I don’t know what it’s been like around the rest of the planet this week, but in my little corner of the world, we were breaking heat records and topping it with humidity readings that made it feel like walking outside into a wall of hot water. Ugly. blah. An alternate solution was to stay inside and…read a good book.
With that nifty segue, today’s sneak peek comes from Patricia Rosemoor, so grab a coffee, sit back, and enjoy.
From Patricia: I’m a dinosaur in this business, because I’ve been writing since the dark ages. That is, pre-personal computer. I started in the early 80s and wrote my first three books on a typewriter. I used my advances to buy my first desktop computer and a daisy wheel printer and thought it was hot stuff. Incredible how technology has advanced in thirty years. And what we authors can do with it, like digitizing our own books.
After writing 90 novels for traditional publishers—Dell, Silhouette, Harlequin, Harper, Del Rey—and after getting into indie publishing with a few backlist books, I decided to try an indie original, an thriller that never sold because it straddled the line between thriller and romance. I hope you enjoy this sample.
An excerpt from SKIN by Patricia Rosemoor
NO ONE could save her now.
Thrown across the backseat of the car, her hands cuffed behind her back and her feet trussed together, Hannah knew her time had come.
She was exhausting herself thrashing, screaming through the foul-tasting gag in her mouth. If only she could talk. Plead. Maybe she could say something, make some promise that would give her a break. Buy her some time.
She rubbed her face against the seat and was elated when she felt the cloth give a little. Dislodging the gag bit-by-bit, she rubbed until her face was raw. Finally she was able to spit out the disgusting material and take a normal breath.
“I don’t understand why you’re doing this,” she gasped. “Where are you taking me? You’re not really going to hurt me, are you?”
She couldn’t say kill.
She stared at the back of the dark-clothed figure behind the wheel. No answer. He had to be from the club, all right, but here she was without a clue. The dark clothes were baggy, hiding the guy’s body, and a billed cap was pulled down low, hiding any hint of hair.
Tears burned the back of her eyes, but she refused to cry. “Say something, damn you!”
She might as well be talking to herself for all the response she got. Nothing. Like the times she’d pleaded with her stepfather to leave Mama alone. He’d hurt her instead. She’d put herself in this situation, too.
This time, she would be lucky if all she got was hurt.
So this bastard was the killer. The one who’d done the waitress and the prostitute. How could she have been around him and not known? How could she have gotten so close, probably night after night, and not smelled death on him? How could she not know who he was even now?
The vehicle slowed and stopped. When the car door opened, Hannah swallowed a sob and fought the pain of being pulled from the car by her hair. Of hitting the ground awkwardly, arm twisted beneath her. The pain of knowing she wasn’t going to come out of this alive. She bit her lip, tasted her own blood and the salt of her tears and turned to get a look at the face beneath the billed cap.
No dice. The face smeared with camouflage paint and eyes covered by heavy dark glasses were too disguised to figure it out. Even now her intended killer didn’t want her to know his identity.
He pulled a gun and indicated she should move toward the abandoned building. The whole neighborhood looked abandoned, though the parked cars told her otherwise. Where the hell was she? A quick look around revealed high rises in the distance. They were somewhere west of the Loop. In the real inner city.
“What is it you want?” she asked, stopping so suddenly the gun barrel smacked into her.
She whipped around and stepped back, unable to believe she’d been so stupid, that she hadn’t seen beneath the bastard’s disguise. Whoever the hell he was, he’d played her. She’d never been a sucker before. Men were the suckers. Not that she’d ever hurt anyone beyond lightening up their wallets a little.
Why her? What had she done to encourage such hatred?
“What did I do to you?” she choked out.
Hannah knew this was her own fault. Lilith had warned her, but she’d waited too long to get out. Shooting a hand to her throat, to the heart-half, she tried to find courage in this link to the sister who’d done what she hadn’t been able to.
In a low raspy whisper, her captor commanded, “Open the door and get inside, bitch!”
When she didn’t immediately move, he shoved the gun barrel into her gut and reached behind her for the door.
As if he knew Hannah thought to fight him, he growled softly into her ear, “Try it and die now.”
She was going to die. At least that was the bastard’s plan. But not now. They’d said he’d kept the other women for a while before he’d killed them. That gave her wiggle room, opportunity for escape. She’d always managed to take care of herself, to get out of dangerous jams, right? So why should now be any different?
She had time… days… more than a whole week to figure him out before he decided to end her life. At least that’s what he’d given the other women.
But what was he going to do to her in the meantime?
Hannah choked back tears. She’d learned long ago not to show her true feelings. It was how she had survived until now.
And now she feared there might be worse things than dying.
LILITH MITCHELL SAT still as death in the glass-walled inner office. Pucinski exchanged a look with DeSalvo. His partner backed off and went to investigate the coffeepot. Pucinski figured it was understandable that the Mitchell woman should be stunned and looking as if she were unable to comprehend that her sister might now be beyond her reach forever.
“An old street lady saw it happen,” Pucinski told her. “Some guy was waiting for your sister when she came home last night. They went inside for a few minutes, then the door burst open, and he dragged her out, hands tied behind her back, something covering her mouth. She tried fighting. Unfortunately, the woman was too far away to give us a description.”
“Okay, so some guy dragged her off. That doesn’t make him a killer.”
The poor woman appeared a little green around the gills, like she was fighting heaving her cookies. Thank God she didn’t – his desk was messy enough. She sat frozen next to it as if she herself were dead. Pucinski knew he might look hard as leather on the outside, but inside his gut twisted tight.
“Neighbors told us she worked at Club Paradise, and we started putting it together. Part of The Hunter Case. Anna Youngheart fits the description, a lot like the other two women associated with the club who were taken. We found this in her locker.” He showed her a scrap of paper with her own address and that of Hamilton, Smith and Willis. “Someone at your workplace knew you would be at the gym tonight,” he explained. “We figured you might be able to tell us something about her. Didn’t guess you were related.”
Voice catching, Lilith whispered, “Hannah left me a message at work sometime last night. She was going to call me today.” She blinked and tears rolled down her cheeks. “She ran away when she was thirteen.” She turned to him, her expression stricken, her eyes dark pools of pain. “After all these years, I just found her, and now it’s too late for anything.”
Pucinski said, “Thousands of kids disappear without a trace every year, Miss Mitchell. Most of their families never know what happens to them.”
“Maybe that would have been better,” she said, though she didn’t look like she meant it. “I-I feel as if I was given a second chance, and somehow I b-blew it. I couldn’t get her out of that damn club. I failed her again.”
Pucinski stood there like some sap, wanting to comfort her while needing to get as much info as he could. He did neither, rather waited her out.
She sniffed and took a deep breath. “So what now?” She bit her lips, perhaps to stop herself from crying. Her eyes were rheumy-looking. “Tell me, Detective Pucinski, what are the chances you’ll find her alive?”
Making nice with the family members wasn’t his favorite part of the job. “We’re going to do everything we can, but truthfully, we don’t have much to go on.”
“Was Hannah friends with the other women?”
“She hadn’t worked the joint long enough to know the first victim, a waitress. But the second – the prostitute – maybe.”
He paced as if the activity could work off his frustration with the case. Even having an officer working undercover hadn’t kept Hannah Mitchell from being taken. But she wasn’t dead yet, he reminded himself. She still had a shot.
“They weren’t all dancers, then,” Lilith was saying. “Could there be some connection between them other than the club?”
“All three women were tall, good looking and had long, dark hair.”
The description could fit a thousand women in the city. As if she knew it, too – that the description could fit her – Lilith shifted uncomfortably.
“How long do we have?” she asked.
“The first one he held for two weeks. The second only ten days.”
“So his patience is getting shorter.”
“Seems like. No guarantees of how long this time.”
“Then the clock is already ticking. What are you doing about it? Why aren’t you interviewing everyone at the club?”
“Who says we aren’t?” He probably shouldn’t tell her this. “And we have an officer working undercover.”
She wasn’t looking at him, Pucinski realized, but past him. He glanced over his shoulder to see what had her attention. Gabe O’Malley was at his desk, doing paperwork.
Pucinski turned back to Lilith, whose attention was on him again. She seemed to be trying to digest it all. He only wished he was convinced that having someone working undercover was enough to catch a murderer. He remembered seeing the bodies of the women who had been hunted and shot. He hoped Lilith Mitchell never had to see her sister like that.
Pucinski felt like crap. He should have let DeSalvo handle this one. While green behind the ears, the kid had to learn to deal with the hard stuff sometime.
“I already called the Feds. They’re working up a profile on this creep.”
The next hour passed with Lilith seeming in a daze even while trying to be helpful. When the question and answer session was over, she asked for the keys to her sister’s loft. Since the evidence technicians were done with the place, Pucinski didn’t see the harm. She needed the connection, and maybe spending some time in the place would give her some helpful ideas. He also gave her his cell number and offered to take her home or to call someone who could stay with her, but she declined.
So Pucinski watched her walk off toward the bus stop, hoping she was as strong as she wanted him to believe.
She’d need a strong stomach if she had to ID her kid sister on a morgue slab.
A PLAN WAS FORMING in Lilith’s mind. She couldn’t do nothing. Couldn’t wait until the news of Hannah’s death hit the media. No, no! Hannah was still alive, she reminded herself. Pucinski said he kept them.
Knowing what she had to do, Lilith returned to Hannah’s place to implement her budding plan. Pucinski’s telling her about the undercover cop working the club had given her the idea.
She went through her sister’s wardrobe, far more extensive and expensive than her own. Not exactly her style, but that was the point. She picked out a lavender dress that she hoped would fit her. The bodice was fairly modest, showing off shoulders rather than cleavage. She popped the heart-half beneath the material. The dress was so tight in the hips she wouldn’t be able to move if it weren’t equally short.
Ignoring the feeling of being a little overexposed, Lilith next found her sister’s scrapbook and removed a glossy of Hannah – one of the publicity shots taken at the club.
Placing it in the corner of the bathroom mirror, she used the photo as a guide to her own transformation. First the makeup. Base, blush, powder, eyeliner and shadow, mascara, lip liner and gloss. She loosened her French braid and brushed it out, then pulled it up into a fancy ponytail trailing over one shoulder.
Lilith was startled by her own reflection, so much more sophisticated and in-your-face than she’d ever seen it before. The resemblance between the woman in the mirror and the glossy of Anna Youngheart was eerie. Thinking about what she was committing herself to, she swallowed hard and stared at Hannah’s photo.
“I promise I won’t do what’s easiest this time.”
She and Hannah could almost be twins, she thought.
Her own mother wouldn’t recognize her.
But maybe the man who had her sister would.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed the sample, you can find SKIN at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/SKIN-ebook/dp/B007JCUUB6/) and Barnes & Noble (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/skin-patricia-rosemoor/1109750116)