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Authors: Maggie Shayne

Darker Than Midnight

BOOK: Darker Than Midnight
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MICHAEL “RIVER” CORBETT—Confined in the state mental hospital and heavily drugged since the death of his wife, River cannot remember what truly happened the night he was arrested for her murder. But now someone is trying to kill him, and he is forced to run for his life. A fugitive from the law and from someone who wants him dead, all he wants is the truth.

CASSANDRA “JAX” JACKSON—The uncompromising police lieutenant knows she's putting her career on the line when she encounters this desperate stranger and doesn't turn him in. Something in River's eyes has Jax convinced he's worth saving…whether he wants it or not.

DAWN JONES—The daughter of a madman, Jax's young friend is haunted by voices she doesn't want to hear. But she can no longer ignore the curse she inherited from her twisted father—because unless she listens to what the dead are telling her, Jax might be doomed to join them.

Originally published in 2005.

Mordecai Young Series:

Thicker Than Water (Book 1)

Colder Than Ice (Book 2)

Darker Than Midnight (Book 3)

Praise for the novels of
USA TODAY
bestselling author
M
AGGIE
S
HAYNE

“A tasty, tension-packed read.”

—
Publishers Weekly
on
Thicker Than Water

“Maggie Shayne demonstrates an absolutely superb touch, blending fantasy and romance into an outstanding reading experience.”

—
Romantic Times
on
Embrace the Twilight

“Maggie Shayne is better than chocolate. She satisfies every wicked craving.”

—Bestselling author Suzanne Forster

“Maggie Shayne delivers sheer delight, and fans new and old of her vampire series can rejoice.”

—
Romantic Times
on
Twilight Hunger

“Shayne's haunting tale is intricately woven…. A moving mix of high suspense and romance, this haunting Halloween thriller will propel readers to bolt their doors at night!”

—
Publishers Weekly
on
The Gingerbread Man

“Shayne's talent knows no bounds!”

—
Rendezvous

“Maggie Shayne delivers romance with sweeping intensity and bewitching passion.”

—Bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz

“Shayne's gift has made her one of the preeminent voices in paranormal romance today!”

—
Romantic Times

Also by MAGGIE SHAYNE

THICKER THAN WATER

COLDER THAN ICE

Wings in the Night series

TWILIGHT PHANTASIES

TWILIGHT MEMORIES

TWILIGHT ILLUSIONS

BEYOND TWILIGHT (novella)

BORN IN TWILIGHT

TWILIGHT VOWS (novella)

TWILIGHT HUNGER

RUN FROM TWILIGHT (novella)

EMBRACE THE TWILIGHT

EDGE OF TWILIGHT

BLUE TWILIGHT

PRINCE OF TWILIGHT

Only from MIRA Books

DARKER THAN MIDNIGHT
MAGGIE SHAYNE

This book is dedicated to my mom,
with all my love. All the very best
parts of me come from you.

PROLOGUE

Fourteen Years Ago…

C
assandra Marie Jackson clutched her mother's hand as the man who'd raped and murdered her sister rose to his feet to hear the verdict. Time seemed to stretch, and to slow. She could hear the clock in the back of the courtroom, and it seemed there was an unnaturally long pause between every tick. She closed her eyes and tried to block the past, but it came rushing at her, anyway—the memory of that moment when her life had been turned upside down.

The knock at the door came at ten o'clock. She'd been on the sofa, doing homework. Dad was going over some notes—he had to perform surgery early the next morning, and as always, he spent time double-checking everything. Mom was watching a movie and crocheting. The afghan she was working on was almost done. Purple and white. Cassie remembered it perfectly.

She'd looked up briefly when her mother went to answer the door, then frowned when she saw the policeman on the other side. Before the officer said a word, her mother turned, her face pale. Almost as if she knew. “Ben,” she called. “Ben, come here.”

Dad came in from his study, pausing halfway across the liv
ing room with a file folder in one hand. He took off his reading glasses, tucked them into his shirt pocket and went to the door.

“Dr. Benjamin Jackson?” the officer asked.

“Yes?”

“Do you have a daughter named Carrie?”

Cassie was off the sofa by then. Something clenched in her stomach when she heard her older sister's name, and she automatically looked at the clock on the wall. It was only ten. Carrie's curfew wasn't until eleven. In some warped way that meant nothing could be wrong.

Her mother was clutching her father's hand as he said, “Yes.” But there was something different about his voice that time. It was lifeless, flat.

“I'm very sorry to have to tell you this, Dr. Jackson, Mrs. Jackson, but your daughter…”

Cassie didn't know what else he'd said, but she knew what it meant. Maybe she'd forgotten the words because of what had followed them. Her father dropped the precious notes, white sheets fluttering everywhere, like the feathers of a murdered dove. Her mother screamed; first it was the word “no” over and over again, but then it became a hoarse, choked cry that wasn't a word at all, because there was no word that could express the pain. And with every sound she emitted, it seemed more of her life left her body, until she backed away from the door and dropped gracelessly onto the carpet, empty. Then Cassie's father and the policeman were hovering over her, trying to help her up, to calm her. But there was no calming Mariah Jackson. Not until Dad managed to get a hypodermic from his bag and inject her with something.

Cassie knelt beside her mother on the floor, holding her as tightly as she could, and thinking how wrong it was that she was hugging her weeping mother. She'd never seen her mom like this. Not like this. It was like the end of the world. It was like everything that had ever been was gone.
Torn apart, turned inside out. But she held her mother, because she couldn't think of anything else to do, until, still sobbing, Mariah fell asleep in Cassie's arms, right there on the floor.

Dad had been standing nearby, watching, helpless, and speaking in low tones to the police. There were two of them. Cassie had only seen one at first.

Bending, Dad scooped her mother up and carried her to the sofa.

Cassie had to let her go, but for some reason she couldn't get far from her. She felt as if she might fall into some bottomless pit if she did. Nothing was real, things seemed like a dream—a nightmare. Her sister couldn't be dead. She couldn't be.

And even then she hadn't known the true horror that had visited her family. She thought it must have been a car accident, and wondered which of Carrie's friends had been involved and whether they were hurt, too.

“Will you be all right?” her father asked. “I have to go with the officer….”

To identify the body, Cassie thought, the phrase floating into her mind from countless TV cop shows.

“Officer Crowley can stay with them,” the policeman said. And Cassie looked up to see that the second cop was a woman in uniform, standing just inside the doorway, battling tears. She wasn't very old, Cassie thought. Not more than a few years older than Carrie.

Cassie met her father's eyes, nodded to tell him it was all right for him to go. He hugged her hard. Told her he loved her.

She spent the next hour in a state of shock, mostly staring at Carrie's senior-class picture in its frame on the wall. She kept thinking she should be crying. But she couldn't, because it wasn't real. She still expected Carrie to come walking through the front door, asking what all the fuss was about.
Cassie remembered the lady cop telling her that they would catch the man who did it. She made it a promise, a vow, and there was fire in her eyes when she said it.

It was only in that moment that Cassie realized her sister hadn't died in some senseless car accident. Someone had killed her.

Killed
her.

Somehow, Cassie got through that night. She would always think that lady cop had a lot to do with it. Her promise that they would get the man had given Cassie a focus—a dark, faceless
him
to hate and wish dead. The man who'd killed her sister. A target for her rage. She hoped the cops wouldn't arrest him—surely they would just shoot him instead. How could they not? He'd killed Carrie.

They hadn't, of course. They'd arrested him.

Jeffrey Allen Dunkirk had been their neighbor for more than a year. A seemingly harmless, always friendly, forty-five-year-old divorced father, who used to pay Cassie and Carrie to watch his twin sons from time to time. He only had the boys every other weekend. The cops said he'd spotted Carrie walking home from her best friend's house, three blocks away, and had stopped and offered her a ride. Then he'd driven her to a park five miles out of town, raped her, strangled her and left her lying in a ditch, with her clothes and her purse tossed in beside her broken eighteen-year-old body. There was no question. His semen was inside her. Her hairs and fingerprints were all over his car. He had no alibi.

In the courtroom, the man standing there, waiting for the verdict to be read, was not the man Cassie knew. He was jittery, jerky, fidgety. Throughout the trial he'd alternated between sitting in a zoned-out stupor, and fidgeting as if he were going to jump out of his chair, while occasionally talking to himself in urgent whispers.

All an act designed to support his claim of insanity, be
cause it was the only defense his lawyers could come up with. It made Cassie angry enough to claw out his eyes. And maybe that was good, because the anger took the edge off the grief.

A slip of paper was passed from the jury foreman to the bailiff, to the judge, who unfolded and read it, then handed it back to the bailiff, who carried it back to the juror. And finally, the foreman cleared his throat and read.

“In the case of New York State versus Jeffrey Allen Dunkirk, on the charge of murder in the first degree, we the jury find the defendant…”

Cassie's mom squeezed her hand even tighter. Her father just sat there, as if he'd turned to stone.

“Not guilty by reason of mental defect or impairment.”

There was a collective gasp in the courtroom, followed by noisy murmurs, even as Cassie's mother slumped in her chair. Cassie turned to her father, seeking his strength, his comfort, but he was on his feet, reaching into his suit jacket while the judge banged his gavel and shouted for silence. Cassie watched, paralyzed with shock, as her father's hand emerged again, with a gun. The weapon bucked hard when it exploded in his hand, three times in quick succession, before men were hurling themselves at him. Cassie's chair was knocked over in the rush, and she landed awkwardly on the floor, her eyes searching for her father beneath the pile of bodies on top of him.

She couldn't see him, and her gaze was drawn to the crowd gathered across the aisle. In the midst of that crowd she could see Jeffrey Allen Dunkirk lying on the floor, a thick red puddle forming around him. Someone said, “He's dead!”

Cassie got to her feet and stumbled to her mother, who was standing, sobbing, her entire body quaking. She put her arms around her mom as men hauled her father to his feet. An officer pulled the esteemed surgeon's hands behind his back and snapped handcuffs around his wrists as he said, “Dr. Benja
min Jackson, I'm placing you under arrest.” Then he put a hand on her father's shoulder and said, “I'm sorry,” before continuing on, reciting the familiar Miranda rights.

BOOK: Darker Than Midnight
8.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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