FBI BAU Special Agent Ruby Hunter remains haunted by “The 13 Killer,” the serial killer who took everything from her—including her partner—before she put him away for good. Yet somehow, though behind bars, new bodies are showing up with his trademark 13 signature. Is he behind it?
“Molly Black has written a taut thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat… I absolutely loved this book and can’t wait to read the next book in the series!”
—Reader review for Girl One: Murder
IF I LIVE is book #3 in a new series by #1 bestselling mystery and suspense author Molly Black, whose books have received over 2,000 five-star reviews and ratings.
Victims of a new killer are showing up at nighttime, following an eerie pattern, and resembling the work of the 13 killer.
What do they have in common? Who is behind it? And can Ruby stop him in time?
Is Ruby finally a step ahead of the killer? Or is she right where he wants her to be?
A complex psychological crime thriller full of twists and turns and packed with heart-pounding suspense, the RUBY HUNTER mystery series will make you fall in love with a brilliant new female protagonist and keep you turning pages late into the night.
Books #4 and #5—IF I FORGET and IF I RETURN—are also available!
Release date: June 20, 2023
Print pages: 166
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If I Live
Daisy Hauser swiped the Sky Guide app off her phone’s screen and checked her text messages again. Still nothing. She nervously nipped at the nail on her middle finger, wondering if Harrison had gotten tied up at work.
She looked at her last text with Harrison and smiled. They had only been dating three weeks, but he already felt like home. Daisy wasn’t quick to call it love, but everything was different with Harrison. Maybe love is exactly what it was.
A brisk wind whipped her chestnut hair off her neck for a moment before rolling through the trees behind her. She pulled her jacket tighter to ward off the chill. Daisy didn’t mind the cold, especially when she would have Harrison to keep her warm.
Daisy looked up at the stars. Orion’s Lookout was the perfect spot for stargazing, something she and Harrison both loved. It was one of the many interests they had in common. She could see Orion’s Belt perfectly, along with so many others, from the rock she’d picked out. Normally, it was hard to see the stars with a full moon, but Orion’s Lookout was like a little nest surrounded by sky-reaching pine trees. The moon hadn’t reached its apex yet, which meant they still had time to see the stars.
It was a clear night, one of the first they had had in a while. Harrison had told her about Orion’s Lookout on their third date. She’d always heard of it as a “lover’s lane” kind of place, so she’d never had much of a reason to go. Then he’d told her about all the amazing constellations and comets he’d seen. It seemed like the perfect spot for a late-night picnic.
The wicker basket next to her was filled to the brim with all of their favorite finger foods and sweets. She’d made cucumber sandwiches, spinach artichoke dip, homemade pita bread, peanut butter fudge, and lemon blueberry scones. She’d thrown several ice packs in to keep everything fresh and topped off the basket with two mason jars of sweet tea.
The trailhead was about fifty yards from the clearing, but the hike was slippery and steep in spots. The basket wasn’t heavy on flat ground, but she definitely struggled carrying it all the way from the car. A couple she passed on the way up had even offered to help even though they were leaving. She was glad Harrison hadn’t seen her trying to lug the basket, a blanket, and her purse all by herself. Daisy had no doubt it would have made him laugh, which made her chuckle too.
Her body thrummed with excitement to see him again. She checked the time on her phone. It was almost midnight. He was late . . . and technically, she was trespassing. Daisy looked around, unsure if anyone patrolled the area after dark. Hopefully, Harrison would be there to calm her fears, soon. It was one thing to trespass with someone she liked to
see this perfect view of the stars. It was something completely different to get stood up and get caught breaking the law.
The wind had died down, and whatever wildlife there was around her was quiet. Daisy saw the outlines of trees against the slightly light sky, and she noticed how still everything was. A chill crept up her spine.
She heard a car door shut in the distance and what she thought might be footsteps. Her heart hammered with anticipation. She pulled several battery-operated votives out of her purse and set them around the picnic basket. It was darker than she’d expected, and she didn’t want Harrison to miss her surprise.
She flicked each votive on and turned toward the hiking trail with a bright smile. Daisy’s eyes struggled to adjust to the darkness at the other end of the clearing.
Daisy’s breath hitched in her throat. A tall, broad-shouldered man was running right at her. She searched his face, trying to make sense of what was happening and who he was. Every cell in her body froze instantly like the temperature had just dropped to zero degrees.
His long gait brought him closer and closer. Daisy launched herself from the rock with all the strength she had. She darted to the left, just as he reached for her. Narrowly missing his grasp, she heard the man crash into the rock with a thud. She willed her legs to run faster than she ever had. Daisy was not a runner, but in this moment, she was willing to do anything necessary to escape this stranger.
The trail opening was only a few yards ahead. Her shins burned almost as badly as her lungs as she pushed herself harder toward safety. Just a few more steps.
Then she heard it. Another car door shutting in the distance. Harrison. But that wasn’t all she heard. Footsteps running behind her drowned her hope in an instant. He’s too close. Daisy summoned every iota of strength she had to scream. Someone else was there. Someone else would hear.
She opened her mouth just as a large hand clamped around her throat, silencing her. She punched and kicked at shadows, doing her best to stay upright. Suddenly, her back slammed against the ground, knocking her breath and the fight out of her. She immediately tried to get up, but it was like a boulder had been rolled on top of her.
Daisy shoved and wriggled beneath the weight, desperate to be free. Her voice failed her, but she would not stop trying to get away. She bucked and swung as hard as she could. She felt what she was sure was hair brush her right hand. Daisy grabbed until she caught a handful and yanked as hard as she could. The attacker groaned, giving her just enough strength to try to get away one more time.
She shoved the weight of him off her and scrambled to her feet. But before she could take another step toward freedom, she felt a thick rope wrap around her neck.
Daisy Hauser never had a chance.
Ruby! Wait! I can’t keep up!
FBI Agent Ruby Hunter was haunted by last words. Those were just some of them.
The voice of her childhood best friend, Geri, called to her, just as loudly as it had that day.
No, even louder, now.
Because now it felt like there was a tie to an even bigger mystery, one that had already consumed most of her life.
As Ruby drove north on the highway, she looked over at the thin file in her passenger seat. It was a case file for Geraldine Forge’s disappearance. Pathetic and thin, it contained very little information, simply because there’d been very little information. Without a trace, the police and media had said, again and again. No leads. No suspects. Nothing. It was as if the earth had opened up and swallowed the little girl—and her red bicycle—whole.
Someone had slipped the file in with the Vallejo case files. Someone who had access to her and who knew she was connected to the missing girl. Geri. Her childhood friend who’d disappeared, still yet to be found.
Eventually, Geri’s bicycle was found in a muddy ditch, about a half a mile from her home. Ruby still remembered the flyers she’d attached to every lamppost in town. The image of Geri’s ever-smiling face staring back at her every time she’d tacked up another flyer was seared into her brain like some sort of trauma brand.
But there were other last words, like the words of her dead partner and lover, Asher Carnes, had written just days before he was brutally murdered by Vincent Vallejo, over three years ago.
He always has something to say. He wants us to realize how smart he is.
Asher had been the thirteenth victim of one of the nation’s most notorious serial killers. Or so everyone believed.
She’d solved two new cases in recent months where the serial killers used aspects of Vallejo’s murders.
But there were six more women she didn’t save.
Somehow, copycats Jared Reuben and Aaron Rodney knew details from Vallejo’s murders that had never been shared with the public and that only a handful of FBI agents knew. The killers didn’t have any known connections to each other, and they hadn’t found any concrete proof they had recently been in contact with Vallejo.
At first, Ruby could not believe Vallejo had anything to do with the murders. He was in solitary confinement. He’d had no visitors except Ruby, and that had only happened twice since he’d been caught more than three years ago. The warden at Boone Correctional Facility, Percy
Woodward, had assured Ruby that all communications in and out had been stopped. Vallejo had zero contact with the outside world.
Ruby had solved each of the two new cases based on her extensive knowledge of the Lucky 13 murders, her first big case as a BAU profiler. It was knowledge she wished every day she didn’t have. But she’d also had help. Vincent Vallejo, Lucky 13 himself, had given her the clues she needed to find the killers. They were wrapped in misdirection and riddles, of course, but he’d still helped her. Ruby hated with every fiber of her being that she hadn’t been able to solve the Reuben and Rodney case without him.
She didn’t know how Vallejo was pulling the strings from solitary, but she was ready to find out. It was hard for her to believe he had that kind of power, but she simply could not think of anyone else who had the savvy. He was always strategizing, always fifteen steps ahead of everyone else.
Ruby thought of Asher, and how that night, the last night she saw him, they’d talked about the mind games the killer was playing with them. With Asher. He’d brought Chinese over to discuss the case, but they hadn’t done much eating, or discussing. No, they’d gone straight to bed. He’d been so serious, so absorbed in finding Vallejo, and she’d wanted to ease those worries he seemed to carry on his back like an albatross. She’d wanted to help him.
But she’d been no help at all, it turned out. As a partner, or as a lover.
She’d been so naïve, so lovestruck by him, her first real relationship, that even work fell by the wayside. Ruby now believed Vallejo depended on the distraction and used it against them.
That night, they’d made plans to tell Bellisario, the Deputy Director, about their relationship—to lay it all out on the table and make it official. ...
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