Good afternoon, party people! It’s here. We’re doing it…
Today it gives me great pleasure to share with you the first story in our Bleeding Heart showcase & giveaway.
HONEY & MESQUITE is by the amazing Jessa Russo. Feel free to show Jessa some love for this fantastic story by leaving a comment or dropping by her social media…
HONEY & MESQUITE
Limp tendrils of auburn hair caressed the alabaster skin of the corpse as the water lapped at the shore. With each rise of the gentle waves, the girl’s body swayed as though she slow-danced to a solemn song only she could hear. Her breasts, bloated and marred with cuts that no longer bled, protruded from the soft flannel of her shirt. Her clavicle, exposed and split clean in half, stood straight up into the air as though it had been used to spear her in place on the sandy shore.
Empty, milky eyes stared unseeing up at the beach.
The detective gazed out over the silvery gray water of Lake Peterson, watching the morning fog dance across the surface. In the distance, a loon cried its lonely call into the early morning silence.
Death hung on the air like a putrid perfume; a fragrance he’d never grown accustomed to.
His mind raced, connecting the dots of the most horrific crime spree he’d seen in all his years on the force.
This was the third girl in as many months.
“Plump and skewered like a shish-kabob, eh, Greer??”
Detective Greer turned to his understudy, fists clenched at his sides. “Excuse me?”
The young man grinned, licked his lips, then gave a curt nod toward the body. “Her collarbone. It reminds me of a shish-kabob. You know, like, meat, veggies . . . sometimes pineapple—”
“Thank you”—Greer raised his hand—“I’m well aware of what goes onto a shish-kabob.” He squeezed the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger, closing his eyes as he inhaled a deep breath, his patience once again wearing thin. He’d never liked this kid, and didn’t see that changing anytime soon. “Have you located Raymond?”
Greer opened his eyes, narrowing his gaze at the fledgling detective.
The black-haired kid cleared his throat. “I mean, uh, yes, sir. The M.E. is on his way.”
“Good. Now, rope off this crime scene and get me Agent Wilkes on the phone immediately.” Greer turned to head back to his sedan, stealing another quick look at the body. So close in age to his own daughter—
“Um, sir? Agent Wilkes? You want me to get the FBI involved?”
Greer stopped without turning around, then sighed, shaking his head. “Yes. This is . . . .” Greer paused, unwilling to say the word. “Her thighs are missing, Detective Sagawa. Please pay attention.”
Serial. They definitely had a serial killer on their hands.
Laney Greer paced back and forth at the window, her gaze locked on the darkened street below. She tapped her fingernails against her crossed arms, chewing her bottom lip. Any minute now, Ken Sagawa would come over to meet with her father, and she’d be sure to be downstairs when he arrived—casually hanging out in the kitchen, of course.
Ever since he’d been assigned to her father’s department late last year, Laney had been sleeping with the young detective. Secretly. She was over eighteen, and should have been able to date whomever she wanted, but that wasn’t how her dad saw it.
No daughter of his would date a cop.
Hypocritical? Yes. Avoidable? No.
At least, not without some serious sneaking around, and definitely not as long as she remained under his roof while she attended classes at the local junior college.
Headlights shone down the street, and as soon as they turned into her driveway, briefly illuminating her bedroom window as the car began the steep incline, Laney shrieked and ran from her bedroom. She skidded to a stop at the crest of the stairs, then smoothed her purple tank and jeans, removing wrinkles that didn’t exist, and ran her fingers through her unruly coffee-hued curls. She licked her lips, pinched her cheeks, then slowly began her descent.
Perfectly timed, Laney reached the final step as her dad opened the door to Ken and another man Laney didn’t recognize.
“Oh, Laney, please join us. There’s someone I’d like you to meet.”
Laney grinned, glancing quickly at Ken, careful not to let her gaze linger too long, then met her father’s warm chestnut gaze.
“You know Junior Detective Sagawa”—Laney smiled and nodded at Ken—“but,” her dad continued, “this is Agent Pete Wilkes of the FBI. Agent Wilkes, my daughter, Lanette Greer.”
Laney reached out to shake the man’s hand, they exchanged pleasantries with a smile, and she avoided Ken as much as she figured would be normal for someone who didn’t have a very intimate relationship with the man.
“Daddy, will you be in the family room tonight, or are you going to your study? I was about to make some dinner.”
“Oh, sure, go ahead. We won’t bother you in the kitchen. Please take a message if anyone calls. We need to be left alone tonight.”
“Okay, Daddy.” Laney stood on her tiptoes, then placed a kiss on her dad’s cheek. “I hope you get lots of work done.” Turning away from him, she met Ken’s coal-black gaze and gave him a quick wink.
An hour later, Laney stood in front of the sink, washing the dishes, and humming a Rolling Stones tune her mother used to sing to her.
Hands preceded his voice as Ken sidled up behind her. “Mmm,” Ken murmured into her ear. He slid his arms around her waist, pulling her tightly to him as his fingers found their way beneath the hem of her shirt to graze the skin of her belly. He ran his lips up her neck, searching for her ear. “I love that song.”
She turned in his arms. “As you should, Kenji Issei Sagawa.” She pressed her lips against his, then slowly pushed her tongue into his mouth for a quick, firm kiss before she pulled away. “What are you doing in here?” She glanced past him, searching the dark hallway for her father or Agent Wilkes. “My father will cut off your balls if he catches you like this.”
“He’s on a conference call that won’t be over anytime soon.” Ken brought his mouth down over hers once more, briefly teasing her tongue with his own. “Besides, it’s almost worth it.”
Laney pushed him away, tilting her head and raising one eyebrow. “Easy for you to say. I happen to like your balls.”
She resumed humming Too Much Blood as she washed the remainder of the dishes, Ken’s lips on her throat and his hands roaming freely.
Laney stretched out her arms and legs, extending her body alongside Ken’s in the damp grass of Sycamore Park. They’d started the evening on a blanket, which now lay in a crumpled mess off to the side with their discarded clothes.
“Are you coming over to my place tomorrow, for our first official date?” Ken gazed lazily at Laney, his dark eyes travelling down her naked body, her skin exposed in the soft glow of the moon. He trailed his fingers in circles over her flesh, down one arm, across her collarbone, circling around one nipple, then the other. Goose bumps burst from her body as his touch sent shivers down into her toes. “You know,” he continued, “the meat’s just about ready.”
Laney grinned up at him as he moved from her side to rest above her. “Of course. But you know my condition.”
“And I agreed.”
“Yet we still haven’t gone.”
“I told you I’d take you there. We just have to wait until it dies down a bit. You know, to avoid bumping into the lead detective.”
Laney rolled her eyes. “Oh, please. Like you’re scared of my dad.”
“Not at all. But the timing has to be perfect.”
“I’ve already been there. Don’t forget about that.”
Ken brought his face down, brushing his lips against hers. “How could I forget?”
“I want to go first thing tomorrow morning. At dawn. That’s when you found her, right?”
“Yes. And, no. Tomorrow’s no good.”
Ken’s dark eyebrows rose as he considered Laney’s demand. Her pulse sped as anticipation filled her.
He nodded. “I can’t say no to you.” He kissed her once more, then pulled her to her feet and drew her closer to him, so close that with just a quick movement they’d be connected again. “I’m in love with you, Laney Greer.”
“I know you are.” She kissed him again, then released him. “Let’s go.” Laney turned, ignoring her clothes and the empty bottle of wine as she strolled to the car, humming the familiar Rolling Stones tune, leaving Ken to retrieve their things as he watched her walk away.
Just thirty minutes was all it took to drive from the park to the shores of Lake Peterson. Laney hadn’t bothered to put on more than Ken’s button-up cop shirt, as she knew they’d be alone at the crime scene so many weeks after the body was found.
Her body buzzed with excitement. She’d only been here once before, and that was upon delivery. She envied Ken’s job, and the ease with which he was able to return to the scene. She envied the fact that he’d been there when her dad first got the call. He’d seen how the girl looked after she’d been dead for days.
Laney could only imagine, could only picture the bloated body, creating images from what she’d seen on television. “Hey, why haven’t you brought me the crime scene photos yet?”
“Your dad has them locked down.”
Laney frowned, then returned her gaze to the lake as Ken’s headlights shone down on the shore. Maybe she’d go into the family profession.
At least that way, she wouldn’t miss all the good stuff.
“Tell me again what she looked like.” Laney twirled in circles, arms stretched out to her sides, ankle-deep in the frigid waters of Lake Peterson. She kicked her foot, splashing Ken, then danced away from him, deeper into the icy water.
“You’ve got to be kidding me, Laney, its freezing out there! Come back here.”
“Come get me.” Laney tossed her brown hair, then unbuttoned the shirt and let it fall into the water.
“Don’t lose that,” Ken warned, watching the blue fabric sink below the surface.
“You’re right. You shouldn’t lose it.” Laney giggled.
Ken splashed into the water, then ducked past her to get his shirt. When he turned back around, Laney’s face was pulled into a wide grin, her eyes sparkling in the moonlight.
Ken titled his head. “What are you up to?”
“Pretend I’m her.”
Ken grinned. Without hesitating, he closed the distance between them, then bent at the waist and tossed Laney’s naked body over his shoulder.
Laney squealed, then giggled as her hair dragged across the surface of the lake, and Ken’s hands gripped her legs.
He squeezed her thighs, then chastised, “You’re dead. No giggling.”
Laney cleared her throat, then went limp in his arms, watching the water turn into rocky shore beneath Ken’s feet as he waded out of the lake.
He laid her down on the beach, gently and with care since she wasn’t really dead, then pulled out his switchblade. Laney’s eyes widened as the steel caught the moonlight, excitement igniting her blood even as cold as she was. They hadn’t played this game with Ken’s first two kills, and Laney wished she’d come up with it sooner.
“What do you think I’ll taste like?” she whispered, barely audible over the lapping waters of Lake Peterson.
Ken leaned down, his face just inches away from hers, his black eyes gazing into her wide brown ones. He leaned further, pressing his mouth to hers then moving his lips until her lips parted. He kissed her, long and hard, until her arms wrapped around his neck, holding his face to hers.
Then, Ken pulled back, his lips just centimeters from Laney’s flush mouth, swollen from the intensity of their kiss. When her eyes opened, he smiled.
“Like honey, and possibly a bit of mesquite.”
Laney’s brow crinkled. The knife pierced her breast, then slid up and across her throat faster than she could think to react. As the blade sliced her open from ear to ear, Laney gasped for air that wouldn’t come, her gurgles blending with the sound of the waves on the shore.
Ken Sagawa had turned her into one of his girls.
As the blood rushed from her split throat, Laney felt the blade dig deep into the meat of her thigh, and had the most absurd question pop into her dying mind . . . .
Would she really taste like honey and mesquite?
*JESSA, WE LOVE IT!!!!!!!*
And now a little bit about Jessa and her writing…
Jessa Russo believes in fairytales, ghosts, and Jake Ryan. She insists mimosas were created for Sundays, and that’s not up for discussion. She’s obsessed with the great city of New Orleans—where she’s collected too many beads to count, eventually married her sweetheart, and visited graveyards they don’t include on maps.
She’s loud, painfully honest, and passionate about living life to the fullest, because she’s seen how abruptly it can be taken away.
What began as a desire for reading and writing young adult paranormal has bled into stories of all kinds. From fantasy to pre-dystopian to erotic contemporary, Jessa’s stories always include romance, though she’s given up on pigeonholing her work into a category or genre box.
Jessa was born and raised in Southern California, and remains there to this day with her husband (a classic car fanatic), their daughter (a Tim Burton superfan), and a Great Dane who thinks he’s the same size as his Chihuahua sister.
ENTWINED, the final installment of Russo’s Ever Trilogy, will be released later this year, as well as a young adult fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, so please stay tuned!
ENTER OUR GIVEAWAY…