An excerpt from TOUCH OF RED...
Sean spotted Brooke the moment he stepped into the house. He turned to Jasper.
“You say the neighbor found her?”
“That’s right,” the officer said. “Lady let her dog out, and he started barking like crazy, so she went outside to see what was going on and spotted the victim in a pool of blood there on the porch. Name’s Samantha Bonner. She works at a coffee shop.”
Sean raked his hand through his damp hair, scattering water on the floor. “Married? Kids?”
Jasper shook his head. “Neighbor says she lives alone.”
Sean unzipped his SMPD windbreaker and glanced at Brooke again. She was on her knees by the back door, lifting fingerprints. Just beyond her was the victim, and the ME’s people were already unzipping the body bag.
Sean was accustomed to seeing Brooke surrounded by blood and gore, but this was bad. He studied the victim, noting the position of the body, the clothing.
Brooke closed her evidence kit and got to her feet as Sean stepped over.
“Hi,” she said, looking him up and down. “Where were you guys?”
“Got stuck behind an accident near the tracks. Tow truck’s blocking the road, so we had to hoof it.”
“Don’t drip water all over my crime scene.”
Sean smiled. “Yours?”
For a moment they just looked at each other, and Sean tried to read her expression. She seemed grimmer than usual.
“Detective? Can we bag her?”
Brooke shot a blistering look at the ME’s assistant, clearly not liking his glib tone.
Sean stepped into the utility room to take a look at the back porch. The whole area was a bloodbath.
“Jesus,” Ric said, coming up beside him. “You get all this, Maddie?”
“Yes, I’m finished with the porch,” the photographer called from the kitchen.
The ME’s guy looked at Sean again. “Detective?”
“Yeah, go ahead.”
Sean turned around. Brooke was watching the scene now, clutching her evidence kit so tightly her knuckles were white. He motioned for her to follow him into the living room.
Brooke was short and slender, with pale skin and a plump pink mouth he’d always wondered about. As she looked up at him he noticed the worry line between her brows.
Her eyebrows shot up. “You mean besides the fact that this woman was practically decapitated on her doorstep?”
She took a deep breath and glanced around. “This crime scene bugs me.”
“Look at it. See for yourself.”
Without another word, she stepped around him and went back into the kitchen to crouch beside the pantry door.
Sean pulled some latex gloves from his pocket and tugged them on as he surveyed the kitchen. It was clean and uncluttered, except for a stack of mail on the counter beside a key. He studied the key for a moment, but resisted the urge to pick it up.
He opened the fridge. Yogurt, salad kit, pomegranate juice. On the lower shelf was a six-pack of root beer with a bottle missing from the carton. A bottle sat on the breakfast table—unopened—and Maddie was snapping a picture of it now.
Sean glanced through the open back door as the ME’s people started loading the body bag onto a gurney. The victim’s clothes had been intact, and she’d shown no obvious sign of sexual assault. At first glance, it looked like the killer had grabbed her from behind and slit her throat. Given the lack of blood inside, Sean figured the attacker had fled down the driveway to the street or maybe hopped the back fence.
Ric stepped into the kitchen again. “Her purse is on the back porch. Wallet’s inside, but no cell phone.”
“You check the car?” Sean asked.
“Not yet. Let’s walk through the house first.”
“Don’t move anything,” Maddie said. “I haven’t been back there yet.”
Sean led the way. It was a simple layout, with rooms off a central hallway. The bathroom smelled like ammonia. Sean switched on the light.
“House is squeaky clean,” Ric observed.
The pedestal sink gleamed. Sean opened the medicine cabinet. Toothpaste, cough drops, tampons. Ric eased back the shower curtain to reveal a shiny tub with several bottles of hair products lined up on the side.
They moved on to the bedroom, where they found a neatly made queen bed with a light blue comforter. No decorative pillows, just two in pink pillowcases that matched the sheets.
“Not a lot of pillows,” Sean said.
“Pillows. Most women put a lot on the bed, don’t they?”
“I don’t know,” Ric said. “My wife does.”
Sean studied the room. It smelled like vanilla. On the dresser were several plastic trays of makeup and one of those bottles of liquid air freshener with the sticks poking up. Sean spied a sticky note attached to the mirror and leaned closer to read the feminine handwriting: One day, one breath.
Was it a poem? A song lyric? Maybe Samantha’s own words?
The closet door was ajar, and Sean nudged it open. Six pairs of jeans, all on hangers. A couple dozen T-shirts, also hanging.
Ric whistled. “Damn. You know anyone who arranges their T-shirts by color?”
Sean looked around the bedroom again. “Pretty basic,” he said. “Not a lot here.”
He walked back through the house, noting a conspicuous absence of anything that would indicate a male presence. No razors on the sink or man-size shoes kicking around. No beer in the fridge. The living room was simply furnished with a sofa, a coffee table, and a smallish flat-screen TV.
“Looks to me like she lives alone,” Ric said, turning to Jasper. “You say she works at a restaurant?”
“Coffee shop, according to the neighbor lady.” Jasper took out a spiral pad and consulted his notes. “The one over on Elm Street.”
“I’ve never been in there.” Ric looked at Sean. “You?”
Sean glanced around the living room, which was devoid of clutter. Maybe the victim didn’t have a lot of money for extras, but even so, most women tended to decorate their homes more than this. Sean hadn’t spotted a single framed photo in the entire place.
The strobe of a camera flash drew his attention into the kitchen again. Brooke was right. This scene seemed odd. Sean had worked a lot of homicides over the years, and most boiled down to money, drugs, or sex.
Sean had seen no sign of sexual assault. No drugs or drug paraphernalia or even alcohol. No hint of illegal activity. No evidence of a boyfriend.
A remote control sat on the coffee table. Sean had watched Brooke in action enough to know it would be one of the first items she collected to dust for prints.
“I don’t see any blood trails or signs of struggle inside,” Ric said. “Doesn’t feel like the assailant was in the house.”
“I’m not getting a read on motive.”
“I know.” Ric shook his head. “Doesn’t look like a rape or a robbery. No cash or drugs around.”
“We need her phone. I want to search her car and the surrounding area.”
“I’ll go check the car,” Ric said.
He exited the front, and Sean returned to the kitchen. Brooke wasn’t there. Maddie knelt in the pantry with her camera, and Sean noticed the pantry door was missing.
“What happened to the door?”
She glanced at him. “Brooke took it.”
“Took it where?”
“Back to the lab.”
Sean stared at her. “You mean she’s gone?”
“She needed to test something. She said it was urgent.”
“Yo, Sean, come here,” Ric called from outside.
Sean walked out the front, glancing at his watch. Why had Brooke left already? This scene would take hours to process and they were just getting started.
Ric was in the driveway near the Kia. Another Delphi CSI in gray coveralls was crouching beside the car.
Ric glanced up at Sean. “Jackpot.”
There’s nothing like a ringside seat for the action! An absolute 5 star read.
Though, (regrettably) I haven’t read all of the Tracers’ books in this series, they are now at the top of my TBR list. The good news is, you don’t have to read them in order. The bad news is – you won’t sleep until you’re finished reading!
Brooke Porter is a fingerprint expert called to work a particularly gruesome murder scene, a woman slaughtered on her own doorstep. Brooke’s special training and attention to detail reveals clues other detectives overlooked and provides the first leads in the case.
Sean Byrne is a homicide detective who has investigated the worst of what man can offer. When he arrives at a victim’s house, the woman nearly decapitated, he and his partner are stymied until Brooke presents a scenario involving a child witness.
The characters are so real and down to earth, you can see them as people you’d interact with. Their interactions are consistent and heartfelt throughout while the banter stays lively and tension remains high.
As usual with this author’s writing, this book takes you on a twisted ride with the perfect amount of detail to keep you intrigued. Technical aspects are described in a way that is both easily understood and flows very well with the plot.
Both Brook and Sean are incredibly hot, their romance interwoven throughout the ride. Still the fast pace will keep you glued to your seat.
Warning: Line up your favorite beverages before you start. You won’t want to miss a darn thing. Of all the authors I’ve read, Laura Griffin should be at the top of everyone’s list!
About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author LAURA GRIFFIN started her career in journalism before venturing into the world of romantic suspense. She is a two-time RITA Award winner as well as the recipient of the Daphne du Maurier Award. Laura currently lives in Austin, where she is working on her next book. Visit her at www.LauraGriffin.com or www.Facebook.com/LauraGriffinAuthor
To celebrate TOUCH OF RED Laura's hosting a Rafflecopter giveaway!
Prize: $50 Amazon card
Giveaway dates: Oct. 29-Nov. 12