AveryIsIn: hi HJFan -- you'll never guess what happened. Supposedly I'm a dangerous cybercriminal, and the feds have come knocking down my door. They think I'm in contact with some supervillain -- but I never leave the house, and you're the only one I talk to. Lv it to the govt, huh? LOL
DixonOPUS: Avery Nesbitt made e-mail contact with target today. Although suspect seems unaware of target's true identity, I can't be sure she's uninvolved. My next move: get inside. Time to rattle Ms. Nesbitt's perfect online world.
After two years in the slammer for creating a computer virus and unwittingly turning it loose on the free world, computer genius Avery Nesbitt has turned into an agoraphobic recluse in this spirited tale of romantic suspense from Bevarly (Indecent Suggestion). Even worse, Avery's online addiction has made her a prime target for Sorcerer, an Internet predator and international high-tech criminal. OPUS (Office for Political Unity and Security) agent Dixon is hot on Sorcerer's trail and convinces Avery to help lure him out. The pair, along with Dixon's rookie partner, Tanner, and their surveillance equipment, withdraw to the Nesbitt family's Hamptons estate. If the romance between Avery and Dixon is familiar, the older woman/younger man relationship between Avery's 40-year-old sister, Carly, and 25-year-old Tanner adds spice. Various bits of personal drama presumably await resolution in later installments of what is billed as a trilogy.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 31, 2008
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Excerpt from You've Got Male by Elizabeth Bevarly
Avery Nesbitt was in love. Madly, passionately|
wildly in love. She was besotted. She was bedazzled. She was befuddled. She was in love as she'd never been in love before.
And it was with a man who went beyond dreamy. He was smart and witty. He was creative and articulate. He was handsome and sexy. He always said what she needed to hear, right when she needed to hear it. He knew her backward and forward, just as she knew him inside and out. And he loved her exactly the way she was. That, more than anything else, had sealed her fate and ensured that her love would last forever. Andrew Paddington made Avery feel as if nothing in her life would ever go wrong again. He was just perfect in every way.
Theirs had been a whirlwind courtship, had come at Avery out of nowhere and swept her into a fantasy worthy of an epic romance. Andrew was in her thoughts and her dreams, in her plans and her performance, in her ego and her id. He filled her days with delight and her nights with pleasure, imbued her with joy that made her downright giddy. And that was no small accomplishment for a woman who was normally pragmatic, cynical and down-to-earth. Although Avery had only met him a month ago, she'd known after that first encounter that their meeting must have been destiny. Fate. Kismet. It was simply Meant To Be.
What difference did it make if they'd never actually met in person? Physical trappings weren't what love was about. Love was a meeting of minds, a melding of souls, a blending of hearts. Besides, they'd exchanged photos, and the ones he'd sent to her depicted him as a sandy-haired twentysomething with the eyes of a poet, the mouth of a troubadour, the hands of an artist and phenomenal pecs. He was an utter, unmitigated masterpiece.
Bastard, bastard, bastard.
Who cared if they'd never actually spoken to each other? Vocal avowals of devotion were as nebulous and inconstant as the wind. Avery had Andrew's love for her in writing. In the loveliest prose she'd ever read, words--feelings--wrought so tenderly, they would move a despot to tears. After only four weeks, she had a file filled with his e-mails to her and she'd logged every chat-room exchange they'd shared in a special folder titled Snookypie. On those nights when she was alone and feeling dreamy and lovey-dovey, she lit candles and opened a bottle of wine, then read over his words again and again, pretending he was right there in her Central Park West condo, murmuring them into her ear.
But now the unthinkable was happening. Andrew was cheating on her with another woman. And Avery was finding out about it just as women did on those bad made-for-cable movies. She'd walked in on him and found him in bed with another woman.
Well, okay, figuratively speaking. What had actually happened was that she'd stumbled upon him online, blabbing away with some cheap bit of cyberfluff in, of all places, a Survivor: Mall of America chat room. This after Andrew had assured Avery that he loathed popular culture as much as she did. But what really toasted her melbas was that the cyberfluff he was chatting with, who went by the screen name of--Avery had to bite back her nausea when she saw it--Tinky Belle, was clearly an idiot. But Andrew was agreeing with her that the music of Clay Aiken could, if people would just open their eyes and ears and hearts to it, bring peace and harmony to the entire planet.
Unable to believe her eyes, Avery felt around until she located the chair in front of her desk and clumsily pulled it out. Then she nearly missed the surface of her desk when she set her bowl of Cajun popcorn and the bottle of Wild Cherry Pepsi on top of it. She tugged at her electric-blue pajama pants spattered with images of French landmarks and numbly sat down, adjusting the oversize purple sweatshirt boasting Wellesley College as she did. Then she wiggled her toes in her fuzzy pink slippers to warm them, adjusted her little black-framed glasses on the bridge of her nose, pushed one of two long, thick black braids over her shoulder and studied the screen more closely.
Maybe she was wrong, she thought as she watched the rapid-fire exchange scroll by. She shouldn't jump to conclusions. Surely Andrew wasn't the only guy out there in cyberspace who used the handle Mad2Live. It was a phrase from On the Road, after all. And there were probably lots of Kerouac fans online. Andrew loved Avery. He'd told her so. He wouldn't cheat on her like this. Especially not with some brainless ninny who said things like, "ur 2 kewl mad."
Please, people! she wanted to shout at the screen whenever she saw message-board shorthand. Speak English! Or Spanish! Or French! Or German! Or some legitimate language that indicates you're at least halfway literate! And capitalize where necessary! And for God's sake, punctuate!
Even though she was a computer geek in the most extreme sense of the word, Avery couldn't bring herself to type in anything other than the language she'd learned growing up in the Hamptons. Tony private schools could mess with you in a lot of ways, she knew, but at least they taught you to be well-spoken. That shouldn't change just because your language of choice was cyber-speak.
She watched Mad2Live and Tinky Belle--gag--swap warm fuzzies for as long as she could stomach it and ultimately decided there was no way that this Mad2Live could be Andrew. Andrew would never, ever concede that the Survivor series was, as Tinky Belle claimed, "qualty educatnl programing u cn wach w/ the hole famly."
Oh, yes, Avery thought. It's definitely mus c tv.
She was about to leave the chat room to visit another--she was, after all, supposed to be working--when Mad2Live posted something that made her fingers convulse on the mouse: You, Tinky Belle, are a dazzling blossom of hope burgeoning at the center of an unforgiving cultural wasteland.
Acid heat splashed through Avery's belly when she read that. Because those were the exact words Andrew had used to describe her that first night they met in a Henry James chat room. Except for the Tinky Belle part, since Avery's screen name--at least that night--had been Daisy Miller. There was no way there could be two Mad2Lives on the Internet flirting with women by calling them dazzling blossoms of hope who burgeoned in cultural wastelands. That was Andrew--her Andrew--through and through.
After that it was impossible forAvery to ignore Tinky and Mad's conversation. And as she watched the lines of dialogue on her screen roll past, she read more and more from Mad2Live that was pulled verbatim from some of the e-mails Andrew had sent to her. And she should know, since she'd practically memorized some of them.
Had she mentioned he was a complete bastard?
Eventually Tinky bade farewell to Mad and evaporated from the chat room, and Avery watched in astonishment as he immediately began to flirt with another occupant, this one calling herself Deb2000. But Deb wasn't impressed by any of Mad's cajoling, so, obviously disgruntled, Mad signed out of the chat room.
And Avery followed him.
Luckily she had dozens of screen names she used for her work and she could log in to rooms under several that Andrew would never recognize. And luckily, too, she knew the online community better than she knew even her own Manhattan neighborhood. Because the Internet was where Avery worked every single night. And it was where she played after she knocked off work. It was also where she shopped, where she learned and where she socialized. It was where she found her music, her books, her entertainment and her dinner selections.
Hell, she pretty much lived on the Net. And she knew Andrew almost as well as she knew the online community.
Or at least she'd thought she knew him that well. But now she was beginning to think him a complete stranger. Because he flitted from one chat room to another, all of them themed around shallow pop-culture subject matter--everything from Pilates to low-carb cuisine--and in every one of them he waited long enough to identify which of the room's inhabitants were female and which seemed to be the least, uh, bright. And then he chose one and began to work on her in exactly the way he had worked on Avery that first night he'd encountered her. And shame boiled within her when she realized that she had capitulated to his pretty words as easily as had women who thought deep-fried pork flesh was an essential part of good nutrition.
How could he do this to her? How could he think she was stupid? She? Avery Nesbitt? She wasn't stupid. She was a criminal genius! Even Time magazine had said so! And even if the criminal part was debatable, once a genius, always a genius. How could he cheat on her this way? And be so obvious about it? He knew how good she was. He knew what she did for a living and how much time she spent online. He knew everything about her. She'd even told him about her past transgressions, and he hadn't flinched. He'd told her her past didn't matter, that anything that had happened before the day he met her wasn't important because he didn't start living until the day he met her.
Oh, he was such a bastard.
Well, she'd fix Andrew. Not only would she dump him faster than you could say, "Survivor: Up Yours," but she'd give him something to remember her by, too. She'd blow off work and stay up all night if she had to to concoct just the right farewell gift.
Of course, being up all night wasn't exactly a sacrifice to Avery, since she pretty much lived her life at night anyway. Nighttime didn't have rules or expectations the way daytime hours did. So when most people were coming home from their jobs and starting to wind down, Avery was rising and revving to go. And when most people's alarm clocks were going off and signaling the beginning of their workday, Avery was pouring herself a scotch and popping a DVD of a Cracker mystery into the player and trying to wind down. Unfortunately, she'd never been as good at winding down as she was at revving up.
Because Avery Nesbitt was what some people--those who claimed an ounce or two of compassion--called "a bit neurotic." She was what other people--those who didn't give a damn about compassion--called "totally whack." Hey, what else could you call a woman who lived in her pajamas on the Internet and never left her apartment unless it was to take her cat to the vet, and even then had to load up on half a bottle of scotch just to get herself over the threshold? What else did you call a woman who bought into the tripe men like Andrew Paddington fed to unsuspecting morons?
But Avery didn't care what anyone thought about her these days, any more than she'd cared when she was a kid. She especially didn't care tonight. Tonight and tomorrow night--and all the hours in between--she had other things on her mind. Her gift for Andrew would take the better part of the next forty-eight hours to create.
Fortunately for Avery, she was totally whack and had nowhere else to go.
"HEY, HOW'S IT FEELING OUT there, Dixon?"
"Like Antarctica. Only without all the warm toastiness."
"Well, we'll see if we can't get you something closer to Greenland next time you're in the field."
"How many times do I have to remind you people--I'm not supposed to be in the field!"
Because the field was cold and harsh and unforgiving. Even with a laptop and a decent cup of coffee.
Dixon tugged the zipper of his leather jacket higher, curled his hands around a quickly cooling cup of espresso and pulled his backward-facing driver's cap farther down over inky black hair that was badly in need of a trim. But that did little to warm him below the waist, and faded blue jeans, though normally his favorite garment, weren't all that effective in warding off the cold.
Even the cold found in the back of a van that was insulated with high-tech surveillance equipment.
He was infinitely more suited to the great indoors, he thought as he switched his attention from the laptop monitor to a television screen that offered a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view of the area outside the van. Yeah, indoors he could get a hot shower and a hot sandwich and some hot coffee. Life didn't get much better than that. Unless maybe you substituted warmed brandy for the hot coffee and added a hot woman with hot hands to the hot shower. Preferably one with a hot name like Lola or Mimi or Fritzi or--
No, that wouldn't work. That was the name he was going by himself these days. It would get way too confusing. So maybe he could just call her--
"What?" he said, grinding the words out irritably as his hot shower/hot woman fantasy receded to the back of his brain, leaving him even colder than before.
"You need anything?"
He bit back a grumble at the question that came through the earpiece of his headset. Hadn't he just been thinking about that when the other agent rudely interrupted him?
"No, Gillespie," he muttered into the microphone below his chin to the newly minted OPUS agent who'd been assigned to shadow him--more to keep Gillespie out of trouble than anything else, Dixon knew. "I don't need anything." Except for his usual partner to get back from her leave of absence so she could go into the field instead of him, the way she was supposed to. That way Dixon could go back to collecting the information she sent him and find the missing pieces. Indoors. Where he normally worked. Where it was warm.
Because that was standard operating procedure at Dixon's employer, the ultrasecret Office of Political Unity and Security. Agents worked in teams of two, with one in the field collecting information and the other behind the scenes analyzing it. Assimilate, evaluate, articulate. That was Dixon's three-word job description. He was the one responsible for making sense of the intelligence, not the one who gathered it. He was the one who analyzed and scrutinized, calculated and estimated, and then put everything together. He wasn't the one who sat on his butt in a cold van waiting for something to happen. At least, he wasn't supposed to be.
"Oh, there is one thing, Gillespie," he said, picturing the other agent in his head. Blond, Dixon recalled. Too blond to be taken seriously, really. His dark blue eyes--cool and sharp and distant--were the only thing that had kept the guy from looking like some gee-whiz, what'sfor-supper-Mom, all-American high school football hero.
"What's that?" the other man asked.
"Stop calling me Dixon," Dixon said. "That's not my name."
Gillespie snorted--or something--at the other end of the line. "Yeah, well, my name isn't Gillespie, either, but you have to call me something."
Oh, stop making it so easy, Dixon thought. "I keep forgetting your code name. What is it again?"
"Cowboy," the other man said.
Yee-haw, Dixon thought. He just hoped he could say it with a straight face.
"Besides," Cowboy added, "nobody at my level knows your name. Except for your code name. And you told me never to call you--"
"Okay, Dixon is fine," Dixon hastily amended.
"--that," the other man finished at the same time.
"What? You thought I was going to say your code name out loud? Are you nuts? I'm not nuts. From what I hear, the last guy who spoke your code name out loud is still in the hospital. You're a dangerous man."
Damn straight, Dixon thought. And he wouldn't have it any other way. Except that he'd be a dangerous man out of the cold. Literally if not figuratively.