Title: The Dead Girlâs Stiletto
Author: Quinn Avery
Genre: Mystery Thriller
Cover Designer: Najla Qamber
Publication Date: April 2nd, 2019
QUINN AVERY is a bestselling and award winning author from the Midwest with 27 novels published under various pen names. The Bexley Squires Mystery series is the first mystery/thriller novel under the Quinn Avery pseudonym.
She knew the game was overâshe was about to die. She could feel it in her bones. The young woman wept as she staggered across the main deck of a super yacht near Papaya Springs, playground for the filthy rich and famous. A crisp breeze sent a violent chill racing through her body. She was naked apart from a pair of high heels. She was also badly bruised, and utterly baffled. The moonlight cast a sinister glow on the dark water surrounding the vessel. The boat gently rocked beneath her with the oceanâs swells. Where was she? How did she get there?
Her chest heaved as she continued to stumble ahead. Pain radiated through her skull, and her forehead was covered with something warm that also saturated her eyes and blurred her vision. She swiped the sticky substance with a trembling hand. Blood coated her fingertips. Had someone hurt her? Did she have an accident? She remembered a fightâ¦
Nausea sloshed through her stomach. She knew she should yell for help. In the deepest depths of her cloudy memory, she also knew no one would come to her rescue. They were after her. Her throat filled with bile.
She didnât understand why her thoughts were so muddled. Had she taken something? Heart pounding an erratic beat, she continued to scurry across the teak wood. Her lungs burned. Panic set in. There was nowhere to hide.
Then she saw him emerging from the shadows. She limped into his open arms.
âIâm scared!â she cried. âWhatâs happening?â
Gentle hands caressed her back. Warm lips swept over her shoulder. His familiar scent instantly put her at ease.
But there was something off. The woman sensed it with every nerve in her body.
âShhhâ¦thereâs no need to cry,â he cooed. âEverythingâs going to be okay.â The words were a contradiction to the sorrow wavering in his voice.
âNoooo,â she slurred with a sob. She backed away until something was pressed against her shoulder blades. A railing. There was nowhere else to go. She was trapped. âPleaseâ¦donât let them do this.â
The womanâs cries came in agonizing howls. She wanted her mom and dad. She wanted to go home.
She knew his face was the last thing she would ever see.
* * *
Twenty-year-old Eric OâNeil sprinted across the sandy shore, his feet leaving deep indentations in the fine powder. Multimillion dollar yachts skimmed across the glittering Pacific Ocean less than a mile away. Hulls sparkled like diamonds in the sweltering sun. Crisp masts snapped in the warm wind. Speakers blasted whatever gangster rap was currently dominating the charts. Even on an early holiday afternoon, it was an opportunity for the wealthy to play in SoCal, exposing their sun kissed shoulders without a care in the world. A moderate amount of sunbathers dotted the majestic shoreline, generally those too poor to be among those playing in vessels on the water.
âGenerally only two types were known to be residents of the swanky community: those with unfathomable wealth, and those paid to serve them. It was common knowledge to locals that illegal drugs ran rampant, and everyone went out of their way to keep their secret, fearing their source of income would disappear along with their customers. It was rumored some establishments even had secret rooms where they could relax amongst luxurious amenities while ingesting white powder and popping pills. Eric had hoped heâd come across one of those places, but he was merely stoked heâd scored primo weed from a high-end dispensary using his fake ID. They didnât have anything like it back in Detroit. He was higher than the blue skies above his head.
âHe yelled over his shoulder to his girlfriend, âTry to keep up!â He was slated to be Papaya Springs Collegeâs best baller this season, having broken his stateâs high school records two seasons in a row for most points scored by one player. The moment he stepped on the basketball court he was a true god, destined for a pro team after college. There had already been a handful of recruiters vying for his attention with under-the-table bribes of trips involving drugs and hordes of female companions.
It gave him an even greater sense of pride when Tehya Jensenâunquestionably the hottest and richest chick he knewâliterally chased after him. Her parents owned a string of hotels all over the world, and they had invited Eric to spend Thanksgiving at their $20 million condo. He never imagined heâd be privileged to that kind of lifestyle. His parents had teetered on the edge of poverty ever since the automotive plants began to shut down. Heâd only been able to afford college because of the athletic scholarship.
ââSeriously, my limbs are too heavy for this!â Teyha whined from far away. âSlow down!â
âLaughing manically, Eric rounded the corner, stumbling across a sand dune. He lost his footing, long limbs sprawled around him as he face-planted onto the beach. With a long grunt, he flipped around to his back and started to move his hands and legs at his sides.
âLook at meâ¦Iâm a sand angel,â he muttered before releasing a nasally chuckle.
Then the back of his arm connected with something firm, wet, and exceptionally clammy. Eric rolled to his side, blinking heavily at the sight before him. A naked woman with giant knockers was fast asleep where the tide had recently gone down in the sand. Dark, wet hair covered her face, and her arms and legs were spread out around her like she had just made angels in the sand too. In fact, one of her legs was crooked at an unusual angle. Wait, Eric thought to himself, sheâs not naked. Sheâs wearing heels.
They werenât just any pair of heels, either. They were a luminescent gold with rhinestonesâhell, maybe even diamonds. If the water hadnât ruined them, they could be outrageously expensive. Since Eric didnât have two spare pennies to rub together after covering expenses not included in his scholarship, he would have to get creative in finding someone as rich as Tehya an impressive Christmas present. He didnât want to screw up the chance of getting invited back to her parentsâ condo.
âEric peered over his shoulder, ensuring Tehya wasnât close before he went to work in removing the womanâs shoes. The suction of her wet skin made removing them more difficult than he had anticipated. Either that or he was still seriously tripping from his last hit of the primo joint. Tongue trapped between his teeth, Eric pulled and pulled until the unconscious womanâs feet gave up the fight.
Just as he was contemplating copping a quick feel of the womanâs perfect tits (he was dying to find out if they were real), Tehyaâs muffled scream pierced the warm air. He twisted around to find his girlfriend holding both hands over her mouth, eyes as wide as a cartoon characterâs. She wore a skimpy little dress that made her fatherâs face as red as a cherry when they came down from her room after a heated make out session. Warmth spread through Ericâs groin when he recalled how many times he had violated that sweet little body in the condo with her parents nearby.
âOhmygod! Eric, what are you doing?â
All at once remembering he was holding the womanâs shoesâTehyaâs presentâhe clumsily moved them behind his back. âItâs fine, babe. Sheâs sleeping.â
A funny little noise slipped from Tehyaâs throat. âShe does not look like sheâs sleeping. Look at her head!â
Eric stretched back to the woman. Now that he paid a little closer attention, it did seem like there was something terribly wrong. Was that her brain peering back at him? He crawled backwards on his hands and feet in the sand like the crab theyâd tried to give a hit to earlier while getting high. Eric laughed at the memory as he climbed back up to his feet.
âThis isnât funny!â Tehya scolded, her voice becoming even more annoying with every syllable. âWere you stealing her shoes?â
âIf sheâs really dead, sheâs not gonna need them anymore,â he insisted, lifting them in the air for emphasis. âTheyâd look hotter on you anyway.â
âNo way Iâm wearing shoes you stole off a corpse!â
âEric rolled his eyes. Women were never satisfied. He tossed them back by his feet. âHappy now?â
ââYou canât leave them here! We have to call the police, and theyâll think we were somehow involved if they find your fingerprints! Ohmygod weâre totally going to jail! Our lives are over! Youâre going to get kicked off the team, andââ
âBabe, stop!â Eric demanded, bracing a hand over her warm lips. âThe weed is making you paranoid. Weâre not going to jail, and theyâre not kicking me off the team. Weâll take the shoes with us, then weâll call the cops from somewhere far away from here.â
Eric scooped the incriminating evidence off the sand before taking his girlfriendâs hand and leading her away. He wasnât going to prison because of some stupid shoes. Besides, if they were really as valuable as he suspected, then maybe there was a way they could bring in some money.