Be Afraid

Be Afraid

Be Afraid

“Vintage Mary Burton . . . surprises and white-knuckle suspense with a capital S . . . gritty, fast-paced . . . will send chills down your spine.”
USA Today‘s Happy Ever After

“Mary Burton, queen of the modern-day romantic thriller, pulls us into the vortex of a whirlwind battle . . . Be afraid to miss this riveting, sizzling, terrifying new novel by a master storyteller.”
Book Reporter

The Fear Is Terrifying

When police rescue five-year-old Jenna Thompson from the dark closet where she’s been held captive for days, they tell her she’s a lucky girl. Compared to the rest of her family, it’s true. But even with their killer dead of an overdose, Jenna is still trying to find peace twenty-five years later.

But The Truth

On leave from her forensic artist job, Jenna returns to Nashville, the city where she lost so much. Instead of closure, she finds a new horror. Detective Rick Morgan needs Jenna’s expertise in identifying the skeletal remains of a young child. The case jogs hazy half-buried memories–and a nagging dread that Jenna’s ordeal hasn’t ended.

Is Even Worse

Now other women are dying. And as the links between these brutal killings and Jenna’s past becomes clear, she knows this time, a madman will leave no survivors.

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Be Afraid Excerpt

Rick, with Tracker at his side, arrived at the medical examiner’s office and took the elevator to the second floor where he knew he’d find Jenna working. His eyes itched from lack of sleep and as much as he’d like to have a solid eight hours, with two homicides on his desk and a hip that always throbbed, he knew he’d get precious little sleep in the days to come.

He found Jenna sitting cross-legged in a chair, bare feet tucked under her as she leaned over a sketchpad on her desk. Her long, dark hair hung in a silky mass, curtaining half of her face.

Beside her, the small skull set staring at her as if waiting. The skull was now covered with rubber plugs, which he knew indicated skin depths. Her row of pencils and erasers arranged in a neat line on the table reminded him of the workspace at her house. It too had had been well organized. Order was so important to her.

“Good morning,” Rick said.

The sound of his voice drew her gaze up, but it took several seconds for the trance-like haze glazing her eyes to clear.

“Detective Morgan.” Her gaze skittered to the canine, hesitated, and then met his again.

No warm welcomes. No smiles. “I thought you were going to do a clay bust,” he said.

“I considered that. But it will take a lot more time and I thought sooner rather than later would be best for an image.”

She unfolded her legs, slipped on flats, and rose. Pencil still in hand, she stretched her head from side to side and he found his gaze drawn to the slender lines of her neck.

He leaned around to look at the picture but she shook her head no. “Can’t I have a look?”

Almost flinching, she turned the easel away from him an inch or two more. “Not until it’s finished.”

Her reticence amused and annoyed him. “Why not? What’s the big deal?”

She’d pulled her hair up into a topknot and secured it with a pencil. She missed a few long stands, which dangled to frame her face. A nice effect. “No one sees my work until it’s done. That’s always been my policy.”

Tracker yawned, lowered to the floor, and closed his eyes. Clearly, none of this interested him.

However, Rick was very interested. The word no had stoked his interest. He didn’t like hearing it or when an answer eluded him. He liked having answers whether the question concerned a picture, a killer’s identity, or a woman’s backstory. He always figured that, given time, he could crack any code.

But like it or not, the Jenna Thompson code wasn’t so easily solved. “Sure, I’ll wait.”

A subtle tension around the edges of her lips eased. “It should be done by tomorrow. I’m close to the end. Sometimes the finishing touches just take me a while.”

He noticed how her gaze darted around the office once or twice as if the space was too small. “You don’t like this space.”

“No. I don’t.”

She didn’t mince words, as he’d expected, but her dislike of the space surprised him. “Why not? It’s one of the better rooms in the building.”

She stood a little straighter. “No windows. Too much like a closet. I like natural light.”

“Yeah, I’m not a fan of being inside. I’ll take any task that gets me moving outside.”

Jenna allowed her gaze to travel over the length of his body. “So what happened to your leg?”

He folded his arms, not sure why he shifted to defense. “You’ve been talking to Georgia.”

A half smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. “Sure. But not about you. I noticed the way you shift your weight. And I noticed your expression when you tackled the stairs yesterday.”

An artist who re-created human figures would notice inconsistencies, anomalies. However, he didn’t like being the subject of her scrutiny, especially when it zeroed in on his weakness. “I thought I did a good job of covering it up. Worked pretty damned hard with my physical therapist to make sure that I have an even gait.”

A shrug of her shoulders softened some of the intensity in her eyes. “There’s no limp when you walk but there’s a subtle stiffness. I draw people. And, I’m a cop. Part of what makes someone who they are is how they move.”

“You were just summing me up.”

“You. Bishop. Georgia.”

“Bishop? What did you figure about him?”

“He has a keen eye for Georgia.”

Morgan laughed. “The two fight all the time.”

“I think, for those two, arguing might be flirting.”

“He’s not fond of the Morgans.”

“Don’t be so sure.” This was not the conversation he’d intended. He shifted to offense. “I was comparing your space here to your home.”

A brow arched as hesitancy flashed in her gaze. “And what do you see?”

Good, they were now both uncomfortable. “Can you say control issues?

That made her laugh. “Did you miss the part where I said I’m a cop?”

“The trait comes with the job. The question is where did it come from? We all had it before the first day on the job.”

“Where did it come from in you?”

Nice deflection. “Genetics, I guess. A legendary homicide detective raised the Morgan kids. We all have our share of issues.”

“Ah.”

“Now, your turn. What’s your excuse?”

A slight tension tugged at the edges of her lips. “Who knows?”

“No, I’m not letting you dodge this so easily.”

“Really.”

“Want my theory?”

She turned back to her sketchpad and opened it. She began to draw. “Sounds like I’m going to get it.”

“It was definitely from your past. Something that instilled a need to control.”

Her pencil stilled for a beat before moving again. “Maybe it was genetics in my case as well.”

“I don’t think so.” He dropped the line in the water wondering if she’d take the bait.

She swam right past it as if it would take more to get her to open up. Fine. He’d drop it for now. “Sorry, Detective, I didn’t sign on for analysis.”

And with that, the door slammed shut. However, he wasn’t worried. He’d find a way to open that door again soon. “So the picture will be ready tomorrow?”

“Likely. The day after at the latest. Like I said, the final details always take more time than I figured.”

©Mary Burton 2016

Be Afraid Reviews

“Be Afraid is vintage Mary Burton . . . a complex, riveting story . . . surprises and white-knuckle suspense with a capital S. Her characters are wicked smart . . . Readers will be on tenterhooks . . . Burton’s storylines are finely tuned . . . a nail-biter . . . gritty, fast-paced suspense that will send chills down your spine.”
USA Today’s Happy Ever After

“Burton creates deeply vulnerable, complex characters with hard edges and sets them within an intricate, well-written mystery. Her crisp storytelling engages, and the deep emotional connection and tension she creates between Rick and Jenna will hook readers in. A complex villain with a tortured soul ups the ante and makes this story one suspenseful read.”
RT Book Reviews

“Mary Burton, queen of the modern-day romantic thriller, pulls us into the vortex of a whirlwind battle centered on the age-old dichotomy between good and evil . . . Be afraid to miss this riveting, sizzling, terrifying new novel by a master storyteller.”
Book Reporter

“Mary Burton gives us another chilling, thrilling romantic suspense novel . . . will keep you riveted to the very end as you get the answers to these questions and more. Nobody combines suspense and romance quite like this author to give you a pleasing read that delivers both. She is a must-read for fans of the genre. I can hardly wait for the next book!”
Heroes and Heartbreakers

 “Bestselling author Mary Burton is a master of her craft. She keeps her readers tingling with suspense while we try to figure out what will happen next. Burton skillfully exposes the mind of the killer to her readers, making her chilling books even more alarming. In BE AFRAID . . . the twists and turns and chain of relationships to previous terrifying events will keep readers on the edge of their seats with doors locked and the dog on guard.”
Single Titles

“As usual Mary Burton delivers a tense serial killer book that is fast paced and edgy . . . I loved reading about how memories can be prompted by a good forensic artist tapping into the subconscious of a witness.”
Crime Warp

 “A page -turner and a great book . . . if you need a good beach read then I highly recommend this book.”
As the Page Turns

“Mary Burton is a top notch romantic suspense/thriller/mystery novelist and she produces real, interesting, and very intelligent characters. BE AFRAID teems with precise dialogue, perfect pace and a loud, strong and clear narrative. The pieces of her plot lines fall into place like a giant jigsaw puzzle . . . Terrific book.”
Reader to Reader

“Mary Burton’s books keep me going back for more . . . the mystery and suspense kept me reading. The characters were interesting and real . . . twists and turns kept me guessing until the end . . . a great book for people who enjoy mysteries and suspense.”
The Friendly Book Nook

“The pace is fast; writing top notch and the storyline twists and turns as it weaves a spell . . . a wild ride . . . with the right amount of toughness and vulnerability, Ms. Burton delivers two strong characters who complement one another . . . left me reeling from start to finish with an ending that had my jaw dropping . . . I, for one, cannot wait to see who is next in the Morgan siblings . . . to navigate murder and relationships. I give Ms. Burton kudos for creating a great series.”
Love, Romances and More

“BE AFRAID proves that if you are looking for complex, twisted, action-packed thrills and chills – rest assured – Ms. Burton should be your “go-to author” . . . [she] has a knack for playing her cards close to the vest and I haven’t been able to guess her villains until she is ready to reveal them! The complexity of Burton’s plotting is top-notch and her writing style is clean and fresh with no wasted words . . . characters are all superbly drawn . . . Burton at the top of her game! Highly recommended!!”
CK’s Kwips and Kritiques

Very intense, dark and edgy suspense, multiple murders, and many mysteries to be solved, with a touch of romance on the side . . . [a]creepy kind of scary story telling that will make you check that your doors are locked and windows sealed . . . fascinating to read about their efforts to solve all the cases . . . fierce, intimidating, and addictive suspense, with an inkling of great romance . . . twists, turns, and surprises.”
Books and Spoons

“Opening with a chilling prologue, Be Afraid by Mary Burton is an incredibly riveting read from beginning to end . . . a very intriguing mystery with slight romantic elements that fans of police procedurals do not want to miss . . . suspense-laden and fast paced . . . an absolutely brilliant job obscuring the killer’s identity . . . pulse-pounding conclusion.”

Book Reviews and More by Kathy

“I love a good police story. The details that Ms. Burton includes . . .may have you checking behind you a time or two. Can’t wait to read if there is another book with these characters.”
Illustrious Illusions

“Mary Burton pens another tale of murder and mayhem with a likeable heroine and

a fast paced plot line.”

cayocosta73-Book Reviews

“Fast-paces suspense . . . an intriguing case diving into psychological elements of the crazy killers. I also enjoyed Jenna’s character, her talents, the light romance, and catching up with familiar Morgan characters.”
Judith D Colllins Must Reads

“There is no doubting the writing prowess of Mary Burton . . . with many twists and turns, Mary Burton keeps the reader guessing until the very end . .. [will] keep you intrigued, interested and glued to the story until the very last page.”
Romancing Life

“I loved this new mystery from Mary Burton . . . the prologue was fantastic . . . a thrilling ride that left you wondering who the murder was up till the end.”
Majorly Delicious

Cover Your Eyes

Cover Your Eyes

Cover Your Eyes
“A chilling puzzle… fantastic work with never a dull moment for the reader.” –Suspense Magazine

“Sharp detail, a nicely developed romance, and stellar plotting that distributes clues with chilling precision.” Library Journal

Don’t Look

At first, they struggle to escape. Then a torrent of blows rains down upon their bodies until their eyes cloud over in final agony. The killer shows no remorse–just a twisted need to witness each victim’s last terrified moments.

Don’t Speak

Public defender Rachel Wainwright is struggling to reopen a decades-old case, convinced that the wrong man is in prison. Homicide detective Deke Morgan doesn’t want to agree. But if Rachel’s hunch is correct, whoever fatally bludgeoned young, beautiful Annie Dawson thirty years ago could be the source of a new string of brutal slayings.

Just Prepare To Die

Rachel’s investigation is about to reveal answers–but at a price she never thought to pay. Now she’s become the target of a rage honed by years of jealousy and madness. And a murderer is ready to show her just how vicious the truth can be.

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Vulnerable Excerpt
Rachel dropped her gaze to her talking points.  Stick to the facts.  Add emotion.  Eye contact.

The facts were: thirty years ago a young mother, Annie Rivers Dawson had been brutally murdered.  Annie’s younger sister had arrived for a visit and discovered the house covered in blood and Annie’s newborn wailing in her crib.   Police had been summoned.  No body had been found but police concluded Annie could not have survived such blood loss.  The case had gone unsolved for three months.

The public had been in a panic knowing a young woman and new mother from a good neighborhood had been brutally murdered.  The press had put tremendous pressure on the cops.  There’d been extensive searches for the body until finally a tip led cops to the remains of a woman wearing Annie’s clothes and jewelry.  The outcry for justice grew louder.  Even the governor had weighed in on the case.

Rachel’s client, Jeb Jones, had been a handyman in Nashville at the time of Annie’s death.  He’d had an eighth grade education, was considered a good, if not, an inconsistent worker who drank heavily at times, and had been married with a nine-year-old son.  He’d never made much money but he got by.  And then one night cops, acting on a tip from a paid informant, had searched the trunk of Jeb’s ’71 Cutlass sedan and found a bloody tire iron.  Jeb had been arrested.  Under interrogation, he’d confessed, though within twenty-four hours had recanted.  The blood testing available at the time, crude by today’s standards, had indicated the two blood samples on the tire iron matched both Annie’s and Jeb’s types.

Further investigation revealed that Jeb had known the victim.  He’d worked in her apartment building and witnesses had later said he had been caught staring at Annie once or twice.

His trial was set a month after his arrest and it lasted five days.  Dozens testified that Jeb had a drinking problem and had cheated on his wife.  Though Jeb had never denied he was a bad father and husband, he swore that he’d not killed Annie.  He didn’t know how the tire iron ended up in his car.

Rachel wouldn’t discuss science tonight but would stick with her emotional plea to the public: we need to pressure the cops for a DNA test.

Christ, Rachel, these people could care less.

Her brother’s voice all but hissed as she stared at the uninspired crowd and her stomach knotted another twist.  She might not muster passion in this group, but the right television airtime could turn up the heat on the cops.

The news van arrived and Rachel now coveted Colleen’s smoothness.  Rachel had no soft edges.  Life had sharpened those edges into razors. . . .

Rachel scanned the crowd one last time hoping for a flicker of excitement.  Off to the left she spotted a man she’d missed the first time.  He stood apart from the crowd, partly concealed by a shadow cast by the building protecting his back.  Given his dark suit, white shirt, red tie and black western boots she’d have cast him as a banker or another lawyer.  His short dark hair and square jaw fit the possible scenarios.  However, the hard angles of his face, frown lines that cut deep and a battle ready stance dashed her theories.

For a moment she wondered why a man like him would be here and then the pieces fell into place.  He was Detective Deke Morgan…

Her stomach clenched.  She’d seen him once in court eight or nine months ago.  He’d testified in a drug case and though his hair had been long and his beard thick, the eyes held the same intensity as the man edging the crowd.  The Deke in her memory had a Tennessee drawl, adding a quiet authority the jury did not ignore.  After he’d testified he’d remained in his chair, stoic and watching.

Now his gaze skimmed her meager crowd, studying them until he seemed satisfied that this group was not driven enough to pose a threat.  His gaze settled on her . . .

At exactly six fifteen as the sun set she stood on the curb, lifted the microphone to her mouth, moistened her lips, and began to tell the story of Jeb Jones.

The crowd grew quiet and news cameras rolled.  Several times she paused to gather her thoughts, which kept trying to skitter ahead.  More people stopped to listen and the flicker of the candles in the crowd grew brighter.

She could see disinterested faces grow solemn as the impact of her words settled.  Passersby stopped to listen.  “He deserves to have the DNA test.”

When she finished, the reporter, a woman with a tall lean build emphasized by a red body slimming dress, moved to the front of the crowd and held out her microphone.  A closer look revealed the woman was well into her fifties.  “So do you blame the Nashville Police Department for a possible miscarriage of justice?”

“I can’t speak to what happened thirty years ago.  I can only talk about now.  And today the Nashville Police Department has DNA evidence from the Dawson murder trial.  They’ve yet to respond to my requests for retesting and my fear is that the test will be forgotten or worse, swept under the rug and my client will die in prison.”

A murmur rumbled through the crowd.  More hands shot up.

“What can we do?” Colleen shouted as if she too were part of the crowd.

“Call the police department.  Call you councilman.  Let them know that Jeb Jones deserves to be heard.” . . .

“What about Annie Rivers Dawson?  The victim!”  The angry voice shot out from the edges of the crowd.

Rachel studied the cluster of people and settled on a woman dressed in a dark, loose fitting dress stepped forward.  She wore her dark hair in a bun and no makeup adorned her pale angled face.

Rachel had thought someone might remember Annie and had prepared comments.  “My focus today is on Jeb Jones.  He’s been a victim of the system for thirty years.”

“Annie Rivers Dawson is dead.”  The woman moved forward clutching a well-worn purse close and moving to within feet of Rachel.

The reporter and her cameraman had also moved in closer.  If Rachel dodged this woman or her question, it wouldn’t play well.  The eyes of Nashville were upon them.

“Annie deserves to have her real killer behind bars,” Rachel said.

“Her real killer is behind bars.”  Despite a mousy demeanor, the woman’s voice reverberated with fierce anger.

“Her death was tragic,” Rachel said.  “I’ve never denied that.”

The woman fished an eight by ten picture out of her large purse.  The image was a publicity shot of a young smiling woman and Rachel recognized Annie Rivers Dawson’s face immediately.  Annie had had long blond hair that billowed around a face with the perfect blend of porcelain skin, a high swipe of cheekbones and smiling full lips that added a joyous spark to bright blue eyes.  “She was a talented beautiful new mother and she was brutally beaten.  Her house was covered in blood and her body was found in pieces because of your client!”

Anxiety singed Rachel’s skin leaving her cheeks flushed.  “Annie’s death was a great loss.  Tragic.  But the police never adequately proved that my client was involved in her death.”

“The murder weapon was found in his car!”  Her voice had grown louder and her face flushed with anger.  “How can you stand there and defend that human piece of garbage?”

Aware of the crowd’s intense interest, she clung to her control with an iron grip as she lowered her microphone.  “This vigil is about Jeb and his right to have the DNA testing.”

“His right!”  The woman advanced a step.  “What rights did Annie have?  She had the right to live and raise her baby but those rights were stolen from her by Jeb Jones.”

“The DNA—”

“The cops found lots of evidence against him, including witnesses who said he stalked her!” she shrieked.

“He concedes that.”

“Of course.”  Her voice had grown louder and sharpened with a dramatic edge as she now played to the crowd.  “Poor murderer.  He’s the victim.”  She spit on the ground.  “The media loves to focus on the perpetrator.  They always forget the victim silenced by death.”

Rachel stepped off the curb and moved toward the woman.  Her hope was to calm her and dial down the energy in their conversation.  Later they could talk in private.  “I haven’t forgotten about Annie.”

“You might remember her, but you don’t care about her.  All you care about is him.”  The woman’s fingers fisted around the edge of the picture so tightly, her knuckles turned white.

“What if Jeb didn’t kill Annie?” Rachel reasoned.  “Have you ever considered that the real killer is still out there and perhaps killing other women?”

The woman shook her head, her gaze zeroed in on Rachel.  “The real killer is not out there.  He is rotting behind bars as he should be.” . . .

The Channel Five camera caught every word of the argument.  Later the reporter would pluck chosen sound bites for the eleven o’clock news.  “I want justice, Ms. Miller.  DNA testing will prove once and for all if Jeb killed Annie.”

“No test is going to change what I know in my heart!  That bastard killed my sister!”  More tears welled in her eyes.

Rachel, drawn by the tears, missed the woman’s right hook, which rose up as quick as a viper.  The bare-knuckled fist struck hard against her jaw sending pain reverberating through her head.  Thoughts scrambled, she staggered, nearly caught herself, but teetered on her heels and dropped to her knees.

The sounds from the crowd grew distant as her head buzzed and popped.  She was aware of Colleen calling for the police as she pushed through the crowd . . .

Rachel’s head cleared and she planted high-heeled feet, wobbled and pulled back her shoulders.  She balled her fingers into a fist, focusing on Margaret Miller now being held back by a Nashville uniformed officer.  The woman’s screaming pounded inside her skull.

“Call an ambulance.”  Colleen’s command snapped like a whip, prompting several to fish in their pockets for a cell.

Rachel blinked, worked her jaw.  “That’s not necessary.”

“It is,” Colleen said.  “You could have a head injury.”

Rachel readied to protest again when she saw Deke Morgan glaring down.

He looked amused.  “She clocked you pretty good.” . . .

“You want to press charges?”

The cameras still rolled but now she wanted the press to go away.  She’d meant what she’d said about talking to Margaret in private.  She didn’t want a war.  “No charges.”

A restrained Margaret shook her head.  “You better arrest me!  I’ll hit her again given the chance.  She is a menace.”

The verbal threat earned the woman a set of handcuffs, which constrained her arms behind her back.  She sneered at Rachel and spit.  Spittle landed inches short of Rachel’s feet. . .

“Sure about those charges?” Detective Morgan asked.

©Mary Burton 2014

Vulnerable Reviews

“The chilling suspense starts promptly at the beginning, setting the steady clip for the unveiling of the suspects. Within this chills and thrills ride, there is romance, against the odds, that may develop under the right conditions. Good luck with figuring out who did it. I tried. Lots of delicious trails and tidbits of information to stir the inner-detective to life.”
–USA Today, Happily Ever After

“If there’s a category of ‘page-turner,’ Burton would always ends up on the top of that list. This time is no different… a chilling puzzle… fantastic work with never a dull moment for the reader.”
–Suspense Magazine

“With sharp detail, a nicely developed romance, and stellar plotting that distributes clues with chilling precision, ­Burton’s latest “lock your door and keep the lights on” thriller beautifully kicks off her new series of four Nashville-set mysteries dealing with the Morgan family.”
–Library Journal

“In her latest, Burton pens a well-crafted mystery and an intricate plot set in Nashville with rough, gritty detective Deke and gutsy, vulnerable lawyer Rachel at the center.  Her strong, dynamic storytelling and crisp dialogue are the highlights.  Good pacing, distinctive secondary characters and chilling suspense make this story one heck of an exciting ride.”
–RT Book Reviews

“Burton’s trademark is providing the serial killer’s viewpoint without giving anything away, and by feeding the reader tiny details one at a time, she keeps the tension building.”
–Publishers Weekly

“Burton’s newest release treats her devotees to more twists than a bag of pretzels… all the ingredients of a blockbuster… full of surprises… Agatha Christie must be rolling in her grave with jealousy as Burton serves red herring after red herring. . another of her high-speed roller-coaster rides… even the most critical reader is challenged to solve the case.”
–Book Reporter

“Cover Your Eyes has a strong suspenseful, plotline with many twists and turns. Rachel and Deke are very formidable, very likeable characters, who pair well together and work off each other’s strengths while working on the new murder investigations . . . their relationship is as relevant to the story as is the murders themselves. This is a gripping, fast-moving mystery and a terrific start to this new series.”
–Betty Betz for Mysterious Reviews

“A dark, engaging mystery… rich dialogue, complex characters, and a well plotted storyline provides us with a multi layered who dun it that twists and turns with deception and misdirection… dialogue between the characters is fast and smooth… ripe with tension till the very last page… secondary characters are as rich and inviting as our protagonists… I never figured it out—Burton did a fabulous job of keeping me twisting and turning in the dark… [and] once again pens a thrilling mystery.”
–Smexy Books

“I’ve never read a Mary Burton book I didn’t like and Cover Your Eyes was no exception… first rate… secrets, danger, and of course, a budding romance… I enjoyed the way this story unfolded. A clue here and there, another character thrown in just to keep you on your toes… the ending was perfect for a die-hard mystery reader… I also liked the setting… I can’t think of a romantic suspense I’ve read that’s set in Nashville and the music industry. It was a refreshing change.”
–Long and Short Reviews

“Mary Burton’s captivating characters kept me up well into the night… this was an ‘all lights on all night, what was that noise’ kind of night read… Mary Burton’s characters have character. She creates an engrossing thriller, captivating suspense… this is one not to be missed.”
–Under These Covers

“Bestselling author Mary Burton will keep you up late reading with all the lights on! COVER YOUR EYES is a roller-coaster ride filled with suspense and mayhem. Take one plucky lawyer and one curmudgeonly homicide detective determined to solve a series of brutal murders incited by decades of bottled up rage, jealousy and evil and you have an electrifying must-read. I promise you will never be able to figure out the mind-blowing surprise ending of COVER YOUR EYES by mega-talented Mary Burton!”
–Single Titles

“Many possible suspects… good suspense in true Mary Burton style.”
–Saved by Suspense

“I was amazed by this book. The characters, the plot and the way everything ties in together will have you absorbed . . . Cover Your Eyes is all about the evil that exists in the world, but also about the way that love can occur out of nowhere.”
–Readers’ Favorite

“A seriously intense read with lots of twisty and unexpected turns that left me constantly trying to guess where it was going to go next . . . very well written characters . . . really enjoyed this one all around.”
–Caught in My Book

“Started off fast and didn’t let up… and I literally did cover my eyes a few times… twists and turns that kept me guessing… a tense, fast paced, engrossing story… make sure you have the lights on!”
–Bea’s Book Nook

“Great book . . . engaging and thought provoking . . . surprising twists and turns . . . kept me riveted and coming back for more . . . Mary Burton is one of my favorite authors.”
–The Friendly Book Nook

“Mary Burton’s captivating characters kept me up well into the night. . . this was an ‘all lights on all night, what was that noise’ kind of night read . . . Mary Burton’s characters have character. She creates an engrossing thriller, captivating suspense . . . this is one not to be missed.”
–Under These Covers

“An intriguing murder mystery . . . kept me guessing . . . plenty of twists and turns and interesting . . . I love it when a story keeps me guessing from beginning to end.”
–The Life and Times of a Book Addict

“A fast paced, edge of your seat thrill ride . . . Ms. Burton does a great job in capturing the heart of the story . . . the right amount of tension, twists and turns . . . a spine-tingling story . . . what really made this different from other crime books was the setting of Nashville . . . complex, diverse characters . . .the ending . . . is explosive . . . I was shocked to find out who the murderer was and I am thinking you will be as well.”
–Love, Romances & More

“Mary Burton’s Cover Your Eyes is my first book by her and most definitely, it is not going to be my last. She had me hooked right from the prologue… hard to put down… vibrant characters… hints of a romance… I loved both Deke and Rachel… a satisfying story on all counts… there are too few authors who do the romantic suspense genre justice and I believe I have found one in Mary Burton…  Mary Burton spins one hell of a story. Unputdownable!
–Maldivian Book Reviewer

“Strong characters… many twists and turns… gripping… I couldn’t put the book down.”
–A Fortress of Books

“If you enjoy the crime/thriller novels, this is a very satisfactory one to sink your teeth into.”
–Dew on the Kudzu

“Just as you are scratching your head- and thinking about all the pieces and how they fit together- Mary Burton has one more up her sleeve.”
–Traveling with T

“First things first: I DIDN’T GUESS WHO DID IT!!!!!… an abundance of good (and bad) characters.”
–52 Book Minimum

You’re Not Safe

You’re Not Safe

You're Not Safe

“[Mary Burton] once again demonstrates her romantic suspense chops with this taut novel . . . Burton plays cat-and-mouse with the reader through a tight plot, with credible suspects and romantic spice keeping it real.” — Publishers Weekly

 

He Will Never Forget

The broken body hanging from a tree in Texas Hill Country. . .the frozen figure huddled in a meat locker. . .only at second glance does the truth become apparent. What seems like suicide is far more sinister, and the terror is only beginning…

Never Forgive

One devastating moment changed Greer Templeton’s life and ended two others. Now, with a body found on her property and Texas Ranger Tec Bragg on her doorstep, Greer’s nightmare has returned. With each new victim, her link to Tec’s case grows, and soon it will be too late to run.

And Never Let Them Live. . .

Greer hoped the past was behind her, but an obsessed killer has never forgotten the bond that unites them. One by one, he will track down his victims, finish what was started–and make Greer’s dying wish come true. . .

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As he approached the building, a woman pushed through the glass doors of the main entrance.  She wasn’t tall, barely standing over five feet, but she held her shoulders back and her clear green eyes cut.  Not more than thirty, gently tanned smooth skin accentuated a high slash of cheekbones.  She wore her light brown hair in a braid that brushed slender shoulders, a white Bonneville Vineyards T-shirt billowing over full breasts and tucked into faded work jeans hugging gently rounded hips.  Her boots were dusty, well-worn.  “Can I help you?”

Her voice had a rusty, whiskey quality giving this wholesome farm girl a seductive quality enjoyed by older more sophisticated women.

Elizabeth Templeton.

She was a far cry from the girl in the old image or the pictures Rory had taken.  The last dozen years had leaned out her frame and face adding maturity and an appealing naturalness.  But Rory’s images had gotten her all wrong.  What he’d taken for as anger and bitterness in the photos, in person, appeared to be a fascinating intensity.  He suspected this woman did no job halfway.

“I’m with the Texas Rangers.”

Elizabeth cocked her head, studying him close, as if sensing this place wasn’t his kind of place.  However, even as her gaze catalogued his large frame and the scar on his face she showed no fear.  “How can I help you?”

He managed a smile.  “You Elizabeth Templeton?”

Mention of her name triggered waves of tension that straightened her spine and narrowed her eyes.  Hesitation flickered as if she seemed to toy with a lie.  “That’s right.  But I go by my middle name now.  Greer.”

Elizabeth Greer Templeton.  Greer.  The woman who’d offered his boy a job.  “Sergeant Tec Bragg.”

**********

He studied her expression closely.  “I investigated a murder bordering your land yesterday.”

A hint of remorse darkened her gaze.  “I heard about that.  Some fellow hanged himself.”  And then as if to head off his next question, “A cruiser came by yesterday and spoke to my farm manager while I was in town.  I’m supposed to call him back but haven’t gotten to it . . . “

“You hear anything else?”

“No.  I don’t have time for gossip and news.  So if you’re here to ask me about the dead person I’m afraid I can’t do much for you.  I spend most of my days here working.  I don’t venture out much.”

And yet you’d made your way into town yesterday to talk to my boy.  “I think you might know the victim.”

“Could be, but I only know a handful of people in the area.”

He studied her face closely.  “The victim’s name was Rory Edwards.”

Irritation gave way to surprise.  Pursing her lips she drew in a deep breath, letting it out so slowly he barely saw her move.  “Is this some kind of trick?  Are you trying to prod information out of me because I hired your nephew?”

“No trick.  The medical examiner confirmed the identity of the body yesterday.”

She folded her arms over her chest.  “I’ve not seen Rory in a long time.  At least twelve years.”

“You’ve had no contact with him in this time?”

Her lips pursed.  “I had a message on my voice mail a week ago.  The caller said he was coming to see me.  He was an old friend.  I did not return the call.”

“Why not?”

Blue eyes clouded before sharpening.  “Some matters are better left in the past.”

“I get the impression he still cared about you after all this time.”

She shook her head.  “I have no idea.”

“I searched his room last night.  He had a box full of recent pictures of you.”

Her face paled.  “I don’t know about that.”

“Can I ask how you two met?”

The grip on her biceps tightened.  “I get the sense you already know.”

Apprehension rolled off her and all but slammed into Bragg.  Rory Edwards and her past were sore subjects.  “Answer the question.”

She glanced around as if making sure no one was around.  “We met when we were teenagers.  We were both in a clinic for troubled teens.”

“You both tried to kill yourself.”

The lines in her forehead deepened.  “I’m not proud of that time, but what does it have to do with Rory’s death?  Like I said, I haven’t seen him in a dozen years.”

Bragg unclipped his phone and scrolled to the picture he’d taken of the photo found at the crime scene.  He held out the phone, coaxing her closer toward him.  “You remember this picture?”

She didn’t approach right away but then moved closer.  The soft scent of soap rose up around her.  No flowery perfumes or exotic scents but simply clean soap.  His body tightened, unmindful of logic or reason.

For a long moment she didn’t say a word and then she cleared her voice.  “It was taken the last night we were both at the camp.  Rory left the next morning.”

“How’d he end up with the picture if he left?”

“I sent him a copy from camp.  I didn’t want him to forget me.”

“His brother said you wrote to him several times a week but Rory’s father threw out the letters.”

Her jaw tensed, and he suspected an old wound opened.  “I guess one letter made it through.”

“Rory never forgot you.”

She stepped back.  “I wish he had.”

“Why’s that?”

“Really, do you have to ask?  It was a painful time, and I’ve done my best over the last twelve years to forget about it.”

He locked his phone and tucked it back in its cradle.  “Were you really able to forget?”

She cleared her throat.  “Rory’s family did us a favor by keeping us apart.  But the rest?   No, I have not forgotten that I wrecked a car and killed my brother and his girlfriend.  I ruined so many lives.  I carry that with me every day.”

“That why you tried to kill yourself?”

You're Not Safe Reviews

“An entertaining mystery infused with suspense . . . the barely-held-in attraction between hardened Texas Ranger Tec and the guilt-ridden Greer resonates, as does their tension as they encounter a vicious killer. Crisp, in-depth writing yields a satisfying, gripping plot and steady pacing. This story is hard to put down.”
–RT Book Reviews

“[Mary Burton] once again demonstrates her romantic suspense chops with this taut novel . . . Burton plays cat-and-mouse with the reader through a tight plot, with credible suspects and romantic spice keeping it real.”
–Publishers Weekly

“There’s romance, a creepy killer and plenty of twists in this thriller that will keep Burton fans reading.”
Parkersburg News and Sentinel (WV)

“Mary Burton’s third entry in her Texas Ranger novels and is just as much of a nail biter as the first two . . . her delivery is flawless. YOU’RE NOT SAFE carries just the right amount of suspense, creepiness, and romance that, when mixed together, creates a satisfying mystery with a shocker ending . . . you should not begin reading it unless you have the time to stay with it because you will not want to put it down for any reason until that final page is reached.”
Fresh Fiction

“Bestselling novelist Mary Burton’s latest release combines suspense/thriller and romance novel as only she can. Beware! .. . . cliffhanging chapter endings, foreshadowing and red herrings keep the reader turning the pages.”
—Book Reporter

“[You’re Not Safe] delivers on excitement and romance. This book is so good and I highly recommend it . . .  after reading this one you’ll want to read the rest of the series.”
—As the Page Turns

“Well-written; it held my attention even through a second reading  . . . I look forward to the next . . .  book by Ms. Burton.”
Smart Bitches Trashy Books

“Exciting, well written and a hot law man.”
—Cayocosta72-Book Reviews

“This series just gets better and better with each book and will leave you guessing rightto the last page.”
—Booktalk

“This romantic suspense novel about a woman determined to put her past behind her—and the killer who is trying to force her to remember—is the perfect sexy and sinister poolside read.”
—The Daily Basics

“Twists… romance… interesting characters…  I thoroughly enjoyed this… a solidly entertaining read and I recommend this book and others by Mary Burton to those who like good romantic suspense.”
—Reviews by Martha’s Bookshelf

“Another winner by Mary Burton . . . a thrilling, gripping romantic suspense . . . enlightening and insightful . . . fast-paced . . . the investigative plot is one of the best I have ever read . . . [the setting] added to the atmosphere perfectly . . . I will always remain a fan of thisauthor. Her attention to detail and perfect construction of the plot never fail todraw me in. Once I pick up a Mary Burton book, it is a guarantee that I won’tput it down until I’ve read the last word.”
Swept Away by Romance

“Once I started it I couldn’t put it down . . . intense and fast paced and the characters are well written . . . this story unfolds just perfectly and I had no idea who the killer was . . . if you like a good mystery/thriller, then I highly suggest this book.  I was engrossed fromthe minute I started reading.”
Shelly’s Book Shelves

No Escape

No Escape

No Escape Cover

He Was Taught How To Kill

Even behind bars, serial killer Harvey Day Smith exudes menace. Psychologist Jolene Granger has agreed to hear his dying confession, vowing not to let the monster inside her head. And Harvey has secrets to share—about bodies that were never found, and about the apprentice who is continuing his grisly work. . .

And Now He’ll Teach Them

He buries his victims alive the way his mentor Harvey did, relishing their final screams as the earth rains down. And as one last gift to the only father he knew, he’ll make the most perfect kill of all.

How To Die

Everything about this investigation is unnerving Jo, from Harvey’s fascination with her to the fact that she’s working alongside Texas Ranger Brody Winchester, her ex-husband. Harvey’s protégé is growing bolder and more vicious every day. And soon the trail of shallow graves will lead them to the last place Jo expected, and to the most terrifying truth of all. . .

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Saturday, April 6, 11:00 a.m.
Austin, Texas

If Texas Ranger Brody Winchester had come to see Dr. Jolene Granger on personal business, he’d have come with hat in hand.  He’d have been ready to eat a heaping helping of humble pie, or better yet, crow.

But this visit wasn’t personal.  He’d not come to apologize or to make amends.  He had no intentions of digging up the past or rubbing salt in old wounds.  This. Was. Business.

He parked the black Bronco in the recreation center’s parking lot and shoved out a breath.  He reached for his white Stetson on the passenger’s seat, took a moment to level the silver Concho trimming on the hat’s base before setting it squarely on his head.  He stepped out of the vehicle, straightened his shoulders and eyed the large box-shaped building.  The sign above the double glass doors read:AUSTIN ROCK CLIMBING GYM.

As he stared up at the sign, he wondered if the boys back at headquarters were having a good laugh at the new transfer’s expense.  The Jo Granger he’d known hated heights and if anyone had bet him she hung out in a place like this, he’d have taken the bet, damn sure he’d win.

’Course, he’d not been face-to-face with Jo in fourteen years.  And time changed plenty.

Dr. Jolene Granger was no longer a wide-eyed college student but a psychologist who consulted with the Texas Rangers.  In fact, her expertise on violent behavior had landed her several television interviews last year when the reporter had been digging for the motivations driving a serial killer that had hunted along I-35.

He’d seen on television that she’d given up the peasant skirts and flip-flops in favor of dark suits, pencil skirts and a tight bun.  Always wore white pearls around her neck.  Reminded him of a librarian he’d had in school as a kid.   Cool.  Controlled.  Hot.

Yeah, she’d changed in fourteen years.  Maybe heights didn’t bother her anymore.

A couple of laughing teens wearing shorts and carrying gym bags raced past him through the front door.  He trailed behind them, finding himself in an industrial-style lobby tricked out with a cement floor, solid crate furniture and soda machines.  He moved toward a long narrow reception desk where a young guy was texting.  Dark hair swept over a thin pale face and tattoos covered every bit of skin exposed below his white T-shirt cuff.

If Brody had been in a more charitable mood, he’d let the kid finish his nonsense communication, which likely had to do with gossip or a party.  But a foul and dark disposition sapped all patience.

He smacked his hand on the reception desk.  “Need to find Dr. Jolene Granger.”

The kid jumped, his initial glance aggravated until he took stock of the Stetson, the Texas Ranger’s star pinned to Brody’s broad chest and his six-foot-four frame.  Displeasure gave way to startled deference.  “She’s in the main gym.  Can I tell her you’re here?”

“I’ll announce myself.”

The kid scrambled around the counter and took a step as if to follow.  “Is she in some kind of trouble?”

Brody stopped and eyed the kid.  “Why’s it your business if she is?”

His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed.  “I like her.  And if she were in trouble—”

Brody’s own worries sharpened his tone.  “What would you do if she were in trouble?”

Slight shoulders shrugged, but the kid’s gaze remained direct.  “I don’t know.”

“That’s right. You don’t know.”

“She’s a nice lady.”

Jo had always coaxed this kind of loyalty out of folks.  Kind, smart as a whip, she drew people.  The kid was no different and Brody gave him props for standing up to him.

He softened his scowl.  “Dr. Granger isn’t in trouble.  But my business is official.  If you don’t mind, I need for you to get back behind that counter and take care of your own business.”  He took a step toward the kid who hustled back behind the counter.

As Brody turned toward the main gym he imagined the boy on his cell again, texting his friends as fast as his thin fingers could move.

In the main gym, Brody was greeted by the smells of sweat and freshly polyurethane-coated floors.  The walls were covered with gray rocklike facings that jutted and curved as a rock ledge might.  Dispersed over the wall were colored footholds and handholds, some large and others so small he wondered how his large hands could maintain a grip.

A collection of climbers scaled the walls from the floor to ceiling.  Belayers stood at the bottom feeding climbers their safety ropes.  A young blond girl scaled the wall as if she were part monkey.  A couple of guys in their mid-twenties moved between the rock ledges with a power and grace he admired.  He couldn’t imagine that fourteen years had changed Jo so much that she now enjoyed this kind of foolishness.

The shouts and giggles of a group of girls in a side room drew him.  The ten girls, who looked to be between fourteen and sixteen, stood at the base of a tall rock wall.  Several were pregnant and most had tattoos and piercings.  Young, but he imagined they all had a lifetime of experiences already under their belts.

There was no whiff of anger or sorrow radiating off anyone.  They were cheering, like kids their age should.  His gaze trailed theirs to a woman racing a male climber to the top of the rock wall toward a bell.

Squealing young voices chanted, “Go Jo.  Go Jo.  Go Jo.”

Jo.

He’d found Dr. Jolene Granger.

Brody stood behind the students, rested his hands on his hips and shifted his gaze from the male climber to the woman.  Her chalked fingers clung to slivers of manufactured rock while her feet perched on similar pieces.  Tight black pants and a white fitted spandex top molded a trim athletic body.  Long red hair bound into a ponytail swept across her muscled back as she scrambled haphazardly from rock to rock.  Jo?  He looked closer.

Damn, if it wasn’t her.

When Jo reached the top and rang a bell, the kids cheered.  She looked over her shoulder, suspending from a single handhold and foothold and smiled at them.  “Now which one of you girls bet that I couldn’t win?”

The girls laughed, shaking heads and pointing to each other.  None fessed up to having any doubts about her.

Jo surveyed the crowd of girls.  “And seeing as I won, ladies, that means you all are going to study real hard for the rest of this semester, correct?”

A rumble of laughter and whispers rolled through the teens.  “Yes!” they shouted.

The male climber rang the bell.  He regarded Jo, his good-natured appreciation clear as he nodded his concession.

Brody assessed the man, wondering if Jo had really beaten him or if he had held back to win points with Jo.  If he had to wager, he’d put his chips on the latter.

“Doug buys ice cream for everyone!” Jo said.

The kids cheered.

Doug grinned.  “Rematch!”

Jo’s laughter rang clear and bright as she turned her face from the wall and gazed at the girls with tenderness.  However, as quick as she looked down, she looked back up as if the height flustered her.  “Gonna have to be a lot of A’s and B’s to get me up here again.”

Brody crossed his arms over his chest, taking inventory of her high cheekbones, pale complexion and full lips.  She was more relaxed, and a hell of a lot hotter than the grim woman he’d seen on television last year.

As if she’d read his mind, her gaze shifted from the kids to him.  For a moment she stared at him, as if she couldn’t believe her eyes.  He made a point not to blink or show the faintest sign of curiosity for this new version of Dr. Granger.

Shaking off her surprise, she moved to climb down the wall but missed her handhold and, in a blink, fell.  The girls squealed.  Brody tensed, moving toward the crowd, ready to shove his way toward the wall’s base.  But the rope tightened, halted her fall and the bilayer held tight.

Jo immediately grabbed for another rock and swung herself back into position on the wall.  For an instant, she didn’t move.

“You okay, Jo?” Doug said.

“Fine.”  She grabbed for a larger rock.  Within seconds she’d scrambled to the bottom of the wall.  She stared at the kids, and she wiped a bead of sweat off her forehead with the back of her hand.  “That’s why I harp on preparedness.  Never go into any situation without thinking about what could go wrong.  You’ll live a longer, happier life if you are careful.”

The kids chuckled nervously as Doug descended the wall.  He moved to Jo, putting his hand on her shoulder.  “You’re really okay?”

She briefly studied Brody before dropping her gaze.  “Yeah, I’m fine.  Would you excuse me?”

She moved through the crowd of girls.  Several stopped and asked her again if she was okay.  She assured them all she was fine.  Her back was straight and her gaze direct as she finally cut through the crowd and closed the distance between them.

Wisps of hair framed her face, which had grown more angular over the years.  Though she’d always been slim, her body now was trim and nicely muscular.  No hint of apology softened green eyes now as sharp as emeralds.  The years had been good to her.  And he was real glad.  The last time he’d seen her she’d been…broken.

Jo stopped a few feet shy of him.  Her expression was stern, controlled and mildly interested.  “I’m guessing you’re here on business.  A case.”

“That’s right.”  He removed his hat as he regarded the kids and Doug who stared at them with raw curiosity.  “Mind if we talk somewhere else more private?”

“Sure.  Let me grab my bag.”  She snatched up a gym bag from a wooden bench.  “Girls, I’ll be right back.”

“Are you getting arrested?” one shouted.

Jo glanced up at Brody.  “Am I in trouble, Ranger Winchester?”

“No, ma’am.”   He spoke loud enough for all to hear.

She followed him outside. Sweat glistened from her skin and mingled with a delicate perfume that reminded him of roses.  A lot had changed about Jo but not her scent.  “What gives?”

“You heard of Harvey Lee Smith?”

“Sure.”  She yanked out a hoodie jacket from her bag and pulled it on.  “Convicted serial killer.  I featured him in my dissertation, ‘The Mind of a Serial Killer.’  You were the original DPS arresting officer, as I remember.”

He’d been a Texas Department of Public Safety officer when he’d collared Smith.  But the arrest had been the coup that earned him his Ranger’s star.  The Texas Rangers were an elite group of one hundred and forty-four men and women in the Department of Public Safety.

“That’s right.  And if you’ve studied Smith you’d know he was convicted of killing ten women.  However, it’s believed his murder count is higher than thirteen.”

She zipped up her jacket and tucked her hands in the pockets.  “When he was interviewed he confessed to killing the women.  Ten bodies were found buried in his backyard in Austin.  Three victims linked to him were not found.  When pressed he wouldn’t give details.”

“I’ve interviewed him many times over the last three years.  But he kept changing his story and ‘forgetting’ where the other bodies were buried.  It was all a big game to him.”

She frowned.  “He’s dying of cancer, from what I hear.  Doesn’t have much time to live.”

“Docs say the disease spread to his liver.  Less than a couple of months.”

She was silent for several seconds.  “He’s going to his grave with his secrets and will deny closure for the victims’ families.  It’s the last bit of control he can exert.”

Brody’s jaw tightened and released.  He’d used every trick in the book to get Smith to open up but endless hours of interviews had been a waste.  Smith had taken pleasure in jerking his chain.

“Smith told prison authorities late yesterday that he wanted to talk.  He knows time is running out, and he wants to cleanse his soul.  He’s agreed to tell where the bodies are buried.”

Jo shifted her stance.  “He’s made similar promises before.  You said it yourself.  It’s all a game to him.”

“I know.  And I’d love to tell him to rot in hell.  But this might be my last chance to talk to him and to find those bodies.”

She nodded.  “And you can’t let it pass.  I get that.”

“That’s right.”

She met his gaze.  “Why me?”

Brody pulled in a deep breath and let it out slowly.  “Because Smith requested that you hear his last confession.”

She shook her head, her brow rising.  “Me specifically?  I find that hard to believe.”

“He was clear he’d talk to you and no one else.”

“I’ve done some work for the Texas Rangers and I wrote a paper on the guy, but I’m by no stretch the most experienced psychologist.  Others have written more about him and have a lot more to offer.”

No traces of false modesty in the clear-minded assessment.  “Your record has been impressive.”

Green eyes narrowed.  “I’m building a reputation but again, why me?  I shouldn’t be on this guy’s radar.”

He settled his right hand on his belt next to his gun.  “The guy’s smart as hell.  He’s had all the time in the world to do what digging he can.”

A humorless smile tipped the edge of her mouth.  “And he figured out that you and I used to be married.”

“That’s my best guess.  I interviewed him more than anyone and each session he did his best to pull personal information out of me.”

“I can’t see you discussing personal matters.”

He caught the comment’s double edge.  “No, I did not.  But like I said, I’m betting he did some digging.”

“And somehow he figured out about me.”

“Somehow.”

A silence settled for a moment.  “Maybe he heard about my dissertation.  The university published it online.  Maybe this is a quirky coincidence.”

Leather creaked on his gun belt as he shifted his stance.  “Could be as simple as that.  But I’ve never been a big believer in coincidence.  By my way of thinking they are as rare as hen’s teeth.”

She tightened her hand on her bag.  “You’ve put some thought into this.”

“Since the prison called me this morning, overthinking is more like it.”

She dropped her gaze to the ground, shaking her head.

“If you don’t want to do this, there’s no harm nor foul.  I’ll go talk to Smith again and see if he’ll talk to me.  He might give in, seeing as death is close.”

“And what if he doesn’t?”

Brody shrugged.  “Then our last shot at finding those three bodies is lost.”

She drew in a slow steady breath and then released it.  “I’ll do it.  I’ll go.  Least I can do for those families.”

Jo might not cross a street to spit on him, but she’d give up her Saturday to talk to a killer to help grieving families.  “You sure about that?”

“As I remember, Smith is a control freak who only cooperates if all his demands are met.  When does he want to see me?”

“Today.”

A brow arched.  “Right now?”

“My plane is gassed and ready to go at the airport. I can have you in Livingston in two hours.”

No Escape Reviews

“Strong storytelling and an intriguing plot that is guaranteed to cause goose bumps keep the pages turning . . . a terrifying, sadistic villain . . . heated sexual tension . . . one thrill of a read.”
— RT Book Reviews, 4 stars on NO ESCAPE.

“Mary Burton embraces the dark side of humanity . . . engrossing . . . a chilling thriller . . .a climax that is terrifying . . .excellent entertainment.” — Long and Short Reviews on NO ESCAPE.

Burton always writes great, edgy suspense, and this book is no different. Pages will fly by as the danger around Jolene and Brody increase!” — The Parkersburg News & Sentinel on NO ESCAPE.

The Seventh Victim

The Seventh Victim

The Seventh Victim

If At First You Don’t Succeed

It’s been seven years since the Seattle Strangler terrorized the city. His victims were all young, pretty, their lifeless bodies found wrapped in a home-sewn white dress. But there was one who miraculously escaped death, just before the Strangler disappeared…

Kill

Lara Church has only hazy memories of her long-ago attack. What she does have is a home in Austin, a job, and a chance at a normal life at last. Then Texas Ranger James Beck arrives on her doorstep with shattering news: The Strangler is back. And this time, he’s in Austin…

And Kill Again. . .

He’s always craved her, even as he killed the others. For so long he’s been waiting to unleash the beast within. And this time, he’ll prove he holds her life in his hands—right before he ends it forever…

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Texas Ranger James Beck’s black truck kicked up dust and heat wafted on the horizon as he wound his way up the back road toward Lara Church’s home. Without Raines, it would have been a bitch to find Lara Church, who resided in a house still under her grandmother’s name. Raines got points for the tip.

Raines.

Raines shared a single-minded dedication with Beck. Firsthand experience had taught Beck that the trait was as valuable as it was volatile.

Beck slowed at the entrance of the driveway and noted the name on the mailbox. Bower. The Bower name tickled his memory, and for a moment he paused, staring at the scratched lettering on the rusted box.

The more he mined for the memory the more elusive it became so he tabled the search and drove down the winding gravel driveway. He shut off the engine, got out of the car, and surveyed the house.

Made of stone, the one-story house had to have been a hundred years old. Rustic with a bit weather-beaten charm, the house had a low, wide front porch furnished with a couple of bright blue rockers and a scattering of painted planters filled with flowers. Lara Church didn’t know much about Texas summers if she thought keeping those flowers alive was going to be an easy task. Last summer’s heat had cracked foundations and dried out wells. One missed day of watering, and the heat would burn up those pretty little flowers.

A rustic wind chime dangling from the porch jingled gently in a breeze. Twin sets of windows decorated with faded red curtains flanked the front door. A new stained-glass oval hung above the door.

Before he’d headed up here, he’d run a check on Lara. There’d been no priors in the system, but a quick Internet search led him to the 101 Gallery located on Congress Street in Austin. According to the gallery site, Lara Church was having her first photographic exhibit opening this Friday. It was entitled Mark of Death. It didn’t take a shrink to figure out what lurked behind her subject matter. The gallery site included several of Lara’s black-and-white images, but there’d been no picture of the artist herself.

In the distance he heard a dog bark. Judging by the animal’s deep timbre, it was big and running in Beck’s direction. Absently, he moved his hand to the gun on his hip. Nice places like this could turn nasty or even deadly in the blink of an eye.

The dog’s barking grew louder. Tightening his hand on the gun’s grip, he scanned the wooded area around the cabin until his gaze settled on a path that cut into the woods. In a flash, a large black and tan shepherd emerged from the woods, its hair standing on end. The animal glared at Beck, barking and growling. The animal was a beauty, but he’d shoot if it attacked.

Seconds later a woman emerged from the woods. She carried a shotgun in her hands and the instant she saw Beck she raised the barrel.

Beck didn’t hesitate. He drew his gun and pointed it directly at the women. “Texas Ranger. Drop the gun now!”

The woman stared at him, her gaze a blend of surprise and wariness.

“Put. The. Gun. Down.” Each word was sharpened to a fine point.

She lowered the tip of the barrel a fraction but didn’t release the gun. “How do I know you’re a Texas Ranger?”

The Texas Ranger uniform was easily recognizable to anyone who’d been in Texas more than five minutes. But that discussion came after she released the weapon. “Put the gun down, now.” He all but shouted the command over the dog’s barking. “Now!”

Carefully, she laid the barrel down and took a step back as if she was ready to bolt into the woods. The dog bared its teeth, but she made no move to calm the animal. She might have surrendered the gun, but the dog remained a threat.

He braced his feet. “If your dog lunges at me, I will shoot him.”

Her gaze flickered quickly between the dog and his gun. She understood he’d meant it. “Okay.” She looped her fingers through the dog’s collar and ordered him to heel close at her side.

“You and the dog step back.”

“Why?”

“Do it!” He glanced at the shotgun, knowing he’d not breathe a sigh of relief until he had it in hand.

“I am not turning around.” Her raspy voice stutter- stepped with panic. “I want to see your badge.”

He studied her. If this was Lara Church and she’d survived the Strangler, fear would be a logical response. “Step away from the gun.”

She drew in a breath and moved back with the dog. He picked up the shotgun and holstered his gun. Slowly, he pulled his badge from his breast pocket and held it up to her.

“Sergeant James Beck,” he said.

“Okay, Sergeant.”

He opened the break-action shotgun and found two shells in the double-barreled chamber. The safety was off. He removed the shells. “You always greet people with a shotgun?” He glanced from her to the growling dog.

“When I’m alone, yes. And it is registered, and I am on my land, so I’m well within my rights to carry a weapon.”

As he held her rifle, he glared at her and the barking shepherd. “You know how to shoot it?”

Blue eyes held his. “I sure do.”

As the adrenaline ebbed from his veins, his brain processed the details he’d only skimmed over moments ago when she’d been holding the gun. She was a slight woman, not much more than five feet tall. Long light brown hair gathered in a loose ponytail that left strands of hair free to frame a narrow face. Peaches-and-cream skin, a high slash of cheekbones, and blue eyes combined to create a face that would have made any man look twice.

“Why are you here?” Her raspy voice, seductive in quieter tones, was powerful when rising above the dog’s barking.

“Quiet that dog.”

She tugged gently on the shepherd’s collar, and he stopped barking. “What can I do for you, Sergeant Beck?”

“You are Ms. Lara Church?”

Her slim frame tensed, as she released the dog’s collar and scratched him between the ears. “That is correct. Can I have my gun back?”

He ignored the question. “I came to ask you a few questions.”

Her lips flattened as if she already sensed where this conversation was headed. “About?”

“We had a murder outside of Austin yesterday. A woman was strangled to death.”

She stopped stroking the dog between its ears. “What does that have to do with me?”

He snapped the shotgun barrel closed with a firm click. “I think you know why, ma’am.”

Her jaw tensed, but as if the words refused to be voiced.

“You were attacked in Seattle about seven years ago. Strangled nearly to death by a man police believe was the Seattle Strangler. And you are the lone survivor.”

Lips compressed into a fine line. “Seattle’s over two thousand miles from here. And seven years is a long time ago.”

He took a step toward her. The dog growled. Beck met the animal’s gaze and held it until the dog looked away. “This woman was wearing a white dress, and there was a penny in her hand.”

Absently, she curled the fingers of her right hand closed. Drawing in a careful breath, she released it slowly. “I still don’t know how I can help you.”

He wondered what shrink had taught her the self-calming trick. “Tell me what you know about the man that attacked you.”

The involuntary shake of her head told him she did not want to revisit the past even for a second. “If you found me here then you know people in the Seattle Police Department. Did they also tell you that I don’t remember my attack?”

“It’s been seven years, ma’am. Something’s got to have stirred up over that time.”

She cocked a brow. “Yeah, you’d think, wouldn’t you? But I’ve remembered nothing.” Reading his doubt, she added, “I know you don’t believe this, but I’d actually want to remember . . . even the dark and scary stuff. At least if I remembered this guy I’d know if he was standing in front of me. Maybe then I could take a walk in the woods without a shotgun.”

“You always carry it?”

“I walk with it. It’s close by when I eat, and it sits by my bed when I sleep.”

“You said yourself you are two thousand miles and seven years away from Seattle.”

“I think I don’t want to be a victim ever again. So I’ve learned to take care of myself.”

He handed the shotgun back to her. “Would you be willing to come into town and talk to our forensic psychologist? She’s sharp and might do you some good.”

She crossed her arms. “How did you find me?”

“I spoke to the Seattle Police.”

Her expression showed her distrust. “They don’t know where I am.”

“Mike Raines does.”

Her gaze narrowed. “Detective Raines. How?”

Beck rattled the shells in his hands. “He’s kept tabs on you.”

She tightened her fingers around the gun barrel. “If you talked to Raines then you know he had me speak to every doctor he could find.”

What Raines had done was of no interest to him now. “My doctor is top notch.”

A cynical smile curved the edge of full lips. “This doctor might be good, and she might think she’s different and smarter than the rest, but she’s not. I’ve seen more doctors than I can count, and I’ve talked to countless cops. I suffered a concussion during the attack and don’t have memories to share; otherwise I’d have shared them years ago.”

A dozen questions condensed to one. “What’s the last image you do remember before the attack?”

She slowly shook her head from side to side. “I don’t want to answer your questions. Now get off my property, Sergeant Beck.”

The abrasive clip in her voice thinned his patience. Deliberately, he kept his voice even and precise. “I came all this way to see you.”

“You’ve wasted a trip, Sergeant Beck.”

He managed a smile that didn’t feel the least bit friendly. “This visit was a courtesy because I did not want to put you out, ma’am. But I have come here for answers.”

Her hand tightened around the gun barrel. “You have come to the wrong place. I can’t give you what I don’t have.”

“I could detain you and drive you into Austin, where we could have a more formal chat.”

“Cops . . . so predictable,” she muttered as she rubbed her temple with her fingertips. “You’ve no cause to take me anywhere.”

“Ma’am, you are a material witness in an active murder case, and I have every right to take you in to Austin.”

“I don’t remember.” She sounded weary.

“Appears to me you haven’t even tried that hard.”

She tipped her head back as if struggling for patience and control. “If I had any detail I would tell you. I really would. But I don’t.”

“It’s in this morning’s paper.”

“I haven’t had the chance to read it.”

“Then I suppose you haven’t read about the woman in San Antonio?”

“The paper never said how she died.” And at his questioning look she added, “I do read the papers, Sergeant.”

The Austin paper and television stations had spent several days covering the unknown San Antonio body, trailing the story through the discovery and the identification. When the leads had run dry, the articles had stopped. “We don’t know how she died, but believe she was dressed in white.” He rested his hands on his belt, the heavy leather creaking. “She’d been exposed to the elements. Sun and animals took most of her away.”

Tension flattened her lips. “There was no mention of any of that in the paper.”

“That was deliberate on the part of the local police. They don’t want to show their cards until they have to.”

The pink he’d seen in her cheeks when she’d come out of the woods had faded. “The first woman’s name was Lou Ellen Fisk. Mean anything to you?”

“No.”

“What about Gretchen Hart? She’s the one that died yesterday morning.”

“No.”

Her clipped, almost defiant answers shortened his temper to breaking. She wanted to stay out of this game. Wanted him to walk away. Not happening. “You remember having that man’s hands around your neck? Remember what it’s like to have your wind slowly cut off?”

Her eyes widened. Fear and then anger shot back. “Is that supposed to shock a memory from me? Or make me go rushing to your doctor? Because if it is you’ll have to do better than that.”

“I got two dead women and I expect a little help from you.”

She sighed her frustration. “All I remember is waking up in a hospital room. My throat burned, and I could barely talk. I remember my face and neck were bruised and my eyes were so bloodshot it was hard to see my pupils when I looked in the mirror. The doctors said the Strangler just about crushed my windpipe. My voice is still hoarse today because of the attack.”

Imagining her face battered and bruised cooled the fire in his belly. “Any idea how you got away?”

“I was told someone passed by and saw what was happening. I must have blacked out by then, but I’m told the guy and his girlfriend called the cops and my attacker ran away.”

“Where were you attacked?”

“If you’ve spoken to Mike Raines then you have more details than me.” Impatience nipped at each word.

When he had a spare moment he’d read the Raines files cover to cover. “I want to hear what you have to say, ma’am.” His tone remained cool, even.

“There’d been a party, and I’d had too many drinks. I took a cab to my apartment, and I remember putting my key in the lock. And then my next memory starts in the hospital.”

“The other Seattle victims were killed by the highway.”

“It was in all the papers at the time. All women, including me, were thinking twice before heading out on Route 10. It never occurred to me that he’d be in my apartment building.”

He dug into his own memories of the crime. “The other victims had police records.”

She rubbed the side of her neck with her hand. “And I did not. Yes, I know. Some of the cops were certain I was lying and went to great lengths to dig into my past. In the end, they found out what I told them they’d find: one speeding ticket, which I got when I was sixteen. What I know is in Detective Raines’s files.”

“Except who attacked you. That detail is locked in your head, Ms. Church.”

She wiped a bead of sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand. “The key is gone, sir. There is no way to reach the memories. Now I need to ask you to leave. I’ve got to be in town in less than an hour.”

“You have a show opening, don’t you?”

“That’s right.”

“Photographs?”

“Yes.”

He dropped the shells in his jacket pocket and pulled out a couple of Polaroids taken of the body at yesterday’s crime scene. “They look like this?”

She took the pictures and glanced at crime scene images of Gretchen Hart. Immediately her face paled and she swayed before she handed him back the images. “You’re full of nasty questions and tricks.”

He suffered no remorse. “Thought if you could see firsthand what I’m dealing with you might be more open to helping me.”

“Get off my land, Ranger. I have no more to say to you.”

He slowly tucked the pictures back in his breast pocket. “I’ll leave for now, Ms. Church, but you are gonna see me again. That I do promise you.”

Gripping the shotgun by the stock, she turned toward the house, her dog following.

As she reached for the front door, he said, “If the Seattle Strangler is active again, don’t you find it a bit odd that he’d take up his work only twenty or thirty miles from where his last victim lives? I don’t know about you, but I’ve never put much stock in coincidence.”

She turned partway toward him, unwittingly giving him a view of her slim neck. “You’re assuming it is the Seattle Strangler. I am not.”

Tension rippled through his body. “It’s a solid assumption.”

She hesitated as if a blast of frigid air cut up her spine and then vanished with her dog into her house.

Lara Church wasn’t the timid artsy type he’d expected. She had steel running down her spine. Getting her help wouldn’t be as easy as he’d hoped. But in the end he would get it.

The Seventh Victim Reviews

Bestseller Burton (Before She Dies) delivers action-packed tension as a cold case becomes new again… a compelling romantic thriller.” Publishers Weekly on The Seventh Victim.

An excellent thriller, as well as a blooming romance, the author does a wonderful job of drawing readers in with the rapid pace and plot that include exciting and interesting back stories on all the victims. This is really a very twisted saga that readers will find unbelievably hard to put down!” — Suspense Magazine on The Seventh Victim

Burton’s latest novel has a calculating villain at its center, plus a strong yet vulnerable heroine and a tough Texas Ranger who is determined to protect her and root out a killer. Burton’s crisp storytelling, solid pacing and well-developed plot will draw you in, and the strong suspense will keep you hooked and make this story hard to put down.” – RT Book Reviews, 4 stars

“Dark and disturbing, a well-written tale of obsession and murder.”— Kat Martin, New York Times bestselling author