Lost in Bliss
Nights in Bliss, Colorado - 4
No book of mine gets written without an enormous amount of support. I want to thank my husband, my mom, the best PA a girl could have, Chloe Vale, Jen Kubenka (who often entertains my kiddos), the Righteous Perverts chat group for their unflagging support, and my writer friends—Shayla Black, Kris Cook, Chloe Lang, Jen August, and Heather Rainier. I love you all!
Cameron Briggs felt like he was storming the castle. His heart was beating, adrenaline coursing through his body as he charged through the double doors that separated the FBI offices from the lobby. It had been years since he’d walked through those doors, but he wasn’t allowing anyone to keep him out today.
Luckily, the guard on duty was a small, gray-haired woman who smiled brightly at him as he strode through the double doors.
“Agent Briggs!” Helen Angelo exclaimed, getting to her feet. “It’s been so very long.”
Cam shook his head. “I’m not an agent anymore, Helen. Is Rafe in?”
If Rafe wasn’t in, then Cam would find his ass. The bastard hadn’t answered his phone, and Cam had left three messages. The printout in his hand nearly burned his skin. Five years. He’d looked for her for five years.
Helen frowned, and Cam felt the weight of her disapproval. “Yes, I did hear that you had left the Bureau. I do not think it was a good career move for you.”
He hadn’t given dick about his career when he’d left the Bureau.
There had been nothing for him here after what had happened to Laura. A vision of Laura Rosen leapt into his mind. Blonde, gorgeous, with a soft body and a softer heart. The vision didn’t really have to leap all that far. It was always there. Every time he closed his eyes he saw her, smiling and looking down at him, her blonde hair around her shoulders as she rode his cock.
And every time he went to sleep he saw her another way—
battered, beaten, and stabbed, being shoved into an ambulance.
“Where’s Rafe?” Cam didn’t have time to argue. This was the best lead he’d had in five fucking years. He wanted to follow it now.
He would already be on a plane if he hadn’t made that damn promise to Rafe Kincaid.
“He’s in a meeting. A very important meeting with the chief and a task force. He and his partner are giving a briefing.” Yeah, yeah . They were all important. Everything was important to the goddamn FBI except the agents who didn’t perfectly toe the line.
They could go to hell.
Or they could go to Bliss. What a fucking name. How on earth had his cosmopolitan Laura ended up in some podunk Colorado town? Cam doubted she’d ever been out of the city.
Cam gave Helen a little wave. “Thanks. I’ll take it from here.” Cam took off. He heard Helen yelling behind him, but he wasn’t about to sit in the waiting room for the briefing to be over. He wasn’t Rafe’s lapdog, as so many had claimed. Sure, he’d taken money from Rafe over the years, but only because they had a single goal in mind.
A goal Cam had accomplished.
Cam opened the door to the briefing room, but was startled to find absolutely no one there. It was empty and silent, though Cam remembered a time when he’d stood in the room and listened for quiet words.
You don’t believe me. How could you stand there and tell them all I’m wrong? How could you advise the chief to take me off the biggest case of my career?
Cam shut the door. There were only ghosts in there. There were ghosts everywhere in this building. If they weren’t in the briefing room, then they were in the auditorium.
Maybe Helen was right. Maybe this meeting was important.
Cam slipped into the small auditorium where large-scale briefings were held. The lights were dimmed, and the only illumination came from the projector. No fun movies for the FBI. Only horror shows, and this was no different. Cam was immediately assaulted by the picture projected on the wall. A woman, young, but no longer vital.
Her glassy eyes stared out of the picture, utterly unseeing. Her flesh was a pale white, the only bit of color a shiny mauve-colored lipstick painted on her lips.
She was naked, her hands tied over her head. The victim’s wrists had been bound so tightly that her hands were almost blue. She would have lost feeling in them long before she died. Her pale flesh was a map of cuts, some shallow, some terrifyingly deep. The killer liked to start with small stabbing wounds to the lower abdomen, painful, but not fatal. Long strips of flesh had been lashed from the victim’s breasts and thighs. This woman’s death hadn’t been quick. It had been a long, slow opera of torture ending in her throat being slit like a lamb led to slaughter. He had seen it before. Cam let his eyes drift down as his stomach did a flip.
The Marquis de Sade.
Yeah, this was an important meeting.
“The victim was discovered just outside the warehouse district on Tuesday morning. Her name is Christine Parker. She was a prostitute working the area.”
Cam shrank back, all thoughts of breaking up this meeting gone in a tidal wave of fear and self-loathing. De Sade had been gone for five years. He’d been utterly silent, like a shark who feasted in the shallows of the beach before sinking back into the deep. He was surfacing again. Cam had always known he would. De Sade loved his work too much to stop. Cam knew Rafe had been watching for him, too. They had theorized that he was in prison, or he’d moved to another city after his close call with the law. Five years had sped by with not a hint of the serial killer.
How was this happening again? How the hell was this happening just when he’d found Laura, the only victim of the infamous serial killer to have ever gotten away?
A tall, broad figure stood by the projector, his solid body almost ghostly in the shadowy light. Cam’s former partner had been a little like a ghost these last few years. Cam had seen him rarely and only to update Rafe on the progress he’d made in finding Laura. Rafe had become a bank account Cam tapped into when he needed money to follow a lead. There was a man standing beside Rafe. Cam couldn’t see his face, but he knew the name. Brad Conrad. Ex-college football star and all-around asshole in Cam’s book. It was kind of hard to believe, but in another year’s time, Brad would be Rafe’s partner for longer than Cam had been.
Rafe Kincaid’s deep voice continued. It was far steadier than Cam’s heart rate, and, for a moment, jealousy and rage curled in Cam’s belly. Rafe had never loved Laura the way Cam did. How could he, if he could stand there and talk about the man who had almost killed her the same way a college professor talked about a Shakespearean sonnet?
“As with all previous victims, this one was found with lipstick on her. Forensics has already verified that it’s the same as the others.
Purple Passion. Also, according to forensics, the victim had been killed at least twelve hours before. Blood spatter indicates she was killed where her body was found.”
That was the pattern. The lipstick. The victim was a prostitute.
She’d been tortured before she was killed. Everything fit the pattern.
Cam just didn’t want to believe it. “He’s been quiet for years. Why has he started working again?”
At least twenty-five heads turned.
Rafe put a hand over his eyes as though trying to see across the distance. “Cam?”
Even in the low light of the auditorium, Cam could see Brad puffing up. “Briggs, this is a closed session. We don’t need low-level PIs here. If you need information on something, please go and ask the secretary.”
Rafe turned briefly and exchanged words Cam couldn’t hear.
Before Rafe could turn back, the lights came on. There was an almost relieved sigh that swept through the room. The picture on screen seemed to recede a little, no longer the main focus of the world.
“Cameron Briggs, you son of a bitch!” Cam turned and couldn’t help a little smile. Joseph Stone, his former Bureau chief, took the stairs two at a time, his familiar face lit with a smile. He’d aged very little since the last time Cam had seen him. Joseph was a big, athletic guy. As long as Cam had known him, he’d been bald, but even that made him seem a bit powerful. Joseph was the type of man other men followed.
“Special Agent Stone.” Cam took his hand and shook it. Joe had always been a good boss. He was Harvard educated and highly connected, but he’d always known how to make Cam feel welcome.
Joe pumped his hand twice and slapped Cam gently on the back.
“No need for formalities any more, Cam. Did Rafe call you? I have all the paperwork set up to bring you in as a contractor. We need everyone we can on this. It’s going to take everything we have to catch this one. I don’t have anyone on the team with your computer skills.”
Cam looked to his former partner who had his head down, one foot tapping against the floor. Guilty as sin.
“No, he didn’t call me.” Betrayal burned through Cam.
Apparently, despite their oaths to one another, his former partner didn’t think it was important enough to call and tell him that the man they had hunted for years had resurfaced. “I was here on another matter, but I can see plainly that Special Agent Kincaid is very, very busy. I won’t interrupt him. Call me sometime, Joe. We can have a beer.”
Joe’s brows came together in a V . “What are you saying? You do understand what we’re talking about here? This is the Marquis de Sade’s work. There’s no denying it.”