Authors: Allison Brennan
Love Me to Death
“A world-class nail-biter … Brennan is in the groove with this one.”
—New York Times
bestselling author L
“This pulse-ratcheting romantic suspense from Brennan delivers intense action, multifaceted characters, and a truly creepy bad guy.… [A] fast-paced, engrossing read.”
“Twists and turns in this dark drama make it creepy and compelling in the extreme!”
RT Book Reviews
“Brennan shows a deft command of all things both normal and otherworldly in crafting one of the best tales of its kind since Dean Koontz and Stephen King were still writing about monsters. There is no shortage of those here and the result is a new genre classic.”
—The Providence Journal
“A master of suspense, Brennan does another outstanding job uniting horrifying action, procedural drama and the birth of a romance—a prime example of why she’s tops in the genre.”
RT Book Reviews
“A fast-paced, action-packed romantic suspense.”
“Brennan knows how to deliver.”
—New York Times
bestselling author L
“This very satisfying read presents loads of action that keeps the pages flying—and makes one wonder how much is pure fiction and how much of it could really happen.”
is an old-fashioned potboiler in all the right ways, chock-full of tried and true hallmarks of the genre.”
—The Providence Journal
Kiss Me, Kill Me
Love Me to Death
Speak No Evil
See No Evil
Fear No Evil
Kiss Me, Kill Me
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
A Ballantine Books Mass Market Original
Copyright © 2011 by Allison Brennan
If I Should Die
copyright © 2011 by Allison Brennan
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.
This book contains an excerpt from
If I Should Die
by Allison Brennan. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.
Cover design: Scott Biel
Cover photo: Andreas Kuehn/Stone/Getty Images
For Toni McGee Causey
Thank you for your unconditional love,
support, and friendship,
above and beyond the call of duty
Writers write in a vacuum, spending hundreds of hours writing (and rewriting) that we sometimes forget that after the book is done, there are many people involved in making that book the best it can be. Editors, the art department, sales team, marketing team, copy department, production, and more. I particularly want to thank, as always, my editorial team—Charlotte Herscher and Dana Isaacson. I am so blessed to have you both.
Other amazing people at Random House: Kate Collins, Scott Shannon, Gina Wachtel, Kelli Fillingim, and the production team. And Linda Marrow, who bought my first book for Ballantine. Without her continuing support, this sixteenth novel wouldn’t exist today.
My agent, Dan Conaway, who must have been a diplomat in a previous life, deserves much credit for his support and advice.
One of the best things about being a writer, other than the love of writing, is talking to experts across the country about their passion while learning in the process. I particularly want to thank Nathan Kensinger, photographer and journalist, for his
online photojournal. I spent many hours reading articles and viewing pictures, enhancing my love of New York City. Nathan also answered numerous questions about the many abandoned buildings and warehouses around the city. I took some liberties with his information. If you’re interested in some of my inspiration, visit his website at:
A special thanks to Diane Lind for her wealth of information regarding tracking cell phones and identifying phone numbers. Also Wally Lind and his group of experts at Crime Scene Writers for answering numerous and odd questions about decomposition, missing persons, and jurisdiction. Any errors are mine alone.
The Sacramento FBI Citizens Academy, which has been a continuing source of information and inspiration for many of my books, deserves a shout-out, particularly retired SAC Drew Parenti and media representative Steve Dupre, who always found time for my questions. I also want to thank the FBI Training Academy at Quantico for the time and information they shared during my tour in 2009. I hope to return later this year for further research.
A warm thank-you to Kirsten Benton, who won the use of her name in this book at the Helping Hands for Hank fund-raiser. The real Kirsten is nothing like the fictional character; only the name is the same!
And lastly, my family. My husband, Dan, for keeping the house functioning, bringing me Starbucks in the morning, and adjusting to my intense writing schedule. My mom for her attempts to keep me organized and being my number one fan and promoter. And my kids, for putting up with my deadlines and the haphazard meals that go with them. I am so proud of you all, and I love you.
I also want to thank Teena Maness for her help with parole and probation issues in this book and the previous book!
The deafening music thundered through the warehouse, drowning out the howling wind outside and the raucous crowd that had gathered in this desolate spot in Brooklyn after midnight.
Any other night, Kirsten would be going wild on the dance floor until she collapsed from exhaustion or was whisked away by an unknown guy for anonymous sex that left her feeling both exhilarated and ashamed. For months, she’d lived for these weekends, complete freedom, the chance to be someone else, but tonight she just wanted to go home.
What home? You don’t belong anywhere
The pounding music made her feel sicker than what she was drinking. She knew better than to drink from the bar, but she’d been so thirsty, and she needed something to take the edge off. She’d built up a tolerance for most of the drugs that flowed with the spiked punch, and she always brought her own water. Maybe it was her nerves, or the fact that Jessie had sounded so strange, that set Kirsten on edge. She wasn’t even supposed to be here this weekend, but Jessie had begged her to come. And where was she, anyway?
A tall, skinny blond guy came up to her with the smile she knew all too well. She hadn’t been in the mood for sex when she’d arrived an hour ago, but whatever was in the punch had definitely loosened her up. The guy wasn’t half bad, probably in college. And Jessie was
“You want to party?” he asked, his hand rubbing her arm.
“On the dance floor.”
He glanced skeptically over at the thick crowd. Not everyone came to the underground parties for sex, though the night often ended that way. Most came for the drugs and drinking and music.
She laughed and took his hand, rubbing her thumb lightly across his palm. “New?”
“Just thinking of logistics.”
Her phone vibrated and she almost ignored it. She looked at the number and saw a message from Jessie.
“Hold that thought.” She tapped her phone to see where her friend was.
i see u with that guy. we need 2 talk now. im getting worried. outside 10 min.
What was with the cloak-and-dagger? Kirsten looked around, but didn’t see Jessie anywhere.
What’s going on?
“Hey, you want to screw your phone or me?”
“What’s your name?”
Jessie sent an immediate reply.
plz, k, need 2 talk 2 u. im freezing.
“I need to talk to a friend first, then I’m all yours.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a full-body kiss.
He pushed her against the corrugated metal wall and pressed his pelvis against hers. “You’re hot,” he said in her ear.
She kissed him hard, his mouth different and unknown. The thrill of the moment hit her, and she forgot everything else. She forgot who she was, where she was, losing herself in the right-now, any-how moment. She smiled as her mind wandered, her body almost forgotten.
“You like that?” a voice whispered in her ear.
“Yes,” she said, though she didn’t know why. Her arms were tight around his neck. Who again?
Her phone vibrated. She shook her head to clear her mind, and over Ryan’s shoulder she read Jessie’s latest message.
Don’t be such a slut and meet me outside. Now, Ash.
Slut? What did that make Jessie? But something was wrong. In the back of her mind, something wasn’t making sense. But her head was foggy, and Ryan’s hands were on her bare breasts. How had he gotten so far so fast? She looked at the time on her phone. That couldn’t be right. Had they been making out here against the wall for fifteen minutes?
She knew from experience that the guys at this party who came for sex weren’t easily put off, and her promise to return wouldn’t mean anything to him. What if Jessie was in trouble? She’d been acting so weird, and calling her Friday morning had been so not like her …
She’d called her Ash. Short for Ashleigh, her party name.
Jessie knew her real name. “Ashleigh” and “Jenna”—Jessie’s party name—were only for show. Maybe she’d called her Ash because she was in her
While Kirsten had been thinking about Jessie’s odd behavior, Ryan had taken his dick out and pulled her dress up. Everything moved in slow motion. It was as if she were watching her body from afar. She knew this feeling, but she hadn’t drunk that much. Had she?
“Condom,” she whispered.
“Already on, Sugar.”
How’d she miss it? She felt him inside her, but didn’t remember him entering; her legs were around him, but she didn’t remember how they got there.
Then he was done. She didn’t know if it took him two minutes or an hour, but they were both sweaty and he had a grin. “Shit, you’re hot.”
“I have to meet my friend.”
“Hurry and we’ll go backstage.”
“Backstage” was a euphemism for getting horizontal in semiprivate. There were offices off the main warehouse, most empty, but people brought in blankets and mattresses, and there was even some old furniture still inside. If Kirsten were sober she wouldn’t even think about it, because the place was filthy.
“Okay.” She started for the door. She had her purse tied around her wrist and felt inside for her phone, but it wasn’t there. She looked and saw that the zipper was open; everything had fallen out. She didn’t even know what time it was. She looked around the floor but didn’t see her phone or money anywhere. She knew she should go back and look for it, but the loud music was making her feel ill again.
She walked outside. The icy air shocked her, but for a minute she felt amazing. And almost instantly sobered, at least enough to feel discomfort from whatever Ryan had done to her against the wall.
What had Jessie wanted her to do? Go out and turn … left?
But it had been much longer than ten minutes. Twenty, at least. Maybe more. An hour? She had no concept of time.
Kirsten turned left and walked as straight as she could. She quickly became cold. The body heat of the warehouse, the dancing, and the spotlights someone had brought in had been enough to keep her warm; now she wanted to get back. Or go home. But her train to Virginia didn’t leave until tomorrow afternoon. She’d planned on partying, then crashing at a nearby motel. With what she made off the
site, she had plenty of money.
She felt around for her belt and breathed a sigh of relief when she felt her cash in the small zippered pouch. She didn’t keep all her money in her purse, only a few bucks, because she didn’t want to get stuck in the city flat broke if she lost it. No way was she going to call her mother for help. Maybe Ryan had found her phone and she could call Trey. Trey always said he would help her.
But she didn’t want to call her ex-boyfriend. He’d lecture her about her bad behavior and she didn’t want to hear it from him, or anyone.
Someone was lying on the ground. At first she thought there were two people screwing, but she was seeing double. She blinked rapidly and realized that only one person was there. A girl in a pink dress.
“Are you okay?” she said at the same time she realized that it was Jessie and she wasn’t moving.
Kirsten opened her mouth to scream, but no sound came out. She was paralyzed, couldn’t move, couldn’t call for help, and Jessie was lying on the ground in an odd position …
She could have passed out. Kirsten took a step closer, but somehow she already knew that Jessie was dead. Both her eyes and mouth were open, and one arm was tilted at an unnatural angle.
Kirsten heard movement to the right, then a voice. But the voice sounded a million miles away, faint, as if through a tunnel.
Girls like you …
Had someone spoken? Was it in her head? Unsteady on her feet, for a second she feared she’d faint. She turned and walked toward the warehouse, but she couldn’t see well. Everything was blurry.
Don’t you dare, bitch
Kirsten bolted at the rough whisper. She ran straight ahead, not knowing where she was going except away from Jessie’s body. The voice wasn’t real, couldn’t be, because she didn’t see anyone, only a shadow. Still, she ran as fast as she could. Her heels caught on the cracked cement and she almost fell hard, but she caught herself and took off her shoes and resumed running as fast as she could. Away from the warehouse, away from Jessie.
Jessie had texted her. She’d called her Ash.
Maybe it wasn’t Jessie who sent her that message.
Someone had been waiting for
. Whoever had killed Jessie planned to kill her, too.
Her feet ached, viciously cut on the crumbly asphalt and broken glass. She ran until she saw a small grouping of cars. Maybe she could hide there. Maybe someone had left the keys. She just wanted to go home …
She saw someone just sitting in the passenger seat of a small SUV. She didn’t know if anyone was really following her, but she quickly glanced over her shoulder. No one. But she’d
heard the voice!
Hadn’t she? Oh, God, she couldn’t think!
Girls like you …
Hearing the voice again, she stumbled and fell, cutting her knees and the palms of her hands. Tears ran down her face.
What was she going to do? Jessie was dead.
Someone was running behind her. Or coming right at her. Kirsten was dizzy and couldn’t think. She scrambled to her feet and tried to run again, but the excruciating pain in her feet brought her back down to the cement.
There was no escape.