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Before She Dies

Before She Dies

4.1 67
by Mary Burton

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He Is Their Judge. . .

In death, they are purified. Holding his victims under water, he washes away their sins as they struggle for their last breath. Then he stakes their bodies to the ground, exposing them for what they really are. Witches, sent to tempt and to corrupt. . .

Jury. . .

No one knows about defense attorney Charlotte Wellington's


He Is Their Judge. . .

In death, they are purified. Holding his victims under water, he washes away their sins as they struggle for their last breath. Then he stakes their bodies to the ground, exposing them for what they really are. Witches, sent to tempt and to corrupt. . .

Jury. . .

No one knows about defense attorney Charlotte Wellington's murdered sister, or about her childhood spent with the carnival that's just arrived in town. For Charlotte, what's past is past. But others don't agree. And as a madman's body count rises, she and Detective Daniel Rokov are drawn into a mission that's become terrifyingly personal. . .

And Executioner

At last, she is within his reach. All his victims deserve their fate, but her guilt is greatest. And with every scream, he will make her see what it means to suffer and repent—before she dies. . .

Praise for the novels of Mary Burton

"Terrifying. . .this chilling thriller is an engrossing story." —Library Journal on Merciless

"Stieg Larsson fans will find a lot to like in Burton's taut, well-paced novel." —Publishers Weekly on Senseless"A twisted tale. . .I couldn't put it down!" —Lisa Jackson on Dying Scream

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Burton’s latest romantic suspense will have readers sleeping with the lights on. Charlotte Wellington escaped her life as a carnival fortune-teller at age 16, after her sister’s murder. She also left behind her infant niece, Sooner. Now, 18 years later, Charlotte has become an ice-veneered defense attorney in Alexandria, Va. Her secret background catches up with her when her stepfather pulls his carnival into Alexandria, and Sooner is the new Madame Divine. Meanwhile, Det. Daniel Rokov, Charlotte’s strictly sex-only-no-commitment lover, is working on the murder case of a woman staked in an abandoned building, “witch” crudely tattooed on her forehead. When a second ritualistic murder occurs, Charlotte worries that Sooner could be next. The terrifying viewpoint of the killer, who tortures his victims and has reserved stakes for Charlotte and Sooner, adds tension to this well-paced thriller with a gloss of romance. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"[A] well-paced thriller with a gloss of romance." ---Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Product Details

Publication date:
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4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Before She Dies



Copyright © 2012 Mary Burton
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4201-1021-0

Chapter One

Present Day Tuesday, October 19, 5:15 a.m.

She had a power over him.

In this room, alone with her, words failed him. Here he followed her lead, moving with an economy of motion, undressing quickly and falling into bed before reason spoke. Their sex was always urgent. Hot. And it left his heart punching against his ribs.

This time, like every time before, she rose out of bed, his scent clinging to her, and dressed in silence. He knew what would follow. She'd manage a quick fix of her tousled auburn hair, they'd share obligatory, if not embarrassed, pleasantries, and she would leave, never suggesting that there should be a next time.

However, this time when she rose, Daniel wasn't content to just let her leave. He rolled on his side and watched her trembling fingers smooth the bunched cream silk slip down over her naked hips. She moved to the mirror and inspected once well-applied makeup now sinfully smudged and pale skin, crimson with sex's afterglow.

He wanted her back in bed, curled at his side, but he hesitated to ask. She'd been clear from the beginning that she'd only signed up for good, hot sex. She didn't want a lover or a boyfriend or anything that involved commitment.

That first time he'd agreed to her terms, counting his lucky stars and fully expecting little more than satisfaction and a pleasant memory. But from that initial release until now, he couldn't get enough of her. The more she gave, the more he wanted.

And the line she'd drawn between professional and personal had entirely faded—for him.

Manicured fingers slid over the slip as she glanced at the clock on the nightstand, sighed, and collected her scattered clothes from the floor.

He made no effort to hide his fascination with her. They'd shared this motel room five other times now, but he'd yet to see her fully naked. She had a long sleek form, creamy skin, a narrow tapered waist, and a nicely rounded bottom. He wasn't sure what she hid from him, but found the mystery more consuming each time they had sex.

Last time he'd seen the scar marring her side and thought he'd discovered her secret. When he'd asked her about it, she'd shrugged and said, "I was shot."

Curious, he'd pulled the police file and read the details of the shooting. It had occurred three years ago. She'd been working late. A client's hit man had entered her office and shot her because she'd been considered a loose end. Bleeding and alone, she'd escaped to a bathroom and locked the door. The shooter, unable to reach her, had barricaded her inside and left her for dead. It would be another eight hours before she would escape and call 911. The crime scene photos had stirred primal anger in him. Even now he could vividly recall photo images of her blood staining the bathroom's carpeted floor; the door hinges she wedged free with the tip of her high heels; and her bloodied silk blouse left behind by EMTs.

"Do you think about the shooting?" he'd said as he'd kissed the scar.

She threaded her fingers through his hair. "No."

"It's got to bother you."

Her fingers stilled. "I never dwell on the past."

If she weren't hiding the bullet hole scar, then why not take off the slip? Last night when he'd tried to tug it off her, she'd resisted. What else was there to hide?

She slipped on her blouse and efficiently buttoned it. Sliding on a pencil-thin black skirt, she tucked in her shirttail and with the flick of the zipper was again all elegance and class. Maybe some old lesson from charm school kept her from stripping totally.

Thinking about that slip and what it hid gave him another hard-on. "Why don't you stay?"

She found her panties and, facing him, tucked them in her purse. "We both have early calls."

"You gave your final summation yesterday. The pressure is off until the jury comes back. Go in to the office late today. You've earned it."

She arched a neat eyebrow. "I've never been late before."

He propped his head on his hand. "Be late."


"Once is not enough when it comes to you."

She readjusted her pearl necklace so the diamond clasp was again in the back. A smile played with the corners of her lips. "I wish I could stay for an encore. Really. But I've got appointments."

"All work and no play makes Charlotte a dull girl, counselor."

"All work keeps Charlotte liquid and her bills paid, detective."

Naked, he rose off the bed and moved toward her until he was inches away. Towering, he fingered the pearls around her neck. She smelled of Chanel and him. "We should have dinner sometime."

She grinned. "We just had dessert."

"I'm talking about real food. Tables, chairs, forks, knives, and spoons."

She didn't pull away. "I don't think so."

"You've got to eat sometime."

"We drew a line. It has to remain fixed and secure."

He curled the pearls around his index finger. "The defense attorney doesn't want to be seen with a cop?"

"Maybe the cop shouldn't be seen with the older defense attorney."

"Three years doesn't count as older. And I don't care who sees me with you."

She untangled his finger from her pearls. "We are judged by the company we keep."

The wistful, if not sad, edge surprised him. She wasn't talking about him. But who? Another mystery. Another reason to want her.

As she picked up her purse, he pressed his erection against her backside. "Stay just a few more minutes."

She tipped her head against his chest. Tonight there'd been more urgency in her lovemaking, which he'd attributed to the murder trial's conclusion. "I can't."

"That sounds halfhearted." Sensing a shift, he pushed her hair aside and kissed her neck. Her sharp intake of breath pleased him.

"I have to go." The trademark steel in her voice had vanished.

He turned her around and unfastened the buttons of her blouse until he could see the ivory lace of her slip. He kissed her shoulder, her chin, and the top of her breast.

"We have rules about avoiding tangles."

"Fuck the rules. And the tangles."

She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. When she broke the connection, she was breathless. "I really have to leave in twenty minutes or I will be late." The whispered words gave no hints of the woman he'd seen on the courthouse steps late yesterday. Swamped by reporters, that woman had been cool, direct, and flawless ice.

The contrasts added to the mystery. "Have dinner with me."

Her fingers wrapped around his erection. "No time for talking, detective."

He swallowed, struggling to hold on to clear thought. "You are avoiding the question."

Her hands moved in smooth, even strokes. "Nineteen and a half minutes."

Until now she'd called the shots. But that would change. Soon.

Dinner and power plays relegated to another day's battle, he kissed her as he scooped her up and laid her in the center of the bed. Straddling her, he reached for the package of condoms on the nightstand. Urgency blazed through him. He tore open the pack with an impatient jerk and slid on the rubber.

As she wriggled under him, tugging up her skirt, he thought he'd explode. There was nothing else in the world that mattered more now.

When he nestled between her legs, his beeper vibrated on the nightstand. Fuck.

She glanced at him expectantly. "Do you need to get that?"

"They can wait," he growled.

She gripped his shoulders as he pressed into her. "You sure?"


They both forgot about deadlines, clients, and responsibilities.

Chapter Two

Tuesday, October 19, 6:45 a.m.

Detective Daniel Rokov pulled up at the crime scene and shut the car engine off. He got out of the car and retrieved his suit jacket from the hanger in the backseat. Sliding it on, he took a moment to adjust the jacket collar, and then do a quick check of his gun, phone, and badge, which hung on his belt. He shook off his lingering drowsiness and closed the squad door.

The scene was at The Wharf, an abandoned restaurant sandwiched between Union Street in Old Town Alexandria and the Potomac. The faded white building was square and set eight feet off the ground on stilts. The exterior had been neglected since the place had closed over a decade ago, and the wooden decking and stairs looked as if they'd tumble in the next real windstorm. The place had been a popular restaurant back in the day, and the roof top dining had offered some of the best views of the Potomac River in the area. He'd heard that the city had purchased the building and planned renovations, but given a tanking economy and a dwindling tax base, that wasn't likely.

The trees along the river had turned from a deep green to a mixture of oranges, browns, and yellows. The air was a cool sixty degrees, which compared to the summer's triple-digit numbers, felt phenomenal.

The paved parking lot, fenced off from Union Street by a ten-foot chain-link fence, was filled with a half-dozen white Alexandria Police marked cars. The city's forensics van was parked on the side of the building, and the vehicle's back-bay doors were open. He surveyed the area and searched for any orange cones used to indicate stray shell casings, tire marks, or anything else that might be considered evidence. He didn't see any.

A handful of tourists had gathered. This was the height of the tourist season in Old Town. Ghost and historic tours ran nightly, and it was common to see large groups of people shuffling past as a guide pointed out the buildings where troubled spirits lingered past their exit dates. He'd taken a date on a city tour about six months ago. Monica. She'd been with the tourism bureau and had suggested the excursion. He'd been out of his divorce less than a year, but backbreaking hours had left him little time to date so he'd still been rusty. The tour had been more interesting, but Monica had been more concerned about incoming text messages than him. By the end of the date she'd called him rigid. Rigid. Because he'd expected common courtesy. Shit.

"Danny-boy, is that the suit you wore yesterday?"

The rusty voice belonged to his partner, Detective Jennifer Sinclair, a tall brunette who tended to wear jeans with a black turtleneck and a worn leather jacket. Today, as most days, she'd swept her thick hair into a bun at the base of her neck. Only on the rare occasions when she wore her hair down did its lush ends brush the middle of her back. She liked to work out at the gym, had an athlete's physique, but swore she didn't enjoy sports. Raised by a single cop father, she moved among the detectives and uniforms easily, never falling prey to jabs and jokes and always able to toss back what she received.

Rokov rested his hands on his hips. "I can't wear a suit two days in a row?"

"You only wear your best suits to court. Court was yesterday. Not today."

Early this morning, he'd walked Charlotte Wellington to her car parked outside their motel room, left her with a very public kiss, and then snagged his Dopp kit from the trunk of his car. He kept the kit stocked with an electric razor and other essentials. He'd been presentable in ten minutes, but there'd been no time to drive to his apartment and collect a change of clothes. "You're a regular calendar. You gonna hit me with a weather prediction next?"

Rokov and Sinclair were two detectives in a four-person homicide department. They had been in court yesterday along with the other two members, Deacon Garrison and Malcolm Kier, to hear the summations in the Samantha White murder trial. White, a thirty-year-old housewife, was accused of murdering her husband. Most would have bet the young woman, who'd confessed to crushing her husband's head with a golf club, would easily be convicted of first-degree murder. None of the public defenders had wanted the case. And then Charlotte Wellington had stepped into the picture, and all bets were off. Wellington had insisted her client had acted in self-defense, and the slam-dunk conviction had dissolved into uncertainty by trial's end.

"So you gonna ask her out?" Sinclair said.


"Charlotte Wellington. I saw the way you were staring at her in court yesterday. Very intense."

The jab would have gotten another male cop a threatening glare, but Jennifer reminded him so much of his kid sister all he could manage was a shrug. "Maybe I was paying attention to her summation. Try it sometime."

Jennifer grinned, unfazed. "So you are gonna ask her out?"

His gaze roamed the lot around the building. "Why would I ask her out?"

"'Cause you got a thing for her."

A brackish breeze billowed the folds of his jacket. Hands on hips, he asked, "And what birdie told you that?"

"Don't need a birdie, man. I can read you like a book."

He smiled, more relieved than amused. She was fishing blind. "Sinclair, as much as I love girl talk, we got a victim who might like some of our attention."

A half smile raised full lips covered with no lipstick. "Whatever you say, Danny-boy."

They ducked under the yellow crime scene tape and passed a collection of cops and cars with flashing lights. Rokov found the uniform that had been the first responder and secured the crime scene. The guy was mid-forties, short, stocky, and sported a dark crew cut and a thick mustache.

Rokov extended his hand and introduced himself. "You're Jack Barrow, right?"

"That's right." Hearing the sound of his own name relaxed the guy a fraction. "Heard you had a talent for remembering details."

"Naw, not really. I just remembered you got that service award last spring for working with the kids in the Seminary District."

"Right again." Barrow hooked thick thumbs into his waistband.

Sinclair shook hands with Barrow. "Your wife birth that baby?"

"Not yet," he sighed.

"Damn, boy," Sinclair said. "What does this make, number four?"

"Five." He glanced at Rokov. "This gal's old man trained me when I was a rookie. I think she was in elementary school then."

Sinclair shook her head. "Please, no visiting the dark ages."

Barrow tossed her a friendly wink. "She tossed a mean softball."

"We're not here to talk about me or your old self," Sinclair said. "Give us the rundown."

Barrow's gaze turned toward the building, and his expression grew somber. Few outsiders could understand how cops could joke in times like this. Cops, however, understood it was the jokes that got them through times like this.

"This one is a real freak show. Sure to give cops nightmares and land on the ghost tour when the details leak out." Barrow glanced at Sinclair, all traces of humor gone. "I'm sorry you're gonna have to see it."

Sinclair cocked her head. "I can handle it."

"Break your old man's heart to know you do this kind of work."

For the first time, Sinclair had no quip.

"What drew you to the building?" Rokov said to Barrow.

"Saw a light in the second-story window. Like a candle flickering. The place is locked up tighter than a drum because it's unsafe. City bought the building. Supposed to be torn down. Anyway, thought we might have vagrants or druggies so I called for backup and we went to check it out." He rubbed the back of his neck with his hands. "We didn't find anyone there except the victim."

"Male or female?" Rokov said. He pulled a notebook from the breast pocket of his jacket and a pen.


"You see how she died?"

Morning light cast shadows on Barrow's face and deepened the creases. "No. The scene makes me think of, well ... better you just go up there and see for yourself."

"Sure," Rokov said.

"Watch the stairs. They're old. Not too stable."


He moved past Sinclair and took to the stairs first, knowing if they gave way, he might have time to warn Sinclair off. Plus he couldn't shake the thought of Sinclair's old man cringing when his baby girl entered the scene.

"I could have gone first," she said.

His partner didn't appreciate chivalry, so he did his best to downplay it. "Then move faster next time."

The stairs creaked and groaned and shifted slightly as they climbed past the first floor to the second. Sunlight streamed into the first floor, but instead of cheer, it added an eerie quality that deepened and extended the shadows.

There was only one other cop on the floor and the forensics tech. No doubt, there'd been some concern about structure as well as foot traffic in the dusty room. Plus, the fewer people up here, the better.

Both detectives put on paper booties and snapped on rubber gloves.

They moved toward the tech, Paulie Somers, a crusty guy in his late forties who didn't tolerate interruptions well. Paulie wore a jump suit, booties, and gloves. Snapping pictures, he didn't bother with greetings.


Excerpted from Before She Dies by MARY BURTON Copyright © 2012 by Mary Burton. Excerpted by permission of ZEBRA BOOKS. 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.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"[A] well-paced thriller with a gloss of romance." —-Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Meet the Author

Mary Burton is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several historical romance and romantic suspense novels, including Senseless, Dying Scream, and Dead Ringer.

Johanna Parker, an AudioFile Earphones Award winner, has earned an esteemed Audie Award and three Audie nominations. She has received high praise for her work in all genres, including her portrayal of Sookie Stackhouse in Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire Mysteries series.

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Before She Dies 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 67 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put this down. A MUST read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the characters of Charlotte and Daniel. They were real! The action was non-stop and the romance was just the right romance/suspense blend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All i can say is wow wow wow! Best of her books to date! The twists & surprises left me speechless, the whole book had me on the edge of my seat...i could not believe the ending...i never saw it coming! All the makings of an unbelievable thriller! Great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mary Burton is a wonderful author and her books are always page turners!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was my first book by Mary Burton and I enjoyed the flow of the book, it kept me wanting to finish the book to find out just what really happened. Because of this book being enjoyable to read, I've bought three more of her books and I can't wait to read them. I'd say that Mary Higgins Clark and Mary Jane Clark you have another Mary that can also write a good read.
livlife More than 1 year ago
Great Book! Mary Burton's best book to date! I read in two days , couldn't put it down. This is the story of Charlotte Wellington (Grace) who after her sister was drowned ran away from living and working in a carnival.Charlotte worked hard at changing her life to become a self respected attorney. After years of perfecting her life as Charlotte the carnival is back in town and the past and present collide. Her love interest Daniel is a believable character who Charlotte slowly falls in love with who is also a detective working on a serial killer case that one of the suspects works at the carnival. There is a killer on the loose that now has Charlotte in his sights. Great thriller, great story, believable characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am not sure what it is but this book lacked something for me. It reminded me of a lisa jackson wannabe...everything was there for a really intense thriller...but, it didnt quite hit the mark for me. I will give this author another try before i write her off for good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fast read, one of her best. Can not wait for her next book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written, held my attention. Really recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Mary Burton. I couldn't put the book down.
OldHorn58 More than 1 year ago
This is truly a very good mystey and well worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really good. I could not put it down. Plan to read more of the authors books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very good read
Bukgoddess More than 1 year ago
Charlotte Wellington is a self-made attorney with all the polish expected of someone as successful as she is in this posh Alexandria community. A thriving private practice and a lush condominium overlooking the river mask a past life no one would imagine. Charlotte ensures the secrets of her past remain protected in the solitary life she leads, allowing no one a glimpse into her personal life. Charlotte only projects the professional persona she wants everyone to see, the continuing success of her practice the number one purpose that she will stop at nothing to keep. However, one person is working to solve the mysteries she conceals and will use his all his resources to solve them; he feels he is best qualified to unearth them as Daniel Rokov is a police detective after all. The arrival of the last person Charlotte ever hoped to see bringing with him a request she cannot bring herself to deny, leads Charlotte to fear the past she worked so hard to bury will soon be uncovered. In its wake, a suspect in a grisly murder investigation threatens to point Daniel straight to the life Charlotte once lead. Although, in the shadows someone else watching from afar, also has an interest in Charlotte’s past, and will stop at nothing to show what is in store for her, before she dies.
PJ16 More than 1 year ago
Third book was really good I liked Daniel Rokov more than Charlotte because of his family. The story was really good and I had an idea of who it was but she did keep you guessing until the end. Was a great third book with a really good story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
every book Mary Burton writes is great
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wants some serious sex...
ytaylor More than 1 year ago
WOW... Mary  Burton has a way of making you hold your breath until the very end!! So much action itis so hard to put her books down.  I am on my 7th book so far of hers, and I have NEVER been disappointed!There is someone murdering women, and writing witch on their bodies. Charlotte Wellington has a past she is trying to keep hidden.  Having a reputation of an uptight attorney, if people knew the truth, everything she has fought so hard to bury could ruin everything, so when the carnival comes back to town, her secret could get out...
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good story, good character development, good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago