I’ll Never Let You Go
“Burton’s latest is a chilling, suspenseful read with a calculating villain at the center of a well-crafted, intricate plot . . . sharp, crisp dialogue . . . will have readers guessing until the very end.”
RT Book Reviews
“[Mary Burton’s] books are right up there with the likes of James Patterson . . . One page after another, I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough.”
He promised to kill her. One night four years ago, Leah Carson’s husband almost succeeded. Philip stabbed her twenty-three times before fleeing. The police are sure he’s dead. But fear won’t let Leah believe it.
It starts with little things. Missing keys. A flat tire. Mysterious flowers. All easily explained away if the pattern wasn’t so terrifyingly familiar. Leah has a new veterinary practice and a new life with no ties to her nightmare. But Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent Alex Morgan suspects something. And when another woman’s body is found, stabbed twenty-three times, Leah knows her past has found her.
As Leah and Alex untangle the horrifying truth, he watches her, ready for the perfect moment. Until death—that was the vow they made. And a killer always keeps his word…
I'll Never Let You Go Excerpt
“Rick says you’re a popular vet with dogs.”
“I love what I do, so it’s easy.” She took a sip of beer. “He says you’re a great agent.”
Alex traced the label on his bottle. “He didn’t say that.”
“Maybe not in so many words. But my receptionist got him talking the last time he was in, and she said he had nice things to say about you.”
He studied the menu. “So you and your receptionist were talking about me?”
Color rushed to her cheeks. “I suppose we were. We take care of several of the police canines, and we generally talk about them and their families.”
He closed the menu and looked up. “Good to know. So you must have a dog?”
“No. No dogs for me. I work long hours. Maybe one day.” Since Philip, she’d feared loving anything too much in case it would be taken away.
“I picture you with a houseful of cats and dogs. The homespun type.”
“You’re making fun of me.”
“Not at all. Making an observation.”
Homespun jabbed, conjuring rocking chairs, shawls, and, well, old. “You’re not the animal type.”
“I like Tracker. But I’m not a dog or a cat guy. I’m on the go too much.”
“Which begs the question, why did you ask me out?”
He sat back in the booth and tugged his coat jacket in pace. “You’re different. Interesting.”
“In a homespun sort of way?”
“In a multilayered sort of way.”
She sensed he had lots of questions, but there would be no peeking behind the curtain where she hid her secrets. “I vaccinate dogs and cats all day. Most interesting thing I’ve done lately is joining a running group.”
“With Deidre Jones? She told me a vet had joined the group.”
“I didn’t realize you knew Deidre.”
“She works with my brother at the Nashville Police Department. We cross paths occasionally. How’s the running going?”
“I’m the slowest in the group. And that’s not false modesty. It’s the truth.”
“Tortoise and the hare. Stick with it.”
“Maybe.” She sipped her beer. “You don’t seem to have a lot of friends at Rudy’s.”
“I investigate cops. Doesn’t’ win me many points with the rank and file.
She traced the rim of her cup. Ah, that explained the man’s comment in the bar. “Does that bother you?”
His attention shifted to her palm and the scar slashing across it. She closed her fingers, resisting the urge to explain. Whatever she told him would be a lie. She never told the truth about her past, which still shamed her. How could she explain that shew as a smart woman who had stayed with an abusive and, ultimately, murderous man? The less aid the better.
“Seems they’d want to weed out the bad apples.”
Alex’s expression didn’t change, but somewhere inside him she thought she saw a door close and lock.
“You would think.”
They both hid behind walls. Guarded secrets. Good. You leave mine alone, and I won’t dig into yours. “So, we’re two very simple people.”
The corner of his lip tipped into that grin. The ice melted for a moment, and that unfamiliar pull of desire flowered again. Some would have embraced it. Leah likened desire to a tiger’s dangerous beauty.
“I think we’re two people who’re fairly bad at dating and don’t like to talk about ourselves,” Alex said.
His directness charmed her. And that scared her. Being charmed led to liking which led to desire, which equaled vulnerability. Her nerves stretched tighter and tighter. “Then why’re we here?”
A shrug. “I was curious about you. And tracker likes you. He’s a good judge of character.”
Secrets, sadness, and shame banged on the wall so carefully built. She sipped her beer, which now tasted flat and lifeless. “Ah.”
“So what about you?”
“I’m fairly straightforward. Raised in Nashville. Both my parents have passed. Got my vet degree in Knoxville at the University of Tennessee. Enjoying the single life.”
He leaned forward, as if a bullshit meter had clanged in his head. “How did you get the scars on your hands?”
Cut to the chase. This guy didn’t waste time or mince words. No need to look down to see the deep slashes that crossed both palms. “Are you this nosy on most first dates?”
“No.” No apology. “They look like defensive wounds.”
“Nothing so dramatic,” she lied.
No adult had ever asked about the scars on her palms, or the ones on her arms. They might have stared, but they hadn’t asked. Once a little girl in a grocery store had asked her about them. She’d looked as if she’d believed in fairy tales, Santa Claus, and the tooth fairy. Monsters under her bed could be chased away with a mother’s kiss. Leah couldn’t bring herself to tell the girl real monsters walked among them. “It was an accident.”
“Okay.” Alex tapped a finger on the table, as if forcing back more questions that, eventually, he’d ask. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
She kept her hand on her beer glass refusing to tuck it in her lap. “I’m not upset.”
“You’re pale now.”
She moistened her lips. “Just been a long day.”
“It’s my job to be nosy.” That smile appeared again. “Sometimes it’s hard to shut off.”
Alex Morgan was the kind of guy who’d unearth all her carefully buried secrets. And when he did, what would he think of her? What kind of woman, what kind of fool, willingly lay down with a monster? The idea that he’d see her as less or weak scraped the underside of her scars.
Her phone buzzed, startling her. With a grateful heart she dug her phone from her purse and read the message. “It’s from my clinic. I’ve got to go by the kennel to check on one of the dogs.”
Alex looked more curious and disappointed. If his job was to sniff out lies, then he surely knew this was not fib. Their clinic took emergency calls, and this was her night on call. “You can’t eat first?”
“No.” She gathered her coat, anxious to step into the cold and slide behind the wheel of her car.
He tossed a couple of twenties on the table and rose. “I’ll walk you to your car.”
She gathered her purse and coat. “You don’t have to. I’m right across the street.”
“I’ll walk you.” He helped her on with her coat, opened the front door and waited for her to pass through before allowing it to swing closed behind them. Across the street, the door to Rudy’s opened and closed. In a rush of music and flashing light, Deidre and her date sauntered out arm in arm.
Leah envied the couple’s easy manner. Her back stiff, she started toward her car, her pace brisk as she fished her keys from her pocket and pushed the unlock button on the key fob. She opened the door, and he lingered back an extra half step. For a tense moment she thought he might kiss her. Norman women on first dates kissed their dates right? A kiss, a touch, vulnerability, pain and death.
Alex held back a couple of steps. He watched her. Seemed to see fear and accept it as a fact to be filed away under Leah Carson. “Drive safe.”
“I’ve been a real lousy date, Alex. I’m sorry. I’m way out of practice.”
A small shrug. “No worries, Leah. See you soon?”
“You don’t have to check up on Tracker every day.”
“But I will.” The patience humming under his tone coaxed her out of her shell a little further. “You want to go out with me again?”
Fear hovered around her like a ghost. Stay behind the walls. But something she could not put into words challenged her to reach for more. Elbowing aside gnawing butterflies, she nodded. “I’d like that.”
“Great. We’ll figure it out.”
“Perfect.” She drove off, wondering if she’d lost her mind, all the while daring herself not to look in the rearview mirror, knowing he was watching.
Copyright 2015 © by Mary Burton
Want More? Here's another excerpt...
He sat and watched as his wife stood by her car and spoke to her date. The guy had dark hair and a trim build. A gust of wind had caught, blown back his jacket and for a split second, the edge of a gun resting on his hip caught the moonlight before the guy tugged the coat’s edge back into place.
This man is not a beat cop like he’d been. He had the look of a detective. “Moving up in the world, babe. The uniform isn’t good enough for you anymore.”
Embers of rage, always warm and glowing, flared and flickered into a hot flame. His wife and the guy lingered, staring at each other. A smile flashed on her face, and he knew they’d be seeing each other again.
“She’s my wife, dick.”
This close he could see dick’s face. Keen interest sharpened the man’s gaze. No doubt he was thinking about getting into his wife’s pants.
Irritated, he tore his gaze away and focused on the mission. He studied the text he’d just sent Leah: Emergency at the clinic. Can you come to work?
I might be a regular cop, but I found her number and I’m going to win this chess game, dick.”
She slid into the front seat, started the engine and rolled down her window. She glanced up, smiling, nodding, and drove off. Dick got into his car and drove off.
He started his truck and shifted into first gear. Slowly, he turned onto Broadway and followed it until it branched right and turned into West End Avenue.
The drive back to his wife’s town house took ten minutes, but of course he knew the way. He’d been watching the house since he’d arrived in Nashville a week before. Many a night in the last couple of weeks, he’d sat in the parking lot across the street and watched her town house. He’d gotten to know all her new habits.
His wife arrived an hour later and parked in her reserved spot under the street lamp. She hurried from her car up the brick front steps of the town house, unlocked the door, and vanished inside. Lights clicked on, and though she’d already drawn the drapes, he could see her figure pass in front of the sliding glass door before the lights in her bedroom clicked on.
He imagined her in that bedroom, stripping off her shirt, her full breasts spilling over the top of her bra. It had been too long since he’d kissed those breasts, but he remembered how soft they felt. He remembered her lips tasted like her cherry lipstick. He remembered those lush lips kissing him along his belly, teasing him to the brink of insanity. He remembered every single detail of their life together.
But she wasn’t thinking about him as she stripped off her clothes. A different man lingered in her thoughts. How many men had she fucked since him?
It took all his willpower not to scream as he removed a switchblade from his pocket and flicked it open. Moonlight glinted off the sharp blade as he gouged it into the truck’s seat. He sliced through leather, imagining it was flesh.
He leaned back against the seat. Her shadow passed back into the living room, and the light of a television glowed as her silhouette lowered on the couch.
In the last few weeks, he’d learned all her new patterns and all her secrets, tracking her and listening via the bug he’d planted in her house. “No one knows you better than me, babe. No one.”
After an hour in the parking lot, he cold had numbed his toes and the tips of his fingers. He would have stayed all night, watching her sit on her couch in front of the television, but there were enough people coming and going at this time of night to get him noticed. He drove off, knowing she was alone in her town house, unable to sleep and thinking about him.
Until death do us part.
The words hummed in the back of his throat. So poignant, and yet their meaning appealed to him.
Until death do us part.
His little bird flew free right now, but soon he’d catch her and pluck off her wings. She belonged to him and no one else.
Until death do us part.
Copyright 2015 © by Mary Burton
I'll Never Let You Go Reviews
“Burton’s latest is a chilling, suspenseful read with a calculating villain at the center of a well-crafted, intricate plot. Alex and Leah’s intensity and pairing is a highlight. With sharp, crisp dialogue and heightened tension, this story will have readers guessing until the very end.”
RT Book Reviews
“Mary Burton has a lot of twist and turns in I’ll Never Let You Go . . . Her books are right up there with the likes of James Patterson . . . [She] keeps the mystery and romance going through the whole book. One page after another, I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough.”
“An intense four novel series featuring the Morgan family of Nashville. . . readers will be turning pages to see what happens next . . . Attention to detail and vivid description of the various characters will pull readers into the true to life thriller. The author filled her pages with edgy dialogue and a strong plotline that continues to build tension until the climatic end.”
Edie Dykeman, Bella Online
“If you’re a lover of romantic suspense, then you’ll love curling up with this book in front of the fire . . . I love how the romance is slow to grow and you are concentrating on the person who Alex’s is trying to find to prevent Leah from getting killed. I highly recommend this book for fans of Kay Hooper, Linda Howard, and Allison Brennan.”
As the Page Turns
“A fantastic read . . . Dark and thrilling, I’ll Never Let You Go had me awake until late into the wee hours . . . a real sense of danger and terror . . . the romantic side of the plot, although evident, was placed firmly in the sidelines to allow suspense and drama to take center stage . . . twists and turns.”
Mysteries & Crime Thrillers
“Ms. Burton is very good at ratcheting up the readers’ anxiety level from page one.”
“One of my favorite authors, talented storyteller, Mary Burton returns . . . with another multi-layered, twisted “must read” psycho-crime thriller! . . . I love Mary’s smooth sharp writing style – Riveting . . multi-layered and complex . . . This is not one to miss.”
JDC Must Read Books
“The story is gripping, and kept me guessing . . . intense but with sweet moments . . . suspenseful and engaging and worth staying up late for.”
Bea’s Book Nook
“Chilling . . . the plot is strong, flowing beautifully . . . might make you want to sleep with your lights on, and check your locks one more time.”
Books and Spoons
“Mary Burton can always be counted on for fast paced suspense, a gutsy heroine and a dauntless hero.”
For the Love of Books
“Interesting and suspenseful thriller . . . [I] look forward to more in the series.”
Books ‘n Kisses