In Janet Evanovich's Full Tilt, he lives life in the fast lane and she's along for the ride-with no brakes....
Jamie Swift has one priority in quiet Beaumont, South Carolina: running the local newspaper. Romance runs second. But with the arrival of her silent partner, the notoriously mysterious and sexy Maximillian Holt, Jamie's life gets shaken up. Max claims he's here to give his brother-in-law a vote of confidence. A former wrestler, Frankie Fontana's now taking his shots in the political ring. Beaumont could use a mayor with scruples but what it gets is a crimeand what Jamie gets is a story that's taking her for a ride on the wild side, complete with two assassins, a washed-up stripper, and an insane poacher. Between a spray of bullets and a fast getaway could it get any more romanticor dangerous? Max and Jamie are betting their lives on a long shot…
About the Author
JANET EVANOVICH is the #1 bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum novels, a dozen romance novels, the Alexandra Barnaby novels, and How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author. She lives in Florida.
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.
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
"Our relationship has grown stale."
"Give me a break, Max."
"You're shallow, Muffin."
"Shallow?" She gave a snort of disgust. "This coming from a man who was married to a gold digger named Bunny for three years? Now, there's a relationship with depth."
He grinned. "There's something to be said for gold diggers. A man always knows where he stands. In the end, both parties get what they want."
"And we both know you always get what you want. But let me remind you, Maximillian Holt, I'm the best thing that has ever happened to you. You need me. I listen to your problems, I feed that enormous ego of yours, and I can match wits with you any day. With both hands tied behind my back, I might add."
"Don't forget I made you what you are today, sweetheart. Without me you'd be nothing."
"And don't you forget, I'm the one who bails you out every time you get your ass in a sling. Speaking of which, you're out of fuel. You're running on fumes."
"How far to the nearest gas station?"
"A good ten miles."
"You could have told me sooner."
"Yes, I could have."
"I've created a monster."
Max guided the radically customized car down the narrow mountain road, taking each twist and turn with the precision of a professional driver. A Pink Floyd CD played from a cutting-edge sound system that would not be available to consumers for at least another year.
Max took a great deal of pride in his automobile, the same one his friends laughingly referred to as his Maxmobile. The car had been designed from the chassis up by former NASA scientists. The body and frame were composed of titanium and a newly identified polymer that offered the lightness of fiberglass and the durability of the strongest steel. The end result resembled a Porsche, but Max's version was bigger, better, and could do things that car manufacturers would not find on their drawing boards for years to come. Nothing was indestructible, but the Maxmobile came close.
The dashboard was more complicated than the cockpit of a Learjet. A team of first-rate computer whizzes, hired away from top government contractors, had created the car's instrumentation using state-of-the-art equipment. Spread out among luxury automotive goodies like a tachometer, an altimeter, and a global positioning satellite system were a highly enhanced PDA, keyboard, a digital speech recognition module, a photo-quality printer, a fax, a satellite phone, an HDTV display screen, and a full video-conferencing suite, all operated by a high-powered computer that was smaller than an ashtray. Thanks to all these modifications, Max, if he wanted to, could run his vast business empire without ever getting out of his car.
Only a man like Max Holt would have laid out the kind of money it had taken to build such a machine; and only a man like Max would have created computer intelligence with voice recognition technology and a sassy personality to match. Just for the fun of it, he had named her Muffin and programmed her with a sexy voice that one employee claimed gave him a stiffie every time he heard it.
There were those who'd said it couldn't be done. Max had proved them wrong. He insisted on the best. He drove himself and his employees hard. If he exuded confidence it was because he always succeeded in what he set out to do. Always. Not a difficult task for a man with an off-the-charts IQ, and business acumen that put fear in the hearts of his toughest competitors. He'd created two companies, simply to put a scare into AOL and Microsoft. The television network he'd purchased ten years ago had grown far beyond even his own imagination. He had recently sold all three companies for a king's ransom, simply because they no longer offered the challenges he craved.
The New York Times, Newsweek, and Money magazine were clamoring for interviews, but Maximillian Holt did not give interviews. He maintained a low profile at all costs. Sure, photographers had grainy pictures of him slipping into buildings wearing expensive Italian suits, or ducking into stretch limos with a gorgeous model or actress on his arm, but he was clever at keeping his image out of the media. Most people wouldn't recognize him, even if they did know his name.
And that's the way Max liked it.
He had homes all over the world, but he preferred his horse farm in Virginia, not far from his cousin Nick who'd instilled in Max a love of horses. His farmhouse offered sanctuary from his hectic lifestyle, and he maintained his privacy with cameras, an alarm system he'd personally created, and enough security personnel to guard the White House.
People called him eccentric and egotistical, but Max had never cared what others thought. He made his own rules, especially when it came to women. He didn't like entanglements. Commitment was a four-letter word that spurred him to move on the minute a woman mentioned it. As a result, he had a reputation for being a ladies' man, but he was generous to a fault and did his best to end relationships on a positive note that often created close friends out of once intimate relationships. This included his ex-wife, Bunny, who, with his help, had launched a new line of bath and body products that competed heavily with the likes of Crabtree and Evelyn. Max liked to think women benefited from knowing him because he believed he was a better man from having been in their company.
"I want a complete printout on Jamie Swift. See if you can find a photo."
"What do you mean see if I can find a photo? Of course I can find a photo. I can get everything on anybody at any time, including where they purchase their lingerie."
By the time Max stopped for gas and filled his tank, Muffin had a complete dossier and recent photo of Jamie Swift. "Not bad," he said. "You know how I like blondes."
Muffin gave a snort. "Not to mention brunettes and redheads. But you can forget this one, stud. She's engaged to one Phillip Ravenal Standish, a well-respected tax attorney, and the most eligible bachelor in Beaumont, South Carolina."
"Your point being?"
"Hands off. You're going to Beaumont because your sister Deedee needs you."
Max smiled. "Deedee needs more help than I'm capable of giving her. Besides, there's no sin in checking on my investment with the Beaumont Gazette while I'm in town. And having the pleasure of meeting Miss Swift. After all, I'm her partner."
"Silent partner. And when she finds out Deedee asked you to help her financially —"
"She's not going to find out."
"The woman isn't stupid, Max. As soon as she discovers you're Deedee's brother, she'll put two and two together. She and Deedee might be close friends, but I'm willing to bet she won't appreciate people discussing her financial problems. She's struggled for years to keep her newspaper afloat."
"She was looking for an investor, and I have a fondness for the newspaper business. Don't forget I cut my teeth on my cousin's newspaper. There isn't much I don't know about it."
"Just don't lose sight of why we're really going to Beaumont," Muffin said. "Sounds like Frankie's in trouble."
"I still can't believe it," Max said. "Who would have thought my brother-in-law would run for mayor?"
"He's not the first wrestler to run for political office."
"I wonder if people still refer to him as Frankie-the-Assassin?"
"I'm sure he's maintained a following, despite having retired. By the way, it doesn't sound like Deedee is thrilled about his decision to join the political arena. Her last E-mail wasn't good."
"You should realize by now that although my sister is about as sweet as they come, her life is one crisis after another. Just like our mother," he added.
"You don't sound especially fond of your sister."
"Oh, I'm crazy about Deedee, although we've never had much in common. She's ten years older than me. Not to mention a little flaky at times," he added.
"Your brother-in-law doesn't seem at all concerned about what's going on," Muffin said.
"Frankie knew what he was getting into when he decided to go into politics, and he's not the first politician to receive hate mail." Max paused and smiled. "You know, Muffin, you're supposed to read my mail and report to me, not make judgments or offer advice. And then pout when I don't agree," he added. "One would think you were capable of emotion." The pride in his voice went unchecked. "And they said it couldn't be done. Guess I proved them wrong."
"You're gloating, Max. It's not flattering. Somebody needs to teach you a little humility."
"A good woman could do that."
"She'd have to be armed and dangerous."
"Send a fax to Miss Swift and tell her I'll drop by after lunch tomorrow. That'll give her time to have her hair done and buy a new dress for the occasion."
"Then take a nap. You're getting moody on me."
"You know I don't nap. That genius mind of yours couldn't find its way out of a paper sack without my assistance; much less make it all the way to Beaumont, South Carolina. Face it, Max. I'm indispensable."
"Double damn!" Jamie Swift dropped the fax as though it were hot to the touch. It fluttered to the top of her desk, face up, as though openly defying her to ignore it.
Her secretary, Vera Bankhead, drew herself up sharply. "You'd better be glad your father isn't alive to hear you, young lady. I warned you about using foul language in this office, what with me being a God-fearing Baptist and all. You owe the kitty one quarter for cursing."
Without taking her eyes off the fax, Jamie reached into a side drawer of her desk where she kept a stash of change. She pulled out a quarter and handed it to Vera. Sixty years old and the closest thing Jamie had ever had to a mother, Vera Bankhead was a woman to be reckoned with, and the only thing Jamie feared.
"Mr. Holt is coming here? Tomorrow?"
"That's what it says."
"This must be some kind of joke."
"Looks serious as an open grave to me, but then I'm just a lowly secretary who hasn't had a raise since they did away with garter belts."
"We have to stop him."
"I keep a .38 in my purse. It'll stop a Brahma bull at one hundred paces."
"We can't kill him, Vera. Besides, he owns a sizable portion of this newspaper. We simply have to find a way to detain him. I mean, would you look at this place!"
Both women paused and glanced around the office, or what there was left of it.
Vera nodded. "Yeah, well, I told you not to sell all the furniture."
"You knew you needed the money."
Jamie's managing editor, Mike Henderson, raced into her office, light brown hair uncombed, shirt badly wrinkled, and his coat askew. His briefcase reflected his personality; the fake leather pouches were stuffed with papers and newsworthy articles that he planned to follow up one day but never got around to. The tie he kept on hand in case he needed it peeked out from the side pocket of his jacket.
"Wonder whose bed he just crawled out of?" Vera muttered.
"Sorry I'm late," he said.
Jamie pressed her lips together in irritation. Mike was a good editor, but his poor time-management skills and his sexual prowess kept him from doing the job he was capable of. She attributed it to immaturity; after all, he was only a year out of college. But he worked cheap.
"Do you know what time it is?" Jamie asked.
He paused and checked his wristwatch. "Oh, man, I'm later than I thought."
Vera gave a snort of disgust. "Long night?"
He looked slightly offended. "Okay, so I have a reputation for, well, never mind, but I actually worked most of the night and morning because of our deadline. I must've drifted off to sleep at some point because next thing I knew —"
"Well, Miss Swift has enough to worry about without you showing up this time of day."
He looked at Jamie. "Did another piece of equipment break down?"
"Worse," Vera said. "Mr. M. Holt is coming tomorrow, and this place is pitiful."
Mike looked around. "Yeah, we could use some furniture. Not to mention a few desks. I'm working on a damn card table. By the way, who the hell is M. Holt?"
There were no secrets in the office. Everyone knew Jamie struggled to keep the newspaper afloat. "Mr. Holt is the investor who prevented the bank from foreclosing on this place," Jamie said. She looked at Vera. "Why does he get to curse, and I don't?"
"'Cause I didn't practically raise him and teach him good Christian manners like I did you. Besides, he's going to hell anyway for his tomcattin' ways."
Mike sighed. "I have trouble committing."
"You need to learn to keep your britches zipped, mister, and you need to be on time for work."
Mike's face reddened, but he, like the rest of the staff, knew better than to talk back to Vera. "What does the M stand for?" he asked as though desperately wanting to change the subject.
Jamie shrugged. "Who knows? I was just so glad to get the money I didn't care." She pulled out the center drawer of her battered desk and fumbled through it for a pack of unopened cigarettes.
Vera planted her hands on her hips. "Don't you dare light that cigarette, missy, or I'm going to quit on the spot, and then you're going to have to pay someone real money to run this office. Have you forgotten how hard it was for you to give up smoking in the first place? The only reason you started to begin with was because your daddy smoked."
"I'm not going to light the darn thing, Vera." Jamie tore into the pack and stuck one of the cigarettes between her lips. Oh, how she craved one. If ever there was a time to light up it was now. "We've got to do something about this place."
"Why are you looking at me?" Vera asked. "I don't have any say-so around here. I just keep my mouth shut and do what I'm told when I'm told. But let something go wrong and everybody comes running to Vera. Yessirree." She sank into the old leather chair facing Jamie's desk. "Somebody get me a cup of coffee. It helps me think better."
Jamie hurried down the hall and into the small kitchenette or what had once been a kitchenette before she had been forced to sell the refrigerator, microwave, table and chairs, and everything else that had not been nailed down. Thankfully, the cabinet and small stainless steel sink remained, which meant the coffeepot had a resting place and running water to rinse and fill it. Jamie returned to her office and handed Vera a cup of coffee that looked as though it had been brewed the day before. "It's hot," she warned.
Vera sipped cautiously. "Okay, I hate to do this, but I guess I have no choice. We can't allow Mr. Holt to see this place as is." She glanced around. "Lawd, I don't remember when these walls were last painted. We need to do something about that, too."
"You have an idea?" Jamie asked hopefully.
"A few people in this town owe me favors."
Jamie noted the thoughtful look on Vera's face. Baptist or not, the woman could be downright devious at times. "I'm listening."
"You know Herman Bates who owns Bates's Furniture? His son has been busted twice for DUI. Just so happens I was a nice person and kept it out of our arrest section. And then there was that messy scene between Tom Brown and his wife —"
"Tom Brown who owns the paint store?" Mike asked.
"Uh-huh. Seems he told his wife, Lorraine, he had to work late one night so he could finish painting the VFW Hall, and Lorraine decided to check it out. Found him and Beth Toomey doing the nasty on a sofa in the back office. I heard Lorraine went after both of them with a letter opener. Beth managed to call nine-one-one, and Lorraine was hauled in and thrown into the slammer."
"Oh, Jeez," Jamie mumbled.
"Yeah, and Tom refused to bail her out until she signed an agreement stating she wouldn't do him bodily harm. Didn't matter 'cause there was some serious buttkicking when he got home."
"How come I don't know about this?" Jamie asked.
"I decided to keep it out of the newspaper, as well, because both families belong to my church."
Jamie shook her head. There were times she wondered who was in charge. Obviously it was a silly question. "So what's the point?"
Vera took another sip of her coffee as though trying to build the tension until she reached the climax of her idea. "We need this place painted, and we need furniture. Simple as that. Tom and Herman either do it my way or pay the price."
"Isn't blackmail a crime in this state?" Mike asked.
Vera set her coffee cup down and crossed her arms over her chest. "Not when it's for a good cause."
He and Jamie nodded as though it made perfect sense.
Vera rose from her chair in a queenly fashion. "Have either of you ever known me to fail when I set my mind to it? You can rest assured that it's as good as done. Vera Bankhead always comes through, and she doesn't mind getting her hands dirty in the process. Nosirree."
Excerpted from "Full Tilt"
Copyright © 2003 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.