Vicious: The Faces of Evil Series: Book 7

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I must acknowledge my amazing editor. She keeps me straight and gives generously of her time. She is truly priceless. Thank you, Marijane, for all you do.

Thanks to Linda in Reno, Nevada, for her pointers and for loving the series even when I give Jess a classy suit and high heels to go with her badge and gun—which she keeps in her bag rather than in a holster.

This book is dedicated to a very nice man whose loving brother volunteered him to play a wicked part in this novel. Enjoy, Rick. You’re a killer character.

“The age of our fathers, which was worse than that of our ancestors,

produced us, who are about to raise a progeny

more vicious than ourselves.”

~Horace

1

Monday, August 23, 1:00 a.m.

“Do you know who I am?”

His guest moved her head side to side in swift, frantic little shakes. Her dark eyes were round with fear and every desperate breath echoed that same fear in the quiet room.

Satisfaction made him smile. She was unaware of his name or his reputation, yet she instinctively understood that her life as she knew it was at an end.

Rory Stinnett was going to die.

How fortunate she was to be the first chosen to join him in this final round of the game. Before the last ounce of life drained from her, she would know the name Eric Spears intimately. And he would know every sweet, luscious part of her, inside and out.

This one was truly beautiful. Long, silky hair as black as the deepest part of the night. He traced the length of her throat with his eyes. She shivered as if he’d stroked his fingers there. Her extraordinarily sculpted body lay naked before him. The restraints at her wrists, waist, and ankles, chaffed her smooth, tanned skin.

His gaze lingered on her breasts, nipples erect from the low temperature in the room or from the terror coursing through her veins, either way they begged for attention. Anticipation stirred inside him. Not yet, it wasn’t time to play. Her role in the game was immensely important, far more so than she could possibly comprehend.

“You will know me in time.” His promise prompted another delicious shiver of her exquisite body.

“But not until the perfect moment,” he explained. “Not until the others are here.”

Not until she was here.

His body tightened with excitement as the image of the guest of honor for the upcoming coup de grâce filled his mind.

Once Jess was here, the final game would begin.

He could hardly wait.

2

UT Medical Center, Knoxville, Tennessee, 3:00 p.m.

Deputy Chief Jess Harris waited in the austere private room for the patient to decide she was ready to continue. The uncomfortable plastic chair squeaked each time Jess shifted. She crossed her legs to stop her knee from bouncing with impatience and frustration. Didn’t help. Her worst nightmare was coming true and she couldn’t just sit here and pretend she wasn’t worried.

Eric Spears, the sociopathic serial killer who haunted her every waking hour, had taken his first victim. Equal measures of fury and fear erupted inside her all over again. She struggled to hold back the emotions welling up in her throat. Breaking down at this point wouldn’t help anyone, least of all the woman he’d chosen to use in his sadistic scheme.

As soon as Jess received word from the Bureau that two of the three missing women had been found, she and Chief of Police Dan Burnett were on their way. With no nonstop flights out of Birmingham, Alabama, they’d had to endure a plane change in Atlanta. Every wasted minute had cranked Jess’s tension a little higher. By the time they arrived in Knoxville the Bureau and local law enforcement had already finished their interviews, and Jess had felt ready to snap with mounting tension.

Unless the two survivors of this perverted reality game could provide some additional insight into where Spears had held them, or why he hadn’t freed the third victim, or what he intended next, they had nothing. Nothing at all.

Spears had made his choice from the three women abducted from Alabama ten days ago and he’d vanished with her. Not one shred of evidence had been left behind. None they had discovered at any rate.

Nausea roiled in Jess’s belly. She had to find a way to stop him.

Since her interview with Claudia Brown, the first of the two rescued victims, hadn’t provided any additional information, Jess’s only remaining hope was that Melaney Lands, the woman lying in the hospital bed a few feet away, would remember something useful.