Lisa Jackson can’t keep away from murderers, especially serial killers. She’s been killing people everywhere from Savannah , New Orleans and Baton Rouge to San Francisco and the Pacific Northwest —and it’s been worth it. Her readers come back again and andanagain, and again, and her novels are fixtures on national bestseller lists. In fact, her book Fatal Burn was a number one New York Times paperback bestseller, and the first two of her novels to be published in hardcover, Shiver and Absolute Fear, were in the top five on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Next, readers will be looking for LOST SOULS, just published in hardcover by Kensington Books to go on sale March 25th.
Having made serial killing her business—sort of—she has put her characters through the wringer. They have been up to their necks in danger and stared death, usually a pretty gory one, right in the face. She continues to be fascinated by the minds and motives of both her killers and their pursuers—the personal, the professional and the downright twisted. As she creates the puzzle of relationships, actions, clues, lies and personal histories that haunt her protagonists, she must conversely confront the fear and terror faced by her victims, and the harsh and enduring truth that, in the real world, horror and madness touch far too many lives and families.
Lisa began writing at the urging of her sister, novelist Nancy Bush. Inspired by the success of authors she admired and the burgeoning market for romance fiction at the time, Nancy was convinced they could work together and succeed. They sat down, determined to write and to be published.
They did and they were.
Initially they wrote together. Later, they moved in different directions. Lisa brought more and more suspense to her work and began writing much darker stories. Nancy ’s writing expanded to include not just her own novels, including her highly praised Jane Kelly Mysteries, such as the recently published Ultraviolet, Electric Blue and Candy Apple Red, but she also spent several years writing for one of television’s leading soap operas, even transplanting herself for a time from the sisters’ Pacific Northwest roots to Manhattan . This year, they plan to work together again on a thriller set for publication in 2009.
Meanwhile, for Lisa the killing goes on as this mother, daughter, workaholic and amazing writer pursues her habit of making the hair stand up on the back of readers’ necks, and landing her books on The New York Times, the USA Today, and the Publishers Weekly national best seller lists.
Lisa Jackson’s novels include the upcoming LOST SOULS and the best sellers Absolute Fear, which will be published in paperback for the first time in March, Hot Blooded, Cold Blooded, The Night Before, The Morning After, Deep Freeze, Fatal Burn, and Almost Dead. Last year, Most Likely to Die, written by Lisa, Beverly Barton and Wendy Corsi Staub was published and became a number three New York Times paperback bestseller. She is a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers and the Romance Writers of America.
Jackson takes readers to Baton Rouge and All Saints College, where Kristi Bentz has returned to finish her degree. At least that’s partly true. She’s not lying, but she also has no intention of telling her father, homicide detective Rick Bentz, his second wife, Olivia, or anyone else—including Bentz’s irreverent partner Reuben Montoya—her deeper motive. She’s determined to write an important true crime book, and doesn’t care if it ends up being dangerous. And that’s despite the fact that she’s lucky to be alive, having come close to death at the hands of one of her father’s suspects.
Fascinated by the minds of killers, certain she can reach her goal, Kristi doesn’t understand why her own father won’t bend to help her with leads and access. She’s tired of everyone acting as if she can’t take care of herself. She’ll do it on her own, starting by investigating a trail of missing women with two things in common: all were troubled and vulnerable lost souls with no real family ties or anyone who would look for them if they disappeared—and each is connected to All Saints.
Where am I?
A rush of icy air swept across Rylee's bare skin.
Goose bumps rose.
Shivering, she blinked, trying to pierce the shifting darkness, a cold dark void with muted spots of red light shrouded in a rising mist. She was freezing, half lying on a couch of some kind and . . .
Oh, God, was she naked?
Was that right? No way!
Yet she felt the soft pile of velvet against the back of her legs, her buttocks, and her shoulders where they met the rising arm of this chaise.
A sharp needle of fear pricked her brain.
She tried to move, but her arms and legs wouldn't budge, nor could she turn her head. She rolled her eyes upward, trying to see to the top of this freaky, dark chamber with its weird red light.
She heard a quiet cough. What?
She wasn't alone?
She tried to whip her head toward the sound.
But she couldn't. It lolled heavily against the back of the chaise.
Move, Rylee, get up and friggin' move! Another sound. The scrape of a shoe against concrete – or something hard – reached her ears. Get out, get out now. This is too damned weird.
Her ears strained. She thought she heard the softest of whispers coming from the shadows. What the hell was this?
Her insides shriveled with a new fear. Why couldn't she move? What in the world was happening? She tried to speak but couldn't utter a word, as if her vocal chords were frozen. Frantically, she looked around, her eyes able to shift in their sockets, but her head unable to swivel.
Her heart pounded and, despite the chill in the air, she began to sweat. This was a dream, right? A freakin' nightmare, where she, immobile, was positioned on a velvet longue and naked as the day she was born. The chaise was slightly raised, it seemed, as if she were on a weird stage or dais of some kind, and surrounding her was an unseen audience, people hiding in the shadows.
Her throat closed in terror.
Panic swept through her.
It's only a dream, remember that. You can't speak, you can't move, all classic signs of a nightmare. Calm down, shut this out of your mind, you'll wake up in the morning . . .
But she didn't heed the suggestion running through her mind, because something was off, here. This whole scene was very, very wrong. Never before when she'd been terrorized by a nightmare had she had the insight to think she might be dreaming. And there was a realness to this, a substance that made her second-guess her rationale.
What did she remember . . . oh, God, had it been last night . . . or just a few hours earlier? She'd been out drinking with her new friends from college, some kind of clique that was into the whole Goth-vampire thing . . . no, no . . . they insisted it was a vampyre thing. That old fashioned spelling was supposed to make it more real or something. There had been whispers and dares and blood-red martinis that the others had insisted were stained with real human blood. It had been some kind of "rite of initiation."
Rylee hadn't believed them, but had wanted to be a part of their group, had taken them up on their dares, had indulged . . . and now . . . and now she was tripping. They'd laced the drink, not with blood, but with some weird psychedelic drug that was causing her to hallucinate, that was it! Hadn't she witnessed the hint of hesitation in them when she'd been handed the blood-red martini and twirled the stem in her fingers? Hadn't she sensed their fascination, even fear, as she'd not just sipped the drink but tossed it back with a flourish?
Oh, God . . .
This initiation – which she'd thought had been a bit of a joke – had taken a dangerous, unseen turn. She remembered vaguely agreeing to being part of the "show." She'd drunk the fake "blood" in the martini glass and yeah, she'd thought all the vampire stuff her newfound friends were into was kind of cool, but she hadn't taken any of their talk seriously. She'd just thought they'd been screwing with her head, seeing how far she would go . . .
But within minutes of downing the drink, she'd felt weird. More than drunk, and really out of it. Belatedly, she'd realized the martini been doctored with a potent drug and she'd started to black out.
How much time had elapsed?
She had no idea.
A bad trip?
She hoped to God so. Because if this were real, then she really was situated on a couch, on a stage, wearing nothing, her long hair twisted upon her head, her limbs unmoving. It was as if she were playing a part in some eerie, twisted drama, one that, she was certain, didn't have a happy ending.
She heard another whisper of anticipation.
The red light began to pulse softly, in counterpoint to her own terrified heartbeat. She imagined she could see the whites of dozens of eyes staring at her from the darkness.
God help me.
Gritting her teeth, she willed her limbs to move, but there was no response. None. She tried to scream, to yell, to tell someone to stop this madness! Her voice made only the tiniest of mewling noises.
Fear sizzled through her.
Couldn't someone stop this? Someone in the audience? Couldn't they see her terror? Realize the joke had gone too far? Silently she beseeched them with her eyes. Slowly, the stage became illuminated by a few well placed bulbs that created a soft, fuzzy glow punctuated by the flickering red lamp.
Wisps of mist slid across the stage floor.
A rustle of expectancy seemed to sweep through the unseen audience. What was going to happen to her? Did they know? Was it a rite they'd witnessed before, perhaps passed themselves? Or was it something worse, something too horrible to contemplate?
She was doomed.
No! Fight, Rylee, fight! Don't give up. Do not!
Again she strained to move, and again her muscles wouldn't obey. Vainly she attempted to lift one arm, her head, a leg, any damned thing to no avail. Then she heard him.
The hairs on her nape raised in fear as cold as the northern sea. She knew in an instant she was no longer alone on the stage. From the corner of one terrified eye she saw movement. It was a dark figure, a tall, broad-shouldered man, walking through the oozing, creeping mist.
Her throat turned to sand.
Panic squeezed her heart.
She stared at him, compelled to watch him slowly approach. Mesmerized by terror. This was the one. The man the vampyre-lovers had whispered about.
She almost expected him to be wearing a black cape with a scarlet lining, his face pale as death, eyes glowing, glistening fangs revealed as he drew back his lips. But that wasn't the case. This man was dressed partially in black, yes. But there was no cape, no flash of red satin, no glowing eyes. He was lean, but appeared athletic. And was sexy as hell. Wrap-around, mirrored sunglasses covered his eyes. His hair was dark, or wet, and was long enough to brush the collar of his black leather jacket. His jeans were torn and low-slung. A faded T-shirt had once been dark, his snake-skin boots were scuffed, the heels worn.
Eager anticipation thrummed from the darkness surrounding the stage.
Once again she thought this was a far-out dream, a weird nightmare or hallucination that was now as sexy as it was frightening.
Oh, please . . . don't let it be real . . .
He reached the couch and stopped, the scrape of his boots no longer echoing through her brain, only the hiss of expectation audible over her own erratic heartbeat. With the back of the longue separating their bodies, he slid one big, calloused hand onto her bare neck, creating a thrill that warmed her blood and melted a bit of the fear that gripped her. His fingertips pressed oh-so gently against her collarbones and her pulse jumped.
A part of her, a very small part of her, found him thrilling.
A hush swept through the unseen crowd.
"This," he said, his voice commanding but low, as if addressing the shrouded viewers, "is your sister."
The audience released an "ahhh" of anticipation.
That was her name, yes, but . . what was he talking about? She wanted to deny him, to shake her head, to tell him that what was happening was wrong, that her nipples were only stiff from the cold, not from any sense of desire, that the throb inside the deepest part of her was not physical lust. But he knew better.
He could sense her desire. Smell her fear. And, she knew, he loved her for her raging emotions.
Don't do this, she silently pleaded, but she knew he read the warring signals in the dilation of her pupils, the shortness of her breath, the moan that was more wanting than fear.
His strong fingers pushed a little more forcefully, harder, hot pads against her skin.
"Sister Rylee joins us tonight willingly," he said with conviction. She is ready to make the final, ultimate sacrifice."
What sacrifice? That didn't sound good. Once again Rylee tried to protest, to draw away but she was paralyzed. The only part of her body not completely disengaged was her brain, and even that seemed bent on betraying her.
Trust him, a part of it whispered. You know he loves you . . . you can sense it . . And how long have you waited to be loved?
No! That was crazy. The drug talking.
But the feel of his fingers, slipping a little, edging lower, a hot trail along her breasts, ever-closer to her aching nipples.
Deep inside, she tingled. Ached.
But this was wrong. Wasn't it. . . .?
He leaned closer, his nose against her hair, his lips touching the shell of her ear as he whispered so quietly only she could hear. "I love you." She melted inside. Wanted him. A warm throb rose through her. His fingers rubbed the skin beneath her collarbones a little harder, pressing into her flesh. For an instant she forgot that she was on stage. She was alone with him and he was touching her . . . loving her . . . he wanted her as no man had ever really wanted her . . . And . . .
He pushed hard.
A strong finger dug into her flesh, jabbing against her rib. A jolt of pain shot through her.
Her eyes widened.
Fear and adrenalin spurted through her bloodstream. Her pulse jumped madly, crazily.
What had she been thinking? That he could seduce her?
Love? Oh, for the love of Jesus, he didn't love her! Rylee, don't be fooled.
Don't fall into his stupid trap.
The damned hallucinogen had convinced her that he cared for her but he, whoever the hell he was, intended only to use her for his sick show.
She glared at him and he recognized her anger.
The bastard smiled, teeth flashing white.
She knew then that he reveled in her impotent fury. He felt her heart pumping, the blood flowing hot and frantic through her veins.
"Hers is the untainted blood of a virgin," he said to the unseen crowd.
You've got the wrong girl! I'm not a–
She threw all her concentration into speaking, but her tongue refused to work, no air pushing through her vocal chords. She tried fighting, but her limbs were powerless.
"Don't be afraid," he whispered.
In horror she watched as he bent downward, ever closer, his breath hot, his lips pulling back to show his bared teeth.
Two bright fangs gleamed, just like she'd fantasized!
Please God. Please help me wake up. Please, please . . .!
In the next heartbeat she felt a cold sting, like the piercing of a needle, as his fangs punctured her skin and slid easily into her veins.
Her blood began to flow . . .
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