All the Queen's Men (John Medina Series #2)

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A sensational new novel by the author of Now You See Her. After losing her husband on a hazardous mission under the command of John Medina, communications expert Niema Burdock had planned never to see John again. But now he needs her help in cracking an international terrorist ring—and their undercover partnership sparks unquenchable desire.

No one can get close to John Mendina, the CIA's legendary Black Ops specialist who works in the shadows of the government's deadliest ...

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All the Queen's Men (John Medina Series #2)

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Overview

A sensational new novel by the author of Now You See Her. After losing her husband on a hazardous mission under the command of John Medina, communications expert Niema Burdock had planned never to see John again. But now he needs her help in cracking an international terrorist ring—and their undercover partnership sparks unquenchable desire.

No one can get close to John Mendina, the CIA's legendary Black Ops specialist who works in the shadows of the government's deadliest missions. He is a virtual invisible man, with no friends, many enemies, and a cloud of suspicious surrounding the death of his wife. And no one knows the dangers better than Niema Burdock. A sharp, steely nerved communications expert. Niema and her husband, Dallas, worked side by side with Medina on an explosive mission that went wrong.

She could hear it all play out, horribly, on the radio: Dallas set off the detonators at John Medina's command-and found himself trapped in the crossfire. In a shattering blast, Niema's hope and her love were destroyed…

Now Niema has withdrawn to a quite position, and a safe-if predictable-existence that has helped her heal her scars from five years ago. And she never planned to see Medina again.

But now John Medina needs her…

A French arms dealer is supplying terrorist units, and John Medina must infiltrate his compound and crack the deadly ring. But only Niema can plant the undetectable bugs needs to nail the wary and well-connected dealer-a feat that begins by going undercover and winning his trust. Working her way into glamorous world of embassy galas and exclusive parties, Niema steps carefully across a minefield of intimate secrets, luring the Frenchman while inviting disaster with every subtle and seductive play. But when their careful strategy begins to crack, Niema and John take flight in a strange land-and find their partnership sparking with an erotically charged, unquenchable electricity. In a world of deception, one thing is clear: John Mendina has once again set Niema on a freefall into danger and desire-and one can't exist without the other.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
August 1999


Cold War, Hot Passion

Linda Howard has built a reputation for penning sizzling love stories that offer up nonstop thrills, both of the romantic and the suspenseful kind. In her last book, Now You See Her, Howard combined a creepy paranormal situation with cold-blooded murder and hot-blooded passion, creating a riveting read that thrills on several levels at once. Now she follows that up with All the Queen's Men, resurrecting an elusive hero from one of her previous books, Kill and Tell, and crafting a spy thriller of high suspense, gut-wrenching emotion, and sweet passion.

John Medina is considered by many to be a legend among the intelligence crowd, though he is all too real. Due to his past efforts, John takes great pains to keep his existence and identity hidden. Only a handful of people even know his real name, and he has no permanent address, preferring to keep on the move to make himself less vulnerable. After years of working as a CIA operative, he has countless disguises and an equal number of enemies, and taking precautions comes naturally to him. But when he watches the shock of grief tear through Niema Burdock as she learns of her beloved husband's death, John feels the first tinges of vulnerability, the first hint of a love he can't afford to feel and is sure will never be requited.

Niema Burdock was one of four children born to an ordinary couple living an ordinary life in an ordinary town in Iowa. However, Niema herself is anything but ordinary. Even as a child, she was unsatisfied with the conventional lifestyle the rest of her family preferred, seeking out adventure and risk. Niema is an adrenaline junkie, someone who enjoys risk and danger, the uncertainty of never knowing what might happen next. For this reason, intelligence fieldwork with the CIA suits her well and even brings her the one thing in life that has made her truly happy: her husband, Dallas. But the work also rips Dallas away from her after only five months of marriage, involving him in a field operation that goes horribly, tragically wrong.

Medina keeps his love and lust well hidden as he observes Niema's grief, knowing it would be inappropriate to approach her and fearing that she blames him for Dallas's death. Though Medina is fairly certain his love for Niema can never be fulfilled, that belief is sorely tested five years later when he and Niema end up working together on another operation. Though Medina tells himself he is asking for Niema's help solely because her expertise is essential to a delicate part of the operation, there is a part of him that thrills at being near her again. Given a second chance, Medina now must focus on keeping both himself and Niema alive long enough for their hearts to connect.

Howard does an excellent job of tugging on the heartstrings while keeping the adrenaline flowing. The dangers, both romantic and physical, are always close at hand, and her characters are carefully and intricately drawn, making their lives and dilemmas leap off the page. Howard gets better with each book she produces. Besting All the Queen's Men will be quite an accomplishment.

--Beth Amos

Beth Amos is the author of several mainstream suspense thrillers, including Second Sight, Eyes of Night, and Cold White Fury. A longtime romance reader, Amos manages to bring a strong romantic sensibility to the absorbing thrillers she pens.


Romantic Times
[A] sexy thriller...Another explosive hit...When it comes to mixing that perfect blend of romance and danger, Ms. Howard is unbeatable!
Rendezvous
Ms. Howard has made the character [of John Medina] irresistible...A fascinating novel of suspense and sensual tension.
Old Book Barn Gazette
Heart-pounding sensuality and gripping tension made it impossible to put this page-turner down until the very end....John Medina is quite a hero.
Library Journal
John Medina gave the order that killed Dallas Burdock, but Burdock's widow, Niema, assumed the guilt. She never expected to see the Black Ops commander again; she had no idea how much she had touched the hardened man. Five years later, Medina goes in pursuit; he single-mindedly coerces Niema into another undercover mission, sensing how much she missed the excitement. But nothing is simple between them, and the past merely widens the chasm. As with many Howard books, it is the man who chases, the man who wants the commitment. Heightened sexual tension keeps the listener on edge, though the action ebbs and flows. Initially uneven, with too much attention to diction, Kate Forbes's narration smoothes out as she adjusts to the pace. Her deep voice lends itself to the male characters and the narrative itself, the husky undertones adding a sense of urgency or languidness, depending on the need. Public libraries should purchase. Jodi L. Israel, MLS, Jamaica Plain, MA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
Booklist A high-suspense romance...Howard's trademark darkly sensual style and intense, layered plot will delight her fans.

Rendezvous Ms. Howard has made the character [of John Medina] irresistible...A fascinating novel of suspense and sensual tension.

Old Book Barn Gazette Heart-pounding sensuality and gripping tension made it impossible to put this page-turner down until the very end....John Medina is quite a hero.

Romantic Times [A] sexy thriller...Another explosive hit...When it comes to mixing that perfect blend of romance and danger, Ms. Howard is unbeatable!

Amazon.com First introduced in Kill and Tell, agent John Medina is as intriguing as the perilous world he operates in. Watching him in action, à la James Bond, is exhilarating — as is the single-minded intensity of his feelings for Niema...Throw in a couple of chilling chase scenes, some romantic interludes hot enough to peel paint from the walls, and one or two bigger-than-life, internationally connected characters, and you've got a romantic thriller that's sure to be a...bestseller.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671045616
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Publication date: 8/28/1999
  • Series: John Medina Series , #2
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Abridged, 4 cassettes, 4 hrs. 30 min.
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 7.11 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author

Linda Howard is the award-winning author of many New York Times bestsellers, including Up Close and Dangerous, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Cover of Night, Killing Time, To Die For, Kiss Me While I Sleep, Cry No More, and Dying to Please. She lives in Alabama with her husband and two golden retrievers.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
1994, Iran
It was cold in the rough little hut. Despite the blankets hung over the one window and the ill-fitting door, to block the escape of any telltale light, frigid air still seeped through. Niema Burdock blew on her fingers to warm them, her breath fogging slightly in the one dim battery-operated light that was all Tucker, the team leader, allowed.
Her husband, Dallas, seemed perfectly comfortable in his T-shirt as he calmly packed the Semtex blocks into secure sections of his web gear. Niema watched him, trying to hide her anxiety. It wasn't the explosive she worried about; plastique was so stable soldiers in Vietnam had burned it as fuel. But Dallas and Sayyed had to plant the explosives in the manufacturing facility, and that was the most dangerous part of a job that was already hair-raising enough. Though her husband was as matter-of-fact about it as he would be about crossing the street, Niema wasn't that blasé about the job. The radio detonator wasn't state-of-the art; far from it. This was deliberate, a precaution in case any of their equipment fell into the wrong hands. Nothing they were using could be traced to the United States, which was why Dallas was using Semtex instead of C-4. But because their equipment wasn't the best available, Niema had gone to great pains to make sure it was reliable. It was her husband's finger, after all, that would be on the switch.
Dallas caught her gaze on him and winked at her, his strong face relaxing from its normal impassiveness into a warm smile that he reserved only for her. "Hey," he said mildly, "I'm good at this. Don't worry."
So much for trying to hide her anxiety. The other three men turned to look at her. Not wanting them to think she couldn't handle the stress of the job, she shrugged. "So sue me. I'm new at this wife business. I thought I was supposed to worry."
Sayyed laughed as he packed his own gear. "Heck of a way to spend your honeymoon." He was a native Iranian who was now an American citizen, a tough, wiry man in his late forties. He spoke English with a Midwestern accent, the result of both hard work and almost thirty years in the United States. "Personally, I'd have picked Hawaii for my wedding trip. At least it would be warm there."
"Or Australia," Hadi said wistfully. "It's summer there now." Hadi Santana was of Arabic and Mexican heritage, but an American by birth. He had grown up in the heat of southern Arizona and didn't like the cold Iranian mountains in mid-winter any better than did Niema. He would stand guard while Dallas and Sayyed planted the charges and was occupying himself by checking and rechecking his rifle and ammunition.
"We spent two weeks in Aruba after we got married," Dallas said. "Great place." He winked at Niema again, and she had to smile. Unless Dallas had been to Aruba another time, he hadn't seen much of it during their honeymoon, three months before. They had spent the entire two weeks lost in each other's company, making love, sleeping late. Bliss.
Tucker didn't join in the conversation, but his cool, dark eyes lingered on Niema as if assessing her; wondering if he had made a mistake including her on the team. She wasn't as experienced as the others, but neither was she a novice. Not only that, she could put a bug on a telephone line with her eyes closed. If Tucker had any doubts about her ability, she wished he would just come out and say so.
But if Tucker had doubts about her, then turnabout was fair play, she thought wryly, because she sure as hell wasn't certain about him. Not that he'd said or done anything wrong; the uneasiness that kept her on edge around him was instinctive, without any concrete reason. She wished he was one of the three men going into the plant, rather than remaining behind with her. The thought of spending the hours alone with him wasn't nearly as nerve-racking as knowing Dallas would be in danger, but she didn't need the added tension when her nerves already felt stretched and raw.
Tucker originally had planned to go in, but Dallas was the one who had argued against it. "Look, boss," he had said in that calm way of his. "It isn't that you can't do the job, because you're as good as I am, but it isn't necessary that you take the risk. If you had to, that would be different, but you don't." An indecipherable look had flashed between the two men, and Tucker had given a brief nod.
Dallas and Tucker had known each other before Tucker put this team together, had worked together before. The only thing that reassured Niema about the team leader was that her husband trusted and respected him, and Dallas Burdock was no one's pushover — to the contrary, in fact. Dallas was one of the toughest, most dangerous men she had ever met. She had thought he was the most dangerous, until she met Tucker.
That in itself was scary, because Dallas was something else. Until five months ago, she hadn't really believed men like him existed. Now, she knew differently. Her throat tightened as she watched her husband, his dark head bent as he once again focused all his attention on his supplies and equipment. Just like that, he could tune out everything but the job; his power of concentration was awesome. She had seen that level of concentration in only one other man: Tucker.
She felt a sudden little ping of disbelief, almost a suspension of reality, that she was actually married, especially to a man like Dallas. She had known him for just five months, loved him for almost as long, and in so many ways he was still a stranger to her. They were slowly learning each other, settling down into the routine of marriage — well, as routine as it could get, given their jobs as contract agents for various concerns, principally the CIA.
Dallas was calm and steady and capable. Once she would have described those characteristics as desirable, if you were the domestic suburban type, but basically unexciting. Not now. There was nothing staid about Dallas. Need a cat out of a tree? Dallas could climb that tree as if he were a cat. Need the plumbing fixed? Dallas could fix it. Need to be dragged out of the surf? He was a superior swimmer. Need someone to make a difficult shot? He was an expert marksman. Need to blow up a building in Iran? Dallas was your man.
So it took some doing to be tougher and more dangerous than Dallas, but Tucker...somehow was. She didn't know why she was so certain. It wasn't Tucker's physical appearance; he was tall and lean, but not as muscular as Dallas. He wasn't edgy; if anything, he was even more low-key than Dallas. But there was something in his eyes, in his characteristic stillness, that told her Tucker was lethal.
She kept her doubts about the team leader to herself. She wanted to trust Dallas's opinion of Tucker because she trusted her husband so much. Besides, she was the one who had really wanted to take this job, while Dallas had been leaning toward a diving trip to Australia. Maybe she was just letting the tension of the situation get to her. They were, after all, on a job that would get them all killed if they were discovered, but success was even more important than escaping detection.
The small facility buried deep in these cold mountains was manufacturing a biological agent scheduled to be shipped to a terrorist base in Sudan. An air strike would be the fastest, most efficient way to destroy it, but that would also trigger an international crisis and destroy the delicate balance of the Middle East along with the factory. A full-scale war wasn't what anyone wanted.
With an air strike ruled out, the plant had to be destroyed from the ground, and that meant the explosives had to be hand-placed, as well as powerful. Dallas wasn't relying just on Semtex to do the job; there were fuels and accelerants in the factory that he planned to use to make certain the plant didn't just go boom, but that it burned to the ground.
They had been in Iran five days, traveling openly, boldly. She had worn the traditional Muslim robes, with only her eyes revealed, and sometimes they had been veiled, too. She didn't speak Farsi — she had studied French, Spanish, and Russian, but not Farsi — but that didn't matter because, as a woman, she wasn't expected to speak. Sayyed was a native, but from what she could tell, Tucker was as fluent as Sayyed, Dallas nearly so, and Hadi less than Dallas. She was sometimes amused by the fact that all five of them were dark-eyed and dark-haired, and she wondered if her coloring hadn't played nearly as large a part in her having been chosen to be a team member as had her skill with electronics.
"Ready." Dallas hooked the radio transmitter to his web gear and shouldered the knapsack of plastique. He and Sayyed had identical gear. Niema had practically assembled the transmitters from spare parts, because the transmitters they had acquired had all been damaged in some way. She had cannibalized them and built two she had tested and retested, until she was certain they wouldn't fail. She had also tapped into the factory's phone lines, a dead-easy job because their equipment was of early-seventies vintage. They hadn't gotten much information from that, but enough to know their intel was accurate, and the small facility had developed a supply of anthrax for terrorists in Sudan. Anthrax wasn't exotic, but it was sure as hell effective.
Sayyed had slipped into the facility the night before and reconnoitered, returning to draw a rough floor plan showing where the testing and incubation was done, as well as the storage facility, where he and Dallas would concentrate most of their explosives. As soon as the factory blew, Tucker and Niema would destroy their equipment — not that much of it was worth anything — and be ready to move as soon as the three men returned. They would split up and each make their own way out of the country, rendezvousing in Paris to debrief. Niema, of course, would be traveling with Dallas.
Tucker extinguished the light, and the three men slipped silently out the door and into the darkness. Niema immediately wished she had at least hugged Dallas, or kissed him good luck, no matter what the other three thought. She felt colder without his bracing presence.
After making certain the blankets were in place, Tucker switched on the light again, then began swiftly packing the things they would take with them. There wasn't much; a few provisions, a change of clothes, some money: nothing that would arouse suspicion if they were stopped. Niema moved to help him, and in silence they divided the provisions into five equal packs.
Then there was nothing to do but wait. She moved over to the radio and checked the settings, though she had checked them before; there was nothing coming over the single speaker because the men weren't talking. She sat down in front of the radio and hugged herself against the cold.
Nothing about this job had been a picnic, but the waiting was the worst. It always had been, but now that Dallas was in danger, the anxiety was magnified tenfold. It gnawed at her, that internal demon. She checked her cheap wristwatch; only fifteen minutes had lapsed. They hadn't had time to reach the facility yet.
A thin blanket settled over her shoulders. Startled, she looked up at Tucker, who stood beside her. "You were shivering," he said in explanation of his unusual act and moved away again.
"Thanks." She pulled the blanket around her, uncomfortable with the gesture, considerate though it was. She wished she could ignore her uneasiness about Tucker, or at least figure out why she was so wary of him. She had tried to hide her wariness and concentrate only on the job, but Tucker was no one's fool; he knew she was uncomfortable with him. Sometimes she felt as if they were in a silent battle no one else knew about, those rare times when their gazes would accidentally meet and distrust would be plain in hers, a slightly mocking awareness in his.
He never put a foot wrong, though, never did anything that would bring their discord into the open. His relationship with all three of the other men was both easy and professional. With her, he was unfailingly polite and impersonal, and even that was a measure of his professionalism. Tucker respected Dallas and certainly wasn't going to disrupt the team or endanger the job by openly antagonizing his wife. That should have reassured Niema on a couple of levels — but it didn't.
Until he put the blanket around her shoulders, there hadn't been a word spoken between them since the others left. She wished it had remained that way; keeping Tucker at a distance, she thought, was the safest place for him.
He sat down, as relaxed and graceful as a cat. He seemed impervious to the cold, comfortable in a black T-shirt and fatigue pants. Dallas had the same sort of internal furnace, because he seldom felt the cold either. What was it about men like them that made them burn so much hotter than the rest of the human race? Maybe it was their physical conditioning, but she herself was in very good shape and she had been cold the entire time they had been in Iran. She didn't wish they were cold, too, just that the damn anthrax facility had been built in the warm desert, instead of these chilly mountains.
"You're afraid of me."
The comment, coming out of the blue, startled her more than it had when he put the blanket around her, but not enough that she lost her composure. His voice had been calm, as if he were discussing the weather. She gave him a cool look. "Wary," she corrected. If he thought she would hasten to deny her uneasiness, the way most people would do when cornered, he was mistaken. As Dallas had learned, to his amusement more often than not, there wasn't much that could make Niema back down.
Tucker leaned his dark head back against the cold stone wall and drew one leg up, draping his arm loosely over his knee. Unreadable brown eyes studied her. "Wary, then," he conceded. "Why?"
She shrugged. "Feminine intuition?"
He began to laugh. Laughter wasn't something she had associated with Tucker, but he did it easily, his dark head tilted back against the wall. The sound was genuinely amused, as if he couldn't help himself.
Niema watched him, one eyebrow tilted as she waited for him to stop. She didn't feel the least impulse to join in his laughter, or even to smile. Nothing about this situation was funny. They were deep in Iran on a job that could get them all killed, and oh, by the way, she didn't trust the team leader one inch, ha ha ha. Yeah, right.
"Jesus," he groaned, wiping his eyes. "All this because of feminine intuition?" A shade of incredulousness colored his tone.
Niema gave him a stony look. "You make it sound as if I've been attacking you left and right."
"Not overtly, at least." He paused, a smile still curving his mouth. "Dallas and I have worked together before, you know. What does he say about your suspicions?"
He was utterly relaxed as he waited for her answer, as if he already knew what Dallas would have said — if she had mentioned her feelings to him, that is. She hadn't uttered a word of misgiving to him, though. For one thing, she had nothing concrete to offer, and she wasn't about to stir up trouble without proof other than her feminine intuition. She didn't discount her uneasiness, but Dallas was a man who dealt in hard realities, who had learned to disconnect his emotions so he could function in the dangerous field he had chosen. Moreover, he obviously liked, trusted, and respected Tucker.
"I haven't talked to him about it."
"No? Why not?"
She shrugged. Other than not having proof, her main reason for not talking to Dallas about Tucker was that her husband hadn't been wild about her coming on this job anyway, and she didn't want to give him an opportunity to say I told you so. She was good at what she did, but she didn't have the field experience the others had, so she was reluctant to cause trouble. And, she admitted, even had she known she wouldn't be comfortable with Tucker, she would have come anyway. Something primitive in her thrilled to the tension, the danger, the utter importance of what she did. She had never wanted a nine-to-five; she wanted adventure, she wanted to work on the front line. She wasn't going to do anything to jeopardize a job she had worked hard to attain.
"Why not?" Tucker said again, and a hint of steel underlay the easiness of his tone. He wanted an answer, and she suspected he usually got what he wanted.
Oddly, though, she wasn't intimidated. Part of her even relished this little showdown, getting their animosity out into the open and going one-on-one with Tucker.
"What difference does it make?" She returned his cool look with one of her own. "Regardless of my suspicions about you, I'm doing my job and keeping my mouth shut. My reasons aren't any of your business. But I'd bet the farm your real name isn't Darrell Tucker."
He grinned suddenly, surprising her. "Dallas said you were stubborn. Not much of a reverse gear, was the way he put it," he said, settling his shoulders more comfortably against the wall.
Because Niema had heard Dallas mutter something very close to that, after one of the few times they had gone head to head about something, she found herself smiling, too.
In that more relaxed atmosphere he said, "What makes you think my name isn't Tucker?"
"I don't know. Darrell Tucker is a good-old-boy Texas name, and every so often I hear a little bit of Texas in your accent, so the accent and the name fit — but you don't, somehow."
"I've traveled a bit since I left home," he drawled.
She clapped her hands twice in mocking applause. "That was very well done. A homey piece of phrasing, the accent a little heavier."
"But you don't buy it."
"I bet you're very good with a lot of accents."
Amused, he said, "Okay, you aren't going to believe me. That's fine. I don't have any way of proving who I am. But believe me in this: My priorities are getting that building blown and all of us safely home."
"How can you get us home? We're splitting up, remember?"
"By doing all my preliminary work right, by anticipating as many problems as I can and taking steps to counteract them."
"You can't anticipate everything, though."
"I try. That's why my hair is going gray; I sit up nights worrying."
His hair was as dark as her own, without a silver thread showing. His sense of humor was wry, tending toward the ironic; she wished he hadn't shown it to her, wished he had maintained the silence between them. Why hadn't he? Why now, of all times, had he suddenly breached the armed truce?
"We're in."
She whirled to the radio set as the whispered words came plainly through the speaker. Incredulously she checked the time; thirty minutes had passed since she had last looked. She had been so focused on her confrontation with Tucker that she had forgotten to fret.
Like a flash, she knew: That was why he had done it. He had distracted her, using the one subject he knew she wouldn't be able to ignore.
Tucker was already at the radio, slipping on a Motorola headset. "Any problems?"
"Negative."
That was all, just three whispered words, but they were in her husband's voice and Niema knew that for now, at least, he was all right. She leaned back and focused on her breathing, in, out, keeping the rhythm regular.
There was nothing Tucker could do now to distract her, short of physical violence, so he left her alone. She checked the radio settings, though she knew they were right. She wished she had checked the radio detonator one more time, just to be certain. No — she knew it was working perfectly. And Dallas knew what he was doing.
"Has Dallas ever told you about his training?"
She flicked an impatient glance at Tucker. "I don't need distracting. Thanks for doing it before, but not now, please."
A faint quirk of his brows betrayed his surprise. "So you figured it out," he said easily, and she immediately wondered if distracting her had indeed been his intention. Tucker was so damn elusive that even when you thought you had him read, it was possible you were reading only what he intended you to read. "But this is more in the way of reassurance. Do you know about his training?"
"That he took BUD/S? Yes." BUD/S was Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training: extensive, and so grueling only a tiny percentage of men who tried actually completed the course.
"But has he told you what that training entailed?"
"No, not in detail."
"Then take my word for it, Dallas can do things no ordinary man would ever dream of doing."
"I know. And — thanks. But he's still human, and plans can go wrong — "
"He knows that. They all do. They're prepared."
"Why didn't he want you to go in?"
There was an infinitesimal pause, so brief she wasn't certain she had heard it. "Despite what he said, Dallas doesn't think I'm as good as he is," Tucker said with wry humor.
She didn't believe him. For one thing, Dallas respected him too much. For another, that tiny pause before he spoke told her he had been weighing his response, and his answer wasn't one that had required any weighing.
Whoever he was, whatever he was hiding, Niema accepted that she wasn't going to get any straight answers from him. He was probably one of those paranoid spooks everyone read about, who saw spies and enemies everywhere, and, if you asked him if it was supposed to rain the next day, would wonder what you were planning that required bad weather.
Sayyed's voice whispered over the radio. "Trouble. Activity in the warehouse. Looks like they're getting ready to make a shipment."
Tucker swore, his attention immediately focused on the situation. It was imperative the warehoused store of bacteria be completely destroyed before a shipment was made. The warehouse was usually deserted at night, with guards posted outside, but now there was activity that prevented Sayyed from planting his charges.
"How many?" Tucker asked.
"I make it...eight...no, nine. I took cover behind some barrels, but I can't move around any."
They couldn't let that shipment leave the warehouse.
"Dallas." Tucker spoke the name quietly into his headset.
"I'm on the way, Boss. My charges are set."
Niema's nails dug into her palms. Dallas was going to Sayyed's aid, but they would still be badly outnumbered, and by moving, Dallas was risking exposure. She reached for the second headset; she didn't know what she was going to say to her husband, but she didn't have the chance. Tucker's hand shot out; he jerked the plug out of the radio set and tossed the headset aside, his dark gaze cool and hard as he met her stunned look.
She found herself on her feet, her shoulders braced, hands knotted into fists. "He's my husband," she said fiercely.
Tucker put his hand over the tiny microphone. "And he doesn't need the distraction of hearing you now." He added deliberately, "If you try anything, I'll tie and gag you."
She wasn't without some training herself, and Dallas, once he realized he couldn't convince her to play it safe and sit home like a good little wife, had been teaching her how to fight in ways her self-defense class had never covered. Still, her level of expertise in no way matched his, or Tucker's. The only way she could take him, she thought, was to catch him totally by surprise, from behind.
But he was right. Damn it, he was right. She didn't dare say anything that could break Dallas's concentration.
She held up her hands in a brief gesture of surrender and moved three steps away. The hut was so small she couldn't go much farther anyway. She sat down on a pack of provisions and tried to beat down the suffocating waves of anxiety.
The minutes crawled by. She knew Dallas was creeping toward the warehouse section, using every bit of cover available to him, trying not to take chances. She also knew that every passing second put the terrorists that much closer to leaving with the shipment of bacteria. Dallas would be balancing caution with expediency.
Tucker spoke into the headset. "Sayyed. Report."
"I can't budge an inch. The truck is almost loaded."
"Two minutes," Dallas said.
Two minutes. Niema closed her eyes. Cold sweat trickled down her back. Please, she found herself praying. Please. She couldn't form any words other than that.
Two minutes could be a lifetime. Time itself could be strangely elastic, stretching until every second was ponderous, until the second hand on her watch seemed almost motionless.
"I'm in position."
The words almost broke her control. She bit her lip until the taste of blood filled her mouth.
"How does it look?"
"Sayyed's got his ass in a crack, all right. Hey, buddy, how many charges did you get set?"
"One."
"Shit."
One wasn't enough. Niema had listened to them, knew how many charges Dallas estimated it would take to completely destroy the facility.
"Hadi?"
"In position. Can't help you much."
"Start pulling back." Dallas's voice was even. "Sayyed, arm all the charges."
There was another silence, then Sayyed's, "Done."
"Get ready. Throw the pack under the truck, then run like hell. I'll lay down covering fire. I'm gonna give us five seconds to get outta here before I hit the button."
"Damn. Maybe you should make it six," Sayyed said.
"Ready." Dallas was still utterly calm. "Go!"

Copyright © 1999 by Linda Howington

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First Chapter

Chapter One 1994, Iran

It was cold in the rough little hut. Despite the blankets hung over the one window and the ill-fitting door, to block the escape of any telltale light, frigid air still seeped through. Niema Burdock blew on her fingers to warm them, her breath fogging slightly in the one dim battery-operated light that was all Tucker, the team leader, allowed.

Her husband, Dallas, seemed perfectly comfortable in his T-shirt as he calmly packed the Semtex blocks into secure sections of his web gear. Niema watched him, trying to hide her anxiety. It wasn't the explosive she worried about; plastique was so stable soldiers in Vietnam had burned it as fuel. But Dallas and Sayyed had to plant the explosives in the manufacturing facility, and that was the most dangerous part of a job that was already hair-raising enough. Though her husband was as matter-of-fact about it as he would be about crossing the street, Niema wasn't that blasé about the job. The radio detonator wasn't state-of-the art; far from it. This was deliberate, a precaution in case any of their equipment fell into the wrong hands. Nothing they were using could be traced to the United States, which was why Dallas was using Semtex instead of C-4. But because their equipment wasn't the best available, Niema had gone to great pains to make sure it was reliable. It was her husband's finger, after all, that would be on the switch.

Dallas caught her gaze on him and winked at her, his strong face relaxing from its normal impassiveness into a warm smile that he reserved only for her. "Hey," he said mildly, "I'm good at this. Don't worry."

So much for trying to hideher anxiety. The other three men turned to look at her. Not wanting them to think she couldn't handle the stress of the job, she shrugged. "So sue me. I'm new at this wife business. I thought I was supposed to worry."

Sayyed laughed as he packed his own gear. "Heck of a way to spend your honeymoon." He was a native Iranian who was now an American citizen, a tough, wiry man in his late forties. He spoke English with a Midwestern accent, the result of both hard work and almost thirty years in the United States. "Personally, I'd have picked Hawaii for my wedding trip. At least it would be warm there."

"Or Australia," Hadi said wistfully. "It's summer there now." Hadi Santana was of Arabic and Mexican heritage, but an American by birth. He had grown up in the heat of southern Arizona and didn't like the cold Iranian mountains in mid-winter any better than did Niema. He would stand guard while Dallas and Sayyed planted the charges and was occupying himself by checking and rechecking his rifle and ammunition.

"We spent two weeks in Aruba after we got married," Dallas said. "Great place." He winked at Niema again, and she had to smile. Unless Dallas had been to Aruba another time, he hadn't seen much of it during their honeymoon, three months before. They had spent the entire two weeks lost in each other's company, making love, sleeping late. Bliss.

Tucker didn't join in the conversation, but his cool, dark eyes lingered on Niema as if assessing her; wondering if he had made a mistake including her on the team. She wasn't as experienced as the others, but neither was she a novice. Not only that, she could put a bug on a telephone line with her eyes closed. If Tucker had any doubts about her ability, she wished he would just come out and say so.

But if Tucker had doubts about her, then turnabout was fair play, she thought wryly, because she sure as hell wasn't certain about him. Not that he'd said or done anything wrong; the uneasiness that kept her on edge around him was instinctive, without any concrete reason. She wished he was one of the three men going into the plant, rather than remaining behind with her. The thought of spending the hours alone with him wasn't nearly as nerve-racking as knowing Dallas would be in danger, but she didn't need the added tension when her nerves already felt stretched and raw.

Tucker originally had planned to go in, but Dallas was the one who had argued against it. "Look, boss," he had said in that calm way of his. "It isn't that you can't do the job, because you're as good as I am, but it isn't necessary that you take the risk. If you had to, that would be different, but you don't." An indecipherable look had flashed between the two men, and Tucker had given a brief nod.

Dallas and Tucker had known each other before Tucker put this team together, had worked together before. The only thing that reassured Niema about the team leader was that her husband trusted and respected him, and Dallas Burdock was no one's pushover -- to the contrary, in fact. Dallas was one of the toughest, most dangerous men she had ever met. She had thought he was the most dangerous, until she met Tucker.

That in itself was scary, because Dallas was something else. Until five months ago, she hadn't really believed men like him existed. Now, she knew differently. Her throat tightened as she watched her husband, his dark head bent as he once again focused all his attention on his supplies and equipment. Just like that, he could tune out everything but the job; his power of concentration was awesome. She had seen that level of concentration in only one other man: Tucker.

She felt a sudden little ping of disbelief, almost a suspension of reality, that she was actually married, especially to a man like Dallas. She had known him for just five months, loved him for almost as long, and in so many ways he was still a stranger to her. They were slowly learning each other, settling down into the routine of marriage -- well, as routine as it could get, given their jobs as contract agents for various concerns, principally the CIA.

Dallas was calm and steady and capable. Once she would have described those characteristics as desirable, if you were the domestic suburban type, but basically unexciting. Not now. There was nothing staid about Dallas. Need a cat out of a tree? Dallas could climb that tree as if he were a cat. Need the plumbing fixed? Dallas could fix it. Need to be dragged out of the surf? He was a superior swimmer. Need someone to make a difficult shot? He was an expert marksman. Need to blow up a building in Iran? Dallas was your man.

So it took some doing to be tougher and more dangerous than Dallas, but Tucker...somehow was. She didn't know why she was so certain. It wasn't Tucker's physical appearance; he was tall and lean, but not as muscular as Dallas. He wasn't edgy; if anything, he was even more low-key than Dallas. But there was something in his eyes, in his characteristic stillness, that told her Tucker was lethal.

She kept her doubts about the team leader to herself. She wanted to trust Dallas's opinion of Tucker because she trusted her husband so much. Besides, she was the one who had really wanted to take this job, while Dallas had been leaning toward a diving trip to Australia. Maybe she was just letting the tension of the situation get to her. They were, after all, on a job that would get them all killed if they were discovered, but success was even more important than escaping detection.

The small facility buried deep in these cold mountains was manufacturing a biological agent scheduled to be shipped to a terrorist base in Sudan. An air strike would be the fastest, most efficient way to destroy it, but that would also trigger an international crisis and destroy the delicate balance of the Middle East along with the factory. A full-scale war wasn't what anyone wanted.

With an air strike ruled out, the plant had to be destroyed from the ground, and that meant the explosives had to be hand-placed, as well as powerful. Dallas wasn't relying just on Semtex to do the job; there were fuels and accelerants in the factory that he planned to use to make certain the plant didn't just go boom, but that it burned to the ground.

They had been in Iran five days, traveling openly, boldly. She had worn the traditional Muslim robes, with only her eyes revealed, and sometimes they had been veiled, too. She didn't speak Farsi -- she had studied French, Spanish, and Russian, but not Farsi -- but that didn't matter because, as a woman, she wasn't expected to speak. Sayyed was a native, but from what she could tell, Tucker was as fluent as Sayyed, Dallas nearly so, and Hadi less than Dallas. She was sometimes amused by the fact that all five of them were dark-eyed and dark-haired, and she wondered if her coloring hadn't played nearly as large a part in her having been chosen to be a team member as had her skill with electronics.

"Ready." Dallas hooked the radio transmitter to his web gear and shouldered the knapsack of plastique. He and Sayyed had identical gear. Niema had practically assembled the transmitters from spare parts, because the transmitters they had acquired had all been damaged in some way. She had cannibalized them and built two she had tested and retested, until she was certain they wouldn't fail. She had also tapped into the factory's phone lines, a dead-easy job because their equipment was of early-seventies vintage. They hadn't gotten much information from that, but enough to know their intel was accurate, and the small facility had developed a supply of anthrax for terrorists in Sudan. Anthrax wasn't exotic, but it was sure as hell effective.

Sayyed had slipped into the facility the night before and reconnoitered, returning to draw a rough floor plan showing where the testing and incubation was done, as well as the storage facility, where he and Dallas would concentrate most of their explosives. As soon as the factory blew, Tucker and Niema would destroy their equipment -- not that much of it was worth anything -- and be ready to move as soon as the three men returned. They would split up and each make their own way out of the country, rendezvousing in Paris to debrief. Niema, of course, would be traveling with Dallas.

Tucker extinguished the light, and the three men slipped silently out the door and into the darkness. Niema immediately wished she had at least hugged Dallas, or kissed him good luck, no matter what the other three thought. She felt colder without his bracing presence.

After making certain the blankets were in place, Tucker switched on the light again, then began swiftly packing the things they would take with them. There wasn't much; a few provisions, a change of clothes, some money: nothing that would arouse suspicion if they were stopped. Niema moved to help him, and in silence they divided the provisions into five equal packs.

Then there was nothing to do but wait. She moved over to the radio and checked the settings, though she had checked them before; there was nothing coming over the single speaker because the men weren't talking. She sat down in front of the radio and hugged herself against the cold.

Nothing about this job had been a picnic, but the waiting was the worst. It always had been, but now that Dallas was in danger, the anxiety was magnified tenfold. It gnawed at her, that internal demon. She checked her cheap wristwatch; only fifteen minutes had lapsed. They hadn't had time to reach the facility yet.

A thin blanket settled over her shoulders. Startled, she looked up at Tucker, who stood beside her. "You were shivering," he said in explanation of his unusual act and moved away again.

"Thanks." She pulled the blanket around her, uncomfortable with the gesture, considerate though it was. She wished she could ignore her uneasiness about Tucker, or at least figure out why she was so wary of him. She had tried to hide her wariness and concentrate only on the job, but Tucker was no one's fool; he knew she was uncomfortable with him. Sometimes she felt as if they were in a silent battle no one else knew about, those rare times when their gazes would accidentally meet and distrust would be plain in hers, a slightly mocking awareness in his.

He never put a foot wrong, though, never did anything that would bring their discord into the open. His relationship with all three of the other men was both easy and professional. With her, he was unfailingly polite and impersonal, and even that was a measure of his professionalism. Tucker respected Dallas and certainly wasn't going to disrupt the team or endanger the job by openly antagonizing his wife. That should have reassured Niema on a couple of levels -- but it didn't.

Until he put the blanket around her shoulders, there hadn't been a word spoken between them since the others left. She wished it had remained that way; keeping Tucker at a distance, she thought, was the safest place for him.

He sat down, as relaxed and graceful as a cat. He seemed impervious to the cold, comfortable in a black T-shirt and fatigue pants. Dallas had the same sort of internal furnace, because he seldom felt the cold either. What was it about men like them that made them burn so much hotter than the rest of the human race? Maybe it was their physical conditioning, but she herself was in very good shape and she had been cold the entire time they had been in Iran. She didn't wish they were cold, too, just that the damn anthrax facility had been built in the warm desert, instead of these chilly mountains.

"You're afraid of me."

The comment, coming out of the blue, startled her more than it had when he put the blanket around her, but not enough that she lost her composure. His voice had been calm, as if he were discussing the weather. She gave him a cool look. "Wary," she corrected. If he thought she would hasten to deny her uneasiness, the way most people would do when cornered, he was mistaken. As Dallas had learned, to his amusement more often than not, there wasn't much that could make Niema back down.

Tucker leaned his dark head back against the cold stone wall and drew one leg up, draping his arm loosely over his knee. Unreadable brown eyes studied her. "Wary, then," he conceded. "Why?"

She shrugged. "Feminine intuition?"

He began to laugh. Laughter wasn't something she had associated with Tucker, but he did it easily, his dark head tilted back against the wall. The sound was genuinely amused, as if he couldn't help himself.

Niema watched him, one eyebrow tilted as she waited for him to stop. She didn't feel the least impulse to join in his laughter, or even to smile. Nothing about this situation was funny. They were deep in Iran on a job that could get them all killed, and oh, by the way, she didn't trust the team leader one inch, ha ha ha. Yeah, right.

"Jesus," he groaned, wiping his eyes. "All this because of feminine intuition?" A shade of incredulousness colored his tone.

Niema gave him a stony look. "You make it sound as if I've been attacking you left and right."

"Not overtly, at least." He paused, a smile still curving his mouth. "Dallas and I have worked together before, you know. What does he say about your suspicions?"

He was utterly relaxed as he waited for her answer, as if he already knew what Dallas would have said -- if she had mentioned her feelings to him, that is. She hadn't uttered a word of misgiving to him, though. For one thing, she had nothing concrete to offer, and she wasn't about to stir up trouble without proof other than her feminine intuition. She didn't discount her uneasiness, but Dallas was a man who dealt in hard realities, who had learned to disconnect his emotions so he could function in the dangerous field he had chosen. Moreover, he obviously liked, trusted, and respected Tucker.

"I haven't talked to him about it."

"No? Why not?"

She shrugged. Other than not having proof, her main reason for not talking to Dallas about Tucker was that her husband hadn't been wild about her coming on this job anyway, and she didn't want to give him an opportunity to say I told you so. She was good at what she did, but she didn't have the field experience the others had, so she was reluctant to cause trouble. And, she admitted, even had she known she wouldn't be comfortable with Tucker, she would have come anyway. Something primitive in her thrilled to the tension, the danger, the utter importance of what she did. She had never wanted a nine-to-five; she wanted adventure, she wanted to work on the front line. She wasn't going to do anything to jeopardize a job she had worked hard to attain.

"Why not?" Tucker said again, and a hint of steel underlay the easiness of his tone. He wanted an answer, and she suspected he usually got what he wanted.

Oddly, though, she wasn't intimidated. Part of her even relished this little showdown, getting their animosity out into the open and going one-on-one with Tucker.

"What difference does it make?" She returned his cool look with one of her own. "Regardless of my suspicions about you, I'm doing my job and keeping my mouth shut. My reasons aren't any of your business. But I'd bet the farm your real name isn't Darrell Tucker."

He grinned suddenly, surprising her. "Dallas said you were stubborn. Not much of a reverse gear, was the way he put it," he said, settling his shoulders more comfortably against the wall.

Because Niema had heard Dallas mutter something very close to that, after one of the few times they had gone head to head about something, she found herself smiling, too.

In that more relaxed atmosphere he said, "What makes you think my name isn't Tucker?"

"I don't know. Darrell Tucker is a good-old-boy Texas name, and every so often I hear a little bit of Texas in your accent, so the accent and the name fit -- but you don't, somehow."

"I've traveled a bit since I left home," he drawled.

She clapped her hands twice in mocking applause. "That was very well done. A homey piece of phrasing, the accent a little heavier."

"But you don't buy it."

"I bet you're very good with a lot of accents."

Amused, he said, "Okay, you aren't going to believe me. That's fine. I don't have any way of proving who I am. But believe me in this: My priorities are getting that building blown and all of us safely home."

"How can you get us home? We're splitting up, remember?"

"By doing all my preliminary work right, by anticipating as many problems as I can and taking steps to counteract them."

"You can't anticipate everything, though."

"I try. That's why my hair is going gray; I sit up nights worrying."

His hair was as dark as her own, without a silver thread showing. His sense of humor was wry, tending toward the ironic; she wished he hadn't shown it to her, wished he had maintained the silence between them. Why hadn't he? Why now, of all times, had he suddenly breached the armed truce?

"We're in."

She whirled to the radio set as the whispered words came plainly through the speaker. Incredulously she checked the time; thirty minutes had passed since she had last looked. She had been so focused on her confrontation with Tucker that she had forgotten to fret.

Like a flash, she knew: That was why he had done it. He had distracted her, using the one subject he knew she wouldn't be able to ignore.

Tucker was already at the radio, slipping on a Motorola headset. "Any problems?"

"Negative."

That was all, just three whispered words, but they were in her husband's voice and Niema knew that for now, at least, he was all right. She leaned back and focused on her breathing, in, out, keeping the rhythm regular.

There was nothing Tucker could do now to distract her, short of physical violence, so he left her alone. She checked the radio settings, though she knew they were right. She wished she had checked the radio detonator one more time, just to be certain. No -- she knew it was working perfectly. And Dallas knew what he was doing.

"Has Dallas ever told you about his training?"

She flicked an impatient glance at Tucker. "I don't need distracting. Thanks for doing it before, but not now, please."

A faint quirk of his brows betrayed his surprise. "So you figured it out," he said easily, and she immediately wondered if distracting her had indeed been his intention. Tucker was so damn elusive that even when you thought you had him read, it was possible you were reading only what he intended you to read. "But this is more in the way of reassurance. Do you know about his training?"

"That he took BUD/S? Yes." BUD/S was Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training: extensive, and so grueling only a tiny percentage of men who tried actually completed the course.

"But has he told you what that training entailed?"

"No, not in detail."

"Then take my word for it, Dallas can do things no ordinary man would ever dream of doing."

"I know. And -- thanks. But he's still human, and plans can go wrong -- "

"He knows that. They all do. They're prepared."

"Why didn't he want you to go in?"

There was an infinitesimal pause, so brief she wasn't certain she had heard it. "Despite what he said, Dallas doesn't think I'm as good as he is," Tucker said with wry humor.

She didn't believe him. For one thing, Dallas respected him too much. For another, that tiny pause before he spoke told her he had been weighing his response, and his answer wasn't one that had required any weighing.

Whoever he was, whatever he was hiding, Niema accepted that she wasn't going to get any straight answers from him. He was probably one of those paranoid spooks everyone read about, who saw spies and enemies everywhere, and, if you asked him if it was supposed to rain the next day, would wonder what you were planning that required bad weather.

Sayyed's voice whispered over the radio. "Trouble. Activity in the warehouse. Looks like they're getting ready to make a shipment."

Tucker swore, his attention immediately focused on the situation. It was imperative the warehoused store of bacteria be completely destroyed before a shipment was made. The warehouse was usually deserted at night, with guards posted outside, but now there was activity that prevented Sayyed from planting his charges.

"How many?" Tucker asked.

"I make it...eight...no, nine. I took cover behind some barrels, but I can't move around any."

They couldn't let that shipment leave the warehouse.

"Dallas." Tucker spoke the name quietly into his headset.

"I'm on the way, Boss. My charges are set."

Niema's nails dug into her palms. Dallas was going to Sayyed's aid, but they would still be badly outnumbered, and by moving, Dallas was risking exposure. She reached for the second headset; she didn't know what she was going to say to her husband, but she didn't have the chance. Tucker's hand shot out; he jerked the plug out of the radio set and tossed the headset aside, his dark gaze cool and hard as he met her stunned look.

She found herself on her feet, her shoulders braced, hands knotted into fists. "He's my husband," she said fiercely.

Tucker put his hand over the tiny microphone. "And he doesn't need the distraction of hearing you now." He added deliberately, "If you try anything, I'll tie and gag you."

She wasn't without some training herself, and Dallas, once he realized he couldn't convince her to play it safe and sit home like a good little wife, had been teaching her how to fight in ways her self-defense class had never covered. Still, her level of expertise in no way matched his, or Tucker's. The only way she could take him, she thought, was to catch him totally by surprise, from behind.

But he was right. Damn it, he was right. She didn't dare say anything that could break Dallas's concentration.

She held up her hands in a brief gesture of surrender and moved three steps away. The hut was so small she couldn't go much farther anyway. She sat down on a pack of provisions and tried to beat down the suffocating waves of anxiety.

The minutes crawled by. She knew Dallas was creeping toward the warehouse section, using every bit of cover available to him, trying not to take chances. She also knew that every passing second put the terrorists that much closer to leaving with the shipment of bacteria. Dallas would be balancing caution with expediency.

Tucker spoke into the headset. "Sayyed. Report."

"I can't budge an inch. The truck is almost loaded."

"Two minutes," Dallas said.

Two minutes. Niema closed her eyes. Cold sweat trickled down her back. Please, she found herself praying. Please. She couldn't form any words other than that.

Two minutes could be a lifetime. Time itself could be strangely elastic, stretching until every second was ponderous, until the second hand on her watch seemed almost motionless.

"I'm in position."

The words almost broke her control. She bit her lip until the taste of blood filled her mouth.

"How does it look?"

"Sayyed's got his ass in a crack, all right. Hey, buddy, how many charges did you get set?"

"One."

"Shit."

One wasn't enough. Niema had listened to them, knew how many charges Dallas estimated it would take to completely destroy the facility.

"Hadi?"

"In position. Can't help you much."

"Start pulling back." Dallas's voice was even. "Sayyed, arm all the charges."

There was another silence, then Sayyed's, "Done."

"Get ready. Throw the pack under the truck, then run like hell. I'll lay down covering fire. I'm gonna give us five seconds to get outta here before I hit the button."

"Damn. Maybe you should make it six," Sayyed said.

"Ready." Dallas was still utterly calm. "Go!"

Copyright © 1999 by Linda Howington

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Interviews & Essays

On Tuesday, August 10th, bn.com welcomed Linda Howard to discuss ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN.

Moderator: Welcome, Linda Howard! We are so pleased you could join us this evening to chat about your books and especially your latest hardcover -- ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN. How are you this evening?

Linda Howard: I am fine, thank you.


Ruthie from Barnes & Noble in Paramus, NJ: Hi Linda, just finished ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN and loved it. John Medina reminded me a lot of Kell Sabin in DIAMOND BAY -- both so enigmatic. Will we see John again in a future book? I feel I need to know more about him. By the way, your book is selling great at our store.

Linda Howard: It is possible there will be a sequel. If I do one, it won't be a spin-off but it will be a true sequel with the characters of John Medina and Niema. That is not a definite plan. It is just a possibility and I deliberately left the book, so I could do a sequel if I wanted to.


Moderator: What inspired the interesting plot of ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN?

Linda Howard: It is kind of a character-driven book and I had these two characters in my mind. I just had to come up with something important enough for them to do, but at the same time, I didn't want to fall for the ol' "take over the world scheme," but I knew it had to be something important. I tried to find something that would be logical under certain circumstances.


Berry from Williamsburg, VA: What first made you interested in writing romantic thrillers? Do you always like to put your stories in the present time or have you ever projected your story into a time and country quite different from your own?

Linda Howard: My natural inclination leans toward adventure-type books and actually I have been putting elements of romantic suspense in my books for years. It is just a natural expansion of my own likes. As far as using different countries, it depends on the plot. Everything depends on the plot. I like for it to be as logical as possible considering that what I write about is usually pretty fantastic so I try to get all of the details to follow a logical line of thought, so the reader can suspend disbelief.


Cynthia from California: Hi, Linda. I've been saving up questions for days, but may not be able to join the chat tonight so I thought I'd submit all of them in advance for you to pick and choose from. Here's the first: I loved ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN -- your government operative heroes are my favorites (Kell Sabin forever!). You gave us enough about John Medina, without telling all his secrets, to make a great story. And Niema is a wonderful heroine (sees to be some disagreement about pronunciation -- is it Neye-EE-mah?). Are there more stories for John and Niema in the future? And what about a story redeeming Louis Ronsard -- fascinating amoral guy?

Linda Howard: A sequel is possible, but I am not sure about Ronsard. I don't think he would ever be the central character because I honestly don't know if he is redeemable. The only thing I could think of that would change him enough would be if I killed his daughter and I don't know if I could do that. You have the pronunciation right for Niema.


Kris from Kansas: Hi, Linda...I was over at the Romance Reader, waiting for this chat to begin. I was reading an interview by erotic romance author Robin Shone and was astonished (at the coincidence) that you are her favorite author because you are my favorite as well. What do you think about being the favorite of an erotic romance novelist?

Linda Howard: I am flattered.


Doug Clegg from New York: When and why did you decide to begin writing?

Linda Howard: I began writing when I was nine years old because I couldn't find anything in the library that I hadn't already read! So the obvious solution was the write my own reading material.


Missy from Reno, TX: You are so prolific Linda. How do you manage to turn out a book or more a year? Do you work on multiple books at a time?

Linda Howard: No, I don't work on multiple books. I am actually a very fast writer. It is the research that takes up the vast majority of my time, nearly seven-tenths of my time. Sometimes it is just really physically tough, but it has to be done, so I do it. I don't write every day, but I read every day.


Janet from Sarasota, FL: I love the leading male characters in ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN, John and Ronsard. Any men of flesh inspire these marvelous creations? How did these men come to you?

Linda Howard: If I knew how, I could write a how-to book and sell a million copies! I don't know how. I just get glimmers of an idea and as it comes clearer, it is like getting to know anyone you first meet. As far as them resembling real people, they do in the spirit if not in the flesh.


Doug from bn.com: How do you think your characters have evolved over the years? Now that your earlier titles are being reprinted, do you have any qualms about how some of your earlier heroes (especially ALL THAT GLITTERS and AN INDEPENDENT WIFE) would be received in today's PC-obsessed world?

Linda Howard: Oh, of course! Not only the PC world. They weren't very well written, because they were my first books. All I can do is hope that the reader will look at the date it was originally published and read it for what it is. I really have no control over it.


Mary from West Salem, NC: Are there particular sections of your books that are easiest for you to write -- that just flow out? Like the love scenes? Do you do lots of rewriting?

Linda Howard: It is hard for me to answer that because I tend to rewrite as I go. When I am finished with a chapter generally I am finished with it. Occasionally, I will hit a log-jam and, invariably, it is because I have gone offtrack previously in the book. I have to locate that point and it may be that one detail there needs to be rewritten or re-clarified. Sometimes I need to add or delete a scene or change the direction of the book. When I hit a wall like that, I just stop. I don't work until it occurs to me what went wrong. Then I go back to that point and fix it.


Leslie from Baltimore, MD: I see that your new book is set in Iran and involves a terrorist conspiracy and explosive devices like "RDX." Did you have to do some special research to write this new book?

Linda Howard: Yes, I did. Actually only the first chapter is set in Iran. I had to do a lot of research on explosives. A lot of those research details don't show up in the book, but I didn't know if I would need them or not. I generally over-research every book I do. I have this bottomless pit of really weird knowledge that I will never use.


Katrina Baron from Richmond,VA: Does your husband read your books? Does he live up to the high standards of all your stunning male characters?

Linda Howard: [laughs] No, he does not read the books! He reads generally stuff only pertaining to fishing, because he is a professional bass tournament fisherman. He is not a spy, but he is a very good marksman with a rifle, if that matters!


Cynthia from California: In your story "White Out," were you making a political statement by naming the bad guy Clinton?

Linda Howard: Well, I hadn't thought of it, but it could have been, couldn't it have? [laughs] At the time, it seemed that Clinton went with his first name, whatever that was!


Monica from Daytona: Have you ever considered writing longer love scenes in your books? How long is too long? Those are my favorite parts!

Linda Howard: [laughs] I have absolutely no idea how long a love scene is because I have never really paid any attention to it. I just write it the way the story tells itself. It may be long, it may be short, depending on circumstances, and situations between the two characters. I try to let the story dictate the love scenes but they are my favorite parts too.


Tina from Guam: SARAH'S CHILD is one of my all-time favorites. Do you have any plans to write stories about Rome and Sarah's children?

Linda Howard: No, I don't. You never know what characters will grab you and they just didn't bring up any plot ideas.


Cary from bn.com: Before achieving your success as an author, what were some of the worst jobs you had to endure?

Linda Howard: I only had one job and I loved it. I worked for a trucking company in the office. The people I worked with were great people, the job was interesting, I was well-paid [laughs], and I worked there for 17 years and really loved it.


Cary from bn.com: Could you recommend three great books that you've been reading?

Linda Howard: The Janet Evanovich books. There are three I love: ONE FOR THE MONEY, TWO FOR THE DOUGH, and HIGH FIVE (the new hardcover). I have also read MOSAIC by John Maxim and Stephanie Laurens will have a new one out shortly that I am waiting for. Dick Francis will have a new one shortly too.


Monica from California: It seems you're one of the last big authors not to have their own web site. Do you have any plans to set up a site soon? Would you approve a fan-authorized site?

Linda Howard: I have never even thought about starting a web site. I could have it done very easily by the people who handle my computer system, but it just never occurs to me. I am on the road so much that when I am home it is like I am bailing water out of a boat. Someone would have to put it on the top of my list and write the list for me!


Angie from Kentucky: Linda, I am a huge fan of yours. I just finished ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN. It was worth the wait. My favorite(s) are the Mackenzie family stories. Can you give us any details about Chance's book and when it might be available? Thanks!

Linda Howard: I think Chance will be in September of 2000. The working title of the book is A GAME OF CHANCE.


Cynthia from California: You've said that you enjoy John Maxim's books (I'm reading the Bannerman books now, and can see why you like them), and also Stephen Hunter (I just started the Bob Lee Swagger books, and while I'm stumbling over all the gun talk, the characters and writing are/is wonderful). So is this the direction you see yourself going in with your writing? Do you have any other favorites in this genre you could recommend? What other fiction do you read?

Linda Howard: I love Stephen Hunter. I wait with bated breath for the next Bob Lee Swagger book. My instincts lean in that direction, but I don't know if my talent is geared in the same way theirs is. I enjoy Gayle Lynds, who is also writing that type of fiction (suspense genre). Also Iris Johansen. As far as what I read -- I read a little bit of everything, except horror. Horror gives me nightmares.


Moderator: What did you think of the movie version of LOVING EVANGELINE? Why did they change the title and characters names? Are any of your other books optioned for movies?

Linda Howard: Well, I had no control over that. Harlequin made the movie and it bore no resemblance to the book. They took the title, the characters names and my name and other than that, it was an original screenplay. It was disappointing. Another of my books was optioned, but I don't even remember which one it was. It is possible that ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN will be optioned, but one never knows. Even if it is optioned, the chances it will be made into a movie are like one in 500.


Sara from Plano, TX: Linda, loved your SON OF MORNING, one of my personal keepers. Will you be writing any other type of paranormal/time travel/whatever books? Please?

Linda Howard: If the plot suggests itself. In a way, I feel like I just create the plots. I feel like I "find" them. I dig them out and see what they are. That means I never know what I am going to find when I start digging.


Cathy from Thousand Oaks, CA: Linda, I love your stories. I've read every one! I especially enjoy your books with the paranormal theme. Even though I love the paranormal theme, I'm one of those readers who looks for good writing styles. I read romance to science fiction and it's really great when I come across an author that grabs me from the very beginning (I only give the book about three chapters to get me hooked). You are definitely one of those authors. I can't wait to read ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN, which I plan to start reading this weekend. I was wondering if you are doing a book tour? If so, will you be in the Southern California area? Linda, thanks again.

Linda Howard: No, sorry, I am not doing any travelling with this book at all.


Deanna from Ohio: Hi! I noticed that ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN has a new cover. Why was it changed? Do you get to choose the covers for your books? Thanks!

Linda Howard: I do have input on the cover. The first cover -- we just thought it didn't work and there were actually like seven or eight different covers before we settled on this one, but it is a group effort. Most of the effort is the art directors.


Cynthia from California: I totally enjoyed NOW YOU SEE HER (the trailers for the new movie "The Sixth Sense" look a bit familiar, don't they?). But I did think the ending of NOW YOU SEE HER was too abrupt. Any chance we'll see Richard and Sweeney again?

Linda Howard: Well again, there is a possibility of a sequel, if the idea ever gels.


Sally Lee from Ayr, Scotland: Miss Howard -- I am a fan of yours and am looking forward to reading ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN. However, I get frustrated at the time delay between the publication in America and in the United Kingdom, resulting in me buying your books direct from Barnes & Noble and having to wait approximately ten weeks from them to come sea mail and even then, I get them before UK publication. I do wish there could be simultaneous publication in the two countries. I would like to congratulate you on your wonderful imagination that you share with us.

Linda Howard: Oh, thank you. Scotland is such a special country for me. I loved every minute I spent there. There are completely different publishing companies and they all have their own schedules and other then paying to have something shipped first class, I don't see any solution.


Jill B. from Ohio: Hi Linda! I loved your new book (just like all the others). I have been waiting for a book about John Medina ever since his appearances in KILL AND TELL. I knew he would be a great hero. My question is where do you get your names, like Niema? Did you hear or see this name somewhere or did you make it up yourself? Please write more quickly -- we all want to hear about Chance!

Linda Howard: The name Niema was suggested by a bumper sticker that was posted on a car here in town. It was like "Naomi" with all the vowels moved around. I just started playing with it, so I guess in a way I made it up.


Cissy from Indiana: Linda, I've been a huge fan of yours for years. I grew up just down the road from you. In fact, I was introduced to your work by a used book store owner in Huntsville, AL. I just finished ALL THE QUEEN'S MEN and thought it was fabulous. Just to reemphasize what someone else mentioned, I manage a number of web sites (Jayne Ann Krentz's, Elizabeth Lowell's, and others) and I'm constantly getting requests from people who want to know when your getting a site. [chuckling] If you ever decided to have a site, I'd love a crack at it.

Linda Howard: Well thank you. I am feeling very hounded about getting a web site [chuckling], but I will remember this and I will ask Jayne about it!


Carrie from Michigan: SON OF THE MORNING, is a favorite of mine. Do you have any plans for the computer hacker Kristian Sieber in the future?

Linda Howard: None whatsoever. He was a supporting character. Not leading man material.


Elizabeth Rainbird from Perth, Australia: Hi Linda! Just finished reading KILL AND TELL and hope to get ALL THE queen's MEN SOON. Will you be using John Medina in future books? Sounds like a great character.

Linda Howard: It is possible there will be a sequel.


Alice from Iowa: Linda, I love the way you write your characters; they seem like real people. That is why all your fans clamor for sequels, because we feel as if we know these characters as real people. I enjoy the suspense aspects of your stories, but you aren't going to give up on the romance aspect, are you, and move to strictly "mainstream" suspense?

Linda Howard: No, I am not! To me, the romance is part of the story and I just can't decide to leave part of the story out -- just like the plot or dialogue, it is just part of it.


Dolores from Edison, NJ: Do you find a chat session difficult to do?

Linda Howard: Oh no! Chat sessions are my favorite kind of interview.


Sara Reyes from Plano, TX: Love your work and especially enjoyed John and Niema's story. I understand that John Medina who was a secondary character in KILL AND TELL, another great book, "demanded" his own story. Is there any possibility of Louis doing the same? He seemed so intriguing.

Linda Howard: I don't really think so. I think he is fascinating, but I don't know if he is redeemable.


Joan from Newport News, VA: I loved SON OF THE MORNING. Any plans for more on that line?

Linda Howard: Not a sequel, I don't think, although the muse has done stranger things.


Moderator: Linda, thank you so much for taking the time to answer all of our questions. Before we go, do you have any closing remarks for your fans?

Linda Howard: Only that I deeply appreciate the fans, because without them, the only one who would read what I write is me!


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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 84 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 84 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2012

    Not up to Howard standards

    I love Linda Howard's work. This, however, was not up to her usual standards. The characters were unrealistic (more so than normal). I couldn't even get past the first few chapters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2008

    Awesome!

    I absolutely loved this story. It was exciting and had great characters. I am in love with the mysterious and sexy John Medina. Too bad he can't be real! The way he took care of Niema was very cool. Before you read this book, I recommend reading Kill and Tell, where you get a brief introduction to John. You won't be sorry if you read these two books. I will likely be re-reading them both.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2002

    Awesome!!!

    This was the first Linda Howard book I've read and I couldn't put it down! It's the best book I've read in a long time.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2014

    awesome

    awesome

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2013

    All the queen's men

    Thoroughly enjoyed the book....action packed!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 20, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    I love Linda Howard. I have read and reread every book she has published probably about a 1000 times.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2013

    Great read

    Enjoyed very much

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2012

    Awesome!

    So good.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2012

    Read Kill and Tell first!

    One of my favorites. The title refers that this is a tribute to all the great Spy vs Spy Ian Fleming Adam Hall Martin Woodhouse, Manning Coles and many more usually British spy guys. But Linda Howard was smart enough not to try and write John Medina as a Brit. English and American are too different. Dick Francis excellent author had me wincing in Blood Sport trying to write American. That said the hero, heroine and villain are all well realized. I actually liked the low violence quotient. A female that is competent in this genre is a treat tho Howard did it in Tiger Dawn too. John Medina though sparsely limned is convincingly enigmatic and professional. Even the bad guy is interesting. People that complain about the sex being late in book just go read erotica like Jaid Black. A good author lets her plot and characters develop where it belongs. I liked that Niema's role was role playing undercover not just technical support like Brockmann's Tess Baily or her own earlier mission. Very few female spies around tho lots of detectives. Great job by Linda Howard.

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  • Posted September 20, 2011

    Not my favorite

    I just didn't like it, usually love Linda Howard.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    One of my favorite books. Love the characters.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Just Alright

    This one was a lot of story...I did like the story and it kept me interested but the nookie was late in the book. Overall it was ok.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 3, 2010

    Loved this book!

    John Medina is my favorite male character from Linda Howard, I loved him.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2007

    Read it as soon as you can!

    Linda Howard has always been a wonderful writer. She's great a characters, dialogue, and her plots blow me away without fail. That being said, all of her books pale in comparison to this one. The writing is fast and intense. John Medina is the most realistic alpha male I've ever read--a man who's experienced enough pain to give him extreme disipline in ever aspect of his life. Niema is a woman with pain of her own and guilt over the adrenaline-soaked life she prefers. Her character is rich in doubt and desire and both of them click so well it's impossible to put the book down. There are no real bad guys in the story. The lead villian does evil deeds with an altruistic purpose, and the ending of the book is open with possibilities which is something I enjoy when written as this was. Find a copy fast, read the first chapter and let yourself fall into the amazing story to follow.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2006

    LOVED IT@!@!@!

    Ok, I will admit that I am partial to Linda Howard being she is probably my all time favorite author. This book was great. Probably one of my favorites that she has done. Great storyline and you like all the characters, even Dallas in the beginning. I definitely recommend reading this one. You will absolutely NOT be disappointed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2005

    one of the best book that i have read

    this one of linda howards grates work. once i had started the book i just could not put it down.i just fell in love with the good and the bad guy. when i read the last chapter i was sad that the story was ending i was hopping that she would be writing a book that would still have the same people in them. but i see that will not be happening any time now.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2004

    Love it!!

    This book is my absolute favorite. I've read it 3-4 times. The characters are wonderful. John Medina is my dream man! :) He is just mysterious enough and Niema is a wonderful character. Together they are perfect.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2003

    Entertaining

    The plot was rather far fetched but it was quite entertaining. The lead characters were interesting and likable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2003

    AN AWESOME BOOK!!

    This book was the perfect mix of exciting adventure, tense thrills, passionate romance, and interesting characters. John Medina's the kind of man that makes your legs go all wobbly, and you get to have that lovely feeling all throughout the book! Definitely a MUST-READ!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2003

    All the Queen's Men

    yeah okay i admit i wish i was Niema too.. God you havd good books Linda howard. and the book'Mr.perfect' Sam sounds so neat yeah what a man. your a great a auther. when i grow u p i want to be a writer or be in the Army i donno know.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 84 Customer Reviews

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