If looks could kill, p.1

If Looks Could Kill, page 1

 

If Looks Could Kill
 



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If Looks Could Kill


  Praise for New York Times Bestselling Author

  Heather Graham

  “Graham shines in this frightening tale. Paranormal elements add zing to her trademark chilling suspense and steamy romance, keeping the pages flying.”

  —Romantic Times on Haunted

  “Graham’s tight plotting, her keen sense of when to reveal and when to tease…will keep fans turning the pages.”

  —Publishers Weekly on Picture Me Dead

  “An incredible storyteller!”

  —Los Angeles Daily News

  “Demonstrating the skills that have made her one of today’s best storytellers, Ms. Graham delivers one of this year’s best books thus far.”

  —Romantic Times on Hurricane Bay

  “A suspenseful, sexy thriller…Graham builds jagged suspense that will keep readers guessing up to the final pages.”

  —Publishers Weekly on Hurricane Bay

  “A roller-coaster ride…fast-paced, thrilling…Heather Graham will keep you in suspense until the very end. Captivating.”

  —Literary Times on Hurricane Bay

  “The talented Ms. Graham once again thrills us. She delivers excitement [and] romance…that keep the pages flipping quickly from beginning to end.”

  —Romantic Times on Night of the Blackbird

  “With the name Heather Graham on the cover, you are guaranteed a good read!”

  —Literary Times

  Also by HEATHER GRAHAM

  THE PRESENCE

  DEAD ON THE DANCE FLOOR

  HAUNTED

  PICTURE ME DEAD

  A SEASON OF MIRACLES

  HURRICANE BAY

  NIGHT OF THE BLACKBIRD

  NEVER SLEEP WITH STRANGERS

  EYES OF FIRE

  SLOW BURN

  NIGHT HEAT

  Watch for the new blockbuster from

  HEATHER GRAHAM

  KILLING KELLY

  HEATHER GRAHAM

  IF LOOKS COULD KILL

  This one has to be for family and friends:

  Dedicated with love to Victoria Graham Davant,

  my sister and best friend,

  because I couldn’t imagine life without her.

  To Lisa Charge Alvarez,

  for being the stuff of which heroines are made.

  To Katie and Sam DeVuono, not only for being family,

  but also for being the nicest, warmest,

  most giving people in the world.

  To Mary Pozzessere Durso, Auntie May,

  for her unwavering support, and so I can make

  absolutely sure she gets a copy of this one.

  To Ginger Crosbie, for doing such a

  great job of getting us all together.

  And to Keith Pozzessere, for being so proud of the name,

  and for always making sure that he’s part of our family.

  Contents

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Epilogue

  Prologue

  Madison could hear the voices coming from the bedroom, and she was afraid.

  She was twelve, nearly thirteen, so it wasn’t a matter of being easily frightened, or even a matter of not knowing what went on in the world—she did. Her beautiful, volatile mother had married the equally volatile and temperamental artist Roger Montgomery, and ever since then, voices and sounds had often come from the master bedroom.

  But tonight…

  Something was different. It wasn’t just the usual passionate argument that was going on. They weren’t hurting accusations of infidelity at one another. There was a different voice in the room, a hushed voice….

  A menacing, sexless voice that sent shivers racing along Madison’s spine. The voice was evil. Madison knew it. She told herself that she was being fanciful—that it might even be her mother’s voice, since Lainie Adair was such a highly acclaimed actress, known for her uncanny ability with accents.

  But it wasn’t her mother. Madison was certain.

  She knew that her mother wasn’t playing games or acting out some sex fantasy. Someone, something…evil…was in the room.

  She wondered if Roger was there, as well. She didn’t know. She could hear her mother’s voice, rising, falling, a note of hysteria, of pleading, in it. Then she heard the whispered, sexless voice again. The different voice.

  The evil voice.

  The voice that made her skin crawl.

  Without thinking, she’d come out of her own room, and now she stood in the hallway, a trembling wraith in her oversize cotton T-shirt. She moved along the hall, anxious to reach her mother, but at the same time afraid. She’d never been afraid this way. She could watch the most gruesome horror movie without flinching; she was always willing to accept a reckless dare. She had defied the very real possibility of monsters in the closet or under her bed as a young child, telling herself that she simply wouldn’t be afraid. The darkness didn’t frighten her; she wouldn’t allow it to.

  But tonight…

  Oh, God, she was terrified. It was the voice. That voice, with its undercurrent of sibilant, menacing evil. The hallway seemed to be a million miles long, though it couldn’t have been more than forty feet from her doorway to her mother’s. The harder she tried to make herself move, the more weighed down she seemed to be. Fear constricted her throat, so she couldn’t cry out, and yet she knew that she shouldn’t cry out, that she couldn’t let the voice know she was coming.

  She had to move, to see the person connected to the voice.

  She wanted to run, but she couldn’t, because something terrible might happen if she did.

  Except that something terrible was already happening, and she absolutely had to be brave. She had to stop the evil.

  The evil was in the air around her, pressing down on her. It made the air thick and heavy, so that it was a struggle just to walk down the hallway. It seemed to make the door to her mother’s room swell and bulge against the doorframe, while the light within seemed to radiate out in strange shades of bloodred evil.

  She tried to be rational.

  Surely her mother and Roger were just fighting.

  She needed to be calm, rational. To pound on the door and remind her mother that she needed a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. Of course, if Lainie was fighting with Roger, it was quite possible that they would make up before Madison even reached the door, and then, if she went storming in, well…

  She wished she would interrupt Lainie and Roger at some wickedly sexual enterprise, but she knew she wouldn’t.

  She knew. God help her, she knew.

  She could feel what her mother was feeling, and Lainie was afraid. She was being threatened, and she was trying to argue in return. She was speaking desperately, in a placating voice. She was trying to…

  Madison went dead still, shaking, drenched in an icy sweat. Because she wasn’t just feeling what Lainie felt.

  She was seeing! Seeing what Lainie saw.

  And Lainie saw a knife.

  Big, glinting silver, wickedly sharp. A butcher’s knife. Madison had seen it before, in the kitchen. It belonged there, in the block of chef’s knives that sat on the counter. It was raised high in the muted light of the bedroom, high above Lainie.

  Lainie watched…and through h
er eyes, Madison saw.

  The knife slashed downward with brutal, merciless strength.

  Lainie screamed, but Madison didn’t hear her mother’s cry, because she was screaming herself, doubling over. Feeling. Feeling what her mother felt.

  The knife.

  Tearing into her. Through flesh and muscle. Ripping into her, just below the ribs.

  Madison staggered and began to fall. She leaned against the wall, feeling the agony of torn flesh, the chill, the fear. She gripped her middle and looked down, and she saw blood on her hands….

  She was cold. Blackness was surrounding her. Her hand on the wall, she struggled for support. She tried to talk, to scream again, to cry for help, but the blackness overwhelmed her, and she sank to the floor.

  “Madison. Madison!”

  She woke to the urgent sound of her name. She opened her eyes. She was lying on the living room couch, and Kyle was there, Roger’s son. Eighteen now, five years and a few months older than she was, a dozen years older in his superior attitude. Black-haired, green-eyed, Mr. Jock, quarterback of his football team. She hated him half the time, especially when he called her “squirt,” “airhead” or “bimbette.” But when his friends weren’t around and he wasn’t busy impressing the cheerleaders, he wasn’t a bad kid. Solid. Down-to-earth. When she was convinced she was a product of the most dysfunctional family of all time, he told her to stop whining, that lots of people had step-and half brothers and sisters. In fact, if he hadn’t been her step-brother, she might even have had a crush on him. But since he was, she wouldn’t even let herself think about that.

  Okay, so maybe she had a few more than most. And okay, so Lainie was an unusually cool mom; in fact, she was hot. It wasn’t so bad to have Lainie for a mother, or Roger for a stepfather. Her real dad, Jordan Adair, was a world-renowned writer. And who actually cared how many stepmothers she’d had, huh?

  Sometimes Madison hated Kyle, but other times, when she had reached the pits, he could make her laugh. And sometimes, sometimes, he even made her feel warm. As if she belonged somewhere.

  But now he was staring at her, green eyes shining with tears. “Madison?”

  “Madison…are you all right, Madison?”

  She turned slightly. Roger was there, as well. Roger, who was openly crying.

  “Roger, move aside.”

  It was her father who was speaking. The Jordan Adair, a handsome man in his forties with a headful of long silver hair, a silver beard, dark, penetrating eyes. Leave it to her mother. Lainie would only marry men who were different: a rock star first, a writer, an artist. Jordan liked women in the arts, as well, but he didn’t seem to be quite as picky. He’d been through an opera singer, a stripper, a ballet dancer and Lainie, and had now broken the pattern to marry a sex therapist. He’d always loved Lainie, though. Always. And Madison knew that he loved her, too.

  Like Roger and Kyle, Jordan had tears in his eyes.

  She became aware of the sirens then. And the fact that the foyer was filling with cops. Roger moved away. She saw more of her family, her sister and her step-and half-siblings, standing awkwardly in the living room.

  The girls, Jassy and Kaila. Jassy, her father’s daughter from his first marriage, was pretty and delicate, a dark-eyed blonde. Kaila was her only full sister. She and Kaila were both just like Lainie, redheads with blue eyes.

  Her other brothers were there, as well. Trent, her father’s son from his second marriage, had sandy hair and Jordan’s piercing dark eyes. Rafe, Roger’s son from his first marriage, twenty now, was completely different from Roger and Kyle in coloring; his eyes were a misty silver, and his hair was a shining Nordic blonde. Like the others, he was pale now, scared-looking, quiet, his cheeks streaked with tears.

  Kaila, just a year younger than Madison and nearly her twin in looks, suddenly began to sob. Loudly. Her knees buckled, but Rafe slipped an arm around her before she could fall.

  Suddenly Madison remembered.

  She began to scream and scream, shaking. There were paramedics at the scene, and even as she screamed and thrashed and tried in her hysteria to explain, someone came with a needle, pressing it into her arm. She could hear someone saying she couldn’t possibly talk to the police yet, and even if she could, what good could it do? Then the tranquilizer slipped into her, and everything went black once again.

  This time she woke back at her father’s house, Kyle sitting by the side of her bed. She heard soft sobs coming from another room. One of her sisters.

  “My mother is dead,” she whispered.

  Startled, Kyle looked up. He stared at her compassionately and nodded.

  “Someone killed her, Madison. I’m so sorry. Your dad is with Kaila, but I can get him for you if—”

  “I saw it, Kyle.”

  His eyes narrowed sharply.

  “I saw it.”

  “What do you mean, you saw it? You were in the hallway. Did the murderer run past you? Did you see who did it?”

  She shook her head, looking for the words to describe what had happened. Tears welled up in her eyes. “She was terrified, absolutely terrified. She saw the knife. I saw it, too. I felt it.”

  “Madison, you were forty feet from her room when we found you. Had you been in there?”

  She shook her head.

  “Then you couldn’t have seen anything.”

  “I saw the knife.”

  “Who killed her, then?”

  “I don’t know. I didn’t see a face. Just the knife. Just the knife, coming down at her. And I felt it. I felt it ripping into her.” She started to shake and sob again. Her mother had been killed, and it hurt as if a million tiny knives were digging into her heart. Lainie had been wild, headstrong and reckless, but Lainie had also been her mother, the one who held her, cherished her, laughed with her, shook her head over her, took the time to make red pipe-cleaner hearts with her class last February. Her mother was dead, and she didn’t think she could bear it.

  Kyle didn’t try to say anything else. He sat beside her on the bed, taking her awkwardly into his arms while she cried and cried. Eventually her father came to the room and took her from Kyle, and she kept crying. She tried to tell her father that she had seen the knife, had felt Lainie die.

  Her father was gentle and tender, and he pretended to believe her, but she knew he didn’t.

  In the days and weeks that followed, the police investigated the murder with energy and zeal. They questioned Lainie’s various husbands extensively, certain that either Roger or Jordan had murdered her in a crime of raw passion. The tabloids picked up on the murder, as did the major magazines.

  The cops talked to Madison. Lots of them. City of Miami cops, Metro-Dade cops. She told them that she had seen the knife, had felt her mother die. They didn’t believe her, either. But there was one cop who was at least nicer than the others. Jimmy Gates. He was fairly new to homicide, young, with warm brown eyes and sandy hair and a gentleness about him that soothed her. He wanted to know just what she had seen; he made her think back. When he questioned her, she saw the hand holding the knife. And she knew then that the killer had worn thin, flesh-colored gloves, like a doctor’s gloves.

  She was amazed to realize what she could see, and also disturbed.

  Roger was nearly arrested for the murder; her father was nearly arrested, as well. But there was no evidence that either man had killed Lainie. Kyle, Kaila and Madison had all been in the house at the time of Lainie’s death; Roger had arrived soon after. Kyle had immediately called Jordan Adair. In their questioning, the police said that Roger might well have killed Lainie, left by a window, disposed of the weapon and returned to pretend to find his wife. And Jordan’s home was well within walking distance, so he could easily have committed the murder, disposed of the weapon and reached his own house within a matter of minutes. Oddly enough, neither Roger nor Jordan accused the other. And with no evidence to go on, the police finally had to leave both men alone.

  Time, Newsweek and People ran articles with h
eadlines like Can Money Buy Innocence?—American Justice.

  Jimmy Gates continued to talk with Madison. He listened gravely each time she went over and over what she had seen and felt. He tried to get her to see more, but try as she might, she couldn’t see beyond the gloved hand. Her father told Jimmy that he couldn’t torment her anymore, but she told her father she wanted to see Jimmy.

  Two months after her mother’s murder, a suspect was arrested.

  He was a crazy old derelict by the name of Harry Nore. Madison had seen him walking the streets of Coconut Grove most of her life. He begged at the corner of Bird and U.S. 1. Sometimes he shouted about Jesus and the Second Coming; sometimes he stood on the corner in the night and cried that Satan was coming and would devour them all with a sea of flame. He was first arrested for breaking into the house of a neighbor. He had stolen food, which the neighbor would have forgiven, but he had also filled his pockets with the family’s jewelry. The police found him in the kitchen, cutting bread.

  With a butcher knife.

  Harry Nore was also wearing a gold Saint Christopher medal that belonged to Roger Montgomery, which was what first made the police begin to wonder if the man was more than a thief. In examining the butcher knife Nore had been using to cut the bread, the forensic crews found minute traces of blood.

  Lainie’s blood.

  Nore’s fingerprints matched some of those lifted from Lainie’s bedroom. And he had a record. He’d already served time for killing his wife with a similar knife.

  However, Harry Nore—the bug-eyed, lice-in-fested derelict—never went to trial for the murder of Lainie Adair Montgomery; he was judged incompetent to stand trial. When confronted with the murder, he began to rave. God had dropped the knife into his hat. God told him who was good and who was evil. He confessed to killing Lainie. In his confession, he stated that it was the devil who had come for her, because she had been one of his own brood. Lainie had been beautiful and evil, so beautiful that she led men to distraction and acts of perversion and violence. She was the devil’s spawn, and the devil had come for her. Looks could kill.

 
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