The woman everyone loves to hate is dead.
Dallas socialite, Cynthia Langhorne, is infamous for her beauty, her philanthropy and her home wrecking—until she’s found shot through the heart and posed nude at a fundraising ball. The case is high profile, and there’s a bigger problem: Cindy is the wife of a decorated FBI special agent- the prime suspect in her murder.
When the Bureau sends FBI profiler Atticus Spenser and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Caitlin Cassidy to Texas on behalf of Dutch Langhorne, the special agent-turned suspect, they’re suspicious of the very man they’re supposed to protect. But with a psycho hit man on their heels and a trail of evidence leading up the food chain, it quickly becomes clear this is no ordinary case. The truth points to someone—or something—larger than Spenser and Cassidy ever thought possible. Solving this case is no longer a matter of clearing Dutch’s name—it’s a matter of national security.
Sunday, October 13
When heading for a secret rendezvous with her lover, it simply wouldn’t do to appear to be sneaking off. So it was with a proud, unflinching spine, that Cynthia Beasley Langhorne ascended the grand staircase at the Worthington Mansion—one of Dallas’s most celebrated historic landmarks.
Golden light from opulent chandeliers flooded the plush, red carpet runner on the steps, giving her the eerie feeling she was wading into a river of blood. To keep from tripping, she lifted her Stella McCartney gown above her ankles. Its blue silk-chiffon swooshed, whispering secrets against her skin and tickling her bare legs. The mingled scents of money, power and perfume floated up from the ballroom, along with the strains of Mozart and crashing cymbals. To those looking on with interest, and there were plenty of gawking eyes fixed on her, she supposed she appeared to be gliding with ease. But in truth, the crushing weight of her charmed life made each demure step as tortuous as a death march.
Bracing herself with a deep breath, she cast a glance over her shoulder at her handsome, unreachable husband, who was posted in the middle of the marble foyer below. She kept her head turned long enough to catch Dutch’s eye, allowing a few paparazzi to capture her impenetrable smile. Mona Lisa had nothing on her. No one would ever guess her thoughts or her true purpose—at least so far, no one ever had. And that was her curse in life. Blessed with wealth and notoriety, her heart would remain forever unseen, her diary her only confidante.
In spite of her determination, her steps slowed involuntarily, giving Dutch every chance to stop her. If he had so much as raised an eyebrow at her, she might’ve turned back and run straight for his arms. But of course he didn’t, and his indifference bolstered her faltering courage. She tossed her head, knowing the effect of her silky, auburn hair swinging across her bare shoulders would be dazzling. The music lulled, as if paying its respects like a gentleman rising to his feet when a lady exits the room. A flurry of flashing lights was accompanied by the electric sound of cameras clicking.
When her husband had asked her where she was going, she’d answered truthfully, “I’m meeting Matthew Cambridge, darling. I promise I won’t be long.”
Dutch’s eyes glinted dangerously—but only for a moment. Then he sent her an insouciant smile. “Tell Matt that I’m the one who brought you to this god-awful-boring fund-raiser, and I’d like to dance with my wife at some point, let’s say before midnight.”
“Before midnight it is,” she’d promised.
Then he’d taken her hand, and she’d willed him not to let it go—not to let her go. But let her go he did. Now a resigned sigh escaped her lips because it was too late for regrets. Her husband was married to his work. His passion was reserved for the FBI, and there was nothing to be done about that. Though she would give her own life to protect the damnable fool, the separate paths she and Dutch had chosen were paved with the cold stone of one irrefutable truth.
He doesn’t love me.
As her brown eyes locked with his frosty blue ones, she raised her chin and blinked away the moisture that blurred her vision. When her chest tightened, she commanded her body to relax, then raised her hand to her lips and blew him a kiss. She turned her back fully, then continued her march—not because she didn’t love her husband, but because she did.
And because if she didn’t go through with this, the only thing that mattered would be destroyed.
Up the stairs, down the hall, and behind a closed bedroom door, she shed her clothing. She folded her silks, laying them neatly on a side chair, then hung her delicate gown in the closet. A chill seeped down to her bones, and a shiver swept over her. Without her garments, she felt as vulnerable as a soldier going into battle without armor.
But she had no choice.
The cost of defeat would be unbearably high.
Naked now, she arranged herself seductively on the bed, pressing her hand on her stomach to suppress the wave of anticipatory nausea. Pretending she was somewhere else, she closed her eyes. A creak of floorboards signaled her paramour’s approach. The door whooshed open. She steeled her resolve and forced her eyelids up.
But what she saw, there, in the doorway, turned her blood to ice and froze a scream, forever, in her throat.