Deadly Lies Page 1

Author: Cynthia Eden

Series: Deadly #3

Genres: Romance


I thought you’d be worth more.” The voice came to him, low and taunting. “After all of your blustering and bullshit, I really thought you’d be worth more.”

Jeremy Briar jerked in the chair, but there was nowhere for him to go. His hands were bound to the armrests, the duct tape far too tight, cutting into his wrists, and his legs were taped to the legs of the chair. A blindfold covered his eyes, casting him in darkness, and the scent of cigarettes burned his nose.

“L-let me go…” His voice rasped out. They hadn’t given him anything to drink or to eat in, Christ, how many hours? “M-my family… th-they’ll pay any-anything….” Just to get me back.

Laughter. Dark and mean. “No, they won’t pay a f**king dime.”

The ice in his chest froze his heart. “No!” The tape bit into him. “M-my father, I told you, he is—”

“An idiot.” The voice was still low, drifting through the darkness. “I gave him instructions, but the thing is, Jeremy boy, the a**hole just couldn’t follow them.”

Bile rose in his throat. “N-no…”

“Not like I asked for that much. Just four million for you. Four damn million.” The shuffle of footsteps. More than one set. Someone else was here.

“The bastard has that much in change.” Anger simmered in that tense whisper.

Jeremy licked his lips and knew that the voice was right. His father owned half the city. He had that much money in the bank, easy. What the f**k? Jeremy’s mouth was so dry. He’d screamed and he’d screamed before, but no one had come for him.

No one had helped him.

“Your father thinks it’s a joke.” Jeremy flinched when he felt a touch on his shoulder. Sharp. Light. Fingernail?

The point pressed into his flesh.

Jesus. A knife. A whimper broke from his lips. “L-let me talk to him…. I’ll make him see—”

No f**king joke. That blade was too real.

“I told him what to do,” the whisper blew against his ear, and Jeremy shuddered. “Told him when to make the drop. Told him where to put the money. Told him everything, and if he’d just followed my instructions, you would’ve been home by now.”

The blade sliced into his shoulder.

Jeremy pissed his pants. “Pl-please…”

“Rich boy, is this the first time you’ve begged?”

His head jerked in a nod. He knew tears streamed from beneath the blindfold. He couldn’t stop them. Fear ate at his gut, and he knew, he knew that his father had left him to die.

Always disappointing me, boy. Not going to dig your ass out of another mess. You’re on your own.

Those had been the last words that his father spoke to him. So he’d screwed up and gotten busted with pot. Did he deserve this?

Don’t let me die.

“Beg some more.” The blade sank into his shoulder.

And Jeremy begged. Begged and pleaded and promised anything because he wanted the fire in his shoulder to ease. He wanted the pain to stop. He wanted to go home.

Bad dream. Just a bad dream. I’ll wake up, I’ll—

The knife pulled from his flesh with a thick slush of sound. Jeremy cried out, sagging back, but the blade followed him. The tip grazed over his jaw, traveled up his cheek, and then slipped right under the edge of the blindfold.

“You’re going to send your old man a message for me.”

Hope shot through him. Yes, yes! If he could just talk to his dad, he could make him understand. Not a joke. Hell, no. His dad would understand. The bastards would get their money, and Jeremy would be free. “I’ll tell him anything; I’ll say—”

The blade sliced the blindfold away.

He blinked against the flood of light. So bright.

“You don’t have to say a damn thing.”

The voice, not a whisper anymore, stopped his heart.

The man crouched over him with the weapon. Jeremy could see the others, too, as they came forward into the light.

Jeremy shook his head. “Don’t—”

The knife sank into his upper arm. It sliced down, and the bastard wrenched the blade, cutting through flesh and muscle in one long stroke as he opened the arm from shoulder to wrist.

Jeremy screamed.

“Let’s send him a message.” The figure moved around him and stared down with a smile that twisted his lips and never touched his eyes. “Let’s see what the a**hole has to say when he finds what’s left of you.”


FBI Special Agent Samantha Kennedy had seen hell. She’d looked into the devil’s eyes and heard his laughter. She’d died, but fate had brought her back.

Fate wouldn’t be letting Jeremy Briar come back.

Taking a deep breath, tasting decay and blood, Samantha stared at the body laying spread-eagle on the asphalt right in front of the big, black wrought-iron gates.

Jeremy’s eyes were open. They had to be. Some a**hole had cut off his eyelids. His body was sliced open, each arm cut from shoulder to wrist. A red smile split his throat and his stomach—

She yanked her gaze away. Don’t think. Don’t feel.

Sam spun away from poor dead Jeremy and nearly stumbled right into her boss, Keith Hyde.

His eyes weren’t on the body. They were on her. “You up for this?” he asked as his dark gaze searched her face. His deep voice seemed to echo around her, and goose bumps rose on her arms.

Sam knew that he was waiting for her to fail. They were all waiting. All the other agents in her unit. None of them thought that she could do the job anymore.

Maybe I can’t.

Sam swallowed. She belonged to the Serial Services Division, an elite unit in the FBI that most agents would gladly sell their souls to join. A team specifically designed to track and apprehend serials. The SSD had nearly unlimited resources. And Hyde answered to no one.

His team. His domain.

And she was the freaking weak link.

“I’m up for anything.” Her voice came out soft, and she’d meant to sound hard. Christ. The guy was looking at her like she’d shatter any minute. Hadn’t she already proved to him over the last six months that she wasn’t going to fall apart? What did he want from her?

The sunlight seemed to darken the rich coffee cream of his skin. His mouth tightened, and she knew that he didn’t believe her.

What else was new?

“I’ve gotten the all-clear.” Okay, her voice came stronger now because she was pissed. A dead body waited behind her, and Hyde was wasting time grilling her.

“I know the shrinks said you could work the cases.” His arms crossed over his chest. Beside them, a uniform bent over and retched into the bushes. Great. So much for the preservation of the crime scene. Hyde’s gaze measured her as he continued, “But working them and surviving them are two different things.”

He’s waiting for me to break.

“Don’t worry about me.” Sam jerked her thumb over her shoulder even as she felt a trickle of sweat slide between her shoulder blades. “Worry about that poor man’s family.” The scent of death clogged her nostrils. Move. Oh, she wanted to get away. Wanted to run.

But she knew it wasn’t possible to run from death. Death could follow a person anywhere. He followed her even in her dreams.

“He fits the established pattern,” Sam said as she noticed that the crime scene guys were there, finally. Sam eased away, with Hyde shadowing her steps, as the techs came through to start working on the body. Hurry. Because she knew the poor man’s parents were inside. She’d seen the shift of the curtains, and she knew they were peeking out, staring at the remains of their son and blaming themselves.

“Jeremy Briar,” she murmured, “Twenty-two years old, the only son of Kathleen and Morgan Briar. Jeremy was last seen three days ago, in a dive right outside of the university, a place called The Core.” And then he’d just vanished.

“His father got the ransom call,” Hyde said, voice cool. “Twenty-four hours after Jeremy went missing.”

Samantha didn’t look back at the body. Bodies had never been her strong suit. She preferred to stay in the office and track her prey on the Net. But it wasn’t about staying safe anymore. Now, she had to prove she could handle the job. The shrink in charge of her case had understood when Sam explained that she didn’t want to hide behind a desk. So thanks to him, she was out here, shaking apart on the inside and realizing that Jeremy wasn’t that much younger than she was.

Your age doesn’t matter, not when death comes calling.

“Why didn’t the father pay?” Sam asked and shielded her eyes as she turned to look back up at the house. Freaking huge. Four houses could fit inside that one. The guy would’ve had the money to ransom his son.

“Seems Jeremy got in trouble with the law a few times, and he had a history of run-ins with bookies.” Hyde paused, then said, “Mr. Briar thought his son was trying to scam him.”

Oh, damn. The father hadn’t believed the call, and Jeremy had paid. “Do you think the vic went fast?” The question came out before she could bite it back. But she knew what it was like when a sadistic freak took his time with you and made you beg for death. “W-were most of the injuries postmortem?”

“No.” His answer was immediate.

Her eyes fell closed, just for a moment.

“I don’t want you working this case, Kennedy,” Hyde’s words snapped out.

Her eyes flew back open. “Sir, I can—”

But his dark stare glinted. “I don’t want you in the field, and I don’t really give a shit what the prick in psych said.” He closed in on her. “You’re not ready. You think I can’t see you shaking?”

Her breath caught. “I can do this.” Desperation edged the words.

“Maybe.” Hyde shook his head. “But I want you back in the office. Dante has point on this one. If he wants to use you, well—”

“Don’t do this,” Sam managed, choking back the lump in her throat. She’d been busting her ass to make sure that she still could work the detail. “I know my job. I know—”

“I know my people.” No expression crossed his dark face. He towered over her, cold and unfeeling. “And I know you aren’t ready.”

She wouldn’t crumble. Not here. Not in front of him. Not him. “You’re the one who sent me out on the Phoenix case.” The Phoenix investigation had been the last big case she’d worked, and Hyde had been the one to send her out on that arson case as backup. “If you didn’t think I was ready, you shouldn’t have sent me.”

“You don’t belong in the field, Agent Kennedy.”

She stumbled back and felt the jab right in her heart. “You don’t think I’m strong enough, do you?” It had always been there, right from the beginning. She wasn’t like the other agents. Sam knew that she didn’t have their experience or their hard edge. She’d just skated past her twenty-fourth birthday so yes, she was younger, but she’d passed the same exams, done the drills, and proven herself, dammit.

“I know you’re strong.”

His words had her blinking.

“The problem is that you don’t know that.”

Her lips parted but she didn’t speak.

“And you’re scared. So scared that if you came face-to-face with a perp, I don’t know what you’d do, Kennedy.”

Neither did she.

“We both know you haven’t worked best in the field.”

No, she’d always been better back at the office, surrounded by her computers. But she couldn’t stay with them forever, and there were times—like with the Watchman case—when she’d had to go into the field.

And the results hadn’t been pretty.

Her breath barely fluttered out. I can do this.

“Go back to the office,” he said again. “If Dante needs you…”

With an effort, she managed a slow nod. She’d been called to the scene today because the other SSD agents were working other cases. Proximity and availability. But Sam had also been called in because she knew this case. This case and the others like it that had occurred just weeks before Jeremy Briar’s disappearance.

She’d been the one to first notice the pattern. She always noticed the patterns.

Sam forced her back to straighten. “I’m not going to fail, Hyde.” That was all that she’d say because she wouldn’t beg. Not yet.

His dark eyes just watched her.

Forcing out a hard breath, refusing to let the stench get to her, she shouldered past him. She kept her chin up and didn’t so much as blink, not until she was back at her car.

Sam climbed in and slammed the door closed. She curled her raw palms around the steering wheel and blinked.

Two tears slid down her cheeks.


Didn’t he see? Without the job, she had nothing.

Sam wasn’t normally the type for casual sex. She was the kind of woman who went for commitment, romance, and candlelight.

No, she had been that kind of woman. Now she was different, and she needed. Needed to forget who she was and just feel.

Can’t work the cases. Can’t sleep at night. Can’t even close my eyes without remembering…

Sam took a deep breath.


Right then, she’d do just about anything to forget.

Sam had left the crime scene hours before. When she’d gotten back to her place, the invitation to this expensive party had been waiting on her porch, courtesy of her meddling mother. The woman thought Sam might find a potential mate at one of these boring society gigs.