Bait by Karen Robards | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble


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by Karen Robards

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It's a business trip that takes advertising agency owner Maddie Fitzgerald down to New Orleans, but it's hardly business as usual when a man breaks into her hotel room and tries to kill her. Barely escaping with her life, the sexy, stylish twenty-nine-year-old brunette soon finds herself face-to-face with FBI agent Sam McCabe. Unnerved by his questions - and his good


It's a business trip that takes advertising agency owner Maddie Fitzgerald down to New Orleans, but it's hardly business as usual when a man breaks into her hotel room and tries to kill her. Barely escaping with her life, the sexy, stylish twenty-nine-year-old brunette soon finds herself face-to-face with FBI agent Sam McCabe. Unnerved by his questions - and his good looks - Maddie is told she's been targeted by an elusive killer whom McCabe has been tracking for weeks. Apparently, she's been mistaken for a woman of the same name who was also staying at the hotel that night. McCabe grills her, and then disappears. Shaken, Maddie finishes her business and returns home to St. Louis." Days later, she is attacked a second time, and McCabe convinces her that the only way she'll ever be safe again is if the killer is caught, and that the quickest way to nab him is to use her as bait. Maddie reluctantly agrees, and sparks fly and then ignite as McCabe shadows her. But their unexpected romance throws McCabe off his stride - and puts Maddie in the hands of a killer.

Editorial Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
Bestselling author Karen Robards cranks up the tension -- and the heat -- in this action-packed romantic thriller. When two women in the same city, each named Madeline Fitzgerald, are attacked on the same night, FBI agent Sam McCabe starts taking it personally. Since one intended victim survived -- resourceful young ad executive Maddie Fitzgerald -- McCabe needs her help to catch the killer, but Maddie has no intention of letting McCabe drag her further into the case. First, she has a small advertising agency to run and is about to land a major account, Brehmer's Pet Foods. Secondly, she knows why she's being stalked and she doesn't want to tell anyone, let alone the FBI. However, after a second, far more persuasive attack on her life, Maddie has no choice but to accept the protection of rugged Agent McCabe, as well as his scheme to use her as bait for the killer. It seems like a good plan until their mutual hostility turns to romance, and the distraction works to the killer's advantage. Robards pulls out all the plot stops, then throws a little comedy into the mix in the form of the Brehmer dog, Zelda, in this twisty thriller that will keep readers delightfully off kilter until the explosive ending. Ginger Curwen
Publishers Weekly
Veteran romance/crime bestseller Robards (Beachcomber; Whispers at Midnight) delivers another hold-your-breath drama, this time starring FBI agent Sam McCabe and advertising executive Maddie Fitzgerald. The sardonic hunk and the honey-eyed businesswoman are thrown together when Maddie becomes the latest target of a serial killer that Sam and his tubby assistant, E. P. Wynne, have been chasing for weeks, with no success. The body count already stands at six, but Maddie has neither the time nor the inclination to play bait for McCabe's booby trap to catch the killer. She needs the time to win the Brehmer's Dog Chow account (worth $10 million) lest her fledgling St. Louis ad agency go under before the end of the year. (And she has a secret past that she's determined not to share with anyone.) Soon enough, however, McCabe and his team are conducting a surveillance op from within her apartment, and that's when the suspense and romance really start to heat up. Though Robards's amorous prose is breathy as always ("His hand was warm and dry, big, long-fingered"; "Oh, god, he had dimples"), her pacing is excellent, and regular infusions of humor keep the story bouncing along between trysts and attacks. This one is sure to please fans. Agent, Robert Gottlieb at Trident Media. (July) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
It's bad enough that someone tries to kill her. But Maddie Fitzgerald is even more unnerved when an indisputably handsome FBI agent explains that she's (ahem) a dead ringer for the target of a much-sought-after killer and persuades her to serve as "bait." Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A babe and a bodyguard. Maddie Fitzgerald fears for her life . . . and so does the FBI agent assigned to investigate a series of murders-for-hire way down south. After two more victims are found with close-range bullet holes in their heads, Sam McCabe thinks Maddie might be next. The tough-talking fed has a great idea: How about they move in with her and wait for the killers to strike? But Maddie would rather not be bait, and handsome Sam and his oafish, fast-food-gulping sidekick make her nervous. You see, she has a secret. But, first, there's a subplot involving a surly Pekingese named Zelda, the spoiled star of a pet food ad campaign: Zelda also loves fast food! A mysterious bad guy pops up now and then as these cartoon characters do their stuff, and Maddie discovers that Sam is really very attractive ("His thigh between her legs was a revelation, a pleasure-giving machine of awesome proportions"). When not whiling away the hours in amorous dalliance, Sam figures out that mob goons went on a killing spree to protect their lucrative garbage-collection enterprises. Then tearful Maddie reveals that her dad was slaughtered in cold blood, and that she's really someone else. Will Sam still love her? Why not? On with the plot. Bang, bang!Lightweight suspense and trashy fun from the ever-popular Robards (Ghost Moon, 2000, etc.). Agency: Trident Media Group

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Copyright © 2004 Karen Robards
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-399-15202-4

Chapter One

Thursday, August 7

It was a professional job, Sam McCabe saw at a glance. The bare minimum of fuss and muss. A couple sprawled on the floor of their cathedral-ceilinged great room, hands bound behind their backs, blood from the bullet wounds in their heads soaking into the already deep red of their Oriental carpet.

"I see dead people," E. P. Wynne muttered behind him. The words were slightly slurred by the enormous wad of bubble gum the big guy was chewing in an effort to quit smoking. Sam shot him a quelling glance. Granted, they were so tired they were more or less punch-drunk, but humor in the face of multiple homicides was never a good idea.

"Who the hell are you?" A brown-uniformed local yokel separated himself from the pack at the corner of the room and came toward them, bristling. Considering that Sam was wearing jeans and a T-shirt and sporting a three-day growth of beard, while Wynne's two-hundred-fifty-pound girth was decked out in baggy shorts and a stained Hawaiian shirt, the man's attitude was understandable. But this was the culmination of another in a series of really lousy weeks. Sam was not in the mood for attitude, especially from a skinny kid who might or might not be just out of his teens.

"FBI," Sam growled, not even slowing down. Wynne, ever obliging, flashed his ID as they brushed past the kid like he wasn't even there.

"Nobody called the feds," the yokel protested to their backs, then, less certain, called over his shoulder, "Did anybody call the feds?"

"Hell, no." Another brown-uniformed local, a burly, surly-looking fifty-something with a bald head as shiny as a Christmas ornament, entered through an arched opening at the opposite end of the room in time to hear the plaintive question and headed toward them. "I'm Sheriff Burt Eigel. And sure as shit, nobody around here called anybody, reds or otherwise."

"Sam McCabe. E. P. Wynne," Sam said, jerking a thumb at Wynne as he introduced him.

"FBI," Wynne added helpfully, doing his badge-waving thing again.

Sam stopped beside the female victim and looked down at the bodies. Multiple strips of duct tape covered each victim's mouth. Thin, white cord secured their wrists. The fingers had purpled, indicating that the cords had been tied tightly enough to impede circulation-and to hurt. "Wendell Perkins and his wife, Tammy Sue, right?"

Eigel frowned. "How the hell did y'all know that?"

"Let's just say a little bird told me." Sam squatted and pressed his fingers to the carpet. It was made of fine wool, expensive, just like the furniture in the enormous great room was expensive, the newly built McMansion was expensive, and the gated Mobile, Alabama, retirement community was expensive. The blood soaking the soft, smooth fibers still retained a degree of warmth. This time he'd been close-so damned close. Twenty minutes earlier and Perkins and the missus would have been offering him a cup of coffee-or trying to sneak out their back door, depending on why they'd been hit.

Damn it to hell and back anyway.

"Who called this in?" Sam asked, still studying the bodies as he stood up and wiped his fingers on his already ripe jeans. It was not quite eleven-thirty p.m. Blonde, bird-boned Tammy Sue was dressed for bed in a pair of navy cotton pajamas and had a single white terry slipper on her left foot. Perkins, who appeared to be at least two decades her senior, was a beefy, big-bellied guy with a furry back and chicken legs. He was wearing nothing but boxers, which he had pissed. The pungent ammonia smell all but overrode the meat-locker aroma of fresh blood.

As Sam had noted on multiple previous occasions, there was no dignity in death.

"There's an alarm. Somebody here hit the panic button. We had a man on the scene nine minutes after the call came in. They were dead when we got here." Eigel paused and glared at Sam, who was glancing around without any real hope for shell casings. There were none immediately visible, and he'd be willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that none would be found. "Why the luck should I be telling you this?"

There was that attitude thing again. Sam still wasn't in the mood. "'Cause you like me?"

Eigel's florid face turned apoplectic. Ignoring him, Sam moved around the bodies, studying them from different angles. From the look of it, Perkins had died first. His wife's death had come moments later, most likely a byproduct of the hit on her husband. A glance around the room revealed several possible points of entry for the killer: the front door, which opened into the slate-floored hall that Sam and Wynne had just crossed, and which provided access to the great room through a wide, arched opening; the smaller arched door leading into the kitchen through which the sheriff had entered; or the sliding patio door on the south wall. He calculated the steps from each to the black leather couch where, from the evidence-remote control and a bowl of melted ice cream on the coffee table in front of it; the mate to Tammy Sue's white terry slipper on the carpet between the couch and table; several sections of the newspaper scattered about-Tammy Sue had been sitting when the killer surprised her.

The most likely point of egress was through the kitchen.

Wynne pulled a tiny digital camera out of his pocket and started taking pictures of the crime scene. Sam, meanwhile, headed for the kitchen.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" From the corner of his eye, Sam saw that Eigel was looking from one to the other of them. By now his face was as red as the blood-soaked carpet, and his eyes were starting to bulge out of his head like a pug dog's.

"Our jobs, man. Just like you," Wynne said soothingly. As usual, he was playing good cop to Sam's bad cop. The roles suited both of them to a tee.

"You got no jurisdiction here. This is our case."

Eigel had elected to follow him, Sam registered absently as he glanced around the kitchen. It was gleaming white, wall-to-wall cabinets, an island, the latest appliances. State-of-the-art, fit to grace one of those women's magazines. An ice-cream scoop had been left in one of the pair of stainless-steel sinks. Other than that, it was immaculate.

Sam headed toward the patio door at the far end. Its bright floral curtain wasn't shut all the way. An approximately eight-inch-wide, floor-to-ceiling slice of glass was visible, black with the darkness of the night beyond. The door was closed and locked. Careful not to touch it, he studied the handle. It had a self-locking mechanism, so the killer could have exited this way as well. Turning slowly, he stared at the pale oak floor.

A thin sliver of grass nestled near the foot of the island.


"He entered and exited here," Sam said. "You can dust for fingerprints, but you won't find any. Footprints are a better bet, especially if the ground's soft outside. He would have had to walk around the house. Maybe he got careless."

Eigel bristled. "Listen, smart guy, I'm right now officially askin' you and your pardner in there to leave. Nobody here called you, nobody here wants you, and you got no call bustin' in and tryin' to take over."

Sam ignored the comment as he turned and headed back toward the great room, retracing the killer's path. Twenty steps to the great-room door, where he paused to try to visualize the scene through the killer's eyes. The couch faced away from the door. If Tammy Sue had been sitting on the couch, eating ice cream and watching TV, she probably wouldn't have seen him coming.

At least, not until it was too late.

Feeling his stomach tighten, Sam glanced at Eigel, who was behind him again. "You got roadblocks up? Say, five miles out in all directions, access to expressways blocked, vehicles being checked as they attempt to exit the area, that kind of thing?"

"Don't tell me how to do my job."

"I take that as a 'no.'"

As Sam spoke, more people rushed into the great room from the front hall: paramedics making an unholy racket as they rolled in a pair of stretchers, a grumpy-looking man in a rumpled suit and tie, and a mid-thirties brunette in white jeans and a black T-shirt, crying, "Daddy! Oh my God, where's my daddy?"

"Janelle!" Eigel abandoned him to rush to the brunette's side, reaching her just as she stopped, clapped her hands to her cheeks, and, eyes riveted on the corpses, let out a shriek that could have cracked windows as far away as Atlanta.

Holy Christ, Sam thought, wincing as his head gave another excruciating pang. Somebody pass the Excedrin.

"Da-a-a-ddy! Da-a-a-ddy!"

"Get somebody on the door!" Clumsily patting the screeching Janelle on the back, Eigel turned to bark the order at the skinny officer in the corner, who was looking appalled. "Nobody else gets in here unless I personally clear it, understand?"

"Yes, sir!" The kid hurried toward the door. Eigel glared at Sam, muttered something that looked like "Goddamn fucking zoo," and turned back to deal as best he could with Janelle's hysterics.

Following the kid with his gaze, Sam saw that the elaborate front door, which had been just slightly ajar when he and Wynne had pushed through it moments earlier, was now standing wide open. Beyond it, he could see the ambulance that had joined the pair of police cars that already had been parked in the driveway when he and Wynne had pulled up-their first concrete indication that they were too late. The ambulance's siren was off, but its flashing blue lights lit up the night. At the bottom of the small, manicured front yard, more cars were parking hurriedly, haphazardly. A TV truck was arriving; people were charging up the yard.

Wynne joined him, pocketing his camera. "Hey, at least this time we were right behind him."

"Yeah." Sam watched as deputies started to stick tape to the carpet to mark the positions of the bodies. The guy in the suit-from an overheard snatch of conversation, Sam gathered that he was the coroner-knelt beside Tammy Sue, carefully lifting a section of long, bleached hair, now wet with blood, away from her face. Even in death, she was a pretty woman, fine-featured, carefully groomed. As he had expected, a pair of black, oozing holes the size of dimes adorned her right temple.

Like all the others, she'd been shot twice in the head. From the look of the dark stippling surrounding the wounds, it had been at point-blank range.

He was hit by a wave of weariness so strong it almost made him stagger. Seventy-two hours without sleep, seventy-two hours spent frantically racing the clock-and it ended like this.


"Hell, let's go," he said dispiritedly to Wynne. "We can get everything else we need tomorrow."


Sam headed for the door. Raising a hand in farewell to the sheriff, who had managed to get the now-sobbing Janelle into a chair, Wynne followed. Without saying so much as a word, they passed by the kid and another deputy who were holding down the doorway and slid, unnoticed, around the knot of people standing on the stoop, arguing heatedly for their right to be admitted into the house. The unaccustomed buzz of activity along with the stroboscopic lights from the ambulance had drawn the neighbors from nearby houses. Groups were congregating on nearby lawns, talking among themselves while they craned their necks to see what was going on. The TV camera crew raced toward the house. Even at that time of night, it was as steamy hot as a sauna. Stars winked lazily overhead above a canopy of feathery charcoal clouds. The moon was a distant, pale ghost of itself. A slight breeze, humid and unrefreshing, blew in from the lake across the street, rippling its moonlit surface. Walking down the golf-course-caliber lawn toward their rented Sentra, Sam took a deep breath and wished he hadn't. Flowers were everywhere, massive banks of them bordering the streets, the driveways, the walks. Their colors were muted by the darkness, but their perfume was not, lending a nauseating sweetness to the heavy air that didn't mix well with the death-scene smells that still lingered in his nostrils.

"He's watching us," he said suddenly, stopping dead and glancing at Wynne. "You know that, don't you? That son of a bitch is out here somewhere watching us. I can feel him."

"Sam..." Wynne began, and Sam knew from his tone that he was about to get lecture number 257-the one on not taking cases so personally-again.

Yeah, but this one is personal, Sam started to remind him, but before he could get the words out, his cell phone rang.

His heart jumped. Adrenaline shot through his blood like an injection of speed. Fumbling to get the phone out of his pocket, he suddenly wasn't tired anymore.

Error, the ID window on his phone read. He stiffened even as he flipped the thing open.

"McCabe," he growled.

"Close but no cigar." It was him: the sick fuck who had just whacked Wendell and Tammy Sue, who had killed at least three times previously that Sam knew for sure about, who was leading him and his team on a murderous wild-goose chase that had started with the killing of a retired federal judge in Richmond three weeks before and was proceeding south and westward, around the skirt of the country. The voice was distorted, digitally masked as usual, but by now Sam knew it better than his own.

"Where are you, you bastard?" Sam's fingers tightened on the phone as if they were gripping the caller's neck. He scanned his surroundings-the artfully placed groves of trees, the nearby houses, the shining black lake-without success. "Where are you?"

A chuckle was his only answer. "Ready for your next clue?"

"Just help me understand," Sam said, desperate to keep him talking. "Why? What do you want? What's the point of...?"

"Here goes," the voice said. "Where in the world is-Madeline?"

"Look-" Sam began, but it was no use: The phone went dead. Whatever else he was, the guy wasn't stupid; he would know they were trying to trace his calls, just like he would know they were recording them. Cursing under his breath, Sam pressed a button.

"You called, master?" Gardner answered. The technical expert of Sam's team, she was back at the Comfort Inn just off I-264 that was serving as their temporary local headquarters.

"You get that?"



"Working on it. But I doubt it. He's probably using a prepaid phone card just like before."

"Sick bastard beat us again. We got two more dead." Sam's voice was glum. He could hear the flat tone of it himself. "Call the locals, would you, see if they can set up a roadblock around the perimeter, say, five miles out, check IDs, look out for suspicious characters, that type of thing. I'd handle it, but the guy in charge here doesn't seem to like me too much."

Gardner chuckled. "Big surprise."

"Love you, too," Sam said sourly, and hung up.


Excerpted from BAIT by KAREN ROBARDS Copyright © 2004 by Karen Robards. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Karen Robards is the author of over thirty novels, most recently the New York Times bestseller Pursuit. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

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