My Soul To Keep
Genre: Paranormal romance
Publisher: All Romance eBooks
Date of Publication: July 1, 2016
Word Count: 75000
Cover Artist: Erin Dameron Hill
A deadly cycle…a haunting legacy.
From the moment Detective Caitlyn Decker arrives at the scene, she knows this crime is anything but a routine killing. The cryptic note. The contradictory evidence. The violence. There’s no doubt in her mind her life’s about to get complicated. Add Special Agent Deacon McGraw into the mix—a man she’s had an unfortunate crush on for the past six months—and it’s shaping up to get downright messy.
Deacon has waited twenty years to solve his father’s murder. If his calculations are correct, this recent killing is connected to it, and the start of something grisly. After nearly convincing himself his father’s outlandish theories on a cold case were nothing more than a slow slide into madness, Deacon’s suddenly faced with a harsh truth—no one’s going to believe him, either.
Caitlyn’s not sure what to make of Deacon’s claims. But she’s willing to give him a chance—one that quickly translates into more than just a working relationship. Becoming lovers carries more risks than simple heartbreak. One miscalculation, or a loss of faith, and they just might lose their souls.
Detective Caitlyn Decker shook her head before pressing her fingers against the bridge of her nose, closing her eyes as pain throbbed through her temples, not that it’d do much good. The headache had already taken root, somehow pulsing with every beat of her heart. Nothing but time or drugs would touch it now. And, somehow, downing half a bottle of Motrin while working a murder scene didn’t seem like a viable solution. She glanced at the paper again, rereading the words scribbled across the crisp white sheet.
Some choices are easy, some aren’t. Can you guess which one this was?
Christ, she’d officially seen it all.
A male snort drew her attention, and she shifted her focus as Detective David Truman knelt beside the body, giving it the once-over. He gazed up at her, exhaling loudly as he gained his feet. He stuffed his hands in his pockets, nodding at one of the CSI technicians as they snapped some photographs.
He turned to face her. “Not exactly the kind of case you want to grab at the end of a shift, huh?”
She shrugged. “Thinking there isn’t a right time for a case like this, period. We both know that note means trouble.”
Truman glanced at the paper, nodding. “Just another Wednesday as far as I’m concerned.”
She frowned at his hollow tone, spinning slightly toward him. “You sound more cynical than usual. Everything okay?”
She shook her head. “Fine. Keep secrets.” She toed the pavement. “So, you aren’t on shift for another two hours. Why the early start?”
“I needed to get out of the house, and I heard the call come through over the radio. Thought I’d check it out…see if you wanted me to take it for you.”
“And let you have all the fun? That’s crazy talk.” She nudged his elbow. “You and Clare okay? We can go grab coffee after if you’d like.”
“God, who are you, Dr. Phil? I’m fine.” He glanced over her shoulder, cursing. “Looks like the feds just pulled up. You sure you don’t want me to take this? Their presence here probably means a joint endeavor, and seeing as you got stuck with the last one…”
Caitlyn did her best to calm the sudden pounding of her heart. The last thing she needed was to sound breathless. And all because of who might have just arrived. “I’m good. But I can count on your help if I need it, right?”
“It’ll cost you.”
“It always does.”
Truman gave her a mock salute before trudging off toward his car. She heard him murmur a token hello to the fed he’d mentioned, the gravelly reply beading her skin with a sudden rash of goose bumps. She took a few soothing breaths, only to jump when a rumble of thunder sounded off to the east, the promise of rain heavy in the early morning air. A nearby streetlight buzzed as it flickered, casting odd shadows against the brick building before settling, again. She turned up her collar against a blast of cold, damp air, tucking her hands in her pockets. After a few weeks of summer-like weather, the sudden shift into more typical spring temperatures felt even colder than usual. Or maybe it was just her. A reminder of how little else she had in her life to make the endless string of homicides bearable. To chase away the incessant chill that seemed to have settled bone-deep inside her.
Footsteps scuffed the pavement behind her as the fed moved into her peripheral view. She didn’t turn to greet the man. Couldn’t. Not when her face felt more than flushed. Special Agent Deacon McGraw—or Deke as he usually went by—headed the violent crimes unit for the Seattle branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and he seemed to be the bureau’s prime choice in interagency ventures. Not that she had a clue why he was here. As far as she was concerned, this was just a routine killing in an alley of one of the poorer districts the city had to offer. Nothing to suggest it fell under federal jurisdiction. Her gaze strayed to the paper lying beside the victim’s bloody body, the words glaring at her. Perhaps routine wasn’t quite the correct term.
Deke cleared his throat as he crouched beside the corpse, using a pen to twist the paper slightly. He cocked his head to the side, glancing at her as he stood. “Just what this city needs, a killer with a twisted sense of humor.”
Caitlyn crossed her arms over her chest. “I’ll admit. I found the note…odd.”
He chuckled. “Odd? It’s creepy as hell, though I think we both know the answer to his question. The way the throat’s been sliced damn near through to the vic’s spinal column, the arcs of blood against the wall, not to mention the fact the guy’s been virtually gutted…thinking it wasn’t a hard choice for the bastard that did this.”
“I don’t know…all that defensive bruising along his arms, the marks on his head. The guy fought hard. Could suggest reluctance on the part of our perp.”
“Or the killer’s not as strong as he thought he was.”
Caitlyn snorted, waving at the guy spread out across the black asphalt. “The victim’s easily two-twenty and those muscles aren’t fake. The guy obviously put in some heavy hours at the gym. And that faded tattoo on his wrist means he was part of the Fifth Street gang at some point. That kind of street tough doesn’t ever really go away. Thinking there aren’t many people who’d even consider taking him on. Lord knows, I wouldn’t want to have met him in a dark alley.”
“At least, not to fight.”
“Seriously, Deacon? He’s not even cold, yet.”
“But he was pretty. Thinking guys like him would want that noticed, even under these circumstances.” He winked at her. “Especially by a sexier than hell cop.”
“That’s detective to you, G-man. Besides he’s not my type.”
“That so? What is your type, Detective?”
“Still breathing would be a good start.”
Deke grinned, the simple gesture making her heart race. Damn, but the man was handsome. Shaggy brown hair, the perfect amount of scruff, and those eyes—so fucking blue it made her stomach flip-flop. She’d had an unfortunate crush on the guy since they’d worked an assignment together six months ago, and bumping into him every few weeks on any potential crossover cases only made the fire in the pit of her gut burn hotter.
She drew in a much-needed breath, turning to fully face him. “So, there something about this case I’m unaware of? A reason I’m going to have to play nice with the bureau?”
Deacon placed his hand over his heart, the wind tousling his hair around his face. “And here I thought you liked playing nice with me. That hurts, Caitlyn.”
She did her best to ignore the way his words curled over her flesh, making her skin prickle as if he’d actually touched her. Damn, she shouldn’t react to him like this.
She glanced at the body again. “Is this where you tell me there’s a slew of other bodies just like this one scattered across the country? All with cryptic messages that make your skin crawl? Which makes this whole damn mess some jurisdictional bullshit? Because honestly, if that note is any indication of what direction this case is going to take, I might be inclined to just hand it over to you. No fighting. No whining to my superiors.”
His expression sobered, the lines of his face becoming slightly harsher. He scanned the alleyway, motioning her to join him in a relatively unoccupied area off to their left. Caitlyn followed him, unsure whether it was curiosity or the inklings of fear making her stomach tighten. Or maybe it was just him. He stopped when he reached a dumpster, looking up and down the narrow road again before focusing on her. Those crystal blue eyes of his made her breath hitch, the intensity of his expression bordering on lethal.
She reached up, palming his shoulder, wondering why he suddenly seemed so serious. As if the previous banter had just been for show. “Hey, you okay?”
“I was better before I got here.”
She pulled her hand back, tucking it in her pocket. “Thanks, Deke. Way to boost my fragile ego.”
He chuckled, leaning in dangerously close. His breath feathered over her cheek, rustling the wisps of hair that had pulled free from her ponytail. “Sweetheart, you’re the only silver lining in this whole mess.”
Her face heated again as his jaw brushed hers when he eased back, palming the brick behind her head. The position virtually trapped her between him and the building, his chest grazing hers as she inhaled deeply. Her pulse kicked up as her breasts rubbed across his pecs, the slight friction making her nipples peak against her shirt. Thank God she had on far too many layers for him to notice. She cursed inwardly. Now wasn’t the time or the place to consider anything other than the task at hand. But damn…every new case, every lost soul just seemed to be a hollow echo of her life. Claimed a bit more of the part of her she’d tried to lock away—keep safe. And she knew that, sooner or later, there’d be nothing left of her. Nothing left for her to give to anyone other than an empty shell of the person she’d once been.
She scanned the area, expecting someone to start yelling suggestive comments, but no one seemed to notice them. Or maybe everyone was simply too focused on the dead body splattered across the pavement to spare them a passing glance.
Caitlyn schooled her features. “Obviously, there’s something much deeper going on here than one creepy note and a dead body. So spill.”
Deacon tilted his head slightly, a hushed sigh sounding between them. “It’s…complicated.”
“Everything with you is…complicated.”
He arched a brow. “I could say the same thing about you, but…” He raked his free hand through his hair. “For the record, this isn’t the first body. Or the first note. There’s just one catch.”
“There always is.” She moistened her lips, quirking her mouth into a hint of a smile. “And…”
“The truth is, this is the thirteenth victim in a string of killings, all of which have the same MO and the same type of cryptic note.”
“Thirteenth? Strange how I haven’t heard anything about it. Not so much as a bulletin over the wire. There a reason for that?”
“The murders began about sixty years ago. The killer seems to target fit, young males in their prime. There were six deaths, then nothing for about forty years. Then suddenly, there were six more. An agent tied the two cases together, despite the first file being buried beneath a bunch of high security red tape, but he was killed during the investigation. The bureau pretty much back-burnered the whole thing when the killings stopped as mysteriously as they’d begun. In fact, there hasn’t been another case…until now.”
About the Author:
Kris Norris is a jack-of-all trades who's constantly looking for her ever-elusive clone.
A single mother and slave to chaos, Kris started writing some years back, and it took her a while to realize she wasn't destined for the padded room, and that the voices chattering away inside her head were really other characters trying to take shape. (And since they weren't telling her to conquer the human race, she went with it. Though she supposes if they had...insert evil laugh).
Kris loves writing erotic novels. She loves heroines who kick butt, heroes who are larger than life, and sizzling love scenes that leave you feeling just a bit breathless.
For more information on other books by Kris, visit her website: www.krisnorris.ca