The Wrong Side of Dead
Book #2 (November 2009) of the Sweet Justice Series
Mysterious computer wizard Seth Harper awakens in a bloody motel room to find he's not alone. The vacant eyes of a grisly corpse stare accusingly at himthe body of a young woman. Seth becomes the prime suspect for a heinous murder. If only he could remember what happened.
His former employer, bounty hunter Jessie Beckett, is determined to prove his innocence despite his gaps in memory. But when Seth is reluctant to reveal his own dark secrets, she must earn his deepest trust. Against all odds, she's in an uphill battle to save himthe man she hasn't stopped thinking about since he disappeared from her life.
But his plight is not what it seems. And both Jessie and Seth must confront the demons of their pastsin the place where their nightmares beganbefore Seth becomes a sacrificial lamb to a ruthless killer. With one fatal mistake, more innocent lives could wind up on the wrong side of dead.
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Praise for The Wrong Side of Dead
"Jordan Dane crafts nail-biting thrillers with fully-realized but very damaged characters, and plots that twist and turn and double-back to bite the unwary. Her novels are 21st Noir with guts and heart and a wicked sense of humor."
Jonathan Maberry, multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author of PATIENT ZERO
"The Wrong Side of Dead is an exciting suspense thriller that pulls no punches from start to finish. Bounty hunter Jessie Beckett is a strong lead who holds the exhilarating story line and herself together through a dangerous scenario that includes her heart as much as her life. Fans will enjoy this taut Sweet Justice thriller as the investigative suspense grips the reader throughout."
The Mystery Gazette
"The Wrong Side of Dead is a gruesome suspense story that will take you through the demonic psyche of a killer that needs to be caught. Seth is the perfect fall guy for a murder that he did not commit, or did he? And if he didn't, then who did? The Wrong Side of Dead is intense and shudder producing! Jordan Dane is an excellent suspense writer with just the right amount of romance thrown in to keep the story smoking hot! When you pick this one up, don't expect to put it down easily."
4 1/2 StarsKathy Fisher, The Romance Readers Connection
"Recommended reading for anyone who likes people who overcome their pasts, are stronger for them even if they don't think so, and who would love to see a happy endingeven if it may not be the one they think will happen."
TOP PICK 4.5 StarsNight Owl Romance (read the full review)
"Jordan Dane's The Wrong Side of Dead is an awesome, spell binding, keep you guessing murder mystery."
4 Cups Outstanding Great ReadCoffee Time Romance (read the full review)
"Author Jordan Dane presents a dangerous, gripping tale with page-turning pacing. Hang on, cuz you're going on a thrilling ride! SPECTACULAR!"
Beth Solheim, Pop Syndicate
Dirty Monty's LoungeSouth Side of ChicagoThursday 9:20 p.m. Late Summer
At the end of the bar Seth Harper slouched, nursing his lukewarm beer and keeping his dark eyes on the door, waiting. Not even a good beer buzz made him forget why he'd comeor why he still sat alone.
Given the grand scheme of the universe, he distracted himself by contemplating the big picture. Dirty Monty's and places like it existed for a reason. And several libations had given him the clarity of mind to reflect on it. Sleazy dumps gave the socially unacceptable a place to hang out, even on a Thursday night. And if these folks packed a thirst, Monty's served the cheap stuff and charged enough to trick its marginal clientele into believing it was worth it. When alcohol was involved, things always got real simple. And he appreciated the irony of his half-tanked epiphany, especially since he'd be counted among the socially unacceptable here tonight.
But he was a few beers shy of being easily duped by any redeeming nature of the shoddy bar. The pungent odor of cigarette smoke, liquor and cheap perfume had marked him. And the carpet smelled of mold, a borderline improvement over the collective tang of the bar patrons. His dark tousled hair, well-worn jeans and favorite black Jerry Springer tee already reeked of the bar's seedier elements. And well into the night, he'd be hearing a steady thrum of bass in his ears, courtesy of the non-stop jukebox musica mix of country, classic heavy metal and top 40 pop. He sighed and stared into his beer mug, bracing himself to accept what had happened and hail a cab home.
What the hell are you doing? The question had stuck in his head and reminded him he'd been played for a sucker. She wasn't coming this time.
And insult to injury, the piss factor had kicked in again. Every time the bartender shot tonic into a glass or hit the spigot for a draught beer, Seth's bladder reacted. He made a quick trip to drain the vein and slumped back on his stool. But after another fifteen minutes of nursing his beer and a fragile spiritshifting his gaze between the front door and his watchSeth decided to call it a night. He downed the rest of his drink and fumbled in his pocket for a tip.
As he stood, he caught sight of a blond woman near the door.
It had to be her, but from where he stood, her face had morphed into an unrecognizable blur. He narrowed his eyes and struggled for a better look, but nothing more would come. When he moved toward her, he staggered against the edge of the bar, feeling lightheaded. The sensation took him by surprise. He hadn't drunk that much.
"What ... the hell?" he slurred.
When the room undulated in shadows, he knew something was terribly wrong. He felt sluggish and weak. Out of sync voices and warped music amplified into an irritating blare. He looked around, but everything was the same. Faces of strangers and the distant memory of a blond woman jutted in and out of the dark, distorted and overlapping in a jumbled mess. Blinking hard, he couldn't change what he saw. Colors bled from the ceiling and walls and created a macabre and shifting canvass.
Fear took a firmer grip.
"Help ... m-me."
He imagined calling out, but wasn't sure the words were his. Could anyone hear him? His arms went slack. And when standing became a chore, he collapsed. Before he hit the floor, strong hands grabbed him. He turned to look for a face, but the room spiraled out of control. His world switched off.
And he was powerless to stop it.
Seth stared into blackness, his thoughts the consistency of primordial ooze. Although his brain sent a questionable message to the rest of his body that he could move, he chose not to try. His senses were gathering intel and he was content to let the process happen at its own pace.
He blinked his eyesslow and easythe only motion he could muster.
It took time for him to recognize that something else moved in the dark. A faint edge of red stabbed through the shadows, a light blinking at a steady and insistent rhythm. He had no idea where it came from and didn't care. The left cheek on his face hurt and his head throbbed at the same measured beat as the light, inflicting a growing ache from behind his eyes and through the base of his skull. And with it, a chill sent a rush of pinpricks over his skin that cut deeper, especially with his back pressed against something cold and hard.
In front of him, images gradually took shape and emerged from the dark like pieces of a puzzle. And like an artery, the red light pulsed, repeatedly teasing him with a glimpse and swiping it away. Crimson lunged across a blanched palette like a strobe effect, capturing a wild array of blotches that marred the surface. At first, the scene over his head looked like a harmless rendition of an artist gone berserk until a metallic sweet odor triggered something else. Now a strong feeling of dread spoiled his creeping drift through oblivion. Muddled thoughts mercifully tempered the sensation, but he felt it all the same.
Urging his body to move, he lifted an arm and dropped a hand to his belly, a sluggish awkward struggle. His fingers felt dampness on his clothes. And a second bout with the cold swept over him, starting his teeth to chatter. He fumbled a hand to his cheek. It felt warm to the touch and throbbed a little, but he had no idea why. To get his blood moving, he rolled to his side and shoved an elbow under him, the cold tile pressed hard against his joint. When he lifted his head, dizziness caused a surge of nausea. He almost gagged, but managed to control it.
What had happened? He pried through his memory, recalling nothing of how he ended up here. And where was here? He peered through the shadows of what looked like a cramped bathroom. And beyond where he was, the remnants of a cheap motel room, but none of it looked familiar.
Through it all, the flashing light persisted. Its grim color doused everything. He looked across two small beds and saw the light came from a window that had thin drapes partially drawn. Outside, a neon vacancy sign flared its message, but he couldn't see all of it. And after only a quick glimpse, the light sent shards of pain through his eye sockets and challenged his night vision. To recover, he shifted his gaze to the dark corners of the bathroom again, looking for anything that would trigger a memory.
Instead, he came face to face with a nightmare he would never forget. Dead eyes stared back at him from the edge of a tub, opened wide and accusing. A slack head tilted at an odd and unnatural slant. A woman. Her mouth gagged with a soiled towel. Dark hair matted to her head, a bloodied mess.
He gasped and shoved his back to the wall, scrambling for a place to hide. But he couldn't turn his gaze from the white filmy eyes and gaping mouth. A face frozen in terror and awash in flashing crimson that stippled eerie shadows over the corpse.
"No ... no. What ... ?" His mind couldn't grasp what he saw.
The body smelled of violent death, the metallic sweet odor tinged with something out of a sewer. And the artist's blotches he had seen when he first opened his eyes had morphed into the reality of blood splatter. He clutched at his damp shirt and pulled away his hand to see it colored by a dark substance. He knew in an instant that it was blood.
This time Seth couldn't hold back. He emptied his stomach, even knowing dead eyes stared down at him as he retched.
Sick and confused, Seth got to his feet and backed out of the bloody bathroom, but the eyes of the dead body followed him. He turned on the gruesome scene and staggered off balance. To catch himself, he leaned a shoulder into the doorjamb and gripped it with a hand. His legs barely supported him. And even in a stupor, he realized his brain was fried. Trusting his senses would be out of the question.
When he stumbled into the next room, he caught the motion of a shadow outside the window. He only had time to blink but it was too late. A loud crack and the door burst open. He lurched backward, his spine jammed against a wall, the only thing that kept him from falling.
"Move ... MOVE!"
He heard a man yell and had no time to react. His heart hammered the inside of his chest. And when he sucked air into his lungs, he couldn't let it out. Everything happened way too fast.
© Jordan Dane