What Maggie does… Maggie Russell, a police reporter in Sacramento, works the night shift. She’s divorced and the mother of a very active three-year-old son. Maggie may not have much time for a social life, but she’s recently begun an e-mail correspondence with a man named John.
What Maggie knows… She’s finally stumbled on the big crime story that will truly establish her career – if it doesn’t end her life. A serial killer who moves from one city to the next. A murderer who chooses a female reporter and writes her letters . . . before he kills her.
As if things aren’t complicated enough, Nick Sorenson, the paper’s new photographer, seems to be taking an unusual interest in this case. And in her.
What Maggie doesn’t know… Nick’s an undercover FBI agent tracking the killer and keeping an eye on Maggie – at work and through his e-mail persona “John.” Maggie doesn’t realize that she’s falling in love with a man who’s not what he seems to be. A man whose deceptions may save her life.
Nick propped an elbow on the partition surrounding her desk and leaned on it. “Want me to help you stay awake?”
Yawning, she supported her head with her hand. “I don’t think anyone could do that.”
This statement elicited a wolfish grin. “Maybe I’m better at keeping a woman’s attention than you think.”
Maggie didn’t doubt his capabilities. It was his potential for late night entertainment that scared her. “What did you have in mind?” she asked hesitantly.
“I don’t know. We could play a game.”
“Like checkers or something? I’m afraid I don’t keep board games in my desk, and frankly I’d be a little surprised to find them in yours.”
He chuckled. “I was thinking of something like Truth or Dare. It takes no props and can be very interesting, depending on who you’re playing with.”
Maggie rolled her eyes. “I’d be crazy to play something like that with you.”
“Why? Have a few skeletons in your closet?”
“No, I just don’t feel like doing anything stupid, like eating coffee grounds or something.”
He scowled. “Eating coffee grounds is something a twelve-year-old would think of. I can tell you haven’t played this game for a while.”
“And you have?”
“No, but I can think of a lot more interesting things to have you do than eat coffee grounds.”
Maggie felt an unexpected tingle go up her spine at the thought of what some of those things might be. Don’t even go there…
“I think that might be the problem,” she admitted.
“I’m hurt you don’t trust me.”
“Why should I trust you? I barely know you.”
He pushed away from the partition to steal a chair from the cubicle next to Maggie’s so he could sit down. “That’s the beauty of this game. It will help us get to know each other. Come on, I’ll let you go first.”
Maggie considered the six-foot something length of him folded in the chair beside her, long legs stretched out in front of him. Where was he going with this?
Wherever it was, she wasn’t sleepy anymore. She had to give him points for effectiveness.
“Okay,” she said, unable to resist the opportunity to have him at her mercy, “truth or dare?”
He pursed his lips and held her gaze. “Truth.”
“Why did you ask me out a couple of weeks ago?”
“Isn’t that obvious?”
“No. There’s a lot of women in this office. Why me?”
“Because you’re beautiful and driven and a little shy. I like the combination.”
Maggie tried that on for size. It was a far cry from some of the things she’d been called in high school. Even though twelve years had passed since those days, sometimes it was hard to rid her head of the echo. “Wow,” she said. “Okay. Maybe this game is going to be fun.”
He laughed. “Except that now it’s my turn. Truth or dare?”
Maggie tucked her hair behind her ears, stalling. Truth was always safer, wasn’t it? “Truth.”
“Why did you turn me down?”
“Um, you’re not my type.”
He cocked an eyebrow at her. “You said yourself you barely know me. How do you know what type I am?”
“From hard experience.”
“What does that mean?”
“Nothing. Anyway, I have a son.”
“And you have a wall of pictures to prove it. Your point is?”
“I’m not into the type of relationships you are.”
He stiffened in surprise. “What kind of relationships am I into?”
“No, I’d like hear your take on this.”
“I’m just saying that you’re probably used to doing certain things with the women you date, and…and I’m really not that type, and…um…never mind. Your turn’s over. Truth or dare?”
He cocked an eyebrow at her. “I’m not sure I want to let that go, but I’m not sure I want you to elaborate, either, so…truth.”
“How many women have you had sex with?”
“I think the answer to this question will explain the type of relationships you’re into.”
“Oh, God, can I change to dare?”
She smiled smugly. “Nope.”
“Well, I’m not as reckless as I used to be, and I don’t think the distant past should count against me.”
“Just answer the question. This was your idea, remember?”
“Come on. Let’s limit it to the past three years or something. I’m not the same now as I was then.”
“Okay. How many in the past three years?”
“It’s the truth!”
“Maybe in the past three months,” she grumbled.
“Uh, uh, uh, that’s not nice,” he said, wagging his finger at her, “And it’s my turn, thank heaven. Truth or dare?”
“Again? What a chicken.”
Maggie folded her arms across her chest. “You’ve chosen truth every time yourself.”
“Okay, fine. Answer this: if you did agree to go out with me, where would you want to go?”
“You’re setting me up, aren’t you.”
He pressed a hand to his chest. “Me? Of course not. I can respect no. I’m just saying, ‘what if?’”
“Do I have to be practical?”
“No. That’s the beauty of this game. The only rule is that you tell the truth.”
“Okay. Hawaii would be nice.”
“Let’s see, it takes five hours to get there and five hours to get back, so if we’re going to see much of the islands, you’re definitely talking about spending a week or two together, right?”
Maggie gulped, envisioning a long romantic getaway with the dangerous Nick Sorenson. “I was only teasing. I’d like to go water skiing at Lake Folsom–an all day event. I haven’t been on a pair of skis since college. But you probably don’t own a boat.”
“I could always rent one.”
Maggie shook her head. She wasn’t going to fall for it. Nick may have charisma, in spades, but he had no f.p.–father potential–and f.p. was the only thing that mattered anymore.
“Truth or dare,” she said.
“After that last question, I think I’m going to choose dare. I think I’d rather eat coffee grounds than enumerate my past exploits.”
Maggie tapped her lip. “Let me think.” There were a lot of things she’d like to see Nick do–at this hour, having him take off his shirt so she could see his chest sounded pretty appealing, but the fact that she’d even think of it told her she was getting punchy. “I dare you to sing me a song,” she said at last.
He made a face. “Without music?”
“There’s a radio here.”
She smiled. “I’ll let you choose.”
He fiddled with the tuner and finally settled on a song by Savage Garden called “Deeply Madly Truly.” His voice wasn’t half bad, but it was the way he looked at her as he sang, and the meaning behind the lyrics, that made an impact.
“Actually, I think that backfired,” she admitted when he finished.
He raised his brows. “You liked it that much?”
“I liked it a little,” she grudgingly admitted.
“Well, since I was such a good sport about embarrassing myself, maybe you’ll trust me enough to chose dare this time.”
“I won’t sing,” she said.
“I won’t pick that.”
Maggie hesitated. “You promise you’ll be kind?”
“We’re friends now, aren’t we?”
“That’s a loaded question.”
“Okay, dare.” Maggie squeezed her eyes shut, knowing she wasn’t going to like what was coming, but was surprised when Nick said, “I dare you to dance with me.”
“Here?” she asked, staring around them. “We can’t dance in the office. There’s a security guard downstairs monitoring the closed circuit televisions. He’d laugh his rear end off.”
“I doubt old Ed is awake enough to even notice. We’re the only ones here.”
“There’s at least half a dozen others–”
“–buried in the offices lining the perimeter. They won’t even notice.”
“They could poke their heads out at any time.”
“I don’t think you’re worried about that. I think you’re scared of me. You have a problem with fear, you know that?”
Maggie did know that, but she wasn’t about to admit it to Nick. “I work nights. I’m not afraid of anything.”
“Then dance with me.” He scanned radio stations until he found one playing a slow ballad and turned to her expectantly.
What was Darla going to say about this? Maggie wondered. For keeping her distance from Nick Sorenson, she was sure getting awful close. “A slow dance?” she asked.
“Would you rather it be fast?”
Maggie considered her lack of experience in that regard and shook her head. “No.”
“Okay, then come on.”
Standing, she took a deep breath. The police scanners and their accompanying static left a lot to be desired as far as atmosphere, but something told her she was going to like being in the circle of Nick’s arms regardless of what was happening around them.
Maybe she’d be less affected if she kept a foot or so of space between them, she thought, but Nick quickly dispensed with that possibility when his hands slipped around her waist and pulled her close. Maggie caught her breath and tried not to notice the solid chest pressed against her breasts, the thigh muscles that played against her legs as they moved slowly to the music.
“Relax,” he murmured, and the moment she did, he settled her even closer. “See, this isn’t so bad, is it?”
Maggie could only shake her head. Her heart was beating too hard to speak. The smell of cotton and clean male made her want to bury her nose in Nick’s neck. Her fingers itched to find their way into his hair. How had he done this to her in the process of one night?
“I’m not into casual sex,” she suddenly announced.
He stiffened for a moment, probably in surprise, then said, “Good. Neither am I.”
Maggie didn’t know where to go with that. She’d expected him to tease her about her prudish stance, or to play the innocent and pretend he didn’t have a clue why she’d bring that up at this particular moment, but his answer seemed as honest and straightforward as her declaration had been. So she relaxed and simply let herself enjoy the dance.
As the song ended, he pulled back to look into her face. “Truth or dare?” he asked.
The Romance Reader * * * 4 Heart Review * * *
“This one kept me turning the pages. A tautly written suspense plot, an interesting setting, well-drawn characters and an enjoyable romance…Novak has managed to find just the right combination of romance and suspense.”
Under the Covers – Very Highly Recommended
“Ms. Novak has penned a romance with suspense, passion, and heart in DEAR MAGGIE. Her well-written characters, great dialogue and just a touch of danger make this story hard to put down. For a fun filled romance with a something a little more, go out and buy your copy of DEAR MAGGIE today. ”
“Brenda Novak has an engaging, realistic writing style with characters that are very real and true. I enjoyed the way she encountered modern life with a good old-fashioned love story, bringing the e-world into the real world. The opening of this book is very powerful and draws you in immediately. The rest of the book is just as entertaining, with a good mixture of suspense and romance. If you’d like to try something a little different, Novak’s book is a great place to start. ”
Another dazzling hit - Very Highly Recommended!
“Rising star Brenda Novak pens another dazzling hit with DEAR MAGGIE. Told with her characteristic beguiling style, Novak daringly weaves intrigue and danger around this romantic plot to create a memorable tale. Her carefully crafted, rounded characterizations, and carefully researched descriptions of crime reporting will hold the reader’s attention rapt. DEAR MAGGIE not only has the warmth and emotion Novak’s fans have come to expect, but delivers a fresh tale of danger and intrigue that will undoubtedly draw a whole new audience to this remarkable novel. Very highly recommended.”
Writers Club Romance Group on AOL
“DEAR MAGGIE is a powerful romantic suspense tale that explains the Super in this imprint. The story line is fast-paced, loaded with non-stop action and an intriguing romantic triangle. Maggie is a magnificent lead player — brave yet emotionally vulnerable and a perfect profile for the killer. Nick is a hero who knows what he wants: Maggie, not just safe, but permanently in his life. Her son, Zach, provides some moments of amusement that only an outsider observing his actions will find mirth in, but it serves to ease some of the taut tension that almost overwhelms the reader. Brenda Novak has written a novel that sub-genre fans will relish.”
Scribes World Reviews * * * * * 5 Star Review * * * * *
“Brenda Novak’s DEAR MAGGIE is an engrossing read full of three-dimensional characters so real, so believable you could easily imagine them living in your own neiborhood, or being your friends. The on-line dialogues were fun and were so very much a part of today’s societies. AOL users especially will identify with and enjoy the chats, instant messages, and emails. The romance and suspense plots were so equally engrossing that the pages kept turning until there were no more. For a read you won’t be able to put down, run out and grab Brenda Novak’s DEAR MAGGIE. You won’t regret it. ”
Romantic Times Magazine
“DEAR MAGGIE by Brenda Novak is . . . a top notch romantic thriller with compelling characters, high-level suspense and intricate plotting.”
Old Book Barn Gazette
“A taut thriller, DEAR MAGGIE, is well-written and well-worth adding to your list of reads this month.”
Winner of the Orange Rose Award
Finalist in the Bookseller’s Best