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Count to Ten
By Karen Rose
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- ebook $7.99 $9.99 CAD
- Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
- Mass Market $8.99 $12.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around May 1, 2008. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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Praise for Karen Rose's Previous Novels
You Can't Hide
"This novel is, in a word, riveting."
—Romantic Times BOOKclub Magazine
"An immensely enjoyable read...that will have the reader glued to the pages from beginning to end."
—Romance Reviews Today
"[Karen Rose] is the queen of murder and suspense...just terrific!"
Nothing to Fear
"A pulse-pounding tale that has it all: suspense, action, and a very hunky private investigator."
"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
more . . .
"Readers can always count on Rose to deliver an action-packed book, and this one is no exception."
—Southern Pines Pilot (NC)
"An absolute gem...It's definitely earned a place on my keeper shelf, and I look forward to reading it again and again. This is what true romantic suspense is all about, and I thank Ms. Rose for such a wonderful read."
"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."
"A caring women's advocate heroine, a determined, gritty hero, and a diabolical villain drive the plot of Rose's riveting story."
I'm Watching You
"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."
"Action-packed...a thrilling police procedural romance... fans will enjoy this tense thriller."
—Midwest Book Review
"It's perfect...Love the characters, loved the side stories. It doesn't get any better than this!"
Have You Seen Her?
"Heart-racing thrills...showcases her growing talent...readers will...rush to the novel's thrilling conclusion."
"Terrifying and gripping."
—Romantic Times BOOKclub Magazine
"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
more . . .
"As gripping as a cold hand on the back of one's neck...and tempered by lovable characters and a moving romance."
"A well-written thriller—a definite page-turner that never lets up until the last page."
—Romance Review Today
"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."
"A fantastic job of telling a tale...touchingly narrated."
"A truly spectacular example of romantic suspense."
"Don't Tell is a seat-of-your-pants tale, dragging the reader deep into the characters and wringing emotions from all -concerned.
"Couldn't put it down."
"Karen Rose's nail-biting delivery is unique... Don't Tell is the harbinger of great things to come."
"Excellent romantic suspense...will keep you on the edge of your seat...excellent writing and storytelling by Karen Rose."
"A story that satisfies on every level...vivid and memo-rable."
Also by Karen Rose
Have You Seen Her?
I'm Watching You
Nothing to Fear
You Can't Hide
To Martin, for the twenty-five best years of my life. I love you.
To Cristy Carrington, for your beautiful poetry and seeing emotion in my characters that even I didn't see. I had a rock. You made it beautiful.
To the sisters of my heart who know me and love me anyway. I love you all right back.
Marc Conterato, for all his medical know-how.
Cristy Carrington, for showing me the secrets of enjoying poetry and for her gift of the poems "Us" and "casper."
Danny Agan, for answering all my detective questions.
Cindy Chavez, for answering my questions on foster care.
RJay Martin, for introducing me to his firehouse; and Jana Martin, for introducing me to RJay.
My fellow members of the Tampa Area Romance Authors, for support on everything from police funerals to sororities. You all are wonderful.
Julie Bouse, for sharing the story of her own family. Best of success to you, sweetie.
Any mistakes are my own.
Thursday, November 23, 11:45 P.M.
He stared at the flames with grim satisfaction. The house was burning.
He thought he heard their screams. Help me. Oh God, help me. He hoped he heard their screams, that it wasn't only his imagination. He hoped they were in the most excruciating pain.
They were trapped inside. No neighbors around for miles to call for help. He could take out his cell. Call the police. The fire department. One side of his mouth lifted. But why? They were finally getting what they deserved. Finally. That it should be at his own hand was... fair.
He didn't remember setting the fire, but he knew he must have done so. Without taking his eyes from the burning house, he lifted his hands to his nose. Sniffed at the leather gloves he wore. He could smell the gasoline on his hands.
Yes, he had done this thing. And he was fiercely, intensely glad he had.
He didn't remember driving here. But of course he must have. He recognized the house, although he had never lived there. Had he lived there, things would have been different. Had he lived there, Shane would have remained untouched. Shane might still be alive and the deep seething hatred he'd buried for so long might never have existed.
But he hadn't lived there. Shane had been alone, a lamb among wolves. And by the time he'd gotten out and come back, his brother was no longer a happy boy. By the time he'd come back, Shane walked with his head down, shame and fear in his eyes.
Because they'd hurt him. The rage bubbled and popped. In this very house where Shane should have been safe, in the very house that now burned like hell itself, they'd hurt Shane so that he'd never been the same again.
Shane was dead. And now they hurt, just as he had. It was ... fair.
That his hatred and rage would bubble to the surface from time to time was inevitable, he supposed. It had been a part of him for nearly as long as he could remember. But the reason for his rage ... that reason he'd hidden from everyone. Including himself. He'd denied it for so long, retold the story so well... Even he'd had trouble remembering the truth. There were whole stretches of time that even he forgot. That he made himself forget. Because it had been too painful to remember.
But he remembered now. Every single person who raised their hands to hurt them. Every single person who should have protected them and didn't. Every single person who looked the other way.
It was because of the boy. The boy that reminded him of Shane. The boy who looked up to him for help. For protection. Tonight, the boy had looked up to him in fear and shame. It took him back too many years. It took him back to a time he hated to remember. When he was... weak. Pathetic. Useless.
He narrowed his eyes as the flames licked the walls of the wooden house that was burning like dry kindling. He wasn't weak or pathetic or useless any longer. Now, he took what he wanted and damned the consequences.
His good sense started to creep in around the anger as it always did.
Sometimes, unfortunately, the consequences damned him. Especially when the anger took over as it had tonight. Tonight wasn't the first time he'd stood back, looking at something he'd done, barely remembering the deed itself. It was the first fire...
He swallowed hard. It was the first fire in a long time. But he'd done other things. Necessary things. Things that would get him sent to prison if he got caught. Real prison this time, not juvenile detention which was bad enough, but manageable if a person had enough brains.
Tonight he'd killed. And he didn't regret it. Not a bit. But he was lucky. This house was far away from any neighbors, any prying eyes. What if it had been a normal neighborhood in the city? What if he'd been seen? He asked himself this same question every time. What if he got caught?
One day the rage that bubbled inside him was going to get him into more trouble than he could manage on his own. It ruled him. Made him vulnerable. He gritted his teeth. And being vulnerable was the one thing he would never let -happen again.
Suddenly the answer seemed so very clear. The rage had to go.
So the source of the rage had to go. Which meant all the people who'd hurt them, looked the other way, they all needed to go. Standing here, watching the flames, the memory of each one of those people came back. He could see faces. Hear names. Feel hate.
He tilted his head as the roof crashed in, sending sparks flying skyward like a million mini-flares. He'd made one hell of a fireworks show.
It would be hard to top a display like that. But of course he would. He didn't do anything halfway. Whatever he did, he'd need to do well. For Shane. And for himself. Then he could finally close the book on this part of his life and move on.
That last shower of sparks might be enough to summon the local fire department. He'd better get while the getting was good. He got in his car and turned back toward the city, a smile bending his lips. The beginnings of a plan were forming in his mind.
It would be one hell of a show. And when the final curtain fell, Shane could finally rest in peace. And I'll finally be free.
Saturday, November 25, 11:45 P.M.
A branch slapped the window and Caitlin Burnette's jaw clenched. "It's just the wind," she muttered. "Don't be such a baby." Still, the howling outside was unsettling, and being alone in the Doughertys' creaky old house wasn't helping. She dropped her eyes back to the statistics book that was responsible for her being alone on a Saturday night. The party at TriEpsilon would have been a hell of a lot more fun than this. Noisier, too. Which was why she was here, studying the most boring subject in the quiet of a boring old house instead of trying to study with a party going on all around her room.
Her stat professor had scheduled an exam for Monday morning. If she failed it, she'd fail for the semester. If she failed one more class, her father would take away her car, sell it, and use the money to take her mother to the Bahamas.
Caitlin ground her teeth. She'd show him. She'd pass that damn test if it killed her. And if she didn't, she had nearly enough money in savings to buy the damn car herself or maybe even a better one. The money the Doughertys were paying her to take care of their cat was chintzy, but enough to put her over the top and—
A different noise had her chin jerking up, her eyes narrowing. What the hell? It came from downstairs. It sounded like... a chair scraping against the hardwood floor.
Call the police. She had her hand on the phone, but she drew a breath and made herself calm down. It's probably just the cat. She'd look pretty stupid calling the police about a twenty-pound, overly pampered Persian. Plus, she really wasn't supposed to be here right now. Mrs. Dougherty had been clear about that. She was not to "stay over." She was not to "have parties." She was not to "use the phone." She was to feed the cat and change the litter box, period.
The Doughertys might get mad and refuse to pay her if they found out she was here. Caitlin sighed. Besides, word would get back to her dad and wouldn't he just have a field day with that? All over a stupid fluffy cat named Percy of all things.
Still, it didn't hurt to be careful. Quietly Caitlin moved from the spare bedroom the Doughertys used as an office to the master bedroom where she pulled the small gun from Mrs. Dougherty's nightstand drawer and disengaged the safety. She'd found the gun when she was looking for a pen. It was a .22, just like she'd shot dozens of times at the range with her dad. She descended the stairs, the gun pressed against the back of her leg. It was pitch black, but she was afraid to turn on a light. Stop this, Caitlin. Call the cops. But her feet kept moving, soundless on the carpet, until two steps from the bottom, a stair creaked. She stopped short, her heart pounding, listening hard.
And heard humming. There was somebody in the house and they were humming.
The screech of something heavy being dragged across the floor drowned out the humming. Then she smelled gas.
Get out. Get help. She lurched forward, stumbling when her feet hit the hardwood floor at the base of the stairs. She fell to her knees and the gun flew from her hand, skittering across the floor. Loudly.
The humming stopped. Desperately she made a move for the gun, grasping for it in the dark, her hands frantically patting at the cold hardwood. She found the gun and scrambled to her feet. Get out. Get out. Get out.
She'd taken two steps toward the door when she was hit from behind, knocked to her knees. She tried to scream, but she couldn't breathe. Together they slid a few feet before he pushed her to her stomach, lying on top of her. He was heavy. God, please. She struggled but he was just too heavy. In a second he twisted the gun from her hand. His breath was beating hot and hard against her ear. Then his breathing slowed and she could feel him grow hard on top of her. Not that. Please, God.
She clenched her eyes closed as he thrust his hips hard, his intentions clear. "Please let me go. I'm not even supposed to be here. I promise I won't tell anyone."
"You weren't supposed to be here," he repeated. "How unlucky for you." His voice was deep, but fakely so. Like a bad Darth Vader imitation. Caitlin focused, determined to remember every last detail so that when she got away, she could tell the police.
"Please don't hurt me," she whispered.
He hesitated. She could feel him take a breath and hold it, as time stood still. Finally he let the breath out.
Then he laughed.
Sunday, November 26, 1:10 A.M.
Reed Solliday moved through the gathered crowd, listening. Watching their faces as the house across the street burned. It was an older, middle-class neighborhood and the people standing outside in the cold seemed to know each other. They stood in shock and disbelief, murmuring their fear that the wind would spread the flames to their own homes. Three older women stood to one side, their worried faces illuminated by the remains of the fire that had taken two companies to bring under control. This fire was too hot, too high, too many places within the house to feel like an accidental fire.
Despite their shock, this was the time to interview the onlookers, before they had time to share stories. Even in groups of people with nothing to hide, shared stories became homogenized stories in which relevant details could be lost.
Arsonists could go free. And making sure that didn't happen was Reed's job.
"Ladies?" He approached the three women, his shield in his hand. "My name is Lieutenant Solliday."
All three women gave him the once-over. "You're a policeman?" the middle one asked. She looked to be about seventy and tiny enough that Reed was surprised the wind hadn't blown her away. Her white hair was tightly rolled in curlers and her flannel nightgown hung past the hem of her woolen coat, dragging on the frosty ground.
"Fire marshal," Reed answered. "Can I get your names?"
"I'm Emily Richter and this is Janice Kimbrough and Darlene Desmond."
"You all know this neighborhood well?"
Richter sniffed. "I've lived here for almost fifty years."
"Who lives in that house, ma'am?"
"The Doughertys used to live there. Joe and Laura. But Laura passed and Joe retired to Florida. His son and -daughter-in-law live there now. Sold it to 'em cheap, Joe did. Brought down all the property values in the neighborhood."
"But they're not home now," Janice Kimbrough added. "They went to Florida to see Joe for Thanksgiving."
"So nobody was in the house?" It was what the men had been told on arriving.
"Not unless they got home early," Janice said.
"But they didn't," Richter said firmly. "Their truck is too tall for the garage, so they park it in the driveway. It's not there, so they're not home yet."
"Have you ladies seen anybody hanging around that doesn't belong?"
"I saw a girl going in and out yesterday," Richter said. "Joe's son said they'd hired somebody to feed the cat." She sniffed again. "In the old days Joe would have given us his key and a bag of cat food, but his son changed all the locks. Hired some kid."
The hair on Reed's neck stood on end. Call it instinct. Call it whatever. But something felt very bad about all this. "A kid?"
"A college girl," Darlene Desmond supplied. "Joe's daughter-in-law told me she wasn't going to be living in. Just coming in twice a day to feed the cat."
"What other cars did the Doughertys drive, ladies?" Reed asked.
Janice Kimbrough's brow furrowed. "Joe Junior's wife drives a regular car. Ford?"
Richter shook her head. "Buick."
"And those are the only two vehicles they have? The truck and the Buick?" He'd seen the twisted remains of two cars in the garage. A sick feeling turned in his gut.
All three ladies nodded, exchanging puzzled glances. "That's all," Richter said.
"Thanks, ladies, you've been a big help." He jogged across the street to where Captain Larry Fletcher stood next to the rig, a radio in one hand. "Larry."
"Reed." Larry was frowning at the burning house. "Somebody made this fire."
"I think so, too. Larry, somebody might be in there."
He shook his head. "The old ladies said the owners are out of town."
"The owners hired a college kid to watch the cat."
Larry's head whipped around. "They said nobody was home."
"The girl wasn't supposed to stay overnight. There are two cars in the garage, right? The owners only kept one in there. Their other vehicle is a truck that they took with them. We've got to see if she's in there, Larry."
With a curt nod, Larry lifted his radio to his face. "Mahoney. Possible victim inside."
The radio crackled. "Understood. I'll try to go back in."
"If it's too dangerous, you come back out," Larry ordered, then turned to Reed, his eyes hard. "If she's in there..."
Reed nodded grimly. "She's probably dead. I know. I'll keep canvassing the crowd. Let me go in as soon as you can."
Sunday, November 26, 2:20 A.M.
His heart still pounded, hard and fast. It had all gone just as he'd planned.
Well, not just as he'd planned. She'd been a surprise he hadn't expected. Miss Caitlin Burnette. He pulled her driver's license from the purse he'd taken. A little souvenir of the night. She wasn't supposed to be there, she'd said. Let her go, she'd begged. She wouldn't tell anyone, she'd promised. She was lying, of course. Women were full of lies. This he knew.
Quickly he moved the dirt away from his hiding place and lifted the lid of the plastic tub. Shiny baubles and keys struck his eye. He'd buried this the first day he'd come here and hadn't opened it since. Hadn't had cause to. Hadn't had anything to put inside. Tonight he did. He tossed Caitlin's purse on top of his other trinkets, replaced the lid and carefully arranged the dirt on top. There. It was done. He could sleep now.
He walked away licking his lips. He could still taste her. Sweet perfume, soft curves. She'd practically been dropped in his lap. Like Christmas come early. And she'd fought him. He laughed softly. She'd fought and cried and begged. She'd tried to tell him no. It just made him harder. She'd tried to scratch his face. He'd easily held her down. He shuddered, the memory still so fresh. He'd nearly forgotten how good it could feel when they said no. He was getting excited again, just thinking about it. They always thought they could fight back. They always thought they could say no.
But he was bigger. Stronger. And no one would ever tell him no again.
From a window above the boy watched, his heart pounding. Tell someone. But who? He'll find out I told. He'd be so angry and the boy knew what happened when he became angry. Sick with terror the boy went back to bed, pulled the covers over his head and cried.
Sunday, November 26, 2:15 A.M.
It had been a nice house, Reed thought as he walked through what was now a ruined shell. Damage to one side appeared less extensive than the other. It would be daylight soon and he'd be able to get a better view. For now, he flashed a high-powered light on the walls, looking for the burn lines that would lead him to the fire's origin.
He stopped and turned to the firefighter who'd manned the inside line. "Where was it burning when you got here?"
Brian Mahoney shook his head. "There were flames in the kitchen, the garage, the upstairs bedroom, and the -living room. We got as far as the living room when the ceiling started to crumble and I got my guys out. Just in time, too. Kitchen ceiling caved. We focused on keeping it from spreading to the other houses after that."
Reed looked straight up through what had been two stories, an attic and a roof and saw stars in the sky. They could have multiple points of origin. Some bastard wanted to be sure this place burned. "Nobody hurt?"
Brian shrugged. "Minor burns on the probie, but he'll be okay. One of the guys got some smoke. Captain sent them both to the ER to get checked out. Listen, Reed, I came back in to look for the girl, but there was still too much smoke. If she was here..."
"I know," Reed said grimly. He started moving again. "I know."
"Reed!" It was Larry Fletcher, standing in the kitchen next to the far wall.
Immediately Reed noted the stove pulled away from the wall. "You guys pull that stove out?" he asked.
"Not us," Brian answered. "You're thinking he used the gas to start this thing?"
"It would explain the first big explosion."
Larry continued to stare down at his feet. "She's here."
Reed gritted his teeth and moved to Larry's side. He shone his light down, dreading what he'd see. And drew a breath. "Goddammit," he hissed.
The body was charred beyond recognition.
"Dammit," Brian echoed, tightly furious. "Do you know who she was?"
Reed moved the light around the body, schooling his mind to be detached, not to think about the way she'd died. "Not yet. I got the number of the old owner of this place from the ladies across the street. Joe Dougherty, Senior. His son, Joe Junior, lives here now. Joe Senior said Joe Junior and his wife went on a chartered fishing boat twenty miles off the Florida coast for the weekend. He doesn't expect him back until Monday morning. He did tell me his daughter-in-law worked for a legal firm downtown. Supposedly the girl they'd hired was the daughter of one of the wife's officemates. A college kid. I'll see if I can locate her parents." He sighed when Larry continued to stare at the body on the floor. "You didn't know she was here, Larry."
"My daughter's in college," Larry returned, his voice rough.
And mine will be soon enough, Reed thought, then banished the thought from his mind. Thoughts like that would drive a man crazy. "I'll get the medical examiner out here," he said. "Along with my team. You look like shit, Larry. Both of you do. Let's go outside so I can debrief your crew, then go back to the station and get some rest."
Larry nodded dully. "You forgot to say 'sir.'" It was an attempt at levity that fell miserably flat. "You never said 'sir,' not in all the years you rode with me."
They'd been good years. Larry was one of the best -captains he'd ever had. "Sir," Reed corrected himself -gently. He pulled Larry's arm, making his old friend move away from the charred obscenity that had once housed a young woman's soul. "Let's go."
Sunday, November 26, 2:55 A.M.
"I've got the lights set up, Reed."
Reed looked up from the notes he'd been making sitting in the cab of his SUV. Ben Trammell stood a few feet away, his eyes troubled. Ben was the newest member of his team and like most of the team members, had been a firefighter for years before joining the fire marshal's office. This was, however, Ben's first death as an investigator and the strain was already visible in his eyes.
"You okay?" Reed asked and Ben jerked a nod. "Good." Reed gestured to his photographer who waited in the warmth of his own car. Foster got out, his camera in his hands and a camcorder hanging around his neck.
"Let's go," Reed said briskly, walking up the driveway, around the debris left by the firefighters. They'd work on processing everything outside when it was daylight. "For now we touch nothing. We're going to document the scene and I'm going to take some readings. Then we'll see what we have."
"Did you call for a warrant?" Foster asked.
"Not yet. I want to make sure whatever warrant I request covers the right things." He had a very bad feeling about the body lying in the Doughertys' kitchen and being a meticulous man, he was mentally preparing for all the legal angles. "We're good to go in for origin and cause. Any more and I want a court order, especially since the owners aren't here to give us permission to enter."
- On Sale
- May 1, 2008
- Page Count
- 400 pages
- Grand Central Publishing