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"Danielle Steel sweeps us from a Manhattan courtroom to the Deep South in her powerful new novel--at once a behind-closed-doors look into the heart of a family and a tale of crime and punishment. " Eleven years have passed since Alexa Hamilton left the South behind, fleeing the pain of her ex-husband's betrayal and the cruelty of his prominent Charleston family. Now an assistant D.A. in Manhattan, Alexa has finally put her demons to rest, making a name for herself as a top prosecutor, handling the city's toughest cases while juggling her role as devoted single mom to a teenage daughter. But everything changes when Alexa is handed her latest case: the trial of accused serial killer Luke Quentin. Sifting through mountains of forensic evidence, Alexa prepares for a high-stakes trial...until threatening letters throw her private life into turmoil. The letters are addressed to her beautiful seventeen-year-old daughter, Savannah, whom Alexa has been raising alone since her divorce. Alexa is certain that Quentin is behind the letters--and that they are too dangerous to ignore. Suddenly she must make the toughest choice of all--and send her daughter back to the very place she swore she would never return to: the place where her marriage ended in heartbreak...her ex-husband's world of southern tradition, memories of betrayal, and the antebellum charm of Charleston. Now, while Alexa's trial builds to a climax in New York, her daughter is settling into southern life, discovering a part of her family history and a father she barely knows--from the ice-cold stepmother who stole him away to a fascinating ancestry and a half-sister and half-brothers she comes to love. As secrets are exposed and old wounds are healed, Alexa and Savannah, after a season in different worlds, will come together again--strengthened by the challenges they have faced, changed by the mysteries they have unraveled, and with Savannah now at home in the southern world her mother fled. In this masterfully told tale, Danielle Steel creates a stunning array of contrasts: from the gritty chaos of Manhattan' s criminal court system to the seductive gentility of the South, from the rage of a hardened criminal to the tender bond between a mother and daughter--and a loving father who has welcomed Savannah home at last. A novel that will catch you off guard at every turn, Southern Lights is Danielle Steel at her electrifying best.
The man sitting in the threadbare chair with the stuffing pouring out
of it appeared to be dozing, his chin drifting slowly toward his chest.
He was tall and powerfully built with a tattoo of a snake peering out
of his shirt on the back of his neck as his head shifted down. His long
arms seemed lifeless on the arms of his chair in the small dark room.
There was an evil cooking odor coming from the hallway and the
television was on. A narrow unmade bed stood in the corner of the room,
covering most of the filthy, stained shag carpet. The drawers of a
chest were pulled open and the few clothes he had brought with him were
on the floor. He was wearing a T-shirt, heavy boots, and jeans, and the
mud encrusted on his soles had dried and was flaking into the carpet.
As peacefully as he had been sleeping, suddenly he was wide awake. He
jerked his head up with a snort, and his ice-blue eyes flew open, as
the hair stood up on his arms. He had an uncanny sense of hearing. He
closed his eyes again as he listened, and then stood up and grabbed his
jacket with a single stride across the narrow room. With his head
erect, the snake tattoo disappeared back into his shirt.
Luke Quentin slipped quietly over the windowsill and made his way
down the fire escape after closing the window behind him. It was
freezing cold. January in New York. He had been in town for two weeks.
Before that, he had been in Alabama, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Ohio,
Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky. He had visited a friend in Texas. He had been
traveling for months. He got work where he could find it. He didn't
need much to live on. He moved with the stealth of a panther, and was
walking down the street on the Lower East Side, before the men he had
heard coming reached his room. He didn't know who they were, but he was
smarter than to take a chance. They were cops more than likely. He had
been in prison twice, for credit card fraud and robbery, and he was
well aware that ex-cons never got a fair shake, from anyone. His
friends from prison called him Q.
He stopped to buy a paper and a sandwich, shivered in the cold,
and went for a walk. In another world, he would have been considered
handsome. He had huge powerful shoulders, and a chiseled face. He was
thirty-four years old and, with both sentences, had done a total of ten
years. He had served his full time and hadn't been released on parole.
Now he was free as the wind. He had been back on the streets for two
years, and hadn't gotten into trouble so far. Despite his size, he
could disappear in any crowd. He had sandy nondescript blond hair, pale
blue eyes, and from time to time he grew a beard.
Quentin walked north, and west when he got to Forty-second Street.
He slipped into a movie house just off Times Square, sat in the dark,
and fell asleep. It was midnight when he got out, and he hopped on a
bus and went back downtown. He assumed that by now, whoever had come to
visit earlier would be long gone. He wondered if someone at the hotel
had tipped the cops off that he was a con. The tattoos on his hands
were a dead giveaway to those who knew. He just hadn't wanted to be
around when they walked in, and hoped they'd lose interest when they
found nothing in the room. It was twelve-thirty when he got back to the
He always took the stairs. Elevators were a trap—he liked to be
free to move around. The desk clerk nodded at him, and Luke headed
upstairs. He was on the landing just below his floor when he heard a
sound. It wasn't a footstep or a door, it was a click. Just that. He
knew it instantly, it was a gun being cocked, and moving like the speed
of sound, he headed back down the stairs on silent feet, and slowed
briefly only when he got to the desk. Something was off, very off. He
realized they were behind him then, halfway down the stairs. There were
three of them, and Luke wasn't going to wait and find out who they
were. It occurred to him to try and talk his way out of it, but every
instinct told him to run. So he did, he ran like hell. He was already
down the street by the time they made it out the door at a dead run.
But Luke was faster than nearly any man alive. He had run track in the
joint for exercise. People said that Q was faster than the wind. And he
He was over a fence, behind a building, and grabbed the roof of a
garage and swung over another fence. He was in the thick of the
neighborhood, and he knew by then he couldn't go back to the hotel.
Something was very, very wrong. And he had no idea why. He had a
snub-nosed gun shoved in his jeans, and he didn't want to be caught
packing arms, so he dumped it in a trash can, and ran behind a building
into an alley. He just kept running and figured he had lost them, until
he hit another fence, and suddenly a hand came up behind him and
grabbed his neck in a viselike grip. He had never felt anything so
tight, and he was glad as hell he'd dumped the gun. Now all he had to
do was get rid of the cop. His elbow shot into the ribs of the owner of
the grip, but all he did was tighten his hold on Luke's neck, and
squeeze, hard. Luke was dizzy almost instantly and despite his
impressive size fell to the ground. The cop knew just where to grab. He
landed a resounding kick into Luke's back, who let out a stifled groan
between clenched teeth.
'You sonofabitch,' Luke said, grabbing for the other man's legs,
and suddenly the cop was down, and they were rolling on the ground. The
cop had him pinned in a matter of seconds, he was younger than Luke, in
better shape, and he had been waiting for the pleasure of Q's company
for months. He had followed him all across the States, and had already
been in his room twice that week and once the week before. Charlie
McAvoy knew Luke Quentin better than he knew his own brother. He had
gotten special permission from an interstate task force to track him
for almost a year, and he knew that if it killed him, he was going to
get him, and now that he had, he wasn't going to lose him. Charlie got
on his knees and slammed Luke's face into the ground. Luke's nose was
bleeding profusely when he looked up, just as the two other detectives
came up behind Charlie. All three of them were plainsclothesmen, but
everything about them screamed cops.
'Easy boys, play nice,' Jack Jones, the senior detective, said as
he handed Charlie the cuffs. 'Let's not kill him before we get him to
the station.' There was murder in Charlie's eyes. Jack Jones knew
Charlie had wanted to make him, and why. Charlie had told him in
confidence one night when he got drunk. Jack had promised him not to
say anything to anyone when he saw him the next morning. But he could
see what was happening to Charlie now, he was shaking with rage. Jack
didn't like personal vendettas getting into business. If Luke had moved
a hair to break free and run from them, Charlie would have shot him. He
wouldn't have winged him or shot him in the leg, he would have killed
him on the spot.
The third man on the team radioed for a patrol car. Their own car
was several blocks away, and they didn't want to move Luke that far.
They weren't going to take that chance.
Luke's nose was bleeding copiously onto his shirt, and none of
them offered him anything to stop it. He would get no mercy from them.
Jack read him his Miranda rights, and Luke looked arrogant despite the
ferocious nosebleed. He had icy eyes, and a stare that took them all in
and gave nothing away. Jack thought he was the coldest sonofabitch he
had ever met.
'I could sue you bastards for this. I think my nose is broken,' he
threatened, and Charlie gave him a scathing glance as the other two men
pushed him toward the car. They shoved him into the car, and told the
cops driving they would meet them at the station.
The three men were quiet on the way back to their car, and Charlie
glanced at Jack as he turned on the ignition and then slumped against
the seat, looking pale.
'How does it feel?' Jack asked him as they drove downtown. 'You
'Yeah,' Charlie said quietly. 'Now we gotta prove it and make it
By the time they got downtown and into the station, Luke was
looking cocky. There was blood all over his face and shirt, but even
cuffed, he was strutting his stuff.
'So what are you guys doing? Looking for someone to pin a mugging
on, or stealing an old lady's purse?' Luke laughed in Charlie's face.
'Book him,' Charlie said to Jack, and walked away. He knew he'd
get credit for the collar. He'd been following him for way too long. It
was just sheer luck Quentin wound up back in New York. Providence.
Fate. Charlie was happy to have nailed him in the city where he worked.
He had better connections here, and liked the DA they worked with. He
was a tough old guy from Chicago, and more willing to prosecute than
most. Joe McCarthy, the DA, didn't care how full the jails were, he
wasn't willing to let suspects go. And if they proved everything
Charlie hoped they would about Luke Quentin, it was going to be the
trial of the year. He wondered who McCarthy was going to assign the
case to. He hoped to hell it was someone good.
'So what's the beef you trumped up for me?' Luke asked, laughing
in Jack's face, as a rookie shackled him and started to lead him away.
'Not exactly, Quentin,' Jack said coolly. 'Rape, and murder one,
actually. Four counts of each so far. Maybe you'd like to tell us
something about it?' Jack asked, raising an eyebrow, as Luke laughed
again and shook his head.
'Assholes. You know it won't stick. What's the matter? You got a
bunch of murders you can't solve, so you figured you'd do some one-stop
shopping and pin them all on me?' Luke looked totally undisturbed, and
almost amused, but his eyes were like steel, and an evil shade of blue.
Jack wasn't fooled by the bravado. Luke was slick. They had
evidence that he had committed two murders, and they were almost sure
of two others. And if Jack's guess was right, Luke Quentin had killed
over a dozen women in two years, maybe more. They were waiting for a
more conclusive DNA report on the dirt from his shoes that Charlie had
gotten out of the shag carpet in Quentin's hotel room. If the dirt was
a match, as Charlie hoped it would be, Quentin had just been on the
streets for the last time in his life.
'What a crock of shit,' Luke mumbled as he shuffled away. 'You
know you won't make it stick. You're just fishing. I have an alibi for
every night. I hardly left my hotel room in the last two weeks. I've
been sick.' Yeah, Jack thought to himself, very sick. They all were,
guys like him, sociopaths who didn't bat an eye after they killed their
victims, dumped them somewhere, and then went out to lunch. Luke
Quentin was handsome and looked as though he could be charming. He was
the perfect type to spot some innocent young girl, and lure her to a
secluded spot where he could rape her and then kill her. Jack had seen
guys like him before, although if the stories were true about this one,
he was one of the worst. Or the worst they'd had in a long time anyway.
Jack knew there would be a lot of press on this, and every last detail
had to be handled right, or Quentin would get a mistrial on some
finicky detail. Charlie knew it too, which was why he had let Jack
handle the booking, and after Luke was taken away to be searched and
get his mug shot done, Jack called the DA himself.
'We got him,' Jack said proudly. 'All our hunches paid off, and
luck was on our side. That and Charlie McAvoy, who ran his ass off and
caught him. If I'd had to run down all those alleys and hit all those
fences, he'd have been halfway to Brooklyn before I got over the first
one.' Jack was in good shape, but he was forty-nine years old, and he
and the DA teased each other about their weight. They were the same
age. The DA congratulated him for his good work, and told him he'd see
him in the morning. He wanted to meet with the arresting officers to
decide how they were going to handle the press.
By the time Jack left the station half an hour later, Luke was
already in a cell. They had decided to put him in a cell alone. He was
being scheduled for arraignment the following afternoon, and Jack knew
the press would be all over them by then. Arresting the man who may
have killed a dozen women or more in seven states was going to be big
news. And if nothing else, it was going to make the NYPD look extremely
good at what they did. Now it was up to the DA's office, the
prosecutor, and the investigators they used to do the rest.
He drove home with Charlie that night, after they made the arrest.
It had been a long day watching the hotel all afternoon. They had seen
Luke when he left, and Charlie had wanted to grab him then, but Jack
told him to wait. Since he didn't suspect they were onto him, they knew
he'd be back. And there were too many people around then, Jack didn't
want anyone in the hotel to get hurt. It had worked out just right for
them in the end. And not so well for Luke.
Luke Quentin was sitting in his cell then, staring at the wall. He
could hear all the familiar sounds of jail. In an odd way it was like
coming home. And he knew that if he lost, this time he was home for
good. His face gave away nothing, as he stared down at his shoes, and
then he lay on his bunk and closed his eyes. He looked totally at peace.
ISBN: 9780440243328 ISBN-10: 0440243327 Audience:
Number Of Pages: 416 Published: 26th October 2010 Publisher: Random House USA Inc Country of Publication: US Dimensions (cm): 18.42 x 10.8
Weight (kg): 0.21
About the Author
Danielle Steel is an internationally best-selling author of over fifty romance novels. Since publishing her first book in 1973, Steel has acquired an enormous following of loyal, avid readers.
Steel was born on August 14, 1947, in New York City, the only child of John Schuelein-Steel, a member of Munich's wealthy Lowenbrau beer family, and Norma Schuelein-Steel, an international beauty from Portugal. Steel's parents divorced when she was seven or eight years old. Afterwards, she was raised by relatives and servants in Paris and New York. She graduated from the Lycee Francais when she was not quite fifteen and in 1963 entered New York's Parsons School of Design. However, she soon abandoned her dream of becoming "the new Chanel" when the pressure to succeed caused her to develop a stomach ulcer. She then enrolled at New York University, where she studied until 1967. When she was eighteen, Steel married her first husband, a French banker with homes in New York, San Francisco, and Paris.