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Excerpt From Hungry for More

Prologue, Hungry for More--Grand Central Publishing

The studio lights were hot and blinding. A bead of sweat slid down Amy’s spine and dropped onto the mike pack strapped to the small of her back with duct tape. Focus on Oprah. Oprah is kindness. Oprah is all knowing.

Oprah is next to me.

“Three, two, one, go!” The stage manager pointed his finger like a gun and the “on air” signs lit up green and glowing around the studio. A breath of silence before the live audience exploded into applause.

“Welcome back.” Oprah smiled warmly as the applause died down. “We’re here today with Amy Burns, the Gypsy who has the power to tell a person the name of their One True Love.” A pause as the cameras switched to close-up. “Ms. Burns, tell us it’s true!” Oprah leaned forward.

Amy nodded as she soaked in Oprah’s warmth. Talking to this woman was like chatting with your One True Love. Not that Amy would know; she never heard the name of her own One True Love. Amy’s sisters called this information gap the central tragedy of Amy’s life. Amy called it irrelevant. Having her own True Love wouldn’t have landed her on Oprah, that’s for sure. You had to get your priorities straight. “I hear the voice of an all-knowing spirit,” Amy told Oprah. “When willing, she can speak the name of a person’s One True Love.”

The audience murmured in appreciation. Some clapped. Some slunk back in their seats, not meeting the eyes of their companions.

“As we all know, Ms. Burns predicted the whirlwind love affair between Josh Toby, People magazine’s sexiest man alive, and his new wife, who happens to be Amy’s sister, Jasmine Toby.”

Now that was something the Oprah-ites could rally around. But were they applauding for superstar Josh Toby or for the power of True Love? Despite the lights roasting her, Amy felt the shift of focus away from herself as acutely as if the whole stage had gone dark.

“Ms. Burns also predicted the storybook love affair between Cleo Chan of the HBO series Agent X and her new fiancé right here on this stage.”

The crowd went mad for the affair between the superstar and her new beau that had been smeared all over the tabloids for weeks. Amy sometimes rated a sidebar box on the third page. Sometimes, a grainy photo was attached. She sucked in her stomach further. I’ve got more psychic power in my big toe than Cleo Chan has in her entire bloodline.

Oprah turned back to Amy, if possible more radiant and focused than before. If there was one person in the world who had a slice of True Love for every creature on earth, it was Oprah. Maybe that was her tragedy. “So,” Oprah begged, “give us details. Does your spirit-voice have a name?”

Amy melted under Oprah’s gaze. Or was it the hot-as-hell studio lights? “I call her Maddie, but I made the name up. She never says her name. She only speaks the names of others.”

“And she’s been with you your entire life?”

“On and off.” A tremor of fear raced up Amy’s spine, but she shook it off. These last few years, Maddie was mostly off. But she’ll show today. She just has to. She always showed when Amy needed her most.

Oprah threw back her head, held out her hands, and flashed her magnificent incisors. “So touch me, Baby! Tell me the name of my One True Love!” The audience sat forward as one. “Just don’t tell Steddy, okay?” She winked.

This woman was amazing. She had no fear. Her One True Love could be anyone. Man, woman, black, white, drug addict, CEO…

Amy took Oprah’s cool-smooth hands in her hot, wet ones. Please, Mads. For Oprah. For America. For me.

Silence. Amy closed her eyes. One last time. I’ll do anything.

She felt a rustling, a disturbance in the energy patterns. Yes. Thank you. I knew you’d come. The warmth that signaled Maddie’s presence rose in her. This was going to be the biggest moment on TV ever. Oprah’s One True Love!

“She’s smiling, ladies and gentlemen. Does that mean you’re hearing the voice?” Oprah asked.

The studio was silent with breathless anticipation. Dust particles hit the hot lights and exploded, microscopic portents of the fireworks that would explode when America knew Oprah’s One True Love.

Amy held still, trying to empty herself so Maddie could enter her soul. Talk to me, Baby. Talk to Oprah.

The heat intensified within her. First a pinprick. Then the warmth of the spirit spread through her like an opening flower. Oh, Mads. Thank you for coming! I love you. I really do. Sorry. I’ll shut up. Go ahead. Give me the big lady’s One True Love.

The voice in Amy’s head spoke in a soft but distinct whisper: “Good-bye.”

Then there was nothing.