Kathleen Mix writes stories with a thrilling mix of romance and suspense. She took an indirect route to becoming an author. After her three sons started school, she returned to college and earned a B.S. in Computer Science and Engineering. Working as a software engineer, she consulted on applications ranging from submarine combat systems to biological research databases. Weekends and vacations were always reserved for boating. And as an avid sailor and licensed charter boat captain, the itch to sail away into the sunset soon became too strong to resist. She and her husband moved aboard their sailboat and headed south. By the time they reached the Caribbean, they were hooked on a cruising life. Since then, Kathleen has spent many years roaming the U.S. coastline, exploring the Bahamas, and enjoying the tropical islands of the Caribbean and the coastal countries of South America. She began her writing career with non-fiction sailing and travel articles. But she was sailing to lush, exotic islands under starry skies and walking on the most beautiful, white-sand beaches in the world. She started imagining stories of romance and adventure and turned to writing romantic suspense. Kathleen now sails on Chesapeake Bay. But her heart remains far away in the Caribbean and the Bahamas. For her thoughts on life and books, follow her blog at http://kathleenmix.wordpress.com or to read excerpts from her books, visit her website at http://www.kathleenmix.com
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Andrea Carnegie swung open the weight room door expecting to follow her normal routine for the rest of Sunday afternoon: pump iron, jog ten miles in the crisp November air, fire a few dozen rounds at the shooting range, then spend an hour practicing Russian or Arabic before sitting down to savor a medium-rare steak.
“Damn it, Carnegie! Throw the ball.”
She froze as someone shouted her name in the break room across the hall. A second later, picturing the all-too familiar scene, she let her shoulder muscles relax. Some of the other operatives must be watching the big game. Her superstar brother Damian was in as quarterback and scrambling to avoid a tackle.
Was Damian about to eat dirt? Hope trickled down her spine, quickly followed by a torrent of guilt. She should be rooting for her own flesh and blood.
She huffed out a breath. In a normal family, that would be true. But the Carnegies were anything but normal. After twenty-six years of living in Damian’s shadow and fending off his venom, she couldn’t help but wish he’d be fallible. She hustled across the hall and pressed her back tight against the wall, listening.
A groan erupted inside the break room. “Shit. He’s down. There goes the game.”
Yes! More hope surged. Could Damian’s team actually be losing?
The commentator announced a time-out. Her colleagues in the break room debated the coach’s options: go for a field goal or give Damian a chance to throw.
“Give the ball to someone else. Go for the kick,” Andrea mumbled.
Damian’s head was already bigger than Texas. If he pulled this game out of the Dumpster, he’d add the story to his repertoire and she’d be forced to endure never-ending replays of another moment of glory at every family get together. He loved nothing more than bragging about games he’d won or spewing graphic accounts of his sexual exploits.
“There’s the decision, folks. Carnegie’s coming back out, going for a Hail Mary pass.” The men in the room whooped in celebration. Andrea’s balloon of hope deflated.
The commentator went on, “Okay, they’re lining up. There’s the snap. Carnegie’s got the ball and falling back. Looking. Jogging right to avoid a tackle. He’s found a receiver. Wiggs is open in the end zone! Carnegie throws. Wiggs has it! Touchdown!”
Crap. Why couldn’t Damian ever botch a throw? Just once, she’d love for one of her brothers to drop a ball, trip over his feet, or draw a penalty. Right now, if the guys in the break room changed the channel, another of her brothers would probably be making a spectacular catch while a commentator gushed about his fabulous speed or ball control.
Andrea shook her head in disgust. She’d never had any hope of keeping up with her NFL superstar brothers. She was the only offspring who’d failed to exploit Coach’s athletic perfection gene. And as the youngest of four and the only girl, she’d been at a disadvantage from day one.
In other families, a girl living with three older brothers and her father might have been protected and prized. In her family, ridicule, cruel practical jokes, bullying, and nicknames like pipsqueak and runt had lashed the little kid who’d been dumb enough to worship her siblings. Toughness and competition had been rewarded. Crying or a hint of compassion scorned.
She reminded herself of her vow to never be vulnerable again and rolled her eyes at the crazy idea that she’d once wanted to be like her brothers. Being like them was aiming low, settling for being cold and unfeeling. She’d be different and better, make her own mark. She wanted to matter somehow, and she would. Just not in their game.
Squaring her shoulders, Andrea turned to leave. A voice in the room said, “Shit, I really need to date Andrea so I can meet her brothers and father. I bet she can get prime seats at any game, even the playoffs.”
She spun back.
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