Laura Niles walked out the door and never looked back. As she left Washington, DC, her career was in ruins and her love life decimated. Her desperate flight eventually led her to Bliss, Colorado, where she managed to find a new home and a little peace. That will have to be enough because Laura cannot imagine finding happiness without the men she left behind.
For five years, Rafe Kincaid and Cameron Briggs have searched for the only woman they ever loved. When she disappeared, everything became crystal clear. For one night, everything had been perfect and instead of embracing what they had found, they let it all slip away. They had let worries about their FBI careers and what others might think destroy the most precious gift they had ever been given. Now they have finally tracked her down, and they want answers.
Laura is shocked when her former loves show up in her new home. When the full force of the FBI arrives with them, Laura knows that the quirky little town is in for a rough ride. The killer that ruined her life has been watching and waiting for the opportunity to strike again. For Rafe, Cam, and Laura it’s time for second chances — to stop a monster, and to reclaim everything they lost.
Release date: September 25, 2018
Publisher: DLZ Entertainment, LLC
Print pages: 324
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Lost in Bliss
Cameron Briggs felt like he was storming the castle. His heart was beating, adrenaline coursing through his body as he charged through the double doors that separated the FBI offices from the lobby. It had been years since he’d walked through those doors. Hell, he probably didn’t have clearance to be in this part of the building anymore, but he wasn’t allowing anyone to keep him out today.
Luckily, the guard on duty was a small, gray-haired woman who smiled brightly at him as he strode through the double doors.
“Agent Briggs!” Helen Angelo exclaimed, getting to her feet. “It’s been a long time.”
Cam shook his head. “I’m not an agent anymore, Helen. Is Rafe in?”
If Rafael Kincaid wasn’t in his office, then Cam would hunt his ass down. The bastard hadn’t answered his phone, and Cam had left three messages. The printout in his hand nearly burned his skin.
Five years. He’d looked for her for five years.
Helen frowned, and Cam felt the weight of her disapproval. “Yes, I heard you had left the Bureau. I don’t think it was a good career move for you.”
He hadn’t given dick about his career when he’d left the Bureau. There had been nothing for him here after what had happened to Laura. A vision of Laura Rosen leapt into his mind. Blonde, gorgeous, with a soft body and a softer heart. The vision didn’t have to leap all that far. Every time he closed his eyes he saw her, smiling and looking down at him, her blonde hair around her shoulders as she rode his cock.
And every time he went to sleep he saw her another way—battered, beaten, and stabbed, being shoved into an ambulance.
“Where’s Rafe?” Cam didn’t have time to argue. This was the best lead he’d had in five fucking years. He wanted to follow it now.
He would already be on a plane if he hadn’t made that damn promise to Rafe.
“Special Agent Kincaid is in a meeting. An important meeting with the director and the SAC and a task force. He and his partner are giving a briefing.”
Yeah, yeah. They were all important. Everything was important to the goddamn FBI except the agents who didn’t perfectly follow procedure. They could go to hell.
Or they could go to Bliss. What a fucking name. How on earth had his cosmopolitan Laura ended up in some podunk Colorado town?
He gave Helen a wave. “Thanks. I’ll take it from here.”
Cam took off. He heard Helen yelling behind him, but he wasn’t about to sit in the waiting room for the briefing to be over. He wasn’t Rafe’s lapdog, as many had claimed. Sure, he’d taken money from Rafe over the years, but only because they had a single goal in mind. A goal Cam had accomplished.
He opened the door to the briefing room but was startled to find absolutely no one there. It was empty and silent, though Cam remembered a time when he’d stood in the room and listened for quiet words.
You don’t believe me. How could you stand there and tell them all I’m wrong? How could you advise the chief to take me off the biggest case of my career?
He shut the door quickly. There were only ghosts in that room. There were ghosts everywhere in this building.
He shook off the feeling. He still needed to find Rafe. If the meeting wasn’t being held in the briefing room, then they were using the auditorium.
Maybe Helen was right. Maybe this meeting was important.
He slipped into the auditorium, where large-scale briefings were held. The lights were dimmed, and the only illumination came from the projector. No fun movies for the FBI. Only horror shows, and this was no different. He was assaulted by the picture projected on the wall, a woman, young, but no longer vital. Her glassy eyes stared out of the picture, utterly unseeing. Her flesh was a pale white, the only bit of color a shiny mauve-colored lipstick painted on her lips.
She was naked, her hands tied over her head. The victim’s wrists had been bound so tightly that her hands were blue. She would have lost feeling in them long before she died. Her pale flesh was a map of cuts, some shallow, some terrifyingly deep. He knew this killer. This killer liked to start with small stabbing wounds to the lower abdomen, painful, but not fatal. Long strips of flesh had been lashed from the victim’s breasts and thighs. This woman’s death hadn’t been quick. It had been a long, slow opera of torture ending in her throat being slit like a lamb led to slaughter. He’d seen it before. Cam let his eyes drift down as his stomach did a flip.
The Marquis de Sade.
Yeah, this was an important meeting.
“The victim was discovered outside the warehouse district on Tuesday morning. Her name is Christine Parker. She was a prostitute working the area.”
He shrank back, all thoughts of breaking up this meeting gone in a tidal wave of fear and self-loathing. De Sade had been gone for five years. He’d been utterly silent, like a shark who feasted in the shallows of the beach before sinking back into the deep. The shark was surfacing again. Cam had always known he would. De Sade loved his work too much to stop. Rafe had been watching for him, too. They’d theorized that he was in prison, or he’d moved to another city after his close call with the law. Five years had sped by with not a hint of the serial killer.
How was this happening again? How the hell was this happening just when he’d found Laura, the only victim of the infamous serial killer to have ever gotten away?
A tall, broad figure stood by the projector, his solid body almost ghostly in the shadowy light. Cam’s former partner had been a bit like a ghost these last few years. He’d seen Rafe rarely and only to update him on the progress he’d made in finding Laura. Rafe had become a bank account Cam tapped into when he needed money to follow a lead. There was a man standing beside Rafe. Cam couldn’t see his face, but he knew the name. Brad Conrad. Ex-college football star and all-around asshole. It was kind of hard to believe, but in another year’s time, Brad would be Rafe’s partner for longer than Cam had been.
Rafe Kincaid’s deep voice continued. It was far steadier than Cam’s heart rate, and, for a moment, jealousy and rage curled in his belly. Rafe had never loved Laura the way he did. How could he if he could stand there and talk about the man who had almost killed her the same way a college professor talked about a Shakespearean sonnet?
“As with all previous victims, this one was found with lipstick on her. Forensics has already verified that it’s the same brand and shade as the others. Purple Passion. Also, according to forensics, the victim had been killed at least twelve hours before. Blood spatter indicates she was killed where her body was found.”
That was the pattern. The lipstick. The victim was a prostitute. She’d been tortured before she was killed. Everything fit the pattern. He simply didn’t want to believe it. “He’s been quiet for years. Why has he started working again?”
At least twenty-five heads turned.
Rafe put a hand over his eyes as though trying to see across the distance. “Cam?”
Even in the low light of the auditorium, Cam could see Brad puffing up. “Briggs, this is a closed session. We don’t need low-level PIs here. If you need information on something, please go and ask the secretary.”
Rafe turned briefly and exchanged words with Brad Cam couldn’t hear. Before Rafe could turn back, the lights came on. An almost relieved sigh swept through the room. The picture on screen seemed to recede a little, no longer the main focus of the world.
“Cameron Briggs, you son of a bitch!”
Cam turned and couldn’t help but smile. Joseph Stone, his former Bureau chief, took the stairs two at a time, his familiar face lit with a smile. He’d aged very little since the last time Cam had seen him. Joseph was a big, athletic guy. As long as Cam had known him, he’d been bald, but even that made him seem a bit powerful. Joseph was the type of man other men followed.
“Special Agent Stone.” Cam took his hand and shook it. Joe had always been a good boss. He was Harvard educated and highly connected, but he’d always known how to make a guy feel welcome.
Joe pumped his hand twice and slapped him gently on the back. “No need for formalities any more. Did Rafe call you? I have all the paperwork set up to bring you in as a contractor. We need everyone on this. It’s going to take everything we have to catch this one. I don’t have anyone on the team with your computer skills.”
Cam looked to his former partner, who had his head down, one foot tapping against the floor. Guilty as sin.
“No, he didn’t call me.” Betrayal burned through him. Apparently, despite their oaths to one another, his former partner didn’t think it was important enough to call and tell him that the man they’d hunted for years had resurfaced. “I was here on another matter, but I can see plainly that Special Agent Kincaid is busy. I won’t interrupt him. Call me sometime, Joe. We can have a beer.”
Joe’s brows came together in a V. “What are you saying? You do understand what we’re talking about here? This is the Marquis de Sade’s work. There’s no denying it.”
Oh, he understood. He understood perfectly fine. He also understood that he had played his part, and he was naïve for thinking Rafe would play his. Rafe’s head came up, and those dark eyes of his narrowed for a moment. Ruthlessly intelligent, it wouldn’t take long for Rafael Kincaid to figure out why he was here interrupting this briefing. It wasn’t like Cam would come for lunch.
“I understand. De Sade is back.” It was time to make a strategic retreat. His fist closed around the paper in his hand. He was gentle with it. He didn’t want to crush it. It was the first glimpse he’d gotten of Laura in years. It was strangely precious to him. “Rafe’s your man. He and Special Agent Conrad can handle this. You don’t need me.”
He turned and walked out of the door. If Rafe wanted to renege on their deal, he sure as hell wasn’t about to give the man the keys to the kingdom. He would go after Laura himself.
It was better this way. Rafe could search for the killer and further his career. Cam could get what he wanted. He wanted Laura. Without Rafe around, maybe she would fall for him again. Yeah. He had a better shot without pretty, rich, smooth-as-silk Rafe around. It had been a flat-out miracle Laura had even noticed him.
“I need you, Cam.” Laura had turned to him, her plump lips red and swollen from Rafe’s kisses. Cam had kissed her and tasted the Scotch on her lips. Rafe’s drink. He’d plunged his tongue inside, not giving a damn that Rafe was behind her, his hands playing with her breasts. Somehow, in that moment, it had felt right to be there with Rafe. It had been perfect.
He stopped, pulled roughly from his memory. His feet had known which way to go. He was standing in front of the doors that led to the lobby. Rafe put a hand on his shoulder and spun him around.
“I’ve been yelling for two minutes. Why didn’t you stop?”
Cam shrugged, unwilling to betray his emotional state. He let his face go blank. He’d perfected it long ago so his father wouldn’t gain any satisfaction from knowing how deeply his insults cut. He never thought he would have to go there with Rafe. “I didn’t have anything to say.”
Rafe scrubbed a hand through his perfectly cut pitch-black hair. “That’s bullshit. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have something to say.” He glanced down at his watch. “I know you’re pissed at me. I would be pissed at me, too, but I have my reasons.”
“Were you going to tell me?” Cam asked the question as if the answer didn’t have the ability to rip his insides out. He also asked it as though he would actually believe any answer that came out of Rafe’s mouth.
Well, at least the asshole was honest. “Then we’re done here. I’ll see you in the next lifetime, brother.”
“Stop. Come on, Cam. You know we need to talk. Let me explain, and then if you don’t want to talk to me, we can be done. I need five minutes, but I have to finish that briefing. I can meet you at Oscar’s at four, okay?” Rafe was already backing up, his five-hundred-dollar shoes squeaking against the marbled floor.
Oscar’s Pub. They had spent a lot of nights unwinding at Oscar’s. For a while it had been their favorite hangout. They’d spent every night there after work. They joked that there was a booth with their names on it. He and Rafe had taken turns sitting beside Laura while they discussed the workday. “Sure. Four o’clock.”
Rafe smiled. “Four o’clock. I’ll be there.”
But Cam wouldn’t. He waved at Rafe and then walked out the door, hopped on his bike, and motored right past the bar where he was supposed to give his ex-partner five minutes of his time. He wasn’t going to waste another second.
When he pulled into his rathole of an apartment complex, he carefully unfolded the newspaper clipping he’d printed from the Internet.
Billionaire Artist’s Bride-to-Be.
It was an article featuring someone named Jennifer Waters and her spectacular wedding plans. The picture was of the bride-to-be and her bridesmaids. There were five other women in the picture, but he only saw one one. She stood toward the back as though she didn’t want to be in the photo, but a smiling red-haired woman held her hand, dragging her in. Her lips quirked up in a secretive smile. She looked different with her hair down and very little makeup on her face. She looked vibrant and happy and so sweet he could eat her alive.
The only woman he’d ever loved.
“I’m coming for you, baby.” He hopped off his bike and jogged to his apartment, eager to get the hell out of Dodge.
* * * *
Copyright 2018 Lexi Blake
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