Led Astray / The Devil's Own

Overview

Led Astray

Mourning her fiancé's sudden, tragic death, Jenny Fletcher found a surprisingly sympathetic friend in his brother Cage. She'd always considered him too wild and reckless…until he brought out a wild side of her that she hadn't known was there. And now that she'd been led astray, she couldn't possibly turn back….

The Devil's Own

Kerry Bishop prepared for danger when she undertook a mission to rescue ...

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Overview

Led Astray

Mourning her fiancé's sudden, tragic death, Jenny Fletcher found a surprisingly sympathetic friend in his brother Cage. She'd always considered him too wild and reckless…until he brought out a wild side of her that she hadn't known was there. And now that she'd been led astray, she couldn't possibly turn back….

The Devil's Own

Kerry Bishop prepared for danger when she undertook a mission to rescue nine orphans from a war-ravaged country. But she didn't prepare to lose her heart to the man on whom their very survival depended. She'd tricked Linc into helping her, misleading him about her identity. When and if they reached freedom—would their love survive in spite of her lies?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780778327660
  • Publisher: Mira
  • Publication date: 3/1/2010
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 506
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Sandra Brown
Sandra Brown is the author of fifty-seven New York Times bestsellers, including Smoke Screen. Brown began her writing career in 1981 and since then has published over seventy novels, most of which remain in print. As of 1990, when Mirror Image made the New York Times bestseller list, each subsequent novel, including reprints of earlier books, have become Times bestsellers. Sandra and her husband, Michael Brown, live in Arlington, Texas.

Biography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good To Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Read an Excerpt

    If they didn't stop talking about it, she was going to scream.

    But they weren't going to stop talking about it. It was the one subject on everyone's mind and the chance of them switching to another was remote. The topic under discussion had carried them through the pot roast dinner. It was the type of meal usually reserved for Sundays, as though this were an occasion to be celebrated rather than lamented.

    Sarah had outdone herself in preparing the food. There had even been hot, fluffy yeast rolls fresh from the oven to dip in the thick, savory beef gravy and a homemade pudding that was so rich, the calories fairly shouted.

    But Jenny's tastebuds might as well have been dead for all she had enjoyed the meal. Her tongue seemed to cleave to the roof of her mouth with every bite, and her throat rebelled against swallowing.

    Now, over coffee, which Sarah was pouring into the china cups with the yellow primrose pattern, they were still talking about Hal's imminent trip to Central America. The trip would encompass an unspecified period of time, virtually make him an outlaw, and probably imperil his life.

    Yet everyone was excited about it, especially Hal, whose cheeks were flushed with enthusiasm. His brown eyes shone with expectation. "It's a tremendous undertaking. But if it weren't for the courage of those poor souls in Monterico, everything we've done and will do would be in vain. The honor belongs to them."

    Sarah touched her younger son's cheek affectionately as she resumed her chair after refilling everyone's cup. "But you've instigated this underground railroad to help them escape. I think it's wonderful. Simply wonderful. But—" her lower lip began to tremble "—you will be careful, won't you? You won't really be in danger?"

    Hal patted the soft hand that clung to his arm. "Mother, I've told you a thousand times that the political refugees will be waiting for us at the border of Monterico. We're only picking them up, escorting them through Mexico, and—"

    "Illegally smuggling them into the United States," Cage supplied dryly.

    Sarah glanced at Hal's older brother sourly.

    Accustomed to such disdain, Cage remained unaffected by his mother's disapproving glance. He stretched his jean-clad legs far out in front of him as he slouched in his chair in a way that had always irritated Sarah. During his youth she had harped on his table posture until she was blue. Her lectures had never done any good.

    He crossed one booted ankle over the other and eyed his brother from beneath a shelf of dust-colored eyebrows. "I wonder if you'll be so fired up with fanatic zeal when the Border Patrol slams your ass in jail."

    "If you can't use better language than that, kindly leave the table," Reverend Bob Hendren snapped.

    "Sorry, Dad." Unrepentantly Cage sipped his coffee.

    "If Hal goes to jail," the pastor went on, "it will be for a good cause, something he believes in."

    "That's not what you said the night you had to come bail me out," Cage reminded his father.

    "You were arrested for drunkenness."

    Cage grinned. "I believe in getting drunk occasionally."

    "Cage, please," Sarah said with a long-suffering sigh. "For once try and behave."

    Jenny stared down at her hands. She hated these family scenes. Cage could be provoking, but she felt in this instance he was right to bluntly point out the risks of Hal's involvement in this venture. Besides, even she could see that Cage's derision was a response to his parents' obvious preference for Hal, who shifted uneasily in his chair. Though he basked in Bob's and Sarah's approval, their blatant favoritism made him uncomfortable as well.

    Cage relented by erasing the smirk from his handsome face, but he continued arguing. "It's just that this labor of love, this mission of Hal's, seems like a good way to get killed. Why is he risking his neck in some banana republic where they shoot first and ask questions later?"

    "You couldn't possibly understand Hal's motives," Bob said with a dismissive wave of his hand toward his elder son.

    Cage sat up straighter and propped his arms on the table, leaning forward for emphasis. "I can understand his wanting to liberate people marked for death, yes. But I don't think this is the way to do it." Impatiently he ran a hand through his dark blond hair. "An underground railroad, escorting political refugees through Mexico, illegal entry into the United States," he said scoff-ingly as he enumerated the stages of Hal's mission by ticking them off his fingertips.

    "And how are they going to survive once you get them here to Texas? Where will they live? What will they do? Have you thought of jobs, shelter, food, medicine, clothing? Don't be naive enough to think that everyone will welcome them with open arms just because they're from a strife-torn country They'll be thought of as wetbacks just as all illegal aliens are. And treated as such."

    "We're trusting all that to God's will," Hal said a little uncertainly. His steadfastness always faltered under Cage's pragmatism. Just when Hal thought one of his convictions was unshakable, Cage shook it—to the core. Just like an earthquake, Cage's arguments opened up fissures in beliefs Hal had previously thought of as sound and indestructible. Hal prayed about it often and always came to the conclusion that God used Cage to test him. Or was Cage's astuteness a gift of the devil used to tempt him? His parents would no doubt opt for the second theory.

    "Yeah, well, I hope God has more common sense than you have."

    "That's enough!" Bob said sharply.

    Cage hunched his shoulders and propping his elbows on the tabletop, carried his coffee cup to his mouth. He didn't use the tiny handle. Jenny doubted his long finger would fit in that narrow china crook. He held the cup by folding both his hands around it.

    He was out of place in the parsonage kitchen. It had crispy ruffled curtains at the windows, a pastel plaid yellow vinyl floor, and a glass-fronted china cabinet that held delicate serving pieces that were treasured and used only on holidays.

    Cage shrank the kitchen until its coziness became clutter. And it wasn't that he was inordinately muscular or tall. Physically Cage and Hal were much the same. From a distance and from the back, the brothers were almost indistinguishable, except that Cage was slightly more robust than his younger brother. That added brawni-ness was due more to the differences in their occupations than to a whim of heredity.

    But there the similarity between the two ended. The main difference between them was one of attitude. Cage had a presence that made any room seem smaller when he entered it. An indefinable something surrounded him like an aura and was as much a part of him as his darkly tanned skin.

    Indoors he was like an oversized body straining at the seams of clothing that was too small. He seemed to be squeezed into most rooms, as though what he needed around him was wide open spaces, earth, and sky. An essence of the outdoors clung to him, as if he carried the wind inside on his clothes and in his hair.

    Jenny had never gotten close enough to him to find out, but she thought his skin must smell like sunshine. The ravages of long hours in the sun were evident on his face, particularly around his tawny eyes. Those web-fine lines made him appear older than he was. But then he had crammed a lot of living into his thirty-two years.

    And tonight, as always wherever Cage went, there was likely to be discord if not downright warfare. Mischief and malcontent followed him like a shadow. He was a predator, stalking through the jungle, upsetting the peaceable inhabitants, raising shackles and ruffling feathers and rustling the stillness even when he wasn't looking for trouble.

    "You're certain you've worked out all the rendezvous points?" Sarah asked. She was distressed that Cage had spoiled her perfect farewell dinner for Hal, but was valiantly trying to ignore her recalcitrant son and set things back on an even keel.

    As Hal rehashed his travel plans for at least the hundredth time, Jenny unobtrusively began to clear the table. As she leaned over Hal's shoulder to pick up his plate, he took her hand, squeezed it, raised it to his lips, and kissed the back of it, but all without a pause in his zealous dialogue.

    She longed to bend down and kiss the crown of his blond head, to clasp it to her breasts and plead with him not to go. But of course she didn't. Such an action would be outrageous and everyone at the table would think she had gone stark, staring mad.

    She suppressed her emotions and finished carrying the dishes to the sink. No one offered to help. No one even took notice of her. It had been Jenny's chore to do the dinner dishes since she had come to live in the parsonage.

    They were still talking fifteen minutes later when she dried her hands on the cuptowel and neatly draped it over the peg beside the sink. She slipped out the back door and went down the porch steps. She crossed the yard to the white rail fence and leaned her arms over the top.

    It was a lovely night, almost windless, which was a rare blessing in West Texas. There was only a trace of dust in the air. A huge round moon looked like a shiny gummed sticker someone had pressed against a black felt sky. What stars the city lights didn't diminish were large and near.

    It was a night for lovers to be clinging, snuggling close whispering outlandishly silly and romantic things to each other. It wasn't a night to be saying goodbye. Or if goodbyes must be said, they should be overflowing with passion and regret, seasoned with endearments rather than the details of an itinerary.

    Jenny was restless, as though she had an itch she couldn't quite locate.

    The screened back door squeaked open and then closed with the soft slapping sound of old wood against old wood. Jenny turned to see Cage sauntering down the steps. She brought her head back around as he moved to stand beside her at the fence.

    Without speaking, he fished in his breast pocket for a pack of cigarettes, shook it, and, closing his lips around one, drew it from the foil top. He lit it with a lighter whose flame flared briefly in front of his face. He clicked the lighter off and returned it and the cigarettes to his pocket as he drew the tobacco smoke deep into his lungs.

    "Those things are killers," Jenny said, still staring straight ahead.

    Cage turned his head and stared at her silently for a moment, then his body came around until he was leaning with his back against the fence. "I'm not dead yet and I started smoking when I was about eleven."

    She glanced up at him, smiling, but shaking her head. "What a shame. Think what that's done to your lungs. You should quit."

    "Yeah?" he said with that one-sided lazy grin that never failed to trip the hearts of women—young, old, single, or married. There wasn't a female in La Bota who could remain indifferent to Cage Hendren's smile. Some paused to consider exactly what it implied. Most knew. I'm male, you're female, and that's all that needs to be said.

    "Yes, you should quit. But you're not going to. I've heard Sarah ask you to stop smoking for years."

    "Only because she didn't like nasty ashtrays and the lingering smell of tobacco smoke. She never asked me to quit because she was worried about my health." There was the merest glimmer of bitternness in his amber eyes. Someone with less sensitivity than Jenny wouldn't have noticed it.

    "I worry about your health," she said.

    "Do you, now?"

    "Yes."

    "Are you asking me to quit smoking on that basis?"

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