Shiver, p.1
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       Shiver, p.1

           Lisa Jackson
 
Shiver


  SHIVER

  Books by Lisa Jackson

  See How She Dies

  Final Scream

  Wishes

  Whispers

  Twice Kissed

  Unspoken

  If She Only Knew

  Hot Blooded

  Cold Blooded

  The Night Before

  The Morning After

  Deep Freeze

  Fatal Burn

  Shiver

  Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation

  LISA

  JACKSON

  SHIVER

  KENSINGTON BOOKS

  http://www.kensingtonbooks.com

  For Jack and Betty Pederson,

  incredible parents, great friends,

  and people who believed I could do anything.

  Thanks Mom and Dad!

  Acknowledgments

  There were many people involved in getting this book to print, all of whom were intregral. I want to thank my editor, John Scognamiglio for his insight, vision, input, support, and ultimate patience. Man, did he work hard on this one. As did my sister, Nancy Bush, who was not only my cheerleader and personal editor, she picked up the other balls of my life and juggled them effectively, never once losing her cool. Thanks, Nan.

  Also, I have to thank my incredible agent, Robin Rue, and everyone at Kensington Books, especially Laurie Parkin, who also worked very hard on this one.

  In addition, I would like to mention all the people here who helped me: Ken Bush, Kelly Bush, Matthew Crose, Michael Crose, Alexis Harrington, Danielle Katcher, Marilyn Katcher, Ken Melum, Roz Noonan, Kathy Okano, Samantha Santistevan, Mike Sidel, and Larry Sparks.

  If I’ve forgotten anyone, my apologies. You’ve all been wonderful.

  Author’s Note

  For the purposes of the story, I’ve bent some of the rules of police procedure and have also created my own fictitious police department.

  This book was written pre-Hurricane Katrina, before the incredible city of New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast were decimated by the storm. I hope I’ve captured the unique essence of New Orleans, what it once was and what it will be again.

  Contents

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  AUTHOR’S NOTE

  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

  CHAPTER 21

  CHAPTER 22

  CHAPTER 23

  CHAPTER 24

  CHAPTER 25

  CHAPTER 26

  CHAPTER 27

  CHAPTER 28

  CHAPTER 29

  EPILOGUE

  PROLOGUE

  Twenty years earlier

  Our Lady of Virtues Hospital

  Near New Orleans, Louisiana

  She felt his breath.

  Warm.

  Seductive.

  Erotically evil.

  A presence that caused the hairs on the back of her neck to lift, her skin to prickle, sweat to collect upon her spine.

  Her heart thumped, and barely able to move, standing in the darkness, she searched the shadowed corners of her room frantically. Through the open window she heard the reverberating songs of the frogs in the nearby swamps and the rumble of a train upon faraway tracks.

  But here, now, he was with her.

  Go away, she tried to say, but held her tongue, hoping beyond hope that he wouldn’t notice her standing near the window. On the other side of the panes, security lamps illuminated the grounds with pale, bluish light, and she realized belatedly that her body, shrouded only by a sheer nightgown, was silhouetted in their eerie glow.

  Of course he could see her, find her in the darkness.

  He always did.

  Throat dry, she stepped backward, placing a hand on the window casing to steady herself. Maybe she had just imagined his presence. Maybe she hadn’t heard the door open after all. Maybe she’d jumped up from a drug-induced sleep too quickly. After all, it wasn’t late, only eight in the evening.

  Maybe she was safe in this room, her room, on the third floor.

  Maybe.

  She was reaching for the bedside light when she heard the soft scrape of leather against hardwood.

  Her throat closed on a silent scream.

  Having adjusted to the half-light, her eyes took in the bed with its mussed sheets, evidence of her fitful rest. Upon the dressing table was the lamp and a bifold picture frame; one that held small portraits of her two daughters. Across the small room was a fireplace. She could see its decorative tile and cold grate and, above the mantle, a bare spot, faded now where a mirror had once hung.

  So where was he? She glanced to the tall windows. Beyond, the October night was hot and sultry. In the panes she could see her wan reflection: petite, small-boned frame; sad gold eyes; high cheekbones; lustrous auburn hair pulled away from her face. And behind her…was that a shadow creeping near?

  Or her imagination?

  That was the trouble. Sometimes he hid.

  But he was always nearby. Always. She could feel him, hear his soft, determined footsteps in the hallway, smell his scent—a mixture of male musk and sweat—catch a glimpse of a quick, darting shadow as he passed.

  There was no getting away from him. Ever. Not even in the dead of night. He received great satisfaction in surprising her, sneaking up on her while she was sitting at her desk, leaning down behind her when she was kneeling at her bedside. He was always ready to press his face to the back of her neck, to reach around her and touch her breasts, arousing her though she loathed him, pulling her tightly against him so that she could feel his erection against her back. She wasn’t safe when she was under the thin spray of the shower, nor while sleeping beneath the covers of her small bed.

  How ironic that they had placed her here…for her own safety.

  “Go away,” she whispered, her head pounding, her thoughts disjointed. “Leave me alone!”

  She blinked and tried to focus.

  Where was he?

  Nervously she trained her eyes on the one hiding place, the closet. She licked her lips. The wooden door was ajar, just slightly, enough that anyone inside could peer through the crack.

  From the small sliver of darkness within the closet, something seemed to glimmer. A reflection. Eyes?

  Oh, God.

  Maybe he was inside. Waiting.

  Gooseflesh broke out on her skin. She should call out to someone, but if she did, she would be restrained, medicated…or worse. Stop it, Faith. Don’t get paranoid! But the glittering eyes in the closet watched her. She felt them. Wrapping one arm around her middle, the other folded over it, she scraped her nails on the skin of her elbow.

  Scratch, scratch, scratch.

  But maybe this was all a bad dream. A nightmare. Wasn’t that what the sisters had assured her in their soft whispers as they gently patted her hands and stared at her with compassionate, disbelieving eyes? An ugly dream. Yes! A nightmare of vast, intense proportions. Even the nurse had agreed with the nuns, telling her that what she’d thought she’d seen wasn’t real. And the doctor, cold, clinical, with the bedside manner of a stone monkey, had talked to her as if she were a small, stupid child.

  “There, there, Faith, no one is following you,” he’d said, wearing a thin, patronizing smile. “No one is watching you. You know that. You’re…you’re just confused. You’re
safe here. Remember, this is your home now.”

  Tears burned her eyes and she scratched more anxiously, her short fingernails running over the smooth skin of her forearm, encountering scabs. Home? This monstrous place? She closed her eyes, grabbed the headboard of the bed to steady herself.

  Was she really as sick as they said? Did she really see people who weren’t there? That’s what they’d told her, time and time again, to the point that she was no longer certain what was real and what was not. Maybe that was the plot against her, to make her believe she was as crazy as they insisted she was.

  She heard a footstep and looked up quickly.

  The hairs on the backs of her arms rose.

  She began to shake as she saw the door crack open a bit more.

  “Sweet Jesus.” Trembling, she backed up, her gaze fixed on the closet, her fingers scraping her forearm like mad. The door creaked open in slow motion. “Go away!” she whispered, her stomach knotting as full-blown terror took root.

  A weapon! You need a weapon!

  Anxiously, she looked around the near-dark room with its bed bolted to the floor.

  Get your letter opener! Now!

  She took one step toward the desk before she remembered that Sister Madeline had taken the letter opener away from her.

  The lamp on the night table!

  But it, too, was screwed down.

  She pressed the switch.

  Click.

  No great wash of light. Frantically, she hit the switch again. Over and over.

  Click! Click! Click! Click!

  She looked up and saw him then. A tall man, looming in front of the door to the hallway. It was too dark to see his features but she knew his wicked smile was in place, his eyes glinting with an evil need.

  He was Satan Incarnate. And there was no way to escape from him. There never was.

  “Please don’t,” she begged, her voice sounding pathetic and weak as she backed up, her legs quivering.

  “Please don’t what?”

  Don’t touch me…don’t place your fingers anywhere on my body…don’t tell me I’m beautiful…don’t kiss me…

  “Leave now,” she insisted. Dear God, was there no weapon, nothing to stop him?

  “Leave now or what?”

  “Or I’ll scream and call the guards.”

  “The guards,” he repeated in that low, amused, nearly hypnotic voice. “Here?” He clucked his tongue as if she were a disobedient child. “You’ve tried that before.”

  She knew for certain that her plight was futile. She would submit to him again.

  As she always did.

  “Did the guards believe you the last time?”

  Of course they hadn’t. Why would they? The two scrawny, pimply-faced boys hadn’t hidden the fact they considered her mad. At least that’s what they’d insinuated, though they’d used fancier words…delusional…paranoid…schizophrenic…

  Or had they said anything at all? Maybe not. Maybe they’d just stared at her with their pitying, yet hungry, eyes. Hadn’t one of them told her she was sexy? The other one cupping one cheek of her buttocks…or…or had that all been a horrid, vivid nightmare?

  Scratch, scratch, scratch. She felt her nails break the skin.

  Humiliation washed over her. She inched backward, away from her tormentor. What was happening to her was her own fault. She’d sinned somehow, brought this upon herself. She was the one who was evil. She had instigated God’s wrath. She alone could atone. “Go away,” she whispered again, clawing more frantically at her arm.

  “Faith, don’t,” he warned, his voice horrifyingly soothing. “Mutilating yourself won’t change anything. I’m here to help you. You know that.”

  Help her? No…no, no, no!

  She wanted to crumble onto the floor, to shed her guilt, to get away from the itching.

  Fight! an inner voice ordered her. Don’t let him force you into doing things that you know are wrong! You have will. You can’t let him do this to you.

  But it was already too late.

  Close to her now, he clucked his tongue again and she saw its pointy, wet, pink tip flicking against the back of his teeth.

  In a rough whisper, he said, “Uh-oh, Faith, I think you’ve been a naughty girl again.”

  “No.” She was whimpering. There it was…that horrid bit of excitement building inside her.

  “Oh, Faith, don’t you know it’s a sin to lie?”

  She glanced to the wall where the crucifix of Jesus was nailed into the plaster. Did it move? Blinking, she imagined Jesus staring at her, his eyes kind but silently reprimanding in the semidarkness.

  No, Faith. That can’t be. Get a grip, for God’s sake.

  It’s a painted image, that’s all.

  Breathing rapidly, she dragged her gaze from Christ’s tortured face to the fireplace…cold now, devoid of both ashes and the mirror above it, now an empty space, the outline visible against the rosebud wallpaper. They said she broke the mirror in a fit of rage, that she’d cut herself. That her own image had caused her to panic.

  But he’d done it, hadn’t he? This devil whose sole intent was to torture her? Hadn’t she witnessed the act? She’d tried to refuse him, and he’d crashed his fist into the looking glass. Mirrored shards sprayed, hitting her, then crashed to the floor like glittery, deadly knives.

  That’s what had happened.

  Right?

  Or not? Now, feeling the blood beneath her nails, she wondered.

  What’s happening to me?

  She stared at her bloodied hands. Her fingernails, once manicured and polished, were broken, her palms scratched, and farther up, upon her wrists, healed deep gashes. Had she done that to herself? In her mind’s eye she saw her hands wrapped around a shard of glass and the blood dripping from her fingers…

  Because you were going to kill him…trying to protect yourself!

  She closed her eyes and let out a long, mewling cry. It was true. She didn’t know what to believe any longer. Truth and lies blended, fact and fiction fused, her life, once so ordinary, so predictable, was fragmented. Frayed. At her own hands.

  She edged backward, closer to the window, farther from him, from temptation, from sin.

  Where was her husband…and her children, what had happened to her girls?

  Terror burrowed deep into her soul. Confused and panic-stricken, she blinked rapidly, trying to think. They were safe. They had to be.

  Concentrate, Faith. Get hold of yourself! Zoey and Abby are with Jacques. They’re visiting tonight, remember? It’s your birthday.

  Or was that wrong? Was everything a lie? A macabre figment of her imagination?

  She took another step backward.

  “You’re confused, Faith, but I can help you,” he said quietly, as if nothing had happened between them, as if everything she’d conjured was her imagination, as if he’d never touched her.

  Dear Lord, how mad was she?

  She spun quickly, her toe catching on the edge of a rug. Pitching forward, she again caught her reflection in the window and this time she saw him rushing forward, felt his hands upon her.

  “No!” she cried, falling.

  Glass cracked.

  Blew apart as her shoulder hit the pane.

  The window broke, shattering. Giving way.

  With a great twisting metal groan, the wrought-iron grate wrenched free of its bolts.

  She screamed and flailed at the air, trying to reach the windowsill, the filigreed barricade that hung from one screw, the bricks, anything! But it was too late. Her body hurtled through the broken panes, pieces of glass and wood clawing at her arms, ripping her nightgown, slicing her bare legs.

  In a split second, she knew that it was over. She would feel no more pain.

  Closing her eyes, Faith Chastain pitched into the blackness of the hot Louisiana night.

  CHAPTER 1

  Twenty years later

  Cambrai, Louisiana

  “I just wanted to call and say ‘Happy birthday,
” her sister said, leaving a message on the answering machine.

  Abby stood in the middle of her small kitchen. Listening, she debated about picking up the phone, but decided against it. She just wasn’t in the mood. She had spent most of the day at her studio in New Orleans, dealing with kids who had their own ideas about what a Christmas portrait should be. What she needed was a glass of wine. Maybe two. Not her sister’s long-winded birthday message.

  “So…give me a call back when you get in. It’s still early here on the West Coast, you know. I, uh, I’d like to talk to you, Abby. Thirty-five years is a major milestone.”

  In more ways than one, Abby thought as she reached into her refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of Chardonnay she’d bought nearly a month earlier when she’d thought her friend Alicia was coming to Louisiana for a visit.

  “Okay…so…when you get this, I mean, assuming you’re not listening to it right now and still refusing to talk to me, give me a call, okay?” Zoey waited a beat. “It’s been a long time, Abby. It’s time to bury the hatchet.”

  Abby wasn’t so sure. She turned on the faucet and heard the old pipes groan as she rinsed a wineglass that had been gathering dust in her cupboard for the past two years.

  “You know, Abby, this isn’t just about you,” Zoey reminded her through the answering machine’s tiny speaker.

  Of course not. It’s about you.

  “It’s a tough day for me, as well. She was my mother, too.”

  Abby set her jaw, reconsidered picking up the receiver, and once again determined not to. Talking to Zoey today would be a mistake. She could feel it in her bones. Digging in a drawer, she found a corkscrew she’d owned since college and began opening the bottle.

 
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