A real estate agent fears she’s killing others with her mind in this supernatural thriller by the New York Times–bestselling authors of Something Wicked.
The Greatest Terrors
Elizabeth Gaines Ellis is an ordinary suburban wife and mother. That’s what she tells herself as she flits between her realtor job, yoga class, and caring for her daughter, Chloe. But for months now, Elizabeth has worried that she’s far from normal . . . that she’s somehow the cause of a series of brutal, horrible deaths.
Are The Ones
Her mean-spirited boss. A bullying traffic cop. Her cheating husband. Elizabeth had reason to be angry with them all. She didn’t mean for them to die. No one will take her fears seriously—except the private investigator prying into her past . . .
Too Close To See
The more scared and angry Elizabeth becomes, the higher the death toll grows. But those who wrong her aren’t the only ones in danger. Because others have secrets too, and a relentless urge to kill without mercy or remorse . . .
Praise for the series
“Superb . . . A masterpiece of romantic suspense with enough twists and turns to keep the reader eagerly anticipating the breathtaking conclusion.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A riveting, can’t-put-it-down, heart-pounding good read. If you love suspense with enough twists and turns to tie you into knots, this one’s for you.” —BookPage
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About the Author
NANCY BUSH is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Bad Things, Jealousy, Dangerous Behavior, The Killing Game, You Don’t Know Me, Nowhere Safe, Nowhere to Hide, Nowhere to Run, Hush, Blind Spot, Unseen, as well as Wicked Ways, Something Wicked, Wicked Game, and Wicked Lies, in the Colony series co-written with her sister, bestselling author Lisa Jackson. She is also the co-author of Sinister and Ominous, written with Lisa Jackson and New York Times bestselling author Rosalind Noonan. Nancy lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. Readers can visit her website at www.nancybush.net.
Read an Excerpt
By Lisa Jackson, NANCY BUSH
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Lisa Jackson, LLC and Nancy Bush
All rights reserved.
Twenty-five years later Southern California
Elizabeth watched through her front window as two police officers trudged up her walk. She knew what was about to come. She'd seen this walk to the door before in varying incarnations on television dramas. It seemed like every cop show had at least one scene where officers came to talk to someone and deliver the bad news. A death, she guessed, her heart hammering, but whose?
A wave of fear enveloped her. After closing the plantation blinds, she hurried away and down the hall to the room where her daughter was sleeping. She knew Chloe was safe in bed, but she had to see her. Pushing open the door to Chloe's room, she gazed in fearfully, her pulse racing with premonition. Her daughter's golden-brown curls were splayed on the pillow. She saw the sweep of her eyelashes, the way her arms lay flung around her head in the abandonment of deep sleep, the soft puffs of her breath.
The sound was so loud she jumped. Gently closing her daughter's door, she race-walked back to the living room to flip on the exterior light before cautiously opening the door and eyeing the two officers through the screen.
They stood in a circle of yellow light, their expressions grim.
The woman spoke first. "Mrs. Elizabeth Ellis?"
"Yes." Her throat was dry as dust.
"I'm Officer Maya, and this is Officer DeFazio." They already had their badges out and Elizabeth's eyes traveled toward them as Maya continued. "We regret to tell you that there's been a car accident."
"Is it Court?" Elizabeth whispered.
"Ma'am, may we come in?" the male officer asked.
Elizabeth wordlessly opened the door fully. Their faces blurred in front of her. She was seeing something else. The entire last week in bullet points....
On Monday, she reluctantly kissed her husband Court good-bye as he left for yet another business trip. They had that fight ... again ... about what she referred to as her ability to foreshadow.
"You really think you can sense danger?" her husband of six years demanded. The face she once thought so handsome stared down at her in scorn, his brown eyes simmering with fury, his lips twisted into a snarl. "Don't act like a crackpot, Liz. I'm about to make partner at the firm, and I swear, you better not get in the way."
"I'm not going to tell anyone else," she assured him. She was scared, worried. After she'd predicted Little Nate's accident on the monkey bars before it happened, her friend Jade had gazed at her with wonder, awe, and maybe a little horror. But when she'd tried to tell her husband about Little Nate and other times similar things had happened, incidents she'd dismissed as coincidences—because honestly, what else could they be?—he'd shut down completely. Their marriage was disintegrating, had been for a long time. She knew it, but was unable to put her finger on what was wrong.
"Make sure you don't," he said, then left in anger.
On Tuesday, Chloe had a fainting spell at school. It was troubling, because she seemed to be having more and more of them. Elizabeth picked up her daughter and brought her home. Chloe assured her that she was fine, fine, fine, in a loud, five-year-old voice that never seemed to have any volume control.
Nevertheless, on Wednesday, Elizabeth kept Chloe home from school and took her to the doctor who checked her out and pronounced her good to go, a fact that made Elizabeth slightly uncomfortable. Something was going on with Chloe that no one seemed to be able to diagnose. But maybe that was just Elizabeth being paranoid again, a helicopter parent, as Court had accused her of often enough.
On Thursday, Elizabeth took Chloe back to her preschool class, then met with one of the women from her Moms Group for lunch. Tara Hofstetter was the closest to a real friend Elizabeth had in the group that had been formed online and consisted of women in the area who had delivered babies around the same time. Court had wanted Elizabeth, who'd always been somewhat introverted, to meet people around the Irvine, Costa Mesa, and Newport Beach cities where he worked as an attorney in a high-rise business center near the Orange County airport. Dutifully, she had gone outside her comfort zone and joined the newly formed group after Chloe was born. Since that time, a number of women had left and entered the group, but Elizabeth and Tara were two of the original members, and Tara's daughter, Bibi, played well with Chloe.
Elizabeth was running late. She blew into the sandwich shop and could tell by the look on Tara's face that something was wrong. Before she could even ask, Tara reached across the table and grabbed Elizabeth's hand. It was a surprise as Tara, with her bleached-to-hell blond hair and taut dancer's body, wasn't exactly known for demonstrative displays. "I saw Court with Whitney Bellhard yesterday."
"Whitney Bellhard ... where? What do you mean?" Elizabeth asked. Whitney Bellhard was an aesthetician who gave Botox parties around the area and her picture was plastered on flyers she passed out in every neighborhood around the school. Whitney was big-breasted, big-eyed and about as subtle as a Mack truck.
"They were holding hands at this bistro I go to whenever I'm in Santa Monica," Tara revealed.
"Santa Monica?" Elizabeth repeated faintly. "Court's in Denver." Santa Monica was at least an hour away from Irvine in good traffic, and it wasn't a city on Court's recent itineraries.
"Elizabeth, they were staring at each other so hard they didn't even see me. I ducked out and watched a little while from outside the window."
"Maybe they were ... just ..." But she hadn't been able to come up with any reasonable excuse for them being together in a city far enough away that they wouldn't expect to be seen by someone they knew.
"They were acting like they couldn't wait to get the bill," Tara finally said in a reluctant voice, her blue eyes regarding her friend regretfully.
At that, Elizabeth nodded and silently accepted the unwelcome realization that her husband was having an affair.
On Friday, Court got home late after Chloe was already tucked into bed. Elizabeth was lying in bed with a book, reading one page over and over again as her mind worried about what she was going to say when she saw him. She'd run the gamut of disbelief—fury, despair, and a kind of angry acceptance. She tried to self-assess, asked herself if she cared enough to try to save the marriage. For Chloe, she wanted to, but for herself? That was a trickier question.
By the time Court entered the bedroom, loosening his tie and telling her he'd come straight from a meeting, really wanted a drink, and did she want something, Elizabeth put down the book and was simply waiting, her hands folded on her lap. Court didn't wait for her answer. He went into their living room and she heard the squeaking hinge that indicated he'd opened the bar, which was hidden inside a tall chest made of ebony wood. Next, she heard him slam a glass on the counter.
She walked into the living room as he pulled out the stopper to a bottle of scotch and splashed a healthy dose into the old-fashioned glass. She watched silently as he bolted it down and she could almost read his mind as he considered the bottle, wanting to pour a second drink but thinking it might not be prudent based on his wife's uncertain mood.
"What's wrong?" he asked sullenly, rolling the glass between his palms.
"Is it true that you met Whitney Bellhard in Santa Monica?"
Court jerked his head back as if he'd been slapped, then tried to cover up the tell with a bunch of bluster.
Detached, she watched his florid face turn brick red and knew he was going to lie to her.
"Who the fuck told you that?"
"Someone from the school," she lied right back.
"I wouldn't have that plastic bitch on a dare," he declared. "No one said you had her. They just said you met her for lunch."
"Whatever nosy bitch told you that should just mind her own fucking business and stop trying to stir up trouble."
"It's not true?"
"Of course it's not true!" He slammed his empty glass down on the bar and reached for the bottle of scotch again, his misgivings gone in the face of bigger issues.
"So, if I check, I'll find out you were still in Denver on Wednesday, like it says on your itinerary."
"Since when do you check on me?" he demanded, his dark eyes glittering as he shot her a vituperative look.
Elizabeth almost lost her nerve at that point. She'd never challenged her husband before. Court Ellis was a master arguer, a born lawyer, and she couldn't compete with him in any discussion. He loved talking circles around her, and she hadn't realized how little affection was left between them until that very moment.
"What's the name of the bitch who told you those lies?" he demanded as he took another healthy sip of scotch.
"What's the name of the hotel where you supposedly stayed in Denver?"
He slammed out of the house after that and didn't come home the rest of the night.
Saturday afternoon he returned, but they didn't talk about Whitney Bellhard or Santa Monica or if he'd been in Denver at all. They lived in icy silence throughout the day. Chloe, picking up the tension, cried and fussed, and it was a relief when it was finally late enough to put her to bed. Elizabeth told herself that she should talk to Court some more, but she never found the energy and in the end, while Court slept on the couch, she lay awake in their king-sized bed alone, feeling a cool breeze come through the open window, smelling the menthol scent of nearby eucalyptus trees, watching palm fronds wave in the soft landscaping lighting of their backyard.
About five AM Sunday morning, Court entered their bedroom and stood at the foot of their bed. Aware something momentous was about to happen, Elizabeth sat up and pulled her knees up to her chest under the covers, automatically bracing herself.
He was perfectly sober, the anger seemingly drained out of him. "I didn't want it to happen this way," he said, his voice curiously tight as if he might break down, though Court Ellis never showed any emotion. "I'm in love with her," he said, shocking Elizabeth so much she actually gasped. "I've been meaning to tell you for months. Whitney and I have been meeting at a place in Santa Monica at the end of my business trips. I wasn't in Denver. I haven't been in the final cities on any of my itineraries for almost a year."
It was such a bone-deep betrayal that Elizabeth couldn't find her voice. There was no love between her and Court; maybe there never had been. But she was shocked, hurt, and cold. Frozen to the core. She stared at him and thought terrible thoughts—I wish I'd never met you. I wish I never had to see you again. I wish you were dead.
"Get out," she ordered through gritted teeth.
"Elizabeth, you know I never meant to hurt you."
"Get the hell out and don't come back."
"Jesus." He stared at her as if she were being unreasonable.
"You're such a bitch. When did you become such a goddamn bitch?"
"You need to leave," she said woodenly.
"This is my home, too, and—"
"This is not your home," she corrected swiftly.
"Be careful. Don't push me. I can make your life a living hell."
"You didn't just say that." She was stunned by how quickly he went on the offensive.
"I have a daughter, too, and when I get back from this next trip—"
"You don't have a daughter anymore!" she shot back in fury. "You're never going to see her again. Get the hell out and never come back!"
"Cut the dramatics, Elizabeth." He came around the bed so swiftly it scared her.
She tried to scramble away. When he placed his hands on her shoulders and glared down at her, she felt threatened. She sensed that he wanted to put his hands around her neck. They held each other's gaze for a moment, then he suddenly released her and left the room. They suffered through the rest of Sunday not speaking to each other.
Elizabeth shook her head to clear away the memories. Now it was Sunday night and two police officers were standing in her living room. In a hollow voice, she said to Officer Maya, "Court's dead, isn't he?"
Her careful expression said it all. "Yes, ma'am."
You wished this on him. You made this happen. It's happened before ... Elizabeth swallowed. "You said it was a car accident."
"That's right." It was Officer DeFazio who answered her. "A single car accident."
"So, no one else was hurt?" she asked, hopeful.
Maya, who was somewhere in her thirties with bluntcut dark hair, shared a look with DeFazio who was at least ten years older and a whole lot grayer, before turning back to Elizabeth. "There was a second fatality."
Elizabeth's head swam. "Oh, no ..."
"It appears your husband was driving and another person was in the passenger seat."
Feeling like everything was coming at her at once, Elizabeth held up her hand and said in a strangled voice, "Excuse me. I have to check on my daughter." She left the two officers hanging as she hurried on rubbery legs down the hall to Chloe's room and opened the door a crack. The night-light bathed the room in a soft circle of illumination. Of course, Chloe was still breathing easily, sleeping soundly, but Elizabeth clung to the doorknob for support, fighting down a rising panic.
It can't be your fault, she told herself. Things like this don't happen.
But she knew she was lying to herself.
She carefully shut the bedroom door and returned to perch on the edge of the couch. The two officers were still standing in the center of the room.
Elizabeth wasn't sure what emotion they could read on her face. Grief ? No. Not yet. Maybe not ever. Numbness? Definitely. Fear? Yes ... a little of that, too, though she would never be able to explain why. Even if she could, she knew they'd look at her as if she were stark raving mad.
"Who ... ?" she asked, picking through the words that seemed to be shuffling around in her brain, not connecting in sentences. She thought she knew already and didn't want to hear the name yet, so she changed direction. "Wait, no ... how did it happen?"
They'd been about to tell her about the other victim; she could see the way both drew a breath, but they checked themselves.
DeFazio said, "That's still to be determined. It looks like your husband lost control of the vehicle. A BMW. It appears to be his car."
Elizabeth nodded. Court loved his silver BMW while she was happy with her Ford Escape.
"The car was found near San Diego," Maya supplied.
"San Diego?" Elizabeth half-expected to hear Santa Monica, thinking maybe Court had decided to meet Whitney Bellhard at the beginning of his trip, not the end.
"South of San Diego. Almost to the border," Maya said.
"Court wouldn't go to Mexico," Elizabeth responded with certainty. "He got a bad case of Montezuma's revenge once, and he swore he would never go there again." And he would never drive his beloved car across the border, either.
"We have a receipt from a Tres Brisas Hotel in Rosarito Beach from last month," DeFazio stated.
Elizabeth could feel herself staring and had to force herself to drag her gaze away. "You sure it was Court?"
"A man and woman were registered as Mr. and Mrs. Bellhard," DeFazio told her.
Elizabeth felt near collapse. He had been with Whitney again. Of course he had. What had she expected? Clasping her hands together and squeezing so tightly it hurt, Elizabeth asked, "The other fatality is ...?"
"Mrs. Whitney Bellhard," Officer Maya confirmed.
Not only Santa Monica, Elizabeth thought dully, though why she should care she had no idea. If Court had been meeting his lover from Los Angeles to Mexico and beyond, what did it matter? They were gone now.
"One of our detectives will be here soon," DeFazio said into the silence that followed.
Elizabeth felt dissociated from the action around her, as if she were far away looking down on them, watching a play, maybe. Someone else's troubles.
Excerpted from Wicked Ways by Lisa Jackson, NANCY BUSH. Copyright © 2014 Lisa Jackson, LLC and Nancy Bush. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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