Book 3 – The Red Heart of Jade
PUBLISHER: LOVE SPELL
The grisly murders are just the beginning. Dean Campbell, ex-cop and clairvoyant, is sent to investigate. He is with the Dirk & Steele Detective Agency, that global association of more-than-human men and women. Shapeshifters, psychics and other paranormals, Dean and his peers are devoted to protecting life. But there are those who live to destroy.
In Taipei, he finds the remains of burned-alive men and women, bits of bone and ash, that reveal a pattern far more deadly than any he has foreseen. Someone knows Dean’s secret. And they know more—of a power that can change the world, and of a woman who can complete him: Mirabelle Lee, the childhood sweetheart he’d once thought dead. Now, all that remains was blinding light and searing pain, potent passion and a purifying fire. And beneath it all is…The Red Heart of Jade.
In the moments before Dean Campbell opened his eyes to the fire burning him alive, he found himself lost within a dream of stone and light, where bones crunched underfoot and a chain pressed hard around his ankle, binding him tight within the center of a raggedy sand circle. A deep dream, an old dream, the kind he rarely had anymore, and it was only the scent of roasting meat that pulled him from the mystery of shadows inside him mind. Pulled him free and floating, consciousness returning with a hard peeling light that became, after a moment’s confusion, an inferno, a sheet of pure heat washing over his naked body.
Fire. He was on fire.
Dean screamed. He screamed until his eyes bulged, but he made no sound. His throat was hostage. And like his voice, his body refused him. He could not move. Paralyzed, or maybe he was already dead and this was hell: forced to watch himself burn to ash, his life given up like a paper doll to a matchstick, some human sacrifice to the white-hot beast licking his eyes, melting his mouth, pushing deep inside his ears to roar like thunder; a sound to ride his terror upon as he silently screamed, screamed and screamed until something broke inside his head and shattered.
He felt hands on his body. Real hands, the kind he had not felt in years. Small and female, delicate. Moving against his chest, sinking into his splitting flesh. Scratching. Cutting. Carving an incision above his heart. He felt no pain, no—nerve endings melting, sloughing away like old skin—but he sensed those fingers—oh God, oh God—slide into his body past bone to wrap tight around his hammering heart, and he thought, This is it, I’m gonna die, I’m already dead, what a loser, what a goddamn way to end it. But as the hand squeezed inside his chest, fingers unforgiving, another voice intruded on Dean’s mind, a voice loud and clear and unfamiliar, and he heard a man say, No, not yet, not again.
And just like that, the fire boomed, puffed, the pressure eased. The world collapsed into darkness.
Screams. Dean heard terrible screams. He thought someone else must be hurt, dying—get up, get up, get your gun and fight—but after a moment of dazed horrified wonder he realized that it was him—his voice, finally working—and what a beautiful awful sound. He could not shut his mouth. He could not stop his body from writhing as the paralysis eased. Yet still, blindness; a darkness absolute…until Dean raised a shaking hand and touched his face
He opened his eyes. The world came into soft-lit focus: a white ceiling, creamy walls, a darkened window covered in ivory sheers. Hotel finery at its best. Clean and perfect and not on fire.
Not on fire.
He sucked in his breath and closed his eyes. Gripped the rumpled sheets between his fists to steady himself before slowly, carefully, touching his body. He was naked, covered in sweat, but his skin was smooth and he felt no pain. He was whole. Intact. Still had a penis and all the other bits that went with it. No bad smells, like meat or smoke. Just the light sweet scent of orchids.
So. Just a dream, then. A goddamn dream.
Dean sat up. Cold metal spilled from the hollow of his throat; a woman’s locket, hanging from a thin chain around his neck. He gripped the necklace hard, savoring the rounded edge that cut into his palm. Gulped down long cold breaths that did nothing to slow his heart. He felt woozy, nauseated. Tried to imagine the fire as a dream and could not. The heat was still too real.
His knuckles brushed against his chest, the skin above his heart. He felt a scar, but that was familiar, old news. Except, just below it he touched something else, a ridge that should not be, and Dean opened his eyes.
There was a mark. A red curving line, like a welt or bloody tattoo, the afterthought of a sharp knife. Dean pressed his fingers against it, tracing the edges. He felt pain. The first pain since opening his eyes to the fire, the dream.
Or maybe not a dream at all. Dean remembered those small hands, the sensation of fingers pushing, pushing so damn hard into his chest, wrapping around his heart. Squeezing. He remembered that voice in his head. He remembered fire.
All of it, so real. Real enough to kill. Real enough to almost make sense, considering what he had been chasing for the past three days. Which, given his luck, meant one thing only.
He was in some very deep shit.
PRAISE FOR BOOK 3 –
The Red Heart of Jade
“Liu’s third entry in her Dirk & Steele series cements her reputation as an irrefutable force in action-adventure romance. By combining comic-book thrills with passionate descriptive prose, Liu has carved out a unique voice not unlike the writing on the titular stone.”
“THE RED HEART OF JADE is remarkable, an example of what hapens when a writer’s sweated her cops and works to keep them fresh. That’s why Liu rocks. She creates and conveys delightfully graphic outre visuals and mythos that appeal to the dorky sci-fi fan in many of us, while braiding backstory and emotional tension that speak to the sappy romantic we’ve become.”
—Michelle Buonfiglio, Romance Columnist, WNBC