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About the Author
Born in Newport, Rhode Island, I grew up in neighbouring Middletown with parents who lived to be on the water. After graduating from Middletown High School in 1984, I attended the University of Rhode Island where I double majored in journalism and political science. I graduated in 1988 and went to work for a small community newspaper, the writing equivalent of boot camp. We worked like dogs for almost no money, but we had a lot of fun and learned so much about writing, editing and life.
I lived in Rhode Island until I was 26 when I did something I had vowed to never do while growing up in a Navy town—I married a Navy guy and moved from the smallest state in the U.S. to Rota, Spain, where he was stationed. To say the change in my life was dramatic is putting it mildly! We had the time of our lives in Spain from 1992 to 1995, where I also earned a master's degree in public administration through a program offered to the military by the University of Maryland. Our daughter Emily was born there three months before we returned to the states.
After we moved to Rhode Island in August 2002, I started to get more serious about the book but still wasn't able to get very far. A year later, in November 2003, my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The next nine months were a roller coaster ride, during which I turned to the book more and more often, seeking an escape from the nightmare of my mother's illness. By early August 2004, I had four solid chapters that my mother was the first to read. I made her cry, she said. She died on August 31, 2004.
Something that had lain dormant for years kicked into gear in the aftermath of my mother's death. I asked myself—what are you waiting for? What meaning will it have to finally write that book if you wait until neither of your parents—the two people who always said you had it in you—aren't around to read it? I firmly believe my mother is sending me these amazing characters who continue to pop up out of nowhere and lead me on one great adventure after another. How else can I possibly explain the incredible things that have happened in the years since she died?
I finished Jack's book, "Treading Water," on May 18, 2005, and published it along with its two sequels, Marking Time and Starting Over, in late 2011. (Read more about The House That Jack Built.) I've finished a few since then, including "Line of Scrimmage," which was the first to be published in September 2008.
I finally sold to Sourcebooks Casablanca in late 2007. Line of Scrimmage was my first published book in September of 2008. Love at First Flight followed in July of 2009. In early 2010, I sold Fatal Affair to Harlequin's new Carina Press digital-first imprint. Fatal Affair was released in July 2010, followed soon after by Fatal Justice, Fatal Consequences, Fatal Destiny and Fatal Flaw. Fatal Attack will be out in November 2012 and the early books in the series will be released in mass market paperback through Harlequin's HQN imprint beginning in the fall of 2013. Going back to 2010, authors were getting more and more excited about the opportunity to publish direct to readers via Kindle, Nook, Kobo and later the iPad. I decided to test the waters and published True North in November 2010 and The Fall in December 2010. Everyone Loves a Hero was released from Sourcebooks in February 2011, and I followed that with the release of the following books in 2011: The Wreck, Maid for Love, Fool for Love, Ready for Love, Georgia on My Mind, Treading Water, Marking Time and Starting Over. Many of these books had been written for years and were waiting for the right avenue to get to readers.
When people ask me what led me to the decision to self-publish, my reply is always the same: "No one was interested in these books except my readers." And boy have they shown me the love for my self-published books! The McCarthy's of Gansett Island Series, which now also includes Falling for Love, Hoping for Love, Season for Love and soon, Longing for Love, has turned me into a bestselling author on Kindle and Nook. The success of that series also led to the recent sale of my Green Mountain Country Store series to Berkley publishing. Watch for the debut of that series in 2014. Readers can also look forward to much more from Gansett Island, much more from Sam, Nick and the Fatal Series gang, and another book in the Treading Water series called Coming Home, which I hope to have out by Christmas 2012. It will pick up Reid and Kate's story from Marking Time ten years later—a story readers have asked me to write.
Read an Excerpt
By Linda Howard
Harlequin EnterprisesCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAnson Edwards sat alone in his big plush office, his fingers steepled as he weighed the strengths of his two lieutenants, wondering which of the two would be best to send to Houston. His own strength was his ability to analyze quickly and accurately, yet in this instance he didn't want to make a snap decision. Sam Bronson was an enigma, a man who played his cards close to his chest; it wouldn't do to underestimate him. Instinct told Anson that an overt takeover attempt on Bronson's metal alloy company would fail, that Bronson was wily enough to have hidden assets. Anson had to discover what those assets were, and their value, before he could realistically expect victory in his attempt to take Bronson Alloys under Spencer-Nyle's corporate umbrella. He knew that he could take control simply by offering much more than the company could possibly be worth, but that wasn't Anson's way. He had a responsibility to the stockholders of Spencer-Nyle, and he wasn't reckless. He would do what was necessary to take Bronson, but no more.
He could set a team of investigators on the job, but that would alert Bronson, and if Bronson were given any sort of warning he might be able to take evasive action that could drag into months. Anson didn't want this; he wanted things to be over quickly. The best betwould be one man, a man whom he could trust in any situation. He trusted both Rome Matthews and Max Conroy completely, but which man would be the best one for the job?
Rome Matthews was his handpicked, personally trained successor; Rome was tough, smart, fair, and he set out to win at everything he did. But Rome had a formidable reputation. He was far too well-known in business circles, and Houston was too close to Dallas for Anson to hope that no one would know him. Rome's very presence would trigger alarm in the business community.
Max Conroy, on the other hand, wasn't that well-known. People tended not to take him as seriously as they did Rome; it was those male-model looks of his, as well as the lazy, good-humored image he projected. People just didn't expect Max to work as hard at something as Rome would. But there was steel in Max Conroy, a ruthlessness that he kept skillfully disguised. That famous affability of his was only a pose; he kept the almost fearsome intensity of his character under strict control. Those who didn't know him were always completely fooled, expecting him to be more playboy than executive.
So it would have to be Max, who would have a better chance of quietly gathering information.
Anson picked up a file again, leafing through the pages of information about key personnel with Bronson Alloys. Nothing could be learned from Bronson himself; the man was wary, and a genius. But a chain was only as strong as its weakest link, and Anson was determined to find Bronson's weak link.
He came to the photograph of Bronson's secretary and paused. Bronson appeared to trust his secretary completely, though there was no hint of romance between them. Anson frowned as he studied the photograph; the woman was a pretty, dark-eyed blonde, but no great beauty. There was a reserved expression in her dark eyes. She had been married to Jeff Halsey, the heir of a wealthy Houston family, but they had divorced five years ago. She was thirty-one now and hadn't remarried. Anson checked her name: Claire Westbrook.
Thoughtfully he leaned back in his chair. Would she be vulnerable to Max's seductive charm? It remained to be seen. Then he tapped the photograph in sudden decision. Claire Westbrook just might be the weak link in Bronson's chain.
* * *
Claire slipped through the double doors onto the terrace and walked to the waist-high fieldstone wall that separated the terrace from the flower garden. Resting her hands on the cool stone, she stared blindly at the garden, not seeing the masses of blooms that were highlighted by strategically placed lights. How could Virginia invite Jeff and Helene, knowing that Claire had accepted an invitation? She'd done it deliberately, of course; she'd been gloating at the shock that Claire hadn't been able to hide when her ex-husband arrived at the party with his beautiful, pregnant wife.
Tears burned at the back of Claire's eyes, and she blinked to control them. She thought she could have handled an accidental meeting with aplomb, but she was stunned by Virginia's deliberate cruelty. She and Virginia had never been close friends, but still, she'd never expected this. How ironic that Claire had accepted the invitation only at the urging of her sister, Martine, who thought it would do her good to get out of the apartment and socialize! So much for good intentions, Claire thought wryly, controlling the urge to cry. The episode wasn't worth crying over, and it had taught her a lesson: never trust any of your ex-husband's old girlfriends. Evidently Virginia had never forgiven Claire for being Mrs. Jeff Halsey.
"Did the smoke and noise become too much for you, too?"
Claire whirled around, startled by the words spoken so close to her ear. She'd been certain no one else was on the terrace. Determined not to let anyone know she'd been upset, she lifted one eyebrow in casual inquiry.
The man was silhouetted by the light coming through the double glass doors behind him, making it impossible to see his features, but she was certain she didn't know him. He was tall and lean, his shoulders broad beneath the impeccable cut of his white dinner jacket, and he was so close to her that she could smell the faint clean scent of his cologne.
"I apologize; I didn't intend to startle you," he said, moving to stand beside her. "I saw you come out here and thought I'd enjoy some fresh air, too. We haven't been introduced, have we? Maxwell Benedict."
"Claire Westbrook," she murmured in return. She recognized him now; they hadn't been introduced before, true, but she'd seen him when he had arrived at the party. It was impossible not to notice him. He looked like a model, with thick blond hair and vivid eyes; Claire remembered thinking that a man with a face like his should be short, just to keep the scales balanced. Instead he was tall and moved with a casual masculine grace that drew every feminine eye to him. Despite the chiseled perfection of his face, there was nothing effeminate about him; his looks were wholly masculine, and whenever he looked at a woman, his gaze was full of male appreciation. Pretty women weren't the only ones singled out for the megaton force of his charm; every woman, young or old, plain or pretty, was treated with a mixture of courtesy and appreciation that melted them, one and all, like a snowball in hot summer sunshine.
If he expected her to melt right along with the rest, she thought wryly, he was in for a disappointment. Jeff had taught her some hard lessons about handsome charming men, and she remembered every one of them. She was safe even from this man, whose charm was so potent that it was almost a visible force. He didn't even have to flirt! His spectacular looks and flashing smile stunned, his crisp-edged British accent intrigued, and the quiet baritone of his voice soothed. Claire wondered if his feelings would be hurt when she failed to be impressed.
"I thought you seemed upset when you came out here," he said suddenly, leaning against the wall with total disregard for the condition of his crisp white evening jacket. "Is anything wrong?"
My goodness, all that and he was perceptive, too! Claire shrugged, putting lightness in her tone when she answered, "Not really. I'm just not certain how to handle an awkward situation."
"If that's the case, may I be of any assistance?" His offer was calm, polite, and coolly controlled. Claire paused, vaguely intrigued despite herself. She had expected him to be smooth and sophisticated, but that element of control she sensed in him was out of the ordinary.
Excerpted from Almost Forever by Linda Howard Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.