Authors: L. R. Nicolello
You can run from the past…but you can never truly hide…
Detective Evelyn Davis delves deep into the minds of monsters for a living. She’s the best psychological profiler in the Seattle P.D., with a talent that comes from heartbreaking experience. When Evelyn was just eighteen, she received word of her family’s murder in the form of a horrifying video. Fifteen years later, tracking down other psychopaths is the only thing that brings her some peace.
But now two local families have been wiped out. Though the chilling crime scenes suggest murder-suicides, Evelyn believes a serial killer is at work. So does Special Agent Marcus Moretti, whose easy charm and fiercely protective instincts are breaking down all her defenses. Evelyn needs to put aside her emotional attachment to find the madman stalking her city—but with each discovery, this case becomes more personal. She’s starting to suspect the killer wants her—and he is edging closer with every step, ready to make Evelyn pay a devastating price…
DEAD DON’T LIE
L. R. Nicolello
To the incredible women in my life—you know who you are—your sass, beauty and courage in the face of adversity is not only stunning, but truly inspiring. I am a better woman because you’re in my world.
“Never, never, never give up.”
About the Author
L. R. Nicolello
has had an
obsession with all things suspense since she was old enough to pick out her own
books. She decided to combine that passion with her love of action flicks and
strong female protagonists in
Dead Don’t Lie
debut romantic suspense novel. She, her amazing partner in crime and their
ninety-pound “dog child” reside in Texas, where she is working on her next
Dead No More
. Visit her at
Fifteen years ago
and strobe lights flashing, the air felt electric. Alive. The catwalk called to her, its thin, reflective surface beckoning as it sparkled and glistened—a million flecks of diamonds waiting. For her. Without wavering, without hesitation, eighteen-year-old Evelyn Maslin answered its hypnotic call.
She put her forefinger into her mouth, puckered her lips around it and pulled. A bit of fire-engine red lipstick rimmed her finger. A stagehand racing by her slid to a halt. The double take he gave the red on her finger almost snapped his head clear off his shoulders. He held out a tissue, his expression slightly awestruck.
She accepted his offering, bit back the smirk dancing on her lips and wiped the lipstick from her finger. As she returned the used tissue to the stagehand, she shrugged nonchalantly.
His face flushed. He ducked his head and rushed off.
Laughing, Evelyn held out her fingers and flipped them over to check for any remnant of lip stain. With an eagle eye, she investigated her outfit in the full-length mirror, turning to the left, then the right. Good. Everything appeared normal and in place. God forbid she’d have a wardrobe malfunction on her first sashay down the catwalk.
She wasn’t a prude. How could she have been? Changing in front of virtual strangers was part of her daily job description. Still...the sheer thought of her breasts popping out of her flimsy, Greek goddesslike chiffon dress mortified her.
The music’s tempo changed, morphing into the next number. Taking another deep breath, commanding the butterflies to at least fly in formation, as they refused to leave, Evelyn waited for the signal. At the stage manager’s tight nod, Evelyn stepped out onto the stage.
For a second, the glaring lights left her bedazzled, and the electrified atmosphere sucked the air from her lungs. As she adjusted, she felt all eyes on her. The blood in her ears pumped in time with the tempo of the song blasting over the speakers. Her heart thumped against her chest, it, too, keeping pace with the deep bass as she placed one bejeweled foot in front of the other.
She kept her eyes glued in front of her and focused on each calculated step. One wrong placement and her balancing act in the five-inch stilettos would end with a face-plant.
The end of the runway arrived without incident. She bit back the giggle bubbling in her throat, which definitely didn’t fit the sex-goddess persona she was channeling. Gracefully, she pulled her hands to her waist and popped her left hip as she and her little sister, Olivia, had practiced a million times growing up. She wished Olivia could see her now. Evelyn’s heart raced as the spotlights captured her in their mesmerizing glow. She tossed her long hair ever so gently, then paused.
All of five seconds had passed.
Stomach quivering, Evelyn turned to strut back down the catwalk, her mind tumbling over itself.
* * *
might have been exquisite, but they were hell to walk in. Evelyn’s sandals dangled from her fingertips as she and her roommate, Anastasia Kulik, ambled down the Naviglio Grande canal. The two friends took their time as they walked the quiet Milan streets, over the cobblestones and past the closed storefronts.
“Oh, my gosh, Evelyn. Did you see the way Raphael looked at you tonight? Seriously! It’s like the gods of luck follow you everywhere. I’d do anything to have Raphael stare at me that way.” Anastasia smiled suggestively. Mischief sparkled in her chocolate-colored eyes. She shook her head, pushed the blond curls off her face and clucked her tongue like her Russian babushka. “And you act as though you didn’t even notice.”
Evelyn grinned at her companion. “The only thing I concentrated on tonight was not falling flat on my face.” Heart still racing from the show, she swung her shoes by their thin black straps. Her smile grew wider.
She was in
When she’d gotten
and heard that she’d defied the odds and been chosen from the hundreds of girls vying for this contract, Evelyn had burst into tears. Then she’d done a happy dance with her sister before throwing herself on the sofa and giggling like the teenager she was. The only thing that would make this experience more amazing? Having her little sister here with her. But hell would freeze over before her mother allowed that to happen. Evelyn was still shocked that her parents had allowed
to come to a foreign country, by herself, before college. But they’d said yes, so she’d packed her bags.
And now, Evelyn was living her dream.
She glanced down the deserted street. During the day, it bustled with locals and tourists alike. But during the late-night hours, after the crowds cleared, quietness settled over the tranquil canal water, and the occasional patio light glistened off the water’s glassy surface.
She couldn’t wait to call her sister, to tell her everything about this place and this magical night. She checked her watch and sighed. It was just after three in Phoenix. Olivia would be getting out of school, heading for practice. With the national cheerleading competition fast approaching, Olivia’s time in the gym had quadrupled. It had been a week since they’d last chatted as a family.
. Tomorrow, she’d call Olivia and tell her everything.
Anastasia stopped in the darkened street outside the now-familiar red door of their apartment and said teasingly, “Whatever. I bet you didn’t have to concentrate on anything.”
She hitched her oversize bag up her thin hip and dug through its endless bottom, searching for the keys to their tiny two-bedroom apartment. “You were perfect tonight. I saw it. We all saw it. The crowd collectively held their breath when you stepped onto the runway.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow they swept you into a photo shoot for the cover of
.” Anastasia continued to rummage through her purse. With a small sound of victory, she finally held up the keys.
Evelyn followed her roommate into their apartment and flipped on the light. She dropped her bag onto the antique table in the foyer and glanced at the answering machine. No messages. Just as well. She was exhausted. All she wanted was her warm, soft bed. And maybe some hot mint tea. Maybe.
“I have to admit, I’m jealous.” Anastasia reappeared from her closet-sized room. She’d shed the black leggings and massive sweatshirt. A short red skirt hugged her curves and a low-cut sheer tank played peek-a-boo in the dim light with her red sequined bra. Fastening a large silver hoop through one ear, she looked at Evelyn in the mirror. “And I’ve never been jealous of anyone. Ever.”
“You have nothing to be jealous of.” Evelyn opened her bag, grabbed an elastic and pulled her hair back into a sloppy bun that slanted to one side. “I’m not Raphael’s type.”
Anastasia swung around. Hope, and the tiniest bit of suspicion, flashed in her eyes as she fastened the second hoop. “Really?”
“Really.” Moving to their petite kitchen, Evelyn spoke over her shoulder. “I’ve heard from a very reliable source that blonde, brown-eyed beauties are more to his liking.”
Tea could wait. She opened the refrigerator door and took a bottle of water from the top shelf. The rest of the shelves sat bare. Tomorrow she’d have to go to the market.
“Us blue-eyed girls?” Evelyn pointed to herself, feigning complete and utter disappointment. “We don’t stand a chance.”
“That’s the best news I’ve heard all week.” Anastasia bounced on her toes, then rushed over and kissed Evelyn on the cheek. She stole the water from Evelyn’s hand, twisted the top and tilted her head back to take a sip. Holding the bottle out to her roommate, she smirked. “Because guess who’s going to be at SilverTongue Club tonight?”
Evelyn took the bottle back and suppressed a smile. “Raphael?”
“Yes.” Glittering dots danced in time to Anastasia’s animated movements as the red sequins made a soft rattling noise. “And guess who else is going tonight?”
“Us.” She clapped her hands, as thrilled as a child on Christmas morning.
Evelyn’s grin vanished as she slid toward the kitchen doorway, inching away from her wild, party-crazed roommate and toward the sanctuary of her small room.
She leveled the bottle at Anastasia and moved three steps closer to her escape. “There is no
in this equation tonight.”
Anastasia’s lower lip jutted out, making her appear even more like a Russian goddess. She followed Evelyn down the miniature hallway. “Please?”
Evelyn laughed and walked into her room. “No.”
“Fine.” Anastasia pouted. “But I’m not taking no for an answer next time.”
“Deal.” Evelyn smiled at her new friend. It was hard to believe they’d only met six weeks ago. She’d gotten lucky with the roommate her agency paired her with—not all the girls could say the same. She placed her hands on Anastasia’s bare shoulders and steered her to the front door. “Now, go have fun. But be safe, okay?”
Anastasia reached for her bag on the floor and slung it over her shoulder as she pulled open the door. She looked back at Evelyn and grinned. “Don’t wait up for me.”
With Anastasia gone, silence blanketed the apartment. Evelyn grabbed her bag off the table and padded to her room. While she loved the lights and the runway, she was a bookworm at heart and had her eye on the latest biography her folks had sent. Evelyn hooked her foot around the bedroom door, tugged it shut and turned the lock with the other. A thin overnight package marked Fragile sat on her desk. She glanced at the return address and smiled.
It was from her family.
She opened the package. A DVD fell from the box. Evelyn squatted in front of the TV, slid the silver disc into the machine and pressed Play.
Black-and-white snow fuzzed the screen at first and then faded to a dark, unfocused image. She sat on her bed. Slowly, the picture corrected itself and the color returned. Frozen, she gawked at the small screen, not comprehending what it showed. Horror crept into her stomach as her eyes and brain connected the images to reality.
Her mother and sister sat huddled, ankles and wrists bound. Sweat and blood marred their beautiful faces. Olivia hid hers in her mother’s side. Tears streamed down her mother’s cheeks, and pain radiated from her as she stared straight ahead, unmoving.
Why was she not comforting Olivia? Why was her mother crying? What was happening? Where was her father?
A tiny movement at the bottom left corner of the screen caught her attention. It was her father, bloodied and beaten. Arms and feet shackled, pulled tight behind him in an awkward, bowed position. Evelyn squeezed her eyes tight, trying to dislodge the foreign image of her father.
He murmured. Evelyn opened her eyes. She strained to hear, but couldn’t make out what he said. In a trancelike state, and without glancing away from the screen, she reached for the remote and pressed the volume button. Her father spoke again and bucked against his restraints.
“It’s going to be okay.” Slurred words fell from swollen lips. His mangled face was almost unrecognizable. “It’s going to be okay. I swear. It’s going to be okay.”
Evelyn’s throat tightened. Her mother’s chest rose and fell with each rapid breath. Soft sobs broke from her bleeding mouth.
“No, it won’t. He took my baby....”
Evelyn’s eyes snapped back to Olivia. A deep red slash spread from ear to ear. Evelyn’s stomach heaved, threatening to empty itself as the shadow of a person stepped into the edge of the screen.
“What do you want with us? We haven’t done anything to you.” Her father’s panicked voice broke as the figure kicked him in the face.
Evelyn’s hand flew to her mouth. She swallowed a scream. Her mother whimpered softly. Her father moaned, writhing in agony. Then her mom’s blue eyes grew wide as their captor—careful to stay to the perimeter of the video—walked toward her.
“Please,” her father screamed. “Please. I’ll do whatever you want. Don’t hurt her. Please. I swear. Tell me what you want.”
The figure ignored him and raised his arm. Evelyn saw the gun at the same time her father did. Her mother shut her eyes and bowed her head.
Bullets ripped into her broken body.
“No!” Evelyn’s father cried out.
The shadowed figure took three quick, long strides toward her weeping father. He knelt at his side and yanked hard on her father’s hair, exposing his neck.
Without answering, the shadow pulled a knife. Her father’s neck ripped open.
Evelyn turned and vomited onto the floor. When the convulsions stopped, she wiped the back of her hand shakily across her mouth. She lunged for her desk and rummaged through the mess.
“Where is it?” She cursed aloud, frantic for the lifeline to her family. Her father insisted that she have a calling card at all times.
Her dad. She whimpered.
Grabbing her black wallet from her bag, Evelyn tore through its contents. Her fingers landed on the worn calling card. She snatched up her phone, breath coming in shallow gulps. She punched her father’s cell phone number into the lit keypad, its soft green illuminated lights taunting her.
She commanded herself to calm down. She didn’t know anything yet. The DVD could’ve been a prank.
It could be...has to be.
She concentrated on the shrill ringing of the phone. It felt distant, foreign. For the first time since she’d signed her modeling contract and boarded the flight from Phoenix to Europe, she truly felt the distance from her family.
She felt completely alone.
“Hello?” a rough, gravelly stranger’s voice answered.
“Who is this?” Evelyn’s voice cracked, emotion and confusion clouding her senses.
“Detective Nikols with the Phoenix P.D. Who is this?”
“My family...” Her words sounded hollow.
“Evelyn?” The voice on the other end of the line softened. “Evelyn Maslin?”