Read Evil to the Max Online

Authors: Jasmine Haynes

Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Supernatural, #Ghosts, #Psychics, #Women Sleuths, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Mystery & Suspense

Evil to the Max

EVIL TO THE MAX

BOOK TWO IN THE MAX STARR SERIES

Jasmine Haynes

 

Copyright 2011 Jasmine Haynes

Cover design by Rae Monet Inc

 

 

 

This is copyrighted material. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author. This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.

 

 

 

Previously Published through Liquid Silver Books, 2003.

 

Author Note: This book contains explicit sex

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

Thirty-something, down-on-her-luck accountant Max Starr has the unfortunate gift of being psychic, a newly-discovered wrinkle in her already messed-up life. Her husband, Cameron, is dead, killed in a botched 7-11 robbery two years ago. In her grief, Max has cut herself off from friends, moved out of her San Francisco home in favor of a studio apartment, and dumped her flourishing career as a CPA to do temp work.

 

Now Max has developed an annoying penchant for attracting the spirits of murdered women. Okay, they possess her. And to exorcize them, Max must unmask their killers. But how?! By stepping into the void their deaths created, taking their jobs, befriending the loved ones they left behind. Max goes wherever she has to go and does whatever she has to do, with a lot of help from the ghost of her late husband Cameron and hunky and very enticing Detective Witt Long.

 

In
Evil to the Max
, Book 2 in the Max Starr series, when Max tells the detective she’s had a second vision of a murder, Witt knows he’s in for another crazy adventure. The police aren’t going to solve Tiffany Lloyd’s murder without Max divulging what she saw in the vision, but that will only move her straight to the top of the suspect list. For the second time in less than a month. So Max goes on the hunt for the murderer herself, dragging a reluctant Witt along with her. First things first, she gets a job in the salon where Tiffany used to work. And the deeper she ventures into the dead woman’s life, the more she sees that nothing is as it seems and everyone has something to hide. As she stirs up a hornet’s nest, Max soon begins to fear she might be the next victim.

 

Even scarier, Witt makes it clear he wants her. Badly. Just how long can she resist him? When it comes to Witt and her very sexy visions about him, she suspects that resistance is futile.

 

Dedication

To Rose Lerma, you are greatly missed, my dear friend.

 

 

 

Acknowledgements

Thank you to everyone who made Max Starr possible. Rose Lerma, Pamela Britton, Cherry Adair, and Susan Plunkett, my first critique group who lived through those early drafts and helped make the stories shine. Linda Eberharter and Mike Feury of Liquidsilverbooks, who first took a chance on Max. The LSB girls who were with me through the whole process, Jenn Mason, Terri Schaefer, Dee Knight, and Cheryl Clark. And to my Aqui support group, Bella Andre, Shelley Bates, Jenny Andersen, and my good friend Laurel Jacobson, you girls keep me sane! To Rosemary Gunn for putting together my graveyard photos into some really cool covers, and thanks to Rae Monet for the amazing new set of covers. You’re both so talented! Thanks to everyone else not mentioned who helped me on this long journey. And to the Max fans who emailed me to say they fell in love with Max, Witt, Cameron, and the cast of characters in the Max Starr books. I couldn’t have done it without all of you.

 

 

 

Prologue

 

 

The music vibrated in her chest and puckered her nipples against the tight tank sweater she wore. She couldn’t hear herself think, didn’t want to. A gaggle of girls on the hairy edge of the legal drinking age passed in front of her. They pointed, giggled, and whispered. Like teenyboppers.

For a moment, she envied their innocence.

When she looked again, her quarry made his move. She turned, fingering the heart-shaped locket around her neck, and watched his approach in the mirror behind the bar.

“Wanna dance?”

His voice thrummed through her. Deep. Heavy with sexual innuendo. He smelled of soap, fresh laundry, and aroused male. Dark hair a month past the need for a cut, a week’s growth of beard covering his chin, and eyes the color of hot fudge. Mmmm. She licked her lips. She adored hot fudge sundaes.

Garth Brooks faded into a Brad Paisley ballad. Slow. Just what she’d been waiting for. She slid off the stool and held her hand out to him. Weaving through the tables with him close behind her, his touch seared her wrist. Promising.

The floor was packed with dancers doing the Drifter. They joined in, her back to his front, not a breath of space between their bodies. He was already hard. She was already wet. Looking over her shoulder, she slid her hips across his erection. His nostrils flared.

Undulating dancers brushed against her. Laughter, voices, and pounding music insulated them in the center of the dance floor. She followed his moves, let the rhythm of her breath match the pulse of the music. Fast. Hot. He caressed her without touching. They dipped, surged, and rolled with the beat. Then his hand wandered beneath her short black skirt, across her thigh, then slipped along her center.

She’d left her panties at home. “Do it now,” she whispered, and placed a hand on his zipper.

“Jesus,” he murmured on an exhale. “Christ. This isn’t such a good idea.”

“You have to.” She seduced with a flexing of her butt muscles.

His finger trailed moisture along her thigh as he withdrew. His arm tightened beneath her breasts. “Not here.”

He grabbed her hand and pulled her from the dance floor. Dragging her down a short hallway ripe with the scent of sweat, he pushed open a door. Men. Lots of them. Bright lights. Stained white urinals. Shocked stares.

He pulled her into the second stall, closed the door, and backed her up against the cool metal. So good against her hot flesh. He sat on the toilet, shoved his hands roughly beneath her skirt, then rubbed his thumb against her clitoris. Looking down at him, she bit her lip.

Outside the stall, speech returned. Murmurs. A quick burst of embarrassed laughter. She fed on every sound.

He raised her skirt and put his tongue to her. She hooked a leg over his shoulder to give him better access, braced herself against the locked door, then moaned out loud.

Someone cheered.

He went down on her in earnest.

She came in a blinding flash. Crying out, she shuddered against his mouth, locking him to her with her hands in his hair.

A chant rose outside the stall, “Fuck her, fuck her, fuck her.”

He stood, turned her against the door, spread her legs, and took her from behind. She came again on the second thrust and didn’t stop until he’d unloaded deep inside her.

The riot started when she opened the stall door.

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

Max Starr stopped in front of his desk and planted her hands on her hips. “I think I know where another dead body is.”

Detective DeWitt Quentin Long laid his head on his folded arms and cried like a baby.

The clatter of computer keys stopped abruptly. A phone no one bothered to answer rang shrilly. Four pairs of male eyes bored into her back. Noisy hall traffic faded out.

“If you have to do that, can we go somewhere private?” she whispered. Max started to sweat in her black slacks and blazer. The embarrassment almost made her forget the horror of her vision.

Not.

She’d never forget the image of the couple in that restroom stall, the sound of men ranting outside, and then ... the woman’s pain, so thick Max could feel it tighten across her own chest and crush the bones of her face. She took a shuddery breath.

Witt didn’t look up. His broad shoulders shook.

The stuffy detective pen smelled like dirty socks, and the overhead lighting turned Witt’s blond hair a ghastly shade of yellow. Three of the suits had risen from their chairs, moving closer to eavesdrop. So close, she smelled their coffee breath blowing down her neck.

“Hey, this is getting ridiculous,” Max hissed.

Witt was a big guy, no pushover despite the blue eyes and Dudley Do-Right dimple in his chin. She’d expected more of him. Hell, she could have told him she’d had another psychic vision and that her husband’s ghost had sent her running to him. She spared him, figuring Witt was still getting over the time Cameron had given
him
a little ghostly nudge.

“Hey, Long, this the pain-in-the-a ... neck you keep talking about?”

Max turned to glare at Coffee Breath. At five-foot-six and in three-inch spiked heels, she towered over the man by at least an inch. His glasses were smudged, his brown suit rumpled, and the sleeve of his sport coat spotty with ... something. She’d bet her next paycheck the eau-de-dirty-socks came from
his
shoes.

Witt raised his head. Finally.

The creep was laughing. So damn hard he cried. Tears streamed down his face.

She narrowed her eyes. “I’m serious.”

She hadn’t known he could laugh. But then she’d only known him a little over two weeks. Still, when a man practically saves your life, you figure you
know
him. Though not in the biblical sense.

He wiped his eyes, chuckled once more, then got himself under control. “Scranton, you got reports to type or something?” He awarded Coffee Breath a bored flick of his hand and pulled out the chair next to his desk for Max.

Max continued to stand. “We have to go, Witt.” She lowered her voice. “There really is a body.”

He raised a blond brow. “Guess you weren’t joking the other day when you said you felt a ... dream coming on?”

She noticed he couldn’t quite call it a vision. “I was, but ... maybe I was having a premonition.”

His tears started afresh. “Certifiable,” he choked out.

“Me?” she muttered, affronted.

He shook his head. “Me.” Then he wiped the newest stream from his eyes with the sleeve of his charcoal shirt. “Where?”

“Where what?”

“Where’s the body?” he stage-whispered back.

Thirty minutes later, Max had gotten them halfway down the Peninsula. It was sunny, on the cool side, and just shy of noon. The drive was forty-five minutes from Witt’s station, which was close to the San Francisco airport, to the heart of Silicon Valley ... and the body stuffed in a dumpster behind Billy Joe’s Western Round Up, a local bar and country dancehall.

With the top up, Witt dwarfed her little red Miata. His near buzz-cut brushed the roof, and his knees scrunched up against the dash. Well ... she’d always said the car discouraged passengers.

“Santa Clara’s way out of my jurisdiction, Max.”

“But I need you, Witt.”

“You do?” He turned slightly, slid his arm along the back of her seat. She wore her dark hair short, but his sleeve brushed the ends at her nape. Her skin prickled. The confines of the car were definitely too small for the two of them and his ego.

“Can’t tell you how glad I am to hear that, Max. I think I need you, too,” he whispered, far too close to her ear.

She felt it right down to her toes in her high-heeled shoes. “Get outta here, Long.” She jabbed him with her elbow.

He sighed, then sat back. Max could breathe again. Sort of.

“Suppose you want me to run interference for you.”

“The cops’ll probably arrest me if I go by myself.”

“Like I almost did when you got your nose into
my
case.”

“That was days ago.” And thank God they were past that kind of distrust.

“All right. Spit it out. Everything.” Witt applied the brake on the passenger side as she snapped into the fast lane between a Camry and a Honda. “Maybe I shoulda driven, Max.”

“Do you want to hear or do you want to pick on my driving?”

“I wanna live.” He settled his big hands on his thighs. Gosh, she was partial to big hands. “But go on. Female,” he prompted. “Let’s start there. Age?”

“Mid-twenties.”

“Description?”

She pursed her lips. “You’re interrupting my flow here.”

“Habit. Sorry. Tell it your way.”

She told him everything, well, almost everything. She started with the bar and the dance. She skipped the men’s room—too much explicit sex with Witt sitting so close—and went straight to how she knew where the body was. “... and her killers tossed her in the dumpster next to the Round Up,” she finished.

Her speed dropped to sixty-five. She could feel him looking at her before he finally spoke. “You sure that’s the spot?” Was that skepticism in his voice?

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