Dante had been courting his victim in cyberspace for weeks before meeting her in person. A few sips of wine and a few hours later, she was dead. The murder weapon: a rare, usually undetectable date-rape drug with a street value of a quarter million dollars. Detective Eve Dallas is playing and replaying the clues in her mind. The candlelight, the music, the rose petals strewn across the bed - a seduction meant for his benefit, not hers. He hadn't intended to kill her. But now that he had, he is left with only two choices: to either hole up in fear and guilt. Or start hunting again…
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July 13, 2003
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Excerpt from Seduction in Death by J. D. Robb
Death came in dreams. She was a child who was not a child, facing a ghost who, no matter how often his blood bathed her hands, would not die.
The room was cold as a grave, hazed by the red light that blinked, on and off, on and off, against the dirty window glass. The light spilled over the floor, over the blood, over his body. Over her as she huddled in the corner with the knife, covered with gore to the hilt, still in her hand.
Pain was everywhere, radiating through her in stupefying waves that had no beginning or end, but circled, endlessly circled, into every cell. The bone in her arm he'd snapped, the cheek where he'd backhanded her so carelessly. The center of her that had torn, again, during the rape.
She was smothered by the pain, coated with shock. And washed with his blood.
She was eight.
She could see her own breath as she panted. Little ghosts that told her she was alive. She could taste the blood inside her mouth, a bright and terrible flavor, and smell -- just under the ripeness of fresh death -- the stink of whiskey.
She was alive, and he was not. She was alive, and he was not. Again and again she chanted those words in her head, and her mind tried to make sense of them.
She was alive. He was not.
And his eyes, open and staring, fixed on her.
You can't get rid of me so easy, little girl.
Her breath came faster, in hitching gasps that wanted to gather into a scream. That wanted to burst out of her throat. But all that came was a whimper.
Made a mess of things, haven't you? Just can't do what you're told.
His voice was so pleasant, bright with that grinning humor she knew was the most dangerous of all. While he laughed, blood poured out of the holes she'd hacked into him.
What's the matter, little girl? Cat got your tongue?
I'm alive and you're not. I'm alive and you're not.
Think so? He wiggled his fingers, a kind of teasing wave that made her moan in terror as wet red drops flicked from the tips.
I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. Don't hurt me again. You hurt me. Why do you have to hurt me?
Because you're stupid. Because you don't listen! Because -- and here's the real secret -- I can. I can do what I want with you and nobody gives a stinking rat's ass. You're nothing, you're nobody, and don't you forget it, you little bitch.
She began to cry now, thin cold tears that tracked through the mask of blood over her face. Go away. Just go away and leave me alone!
I'm not going to do that. I'm never going to do that.
To her horror, he pushed himself to his knees. Crouched there like some nightmarish toad, bloody and grinning. Watching her.
I got a lot invested in you. Time and money. Who puts a fucking roof over your head? Who puts food in your belly? Who takes you traveling all over this great country of ours? Most kids your age haven't seen shit, but you have. But do you learn? No, you don't. Do you pull your weight? No, you don't. But you're gonna. You remember what I told you? You're gonna start earning your keep.
He got to his feet, a big man with his hands slowly balling into fists at his side.
But now, Daddy has to punish you. He took a shambling step toward her. You've been a bad girl. And another. A very bad girl.
Her own screams woke her.
She was drenched in sweat, shuddering with cold. She fought for breath, wildly struggled to tear away the ropes of sheets that had wrapped around her as she'd thrashed through the nightmare.
Sometimes he'd tied her up. Remembering that, she made small, animal sounds in her throat as she tore at the sheets.
Freed, she rolled off the bed, crouched beside it in the dark like a woman prepared to flee or fight.
"Lights! On full. God, oh God."
They flashed on, chasing even a hint of shadow out of the huge, beautiful room. Still, she scanned it, every corner, looking for ghosts as the nasty edge of the dream jabbed through her gut.