In his work as a defense attorney in Baltimore, Thorne has always been noble to a fault--specializing in helping young people in trouble just as someone did for him when he was younger. He plays the part of the bachelor well, but he secretly holds a flame for his best friend and business partner, Gwyn Weaver, a woman struggling to overcome her own demons. After four years, he thinks he might finally be ready to confess his feelings, come what may.
But his plans are derailed when he wakes up in bed with a dead woman--her blood on his hands and no recollection of how he got there. Whoever is trying to frame Thorne is about to lead him down the rabbit hole of his past, something he thought he had outran long ago. Thorne must figure out who has been digging into his secrets, how much they know, and how far they will go to bring him down . . .
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Friday, May 27, 5:30 p.m.
He sat back in his chair, waiting patiently as one of his most trusted aides walked into his office with a bright yellow folder. He truly hoped Ramirez would deliver, but he didn't really believe he would. Which was unfortunate indeed.
"Here's the information you asked for," Ramirez said, placing the folder on his desk, looking as relaxed as he usually did.
That Ramirez had been betraying him for so long . . .
If he hadn't seen the evidence with his own eyes, he never would have believed it. Ramirez was like a son. A trusted son.
"Have a seat," he said, using his normal tone, unwilling to give away what he knew just yet. He opened the folder, flipped through the contents. And sighed. "This is incomplete."
Ramirez frowned. "It is not. I compiled the data myself. That is everything that anyone knows about Thomas Thorne."
"It is not," he said, intentionally repeating his clerk's words. "I know this because I had Patton do the same search. The file he compiled is twice as thick. What you've given me is less than I could have gotten from searching Google myself." He deliberately closed the file and folded his hands. "What do you think I should do about this?"
Ramirez licked his lower lip, his first sign of nerves. "Do? About what?"
"About you, my friend." From his drawer, he pulled out the photos Patton had taken of Ramirez. And Thomas Thorne. Conspiring together. "Care to explain?"
Ramirez drew a breath. "You had me followed?"
"I did. Thorne seems to know a great deal about my operations. I wondered how he'd gotten all that information. I had all of my inner circle followed-by the person who'd get their job should they be shown to be the betrayer." He smiled. "Patton was extremely thorough. He'll make a very good head clerk."
Ramirez swallowed hard. "I never betrayed you."
"I don't believe you."
"Patton photoshopped those pictures."
He turned on his cell phone and swiped through the photos he had stored there. "Ah, here it is. You with Thorne." He held his phone out so that Ramirez could see the image. "I took this one myself."
Ramirez paled. Then he squared his shoulders and lifted his chin, acceptance of his fate in his eyes. "My wife had nothing to do with this."
He shrugged. "Then it's a pity she has to die, too."
"No." Ramirez leaped from his chair, reaching out as if he'd strangle him with his bare hands. But at the sight of the gun aimed at his head, he stopped abruptly and froze, breathing hard.
"Why?" he asked the clerk simply, holding his gaze. "Why did you give Thorne information?"
"I didn't," Ramirez insisted.
"You're going to die either way, old friend. I can make it quick or make it last. I can also do the same for your lovely wife. Quick or slow torture? Tell me why."
Ramirez closed his eyes. "You killed my nephew."
He lifted his brows. "I did?"
"Your people did. He was sixteen, just a kid. Got caught in the cross fire when your guys did a drive-by two years ago. Except they picked the wrong fucking house and it was my sister's son who was filled with your bullets." Ramirez's eyes filled with fury and grief. "You weren't even sorry. I've worked for you for twenty years and you weren't even sorry."
"I'm still not sorry," he said, then lowered his aim to Ramirez's gut and pulled the trigger three times in rapid succession, creating a tight grouping of bullets. Ramirez slumped to the floor with a groan.
He stood, peering over his desk at the man writhing on his hardwood floor. Ramirez looked up, the fury and grief in his eyes now joined by shocked realization, intense pain, and all-consuming hate. "You said it would be quick," he gasped. "You lied."
"So did you."
"No, no." Ramirez groaned. "I told you the truth. I told you why I gave Thorne that information."
"Too little, too late, my old friend." He spat the final word. "You lied to me every single day that you came in to work for me, took a salary from me, all while you betrayed me."
Ramirez's pain-glazed eyes narrowed to a sneer. "And it's all about you, isn't it? My old friend?"
He blinked at that. "Of course. It's always about me." He stared down at Ramirez for another full minute. How had he missed that grief? That fury? That absolute hate?
He settled back in his chair, knowing full well the answer to that question. He'd missed it in Ramirez's eyes because he'd seen it in his own. In the mirror. Every damn day since the prison had delivered his son to the morgue in a body bag, minus his guts. Those had been spilled onto the dirt in the exercise yard when his son had been eviscerated, quickly and skillfully. But he'd suffered before he died.
He closed his eyes, a wave of fresh pain rolling through him, clenching his chest so hard that he had to fight not to gasp. His son had suffered before drawing his last breath. God, how he'd suffered.
Ramirez was getting off easily, he thought coldly.
He pressed the intercom button. "Jeanne, can you send Patton in? Tell him to bring in Mrs. Ramirez and two body bags. Mr. Ramirez isn't quite dead yet, but he should be soon. Also give me a few minutes to dispatch Mrs. Ramirez, then send someone in with a wet-vac. My floor seems to be covered in blood."
"Certainly, sir," Jeanne said with an equanimity that he'd long admired. His office manager was pushing sixty, and he dreaded the day she'd retire. At least she was training her replacement, and he had to admit the girl had all of her mother's organizational skills. Jeanne's younger daughter, Margo, was as close to a daughter of his own as he'd ever had.
And Jeanne's older daughter, Kathryn, was as close to a soul mate as he'd ever have again. Kathryn warmed his heart and his bed, but they both knew that he would always grieve his Madeline. That Madeline had handpicked Kathryn to be her replacement had made the transition smoother, but Kathryn would never be his wife. Luckily she didn't expect to be. She was happy to be the mistress of a powerful man.
"Can I get you anything else?" Jeanne asked.
"Yes. Tell Margo that I need to meet with her in about thirty minutes." The mother of his grandson, she and little Benny were all he had left of his son, Colin. Anguish speared his heart, but he welcomed the pain. Avenging his son's death was what gave him the strength to wake up each morning. "I have a job for her."
"You bastard," Ramirez gasped when his wife was brought in, bound and crying.
He smiled. "What is the expression? Pot, meet kettle? You have much nerve, Mr. Ramirez. Your betrayal will hurt so many more people than only yourself. You can excuse us, Mr. Patton, but don't go far. We'll need those body bags soon."
Standing, he removed his clothes, folding them neatly and storing them out of the way in the wardrobe. He liked this suit and didn't want it bloodied. Carefully, he lifted the leather thong over his head. From the end of it dangled a small vial containing Madeline's ashes. Soon he'd mix Colin's ashes with them.
Feeling the burn of pure rage, he put the vial on top of his clothes and shut the wardrobe door. "Now, Mrs. Ramirez, I will apologize in advance for the pain I'm about to cause you. When you are screaming curses, aim them at your husband. You're here because of his betrayal."
"I won't," Ramirez's wife stated forcefully. "I will never curse my husband."
But she did. They always cursed the one whose missteps had put them under his knife. In this case, his auger. Mrs. Ramirez suffered terribly before he finally took pity and put a bullet in her head.
Then he ended his former aide with a final bullet to his heart and showered off the mess. Once he was dressed again, he called for Patton to remove the bodies and sat down to read through his new head clerk's much fuller folder.
Patton had indeed been thorough, finding nearly everything he himself had found. There was nothing new here. His plan to bring Thomas Thorne to his knees had been in progress for months.
Thorne would beg for mercy, just as Ramirez's wife had. But just like with Mrs. Ramirez, there would be none.
Saturday, June 11, 11:45 p.m.
"I'm out," J.D. said, tossing his cards to the table with an annoyed huff. "Fuck, Thorne. Do you have to win every damn hand?"
Thomas Thorne gave the five men sitting around his poker table a smug grin as he began to stack his chips. "Yes."
The others grumbled good-naturedly as they fished out their wallets.
"Your luck's too good tonight," Sam muttered, throwing a ten on the table. No one ever lost more than ten in an evening. They played for fun. And to win, of course. None of them liked losing.
Across the table, Grayson rolled his eyes. "I'm thinking his luck is way too good tonight. Maybe we should investigate. Sam? J.D.?"
"Lots of ways a man could cheat," J.D. agreed.
Grayson Smith, the senior assistant state's attorney, decorated homicide detective J.D. Fitzpatrick, and former Baltimore PD officer Sam Hudson would certainly know about many of those ways, but Thorne knew none of the men were really upset. Nor did they believe he'd actually cheat.
He'd earned their trust, just as they'd earned his.
"Knock yourselves out, boys," he said loftily, then made a point of looking at his watch. "Except you'll need to make it fast, on account of your curfew. You poor married boys have to go home."
J.D. snorted. "Asshole," he said, but it was with affection. J.D. was married to Lucy, an ME who'd come back from maternity leave to work part-time in the Baltimore morgue. But she and Thorne had been friends for years before J.D. came into the picture. For the past eight years, Lucy had been Thorne's partner in Sheidalin, the nightclub they owned with Gwyn Weaver.
Who Thorne had studiously not been thinking about all evening.
Fine. Yes, he had been thinking about Gwyn all night, wondering if she'd actually gone on the date she'd been so excited about. If her date had any brains at all, the answer would be no. Either way, Thorne would have to wait until tomorrow to hear about it.
"Nah, he's not an asshole," Sam said. "Not a total one, anyway." Sam had left Baltimore PD the year before, taking a job as a PI for Thorne at the law firm he fondly called his "day job," even though the firm was his major focus. Sheidalin was primarily Gwyn's to manage. Thorne and Lucy were there mainly for the music, performing occasionally.
Although Thorne hadn't done so in some time. Four and a half years, to be exact. He missed it, playing his bass onstage in front of a live audience. But he'd had other things that needed his focus. There'd been his godson, Lucy's little boy. Jeremiah. He loved that kid.
And he'd had to take care of Gwyn, as much as she'd let him. Which wasn't that much.
Mostly, though, he'd focused on his firm. He'd built it up from a solo operation to one that employed two other attorneys, a paralegal, who managed the office, and a death investigator. And Sam, who'd proven himself a skilled PI. Thorne felt lucky to have him.
Sam was chuckling. "Thorne's just jealous because he's got to clean up this mess all by himself."
Yes, Thorne admitted, but only to himself. He was jealous of the married guys who had partners to go home to. Once they all left, his house would be far too quiet. But he'd never admit that to any of them, because they'd all conspire to fix him up. They were worse than old women in that respect.
Instead, he raised one brow. "Ruby cleans for you?" He pulled out his cell phone. "Should I ask her?" Sam's wife, Ruby, formerly Lucy's ME tech, was now Thorne's death investigator. He highly doubted she would actually clean up after Sam.
Sam laughed. "Please, no. I value my life."
"We single guys have to go, too," Jamie said with a sigh. He backed his wheelchair away from the table with an ease that came from a lifetime of practice. Born with spina bifida, he'd used a chair from the time he was a child. "I'm getting too old for these late nights."
Jamie's movements were only a little slower than they'd been when he and Thorne had first met, nineteen years before. Jamie Maslow had started out as his attorney but had quickly become his friend and mentor. And the closest thing he'd had to a father since his own dad had died when Thorne was just a boy. Now Jamie was his employee. Newly retired from his own firm, he did pro bono work for Thorne's.
"You wouldn't be single if you'd just marry Phil and make an honest man of him," Thorne said blandly. It had taken him months to stop calling Phil "Mr. Woods" when the two men had taken him in as a scared and abandoned teen.
His old history teacher had left the fancy prep school Thorne had attended years ago, dedicating his career to teaching kids in the inner city. Thorne admired them both so damn much. They'd been the role models he'd so desperately needed as a miserable kid. They'd given him a home when he had nowhere else to go.
"I keep asking him," Jamie said, a twinkle in his eye. "He says that when he retires, we're going to elope to Vegas and get married by Elvis."
Frederick snorted. "I think if you elope, you'll have a revolt on your hands." The newest member of their group, Frederick Dawson had recently come to Baltimore from California. Once a high-profile defense attorney in Oakland, he had recently become licensed in Maryland and worked with Jamie and Thorne on a pro bono basis. He gestured to the empty chip bags and beer bottles. "Seriously, you need help cleaning up before we haul our asses out of here?"
"Nah. It won't take me long." Thorne knew he was lucky. He had good friends, loyal and respectable. There had been a time when he didn't know if anyone respectable would ever give him the time of day. But even the best friends in the world had to go home sometime.
And I'll be alone. Still. Always.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I usually enjoy Karen Rose, but this book was WAY too long. Should have been condensed an point made more quickly. Easily lost interest, and skimmed to the ending. J in Godfrey
Two recurring characters from the Baltimore series finally get their story. As its a Karen Rose book it is not all heart and flowers. Throw in a dash of a psychopath out for revenge who not only takes pleasure in his torturous kills but frames the hero for a heinous murder that ends up being embroiled with the past in more ways than one. It was great having all the previous characters from the Baltimore series be strong supporting characters in the book along with being very supporting friends to Thomas and Gwyn in their time of peril. Looking forward to the new series that will be based in Sacramento and that its technically tied to this series as the heroine will be Daisy Dawson..
DEATH IS NOT ENOUGH is a dark suspense with intricate plot lines and layers upon layers of intrigue, lies, and explosive secrets. Just when you think you’ve figured out what’s going on, a new dynamic is discovered that turns the storyline upside down! Ms. Rose never disappoints with her compelling stories and character development. Her ability to create complex villains is quite deliberate and totally scary! The only issue I had with the book is that I didn’t feel any chemistry between Thorne and Gwyn. He came off as a jerk to me. Instead of telling Gwyn how he feels, he does some juvenile things that essentially ends up hurting Gwyn. Wasn’t a fan of the pairing. I felt they were better off as friends and business partners. I also had some trouble following the dialog when there were several characters in a scene. But that’s par for the course when there are a lot of characters in a book. Trigger warning: This book contains some scenes that may cause readers discomfort. If you have triggers from violent subject matter, this may not be the book for you. This is a chilling read that will capture your attention and hold it to the end. ***I voluntarily read a copy of the book generously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings expressed are my own***
Death is Not Enough is an exciting and fast paced romantic suspense. While this book is part of a series, I do think that it can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone novel. From the moment I picked up this book, I was completely intrigued by Thorne and his past. His story is heartbreaking and will really tug at your heart. He’s overcome a lot throughout the years, but he doesn’t let very many people in, keeping his walls sky high. But, if there ever was a person who could break down his walls, it would be Gwyn. Thorne has always had feelings for Gwyn, but has always kept those feelings to himself. But, what he doesn’t realize is that Gwyn has feelings for him as well….Gwyn has had a hard life as well. She’s finally at the point where she’s ready to start fresh and go after what she wants. So, when Thorne’s life gets turning upside down once again, Gwyn will stop at nothing to help solve the mystery and clear Thorne’s name… Death is Not Enough is a fast paced and thrilling read. I was hooked from the very first page and was kept on the edge of my seat the entire time. I loved all the mystery and intrigue that surrounded the story. I really liked the way the author laid things out and the clues she dropped along the way. Almost immediately, you are given the villains point of view and while you know who the villain is, you don’t know what his agenda is or why he’s doing what he’s doing. And don’t let the fact that you know who the villain is fool you, I promise you there are a lot of terrific twists and turns along the way. Death is Not Enough is definitely filled with a ton of suspense and action, but there’s also some romance to it to. One of things that I really enjoyed was that there was a really good balance to all the elements. So, while there was romance and some sexy good times, it was the 100% focus of the story. It was the lightness that this intense story needed. Death is Not Enough is my first book by this author and it most definitely will not be my last. This story was so incredibly fast paced that I’m still having a hard time believing that it was 600+ pages. I mean I devoured this book in just a day and a half–that’s like a record for me for a book this big!! I just really loved the pacing and the writing style. It was super easy to get caught up in this story and get lost in the characters. It was a thrilling ride from beginning to end with danger and mystery around every corner.