From New York Times bestselling author Mariah Stewart comes a novel of sexy romantic suspense for fans of Nora Roberts, Catherine Coulter, and Karen Robards.Three devious prisoners vow murderous revenge. Now the first is free. It was inescapably chilling, as if the murderer was methodically working his way down a page torn from the phone book. The three victims brutally killed in their own homes had one thing in common: they were all listed as M. Douglas. The fact that Mara Douglas is next on the list has her jumping at shadows, until FBI agent Aidan Shields shows up to make sure she doesn't become the fourth victim. Aidan has been out of commission since an undercover operation went bad more than a year ago. Back on the job, his razor-sharp instincts are returning. But it will take all of Aidan's wits to stay one step ahead of the elusive killer who has engaged him in a deadly game-a game in which Mara's life is the prize. A game only one can win…BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Mariah Stewart's Dead Certain.
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May 31, 2004
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Excerpt from Dead Wrong by Mariah Stewart
Oh, sure, I heard the little one crying. And the middle one, too. Only one I never heard was the older one, the boy. They ain ' t lived here long ' maybe a month or so. I never saw much of them. Oh, once in a while, I ' d pass the boy on the steps. He never had much to say. No, never saw the mother bring men home. Never saw her much at all, though ' don ' t know when she came or went. Heard her sometimes, though. God knows she was loud enough, screaming at them kids the way she done. No, don ' t know what she was doin ' to ' em to make ' em cry like that. No, never saw no social worker come around. Don ' t know if the kids went to school.
Did I what No, never called nobody about it. Wasn ' t none of my business, what went on over there. Hey, I got troubles of my own. . . .
Mara Douglas rubbed her temples with the tips of her fingers, an unconscious gesture she made when steeped in thought or deeply upset. Reading through the notes she ' d taken while interviewing the elderly, toothless, across-the-hall neighbor of the Feehan family, she was at once immersed in the children ' s situation and sick to her stomach. The refrain was all too familiar. The neighbors heard, the neighbors turned a deaf ear rather than get involved. It was none of their business what a woman did to her children, none of their business if the kids had fallen through all the cracks. In neighborhoods as poor as this, all the tenants seemed to live in their own hell. Who could worry about someone else ' s
Mara rested her elbow on the edge of the dining room table, her chin in the palm of her hand, and marveled how a child could survive such neglect and abuse and so often still defend the parent who had inflicted the physical and emotional pain.
Time after time, case after case, she ' d seen the bond between parent and child tested, stretched to the very limit. Sometimes even years of the worst kind of abuse and neglect failed to fray that connection.
She turned her attention back to the case she was working on now. The mother ' s rights were being challenged by the paternal grandparents, who ' d had custody of the three children ' ages four, seven, and nine ' for the past seven months. Mara was the court-appointed advocate for the children, the one who would speak on their behalf at all legal proceedings, the one whose primary interest ' whose only interest ' was the best interests of the children.
As their champion, Mara spent many hours reviewing the files provided by the social workers from the county Children and Youth Services department and medical reports from their physicians, and still more hours interviewing the social workers themselves, along with neighbors and teachers, emergency room personnel, family members, and family friends. All in an effort to determine what was best for the children, where their needs ' all their needs ' might best be met, and by whom.