Above and Beyond

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Overview

Killed in a bombing, Richard Stroud never got his wife's love letters. Trevor Rule did--and fell in love with the writer of those letters. He was a stranger with a terrible secret. She was a grieving widow locked in her memories. It would be a challenge to make her love him--and impossible if she ever found out the truth.
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Overview

Killed in a bombing, Richard Stroud never got his wife's love letters. Trevor Rule did--and fell in love with the writer of those letters. He was a stranger with a terrible secret. She was a grieving widow locked in her memories. It would be a challenge to make her love him--and impossible if she ever found out the truth.
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Editorial Reviews

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“An enjoyable read”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781551662916
  • Publisher: Mira
  • Publication date: 9/1/1997
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 298
  • Product dimensions: 4.23 (w) x 6.76 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown is the author of fifty-six New York Times bestsellers, most recently Play Dirty which was published in August 2007 by Simon & Schuster and debuted at number two on The New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list. Her other recent bestsellers include Ricochet (2006), Chill Factor (2005), White Hot (2004), Hello, Darkness (2003), The Crush (2002), Envy (2001), all of which have jumped onto the Times bestseller list in the number one to five spot. Her new novel Smoke Screen will be published on August 12, 2008.

Brown began her writing career in 1981 and since then has published nearly seventy novels, most of which remain in print. As of 1990, when Mirror Image made The New York Times bestseller list, each subsequent novel, including reprints of earlier books, have become Times bestsellers. Her novel The Witness was recently optioned by Twinstar Entertainment for a major motion picture. Brown now has seventy million copies of her books in print worldwide, and her work has been translated into thirty-three languages.

A lifelong Texan, Sandra Brown was born in Waco and raised in Ft. Worth. Before embarking on her writing career, she worked as a model at the Dallas Apparel Mart, and in television, including weathercasting for WFAA-TV in Dallas, and feature reporting on the nationally syndicated program "PM Magazine." She is much in demand as a speaker at book festivals and charity functions throughout the year. Court TV (now tru TV) also sought Brown to host the 2007 premier of its popular series "Murder by the Book."

Awards and commendations include a 2008 honoraryDoctor of Humane Letters degree from Texas Christian University, the 2007 Texas Medal of Arts Award for Literature, the American Business Women's Association's Distinguished Circle of Success, B'nai B'rith's Distinguished Literary Achievement Award, and the A. C. Greene Award. Brown is a member of the Writers Guild of America, the Authors Guild, Mystery Writers of America, Literacy Partners, and is a founding member of International Thriller Writers. She will be honored as the ITW's "ThrillerMaster" in 2008.

She and her husband live in Arlington, Texas.

Biography

In 1979, Sandra Brown lost her job at a television program and decided to give writing a try. She bought an armful of romance novels and writing books, set up a typewriter on a card table and wrote her first novel. Harlequin passed but Dell bit, and Brown was off and writing, publishing her works under an assortment of pseudonyms.

From such modest beginnings, Brown has evolved into multimillion publishing empire of one, the CEO of her own literary brand; she towers over the landscape of romantic fiction. Brown has used her growing clout to insist her publishers drop the bosom-and-biceps covers and has added more intricate subplots, suspense, and even unhappy endings to her work. The result: A near-constant presence on The New York Times bestsellers list. In 1992, she had three on the list at the same time, joining that exclusive club of Stephen King, Tom Clancy, J. K. Rowling, and Danielle Steel.

Her work in the mainstream realm has taken her readers into The White House, where the president's newborn dies mysteriously; the oil fields and bedrooms of a Dallas-like family dynasty; and the sexual complications surrounding an investigation into an evangelist's murder. Such inventions have made her a distinct presence in a crowded genre.

"Brown is perhaps best known now for her longer novels of romantic suspense. The basic outline for these stories has passionate love, lust, and violence playing out against a background of unraveling secrets and skeletons jumping out of family closets," wrote Barbara E. Kemp in the book Twentieth-Century Romance & Historical Writers . Kemp also praises Brown's sharp dialogue and richly detailed characters. "However, her greatest key to success is probably that she invites her readers into a fantasy world of passion, intrigue, and danger," she wrote. "They too can face the moral and emotional dilemmas of the heroine, safe in the knowledge that justice and love will prevail."

Critics give her points for nimble storytelling but are cooler to her "serviceable prose," in the words of one Publishers Weekly reviewer. Still, when writing a crack page-turner, the plot's the thing. A 1992 New York Times review placed Brown among a group of a writers "who have mastered the art of the slow tease."

Staggeringly prolific, Brown found her writing pace ground to a halt when she was given a different assignment. A magazine had asked her for an autobiographical piece, and it took her months to complete. Her life in the suburbs, though personally fulfilling, was nonetheless blander than fiction. That may be why she dives into her fiction writing with such workhorse gusto. "I love being the bad guy," she told Publishers Weekly in 1995, "simply because I was always so responsible, so predictable growing up. I made straight A's and never got into any trouble, and I still impose those standards on myself. So writing is my chance to escape and become the sleaziest, scummiest role."

When she started writing, her goal was always to break out of the parameters of romance. After about 45 romances, the woman who counts Tennessee Williams and Taylor Caldwell among her influences told The New York Times that felt she had reached a plateau. In fact, she doesn't even look at her books as romances anymore. "I think of my books now as suspense novels, usually with a love story incorporated," she said. "They're absolutely a lot harder to write than romances. They take more plotting and real character development. Each book is a stretch for me, and I try something interesting each time that males will like as well as women."

Good To Know

  • "I hate to exercise and only do so because I absolutely must."

  • "I love to eat and my favorite foods are all bad for the body. Fried chicken and gravy, TexMex, red meat (hey, I'm from Texas!). My only saving grace is that I'm not that fond of sweets. Salty is my thing. Chocolate cake and ice cream I can skip. But a bag of Fritos. . ."

  • "It takes me a long time to go to sleep, usually because I read in bed and hate to put down the book. But when I do nod off, I'm a champion sleeper. I can easily do eight or nine hours a night."

  • "My worst "thing" is mean-spirited people. People who deliberately belittle or embarrass someone really irk me. The people I admire most are the ones who find something good about even the most undesirable individual. That was a quality my mother had, the one I hope most to emulate."

  • "I have a fear of gravity. Recently my whole family went to Belize. We had several adventures. We tubed a river through miles of cave, wearing head lamps so we'd have illumination. No problem. I scaled Mayan ruins. I rode horseback (on a monster named Al Capone) through the rain forest. No problem. But I couldn't zip line. Even though my five-year-old grandsons did it with glee, I just couldn't make that leap."

  • "I and my husband are huge fans of Jeopardy! We never miss it if we can help it. Does that make us complete dorks?"

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      1. Also Known As:
        Laura Jordan, Rachel Ryan and Erin St. Claire
      2. Hometown:
        Arlington, TX
      1. Date of Birth:
        March 12, 1948
      2. Place of Birth:
        Waco, Texas
      1. Education:
        Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Texas Christian University, 2008
      2. Website:

    Read an Excerpt

    Chapter One

    "You're doing fine, Kyla. Take quick, light breaths. That's right. Good, good. How do you feel?"

    "Tired."

    "I know, but hang in there. Go with the pains now and push. That's it. A little harder."

    The young woman on the delivery table ground her teeth while the labor pain held her in its fierce grip. When it subsided, she forced her body to relax. Her face, though flushed and mottled, was radiant. "Can you see him yet?"

    No sooner were the words out of her mouth than another pain seized her. She pushed with all her might.

    "Now I can," the doctor said. "Give me one more push . . . there . . . here we are. All right!" he exclaimed when the new life slipped into his waiting hands.

    "What is it?"

    "A boy. Beautiful. Heavy son of a gun, too."

    "And he's got great lungs," the obstetric nurse said, beaming down on Kyla.

    "A boy," she murmured, pleased. She let the blessed lethargy steal over her and sank back onto the table. "Let me see him. Is he all right?"

    "He's perfect," the doctor reassured her as he held up the squirming, crying baby boy where his mother could see him.

    Tears stung Kyla's eyes when she saw her son for the first time. "Aaron. That's what we're naming him. Aaron Powers Stroud." For a moment she was allowed the privilege of holding him on her chest. Emotion welled inside her.

    "He's a boy his daddy can be proud of," the nurse said. She lifted the baby from Kyla's weak arms, wrapped him in a soft blanket and carried him across the room to be weighed. The doctor was attending Kyla, though it had been an easy, routine birth.

    "How soon before you can notify your husband?" the doctor asked.

    "My parents are standing by outside. Dad's promised to send Richard a telegram."

    "He's nine pounds three ounces," the nurse called out from across the room.

    The obstetrician peeled off his gloves and took Kyla's limp hand. "I'll go out now and break the news so he can get that telegram on its way. Where did you say Richard was stationed?"

    "Cairo," Kyla replied absently. She was watching Aaron kick angrily as he was footprinted. He was beautiful. Richard would be so proud of him.

    Considering that Aaron had been born at dusk, she spent a reasonably peaceful night. They brought him to her twice during the night, though her milk hadn't started and he wasn't hungry yet. The pleasure of holding his warm little body against hers was immense. They communicated on a level that was unlike any other she had experienced.

    She studied him, turning over his tiny hands and examining his palms when she could pry open the fingers he stubbornly kept clenched in a fist. Each toe, each fine strand of hair on his head, his ears, were investigated and found to be perfect.

    "Your daddy and I love you very much," she whispered drowsily as she relinquished him to a nurse.

    Hospital sounds -- squeaky laundry carts, rattling breakfast trays, clanking equipment dollies -- roused her early. She was in the middle of a huge yawn and a luxuriant stretch when her parents entered her private room.

    "Good morning," she said happily. "I'm surprised you're here instead of at the nursery window with your noses pressed against the glass. But then they don't open the curtain --" She broke off when she noted their haggard expressions. "Is something wrong?"

    Clif and Meg Powers glanced at each other. Meg gripped the handle of her purse so tightly that her knuckles turned white. Clif looked as though he'd just swallowed bad-tasting medicine.

    "Mom? Dad? What's happened? Oh, my God! The baby? Aaron? There's something wrong with Aaron?" Kyla threw off the covers with flailing arms and pumping legs, unmindful of the pinching soreness between her thighs, intent only on racing down the hospital corridor to the nursery.

    Meg Powers rushed to her daughter's bedside and restrained her. "No. The baby's fine. He's fine. I promise."

    Kyla's eyes wildly searched those of her parents. "Then what's wrong?" She was on the verge of panic and her voice was shrill. Her parents rarely got ruffled. For them to be so obviously upset was cause for alarm.

    "Sweetheart," Clif Powers said softly, laying a hand on her arm, "there's some distressing news this morning." He silently consulted his wife once more before saying, "The American embassy in Cairo was bombed early this morning."

    A violent shudder shimmied up through Kyla's stomach and chest. Her mouth went dry. Her eyes forgot how to blink. Her heart thudded to a halt before sluggishly beginning to beat again. Then, gradually gaining momentum as she assimilated what her father had said, it accelerated to a frightening pace.

    "Richard?" she asked on a hoarse croak.

    "We don't know."

    "Tell me!"

    "We don't know," her father insisted. "Everything is in chaos, just like the time this happened in Beirut. There's been no official word."

    "Turn on the television."

    "Kyla, I don't think you should --"

    Heedless of her father's warning, she snatched the remote control from the bedside table and switched on the television set that was mounted on the wall opposite the bed.

    ". . . extent of the destruction at this point is undetermined. The President is calling this terrorist bombing an outrage, an insult to the peacekeeping nations of the world. Prime Minister --"

    She changed channels, frantically punching the buttons on the remote control with trembling fingers.

    ". . . costly, though it will probably be hours, even days before the death toll is officially released. Marine units have been mobilized and, along with Egyptian troops, are clearing the rubble looking for survivors."

    The camera work on the videotape was substandard and testified to the pandemonium surrounding the ruins of what had been the building that housed the American embassy. The shots were jerky and out of focus, random and unedited. "Taking credit for this abomination is a terrorist group calling itself --"

    Kyla changed channels again. It was more of the same. When the video camera swept the area and she saw the bodies that had already been recovered neatly lined up on the ground, she threw down the remote control device and covered her face with her hands.

    "Richard, Richard!"

    "Darling, don't give up hope. They think there are survivors." But Meg's soothing words fell on deaf ears. She clutched her weeping daughter's body hard against hers.

    "It happened at dawn Cairo time," Clif said. "We were notified just as we were getting up this morning. There's nothing we can do at this point but wait. Sooner or later, we're bound to get word of Richard."

    It came three days later, delivered by a Marine officer who rang the doorbell of the Powers's house. Kyla realized the moment she saw the official car pull up to the curb that subconsciously she had been waiting for it. She waved off her father and went to answer the door alone.

    "Mrs. Stroud?" "Yes.

    "I'm Captain Hawkins and it is my duty to inform you . . ."

    "But, darling, that's wonderful!" Kyla had exclaimed. "Why are you so downcast? I thought you'd be jubilant."

    "Well, hell, Kyla, I don't want to go off to Egypt while you're pregnant," Richard had said.

    She touched his hair. "I'll admit I don't like it for that reason. But this is an honor. Not every Marine is selected for guard duty at an embassy. They chose you because you're the best. I'm very proud."

    "But I don't have to do it. I could apply --"

    "This is a chance of a lifetime, Richard. Do you think I could live with myself if you turned down this honor on account of me?"

    "But nothing's more important than you and the baby."

    "And we'll always be here." She hugged him. "This will be your last tour and it's a fabulous opportunity that will only come around once. Now you're going and that's final."

    "I can't leave you alone."

    "I'll live with Mom and Dad while you're away. This is their first grandbaby and they'll drive me crazy calling and checking on me. I might just as well make it easy on us all and move in with them."

    He framed her face between his hands. "You're terrific, you know that?"

    "Does that mean I don't have to worry about you with those mysterious eastern women?"

    He had pretended to ponder it. "Do you know how to belly dance?"

    She had socked him in the tummy. "That would be a sight to see, with the belly I'm going to have soon."

    "Kyla." His voice was tender as he threaded his fingers through her hair. "Are you positive you want me to do this?"

    "Positive."

    That conversation, which had taken place seven months earlier, played through Kyla's mind as she stared at the flag-draped casket. The soulful notes of taps were snatched from the lone trumpet by an unkind winter wind and scattered over the cemetery. The pallbearers, all Marines, stood rigidly at attention, resplendent in their dress uniforms.

    Richard was being interred beside his parents, who had died within a year of each other before Kyla ever met him. "I was all alone in the world before I met you," he had told her once.

    "So was I."

    "You have your parents," he had reminded her, perplexed.

    "But I've never belonged to anyone, really belonged, the way I do to you."

    Because they had loved each other so much, he had then understood.

    His body had been shipped home in a sealed casket that she had been advised not to open. She didn't have to ask why. All that was left of the building in Cairo was a dusty pile of twisted stone and steel. Since the bomb had exploded early in the morning, most of the diplomatic corps and clerks had yet to arrive for work. Those who, like Richard and the other military personnel, had had apartments in the attached building, had been the victims.

    A friend of Clif Powers had offered to fly the family to Kansas for the burial. Kyla could only be away from Aaron for several hours at a time because of his feeding schedule.

    She flinched when she was handed the American flag, which had been removed from the coffin and ceremonially folded. The casket looked naked without it. Irrationally she wondered if Richard were cold.

    Oh God! she thought, her mind silently screaming. I have to leave him here. How would she be able to? How could she turn and walk away and leave that fresh grave like an obscene, open wound in the ground? How could she get into that private plane and be whisked back to Texas as though she were deserting Richard in this stark, barren landscape that she suddenly hated with a passion?

    The wind whistled with a keening sound.

    She would and she could because she had no choice. This part of Richard was dead. But a living part of him was waiting for her at home. Aaron.

    As the minister recited the closing prayer, Kyla offered one of her own. "I'll keep you alive, Richard. I swear it. You'll always be alive in my heart, I love you. I love you. You'll always be alive for Aaron and me because I'll keep you alive."

    He was cocooned inside a cotton ball. Once in a while the world would intrude on his cloudlike confinement and these were unwelcome interruptions. All sounds were clamorous. The slightest movement was like an earthquake to his system. Light from any source was painful. He wanted no part of anything outside the peacefulness of oblivion.

    But the intrusions became more frequent. Compelled by a force he didn't understand, finding handholds and footholds in sound and feeling, clinging precariously to every sensation that hinted he was still alive, he slowly climbed upward, out of that safe white mist to greet the terrifying unknown.

    He was lying on his back. He was breathing. His heart was beating. He wasn't certain of anything else.

    "Can you hear me?"

    He tried to turn his head in the direction of the soft voice, but splinters of pain crisscrossed inside his skull like ricocheting bullets.

    "Are you awake? Can you answer me? Are you in pain?"

    It took some doing, but he managed to coax his tongue to breach his lips. He tried to wet them, but the inside of his mouth was as dry and furry as wool. His face felt odd and he didn't think he could move his head even if the pain hadn't been severe. Tentatively he tried to raise his right hand.

    "No, no, just lie still. You have an IV in this arm."

    He struggled valiantly and finally managed to pry his eyes open to slits. His lashes, forming a screen across his field of vision, were magnified. He could almost count them individually. Finally they lifted a trifle more. An image wavered in front of him like a hovering angel. A white uniform. A woman. A cap. A nurse?

    "Hello. How do you feel?" Stupid question, lady.

    "Where . . ." He didn't recognize the croaking sound as his own voice.

    "You're in a military hospital in West Germany."

    West Germany? West Germany? He must have been drunker than he thought last night. This was a helluva dream.

    "We've been worried about you. You've been in a coma for three weeks."

    A coma? For three weeks? Impossible. Last night he'd gone out with that colonel's daughter and they'd hit every night spot in Cairo. Why the hell was this dream angel telling him he'd been in a coma in where? . . . West Germany?

    He tried to take in more of his surroundings. The room looked strange. His vision was blurred. Something --

    "Don't become distressed if your vision is fuzzy. Your left eye is bandaged," the nurse said kindly. "Lie still now while I go get the doctor. He'll want to know that you're awake."

    He didn't hear her leave. One instant she was there, the next she had vanished. Maybe he had imagined her. Dreams can be bizarre.

    The walls seemed to sway sickeningly. The ceiling swelled and then receded. It was never still. The light from the single lamp hurt his eyes . . . eye.

    She had said his left eye was bandaged. Why? Disregarding her caution, he raised his right hand again. It was a Herculean effort. The tape holding the IV needles in place pulled against the hairs on his arm. It seemed to take forever for his hand to reach his head and when it did, he knew the first stirrings of panic.

    My whole damn head is covered with bandages! He raised his head off the pillow as far as he could, which was only an inch or two, and glanced down at his body.

    The scream that echoed through the hall seconds later came straight out of the bowels of Hell and set the nurse and doctor flying down the corridor and into the room.

    "I'll hold him down while you give him a shot," the doctor barked. "He'll tear up everything we've done so far if he keeps thrashing that way."

    The patient felt the sting of a needle in his right thigh and cried out in indignation and frustration over his inability to speak, to move, to fight.

    Then darkness closed in around him again. Soothing hands lowered him back to the pillow. By the time he reached it, velvet oblivion had claimed him again.

    He drifted in and out for days . . . weeks? He had no point of reference with which to measure time. He began to know when IV bottles were changed, when his blood pressure was being taken, when the tubes and catheters entering or exiting his body were monitored. Once he recognized the nurse. Once he recognized the doctor's voice. But they moved around him like ghosts, solicitous specters in a soft misty dream.

    Gradually he began to stay awake for longer periods of time. He came to know the room, to know the machines that blipped and beeped out his vital signs. He was increasingly aware of his physical condition. And he knew it was serious.

    He was awake when the doctor came through the door, studying a chart in a metal file. "Well, hello," the doctor said when he saw his patient staring up at him. He went through a routine checkup, then leaned against the side of the bed. "Are you aware that you're in a hospital and pretty banged up?"

    "Was . . . I . . . in an accident?"

    "No, Sergeant Rule. The American embassy in Cairo was bombed over a month ago. You were one of the few who survived the blast. After you were dug out of the rubble you were flown here. When you're well enough, you'll be shipped home."

    "What's . . . wrong with me?"

    A flicker of a smile touched the doctor's mouth. "it would be easier to say what's right." He rubbed his chin. "Want it straight?"

    An almost imperceptible nod encouraged him to proceed in a blunt, no-nonsense manner. "The left side of your body was crushed by a falling concrete wall. Nearly every damn bone you've got on that side was broken, if not mangled. We've set what we could. The rest," he paused to draw in a deep breath, "well that will take some doing by the specialists back home. You're in for a long haul, my friend. I would say eight months at least, though twice that long would be a more accurate guess. Several operations. Months of physical therapy."

    The misery reflected on the bandaged face was almost too poignant to witness, even for the doctor who had earned his stripes on the battlefields of Vietnam.

    "Will I . . . be . . . ?"

    "Your prognosis at this point is anybody's guess. A lot of it will be up to you. Sheer gut determination. How badly do you want to walk again?"

    "I want to run," the Marine said grimly.

    The doctor came close to laughing. "Good. But for right now, your job is to get stronger so we can begin patching you up."

    The doctor patted him lightly on the right shoulder and turned to go. "Doc?" The medical man turned at the hoarse sound. "My eye?"

    The doctor looked down at his patient sympathetically. "I'm sorry, Sergeant Rule. We couldn't save it."

    The doctor's stride was brisk and businesslike as he strode from the room, and belled the tight lump in his throat. The most eloquent sign of despair he'd ever seen was that single tear trickling down a gaunt, darkly bewhiskered cheek.

    Copyright © 2004 Sandra Brown

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    Customer Reviews

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    Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
    • Anonymous

      Posted November 22, 2005

      FIRST TIME SANDRA BROWN READER

      This is the first book I've been able to read in a long time and I truely enjoyed it. The story was interesting and the characters seemed real. I will look forward to reading more Sandra Brown books.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 24, 2004

      oldly goldy

      This is an old chestnut I read years ago.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 25, 2004

      Too many reruns!

      Some of the titles have changed and some of the characters have new names but the stories are the same from about 7/8 years ago. This book is no different than the last three - rereleases....

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    • Anonymous

      Posted August 5, 2001

      Sweet and Touching!

      Along with being passionate, this book had a great story line too. It was similar to the movie Bounce, which I loved. This book is an excellent way to spend the weekend.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted August 20, 2001

      A Beautiful Story!

      Sandra Brown writes a warm-touching story. Her characters are very likable and the plot is great too. You won't be disappointed.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted September 3, 2009

      No text was provided for this review.

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