Beachcomber [NOOK Book]

Overview

From New York Times bestselling author Karen Robards comes a thrilling new novel of suspense and steamy seaside sensuality set in North Carolina's Outer Banks, where a serial killer combs the beaches filled with beautiful female tourists for his next victim.
Christy Petrino hadn't planned on a vacation on Ocracoke Island, but when she learns her fiancé and boss, suave Michael DePalma, is a "made man" and the Philadelphia law firm where she works is a front for the mob, she ...
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Beachcomber

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Overview

From New York Times bestselling author Karen Robards comes a thrilling new novel of suspense and steamy seaside sensuality set in North Carolina's Outer Banks, where a serial killer combs the beaches filled with beautiful female tourists for his next victim.
Christy Petrino hadn't planned on a vacation on Ocracoke Island, but when she learns her fiancé and boss, suave Michael DePalma, is a "made man" and the Philadelphia law firm where she works is a front for the mob, she breaks her engagement and quits her job. But no one walks away from the DePalma family business so easily....Only if she delivers a locked briefcase to a motel on Ocracoke Island will she -- and her mother and sisters -- be free.
But after clandestinely making her drop-off late at night, Christy suspects she is being followed on the moonlit beach -- and unwittingly runs into a new kind of terror. Now a witness at the center of a homicide investigation, Christy learns the police are hunting a serial killer they refer to as the "Beachcomber" because beautiful young women -- women who in fact resemble her -- have disappeared recently while vacationing at nearby beach communities. Christy doesn't know whom to fear more -- a serial killer who believes she might be able to identify him, or the DePalma family, whose tentacles she can't seem to escape.
Only when she's with Luke Rand, her big surfer-dude next-door neighbor, does she feel safe. But with Luke's asking so many questions about her ex-fiancé and his showing up almost too conveniently whenever danger strikes, she can't help but wonder if his interest in her is due to more than sexual attraction. Can she trust this handsome stranger to help her survive a hot and deadly summer?
Karen Robards creates a tour de force of passion and suspense in this scintillating page-turner, the quintessential summertime read.
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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Nicci French seems to know exactly what thrills and terrifies....harrowing.
Publishers Weekly
A horrifying premise catalyzes this fast-paced, suspenseful thriller.......suspenseful and harrowing...with powerful narrative drive.
Entertainment Weekly
Genuine chills and page-turning suspense.
Romantic Times
An edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller...keeps the reader on a white-knuckled, hair-raising thrill ride until the last page.
Mystery News
The tension is incredible and the mystery intriguing....French [is] immensely talented at writing horrifying, suspenseful thrillers.
Baltimore Sun
...[a] nightmarish first person account of being held prisoner in the dark by a stranger....It's a good read.
Publishers Weekly
When listeners pop the first tape of this absorbing audio adaptation into their cassette decks, they may get the sense that they've stepped into a movie at the midway point; a murder, a chase and a heated confrontation between hero and heroine all occur within the first 30 minutes. Not long after, protagonist Christy Petrino, who recently ended her relationship with her mob-connected lawyer fianc , is attacked by a hatchet-wielding killer. Unsure of whether the Mob ordered a hit on her or whether she's become a target of North Carolina's newest serial killer, dubbed the Beachcomber, Christy turns to her handsome new neighbor, Luke Rand, who always appears in the nick of time to save her. Narrator Forbes is at her best when portraying tough, fiery Christy, the Mob thugs who hound her and the scrappy tomcat that yowls and hisses at anyone who keeps it from dining on the local birds. She falters, however, when portraying Luke, whose oddly high-pitched voice evokes both the South and New Jersey. An absurd final twist and a clich d villain (who utters trite lines like "Guess what, Christy? Your worst nightmare is here") will turn off some listeners, but most will sit back and enjoy this taut, tightly packed romantic thriller. Simultaneous release with the Atria hardcover (Forecasts, Aug. 18). (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Tough, tenacious, and scared silly: the author’s quintessential heroine scores again in this third deft British import (The Red Room, 2001, etc.). Bound, gagged, a hood covering her head, terrified—that’s how we first meet Abbie Devereaux, a young Englishwoman convinced she’s about to be murdered. Her kidnapper has told her as much, and she’s learned to take him at his word. She’s been his prisoner for three days, she thinks, a reckoning made uncertain by fear and by the brain-fog resulting from brutality. He’s beaten her, toyed with her, half-starved and humiliated her, and he won’t tell her why, or what he plans for her, aside from the promised death. She knows he’s a psychopath, yes, but nothing else. Then—through luck and a heaven-sent miscalculation—she escapes and finds herself launched on part two of her nightmare: it seems no one will believe her when she describes her horrific ordeal, a problem compounded—excruciatingly—by post-traumatic amnesia. She can't remember the act of being kidnapped—that is, where it took place—or much about anything in the days immediately preceding. Hospital authorities have begun using the word "fantasy." Her friends listen to her with a sympathy edged in skepticism. Show us something in the way of corroborating evidence, the police tell her. She can’t. "My head has a black hole in it," she says helplessly. But Abbie, of course, has never really been the stuff victims are made of, and an unavoidable bedrock truth provides all the incentive she needs to stiffen her spine. Her kidnapper believes her. And since he’s out there now undoubtedly feeling threatened, she’d better find him before he finds her again. Abbie hasto stalk the stalker. Despite occasional plotting flaws, that sound you hear is the rustle of pages turning rapidly.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743486385
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 8/12/2003
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Ebook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 7,502
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Karen Robards is the author of more than forty novels and one novella. A regular on the New York Times, USA TODAY, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists, among others, she is the mother of three boys and lives in Louisville, Kentucky.
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Read an Excerpt


Chapter 1

Two weeks later...

Sometimes in life, when one thing goes wrong it triggers another and another until disasters end up multiplying around you like horny rabbits. Unfortunately, Christy Petrino was getting the nasty suspicion that this just might be one of those times.

She was being followed as she walked along the moonlit beach. She knew it. Knew it with a certainty that made her heart pound and her breathing quicken and the tiny hairs on the back of her neck prickle to attention. Someone was behind her. She felt eyes on her, hostility directed at her, the intangible vibes of another presence, with a sense that was more trustworthy yet less dependably there than the usual five. Tonight, as it typically did when it hit her, this sixth sense of hers made a mockery of sight and sound, smell, touch, and taste. She'd learned in a hard school to trust it implicitly.

Please, God...Fear curled inside her quicker than a coiling snake. Like any other good Catholic girl trembling on the brink of danger, she turned to a higher power for help even though it had been an embarrassingly long time since she had actually been inside a church. Hopefully, God wasn't keeping score.

I'll go to Mass this Sunday, I swear. I mean, I promise. Just let this be my imagination.

Clutching the slender can of Mace that was her next line of defense against the dangers that lurked in the night, she did her best to dismiss what her sixth sense was telling her even as she brought her other five senses to bear. The rush and hiss of the ocean as it lapped practically at her feet filled her ears. It drowned out all other sounds, not that it was likely that she would have heard any pursuing footsteps anyway, given the sound-deadening properties of the beach, she realized as her own steps faltered. Casting a compulsive glance over her shoulder, she saw nothing behind her but an empty seascape barely illuminated by dusky moonlight. Considering that it was after one in the morning and a drenching summer squall had done its bit to add to the suffocating humidity only an hour or so earlier, the fact that there was absolutely no one around could not be considered sinister: the family types that populated this particular stretch of Ocracoke's ocean frontage during August were doubtless all sound asleep inside their snug summer cottages. Except for those darkened cottages, set well back from the beach and barely visible over the rolling dunes, there was nothing to see but the lighthouse in the distance, willowy sea oats blowing in the rising wind that pushed a rippling line of whitecaps toward shore, and the pale narrow curve of the beach itself as it crooked like a bent finger out into the midnight blue of the Atlantic.

She was alone. Of course she was alone.

Letting out a sigh of relief, she cast her eyes skyward. Thank you, God. I'll be there front row center on Sunday, I sw -- promise.

Then her pesky sixth sense reared its unwelcome head again.

"Are you being paranoid or what?" Christy muttered the question aloud. But accusing herself of paranoia didn't help. She started walking back to the house with -- okay, she'd admit it -- mounting fear.

She didn't like being afraid. Being afraid ticked her off. Growing up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on the wrong side of I-5 in the less-than-aptly named neighborhood of Pleasantville, she'd learned early on that if you showed fear you were liable to get your butt kicked, or worse. A girl whose father was dead and whose mother worked all day and partied all night had to be able to take care of herself -- and, in Christy's case, her two little sisters as well. She'd learned to be tough and she'd learned to be confident in her ability to handle anything life threw her way. Now, at twenty-seven, she was five feet seven inches tall, rendered fashionably slim and fit by dint of much effort, with medium brown hair that just brushed her shoulders, cocoa brown eyes, and a face that wasn't exactly beautiful but wouldn't send grown men screaming for the exits either. She was, in other words, all grown up, a lawyer -- of all unbelievable things -- with a life that until three days ago had been as close to perfect as she could make it.

Now it was blown to smithereens. And she was afraid.

"Wimp," she said under her breath as she walked on. There was nothing -- well, probably nothing -- to be afraid of. After all, she'd done what they wanted. She'd come here to the beach house on Ocracoke and stayed put, waiting for a phone call. When the call had finally come half an hour ago, she'd done exactly as she'd been told: take the briefcase down the beach to the Crosswinds Hotel and put it in the backseat of a gray Maxima parked by the pool. What was in the briefcase she didn't know. Didn't want to know. All she wanted to do was get rid of it, which she had just done. In doing so, she'd purchased the keys to her prison.

It was over. She was free.

God, she hoped so. The truth was, if she was really, really lucky, and said her rosary fifteen times and buried a statue of St. Jude, patron saint of impossible causes, upside down in the surf, then maybe she would be free.

Or maybe not.

So call her a pessimist. Some people got visited by the blue bird of happiness. The bird that fluttered periodically through her life was more like the gray bird of doubt. Doubt that sunshine and roses were ever going to be a permanent fixture in the life of Christina Marie Petrino. Doubt that a pink Caddy with Happily Ever After written on it was ever going to pull into her own personal parking space. It was that doubt that kept suspicion percolating through her brain now, that made her imagine bogeymen in the shadows and threats in the whisper of the wind as she trudged back along the beach.

They had no reason to come after her. She had done nothing to them.

Except know too much.

Despite the humid warmth of the night, Christy shivered.

"Do this one thing for me," Uncle Vince had said. Remembering how she had been intercepted on the way to her mother's house and pushed into the backseat of a car where he'd been waiting, she swallowed. For the first time in her life, she'd been afraid of Uncle Vince, who'd been her mother's off-and-on boyfriend for the last fifteen years. Christy hadn't grown up in Pleasantville for nothing. She recognized a threat when she heard it. Uncle Vince had been a made man when Tony Soprano had been no more than a gleam in his daddy's eye, and his "request" had been on the order of one of those offers you didn't want to refuse.

But now she'd done what he'd asked, she reminded herself, walking faster now, in a hurry to get back inside the house even though she was (almost) sure there was no real reason to do what her instincts were screaming at her to do and get the heck off the beach. She'd delivered the briefcase. They knew now that she was loyal, that she wasn't going to go running to anybody, much less the cops. So she'd quit her job. Big deal. People did it all the time. So she'd said buh-bye to her fiancé. People did that, too. All over the world, employees quit and engaged couples broke up and nobody died. Just because Michael DePalma, who had been her boss at the up-and-coming Philadelphia law firm of DePalma and Lowery as well as her fiancé, had said Don't you know you can't quit? After what Franky told you, do you really think they're going to let you just walk away? did not mean that she was now first in line to get whacked.

Did it?

Maybe Uncle Vince, or somebody else, had decided that something more was needed in the way of ensuring her continued silence. Something permanent. Because she could still feel someone behind her in the dark. Watching her. Waiting. The picture that popped into her mind was of a hunter carefully stalking his prey.

The idea of herself as prey did nothing for Christy's blood pressure.

Drawing a deep breath, trying not to panic, Christy tightened her hold on the Mace can, and strained to identify shadowy shapes rendered spooky by darkness. Oh God, what was that -- and that -- and that? Her heart skipped a beat as she spotted possible threats. Only slowly did it resume a more even rhythm as she realized that the motionless rectangle that lay ahead of her that she'd first thought might be a man squatting in the surf was, on more careful inspection, a lounge chair left close by the water's edge; while the towering, swaying triangle -- a man's head and shoulders? -- rising menacingly over the top of a nearby dune was nothing more than a partially furled beach umbrella in its stand; and the round object -- someone hunkered down? -- just visible beside a patio fence was the protruding rear tire of a bicycle left trustingly outside.

Nothing but harmless, everyday, island-variety objects as far as the eye could see. As Christy told herself that, her alarm faded a little but refused to disappear entirely. The niggling sense of being watched, of another presence -- of danger -- was too strong to be routed by lack of visual confirmation. Wrapping her bare arms around herself, she continued to warily probe the darkness with every sense she could bring to bear. She stood very still, with the loose, ankle-length green gauze dress she had pulled on for her beach adventure blowing tight against her legs and her toes burrowing into the sand. Stars played peekaboo with drifting clouds overhead; a fingernail moon floated high in the black velvet sky; frothing with foam, waves slapped the sand, withdrew, and rolled in again, beach music with a never-ending rhythm that should have been comforting but under these disquieting circumstances was not. She listened and watched and breathed, tasting the salt tang on her lips as she wet them, smelling the briny ocean in the deep, lung-expanding breaths she deliberately drew in an effort to steady her jangled nerves.

"Okay, Christy, get a grip." Talking to herself was probably not a good sign. No, she realized glumly, it was definitely not a good sign. If she was getting a little crazy, she thought as she quickened her pace toward the small, single-story house that was now beckoning like an oasis, that should fall under the category of Just One More Big Surprise. She was up to her neck in disasters, and there was no telling where another one of those horny little rabbits was going to pop up next. Ordinarily she loved Ocracoke; she'd vacationed here at least half a dozen times in the past. Use of the beach house was an occasional perk of her mother's special friendship with Uncle Vince. But now this tiny beach community in North Carolina's Outer Banks was starting to feel like it had been ripped right out of the pages of a Stephen King novel. A vision of Blackbeard's ghost -- the notorious pirate was said to haunt Ocracoke's beaches, his severed head tucked under his arm -- shadowing her along the water's edge popped into her mind, raising goose bumps on her arms. Which was ridiculous, of course. Who believed in ghosts? Not she, but -- the phrase that kept running through her head was, something wicked this way comes.

Dear God, I'll go to Mass every Sunday for the rest of my life if you'll just get me safely out of here.

She had to calm down and think this through.

If someone truly was behind her, if this terrifying sense of a hostile presence stalking her through the night was not just a product of overabundant imagination and overwrought nerves, then, clearly, it behooved her to get the heck off the beach. If she ran, anyone who happened to be back there would know she was on to them. If she walked, anyone who happened to be back there just might catch up.

That was the clincher. Yanking her skirt clear of her knees, she ran.

The sand was warm and gritty underfoot, dotted with puddles and strewn here and there with webs of stringy seaweed. Moonlight glinted on the clear blob of a jellyfish as it came tumbling toward her, rolling along on the outer edges of the inrushing tide. Fighting bubbling panic, gasping for breath, her heart beating a hundred miles a minute, her straining legs only wishing they could pump as fast, she pushed everything from her mind but the urgent need to get off that beach. The sound of the surf effectively deafened her; blowing strands of her hair whipping in front of her face all but blinded her. She couldn't hear so much as the slap of her own feet hitting the beach; she could barely see where she was going. But she could feel -- and what she was feeling terrified her.

Her five senses be damned: at the moment only the sixth one mattered. And it was telling her that she was in imminent danger. There was someone behind her, giving chase -- hunting her.

In the very act of casting what must have been the dozenth in a series of frightened glances over her shoulder, Christy tripped over something and went down.

She hit hard. Her knees gouged twin pits in the sand. Her palms thudded and sank. Her teeth clinked together with a force that sent pain shooting through the joint that connected her jaws. Salt spray hit her in the face as a large wave broke with particular enthusiasm just yards away.

Stunned to have been so abruptly catapulted onto all fours, she registered all that in an instant. She'd tripped. What had she tripped over? A piece of driftwood? What?

He's coming. Move.

Heart leaping as her own personal early warning system went off in spades, Christy obeyed, scrambling to her feet and at the same time instinctively glancing back to see what had felled her. Not that it mattered. Whoever was out there was closing in fast. She could sense him behind her, almost feel him....

A slender arm, inert and pale as the sand itself, lay inches behind her feet. Realizing just what had tripped her, Christy was momentarily shocked into immobility. Then her widening gaze followed the limb down to the back of a head covered with a tangle of long, wet-looking dark hair, narrow shoulders and waist and hips, rounded buttocks, long legs. A woman lay there, sprawled facedown in the sand. She was wet, naked as far as Christy could tell, with one arm stretched out across the beach as if she had been trying to crawl toward the safety of the houses. She didn't move, didn't make a sound, didn't appear to so much as breathe.

She looked dead.

Then her hand moved, slender fingers closing convulsively on sand, and her body tensed as if she were trying without success to propel herself forward.

"Help...please..."

Had Christy really heard the muttered words? Or had she just imagined them? The pounding surf coupled with the frantic beating of her own pulse in her ears was surely enough to block out even much louder sounds. But...

"I'm here," Christy said as she crouched, touching the back of the woman's hand with equal parts caution and concern. As her fingertips made contact with cold, sand-encrusted skin, a swift rush of pity tightened her throat. Poor thing, poor thing...

The woman's fingers twitched as if in acknowledgment of her touch.

"La...law..."

There was no mistake: she really heard the broken syllables, although this time they made no sense. The woman was not dead, but she seemed not far from it. Something terrible must have happened. Some kind of terrible accident.

"It's all ri -- " Christy began, only to break off as her peripheral vision picked up on something moving. She glanced up, beyond the woman, to see a man perhaps three hundred yards away, slogging past the dunes that had concealed him up until that point, headed inexorably toward her, head down as he followed the footprints -- her footprints -- that even she could plainly see in the sand. Her pursuer! For vital seconds she had forgotten all about him. Terror stabbed through her now, swift and sharp as an arrow. Her heart leaped into her throat. He was little more than a bulky shape in the uncertain moonlight, but this was no ghost, no figment of her imagination. He was unmistakably there. Unmistakably real. The Mother of All Rabbits in a dark jogging suit with the moonlight glinting off something shiny in one hand.

A gun?

Even as she gaped at him, he lifted his head. It was impossible to see his face, his features, anything more than the sheer bulk of him. But she could feel his gaze on her, feel the menace rushing toward her as he looked at her and realized that she was looking back. For an instant, a dreadful, blood-freezing instant, they connected, hunter and prey zeroing in on each other through the imperfectly concealing darkness.

All thoughts of trying to help the woman were instantly forgotten as that sixth sense of hers went haywire, signaling bad news and screaming at her to move! Propelled by an acute attack of self-preservation, Christy leaped to her feet. Letting loose with a scream that could have been heard clear back in Atlantic City, she ran for her life.

Copyright © 2003 by Karen Robards

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First Chapter

Two weeks later...

Sometimes in life, when one thing goes wrong it triggers another and another until disasters end up multiplying around you like horny rabbits. Unfortunately, Christy Petrino was getting the nasty suspicion that this just might be one of those times.

She was being followed as she walked along the moonlit beach. She knew it. Knew it with a certainty that made her heart pound and her breathing quicken and the tiny hairs on the back of her neck prickle to attention. Someone was behind her. She felt eyes on her, hostility directed at her, the intangible vibes of another presence, with a sense that was more trustworthy yet less dependably there than the usual five. Tonight, as it typically did when it hit her, this sixth sense of hers made a mockery of sight and sound, smell, touch, and taste. She'd learned in a hard school to trust it implicitly.

Please, God... Fear curled inside her quicker than a coiling snake. Like any other good Catholic girl trembling on the brink of danger, she turned to a higher power for help even though it had been an embarrassingly long time since she had actually been inside a church. Hopefully, God wasn't keeping score.

I'll go to Mass this Sunday, I swear. I mean, I promise. Just let this be my imagination.

Clutching the slender can of Mace that was her next line of defense against the dangers that lurked in the night, she did her best to dismiss what her sixth sense was telling her even as she brought her other five senses to bear. The rush and hiss of the ocean as it lapped practically at her feet filled her ears. It drowned out all other sounds, not that it was likely that she would have heard any pursuing footsteps anyway, given the sound-deadening properties of the beach, she realized as her own steps faltered. Casting a compulsive glance over her shoulder, she saw nothing behind her but an empty seascape barely illuminated by dusky moonlight. Considering that it was after one in the morning and a drenching summer squall had done its bit to add to the suffocating humidity only an hour or so earlier, the fact that there was absolutely no one around could not be considered sinister: the family types that populated this particular stretch of Ocracoke's ocean frontage during August were doubtless all sound asleep inside their snug summer cottages. Except for those darkened cottages, set well back from the beach and barely visible over the rolling dunes, there was nothing to see but the lighthouse in the distance, willowy sea oats blowing in the rising wind that pushed a rippling line of whitecaps toward shore, and the pale narrow curve of the beach itself as it crooked like a bent finger out into the midnight blue of the Atlantic.

She was alone. Of course she was alone.

Letting out a sigh of relief, she cast her eyes skyward. Thank you, God. I'll be there front row center on Sunday, I sw -- promise.

Then her pesky sixth sense reared its unwelcome head again.

"Are you being paranoid or what?" Christy muttered the question aloud. But accusing herself of paranoia didn't help. She started walking back to the house with -- okay, she'd admit it -- mounting fear.

She didn't like being afraid. Being afraid ticked her off. Growing up in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on the wrong side of I-5 in the less-than-aptly named neighborhood of Pleasantville, she'd learned early on that if you showed fear you were liable to get your butt kicked, or worse. A girl whose father was dead and whose mother worked all day and partied all night had to be able to take care of herself -- and, in Christy's case, her two little sisters as well. She'd learned to be tough and she'd learned to be confident in her ability to handle anything life threw her way. Now, at twenty-seven, she was five feet seven inches tall, rendered fashionably slim and fit by dint of much effort, with medium brown hair that just brushed her shoulders, cocoa brown eyes, and a face that wasn't exactly beautiful but wouldn't send grown men screaming for the exits either. She was, in other words, all grown up, a lawyer -- of all unbelievable things -- with a life that until three days ago had been as close to perfect as she could make it.

Now it was blown to smithereens. And she was afraid.

"Wimp," she said under her breath as she walked on. There was nothing -- well, probably nothing -- to be afraid of. After all, she'd done what they wanted. She'd come here to the beach house on Ocracoke and stayed put, waiting for a phone call. When the call had finally come half an hour ago, she'd done exactly as she'd been told: take the briefcase down the beach to the Crosswinds Hotel and put it in the backseat of a gray Maxima parked by the pool. What was in the briefcase she didn't know. Didn't want to know. All she wanted to do was get rid of it, which she had just done. In doing so, she'd purchased the keys to her prison.

It was over. She was free.

God, she hoped so. The truth was, if she was really, really lucky, and said her rosary fifteen times and buried a statue of St. Jude, patron saint of impossible causes, upside down in the surf, then maybe she would be free.

Or maybe not.

So call her a pessimist. Some people got visited by the blue bird of happiness. The bird that fluttered periodically through her life was more like the gray bird of doubt. Doubt that sunshine and roses were ever going to be a permanent fixture in the life of Christina Marie Petrino. Doubt that a pink Caddy with Happily Ever After written on it was ever going to pull into her own personal parking space. It was that doubt that kept suspicion percolating through her brain now, that made her imagine bogeymen in the shadows and threats in the whisper of the wind as she trudged back along the beach.

They had no reason to come after her. She had done nothing to them.

Except know too much.

Despite the humid warmth of the night, Christy shivered.

"Do this one thing for me," Uncle Vince had said. Remembering how she had been intercepted on the way to her mother's house and pushed into the backseat of a car where he'd been waiting, she swallowed. For the first time in her life, she'd been afraid of Uncle Vince, who'd been her mother's off-and-on boyfriend for the last fifteen years. Christy hadn't grown up in Pleasantville for nothing. She recognized a threat when she heard it. Uncle Vince had been a made man when Tony Soprano had been no more than a gleam in his daddy's eye, and his "request" had been on the order of one of those offers you didn't want to refuse.

But now she'd done what he'd asked, she reminded herself, walking faster now, in a hurry to get back inside the house even though she was (almost) sure there was no real reason to do what her instincts were screaming at her to do and get the heck off the beach. She'd delivered the briefcase. They knew now that she was loyal, that she wasn't going to go running to anybody, much less the cops. So she'd quit her job. Big deal. People did it all the time. So she'd said buh-bye to her fiancé. People did that, too. All over the world, employees quit and engaged couples broke up and nobody died. Just because Michael DePalma, who had been her boss at the up-and-coming Philadelphia law firm of DePalma and Lowery as well as her fiancé, had said Don't you know you can't quit? After what Franky told you, do you really think they're going to let you just walk away? did not mean that she was now first in line to get whacked.

Did it?

Maybe Uncle Vince, or somebody else, had decided that something more was needed in the way of ensuring her continued silence. Something permanent. Because she could still feel someone behind her in the dark. Watching her. Waiting. The picture that popped into her mind was of a hunter carefully stalking his prey.

The idea of herself as prey did nothing for Christy's blood pressure.

Drawing a deep breath, trying not to panic, Christy tightened her hold on the Mace can, and strained to identify shadowy shapes rendered spooky by darkness. Oh God, what was that -- and that -- and that? Her heart skipped a beat as she spotted possible threats. Only slowly did it resume a more even rhythm as she realized that the motionless rectangle that lay ahead of her that she'd first thought might be a man squatting in the surf was, on more careful inspection, a lounge chair left close by the water's edge; while the towering, swaying triangle -- a man's head and shoulders? -- rising menacingly over the top of a nearby dune was nothing more than a partially furled beach umbrella in its stand; and the round object -- someone hunkered down? -- just visible beside a patio fence was the protruding rear tire of a bicycle left trustingly outside.

Nothing but harmless, everyday, island-variety objects as far as the eye could see. As Christy told herself that, her alarm faded a little but refused to disappear entirely. The niggling sense of being watched, of another presence -- of danger -- was too strong to be routed by lack of visual confirmation. Wrapping her bare arms around herself, she continued to warily probe the darkness with every sense she could bring to bear. She stood very still, with the loose, ankle-length green gauze dress she had pulled on for her beach adventure blowing tight against her legs and her toes burrowing into the sand. Stars played peekaboo with drifting clouds overhead; a fingernail moon floated high in the black velvet sky; frothing with foam, waves slapped the sand, withdrew, and rolled in again, beach music with a never-ending rhythm that should have been comforting but under these disquieting circumstances was not. She listened and watched and breathed, tasting the salt tang on her lips as she wet them, smelling the briny ocean in the deep, lung-expanding breaths she deliberately drew in an effort to steady her jangled nerves.

"Okay, Christy, get a grip." Talking to herself was probably not a good sign. No, she realized glumly, it was definitely not a good sign. If she was getting a little crazy, she thought as she quickened her pace toward the small, single-story house that was now beckoning like an oasis, that should fall under the category of Just One More Big Surprise. She was up to her neck in disasters, and there was no telling where another one of those horny little rabbits was going to pop up next. Ordinarily she loved Ocracoke; she'd vacationed here at least half a dozen times in the past. Use of the beach house was an occasional perk of her mother's special friendship with Uncle Vince. But now this tiny beach community in North Carolina's Outer Banks was starting to feel like it had been ripped right out of the pages of a Stephen King novel. A vision of Blackbeard's ghost -- the notorious pirate was said to haunt Ocracoke's beaches, his severed head tucked under his arm -- shadowing her along the water's edge popped into her mind, raising goose bumps on her arms. Which was ridiculous, of course. Who believed in ghosts? Not she, but -- the phrase that kept running through her head was, something wicked this way comes.

Dear God, I'll go to Mass every Sunday for the rest of my life if you'll just get me safely out of here.

She had to calm down and think this through.

If someone truly was behind her, if this terrifying sense of a hostile presence stalking her through the night was not just a product of overabundant imagination and overwrought nerves, then, clearly, it behooved her to get the heck off the beach. If she ran, anyone who happened to be back there would know she was on to them. If she walked, anyone who happened to be back there just might catch up.

That was the clincher. Yanking her skirt clear of her knees, she ran.

The sand was warm and gritty underfoot, dotted with puddles and strewn here and there with webs of stringy seaweed. Moonlight glinted on the clear blob of a jellyfish as it came tumbling toward her, rolling along on the outer edges of the inrushing tide. Fighting bubbling panic, gasping for breath, her heart beating a hundred miles a minute, her straining legs only wishing they could pump as fast, she pushed everything from her mind but the urgent need to get off that beach. The sound of the surf effectively deafened her; blowing strands of her hair whipping in front of her face all but blinded her. She couldn't hear so much as the slap of her own feet hitting the beach; she could barely see where she was going. But she could feel -- and what she was feeling terrified her.

Her five senses be damned: at the moment only the sixth one mattered. And it was telling her that she was in imminent danger. There was someone behind her, giving chase -- hunting her.

In the very act of casting what must have been the dozenth in a series of frightened glances over her shoulder, Christy tripped over something and went down.

She hit hard. Her knees gouged twin pits in the sand. Her palms thudded and sank. Her teeth clinked together with a force that sent pain shooting through the joint that connected her jaws. Salt spray hit her in the face as a large wave broke with particular enthusiasm just yards away.

Stunned to have been so abruptly catapulted onto all fours, she registered all that in an instant. She'd tripped. What had she tripped over? A piece of driftwood? What?

He's coming. Move.

Heart leaping as her own personal early warning system went off in spades, Christy obeyed, scrambling to her feet and at the same time instinctively glancing back to see what had felled her. Not that it mattered. Whoever was out there was closing in fast. She could sense him behind her, almost feel him....

A slender arm, inert and pale as the sand itself, lay inches behind her feet. Realizing just what had tripped her, Christy was momentarily shocked into immobility. Then her widening gaze followed the limb down to the back of a head covered with a tangle of long, wet-looking dark hair, narrow shoulders and waist and hips, rounded buttocks, long legs. A woman lay there, sprawled facedown in the sand. She was wet, naked as far as Christy could tell, with one arm stretched out across the beach as if she had been trying to crawl toward the safety of the houses. She didn't move, didn't make a sound, didn't appear to so much as breathe.

She looked dead.

Then her hand moved, slender fingers closing convulsively on sand, and her body tensed as if she were trying without success to propel herself forward.

"Help...please..."

Had Christy really heard the muttered words? Or had she just imagined them? The pounding surf coupled with the frantic beating of her own pulse in her ears was surely enough to block out even much louder sounds. But...

"I'm here," Christy said as she crouched, touching the back of the woman's hand with equal parts caution and concern. As her fingertips made contact with cold, sand-encrusted skin, a swift rush of pity tightened her throat. Poor thing, poor thing...

The woman's fingers twitched as if in acknowledgment of her touch.

"La...law..."

There was no mistake: she really heard the broken syllables, although this time they made no sense. The woman was not dead, but she seemed not far from it. Something terrible must have happened. Some kind of terrible accident.

"It's all ri -- " Christy began, only to break off as her peripheral vision picked up on something moving. She glanced up, beyond the woman, to see a man perhaps three hundred yards away, slogging past the dunes that had concealed him up until that point, headed inexorably toward her, head down as he followed the footprints -- her footprints -- that even she could plainly see in the sand. Her pursuer! For vital seconds she had forgotten all about him. Terror stabbed through her now, swift and sharp as an arrow. Her heart leaped into her throat. He was little more than a bulky shape in the uncertain moonlight, but this was no ghost, no figment of her imagination. He was unmistakably there. Unmistakably real. The Mother of All Rabbits in a dark jogging suit with the moonlight glinting off something shiny in one hand.

A gun?

Even as she gaped at him, he lifted his head. It was impossible to see his face, his features, anything more than the sheer bulk of him. But she could feel his gaze on her, feel the menace rushing toward her as he looked at her and realized that she was looking back. For an instant, a dreadful, blood-freezing instant, they connected, hunter and prey zeroing in on each other through the imperfectly concealing darkness.

All thoughts of trying to help the woman were instantly forgotten as that sixth sense of hers went haywire, signaling bad news and screaming at her to move! Propelled by an acute attack of self-preservation, Christy leaped to her feet. Letting loose with a scream that could have been heard clear back in Atlantic City, she ran for her life.

Copyright © 2003 by Karen Robards.

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Preface

Prologue

Right after I was elected governor of Texas, we were in turmoil trying to put things together, hire staff, move into the capitol office, and move from my house to the Governor's Mansion. In the midst of all this, we got a notice that the Queen of England was coming to Austin. It is a real undertaking to entertain the queen. We had to go to "entertain the queen school" to learn how to act around her. Secret Service flew in from Washington to tell us where we could and could not go and what we could and could not do. On the day she was to arrive, I was in my office at the capitol when I got the call saying the queen was at the airport. I went tearing down the stairs and running across the rotunda to meet her on the capitol steps and my mother's voice went through my head as clear as a bell saying, "Where do you think you are going, to see the Queen of England?" And I thought, Yes, Mama, I am!

Chapter 1

Mama

People do not think of osteoporosis as a fatal disease, but it is. My mother died of it. Well, that is not literally true. She died from cancer, but I swear her spirit died from osteoporosis.

Mama's name was Iona Warren, but everyone called her Ona. She was an industrious, thrifty child of the Great Depression, born and raised in a tiny town outside of Hico called Hogjaw. Her father was a farmer and they were dirt poor, but she was ambitious and hardworking -- the only one of three sisters to leave home and make a life on her own. In fact, her sisters still lived in Hico when I was a child. Mama finished high school, an enormous accomplishment in her time, and left the family home to move to the big city of Waco. Today, young women do this all the time, but back then it was highly unusual and courageous. My uncle I. V. lived in Waco and he encouraged Mama to come to the city. In Waco, she took a job in a dry goods store and later she met my father on a blind date.

I have told the story of the day I was born to people in the past because it perfectly illustrates her character. Before she went into labor, Mama had arranged for a neighbor lady to fix Daddy's supper on the day she delivered me, but the woman did not know how to wring a chicken's neck. To kill a chicken, you break its neck, and it takes skill to pop your arm in a way that breaks the chicken's neck clean. When my mother would do it, the head of the chicken would literally come off. That day, Mama delivered me in the morning and she was lying in bed when the neighbor came in to say she did not know how to kill the chicken. Mama said, "Bring it here," and she lay in that bed and wrung the chicken's neck.

Both my parents came from poor farming families, and all of my young life I remember Mama trying to figure out how she could make a little money, but whatever she made went for necessities or into the savings. When she was not working to make money, there were chores to be done. She spent every second housekeeping, tending the vegetable garden, sewing clothes, or taking care of our chickens.

There was no time reserved for having fun because she always had so much work to do, but she said, "You do whatever you have to do and you do it without whining." It was from Mama that I learned the value of hard work and to never linger over those things in life that could hold you back, and it had a great influence on me.

Mama taught me that you should never expect anyone else, a man included, to do what you can do for yourself. About five years before Mama died, I went to visit her and when I walked onto her patio, I looked up and saw her on the roof of the Austin condo she and my father had bought after they had sold the house in Waco. She was in her early eighties. She looked down at me and said, "I know you are going to fuss at me, but the TV said it was going to rain and the man who was supposed to clean out the gutters did not come. The periwinkles I planted the other day will be washed out if I do not clean these gutters." I just said, "Well, Mama, you have got a perfectly good reason for being on that roof and I just hope when I am your age that I can get up on a roof if I need to."

Despite her independence, my mama began to break off in pieces. She broke her wrist, and then her arm. Mama had lost about two inches of height over the years, but no one ever mentioned the word "osteoporosis." The shrinking and broken bones were considered a natural part of aging. She was so independent that even with the cast on her arm, she refused to let me hire household help. Mama was impatient with illness. If you scratched your knee or had a stomachache, she would say, "Just get over it. I do not want to hear about that. It will be gone in the morning." Or she would say, "Go wash it off with some soap and water." It was not acceptable to feel bad because it slowed you down, and being sick was a waste of time. With each of her injuries it became harder and harder for her to keep up with the housework, but she was not going to let anybody else do it. So far as she was concerned they were not going to do it right and she would have to do it anyhow. After Daddy died and I was working in Washington, D.C., she was on her own much of the time.

I was spending half of my time in Washington, D.C., but the law firm I worked for had an office in Austin, so I would commute from D.C. to Austin every week or so to make sure she was doing okay.

As the years went by, there were a few warning signs that Mama was not well. She would lose her train of thought in the middle of a sentence. She got lost driving from her house to my house. Her driving scared the family to no end! When she fell and broke her arm, she had to stop driving and we took her car one day and disabled it so that she could not drive. We kept telling her we would get it fixed, but of course we were not going to do it. Then one day, my son Clark and his wife, Sharon, were sitting at the kitchen table with Mama when she fainted. They took her to the hospital, and it was then that we learned my mother had a malignant lesion on her brain.

Mama was sent for radiation treatment. She was sick and lost her hair, but she would not wear a wig, so I bought scarves and hats for her. When I gave them to her, though, she would say, "Why did you spend your money on that?" Or I would take her to the hospital and when we arrived she would say, "I know how busy you are so do not bother coming in with me." That was her way. She did not want to be an inconvenience and I understand it because I worry that I will end up an inconvenience to my children.

Not long after she was diagnosed with cancer, she left something burning on the stove in her condominium. And though I did not want to relocate her on top of everything else, I knew there was no way she could continue to live alone. I really admire the Chinese and the Mexican cultures for how they take care of their elders by bringing them into the family, but there was no way I could make a living and give Mama the care she needed. Besides, my mother cherished her own space and she would have hated living under my roof. It is funny how much like my mother I become as I get older, and how, like her, I often crave solitude. I suppose we get set in our ways, used to our own spaces, our own ways of doing things, but I still needed to figure out something that would make Mama comfortable. I asked Mama if she would allow me to take a look at an assisted-living apartment for her and she said yes, she thought she would, and she said that she was just as concerned about her ability to care for herself as I was.

After considering a few options, we found an assisted-living facility in Austin that combined three sections: go-go, slow-go, and no-go. I wanted a place that would allow her to remain in the same facility; moving is so disorienting. The rules of the facility required Mama to be able to take care of herself when we first bought the apartment. This is called the "go-go" stage because she could still care for herself. If we waited until she could no longer care for herself, it would be too late to get her into that particular facility. Once we bought the apartment, it would be Mama's for the rest of her life, and if she needed assistance it was available in the slow-go or no-go sections. When she died, the go-go apartment would be sold to someone else.

Not long after our discussion, we moved Mama into her new assisted-living apartment. What a job! Years and years of accumulated stuff -- my mother saved everything. By the end of her life, she had clothes hanging in her closet she had not worn in years. She was certain that one day she would need that old sequin dress! It had reached the point where there was no more room in the closet and she had started hanging things on a rod over the bathtub. The garage was filled with boxes full of paper bags from the grocery store and plastic sacks full of more plastic sacks. She never threw away a ragged towel or old socks since these could be used for cleaning. Before my father died I had arranged for Meals on Wheels to help out, and when I came to visit, I would find the refrigerator filled with leftover Meals on Wheels boxes. If they did not eat everything in the box, Mama would save what was left. Even after she was on her own, she saved her leftovers. The problem was, she could not remember what was in the cartons -- it was just a mess. And because Mama was a gardener there were always boxes and sacks of dirt in the garage. She was big on bringing dirt home. She would see some dirt on the side of the road that looked rich, stop, get the shovel out of the trunk, and fill up a box. When we moved her things out of the condo, she loaded a box of dirt into the car trunk because she said she would need dirt for potting plants. She had antique china dolls with elaborate dresses, and there were china cabinets full of cut glass and figurines. We found multiple lists: "silver service in hot water-heater closet, Indian jewelry under stairs." Time had dulled her memory so she had to make lists, but then she could not remember where she'd put the lists. Mama spent a lifetime worrying that I would not appreciate the things she collected, but the truth is that toward the end she lost interest in all that stuff herself. All that mattered to her were family and friends; everything else sort of fell away. All she cared about was having us visit. Life was measured from visit to visit.

Mama's new apartment was really quite pretty. It was important that she have the option to prepare her own meals or choose to go to the central dining room because I wanted to be certain that she could remain independent for as long as possible. At first, Mama was adjusting well and I think having other people around gave her back some of her confidence, but then she fell and broke her hip. I do not know how long she lay on the floor before someone found her. Now, for anyone to experience an accident is difficult, but for older people, it is traumatic. There are so many different stages of treatment that require different facilities, different doctors, and multiple medications. They lose track of where they are and for what reason. They go to the emergency room and there is one set of doctors and nurses. Then, from the emergency room they are moved to a regular hospital room and there is another set of doctors and nurses. If they need to have a bone set or have surgery, there is another specialist and a new group of nurses. Once past that, they are moved to a rehab center, where there is a new group of therapists, nurses, and physicians. For those who leave the rehab but are not well enough to go home, there is a way-station facility and another set of personnel. And then by the time they get home, if they get home, there is a home-health care nurse and a rehab therapist. And on top of all this confusion, they have to decipher the label on the medicine bottles that instructs them on what to take, how much, and when. It is no wonder my mama became terribly confused when she broke her hip.

When Mama got out of rehab, she was unsteady on her feet and could not return to her go-go apartment, so while she recovered, she stayed in the slow-go section of the assisted-living facility. We all wanted what was best for her, but looking back, I think moving around like that caused Mama a great deal of confusion. Even in the go-go apartment that was furnished with her things, she sometimes became puzzled about where she was. When she left the central dining room, she would get lost looking for her apartment. As Mama was shuffled around from one place to another after her accident, her confusion escalated. When she was in the rehabilitation unit, the doctor would question her and Mama would answer, "Well yes and thank you" -- always very courteous -- but after he left the room she would say, "Who was that?" And I would say, "Well, that is the doctor here in the rehab center." "Oh," she would say with resignation.

Mama had to use a walker and she hated it. Now began a real, real serious loss of cognizance, and this time in her life is a very painful memory for me. We visited her a lot, but she would forget anyone had been there and the very next day after one of us had been there, she would ask why we never came to see her. She would call me or my daughters and say, "I am at a hotel downtown. I need somebody to pick me up." I put some of the furniture from her go-go apartment into the slow-go room so she would see familiar things. When she would call me in confusion, I would try to talk her through it. I would say, "Mama, you see those chairs there? You remember we got those chairs covered in that new fabric?" And she would say, "Yes." "So you know that those are your chairs and you are in your room." And she would say, "Well, I guess I am." Once I went into her room and found she had written "help me" in lipstick on the mirror in the bathroom. My heart broke when I read her message. I just know that she got up in the middle of the night and did not know where she was.

I thank God for the slow-go nursing-care unit in the assisted-living complex because I never would have wanted to move her to yet another location. The facility was really nice, but I had a sinking feeling of sadness every time I walked out the door and left her there. Except for the delusional periods, Mama was not afraid. She did not talk much in those last months, but she wanted us to talk to her. We talked about the weather, what the weather was yesterday, what the weather would be tomorrow, what the children were doing, and what the grandchildren were thinking. Mama did not complain, and she would not have wanted us to complain on her behalf, but she did not have any control over her situation or an opportunity to alter her circumstances. For a woman with Mama's spunk, I sometimes think it might have been worse than dying.

We would take her out for Sunday brunch and that really cheered her up. We would go to Luby's, where she could get her favorite vegetables, and she would tell me that some of the people in the nursing home were really crazy! There was a woman who shouted all the time and a man who never talked at all. The complex had a minister come once a week, and she would attend even though she said he was boring. And a church lady came and sang songs that Mama enjoyed. I remember her seated in a circle with a group of other women. They were rolling a red ball back and forth to each other, a form of exercise I suppose. Even with the walker that she hated, Mama tried to participate in life until the end, but it was obvious that she was dying. I was still commuting between Austin and Washington, D.C., and I was giving speeches all over the country, so I hired someone to stay with Mama all the time, and we got hospice care.

My mother told me at some point in those last few weeks that she had seen her mother, although in reality she had been dead for many years. My mother loved her own mother dearly. She said that my grandmother had come to her room and sat with her.

In the last days of her life, hospice caregivers told us that even though Mama was in a coma, she might still hear and understand what we said to her. The night my mother died I talked to her. I said, "Do you know how you told me you saw your Mama? Maybe you are really going to get to see her." I said, "You know, Mama, I do not know what heaven is like, but if it is there, then Daddy will be there and Grandmother and Aunt Elta. You will get to be with them." My children talked to her, too. Whether that was any reassurance to her or not I do not know, but I like to think it was.

I have come to the conclusion that not only do we have to learn to live well during the years we have, but we also have to learn to accept dying. We should be allowed to live out our last days with dignity. Mama had signed the power of attorney and the power of medical decisions and every necessary document because she did not want to die an ignoble death, but her death was hard. She went through all of the sad, gasping death throes. I keep thinking that as time passes, that memory will fade, but it has not. In her last days, Mama was not conscious. She had to be turned to avoid bedsores. The day before she died, I came into her room to find one of the staff members at the nursing home spooning a black substance into her mouth. Mama was semiconscious and unable to swallow because her mouth was so ulcerated. I was shocked and upset so I said, "What are you doing?" And the woman replied, "I am giving her vitamins." I could not believe it-Mama was dying, but since the doctor had not marked "vitamins" off the chart, the woman had mashed vitamins into chocolate pudding and attempted to administer the stuff even though my mother could not swallow.

I did not realize how strong our bodies are until I watched my mother die. Dying is hard. Shepherding her through those last years was traumatic. The last lesson I learned from my mama was to put my health first. I do not want my kids to remember my last years the way I remember Mama's.

Mama died on February 15, 1997, just after midnight of Valentine's Day. For a long time I felt untethered from the world, like a balloon whose string is suddenly severed.

I often think about what I should have done or could have done when she was dying. I think that I did all I could. It is just that she was failing more rapidly than any of us were willing to accept. I do not think most of us want to admit that our mother is dying. I kept thinking that with every illness, she was going to spring back, because she always had. I would not have wanted her to live one minute longer the way that she was. That is no life. When I think about this sad time, I realize the real regret I have about my mother is that she had to move into assisted living. Not long ago I bought a new condo. It has a spare bedroom I call the nurse's room, and I intend to make the place easy for me to negotiate in my old age. I want to live as long as possible in my own home.

After Mama died, I talked a lot about my mother's aging and dying in speeches I made around the country. I talked about how we have to take responsibility for our own health. We can give no greater gift to those we love than our good health. I tapped into something with those speeches. Women came up to me afterward and talked about their own fears of aging and remaining independent. They talked about their situation with their own aging parents and I realized that there is little shared information about our feelings when our parents need care.

I do not know why I have such a fear that my children might have to be responsible for me when I am old, but I do. I hope I am still doing the same thing I am doing now when I am eighty, but I may not, so I need money in the bank that can support my needs and will let me travel, and indulge my children. I do not want to be limited by the lack of money or by my physical health. These are the two things that women think the least about when they are young. Women are always caring for somebody else. I do not know why it is that way, but it has always been that way.

Mama held on to her gumption for a long time, but her body and mind had given up. If I had known then what I know now about osteoporosis, years before my mama had broken that first bone, I would have insisted she get a bone-density test and from there, choose a regimen to strengthen her bones. It would not have kept her from dying, but her last years would have been better. Watching Mama, I knew I was seeing myself in a few years, and it motivated me to become aggressive about taking care of myself.

Osteoporosis makes living difficult and that is why it is so frightening. The good news though is that new medical information and medications offer women the opportunity to overcome this disease. What matters to me is being independent for the rest of my life, able to do whatever I want without being held back by infirmities. I do not want to end up in a trailer in my daughter's driveway. I have tried to lead an active, productive life, but I did not always take care of my health. I want to keep doing the things I enjoy; so today I make my health my top concern.

Copyright © 2003 by Ann Richards.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 33 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 33 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2007

    Great read!

    I really enjoyed this book! It's a great summer read for all who enjoy romantic suspense thrillers!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted October 5, 2003

    Another great book

    Christy Petrino thought she had it all, a wonderful career as a lawyer, a great boss who was also her fiancé. But she had her eyes opened by a relative, her job is mob controlled and so is her fiancé. She dumps the fiancé but the mob won¿t let her go unless she does this one favor for them. Christy goes to Ocracoke Island to deliver a package but she then stumbles onto a murder. She is helped by her neighbor Luke Randolph. Luke befriends Christy and they start to grow close. But Luke is keeping a big secret that could tear them apart. Christy keeps having terrible things happen to her and she things that the mob isn¿t done with her. But there is something more sinister out to get Christy. The suspense is terrifying and the relationship between Luke and Christy is intense. This is another Karen Robards must read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2012

    Excellent!!

    Not sure what all the fuss is about with the ending but I thought it was a great read that I couldn't put down!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Sooo Good!

    I LOVED this book! It had just enough love and mystery for my liking. Best Karen robards book so far!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2006

    L.O.S.T.

    It didn't start off as well as her other books. You have Christy Petrino who is an honest attorney. The FBI guys Luke and Gary. Her shady fiance Michael De Palma,A hitman who doesn't plan very well. And Marvin the cat. I thought the cat was great. Every time I put the book down I still got lost.The ending did bite.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2003

    DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY

    First let me say I own & have thoroughly enjoyed nearly every book Karen Robards has written so I couldn't wait to start this one. I saved it for vacation & expected to fly through it in one day. Five days later I finally struggled to the end. The plot is ridiculous & I couldn't dredge up any interest in any of the characters. I guess every author is entitled to a clunker but this one surprised me, it was THAT boring.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    exciting romantic suspense

    Though the tie-in to the Jersey mob is in her blood and further connected through her mom¿s relationship with Uncle Vince, corporate attorney Christy Petrino always adhered to the law, having nothing to do with criminal activities of friends, family, or sponsors. As the fiancée to her boss Michael DePalma, her personal life looked as settled and contented as her profession. However, that illusion is ends when she suddenly knows too much to live. <P>Hiding in the North Carolina Outer Banks, Christy¿s collapsing life falls further apart when she stumbles on a dying woman on the beach and sees the shadow of the murderer. She flees only to catch Luke Rand on her beach property. A FBI agent, Luke wonders how his surveillance of Christy could go so wrong as he tries to learn what she knows about her boss Michael. That same night Luke rescues Christy from an attack from the shadowy figure she saw earlier. Marked by a serial killer, the mob and the FBI, Christy¿s first day in the Outer Banks makes Atlantic City seem safe. <P>This romantic suspense novel opens at a very fast-pace, continues throughout with plenty of action and never lets up until the final moment. This leaves readers breathless trying to keep up. Christy and Luke are a delightful lead couple struggling with attraction vs. commitment (to a job that is). Though the diverse subplots (serial killer and mob) take adjustment to keep track of since the female protagonist is caught in the crosshairs of both, fans of Karen Robards will value this terse thriller. <P>Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2014

    T

    Read this book many years ago & enjoyed it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2014

    Beachcomber

    328 pages - good book with lots of suspense - a little too much sex

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2014

    Steamy is the put off word in blub

    Prefer an honest description of contents and age suitable like movie ratings is this a book to give to your minister for light reading whike recuoeratibg from flu?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    Great read

    I really liked & never suspected the ending

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2012

    Karen Robards, Beachcomber

    this is a really good book. It really makes you think about your surroundings and who might be watching you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2005

    I loved it!

    This was the first of Karen Robards book I've read and I loved it. But that's because I don't know Ocracoke Island so I didn't know that it wasn't realistic, but the story was great, and I became new fan of Karen Robards and read her other books and loved them all.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2005

    Horrible

    I was very disappointed in this book. Definitely not Ms. Robard's best work. I did not feel the chemistry between the characters and the ending felt unfinished. I had a hard time finishing the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2004

    Disappointing

    As a writer myself, I understand the need to fictionalize real places to suit the needs of your story, but it is clear that Ms. Robards has never been to Ocracoke Island, let alone researched it. If she had, she would realize that there are no streams, cliffs, or forests there. It is also a very tiny island, about 14 miles long and 4 miles wide so the 4-5 hour walk into town is unrealistic. The story itself is OK, with so-so characters but I couldn't get past the glaring mistakes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2004

    Great book, new Karen Robard fan

    I really liked this book. Loved Karen's writing and stayed interested through and through. I do agree with one of the other reviewers though, about one thing though... the ending could have been much better. that kinda dissapointed me cause it was so good and built up real nice, and then the end wasn't quite as 'grouseome' 'detailed' 'powerful' as i expected to be. But I cant wait to read other books by her.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2003

    A new Karen Robards fan

    I picked up Whispers at Midnight, never reading anything yet by Karen Robards. I loved every thing about her style of writing. So I also bought Beachcomber, when it was released. This author has done it again. The book was a great read. I am now in the process of locating anything I can get my hands on, by Karen Robards.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2003

    good read! A big fan of karen robards

    I did enjoy this book! I read it in one day. However, I did think that the ending was not a good as it could have been.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2015

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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