Open Season

Open Season

4.4 141
by Linda Howard
     
 

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Daisy Minor is bored. Worse than that, she's boring. A plain, small-town librarian, she's got a wardrobe as sexy as a dictionary and hasn't been on a date in years. She's never even had a lukewarm love affair, let alone a hot one. So when she wakes up on her thirty-fourth birthday and wonders how it is that she still lives with her widowed mom and spinster aunt

Overview

Daisy Minor is bored. Worse than that, she's boring. A plain, small-town librarian, she's got a wardrobe as sexy as a dictionary and hasn't been on a date in years. She's never even had a lukewarm love affair, let alone a hot one. So when she wakes up on her thirty-fourth birthday and wonders how it is that she still lives with her widowed mom and spinster aunt while her friends have all gotten married and started families, she decides it's time to get a life—and a sex life. And as far as she can tell, good girls don't attract nearly as many men as bad ones.

Can a lifelong good girl turn bad? No, not exactly.

But they can pretend, right?

One makeover later, Daisy has transformed herself into a party girl extraordinaire. She's letting her hair down, dancing the night away at clubs, and laughing and flirting with men for the first time in, well, forever. With a new lease on her own place, she's found a new lease on life—and it's open season for man hunting.

But on her way home late one night, Daisy sees something she's not supposed to see. Suddenly the target of a killer, she's forced to put her manhunt on hold. But the very moment she stops looking might be the moment she finds what she's wanted all along. Trouble is, before he can share her life, he might just have to save it.

Seemlessly blending heart-pounding romance and breathless intrigue, Linda Howard has once more proven herself a masterful storyteller, writing this stylish and provocative novel that absolutely defies readers to put it down.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com
For Daisy Minor, it's open season on men. The small-town librarian is tired of being a good girl, living with her widowed mother and spinster aunt. She wants to experience life and love, to have some fun, to meet a man. Before she starts her personal manhunt, she sets out to reinvent, or at least redecorate, herself. She seeks out a new look to match her new attitude, moves into her own place, and sets out in search of all the fun and adventure she's been missing. Soon she's dancing her nights away, flirting with men, and thoroughly enjoying her new free-spirited lifestyle. Then, late one night, she sees something that no one was supposed to see and finds herself in deadly danger. Suddenly, a killer declares it's Open Season on Daisy Minor, and Daisy's one hope, for life and love, is to find the perfect man to save her life -- and share it.
From the Publisher
The Orlando Sentinel A thriller...with deftness and charm.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780671034429
Publisher:
Atria Books
Publication date:
07/17/2001
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.12(d)

Read an Excerpt

Prologue

Carmela nervously clutched the burlap bag that held her other dress, some water, and the small package of food she had been able to save for the trip north, across the border. Orlando had told her that they wouldn't be able to stop, for food or water or anything, until they reached Los Angeles. She was locked in the back of an old truck that bounced and swayed, throwing her from side to side if she didn't manage to wedge herself into a corner and brace her back and legs in the small V, making sleep impossible because the moment she relaxed, she was sent tumbling across the rough wood bed of the truck.

Carmela was terrified, but determined. Enrique had gone across two years before, and he'd said he would send for her. Instead he had married an American, so he could never be deported, and she had been left with her dreams destroyed and her pride in shreds. There was nothing left for her in Mexico; if Enrique could marry an American, then so could she! And she would marry a rich one. She was very pretty; everyone said so. When she married her rich norteamericano, she would find Enrique and snub her nose at him, and he would be sorry he had lied and betrayed her.

She had big dreams, but she felt very small, bouncing around in the back of the truck as it charged across uneven ground. She heard grinding metal as Orlando changed gears, and a soft exclamation of pain as one of the other girls banged into the side of the truck. There were three others, all young like her, all wanting something better than what they had left behind in Mexico. They hadn't exchanged names, hadn't talked much at all. They were too preoccupied with the danger of what they were doing, and both sad and excited: sad at what they were leaving behind, and excited at the prospect of a better life. Anything had to be better than nothing, and nothing was what Carmela had.

She thought about her mother, dead for seven months, worn out by a lifetime of hard work and having babies. "Never let Enrique touch you between your legs," her mother had lectured, time and again. "Not until you are his wife. If you do, then he won't marry you, and you'll be left with a baby while he finds another pretty girl." Well, she hadn't let Enrique touch her between the legs, but he had found another girl anyway. At least she hadn't been left with a baby.

She had understood what her mother meant, though: Don't be like me. Her mother had wanted Carmela to have more than she'd had. She hadn't wanted her to grow old before her time, forever laden with a baby in her arms and another in the womb, and dying before the age of forty.

Carmela was seventeen. By the time her mother had been seventeen, she'd already had two babies. Enrique had never understood Carmela's insistence on remaining a virgin; he'd been, by turns, angry and sullen at her steadfast refusal to let him make love to her. Perhaps the woman he had married had let him do that to her. If that was all he wanted, then he had never truly loved her at all, Carmela thought. Good riddance! She wasn't going to waste her life mourning a...a fool!

She tried to keep her spirits up by telling herself everything would be better in America; everyone said that in Los Angeles there were more jobs than there were people, that everyone had a car, and a television. She might even be in the movies, and become famous. Everyone said she was pretty, so perhaps it was possible. The fact, however, was that she was seventeen and alone, and she was frightened.

One of the other girls said something, her voice drowned out by the laboring engine, but the tension came through. In that moment, Carmela realized the other three were as frightened as she. So she wasn't alone, after all; the other three were just like her. It was a small thing, but she immediately felt braver.

Bracing herself against the lurching as the vehicle wallowed from one rut to the next, she scooted across the rough wood of the truck bed until she was close enough to hear what the girl had said. It was daylight now, and enough light seeped through the cracks that she could make out the faces of the others. "What is it?" she asked.

The girl twisted her hands in the worn fabric of her skirt. "I have to relieve myself," she said, her voice thin with shame.

"We all do," Carmela said in sympathy. Her own bladder was full to the point of pain. She had been ignoring it as best she could, unwilling to do she knew they would eventually be forced to do.

Tears rolled down the girl's face. "I must."

Carmela looked around, but the other two seemed as helpless as the weeping girl. "Then we will do what we must do," she said, because she seemed to be the only one capable of making a decision. "We will designate a corner...that one." She pointed at the right rear corner. "There is a crack there, so it will drain. We will each relieve ourselves."

The girl wiped her face. "What about the other?"

"I hope we stop before then." Now that the sun was up, the heat inside the truck would be climbing steadily. It was summer; if Orlando didn't stop and let them out, they might well die from the heat. He had said they wouldn't stop until they reached their destination, so surely they would be in Los Angeles soon. She had paid Orlando only half of his usual fee; if she died, he wouldn't be able to collect the other half. Normally everyone had to pay in full before the coyote would take them across the border, but because she was so pretty, Orlando said, he would make an exception.

The other girls were pretty, too, she realized. Perhaps he had made an exception for all of them.

Relieving themselves was a group effort, because of the bouncing of the truck, and Carmela organized that effort. In turn, with herself going last, each squatted in the corner while the others wedged themselves around her to hold her upright. At last, feeling exhausted but much better, they sank down on the truck bed to rest.

Abruptly, with one last bounce, the truck began rolling smoothly. They were on a highway, Carmela realized. A highway! Surely they were close to Los Angeles now.

But the morning hours ticked away, and the heat inside the truck grew stifling. Carmela tried to breathe normally, but the other girls were panting, as if drawing in extra air would help cool them. Since that air was hot, it didn't seem logical. At least, the way they were sweating, they wouldn't have to relieve themselves again very soon.

She waited as long as she could, because she had no idea how much farther they had to go, but finally her own thirst grew unbearable and she took her small flask of water from her burlap bag. "I have water," she said. "Just a little, so we must share equally." She gave each of them a hard look. "If you take more than one sip before passing the flask, I will slap you. And just a small sip, too."

Under her fierce dark gaze, each girl obediently took one small sip and passed the flask. Somehow, in organizing them to relieve themselves, she had gained the position of leader, and though she wasn't very tall she had the force of will they all recognized. When the flask reached her, Carmela took her own one small sip, then passed the flask around again. When they had each had two sips, she capped the flask and put it back in her bag. "I know it isn't much," she said, "but I don't have much water and we must make it last."

There was, perhaps, enough water for them each to have another two sips. That wasn't much water, not when they were losing more than that in sweat every hour. Perhaps it would be enough to keep them alive. Why hadn't the other girls thought to bring food and water? she thought irritably, then forced the irritation away. It could be that they hadn't had anything to bring. As poor as she herself was, there were always others who had even less. She must be kind, in thought as well as deed.

The truck began slowing, the difference in the sound of the motor signaling the change. They looked at each other with hope bright in their eyes.

The truck pulled off the highway and stopped. The motor wasn't turned off, but they heard the slam of the door as Orlando got out. Quickly Carmela grabbed her bag and stood; since he had said they wouldn't stop for anything until they reached Los Angeles, then they must have arrived. She had expected more noise, though; she couldn't hear anything other than the sound of the truck's engine.

Then there came the sound of a chain rattling, and the roll-up door of truck was shoved up on its tracks, letting in a blinding glare of sunlight and a blast of air that was both hot and fresh. Orlando was just a black shape, silhouetted against the white glare. Shielding their eyes, the girls all stumbled to the rear of the truck and awkwardly climbed out.

As her eyes adjusted to the sunlight, Carmela looked around, expecting...she didn't know quite what she expected, but at least a big city. There was nothing here but sky and sun and scrub bushes, and drifts of gritty gray soil. Her eyes wide, she looked at Orlando in question.

"This is as far as I take you," he announced. "The truck is too hot; you would die. My friend will take you the rest of the way. His truck has air conditioning."

Air conditioning! In Carmela's small village a few people had owned cars, but none of them had air conditioning. Old Vasquez had pointed with pride to the controls on the dash of his car that had once made cold air come from the vents, but they no longer worked and Carmela had never actually felt such a thing. She knew about it, though. She would ride in a truck with air conditioning! Old Vasquez would be so jealous, if he knew.

A tall, lean man wearing jeans and a plaid shirt came around the side of the truck. He carried four clear bottles of water, which he gave to the girls to drink. The water was cold, the bottles wet with condensation. The thirsty girls gulped the water while he talked to Orlando in English, which none of them spoke.

"This is Mitchell," Orlando finally said. "You are to do what he says. He speaks a little of our language, enough for you to understand what he wants you to do. If you disobey, the American policemen will find you, and throw you in jail, and you will never be freed. Do you understand?"

Solemnly, they all nodded. They were then swiftly hustled into the camper shell on Mitchell's large white pickup. There were two sleeping bags in the tossed on the truck bed, and a small stool with a hole on top, which on inspection turned out to be a toilet. There was no room to stand up; they had to either sit or lie, but after their sleepless night they didn't care. Cold air and music, both of which were incredibly soothing, were pouring into the camper shell through the open sliding rear window of the truck. After spreading out the two sleeping bags so they could all lie down, the four girls quickly fell asleep.

She hadn't thought Los Angeles as so very far away, Carmela thought two days later. She was tired of riding in the camper, of not being able to stand up and move around. Stretching kept her muscles as limber as possible, but what she really wanted was just to walk. She had always been an active girl, and this restriction, though necessary, was maddening.

They were fed regularly, and given water to drink. They hadn't been able to wash, however, and they all smelled really bad. Sometimes Mitchell would stop in a deserted area and raise the back gate of the camper shell, letting the camper air out, but the freshness was never complete, and never last long anyway.

Peeking through the rear window of the truck, Carmela had watched the empty desert turn into flat grasslands. Then, gradually, wooded areas had appeared, and finally, this last day, there were mountains: lush, green, rolling. There were pastures dotted with cattle, and pretty valleys, and dark green rivers. The air felt thick and humid, and perfumed with the scent of a thousand different varieties of trees and flowers. And cars! There were more cars than she had ever thought to see in her life. They had passed through a city that had seemed enormous to her, but when she had asked Mitchell if this was Los Angeles he had replied that, no, it was called Memphis. They were still a long way from Los Angeles.

America was unbelievably huge, Carmela thought, for them to have traveled for days, and still be a long way from Los Angeles!

But late at night on the second day, they finally stopped. When Mitchell opened the back of the camper and let them out, they could barely walk from having been cooped up for so long. He had parked in front of a long trailer; Carmela looked around, searching for anything that would indicate a city, but they still seemed to be far from any such thing. Stars twinkled overhead, and the night was alive with insect chirps and bird calls. He unlocked the trailer door and led them inside, and all four girls sighed at the luxury. There was furniture, and the most amazing kitchen with appliances they had no idea how to work, and a bathroom such as they hadn't imagined in their dreams. Mitchell told them they were all to take a bath, and he gave them each a loose, lightweight dress that was pulled on over the head. The dresses were theirs, he said.

They were amazed at such kindness, and thrilled by their new dresses. Carmela smoothed her hand over the fabric, which was smooth and light. Her dress was white with little red flowers all over it, and she thought it was beautiful.

They took baths in water that sprayed out of the wall, and used soap that smelled like perfume. There was special soap for their hair, liquid soap that foamed into mountains of suds. And brushes for their teeth! By the time Carmela left the bathroom, having waited until last because the other girls seemed at the end of their strength, she was cleaner than she had ever been in her life. She had been so enthralled by the richness of the soap that she had bathed twice, and washed her hair twice. Warm water stopped coming out of the spray, there was just cold water now, but she didn't care. It felt so good to be clean again.

She was barefoot, and she had no under things to wear because they were all so dirty, but she pulled on her clean new dress and twisted her damp hair into a knot at the back of her neck. Looking in the mirror, she saw a pretty girl with smooth brown skin, lustrous dark eyes, and a full red mouth, much different from the bedraggled creature who had looked back at her before.

The other girls were already asleep in the bedroom, snuggled under the covers, the air so cold that chills raised on her arms. She went into the living room to tell Mitchell goodnight, and thank him for all he had done for them. A television was on, and he was watching a game of American baseball. He looked up and smiled at her, and indicated two glasses filled with ice and a dark liquid, on the table beside him. "I fixed you something to drink," he said, or that was what she thought he said because his Spanish really wasn't very good. He picked up his own glass and sipped from it. "Coca-Cola."

Ah, that she understood! She took the glass he indicated and drank down the cold, sweet, biting cola. She loved the way it felt on the back of her throat. Mitchell indicated she should sit, so she did, but on the other end of the sofa the way her mother had taught her. She was very tired, but she would sit with him for a few minutes to be polite, and in truth she was grateful to him. He was a nice man, she thought, and he had sweet, faintly sad brown eyes.

He gave her some salty nuts to eat, and suddenly that was just what she wanted, as if her body needed to replace the salt she had lost during the first part of the trip. Then she needed more Coca-Cola, and he got up and fixed another one for her. It felt strange, to have a man bringing things to her, but perhaps that was the way things were in America. Perhaps it was the men who waited on the women. If so, she only regretted she hadn't come sooner!

Her fatigue grew greater. She yawned, then apologized to him, but he only laughed and said it was okay. She couldn't keep her eyes open, or her head up. Several times her head bobbed forward and she would jerk it up, but then her neck muscles just wouldn't work any more and instead of lifting her head she felt herself sliding sideways. Mitchell was there, helping her to lie down, settling her head on the cushion and stretching out her legs. He was still touching her legs, she thought dimly, and she tried to tell him to stop but her tongue wouldn't form the words. And he was touching her between her legs, where she had never let anyone touch her.

No, she thought.

And then the blackness came, and she thought no more.

Copyright © 2001 by Linda Howard

Meet the Author

Linda Howard is the award-winning author of eight New York Times bestsellers, including 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.

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Open Season 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 140 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There is just something about Daisy Minor that gets you into this novel from the first page. In the same way you get into Blair Mallory's head in Howard's novels featuring her, Daisy Minor makes you smile. I don't want to deceive anyone, she's nothing like Blair - she is sweet, irreverent, innocent - but her romance with Jack (a tough cop) is definitively explosive. Also, equally enjoyed the mystery plot and romance plot in this one. Some of Howard's mysteries can seem a bit tired/weird - Angel of Death, anyone? - but this one is a real goodie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book about 10 years ago and never forgot it. It was hilarious and I just read it again last month. I am a huge fan of romantic suspense and this was a very pleasant surprise because it was so funny yet kept the romantic suspense aspect. Linda Howard wrote another book too that was a funny romantic suspense and I wish she would write more!
DeeDee2002 More than 1 year ago
Highly Recommended
one_hot_reader More than 1 year ago
l loved this book. I read it back when it first came out in paperback and now that I have a Nook I have added it to my ebook library. I love linda howard!!
afriendofallbooks More than 1 year ago
I love this book. Talk about jumping out of a rut in the most entertaining way. Of course there is murder and mayhem going on. The cop is clever and figures out pretty quickly he needs to snatch up the girl. Ive read this and many more of Linda howards books and i have to say she rarely misses. Kind of a spoiler here...the grabby guy in the bar gets his.
JessLucy More than 1 year ago
This is another funny, sexy read by Linda Howard. I love the interaction between street-smart cop Jack Russo and naive, small-town librarian Daisy Minor. Underneath her prudish exterior, Daisy is feisty and sassy as heck! If you enjoyed this romantic suspense novel, you may also like: Shades of Twilight, After the Night and Mackenzie's Mountain by the same author. You might also try: a Thin Dark Line by Tami Hoag, anything by Lavyrle Spencer and The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye. Happy reading!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very cute story. Daisy tho appearing very straight laced is determined to find a husband & have babies before its too late! She is after all as she worries thirty sx years old! She decides on a make over & going out to clubs. She meets the sexy, tough, police chief of her town, finds her dull life all turned around because she's a witness to a horrible crime. Daisy is hilarious & sexy underneath all that old maid person that she thought she was. She finds the police chief annoying & let's him have it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The plot wasn't bad but the story was slow at first. My biggest issue was that the main female character was just too naive. It is hard to root for someone that is that out of touch with reality. During certain situations she almost seemed a little slow.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was one of the best action, romantice, erotice pact book I have read so far.  The main character falling in love for the first man to try to protect her since her "Big Change".  Her first night out husband-hunting and she starts something that will help her find her love. Her second night out on the town and she see's something she shouldn't have but doesn't know it yet!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great, addictive story, but there are many typos and formatting errors. Still recommend reading, but wonder what happened to publishing standards, though Howard's talent should not be demeaned because her publisher was sloppy.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It was so funny, the characters were great. Daisy was such a character, I love how she re-made herself and her formerly sleepy life changed from sedate to being in the middle of a major drama. This book made me laugh out loud. I read some of the other reviews and am not sure if it is one of Linda Howard's older books, but either way, it's steamy, funny, a really good story, with lots of suspense, bad guys, action, pretty much everything you could ask for in a book without being outrageously unrealistic. Highly recommend. Great book!
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Enjoyable
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book Linda Howard has written. All her others that I have read, (which is almost all of them) are good. This is great. Humor, suspense, passion. All put together in a wonderful story about two very likeable people. Three people, Linda Howard, Nora Roberts, and Sandra Brown, best at what they do.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book had it all. It had mystery, romance, and some super funny episodes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My favorite Linda Howard. Sexy,romantic and quite funny, the characters bicker and fall in love with ease. And Aunt Joella is hilarious.