Full Blast (Janet Evanovich's Full Series #4)

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Overview

Dear Reader,

Get ready to have the hottest time of your life with the sizzling duo of newspaper editor Jamie Swift and mysterious millionaire Max Holt. My good friend Charlotte Hughes and I set out to create a whole new world, separate from my Stephanie Plum novels, yet inhabited by the same kind of zany, hilarious, and totally unique characters that we love. There's never a dull moment for the residents of Beaumont, South Carolina. Lately, a heat wave's spiked the mercury-and ...

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Full Blast (Janet Evanovich's Full Series #4)

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Overview

Dear Reader,

Get ready to have the hottest time of your life with the sizzling duo of newspaper editor Jamie Swift and mysterious millionaire Max Holt. My good friend Charlotte Hughes and I set out to create a whole new world, separate from my Stephanie Plum novels, yet inhabited by the same kind of zany, hilarious, and totally unique characters that we love. There's never a dull moment for the residents of Beaumont, South Carolina. Lately, a heat wave's spiked the mercury-and everyone's sex drive! These days, when Jamie runs into Max, it's all she can do not to tear his clothes off-and the feeling is mutual. But trouble seems to follow Max like moths to a flame, and Jamie suspects he's all wrong for her. Meanwhile, the lingerie shop is having a sale on edible underwear, while the bakery's selling aphrodisiac-laced brownies and x-rated birthday cakes. Even Jamie's dog, Fleas, is dodging passes from the amorous French poodle next door! But when someone starts bumping off some of the town's more annoying citizens, all clues lead straight to the new personals section in Jamie's newspaper. Pretty soon, things are getting hot and heavy, as Max and Jamie start uncovering secrets-and undressing each other...

So settle in with a tall, cool drink, and have fun with Full Blast. We'll be back soon, with another steamy romantic adventure featuring Jamie and Max. Happy reading!

Janet and Charlotte

"Two very powerful authors who are both extremely skilled at creating books bursting with action, adventure and amusement, have paired up to create another fast-paced, wacky novel filled with eccentric characters and southern ambience." -The Road to Romance on Full Tilt

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A truly delightful madcap mix...a fun, funny, and exhilarating romp."-Romantic Times Top Pick on Full House

"An uproarious, amusing novel."-Midwest Book Review on Full Speed

"A fast and furious and totally hilarious romantic caper."-Old Book Barn Gazette on Full Tilt

"Number one New York Times bestselling authors Janet Evanovich and Charlotte Hughes have teamed up to create a wonderful duo in Full Speed...the sparks between Max and Jamie just fly! After reading the prologue, this was one book I could not put down until I had finished reading to the last page. It was thoroughly enjoyable." -RomanceJunkies on Full Speed

Library Journal
This is the fourth title in Evanovich and Hughes's series featuring Jamie Swift and Max Holt. As such, Jamie and Max's relationship advances to another level, Jamie is still struggling to keep her newspaper successful, and there is a full cast of colorful characters. The story involves the personal ads that Jamie is promoting to bring in revenue. Women who have answered them are being killed, and Max and Jamie investigate. As in the past works, they are aided by Muffin, a computer with a personality, along with a psychic named Divine, who helps solve the crime and also writes a column for the paper. A popular series, even though not as well written as the Stephanie Plum books; some of the plot lines are far-fetched and unrealistic. Read competently by Lorelei King, Full Blast is recommended.-Mary Knapp, Madison P.L., WI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312983307
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/19/2004
  • Series: Janet Evanovich's Full Series , #4
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 584,800
  • Product dimensions: 6.72 (w) x 4.12 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Janet  Evanovich

Janet Evanovich is the author of the Stephanie Plum books, including One for the Money and Sizzling Sixteen, and the Diesel & Tucker series, including Wicked Appetite. Janet studied painting at Douglass College, but that art form never quite fit, and she soon moved on to writing stories. She didn’t have instant success: she collected a big box of rejection letters. As she puts it, “When the box was full I burned the whole damn thing, crammed myself into pantyhose and went to work for a temp agency.” But after a few months of secretarial work, she managed to sell her first novel for $2,000. She immediately quit her job and started working full-time as a writer. After 12 romance novels, she switched to mystery, and created Stephanie Plum. The rest is history. Janet’s favorite exercise is shopping, and her drug of choice is Cheeze Doodles. She and her husband live in New Hampshire, in house with a view of the Connecticut River Valley.

 

Charlotte Hughes was raised in the South, the oldest and only daughter of three children. She is the author of the novels What Looks Like Crazy and High Anxiety. She lives in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Biography

When plucky Stephanie Plum lost her job as a lingerie buyer, she had little other choice than to take a position working for her cousin Vinnie's bail-bonds office where she'd spend her days and nights hunting down fugitives, solving mysteries, and falling ass-backwards into adventure. Come to think of it, Ms. Plum has more than a little in common with her creator Janet Evanovich.

Much like the panty-pushing Plum, Evanovich once made her trade in erotica as a romance novelist for the trashy Bantam series "Loveswept." Tiring of the genre and finding herself increasingly fixated on crime, mystery, and the kind of adventures she came to love through comic books like Uncle Scrooge, she decided to ditch steamy stories in favor of off-the-wall humor and feats of daring. As Evanovich said on her website, "after twelve romance novels I ran out of sexual positions and decided to move into the mystery genre."

The resulting Stephanie Plum Mysteries reflect Evanovich's love for comics, toys, shoe-shopping, Cheez Doodles, and beer. Evanovich also created a memorable character that shares many of the author's distinctive traits, such as her self-effacing, dirty-minded wit. The Plum Mysteries, while often rambling and thin on plot, are never anything less than entertaining, hilarious, and refreshing in every way.

Stephanie Plum made her debut in 1994's One For the Money, in which she tracked down Joe Morelli, an ex-cop and murder suspect who'd also been guilty of taking Stephanie's virginity when she was 18. The novel's sly mix of sexiness and childlike playfulness made for a sort of young adult novel for adults.

Since then, the red-hot bounty hunter and a crew of misfits that includes retired hooker Lula, aging bail-jumper Eddie Decooch, and Plum's own hipster granny have romped their way "through the numbers," establishing Evanovich as one of the best and most inventive writers of "Strong Woman" mysteries and guaranteeing her a place on the New York Times bestseller list.

In 2004, Evanovich introduced a smart, savvy new series featuring Alexander "Barney" Barnaby, a sexy Baltimore car mechanic, NASCAR nut, and amateur sleuth with her own posse of delightful eccentrics. She's not Plum, but she's definitely a peach. Hey, what else would you expect from a Janet Evanovich heroine?

Good To Know

Evanovich's motorcycle-riding daughter Alex has created an online comic about her hamster called "Batster," which her mother proudly displays on her web site. With episodes like "Batster vs. Beerzilla," it's clear that wackiness runs in the Evanovich genes.

If you think the Stephanie Plum novels are zany, wait till you hear about what Evanovich was writing before she started getting published. As she explains on her web site, "The first story [I ever wrote] was about the pornographic adventures of a fairy who lived in a second rate fairy forest in Pennsylvania."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Steffie Hall
    2. Hometown:
      Hanover, New Hampshire
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 22, 1943
    2. Place of Birth:
      South River, New Jersey
    1. Education:
      B.A., Douglass College, 1965
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Nicholas Kaharchek surveyed his seven new polo students moving across the sandy practice field. He grinned as he watched an especially entertaining female named Billie Pearce.

In the four years since Nick had started the polo school, he'd seen his share of companionable stable bunnies and eager polo groupies, but he'd never seen anything like Billie Pearce. She was neither a stable bunny, nor a polo groupie, nor a rider, by any stretch of the imagination. From what he could determine during their brief conversation following the classroom part of the program, she was a housewife, smelling like fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and looking good enough to eat in her brand-new black riding boots and cream-colored pants. A woman like that could make a man forget all his troubles. Well, almost.

She had "girl-next-door" written all over her, what with those large hazel eyes and a mouth that was a smidgen too wide for her face. She wasn't wearing a ring; he'd noticed that much right away. But she had an aura of well-rounded maturity and general satisfaction that he associated with a happy homemaker and motherhood. Not that he considered himself an expert on women, although, by God, he did his best.

Nicholas Kaharchek knew horses. It was said he'd inherited his horse sense from his Cossack ancestry. It was also rumored that the Cossack blood ran hot beneath the calm exterior of his personality—a rumor many of the local ladies testified to be true. Nick had actually learned a lot about women while handling horses. He knew precisely what tone of voice to use on a high-spirited filly and how to lull even the most temperamental of them into a sense of well-being when startled. He knew how to move his hands just right over horseflesh—slowly, deliberately, but feather-light, until the muscles quivered like those of a satisfied woman.

Yeah, he knew how to play females, and the fact he had money—lots of it—didn't hurt. He genuinely liked women, enjoyed their individual uniqueness. He liked the way a woman smelled, enjoyed the feel of her downy hair when he pressed a kiss on the back of her neck, the way she looked sitting across a candlelit table or lying naked on the thick rug in front of his fireplace. And women liked him. They liked being seen on his arm, the fact he was generous to a fault, and they liked the way he treated them. At least most of them.

But Nick had a habit of moving on after only a few dates. Less complicated that way, and he was a man who did not like complications. He'd learned the hard way.

He caught sight of Billie Pearce and suspected he was wasting his time, at least as far as polo was concerned. She had about as much business on a polo field as he did at a Tupperware party. He had a feeling teaching Billie Pearce to play polo would be like spitting into the wind.

Her horse ambled up to the red, white, and blue beach ball that served as the beginners' game ball and stopped. His ears drooped slightly, his eyes half closed, and he gave a huge horse sigh. The animal obviously had other places he'd rather be.

"Listen up, horse," Billie said, "I'm paying forty dollars for a morning of polo. Forty bucks, you got that? That would pay for a pedicure. The least you could do is pretend to enjoy this."

The horse snorted.

"My sentiments exactly," she muttered.

Billie aimed carefully at her beach ball, swung the mallet in a loop over her head, and completely missed her target. The mallet slipped from her grasp and hurtled halfway across the field. "Dammit."

Nick took in the sight with a mixture of disbelief and curiosity. The woman had absolutely no idea what she was doing, and she seemed to be lecturing a horse about polo, though sadly enough the horse probably knew more about the sport than she did.

Still, she was cute in an old-fashioned way. She made him think of nice things: the way grass smells after it has just been cut, the feel of crisp sheets against his body, window curtains billowing in a soft breeze, and the smell of something nice baking in the oven. He retrieved her mallet and guided his horse to her side.

"Mrs. Pearce," he began in a patient voice, "there's a little leather strap attached to the mallet. If you slip your hand through that strap, it will prevent you from slinging it across the field and committing involuntary manslaughter."

Billie felt a rush of embarrassment. She must look foolish to someone with his expertise, and it wasn't easy taking criticism from a man who looked as though he belonged on the cover of GQ, what with his custom-made Argentine-style boots and polo wear that looked as though it had been tailor-made to fit what could only be described as the perfect body.

She met his gaze. "Sorry, it was an accident. I was hoping this would be easier, but it's all I can do to stay atop this horse. I had no idea the ground would be so far away."

Nick raised an eyebrow. "I seem to remember you wrote on your application that you'd been around horses all your life."

"That's right." She wasn't about to tell him the truth: that she'd simply lived next door to someone who owned horses. "It's, uh, been a long time. I've gotten a little rusty. And the horses are shorter where I come from."

He nodded as though it made perfect sense, which it didn't. His saddle creaked under him as he put weight on his stirrups. "Mrs. Pearce, I don't mean to discourage you from playing polo, but maybe it would be a good idea for you to take a few riding lessons first. To sort of get back into the swing of it."

Billie looked around and had to admit she was lacking. The other students were much more skilled at managing their horses.

One woman in particular had caught her eyes, a stunning brunette whose long hair draped her shoulders like a silk shawl. She wasn't a student; that much was certain from her perfect posture, and an air of confidence that came from years of training. She and her horse moved across the distant riding arena with such fluidity it looked choreographed.

Billie realized Nick was waiting for an answer. "The ad in the paper said you didn't need to be an expert rider," she offered as explanation.

"That's true, but it helps if you know some of the basics." Such as which end of the horse you're supposed to face, he thought. Was this woman for real? He glanced at his watch and moved his bay gelding away from her. "This session is almost over. Why don't you take Zeke back to the barn and wait for me? I'll give you a lesson in tacking and horse care."

"Um, okay, sure." Billie glanced down at the stubborn animal, wondering how to coax him toward the barn. "Go, Zeke," she whispered.

"Nudge him," Nick said. "Like this."

It looked easy enough. Billy very gently pressed both heels against the horse's side, prodding him forward.

Nick nodded his approval. He had to admit watching Billie Pearce was more interesting than anything else going on in the field at the moment. "That's right."

Zeke ambled forward as Nick watched. Like most of the polo-school horses, Zeke had been donated. At one time he might have been the pride of the circuit, but he was retired now, and he took his retirement seriously. In his three years' tenure at the school stable, he had never been known to move faster than a shuffle. Yet, despite being incorrigibly lazy, he was by no means stupid. If forced, he knew when to take the field, when to follow a ball, and when to return to the stable, the latter of which he managed at a faster pace. He carried Billie to the apron of hard-packed dirt in front of the stable, gave a snort, and came to a dead stop, jolting Billie forward. She grasped his mane to keep from falling off. Zeke craned his neck, giving her a look of pure disgust. Nick smiled and dismissed the class.

Billie watched the other women guide their horses to the barn and dismount with ease. Stable hands appeared out of nowhere, took the horses, and led them inside the barn. A couple of the stablehands looked to be high-school age, obviously working summer jobs. An older man in a baseball cap appeared, and he barked orders at the boys as they rushed about in their work.

Billie tried to block out the man's harsh voice as she sat very still on the horse, waiting, because she had no intention of climbing off Zeke while there was another human being within a twenty-five-mile radius. She had no desire to further embarrass herself and give Nick Kaharchek more conversational fodder for his evening meal.

The July sun was high in a cloudless blue sky, and the gentle hills of Loudoun County, Virginia, stretched in front of Billie like a giant, undulating patchwork quilt of field and forest. Horses stamped their feet and whickered softly in their stalls. The air was heavy with the smells of horse, oiled leather, and baking straw, prompting Billie to think of her childhood in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Her father had been a small-businessman, but they'd lived side by side with Mennonite farmers. Good, sturdy people, who weren't afraid of hard labor. They revered their land and their marriages and worked to make them successful. Billie respected them for that, and she envied them because she'd had to give up on her own marriage. She'd had no choice. It took two people to make a relationship work, and her former husband had wanted no part of it.

Her gaze shifted once more to the brunette woman and her horse, now moving at a faster gait, perfectly attuned to each other. Damn, but the woman was good. Her hair lifted and fell gracefully against her shoulders and back, making Billie think of a shampoo commercial. Would she ever be able to ride like that? she wondered.

Billie momentarily closed her eyes and enjoyed the feel of the sun on her back while she listened to the lulling buzz of cicadas singing in the distance. At least she'd held on to the house after the divorce, she reminded herself, thinking back to her disastrous marriage. Her children might have to make do with a part-time father, but they sure as hell weren't going to lose their home and the sense of stability Billie had fought to give them.

"Mrs. Pearce, what are you doing?"

Billie jumped at the sound of Nick's voice. She watched in awe as he approached the stable on his own horse. He reminded her of a centaur, that mythical creature who was half-man and half-horse. His riding was so fluid it was difficult to distinguish where the man left off and the horse began. He was as skilled as the woman she'd been watching. Billie envied them both.

"I was waiting for everyone else to finish up so you could give me my lesson," Billie said, trying to avoid looking directly into his brown eyes or noting how the sun had bronzed his olive complexion. She did not need to be caught up by his good looks. Kaharchek was definitely not her type.

The silent declaration drew her brows together in a frown as she pondered exactly what kind of man would be her type. Well, there was that chemistry teacher with the tortoiseshell glasses who'd made it plain months ago that he was interested. She suspected he would already have asked her out had she returned his interest. And the manager of the Kroger store made it a point to speak to her several times when she was in the store, pointing out various sales, saving coupons for items he knew she purchased with regularity. But she hadn't given either man much thought, because she simply didn't have a lot of time for romance, what with teaching, her children, housework, and gardening, and the list went on and on. But if she had been able to squeeze in a little time for a man, it certainly wouldn't be for someone like Nicholas Kaharchek.

For one thing, they had nothing in common. His father had amassed a fortune in his lifetime and provided well for his only son. It was common knowledge that when the elder Kaharchek had retired, Nick had been content to let a number of talented second cousins run the empire while he concentrated on raising horses and being a hands-on owner of Loudoun County's most widely read newspaper. Billie respected the paper, but having heard rumors of Nicholas Kaharchek's various liaisons, she wasn't sure she respected the man.

Nick dismounted and handed his horse over to a groom as he regarded her. "You can dismount now."

"Easy for you to say."

It amazed him how little she knew. "Just swing your right leg over the horse and hold on to the saddle with both hands."

She hesitated. "That sounds risky."

20

He saw the doubt in her eyes. "Mrs. Pearce, are you afraid of horses?"

"Of course not. I'm not afraid of anything. I killed a spider yesterday. It was big and black and hairy." She suppressed an involuntary shudder.

"Uh-huh."

"Okay, so maybe it wasn't hairy, but there was a time I wouldn't have entered the same room with a spider. I've grown," she announced with aplomb. He just looked at her, and she suddenly felt dumb for mentioning the spider. Nick Kaharchek had probably never been afraid of anything in his life.

"I just wasn't expecting this horse to be so big," she said, getting back to the subject at hand. "I feel like I should parachute from the back of this animal." She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and swung her right leg over the horse. The saddle slid through her grasping fingers, her arms flailed at the air. Nick reached for her, trying to break the fall. She grabbed at his shoulders, twisting slightly in mid-air, and fell against him. There was an exchange of grunts as they both hit the ground with a loud, bone-jarring thud. Somehow, she'd managed to knock the man off his feet. Worse, she'd landed right smack on top of him. On top of him, for heaven's sake! She simply lay there for a moment, sprawled across the polo god on the hard-packed dirt, breast to chest, zipper to zipper, thigh to thigh.

Everything touching.

Billie blinked and looked into Nick's startled eyes. Lord, Lord, he would think she was an idiot for sure, and he would have every right. She had no idea what to do. How would Miss Manners suggest she extricate herself from such a delicate situation without making it worse? All she could do was apologize profusely and hope he didn't press charges for assault and battery.

If only the man didn't feel so good. She tried to remember the last time she'd been so close to someone of the opposite sex and couldn't. All her nerve endings tingled, and something low in her belly tightened and coiled and sent a rush of pleasure through her.

Lord, don't let me go and do something stupid like have an orgasm right now, she prayed.

"Sorry," she whispered. "I lost my balance, and then my knees went weak."

"I know the feeling."

"Are you okay?" Billie asked. "I hope I didn't hurt anything."

"Nothing I'd want to tell you about."

She gave a mental wince. She'd made a spectacle of herself in front of him and everyone else by flipping her mallet out like a Frisbee. Now she'd gone and made a eunuch out of the most eligible bachelor in Loudoun County.

"Well, now," a feminine voice said. "Isn't this cozy?"

Billie glanced up. It was her, the gorgeous creature she'd watched earlier. Only the woman was even more beautiful up close. She appeared to be only a few years younger than Billie, but her skin was flawless, as though she pampered it on a regular basis.

Nick looked in her direction. "Hello, Sheridan."

The woman tossed Billie a look. "I see Nick has taught you how to dismount."

She had the smile of a movie star. Billie decided somebody had spent a fortune on braces. She searched for her voice. "This is my first lesson."

"I would never have guessed."

Billie suddenly felt small as she took in the mocking smile. Sheridan was the kind of woman who made all other women feel as though they had a huge wart on their nose.

Nick gestured. "Sheridan, meet Billie Pearce, my new student. Mrs. Pearce, this is Sheridan Flock, an old, uh, friend."

Billie nodded at the woman and carefully lifted herself to her feet. She made a production of brushing dust from her britches, too embarrassed to look at either of them.

"It's nice to meet you, Miss Flock," she said, finally making eye contact with the woman, refusing to be intimidated. "I watched you riding earlier. You're magnificent."

"I learned from the best." Sheridan eyed Nick in such a way it was clear that horseback riding wasn't all he'd taught her.

"I'd best be running along," Billie told Nick.

"Not so fast. Your lesson isn't over."

Sheridan pressed her lips together in annoyance. "Oh, let the poor girl go," she said. "Can't you see she's had enough for one day? Why, it's obvious she's not cut out for this sort of thing."

Billie immediately stiffened, but her voice was pleasant when she spoke. "It's true I'm not as adept as you, Miss Flock, but then, we're not in competition, are we?"

Sheridan's smile faltered, but she pretended to ignore Billie. "Nick, I've only been back from Europe for a few weeks, and this is the first chance I've had to ride Clementine. Daddy has been entertaining nonstop since I arrived, so I've been forced to play hostess. I thought we might go riding like old times."

Nick wore no emotion. "I can't, Sheridan. I'm working."

"You call that work?" She laughed. "Besides, you're the boss. You set your own hours."

"Sorry, I'll have to take a rain check."

Their gazes locked. Billie felt like an intruder. Finally, Sheridan dismounted and handed over her horse to a waiting groom. She left without comment, although Billie sensed her anger, boiling inside.

Billie looked at Nick and noted the strange twist to his lips. "Are you laughing at me?"

"This is called a grimace." Nick demonstrated while he talked. "Let's start with the basics. Now, this is a saddle."

Billie's look was deadpan.

Nick had no idea why he was taking up his valuable time. No telling what was going on back at the house, and seeing Sheridan again after all these months had left him shaken. He had enough problems, and Billie Pearce was only adding to them. "This is a stirrup."

"Mr. Kaharchek—"

"Pay attention. Now, you slide it up snug against the saddle like this. This is a girth. You unhitch the girth and the saddle slides off. You can take the saddle pads off the horse at the same time." He motioned for a stable hand lurking just inside the barn. From the look on the kid's face—bafflement and amusement— he'd witnessed the whole thing. Nick avoided eye contact. Instead, he handed the saddle to the youth and in turn took a blue nylon halter from him.

He pulled Billie toward Zeke's head. "Always leave the reins over the horse's neck while you're removing the bridle." He placed her hand behind Zeke's ears. "This strip of leather is called the 'crown piece.' You gently slide it over the horse's ears and—" He paused when Billie's face suddenly registered pain. Her face went white. "Something wrong?"

"He'sonmyfoot! The dumb—son—of a horse—is on my—foot!" She tried to shove Zeke, but it was like trying to move Mount Everest. Tears smarted her eyes.

Nick reacted quickly; one firm touch, and the big chestnut gelding calmly shifted away from Billie. She stared wide-eyed at her brand-new riding boot, perfectly branded with the imprint of Zeke's hoof. She gasped in pain. "My foot is broken. It's probably shattered." She glared at the horse. Was she just imagining the smug expression? She'd seen that same look on Sheridan Flock's face. "You did that on purpose," she accused. She shot a glance at Nick. "He obviously finds it amusing."

Nick had to agree. It did look as though Zeke were smiling. "I'll have the stable hand shoot him immediately." He signaled for the hovering boy to take Zeke away and brush him down before putting him into his stall.

"That's not a damn bit funny," Billie said as she watched the horse walk away with a jaunty sway of its hips. If body language was anything to go by, the animal clearly thought it was the victor in their little encounter. As for her, jaunty swaying was out of the question. She couldn't put any weight on her foot. "I'll never walk again," she wailed.

"Mrs. Pearce, please calm down." Nick sighed. Just when he thought things couldn't get worse. The woman was really hurt. She'd probably managed not to sign a release form and would likely sue the pants off him. His insurance company would cancel. His polo school would be history.

And she was hurt. That was the worst part. His protective instincts snapped alive. Her pretty eyes were swimming with tears she refused to shed. He purposefully lowered his gaze, focusing instead on the belligerent set to her chin, and decided she probably was brave, even if it didn't look that way at the moment.

He scooped her into his arms and turned toward the barn. Her mouth popped open in surprise, but he felt her arms circle around his neck as though she realized she had no choice. She pressed against him for support. Just what he needed after having her fall full length against him, coming in contact with him in all the right places.

He envisioned her children and their friends coming home at the end of the day to the smell of homemade cookies and tall glasses of milk. He envied them, wondered if they realized how lucky they were. Having been raised by one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the state, he'd had little opportunity for warm, straight-out-of-the-oven cookies and cold milk.

Billie shifted, and the soft material of her tank top brushed against his bare arms. She felt soft and curvy and feminine, a nice contrast to the women he'd dated who felt they could never be thin enough.

He owed Zeke a nice red apple.

Damn. He had no business thinking how soft and warm Billie Pearce was. She had room mother and PTA spokesperson written all over her pretty face. She would never consider a three-day weekend filled with sun, fun, and great sex. She was different, and she wouldn't appreciate knowing he was aroused just thinking about her.

Inside the barn, Nick plunked her down on a bench. "How does it feel?"

"Smushed."

"Smushed?"

Lord, she was talking like her sixth-graders. "How do you think it feels?" she snapped. "It feels like a horse crushed it to smithereens."

"We have to get the boot off."

"Oh, no you don't! Not without ordering me a morphine drip."

He almost smiled. "Mrs. Pearce, I need to examine your foot. That means I have to pull off the boot."

"Okay, fine. Perhaps after that you can have me drawn and quartered." Billie sucked in her breath and gripped the bench as he gingerly worked the boot off her injured foot. She closed her eyes, trying to remember the breathing techniques she'd learned in Lamaze class years before as she prepared for labor and delivery when her children were born. She took a deep cleansing breath and concentrated on the top of Nick's head.

She wanted to touch it, run her fingers through the silky strands. It was the color of black coffee, thick, satiny, falling in lazy waves across his forehead and curling over his ears.

Another deep breath. He probably had hair all over the place. Something fluttered in her stomach. She was delirious with pain; that was the only excuse she could come up with for allowing her mind to run amuck with thoughts of his body. Another cleansing breath. She blew out through her mouth.

"What are you doing?"

"Huh?" Billie blinked and found Nick watching her curiously. His mouth was set in a grim line. She wondered if he had a sense of humor. Not that the occasion called for it. "I'm trying to get my mind off the pain."

His look softened. "I'm sorry." He eased the boot from her foot and peeled back her sock as she continued to grip the sides of the bench. She really was trying to be brave. He stood, hands on hips, and uttered an expletive. "It's swollen."

"Imagine that." Nevertheless, she was relieved to have the boot off. Her foot was beginning to swell and change color, seemingly right before her eyes. Not very attractive. Her only saving grace was that she had taken the time to paint her toenails the night before. That and the fact that Miss High-and-mighty wasn't there to witness her second accident of the day. Who was she to Nick anyway? Billie wondered. "It's turning purple," she said.

Nick shook his head. It was her right foot. She wasn't going to be able to drive. Someone was going to have to take her to the hospital to get the foot

X-rayed. He could ask Arnie Bates, the older stable groom, but the man's disposition had soured considerably since Nick had caught him smoking in the stable, something that was forbidden. The only reason Nick hadn't fired him on the spot was that Arnie's wife was pregnant, and they needed the money. And because Arnie had needed a break.

Someone was going to have to take her home as well, Nick reminded himself. He felt his stomach sink at the possibility that it would, most likely, be him. He could already hear himself volunteering. Not that he was averse to being in the company of a beautiful woman, but he had his own worries—his cousins. Deedee was alone in his house, and Max was wandering about the property, up to God knew what. Nick almost preferred having Zeke step on his foot to leaving the pair unsupervised.

Deedee was not his greatest concern. She might be a little harebrained, but she wasn't dangerous. Not like Max.

Nick glanced at his watch. Eleven o'clock. Chances were, Deedee was still sleeping. He'd left her a full pot of coffee. Everything should be fineunless she decided to make herself lunch. Slim possibility, he decided. It wouldn't occur to her to prepare her own food, even if she ate on a regular basis, which she didn't, because she was more interested in keeping her model's figure. Max, on the other hand, was hiding out and could do a lot of damage if left to his own devices. Nick gave a weary sigh. He would simply have to take his chances where the boy was concerned. At least for now, since there didn't seem to be any choice in the matter.

"You're not going to be able to drive with that foot and you need to see a doctor."

Arnie started past them.

"Can you cover for me for a bit?" Nick said. "I need to take Mrs. Pearce to the emergency room."

The other man glanced at Billie's foot. "Yeah, sure."

Billie didn't think the groom looked very happy about it.

Nick reached for the boot, handing it to Billie, and, once again, lifted her in his arms. They exited the barn. "What's his problem?" she whispered, motioning to the stable groom.

Nick shrugged. "He's having a bad day. Don't mind him."

Most of the students had left, with the exception of a few who still lingered, talking among themselves, probably comparing notes on their first lesson. Nick looked at the cars remaining in the field beside the barn. "Which one is yours?"

Billie fished in her pocket for her keys. "The green mini-van."

A mom-car, he thought. He could almost picture her with a van full of youngsters, laughing, their metal braces flashing in the sun. He was sure he'd find animal crackers and a box of Wet-Wipes in the back seat.

A simple hospital run, he told himself. They'd be in and out in no time. Max wouldn't have time to do much damage. Maybe. In the meantime, Nick would take the first opportunity to convince Billie Pearce to give up polo. He had his hands full in more ways than one, and the last thing he needed in his life was a woman like Billie Pearce.

Not even if he was a man who enjoyed a good challenge.

Copyright © 2004 by Evanovich, Inc.

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

Chapter One
Nicholas Kaharchek surveyed his seven new polo students moving across the sandy practice field. He grinned as he watched an especially entertaining female named Billie Pearce.

In the four years since Nick had started the polo school, he'd seen his share of companionable stable bunnies and eager polo groupies, but he'd never seen anything like Billie Pearce. She was neither a stable bunny, nor a polo groupie, nor a rider, by any stretch of the imagination. From what he could determine during their brief conversation following the classroom part of the program, she was a housewife, smelling like fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and looking good enough to eat in her brand-new black riding boots and cream-colored pants. A woman like that could make a man forget all his troubles. Well, almost.

She had "girl-next-door" written all over her, what with those large hazel eyes and a mouth that was a smidgen too wide for her face. She wasn't wearing a ring; he'd noticed that much right away. But she had an aura of well-rounded maturity and general satisfaction that he associated with a happy homemaker and motherhood. Not that he considered himself an expert on women, although, by God, he did his best.

Nicholas Kaharchek knew horses. It was said he'd inherited his horse sense from his Cossack ancestry. It was also rumored that the Cossack blood ran hot beneath the calm exterior of his personality--a rumor many of the local ladies testified to be true. Nick had actually learned a lot about women while handling horses. He knew precisely what tone of voice to use on a high-spirited filly and how to lull even the most temperamental of them into a sense of well-being when startled. He knew how to move his hands just right over horseflesh--slowly, deliberately, but feather-light, until the muscles quivered like those of a satisfied woman.

Yeah, he knew how to play females, and the fact he had money--lots of it--didn't hurt. He genuinely liked women, enjoyed their individual uniqueness. He liked the way a woman smelled, enjoyed the feel of her downy hair when he pressed a kiss on the back of her neck, the way she looked sitting across a candlelit table or lying naked on the thick rug in front of his fireplace. And women liked him. They liked being seen on his arm, the fact he was generous to a fault, and they liked the way he treated them. At least most of them.

But Nick had a habit of moving on after only a few dates. Less complicated that way, and he was a man who did not like complications. He'd learned the hard way.

He caught sight of Billie Pearce and suspected he was wasting his time, at least as far as polo was concerned. She had about as much business on a polo field as he did at a Tupperware party. He had a feeling teaching Billie Pearce to play polo would be like spitting into the wind.

Her horse ambled up to the red, white, and blue beach ball that served as the beginners' game ball and stopped. His ears drooped slightly, his eyes half closed, and he gave a huge horse sigh. The animal obviously had other places he'd rather be.

"Listen up, horse," Billie said, "I'm paying forty dollars for a morning of polo. Forty bucks, you got that? That would pay for a pedicure. The least you could do is pretend to enjoy this."

The horse snorted.

"My sentiments exactly," she muttered.

Billie aimed carefully at her beach ball, swung the mallet in a loop over her head, and completely missed her target. The mallet slipped from her grasp and hurtled halfway across the field. "Dammit."

Nick took in the sight with a mixture of disbelief and curiosity. The woman had absolutely no idea what she was doing, and she seemed to be lecturing a horse about polo, though sadly enough the horse probably knew more about the sport than she did.

Still, she was cute in an old-fashioned way. She made him think of nice things: the way grass smells after it has just been cut, the feel of crisp sheets against his body, window curtains billowing in a soft breeze, and the smell of something nice baking in the oven. He retrieved her mallet and guided his horse to her side.

"Mrs. Pearce," he began in a patient voice, "there's a little leather strap attached to the mallet. If you slip your hand through that strap, it will prevent you from slinging it across the field and committing involuntary manslaughter."

Billie felt a rush of embarrassment. She must look foolish to someone with his expertise, and it wasn't easy taking criticism from a man who looked as though he belonged on the cover of GQ, what with his custom-made Argentine-style boots and polo wear that looked as though it had been tailor-made to fit what could only be described as the perfect body.

She met his gaze. "Sorry, it was an accident. I was hoping this would be easier, but it's all I can do to stay atop this horse. I had no idea the ground would be so far away."

Nick raised an eyebrow. "I seem to remember you wrote on your application that you'd been around horses all your life."

"That's right." She wasn't about to tell him the truth: that she'd simply lived next door to someone who owned horses. "It's, uh, been a long time. I've gotten a little rusty. And the horses are shorter where I come from."

He nodded as though it made perfect sense, which it didn't. His saddle creaked under him as he put weight on his stirrups. "Mrs. Pearce, I don't mean to discourage you from playing polo, but maybe it would be a good idea for you to take a few riding lessons first. To sort of get back into the swing of it."

Billie looked around and had to admit she was lacking. The other students were much more skilled at managing their horses.

One woman in particular had caught her eyes, a stunning brunette whose long hair draped her shoulders like a silk shawl. She wasn't a student; that much was certain from her perfect posture, and an air of confidence that came from years of training. She and her horse moved across the distant riding arena with such fluidity it looked choreographed.

Billie realized Nick was waiting for an answer. "The ad in the paper said you didn't need to be an expert rider," she offered as explanation.

"That's true, but it helps if you know some of the basics." Such as which end of the horse you're supposed to face, he thought. Was this woman for real? He glanced at his watch and moved his bay gelding away from her. "This session is almost over. Why don't you take Zeke back to the barn and wait for me? I'll give you a lesson in tacking and horse care."

"Um, okay, sure." Billie glanced down at the stubborn animal, wondering how to coax him toward the barn. "Go, Zeke," she whispered.

"Nudge him," Nick said. "Like this."

It looked easy enough. Billy very gently pressed both heels against the horse's side, prodding him forward.

Nick nodded his approval. He had to admit watching Billie Pearce was more interesting than anything else going on in the field at the moment. "That's right."

Zeke ambled forward as Nick watched. Like most of the polo-school horses, Zeke had been donated. At one time he might have been the pride of the circuit, but he was retired now, and he took his retirement seriously. In his three years' tenure at the school stable, he had never been known to move faster than a shuffle. Yet, despite being incorrigibly lazy, he was by no means stupid. If forced, he knew when to take the field, when to follow a ball, and when to return to the stable, the latter of which he managed at a faster pace. He carried Billie to the apron of hard-packed dirt in front of the stable, gave a snort, and came to a dead stop, jolting Billie forward. She grasped his mane to keep from falling off. Zeke craned his neck, giving her a look of pure disgust. Nick smiled and dismissed the class.

Billie watched the other women guide their horses to the barn and dismount with ease. Stable hands appeared out of nowhere, took the horses, and led them inside the barn. A couple of the stablehands looked to be high-school age, obviously working summer jobs. An older man in a baseball cap appeared, and he barked orders at the boys as they rushed about in their work.

Billie tried to block out the man's harsh voice as she sat very still on the horse, waiting, because she had no intention of climbing off Zeke while there was another human being within a twenty-five-mile radius. She had no desire to further embarrass herself and give Nick Kaharchek more conversational fodder for his evening meal.

The July sun was high in a cloudless blue sky, and the gentle hills of Loudoun County, Virginia, stretched in front of Billie like a giant, undulating patchwork quilt of field and forest. Horses stamped their feet and whickered softly in their stalls. The air was heavy with the smells of horse, oiled leather, and baking straw, prompting Billie to think of her childhood in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Her father had been a small-businessman, but they'd lived side by side with Mennonite farmers. Good, sturdy people, who weren't afraid of hard labor. They revered their land and their marriages and worked to make them successful. Billie respected them for that, and she envied them because she'd had to give up on her own marriage. She'd had no choice. It took two people to make a relationship work, and her former husband had wanted no part of it.

Her gaze shifted once more to the brunette woman and her horse, now moving at a faster gait, perfectly attuned to each other. Damn, but the woman was good. Her hair lifted and fell gracefully against her shoulders and back, making Billie think of a shampoo commercial. Would she ever be able to ride like that? she wondered.

Billie momentarily closed her eyes and enjoyed the feel of the sun on her back while she listened to the lulling buzz of cicadas singing in the distance. At least she'd held on to the house after the divorce, she reminded herself, thinking back to her disastrous marriage. Her children might have to make do with a part-time father, but they sure as hell weren't going to lose their home and the sense of stability Billie had fought to give them.

"Mrs. Pearce, what are you doing?"

Billie jumped at the sound of Nick's voice. She watched in awe as he approached the stable on his own horse. He reminded her of a centaur, that mythical creature who was half-man and half-horse. His riding was so fluid it was difficult to distinguish where the man left off and the horse began. He was as skilled as the woman she'd been watching. Billie envied them both.

"I was waiting for everyone else to finish up so you could give me my lesson," Billie said, trying to avoid looking directly into his brown eyes or noting how the sun had bronzed his olive complexion. She did not need to be caught up by his good looks. Kaharchek was definitely not her type.

The silent declaration drew her brows together in a frown as she pondered exactly what kind of man would be her type. Well, there was that chemistry teacher with the tortoiseshell glasses who'd made it plain months ago that he was interested. She suspected he would already have asked her out had she returned his interest. And the manager of the Kroger store made it a point to speak to her several times when she was in the store, pointing out various sales, saving coupons for items he knew she purchased with regularity. But she hadn't given either man much thought, because she simply didn't have a lot of time for romance, what with teaching, her children, housework, and gardening, and the list went on and on. But if she had been able to squeeze in a little time for a man, it certainly wouldn't be for someone like Nicholas Kaharchek.

For one thing, they had nothing in common. His father had amassed a fortune in his lifetime and provided well for his only son. It was common knowledge that when the elder Kaharchek had retired, Nick had been content to let a number of talented second cousins run the empire while he concentrated on raising horses and being a hands-on owner of Loudoun County's most widely read newspaper. Billie respected the paper, but having heard rumors of Nicholas Kaharchek's various liaisons, she wasn't sure she respected the man.

Nick dismounted and handed his horse over to a groom as he regarded her. "You can dismount now."

"Easy for you to say."

It amazed him how little she knew. "Just swing your right leg over the horse and hold on to the saddle with both hands."

She hesitated. "That sounds risky."

He saw the doubt in her eyes. "Mrs. Pearce, are you afraid of horses?"

"Of course not. I'm not afraid of anything. I killed a spider yesterday. It was big and black and hairy." She suppressed an involuntary shudder.

"Uh-huh."

"Okay, so maybe it wasn't hairy, but there was a time I wouldn't have entered the same room with a spider. I've grown," she announced with aplomb. He just looked at her, and she suddenly felt dumb for mentioning the spider. Nick Kaharchek had probably never been afraid of anything in his life.

"I just wasn't expecting this horse to be so big," she said, getting back to the subject at hand. "I feel like I should parachute from the back of this animal." She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and swung her right leg over the horse. The saddle slid through her grasping fingers, her arms flailed at the air. Nick reached for her, trying to break the fall. She grabbed at his shoulders, twisting slightly in mid-air, and fell against him. There was an exchange of grunts as they both hit the ground with a loud, bone-jarring thud. Somehow, she'd managed to knock the man off his feet. Worse, she'd landed right smack on top of him. On top of him, for heaven's sake! She simply lay there for a moment, sprawled across the polo god on the hard-packed dirt, breast to chest, zipper to zipper, thigh to thigh.

Everything touching.

Billie blinked and looked into Nick's startled eyes. Lord, Lord, he would think she was an idiot for sure, and he would have every right. She had no idea what to do. How would Miss Manners suggest she extricate herself from such a delicate situation without making it worse? All she could do was apologize profusely and hope he didn't press charges for assault and battery.

If only the man didn't feel so good. She tried to remember the last time she'd been so close to someone of the opposite sex and couldn't. All her nerve endings tingled, and something low in her belly tightened and coiled and sent a rush of pleasure through her.

Lord, don't let me go and do something stupid like have an orgasm right now, she prayed.

"Sorry," she whispered. "I lost my balance, and then my knees went weak."

"I know the feeling."

"Are you okay?" Billie asked. "I hope I didn't hurt anything."

"Nothing I'd want to tell you about."

She gave a mental wince. She'd made a spectacle of herself in front of him and everyone else by flipping her mallet out like a Frisbee. Now she'd gone and made a eunuch out of the most eligible bachelor in Loudoun County.

"Well, now," a feminine voice said. "Isn't this cozy?"

Billie glanced up. It was her, the gorgeous creature she'd watched earlier. Only the woman was even more beautiful up close. She appeared to be only a few years younger than Billie, but her skin was flawless, as though she pampered it on a regular basis.

Nick looked in her direction. "Hello, Sheridan."

The woman tossed Billie a look. "I see Nick has taught you how to dismount."

She had the smile of a movie star. Billie decided somebody had spent a fortune on braces. She searched for her voice. "This is my first lesson."

"I would never have guessed."

Billie suddenly felt small as she took in the mocking smile. Sheridan was the kind of woman who made all other women feel as though they had a huge wart on their nose.

Nick gestured. "Sheridan, meet Billie Pearce, my new student. Mrs. Pearce, this is Sheridan Flock, an old, uh, friend."

Billie nodded at the woman and carefully lifted herself to her feet. She made a production of brushing dust from her britches, too embarrassed to look at either of them.

"It's nice to meet you, Miss Flock," she said, finally making eye contact with the woman, refusing to be intimidated. "I watched you riding earlier. You're magnificent."

"I learned from the best." Sheridan eyed Nick in such a way it was clear that horseback riding wasn't all he'd taught her.

"I'd best be running along," Billie told Nick.

"Not so fast. Your lesson isn't over."

Sheridan pressed her lips together in annoyance. "Oh, let the poor girl go," she said. "Can't you see she's had enough for one day? Why, it's obvious she's not cut out for this sort of thing."

Billie immediately stiffened, but her voice was pleasant when she spoke. "It's true I'm not as adept as you, Miss Flock, but then, we're not in competition, are we?"

Sheridan's smile faltered, but she pretended to ignore Billie. "Nick, I've only been back from Europe for a few weeks, and this is the first chance I've had to ride Clementine. Daddy has been entertaining nonstop since I arrived, so I've been forced to play hostess. I thought we might go riding like old times."

Nick wore no emotion. "I can't, Sheridan. I'm working."

"You call that work?" She laughed. "Besides, you're the boss. You set your own hours."

"Sorry, I'll have to take a rain check."

Their gazes locked. Billie felt like an intruder. Finally, Sheridan dismounted and handed over her horse to a waiting groom. She left without comment, although Billie sensed her anger, boiling inside.

 Billie looked at Nick and noted the strange twist to his lips. "Are you laughing at me?"

"This is called a grimace." Nick demonstrated while he talked. "Let's start with the basics. Now, this is a saddle."

Billie's look was deadpan.

Nick had no idea why he was taking up his valuable time. No telling what was going on back at the house, and seeing Sheridan again after all these months had left him shaken. He had enough problems, and Billie Pearce was only adding to them. "This is a stirrup."

"Mr. Kaharchek--"

"Pay attention. Now, you slide it up snug against the saddle like this. This is a girth. You unhitch the girth and the saddle slides off. You can take the saddle pads off the horse at the same time." He motioned for a stable hand lurking just inside the barn. From the look on the kid's face--bafflement and amusement-- he'd witnessed the whole thing. Nick avoided eye contact. Instead, he handed the saddle to the youth and in turn took a blue nylon halter from him.

He pulled Billie toward Zeke's head. "Always leave the reins over the horse's neck while you're removing the bridle." He placed her hand behind Zeke's ears. "This strip of leather is called the `crown piece.' You gently slide it over the horse's ears and--" He paused when Billie's face suddenly registered pain. Her face went white. "Something wrong?"

"He'sonmyfoot! The dumb--son--of a horse--is on my--foot!" She tried to shove Zeke, but it was like trying to move Mount Everest. Tears smarted her eyes.

Nick reacted quickly; one firm touch, and the big chestnut gelding calmly shifted away from Billie. She stared wide-eyed at her brand-new riding boot, perfectly branded with the imprint of Zeke's hoof. She gasped in pain. "My foot is broken. It's probably shattered." She glared at the horse. Was she just imagining the smug expression? She'd seen that same look on Sheridan Flock's face. "You did that on purpose," she accused. She shot a glance at Nick. "He obviously finds it amusing."

Nick had to agree. It did look as though Zeke were smiling. "I'll have the stable hand shoot him immediately." He signaled for the hovering boy to take Zeke away and brush him down before putting him into his stall.

"That's not a damn bit funny," Billie said as she watched the horse walk away with a jaunty sway of its hips. If body language was anything to go by, the animal clearly thought it was the victor in their little encounter. As for her, jaunty swaying was out of the question. She couldn't put any weight on her foot. "I'll never walk again," she wailed.

"Mrs. Pearce, please calm down." Nick sighed. Just when he thought things couldn't get worse. The woman was really hurt. She'd probably managed not to sign a release form and would likely sue the pants off him. His insurance company would cancel. His polo school would be history.

And she was hurt. That was the worst part. His protective instincts snapped alive. Her pretty eyes were swimming with tears she refused to shed. He purposefully lowered his gaze, focusing instead on the belligerent set to her chin, and decided she probably was brave, even if it didn't look that way at the moment.

He scooped her into his arms and turned toward the barn. Her mouth popped open in surprise, but he felt her arms circle around his neck as though she realized she had no choice. She pressed against him for support. Just what he needed after having her fall full length against him, coming in contact with him in all the right places.

He envisioned her children and their friends coming home at the end of the day to the smell of homemade cookies and tall glasses of milk. He envied them, wondered if they realized how lucky they were. Having been raised by one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the state, he'd had little opportunity for warm, straight-out-of-the-oven cookies and cold milk.

Billie shifted, and the soft material of her tank top brushed against his bare arms. She felt soft and curvy and feminine, a nice contrast to the women he'd dated who felt they could never be thin enough.

He owed Zeke a nice red apple.

Damn. He had no business thinking how soft and warm Billie Pearce was. She had room mother and PTA spokesperson written all over her pretty face. She would never consider a three-day weekend filled with sun, fun, and great sex. She was different, and she wouldn't appreciate knowing he was aroused just thinking about her.

Inside the barn, Nick plunked her down on a bench. "How does it feel?"

"Smushed."

"Smushed?"

Lord, she was talking like her sixth-graders. "How do you think it feels?" she snapped. "It feels like a horse crushed it to smithereens."

"We have to get the boot off."

"Oh, no you don't! Not without ordering me a morphine drip."

He almost smiled. "Mrs. Pearce, I need to examine your foot. That means I have to pull off the boot."

"Okay, fine. Perhaps after that you can have me drawn and quartered." Billie sucked in her breath and gripped the bench as he gingerly worked the boot off her injured foot. She closed her eyes, trying to remember the breathing techniques she'd learned in Lamaze class years before as she prepared for labor and delivery when her children were born. She took a deep cleansing breath and concentrated on the top of Nick's head.

She wanted to touch it, run her fingers through the silky strands. It was the color of black coffee, thick, satiny, falling in lazy waves across his forehead and curling over his ears.

Another deep breath. He probably had hair all over the place. Something fluttered in her stomach. She was delirious with pain; that was the only excuse she could come up with for allowing her mind to run amuck with thoughts of his body. Another cleansing breath. She blew out through her mouth.

"What are you doing?"

"Huh?" Billie blinked and found Nick watching her curiously. His mouth was set in a grim line. She wondered if he had a sense of humor. Not that the occasion called for it. "I'm trying to get my mind off the pain."

His look softened. "I'm sorry." He eased the boot from her foot and peeled back her sock as she continued to grip the sides of the bench. She really was trying to be brave. He stood, hands on hips, and uttered an expletive. "It's swollen."

"Imagine that." Nevertheless, she was relieved to have the boot off. Her foot was beginning to swell and change color, seemingly right before her eyes. Not very attractive. Her only saving grace was that she had taken the time to paint her toenails the night before. That and the fact that Miss High-and-mighty wasn't there to witness her second accident of the day. Who was she to Nick anyway? Billie wondered. "It's turning purple," she said.

Nick shook his head. It was her right foot. She wasn't going to be able to drive. Someone was going to have to take her to the hospital to get the
foot

 X-rayed. He could ask Arnie Bates, the older stable groom, but the man's disposition had soured considerably since Nick had caught him smoking in the stable, something that was forbidden. The only reason Nick hadn't fired him on the spot was that Arnie's wife was pregnant, and they needed the money. And because Arnie had needed a break.

Someone was going to have to take her home as well, Nick reminded himself. He felt his stomach sink at the possibility that it would, most likely, be him. He could already hear himself volunteering. Not that he was averse to being in the company of a beautiful woman, but he had his own worries--his cousins. Deedee was alone in his house, and Max was wandering about the property, up to God knew what. Nick almost preferred having Zeke step on his foot to leaving the pair unsupervised.

Deedee was not his greatest concern. She might be a little harebrained, but she wasn't dangerous. Not like Max.

Nick glanced at his watch. Eleven o'clock. Chances were, Deedee was still sleeping. He'd left her a full pot of coffee. Everything should be fineunless she decided to make herself lunch. Slim possibility, he decided. It wouldn't occur to her to prepare her own food, even if she ate on a regular basis, which she didn't, because she was more interested in keeping her model's figure. Max, on the other hand, was hiding out and could do a lot of damage if left to his own devices. Nick gave a weary sigh. He would simply have to take his chances where the boy was concerned. At least for now, since there didn't seem to be any choice in the matter.

"You're not going to be able to drive with that foot and you need to see a doctor."

Arnie started past them.

"Can you cover for me for a bit?" Nick said. "I need to take Mrs. Pearce to the emergency room."

The other man glanced at Billie's foot. "Yeah, sure."

Billie didn't think the groom looked very happy about it.

Nick reached for the boot, handing it to Billie, and, once again, lifted her in his arms. They exited the barn. "What's his problem?" she whispered, motioning to the stable groom.

Nick shrugged. "He's having a bad day. Don't mind him."

Most of the students had left, with the exception of a few who still lingered, talking among themselves, probably comparing notes on their first lesson. Nick looked at the cars remaining in the field beside the barn. "Which one is yours?"

Billie fished in her pocket for her keys. "The green mini-van."

A mom-car, he thought. He could almost picture her with a van full of youngsters, laughing, their metal braces flashing in the sun. He was sure he'd find animal crackers and a box of Wet-Wipes in the back seat.

A simple hospital run, he told himself. They'd be in and out in no time. Max wouldn't have time to do much damage. Maybe. In the meantime, Nick would take the first opportunity to convince Billie Pearce to give up polo. He had his hands full in more ways than one, and the last thing he needed in his life was a woman like Billie Pearce.

Not even if he was a man who enjoyed a good challenge.

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Interviews & Essays

Dear Reader:
I've been hearing from many of you that you'd like to see more books that entertain the way my Stephanie Plum novels do. So my good friend, Charlotte Hughes, and I teamed up to bring you a brand-new series of books. These new books are not set in the world of Plum, but they are written in the Plum tradition with fast-paced action, dysfunctional loveable characters, steamy sex, suspense and lots of laughs.

The series is kicked off by Full House, a slightly off-center love story about a devious man, an uncooperative woman, and a misguided genius. I wrote and published the original Full House in 1987 under the name Steffie Hall. I thought it was a fun book at the time, but Charlotte and I have made it bigger and better.

In Full House, Nick Kaharchek senses danger the minute he sees Billie Pearce. She represents everything he's always avoided.  Happy in her home life, a divorced mother of two, Billie is the epitome of stability. She's also irresistibly fascinating to the footloose Kaharchek... in a car crash sort of way. Their fateful meeting leads to a story filled with seduction and mayhem and love everlasting.

Charlotte and I hope you enjoy this first romantic adventure, and look forward to many more.

-- Janet Evanovich
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 121 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 31, 2013

    A must read

    Very funny

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2013

    Bummer

    Another bomb

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2013

    Great short read

    Loce the charachters and the humor, Very cute quick read!

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  • Posted June 8, 2012

    Evanovich always great!

    Witty and fun romance. I enjoyed this series so far, not as good and the Stephanie Plum series but a great fill in while we wait for the new book to come out!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 23, 2012

    A Must read

    This series is an excellent series.....so funny

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  • Posted May 2, 2012

    recommend

    this series is VERY good....I have thoroughlty enjoyed all the books!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    great author, great series

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2012

    highly recommend

    Great book! Mystery,Love,Humor,etc. all wrapped up in one book. Can't wait until there all available in Ebook.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2012

    Highly recommend- can't put them down.

    I started out reading "In a nutshell". That got me started reading her full series and ramdom books of hers. Now I am on the plum series. I would recommend all of her books. I ca't put them down until I finish them and I was never a book reader before I read "In a nutshell".

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2012

    Just OK

    This book tried to be like Janet Evanovich's other books -- but fell short. It felt predictable and the humor seemed forced.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2011

    Great book

    I loved this series i would highly recomened it :)

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  • Posted March 30, 2011

    Satisfying but not crazy head over heels

    I gave it four stars because it's probably the best book in the Full series so far. The earlier books work their way up to climax in this one. The romance was satisfying; the crime was alright. I think her best work is still the Stephanie Plum series. The Full series just didn't pack as much humor, thrill, or romance. I think this is my last book in this series I'll be reading. The storyline isn't as captivating, and it's not as well written or original.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Light hearted and fun

    If you are looking for a fast and fun read this series is it. Janet Evanovich and Charlotte Hughes developed this fun couple and makes you laugh.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2010

    Sweet Romantic & Laugh out Loud funny!

    This book is so funny! I loved it because the love/hate relationship that started my marriage was this way. It reminds me of our own personal love story.

    It's happy, sad, and so so funny.

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  • Posted April 19, 2010

    my favorite as of now..

    this was my favorite full* series beccause it had a great ending... loved this!

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  • Posted March 20, 2010

    Enjoyable read

    This is a cute story. Probably should have read the books before it to get the backstory a little better. Overall a good read and worth the time & money.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2006

    Evanovich is the mistress of romance novels

    I have read all the books in the 'Full' series and enjoyed every one. This book was no exception. The chemistry between Jamie and Max is intense, and I loved reading about their escapades. Readers will enjoy the fast-paced plot and the hilarious characters. This book was satisfying and definitely a must-read for Evanovich fans.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2005

    One of the Best

    I loved this book and this series. I started reading these books for something to read in between the Plum series books, and I love them. This book I think is one of the best out of all of them, because of what happens to the relationship between Max and Jamie. I loved how much they have evolved through this book and I can't wait to start Full Bloom.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2005

    Loving Janet's storylines

    I have read about all the books that Janet Evanovich wrote and i love everyone of them. This one was my favorite because the girl finally gets her man. I like the story line and the plot.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2005

    This Is One of The best Books I have Ever Read.

    Wow i think my review says it all. Many thanks to janet and charlotte.Keepin Rockin on Ladies

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 121 Customer Reviews

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