He took her hand in his. His ouch was like a kiss from velvet lips. He nodded to a room off to the left. “Shall we begin?”
Crystal liked the way his eyes softened when he looked at her. She was glad Boss Man had talked her into this. “I believe you have something for me? An envelope?”
Troy’s face blanched in embarrassment. “Forgive me, my dear Angel. I was so captivated I’ve forgotten my manners.” He reached into the front pocket of his tuxedo jacket and handed her a white business envelope. “The paperwork is from our mutual acquaintance. The other is from me.”
Crystal looked inside. As promised, Boss Man had included her original contract, now marked “paid in full.” Behind the papers was a half-inch stack of crisp hundred-dollar bills. She’d count them later but knew it was likely to exceed the amount Boss Man typically credited to her account.
Her now closed-and-paid-in-full account. Crystal felt nearly giddy. She was finally free and wanted to celebrate.
“I don’t suppose you have champagne?”
Troy’s words were pure seduction. “Angel, I have everything you could ever hope for in the next room.” He held out his hand.
She followed him across the marble foyer into the living room. Crystal had seen a room like this only in magazines. The hardwood floor was so polished she could see the reflection of her high-heeled shoes. A fireplace dominated one wall, faced from floor to ceiling in gleaming stainless steel. While Troy poured the champagne, Crystal ran a hand across a cocoa-colored sofa so soft she checked her fingers to see if she’d wiped the leather away.
Troy handed her a glass and clinked his own against it. Crystal liked the elegant sound.
“To an evening neither of us will forget,” Troy offered.
“To meeting remarkable people in the most unusual ways,” Crystal responded. This guy was a charmer. She took a small sip of the champagne and enjoyed the pleasant warmth it traced down her throat.
“Come, my Angel.” Troy sat on a love seat facing a large abstract painting Crystal was sure belonged somewhere people would have to pay to see it. “Tell me all about your life.”
She settled next to him and took another sip of the marvelous champagne. “You seem to know me so well.” Crystal understood the dance. “See if you can tell me who I am.”
Troy placed his champagne flute on the side table. He caressed the side of her face, allowing his fingers to feather through her hair. His eyes held hers as he nodded for her to take another sip. He slid his fingers down, tracing her throat and collarbone. His hand lingered on her left breast and Crystal let his warmth soothe her. He lowered his hand to her lap and she opened her knees slightly.
“Tut-tut,” he whispered. “We’re in no hurry. Enjoy your champagne.”
Crystal took another sip.
“You are a woman of substance,” he said. “Born into a safe and secure station in life. All the finest advantages handed to you.”
Crystal took another drink to stifle her smirk. She wondered what her alcoholic mother and over-the-road truck driver father would think of Troy’s story. But her job was to provide him his fantasy.
“But plush comforts hold no interest for you, do they, Angel?”
She followed his lead. She held his gaze and slowly shook her head. “It’s like you’re reading my soul.”
Troy’s nod was barely perceptible. “You crave the exotic. Maybe even a bit of danger.”
Troy’s voice sounded far away. Crystal blinked her focus clear. “Yes. That’s what I need.”
He took her empty champagne glass and leaned forward. His tongue played with the soft spot at the base of her throat. She leaned her head back against the sofa, hoping to anchor herself against the spinning room. She felt his hand sneak up the inside of her thigh.
“And this, my Angel? Is this what you need as well?”
Crystal blinked hard. He’d asked her something. She couldn’t make it out clearly. But she knew a word every man wanted to hear.
“Yes,” she said. “Yes.”
Crystal felt herself being lifted to her feet. She leaned against him. He smelled so good. She tried to place what that wonderful cologne was but decided it was unnecessary. It’s what money smells like.
She forced her attention to her legs, wanting them to move gracefully as he led her to another room, but they felt oddly disconnected from her body. Troy was there, a steady hand around her waist. He’s such a gentleman. So kind.
This room was smaller than the living room but every bit as lovely. Crystal saw a long narrow table in front of a hanging fabric. That’s a tapestry. Like the one in the museum I took Nyla to. They told her it was a way to tell stories back when people couldn’t read.
Crystal turned toward Troy. She wanted to ask him what story this tapestry told, but she couldn’t move her mouth. Her tongue felt large and dry. She looked past his shoulder and saw the camera pointing her way, its tiny red light winking at her.
Boss Man said this was coming. Hollywood folks can’t . . . they can’t . . . what did Boss Man say Hollywood folks couldn’t do without a camera?
Crystal took a deep breath, but instead of clearing her head, the breath seemed to push her mind even further toward whatever cloud it was chasing.
Angels float on clouds.
She felt herself being lifted, then lowered onto the table. She turned to smile at Troy’s face, so close to hers.
I want him to kiss me.
Her head rolled to the side. A brief surge of adrenaline fired when she saw the array of knives and scalpels laid out on the tray beside her, but it wasn’t enough to make her muscles move. A vision of Nyla singing “Happy Birthday” to her Princess Puppy flashed across her consciousness.
Then there was nothing but terror, and she couldn’t even scream.
Title: Fixed in Blood (A Justice Novel)
Author: T.E. Woods
Genre: Thriller / Suspense
Perfect for fans of Lisa Gardner and Karin Slaughter, the sensational Justice series continues in T. E. Woods’s newest explosive thriller. In this whiplash-paced sequel toThe Unforgivable Fix, a depraved mind taunts those who seek retribution.
Seattle Chief of Detectives Mort Grant is still reeling from losing his daughter — again. Now, Mort investigates the gruesome murder of a beautiful young woman whose death was captured in a snuff film. When a second victim–and film–are discovered, Mort knows he’s not dealing with an ordinary criminal. Mort hunts a twisted menace from a chain of sleazy loan shops to the dark underworld of the sex trade. But he’s not the only one. Once again, The Fixer is on the hunt–and she’s desperate to make things right.
T. E. Woods is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Madison, Wisconsin. Her scientific writings are well represented in peer-reviewed journals and academic texts. Her literary works earned her first place for Fiction at the University of Wisconsin Writers’ Institute. Dr. Woods enjoys kayaking, hiking, biking, and hanging around the house while her two dogs help her make sense of the world. Her habit of relaxing by conjuring up any manner of diabolical murder methods and plots often finds her friends urging her to take up knitting.
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