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In Death - 24.50 - Dead of Night

J. D. Robb

  #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

  Nora Roberts writing as

  J. D. ROBB

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  “Witty prose…simply superb.”


  New York Times Bestselling Author


  “A popular writer of heartwarming, emotionally involving romances.”

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  “Inventive…spins an introspective and irresistible story.”

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  Dead of Night

  J. D. ROBB






  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada

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  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors’ imaginations or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.


  A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the authors

  Copyright © 2007 by The Berkley Publishing Group.

  “Eternity in Death” by J. D. Robb copyright © 2007 by Nora Roberts.

  “Amy and the Earl’s Amazing Adventure” copyright © 2007 by Mary Blayney.

  “Timeless” copyright © 2007 by Ruth Ryan Langan.

  “On the Fringe” copyright © 2007 by Mary Kay McComas.

  Cover design by Tony Greco.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the authors’ rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  ISBN: 1-4295-8127-1


  Jove Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  JOVE is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  The “J” design is a trademark belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.



  J. D. Robb



  Mary Blayney


  Ruth Ryan Langan


  Mary Kay McComas

  Eternity in Death

  J. D. ROBB

  The Sun’s rim dips; the stars rush out,

  At one stride comes the dark.


  Whence and what art thou, execrable shape?

  —John Milton


  Death was the end of the party. Worse than death, in Tiara’s opinion, was what came before it. Age. The loss of youth, of beauty, of body and celebrity was the true horror. Who the hell wanted to screw an old, wrinkled woman? Who cared what some droopy bag of years wore to the hot new club, or what she didn’t wear on the beach at the Côte d’Azur?

  No-fucking-body, that’s who.

  So when he told her that death could be the beginning—the real beginning—she was fascinated. She was pumped. It made sense to her that immortality could be bought by those privileged enough to pay the price. All of her life everything she wanted, coveted, demanded had been bought, so eternal life wasn’t any different, really, than her pied-à-terre in New York or her villa in France.

  Immortality, unlike a penthouse or a pair of earrings, would never get boring.

  She was twenty-three, and absolutely at her prime. Everything about her was tight and toned, which she assured herself of by examining her body in the mirror tube in her dressing room. She was perfect, she decided, giving her signature blonde mane a carefully studied, and meticulously practiced, toss.

  Now, thanks to him, she would always be perfect.

  She stepped out, leaving the double mirrored doors open so that she could watch herself dress. She’d chosen formfitting, nearly transparent red, with a hem of peacock eyes that shimmered and winked with every movement. Chandelier drops swung at her ears, in the same vibrant tones of sapphire and emerald as the accents on the hem of the short, snug gown. She added her blue diamond pendant, and wide pave cuffs on both wrists.

  Her sharply defined lips were dyed to match the dress, and they curved now with smug pride.

  Later, she thought, after it was done, she’d change into something fun, something for dancing, for celebrating.

  Her only regret was that the awakening had to be done in private rather than at the club. But her lover had assured her all that nasty business about being buried, then having to climb out of some disgusting coffin was just the invention of tacky books and bad vids. The reality was so much more civilized.

  One hour after the ritual—which was so frigging sexy—she’d wake up in her own bed, eternally young, eternally strong, eternally beautiful.

  Her new birthday would be April 18, 2060.

  All it would cost was her soul. As if she cared about that.

  She strolled out of the dressing room into the bedroom she’d just had redecorated in her new favorite shades of blues and greens. In his bed—canopied to match his mistress’s—Tiara’s teacup bulldog snored.

  She wished she could awaken Biddy as she was about to be awakened. He was the only thing in the world she truly loved almost as much as herself. But she’d given her little sweetie pie the sleeping drug, just as she’d been told. It wouldn’t do to have her doggie interrupt the ritual.

  Following instructions, she disengaged all security on her private elevator and entrance, then lit the thirteen white candles she’d been told to set around the room she’d chosen for the awakening.

  When it was done, she poured the bottle of potion he’d given her into a crystal wineglass. She drank it all, every drop. Nearly time, she thought, as sh
e carefully arranged herself on the bed. He’d slip in quietly, find her. Take her.

  Already she felt hot and jittery with need.

  He’d make her scream, he’d make her come. And when she was screaming, when she was coming, he would give her that final, ultimate kiss.

  Tiara traced her fingers over her throat, already feeling the bite.

  She’d die, she thought, running her hands over her breasts and belly in anticipation of him. Wasn’t that wild? She’d die, then she’d awaken. And she’d live forever.


  The room smelled of candle wax and death. In their fat, jewel-toned holders, the candles had pooled into dripping puddles. The body lay in a lake-sized bed canopied with silk, mounded with a multitude of pillows, and stained with blood.

  She was young, blonde, with a bright red dress rucked up to her waist. Her eyes, a crystal green, were open and staring.

  As she studied the body of Tiara Kent, Lieutenant Eve Dallas wondered if the dead blonde had looked into her killer’s eyes as she died.

  She’d known him, in any case, almost certainly she’d known him. There was no sign of forced entry, and in fact, the security system had been shut down from the inside, by the victim. There was no sign of struggle. And though Eve was certain they’d find the victim had engaged in sexual intercourse, she didn’t believe it would prove to be rape.

  She hadn’t fought him, Eve thought as she bent over the body. Even when he’d drained the blood out of her, she hadn’t fought him.

  “Two puncture wounds, left side of the throat,” Eve stated for the record. “The only visible injury.” She lifted one of Tiara’s hands, examined the perfectly shaped, fussily painted nails. “Bag the hands,” she told her partner. “Maybe she scratched him.”

  “Not as much blood as you’d think there should be.” Detective Peabody cleared her throat. “Not nearly enough. You know what they look like, on her neck there? Bite marks. Like, ah, fangs.”

  Eve spared Peabody a glance. “You think that ugly little dog the maid’s got in the kitchen bit her on the neck?”

  “No.” Peabody angled her head, leaned down with her dark eyes wide and bright. “Come on, Dallas, you know what it looks like.”

  “It looks like a DB. It looks like the vic had a date that went over the top. There’s going to be illegals in her system, something that dulled her down or hyped her up enough for her killer to jab something into her throat, or, yeah, sink his teeth into it if he had the incisors filed to points or was wearing an appliance. Then he bled her out, and she lay there and let him.”

  “I’m just saying it looks like your classic vampire bite.”

  “We’ll put out an APB on Dracula. Meanwhile, let’s find out if she was—just possibly—seeing someone with a heartbeat.”

  “Just saying,” Peabody repeated, this time in a mumble.

  Eve did another scan of the bedroom before stepping out and into the enormous dressing room area.

  Bigger than a lot of apartments, she mused, and outfitted with a security screen, entertainment screen, full round of mirrors. The closet itself was a small department store, ruthlessly organized into categories.

  For a moment, Eve stood with her hands on her hips and simply stared. One person, she thought, with enough clothes to outfit the Upper West Side, and more than enough shoes to shod every man, woman, and child in that sector. Even Roarke—and Eve knew her husband’s wardrobe was awesome—didn’t rate this high on the clothes-hog scale.

  Then she just shook her head and focused on the job at hand.

  Dressed for him, Eve thought. Slutty dress, fuck-me heels. So where was the jewelry? If a woman was going to deck herself out for a booty call, down to shoes, wouldn’t she drape on some glitters?

  If she had, her killer had helped himself there.

  She studied the drawers, the cabinets that ran below the rungs and carousels and protective domes. All locked, she noted, all passcoded, which meant valuables housed inside. There was no sign that she could see of any attempt to break in.

  There were plenty of expensive bits and pieces sitting around in the penthouse: statuary, paintings, electronics. She’d seen nothing on her once-over of both levels that indicated anything had been disturbed.

  If he was a thief, he was a lazy one, or a very picky one.

  She stood for a moment, evaluating. Eve was a tall woman, slim in boots and trousers, with a short leather jacket over a white shirt. Her hair was short and brown, chopped around a lean face dominated by deep brown eyes. The eyes, as they studied, were all cop.

  She didn’t turn at Peabody’s low whistle behind her. “Wow! This is like something out of a vid. I think she had all the clothes in all the land. And the shoes. Oooh, the shoes.”

  “A few hundred pair of shoes,” Eve commented. “And she had the requisite two feet. People are screwy. Take head of building security, see if he’s got any knowledge or documentation of who she’s been seeing or entertaining in the last few weeks. I’ll take the maid.”

  She moved through the apartment, down a level. The place was full of cops and crime-scene techs, of noise, of equipment. The busy business of murder.

  In what she was told was the breakfast room, she found the maid with her red-rimmed eyes, clutching the small, ugly dog. Eve eyed the dog warily, then gestured for the uniforms to step out of the room.

  “Ms. Cruz?”

  At the mention of her name, the woman burst into fresh sobs. This time Eve and the dog exchanged looks of mild annoyance.

  Eve sat so she and the maid were on the same level, then said, firmly, “Stop it.”

  Obviously used to following orders, the maid instantly snuffled back the sobs. “I’m so upset,” she told Eve. “Miss Tiara, poor Miss Tiara.”

  “Yes, I’m very sorry. You’ve worked for her for a while?”

  “Five years.”

  “I know this is hard, but I need you to answer some questions now. To help me find who did this to Miss Tiara.”

  “Yes.” The maid pressed a hand to her heart. “Anything. Anything.”

  “You have keys and passcodes to the apartment?”

  “Oh, yes. I come in every day to do for Miss Tiara when she’s in residence. And three times a week when she’s away.”

  “Who else has access to the apartment?”

  “No one. Well, maybe Miss Daffy. I’m not sure.”

  “Miss Daffy.”

  “Miss Tiara’s friend, Daffodil Wheats. Her very best friend, except when they’re fighting, then Miss Caramel is her best friend.”

  “Are you putting me on with these names?”

  The maid blinked her swollen, bloodshot eyes. “No, ma’am.”

  “Lieutenant,” Eve corrected. “All right, this Daffodil and Caramel were friends of Miss Kent’s. What about men? What men was she seeing?”

  “She saw a lot of men. She was so beautiful, so young, and so vibrant that—”

  “Intimately, Ms. Cruz,” Eve interrupted to stop both the eulogy and the fresh tears. “And most recently.”

  “Please call me Estella. She enjoyed men. She was young and vibrant, as I said. I don’t know them all—some were just a moment, others longer. But in the past week or two, I think there was just one.”

  “Who would that be?”

  “I don’t know. I never saw him. But I could tell she was in love again—she laughed more, and danced around the apartment, and…” Estella seemed to struggle for a moment with her own code of discretion.

  “Everything you tell me may help in the investigation,” Eve prompted.

  “Yes. Well…when you take care of someone, you know when they’ve had a…an intimacy. She had a lover in her bed every night for a week or more.”

  “But you never saw him.”

  “Never. I come at eight every morning, and leave at six, unless she needs me to stay longer. He was never here when I was here.”

  “Was it her habit to turn off her security system from in-house?”

Never, never.” Dry-eyed now, Estella shook her head decisively from side to side. “It was never to be disengaged. I don’t understand why she would have done that. I saw it was off when I came in this morning. I thought there must be a glitch in the system, and Miss Tiara would be angry. I called downstairs to report it even before I went up to the bedroom.”

  “All right. You came in at eight, noted the security was off, reported it, then went upstairs. Is that your usual routine, to come in, go up to her bedroom?”

  “Yes, to get Biddy.” Estella bent her head to nuzzle the dog. “To take him for his morning walk, then to feed him. Miss Tiara usually sleeps until about eleven.”

  Estella’s brow creased. “Later these last days, since—the new lover. Sometimes she didn’t come downstairs until into the afternoon, and she ordered all the windows draped when she did. She said she only wanted the night. It worried me because she looked so pale, and wouldn’t eat. But I thought, well, she’s in love, that’s all.”

  After a long, long sigh, Estella continued. “Then this morning, Biddy wasn’t waiting by the bedroom door. He always waits there for me in the morning. I went in, very quietly. He was coming to the door, but he wasn’t walking right.”

  Eve frowned at the dog. “What do you mean?”

  “It was…I thought: Biddy looks drunk, and I had to hold back a laugh because he looked so funny. I went in more, and I smelled…it was the candles at first. I could smell the candles, so I thought she’d had her lover in the night. But then there was another smell, a hard smell. It was the blood, I think,” she said as her eyes welled again. “It must have been the blood and…her, I smelled her, and when I looked over at the bed, I saw her there. I saw my poor little girl there.”

  “Did you touch anything, Estella? Anything in the room?”