Don't Say a Word [Secure]
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by Rita Herron
Description: Groomed by a covert group of elite killers, Damon left the secret society to join the FBI after a mission went brutally wrong and an innocent woman died. When his brother is arrested for murder, Damon investigates and finds a "Jane Doe" who holds the key to the case, along with a darker terror--one that threatens to expose Damon's deadly secrets and destroy them all. Despite the danger, he's drawn to the nameless beauty, igniting a passion that burns hot between them. But with a madman out to silence her forever, Damon knows he must deny their love. And to stop the man responsible, he must return to the one place he has desperately tried to leave behind--the dark shadows of a killer's mind...
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/HQN, 2007
eBookwise Release Date: September 2007
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats [Secure - What's this?]: OEBFF Format (IMP) [429 KB]
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A year later, New Orleans
DAMON DUBOIS WAS A DEAD MAN.
As dead as the soldiers who'd fallen and given their lives for the country. As dead as the ones who'd lost their lives during the terrible hurricane that nearly destroyed New Orleans.
As dead as the woman he had killed.
His own heart did still beat and blood still flowed through his veins, forcing him to go through the motions of life.
A punishment issued by the gods, he was certain.
He could still see the flames licking at her skin, see the smoke swirling above her face, hear the crackle of the house as wood splintered and crumbled down upon her body.
For although his head hadn't yet touched the pillow this dreary evening, nightmares already haunted him with the cries of that anguished woman screaming in pain.
And the bébé's ghostlike cry…
"Tite ange," he whispered. "Little angel, you did not deserve to die."
Perspiration beaded on his neck and trickled down into the collar of his shirt as he opened the French doors to the hundred-year-old bayou house and breathed in the sultry summer air. The end of May was nearing and already the summer heat was oppressive. Sticky. The air hung thick with the scent of blood and swamp water. Eerie sounds cut through the endless night. The muddy Mississippi slapping at the embankment. A faint breeze stirring the tupelo trees. The gators' shrill attack cry in the night. Insects buzzing for their next feed. A Louis Armstrong blues tune floated from the stereo, the soul-wrenching words echoing his mood.
Though a thick fog of blessed darkness clouded the waning daylight, forming morbid images to bombard him. A hand outstretched, begging for help. The fingers curled around the tiny bébé's rattle. The accusing, horror-stricken eyes.
He blinked to stop the damning images, but they flickered in his mind like flashes of lightning splintering the sky.
The scream tore the air again, and he swallowed back bile. Its tormenting sound refused to stop, pounding against his conscience with a will he couldn't defy. Reminding him of his past. His sins.
His vow of silence.
So many secrets…Tell and you die.
Inside his pocket, his cell phone vibrated, jarring him back to the present. Hauling him away from the pain and self-recriminations clawing at his mind.
He connected the call with sweaty fingers.
"Special Agent Damon Dubois."
"Damon, thank God you answered."
His little brother Antwaun's strained voice rattled unevenly over the line. Something was wrong.
What kind of mess had his youngest sibling gotten into this time?
Hell, not that he had a right to judge anyone.
But the family knew nothing of his secrets. Or his lies…
"You have to come meet me. We found a woman…at least part of one."
Holy Christ. "I'll be right there. Where are you?"
Antwaun relayed the GPS coordinates and Damon snapped the phone closed, grabbed his badge and weapon and strapped it onto his shoulder holster. Fifteen minutes later, he parked and headed through a dense stretch of the swamp. The scent of murk floated from the marshy water as the mud sucked at his feet. The voices and faint beams of flashlights ahead served as his guide through the knot of trees, and when he reached the crime-scene tape, he identified himself to the officer in charge.
Through the shadows, he spotted Antwaun and strode toward him. His brother's forehead was furrowed with worry, the intense anger in his dark eyes warning Damon that this was not an everyday crime scene. Something personal had entered into it.
"What's going on, Antwaun?" he asked quietly.
Two uniforms frowned and muttered curses at his arrival, already the thread of territorial rights adding tension to an anxiety-ridden situation.
Antwaun leaned in close, his voice a conspiratorial whisper. "Hell, Damon. I think I know the victim."
Damon's gaze shot to his brother's, his pulse racing. "How do you know her?"
"I can't be sure, but…" His gruff voice cracked. "But if it is who I think it is, we dated."
The heat thickened, causing a cold clamminess to bead on Damon's skin. "You recognize her or what?"
Antwaun scrubbed a hand over the back of his scraggly hair, his face as pale as buttermilk. "Like I said, we only found part of her."
Damon sucked in a sharp breath, then followed Antwaun over to the edge of the swamp. The murk chewed at Damon's shoes, the stench of blood and a decaying animal hitting him. Somewhere nearby the hiss of gators warned him that hungry creatures lurked at the edges of the rivers. Yellow eyes pierced the inky darkness, scaly predators hiding beneath the water's surface, taking stock of their prey. Biding their time. Waiting to strike.
Then he saw her. At least the part that was visible.
Just a single hand sticking up through the quicksand.
Brittle, yellowed bones poked through skin that had been gnawed away. The fingertips were half-gone. Blood dotted the remnants of mangled flesh, revealing exposed veins that had been sawed away by the jagged teeth of animals now watching nearby in silent reverie.
"How…" He had to clear his throat, push away the mounting fury and choking bile. No woman deserved to end up like this.
Had she been dead or alive when the gators got her?
"If this is all they found, what makes you think you know her?"
Antwaun's hand shook as he pointed to what was left of her third finger. "That ring…"
Copyright © 2007 by Rita B. Herron.