A homicide detective’s violent family history repeats itself in #1 Amazon Charts and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Melinda Leigh’s novel of murder, secrets, and retribution.
For more than twenty-five years, Philadelphia homicide detective Bree Taggert has tucked away the nightmarish childhood memories of her parents’ murder-suicide…Until her younger sister, Erin, is killed in a crime that echoes that tragic night: innocent witnesses and a stormy marriage that ended in gunfire. There’s just one chilling difference. Erin’s husband, Justin, has vanished.
Bree knows how explosive the line between love and hate can be, yet the evidence against her troubled brother-in-law isn’t adding up. Teaming up with Justin’s old friend, former sheriff’s investigator and K-9 handler Matt Flynn, Bree vows to uncover the secrets of her sister’s life and death, as she promised Erin’s children. But as her investigation unfolds, the danger hits close to home. Once again, Bree’s family is caught in a death grip. And this time, it could be fatal for her.
Bree’s mother was murdered by her father when she and her siblings were just kids. Now a homicide detective, she has to deal with her sister’s murder and the aftermath for her niece and nephew.
Cross Her Heart grabs you from the very first page and doesn’t let go. This thriller kept my complete attention even when there was no action at the moment. The characters and their individual problems are all so believable that you truly feel for what they are going through. It sounds like this may be the first book in a series and I am really looking forward to more of Bree Taggert.
Read on for an excerpt from Cross Her Heart and a chance to win a copy for yourself.
Grey’s Hollow, New York, January 1993
“911. What is your emergency?” the lady asked.
Bree was shaking so hard. She could barely hold the phone to her ear. “Mommy and Daddy are fighting.” A slap sounded down the hall, and Bree flinched. “Would you send the police?”
“The police are coming,” the lady said. “I’m going to talk with you until they arrive.”
“OK.” Bree sniffed and wiped her nose with her sleeve. Snot was running down her face. She hated to cry in front of Daddy. It just made him madder, but she couldn’t help it.
“What’s your name?”
“Bree,” she said in a small voice. She didn’t think Daddy would hear her, but if he did, then Bree would get the same as Mommy. She looked down the hall. Her parents’ door was open, and Daddy was yelling. She couldn’t hear all the words, but she knew he was saying mean things and calling Mommy names. She heard another smacking sound and her mother started to sob. “He’s hitting Mommy.”
“Where are they?” “In their bedroom.”
Erin came out into the hall. She held her stuffed bunny by one ear and dragged him as she walked toward Mommy and Daddy’s room.
“Erin, don’t go in there!” Bree called as loud as she dared, but it came out as a whisper. She didn’t want Daddy to hear.
“Who is Erin?” the lady asked.
“My little sister,” Bree answered. “Erin, come here!” “How old is she?”
“Four. I’m eight. I have to look after her. Mommy said so.” “You’re eight years old.” The lady coughed.
Bree went down the hall toward her sister, but the phone cord wasn’t long enough. “I can’t reach her.” She held the phone tight. She didn’t want to put it down. She yelled, “Erin!”
Her sister turned her head. Erin wasn’t crying, but her eyes were real big, and she’d wet her pajamas. When her sister turned around and walked toward her, the air whooshed from Bree’s chest, and stars danced in front of her eyes. She pulled Erin down the hall and into the kitchen with her.
“I got her,” Bree said to the lady.
In the third bedroom, the baby began to scream. His doorway was right across from Mommy and Daddy’s. His crying made Bree’s tummy hurt. Daddy would get madder.
“Is that your sister crying?” the lady asked.
“No. I got a baby brother.” Bree didn’t want Daddy in the room with Mommy, but she didn’t want him to come out either. “I have to go get him. I have to make him be quiet.” Bree turned to her sister. “Stay here.”
Before she could go to the baby’s room, Daddy came into the hall. His face was red, and his eyes were small and mean. Mommy was right behind him. Her mouth was bleeding, and her neck had red marks all around it.
“Stop.” Mommy grabbed Daddy by the arm. “I’ll get him.” Daddy spun and slapped her across the face.
Bree yelled, “Stop hitting Mommy!” But he didn’t. He smacked her again.
The baby screamed, and Daddy turned toward his room. “What’s happening, Bree?” the lady asked.
“Daddy’s gonna get the baby.” Bree didn’t know what to do. She was so scared, her belly cramped, and her legs shook. Her sister crawled under the kitchen table. “Please send the police.”
“They’re coming, Bree,” the lady said. “It’s going to be OK.”
“Stop it!” Mommy jumped on Daddy’s back and started hitting him. “Don’t you touch him.”
Daddy spun real fast, knocking Mommy into the wall. She fell off his back onto the hallway floor. He turned away from the baby’s doorway. His face was dark, madder than Bree had ever seen him. He lunged toward Mommy, his fingers curling around her arm and yanking her to her feet. Then he dragged her back into their room.
“I have to go. I have to get the baby now.” Bree put the phone down. She could hear the lady talking as she tiptoed into the baby’s room. Red-faced and screaming, her baby brother stood in his crib, his little hands hooked over the top rail.
“Shhh.” Bree picked him up and put him on her hip. “You got to be quiet.”
As she carried him out, she looked into her parents’ room. Daddy held Mommy against the wall with one hand. In the other, he held a gun. Bree froze for a second. Her whole body went cold, and she almost peed her pants.
Then she backed away and ran down the hall as fast as she could. The baby stopped crying as he bounced on her hip. He buried his face in her shoulder and hiccupped. She hurried past the phone on the floor. The lady was calling her name, but Bree didn’t have time to talk to her.
She stopped next to the kitchen table and called Erin. Her sister crawled out from under the table. “Bree?” “Come on,” Bree whispered. “We got to hide.”
“I’m scared,” Erin said.
“I know where to go. It’ll be OK.” Bree grabbed Erin by the arm and pulled her out the kitchen door.
Erin resisted. “Promise?”
Shifting the baby aside, Bree drew a tiny X in the middle of her own chest. “Cross my heart.” She turned toward the door again. This time Erin didn’t resist.
It was dark in the backyard, and the porch was icy under bare feet. The wind blew right through her pajamas. But she kept going, down the steps and around to the loose board under the porch. She pulled it back and held it while Erin wiggled through the hole. Then she pushed the baby into the darkness and crawled in after him. Bree pulled the board back into place. She’d hidden here before plenty of times when Mommy and Daddy were fighting.
Under the porch, they were out of the wind, but it was still cold.
Bree looked between the boards at the dark yard. In the shadow of the barn, Daddy’s dogs barked from the kennel. The lady had said the police were coming. The wind came through the
spaces between the boards. Bree couldn’t hear Mommy and Daddy fighting anymore. What is Daddy doing?
“I’m cold.” Erin’s teeth chattered.
Bree pulled her sister closer and shushed her. The baby shivered in her arms and whimpered. His face scrunched up, like he was gettin’ ready to cry. If he did, Daddy might hear. He might find them. Bree wrapped her arms around his little body and rocked him. “Shhh.”
A door slammed, and Bree jumped. Heavy boots stomped overhead. She couldn’t tell if the footsteps were inside the house or on the back porch. Had the police come? Maybe it was gonna be OK. Just like the lady said.
A gunshot blasted. Bree jumped.
Her hands tightened on the baby, and he began to cry. Another door slammed. Bree wanted to run to the sound, but she was too afraid. She heard more footsteps, more yelling, then another gunshot.
Bree closed her eyes.
Even without seeing what happened, she knew that nothing would ever be OK again.
About the Author
#1 Amazon Charts and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author Melinda Leigh is a fully recovered banker. After joining Romance Writers of America, she decided writing was more fun than analyzing financial statements. Melinda’s debut novel, She Can Run, was nominated for Best First Novel by the International Thriller Writers. She’s also garnered Golden Leaf and Silver Falchion Awards, along with two nominations for a RITA and three Daphne du Maurier Awards.
Her other novels include She Can Tell, She Can Scream, She Can Hide, She Can Kill, Midnight Exposure, Midnight Sacrifice, Midnight Betrayal, Midnight Obsession, Hour of Need, Minutes to Kill, Seconds to Live, Say You’re Sorry, Her Last Goodbye, Bones Don’t Lie, What I’ve Done, Secrets Never Die and Save Your Breath. She holds a second-degree black belt in Kenpo karate, has taught women’s self defense, and lives in a messy house with her family and a small herd of rescue pets. For more information, visit www.melindaleigh.com.
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