Amaryllis Coltraine may have recently transferred to the New York City police force from Atlanta, but she’s been a cop long enough to know how to defend herself against an assailant. When she’s taken down just steps away from her apartment, killed with her own weapon, for Eve the victim isn’t just “one of us.” Dallas’s friend Chief Medical Examiner Morris had started a serious relationship with Coltraine, and from all accounts the two were headed for a happy future together. But someone has put an end to all that. After breaking the news to Morris, Eve starts questioning everyone, including Coltraine’s squad, informants, and neighbors, while Eve’s husband, Roarke, digs into computer data on the dead woman’s life back in Atlanta. To their shock, they discover a connection between this case and their own painful, shadowy pasts. The truth will need to be uncovered one layer at a time, starting with the box that arrives at Cop Central addressed to Eve, containing Coltraine’s guns, badge, and a note from her killer: “You can have them back. Maybe someday soon, I’ll be sending yours to somebody else.” But Eve Dallas doesn’t take too kindly to personal threats, and she is going to break this case, whatever it takes. And that’s a promise.
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Nora Roberts is the number-one New York Times-bestselling author of more than 150 novels, including High Noon, Angels Fall, Blue Smoke, and Northern Lights. She is also the author of the bestselling futuristic suspense series written under the pen name J. D. Robb. There are more than 280 million copies of her books in print.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Table of Contents
Titles By J. D. ROBB
Naked in Death
Glory in Death
Immortal in Death
Rapture in Death
Ceremony in Death
Vengeance in Death
Holiday in Death
Conspiracy in Death
Loyalty in Death
Witness in Death
Judgment in Death
Betrayal in Death
Seduction in Death
Reunion in Death
Purity in Death
Portrait in Death
Imitation in Death
Divided in Death
Visions in Death
Survivor in Death
Origin in Death
Memory in Death
Born in Death
Innocent in Death
Creation in Death
Strangers in Death
Salvation in Death
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Robb J. D., date.
Promises in death / J. D. Robb.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Love itself draws on a woman nearly all the bad luck in the world.
SHE WAS DEAD THE MINUTE SHE ANSWERED THE ’LINK. SHE didn’t question the caller or the urgency of the request. In fact, pleasure and excitement rushed through her as she put aside her plans for an early night. Her movements both graceful and efficient, she dressed quickly, gathering what she needed.
She strode through her pretty apartment, ordering the lights to dim, and remembered to switch to sleep the little droid kitten her lover had given her as a companion.
She’d named it Sachmo.
It mewed, blinked its bright green eyes and curled into a ball. She gave its sleek white fur an affectionate stroke.
“Be back soon,” she murmured, making a promise she couldn’t know would be broken.
She glanced around the apartment as she opened the door, smiled at the bouquet of red roses in full and dramatic bloom on the table near the street window. And thought of Li.
She locked her door for the last time.
Following ingrained habit, she took the stairs. She was a slim, athletically built woman with eyes of deep blue. Her blond hair swung past her shoulders, a parted curtain for a lovely face. She was thirty-three, happy in her life, flirting around the soft edges of love with a man who gave her kittens and roses.
She thought of New York, this life, this man as a new chapter, one she was content to walk through, page by page, and discover.
She tucked that away to turn her mind to where she needed to go, what she needed to do. Less than ten minutes after the call, she jogged down the second flight of steps, turned for the next.
She had an instant to register the movement when her killer stepped out. Another for surprise when she recognized the face. But not enough, not quite enough to speak before the stunner struck her mid-body and took her down.
She came to with a shocking jolt, a burn of skin and blood. A rush from dark to light. The stunner blast had left her body numb, useless, even as her mind flashed clear. Inside the paralyzed shell, she struggled, she strained. She looked up into the eyes of her killer. Into the eyes of a friend.
“Why?” The question was weak, but had to be asked. There had to be an answer. There was always an answer.
She had the answer when she died, in the basement five floors below her pretty apartment where roses bloomed red and a kitten purred in sleep.
EVE STEPPED OUT OF THE SHOWER AND INTO the drying tube. While the warm air swirled around her, she shut her eyes and wallowed. She’d snagged a solid eight hours’ sleep and had woken early enough to indulge in what she thought of as water therapy.
Thirty laps in the pool, a spin in the whirlpool, followed by a twenty-minute hot shower. It made a hell of a nice way to start the day.
She’d had a productive one the day before, closing a case within two hours. If a guy was going to kill his best friend and try to pass it off as a mugging, he really shouldn’t get caught wearing the dead friend’s inscribed wrist unit.
She’d testified in court on a previous case, and the defense counsel’s posturing, posing, and pontificating hadn’t so much as cracked a hairline in her testimony.
Topping off the day, she’d had dinner at home with her husband, watched a vid. And had some very excellent sex before shutting down for that eight straight.
Life, at the moment, absolutely did not suck.
All but humming, she grabbed the robe on the back of the door—then paused, frowned, and studied it. It was short and silky and the color of black cherries.
She was dead certain she’d never seen it before.
With a shrug, she put it on, and walked into the bedroom.
There were ways for a good morning to get better, she thought, and here was top of the list. Roarke sipping coffee in the sitting area while he scanned the morning stock reports on-screen.
There were those hands that had worked their magic the night before, one holding a coffee mug, the other absently stroking their fat slug of a cat. Galahad’s dual-colored eyes were slits of ecstasy—she could relate.
That beautifully sculpted mouth had turned her system inside out, twisted it into knots of screaming pleasure, then left it limp and satisfied.
Just shy of two years of marriage now, she mused, and the heat between them showed no signs of banking down. As if to prove it, her heart gave a leap and tumble in her chest when he turned his head, and his bold blue eyes met hers.
Did he feel that? she wondered. Could he possibly feel that every time? All the time?
He smiled, so both knowledge and pleasure spread over a face, she thought foolishly, must make the gods weep with joy over their work.
He rose, moved to her—all long and lean—to take her face in his hands. Just a flutter of those clever fingers over her skin before his mouth found hers and made a better morning brilliant.
“Coffee?” he asked.
“Yeah. Thanks.” She was a veteran cop, a homicide boss, a tough bitch by her own definition. And her knees were jelly. “I think we should take a few days.” He programmed the AutoChef for coffee and—if she knew her man—for the breakfast he intended her to eat. “I mean maybe in July. Like for our anniversary. If you can work it in between world domination and planetary acquisitions.”
“Funny you should bring it up.” He set her coffee on the table, then two plates. It seemed bacon and eggs was on the menu this morning. On the sofa Galahad twitched and opened his eyes.
Roarke merely pointed a finger, said, firmly, “No.” And the cat flopped the pudge of himself over. “I was thinking a few weeks.”
“What? Us? Away? Weeks? I can’t—”
“Yes, yes, crime would overtake the city in July 2060, raze it to smoldering ash if Lieutenant Dallas wasn’t here to serve and protect.” Ireland wove misty magic through his voice as he picked up the inert cat and set him on the floor to make room on the couch for Eve.
“Maybe,” she muttered. “Besides, I don’t see how you can take off for weeks when you’ve got ninety percent of the businesses in the known universe to run.”
“It’s no more than fifty.” He picked up his coffee again, waiting for her to join him. “In any case, what would be the point of having all that, and you, darling Eve, if I can’t have time with you, away from your work and mine?”
“I could probably take a week.”
“I was thinking four.”
“Four? Four weeks? That’s a month.”
His eyes laughed over the rim of his cup. “Is it now? I believe you’re right.”
“I can’t take a month off. A month is like . . . a month.”
“As opposed to what? A chicken?”
“Ha. Look, maybe I could stretch it to ten days, but—”
Her forehead furrowed.
“We had to cancel plans for a quick weekend away twice this year. Once for your work, once for mine. Three weeks.”
“I couldn’t take more than two, even—”
“Two and a half. We split the difference.” He handed her a fork.
She frowned at it. “You were always going for the two and a half.”
He took her hand, kissed it. “Don’t let your eggs get cold.”
She’d squeezed confessions out of stone killers, browbeaten information out of slimy weasels, but she would never come out a hundred percent on top with Roarke in a negotiation. “Where would we go during this famous two and a half weeks?”
“Where would you like to go?”
Now she smiled. Who needed a hundred percent? “I’ll think about it.”
She ate, dressed, happy that she’d left herself enough time to take her time. As she strapped on her weapon harness, she considered indulging in one more cup of coffee before she headed downtown to Cop Central.
Her communicator signaled. She drew it out of her pocket, and seeing “Dispatch” on the readout, went straight to full cop mode.
He watched it happen. It always fascinated him how those whiskey-colored eyes could go from easy, even laughing, to flat and empty. She stood straight now, her tall, lanky body braced, long legs spread, boots planted. Her face, all those delightful angles of it, showed no expression. The generous mouth that had been curved moments before, set.
Dispatch, Dallas, Lieutenant Eve. See the officers, 525 West Twenty-third Street. Basement of residential apartment building. Possible homicide, female.
“Acknowledged. On my way. Contact Peabody, Detective Delia. I’ll meet her on scene.”
“Well, you had breakfast first,” Roarke commented when she pocketed the communicator. He traced a finger, lightly, down the shallow dent in her chin.
“Yeah. I won’t be getting that last cup of coffee. Then again, the female on West Twenty-third won’t be getting any either.”
Traffic clogged the streets. Spring, Eve thought, as she bullied her way through it, time for daffodils and fresh tourists. She carved her way over to Seventh, where she caught a break for a solid ten blocks. With her windows down she let the city-scented air blow over her and send her short, chopped-up brown hair flying.
Egg pockets and sludge coffee emanated from the glide-carts, stone dust kicked up from the crew that attacked a wide chunk of sidewalk with airjacks. The sound of them, the symphony of horns as she hit another snarl, the clatter of feet on pavement as pedestrians surged over a crosswalk, created the urban music she understood.
She watched street vendors, who may or may not hold licenses, pop their tables up in hopes of catching the early commuters or tourists up and about for breakfast. Ball caps and T-shirts replaced the winter’s heavy scarves and gloves. Markets, open for business, displayed crates of fruit or flowers, colorful arrays to feed body and soul.
A transvestite, who easily topped six and a half feet, toddled along on skinny blue heels. She shook back her golden waterfall of hair as she delicately tested a melon for ripeness. As she waited out the light, Eve watched a tiny woman, well past her century mark, bump up in her seated scooter. The tranny and centurian seemed to chat amiably while they selected fruit.
You had to love New York, Eve thought when the light changed. Or stay the hell out of it.
She shoved her way into Chelsea, absolutely in tune with her city.
At 525, she double-parked and, flipping on her On Duty light, ignored the bitter curses and rude gestures tossed at her by her fellow New Yorkers. Life and death in the city, she thought, was rarely a smooth ride.
She hooked her badge on her jacket, grabbed her field kit out of the trunk, then approached the uniform at the main door.
“What’ve we got?”
“DB in the basement, female, round about thirty. No ID, no jewelry, no purse or nothing. Still dressed, so it doesn’t look like a sex crime.” He led her in as he spoke. “Tenant and his kid found her when they came down to get the kid’s bike outta the storage locker. Kid’s been grounded or something. Anyway, they called it in. Guy thinks maybe she lives here, or around. Maybe he’s seen her before, but he ain’t sure. He got the kid out pretty quick and didn’t take a good look.”
They headed down a stairway, boots and cop shoes clanging on metal. “Didn’t see a weapon, but she’s got burns here.” He tapped fingers on his carotid. “Looks like she got zapped.”
“I want two officers knocking on doors. Who saw what when. See the tenant and his boy are secured. Names?”
“Burnbaum, Terrance. Kid’s Jay. We’re sitting on them in six-oh-two.”
She nodded at the two officers securing the scene, engaged her recorder. “Dallas, Lieutenant Ev...
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