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Authors: Beverly Barton

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Suspense

As Good as Dead

BOOK: As Good as Dead
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Beverly Barton

As Good As Dead

CONTENTS

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E

PI L

O GUE

K

IL LING HER SOFTLY

W

HAT SHE DO ESN'T KNOW…

"Fast-paced, multi-faceted, and absolutely riveting."

- LINDA HOWARD New York Times Bestselling Author

When you're marked for death, there's no escape…

 

ON THE TRAIL OF A KILLER

"You know what this means, don't you?" Jacob asked.

"It means somebody has been getting away with murder for the past twenty-five years," Dallas said. "And not just one or two murders, but over twenty murders, possibly more."

"He could have killed other women whose bodies were never found." Holding the papers tightly in his right hand, Jacob slapped the faxed documents against his left palm.

"It's got to be the same guy. It's the exact same MO. All the victims were redheads. Either prostitutes or reputed to be bad girls. They were all raped, strangled with a black braided ribbon-left around their necks-and their naked bodies dumped in either a river or a lake or a creek."

"When I spoke to Teri, she said that with the evidence she's compiled, the Bureau will definitely want to become involved, but she's given us twenty-four hours to get our act together before she reports what she's found."

"Did she get Line to come up with a profile of this killer?"

"Yeah. And Line says our guy is definitely the organized type," Dallas said. "High IQ, possibly college educated. Could have been a mama's boy or at least the family favorite.

And there's a good chance he suffered some type of either physical or mental abuse as a child. And Teri said that Line suspects some traumatic experience involving a red-haired woman was the catalyst that brought out his killer instinct. In Line's opinion, this guy is probably a psychopath…"

Books by Beverly Barton

AFTER DARK

EVERY MOVE SHE MAKES

WHAT SHE DOESN'T KNOW

THE FIFTH VICTIM

THE LAST TO DIE

Published by Zebra Books

AS GOOD
AS DEAD

ZEBRA BOOKS, KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

http://www.kensingtonbooks.com

ZEBRA BOOKS are published by

Kensington Publishing Corp. 850 Third Avenue New York, NY

Copyright © 2004 by Beverly Beaver

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in revi-ews.

If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the Publisher and neither the Author nor the Publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book."

All Kensington titles, imprints and distributed lines are available at special quantity discounts for bulk purchases for sales promotion, premiums, fund-raising, educational or institutional use.

Special book excerpts or customized printings can also be created to fit specific needs.

For details, write or phone the office of the Kensington Special Sales Manager: Kensington Publishing Corp., 850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022. Attn. Special Sales Department. Phone: 1-800-221-2647.

Zebra and the Z logo Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.

First Printing: September

Printed in the United States of America

In memory of my father, a man with a kind and generous
heart, a mind that thirsted for knowledge and a truly good
soul destined for eternal happiness. This one is for you,
Dee Jr., my daddy.

PROROGUE

Kat Baker applied the dark pink lipstick to her mouth, tossed the plastic wand onto the dressing table and stood up to view herself in the full-length mirror. Studying her image, she decided she looked damn good, despite her hair color, an outrageous shade of dark red. She'd been a brunette since childhood and had gone blonde in her early twenties, but never had she considered dyeing her long, glossy mane red. However, being a working girl whose livelihood depended upon pleasing her clientele, she did whatever the men in her life requested. And this new man had the money to pay for the exclusive rights to her whenever he was in town.

Tonight would mark their fourth "date." When he'd telephoned two days ago, he'd given her specific instructions on how to dress and where to meet him, just as he'd done on two previous occasions. He called himself Harry-no last name-but she knew that wasn't his real name. Few of her clients ever divulged their true identities and she couldn't blame them, although some used their real given names. They seemed to want to hear her cry out their name when she came. And she was good at faking those earth-shattering orgasms many men tried so hard to give her.

But Harry wasn't like that. He didn't seem to give a damn whether or not she got off, just as long as he did. A shudder passed through her as she recalled the last time he'd been in town. He'd come here the first time, as most of her Johns did, to this small Knoxville apartment she rented strictly for her business dealings. She kept another place-her own private home-across town in a nicer neighborhood where no one knew what she did for a living. The first two times with Harry, he'd been aggressive and demanding, but hadn't requested anything out of the ordinary. But the third time had been different. And truth be told, if he hadn't offered her such an exorbitant amount of money to be available whenever he came to Knoxville, she'd never see him again. She could deal with rough sex, even with mild S&M, but Harry had come damn near close to choking her. When she'd managed to breathe again, she had tried to get away from him, but he'd held her down and fucked her like crazy.

Before he'd left that night, he'd given her a huge sum in cash, instructed her to dye her hair red and to wear a black corded ribbon around her neck the next time they were together. He'd even pulled the ribbon from his pocket and handed it to her. The guy gave her the creeps, but she'd convinced herself that he hadn't really hurt her-just scared the shit out of her-and the money was three times what she usually made. A woman in her business who was over thirty had to think about her future, didn't she?

Kat opened the middle drawer in her dressing table, reached inside and pulled out the black ribbon. As she tied it at the back of her neck, she wondered just what it was about this strip of black braided satin that turned Harry on. Probably some freaky thing from his past. Something to do with his mommy or his nanny or his teenage sweetheart.

Grabbing her purple leather jacket from the closet where she kept her working clothes, she thought ahead to her appointment and wondered what Harry would do to her tonight.

Whatever it was, she was sure she'd earn her pay.

*

Kat's eyelids fluttered as she tried to open her eyes, but the lids were heavy. So heavy.

Her head throbbed something awful. Where was she? What had happened to her? Why couldn't she remember?

She heard an odd noise rumbling in her ears and realized it was the sound of her own groans. Wake up, Kat. Dammit, girl, wake up.

Something odd was going on. Had somebody drugged her? Think. Try to remember.

She'd had an appointment with Harry tonight. Oh, God, that was it! The last thing she remembered was having drinks with Harry. Wine. She hated wine, but he'd insisted, telling her that it was a very expensive bottle he'd bought especially for them.

Suddenly she felt something brush over her breasts. Hands. Large hands. A man's hands. But those hands felt strange, as if they were covered in plastic.

She tried again to open her eyes, but without success. Then she tried to speak, but all she managed was a hoarse moan.

"You're beautiful, Dinah," a man said, his hands caressing her body with gentle force.

Who the hell was Dinah?

Kat moaned and tried again to open her eyes. When she gazed up at the man hovering over her, she recognized him. It was Harry.

Harry looked down at her and smiled as he rammed into her. "You're always a good fuck, Dinah. The best."

"Har… ree…?" She couldn't manage to keep her eyes open.

"You shouldn't be waking up, my love. But it doesn't matter. It'll soon be over. For this time."

For this time? Her mind was still so foggy she couldn't think straight. She knew she was with Harry, knew he was screwing her and suspected he had drugged her. But why had he drugged her? He'd paid her for her services. She'd do anything he wanted. He knew that. Hell, maybe he got off fucking a woman while she was unconscious. You never knew what turned a guy on.

He pumped into her, his thrusts increasing in speed. She lifted her arms, intending to caress him, to urge him on, but her arms felt as if they weighed a hundred pounds each.

That must have been some strong drug he'd put in her wine.

She forced her eyes open again only moments before Harry came. Grunting and shivering, he moaned into her ear. "Dinah… my Dinah."

He lifted himself up and off Kat, then slid backward out of the car. Kat managed to halfway sit up. That's when she realized they were in a parked car. She peeked out the window. Darkness. She stared at Harry, who stood just outside the open back door. He carefully removed the condom from his penis and placed it in a plastic bag.

How odd was that? Maybe the guy's a neat freak.

After laying the bag on the floor board beside her, he zipped up his pants, which couldn't have been an easy task with gloves on.

Gloves?

Why was Harry wearing plastic gloves?

Glancing at her, he smiled again. He reached out, shoved her back down on the seat, then caressed the black satin ribbon around her neck.

"Harry? What-"

"Hush, sweet Dinah. Don't talk. It's not part of our game."

"What game?"

He laughed and the sound sent chilling ripples up her spine.

Harry untied the satin cord, then grasped the ends.

When Kat saw the wild look in his eyes, she panicked. She knew in that very instant that he was playing a deadly game.

"No… don't," she pleaded. "I-I don't want to play this game."

"I told you not to talk."

He tightened the ribbon around her neck. Grasping his hands, she struggled against him. "Please…" Is he going to kill me? He slowly tightened the ribbon more and more.

She could barely breathe. God help her, he was choking her to death.

Don't kill me, she pleaded silently. I don't want to die.

Allowing the good feelings to linger inside him for a few minutes, he looked up at the dark night sky and laughed aloud. God, he felt great! When he'd come, when he'd finished humping Dinah as he'd dreamed of doing, a great sense of satisfaction had claimed him completely. She had denied him, snickered at him, made him feel like a fool. But in the end, she'd given in and allowed him to make love to her.

He focused his gaze inside the car at the lovely redheaded woman lying on the backse-at. Moonlight illuminated her luscious naked body-her parted thighs, her full, round breasts, her slightly open mouth. Power surged through him, every nerve in his body electri-fied by the dark energy flowing through him. He could taste her-all that lush sweetness.

He intensified the pressure as he pulled the cord until it cut into her neck. As he squeezed the life out of her, the pressure from the ribbon burned into his palms and heat suffused his body. This was the defining moment, the pleasure almost unbearable.

It took only seconds for her to die. Or at least that was the way it seemed to him.

But she would not stay dead. She never did.

BOOK: As Good as Dead
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