She heard a noise. Someone had just opened the front door. Her heartbeat accelerated. Quinn was here. He'd arrived early. He must have broken every speed limit between Nashville and Memphis. That had to mean he was eager to see her.
Hurriedly she turned off all the lights and lit the candles she had arranged on top of the sleek, modern cherry dresser. Only the candlelight and the glow from the flickering blaze in the fireplace illuminated the room. The right ambience was so important.
"Quinn? Darling, I'm back here waiting for you." His footsteps tapped quietly over the hardwood floors in the foyer and down the hall.
"You got here early, didn't you?" She licked her lips.
Why wasn't he answering her?
She scratched her long fingernails over her nipples, hardening them instantly. "Come on back here, big boy. I've got just what you need."
She stood by the fireplace, primed and ready, eager for what lay ahead. When she saw him standing in the doorway, her heart caught in her throat. She did love this man, loved him to distraction. He stood there in the shadows, a tall, dark silhouette. Broad shouldered, lean hipped. Six-one. And every inch a man.
She held open her arms. "Come to Mama. Let me take good care of you."
He took several steps toward her. His blue-black hair glistened in the firelight. G.o.d, he was handsome. Ruggedly handsome in that exotic way only men of mixed heritages were. Quinn was a delicious mixture of Mexican and Irish.
As he neared her, she thought how incredibly young and s.e.xy he looked tonight. Apparently even men looked better by candlelight. At forty, he possessed a body any twenty-year-old would envy. And she knew from personal experience that he had the stamina of a man half his age.
"h.e.l.lo, Lulu," he said and she thought there was an odd tone to his voice. He didn't sound quite like himself.
She took a tentative step toward him, closing the gap between them. When she looked up into his piercing black eyes, she gasped. "Quinn?"
"Were you expecting someone else?" he asked. "Another lover?"
"No, I wasn't expecting anyone else." She felt a sudden sense of unease. What was wrong with him? He was acting so strangely.
Maybe the problem wasn't with him. After all, she had drunk three gla.s.ses of champagne. Perhaps she was picking up on strange vibes where there were none.
He reached out and grasped her shoulders. She quivered.
"What's wrong? You're shivering," he said.
She stared directly at him, studying his tense features, as his big hands bit painfully into her shoulders. Oh, G.o.d, how could this be? She didn't understand what was going on.
"You're acting as if you're afraid of me."
"I-I am." She tried to pull away, but he held her in his strong grip. "Let go of me." When she struggled against him, he pushed her backward, his dark eyes boring into her with unadulterated hatred. "I don't understand... what... how..."
She felt addled, her thoughts fuzzy, her mind playing tricks on her.
As he shoved her backward, she somehow managed to escape his tenacious grasp. She had to get away from him before he hurt her, and her gut instincts warned her that he was definitely dangerous. She turned and ran, intending to lock herself in the bathroom and use the telephone in there to call for help. But before she reached the bathroom door, he caught her by the wrist, whirled her around and flipped her over and onto the bed.
The satin sheets felt cold and clammy against her bare arms and legs. The menacing shadow hovered over her. Shock waves jangled her nerves. Why hadn't she realized sooner that something wasn't quite right?
Because you drank too much champagne.
He came down over her, bracing his knees on either side of her hips, trapping her beneath him. She opened her mouth in a silent scream, her voice paralyzed by fear.
Don't panic. Maybe he just wants to play rough. Maybe he isn 't going to hurt you.
"You're a fool, Lulu," he said in that strange, unfamiliar tone of voice. "And I don't suffer fools gladly."
"What-what are you talking about? Please-"
"Do you know what I do to foolish women?"
He reached over and picked up one of the king-size pillows from the head of the bed. She tried to shove him off her, but without success. He was too big, too strong. He lifted his knee and pressed it against her belly, effectively holding her in place and enabling him to use both hands to maneuver the pillow.
"I kill foolish women," he told her. "I kill them softly... tenderly... and put them out of their misery."
"No!" She managed to scream once before he covered her face with the huge pillow. Oh, G.o.d, he really was going to kill her. Smother her.
Help me, please, dear G.o.d, help me.
She wriggled and squirmed, thrashing her head about, seeking air, but he kept the pillow securely in place. With what little strength she had left, she grasped his wrists, but the effort proved useless. He pressed the pillow down and held it tightly. Within seconds her hands loosened. Her arms dropped languidly to either side of her still body. Her chest ached. Swirling gray circles appeared in the blackness behind her closed eyelids.
Lulu had one final coherent thought.
I can't breathe. I can't breathe!
WHAT SHE DOESN'T KNOW...
The victims are all found face-down in the murky waters of the creek that runs through Cherokee Pointe, Tennessee. They are naked, except for the black satin ribbon tied around their necks. And each murdered woman shares a single characteristic.... they are all redheads...
Socialite Reve Sorrell has come to Cherokee Pointe seeking answers about her family history and her shocking connection to wrong-side-of-the-tracks Jazzy Talbot. With their stunning good looks and shining red hair, the two are mirror images of each other-twins abandoned at birth and raised in very different worlds. And whoever left them for dead on a cold night thirty years ago isn't about to let them uncover the truth now...
As a serial killer leaves another chilling calling card in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, Reve turns to Sheriff Jacob Butler to help her unravel the potentially deadly secrets of her past. But someone will do anything to stop her...someone who won't make the same mistake twice...someone more cunning than she knows...and closer than she ever could imagine...
"A powerful story that kept me up very late-with all the lights on. With a villain you won't soon forget and nail-biting suspense, is about as good as it gets."
- KAY HOOPER.
EVERY MOVE SHE MAKES.
WHAT SHE DOESN'T KNOW.
THE FIFTH VICTIM.
THE LAST TO DIE.
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