Don't Say a Word. Rita Herron

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Don't Say a Word - Rita Herron

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      Don’t Say a Word

      Rita Herron


      MILLS & BOON

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      To all the soldiers fighting for our country

       and our freedom—you are the real heroes!






























      May, New Orleans

      THE WOMAN HAD NO FACE. No voice. No name.

      Dr. Reginald Pace studied her near lifeless form as it lay on the shiny surgical table. The harsh fluorescent lights glared off her charred skin and raw flesh, painting an inhuman picture.

      Her silent, vacant eyes begged for mercy. For death.

      But the voice inside his head whispered that he could not fulfill her wish. It proclaimed that her body craved the transformation only his gifted hands could offer.

      As a plastic surgeon, he saw the ruins of people’s faces and bodies on a daily basis. But never had he beheld a sight like the one before him—the very reason he’d made a deal with a demon to get her. She was the perfect one for his experiment.

      Mangled, charred skin had peeled away from the severed tendons. Lips that once held a feminine smile now gaped with blisters and raw flesh. Bloodshot eyes, blinded by pain, had flickered with pleas for death before he had swept her under with the bliss of drugs.

      His healing hands would piece her back together.

      His healing hands and time…

      Layer by layer he would rebuild her. Repair severed nerve endings, damaged cartilage. Replace tissue. Mold the monster into his beauty.

      Without a face, a name, a picture, he could shape her into whatever he chose.

      The woman of his dreams, God willing. She would be his creation. His to keep forever…

      He gently brushed the remnants of her singed hair from her hairline. She would be in agony for a while, but he would be there with her every step of the way to offer her comfort.

      And she would recover; he wouldn’t rest until she did.

      A smile curled his mouth as he picked up the scalpel to get started. Yes, she would thank him in the end.


      A year later, New Orleans


      As dead as the soldiers who’d fallen and given their lives for the country. As dead as the ones who’d lost their lives during the terrible hurricane that nearly destroyed New Orleans.

      As dead as the woman he had killed.

      His own heart did still beat and blood still flowed through his veins, forcing him to go through the motions of life.

      A punishment issued by the gods, he was certain.

      He could still see the flames licking at her skin, see the smoke swirling above her face, hear the crackle of the house as wood splintered and crumbled down upon her body.

      For although his head hadn’t yet touched the pillow this dreary evening, nightmares already haunted him with the cries of that anguished woman screaming in pain.

      And the bébé’s ghostlike cry…

      “Tite ange,” he whispered. “Little angel, you did not deserve to die.”

      Perspiration beaded on his neck and trickled down into the collar of his shirt as he opened the French doors to the hundred-year-old bayou house and breathed in the sultry summer air. The end of May was nearing and already the summer heat was oppressive. Sticky. The air hung thick with the scent of blood and swamp water. Eerie sounds cut through the endless night. The muddy Mississippi slapping at the embankment. A faint breeze stirring the tupelo trees. The gators’ shrill attack cry in the night. Insects buzzing for their next feed. A Louis Armstrong blues tune floated from the stereo, the soul-wrenching words echoing his mood.

      Though a thick fog of blessed darkness clouded the waning daylight, forming morbid images to bombard him. A hand outstretched, begging for help. The fingers curled around the tiny bébé’s rattle. The accusing, horror-stricken eyes.

      He blinked to stop the damning images, but they flickered in his mind like flashes of lightning splintering the sky.

      The scream tore the air again, and he swallowed back bile. Its tormenting sound refused to stop, pounding against his conscience with a will he couldn’t defy. Reminding him of his past. His sins.

      His vow of silence.

      So many secrets…Tell and you die.

      Inside his pocket, his cell phone vibrated, jarring him back to the present. Hauling him away from the pain and self-recriminations clawing at his mind.

      He connected the call with sweaty fingers.

      “Special Agent Damon Dubois.”

      “Damon, thank God you answered.”

      His little brother Antwaun’s strained voice rattled unevenly over the line. Something was wrong.

      What kind of mess had his youngest sibling gotten into this time?

      Hell, not that he had a right to judge anyone.

      But the family knew nothing of his secrets. Or his lies…

      “You have to come meet me. We found a woman…at least part of one.”

      Holy Christ. “I’ll be right there.

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