Dying to Please [NOOK Book]


Loyal. Beautiful. Professional. Impeccably organized. Potentially lethal. Sarah Stevens is a woman with many distinct qualities. First and foremost a butler par excellence, skilled at running large households smoothly and efficiently, she is also a trained bodyguard and expert marksman?indispensable to her elderly employer, a courtly gentleman whom Sarah has come to respect and love as a father.

Then one night she thwarts a burglary in ...
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Dying to Please

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Loyal. Beautiful. Professional. Impeccably organized. Potentially lethal. Sarah Stevens is a woman with many distinct qualities. First and foremost a butler par excellence, skilled at running large households smoothly and efficiently, she is also a trained bodyguard and expert marksman–indispensable to her elderly employer, a courtly gentleman whom Sarah has come to respect and love as a father.

Then one night she thwarts a burglary in progress, a courageous act that rewards Sarah her requisite “fifteen minutes of fame” with the local press. But the exposure is enough to catch the attention of a tortured soul who, unbeknownst to Sarah, will stop at nothing to have her for himself.

Sarah’s perfectly ordered life is shattered when tragedy strikes: her beloved employer is brutally murdered. The detective investigating the case, assures Sarah that she is not a suspect. Until lightning strikes twice. There’s a second killing–and this time, despite a lack of evidence connecting her to the crime, Sarah cannot escape the shadow of guilt.

The only option left for Sarah is to carry on with her life. But she doesn’t realize that a deranged stalker is luring her into an elaborate trap . . . one in which she, once ensnared, might never escape. For Sarah soon finds herself at the mercy of a man who will tend to her every whim, smother her with affection, and crush her in his all-consuming embrace.

In a nonstop roller-coaster ride of unrelenting suspense, Linda Howard has written her most chilling novel yet. Dying to Please is a breathless thriller of desire and obsession.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
When Sarah Stevens, butler and bodyguard extraordinaire, foils a robbery, she could not have predicted either the tragic chain of events that would be set in motion or detective Thomas Cahill, who responded to the first crime scene. Sarah intrigued, attracted, and aroused him, but his first marriage had dissolved in livid disgust, making him all too wary. Sarah is equally frightened of her feelings for him; she had never before felt so deeply. It might have been bliss had Sarah's employers not developed a habit of dying by murder. This story, aided by Howard's descriptive narrative, translates well to audio, with evocative visual images cascading through every scene. The author also writes the most erotic lovemaking in the business, which Susan Ericksen handles with aplomb. Careful not to overdramatize, she captures the emotional undercurrents, the mood, and tone of the tale with apparent ease. Recommended for all popular fiction collections.-Jodi L. Israel, MLS, Jamaica Plain, MA
From the Publisher
“Linda Howard meshes hot sex, emotional impact, and gripping tension.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345459589
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/29/2002
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 38,551
  • File size: 426 KB

Meet the Author

Linda Howard is the award-winning author of nine New York Times bestsellers, including Open Season, Mr. Perfect, All the Queen’s Men, Now You See Her, Kill and Tell, and Son of the Morning. She lives in Alabama with her husband and two golden retrievers.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt


Sarah Stevens was so accustomed to the slight whirring noise of the fan that the lack of it immediately awakened her. She cracked open one eye and peered at her digital clock, but there weren't any bright red numerals shining back at her. She blinked in sleepy confusion, then realized what was wrong.

The electricity had gone off. Oh, great.

She rolled over onto her back, listening. The night was quiet; there was no rumble of thunder to signal a violent spring storm in the vicinity, which would have explained the loss of power. She didn't close the curtains at night, since her rooms faced the back where the grounds had privacy fencing, and through her bedroom windows she could see the faint gleam of starlight. Not only was it not raining, the sky wasn't even cloudy.

Maybe a transformer had blown. Or an auto accident might have taken down a utility pole. Any number of things could have caused the power outage.

Sighing, she sat up and reached for the flashlight she kept on the bedside table. Regardless of why the electricity was off, her job was to minimize the effect it would have on Judge Roberts, make certain he wouldn't be inconvenienced more than necessary. He didn't have any appointments in the morning, but the old dear was fussy about what time he had breakfast. Not that he'd be cranky about it, but any change in his routine upset him more now than it had even a year before. He was eighty-five; he deserved to have breakfast when he wanted it.

She picked up the receiver of the telephone; it was a land line, so the loss of power wouldn't affect it. Cordless phones were great, until the electricity went off. In addition to this one, Sarah had made certain a few strategically placed phones in the main house were land lines.

No dial tone buzzed in her ear.

Puzzled, and growing slightly worried, she got out of bed. Her two rooms were over the garage, with her combined living room and kitchen area facing the front, while her bedroom and bath faced the back. She didn't switch on the flashlight; this was her home, and she didn't need guidance to make her way to the other room. She parted the curtains covering the front windows and looked out.

None of the strategically placed lights on the Judge's manicured lawn were lit, but to the right, the soft glow of the neighbor's security lights threw long, dense shadows across the lawn.

The electricity wasn't off, then. A breaker could have kicked, but that would have affected only part of the house, or the grounds, but not both. She stood very still, logic and intuition combining: (A) The electricity was off. (B) The phone lines were out. (C) The next-door neighbor had electricity. The conclusion she reached didn't require much of a leap: someone had cut the lines, and the only reason for doing so would be to break into the house.

Cat-silent in her bare feet, she ran back to the bedroom and got her nine-millimeter automatic from the bedside table. Her cell phone, damn it, was in her SUV, which was parked under the portico in back. She raced for the door, only briefly considering detouring to get the phone from her vehicle; her first priority was to protect the Judge. She had to get to him, make certain he was safe. He'd had a couple of credible death threats made against him during his last year on the bench, and though he had always passed them off as nothing, Sarah couldn't afford to be so cavalier.

Her quarters connected to the house via a staircase, with doors at both top and bottom; she had to switch on the flashlight as she went down the stairs so she wouldn't miss a step and fall, but as soon as she reached the bottom, she turned off the light. She paused for a moment to let her eyes readjust to the darkness, and as she did she listened, straining her ears for any sound that didn't belong. Nothing. Silently she turned the knob and opened the door in increments, an inch at the time, every nerve in her body alert. No strange sounds greeted her, so she stepped forward.

She was standing in a short hall; to her left was the door to the garage. Silently she tried the knob, and found it still locked. One door down was the laundry room; then directly across the hall was the kitchen. The battery-operated wall clock in the kitchen ticked monotonously, very loud now without the hum of the refrigerator to mask the sound. She eased into the kitchen, the glazed ceramic tile cold beneath her feet. Skirting the huge cooking island, she paused again before entering the breakfast room. There was more light here, because of the big bay window that looked out into the rose garden, but that meant she was more likely to be seen if any intruder was watching. Her pajamas were a pale blue cotton, as visible as white. She would be an easy target.

That was a chance she'd have to take.

Her heart slammed against her rib cage, and she took a slow, deep breath to calm herself, trying to control the adrenaline rushing through her system. She couldn't let herself get sucked under by the whirlpool of excitement; she had to ride it, keep her mind cool and disengaged, remember her training. She took another deep breath and eased forward, minimizing her exposure by hugging the wall as closely as she could get without actually brushing against it. Slow and easy, she thought. One step at a time, placing her bare feet carefully so she was always balanced, she worked her way around the room and to the door that opened into the back hall. She paused again, listening.


No. A muffled sound, so slight she wasn't sure she'd heard anything at all. She waited, breathing halted, eyes deliberately unfocused so her peripheral vision could detect any movement. The hall was empty, but after a moment the sound came again, slightly louder, from . . . the sunroom?

Two formal parlors, and the dining room, were on the front side of the house; the kitchen, breakfast room, library, and sunroom were all on the back. The sunroom was a corner room, with two walls composed mostly of windows, and two pairs of sliding French doors opened onto the patio. If she had been planning to break into the house, Sarah thought, she would have picked the sunroom as the best entry point. Evidently some else had, too.

She sidled into the hall, paused half a heartbeat, then took two swift steps that carried her to the side of the huge, hundred-year-old buffet that was now used to store table linens. She went to one knee on the thick carpet, concealed by the bulk of the buffet, just as someone came out of the library.

He was dressed in dark clothes and carrying something big and bulky. The computer terminal, she thought, but the hall was too dark to be certain. He carried his burden into the sunroom, and she heard more of those muffled sounds, rather like the scuff of shoes on carpet.

Her heart was thudding, but all the same she felt a little relieved. The intruder was obviously a thief, rather than a criminal bent on revenge against the Judge. That wasn't to say they weren't in danger; the thief might be violent, but his movements so far were those of someone bent on stealing what he could and sneaking away. He was organized and methodical, witness the disabled electrical and phone lines. He had probably cut the power in order to disarm the alarm system, then cut the phone lines as an added precaution.

The question was, what should she do?

She was very aware of the weapon in her hand, but the situation didn't call for lethal force. She would shoot if necessary to save the Judge's life, or her own, but she wasn't about to shoot someone over some electronic equipment. That did not, however, mean she was inclined to let him get away.

It was also possible he was armed. Burglars as a rule didn't carry weapons, because if luck wasn't with them, the jail sentence for armed robbery was so much stiffer than for a simple robbery. Just because most burglars weren't armed, though, didn't mean she could afford to assume this one wasn't.

He was big; from what she'd been able to tell in the dark hall, he was around six feet tall, and burly. She could probably handle him in a face-to-face situation--unless he was armed, and then all the training in the world wouldn't stop a bullet. There was a big difference, her father had told her, between being confident and being cocky; cocky would get you killed. The best thing to do would be take him by surprise, from behind, rather than risk getting shot.

A whisper of sound warned her, and she held still as he moved into the hallway, reversing his path from the sunroom to the library. Now would be a good time to make her move, catch him when he came back out with his arms full of stolen goods. She placed her flashlight on the floor, then transferred the pistol to her left hand and silently began rising from her crouch.

Another man came out of the sunroom.

Sarah froze, her head exposed above the edge of the buffet. Her heart kicked sickeningly hard, almost taking her breath. All the guy had to do was look in her direction; her face, pale and distinct in the darkness, would be clearly visible.

He didn't pause as he stealthily followed the first man into the library.

She sank back against the wall, shaking with relief. She took several deep, quiet breaths, holding each a few seconds to calm her racing heart. That had been entirely too close; another second and she would have been standing, fully revealed.

There being two men instead of just one definitely put a different spin on things. Her risk was now doubled, and her chance of success halved. Slipping outside to her SUV and calling 911 on the cell phone was beginning to look like the best option, assuming she could get there undetected. The biggest problem for her was leaving the Judge unprotected. He didn't hear well; they could be in his room before he knew it; he wouldn't have a chance to hide. The old dear was valiant enough to fight any intruder, which would at the least get him hurt, and at the worst, killed.

Her job was to prevent that from happening. She couldn't if she was outside talking on the phone.

Her nerves gave one quiver, then settled down. She'd made her decision; now she had to forget everything else but her training.

There were scuffing sounds from the library and a faint grunt. Despite her tension, she began smiling. If they were trying to hoist the fifty-five-inch television, both of them would have more than they could handle and their hands would be occupied. Maybe there wouldn't be a better time to take them than right now.

She stood and stepped silently to the library, putting her back against the wall beside the door and daring a lightning-fast peek inside. One of the thieves had a penlight clamped in his teeth, allowing her to see that they were indeed wrestling with the behemoth television. Bless their hearts, they had also ruined their own night vision, making it difficult for them to see her.

She waited, and after a few more grunts and a whispered curse, one of the thieves began backing out of the library, using both hands to grip one side of the television while the other man held the opposite side. She could almost hear their bones creaking under the weight, and thanks to the thin beam of the penlight as it shone straight into the first man's sweaty face, she could see the strain in his expression.

Piece of cake.

Sarah smiled. As soon as the first thief was clear of the doorway, she stuck out her bare foot and caught his left ankle, flipping it upward. He gave a startled yelp and crashed to his back in the hallway. The huge television slammed sideways against the doorframe, then toppled forward. The man on the floor yelled in alarm, the sound changing abruptly to a high-pitched scream as the television crashed down on his pelvis and legs.

His partner tried to catch his balance, his arms flailing. The penlight dropped out of his mouth, and in the abrupt darkness he said, "Fuck!" as he pitched forward. Sarah helped him along, pivoting and landing a punch to his temple. The punch lacked her full force, as he was already going down, but it was enough to sting her knuckles and send him sprawling bonelessly across the bulk of the television, which elicited even more screams from underneath. The unconscious man slowly slid to one side, crumpled and limp; a blow to the temple usually had that effect.

"Sarah? What's going on? Why is the power off?" The Judge's voice came from the top of the back stairs, rising over the yells of the man pinned under the television.

Accurately judging that neither man was going anywhere in the next few minutes, Sarah went to the bottom of the steps. "Two men broke into the house," she said; between the Judge's partial deafness and the yowls of pain, she had to yell to make certain he heard her. "I have it handled. Stay there until I get the flashlight." The last thing she needed was to have him tumble down the stairs in the darkness, trying to come to her aid.

She retrieved the flashlight from the floor beside the buffet, then returned to the stairs to light the Judge's journey down, which he made with a speed that belied his eighty-five years. "Burglars? Have you called the police?"

"Not yet. They cut the phone lines, and I haven't had a chance to get my cell phone from my truck."

He reached the bottom of the steps and peered to the right, in the direction of all the racket. Obligingly, Sarah turned her flashlight on the scene, and after a second he chuckled. "If you'll give me that pistol, I believe I can keep these two under control while you make that call."

She handed him the pistol, butt first, then stripped the phone cord from the hall phone and bent over the unconscious thief. He was the big one, and she grunted with the effort it took to roll him over. Quickly she pulled his arms behind him, wrapped the phone cord around his wrists, then bent one leg backward and secured his wrists to his ankle. Unless he was extremely agile hopping on one foot--and with a concussion, no less--he wasn't going anywhere, regardless of whether or not there was a pistol trained on him; neither was the guy pinned under the television.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 108 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 109 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 24, 2011



    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Couldn't put it down

    Great balance between suspense and romance. Very hot, not only just the story but the underlying sensual story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2013


    Happy valentines day!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 3, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Just Okay For Me

    This book is romantic suspense, heavy on the relationship drama and light on the suspense. I loved some parts. The dialogue/banter between the two main characters had me chuckling at times. I liked both characters and the storyline was interesting, if not a bit predictable.

    Unfortunately, for me, too many things didn't work. I found the story dragged, with lots of repetitious inner thoughts about the merits of each character getting involved in a relationship with the other. I didn't actually see much of a relationship. The two characters only seemed to interact when having sex. Then, at the end when the killer is revealed, the story feels suddenly rushed. I didn't think the investigation aspect was well thought out or enacted. The last of several times that Sarah is considered a suspect verged on the ridiculous.

    Overall, the drawbacks took away from otherwise great writing and made this on okay read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 17, 2010

    I Also Recommend:


    This is my favorite of all Linda Howard's books and got me started on all her other books I love her, her books are very hard to put down!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2009

    Loved it!

    This is the first book I read by Linda Howard and I could not put it down. Although Sarah and Cahill's relationship progressed pretty quickly, I felt it was realistic, as opposed to two characters simply jumping into bed together. Yes, Cahill's got the protective cop thing going on, but I loved how Sarah held her own and was just as tough. She's definitely not weak and helpless, as you can see from the very first part of the book. I really enjoyed reading this and was sad when it was over...I wanted more! Sarah and Cahill are pretty hot together. Maybe Linda should write a second book with them :)

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2002

    Excellent romantic suspense

    She¿s young, beautiful and sensual. Sarah Stevens is the perfect butler cum bodyguard for retired federal Judge Roberts who has received numerous death threats during his time on the bench. When two burglars break into the judge¿s home, Sarah disarms them by tripping one thief and landing a knock out punch on the other. When Detective Cahill arrives on the scene, he¿s immediately attracted to Sarah and she to him, but they both fight it because of previous hurts and future plans. <P>Sarah¿s crime fighting stills displayed in her current assignment land her on the television news that leads to her coming to the attention of a wealthy businessman who decides he wants her all to herself. Towards that end, he tenders a job offer but when she turns it down he kills her employer, hoping Sarah will reconsider his offer. At first Detective Cahill considers her a suspect. When she is cleared they enter into a relationship that is destroyed when a second murder occurs. Again Sarah is the prime suspect. It is at this point that the stalker/killer makes his move. <P>Aside from her unique profession, the heroine is so self composed, content with her life, and sure that she can protect herself in any given situation that the audience can¿t help but adore her. The story line of DYING TO PLEASE is a fun combination police procedural¿romantic suspense tale that has plenty of allure to attract readers of both sub-genres. Linda Howard is at her all time best in this crime thriller that is filled with plenty of action, suspense and romance, giving it a mainstream appeal. <P>Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 25, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Loved the suspense, good romance and dynamite ending.

    Loved the suspense, good romance and dynamite ending.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2013


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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2013


    Ya both of u

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2013

    The guy is killing people so he can get a...BUTLER? What a bizar

    The guy is killing people so he can get a...BUTLER? What a bizarre premise! Not enough action from the supposed expert bodyguard/sharpshooter extraordinaire-her character was weak. The cop wasn't bad. The whole premise, though was so silly that I was turned off almost from the start.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2013


    He sexiicant sleepmore sexi

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2013

    Here for u par...


    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2012

    My favorite

    It was great, her strong female leads never cease to please me :-)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2012

    Great Book

    Love all Linda Howard's books.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2012


    Linda Howard has not written a book I have not liked.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2012


    Linda Howard books are always entertaining & a great read

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  • Posted September 12, 2010

    Great Read


    "Dying to Please" had a great story line. I would have absolutely loved it had it not been the overuse of the "f" word, and the explicit sex. How many times can you say "his ding-dong was going up and down like a yo-yo?" Or, "he couldn't sit down because he was so stiff." GIVE ME A BREAK !

    I do have a question: do all of your books have the above mentioned flaws ? I would love to read your books, if there is not this overuse of sex. Incidentally, I can see where you make it a longer book. By at least 25%.


    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Good Hero

    So, LH is always good for lots of story and a little nookie. This book was no exception. A little more violent and real life but still good. I like the guy a lot in this story.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 21, 2009


    This is the first time I think I have read one of her books and it won't be the last. In fact I really need to get to the book store and hunt for some more. The romance between the main characters is great , plus I of course liked the ending with the killer. I would love to find more books with these characters in them, even though I'm sure there aren't.
    A great book, highly recommend.

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