Private Performance by Reese Galloway
Publication Date: October 13, 2014
Ellaine Greene has simple desires. She just wants to do her best as the event coordinator for the local aquarium, to support environmental conservation efforts, and to keep immature man-children out of her life.So when a major donor to the aquarium demands Ellaine find a magician for her granddaughter's birthday party, all she can imagine is a long line of card chuckers and coin flippers wearing cheesy sequined vests. Instead, she gets Xander Hollatz, a sophisticated, powerful man in a crisp suit, with nimble fingers and a warm smile. He's the man for the job, no doubt. And, to her surprise, she realizes he might be the man for her, too. Will she let her doubts get in the way of their feelings for each other? And when everything goes wrong at the birthday party, will he be able to perform a miracle to save the day? Sleight of Hand #1: Private Performance is a 17,000-word novella, introducing readers to Ellaine and Xander's passionate and tender romance, to the fascinating wildlife inhabiting the aquarium, and to the mysterious world of professional magicians.
Publication Date: October 27, 2014
Ellaine Greene has a new man in her life, the famous magician Xander Hollatz. He's ripped, kind, and mysterious -- nothing like her ex-husband. He has even volunteered to perform at her aquarium's annual fundraising gala. But she's still having trouble leaving the past behind, especially when her ex shows up to beg for money. Before the new couple knows it, someone's trying to break into Xander's mansion to steal the secrets of his many famous illusions. Ellaine's ex becomes their prime suspect. But maybe it's actually the up-and-coming street magician they've befriended. Or maybe it's even someone from Xander's mysterious past. Whoever the thief is, if he uncovers and reveals the secret of Xander's newest illusion for the fundraiser, the event will be a disaster. Ellaine may lose her job. And there's a still greater question: Is this feeling they share together just lust -- or is it something more? Find out in this 74,000-word book, the second volume in the Sleight of Hand series.
That was the week the billboards went up. Her boyfriend’s face was all over downtown, beside the words:
Xander Hollatz Returns
ONE NIGHT ONLY
The ads had only been up a day. Ellaine didn’t realize how quickly they’d take effect. They were out to dinner when she noticed a woman at a nearby table do a double take when she spotted Xander. That wasn’t necessarily new. He was magnetic, and turned heads everywhere they went. But this woman’s double take wasn’t just a “check out the hotness” look. She spent the next ten minutes stealing furtive glances, trying to decide whether or not this man was the same guy as the one on the billboards.
Ellaine gave Xander a heads-up. “The woman sitting behind you, over there. Don’t turn around and look, though.”
“I don’t want to look,” he replied, never taking his eyes off Ellaine.
She glowed. “Still. If she comes over here and says something, you might have to.”
He nodded. “I’ve done the fame thing. I’ll manage.”
“Have you got something to show them?”
“What will you do?”
“Hopefully I can make them all disappear. Then I could strip you naked and take you right here on this booth.”
She licked her lips. But before she could respond the woman stood, having gathered up her courage, and approached Xander. “Excuse me,” she said, “but are you…?”
Xander tore his eyes from Ellaine and looked up. He smiled and nodded.
“Oh my God! It’s him!” She called her friends from the table over, and suddenly there were five strangers towering over their meal.
“I loved your show!”
“Can you do a trick for us?”
Ellaine couldn’t bear their presumptuousness. She wanted to bark at them, “Didn’t your mother teach you any manners?”
But as Xander had said, he’d done the fame thing before.
“Well, I’m under an exclusive contract with the aquarium at the moment,” he demurred, “but I suppose I could show you a little something. We’ll call it free advertising.”
A pack of cards materialized in his hands. The routine he showed them was one she’d seen before. In fact, he’d revealed its secrets to her, and as he performed it she was watching all the hidden moments while the others watched only what Xander intended them to see. It was as if he were performing two separate shows: one for them and one just for her. During one moment, he crooked a finger under the cover of his other hand, at an angle only visible to her, and waggled it at her. She giggled.
Of course, at the end of the effect, the spectators’ applause drew more attention from other tables. Xander performed another effect to include all these new eyes. And after that came requests for autographs and selfies, which he was too gracious to reject. Ellaine began to feel invisible, trapped in her chair as others crowded around for their turn to speak with the celebrity in their midst.
The mass of people interfered with restaurant business, blocking lanes of traffic as servers tried to wade through them, delivering platters and refills. One of them even glared at Ellaine. She reacted with guilt, then anger. What was she supposed to do about it? The injustice of that glare galled her.
Suddenly she saw herself, huddled and alone amid all these laughing, smiling people, letting bitterness fill her heart. She refused to give in to self-pity. But how could she join in?
She pulled out her own cell phone, jumped in front of the next person in line to have their picture taken with Xander, and took a selfie of her own. “Cheese!”
He surprised her by kissing her on the mouth. Later, she’d study the picture: the carefree smile on his face as he drew her to his lips; the shocked little O of her own lips; and the cartoonish scowl of the server photobombing them in the background.
Giddy and satisfied, she sat down again, relishing all the crestfallen faces of all the women (and one or two of the men) in the throng.
After that there were only a few more autographs to give out, and then normalcy returned to their evening.
“We made them disappear,” she said.
“Finally. Thank God.”
“Really? You looked like you were having fun.”
“I was having more fun before they interrupted us. But I do like performing. And it’s bad business to disappoint the fans.”
“I think you may have broken a few hearts when you kissed me like that.”
“It’s like they say. You can’t make everyone happy all of the time. And if I had to choose only one person to make happy, it’d be you.”
“You.” He took her hand and kissed it. “Every time.”