
Charlie shrugged and wedged himself behind the tiny metal desk, piled high with paperwork. Sticky notes covered every surface, including the glowing screen of an apparently ancient laptop perched precariously on one corner.
“You’ll find there’s every kind here, Ms. Davis. Hang around long enough and you’ll find someone who believes in it. Sacred spirals, peyote, reincarnation. You name it. And then there’s the talent.”
“Theater people tend to be superstitious, my dad always says. The smart manager learns to work with that.”
“You have no idea. Ah well, we’re here to keep ’em happy, if only for the season.”
“Mr. Donovan, I—” She’d rehearsed this speech and it came out in a rush. “I want you to know that I’m here to work hard. My dad might have arranged for me to take this apprenticeship at the last minute, but that was just the right opportunity. I want this and I’ll do what it takes.”
“Don’t worry about that. Apprentices are slave labor. You’ll put in your sweat and blood.” He extracted a file folder with surprising efficiency from one teetering pile. “You already have the show schedule. Here’s a preliminary list of prop and set items for each opera. And ...” Charlie spun his chai. . .
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