A columnist for the Big Easy's hottest erotic magazine, Britta Berger has heard her share of wild, hidden desires. But beneath her sophisticated facade, Britta is running from much darker secrets...including the terrifying night she barely survived. Now someone from her past has returned to play a merciless game. And only one man can help her....
Detective Jean-Paul Dubois knows instinctively that Britta is the key to ending the string of vicious ritualistic murders that plague his city. But still haunted by his past, he must resist the dangerous attraction between them. For lurking deep in the shadows of the bayou, a killer waits to end her life--and their future--with one devastating final strike.
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May 31, 2007
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Excerpt from Say You Love Me by Rita Herron
New Orleans--thirteen years later One week before Mardi Gras
"I KNOW YOUR secrets. And you know mine."
The hairs on the nape of Britta Berger's neck stood on end as the note slipped from her hand to the wroughtiron table. She'd already sifted through a half dozen letters for her Secret Confessions column at the magazine she worked for, Naked Desires. All erotic. Some titillating, others romantic as they described various private confessions and sexual fantasies. Some bordered on S and M. And others were plain vulgar and revealed the debauchery of the South's sin city.
But this note felt personal.
An odd odor wafted from the envelope, a scent she vaguely recalled. One that made her skin crawl.
Powdery sugar from her morning beignet settled like snowflakes on the charcoal-gray paper as she glanced around the crowded outdoor cafe to see if someone was watching her. A drop of sweat trickled into her bra, a side effect of the record high temperatures for January.
Or maybe it was nerves.
The French Quarter always seemed steeped in noise, but today excitement buzzed through the air like mosquitoes on a frenzy. The twelve days of partying and parades leading up to Mardi Gras had already brought hordes of masked creatures, artisans, musicians, voodoo priestesses, witchdoctors, tourists--and crime. Bourbon Street fed the nightlife and drew the tourists with its infamous souvenir shops, voodoo paraphernalia, palm readers, street musicians, strip clubs, jazz and blues clubs and seedy all-night bars. And then the hookers...
The massive crowd closed around her as the sidewalk seemed to move with them. Any one of them could be the enemy. Any one of them could have sent her the note.
Battling panic, she reread the words. I know your secrets. And you know mine.
Yes, she'd done things she wasn't proud of. Things no one else must ever know. They would say she was a bad girl. But she had done what she had to do in order to survive.
The very reason she was the perfect editor for the Secret Confessions column. She wanted her privacy. Understood that the written word could be evocative. But the fantasies deserved to be kept anonymous.
Just as she tried to do with her identity. Always changing her name. Running.
And what better place for her to hide than in the heart of New Orleans, so near to where it had all happened? Working for this magazine was the perfect cover, the perfect way for her to blend with the masses.
But how could the person who'd written the note know about her past? The horror. The shame. The lies.
They couldn't. It was impossible. She'd never told a soul.
Furious, she stuffed the note inside the envelope. It was probably just a prank from some sex-starved fan who wanted to win her attention--like the pervert with the fetish for penis rings who'd exposed himself to her in Jackson Square last week.
Just because she printed sexually explicit material, some people thought that she understood their individual desires. Condoned their behavior. And that she wanted them personally.
Shivering at the thought, she tried to shake off her anxiety. No one knew the real Britta Berger.
And no one ever would.
She took a deep drink of water to swallow the remnants of the beignet which had lodged in her throat. In the background, the singer drifted into a slow tune, crooning out his heartache blues. A tall man, around forty with a goatee and wire-rimmed glasses, strode by and stared at her. She froze. Was he going to stop? Tell her he had sent the note? That he'd been following her? Waiting to watch her reaction?
Oddly, though, he winked at her and strode down the crowded sidewalk toward the Business District. She breathed out a sigh but forced herself to take a mental snapshot of the man in case she saw him again.
Time to let old ghosts die. Move on.