Whisper My Name

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CAUGHT IN A WEB OF DESIRE—
Detective Sebastien Durand can't believe that the beautiful woman he sees in a caf‚ is the one woman who can help him. He needs Francesca Purnell's expertise to find a serial killer. Sebastien tries to ignore the instant, undeniable attraction between them. Yet the more he resists, the more he wants Francesca.

AND DANGER.
Professor Francesca Purnell knows she must help the sexy ...

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Overview

CAUGHT IN A WEB OF DESIRE—
Detective Sebastien Durand can't believe that the beautiful woman he sees in a caf‚ is the one woman who can help him. He needs Francesca Purnell's expertise to find a serial killer. Sebastien tries to ignore the instant, undeniable attraction between them. Yet the more he resists, the more he wants Francesca.

AND DANGER.
Professor Francesca Purnell knows she must help the sexy detective in his search for the murderer who's been stalking the streets of San Antonio, marking each one of his female victims with a mysterious spider tattoo. Working by Sebastien's side, Francesca soon gives in to a passion she's never felt before. But their relationship is in jeopardy. For their target has his sights on Francesca—and he's bent on trapping her in his deadly web.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Smith's latest (after Weapon of Seduction) follows a serial killer who marks his victims with a spider tattoo before brutally murdering them. Det. Sebastien Durand of San Antonio is assigned to the initial murder case, and soon seeks the help of entomology professor Francesca Purnell to help him identify the type of spider tattooed on the victim. Francesca identifies the spider as a Mexican arachnid that is "supposed to be cursed." When an acquaintance of Francesca's falls victim to the killer, Sebastien and Francesca are drawn closer together, and soon the intensity of the murder investigation gives way to romance. Danger and unexpected familial complications follow, as do a barrel of red herrings and a host of likely suspects. With a deft touch and solid cast of characters, Smith gives equal credence to spicy romance and nail-biting suspense on her way to an explosive conclusion. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
San Antonio Express-News - Vincent Bosquez
Smith does a masterful job in striking a perfect balance between romance and suspense in her work. Her writing is crisp, the plot enticing and the characters have believable back stories — all the ingredients a paperback novel needs to earn a place on your “must-read” list this summer.
Romantic Times Magazine - Eleanor Shields
Smith writes a high-intensity story. The interesting plot spotlights her creativity and talent as a suspenseful romance storyteller and author.
Publishers Weekly
Smith’s latest follows a serial killer who marks his victims with a spider tattoo before brutally murdering them. Det. Sebastien Durand of San Antonio is assigned to the initial murder case, and soon seeks the help of entomology professor Francesca Purnell to help him identify the type of spider tattooed on the victim. With a deft touch and solid cast of characters, Smith gives equal credence to spicy romance and nail-biting suspense on her way to an explosive conclusion.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780758214324
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 6/1/2007
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 4.30 (w) x 6.78 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Maureen Smith is the author of twenty-four novels and four novellas. Since the release of her debut novel in 2002, she has won or been nominated for seven RT BOOK Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Awards and numerous Emma Awards. She enjoys writing erotic romance and romantic suspense, as well as sexy women’s fiction under the pseudonym Naomi Chase. Visit her website at maureen-smith.com.
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Read an Excerpt

Whisper My Name


By Maureen Smith

DAFINA BOOKS

Copyright © 2007 Maureen Smith
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-1432-4


Chapter One

Monday, June 11

"What in the world is that monstrosity?"

Without lifting her head from the textbook she'd been studying, Francesca Purnell chuckled softly. "What monstrosity are you referring to, Alfonso?"

A blunt-tipped finger stabbed at the glossy page in question. "That monstrosity. What is that thing?"

"It's a tarantula. A Colombian Giant Red Leg, to be exact."

"I don't care where it's from. It's ugly as sin."

"Think so?" Tilting her head thoughtfully to one side, Francesca studied the photograph of the long-haired, bright orange spider. "I happen to think it's quite beautiful."

Alfonso Garcia snorted rudely. "As they say, beauty's in the eye of the beholder. Of course, when the beholder is as nearsighted as you are, Frankie, one has to question everything." He regarded the photo another moment, then gave a mock shudder that shook his narrow frame. "Hope I never have the misfortune of running into that ugly creature."

Francesca pushed black horn-rimmed eyeglasses up on her slender nose, deciding to ignore the crack about her nearsightedness. "The species is indigenous to the rain forests of Colombia, so unless you're planning a trip to South America, you should be safe."

"Thank God," Alfonso muttered,refilling Francesca's coffee cup. Automatically she reached for cream and sugar, dumping liberal amounts of both into her coffee. "Honestly, Frankie," Alfonso continued, wearing a green apron with ESPUMA COFFEE AND TEA EMPORIUM stenciled in white letters across the front, "I don't know how you sleep at night with visions of those creepy-crawlers dancing in your head. It ain't natural. In fact, if you ask me, it's downright un-natural."

Francesca stirred her coffee slowly. "Insulting my profession isn't exactly the best way to earn a tip, Alfonso," she said dryly.

He took the hint. "Holler if you need anything else," he said, moving on to the next table. Nothing threatened Alfonso Garcia more than a hit to the wallet. A struggling writer, he took tips very seriously.

Shaking her head with a grin, Francesca lowered her head to take a sip of coffee. Midswallow, her gaze collided with a pair of piercing gray eyes set in the most arrestingly masculine face she'd ever seen.

Her breath caught in her throat, forcing the coffee down the wrong way. She choked and sputtered, setting her cup down on the tabletop with a loud clatter. Curious heads swung in her direction, and Alfonso hustled over to her table and hovered worriedly like a mother hen.

"What happened? Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," Francesca croaked out, feeling incredibly foolish for the minor commotion she'd caused. She accepted a handful of paper napkins from Alfonso and dabbed at her mouth and chin.

At Alfonso's summons, a young, pretty brunette appeared with a glass of cold water and handed it to Francesca with a friendly smile.

"Thank you, Jennifer," Francesca murmured gratefully to the waitress. She took a careful sip of water, assiduously avoiding the other side of the room.

After Jennifer left, Alfonso continued to hover. "Are you sure you're okay?"

"Yes. I just swallowed too fast, that's all." As was her custom, Francesca masked her embarrassment with droll humor. "Don't worry, Alfonso. I'm not going to choke to death without paying my bill first."

He scowled and rolled his dark brown eyes heavenward. "Why do I even bother?" he muttered before shuffling away to tend to a more deserving customer.

Francesca picked up her cup of coffee, then reconsidered and set it back down, reaching for her textbook instead. But she couldn't concentrate on a single word of what she'd been reading, and after just two minutes, she succumbed to temptation and stole another glance across the room.

To her shocked dismay, the stranger was still watching her. Hard angles and planes carved in rich almond sketched a tough, compelling face that was softened by heavy-lidded gray eyes and a wide, sensual mouth framed by a neatly trimmed goatee. Even from this distance, Francesca could tell he was tall. The black cotton of his T-shirt strained against broad shoulders and sinewy biceps. His clean-shaven head only accentuated his rugged, undeniably dangerous appeal.

His focused, silent observation of Francesca sent heat crawling up her neck, and she couldn't help wondering what it was about her appearance that had so captured his attention. She was, and always had been, a realist when it came to her own strengths and shortcomings. With a Ph.D. in entomology, Francesca could discuss molecular biology and argue the ecological importance of arthropods with the best of them. She'd been called gifted, exceptional, even brilliant as she tenaciously climbed her way through the ranks in a male-dominated field of study.

But she was not the kind of woman who turned heads-especially not the heads of sexy strangers like the one across the room.

As he sat at a table in the corner drinking coffee and watching her, Francesca wondered who he was, and where he'd come from. She was a regular at the Espuma Coffee and Tea Emporium, and she'd never seen him before. She definitely would have remembered him, especially since he didn't strike her as the type to frequent a place like the Espuma. The quaint little café had been converted from an old house and featured cozy, well-lit rooms decorated with the works of local artists. The menu catered mostly to vegetarians, offering an eclectic blend of grilled vegetables and cheeses, and pita breads and pesto sauces served with iced Vietnamese coffees. Francesca, who lived within easy walking distance, scarcely let a day pass without making a trip to the Espuma, armed with her reading materials and papers to grade.

As the sexy stranger's silent appraisal continued, Francesca found herself wishing she'd had the foresight to wear something other than the shapeless tropical-print muumuu she'd thrown on before leaving the house that morning. And it probably wouldn't have hurt to actually comb her hair, instead of just shoving the kinky chestnut-brown curls into an unruly knot atop her head. As if to taunt her, an errant lock of hair suddenly sprang free and tumbled over one bespectacled eye.

One corner of the stranger's mouth curved upward, and Francesca's heart thudded in response.

What was going on here? Could this gorgeous man be flirting with her?

She threw a quick glance over her shoulder, half expecting to see some sultry-eyed, leggy vixen seated nearby. But the few tables behind her were empty.

She turned back around slowly. The man's gray eyes glinted with faint amusement. As Francesca watched, unable to tear her gaze away, he downed the rest of his coffee, dropped a large bill onto the table, and stood.

Francesca realized two things at once: The first was that she'd been right about him being tall. From where she sat, she judged him to be at least six-three, with a body that could have been hewn from solid rock.

The second thing she realized was that he was coming straight toward her!

Panic fluttered in her belly. She froze, cemented to the chair even as every gut instinct warned her to get up and run in the opposite direction. But she was powerless to do anything but sit and watch with mounting alarm as the handsome stranger sauntered toward her. Something about his relaxed, confident strides hinted at raw, unleashed power that quickened Francesca's pulse and turned her palms sweaty. He wore loose khaki trousers that hung low on his trim waist and rode his long legs in a way that would make Giorgio Armani proud.

A few feet away from her, he stopped suddenly and pulled out a cell phone clipped to his waist.

Francesca thought she heard him say "Durand," or something to that effect, but he wasn't near enough for her to be certain. And she was too distracted by the sound of his voice-a dark, smoky drawl that made her stomach clench in reaction.

He listened into the phone for a moment, his expression turning grim, and then he said, "I'm on my way."

Francesca held her breath as he sent her one long, final look before turning on his heel and striding purposefully from the café.

And somehow, inexplicable though it was, she knew she hadn't seen the last of him.

It was with some regret that Detective Sebastien Durand left the Espuma Coffee and Tea Emporium and climbed into the stifling heat of an unmarked Crown Victoria parked in the rear lot. He cranked the ignition and hoped to God the dysfunctional air-conditioning would kick in before he melted into the worn leather seat like a Nestlé chocolate bar.

He'd driven to the historic King William District that morning to interview a witness for a homicide case he was working. Afterward, on impulse, he'd stopped inside the little coffeehouse for a quick cup of joe while he read the morning paper.

He never got past the front page.

He'd been distracted by the arrival of a woman wearing the most god-awful dress he'd ever seen, an ill-fitting number garishly decorated with big colorful flowers. At her appearance, a few customers had looked up from their iced lattés and given the woman a cursory glance before turning away, dismissing her at once.

But not Sebastien.

His gaze had followed her as she walked unerringly to an empty table in the rear corner of the café. The way she claimed the table, and the promptness with which she was waited upon, told Sebastien she was probably a regular. After placing her order, she'd rummaged through a satchel, hefted out a whopper of a textbook, and promptly buried her nose in it. That should have put an end to Sebastien's interest in the dowdy librarian, but instead he found himself unable to look away, studying her as if she were a fascinating puzzle to be solved. She wasn't the type of woman who usually caught his eye-far from it. But there was something about this woman, something he couldn't begin to fathom, that held him riveted. Black horn-rimmed glasses perched on the bridge of a slim, upturned nose made him speculate about the color of her eyes. Her skin was a rich velvety brown and flawless to the point of perfection. Thick curly hair, a shade lighter than her complexion, had been carelessly swept into a poor excuse for a ponytail. Sebastien wondered what the woman would look like first thing in the morning, with that unruly mass tumbling about her face and shoulders in a glorious free fall.

More to the point, he mused, what is she hiding beneath that hideous tent of a dress?

When she looked up suddenly and met his gaze, Sebastien felt a punch to his gut that caught him completely by surprise. The woman appeared even more startled. After she recovered from her choking spell, he'd found himself willing her to look his way again. When she finally did, he'd felt, once again, that unexpected stab of desire.

The memory of it made him chuckle as he watched the coffeehouse shrink in his rearview mirror. "You definitely need to get out more, Durand," he muttered to himself. "Next you'll be camping out at public libraries to pick up women."

He left the King William District, passing block after block of elegant Victorians cradled by curved porches and manicured lawns that meandered along the south bank of the San Antonio River. He rolled down South Alamo Street and negotiated two left turns before hooking a right onto West Houston. Even before he reached the dingy Motel 6, the flashing swirl of red and blue lights announced the arrival of SAPD patrol officers who'd beaten him to the scene. Their radio cars idled side by side, hood to trunk, clogging the pothole-riddled parking lot as they conversed in low tones about whatever obscenity they'd encountered inside the motel room.

Sebastien swung into the lot and parked as close to the building as possible. He grabbed a notepad off the passenger seat and climbed out of the car, cursing the sweltering summer heat that rendered the idea of wearing a sport coat unthinkable.

Alerted by the heavy police presence in the middle of the morning, spectators gathered on steamy sidewalks across the street and around the perimeter of the motel, watching the unfolding drama with varying degrees of mild to morbid curiosity. Guests of the motel-those who'd judiciously decided to attempt sightseeing at night when it was cooler-hovered in doorways and leaned over rusty railings to peer at the action below. Sebastien felt their eyes on him as he made his way across the parking lot toward the building.

Two uniformed officers flanked the ground-floor door of the motel room, which was partially open and barred by a yellow ribbon of tape that warned: CRIME SCENE-DO NOT CROSS.

"Hey, Big Easy," the younger of the pair greeted Sebastien in a jovial tone that would strike some-namely those not belonging to the brotherhood of blue-as irreverent on such a grim occasion. "'Bout time you got here."

"What can I say?" Sebastien retorted in a lazy drawl. "It was a good cup of coffee."

The uniforms chortled and lifted the crime-scene tape to let him duck under. Sebastien stepped inside the tiny motel room and did not flinch at the stench of violent death that assailed his nostrils, preparing him for the gruesome display that awaited him.

A young blond woman lay upon the queen-size bed, the floral-patterned spread undisturbed beneath her nude body, the fabric stained crimson with blood that had spilled from deep, savage knife wounds across her neck and torso. She had been gagged and bound, her arms stretched taut above her head, her wrists tied to the center bedpost with the same kind of cord that had been used to bind her ankles.

A set of plastic key cards sat on the nightstand, joined by a pair of pink-tinted sunglasses and a wrinkled city travel guide. A gauzy cornflower-blue sundress had been flung across the back of a chair parked at a scarred round table near the window. The heavy floral-patterned curtains were drawn closed, keeping out the bright glare of the sunlight but doing little to diminish the heat and humidity that emanated from outdoors.

Sebastien took in the entire scene from his position at the door. Then, instead of moving directly toward the body, he walked around the perimeter of the motel room, looking along the floor, walls, and furniture, carefully making his way toward the victim in a slowly shrinking circle.

It hadn't taken ten years in homicide for him to learn that the body wasn't going anywhere; it would be there for as long as it took to process the crime scene. But the scene itself began to deteriorate as soon as the first person discovered the body; therefore it had become second nature to Sebastien to begin at the periphery and work his way methodically to the vortex of the violent storm-where the corpse lay. As he walked the room, he scribbled in his notepad, recording raw data that could prove useful in the ensuing investigation.

At length he stopped directly in front of the victim and, with clinical detachment borne from years of practice, sketched what he saw. He noted the absence of blood spatter on the wall above the headboard and followed the trajectory of the gaping knife wounds, concluding that the perpetrator had stood above the victim, to the right of the bed, and stabbed her in a downward motion, left to right. The angle of the wounds suggested that the killer was right-handed, which narrowed the scope of possible suspects to the majority of the city's population.

Watching where he walked, Sebastien rounded the bed and knelt beside the body. The woman's blue eyes were frozen wide in an expression of mute terror. In life she'd been beautiful, with long, wavy blond hair that blanketed the pillow and was now partially soaked in blood. She was young, in her early twenties, and moderately tall, no less than five-seven.

Sebastien glanced over his shoulder toward the doorway, where the two uniforms were still posted guard. "Who found her?"

"Cleaning lady," Lute O'Hara answered in a less jovial tone than before. His green eyes darted furtively to the ravaged corpse on the bed, then shot back to Sebastien's, as if he were afraid he'd turn into a pillar of salt if he looked upon the victim too long. "She says she was making her rounds this morning and entered the room when no one responded to her knock."

"Where is she now?"

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Whisper My Name by Maureen Smith Copyright © 2007 by Maureen Smith. 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.

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  • Posted February 2, 2015

    I enjoyed this book, loved the romance between the main characte

    I enjoyed this book, loved the romance between the main characters.

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