Deadly Dreams - By Kylie Brant


When it comes to imaginative ways to off people ☺, I’m never short on creativity but lack the factual expertise when it comes to the pesky details. I’m always grateful to those who fill in the gaps in my knowledge to help me stage my scenes realistically. A big thank-you goes out to Joe Collins, Paramedic/Firefighter, who assisted with all things fire related and helped ensure my villain didn’t burn down entire cities enacting his evil acts. Your infinite patience with my endless questions is much appreciated!

Thank-yous are owed to Jennifer Gaston, Marketing Manager, and Matthew Scott, Director of Data Services, LWG Consulting, for answers regarding data recovery and analysis of videotapes and recordings; to Piper Rome and Sgt. Gary Vineyard, DEA Dallas Task Force, Rtd., for providing the necessary expertise when it came to questions about firearms. The details regarding Internal Affairs investigations were generously provided by Sergeant Michael Hervey of the Charlotte-Mecklinburg Police Department. And Elizabeth A. Peacock, MD, Bexar County Medical Examiner Office, San Antonio, Texas, weighed in with insight regarding pathology and the medical examiner’s domain—I appreciate all your help! As always, any errors were mine alone.

And finally, thank you to Ali, Ryan, and Kat for the brainstorming session at Boltini’s. My heroine never would have made it out alive without you guys!

Chapter 1

The figure did a macabre dance as flames leapt to engulf it. Screams knifed through the night shadows, hideous and agonizing. The smell of gasoline lingered strong and heavy in the air, mingling with the stomach-turning stench of seared flesh and hair. Garbled pleas for mercy interspersed the screams.

But there would be no mercy from the watcher.

Nude, he stood just close enough to feel the searing heat on his bare skin. The flames beckoned madly, enticing him to join them. Just a step closer, they seemed to hiss. Feel it. Share it. Make us one.

He withstood the furnace-like blast as long as he could before moving farther away, his gaze transfixed by the writhing human torch. Fire was endlessly fascinating. Unstopped, it would gild the body, melt skin, and singe bone until it was sated. By that time, the figure would be little more than charred fragments of teeth and bone. Flames purified, cleansed the act of evil until only the motivation mattered.

And no one had better motivation than him.

He flung out his arms like a preacher inciting the heavens, his form silhouetted against the brilliant glow. Justice had been a long time coming. And it couldn’t be evaded any longer.

Marisa Chandler fought through the weight of sleep in a desperate bid for consciousness. Rolling from the bed, she immediately dropped to the floor, her limbs unresponsive.

But the jolt yanked her firmly from dream to waking, and for that alone she was grateful.

A bit painfully, she pushed herself to sit upright, leaning against the side of the bed. Sweat slicked her body, as if the flames in her nightmares had emitted real heat.

It had felt real. They always did.

She took a moment to will away the shudders that still racked her body. It hadn’t been the same nightmare that had plagued her for four long months. She could give thanks for that, even as she fought to shrug off her fear of what the vision might portend.

Resting her head against the mattress, she closed her eyes. Dreams like this one didn’t mean anything. Not anymore.

The recognition brought both relief and despair.

The peal of the doorbell shrilled through her thoughts. Risa opened her eyes. Thought about ignoring it. But there was faint light edging the shades over the window, heralding dawn’s approach. Her mother would have just gotten off her cleaning shift a few hours ago. She deserved the sleep.

The bell rang again insistently. Heaving herself to her feet, she padded barefoot to the door, checked the judas hole. The image of the stranger on the front porch was tiny, but she didn’t need a larger image to identify him as a plainclothes cop. Faintly intrigued, she pulled the door open, leaving the screen door latched in case she was wrong.

Her instincts hadn’t been exactly foolproof recently.

“Marisa Chandler?”

She took her time answering, scanning first the detective shield he held up for her perusal, then, more slowly, him. Caucasian, six feet, about one eighty, all of it muscle. Black hair and eyes. Hard jaw, uncompromising chin. Only visible identifying mark was the small crescent-shaped scar above one eyebrow. And despite his lack of expression, impatience was all but bouncing off him.


“Detective Nate McGuire, Philadelphia Police Department.”