Turn up the heat and slip into something comfortable…
There's never a dull moment for the residents of Beaumont, South Carolina. Lately, a heat wave's spiked the mercury—and everyone's sex drive. When newspaper owner Jamie Swift runs into millionaire playboy Max Holt, it's all she can do not to tear his clothes off—and the feeling is mutual. But trouble seems to follow Max like moths to a flame, and Jamie suspects he's all wrong for her. Meanwhile, the lingerie shop is having a sale on edible underwear, the bakery's selling aphrodisiac-laced brownies and x-rated birthday cakes, and even Jamie's dog is dodging passes from an amorous French poodle! But when someone starts bumping off some of the town's more annoying citizens, all clues lead straight to the new personals section in Jamie's newspaper. Pretty soon, things are getting hot and heavy, as Max and Jamie start uncovering secrets…and undressing each other.
Fast-paced action, steamy sex, suspense, and lots of laughs—it's the Full series from #1 bestselling author Janet Evanovich
"Bursting with action, adventure, and amusement."—The Road to Romance
Full Blast is the fourth book in the Full Series from Janet Evanovich and Charlotte Hughes.
About the Author
Janet Evanovich is the author of the Stephanie Plum books, including One for the Money and Sizzling Sixteen, and the Diesel&Tucker series, including Wicked Appetite. Janet studied painting at Douglass College, but that art form never quite fit, and she soon moved on to writing stories. She didn't have instant success: she collected a big box of rejection letters. As she puts it, "When the box was full I burned the whole damn thing, crammed myself into pantyhose and went to work for a temp agency." But after a few months of secretarial work, she managed to sell her first novel for $2,000. She immediately quit her job and started working full-time as a writer. After a dozen romance novels, she switched to mystery, and created Stephanie Plum. The rest is history. Janet's favorite exercise is shopping, and her drug of choice is Cheeze Doodles. She and her husband live in New Hampshire, in house with a view of the Connecticut River Valley.
Charlotte Hughes was raised in the South, the oldest and only daughter of three children. She is the author of the novels What Looks Like Crazy and High Anxiety. She lives in Beaufort, South Carolina.
Janet Evanovich is the author of the Stephanie Plum books, including One for the Money and Sizzling Sixteen, and the Diesel&Tucker series, including Wicked Appetite. Janet studied painting at Douglass College, but that art form never quite fit, and she soon moved on to writing stories. She didn’t have instant success: she collected a big box of rejection letters. As she puts it, “When the box was full I burned the whole damn thing, crammed myself into pantyhose and went to work for a temp agency.” But after a few months of secretarial work, she managed to sell her first novel for $2,000. She immediately quit her job and started working full-time as a writer. After a dozen romance novels, she switched to mystery, and created Stephanie Plum. The rest is history. Janet’s favorite exercise is shopping, and her drug of choice is Cheeze Doodles.
Charlotte Hughes was raised in the South, the oldest and only daughter of three children. She co-authored the very popular Full House series with Janet Evanovich.
Hometown:Hanover, New Hampshire
Date of Birth:April 22, 1943
Place of Birth:South River, New Jersey
Education:B.A., Douglass College, 1965
Read an Excerpt
By Janet Evanovich, Charlotte Hughes
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2004 Evanovich, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Jamie Swift had been in the newspaper business long enough to realize it was a lot like being a waitress. You had to meet the needs of those you served — the rich, the poor, the in-between, even the crazies who complained no matter what you did. And like a waitress, you had to hope the tips were good. A big tip could make all the difference. A big tip in her case meant headlines, and she was in the business of finding headlines. But they didn't come easy in a small Southern town where life was, for the most part, uneventful, even predictable. She had to scramble for newsworthy events.
So here she was, once again, sitting at her desk, sifting through stories, looking for a new slant or an idea to make it more interesting to the reading public. She was so intent on what she was doing that she jumped when someone tapped on her door.
Sixty-year-old Vera Bankhead rushed into Jamie's office and closed the door behind her. "You are not going to believe this!"
Jamie glanced up. "What is it?" she asked, straightening in her chair and trying to work the kinks out of her neck from sitting in one position for so long. She had come in early, hoping to work undisturbed. "You got a good tip for me?" she asked the woman before her. "Give me a headline, and I'll kiss the ground you walk on."
"This is even better." Vera paused, as if to add a little drama to what she was about to say. The hairpins had popped out from her gray beehive hairdo, and her glasses were askew. She shoved them high on her nose and glanced about as if to make certain they were alone. She eyed the large plate-glass window overlooking the courthouse square where automatic sprinklers were doing damage control to a parched lawn brought on by a record-breaking July heat wave. Vera marched over and snapped the blinds closed.
Jamie arched one brow. "This must be big."
"It's bigger than when Lorraine Brown caught her husband doing the nasty with Beth Toomey on a sofa in the back office of the VFW Hall."
"Wow. Wasn't she jailed for going after them with a letter opener?"
"Yeah, and Tom refused to bail her out until she signed an agreement stating she wouldn't do him bodily harm afterward. She kicked his butt anyway the minute they released her."
"So tell me."
"You're not going to believe it," the woman repeated.
"Vera, out with it already!"
Vera held up a white paper sack. She reached into it and pulled out a brownie. "Taste it."
Jamie's mouth watered at the sight of the chocolate goodie. "I really shouldn't. I've already had three doughnuts this morning. I can barely button the top of my jeans."
Vera gave her that look, the one that said she wasn't going to take no for an answer. And Vera could be fierce. Although she still worked as Jamie's secretary, fear and intimidation had prompted Jamie to promote her to assistant editor of the Gazette, as well. That and the fact Vera carried a .38 Smith and Wesson in her purse. Jamie was almost sure she wouldn't pull it on her; Vera was the closest thing she'd had to a mother, but it was best to humor her.
"Okay, okay." Jamie reached for the brownie and tasted it. "Yum, that's good." She finished it off in three bites.
"Do you feel any different?" Vera asked, eyeing her closely.
"Yeah, I want another one. I can always buy larger jeans."
"This isn't just any brownie," Vera said in a conspiratorial whisper. "There are rumors floating around that Lyle Betts is putting aphrodisiacs in them."
Jamie arched one brow. Lyle Betts owned Sunshine Bakery, and was considered a pillar of the community. He was president of the Jaycees, coached Little League, and played Santa Claus for the children's unit at the hospital every year. "No way," she said.
Vera crossed her heart. "As God is my witness."
Jamie pondered it. Vera was a strict Southern Baptist; she only lied when absolutely necessary.
"Do you have any more?"
"Yeah, I bought extra. I figured we should do a little experimenting. We'll eat a couple more, and then compare notes."
"Oh, Lord," Jamie said, as Vera divvied them up. The last thing she needed was to start feeling horny. It had been three weeks since she'd laid eyes on sexy and mysterious Maximillian Holt, the man who blew into her life from time to time just long enough to turn her world upside down and inside out. The same man she had already voted most likely to climb beneath the sheets with first chance she got.
"I've already had three," Vera said, "and I don't feel a thing except for a little indigestion. Chocolate does that to me."
"I'm sure it's just a bunch of hype to sell brownies," Jamie said, hoping she was right. Lately she'd been having X-rated dreams where she and Max played starring roles. They did things she was certain were illegal in most states.
"And get this," Vera said. "Maxine Chambers quit her job at the library and just opened a lingerie shop right on Main Street. And guess what she named it? Sinful Delights."
Jamie couldn't hide her surprise. She couldn't imagine the prim librarian doing such a thing.
"And that's not all," Vera went on. "Folks say she's got a whole display of unmentionables hanging in her window where God and everybody can see them. She just undraped it today. Elbert Swank said his jaw fell open so hard when he saw them that he almost lost his dentures on the sidewalk out front. I would have given anything to see that."
"A new lingerie shop," Jamie mused. "Imagine that." She tried to keep her excitement at bay. Beaumont needed a good lingerie store, a place where cotton panties and practical bras weren't the order of the day.
"Of course I got my information secondhand so I'll have to get over there and check it out personally. You know how I am about getting my facts straight."
"Maybe she'll advertise with us," Jamie said. "We can always use the business."
"Oh, pooh. We're going to make money on that new personals section you started. How many people have written in so far?"
"We must have about ten total; seven from men, three from women. Pretty good for a small-town newspaper, don't you think?" Jamie had hoped the ads would bring in well-needed revenue and attract more readers. It was too early to tell, but she remained confident.
"I'm keeping my fingers crossed," Vera said. She stepped closer. "One ad in particular caught my attention," she almost whispered. "It was in yesterday's paper. The heading read 'Ready, Willing, and Able.' Sounds like a winner to me, seeing as how most men in my age bracket have a little trouble in the able department."
Jamie laughed out loud. "Vera Bankhead, I am shocked!"
Vera grinned. "Hey, even a woman my age has needs."
"Perhaps you should respond to the ad."
"What if he's ugly? You know I can't abide an ugly man. Maybe you should give me his name first."
Jamie shook her head. "You know the ads are strictly confidential."
"I'll bet I could figure out who he is. I know everybody in this town."
Which was why Jamie had insisted on handling the personals section, she reminded herself. She kept the ads locked in a file cabinet in her office. As much as she loved Vera, it was a well-known fact the woman was the biggest gossip in town. Jamie shrugged as though it made no difference. "I would see that your letter reached him."
"I'll have to think about it."
Jamie sighed wistfully. "Well, one thing is certain. Love is definitely in the air in the town of Beaumont, South Carolina. I think it's romantic." Jamie had only recently come to realize just what a romantic she was, and she knew Max Holt was responsible. She had begun to daydream about their relationship, had begun to wonder where it was going. She wanted him in her life permanently, and that scared the hell out of her.
"Sounds more like L-U-S-T to me," Vera replied. "It's the heat. Everybody in town is acting strange. If they start eating these brownies, they're going to be out of control."
Jamie didn't want to talk about lust because, once again, it brought Max to mind. Max, who was too gorgeous for his own good and knew it. Max, who clearly lusted after her but kept his true feelings to himself. Not that she didn't have a bad case of lust, as well; it's what drew them together like iron shavings to a magnet, what made her skin literally ache for his touch.
It had been that way from the moment they'd first laid eyes on each other, when Max had come to Beaumont to aid his brother-in-law, now the mayor, in an attempt to clean up town corruption. Max had ridden in on his white horse, or in his case, a two-million-dollar car with enough technology to run a small country. Max's investigation had dragged Jamie right into the middle of it; she'd found herself dodging bullets from hit men, almost getting blown to smithereens by a car bomb, and landing in the path of a monster-sized alligator.
Okay, so maybe she was exaggerating the size of the alligator, but all alligators looked big when you were treading water and happened to be in their path.
Most women with half a brain would have grabbed their purses and said, "See ya," but not Jamie. She had followed Max to Tennessee to find the person responsible for hiring the hit.
Simply put, Max was a philanthropist with brains and money, and as long as there was a cause or an injustice, he would be there, come hell or high water.
"My stomach feels funny," Vera said. "I think I ate too many brownies."
Jamie looked up. "Yeah?" She wouldn't tell Vera she was having a bad case of butterflies. The woman would attribute it to the brownies, but Jamie knew better. She was thinking about the last time she and Max were together in what could only be described as a compromising position. Sooner or later, things were bound to come to a head.
She and Max couldn't go on this way forever, but she was afraid to hope for more. She could fantasize all she wanted about a lasting relationship, but Max did not impress her as a man who could be tied down to any woman for very long.
"It's probably all in my mind," Vera said. "Lyle Betts most likely started the rumor just to get people into his bakery." She glanced about the office. "Where is Fleas, by the way?"
"Are you even listening to me? Where is your dog? You know, that ugly hound you bring to work with you every day because he sulks if you leave him at home?"
"He's at the vet. And he's not ugly."
"I hope he's getting his anal glands expressed. I can't live with that flatulence problem much longer."
Jamie had inherited Fleas, a wrinkled, forlorn-faced bloodhound some weeks back. At the time she had desperately needed a vehicle, and, trying to save money, had bought a rust bucket of a pickup truck. The car salesman, who claimed the dog was attached to the truck, had knocked fifty bucks off the price of the truck as an incentive for her to take the dog. They were bonding rather well, or at least as well as could be expected with a dog that had chronic gas.
"He's being neutered today," Jamie said. "Poor thing," she added. "I'll bet Dr. Adams has his nuts on a chopping block as we speak."
Vera shuddered. "I don't even want to think about it."
They were interrupted when someone tapped on the door. "Pardon me," a female voice said.
Vera and Jamie glanced toward the door. Jamie felt her jaw drop to her collarbone. Vera gaped, as well.
"I'm sorry to disturb you," the woman said, "but there was nobody out front."
Jamie continued to stare. The woman had coal-black hair that fell to her waist. Sparkly blue eye shadow colored her lids, and her lashes were long enough to paint the side of a barn. "May I help you?" Jamie managed.
The woman stepped into the room. Her skirt was short and tight; her low-cut blouse, emphasized perfect oversized breasts. Jamie decided either God had been very generous in the boob department or the woman was stuffed to the gills with silicone.
"My name is Destiny Moultrie," she said in a husky voice. "I'm here about the job."
Vera tossed Jamie a suspicious look. "What job? You've decided to replace me, haven't you? You'd rather have some Elvira–Erin Brockovich look-alike with big knockers sitting out front."
"I don't know anything about this," Jamie said, holding out both hands. She looked at the woman. "What job?" she asked, echoing Vera's question.
"The advice columnist. You've been turning it over in your mind for weeks."
Vera looked at Jamie. "You have?"
Jamie shifted in her seat. "Um, well —"
"You never mentioned it to me," a very peeved Vera interrupted. "You've always come to me with your ideas."
The woman looked from Vera to Jamie. "I didn't mean to cause friction. Perhaps we should discuss this in private, Miss Swift."
Vera took offense. "Miss Swift doesn't keep secrets from me. I know more about what's going on around here than anyone else." She tossed Jamie a dark look. "At least I thought I did."
Jamie couldn't mask her confusion. "Vera, please, not now."
But Vera was not deterred. "First, you take the personals section away from me because you don't trust me, and now this. I should quit. I should hand in my resignation and go on one of those senior citizens' cruises that serves seven meals a day. I could meet a nice widower, and sow a few wild oats. I still have a few oats left, you know."
"Vera —" Jamie fought the urge to crawl beneath her desk. They were acting anything but professional. But she knew better than to argue. In Vera's mind, Jamie was still an unruly kid who'd never been properly disciplined by her father.
"Seven meals a day?" Destiny said. "That's a lot of food. I would bust right out of my clothes."
"You're already busting out of your clothes," Vera said. She turned to Jamie. "On second thought, I'm not quitting, because I've been here longer than anyone, and I'm not going to risk losing my benefits. Furthermore, you can't fire me. It was your daddy, God rest his soul, who hired me, not you." She gave a huff and marched from the room, but not before slamming the door behind her.
"Uh-oh, I blew it," Destiny said.
Jamie turned to her visitor. She was intrigued. "Please sit down, Miss Moultrie," she said, using her professional voice. She smiled serenely, as though it were an everyday occurrence for her secretary to pitch a fit. Okay, so it was an everyday occurrence, she reminded herself. Vera was probably out front right now polishing her .38.
"Please call me Destiny," the woman said. She took one of the chairs directly across from Jamie's desk. "I'm sorry for barging in like this, but I sensed you would be making a decision soon, and I wanted to be the first to apply."
Jamie merely looked at her.
"You have been thinking about starting an advice column, right?" Without warning, the woman smacked her forehead. "Oh, man, I hope I'm not in the wrong place."
"The wrong place?" Jamie realized she was repeating a lot of what was being said.
Destiny pulled out a small notebook and flipped through several pages. "Is your middle name Leigh?"
Jamie nodded. "Yes. It was my mother's first name." Now why had she gone and given out personal information to some stranger she'd probably never see again?
"Yeah, I know about your mother. She walked out when you were still in diapers."
Jamie arched both brows. "Excuse me, but I don't see the point of all this."
Destiny looked up. "Sorry. I shouldn't have mentioned the part about your mother. I know you still find it painful at times."
"What else do you know?"
"There's an old tire swing hanging in your back yard, am I right?"
Jamie snapped her fingers. "I've got it. You're a private investigator, aren't you? Who hired you, and for what reason?"
"No, I'm not. Just answer this one last question. Do you have a bar of Dove soap in your lingerie drawer?"
Jamie felt the color drain from her face. "Who are you? How do you know about the soap?"
"I just do."
Jamie leveled her gaze at the woman. Her astonishment had an edge of anger to it. "Tell me more about the soap."
"Are you sure?" When Jamie nodded, she went on. "The scent reminds you of your mother, even though you remember little else about her."
Jamie felt the goose bumps rise on her arms. She was quiet for a moment. "I'm going to ask you again. How do you know this?"
The woman sighed. "I'm psychic. Sort of."
Jamie did a gigantic eye-roll. "Sort of? What does that mean?"
"I have visions, and I'm right a lot of the time, unless I'm under a lot of stress, then I might make a mistake now and then. It's a simple case of performance anxiety; sort of like sex. But I get it right more often than not."
Jamie sighed. It was really turning out to be a weird morning. First Vera with her brownies, and now she was conversing with a woman who claimed to be psychic. She had time for neither because she had to concentrate on getting a newspaper out. "Miss Moultrie, um, Destiny —"
"I'm working on getting better," Destiny said. "I practice every night." She paused. "You don't believe in psychics, do you?"
"See, I knew that." The woman licked the tip of her finger and drew a short imaginary line in the air as though marking her success. Turquoise rings circled every finger, bracelets jangled on her wrists. "There are a lot of phonies out there. Some claim to be one hundred percent accurate. There's no such thing."
Excerpted from Full Blast by Janet Evanovich, Charlotte Hughes. Copyright © 2004 Evanovich, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.