Love Me Dead – Lisa Renee Jones

Thank you so much for picking up LOVE ME DEAD! Before you read on, I want to warn you that while this Lilah Love case will standalone over its own two-book duet, there is a rich history to Lilah’s life you discover in the launch duet—MURDER NOTES and MURDER GIRL. You will enjoy the series in a more fulfilling way if you read that duet first, before moving onto the next case with LOVE ME DEAD. However, I do give you a glossary for a lot of key players in Lilah’s past. I’ve tried to make sure new readers won’t be too in the dark. I’m also including a brief recap (if you want a full thirty page recap, you can see that HERE), to familiarize yourself with where we left Lilah. So without further ado, please keep reading for said recap. If you have not read MURDER NOTES and MURDER GIRL, and don’t want those books spoiled please stop reading here, as I will be spoiling the outcome of that case… Lilah Love is an FBI agent with a crass attitude, a wide array of uses for the word “fuck,” a strong aversion to blood, and the ability to solve any crime that ends with a dead body. Any crime that is except the one that chased her away from the Hamptons years ago after being attacked. But she knows who the murderer is in that crime: it’s her. She murdered her assailant and her heir-to-a-drug-cartel boyfriend, Kane Mendez buried the body. What she still didn’t know was why? That is until bodies begin to surface with the same tattoo her attacker had, a call to her past that she just can’t ignore and resulted in her fateful return to the Hamptons. To her family. To the past she ran from. And most importantly, her return to Kane Mendez. She may have returned to the Hamptons, but Lilah is there only to solve the case, and be on the first plane back to LA as soon as possible.

However, driving forces outside of her control have other plans. Lilah is greeted home to another dead body that fits the MO of the previous victims, and she’s also met with a taunting letter from someone she names Junior. Said letter alluding to a third party knowing what happened that night. The night Lilah killed. The night that changed her and Kane irrevocably. Speaking of, it’s not long before Kane himself is wrapped up in her case and trying his best to be wrapped up in her as well. But even he knows all too well there are no coincidences, and something far more sinister is going on with these murders that Lilah is working on. Try as she might, there is no separating her past from these current murders. They’re fully intertwined as Lilah soon finds out, and there’s only so much she can keep from her boss, Director Murphy, as she gets closer to more answers. These murders eventually lead Lilah to the discovery of the Society, a deep state-like organization set on masterminding government dealings behind closed doors and out of the public eye to their own benefit.

It turns out both Murphy and Kane were aware of the Society long before Lilah was, and more shockingly, her father, former police chief, and now mayor of the Hamptons, is very much a part of the Society. And at the orchestration of Ted Pocher, one of the local leaders of the Society, Lilah’s father will be running for governor of New York to further implant the Society in the government. All of this information in regards to the Society, comes with the most horrifying revelation, that they were responsible for Lilah’s attack, and even her father knew about it. His only reply being when she confronts him with the ugly truth of her rape at the hands of the Society, is that she should be thankful they didn’t murder her. It’s clear as day, the life Lilah left here, is not the same one she’s returned to. The only true constant is Kane, but even with him, she can’t just fall back into the same routine so easily. He altered both of their lives the night he buried the body of the man she killed, and even though the attraction is still there, he’s still the heir to his family’s drug cartel, even though he’s the CEO of a very high-profile and legitimate oil company as well. And Lilah’s badge will always be between them when he’s that close to the wrong side of the law. It was a problem back then, and it’s a problem now. Only now, they also have to contend with Junior leaving more notes for Lilah in his taunting way, with Kane and Lilah no closer to figuring out his identity.

Thankfully, Lilah was having more luck on the other side of things with her murder cases, but it was turning more dangerous the further she dug. Yes, the Society was responsible for the murders, and yes, the Society was responsible for her attack, but to what end? Her attack was simply because she was getting too close in a case she had been working. Having entered a tenuous house of cards, rather than having her eliminated, the Society had her raped to send her a message to back off. In much the same manner, only the endgame was death, the Society was sending a message to the victims in Lilah’s case. The victims were in the midst of trying to form a coup and take control of the Society, but those in power never gave them a chance to get close. This information comes from the elusive assassin, Ghost. He was thought to be the hired hand behind these murders, but informs Lilah and Kane that the Society has several assassins on their payroll and another one with the codename: The Gamer has been behind these killings. And there’s one more name on the list to be killed: Eddie Rivera. An old colleague of Lilah’s, the second son her father never had, and the husband to Lilah’s ex-best friend. As Lilah and Kane race to save Eddie, it’s already too late.

The Gamer has killed him, and coming up on the murder, Kane and Lilah scuffle almost to the death with him, but like most times with Lilah, the perpetrator is the one who ends up dead. Having had quite enough of just about everything and everyone, Lilah chooses to throw her badge away after The Gamer is killed. Nothing about her past or present is what it seems, and the only true constant in her life, Kane, will always be kept at a distance because of said badge. But while Kane may think she’s making an error in judgement, he’s going to give her time to think through everything she’s learned, and all the illusions that have been shattered. However, one person won’t let Lilah have any time to digest her new findings and altered reality: Director Murphy. No, he’s there, shoving her badge back at her, and tilting her world further on its axis. Alongside all of this drama, Lilah had also made connections between the Society and Hollywood. Hollywood, the industry in which her mother used to work. Her mother who died in a plane crash several years ago. Only Murphy informs Lilah that not only was he in a relationship with her mother when she died in that plane crash, he also thinks it was intentional and orchestrated by the Society.

And the Society is officially ingrained in every aspect of Lilah’s life, she has no choice but to take Murphy up on his demand that she stay in New York and join his new task force that will be at face value exactly what she has always done: catch killers. But they will also have a singularly unique, and under the radar goal of getting the dangerous people who are in power, out of power. Upon acceptance of her placement on the new task force, she moves more permanently to an apartment in New York. When she arrives, Murphy has delivered a case file on The Gamer for her to look over, he may be dead but that case is far from over, and a cold case of a serial murderer who goes after call girls. When she steps out for pizza Ghost waylays her. Seemingly enamored by the fact that she was able to do what he was not, kill The Gamer. He says she intrigues him and he owes her one. As she arrives back home she finds a note. A note from Junior: M is for Miss me? I missed you. D is for Disappointed.

He’s not for you. This city is not for you. S is for sorry. You are going to be so so so so so so so sorry. W is for warning. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. But before she can dig deeper Murphy calls. The locals needs her help. They have three dead women and an active serial killer. She reminds him that they have one of the best profilers in the world, her old mentor.

Murphy replies with he knows, because that’s who requested her presence on the case. And so Lilah gets ready to be faced with one of the only people in the world, other than Kane, that she can’t hide from. Only this man has yet to see the monster Lilah fears lives inside her. And that’s where we pick things back up… INDEX Lilah Love (28)—dark-brown hair, brown eyes, curvy figure. An FBI profiler working in Los Angeles, she grew up in the Hamptons. Her mother was a famous movie star who died tragically in a plane crash, which caused Lilah to leave law school prematurely and eventually pursue a career in law enforcement. Lilah’s father is the mayor in East Hampton; her brother is the Hamptons’ chief of police. She dated Kane Mendez against her father’s wishes. She was brutally attacked one night, and Kane came to her rescue, somewhat, and what unfolded that night created a secret between the two they can never share with anyone else. This eventually causes Lilah to leave and take the job in LA, away from her family, Kane, and that secret.

Kane Mendez (32)—brown hair, dark-brown eyes, leanly muscled body. He’s the CEO of Mendez Enterprises and thought to be the leader of the cartel that his father left behind when he was killed. But Kane claims his uncle runs the operations, while he runs the legitimate side of the business. Lilah’s ex from before she left for LA. He found her the night of her attack and shares that secret with her. Director Murphy (50s)—gray hair, perfectly groomed. Former military. Lilah’s boss. The head of the LA branch of the FBI. Sent Lilah to the Hamptons to follow the assassin case.

Rich Moore—blond surfer-dude looks, blue eyes. Works with Lilah. He and Lilah were sleeping together until Rich wanted more and Lilah called it off. Jeff “Tic Tac” Landers—Lilah’s go-to tech guy at the FBI. Grant Love (57)—blue eyes, graying hair. Lilah’s father, the mayor, and retired police chief of East Hampton. A perfect politician. Charming. He’s being groomed by Ted Pocher to run for New York governor. Andrew Love (34)—blond hair, blue eyes.

Lilah’s brother and the East Hampton police chief. Andrew is protective and seems to be the perfect brother. The problem is that he’s perfect at everything, including being as macho and as bossy as their father. There’s more to Andrew than meets the eye. Lucas Davenport—tall, looks like a preppy version of Tarzan. A very successful and goodlooking investment banker, he has taken to hacking in his spare time. He is a cousin of sorts to Lilah and Andrew. His father was the stepbrother to Lilah’s father. His father was also known to be with Lilah’s mother, Laura, on the night they both disappeared in the plane crash. He flirts mercilessly with Lilah, seeing as they’re not blood-related, but she always shoots him down.

Greg Harrison—Lilah’s old partner from the New York Police Department. Currently in a lot of hot water with Internal Affairs over an incident that may or may not be of his own making. He was partnered with Nelson Moser prior to being put on leave by IA pending further investigation but has been working independent security with Moser in the meantime. Nelson Moser—a lowlife police detective who offended Lilah on numerous occasions before she moved to Los Angeles. She is not very fond of him, and the rumor circulating about him is that he’s a dirty cop. Laura Love—Lilah’s mother. Famous actress. Died four years ago in a horrific plane crash. She infamously portrayed Marilyn Monroe in an Oscar-winning performance. Much mystery still surrounds her death and will be a recurring issue throughout the series.

Ted Pocher—billionaire CEO of the world’s fifth-largest privately held conglomerate, Pocher Industries. Has taken a liking to Lilah’s father in hopes of furthering her father’s political career. He tried to do business with Kane and Mendez Enterprises but was turned down because of his rep for shady business deals. Beth Smith—blonde, tall, thin. The new medical examiner in Suffolk County. Lilah’s friend from back in the day. Beth is working one of the assassin murder cases. CHAPTER ONE It’s a fucking disaster, a downpour of epic proportions, the mother of all storms, that came out of nowhere. The kind of storm that demands you hunker down in the company of Cheetos, strawberries, coffee and/or booze. The latter choice, at least for me, depending on how irritated I am at the world at the time.

The kind of storm that makes you want to do those things inside and by a fire. Not here, walking the Manhattan streets, with no umbrella, on my way to a crime scene. I pull the hood of my rain jacket lower, down to my brow and round the corner to find a carnival of uniforms, flashing lights, and an ambulance that will be the ride to the morgue. Rarely am I called in when the victim lives to talk about the crime. Dead bodies are my thing. They talk to me. I understand them. Those who are still living and breathing, not so much. My cellphone rings, and I halt, digging it from my field bag that rests at my hip. Glancing at my caller ID, I find Kane’s number, when he’s supposed to be on a plane, jetting off on the kind of business we don’t talk about but we pretend is something it’s not.

Kane and I are both masters of pretending to be something we’re not. Me, an FBI agent who would never cross the line. Him, nothing more than the CEO of Mendez Enterprises, a company deeply rooted in oil, not the man who took over the Mendez cartel when his father died. He damn sure didn’t take on the Society, the deep state that secretly runs our government as some might call them, and force their retreat, even if only for the moment, with nothing but oil money. I decline the call, shove my phone back in my bag and start walking again. I can’t walk onto the crime scene feeling like I’m as transparent as Kane makes me feel, and I can’t think about the war we’ve managed to enter with the Society, at least not with this particular crime scene to think about. Nothing about me being called in on this case, a suspected serial killer’s involvement or not, makes sense, not when that request, per Director Murphy, my pain in the ass judgmental boss, came from my old mentor, Roger Griffin. Roger’s NYPD. I’m FBI. I’ve never known that power hungry, grumpy old man to ask for agency assistance.

Hell, he doesn’t ask for help at all, and he doesn’t need it. He’s so damn good at what he does that he can look into the eyes of a killer and see a killer when someone else might see Mary fucking Poppins. I don’t know what he saw in me when he snapped me up so many years ago and started training me. I just know that I don’t want to know what he’ll see now. Cutting across the street, I beeline toward the yellow tape establishing the police perimeter, flashing my FBI badge at an NYPD ran site, and I don’t stop walking, my strides steady right up until the point that I’m standing outside the building that is the crime scene. Fortunately, there’s a small overhang taking the beating of the storm for me now, so I yank my hood down while watching an officer and his muddy boots enter the building. I step in front of Carl, the beat cop who just let that happen, a cop I’ve known from years back when I worked at the local NYPD. “Lilah fucking Love,” he greets, because this is my home base, this is where I got my start before relocating to LA with the FBI. Everyone here knows that I like the word fuck. The word fuck fucks with people.

If there was a book about my life, it would be called “Lilah Fucking Love Says Fuck You.” And then all those delicate people who get their feelings hurt easily would go away, thank you, Jesus. Unfortunately for Carl, before we’re through here, he’s going to be one of the people I offend. “Heard you were in LA working for the FBI,” he says. “And yet, I’m standing right here in New York City, wearing an FBI badge.” “Are you here to work the case?” he asks. “No, I’m here to bring you lunch.” I reach in my field bag and hand him a package of cheese crackers that are about a year old. “I heard it had been a long night.” “Smartass,” he grumbles, staring down at the crumbled mess in his hand.

“I see your attitude hasn’t changed.” “You mean the one I learned from all you old-timers who thought I was too young to profile?” “You were a kid when you started out. You still are.” I don’t bother to tell him that twenty-eight is not a kid, or that my brother is North Hamptons’ police chief, a job he inherited from my father, who is now the mayor. I stopped justifying my skills versus my age a long damn time ago, but my silence doesn’t matter. Carl is still talking. “Take it from me,” he adds. “Opt out of this one. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen.” In other words, a little girl like me just can’t play with the big boys.

“It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen.” “You haven’t even been up there yet.” “Exactly,” I say. “I should, in fact, be up there right now, but you know why I’m not?” I don’t wait for a reply. “I’m not up there now because I’m standing here wondering what idiot thought this spot where we’re standing isn’t part of the crime scene? Which idiot is that, Carl?” He blanched. “I—the detective in charge—” “Before you finish your sentence, there’s a person who lost their life tonight. If that was your mother, father, daughter, son, or wife would you want muddy boots stomping past this door?” His jaw clenches. “I’ll handle it.” “Get a tarp here ASAP and set it up as wide as possible. We need the teams to be able to cover up and clean up before and after they leave the building.

” “Got it. Handling it.” “Is Roger here yet?” “Roger Griffin?” he asks. “I haven’t heard any mention to him showing up. I thought that’s why they called you.” He’s wrong. Roger doesn’t give up a crime scene. “Who exactly is in charge of this scene?” “Lori Williams.” “Wrong answer,” I say. “I am.

” I open the bag I have hanging at my hip and pull out a pair of booties, stepping close to the door to slip them on my wet feet. Another cop, a big burly guy with brown hair, tries to enter the building. “Hey!” I snap. “Don’t even think about walking in that door without covering up.” He glares at me. “Who the hell are you?” “The girl who will bitch slap you, and it only took one meeting, if you don’t do what the fuck I told you.” I shove my hand into a glove and then repeat. “That’s Lilah Love, Reggie,” Carl chimes in. “She’s FBI and a profiler here to help. She’s also a bitch.

I’d take her seriously if I were you.” I give Reggie a condescending smile. “Don’t worry. I won’t turn you in to your boss. I’m not that big of a bitch. I’ll just tell the family of the victim that we’re sorry that the evidence was destroyed, but Reggie hates covering up, and we don’t like to make Reggie uncomfortable.” “Bitch,” Reggie bites out. “Now you get the idea,” I say, pleased that he’s not the slow learner I’d suspected. I eye Carl. “What floor?” I ask.

“Ten,” Carl replies. I shrug out of my raincoat and drop it next to Carl because, unlike the rest of these assholes, I don’t plan on contaminating the evidence with a dripping wet jacket. I enter the building, stepping into a small foyer with mailboxes to the left. Taking nothing for granted, considering the fuck show this has proven to be, I scan the area, eyeing the ground, and even looking up toward the ceiling. I find nothing of interest, but I repeat my scan because what we miss the first time, we might not miss the second. I start the walk up the narrow stairwell, which must be a bitch to travel after a big meal or a bunch of booze. For a big man, it would require skill to navigate quietly, a detail that I tuck in the back of my mind for later review. Even without overindulgence, for someone who doesn’t run five miles a day, much of it in the Hamptons on the sandy beach, like myself, this walk would be tough. That says something about the person who maneuvered the steps and disappeared without notice. Unless they were noticed.

Maybe they belong here. Maybe they visit regularly. Maybe they’re a delivery person. Apparently ten is the top level, and that was too simple a description for Carl. I pause at the top of the steps and canvas the roughly seven-by-four foyer, another tight spot, in this case, a tight spot that would be hard to escape for a woman being overpowered. There’s nothing here that presents like obvious evidence, just a few bagged jumpsuits waiting to be used, which tells me the scene is bloody. That’s one of my dirty secrets. Despite my comfort level with dead bodies, I don’t like blood, at least not in excess. Blood is actually fine. A bucket of blood, not so much.

Blood to the ankles, which I’ve experienced, definitely not. I freak the fuck out. It’s a weakness that I don’t share with anyone, and yet, today, I’m asked for, by name, and the scene is bloody. Some might call that a coincidence, but as Roger taught me years ago and has always proven true, there is no such thing as coincidence. The fucked up part of this equation is that Roger knows exactly how I feel about blood. He was with me the first time I freaked out, the only time anyone of professional consequence has ever seen me freak out. Okay my ex back in LA might have seen a little bitty incident, too, but that was literally ankle deep blood, and he wasn’t a superior of professional consequence. CHAPTER TWO Setting aside my personal hate for blood and the fact that I now estimate the amount beyond that apartment door to be excessive, I have questions, starting with: where the hell is the person who’s supposed to be making sure we wear those bagged jumpsuits laying on the ground? If they’re counting on humans being smart, they’re stupid, which proves my point: someone should be on guard in front of the door, managing the integrity of the crime scene. Oh, wait. There is no integrity to this crime scene, which is so poorly managed that I wish I was a drinker.

I’d drink myself into throwing up and then check into recovery, where I’d survive a few days before my irritation at the people who couldn’t control their urges would then cause me to beat some asses. Which would be highly hypocritical of me since I have a few urges I can’t seem to control either, like killing people and ending up naked with Kane fucking Mendez. A thought triggered by the ringing of my phone in my pocket that is most assuredly Kane fucking Mendez. I ignore the call simply because I don’t want to ignore the call. Fuck you, Kane Mendez, for making me want to talk to you. Just because you buried a body for me doesn’t mean you get to control me. I grab one of the suits and dump my field bag on the floor. Reggie appears at the top of the stairs, hovering there. I have a bad history with the name Reggie. The body Kane buried for me bore a tattoo done by a guy who worked for a tattoo parlor owned by another Reggie.

Therefore, if your name is Reggie that immediately puts you on the wrong foot with me. I shove my arms into my suit. He’s still watching me. “Are you role playing for some practice session at the police academy and pretending to be a Peeping Tom or is creepy just your thing?” “You aren’t the detective in charge,” he snaps. “Did you know,” I begin, zipping up my orange suit and wondering why cleanliness means looking like an inmate in this city, “that I was the girl most likely to in high school?” “Most likely to what?” he asks, taking my bait, his thin lips thinning even more when they’re already pencil drawings on his face. “Get naked?” “Kill someone,” I say, grabbing my field bag and sliding it over my head and across my chest, so I don’t have to try to hold onto the damn thing when my feet and stomach are swimming in blood. “You wouldn’t be my first,” I add. “Put on a pretty orange suit or don’t come into the apartment.” I offer him my back and reach for the door. “You aren’t the detective in charge,” he bites out, repeating himself, his limited vocabulary rather irritating, as is his need to get the last word.

That said, I’ve found that men who need the last word with a woman typically have deep-rooted confidence issues, in essence, little man complex. And since Reggie isn’t little anywhere that I can obviously identify, I can only assume his lips aren’t the only things pencil thin. I feel sorry enough for him to let him think he’s won: I give him the last word. I open the door and inhale the scent of iron, that distinctive promise of blood, lots of blood, but I don’t find it. The scent is there, but the room before me is a simple, clean living space with an untarnished, basic cream-colored couch, and two pastel blue side chairs. Of the not one, but four, jumpsuit-clad forensic specialists working the tiny space and beyond in an open concept dining room and kitchen, not one of them so much as looks up to greet me. That’s okay. I don’t need to be greeted. I’m here for the victim and no one else. This is a crime scene, and while this space might be missing the body that is here somewhere, it could hold clues.

I stand there, taking in every detail, eyeing the painting of an ocean on the wall and nothing more. There are no photos of people. No trinkets. No memories. This person is as fucked up as me. That means he or she doesn’t let people close. “Ms. Love.” At the sound of my name, I turn to find a thin redhead, I’d place in her mid-forties, who isn’t wearing a jumpsuit. “Agent Love,” I correct.

“And were you afraid the orange would clash with your hair or did you just not give a fuck that you might contaminate the crime scene by failing to wear one?” “I’m not rolling around in the mess that’s been made,” she bites out. “Nor should you. You’re supposed to profile the killer, not perform forensic analysis.” Obviously, this bitch is Detective Williams, the detective in charge, but she won’t be for long. “Where’s Roger?” I ask, still trying to solve the mystery of how I got here in the first place. “Roger said you can handle this on your own. Was he wrong?” She’s baiting me, but I’m not one to be baited. Roger called me in, but he’s not here. Any relief I feel at avoiding his all-knowing inspection fades quickly. “Where’s the body?” “Down the hall in the master bedroom.

” I start to walk in that direction. “You don’t want to know who she is?” Williams calls out. “She’ll tell me herself,” I reply. “You might want a barf bag,” she calls out, making herself all too easy to read. Detective Williams is a walking, talking power trip out to prove that she’s better than me. Which is why I don’t bother to reply, and why would I? She’s not important. The woman who lost her life tonight is another story. She matters. The person who took her life also matters, right up until the moment that we make them pay. Cutting down a narrow hallway, the walls along my path are barren and the iron scent of blood now permeates the air with a vicious punch.

I could work myself up about the buckets of blood that could be waiting on me, but that’s just not how I’m made. I need to be punched in the face with the crime scene. I need to take it all in, feel the shock and pain, and do it without any reserve. And so, I enter my Otherworld, my zone where nothing but the crime scene exists, where Kane Mendez and my shitty father don’t exist. Where assholes that fuck up crimes scenes don’t exist. There is just me, and the victim who needs me to speak for them. I step to the doorway of the bedroom and let the scene take over, clicking through what I find in what has become an almost mechanical process for me. There is, of course, a dead body, a naked woman lying in the center of the room on her back. That’s expected. What’s not expected is the fact that she’s holding an open umbrella above her head.

She’s been dead long enough that rigor mortis has set in, and her fingers are frozen around the handle. There is also blood, but not in buckets. It’s dispersed in splatter marks on the walls, the ceiling, all over the white, neatly placed bedspread, and virtually every other spot in the room. There’s also an unexpected but familiar woman kneeling by the body, smartly wearing an orange jumpsuit. “Beth,” I say, drawing her attention. Her gaze jerks to mine, going wide in surprise. “Lilah fucking Love,” she says, using her gloved hand to pull down her paper mask. “Why is a Long Island coroner at a Manhattan crime scene?” “I go where they send me,” she says. “But it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that we’re both here, now does it?” Considering she just worked a case with me that directly linked to the Society, no, no it doesn’t, but she doesn’t need my agreement. Not to mention she looks unsettlingly like the victim.

This entire crime scene is starting to feel like a puzzle, and we’re not the ones controlling the pieces. I need to change that and quickly. I cross the room and kneel beside the body, across from Beth, then look up at the ceiling fan that is holding a Tupperware container with holes in it. “My understanding,” Beth says, “is that the fan was on when law enforcement arrived.” A rather brilliant contraption that took time and some level of engineering to execute. I frown and look at her and then the body, my brow furrowing at the untarnished face and body, no cuts, no wounds. “I know what you’re thinking,” Beth says, “and you’re right.” My gaze lifts sharply to hers. “The blood isn’t hers, is it?” “No. The blood isn’t hers.

.

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