Don't Look Down Read online

  Don't Look Down

  Jennifer Crusie

  Bob Mayer

  Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

  Don't Look Down

  For Bob amp; Jenny

  who never gave up on us


  We would like to thank:

  Lisa Diamond, Henry Dunn, Angela Payne, and the cast and crew of Third Watch who let Jenny on the set to do research.

  The Cherries, who read the forty different versions of the first scene of this book and improved it every time.

  Kari Hayes, Corrina Lavitts, Robin LaFevre, Valerie Taylor, Judy Ivory, Deb Dixon, Pat Gaffney, and Heidi Cullinan, who read all or parts of this book in manuscript and gave us feedback, especially Heidi, who gave Pepper the binoculars.

  Jen Maler, who put up with both of us for an entire day and took great photographs, and Charlie Verral, who let us use his brownstone as a studio in which Jen could work her magic.

  Kari Hayes for running Bob's Web site and Mollie Smith for running Jenny's Web site and the Crusie/Mayer site.

  Mollie, again, for running our business always and our lives most of the time.

  Meg Ruley for rolling with the punches and representing us beyond the call of agenthood.

  Jennifer Enderlin for rolling with the punches and doing an amazing job of editing us.

  And everybody at the Jane Rotrosen Agency and St. Martin's Press for their enthusiastic and never-ending support.

  Without these fine people, we'd never have made it through.

  Chapter 1

  Lucy Armstrong was standing on the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge when she first spotted the black helicopter coming at her through the sunset.

  Based on the rest of her day, that wasn't going to be good.

  Twenty feet to her right, her assistant director, Gleason Bloom, ignored the chopper and worked the set like a depraved grasshopper, trying to organize what Lucy had already recognized as her career's most apathetic movie crew. Her gratitude to Gloom for his usual good work was only exceeded by her gratitude that he hadn't yet seen that the movie's stunt coordinator was Connor Nash, now half hidden behind his black stunt van, arguing with a sulky-looking brunette.

  Of course, Gloom was bound to notice Connor sooner or later. I'll just point out that it's only four days, she thought. Four lousy days for really good money, we check on Daisy and Pepper, we finish up somebody else's movie, we go home, no harm, no foul-

  Off to the west, the helicopter grew closer, flying very low, just above the winding Savannah River. All around were brush and trees.

  garnished with swamp and probably full of predators. "The low country, " Connor had called it, as if that were a good thing instead of a euphemism for "soggy with a chance of alligator." And now a helicopter-

  Lucy rocked back as fifty-some pounds of five-year-old niece smacked into her legs at top speed, knocking her off balance and almost off her feet.

  "Aunt Lucy!"

  "Pepper!" She went down to her knees, inhaling the Pepper smell of Twizzlers and Fritos and Johnson's baby shampoo as she hugged the little girl to her, trying to avoid the binoculars slung around Pepper's neck. "I am so glad to see you!" she said, rocking her back and forth.

  Pepper pulled back, her blond Dutch Boy haircut swinging back from her round, beaming face. "We will have such a good time now that you're here. We will play Barbies and watch videos, and I will tell you about my Animal of the Month, and we will have a party!" Her plain little face was lit with ecstasy. "It will be so, so good!" She threw her arms around Lucy's neck again and strangled her with another hug, smashing the binoculars into Lucy's collarbone.

  "Yes," Lucy said, trying to breathe and hug back, thinking, Great, now I have to play with Barbies. She pulled back to get some air and said, "Nice binoculars!" as she tried to keep from getting smacked with them again.

  "Connor gave them to me," Pepper said. "I can see everything with them."

  "Good for Connor." Over Pepper's head Lucy saw the helicopter cut across a bend in the river, zipping through an impossibly small opening between two looming oak trees. It's heading right for us, she thought, and whoever is flying that thing is crazy. Then Connor raised his voice and said, "No, "and she looked over to see the young brunette step up into his face, giving as nasty as she got.

  Lucy thought, Good for you, honey, and stood up, smiling at Pepper. "But I have to work first, so-"

  "I will help you work," Pepper said, clinging to her, her smile turning tense. "I will be your assistant and bring you apples and water."

  Lucy nodded. "You will be a huge help." She took the little girl's hand and looked back at Connor. After kicking herself twelve years ago for having been so stupid as to marry him, looking at those broad shoulders and slim hips now reminded her why her brain had gone south when she was twenty-two. Good thing I'm smarter now, she thought, and looked again.

  The way he was talking to the brunette, the way she leaned into his comfort zone, they were sleeping together. And she looked to be about twenty-two.

  That must be his target age, she thought. I should tell Gloom that, he'll laugh.

  Gloom. She looked back toward the set and didn't see him, but the helicopter was now zipping underneath one of the port cranes, then banking hard toward the bridge. Lucy shook her head, trying not to be impressed. The pilot probably had Top Gun in permanent rotation on his DVD player. Whatever happened to the strong, silent type?

  "Aunt Lucy?" Pepper said, her smile gone, her face much too worried for a five-year-old.

  "You'll be a huge help," Lucy said hastily. "Huge. Now, where is your mama-Ouch!"

  Her head snapped back as Gloom yanked on her long black braid from behind. "Connor Nash," he said, and she dropped Pepper's hand and grabbed the base of her braid to take the pressure off her skull.

  "Yeah." Lucy tried to pry her braid out of his hand. "I was going to mention that."

  "Really? When?'

  "As late in the game as possible. Which appears to be now."

  "What were you thinking?' Gloom glared at her, his gawky form looming beside her.

  "Gloom?" Pepper said, and he looked down and let go of Lucy's braid.

  "Peppermint!" He picked her up, swooshing her up to hug her, almost getting beaned by her binoculars as he smacked a kiss on her cheek.

  Pepper giggled, happy again, and wrapped her arms around his neck.

  "I'm so glad you're here," she said, strangling him. "We will have a party."

  "You bet." Gloom peeled one of her arms away from his windpipe. "Tell you what, go get your mama and tell her we need to make plans. There will have to be a cake-"

  "Yes!" Pepper said, and tried to wriggle her way to the ground. Gloom set her down, and she was off like a shot, blond hair flying and binoculars bouncing as she headed for the craft services table set up near Connor's van, the source of apples and candy and water bottles and, evidently, her mother.

  Lucy frowned up at the sky. "We didn't order a helicopter today, did we?"

  Gloom yanked her braid again.

  "Ouch. Stop that."

  "Now about that Aussie bastard," Gloom said.

  Down the bridge, Connor looked up at them, distracted by the commotion, and saw Lucy for the first time. His face lit up-God, he's beautiful, she thought-and then he started up the bridge to her.

  "Connor called and offered us an obscene amount of money to finish this thing and I said no," Lucy said, talking fast so that Gloom wouldn't say, "Hello, dickhead," when Connor reached them.

  The brunette went after Connor, catching his arm, and he stopped and tried to shake her off.

  Gloom's dark brows met over his nose. "If you said, no, why-"

  "And then Daisy called and