Detective Alex Cross is being stalked by a psychotic genius, forced to play the deadliest game of his career. Cross's family—his loving wife Bree, the wise and lively Nana Mama, and his precious children—have been ripped away. Terrified and desperate, Cross must give this mad man what he wants if he has any chance of saving the most important people in his life. The stakes have never been higher: What will Cross sacrifice to save the ones he loves?
Widely praised by the greatest crime and thriller writers of our time, Cross My Heart set a jaw-dropping story in motion. Hope to Die propels Alex Cross's greatest challenge to its astonishing finish, proving why Jeffery Deaver says "nobody does it better" than James Patterson.
Part One | SIXTEEN DAYS EARLIER...
SUNDAY DID NOT GET to his apartment in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood until almost five. There had been a few books to autograph after his lecture, followed by an unavoidable lunch with Dr. Wolk, who drank too much and often reduced philosophical arguments into object lessons worthy of Dear Abby.
To make matters worse, Dr. Wolk had pressed Sunday repeatedly about the sort of research or writing he was doing while on sabbatical. Sunday finally told the chairman of Georgetown’s philosophy department the unvarnished but completely vague truth: “I’m conducting an experiment that tests the dimensions of an existential world and the role of human nature in that world.”
Dr. Wolk had seemed genuinely intrigued, wanted more, but Sunday had gently and firmly refused, telling his colleague he’d be able to read all about it someday when his research was complete. In fact, he’d promised, Wolk would get the first read.
Hearing zydeco music inside the apartment now and smelling garlic frying somewhere, Sunday used his key to open the door and entered a room with white walls, a white ceiling, and a pale-gray rug. Several pieces of chrome-and-black-leather furniture faced a flat-screen television tuned to a music channel; that was the source of the zydeco.
A woman was in the room, dancing to the music. Her back was to him as her hips swayed and shimmied. Her riot of dirty-blond hair was tied up on her head. She was barefoot, wore loose, flowing olive-green pants and a tight-fitting white tank top that showed off the damp skin and muscles of her shoulders as she reached high overhead, revealing the colorful tattoo of the lounging panther that covered most of her left arm.
Sunday smiled and shut the door loudly. The woman stopped dancing and looked over her shoulder at him with those clover-green eyes. She grinned, clapped, and turned. She ran to him, kissed him hungrily on the mouth, and said in that light Cajun accent, “Thought you’d never get here, Marcus.”
“Couldn’t be helped,” Sunday said. “Had to keep up appearances.”
She jumped up into his arms, locked her powerful thighs around his waist, and kissed him again. “But I had something to show you, sugar.”
“Been reading Fifty Shades of Grey again, Acadia?” he asked, amused, as he stared into her impossible irises.
“Better,” Acadia said, unlocked her legs, and slid from his arms. “Follow me, sugar?”
The writer trailed her down the hall, watching her rear sway, imagining some carnal delight. But instead of heading to the master bedroom, she turned right into a room they’d been using for storage.
Four seventy-two-inch flat-screens had been affixed to the far wall, creating one floor-to-ceiling screen that was interrupted only by an Xbox 360 Kinect device aiming outward. The screens glowed dull blue.
A scruffy young guy in a denim jacket sat with his back to them, facing the screens, wearing Bose noise-canceling headphones that were blaring hard rock. A helmet of some sort lay on the table. Beside the table were a server about the size of a large suitcase and an Xbox 360. Cables linked it all to several laptops.
“Ta-da,” Acadia said. “What do you think?”
Furious, Sunday grabbed her by her panther tattoo and dragged her back into the hallway and into a bedroom. He whispered fiercely, “I didn’t okay this, and who is that guy?”
Furious right back at him, Acadia hissed, “Preston Elliot. Computer genius. You want state-of-the-art understanding, you need state-of-the-art minds and equipment. You said so yourself!”
Before Sunday could reply, she softened, said, “Besides, sugar, Preston picked up most of it at Costco. Noquestions-asked return policy on all electronics.”
Sunday stayed skeptical. “What about him? What’s his fee?”
Her nostrils flared and she looked at him like he was meat. “The eager young man expects two hours of ultra-kinky sex with me. He’ll use a condom. Isn’t that what you said you needed right about now?”
Sunday cocked his head, appraising her anew. “Really? I didn’t notice, is he —?”
“Approximately your height and weight, yes.”
Intrigued now, the writer saw all the possibilities. “That means?”
“Don’t you think?” Acadia asked. Her breathing was slow. “It has been a while since we indulged, sugar.”
Sunday looked into her dark eyes and felt a thrill of primal anticipation ripple through him. “When?” he asked.
She shrugged. “All he has to do now is debug the software. Says he’ll be finished tomorrow around this time.”
“Who knows he’s here?”
“No one,” she replied. “Part of the deal. A secret.”
“Think he’ll keep it?”
“What do you think?” she asked, pressing against him a moment and igniting crazy desire in him. Sunday looked into Acadia’s green eyes and saw himself at eighteen, feeling that predatory rush for the first time as he carried a shovel and slipped up behind a figure crossing a dark yard. For a second it was all so real he swore he heard pigs squealing.
“Well, sugar?” Acadia whispered.
“I’ll leave,” he said, feeling that thrill all over again. “It’s better if he doesn’t see me tonight.”
She put on a saucy look, pressed against him again, and whispered in his ear, “Acadia Le Duc is limitless. No restrictions. None. You believe that, don’t you, sugar?”
“Oh, I do, baby,” Sunday said, almost breathless. “It’s one of the reasons I’m totally addicted to you.”
Copyright © 2013 by James Patterson
Read by Michael Boatman & Tom Wopat