printed copy

Wicked Game

Lisa Jackson, Nancy Bush

ISBN 9781420103380
Publish Date 1/27/2009
Format Paperback
Categories Zebra, Thriller/Suspense, Suspense, Lisa Jackson

One By One, They’ll Die…

Twenty years ago, wild child Jessie Brentwood vanished from St. Elizabeth’s high school. Most in Jessie’s tight circle of friends believed she simply ran away. Few suspected that Jessie was hiding a shocking secret—one that brought her into the crosshairs of a vicious killer…

Until There’s No One Left…


Two decades pass before a body is unearthed on school grounds and Jessie’s old friends reunite to talk. Most are sure that the body is Jessie’s, that the mystery of what happened to her has finally been solved. But soon, Jessie’s friends each begin to die in horrible, freak accidents that defy explanation…

But Her…


Becca Sutcliff has been haunted for years by unsettling visions of Jessie, certain her friend met with a grisly end. Now the latest deaths have her rattled. Becca can sense that an evil force is shadowing her too, waiting for just the right moment to strike. She feels like she’s going crazy. Is it all a coincidence—or has Jessie’s killer finally returned to finish what was started all those years ago?

Prologue

St. Elizabeth’s campus
February 1989
Midnight...

Mother Mary, help me!

Oh, please... save me!

The girl rushed headlong through the maze and rising mist. She stumbled, her face grazed by a poking branch.

“Damn.” Clapping a hand to her cheek, she instantly felt the warmth of blood welling against her fingers. It spurred her onward. She kept running, moving, breathing hard. Her calf muscles ached, her lungs burned, and still the midnight rain washed over her, cold and cruel.

This is wrong. Oh, God, so wrong.

It shouldn’t be this way! Couldn’t!

Glancing over her shoulder, she listened hard, deafened by her own heartbeats. She wasn’t lost. She knew where she was. She knew the twists and turns that would take her to this maze’s center, and once there, she believed there was another exit—maybe two—though it had been so long since she’d seen them. She thought for an instant that she might be leading him to her own doom, to a trap of her own creation. She just had to keep moving, recalling twists and turns...

But it was so dark.

And he was getting closer. She could feel him. As if his breath was already brushing across her skin.

Fear clutched at her throat and she nearly slipped around a corner of shivering laurel. He knew about her and now was running her to ground.

How had he known? When she’d spent so many years— her entire life, it seemed—learning the truth herself!

Then, foolishly, she’d goaded him. Dared him. Brought to the maze by her own invitation as she’d hoped to learn more; to expose him. She’d believed she could turn the tables on him, avert the very doom she now faced. But things weren’t going as planned, she thought, her shoes slipping on the long grass. Somehow the hunter had become the hunted.

But how could he know about her... unless... unless he was one of them?

Oh, Jesus!

She heard something. A noise...a sibilant hiss . . .

The hairs on the back of her nape lifted.

What the hell was that?

She froze in place, hands up, as if to ward off danger, body quivering, poised on the balls of her feet, softly panting. He was here! Close! He’d already entered the maze. She could hear him now easily, as he was making no effort to disguise his approach.

Her heart knocked painfully against her ribs.

Was he alone? She thought he was alone. He should be alone. She’d set this up so he would be alone, but now she didn’t know.

Didn’t know anything.

That’s where the fear came in, because she always knew.

That was her gift.

And maybe her curse.

That’s why they hadn’t been able to keep the truth from her. That’s why she’d found out who they were, and who she was, even though they’d tried hard to keep her from learning.

For her own safety, they’d said.

And now...now she was beginning to understand what they’d meant.

Because of him.

She strained to listen, her heart quivering, her fear mounting. He was walking through the maze. Unhurried. Undeterred. Making all the right turns. Was there more than one set of footsteps? Someone else? She couldn’t be sure.

And she couldn’t stay where she was. She glanced upward over the tall hedge and saw, as the clouds shifted over the moon, a shaft of the palest light. It threw the bell tower of the church in stark, ominous relief, and near it, just to the south, the roof line of the convent.

She’d seen those landmarks a hundred times before.

Heart thudding, her bearings now intact, she slipped through the hedges. Stealthily. Edging onward, around a bench and a sharp angle, toward the center of the maze, toward the statue.

She’d always been slightly leery of the ghostly Madonna, but now she wanted to reach it with all her heart. Her need to find it was like a hunger, something she could almost cry out for if she dared on this dark, evil night.

Sanctuary.

Safety.

Or so she prayed. Her veins were filled with ice, freezing her so thoroughly it felt as if her blood might solidify.

Silently rounding a final corner, she stopped suddenly as the statue of Mary abruptly appeared, its arms uplifted, greeting her in pale white. Accompanied by the quake of the branches and the musty smell of dead leaves and mud, the statue shimmered ghostlike.

At the sight of it she drew a sharp breath and stumbled backward, nearly falling. A tiny stick snapped beneath her shoe.

She glanced backward fearfully, crouched, poised like a hunted animal. Had he heard? Behind her, through the night- dark maze, she heard his progress. Steadfast. Onward. Skirting corners without hesitation. His footsteps echoed the beats of her own heart, knelling her doom. Swallowing, she licked her lips nervously as she forced her legs to move forward. One corner...a length... another corner.

Where the hell was the exit?

Had she missed it?

She wanted to cry out in fear and frustration as she was forced to backtrack, knowing he was nearer, feeling him close enough that her skin quivered.

There was no opening, no parting of the thick branches.

Panic tore through her. There had to be a way out, a place to hide, a way to get the upper hand . . . Oh, God.

And still he came.

Nearer.

His footsteps loud against the muddy ground. Determined.

Where? Where the hell was the opening?

She hurried along each of the back walls of shrubbery, running her hands through the leaves, searching... searching... Head pounding, heart thrumming wildly, her ears seemed filled with the roar of the ocean, the battering of the ocean against distant cliffs . . . though she was nowhere near the ocean in this closed labyrinth. But it had always been this way. She had always heard these oddly familiar sounds, always sensed a remote place with thick salt air...

But here she found no opening. No escape. Nothing but thick, unbroken branches.

She swallowed hard against her fear. This was it. There was no escape.

Kneeling at the statue, she mouthed, “Mother Mary, save my soul...”

She hadn’t been good.

Oh, God no.

But she wasn’t all bad, either.

Behind her she heard him move ever forward. No rush, no rush at all.

He knew he had her. Terror crawled up her spine.

She kept silently, desperately praying, again and again, Mother Mary, save my soul. And then another voice. Deep. Rough. Echoing hollowly through her skull: She can’t help you. You have no soul to save.

Were they his words? Was that his cruel voice inside her head?

She thought with sudden clarity: I’m sixteen years old and I am going to die.

How stupid she was to have goaded him—teased him. Dared him.

What had she been thinking?

This was the crux of her problem: Not only could she see the future, she sometimes tried to change it.

And now he was going to kill her. In the middle of this maze, in the cold of winter, he was going to end her life. Desperately she slipped one hand into the pocket of her jacket, curled her fingers over the jackknife hidden within.

With all her strength she prayed for her life, her soul.

Above her pulsing heart she heard the hunter’s footsteps. Nearer. Relentlessly closer. She rose, turning, facing the yawning opening in the thick shrubbery, the only means of escape. From the depths a dark figure appeared.

Tall.

Menacing.

Lucifer Incarnate.

Her beginning and her end.

“Leave,” she ordered, holding up the knife.

He kept walking.

“I swear I’ll kill you.”

A slow, self-satisfied smile slid across his face. You think you invited me here, whore, when it was I who found you, who hunted you, who will do the killing. He didn’t say a word, yet his voice reverberated through her brain.

“I’m not kidding,” she warned, brandishing her small blade, the jackknife she’d stolen from her father’s drawer.

Nor am I.

She lunged. Driving the knife downward, intending to slice into his abdomen.

Quick as a snake, he coiled strong fingers around her wrist.

“Ah!”

Stupid cunt.

He bent her hand backward.

Pain screamed up her forearm. She cried out and fell to her knees.

Her gaze clashed with his.

Strong fingers bent her wrist back.

“Stop!” she yelled.

Breath hissed through his teeth. With a sharp twist he snapped the bones in her wrist.

She cried out softly. The knife fell from her nerveless fingers. His dark eyes were lasers as he snatched it up and drove forward, jamming it between her ribs. “No more,” he rasped.

She clawed at him but it was no use. Meeting his gaze, she whispered, “This is just the beginning...” and saw his face contort with rage as he shook his head violently, thrusting the knife deeper.

The night swirled around her. She crumpled to the ground at the base of the statue, aware that her attacker was staring down at her, his teeth bared, his breath visible in short puffs that dissipated as she gazed upward, the lifeblood pooling out of her.

Then she lay still as death beneath the Madonna. He backed out of her ever-narrowing vision. Clouds shrouded the moon. Few stars were visible. The Madonna’s arms stretched upward to the heavens. Somewhere, far in the distance, it seemed a bell tolled.

I am a sacrifice, she thought.

Then darkness descended.

About Lisa Jackson:

Lisa Jackson is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than seventy-five novels, including After She’s Gone, Close to Home, Tell Me, Deserves to Die, You Don’t Want to Know, Running Scared, and Shiver. She has over thirty million copies of her books in print in nineteen languages. She lives with her family and three rambunctious dogs in the Pacific Northwest. Readers can visit her website at lisajackson.com and find her on Facebook.

Photo Credit: Kimberly Butler Photography


About Nancy Bush:

Nancy Bush is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over 30 novels, including The Killing Game, Nowhere to Run, I'll Find You and Hush. She is the co-author of the Colony series, written with her sister, bestselling author Lisa Jackson, as well as the collaborative novels Sinister and Ominous, written with Lisa Jackson and Rosalind Noonan. A former writer for ABC's daytime drama "All My Children," Nancy now lives with her family and pug dog, The Binkster, in the Pacific Northwest. Please visit her online at nancybush.net.

Download the Wicked Series Family Tree


Average Customer Review

Based on 0 reviews



Write a Review