By: Brenda Jackson


His eyes quickly moved from his plate of food to the flat screen as he followed the closed-captioning scrolling across the bottom of the television. He used the remote to raise the volume to hear the details of the breaking news story. As the anxious reporter stood in front of an abandoned warehouse, he listened with great interest.

“This is the sixth woman in a year’s time who has been murdered in the Twin Cities area in what police believe may be the work of a serial killer. The latest victim was raped and then brutally tortured before being killed in the same manner as the other women. Each body has been found with one shoe missing.” The reporter’s face looked grim, shrouded in disgust and shock. “The killer, who has been dubbed the ‘Shoe Killer’ by police, is still at large and has been linked to similar murders in other states,” the reporter continued. “So far there have been no leads. And police admit they aren’t any closer to arresting a suspect, but they vow to bring whoever is responsible to justice. Personally, I hope so—and soon. Just knowing he’s out there somewhere means that no woman in the Minneapolis–St. Paul area is safe.”

He shook his head at the newscaster and chuckled softly, amused by the reporter’s last line, about no woman being safe. The observation was certainly an understatement.

The Minneapolis police were smart, but he was smarter, which was why he had eluded them for over a year. But then he hated taking chances. And he knew it was just a matter of time before he made a mistake, played a bad hand…like he’d almost done last night.

His tongue flicked across his lower lip as he remembered what had happened. Hell, she hadn’t fought hard enough. Eyes that should have shown fear revealed nothing. When he’d finished, he had stared into her dark eyes and for a second had thought of sparing her life. But then the mere idea of such a thing brought out the beast in him. In the end, her death had been more brutal than the others because she had almost made him break his one steadfast rule: no survivors.

He drew in a deep breath as he pushed away from the table and stood up. He glanced around the house he’d called home for the past two years. It was as neat as a pin, which suited him perfectly. At times it provided emotional warmth, something that he hadn’t been able to understand. It was only during those times when the house seemed dreary and cold that he’d known it was time to kill. But now it was time to move on. Another city. Another state. Another woman.

He smiled at the thought. He would be patient, blend in and gain the trust of those he met. Then when they least expected it, he would become who he really was.

Shaking his head, he turned off the television and walked across the room to a cardboard box and lifted the lid. Shoes—more than a dozen of them in all shapes, styles and sizes. Each one was a souvenir—not from a sexual conquest but rather from a kill. In his mind, one complemented the other. And both were just as important.

He sighed and glanced out the window. It was time for him to move on.

Chapter 1

Blade and Samari’s wedding reception, New York City…

“What’s this I hear about you and Kenna moving in together?”

Reese Madaris tightened his hold on the wineglass and met the intense gaze of the older woman staring back at him. She was his great-grandmother, Felicia Laverne Madaris—the first, since she’d had the honor of having a granddaughter named after her.

The elderly woman stood as straight as she could for someone in her nineties. She was quick to tell anyone that her cane was strictly for appearances’ sake and not because she ever used it, although most people knew better.

You would think that since it was his cousin Blade’s wedding day—an event his great-grandmother had worried might never happen given Blade’s reputation as one of Houston’s most notorious bachelors—she’d be happy. Reese couldn’t help thinking, Why isn’t she in the middle of the ballroom floor doing a happy dance? Instead, she was harassing him about his best friend, LaKenna James.

He knew his great-grandmother wouldn’t give up until she’d gotten an answer. “Yes, Kenna’s moving in with me for a while,” he said. “She found out that her condo won’t be finished for another month after she’d already packed up her stuff to leave Austin.”

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