Lisa Renee Jones
Book 2: Murder Girl
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.
Alexandra Harris-Rivera (29)—brown hair, pretty. Assistant District Attorney of Suffolk County; Lilah’s ex–best friend. They didn’t go to school together but grew up hanging out on the local beaches with each other. Lilah has her reasons for cutting off all communication with Alexandra, but she has yet to share them with her. Alexandra is now married to Eddie Rivera.
Eddie Rivera (30)—buzzed brown hair. A detective who had a chip on his shoulder growing up. He knows Lilah from their youth and was ever present at their family dinners around the time Lilah left the Hamptons. He went through some hard times, and Lilah’s dad took him under his wing. He had a thing for Lilah, but she was all about Kane. His own father was an ass, and her dad has become a father figure to him. He’s also married to Alexandra Harris, who was Lilah’s best friend during her college years.
Samantha Young (27)—blonde, gorgeous. A powerful socialite in the Hamptons. She had a “relationship” of convenience with Kane prior to his dating Lilah, and they have struck it up again in the years since Lilah left the Hamptons, even though Samantha is supposed to be dating Andrew Love, Lilah’s brother.
Lucas Davenport—tall, looks like a preppy version of Tarzan. A very successful and good-looking 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. New medical examiner in Suffolk County. Lilah’s friend from back in the day. Beth is working one of the assassin murder cases.
Thank you so much for picking up the next book in the Lilah Love series! If you haven’t read Book 1, Murder Notes, please don’t read any further! I’m about to recap Book 1, which will contain spoilers. In Book 1, you met Lilah Love, a brash and intensely dedicated FBI agent, as she is called to a crime scene on the Santa Monica Pier. As she gets ready to dispatch to the scene, we witness a quarrel between her and her bed partner, Rich Moore, who she works with at the FBI. This is obviously an ongoing relationship, but Lilah is trying to put on the brakes once Rich yet again mentions their moving in together. The relationship was never that serious for Lilah, and she wants to put space between them now. They leave things with Lilah saying he deserves more and him saying they’ll talk about it later.
Back to this murder case on the Santa Monica Pier that will set into motion the case that unfolds over the first two books in this series: a naked male body has been discovered on the beach, much like a crime scene Lilah and the locals worked two days prior. But what is different is the tattoo on the body, which harkens Lilah back to her attack two years ago in the Hamptons where she grew up. And through that flashback we learn the attack was sinister and definitely had an impact on Lilah’s future. As Lilah is consorting with the locals on this latest case, her boss, Director Murphy, shows up and tells her of a similar case in New York. With both cases spanning more than one state and the body count rising, Murphy wants Lilah out there. This is when she tells him she’s seen that tattoo before but refrains from divulging in what capacity.
Murphy sends Lilah to the Hamptons to get a read on the situation. But as she lands, she’s called to another crime scene: a murder identical to the two in LA and the one in New York. From the looks of all the murders, everyone assumes the perp is a serial killer, but Lilah is convinced they’re dealing with an assassin, someone who has a hit list they’re marking off one by one on orders from someone else. Who is calling the shots is a mystery for Lilah to figure out.
The case in the Hamptons has her back in the web of her ex-boyfriend, Kane Mendez, in two seconds flat. It’s his rental property the body was found at and his employee who was murdered. This doesn’t look good for Kane, but Lilah knows him, and despite the murmurings of his running the local cartel that his father once ran prior to his death, she knows this isn’t Kane’s doing. Of course, that doesn’t stop Kane from showing up and taunting Lilah in an attempt to get her back in his bed, which fails to work . . . this time. Lilah refuses Kane. He’s too much of a reminder of the night she was attacked, and too much of a risk to her reputation.
As Lilah deals with the locals on the Hamptons case, she runs into Beth Smith, now the medical examiner and who she once knew in school, and Eddie Rivera, a smart-ass cop, now detective, who was always trying to steal her father’s affection and attention growing up.
Lilah is still going through the scenarios of the murders as she pulls up to her beach house, where she was attacked on that night two years ago. And of course, being Lilah, she decides to face those memories head-on. Prior to going inside, she goes out to the beach where the attack took place, reliving those horrific moments. After Lilah regains her composure from that memory and heads back to the beach house to get to work on the cases, there’s a message waiting for her in fake blood on the side of the house:
A is for the Apple a day that keeps the doctor away. But a doctor couldn’t help him, could he?
The author of this message is a person Lilah begins to think of as “Junior,” and the message is the first of what she calls “murder notes.” So now Lilah has two mysteries to solve: Who is the assassin, and who else was there the night of her attack who knows her and Kane’s secret? Lilah sets up shop in Purgatory—the name for the room in the cottage where she organizes her cases and does her best work—and then makes lists on top of lists of who could be responsible for any and all of this. She reminds herself of the nickname people have for her: Murder Girl. It describes how she’s so good at what she’s done to solve cases: she can be more in tune with a dead body than a live one. She lives and breathes murder scenes and gets inside the perp’s head.
While she’s in Purgatory, Rich and Kane both call, Rich wanting to be the one Lilah depends on, which doesn’t work for her right then and there, and Kane trying to get under Lilah’s skin, where he’s always been, and also to give her his solid alibi: he was with his friends-with-benefits buddy, Samantha, which rubs Lilah the wrong way considering they were an FWB pair prior to Lilah and Kane being together years ago. Kane signs off with a reminder that he knows Lilah’s demons and he can help ease them if she’ll let him. Which, of course, she won’t.
Following that little chat, none other than the East Hampton chief of police shows up at Lilah’s door, her brother, Andrew. They banter back and forth about jurisdiction, their father, who Andrew even calls so he can talk to Lilah, and an upcoming press conference on the murder. The conversation ends with Andrew telling Lilah that he’s in a relationship with Samantha Young, the Samantha Young who just happens to be Kane’s alibi for the time of the murder . . .
Once Lilah is alone again and back at her drawing boards, she can’t shake one thought: she’s the common denominator in all of this. The murders. The notes. The tattoos. Samantha and her brother and Kane. New York and California. But there could be a multitude of connections that just haven’t been realized yet. And with that conclusion, Lilah is making lists of things and people she needs to look into. This effort fades into a nightmare-laden sleep with Lilah remembering more of that night: her and Kane bloodied, her sans clothing, and an eerie feeling to the memory that is still not fully realized.
Lilah sends a set of fingerprints from her house to be tested by Tic Tac, her go-to FBI tech guy back in California, in hopes that the prints will match someone out of the ordinary. In the meantime, she pays a visit to Kane at his office and grills him about his whereabouts last night, and about Samantha and Andrew. She learns that her father is running for New York governor, and that Andrew and Samantha aren’t necessarily as squeaky-clean as they’d like everyone to believe they are. And that, along with his bid for governor, her father has gotten wrapped up in favors owed to a rival of the Mendez family/cartel, the Romanos. As Lilah leaves in a rage over the things Kane is keeping from her, she finds another note on her car:
T is for TRUST.
You TRUSTED him.
F is for FOOL.
Lilah then heads off to question Samantha, which ultimately amounts to nothing but more questions and the refusal by Samantha to back up Kane’s alibi.
Lilah needs answers, so she contacts Beth, the medical examiner, and asks to meet her at the local diner. Before Beth arrives, Lilah runs into her ex–best friend, Alexandra, who is the assistant district attorney and married to Eddie Rivera, now a detective, who has always competed for her father’s attention and been a general asshole. Alexandra’s presence throws Lilah back into a flashback of that night; Alexandra was with her at a bar prior to her attack. They’d seen the movie star Jensen Michaels at the bar, and even though they were celebrating Lilah’s birthday, Lilah convinced Alexandra to go talk with him as she’d been lusting after him for quite a while. All through this Lilah had been texting with Kane, who was in New York but getting on a chopper to come back to the Hamptons. When Lilah got up to leave the bar, it became very evident that she’d been drugged somehow. But by who? As Lilah comes back to the present, it’s divulged that after that night, Lilah cut Alexandra out of her life for good—thus the ~ex~–best friend title.
Alexandra now spots Lilah in the diner, and they have an almost inane conversation about the potential reasons Lilah may be in town; she sticks with “it’s personal” and other cursory shoptalk. As Alexandra leaves to take a phone call, Beth arrives, and Lilah digs in deep about the current murder case. Before they can get any further, Eddie shows up and intervenes, demanding that Lilah back off and even claiming he has a suspect: Kevin Woods, who seems to have had a violent history with the victim. But as Beth is leaving, she confides to Lilah that Kevin Woods shouldn’t take the hit for this murder. She knows he’s not a killer.
Lilah asks Tic Tac for background on Woods. The locals are just trying to get him for their one case and not the rest of the murders, a strategy that is already making Lilah suspicious of their motives. Eddie seems to be very adamant that Lilah leave town and not get involved. And Kane is very adamant that Lilah leave the tattoo connection alone. So who’s playing who?
Lilah calls up Lucas Davenport, her “cousin” (really, her step cousin—his father was her father’s stepbrother, but Lucas is family all the same to her). Her endgame is to get him to help her hook up a security-camera system for her house. If someone vandalizes it again or leaves her another note, she’ll have it on tape. There’s a brief mention of her mother’s death: she was with Lucas’s father in the plane that went down. No one knows why they were together or what may have really happened on that flight.
Once Lilah is home and has the cameras set up, she dials Kane to ask for video proof of his alibi since Samantha didn’t corroborate his story. But it’s also an excuse to ask for footage from his office to see if she can discover who left the note. Of course, Kane calls her on her falsities but still confirms he’ll get all the information over to her the next day.
Lilah, in the meantime, has been invited to a family dinner at her father’s house that night. When she arrives, she notices a fancy car that doesn’t belong to either her father or brother but learns soon enough that it belongs to Ted Pocher, the billionaire CEO of the world’s fifth-largest privately held conglomerate. Pocher tried to partner with Kane in their oil businesses, but Kane refused, causing bad blood between the two. Pocher is the driving force behind Lilah’s father’s political agenda.
Lilah is greeted by her father, and as she’s led to the dining room she’s accosted by her brother, Eddie, and Alexandra at the table, who seem to have become regulars in her father’s house in her absence. They fight. Lilah’s pissed about their presence, Alexandra baiting her for information at the diner earlier, and Eddie in general. Eddie, likewise, is pissed about Lilah’s potential jurisdictional claim, and Andrew insists he will “deal with Lilah,” which of course does not sit well with her. Lilah challenges their supposed proof of Woods’s guilt, and Alexandra says he called her and confessed in a voice mail while rambling like a crazy person. Once Lilah secures a promise that she will receive a copy of the “confession,” she leaves her father’s house. There is no doubt in her mind that the locals, her family especially, want this case closed immediately so as not to mar her father’s bid to become the next governor of New York.
Lilah hits up Tic Tac for more information on Woods, of which he doesn’t have much other than a few flimsy connections between Woods’s clientele and the places of the murders. Lilah then updates her boss, Murphy, on the situation. They discuss how to go about claiming jurisdiction and if they have enough evidence to do so. But they need to find Woods first.
Lilah concludes that she needs any information she doesn’t already have from Kane and has him meet her at “their spot” at the Cove. It was the spot where they first met, and where they would always meet thereafter. While there, she questions him about the cartel, and he insists that he did not follow in his father’s footsteps and take control. Kane divulges that he doesn’t know anything else about the murder, that he’s looking into it as well, and that there is a singular for-hire killer who kills the same way that the assassin has been killing. After Kane refuses to tell her more about the assassin because she might drive him underground, she gives him forty-eight hours to get her the name of the assassin or something else she can go off.
Of course, Kane reviewed the tapes he promised her and noticed someone slipping a note on Lilah’s car. Kane tells her that the person had their face covered, so there was no way to ID the person. When he questions her on it, Lilah avoids answering and leaves him with his deadline to deliver information.
At home, Lilah calls Lucas to discuss the security cameras they’ve put in place, and he informs her he needs a date on Saturday night to a charity event her father and Pocher are hosting. She agrees so she can get an inside look at some people who are ending up potential key players in the case. Junior leaves another note for Lilah on her chair:
D is for Deception.
While waiting for a few key points to manifest, Lilah decides to approach the New York murder by speaking with the detective who handled the case. Said detective, Marcus Rick, is out on leave, and now Nelson Moser has the case. Moser is an ex-colleague of Lilah’s who she shares a bitter past with. She also tries to get in touch with her ex-partner, Greg Harrison, but he’s out as well, leaving Lilah no choice but to track him down and see what he knows.
Arriving at the train station, Lilah is bombarded by the media, and Kane shows up as a saving grace and ends up choppering her into the city for her errands. It’s here where Kane and Lilah divulge more details of what went down that night. Lilah was drugged, and whatever she did would have caused her to lose her badge if Kane hadn’t helped hide the body. Though the true events are still a little hazy, as are the long-lasting impacts of it.
In the city, Lilah touches base with Tic Tac, and Kane lets her know what really happened with Marcus Rick—he was at a corner store when a robbery took place and tried to help, only to end up with a bullet in his gut and on leave. Thus Nelson took over the case, and word is he’s about as dirty as a snake. Lilah calls Greg after hearing this and tells him not to look into the New York case for fear he might get caught in the crosshairs.
When Lilah meets up with Greg, he’s a drunken mess on forced leave from the department due to an Internal Affairs probe. Given that Moser is his partner now, since his old one died a few weeks ago, and he’s being set up for taking bribes, there is a lot that doesn’t match up right now. But Moser is giving him extra work in private security, which he doesn’t like but he has to do to pay bills. Lilah promises to help Greg and leaves, now on the hunt for more answers about the tattoo.
Eventually cornered in an alleyway by an old man, Lilah learns that: “It’s a blood tattoo. It bleeds because you bleed.”
With that quote ingrained in her memory, Lilah heads home. On the trip back, she’s accosted by the flashbacks of her attack in more vivid details and Kane’s presence. The truth finally comes to light. Lilah was raped two years ago on the beach, and the minute Kane showed up to save her, she grabbed a knife and murdered her attacker, shoving the knife into him again and again and again. Kane buried the body, both of them having committed the perfect crime after a heinous one had been exacted on Lilah. Back to the present: Kane is pushing her to talk about the past and present. Their passion explodes into a one-off sexual encounter, after which Lilah brushes him off and sends him on his way.
The next morning, Lilah catches up with Tic Tac, who found a connection between Moser and the Romano family—the rival cartel to the Mendez cartel. The niece of one of the big Romano players has catered three of the last six events that Blink Security worked. Blink Security happens to be the company that Moser works for in his off-duty hours, and the one that he got Greg work with as well.
With that in mind, Lilah tracks down Moser, asking him for the case file on the New York murder. After Lilah catches Murphy up on the case, he mentions an army sniper who had the signature of the assassin. They called him Ghost. This is who Kane had to be talking about, so Lilah brings it up again, even threatening to go as far as approaching Romano about it.
Afterward, Lilah searches the words the old man in the alley said to her and comes up with a quote from a movie, Take Me to Church, that starred none other than Jensen Michaels—the movie star Alexandra hooked up with the night of Lilah’s attack. Lilah’s wheels start to churn. Did Alexandra help set her up to be attacked?
As more pieces start falling into place, Lilah gets yet another note, and with each one they become less and less effective in scaring her. This one reads:
B is for Body.
B is for Buried.
And I know where.
She throws this note in her back seat.
As Lilah is leaving the bagel shop after having had quite the conversation with Andrew, Alexandra, and Eddie, she comes out to a flat tire and another note reading:
W is for Warning.
I don’t like to be taunted.
Just then, Greg shows up. He’s been called into town to work security for the charity event Lilah is attending that evening that her father and Pocher are hosting.
As Lilah is going through all her case files, she finds a familiar face staring back at her on the TV as she’s watching Take Me to Church: Laney Suthers, a high-end call girl/actress who had a world-class client list that both the NYPD and Lilah were trying to get her to give up. They were close to turning her when they found she had committed suicide, though Lilah never believed that was the cause of death.
Lilah is now on the hunt to see if there is a connection between any of the film executives or funding companies. Tic Tac finds a Chinese production company that could be a lead, since Laney did two other movies under an alias with their backing, but nothing concrete turns up before Lilah has to attend the charity event.
Leaving the event, Lilah sees Greg getting quite close with none other than the previously mentioned niece of one of the big Romano cartel members. And as if that weren’t enough, when Kane catches up with her, insisting on escorting her out, none other than Rich shows up. Lilah, afraid of how Kane will react, turns Rich away and tells him to go home.
Of course nothing can be that simple, but as promised Lilah takes a break from the intensity of the investigation and meets with Andrew at their mother’s grave in the cemetery. And as they’re discussing the likelihood of their mother having had an affair with their father’s stepbrother—Lucas’s father—who was also aboard the plane, though no one knows why, Andrew gets a call that there’s been a decapitation murder in Manhattan. Decapitation. The calling card marker of a Mendez murder. Someone is trying to pin this on Kane. When Lilah gets to the gruesome scene with Andrew, there’s a little-known message waiting for her. Something no one else would see as a message. The movie Take Me to Church is sticking out of the DVD player.
Lilah is convinced Kane has nothing to do with this. Back at her house, she orders a pizza only to have another message taped inside, this one reading M is for Murder. Murder. Murder. Murder. Murder. on one side and K is for Kane. Kane. Kane. Kane. Kane. on the other side. Lilah rushes off to see Kane. She needs answers and now.
But when she arrives at Kane’s house and he ushers her into the garage, imagine her surprise when she finds the old man who gave her the clue bound and gagged there . . . And even more surprised when Kane informs her that this old man is the patriarch of the Romano cartel . . .
And that is where we left off. And that’s exactly where we’ll pick back up again . . .
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