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1st to Die

1st to Die is a dazzlingly powerful new thriller by master suspense novelist James Patterson, the #1 bestselling author of Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider.

Four women-four friends-share a determination to stop a killer who has been stalking newlyweds in San Francisco. Each one holds a piece of the puzzle: Lindsay Boxer is a homicide inspector in the San Francisco Police Department, Claire Washburn is a medical examiner, Jill Bernhardt is an assistant D.A., and Cindy Thomas just started working the crime desk of the San Francisco Chronicle.

But the usual procedures aren't bringing them any closer to stopping the killings. So these women form a Women's Murder Club to collaborate outside the box and pursue the case by sidestepping their bosses and giving one another a hand.

The four women develop intense bonds as they pursue a killer whose crimes have stunned an entire city. Working together, they track down the most terrifying and unexpected killer they have ever encountered-before a shocking conclusion in which everything they knew turns out to be devastatingly wrong.

Full of the breathtaking drama and unforgettable emotions for which James Patterson is famous, 1st to Die is the start of a blazingly fast-paced and sensationally entertaining new series of crime thrillers.

Chapter 1

BEAUTIFUL LONG-STEMMED RED ROSES filled the hotel suite — the perfect gifts, really. Everything was perfect.

There might be a luckier man somewhere on the planet, David Brandt thought as he wrapped his arms around Melanie, his new bride. Somewhere in Yemen, maybe — some Allah-praising farmer with a second goat. But certainly not in all of San Francisco.

The couple looked out from the living room of the Grand Hyatt's Mandarin Suite. They could see the lights of Berkeley off in the distance, Alcatraz, the graceful outline of the lit-up Golden Gate Bridge.

"It's incredible." Melanie beamed. "I wouldn't change a single thing about today."

"Me either," he whispered. "Well, maybe I wouldn't have invited my parents." They both laughed.

Only moments before, they had bid farewell to the last of the three hundred guests in the hotel's ballroom. The wedding was finally over. The toasts, the dancing, the schmoozing, the photographed kisses over the cake. Now it was just the two of them. They were twenty-nine years old and had the rest of their lives ahead of them.

David reached for a pair of filled champagne glasses he had set on a lacquered table. "A toast," he declared, "to the second-luckiest man alive."

"The second?" she said, and smiled in pretended shock. "Who's the first?"

They looped arms and took a long, luxurious sip from the crystal glasses. "This farmer with two goats. I'll tell you later.

"I have something for you," David suddenly remembered. He had already given her the perfect five-carat diamond on her finger, which he knew she wore only to please his folks. He went to his tuxedo jacket, which was draped over a high-backed chair, and returned with a jewelry box from Bulgari.

"No, David," Melanie protested. "You're my gift."

"Open it anyway," he said to her. "This you'll like."

She lifted the top. Inside a suede pouch was a set of earrings, large silver rings around a pair of whimsical moons made from diamonds.

"They're how I think of you," he said.

Melanie held the moons against the lobes of her ears. They were perfect, and so was she.

"It's you who pulls my tides," David murmured.

They kissed, and he unfastened the zipper of her dress, letting the neckline fall just below her shoulders. He kissed her neck. Then the tops of her breasts.

There was a knock on the door of the suite.

"Champagne," called a voice from outside.

For a moment, David thought of just yelling, "Leave it there!" All evening, he had longed to peel away the dress from his wife's soft white shoulders.

"Oh, go get it," Melanie whispered, dangling the earrings in front of his eyes. "I'll put these on."

She wiggled out of his grasp, backing toward the Mandarin's master bathroom, a smile in her liquid brown eyes. God, he loved those eyes.

As he went to the door, David was thinking he wouldn't trade places with anybody in the world.

Not even for a second goat.

Copyright © 2001 by James Patterson

Read by Suzanne Toren (unabridged) & Melissa Leo and Dylan Baker (abridged)
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