Okay, so this book has been available for…well, a while. I know. Again, I've sucked at the whole blogging thing. I have great intentions, but alas, they go in the crapper once I sit down to my laptop. Actually, my motivation has pretty much disappeared, other than to watch endless old movies and TV shows. But I digress…
So, for those of you who don't know me that well, I have a few series going. Actually, I have quite a few. Didn't start out that way, and I honestly didn't really plan on having any. I tend to get quite tied to my characters, so the thought of writing a book that involves a brother, friend, whatever, was hard for me to fathom. But somewhere along the line, I ended up with more than a couple. There's just one tiny thing…I'VE NEVER FINISHED ONE!
Now, for my own defence, not all of it is because I'm lazy or don't want to. I've discovered that while series are great, you can't just pop out one book after another. It tends to stagnate you as a writer, and pinholes you to that single genre. So, I've tried to write one or two, then take a break and write something else. Of course, if that 'something else' is another series, well you end up having an endless amount of almost finished series on the go.
Well, sound the horns, folks. Grab that confetti and get those angels singing because after a couple of years, I've finally finished the 'Til Death series. Now, this series is different to my others, as in it's really only tied together by theme. Other than some reoccurring secondary characters, the main heroes and heroines aren't related. This is probably because it was also the first series I ever tried, lol. The others I have, like Between the Veils (my ghost series) or Dark Horizon (my sci-fi one) have characters that play roles in more than one book and/or are related. 'Til Death breaks these rules.
Nevertheless, I'm thrilled at having actually completed a series. And each book in this one is a super novel. So they aren't short, quick reads. You'd best grab a coffee and settle in because these babies will take a while to read. But they are in one of my favourite genres—thriller/suspense.
The other two books in the series are Deadly Vision ~ book 1, and Deadly Obsession ~ book 2. They all involve couples whose romance is either on the brink of disaster or long since dead and buried. But like the series name suggests, some things go beyond the words spoken in the heat of the moment, and refuse to go quietly into that dark night. So without further ado, here's both the series blurb and the book blurb as well as a quick excerpt.
‘Til Death do us part…
Who knew one small vow could hold so much power—or be so hard to keep. Bound by duty, it’ll take more than just fancy words to bring our couples back together, let alone keep them alive. And when the hunters become the hunted, will love be enough to guarantee they live happily ever after? Or will death break more than a promise…
Special Agent Mallory Reeves knows there must be a logical explanation for the body uncovered in a back alley of Seattle’s urban district. The markings, the pose, the evidence—it all points to one man—John Davies. But seeing as Davies was just executed for his crimes, the new case appears to be the work of a ghost. Unfortunately, Davies isn’t the only invisible man in Mallory’s life. Just her luck, the Bureau wants another agent added to the team, one who worked the original case. And it’s no coincidence it’s Sawyer Kent—her estranged husband.
Special Agent Sawyer Kent has a lot of questions and few answers, including if he’s even got a shot at regaining the affections of the woman he loves. It seems a feat more impossible than the case they’re working, especially since it doesn’t look as if Mallory’s in the mood to welcome him back home. But when the killer starts evolving, adding nuances to his crimes that are aimed directly at Mallory, Sawyer’s left with only one course of action. Find the bastard before she becomes his next victim.
“You know, Mallory, if you don’t stop fussing with your shirt, I won’t be the only person in this room who knows that just being here is making your skin crawl.”
Special Agent Mallory Reeves gritted her teeth as she released the fabric, glaring at her partner over her shoulder. Agent Cole Stevens smiled back at her, giving her a wink. Damn the man. Sometimes he was simply too cocky for his own good.
She turned to face him, allowing her shoulders to rest against the wall behind her. “Are you honestly going to stand there and tell me you enjoy being here?” She waved her hand at the small crowd gathered in the stuffy room. “It’s like a fucking morgue.”
“It’s an execution. It’s supposed to feel like a morgue. It’s also one of the quickest turnarounds in history. I still can’t believe Davies refused to appeal, if for nothing more than to drag this out longer. He could have easily spent the next decade in prison.”
“Davies is sick. Nothing about him surprises me.” She huffed, glancing at the people sitting in the front row. “And justified or not, his death won’t bring them the peace they’re hoping for.”
“Maybe not. But sometimes closure is enough.”
She swung her gaze back to Cole. “Would it be enough for you?”
“If it’d been my daughter that bastard had raped and killed?” He shook his head,
stuffing his hands in his pockets. “I would have found a way to pull the trigger myself. But it wasn’t, and I didn’t let it get personal with this creep.” He tilted his head slightly, letting his focus drop towards her ribcage. “I think the real question is...will it be enough for you?”
Mallory shrugged, trying to ignore the way the scar below her right ribs ached suddenly. “He stabbed me, Cole. He didn’t rape me, or kill anyone I loved.”
Cole gave her another smug smile. “Right. You didn’t lose anything over this case but a litre or two of blood.”
She cursed under her breath as he turned towards the covered window centred on the far wall. He obviously knew better than to mention Sawyer’s name, but there was no mistaking the insinuation, and no denying the sudden flutter in her heart at the thought of her estranged husband.
Husband. How bloody ironic.
A secret wedding followed by an equally secret separation. And she didn’t even remember the first part. But to make matters worse, while they’d been lovers for months, they’d never truly consummated their marriage, not to mention the fact she hadn’t said more than a few heated words to him since he’d jumped ship two years ago, taking his life and her heart with him. And all because of that one night... That one miscalculation that had not only ended the case but had nearly cost Mallory her life.
She released a slow breath but couldn’t stop from searching the crowd again— reassuring herself he wasn’t there. Though she felt certain he’d received the same notice, she’d known from the start he wouldn’t make an appearance. Not here. Not for this.
Cole tapped her shoulder, motioning towards the window again. A low hiss of static sounded over the PA system, followed by the tell-tale scrape of metal on metal as the curtains pulled apart, casting a bright glare into the room. Just her luck that Washington State had finally caved to judicial pressure and allowed full disclosure of the event instead of the usual précised version. She could have handled having the bastard already strapped to the gurney with the IVs hooked up.
A hushed whisper rippled through the crowd as a set of large silver doors opened and a lone prisoner was escorted into the cubicle, his white scrubs nearly florescent in the harsh light. He looked exactly as she remembered him—long black hair slicked back from his face, deep lines around his mouth and across his forehead and the coldest grey eyes she’d ever seen. Every time she’d caught his gaze it’d been like looking at death.
John Davies shuffled to a halt, a cruel smile twisting his lips as he surveyed the gathering of people seated behind the glass. His gaze found hers and his smile flourished, flashing a set of crooked teeth. He didn’t hide his contempt, just stared at her, eyes narrowed, his hands clenched into fists in front of him. She held his stare, vowing he’d be the first to look away. The unspoken challenge lasted several seconds until one of the guards pushed him forward, making him stumble slightly. He glared at the man over his shoulder, pulling his lips into a snarl, but the guard merely shrugged, angling Davies towards the gurney.
A cold fist settled in her stomach as she watched him climb onto the crisp, white sheets, his sadistic smile still firmly in place. Emotions she couldn’t quite understand roiled through her, and she fought the sudden urge to run. She’d promised Cole, and her boss, she’d make an appearance—show Davies he hadn’t beaten her—but as the guards reached for the straps at his wrists, tightening the leather bands around the thin expanse of flesh, she wasn’t sure she could stay.
Mallory held her ground, trying to keep her focus on the event unfolding inside the sterile room, but she could feel a dark weight pressing down on her. She forced in a few quick breaths, not meeting Cole’s gaze when he glanced at her, worry creasing his face. He mumbled something she didn’t hear, turning to face her just as her cell rang. The hard beat of the music echoed through the silent room, drawing several disapproving glares. She winced, muttering an apology to Cole as she pulled the phone free and headed for the double doors just off to her left.
“Mallory. Fisher. Sorry to call. I know the timing sucks.”
Mallory inhaled a much-needed breath as the door shut behind her, blocking out the
last of her thoughts about Davies. Some of the tension eased from her shoulders as she leaned against the wall beside the closed door, thankful for the unexpected reprieve. “Actually, your timing is perfect. What’s up?”
A heavy sigh sounded on the other end, followed by an eerie silence.
She pushed off the wall, trying to ignore the rash of goose bumps that prickled down her arm. “Fisher?”
“We’ve got a body—Harbor Street—and...you really need to see this.”
Mallory frowned just as the door whooshed open, nearly knocking her over. She looked across her shoulder as Cole stopped and stared at her, his face clearly displaying his concern. He moved to her other side.
“You do realise we’re four hours away, right? Can’t someone else field it?”
“I’m more than aware of where you are, but, the body, it’s... Shit. You gotta see this to believe it. You, not another agent. And bring Cole. You’re gonna need him. I’ll wait for you two.” Fisher breathed heavily into the phone again. “And Mal...this can’t wait. Hell, it might already be too late.”
“Too late? Fisher?” The line went dead. Her frown intensified as she pulled the cell away and shoved it in her pocket. It wasn’t Fisher’s style to be so cryptic, which meant she wasn’t going to like whatever was waiting for her.
Cole motioned to her. “Care to share, or were you unhappy with the company in there?”
Mallory huffed, ignoring his dig. “Fisher wants us down at Harbor Street...something about a body we need to see. He says it’s urgent.”
Cole resisted her nudge, glancing back at the closed door. “We came for a reason, Mallory. Fisher can wait until we’re done here. These things usually don’t take more than half an hour, unless something goes wrong. And despite what he thinks, the body isn’t going anywhere.” He gave her a slow sweep. “Unless there’s another reason you don’t want to go back in?”
She scoffed, taking a few steps away. “As far as I’m concerned, the bastard’s already dead. I don’t need to watch him squirm.”
“No. But those families in there might. Hell, we didn’t come all this way just to back out at the last moment.” His footsteps sounded behind her a moment before his fingers closed around her wrist. “You promised.”
She glanced at his hand then drew her gaze up to his. “And you promised you’d respect my decision.” She sighed, looking over at the door. “You know how I feel about...” She waved at it. “This. About him.”
Cole pulled his lips into a thin line, apparently not missing the way she trembled slightly beneath his touch. “You could just admit you can’t stand to look at him. To remember what happened that night. No one expects you to forget.”
“No. But they expect me to continue to do my job, which becomes strangely difficult where he’s concerned. That... Watching that isn’t my job. Catching his ass was. A new case, however...”
“So you’re not going to admit it?”
She flashed him what she hoped was a stunning smile. “And ruin your badass image of me? Not a chance.”
She pulled her arm free and took two more steps before his voice sounded behind her again, stopping her in her tracks.
“I couldn’t help but notice Sawyer didn’t rearrange his life to be here, either. Are you sure this doesn’t have anything to do with that?”
She cringed inwardly at the tone of Cole’s voice. He wasn’t holding back this time.
She glanced at him. “We both knew he wasn’t coming.”
“Maybe. But I think you hoped he was...for support. Surely he knew how hard this was
going to be for you.”
She laughed, shaking her head as she turned to face Cole. “Not as hard as facing me would have been for him. And even I know this isn’t the place for that kind of reunion. But I figure since he can pull the invisible man routine, so can I.” She motioned at the stairwell off to her right. “Now are you coming, or are you going back in there to watch a dead man die?”
Cole scoffed, nodding at her as they headed for the exit. “Fine. But if anyone asks, I’m blaming Fisher.”
Lightning flickered in the sky as Mallory pulled into the narrow alleyway, parking her black Jeep beside one of the cruisers. Red and blue lights reflected off the rain, bathing the street with a strobe-like glow. Yellow tape blocked the way, enclosing the area in a familiar box she’d seen far too many times. They’d driven straight, the long trip unusually quiet. Cole had muttered a few token words, but it was obvious he wasn’t pleased with her decision to ditch the execution.
She sighed. Just thinking about the creep made her shiver, though she’d never admit that to Cole, or anyone else for that matter. Davies was a weakness she needed to put behind her, and the sooner, the better.
Cole grumbled something under his breath about the weather ruining his leather jacket and the slew of cop cars blocking the road as he opened the door and stepped out, turning his collar up against the chill. Mallory followed, glancing up at the dark sky. April was usually one of her favourite months, but tonight, it had a desolate quality to it that made her feel lonely.
She sighed and followed after Cole, ducking beneath the tape as she made her way over to Fisher. He stood amidst a group of cops, a black sheet at his feet. She gave the covered body a quick glance, knowing just by the size and shape it had to be a woman, or worse, a teenage kid. The police officers turned as she stopped behind them, their faces clearly questioning her presence. She raised her badge and pushed through to Fisher, ignoring the looks the other men gave her.
“What’s so important? While I don’t mind your timing, I’m definitely going to catch shit over leaving the execution early.”
Fisher nodded, murmuring a quick, “Hey,” to Cole when the man rounded the sheet and stopped on Fisher’s other side.
He pointed at the body. “In this particular case, I think the body will speak for itself.” He knelt down and pulled back the cover, revealing bare, pale limbs and patches of pooled blood. “I also think this is going to make ‘catching shit’ seem a little less important.”
Mallory drew a deep breath as she stared at the body—a young woman, no more than twenty-two, with blonde hair and even features. She looked more athletic than most, with firm limbs and a lean torso. But it was the pose that held Mallory’s attention. Legs bent to one side with her arms raised over her head, the victim looked like a cheerleader jumping in the air.
The image hit Mallory hard, and she couldn’t stop from taking a step back. Her gaze skirted over the body, unerringly going to every detail without hesitation—the ligature marks around her neck, the imprint of rope on her wrists and ankles, the trail of blood down her inner thighs. The only new element was a four-inch wound on the woman’s right side, just below her ribcage.
Mallory shook her head. “Dear God.” She circled around to her left, looking for more evidence, certain the one answer screaming in her head couldn’t be correct. “From the look of the body, she’s only been dead eight or nine hours... This... It can’t...”
She looked away, staving off the sudden rush of emotions. She was obviously missing something—something that pointed this murder in a completely logical direction. It simply couldn’t be what it appeared.
A hand settled on her shoulder, drawing her back from her thoughts. She glanced up, looking into Cole’s dark brown eyes. They held the same disbelief she suspected hers did.
She took a deep breath, knowing he was waiting for her to speak but aware there wasn’t anything to say. “It can’t... I mean... Shit!”
Fisher moved over to her. “I had a feeling you might feel that way.” He turned towards the dead girl. “Confusing as hell, really.”
Mallory gave herself a mental shake. “There’s bound to be a rational explanation for this. Obviously, we’re dealing with a copycat here.”
Cole huffed behind her as he knelt beside the body. “This ain’t a fucking copycat and you know it, Mal. Look at the way the sash is tied around her waist. It’s identical to the other twelve victims...same knot, same way he tucked the ends back underneath the fabric. We never released that information to the press.”
“Shit gets out, Cole. You know that as well as I do. Someone could have shared that bit of information without us being any the wiser. Besides, the other victims didn’t have a knife wound below their ribs.”
Cole’s gaze clashed with hers, his expression sending icy chills down her spine.
He motioned towards her. “You mean the same kind of wound you have? In exactly the same place? No, they didn’t. But that just confirms our hunch. The bastard added that to mess with you...end of story.”
Malloy sighed, palming her hands on her hips. “Okay. Let’s say for one minute this isn’t a copycat. Care to tell me how in the hell John Davies murdered this woman when he was fucking killed just hours ago by lethal injection?” She threw up her hands as she stalked around the body, shaking her head. “What the hell, man? How did he pull it off? He’s been on death row for the last eighteen months. Let me guess...wormhole?”
Cole pushed to his feet as she stopped in front of him. “Damn it, Mal. I’m as angry and shocked as you, but you can’t look at this woman and tell me her death isn’t the work of that fucking psychopath.” He held up a hand when she scoffed at him. “I don’t have a goddamn clue how he pulled it off, but I’m certain of one thing. Nothing good is going to come from this investigation.”
Mallory stared at the dead woman, Cole’s words echoing in her head. She could deny it as much as she wanted, but he was right. Somehow John Davies had claimed another victim.