When the final draft of erotic thriller author Carrington Winters’ latest book turns up in the wrong hands, the mistake sets off a chain of events, some involving a complete stranger. Her manuscript details her darkest desires, as well as mirroring a series of real-life murders, and she finds herself drawn to the mystery man, throwing her inhibitions aside.
Architect Jackson Devereaux finds Carrington’s manuscript in his email inbox and he can’t help but read it.
Surprisingly, he finds her hidden needs too tempting to ignore. As they learn to trust and explore their growing desires, they begin a cat and mouse game of guarded rendezvous until a murderer seeks revenge, targeting their budding love.
As new and heinous murders rock Chicago, Carrington is forced to face a past she was determined to shelve in an ugly black box. Jackson is forced to face a tragedy from his past that he hoped to forget, but secrets and lies refuse to be denied. What secrets do they both hold that could tear them apart? Is their new romance strong enough to survive a murderer intent upon destroying their lives?
Publisher’s Note: This dark tale is not your typical chocolate and flowers romance, but is a romance with a spicier side. It contains elements of danger, suspense, power exchange, adult language, and explicit scenes. If any of these elements offend you, please do not purchase.
“Do you hear me, Carrington? Do you know I’m watching and waiting? Do you hunger for me?”
“Who are you?” Carrington turned around in a complete circle, unable to see anything.
“The one who knows you best.”
His laugh was ominous and she couldn’t help but shiver. “No.”
“No!” Swimming up from a brutal dream, Carrington gasped as she wrapped both hands around her throat, suffocating. Blinking furiously, she inhaled deeply, trying to control her breathing. What the hell? The ugly echo of his words remained and she clamped her hands over her ears. Then realized her cell phone was ringing. “Damn it!” Slapping her hand down on top of the soft comforter, she stole a glance at the clock and hissed. She’d only been asleep for a few hours. As she struggled to get out of the covers, she almost tripped and cursed all the way to her dresser. Grabbing the phone, she could see the caller was Jennifer. When she answered she tried to sound chipper. “You were right about the ending.”
“How would I know?” Jennifer scoffed. “And you sound like shit.”
“Thank you very much and what are you talking about? You haven’t had a chance to read over the ending?”
“No, I haven’t received the book yet.”
Wrinkling her nose, Carrington frowned. “You wanted me to send the book to your new email address, right?”
“Yes, indeed. Remember, the one I gave you twice? You told me you wrote it down.”
“I did, on a scrap of paper before putting in my Day-Timer. Hold on and let me make sure I did.” Maybe given all the hoopla with the hacking she’d written the email down wrong. Padding through the living room and into her office, she turned on the monitor and hit the space bar. As she sat down she scrolled down to her email, popped up the sent mail and compared to her open notebook. “Oh, shit!”
“I’m not sure I like the sound of that.”
Her mistake was easy to see in the light of day the discrepancy. “I sent the damn manuscript to another email address.”
“What? Well you should try and see if you can coerce the person into dumping it. I don’t want any hassles about publishing your book. You know how people can be with famous authors.”
Famous? Not her. Carrington punched in Jennifer’s email address, double-checking more than once, she finally hit send then slapped her forehead. “It’s on the way to you. I’ll see if this person responds before I say something.” Maybe she’d garner a new fan. The thought gave her a smile.
“Take it from an expert, honey, you have to learn to be more careful.”
“I know. I know.” Carrington groaned. This wasn’t like her.
“All right. Let me look this over. I’m still planning on a major book signing next week. You are still going to do it, right? Just like we planned before you changed the ending.”
You mean before you changed the ending. “Yes!” While she doubted everything would be ready in time, she flipped through her calendar and circled the event at noon sharp. There were few brick and mortar stores left and she certainly wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to see her fans. The thought gave her a chuckle. Granted, she had several emails a week from fans but they were mostly based on her earlier works. The erotic thriller base had yet to really take off. Still, she was hopeful the series might garner her some attention in Hollywood. Carrington could aim big.
“Great. The manuscript finally arrived. I’ll spend the morning reading. Why don’t you meet me for lunch today? I have a couple of ideas for that new book of yours.”
Carrington laughed. “How could you even know about the story line? I haven’t finished writing the synopsis yet.”
“Because I know you, sweet cheeks. Meet me at The Library at twelve thirty.”
“The Library?” Now her hackles were raised. If Jennifer wanted to take her there then perhaps there was a more ominous reason. A single shiver trickled down her spine. “I will so be there.”
“See that you are and oh, wear a sexy red dress.”
Jennifer’s dark chuckle more than intrigued her. “Very bad.” As she hung up the phone she gazed at the screen and wondered who in the hell she’d sent a copy of her manuscript to. The receiver would either be incensed and possibly burn into the ground from her penned words or enjoy the heady kink. Either way, she needed to try and figure out what to say to the person. First things first. She needed copious amounts of black coffee.
As she moved through the living room she clicked on the television before heading into the kitchen.
“Detective Ashford. What can you tell us about the victim?”
“Nothing yet. Obviously, we’re just starting our investigation and I’d appreciate if you’d allow us to do our jobs.”
“But the public has a right to know about something so heinous.”
Hearing the word heinous, Carrington couldn’t help but turn toward the television. Some people would say she was a crime junkie but, given her books, she loved hearing what the fine men and women who fought the bastards every day had to say. She moved closer and could see a familiar street in the city. The location was near her accountant’s office. As she sat on the edge of the couch she turned up the volume. There were at least two of the television stations surrounding the street, which meant either the murder was some pattern kill or the reporters had been tipped off.
“Detective Ashburn, there’s a report the woman was found beheaded. Isn’t this similar to a kill that happened almost a week ago in which a girl had both of her hands cut off?” The young girl stuck the microphone in the detective’s face, hers filled with defiance.
Carrington couldn’t help but shiver and not just from the thought. What cops had to deal with. She could easily tell the juicy tidbit of information wasn’t supposed to be out there in the public yet.
“I’m not sure where you heard that information but we’re still investigating so I’m not going to speculate on anything yet,” Detective Ashford said through clenched teeth before he nodded to another man in a suit.
“So, you refuse to confirm or deny?” Another reporter asked.
“Not at this time,” the detective hissed as he started moving out of the crowd, the reporters in tow.
“Are you speculating we have a serial killer on our hands?”
Detective Ashford stopped short and faced the male reporter before holding out his finger. “I’m not saying or suggesting anything. Period. Do you understand? Now, when we have something concrete our office will make the best determination how to get the information out to the public. Until then, we would appreciate if you’d back off and allow us to do our jobs.”
As the main reporter for Channel Ten took over giving details of the location of the crime, a series of quivers rushed down her legs. The last thing Chicago needed was a damn serial killer. Before heading toward the kitchen, she stopped at her desk and took a few notes. The sad truth was a beheading would be perfect for the next scene in her book. Shaking her head, she moved into the kitchen to make coffee and knew there was a fine line between sanity and making a psychotic break with reality. She’d studied insanity enough to know what she was talking about.
For some reason, the damn reporter made her think more about sending the receiver of her manuscript an email. My God, her damn book alone could give an unbalanced man more than one way to slaughter people.