A novel brimming with nonstop action, quirky characters, sexy highjinks, and sharp humor
Welcome to Full Speed by Janet Evanovich and Charlotte Hughes. You'll fall in love with Jamie Swift and Max Holt, one dynamic duo who can't seem to escape troubleand an irresistible attractionas you follow them from one adventure to another.
Newspaper editor Jamie Swift likes a little predictability in her life. When she suddenly finds herself minus a fiancé and with a major case of the hots for her silent partner, millionaire Maximillian Holt, any bit of predictability goes right out the window. Max is like a tornado, turning her well-ordered world upside down. Now someone's unhappy with Max's recent business dealdangerously unhappy. Before she knows it, Jamie's hotfooting across state lines to help Max and land a story. But Sweet Pea, Tennessee harbors some smelly secrets, many of which reside under the big tent of revivalist Harlan Rawlins, whose link to the Almighty rides shotgun with his Mob connections.
Posing as husband and wife, with computer genius Muffin and a mutt named Fleas along for the ride, Max and Jamie are in the middle of another crazy case, closer than ever to each otherand too close for comfort to the kind of people who will do anything to stop them.
About the Author
JANET EVANOVICH is the #1 bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum novels, a dozen romance novels, the Alexandra Barnaby novels, the Lizzy and Diesel novels, and How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author. She lives in Florida.
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.
Hometown:Hanover, New Hampshire
Date of Birth:April 22, 1943
Place of Birth:South River, New Jersey
Education:B.A., Douglass College, 1965
Read an Excerpt
Jamie's excitement about going to Tennessee was short-lived. How the heck was she going to get there without a car? Her vintage Mustang was in the shop back in Beaumont, South Carolina: dented, banged up, with a couple of bullet holes.
She needed a plan.
She needed wheels.
The rain started to fall once more. What she really needed at the moment was either a really big umbrella or a place to stay for the night.
Jamie glanced at the sign on the road that read: Whittville: 2 Miles. That didn't tell her much; she'd never heard of the town.
She watched a tow truck turn in to the gas station and pull up beside one of the gaspumps. A big man in navy overalls climbed out and began pumping gas. He glanced at her, politely tipped his cap, and nodded, as though it were an everyday occurrence to find a woman pacing the parking lot of a run-down gas station at this hour.
Hmm. Maybe he could give her a ride.
Jamie approached him. He looked harmless enough. He was middle-aged and wore a wedding ring. His overalls were snug; he looked well fed. Probably had a wife at home who spent a lot of time in the kitchen. They probably ate their dinner on those cute little folding tray tables in front of the TV set while sitting in matching recliners. Their relationship was probably simple and uncomplicated.
The man caught her staring. "Good evening, ma'am."
The name Buford Noll had been stitched on a little patch sewn to his overalls. Yep, he looked respectable enough.
"Good evening to you, Mr. Noll," Jamie said, trying to sound upbeat. "I was wondering if you could give me a lift into town. I'll pay you."
"Well, sure. Any place in particular?"
"I need to find a nice, inexpensive motel for the night."
"Oh, well." He rubbed his jaw. "The one in Whittville is pretty run-down. Probably have to go all the way into Jessup."
"How far is that?"
"'Bout twelve miles."
"Like I said, I'll pay you."
"Oh, you don't have to do that. I'm headed that way, but I got to make a quick stop first."
Jamie was relieved. "Thank you."
"You can go ahead and climb on in, Miss ..."
"Just call me Jamie." She hurried around to the passenger's side. Things were definitely beginning to look up.
Parked in the shadows across the street, Max Holt watched Jamie climb into the tow truck. She had not seen him return; she had been talking on the telephone.
"What's she doing now?" a voice asked from the dashboard.
"Looks like she just found a ride home."
"Man, you really screwed up big-time."
Max stared at the blinking lights on the front of the dash. A former NASA scientist had designed his car, a Porsche look-alike, only bigger, with a virtually indestructible titanium exterior. The car held state-of-the-art equipment, which ranged from a global positioning satellite system to a full videoconferencing suite and a high-powered computer that ran it all. Max had personally created artificial intelligence with voice recognition technology that would not be available for years to come.
His invention, which he called Muffin, had a Marilyn Monroe voice and "she" could literally think for herself. Muffin was stubborn and mouthy and, as ludicrous as it sounded, capable of emotion. She was constantly taking in data, but unlike other computers, she formed opinions and made judgment calls. And thanks to his sister, Deedee, who was in the throes of menopause and had complained to Muffin of her symptoms, Muffin had processed the information and was now suffering the same malady.
Muffin, too, was going through menopause. She had hot flashes, mood swings, and she threatened to shut down her own hard drive permanently each time Max crossed her. Currently she was having an on-again-off-again on-line romance with a laptop computer at MIT. She was almost more than Max could handle. To say that he had created a monster was an understatement.
"What are you going to do now, big shot?" Muffin asked. "Mr. Love-'em-and-leave-'em?" she added, never one to mince words.
"That's not the way it was between Jamie and me."
"Yeah, and that's what really has you pissed. I mean, who would have thought it? There's actually a woman out there who doesn't think you're the best thing since on-line trading."
Max tightened his grip on the steering wheel as he watched the tow truck pull away from the parking lot.
"I was trying to protect her. This job is going to be dangerous. The good Reverend Harlan Rawlins and his mob pals are probably looking for me as we speak."
"But that's not what you told her, was it? You told her she would only get in your way."
"That's how you deal with a woman like Jamie. If I had told her I was afraid for her she wouldn't have listened."
"So you decided to hurt her feelings instead. Great idea, Max. You shouldn't have agreed to let her come in the first place."
"You're the one who insisted I bring her."
"You never listen to me. Besides, I wouldn't have advised you to do it had I known you would dump her halfway to Tennessee."
"It's better this way," Max said. "I need to think clearly, and I can't do it if Jamie's around."
"Look, I don't have time to take on your personal problems, OK? My job is to keep you out of trouble and make you look good by providing you with any and all information you might need."
"You still screwed up."
Max shook his head as he started his engine and put the car into gear. It shot off, leaving a dust cloud in its wake.
Ten minutes after Jamie had climbed into the tow truck, she found herself on a dirt road in a remote area. The truck's headlights provided the only light. "How much farther?" she asked.
"We should be coming up on it soon," Buford said. "We're looking for a pink-and-white house trailer with a brand-new SUV parked in front of it."
The shabby-looking mobile home appeared right after the next bend. A white Ford Explorer was parked out front. "Nice wheels," she said. "Looks like it just rolled off the showroom floor. Don't tell me the owner is already having mechanical problems."
Buford grunted. "The new owner is having problems making payments. That's where I come in." He turned into the driveway.
"What do you mean?"
"It's being repossessed. I'm here to pick it up. Thank goodness there are no lights on, that means he's asleep. Makes my job a whole lot easier." He put the truck into reverse and backed toward the SUV.
Jamie gaped. "You're taking this person's car?"
"He hasn't made a payment in three months. I'm just doing my job." He put the truck into neutral, set the emergency brake, left the motor running. "Better lock your door. Some people don't cotton to having their vehicles towed off like this."
"Wait a minute," Jamie said. "You said you had to make a quick stop. To me a quick stop is hitting a McDonald's drive-through window or maybe grabbing a cup of coffee to go at the Waffle House. You never mentioned repo'ing somebody's vehicle."
"Won't take me long," Buford said, climbing from the truck.
"Oh, no." Jamie twisted around in her seat and watched Buford unwind a cable and attach a massive hook to the underside of the SUV. He hit a switch, and a motor churned to life. The vehicle climbed upward.
Suddenly a light flashed on inside the trailer. Jamie scrambled across the seat and leaned out the driver's window. "Someone's up," she said.
Buford glanced toward the mobile home. "Oh, shit."
Suddenly the trailer door was flung open and Jamie caught the silhouette of a man holding a shotgun. He fired into the air. Jamie ducked. Buford dived beneath the truck.
"Get away from my car!" the man shouted.
"You done missed three payments, mister!" Buford called out loudly. "I've been hired to tow it in! You cause trouble and I'm calling the cops!"
The man fired again. A bullet pinged off the side of Buford's truck. "Holy hell!" Jamie cried, and hit the floor.
"Stay down!" Buford told her. "They're always upset at first."
Jamie closed her eyes. It was happening all over again. For some reason that she couldn't fathom, people insisted on shooting at her. "What are we supposed to do in the meantime?" she replied loudly.
Buford didn't hesitate. "I reckon we wait."
The smell of freshly cut lumber greeted Max as he stepped inside the cabin with his bag. No surprise there; the cabin had been renovated and redecorated for his use. Even so, the construction crew had kept the antique heart pine floors intact, knowing that Max, who was personally doing renovations to his home in Virginia, would appreciate them. The furniture was simple; probably much of it had already been in place. Max was grateful for that as well. The fact that he could afford to build a brand-new cabin with all new furniture and appliances did not mean he preferred it. Simplicity and comfort was more his style.
As usual, his staff had taken care of everything from securing the place to providing groceries. Max looked inside the refrigerator and cabinets and nodded his approval. His people knew his likes and dislikes, right down to the brand of beer and cold cuts he preferred. He checked out the two bedrooms and decided on the loft area. He spent an hour on his cell phone, finalizing his plans. He and Muffin had worked tirelessly once they'd gotten back on the road, but Max was a man who left nothing to chance. He knew what he was facing, knew the dangers.
By morning he would have all the information he needed on Harlan Rawlins, celebrity evangelist. Max hoped Muffin would be able to get information on Harlan's mob connections as well. Max's plan was simple: First, find Rawlins. The hit man who'd tried to kill Max had been linked to Rawlins, and Rawlins was supposedly linked to the mob.
Rawlins and his mob friends obviously felt they had a score to settle with Max because they'd lost the bid on his TV network. It would have been the perfect vehicle for Rawlins to spread his word and draw in literally hundreds of thousands of new members. New members meant more money, and owning a TV network would have made the mob more powerful than ever. It was no surprise they were angry; the only question was, how far would they go to get revenge? Max knew he would ultimately have to contact his friends with the FBI, but he needed more information. He needed to know exactly who and what he was up against.
Finally, he showered and went to bed. He closed his eyes. He was not a heavy sleeper, and he had long ago adapted to only five or six hours of rest. He could exist on less if necessary, and there had been times in his life he had found it necessary.
This might be one of those times.
It was after 3:00 a.m. when Buford delivered Jamie to the front door of a motel called the Hickory Inn, less than a mile from Jessup. Jamie's back and legs ached, and it was all she could do to reach for her purse. She had crouched on the floorboard for hours before Gunsmoke, as Jamie referred to the gun-toting man in the trailer, had cut the lights and gone to bed.
"I'll have to file a police report," Buford said, "but I'll keep your name out of it." He was apologetic.
Jamie tossed him a weary look. "Well, thanks for an evening I'm not likely to forget. I just hope I never miss a car payment." She climbed from the truck and went inside the motel. The furniture in the small lobby was old, but the place looked and smelled clean. She rang the bell three times before a woman ambled to the counter, the hair on one side of her head mashed flat, her print dress badly wrinkled. The sign on the counter read: Mavis.
"I'd like a room, please," Jamie said.
The woman crossed her arms, glanced at her wristwatch, and shot Jamie a dark look. "Do you happen to know what time it is?"
Jamie was in no mood to argue. "Late?"
"I closed at midnight."
"You forgot to turn your vacancy sign off."
"That's beside the point. No decent woman would check into a room at this hour unless she had monkey business on her mind."
Jamie leaned across the counter. "Mavis, I have not had a good night. I want a room. And don't give me a room on the second floor, because my legs are sore and I am not going to climb those concrete stairs. And inside that room, I want HBO like your sign says, and I want one of those cute little coffeepots, and a soft bed with clean sheets. Now, either you give me a room or I'm going to go out into that parking lot and pitch such a fit that I'll wake up every one of your guests. That's how bad my night has been."
Mavis grunted and slapped a registration form on the counter.
* * *
Max rose at 5:00 a.m. and, once again, checked the security monitor, computer console, and other gadgets at one end of the kitchen table where he would spend much of his time working. Outside cameras were connected to the CPU, and the monitors displayed the road leading to the cabin, as well as the surrounding property. He drank two cups of coffee, read his E-mail, and waited until the sun came up before stepping out of the front door. Electronic eyes and sophisticated motion detectors with image recognition enhancement were attached to trees and fence posts and would catch movement and set off an alarm inside the house. One of Max's employees had come in the day before to set it up, per Max's specifications.
All seemed well as Max started for the garage where he'd locked his car. He punched a series of numbers on a concealed security panel and opened the door. Muffin was waiting for him.
"How'd you sleep?" she asked. "I'll bet you didn't get a minute's rest worrying about Jamie and feeling like the biggest jerk in the world."
Max sighed. "Good morning to you, Muffin."
"See, you even sound tired. Guilt will do that to you. The first thing that goes is your appetite. Then you'll start tossing and turning all night in your bed, unable to forgive yourself for hurting someone's feelings."
"Is this going to take long?"
"Of course you're in denial right now, so you're probably OK. Once you accept the reality of the situation, all hell will break loose. Sleep deprivation, confusion, and disorientation will occur," she added. "You'll stop taking care of yourself, and your health will go to hell. Next thing you know, you've landed in the hospital with a life-threatening illness."
"I take it you're still sore with me?"
"No more than usual."
"Can we get down to business?"
"Fine. I worked all night, but I managed to get the rest of the information you asked for on Harlan Rawlins. Don't ask me how I got it or we'll both go to prison. Have you set up the printer yet?"
"Yeah, everything is up and running."
"OK, it's printing now. As for your schedule, a woman by the name of Karen Callaway will be here shortly to give you your new look, and your retired FBI pal will arrive at nineo'clock to take your picture and get your new identification in order."
"How long will it take?"
"Max, the guy is bringing his equipment in the trunk of his car. Is that quick enough for you?"
"Good old Paul. What else have you got for me?"
"You and Dave Anderson are now working part-time for Bennett Electric. Dave is bringing by a couple of uniforms later. Tom Bennett, the owner, is cooperating fully."
Max was not surprised. He had bailed Bennett Electric Company from near bankruptcy several days ago. It was sheer genius that Max's mergers and acquisitions man had managed to find it so quickly; not only had the partnership been sealed within a matter of hours, but also Max and Muffin had mapped out a business plan for Tom Bennett that promised substantial profits within a year. Tom Bennett was one grateful man, and Dave Anderson, long-time employee of Holt Industries, was a top-notch mechanical and electrical engineer who could fill in literally wherever Max needed him. Dave had already memorized the layout of Rawlins's house and was ready to move on the project.
"What about transportation?" Max asked.
"You and Dave will be sharing one of Bennett's trucks." Muffin didn't sound happy about it.
"I'm sorry I'm going to have to leave you in the garage for a few days, Muf, but my car won't exactly blend with the community."
"That's not the problem."
"Why did you call Dave Anderson in on this job? You know how he gets. He can be so obsessive-compulsive at times, he makes me crazy."
"Dave is having problems. He and his wife Melinda are divorcing."
"And we need to get involved in that for what reason?"
"Because Dave is my friend, and because he's an electrical genius who could rewire the entire White House in twenty-four hours if he had to. Besides, everybody has one or two quirks."
"OK, whatever. As far as sitting in a cool garage, that sounds good to me."
"Still having hot flashes?"
"If I get any hotter my hard drive is going into meltdown and the car's radiator will spew like a volcano."
Excerpted from "Full Speed"
Copyright © 2003 Evanovich, Inc..
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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