Blood Heat [Order of Terminus 1]
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by Olivia Starke
Category: Erotica/Paranormal Erotica/Romance
Description: Detective Josie Lewis, a homicide investigator, finds herself looking into two brutal murders in her Illinois town. When a tall sexy suspect makes an appearance she has no idea the turn her life is about to take. Can she trust Grant Stone, or will she become another murder victim?
eBook Publisher: Cobblestone Press, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: March 2010
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [62 KB]
Reading time: 34-47 min.
Susan Wells pulled her minivan along the curb then put it into park. She hadn't been able to raise her close friend by phone for several days, and she was worried.
It wasn't like Jolene to not return her calls.
She strode up the short walkway, noting the newspapers strewn over the usually impeccable lawn. A sinking feeling hit her gut; something was definitely wrong. Her steps quickened, and she leapt onto the low porch, not bothering with the three, short steps. She pounded on the door. A neighbor's dog began barking madly, and then its mournful howl filled the morning air.
"Jolene! Are you home?"
No answer. She tried the doorknob. It was locked.
Did she have a heart attack?
Real worry flooded into her veins. Jolene was in her late fifties and a heavy smoker.
With shaky fingers, Susan dug the spare key for Jolene's house from her pocket. It rattled against the lock, and she dropped it. Cursing, she chased it with fumbling fingers across the small wooden deck, nearly knocking it between the slats of wood. Finally picking it up, she managed to slip it into the deadbolt. It clicked, and she pushed the door open.
"Jolene!" Susan called out again.
No answer. The living room stood empty and undisturbed. The smell hit her then. A putrid odor mixed with an underlying coppery tang, and it sucked the breath from her lungs. Bile rose into the back of her throat.
Something was really wrong.
She backed out of the door, covering her nose and mouth, choking on the stench. She ran back to her minivan and, after grabbing her cell phone, dialed 9-1-1.
* * * *
An officer gagged next to her, and Josie Lewis barked, "Don't do that here." She pointed toward the door. "You'll contaminate evidence."
The rookie police officer darted outside, and moments later, she heard his retching. Josie shook her head in empathy as the smell boiled up into her nostrils, forcing her to take shallow breaths. The heavy curtains on the bedroom windows were drawn, leaving a fitting, somber ambience and obscuring what was surely an even more horrendous sight in broad daylight.
Jotting notes into a small notepad, she nodded toward the coroner who'd just arrived.
"Hey, Josie, how's little league going?" the coroner, Dr. Katherine Walsh, asked. She was a petite woman, barely five-foot-one, with a touch of grey laced in her curly black hair.
The coroner surveyed the bloody scene. Her soft, flowery perfume wafted to Josie, and she sucked in a greedy sniff of the jasmine bergamot mixture that momentarily overrode the smell of death.
"Pretty good," Josie said. "My nephew is first base this year. How's Caroline's new job?"
Dr. Walsh was kneeling next to the body looking it over, lifting it this way and that. "She loves it. She's worked so hard for her doctrine in psychology, the position at the children's hospital is a dream come true. I'd say this poor woman has been dead for three days." Dr. Walsh sighed and brushed a strand of curly hair from her forehead with the back of her hand. "Caroline and I are having a barbeque next week. You need to come over and see the new decor."
"Sounds great," Josie said. "Cause of death?"
"Looks like she bled out from the laceration on her neck. Odd though. I'd expect more blood than this." Dr. Walsh looked around the horrific scene. "I'll let Caroline know."
"More blood than this?" Josie cocked her brows.
Shrugging, the coroner stood and removed her latex gloves. "We'll see after an autopsy. Crime scene can come in now." She nodded toward several individuals standing just within the doorway, and they entered carrying large black cases.
Dr. Walsh wrinkled her nose. "If you ever get used to this smell, it's time to leave the business."
Standing outside the home, Josie ignored the flashes from cameras and news reporters who shouted for comments as she thought about the scene inside. Jolene Gomez had been a fifty-seven year old divorced mother of two. Her youngest had just married, and Jolene would have had her second grandchild in six months. The woman now lay face down on her bedroom floor with her throat torn out. Blood smeared the wall above the bed as if someone had run bloody hands over them.
Who would do this?
Franklin, Illinois was a moderate-sized city an hour and a half south of Chicago. They weren't used to crimes this horrific.
What side of hell would you live in to be used to this?
She lifted her gaze from the notepad as a fellow detective approached.
"Hey, Lewis," Detective Jones said, crossing thick arms over his chest. "What are we looking at here?"
"God only knows," she replied, tapping her pen against the pad of paper. "Go take a look."
Jones walked into the home. He soon reappeared, shaking his head and looking a little ashen.
"Holy hell," he said, eyeing the reporters who were like hungry dogs hot on a trail. They strained to hear the conversation, and Jones lowered his voice.
"Drugs? I saw some cases like this in St. Louis that involved Meth," Jones said. "Maybe not quite as bloody, though."
"The friend..." Josie glanced at her notepad. "...a Mrs. Susan Wells, said the victim lived a clean life."
Jones ran a beefy hand over his shaved head. A man in his mid forties, he was what some women would consider attractive with his deep-set green eyes and tall, solid build. Josie had never noticed him in that way. She could never be involved with a fellow cop, or any officer of the law for that matter. She typically went for the blond playboy jock types who knew how to love 'em and leave 'em. Having grown up in a home where male role models came and went depending on her mother's whims, she shied away from permanency.
Jones scribbled on a notepad of his own, a sloppy chicken scratch that left Josie curious if he'd be able to decipher it later. Her gaze roamed over the crowd that had assembled along the street. She studied each individual from behind her dark, aviator-style sunglasses, looking for anything that might catch her interest. Mostly middle-aged, middle-class neighbors, but one figure stood out to her. He was a tall man, late-thirtyish with a muscular, athletic build, sandy brown hair, and eyes hidden behind his own aviator shades. His skin looked tanned against the crisp, white polo shirt he wore.
It's fifty degrees out here, and he's at ease in a short-sleeved shirt?
Josie committed his physical description to memory. Jones asked a couple of questions, and Josie referred to her notes. When she looked back toward the milling assembly of people, the man had disappeared.
* * * *
Word had quickly gotten to Grant Stone, from a contact within the local P.D., about the body that had been found.
What a mess.
He didn't need to see the scene inside the small ranch house to know that a lot of blood was involved. The metallic odor carried to him; he could taste it in the back of his throat. His heart quickened, and he clamped his teeth together, willing self-control. The woman's neighbors were gathered behind the yellow police tape, chattering about the lost soul inside.
If only they knew the killer they had in their midst.
He found his gaze drawn to the female detective that stood outside the house. A little above average in height and in her mid thirties, she had a lean build beneath her conservative, navy pantsuit. Dark sable hair that glistened in the sun was smoothed back and secured into a bun at the nape of her neck. She was cool and polished, despite having just viewed a vicious murder. Her voice carried to him over the din of the crowd gathered around him. Silky soft with the hint of a southern drawl. Not quite what he'd expected.
The woman detective surveyed the crowd before settling her gaze dead on him. Even though dark sunglasses hid her eyes, he knew she was sizing him up. Grant could feel her gaze moving over his body, and it left a trail of heat on his skin.
Her sharp eyes had picked up an anomaly in the environment.
As soon as another detective on the scene diverted her attention, he made his exit.