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Authors: Joy Fielding

Tags: #Romance Suspense

Mad River Road

Praise for the powerful novels of
New York Times
bestselling author
JOY FIELDING

LOST

“Fine-tuned details … [a] compelling tale.”

—Kirkus Reviews

WHISPERS AND LIES

“[A] page-turner … [with] an ending worthy of Hitchcock.… Once again, the bestselling author tests the complex ties that bind friends and family, and keeps readers wondering when those same ties might turn deadly.… Those familiar with Patricia Highsmith’s particular brand of sinister storytelling will recognize the mayhem Fielding so cunningly unleashes.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Fielding delivers another page-turner … a suspense novel with a shocking twist [and] a plot turn so surprising that all previous events are thrown into question. The author keeps the tension high and the pages turning, creating a chillingly paranoid atmosphere.”

—Booklist

“A very satisfying page-turner.… Fielding does a very good job in building her story to a totally unexpected denouement.”

—Sun-Sentinel
(Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

GRAND AVENUE

“It’s hard to sit down and read a few pages of one of [Fielding’s] novels and not want to read the rest. Right now.”

—The Knoxville News-Sentinel
(TN)

“Riveting? You bet. Powerful? 10,000 horsepower. A real page-turner? And then some. Must-read? And how. Clichés, but so true of Joy Fielding’s
Grand Avenue.”

—The Cincinnati Enquirer

“Fielding deals confidently and tenderly with her subjects, and her plots and subplots are engaging. It’s a comfortable, engrossing book for anyone who wants to spend some time with four average, and therefore remarkable, women.”

—Houston Chronicle

“A multi-layered saga of friendship, loss, and loyalty.
Grand Avenue
reminds us of how fear, unfulfilled dreams, and a thirst for power can ravage the closest of relationships.”

—Woman’s Own

“Surprisingly moving.… Don’t forget to keep a family-size box of Kleenex handy in preparation for the tear-jerking finale.”

—Booklist

“Emotionally compelling … hard to put down.… Fielding fully develops her four women characters, each of whom is exquisitely revealed.”

—Library Journal

“With her usual page-turning flair, Fielding [writes a] romantic drama with a thriller twist.”

—Publishers Weekly

THE FIRST TIME

“Every line rings true.”

—The Orlando Sentinel
(FL)

“Dramatic and heartrending … the emotions are almost tangible.”

—Richmond Times-Dispatch

“[An] affecting drama.… Fielding is good at chronicling the messy tangle of family relationships.… A three-tissue finale.”

—Publishers Weekly

“This is rich stuff.… Fielding has again pushed a seemingly fragile heroine to the brink, only to have her fight back, tooth and nail.”

—Booklist

National Acclaim for JOY FIELDING’S Previous Fiction

“Fielding’s specialty is stripping away the contemporary and trendy feminine masks to reveal the outrageous face of female rage.… But like a good mystery writer, she creates sympathy for the character.”

—The Globe and Mail

“If you’re in the mood to bury yourself in a book … pick up Joy Fielding’s latest novel … it’s guaranteed to reduce you to tears, and once they’ve dried, will leave you feeling a little readier to tackle life’s challenges.”

—The Gazette
(Montreal)

“Fielding masterfully manipulates our expectations.”

—The Washington Post

Also by Joy Fielding

Puppet
Lost
Whispers and Lies
Grand Avenue
The First Time
Missing Pieces
Don’t Cry Now
Tell Me No Secrets
See Jane Run
Good Intentions
The Deep End
Life Penalty
The Other Woman
Kiss Mommy Goodbye
Trance
The Transformation
The Best of Friends

Copyright © 2006 Joy Fielding, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Seal Books and colophon are trademarks of Random House of Canada Limited.

MAD RIVER ROAD
Seal Books/published by arrangement with Doubleday Canada
Doubleday Canada edition published 2006
Seal Books edition published December 2006

eISBN: 978-0-385-67460-7

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Seal Books are published by Random House of Canada Limited. “Seal Books” and the portrayal of a seal are the property of Random House of Canada Limited.

Visit Random House of Canada Limited’s website:
www.randomhouse.ca

v3.1

To Novella

Contents
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

People always ask how I choose my titles. I answer that each book is different. Sometimes the title is the easiest part—it just pops into your head, and you construct a book around it. Example:
The Deep End
. Sometimes the title comes to you during the course of writing the novel. A phrase or an expression, sometimes just a word—it rises out of the book itself and demands to be placed front and center. Example:
See Jane Run
. Sometimes it’s pure agony—I’ve finished the book and still don’t have a clue what to call it. Example:
Don’t Cry Now
. Sometimes it’s a tough choice among a number of alternatives. Example:
Grand Avenue
. Happily,
Mad River Road
fell into the first category.

I was on a book tour—please don’t ask which book—and my travels brought me to Ohio, specifically Cincinnati and Dayton. While there, I saw a sign indicating a street named Mad River Road, and I thought immediately, What a great title for a book! I filed it away in the back of my brain and hoped one day to be able to use it. Several years—and books—later, the idea appeared. I have to confess, I’ve never actually visited the real Mad River Road, and I have no idea whether the street and houses I constructed bear any resemblance to the real thing. I just loved the name. I hope you’ll love the book and forgive me for the liberties I’ve taken.

I’d also like to acknowledge the following people for their continued help and support—Owen Laster, Larry Mirkin, Beverley Slopen, Emily Bestler, Sarah Branham, Jodi Lipper, Judith Curr, Louise Burke, Maya Mavjee, John Neale, Stephanie Gowan, Susanna Schell, Alicia Gordon, and all the other terrfic people at the William Morris Agency, Atria Books in New York, and Doubleday Canada. As well, I’d like to take a moment to thank my various publishers and translators around the world. I am so grateful for all your enthusiasm and hard work. A special thank-you to the team at Goldmann in Germany—Klaus, Giorg, Claudia, and Helga—for arranging that wonderful tour of Germany last fall, as well as a special hello to Veronika, whom I miss very much.

Heartfelt gratitude to Corinne Assayag, who designed and oversees my website. And to the many readers who email me to tell me they love my books—and even the few who say they don’t. While I’d love to make everybody happy every time out, it’s impossible. Reading is such a personal, subjective thing. I can only aspire to do the best I can on each book and hopefully to improve a little as time goes on.

Thanks also to Carol Kripke for her insights into why certain people act the way they do. Such insights proved very helpful in creating several of the characters who spend time on Mad River Road.

A big hug to my gorgeous daughters, Shannon and Annie, who continue to be a source of inspiration and pride. And to my husband, Warren, who insists on doing all the driving—he claims he’s more relaxed when he drives than when I do—on our trips back and forth to Florida each year. He serves as both chauffeur and tour guide on our trips up and down I-75, and I want to thank him publicly for his efforts, his good humor, and his stamina.

PROLOGUE

T
hree o’clock in the morning. His favorite time of day. The sky was dark, the streets deserted. Most people were asleep. Like the woman in the bedroom down the hall. He wondered if she was dreaming and smiled at the realization that her nightmare was just about to begin.

He laughed, careful not to make a sound. No point waking her up before he’d decided the best way to proceed. He imagined her stirring, sitting up in bed, and watching him approach, shaking her head in a familiar mixture of amusement and disdain. He could hear the scorn in that gravelly, low-pitched voice of hers. Just like you, she would say, to go off half-cocked, to rush into something without a clear plan.

Except he did have a plan, he thought, stretching his arms above his head and taking a moment to admire the leanness of his torso, the hardness of his biceps beneath his short-sleeved, black T-shirt. He’d always taken great pains with his appearance, and now, at thirty-two, he was in better shape than he’d ever been. Prison will do that for you, he thought, and laughed his silent laugh again.

He heard a sharp noise and looked toward the open window, saw a giant palm frond slapping against the top half of the pane. An escalating wind was whipping the delicate white sheers in several different directions at once, so that they looked more like streamers than curtains, and he interpreted their frenzied motion as a sign of support, as if they were cheering him on. The Weather Channel had promised a major downpour would hit the greater Miami area by dawn. Seventy percent chance of severe thunderstorms, the pretty blond announcer had warned, although what did she know? She just read whatever was on the cue cards in front of her, and those stupid forecasts were wrong at least half the time. Not that it made any difference. She’d be back tomorrow with more unreliable predictions. Nobody was ever held accountable. He cocked his gloved fingers into the shape of a gun, pulled an imaginary trigger.

Tonight someone would be.

His sneakered feet cut across the light hardwood floor of the living room in three quick strides, his hip knocking against the sharp corner of a tall wing chair he’d forgotten was there. He swore under his breath—a rush of colorful invectives he’d picked up from a former cell mate at Raiford—as he lowered the window to a close. The gentle hum of the air-conditioning unit immediately replaced the tortured howling of the wind. He’d made it inside just in time, thanks to an agreeable side window that had proved as easy to manipulate as he’d always suspected. She really should have installed a burglar alarm system by now. A woman alone. How many times had he told her how easy it would be for someone to jimmy that window open? Oh, well. Can’t
say I didn’t warn you, he thought, remembering the times they’d sat sipping wine or, in his case, guzzling beer, at her dining room table. But even in those early days, when she was still being cautiously optimistic, she couldn’t help but let him know that his presence in her home was more tolerated than welcomed. And when she looked at him, if she deigned to look at him at all, her nose would twitch, a slight, involuntary reflex, as if she’d just caught a whiff of something unpleasant.

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