Book Showcase: COUNTDOWN by Carey Baldwin

Countdown

by Carey Baldwin

on Tour November 27 – December 31, 2017



Synopsis:


Countdown by Carey Baldwin

The next pulse-pounding Cassidy and Spenser thriller from USA Today bestselling author Carey Baldwin!


Don’t believe everything you see.

Special Agent Atticus Spenser and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Caitlin Cassidy are in Tahiti enjoying a much-needed break from the FBI when they spot newlyweds taking fun photos on the beach. But as the groom carries his bride deeper into the waves, Spense is positive he sees a flash of terror cross her face. All his instincts scream that this woman is in danger. Yet moments later, it’s the groom who has nearly drowned… and the bride has vanished, leaving a bloody wedding dress floating in her wake.

The authorities aren’t sure who to believe—the groom, who insists his wife tried to murder him… or her twin, who claims her sister must have acted in self-defense. Intrigued, Spense and Caity agree to help investigate. But when they discover that the missing bride is the daughter of a notorious confidence man, they begin to suspect that all is not what it seems. Now they’ll need to separate victim from villain, fact from fiction, truth from lie, to determine if there’s really a killer on the loose… or if it’s all one big con.



Book Details:


Genre: Mystery
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: November 28th 2017
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 0062495631 (ISBN13: 9780062495631)
Series: Cassidy & Spenser #5
Purchase Links: Amazon  | Barnes & Noble  | Goodreads 


Read an excerpt:



Chapter 1

Six Months Earlier

Late Morning

Riverbend, Texas

For the second time since Rose Parker entered her target’s backyard, the Ruger LCP nearly slipped from her sweat-slicked shaky grip.

Damn nerves.

Careful to maintain her hold on the pistol, she halted, wiped her palms on her jeans, one at a time, and then resumed forward progress. Papa hadn’t raised her to be a weak-willed helpless woman. If only he were here to give her a steadying slap—because she was going to take care of Tommy Preston or die trying.

Scratch that.

Dying wasn’t an option.

Then there would be no one left to get the job done.

Suddenly, the pulse in her ears seemed loud enough to burst her eardrums.

You don’t have to do this.

She checked out her toes. Dust obscured the newness of the two-sizes-too-big men’s Nikes that had arrived in the mail yesterday.

Yes, you do.

A bitter taste worked its way up the back of her throat. She spat onto the ground and instantly regretted it. Could they get DNA from dirt-spit? Better keep her saliva to herself from here on out, just to be on the safe side. She wasn’t worried about shoe prints though. If documented as evidence, these would only mislead the cops—something that was easy to do, and a skill she’d mastered at a too-young age.

She pulled her shoulders high and tilted her face up. The rays of the white, west Texas sun had blanched the color from the heavens, changing them into a transparent film. Sweat trickling down her forehead stung when it reached her eyes. Longing to shuck out of every stitch of clothing on her body, she unbuttoned the top of her blouse. Weird how claustrophobia could hit you out in the open like this, but the soaring temperatures and the sheer, heat-wrinkled sky made her feel as though she were trapped in a giant earthen bowl covered by Saran Wrap.

Gulping hot air to prove there really was oxygen to be had, she shaded her eyes. Her Ray-Bans would be nice to have right about now, but she had no purse to dump them in, and when it came time to set that bastard in her sights she couldn’t afford to have glasses slipping down her nose. Even on a good day at the shooting range with no pressure on her, she wasn’t a great marksman. So under circumstances like these, any distraction would add an unnecessary layer of risk.

Up ahead, a column of dust lifted off the ground, stretched vertically, and then spun itself into a dust devil.

Willing her heartbeat to slow and her mind to still, she curled her finger a hair’s breadth away from the Ruger’s trigger.

Settle down.

To kill a man she needed her head level and her blood as frosty as that mug of beer she’d been wishing for even though it was not yet noon.

You can take care of your own self, girl. Don’t let anybody tell you different.

She had to give Papa his due about one thing—he’d set no stock in the notion that a woman was less than. Sis claimed that had just been his excuse to be harder on them than he would’ve been on any son. But Rose disagreed—yet one more example of how she and Sis didn’t always see eye-to-eye. The way she looked at it, Papa had done them a favor by teaching them to live by their wits. Sure, they’d paid a high price for the lesson, and yes, she’d promised herself she wouldn’t carry on the Parker family’s vocation once Papa was gone, but at least life with him had prepared her to outsmart any trouble that came her way. So, no, it didn’t matter if she couldn’t match Tommy’s physical strength—she had a gun.

***


Excerpt from Countdown by Carey Baldwin. Copyright © 2017 by Carey Baldwin. Reproduced with permission from Witness Impulse. All rights reserved.




More About Carey Baldwin:


Carey Baldwin

CAREY BALDWIN is a mild-mannered doctor by day and an award-winning author of edgy suspense by night. She holds two doctoral degrees, one in medicine and one in psychology. A USA Today bestselling author, she loves reading and writing stories that keep you off balance and on the edge of your seat. Carey lives in the southwestern United States with her amazing family. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking and chasing wildflowers.




Carey loves to hear from readers so please visit her website (www.CareyBaldwin.com), her Facebook page (facebook.com/CareyBaldwinAuthor), or her Twitter feed (twitter.com/CareyBaldwin)!






Tour Participants:

Stop by these great hosts for reviews, and giveaways!



Giveaway:



This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Carey Baldwin and Witness Impulse. There will be 3 winners of one (1) physical copy of Carey Baldwin’s 4th Cassidy & Spenser Thriller, Stolen. The giveaway begins on November 27 and runs through January 1, 2018. It is open to US residents only.


a Rafflecopter giveaway




Book Showcase: STOLEN by Carey Baldwin

Stolen

by Carey Baldwin

on Tour February 14 – March 3, 2017



Synopsis:


Stolen by Carey Baldwin

Is she missing…or a murderer?


When Laura Chaucer, daughter of a U.S. senator, vanishes from her college campus, celebrated FBI profilers Special Agent Atticus Spenser and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Caitlin Cassidy are called in. Thirteen years ago, Laura and her nanny disappeared from her family’s Denver home. Laura was found alive, but her nanny wasn’t so lucky… and the killer was never caught. Laura could identify him—if only she didn’t have a deep, dark hole in her memory.

Now she’s missing again. Did the troubled young woman run away or has the kidnapper returned? As women who look eerily similar to Laura’s nanny begin turning up dead, the Chaucer family psychiatrist renders a disturbing opinion: Laura is unstable, a danger to herself and others. Who knows what terrible secrets lurk in the shadowy recesses of her mind? Cassidy and Spenser must solve one of the most infamous cold cases ever to uncover the answer: Is Laura a killer, or is a monster still out there, waiting to claim another victim?



Book Details:


Genre: Suspense, Thriller
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: February 14th 2017
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN:  0062495542 (ISBN13: 9780062495549)
Series: Cassidy & Spenser #4
Purchase Links: Amazon  | Barnes & Noble  | Goodreads 




Read an excerpt:



Chapter One


Twilight

Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains

    Consciousness was the enemy and Laura Chaucer its captive. No matter how badly she wanted to flee into a dark, unseeing void, the menacing chill of the knife pressed against her neck forced her to keep her chin high and her eyes open. As her pulse raged, pounding against the deadly blade, she wondered, horrified, if it was possible for her throat to slit itself.

    If only her mind would drop into an abyss. If only she could crawl into a black hole and escape awareness, at least then she wouldn’t suffer. Cowardice dragged her eyelids shut.

    Stop running away.

    From deep within, a voice demanded she bear witness to her own death. Like broken wings beating against a gale, her eyelids fluttered up. Evil had been swirling around her for as long as she could remember, but she’d never had the courage to face it. Now, in her last moments, she must find the will. Before she left this twisted world, she needed to know the truth.


    Who are you?

    The answer she’d been running from her entire life loomed right behind her.

    But the knife prevented her from swiveling her head to confront the bastard. A defiant move like that would surely cost her whatever precious seconds she had left. His breath, warm on her cheek reeked of booze, its stench curdling in her already woozy stomach.

    Careful not to move her head, she braved a glance down and noted a wood floor.

    Where am I?

    A candle nub flickered in the dark; its yellow light illuminating patches of dust caked on an uneven plank tabletop. Bare log walls surrounded her. Eager for more clues, she sniffed. The scent of rain and earth hung heavily in the air. He must’ve stolen her from her room and brought her to a cabin—a primitive one.

    Who was he?

    You know, the voice within insisted. Stop pretending you don’t.

    “I-I don’t know anything,” she answered, as if he and her thoughts were one and the same. “P-please, just let me go.”
     The knife slipped across her throat, leaving fire trailing in its wake. Blood, warm and sticky, dribbled down her chest. Her head became heavy. The room spun. It would be so easy to let her chin fall, to drift into blessed unconsciousness, to leave it all behind.

    But that would mean dying the same way she’d lived: running from the truth.

    It’s not too late. As long as you have one breath left, there’s still time to change your craven ways.

    Watching the blood, already darkening from contact with the air, snake between her breasts, she took it all in, and a gasp agonized its way up her throat.

    She was naked.

    Bound around the waist, chest and ankles to a chair.

    It all seemed so…unreal. But the scrape of splintered wood beneath her bottom, the shivers that wracked her body from the frigid air, told her this was no dream. This wasn’t another one of her ubiquitous nightmares.

    If she closed her eyes now, she’d never wake up.

    Her throat burned with the urge to scream. But sensing that might give him pleasure, she clamped her teeth together, stuffing her fear down deep. She inhaled a fortifying breath through her nose. Wiggled her freezing fingers. But when she tried to shift her arms into a more comfortable position, she found that they, too, were tied to the chair, just up to the elbows. He’d left her hands and lower arms free, giving her enough slack to cross her palms in her lap and cover herself. Tears of gratitude for this small kindness welled in her eyes.

    Maybe he of the knife had a tiny, shriveled semblance of a heart.

    He proved he did not by dragging the jagged blade across her neck again—a shallow retracing of its former path that produced exquisite pain and more hot red blood. The need to cry out shook her body so hard the legs of the chair rattled against the floor. Then he pressed the knife’s point into the hollow of her neck—that spot that ought to be reserved for a lover’s kiss. It was as if this monster could not decide whether he wanted to kill her with a long, decimating swipe or by a swift, stabbing impalement. She didn’t know whether he was deliberately prolonging her agony or working up his nerve.

    A spasm of fear knotted her toes. Her vocal chords trembled from the impossible effort of restraint. Finally, she opened her mouth, releasing a hysterical noise.

    He wanted to hear her scream? Let him hear her laugh instead. Her pulse bounded harder against the blade, but she no longer feared the consequence.

    Whether he revealed himself to her or not, she suddenly didn’t care. It didn’t matter who he was. It only mattered who she was. Relief flooded her entire being, drenching her in joy. Her death would be a victory.

    Because it answered, once and for all, the question that had haunted her since the age of eight.

    She was not a murderer.



Excerpt from Stolen by Carey Baldwin.  
Copyright © 2017 by Carey Baldwin & WitnessImpulse. 
Reproduced with permission from WitnessImpulse. 
All rights reserved.






Kudos for Carey Baldwin:



Judgment, the first book in my Cassidy & Spenser Thriller series, has been named one of the “BEST BOOKS of 2014” by SUSPENSE MAGAZINE

Both Judgment & Confession are BOOKSELLERS BEST AWARD Finalists
Judgment is a DAPHNE DU MAURIER AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN MYSTERY/SUSPENSE Finalist and a SILVER FALCHION finalist.


Author Bio:


Carey Baldwin

Carey Baldwin is a mild-mannered doctor by day and an award-winning author of edgy suspense by night. She holds two doctoral degrees, one in medicine and one in psychology. She loves reading and writing stories that keep you off balance and on the edge of your seat. Carey lives in the southwestern United States with her amazing family. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking and chasing wildflowers.


Catch Up With Ms. Baldwin On:





Tour Participants:





Giveaway:


This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Carey Baldwin and William Morrow | WitnessImpulse. There will be 5 US winners of one (1) eBook copy of Stolen by Carey Baldwin. The giveaway begins on February 12th and runs through March 5th, 2017.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

Book Showcase: NOTORIOUS by Carey Baldwin


Notorious


by Carey Baldwin


on Tour April 5 – May 13, 2016





Notorious by Carey BaldwinThe woman everyone loves to hate is dead.

Dallas socialite Cynthia Langhorne is infamous for her beauty, her philanthropy, and her home wrecking—until she’s found shot through the heart and posed nude at a fundraising ball. The case is high profile, and there’s a bigger problem: Cindy is the wife of a decorated FBI special agent—the prime suspect in her murder.


When the Bureau sends FBI profiler Atticus Spenser and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Caitlin Cassidy to Texas on behalf of Dutch Langhorne, the special agent-turned-suspect, they’re suspicious of the very man whose interests they’re supposed to protect. But with a psycho hitman on their heels and a trail of evidence leading up the food chain, it quickly becomes clear this is no ordinary case. The truth points to someone—or something—larger than Spenser and Cassidy ever thought possible. Solving this case is no longer a matter of clearing Dutch’s name—it’s a matter of national security.



Book Details:


Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Published by:   Witness Impulse
Publication Date:   Feb 2, 2016
Number of Pages:  336
ISBN:   006238709X (ISBN13: 9780062387097)
Series: Cassidy & Spenser #3
Purchase Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Goodreads


Want to know more about Notorious? Read this excerpt:


CHAPTER 1



Sunday, October 13

10:00 P.M.

Dallas, Texas



When heading for a secret rendezvous with her lover, it simply wouldn’t do to appear to be sneaking off. So it was with a proud, unflinching spine, that Cynthia Beasley Langhorne ascended the grand staircase at the Worthington Mansion—one of Dallas’s most celebrated historic landmarks.

Golden light from opulent chandeliers flooded the plush, red carpet runner on the steps, giving her the eerie feeling she was wading into a river of blood. To keep from tripping, she lifted her Stella McCartney gown above her ankles. Its blue silk-chiffon swooshed, whispering secrets against her skin and tickling her bare legs. The mingled scents of money, power, and perfume floated up from the ballroom, along with the strains of Mozart and crashing cymbals. To those looking on with interest, and there were plenty of gawking eyes fixed on her, she supposed she appeared to be gliding with ease. But in truth, the crushing weight of her charmed life made each demure step as tortuous as a death march.

Bracing herself with a deep breath, she cast a glance over her shoulder at her handsome, unreachable husband, who was posted in the middle of the marble foyer below. She kept her head turned long enough to catch Dutch’s eye, allowing a few paparazzi to capture her impenetrable smile. Mona Lisa had nothing on her. No one would ever guess her thoughts or her true purpose—at least so far, no one ever had. And that was her curse in life. Blessed with wealth and notoriety, her heart would remain forever unseen, her diary her only confidante.

In spite of her determination, her steps slowed involuntarily, giving Dutch every chance to stop her. If he had so much as raised an eyebrow at her, she might’ve turned back and run straight for his arms. But, of course, he didn’t, and his indifference bolstered her faltering courage. She tossed her head, knowing the effect of her silky, auburn hair swinging across her bare shoulders would be dazzling. The music lulled, as if paying its respects like a gentleman rising to his feet when a lady exits the room. A flurry of flashing lights was accompanied by the electric sound of cameras clicking.

When her husband had asked her where she was going, she’d answered truthfully, “I’m meeting Matthew Cambridge, darling. I promise I won’t be long.”

Dutch’s eyes had glinted dangerously—but only for a moment. Then he sent her an insouciant smile. “Tell Matt that I’m the one who brought you to this god-awful-boring fund-raiser, and I’d like to dance with my wife at some point, let’s say before midnight.”

“Before midnight it is,” she’d promised.

Then he’d taken her hand, and she’d willed him not to let it go—not to let her go. But let her go he did.

Now a resigned sigh escaped her lips because it was too late for regrets. Her husband was married to his work. His passion was reserved for the FBI, and there was nothing to be done about that. Though she would give her own life to protect the damnable fool, the separate paths she and Dutch had chosen were paved with the cold stone of one irrefutable truth.

He doesn’t love me.

As her brown eyes locked with his frosty blue ones, she raised her chin and blinked away the moisture that blurred her vision. When her chest tightened, she commanded her body to relax, then raised her hand to her lips and blew him a kiss. She turned her back fully, then continued her march—not because she didn’t love her husband but because she did.

And because if she didn’t go through with this, the only thing that mattered would be destroyed.

Up the stairs, down the hall, and behind a closed bedroom door, she shed her clothing. She folded her silks, laying them neatly on a side chair, then hung her delicate gown in the closet. A chill seeped down to her bones, and a shiver swept over her. Without her garments, she felt as vulnerable as a soldier going into battle without armor.

But she had no choice.

The cost of defeat would be unbearably high.

Naked now, she arranged herself seductively on the bed, pressing her hand on her stomach to suppress the wave of anticipatory nausea. Pretending she was somewhere else, she closed her eyes. A creak of floorboards signaled her paramour’s approach. The door whooshed open. She steeled her resolve and forced her eyelids up.

But what she saw, there, in the doorway, turned her blood to ice and froze a scream, forever, in her throat.


© 2016  Witness Impulse & Carey Baldwin



Author Bio:

GREAT NEWS! Judgment, the first book in my Cassidy & Spenser Thriller series, has been named one of the “BEST BOOKS of 2014” by SUSPENSE MAGAZINE. 

Both Judgment & Confession are BOOKSELLERS BEST AWARD Finalists 

Judgment is a DAPHNE DU MAURIER AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE IN MYSTERY/SUSPENSE Finalist and a SILVER FALCHION finalist.

Carey Baldwin is a mild-mannered doctor by day and an award-winning author of edgy suspense by night. She holds two doctoral degrees, one in medicine and one in psychology. She loves reading and writing stories that keep you off balance and on the edge of your seat. Carey lives in the southwestern United States with her amazing family. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking and chasing wildflowers.


Catch Up:


author's website author's twitter author's facebook


Tour Participants:








Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours



Guest Post: Carey Baldwin, Author of CONFESSION



Today the Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a visit by Carey Baldwin, author of the new psychological thriller Confession. Ms. Baldwin will be discussing various influences on her writing. I hope you’ll enjoy her discussion and you definitely need to buy and read her book Confession!



Writing Influences
By Carey Baldwin

First, thank you so much to The Book Diva’s Reads for inviting me today. I’m delighted to be here and to share with you which authors have most influenced my writing. This seemed a tough question until I realized that my influences have changed over time. So if I may, I’ll divide them into groups. 

My earliest influences were perhaps the most important. It was when, as a child, I huddled under the covers reading the likes of Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge, Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott that I learned the meaning of an unputdownable book. Even though it meant reading by the dim orange light on my electric blanket control, even though it meant being dog tired at school the next day, even though it meant risking a spanking and heaven forbid “ruining my young eyes”, I simply couldn’t stop reading these stories. This is where my love affair with storytelling began. 

As time marched on, I found myself giving up books of my own choosing (or my mother’s ) for those needed to complete my school work. Luckily for me I found wonderful authors in my “required” reading. Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte were among my favorites. And it was through my high-school literature class that I discovered my favorite book of all time: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Even today, I can’t seem to keep the influence of that work out of my own stories. Somehow, references to it have appeared in each of my full-length novels. I don’t do it on purpose. It just happens. 

In college, I had the time and freedom to choose my own reading, and that’s when I began to read a lot of commercial fiction. I loved (and still do love) a heart-thumping romance or a shiver-inducing thriller. My favorite authors today are too numerous to name, but I’ll hit a few highlights with Steven King, Cindy Gerard, Harlan Coben, Allison Brennan, Karen Rose, Lisa Gardner…you get the idea.

But the most important influences of all have been a core group of writer friends who critique with me and support me. You’ll find their names listed in the acknowledgements of my books. Each one of them inspires me every day to write my best possible book, and reminds me to never give up on my dreams. 

Thanks again, for having me! And thanks for reading!


About the author:

Carey Baldwin is a mild-mannered doctor by day and an award-winning author of edgy suspense by night. She holds two doctoral degrees, one in medicine and one in psychology. She loves reading and writing stories that keep you off balance and on the edge of your seat. Carey lives in the southwestern United States with her amazing family. In her spare time she enjoys hiking and chasing wildflowers. 




Connect with the author:      Website      |     Twitter      |      Facebook 



Buy the book:






Shop Indie Bookstores




icon

icon


icon

icon


Also available at Book Depository


Confession


by Carey Baldwin


BOOK BLAST on March 11th


on Tour April 2014




Book Details:
Genre: Psychological Thrillers, Suspense

Published by: Witness Impulse 


Publication Date: March 11, 2014 


Number of Pages: 384 


ISBN: 9780062314109 / 0062314106 


Purchase Links:


Synopsis:
For fans of Allison Brennan and Karen Rose comes Carey Baldwin, a daring new name in suspense, with the story of a serial killer out for blood—and the only woman who can stop his reign of terror.

They say the Santa Fe Saint comes to save your soul—by taking your life.
Newly minted psychiatrist Faith Clancy gets the shock of her life when her first patient confesses to the grisly Saint murders. By law she’s compelled to notify the authorities, but is her patient really The Saint? Or will she contribute to more death by turning the wrong man over to the police?

Faith is going to need all her wits and the help of a powerful adversary, Luke Jericho, if she’s to unravel the truth. But she doesn’t realize she’s about to become an unwitting pawn in a serial killer’s diabolical game: For once he’s finished with Faith, she’ll become his next victim.

Read an excerpt:

Prologue 

Saint Catherine’s School for Boys

Near Santa Fe, New Mexico 


Ten years ago—Friday, August 15, 11:00 P.M. 


I’M NOT afraid of going to hell. Not one damn bit. 


We’re deep in the woods, miles from the boys’ dormitory, and my thighs are burning because I walked all this way with Sister Bernadette on my back. Now I’ve got her laid out on the soggy ground underneath a hulking ponderosa pine. A bright rim of moonlight encircles her face. Black robes flow around her, engulfing her small body and blending with the night. Her face, floating on top of all that darkness, reminds me of a ghost-head in a haunted house—but she’s not dead. 


Not yet. 


My cheek stings where Sister scratched me. I wipe the spot with my sleeve and sniff the air soaked with rotting moss, sickly-sweet pine sap and fresh piss. I pissed myself when I clubbed her on the head with that croquet mallet. Ironic, since my pissing problem is why I picked Sister Bernadette in the first place. She ought to have left that alone. 


I hear a gurgling noise. 


Good. 

Sister Bernadette is starting to come around. 


This is what I’ve been waiting for. 


With her rosary wound tightly around my forearm, the grooves of the carved sandalwood beads cutting deep into the flesh of my wrist, I squat down on rubber legs, shove my hands under her armpits and drag her into a sitting position against the fat tree trunk. Her head slumps forward, but I yank her by the hair until her face tilts up, and her cloudy eyes open to meet mine. Her lips are moving. Syllables form within the bubbles coming out of her mouth. I press my stinging cheek against her cold, sticky one. 


Like a lover, she whispers in my ear, “God is merciful.” 


The nuns have got one fucked-up idea of mercy. 


“Repent.” She’s gasping. “Heaven…” 


“I’m too far gone for heaven.”


The God I know is just and fierce and is never going to let a creep like me through the pearly gates because I say a few Hail Marys. “God metes out justice, and that’s how I know I will not be going to heaven.” 


To prove my point, I draw back, pull out my pocketknife, and press the silver blade against her throat. Tonight, I am more than a shadow. A shadow can’t feel the weight of the knife in his palm. A shadow can’t shiver in anticipation. A shadow is not to be feared, but I am not a shadow. Not in this moment. 


She moves her lips some more, but this time, no sound comes out. I can see in her eyes what she wants to say to me.
Don’t do it. You’ll go to hell. 

I twist the knife so that the tip bites into the sweet hollow of her throat. “I’m not afraid of going to hell.” 


It’s the idea of purgatory that makes my teeth hurt and my stomach cramp and my shit go to water. I mean what if my heart isn’t black enough to guarantee me a passage straight to hell? What if God slams down his gavel and says,
Son, you’re a sinner, but I have to take your family situation into account. That’s a mitigating circumstance.

A single drop of blood drips off my blade like a tear.

“What if God sends me to purgatory?” My words taste like puke on my tongue. “I’d rather dangle over a fiery pit for eternity than spend a single day of the afterlife in a place like this one.”

I watch a spider crawl across her face. 


My thoughts crawl around my brain like that spider. 


You could make a pretty good case, I think, that St. Catherine’s School for Boys is earth’s version of purgatory. I mean, it’s a place where you don’t exist. A place where no one curses you, but no one loves you either. Sure, back home, your father hits you and calls you a bastard, but you are a bastard, so its okay he calls you one. Behind me, I hear the sound of rustling leaves and cast a glance over my shoulder. 


Do it! You want to get into hell, don’t you?

I turn back to sister and flick the spider off her cheek. 


The spider disappears, but I’m still here. 


At St. Catherine’s no one notices you enough to knock you around. Every day is the same as the one that came before it, and the one that’s coming after. At St. Catherine’s you wait and wait for your turn to leave, only guess what, you dumb-ass bastard, your turn is never going to come, because you, my friend, are in purgatory, and you can’t get out until you repent. 


Sister Bernadette lets out another gurgle. 


I spit right in her face. 


I won’t repent, and I can’t bear to spend eternity in purgatory, which is I why I came up with a plan. A plan that’ll rocket me straight past purgatory, directly to hell. 


Sister Bernadette is the first page of my blueprint. I have the book to guide me the rest of the way. For her sake, not mine, I make the sign of the cross. 


She’s not moving, but her eyes are open, and I hear her breathing. I want her to know she is going to die. “You are going to help me get into hell. In return, I will help you get into heaven.”


I shake my arm and loosen the rosary. The strand slithers down my wrist. One bead after another drops into my open palm, electrifying my skin at the point of contact. My blood zings through me, like a high-voltage current. I am not a shadow. 


A branch snaps, making my hands shake with the need to hurry. 


What are you waiting for my friend?

Is Sister Bernadette afraid? 


She has to be. Hungry for her fear, I squeeze my thighs together, and then I push my face close and look deep in her eyes. 


“The blood of the lamb will wash away your sins.” She gasps, and her eyes roll back. “Repent.” 


My heart slams shut. 


I begin the prayers. 


Chapter One 

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Present Day—Saturday, July 20, 1:00 P.M. 

Man, she’s something.

Luke Jericho halted mid-stride, and the sophisticated chatter around him dimmed to an indistinct buzz. Customers jamming the art gallery had turned the air hot, and the aromas of perfume and perspiration clashed. His gaze sketched the cut muscles of the woman’s shoulders before swerving to the tantalizing V of her low-back dress. There, slick fabric met soft skin just in time to hide the thong she must be wearing. His fingers found the cold silk knot of his tie and worked it loose. He let his glance dot down the line of her spine, then swoop over the arc of her ass. It was the shimmer of Mediterranean-blue satin, illuminated beneath art lights, that had first drawn his eye, her seductive shape that had pulled him up short, but it was her stance—her pose—that had his blood expanding like hot mercury under glass. 


Head tilted, front foot cocked back on its stiletto, the woman studied one of Luke’s favorite pieces—his brother Dante’s mixed-media. A piece Luke had hand-selected and quietly inserted into this show of local artists in the hopes a positive response might bolster his brother’s beleaguered self-esteem. 


The woman couldn’t take her eyes off the piece, and he couldn’t take his eyes off the woman. Her right arm floated, as if she were battling the urge to reach out and touch the multi-textured painting. Though her back was to him, he could picture her face, pensive, enraptured. Her lips would be parted and sensual. He savored the swell of her bottom beneath the blue dress. Given the way the fabric clung to her curves, he’d obviously guessed right about the thong. She smoothed the satin with her hand, and he rubbed the back of his neck with his palm. Ha. Any minute now she’d turn and ruin his fantasy with what was sure to turn out to be the most ordinary mug in the room. 


And then she did turn, and damned if her mug wasn’t ordinary at all, but she didn’t appear enraptured. Inquisitive eyes, with a distinct undercurrent of melancholy, searched the room and found him. Then, delicate brows raised high, her mouth firmed into a hard line—even thinned, her blood-red lips were temptation itself—she jerked to a rigid posture and marched, yeah, marched, straight at him. 


Hot ass. Great mouth. Damn lot of nerve. 


“I could feel your stare,” she said. 


“Kind of full of yourself, honey.” 


A flush of scarlet flared across her chest, leading his attention to her lovely, natural breasts, mostly, but not entirely, concealed by a classic neckline. With effort, he raised his eyes to meet hers. Green. Skin, porcelain. Hair, fiery—like her cheeks—and flowing. She looked like a mermaid. Not the soft kind, the kind with teeth. 


“I don’t like to be ogled.” Apparently she intended to stand her ground. 


He decided to stand his as well. That low-back number she had on might be considered relatively tame in a room with more breasts on display than a Picasso exhibit, but there was something about the way she wore it. “Then you shouldn’t have worn that dress, darlin’.”


Her brow arched higher in challenge. “Which is it? Honey or darlin’?” 


“Let’s go with honey. You look sweet.” Not at the moment she didn’t, but he’d sure like to try and draw the sugar out of her. This woman was easily as interesting and no less beautiful than his best gallery piece, and she didn’t seem to be reacting to him per the usual script. He noticed his hand floating up, reaching out, just as her hand had reached for the painting. Like his mesmerizing customer, he knew better than to touch the display, but it was hard to resist the urge. 


Her body drew back, and her shoulders hunched. “You’re aware there’s a serial killer on the loose?”


Luke, you incredible ass.

No wonder she didn’t appreciate his lingering looks. Every woman he knew was on full alert. The Jericho charm might or might not be able to get him out of this one, but he figured she was worth a shot. “Here, in this gallery? In broad daylight?” He searched the room with his gaze and made his tone light. “Or are you saying you don’t like being sized up for the kill?” He patted his suit pockets, made a big show of it and then stroked his chin thoughtfully. “I seem to have misplaced my rosary somewhere, I don’t suppose you’ve seen it?”


Her shoulders eased back to a natural position. 


“Seriously, do I look like someone who’d be called The Saint?” 


If the glove doesn’t fit…

Her lips threatened to curve up at the corners. “No. I don’t suppose you do.” Another beat, and then her smile bloomed in earnest. “Looking a little is one thing, maybe it’s even flattering…but you seem to have exceeded your credit line.” 


He turned his palms up. “Then I’d like to apply for an increase.” 


At that, her pretty head tipped back, and she laughed, a big genuine laugh. It was the kind of laugh that was a touch too hearty for a polished society girl, which perhaps she wasn’t after all. It was also the kind of laugh he’d like to hear again. Of its own accord, his hand found his heart. “Listen, I’m honest-to-God sorry if I spooked you. That wasn’t my intention.”


Her expression was all softness now. 


“Do you like the painting?” he asked, realizing that he cared more than he should about the answer. 


“It’s quite…dark.” Her bottom lip shivered with the last word, and he could sense she found Dante’s painting disturbing. 


Always on the defensive where his brother was concerned, his back stiffened. He tugged at his already loosened tie. “Artists are like that. I don’t judge them.” 


“Of course. I-I wasn’t judging the artist. I was merely making an observation about the painting. It’s expressive, beautiful.”


Relaxing his stance, he pushed a hand through his hair. 


She pushed a hand through her hair, and then her glance found her fancy-toed shoes. “Maybe I overreacted, maybe you weren’t even staring.” 


Giving in to the urge to touch, he reached out and tilted her chin up until their eyes met. “I’m Luke Jericho, and you had it right the first time. I was staring. I was staring at—” He barely had time to register a startled flash of her green eyes before she turned on her heel and disappeared into the throng of gallery patrons. 


He shrugged and said to the space where her scent still sweetened the air, “I was staring at your fascination. Your fascination fascinates me.”



Saturday, July 20, 1:30 P.M.


Faith Clancy strode across her nearly naked office and tossed her favorite firelight macaroon clutch onto her desk. After rushing out of the gallery, she’d come to her office to regroup, mainly because it was nearby. 


She could hear Ma’s voice now, see her wagging finger.
“Luke Jericho? Sure’an you’ve gone and put your wee Irish foot in the stewpot now, Faith.” 

Well, it was only a tiny misstep—what harm could possibly come of it? She braced her palms against the windowsill. Teeth clenched, she heaved with all her might until wood screeched against wood and the window lurched open. 


A full inch. 


Swell. 


Summers in Santa Fe were supposed to be temperate, and she hadn’t invested in an air conditioner for her new office. She sucked in a deep breath, but the currentless summer air brought little relief from the heat. Lifting her hair off the back of her damp neck with one hand, she reached over and dialed on the big standing fan next to the desk with the other. The dinosaur whirred to life without a hiccup. 


That made one thing gone right today. 


The relaxing Saturday afternoon she’d been looking forward to all week had been derailed, thanks to Luke Jericho. Okay, that wasn’t even half fair. In reality, the wheels of her day had never touched down on the track to begin with. She’d awakened this morning with a knot in her stomach and an ache in her heart—missing Danny and Katie. 


Walk it off, she’d thought. Dress up. Take in the sights. Act like you’re part of the Santa Fe scene and soon enough you will be. Determined to forget the homesick rumbling in her chest, Faith had plucked a confidence boosting little number from her closet, slipped on a pair of heels and headed out to mingle with polite society. Even if she didn’t feel like she fit in, at least she would look the part. But the first gallery she’d entered, she’d dunked her foot in the stewpot—crossing swords with, and then, even worse, flirting with the brother of a patient. 

Rather bad luck considering she had just one patient. 


Her toe started to tap. 


Her gaze swept the office and landed on the only adornment of the freshly-painted walls—her diplomas and certificates, arranged in an impressive display with her psychiatric board certification center stage. A Yale-educated doctor. Ma and Da would’ve been proud, even if they might’ve clucked their tongues at the psychiatrist part. She blinked until her vision cleared. It wasn’t only Danny and Katie she was missing today. 


She kicked off her blasted shoes and shook off her homesick blues…only to find her mind returning to the gallery and her encounter with a man who was strictly off limits. 


There was no point chastising herself for walking into the art gallery in the first place, or for refusing to pretend she didn’t notice the man who was eyeing her like she was high tea in a whorehouse, and he a starving sailor. 


Care for a macaroon, sir?

Had she realized her admirer was Luke Jericho, she would’ve walked away without confronting him, but how was she to know him by sight? It wasn’t as if she spent her spare time flipping through photos of town royalty in the society pages. 


She’d recognized his name instantly, however, and not only because she was treating his half-brother, Dante. The Jericho family had a sprawling ranch outside town and an interest in a number of local businesses. But most of their wealth, she’d heard, came from oil. The Jerichos, at least the legitimate ones, had money. Barrels and barrels of it. 


Luke’s name was on the lips of every unattached female in town—from the clerk at the local Shop and Save to the debutante
 docent at the Georgia O’Keeffe museum: 

Single.

Handsome. 

Criminally rich. 

Luke Jericho, they whispered. 

When she’d turned to find him watching her, his heated gaze had caused her very bones to sizzle. Luke had stood formidably tall, dressed in an Armani suit that couldn’t hide his rancher’s physique. The gallery lights seemed to spin his straw-colored hair into gold and ignite blue fire in his eyes. She could still feel his gaze raking over her in that casual way, as if he didn’t wish to conceal his appetites. It was easy to see how some women might become undone in his presence. She eased closer to the fan. 


“Dr. Clancy.”


That low male voice gave her a fizzy, sick feeling in the pit of her stomach, like she’d just downed an Alka-Seltzer on top of the flu. When you’re all alone in a room, and someone else speaks, it’s just plain creepy. 


It only took a millisecond to recognize the voice, but at a time when someone dubbed
The Santa Fe Saint was on a killing spree, that was one millisecond too long. Icy tendrils of fear wrapped themselves around her chest, squeezing until it hurt her heart to go on beating. The cold certainty that things were not as they should be made the backs of her knees quiver. Then recognition kicked in, and her breath released in a whoosh. 

It’s only Dante.

She pasted on a neutral expression and turned to face him. How’d he gotten in? The entrance was locked; she was certain of it. 


“Did I frighten you?”


She inclined her head toward the front door to her office, which was indeed locked, and said, “Next time, Dante, I’d prefer you use the main entrance…and knock.” 


“I came in the back.”


That much was obvious now that she’d regained her wits. “That’s my private entrance. It’s not intended for use by patients.” Stupid of her to leave it unlocked, but it was midday and she hadn’t expected an ambush. 



To buy another moment to compose herself, she went to her bookcase and inspected its contents. Toward the middle, Freud’s “Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis” leaned haphazardly in the direction of its opponent, Skinner’s “Behavior Therapy.” A paperback version of “A Systems Approach to Family Therapy” had fallen flat, not quite bridging the gap between the warring classics. 


Dante crossed the distance between them, finishing directly in front of her, invading her personal space. “Quite right. I didn’t mean to startle you.”


She caught a blast of breath, pungent and wrong—a Listerine candle floating in a jar of whiskey. In self-defense, she took a step back before looking up at her patient’s face. Dante possessed his brother’s intimidating height, but unlike Luke, his hair was jet black, and his coal-colored eyes were so dark it was hard to distinguish the pupil from the iris. Despite Dante’s dark complexion and the roughness of his features—he had a previously broken nose and a shiny pink scar that gashed across his cheekbone into his upper lip—there was a distinct family resemblance between the Jericho brothers. Luke was the fair-haired son to Dante’s black sheep, and even their respective phenotypes fit the cliche. 


Dante took a step forward. 


She took another deep step back, bumping her rear-end against wood. With one hand she reached behind her and felt for the smooth rim of her desktop. With the other hand, she put up a stop sign. “Stay right where you are.” 


He halted, and she edged her way behind her desk, using it as a barrier between herself and Dante. Maybe she should advise him to enroll in a social skills class since he didn’t seem to realize how uncomfortable he was making her. Though she knew full well Dante wasn’t on her schedule today—no one was on her schedule today—she powered on her computer. “Hang on a second while I check my calendar.” 


“All right.” At least he had the courtesy to play along. 


When he rested his hand on her desk, she noticed he was carrying a folded newspaper. She’d already seen today’s headline, and it had given her the shivers. “Any minute now.” She signaled to Dante with an upheld index finger. 


He nodded, and, in what seemed an eternity of time, her computer finished booting. She navigated from the welcome screen to her schedule, and then in a firm, matter-of-fact voice, she told him, “I’m afraid you’ve made a mistake. Your appointment isn’t until Monday at four pm.”


As he took another step closer, a muscle twitched in his jaw. He didn’t seem to care when his appointment was. Gesturing toward the leather armchair on the patient side of her desk, she fended him off. “Have a seat right there.” If she could get him to sit down, maybe she could gain control of the situation; she really ought to hear him out long enough to make sure this wasn’t some sort of emergency. 


Dante didn’t sit. Instead, from across the desk, his body inclined forward. Her throat went dry, and her speeding pulse signaled a warning. If this were an emergency, he most likely would have tried to contact her through her answering service, besides which, he’d had plenty of time already to mention anything urgent. He must’ve known he didn’t have an appointment today, so what the hell was he doing here on a Saturday? 


Dante had no reason at all to expect her to be here. In fact, the more she thought about it, the less sense his presence made. Pulling her shoulders back, she said, “I am sorry, but you need to leave. You’ll have to come back on Monday at four.” 


The scar tissue above his mouth tugged his features into a menacing snarl. “I saw you talking to my brother.”


He’d followed her from the art gallery. 


Even though Dante’s primary diagnosis was schizotypal personality disorder, there was a paranoid component present, exacerbated by a sense of guilt and a need to compensate for feelings of inferiority. His slip and slide grip on reality occasionally propelled him into a near delusional state. She could see him careening into a dark well of anxiety now, and she realized she needed to reassure him she wasn’t colluding with his half-brother against him. “I wasn’t talking to your brother about you. In fact, I didn’t have any idea I had wandered into your brother’s art gallery until he…introduced himself.”


“I don’t believe you.”


As fast as her heart was galloping, she managed a controlled reply. “That hardly bodes well for our relationship as doctor and patient, does it? But the truth is, we were discussing a painting.”


“Discussing my painting, discussing me, same difference.” 


His painting? 

That bit of information did nothing to diminish her growing sense of apprehension. That painting had had a darkness in it like nothing she’d ever seen before. A darkness that had captivated her attention, daring her to unravel its mysterious secrets. 


Then Dante dropped into the kind of predatory crouch that would’ve made a kitten roll over and play dead. 


But she wasn’t a kitten. 


Defiantly, she exhaled slow and easy. If she didn’t know better, she’d think Dante was intentionally trying to frighten her. “I’m happy to see you during your regular hour, and we can schedule more frequent sessions if need be, but for now, I’m afraid it’s time for you to go.”


He returned to a stand. “You’re here all alone today.” 


A shudder swept across her shoulders. He was right. No one else was in the building. She shared a secretary with an aesthetician down the hall, and today Stacy hadn’t been at her post. The aesthetician usually worked Saturday mornings, but she must’ve finished for the day and gone home. Home was where Faith wanted to go right now. She wished she’d kept her clutch in hand.
Her phone was in that clutch. “We’ll work on that trust issue on Monday.”

With Dante’s gaze tracking hers, her eyes fell on her lovely macaroon bag, lying on the desktop near his fingertips. He lifted the clutch as if to offer it to her, but then drew his hand back and stroked the satin shell against his face. 


The room suddenly seemed too small. “I don’t mean to be unkind. We’ve been working hard these past few weeks and making good progress up to this point, and I’d hate to have to refer you to another psychiatrist, but I will if I have to.” She paused for breath. 


“You’re barefoot.” Slowly, he licked his lower lip. 


Feeling as vulnerable as if she were standing before him bare-naked instead of bare-footed, she slipped back into her shoes. Jerking a glance around the room, she cursed herself for furnishing the place so sparsely, as if she didn’t plan on staying in Santa Fe long. It wasn’t like she had anywhere else to call home anymore, and now here she stood without so much as a paperweight to conk someone on the head with if…The window was open, at least she could scream for help if necessary. “We’re done here.” 


“I’m not leaving, Dr. Clancy.” He opened her purse, removed her cell and slid it into his pants pocket, then dropped her purse on the floor. 


Her stomach got fizzy again, and she gripped the edge of her desk. Screaming didn’t seem like the most effective plan. It might destabilize him and cause him to do something they’d both regret. For now at least, a better plan was to stay calm and listen. If she could figure out what was going on inside his head, maybe she could stay a step ahead of him and diffuse the situation before it erupted into a full-scale nightmare. “Give me back my phone, and then we can talk.”


Here came that involuntary snarl of his. “No phone. And I’m not leaving until I’ve done what I came here to do.” Carefully unfolding the newspaper he’d brought with him, he showed her the headline: 

Santa Fe Saint Claims Fourth Victim.


Author Bio: 

Carey Baldwin is a mild-mannered doctor by day and an award-winning author of edgy suspense by night. She holds two doctoral degrees, one in medicine and one in psychology. She loves reading and writing stories that keep you off balance and on the edge of your seat. Carey lives in the southwestern United States with her amazing family. In her spare time she enjoys hiking and chasing wildflowers.



Catch Up With the Author: