Full Tilt - Janet Evanovich

ONE

"Our relationship has grown stale."

"Give me a break, Max."

"You're shallow, Muffin."

"Shallow?" She gave a snort of disgust. "This coming from a man who was married to a gold digger named Bunny for three years? Now, there's a relationship with depth."

He grinned. "There's something to be said for gold diggers. A man always knows where he stands. In the end, both parties get what they want"

"And we both know you always get what you want. But let me remind you, Maximillian Holt, I'm the best thing that has ever happened to you. You need me.

I listen to your problems, I feed that enormous ego of yours, and I can match wits with you any day. With both hands tied behind my back, I might add."

"Don't forget I made you what you are today, sweetheart. Without me you'd be nothing."

"And don't you forget, I'm the one who bails you out every time you get your ass in a sling. Speaking of which, you're out of fuel. You're running on fumes."

"How far to the nearest gas station?"

"A good ten miles."

"You could have told me sooner."

"Yes, I could have."

"I've created a monster."

Max guided the radically customized car down the narrow mountain road, taking each twist and turn with the precision of a professional driver. A Pink

Floyd CD played from a cutting-edge sound system that would not be available

to consumers for at least another year.

Max took a great deal of pride in his automobile, the same one his friends laughingly referred to as his Maxmobile. The car had been designed from the chassis up by former NASA scientists. The body and frame were composed of titanium and a newly identified polymer that offered the lightness of fiberglass

and the durability of the strongest steel. The end result had resembled a Porsche, but Max's version was bigger, better, and could do things that car manufacturers would not find on their drawing boards for years to come. Nothing was indestructible, but the Maxmobile came close.

The dashboard was more complicated than the cockpit of a Leariet. A team

of first-rate computer whizzes, hired away from top government contractors, had created the car's instrumentation using state-of-the-art equipment. Spread out among luxury automotive goodies like a tachometer, an altimeter, and a global positioning satellite system were a highly enhanced PDA, keyboard, a digital speech recognition module, a photo-quality printer, a fax, a satellite phone, an HDTV display screen, and a full video-conferencing suite, all operated by a high-powered computer that was smaller than an ashtray. Thanks to all these modifications, Max, if he wanted to, could run his vast business empire without ever getting out of his car.

Only a man like Max Holt would have laid out the kind of money it had taken

to build such a machine; and only a man like Max would have created computer intelligence with voice recognition technology and a sassy personality to match. Just for the fun of it, he had named her Muffin and programmed her with a sexy voice that one employee claimed gave him a stiffie every time he heard it.

There were those who'd said it couldn't be done. Max had proved them wrong. He insisted on the best. He drove himself and his employees hard. If he exuded confidence it was because he always succeeded in what he set out to do. Always. Not a difficult task for a man with an off-the-charts IQ, and a business acumen that put fear in the hearts of his toughest competitors. He'd created two companies, simply to put a scare into AOL and Microsoft. The television network he'd purchased ten years ago had grown far beyond