society to join the FBI after a mission went brutally wrong and
an innocent woman died.
When his brother is arrested for murder, Damon investigates and
finds a "Jane Doe" who holds the key to the case, along with
a darker terrorone that threatens to expose Damon's deadly
secrets and destroy them all.
Despite the danger, he's drawn to the nameless beauty, igniting a
passion that burns hot between them. But with a madman out to
silence her forever, Damon knows he must deny their love. And
to stop the man responsible, he must return to the one place
he has desperately tried to leave behindthe dark shadows of
a killer's mind.
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A year later, New Orleans
DAMON DUBOIS WAS A DEAD MAN.
As dead as the soldiers who'd fallen and given their lives for the country. As dead as the ones who'd lost their lives during the terrible hurricane that nearly destroyed New Orleans.
As dead as the woman he had killed.
His own heart did still beat and blood still flowed through his veins, forcing him to go through the motions of life.
A punishment issued by the gods, he was certain. He could still see the flames licking at her skin, see the smoke swirling above her face, hear the crackle of the house as wood splintered and crum
For although his head hadn't yet touched the pillow this dreary evening, nightmares already haunted him with the cries of that anguished woman screaming in pain.
And the bébé's ghostlike cry "Tite ange," he whispered. "Little angel, you did not deserve to die."
Perspiration beaded on his neck and trickled down into the collar of his shirt as he opened the French doors to the hundred-year-old bayou house and breathed in the sultry summer air. The end of May was nearing and already the summer heat was oppressive. Sticky. The air hung thick with the scent of blood and swamp water. Eerie sounds cut through the endless night. The muddy Mississippi slapping at the embankment. A faint breeze stirring the tupelo trees. The gators'shrill attack cry in the night. Insects buzzing for their next feed. A Louis Armstrong blues tune floated from the stereo, the soul-wrenching words echoing his mood.
Though a thick fog of blessed darkness clouded the waning daylight, forming morbid images to bombard him. A hand outstretched, begging for help. The fingers curled around the tiny bébé's rattle. The accusing, horror-stricken eyes.
He blinked to stop the damning images, but they flickered in his mind like flashes of lightning splintering the sky.
The scream tore the air again, and he swallowed back bile. Its tormenting sound refused to stop, pounding against his conscience with a will he couldn't defy. Reminding him of his past. His sins. His vow of silence.
So many secrets Tell and you die.
Inside his pocket, his cell phone vibrated, jarring him back to the present. Hauling him away from the pain and self-recriminations clawing at his mind.
He connected the call with sweaty fingers. "Special Agent Damon Dubois."
"Damon, thank God you answered." His little brother Antwaun's strained voice rattled unevenly over the line. Something was wrong. What kind of mess had his youngest sibling gotten into this time?
Hell, not that he had a right to judge anyone. But the family knew nothing of his secrets. Or his lies
"You have to come meet me. We found a woman at least part of one."
Holy Christ. "I'll be right there. Where are you?" Antwaun relayed the GPS coordinates and Damon snapped the phone closed, grabbed his badge and weapon and strapped it onto his shoulder holster. Fifteen minutes later, he parked and headed through a dense stretch of the swamp. The scent of murk floated from the marshy water as the mud sucked at his feet. The voices and faint beams of flashlights ahead served as his guide through the knot of trees, and when he reached the crime-scene tape, he identified himself to the officer in charge.
Through the shadows, he spotted Antwaun and strode toward him. His brother's forehead was furrowed with worry, the intense anger in his dark eyes warning Damon that this was not an everyday crime scene. Something personal had entered into it.
"What's going on, Antwaun?" he asked quietly. Two uniforms frowned and muttered curses at his arrival, already the thread of territorial rights adding tension to an anxiety-ridden situation.
Antwaun leaned in close, his voice a conspiratorial whisper. "Hell, Damon. I think I know the victim."
Damon's gaze shot to his brother's, his pulse racing. "How do you know her?"
"I can't be sure, but " His gruff voice cracked.
"But if it is who I think it is, we dated."
The heat thickened, causing a cold clamminess to bead on Damon's skin. "You recognize her or what?"
Antwaun scrubbed a hand over the back of his scraggly hair, his face as pale as buttermilk. "Like I said, we only found part of her."
Damon sucked in a sharp breath, then followed Antwaun over to the edge of the swamp. The murk chewed at Damon's shoes, the stench of blood and a decaying animal hitting him. Somewhere nearby the hiss of gators warned him that hungry creatures lurked at the edges of the rivers. Yellow eyes pierced the inky darkness, scaly predators hiding beneath the water's surface, taking stock of their prey. Biding their time. Waiting to strike.
Then he saw her. At least the part that was visible. Her hand.
Just a single hand sticking up through the quicksand.
Brittle, yellowed bones poked through skin that had been gnawed away. The fingertips were half-gone. Blood dotted the remnants of mangled flesh, revealing exposed veins that had been sawed away by the jagged teeth of animals now watching nearby in silent reverie.
"How " He had to clear his throat, push away the mounting fury and choking bile. No woman deserved to end up like this.
Had she been dead or alive when the gators got her?
"If this is all they found, what makes you think you know her?"
Antwaun's hand shook as he pointed to what was left of her third finger. "That ring "
"Yeah?" Damon squinted, moved closer, knelt and caught the thin thread of silver glinting through the mud and debris. Amazingly, the simple silver band still clung to the bone.
"I gave it to her," Antwaun said in a low, tortured voice. "Right before she went missing."
SHE LIVED IN THE DARKNESS. Had known nothing but pain for months.
And all that time, she had been missing, but no one had come looking for her. Why?
Clutching the sheets of her hospital bed between bandaged fingers, she begged for relief from the agony of her tormenting thoughts. Time bled and flowed together, sometimes nonexistent, sometimes slipping through the hourglass in slow motion. Sometimes chunks and days, even weeks gone by without notice.
Isolated, starved for human contact, she lay waiting for the doctor's visit.
The bleep-bleep of hospital machinery became her music. His voice, her salvation.
Gruff. Soothing. Coaxing her to sit up. Eat. Fight for her life. Heal.
His touch offered comfort, compassion. It murmured promises that she might recover one day. Be human. Even beautiful.
Yet as much as his manner evoked concern and care for her, even growing feelings, the scent of medicine and hospital permeated his clothing, reminding her that he was her doctor, she his patient. She was only one of many he had helped. But she'd heard the rumors. The hushed voices. And she had yet to see her reflection because he had stripped the hospital rehab facility of mirrors.
She was the woman without a face. A human monster.
He had repaired what he could. Endless, countless surgeries over the past few months. Bandages and medication, hours and hours of mind-control techniques to keep from going crazy. Sometimes she feared she walked a tightrope to insanity.
And when he left her room for the night, another man came. A monster like her who whispered in the shadows. The man with the scalelike skin.
Her one and only friend here. Lex Van Wormer. He seemed to sense when she was teetering on the edge, and reeled her back in, sewing the tethered strands of her mind together with some fanciful story. Silly dreams of a future she had to look forward to.
One he dreamed about as well, but one that eluded them both. Instead they had become prisoners of the darkness.
A gentle knock sounded at the door, and the heavy wooden structure squeaked open. A sliver of light from the hall sliced the black interior, causing her to blink. Slowly over the past months of her imprisonment, her vision had adjusted and returned to near normal, though she still preferred the shadows. Whether this was to shield herself from having to face others and see the disgust or pity in their eyes, or because she'd begun to view the darkness as her best friend, she wasn't certain.
Her breath lodged in a momentary panic in her throat as she listened to the approaching footsteps. One of the nurses with another round of injections? Dr. Pace with his soothing voice and promises that she would get better? Or Lex, somehow sensing that she had suffered another nightmare?
Nightmares or memoriesshe could no longer distinguish the difference. She only knew that night after endless night, some fathomless, sightless, black-hearted devil chased her. That he waited around every corner, watching, stalking, breathing down her neck. That she had to escape. That he wanted her dead and would stop at nothing until he achieved his purpose.
The door closed, blanketing the room once again in the gray fog that offered her safety.
It was always twilight in her room. "Crystal?"
"Lex." She exhaled a sigh of heartfelt relief. Still, the name felt foreign. The first time he'd seen her, he'd commented that her eyes reminded him of sparkling crystal cut glass, so he'd called her Crystal, and the nurses had latched on to it.
That she'd been blind at first and hadn't been able to see him hadn't mattered. She'd relished his company.
Then, finally, on a pain-filled admission to prove to her that she wasn't alone in her world of shadows, he'd allowed her to touch his hand. She'd felt the scaly dry patches of leatherlike skin and had understood his reason for withdrawing from the world.
The condition, caused by exposure to an unknown chemical he'd been exposed to in the war, had dis acid. For a brief time before the bandages from her eyes had been removed, she'd feared she would react to his impairment.
But she had grown accustomed to the sound of his voice as he read her poetry at night, to the cadence of his laugh as he fabricated stories of journeys he'd taken, and his looks hadn't mattered. In fact, she hadn't even cringed when she'd finally rested her eyes upon him.
Apparently, he had adjusted to seeing her without a face, and covered in bandages as well. Who else would be so accepting?
He dragged the straight chair against the wall near her bed, then reached for her hand. A light squeeze, and her breathing steadied.
"Thank you for coming." Heavens, she hated the choked, childish quiver of her voice. But she had been so lonely.
"I'll always be here for you, Crystal. Always." She closed her eyes to stem the tears threatening. Theirs was an odd relationship. Two misfits thrown together, two survivors hanging on to life by a severed thread. Yet they weren't really living either.
"I've missed you since last night, Crystal," he said in a low voice.
She tensed. She'd sensed that his friendship ran deep, that he wanted more from her. She loved him in a platonic way.
Too many pieces of her past lost. Too many questions unanswered.
Another man maybe waiting.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Don't say a word about much Herron tries to manipulate the reader in this book.
The first book I read by Rita Herron was A Breath Away. I really enjoyed it and decided I¿d be reading more books by this author.Don¿t Say A Word was definitely different. Even though the plot was action-packed, I had a hard time staying focused well reading. The book seem to start out slow. It was around page 100 that the plot started to pick up pace abit. I also had a hard time understanding and staying in-tune with the characters. I really don¿t think Ms. Herron put enough depth into the characters to set them apart from each other. Especially with the three Duboises brothers.Another issue I had with the book was the romance. Sure, the chemistry was there with Crystal/Jacqueline and Damon, but they were forced together so quickly.Last but not least. The ending. To good to be true. Far fetched. Unrealistic. A few choice words to describe it. In the real word people don¿t switch faces just for the hell of it.On a closing note, Don¿t Say A Word did get some good reviews. And readers who like romantic suspense, with a touch of the supernatural will enjoy this book. Personally, I live a little more in the real world. and prefer my reading material to be a little more believable. But hey!¿it is fiction.
...the last few chapters which made little sense and were unbelievably far fetched, particularly the last chapter which left me going 'huh?' I found the paranormal aspects and the surgery itself, since it's been in the news lately, interesting. But all these people being connected to each other was simply too coincidental, as was the strong family resemblance amongst the Dubois family. Since I don't want to ruin the ending for anyone, let's just say it was very convoluted and made no sense at all.
Rita Herron's DON'T SAY A WORD is a thrilling read that combines both elements of the genre of Romantic Suspense and adds a touch of the supernatural. The suspense twists and turns and keeps the reader guessing so that even the epilogue presents new surprising details. The hero and heroine struggle against darkness and demons, internal and external, and yet the chemistry between the two is so powerful that their struggle manifests the redemptive power of love. Antwaun Dubois, the black sheep of his family, has been arrested for the murder of Kendra Yates. His brother Damon, an FBI agent and former member of the E-Team, a trained covert group of elite assassins, investigates the gruesome murder hoping to discover the serial killer and free his brother. His trail leads to a mysterious Jane Doe in a hospital. Her eerie resemblance to the victim and cutting edge medical technology complicate the case. Crystal, as she has been named, has amnesia and terrible injuries caused from a horrific fire and yet she might hold the secret to the case, a case that threatens to reveal the deadly dark secrets that Damon has held at bay since he left the E-team. As her memories emerge, can Crystal put together the pieces quickly enough to save herself from the madman? Whom can she trust when all those around her seem to want something from her? Is the passionate chemistry between her and Damon enough to survive both their inner secrets and the killer as he stalks new victims or will their love only put them at greater risk? Rita Herron magnifies the level of romance and suspense in DON'T SAY A WORD through the hero's fight against some deep inner demons as he feels drawn to this woman --- so much that the desire to protect her encourages him to face those demons which he has tried very hard to repress previously. In addition, Crystal feels an inexplicable growing trust for Damon despite her amnesia and the forces putting her very life at risk. The suspense and the plot intricacies that emerge through the investigation, twisting and turning so that the suspense itself is a finely constructed, multi-leveled creation. Although fast-paced, DON'T SAY A WORD is not a simplistic easy-to-figure-out thriller but rather a carefully layered mystery whose details and interconnections only unfold as the last page is read. For suspense lovers, the surprises are thrilling! In addition, Rita Herron develops important themes for our times that make this book expand beyond just a fun thrilling read. The chemistry and developing love between the hero and heroine is so strong, despite the darkness that threatens to engulf them, that the reader captures a glimpse of the redemptive power of love. This theme of love and redemption expands in ripples outward to other characters, not only in the Dubois family, but beyond. As several characters wrestle with their past secrets, Herron creates an idea of heroism includes an individual hero's possible shortcomings and experience. Even the minor characters of Lex and Esmerelda make this story unforgettable. Although labeled as heroes by the community of New Orleans, the Dubois men know that the label of hero too easily turns to condemnation when the public discovers the truth of the real men behind the label. In wrestling with the issues of heroism, Rita Herron has created a tribute to all the true heroes, the soldiers and emergency personnel, that encompasses not only the moments of triumph but the darkness and difficulty of their work. Although DON'T SAY A WORD has a darker element than some of her shorter works of romantic suspense, this novel heightens the dimension of redemption, romance and courage beyond that of her earlier works. As always, Rita Herron is a master at creating a landscape that becomes a character itself in the book. The scene and date of some of the last scenes of this book are no accident. Beautiful!
Don't Say a Word Rita Herron Harlequin HQN, Sep 2007, $6.99 ISBN: 9780373772179 The woman¿s hand is found sticking out of the swamp of the bayou Antwaun Dubois recognizes the ring on her finger that he gave her several months ago before she vanished. The police believe he committed her murder. His brother FBI Special Agent Damon Dubois refuses to believe his sibling committed a homicide so he decides to prove otherwise. In the Bayou, Damon meets Crystal, who looks like the sister of the deceased. Crystal cannot remember anything about her past suffering from amnesia. Damon believes she is the key to the murder, but also believes she is his sibling¿s beloved so he hides his feelings from her. As they work together to recover her memory and look for clues to who she is, they fall in love. However, someone wants her to never remember her past, especially her recent history if that means killing her so be it. DON¿T SAY A WORD is an action-packed investigative romantic suspense that is filled with twists and turns and cleverly uses the Bayou and post Katrina New Orleans as a backdrop. The story line is fast-paced with an incredible climax. Although the romantic subplot between Crystal and Damon seems forced, Rita Herron provides a strong thriller that will have suspense fans wondering what spin is next. Harriet Klaiet klausner