About the Author
A writer of international bestseller status as well, her books have been published in 17 languages for worldwide sales approaching 22 million. She was honored with the position as writer-in-residence for the University of Northeastern Louisiana, and is a charter, and honorary, member of Romance Writers of America.
She has received numerous awards for her work, but among those she values most are the Golden Treasure Award for Lifetime Achievement from Romance Writers of America, induction into the Affaire de Coeur Romance Hall of Fame, and the Frank Waters Award for Excellence in Fiction.
Since 1998, Jennifer and her husband have lived in a lakeside Caribbean-styled retreat in North Louisiana. They often entertain friends and family, especially their four grown children and 13 grandchildren. Always a gardener at heart, she spends much of her free time encouraging her newly planted lawn to bloom with her favorite daylilies and azaleas, and with her transplanted antique roses.
Her love of history and antiques has given rise to her newest hobby, quilting. But evenings find her and her husband lounging on one of the expansive verandas, enjoying cafe au lait and listening to the gentle lap of waves.
Here, as Jennifer says in her own words, "I write my fantasies of love and adventure in the romantic South. And sometimes, when I sit on the porch with the sunlight falling across the lawn and the smells of magnolia, sweet olive, honeysuckle, and roses wafting on the warm air, I live them."
Read an Excerpt
Clay Benedict was out cold, his large framesprawled in boneless grace on the worn linoleum ofthe old camp's kitchen. Janna Kerr stared down athim with her hand pressed to her mouth while onepart of her brain exalted in her success and the otherstood appalled by it. She had him, had Clay Benedict,the one man in the whole world that was of any useto her. The thing was done. She had turned a possibledisaster into certain triumph.
It seemed too easy. So few things in her life hadbeen easy in recent years that it made her extremelynervous.
He appeared dead, but that wasn't possible. Surelyit wasn't? She'd had no time for careful measurements,however, little time for anything except findinga way to prevent him from leaving. The sedativehad taken forever to kick in, so long that she'd begunto think feverishly of more desperate measures. Therehad been no need, after all. One moment he'd beensitting at the cheap wooden table, toying with hisempty coffee cup, and the next he was toppling fromhis chair.
His head had hit the floor as he fell. Janna hadn'tcounted on that. Moving with slow care, she knelt athis side and put out her hand as if to touch him. Thenshe drew it back again, closing her fist so tightly thather short, neat nails dug into her palm.
What if he was playacting? What if his eyessnapped open and he grabbed her? She was strongfrom years of lifting and caring for her daughter Lainey,also from wringing out yards of water-soakeddye cloth and searching the woods and fields for dyeplant specimens. Still, she didn't much care for herchancesin a wrestling match with the man on thefloor.
He was a superior specimen of the male animal ifshe'd ever seen one, with whipcord muscles and thedeeply tanned skin of an outdoorsman. His chest, underthe blue T-shirt that matched his faded jeans, wasbroad and deep before it tapered into a flat waist andlean hips. Power marked his chiseled features and thefirm line of his lips, though the impression was softenedby the length of his lashes and the smile linesthat fanned from the corners of his eyes. Even in astupor, he appeared self-contained, invincible in hisassurance of exactly who and what he was inside.
He was a Benedict. A Benedict of Turn-Coupe,Louisiana, with all the assurance verging on arrogancethat went with the name.
Annoyance at the idea steeled Janna's nerves, andshe reached out again to feel for the pulse in the sideof his neck. The warmth of his skin was startlingagainst her chilled fingers, and she could sense thefaint prickle of his dark beard underneath it. It hadbeen a long time since she'd actually touched a man.The act felt so intimate that it was a second beforeshe could concentrate on the vigorous and steady beatof his jugular. She counted it for a moment, then letout a sigh and sat back on her heels.
She had Clay Benedict, all right. But what in thename of heaven was she going to do with him nowthat she had him?
She wouldn't need to hold him long, a week, twoat the outside. She had done so much already, madeall the contacts, raised the money, moved Lainey andherself into this fishing camp in the back of the beyond.Getting hold of Clay Benedict had been a last,totally unexpected boon, the spun sugar icing on thecake. It was possible that it would make the wholething perfect.
Absolutely everything was in place now. Soon itwould be over, all over.
She'd had to improvise when Clay had arrived sounexpectedly at the camp an hour ago. Denise hadasked him to check on Janna and her daughter, he'dsaid. It made sense when she remembered how close-knitthe Benedict clan was, how they looked aftereach other and everything else in what they consideredtheir ordained corner of the world, the Benedictcommunity on Horseshoe Lake and its swamp. Thenhad come the bad moment when he'd shown toomuch interest in the photos of Lainey scattered overthe table where Janna had been putting them into analbum. She couldn't allow that, so had been forcedto act on her half-formed impulse. Now it was beginningto seem that it was meant to be.
He lay so still. The rise and fall of his chest wasdeep, his breathing soundless. His cleanly molded lipswere parted a fraction, his hands, with their scatteringof nicks and pale scars, were open and the fingerslax. It gave her an odd feeling around her heart to seehim so defenseless.
She could still back out; it wasn't too late. Someexcuse could be found for why Clay had passed outin her kitchen. She could let him sleep off the sedativethen send him on his way. Dr. Gower might notbe too happy with this substitution in the plan, afterall. With so much lead-time, Clay Benedict mightalso figure out what was going on. Suppose he gotaway and moved to stop her? Buying and selling ahuman organ was illegal, after all, and the penalty forit wasn't light. If she actually stole one, they'd probablyput her under the jailhouse instead of inside it.
That Clay would turn the key himself if he wereable, Janna didn't doubt. She knew all about the strictethics of the Benedictsshe'd heard enough aboutthem nine years ago. They came down firmly on theside of law and order and strict moral conduct. TheBenedicts, male and female, would never allow someoneto be deliberately injured for their benefit, noteven if it meant losing the person they loved most inthe world.
Janna wasn't made that way, at least not when herdaughter's life was at stake. She had Clay Benedictand she was going to keep him as long as he wasuseful to her.
A low groan came from the man beside her knee.He might not be quite so far gone as she'd thought.She had to make a move, and fast, if she meant tohold him.
The fishing camp had only three rooms, an L-shapedliving room, dining room and kitchen combination,and two bedrooms. Space for a bathroomhad been carved out of one of these, so that the other,the one facing the lake, was larger. Janna and Laineyslept in the big bedroom, since sharing a bed made iteasier for Janna to get up at night with her daughterand to check on the medical equipment. The otherbedroom had been turned into a workspace by pushingthe ancient iron bedstead into a corner. Her workroomwould be the best place, Janna thought. Anyway,it was closer. Dragging Clay Benedict that shortdistance should be possible if she used her leg muscles.The problem would be getting him onto the bed.She wasn't exactly petite, but heaving his hard-muscledmass around was beyond her.
His airboat also had to be considered. It was sittingin plain sight at the camp's boat dock, next to the oldaluminum skiff that had come with the camp, Itwould be a dead giveaway if anyone came lookingfor its owner. What on earth was she going to do withit?
Excerpted from CLAY by JENNIFER BLAKE. Copyright © 2001 by Patricia Maxwell. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.