Excerpt from If Looks Could Kill by Kate White, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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If Looks Could Kill

by Kate White

If Looks Could Kill by Kate White X
If Looks Could Kill by Kate White
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2002, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2003, 405 pages

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I didn't speak to her for five months. Eventually she wooed me back, with some explanation about a magazine being more important than the people who ran it and by giving me the chance to write even bigger stories. Catherine had become Cat by then, the editor who could seduce any writer into working for her and knew if an article was good, as someone once wrote in a profile of her, if her nipples got hard when she read it. She became an It girl in the media world, and just over two years into her tenure, the owner of Gloss used an electric cattle prod to force Dolores Wilder, the sixty-seven-year-old editor in chief, to "gracefully" retire, naming Cat as her hot new replacement. Each of the Seven Sister magazines, which included Women's Home Journal and Best Home, was close to one hundred years old—or long in the tooth, in the opinion of some—and if they were going to survive, they needed fresh blood like Cat. She'd extracted a promise from the owner that she could turn the magazine on its head in order to modernize it. Within days she had offered me a contract to write eight to ten human-interest or crime stories a year as a freelance writer and had even given me a tiny office on the premises. I could still write for other places, including travel magazines, a sideline of mine. I'd been yearning for the freedom a freelance gig would offer over a staff job, and the arrangement thrilled me.

We'd kept the friendship up, though like I said it was a kind of weird one. Occasionally I'd be tempted to keep my distance, when the selfish bitch part of her personality reared its ugly head. But then she'd do something fun and amazing, like leave a bag on my desk with an ice pack and a thirty-gram jar of caviar.

By now the taxi had exited the FDR Drive at 96th Street, and from there we headed down Second Avenue and then west on 91st Street to Cat's block between Park and Madison, a neighborhood known as Carnegie Hill. It was an elegant, tree-lined block of mostly town houses, some brownstone, some brick, one painted a soft shade of pink. Catty-corner from Cat's house was an exclusive private lower school, where children were often delivered and picked up in black Lincoln Town Cars. I paid the driver and climbed out of the cab, careful with my coffee cup. The street was empty except for a man wearing a yellow mack and walking a pudgy Westie in the direction of Central Park. A cool light wind began to blow out of nowhere and there was suddenly a snowfall of pink blossoms from a tree on the edge of the sidewalk. Petals landed on my sweater, my shoes, even in my hair.

As I brushed them away, I scanned Cat's town house, looking for signs of life. It was a four-story white brick building with black shutters, erected, she once told me, in the 1880s. The main entrance of the house was on the second floor, through a double set of black painted doors at the top of the stoop. On the first floor under the stoop was a separate entrance to the nanny apartment, which you reached by going down several steps from the sidewalk and walking across a small flagstone courtyard. There was a seven-foot wrought-iron gate that opened to a vestibule under the stoop and the door to the apartment. I stepped closer to the house, leaning against the wrought-iron fence in front of the steps to the courtyard area. From there I could see a faint glow coming from the two front windows of Heidi's apartment, creeping out from around the edges of the closed wooden shutters. Ahhh, so all was well after all. Obviously, the hung-over Heidi had been jarred from her slumber while I was being bounced over the potholes of Manhattan. I wondered if I'd at least be offered a croissant before I was sent on my way.

Copyright © 2002 by Kate White

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