Impulse (Faces of Evil Series #2)by Debra Webb
The Faces of Evil Series: Book 2
Her nightmare isn't over yet . . .
The Player is a master in the art of torture and murder. No one had ever gotten close to capturing him until Special Agent Jess Harris targeted him with her relentless determination. Jess's actions may have cost her a job with the bureau, but the Player still wants his/b>/b>… See more details below
The Faces of Evil Series: Book 2
Her nightmare isn't over yet . . .
The Player is a master in the art of torture and murder. No one had ever gotten close to capturing him until Special Agent Jess Harris targeted him with her relentless determination. Jess's actions may have cost her a job with the bureau, but the Player still wants his vengeance and he'll make Jess pay in ways she never imagined. The first victim is Jess's friend-and the killer won't stop there. With each new death Jess becomes more certain that the only way to stop the Player is to give him what he really wants: her.
Chief of Police Dan Burnett is determined to give Jess her confidence and her life back. With an offer on the table, a position as deputy chief of a new division, can Jess risk staying in her hometown and putting those around her in more danger? Or will she walk away to protect everyone she loves-including Dan, who just may want her back in his arms? The stakes are high, and a single impulse will determine who survives the Player's final, deadly game . . .
"Compelling main characters and chilling villains elevate Debra Webb's Faces of Evil series into the realm of high-intensity thrillers that readers won't be able to resist." New York Times bestselling author CJ Lyons"
Just when you think Debra Webb can't get any better, she does. OBSESSION is her best work yet. This gritty, edge of your seat, white knuckle thriller is peopled with tough, credible characters and a brilliant plot that will keep you guessing until the very end. Move over Jack Reacher - Jess Harris is comin' to town." Cindy Gerard, New York Times best-selling author, award winning author of the Black Ops, Inc. series"
Debra Webb's name says it all..." Karen Rose
Read an Excerpt
By Debra Webb
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2013 Debra Webb
All rights reserved.
Monday, July 19, 10:31 a.m.
Did you know that one drop of blood travels from the heart to the toes and back in under sixty seconds?"
Lori Wells tightened her fingers into fists, tugged futilely against the tape binding her to the chair, and forced herself to meet the son of a bitch's eyes. "Did you know all that blood rushing through my veins at this very moment is teeming with the urge to watch you die?"
Eric Spears smiled and made a breathy sound that wasn't quite a laugh. "You are such a brave girl, Detective Wells. I wonder if that's because your father committed suicide when you were so young." He inclined his head and stared at her as though memorizing each detail of her face like a lover intent on never forgetting the moment. "Did you have to help your mother clean up the blood afterward? Or did your neighbors jump in to help out? Y'all do that down here in the South, don't y'all?"
Lori turned away from him. Bastard. How could he know so much about her? He hadn't known her name five days ago.
A long-suffering sigh hissed past his lips. "You're quite boring, Detective." He stood. "What should I do about that?"
Renewed fear trickled inside her. Lori snapped her head up and stared into those piercing blue eyes. No. She would not give him the pleasure. She hardened her expression, refused to let him see the fissure of terror widening inside her.
"What's wrong, Eric? Can't get it up if I'm not crying like a scared little girl?" Don't let him gain control.
Fury tightened his lips. He drew back his hand.
She braced for the blow.
He laughed at her instinctive reflex. Dropped his hand to his side. "See, you are a scared little girl. Frankly, I find all that feigned bravado quite tedious."
"Life sucks like that sometimes."
He made a sound of agreement. "It does indeed." For five or six seconds he deliberated as if undecided how he would proceed. "You know the reason you're here. Why make our time together more unpleasant than necessary? It'll be much easier for both of us if you cooperate, Lori Doodle."
How dare he call her that! Her father had given her that nickname ... this scumbag had no right. She didn't need him or a GPS to show her where this was headed. "Go to hell."
She wasn't making this easy for him. He would kill her anyway.
Spears turned his back and strode across the room.
Lori quickly scanned the space now that the lights were on, searching for any aspect of her surroundings that might provide some hint as to where the hell she was.
The sedative he'd injected when he'd held her at gunpoint and forced her into his SUV had prevented her from assessing the distance or the traffic sounds as he'd driven her here. She still felt a little groggy. Her mouth was dry. She squared her shoulders, focused on clearing her head. She had to pay attention, to be ready for whatever came next. Let your training and instincts guide you.
A warehouse, she decided. An old one for sure. Smelled of neglect and vaguely of oil or grease. Brick walls soared some twenty or so feet to a ceiling where steel beams supported the roof. Naked fluorescent tubes glowed from metal fixtures suspended five or six feet overhead. The smell of disuse permeated the air. She tried to get a better look behind her. Couldn't. Wooden crates lined the wall to her right, suggesting the warehouse had been used recently in some capacity. She squinted to read the word stamped on some of the crates ... GRIMES. She'd lived here all her life but that name didn't ring a bell.
Birmingham had its share of neglected and abandoned buildings ... she'd been in a few but not this one. From her position in the middle of the large open room, she could see a door. Maybe an exit. Maybe just an office or bathroom.
One shot at that door was all she needed ... if it wasn't a dead end.
Images of what this monster had done to his other victims, all women, rolled like an old-fashioned filmstrip through her mind. Defeat chiseled away at her courage.
Spears grabbed the one remaining chair in the place and dragged it over to where she sat bound—wrists, ankles, and waist—with duct tape to a similar heavy metal chair. He scooted his chair close and straddled the seat, his spread knees flanking hers. She squeezed her legs more tightly together; she didn't want any part of him touching her. She didn't even want to draw his scent into her lungs.
Like his subtle aftershave, his wardrobe conveyed an understated elegance. The navy suit jacket hadn't come from a rack in any store where men she knew shopped. The white shirt was crisp and pristine, as if he'd just picked it up from the cleaners. The jeans fit as if they had been designed by his personal tailor. The perfect packaging for his classically attractive blond-haired, blue-eyed features.
If you want to know what evil looks like, look in the mirror.
Jess Harris had definitely gotten that right. Eric Spears, aka the Player, appeared nothing like the depraved killer Lori knew him to be. Why did he bother abducting women when he could easily charm them into his lair with that killer smile and deep, smooth voice?
The hunt. Somehow it fueled him ... drove his heinous desires.
Lori wished she knew half what Jess did about him. Maybe then she could do more than be a damned victim.
Even before she'd met Jess, Lori remembered vividly hearing in the news that not a single one of the Player's victims had ever escaped alive.
Her chest ached. She didn't want to die. Her sister needed her. Her mother needed her. She took solace in the knowledge that at least they were safe. As soon as Chief Burnett and Jess discovered Lori was missing, they would take steps to protect her family.
And Chet Harper. Lori thought of the detective, the man, who wanted so much more from her than she had given. Would she have continued to push him away if she had known this day was coming?
Spears chucked her under the chin, forcing her attention back to him. "Let's get one thing straight, Detective. However much you test me, this isn't about you," he explained in that calm, clever tone that belied his every action.
"All your hard work to reach the esteemed rank of detective earlier than most means nothing to me." He tugged at a lock of her hair, twirled it between his fingers. "That you are most attractive means nothing to me."
Lori waited, her heart thudding with apprehension, for him to spell out exactly what he wanted from her besides her life.
"I brought you here so Jess will pay attention," he whispered, leaning forward so that he lingered nose to nose with her. "You think I have her attention?"
Fear buffeting ever harder against her defenses, Lori steadied herself. She would not let him use her to get to Jess. No way.
I might be a victim, but I will not be his means of reaching Jess.
"She told me all about you." Lori forced a smile, inclined her head, and studied his face the way he had studied hers. "What happened? Did mommy fail to protect you when daddy decided he preferred you to her? Is that why you hate women so much?" His hand went to her throat; strong fingers closed tightly, cutting off her airway. "Do not toy with me, Detective. There are things you will never know, so don't waste your time and energy trying to analyze me. You'll fail just like all the rest."
There was nothing amiable about his tone now. The fear she fought to restrain dug its claws in deep even as he released her. She gasped for breath. Her thoughts raced in frantic circles. The things Jess had told her kept colliding with her own instincts.
Should she play his game or resist? What he did to her in the end wouldn't change either way, but could she slow him down or trip him up by choosing one avenue over the other?
"Do you think I have her attention?" he repeated.
"Yes." Lori cleared her throat, wishing she had a drink of water. "I'm certain you have her attention."
"That's better," he said softly. "Now, tell me about this Chief Daniel Burnett."
She filled her lungs with a jagged breath, refusing to let the fear maintain a stronghold. "What about him?"
"What's his interest in Agent Harris?"
Lori cleared her mind. Careful what you say. Don't give him any ammunition. "She's a top-notch profiler and investigator. We needed her help on a case. Because of you she's probably unemployed." Anger at what he had done to Jess chased away some of the fear. He had ruined Jess's career with the FBI.
"One does what one must. She created quite the commotion up in Richmond when she so kindly screwed up any chances of a conviction against me." He lifted his shoulders in a shrug that communicated more arrogance than indifference. "Diverting attention was essential. Now the world is focused on her inept methods rather than the precise work of a master artist." A smug chuckle rumbled from his throat. "Ironic, isn't it?"
"You think? Well, I have a newsflash for you, asshole." Mad as hell now, Lori looked straight into his eyes. His turned wary and she loved that single moment of triumph. "Jess Harris is way too smart, way too sharp, and far too in demand for a generic piece of shit like you to keep her down. If the bureau cuts her loose, Chief Burnett will offer her a top position here, just you wait and see."
That was pure conjecture, but Lori suspected there was no way the chief would let Jess get away again for reasons completely unrelated to her investigative skills. Whatever Spears did to her, Lori could not let him learn that she sensed the chief still had personal feelings for Jess. That could make him a target, too.
"That's right, Eric," she continued, capitalizing on his obvious need to analyze the idea of failure. "You can't stop her and if you think the bureau will stop trying to nail you just because you pulled a bait and switch, I'm afraid you're going to be incredibly disappointed. They will get you—with or without Jess on their team."
His gaze narrowed as if he worried she might be right, and then he laughed, the deep, guttural sound echoing all around her. "You're quite good, Detective." He leaned close again as if he intended to share a secret. "Here's something hot off the wire just for you. That game is over. They will never achieve their goal." He reached out, traced her cheek with his forefinger. She shuddered. "This is a new game and I need Jess to play."
"You need her?" she bit out in disgust.
He shrugged. "Want her then. Let's not quibble over semantics. Will you help me, Lori Doodle?"
"Do I have a choice?" The answer to that was a big, flashing neon sign in her brain. Whatever she did or didn't do he would somehow find a way to use it. Tears burned her eyes. She blinked them back. She would not cry for this scumbag's pleasure.
"You always have a choice, Detective." His lips lifted again in that charismatic expression that masked the house of horrors beneath. "You have one now. Live daringly or die quickly. You choose."
She laughed around the fear crowded in her throat. "Do you really expect me to believe that if I cooperate you'll let me live? Wow, Santa's here already and it's only July. Give me a break."
"Oh, I will. You have my word," he promised. "For a bit anyway."
That was what she thought.
"Consider your options carefully, Detective Lori Wells." He put his face in hers again. "The longer you stay alive, the more opportunity you'll have to perhaps see that urge of yours to fruition. Who knows?" He straightened and drew back to look her in the eyes. "You might just get that chance to watch me die. After all, no one lives forever."
He stood and hauled his chair away from hers. "While you weigh your options, I'm going to find someone to keep you company." He laughed. "Actually, I think I'm the one who needs company. You are b-o-r-i-n-g with a capital B."
Lori's heart rammed into her throat.
She had to do something ... otherwise he was going hunting ...
"I can't ... don't leave me here by myself. Please."
He turned around slowly. A grin spread across his lips. "Ah ... so you're ready to play, are you?"
His singular motive is pleasure. Jess's voice whispered in her ears. The only way he can feel it is by torturing his victims in the most depraved ways.
"Yes." Lori moistened her lips, wrestled back the fear. "I'm ready to play."
Five Points, 10:42 a.m.
Two uniformed Birmingham police officers waited outside the door to Lori Wells's second-floor studio apartment. Three BPD cruisers sat at the curb, sirens silent, lights dark.
Jess Harris stood next to Chief Dan Burnett's SUV as she scanned the neighborhood. Two apartment buildings and seven houses lined the quiet street. The Five Points address guaranteed an eclectic mix of residents and homes. In all probability there were a few retirees who'd lived here since the first houses were built in the fifties, along with the recent influx of young professionals just launching their careers.
Hopefully some of the retirees had been home and perhaps saw something useful. Neighbors were already being canvassed.
As if to defy that fleeting hope, her blouse melted against her sweat-dampened skin. No kids in the street; no dogs barking. This morning's sweltering heat kept the children and pets inside and, most likely, anyone else who happened to be home when Lori Wells was taken from hers.
If Jess wasn't scared to death, she would be spitting mad. This was her fault. The Player had followed her here—and Lori had paid the price. Her fingers itched to put a bullet right between his eyes.
Let me close again, Spears.
"The crime scene unit is four minutes out," Burnett said as he came around the hood to join her on the street.
He was shaken as badly as Jess or he would already be inside. Wells was his detective. And she was Jess's friend, even if for only for a few days.
How the hell had she let this happen? She'd made a mistake ... a terrible, terrible mistake. She had to find a way to fix this ... to stop this sociopath.
"Harper's waiting for us." Burnett gestured to the apartment complex.
Jess nodded, then followed him across the street, past the squad cars and up the sidewalk that led to what was now a crime scene. Fear had her in a daze ... she had to pull it together.
Lori needed her to do this right.
The two officers greeted their chief of police as she and Burnett approached the door. Sergeant Chet Harper waited inside, his expression grim. No, not just grim, sick and terrified.
I'm sorry! Jess wanted to scream the words. I didn't mean for this to happen.
Calm ... stay calm.
She couldn't change what had already happened, but this she could do right. The Player would not best her again.
After slipping on the shoe covers and gloves Burnett provided, she entered the apartment, leaving her emotions on the welcome mat. Every case deserved her absolute best, but this one hit a deeply personal chord. Putting aside her personal feelings would require considerably more than the usual discipline.
She could do it ... she had to do it.
Burnett remained outside to take a call.
"The door was ajar when I arrived," Chet explained, his tone quiet, somber. "That bar stool was overturned." With a gloved hand he indicated the small island with its two stools that divided the kitchen area from the living area of the one-room apartment. "A glass of orange juice on the coffee table was knocked over as well."
Jess made her way to the old-fashioned trunk Lori used as a coffee table. The drying puddle of OJ had stained the tan carpet. A half-eaten bagel languished on a napkin. Surveying the space again, this time more slowly, she noted discarded lounge pants and a T-shirt lay on the floor by the bed. Lori had gotten up and dressed for work. Both doors, closet and bathroom, remained closed.
"What about her cell?"
"I haven't found her phone."
Excerpted from Impulse by Debra Webb. Copyright © 2013 Debra Webb. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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