Saturday Excerpt: A Dangerous Game by Heather Graham

Are you ready for a thrilling start to the weekend? We have a sneak peek at the latest from author Heather Graham. A Dangerous Game hits shelves March 13, but you can get an early look now!

About A Dangerous Game:

TROUBLE ALWAYS FINDS HER…

Wrapping up a normal day at the office, criminal psychologist Kieran Finnegan is accosted by a desperate woman who shoves an infant into her arms and then flees, only to be murdered minutes later on a busy Manhattan street.

Who was the woman? Where did the baby come from? Kieran can’t stop thinking about the child and the victim, so her boyfriend, Craig Frasier, does what any good special agent boyfriend would do—he gets the FBI involved. And asks Kieran to keep out of it.

But the Finnegans have a knack for getting into trouble, and Kieran won’t sit idle when a lead surfaces through her family’s pub. Investigating on her own, she uncovers a dangerous group that plays fast and loose with human lives and will stop at nothing to keep their secrets—and they plan to silence Kieran before she can expose their deadly enterprise.

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***

“KIERAN? KIERAN FINNEGAN, RIGHT?” THE WOMAN ASKED.

She was wrapped in a black trench coat, wore a black scarf that nearly engulfed her face, and held a dark blanketed bundle against her chest as if it were the greatest treasure in the world. Kieran wasn’t sure when the woman had come in; the offices of psychologists Fuller and Miro were closed for the day, the doctors were gone, and Kieran had just about left herself. The receptionist, Jake, usually locked the office door on his way out, but apparently tonight he had neglected to do so. Then again, Jake might have already left when Kieran’s last patient had exited a little while ago. Whether Jake had been gone or he had forgotten to lock up, the door had been left open.

And so this woman accosted Kieran in the reception area of the office just as she was on her way out.

“I am Kieran, but I’m so sorry, I’m the therapist, not one of the doctors. Actually, we are closed for the day. You’ll need to come back. Both the doctors are wonderful, and I’m sure they’ll be happy to see you another time.”

And this woman certainly looked like she needed help. Her eyes were huge and as dark as the clothing she was wearing as she stared at Kieran with a look of despair.

“All right, let me see what I can do. You seem distraught,” Kieran said, and winced—wow. Stating the obvious. “I can get you to a hospital. I can call for help—”

“No. No.” The woman suddenly thrust the bundle she’d held so closely into Kieran’s arms. “Here!”

Kieran instinctively accepted it. Reflex? She wasn’t sure why.

It began to cry. And writhe. Of course. The bundle was a baby.

“Ma’am, please— Hey!” Kieran protested.

The woman had turned and was fleeing out the door. “Wait! Hey!” Kieran cried. She reached immediately for the phone, hoping that she’d be in time to reach the building’s security desk.

Ralph Miller answered the phone at the lobby desk. “Hey, pretty girl. What are you still doing at work? I’ve got a few hours to go, and then I am out of here. I hear that the Danny Boys are playing at Finnegan’s tonight. Can’t believe your brother snagged them. I would have thought that you’d have gotten out early—”

“Ralph, listen, please! There’s a woman who was just up here, and she ran out. Can you stop her from leaving the building?”

The baby wailed in earnest. “What?”

“There’s a woman in black—”

“In black, yeah. She just left.”

“Stop her—catch her! Now.”

“I can’t hear you, Kieran. I hear a baby crying. A baby! Whose baby is it?”

“Ralph! Get out in the street and get that woman!”

“What?”

“Go catch that woman!”

“Oh! Gotcha! I’m gone.”

She hung up, then quickly dialed 9-1-1.

Emergency services probably couldn’t move quickly enough to help, since no matter how quickly they arrived, the woman was already on the run.

She was running on the busy streets of New York City where rush hour was a swarm of humanity in which to get completely lost. But Kieran still explained the situation, where she was. The operator was efficient; cops would quickly be out. Child Services would arrive.

But no matter. The woman would get away.

Kieran tried to hold and rock and soothe the baby while dialing Craig Frasier.

If you were living with an FBI agent, it made sense to call him under such circumstances, especially since he—like Ralph—would want to know why she was working so late when the Danny Boys were playing at Finnegan’s. To Craig, it was still a normal night—and a Friday night! A nice, normal Friday night—something that would be very nice to enjoy, given their chosen professions.

“Hey, Kieran,” Craig said. “Are you already at the pub?” She apparently wasn’t good at rocking and soothing and trying to talk on the phone all at the same time. The baby was still crying. Loudly. “No, I—”

“Whose kid is that? I can’t hear a word you’re saying!”

“I’m still at work. Can you come over here, now, please?”

“Uh—yeah, sure.”

Kieran hung up the phone. She didn’t know what Ralph was doing; she didn’t know where the police were. She glanced down at the baby as she hurried from the office, ready to hit the streets herself. How old was the tiny creature? It was so small!

Yet—nice lungs!

Was the woman in black the mother?

She had looked older. Perhaps fifty. Too old for an infant.

Ralph wasn’t at the desk; Kieran heard sirens, but as yet no police had arrived.

Bursting out onto the New York City rush hour sidewalk, she looked right and left. There, far down the block, she thought she saw the woman.

“Hey!” Kieran shouted.

Despite the pulsing throng of humanity between them, the woman heard her. She turned.

There was something different about her now.

The way she moved. The way she looked, and the expression on her face.

She didn’t try to run. She just stared at Kieran, and then seemed to stagger toward her.

Kieran clutched the screaming infant close to her breast and thrust her way through the people; luckily, she was a New Yorker, and she knew how to push through a rush hour crowd when necessary.

The woman was still staggering forward. Kieran was closing the gap.

“Listen, I’ll help you, I’ll help the baby! It’s all right…” It wasn’t in any way all right.

The woman lurched forward, as if she would fall into Kieran’s arms, if Kieran had just been close enough.

She wasn’t.

The woman fell face-first down onto the sidewalk.

That’s when Kieran saw the knife protruding from the woman’s back and the rivulets of blood suddenly forming all around her and joining together to create a crimson pool.

Babies tended to be adorable—and this baby was especially so. In fact, Kieran wasn’t sure she’d ever seen an ugly baby, but she had been assured by friends that they did exist.

This little girl, though, had a headful of auburn ringlets and huge blue eyes. Kieran had heard that all babies had blue eyes, but she didn’t know if that was true or not. Sadly, she just didn’t know a lot about babies; she was one in a family of four children herself, yes, but she and her twin brother, Kevin, were only a couple of years behind their older brother and one year older than their younger brother.

Actually, this beautiful baby looked as if she could fit right in with their family. Each of the Finnegan siblings had a form of red hair and blue or green or blue-green eyes. Kieran’s own were blue, and her hair was a deep red.

“They say it’s the Irish,” she said softly to the little one in her arms. “But I don’t think that you’re Irish!”

Talking to the baby made sense at the moment; FBI Special Agent Craig Frasier, the love of her life and often partner in crime—solving crime, not committing it!—had arrived shortly after the police. The medical examiner had come for the body of the murdered woman. While waiting for Child Services, Kieran was holding the baby, back up in the office. Drs. Fuller and Miro worked with the police or other law enforcement. While not with the FBI, they were regular profilers and consultants for the NYC office. The Bureau’s behavioral science teams were down in DC, and while they could be called in, the city police and FBI often used local help in trying to get a step ahead of a criminal, or in working with criminals and witnesses when psychological assessments were needed, or, sometimes, when a child or a distressed person just needed to be able to speak to someone to ask the right questions and put them at ease. Kieran did a number of those assessments before reporting to the doctors, and she worked with victims of domestic abuse and both parents and children when they wound up within the child welfare system—such as a teenager who had been assaulted by her own father, or a senior citizen who was recovering from gun- shot wounds inflicted by his wife. Or Kieran’s last patient today, Besa Goga. Besa was a sad case, abused for years when she’d first immigrated to the country, and now quick to strike out. Besa Goga was in court-ordered therapy because she’d bitten a man from her cable company. Kieran had only been seeing her a few weeks.

But the office didn’t always work through the police department, FBI or other such agencies. They also handled other cases that fell their way through happenstance or other circumstances—as in the recovering alcoholic who was also a politician and doing very well with Dr. Fuller.

Kieran had called her bosses to let them know what had happened. Both had said they’d come in immediately.

She had assured them that they shouldn’t; the police were dealing with the murder, and Child Services was coming for the baby.

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