Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Exclusive Excerpt - The Devil's Daughter



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THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER


Growing up in a small town isn’t easy, especially when you’re the daughter of a local cult leader. Ten years ago, Eden Collins left Clear Springs, Montana, and never once looked back. But when the bodies of murdered young women surface, their corpses violated and marked with tattoos worn by her mother’s followers, Eden, now an FBI agent, can’t turn a blind eye. To catch the killer, she’s going to have to return to the fold.

Sheriff Zach Owens isn’t comfortable putting Eden in danger, even if she is an elite agent. And he certainly wasn’t expecting to be so attracted to her. As calm and cool as she appears, he knows this can’t be a happy homecoming. Zach wants to protect her—from her mother, the cult, and the evil that lurks behind its locked gates. But Eden is his only key to the tight-lipped group, and she may just be closer to the killer than either one of them suspects…



Excerpt:

“Why do you think that the disappearances are connected? And please save us both the time wasted while you pretend that you don’t. You wouldn’t have brought it up otherwise.” 

Instead of looking away, Zach met Eden's gaze directly, no shame or regret to be found. “Neveah might be wild, but if you take that away, there’s a girl missing who is a year younger than Elouise and fits the same basic description—petite build, dark hair, and dark eyes. Call me crazy, but every instinct I have says that girl is going to be next. And that’s if she isn’t already dead in a ditch somewhere.” 

She appreciated that he wasn’t hiding under the illusion of coincidence. She just wished she had something more comforting to tell him. “If she was already dead, we’d have found her body.” 

He looked up. “What makes you say that?” 

Being pinned in place by those blue eyes was disconcerting, to say the least. When he narrowed his focus to just her, it was hard to keep him in the neat little mental box she’d created. The man had too much presence by half. Eden set her soda down, covering up her discomfort by slipping back into work mode. “I don’t have enough information to do an official profile, but the fact that Elouise was found the way she was and that she hadn’t been dead more than a few hours indicates that this killer is looking for attention.” 

Another hesitation, but this one barely lasted a breath. She’d been trained by Britton, which meant giving her working profiles under uncomfortable circumstances was the name of the game. Years of working under him and he still intimidated the hell out of her. “She’d been running. There were cuts and bruises on the bottoms of her feet and little slices on her legs from the weeds. So either he was hunting her or—” 

“Or she escaped.” 

Eden considered that, rolling it over and over in her mind. She didn’t know much about Elouise Perkins and wouldn’t until she got her hands on the coroner’s report and sat in on the parents being interviewed, but a girl who had survived God alone knew how many years of abuse and done her damnedest to escape and start a new life in college … That took guts. 

It still didn’t jibe for her. 

She tapped her fingers on the table. “Do you know when she was seen last?” 

“We have it narrowed down to a window. She went through orientation at Montana State and checked into her dorm. She was in class September seventeenth—her last one ends at two—but she was marked absent the next morning. She could have skipped, but it doesn’t read right. That girl did everything she could to get into that college and get the grants to pay for it. I don’t see her playing hooky.” 

Eden nodded. She knew what it was like to throw everything into a future that wasn’t certain. “She wouldn’t have. When you fight so hard for something, you appreciate it more.” She knew all about that. When she’d gone through training to be an FBI agent, some of her peers had thought she was over-the-top intense—and they were right. But she’d wanted it so bad, she could taste it. She wasn’t going to let anything or anyone get in her way. “So it’s likely she was taken that day.” A little over a week before she was killed, which meant she was kept somewhere. If the unsub had the ability to hold a captive for over a week, what were the chances that she found a way to escape after eight days? 

Not much of a chance at all, unless he or she had made a mistake. 

It was possible. If there had been murders that had these particular tattoos involved before now, Eden most likely would have heard about it. Admittedly, there were more murders in the country than a single person could keep track of, but she kept an eye out for tags that fit Elysia. There was no damn reason to think that her mother would start picking off people and endanger her power base, but once cults got to a certain point, a percentage of them fell into violence against others and even against themselves. Suicide cults weren’t as common as the media would have people believe, but they did exist. 

She tapped her finger faster. Coming back here was a mistake. It didn’t matter. She was here now and she’d see it through. “How familiar are you with the Persephone myth?” 

“Not very. I know the basics with Martha living in my backyard, but it seemed pretty nonthreatening.” 

Eden almost hated to burst his bubble. “It’s a Greek myth that explains the turning of the seasons—half the year when the crops are plentiful and half when they aren’t, which corresponds to the time Persephone is in Hades versus aboveground.” 

“I read the myth. I don’t see what the big deal is about bringing spring back around.” 

She pushed her food to the side, no longer hungry. “Variations of that myth show up across multiple cultures, and Elysia cherry-picks the pieces they want.” It was hard to keep talking, hard not to fall into the past and what she’d gone through before she escaped. But he had to know. “The prevailing theme that underlies the reoccurrence of spring is sacrifice.” 

“Sacrifice.” He said it like it was a dirty word. 

She shared the sentiment. Eden took a deep breath because she could, because the budding pressure around her chest was all in her head and not because she was literally trapped. “Over the centuries, the methods ranged from slitting a bull’s throat to killing virgins to creating a straw man and tossing him in a bonfire before an orgy.” She knew. She’d done the research after she’d left. Martha didn’t share the why of any particular Elysian practice, preferring to have her followers believe that they originated with her. 

Eden knew better. 

She also had known, in her heart of hearts, that someday she’d have to come back—would be drawn back, if only to right a wrong her mother perpetuated—and she’d wanted to have every weapon possible in her arsenal of knowledge. 

“Which ones does Elysia participate in?” 

She’d known the question was coming, but it still took her several seconds to find her voice again. “They pick a girl from Martha’s followers, and after a ritual cleansing, they…” God, it’s been ten years. You should be able to talk about this. You lived through it. “They bury her alive.” 

What?” 

His fury centered her, and her next breath came easier. She couldn’t sit still, though. Eden pushed to her feet and started pacing, the words coming faster now. “There’s no coffin to speak of. They cover her with dirt and she fights her way to the surface. Then there’s a feast where they celebrate the triumph of Demeter over Hades.” The triumph of Martha

Sitting at the head of that table, covered in dirt, still tasting it on her tongue and feeling the dried tracks on her face where tears had turned it to mud had been the breaking point for Eden. 

She’d been gone the next morning. 

Zach joined her on her feet. “I’m going to need for you to go over that again. You’re saying that every spring, Martha puts some girl into the ground and she fights free and the people out in Elysia just let it happen.” 

She spun and nearly ran into him. “It’s considered a great honor.” 

“That’s bullshit. That’s not an honor—that’s torture.” Something was there on his face, a memory of horror that called to the part of her where she kept everything locked up tight. 

She couldn’t afford to think too closely about what had been done to her while she was in Elysia’s tender care, not if she wanted to be a halfway functioning adult, let alone an FBI agent. She’d been doing just fine with blocking out the memories and moving on with her life. As much as anyone moved on from that sort of thing. 

The truth was she used the skills Martha had taught her, inadvertently or not. 

Eden didn’t much like to think about that, either. 

Every time she turned around since she’d gotten back into town, she was facing down yet another nightmare. She just flat out wasn’t equipped to deal with it. She’d thought she was prepared. 

She’d been wrong. 

It was all too much. And here was Zach Owens, whom she’d never thought to have a single thing in common with, looking at her like he knew exactly what it was like to be on the receiving end of torture. She suddenly realized they were standing close—too close. 

***
Author Biography

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Katee Robert learned to tell her stories at her grandpa’s knee. She found romance novels at age twelve, and they changed her life. When not writing sexy contemporary and romantic suspense, she spends her time playing imaginary games with her children, driving her husband batty with what-if questions, and planning for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. Visit her at www.kateerobert.com.

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2 comments:

  1. This sounds so intriguing. It's on my wish list!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Am intrigued by the story line. This sounds like it will be an intense read. I look forward to it.

    ReplyDelete

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