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Authors: Karen Rose

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Die for Me

BOOK: Die for Me
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Praise for Karen Rose’s Previous Novels

COUNT TO TEN

“Kept me up all night with the doors locked . . . Karen Rose writes hold-your-breath suspense.”


Karen Robards,
New York Times
bestselling author

“Takes off like a house afire . . . There’s action and chills galore in this nonstop thriller.”


Tess Gerritsen,
New York Times
bestselling author

“Rose cranks up the heat in more ways than one . . . another winning mystery thriller . . . Emotional subplots, engaging characters, and a string of red herrings will keep readers hooked.”

—Publishers Weekly

YOU CAN’T HIDE

“Suspense-filled . . . [an] action-packed serial killer thriller.”

—Baryon Magazine

“This novel is, in a word, riveting.”

—Romantic Times BOOKclub Magazine

“A fast-paced suspense novel with many twists and turns. Rose is a great suspense writer.”

—Midwest Book Review

“Spine-tingling . . . Some writers can draw you in with the first sentence and keep you enthralled even if the house is burning down around you—and romantic suspense author Karen Rose is one of them.”


NightsandWeekends.com

“If there’s one name synonymous with great romantic suspense writers it’s Karen Rose—she just keeps getting better and better.”


BookLoons.com

“Ms. Rose has done it again. She is one talented writer who can draw out a suspense read to the final spine-chilling end.”


TheBestReviews.com

“A chilling, fast-paced thriller.”


CurledUp.com

“As always, Rose delivers a masterful story of suspense.”


OnceWritten.com

NOTHING TO FEAR

“A pulse-pounding tale that has it all: suspense, action, and a very hunky private investigator.”

—Cosmopolitan

“Readers can always count on Rose to deliver an action-packed book, and this one is no exception.”

—Southern Pines Pilot
(NC)

“Four and a half stars! Top pick! . . . Filled with heart-stopping suspense and graphic terror . . . In the pantheon of horrific killers, [this one] surely ranks near the top.”

—Romantic Times BOOKclub Magazine

“A tense, chilling suspense that readers will appreciate from start to finish.”

—Midwest Book Review

“Rose’s well-crafted story sets pulses pounding and pages turning.”

—BookPage

“A caring women’s advocate heroine, a determined, gritty hero, and a diabolical villain drive the plot of Rose’s riveting story.”

—Library Journal

I’M WATCHING YOU

“Action-packed . . . a thrilling police procedural romance . . . fans will enjoy this tense thriller.”

—Midwest Book Review

“TOP PICK! Terrifying and gritty.”

—Romantic Times BOOKclub Magazine

“The suspense unfolds right up to the last page.”

—Southern Pines Pilot
(NC)

“A sensual, riveting book that kept me on the edge of my seat.”

—Rendezvous

HAVE YOU SEEN HER?

“Heart-racing thrills . . . showcases her growing talent . . . readers will . . . rush to the novel’s thrilling conclusion.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Terrifying and gripping.”

—Romantic Times BOOKclub Magazine

DON’T TELL

“Rose delivers the kind of high-wire suspense that keeps you riveted to the edge of your seat.”


Lisa Gardner,
New York Times
bestselling author

“As gripping as a cold hand on the back of one’s neck . . . and tempered by lovable characters and a moving romance.”

—Publishers Weekly

“One of the best suspense novels [I’ve] read this summer . . . one hot author you don’t want to miss.”

—The Belles & Beaux of Romance

“Action-packed [with a] story line [that] is character driven.”

—Midwest Book Review

“A stunning tour de force that readers won’t want to miss . . .
Don’t Tell
belongs on the keeper shelf.”


WordWeaving.com

“A fantastic job of telling a tale . . . touchingly narrated.”


BookLoons.com

“A truly spectacular example of romantic suspense.”


ARomanceReview.com


Don’t Tell
is a seat-of-your-pants tale, dragging the reader deep into the characters and wringing emotions from all concerned.”


ScribesWorld.com

“Couldn’t put it down.”


Bookhaunts.net

“Excellent romantic suspense . . . will keep you on the edge of your seat . . . excellent writing and storytelling by Karen Rose.”

—RoadtoRomance.ca

 

ALSO BY KAREN ROSE

Don’t Tell

Have You Seen Her?

I’m Watching You

Nothing to Fear

You Can’t Hide

Count to Ten

 

Dedicated to the memory of Dr. Zoltan J. Kosztolnyik, Professor Emeritus of Medieval History, Texas A&M University.

Although I never had the privilege of knowing him personally, I have had the honor, privilege, and pleasure of knowing the daughter he raised.

And as always, to my precious husband Martin.You touch the lives of your students every day, bringing history to life with the same unique combination of passion, intelligence, and acerbic wit that made me fall in love with you twenty-five years ago.

Whether you’re dressing up like Cleopatra, illustrating the Declaration of Independence using the rock music videos of ’80s hair bands, or explaining the Monroe Doctrine through the “Badger-Badger-Mushroom” Dance, you have assured that no student that passes through your class will ever forget you.

You inspire me. I love you.

 

Acknowledgments

So many people contributed to my knowledge base as I wrote this book. To all of you—my sincerest thanks!

Danny Agan for answering all my detective questions and especially for helping my hero locate things underground.

Tim Bechtel of Environscan, Inc. for background and technical details on ground penetrating radar.

Niki Ciccotelli for her description of growing up in Philadelphia that was so real that I felt as if I were physically there myself.

Monty Clark of the Art Institute of Florida in Ft. Lauderdale, for the invaluable and very cool information on video game design and designers.

Marc Conterato for all things medical and Kay Conterato for clipping all those extremely useful newspaper articles on insurance and hackers.

Diana Fox for a great title.

Carleton Hafer for answering all my computer questions in a way I could clearly understand.

Linda Hafer for the wonderful introduction to opera and for opening a world of music I never thought I would like but that I do!

Elaine Kriegh for her vivid descriptions of medieval tomb monuments.

Sonie Lasker, my
sempai,
for demonstrating weapon technique and teaching me how personally rewarding martial arts can be.
Domo arigato.

Deana Seydel Rivera for showing me Philadephia—and three days before her wedding, no less.

Loretta Rogers for her motorcycle expertise. How I wish I had the courage to fly on two wheels!

Sally Schoeneweiss and Mary Pitkin for keeping my Web site organized, functional and beautiful.

My language advisors: Mary C Turner and Anne Crowder—
Merci beaucoup,
Bob Busch and Barbara Mulrine—
Spasiba,
Kris Alice Hohls—
Danke,
Sarah Hafer—
Domo arigato
.

Friends who answered my catch-all questions here and there—Shari Anton, Terri Bolyard, Kathy Caskie, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Kelley St. John.

My editor, Karen Kosztolnyik, and my agent, Robin Rue, who make this so much
fun
.

As always, all mistakes are my own.

 

Prologue

Philadelphia, Saturday, January 6

T
he first thing that hit Warren Keyes was the smell. Ammonia, disinfectant . . . and something else. What else?
Open your eyes, Keyes.
He could hear his own voice echo inside his head and he struggled to lift his eyelids.
Heavy.
They were so heavy, but he fought until they stayed open. It was dark. No. There was a little light. Warren blinked once, then again with more force until a flickering light came into focus.

It was a torch, mounted on the wall. His heart started thudding hard in his chest. The wall was rock.
I’m in a cave.
His heart began to race.
What the hell is this?
He lunged forward and white-hot pain speared down his arms to his back. Gasping, he fell back against something flat and hard.

He was tied.
Oh God.
His hands and feet were tied. And he was naked.
Trapped.
Fear rose from his belly, clawing his insides. He twisted like a wild animal, then fell back again, panting, tasting the disinfectant as he sucked in air. Disinfectant and . . .

His breath hitched as he recognized the odor under the disinfectant. Something dead. Rotting.
Something died here.
He closed his eyes, willing himself not to panic.
This isn’t happening. This is just a dream, a nightmare. In a minute I’ll wake up.

But he wasn’t dreaming. This, whatever it was, was real. He was stretched out on a board on a slight incline, his wrists tied together and his arms pulled up and behind his head.
Why?
He tried to think, to remember. There was something . . . a picture in his mind, just beyond his reach. He strained for the memory and realized his head ached—he winced as the pain sent little black spots dancing across his eyes. God, it was like a really bad hangover. But he hadn’t been drinking. Had he?

Coffee.
He remembered drinking coffee, his hands closing around the cup to get warm. He’d been cold. He’d been outside.
Running.
Why was he running? He rotated his wrists, feeling his raw skin burn, reaching until the tips of his fingers touched rope.

“So you’re finally awake.”

The voice came from behind him and he craned his neck, trying to see. Then he remembered and the pressure on his chest lessened a fraction. It was a movie.
I’m an actor and we were making a movie.
A history documentary. He’d been running with . . . with what? He grimaced, focusing.
A sword, that’s it.
He’d been in medieval costume, a knight with a helmet and shield . . . even chain mail, for God’s sake. The entire scene came back now. He’d changed his clothes, even his underwear, for some scratchy, shapeless burlap that irritated his crotch. He’d had a sword, and he’d carried it as he ran through the woods outside Munch’s studio, yelling at the top of his lungs. He’d felt like a damn idiot, but he’d done it all because it was in the damn script.

But this
—he jerked at the ropes again with no success—
this was
not
in the script.

“Munch.” Warren’s voice was thick, grating on his dry throat. “What the hell is this?”

Ed Munch appeared to his left. “I didn’t think you’d ever wake up.”

Warren blinked as the dim light from the torch flickered across the man’s face. His heart skipped a beat. Munch had changed. Before he’d been old, shoulders stooped. White hair and a trim mustache. Warren swallowed, his breath shallow. Now Munch stood straight. His mustache was gone. So was his hair, his head shaved shiny bald.

Munch wasn’t old.
Dread coiled in his gut, seething and roiling. The deal was five hundred for the documentary. Cash if he came that day. Warren had been suspicious—it was a lot of money for a history documentary they’d show on PBS if he was lucky. But he’d agreed. One odd old man was no threat.

But Munch wasn’t old.
Bile rose, choking him.
What have I done?
Close on the heels of that question came the next, more terrifying.
What will he do to me?

“Who are you?” Warren croaked out and Munch held a bottle of water to his lips. Warren pulled away, but Munch grabbed his chin with surprising strength. His dark eyes narrowed and fear made Warren freeze.

“It’s just water this time,” Munch ground out. “Drink it.”

Warren spat the mouthful of water back in the man’s face and held himself rigid when Munch raised his fist. But the fist lowered and Munch shrugged.

“You’ll drink eventually. I need your throat moist.”

Warren licked his lips. “Why?”

Munch disappeared behind him again and Warren could hear something rolling. A video camera, Warren saw when Munch rolled it past him, stopping about five feet away. The camera was pointing straight at his face. “Why?” Warren repeated, louder.

Munch peered through the lens and stepped back. “Because I need you to scream.” He lifted a brow, his expression surreally bland. “They all screamed. So will you.”

Horror bubbled up and Warren fought it back.
Stay calm. Treat him nice and maybe you can talk your way out of this.
He made his lips curve. “Look, Munch, let me go and we’ll call it even. You can keep the sword fight scenes I did already at no charge.”

Munch just looked at him, his expression still bland. “I never planned to pay you anyway.” He disappeared again and reappeared, pushing another video camera.

Warren remembered the coffee, remembered Munch’s insistence that he drink it.
Just water this time.
Rage geysered inside him, momentarily eclipsing the fear. “You drugged me,” he hissed, and he filled his lungs with air. “
Somebody help me!
” he yelled as loud as he could, but the hoarse sound from his throat was pathetically useless.

Munch said nothing, just set up a third camera on a boom so that it pointed down. Every movement was methodical, precise. Unhurried. Unconcerned. Unafraid.

And then Warren knew no one could hear him. The hot rage drained away, leaving only fear, cold and absolute. Warren’s voice shook. There had to be something . . . some way out. Something he could say. Do. Offer. Beg. He’d beg. “Please, Munch, I’ll do anything . . .” His words trailed away as Munch’s words replayed in his mind.

They all screamed. Ed Munch.
Warren’s chest constricted, despair making it difficult to breathe. “Munch isn’t your real name. Edvard Munch, the artist.” The painting of a ghoulish figure clutching its face in agony flashed into his mind.
“The Scream.”

“Actually, it’s pronounced ‘Moonk,’ not ‘Munch,’ but nobody ever gets it right. Nobody gets the details right,” he added in a disgusted voice.

Details. The man had been all about details earlier, frowning when Warren argued against the scratchy underwear. The sword had been real, too.
I should have used it on the bastard when I had the chance.
“Authenticity,” Warren murmured, repeating what he’d thought had been the ramblings of a crazy old man.

Munch nodded. “Now you understand.”

“What will you do?” His own voice was eerily calm.

One corner of Munch’s mouth lifted. “You’ll see soon enough.”

Warren dragged in each breath. “Please.
Please,
I’ll do anything. Just let me go.”

Munch said nothing. He pushed a cart with a television just beyond the camera at his feet, then checked the focus of each camera with calm precision.

“You won’t get away with this,” Warren said desperately, once again pulling at the ropes, struggling until his wrists burned and his arms strained in their sockets. The ropes were thick, the knots unyielding. He would not break free.

“That’s what all the others said. But I have, and I will continue to do so.”

Others.
There had been others. The smell of death was all around, mocking him. Others had died here. He would die here, too. From somewhere deep inside him, courage rallied. He lifted his chin. “My friends will come looking for me. I told my fiancée I was meeting you.”

Finished with the cameras, Munch turned. His eyes held a contempt that said he knew it was a last, desperate bluff. “No, you didn’t. You told your fiancée you were meeting a friend to help him read lines. You told me so when we met this afternoon. You said this money would pay for a surprise for her birthday. You wanted it to stay a secret. That and your tattoo were the reasons I chose you.” He lifted one shoulder. “Plus, you fit the suit. Not everyone can wear chain mail correctly. So no one will be looking for you. And if they do, they’ll never find you. Accept it—you belong to me.”

Everything inside him went deathly still. It was true. He had told Munch the money was for a surprise for Sherry. Nobody knew where he was. Nobody would save him. He thought of Sherry, of his mom and dad, of everyone he cared about. They’d wonder where he was. A sob rose in his throat. “You bastard,” he whispered. “I hate you.”

One side of Munch’s mouth quirked, but his eyes lit up with an amusement that was more terrifying than his smile. “The others said that, too.” He shoved the water bottle at Warren’s mouth again, pinching his nose until he gasped for air. Wildly Warren fought, but Munch forced the water down. “Now, Mr. Keyes, we begin. Don’t forget to scream.”

BOOK: Die for Me
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