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Blake Pierce

The Perfect Wife. A Jessie Hunt Psychological Suspense Thriller—Book One

Blake Pierce

Blake Pierce is author of the bestselling RILEY PAGE mystery series, which includes thirteen books (and counting). Blake Pierce is also the author of the MACKENZIE WHITE mystery series, comprising nine books (and counting); of the AVERY BLACK mystery series, comprising six books; of the KERI LOCKE mystery series, comprising five books; of the MAKING OF RILEY PAIGE mystery series, comprising two books (and counting); of the KATE WISE mystery series, comprising two books (and counting); of the CHLOE FINE psychological suspense mystery, comprising two books (and counting); and of the JESSE HUNT psychological suspense thriller series, comprising two books (and counting).

An avid reader and lifelong fan of the mystery and thriller genres, Blake loves to hear from you, so please feel free to visit www.blakepierceauthor.com to learn more and stay in touch.

Copyright © 2018 by Blake Pierce. All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior permission of the author. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Jacket image Copyright nikita tv, used under license from Shutterstock.com.

BOOKS BY BLAKE PIERCEA JESSIE HUNT PSYCHOLOGICAL SUSPENSE SERIES

THE PERFECT WIFE (Book #1)

THE PERFECT BLOCK (Book #2)

THE PERFECT HOUSE (Book #3)

CHLOE FINE PSYCHOLOGICAL SUSPENSE SERIES

NEXT DOOR (Book #1)

A NEIGHBOR’S LIE (Book #2)

KATE WISE MYSTERY SERIES

IF SHE KNEW (Book #1)

IF SHE SAW (Book #2)

THE MAKING OF RILEY PAIGE SERIES

WATCHING (Book #1)

WAITING (Book #2)

LURING (Book #3)

RILEY PAIGE MYSTERY SERIES

ONCE GONE (Book #1)

ONCE TAKEN (Book #2)

ONCE CRAVED (Book #3)

ONCE LURED (Book #4)

ONCE HUNTED (Book #5)

ONCE PINED (Book #6)

ONCE FORSAKEN (Book #7)

ONCE COLD (Book #8)

ONCE STALKED (Book #9)

ONCE LOST (Book #10)

ONCE BURIED (Book #11)

ONCE BOUND (Book #12)

ONCE TRAPPED (Book #13)

ONCE DORMANT (book #14)

MACKENZIE WHITE MYSTERY SERIES

BEFORE HE KILLS (Book #1)

BEFORE HE SEES (Book #2)

BEFORE HE COVETS (Book #3)

BEFORE HE TAKES (Book #4)

BEFORE HE NEEDS (Book #5)

BEFORE HE FEELS (Book #6)

BEFORE HE SINS (Book #7)

BEFORE HE HUNTS (Book #8)

BEFORE HE PREYS (Book #9)

BEFORE HE LONGS (Book #10)

AVERY BLACK MYSTERY SERIES

CAUSE TO KILL (Book #1)

CAUSE TO RUN (Book #2)

CAUSE TO HIDE (Book #3)

CAUSE TO FEAR (Book #4)

CAUSE TO SAVE (Book #5)

CAUSE TO DREAD (Book #6)

KERI LOCKE MYSTERY SERIES

A TRACE OF DEATH (Book #1)

A TRACE OF MUDER (Book #2)

A TRACE OF VICE (Book #3)

A TRACE OF CRIME (Book #4)

A TRACE OF HOPE (Book #5)

CHAPTER ONE

Jessie Hunt, exhausted and sweaty, dropped the last of the packing boxes on the dining room carpet. She could already feel her muscles starting to cramp up and knew she was going to be in serious pain tomorrow.

But as she looked over at Kyle, she couldn’t help but smile. They were officially moved in. The wide grin on his face told her he was thinking the same thing. His shirt was drenched but she didn’t care as he came over and wrapped her in a bear hug.

“We live here now,” he whispered in her ear, before gently kissing her neck. “I think we’re entitled to a celebratory drink, don’t you?”

“Definitely,” she agreed.

“Champagne? Beer?”

“Maybe a beer,” Jessie suggested, “and a Gatorade chaser. I feel like my whole body might seize up at any second.”

“I’ll be right back,” Kyle said and headed for the kitchen.

Jessie moved from the dining room to the den and plopped down on the couch, feeling her perspiration-soaked shirt press against the sheet covering the furniture. It was late August and even in the coastal Orange County community of Westport Beach, the weather was hot and sticky. The temperature was easily in the low nineties.

Of course, that was nothing compared to what it was like back in downtown Los Angeles, where they’d lived until this morning. Surrounded by the asphalt and concrete and shiny skyscrapers, Jessie would often walk out of their condo into the late summer heat to face temperatures above one hundred. In comparison, this felt like a respite.

She reminded herself that this was exactly the sort of perk that would justify moving away from the familiar life she’d grown to love in the city. She’d be trading in the excitement of the busy LA streets for cool ocean breezes. Instead of hip, new restaurants, they’d visit seaside cafes. Instead of taking the metro or an Uber to a gallery opening, they’d check out a yacht race in the harbor. And of course, there was all the extra money. It would take some getting used to. But she’d promised her husband she would embrace their new life and she intended to keep her word.

Kyle walked into the room, holding beers and Gatorades. He had peeled off his wet shirt. Jessie pretended to be oblivious to her husband’s impressive abs and chest. How he managed to maintain that physique while working those crazy hours at the firm was beyond her. But she wasn’t complaining.

He came over, handed her the drinks, and sat down beside her.

“Did you know there was a wine fridge in the pantry?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said, laughing incredulously. “Didn’t you notice that when we looked at the house the last two times?”

“I just assumed it was another cabinet so I never actually opened it until just now. Pretty cool, huh?”

“Yes, pretty cool, pretty boy,” she agreed, marveling at how his short blond locks stayed perfectly coiffed, no matter how disheveled the rest of him got.

“You’re the pretty one,” he said, brushing Jessie’s shoulder-length light brown hair out of her green eyes and staring at her with his own penetrating blue ones. “It’s a good thing I got you out of LA. I was tired of all those fedora-wearing hipsters hitting on you.”

“The fedoras weren’t a great call, I have to say. I could barely see any of their faces to decide if they were my type.”

“That’s because you’re an Amazon woman,” he said, pretending not to get jealous at her gentle teasing. “Any guy under six feet tall has to crane his neck to look up at a tall drink of water like you.”

“Not you, though,” Jessie murmured softly, suddenly forgetting her aches and pains as she pulled him close toward her. “I’m always looking up at you, hot stuff.”

Her lips were just brushing against his when the doorbell rang.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she groaned.

“Why don’t you answer it?” Kyle suggested. “I’ll find a fresh shirt to throw on.”

Jessie walked to the front door, beer in hand. It was her little rebellion against being interrupted mid-seduction. When she opened the door, she was greeted by a perky redhead who looked to be about her age.

She was cute, with a little button nose, gleaming white teeth, and a sundress that was just tight enough to prove she never missed a Pilates class. In her hands was a tray of what looked to be homemade brownies. Jessie couldn’t help but notice the massive wedding ring on her finger. It gleamed in the late afternoon sun.

Almost without thinking, Jessie found herself profiling the woman: early thirties; got married young; two, maybe three children; stay-at-home-mom but had lots of help; nosy but not in a malicious way.

“Hi,” the woman said in a chipper voice. “I’m Kimberly Miner from across the street. I just wanted to welcome you to the neighborhood. I hope I’m not disturbing you.”

“Hi, Kimberly,” Jessie replied in her friendliest, new neighbor voice. “I’m Jessie Hunt. We actually just finished moving our last box in a couple of minutes ago so this is great timing. And this is so sweet of you, literally! Brownies?”

“Yep,” Kimberly said, handing over the tray. Jessie saw her pointedly pretend not to eye the beer in her hand. “They’re kind of my specialty.”

“Well, come on in and have one,” Jessie offered, even though it was the last thing she wanted right now. “I’m sorry the place is such a mess, as are Kyle and I. We’ve been sweating all day. He’s actually looking for a new shirt right now. Can I offer you something to drink? Water? Gatorade. A beer?”

“No thanks. I don’t want to impose. You probably don’t even know which box has your glasses yet. I remember the move-in process. It took us months. Where are you coming from?”

“Oh, we just lived up in DTLA,” Jessie said and seeing the confused look on Kimberly’s face, added, “Downtown Los Angeles. We had a condo in the South Park district.”

“Oh wow, city folk,” Kimberly said, giggling a little at her own joke. “What brought you to Orange County and our little community?”

“Kyle works for a wealth management firm,” Jessie explained. “They opened a satellite office down here earlier in the year and it recently expanded. It’s a big thing for them because PFG is a pretty conservative operation. Anyway, they asked him if he’d help run it. We figured it was a good time to make a change since we’re thinking about starting a family.”

“Oh, with the size of this house, I assumed you already had kids,” Kimberly said.

“Nope—just being optimistic,” Jessie answered, trying to hide the sudden embarrassment she was surprised she felt. “Do you have any children?”

“Two. Our daughter is four and our son is two. I’m actually going over to daycare to pick them up in a few.”

Kyle arrived and wrapped one arm around Jessie’s waist as he extended the other to shake Kimberly’s.

“Hello,” he said warmly.

“Hi, welcome,” she replied. “My goodness, between the two of you, your future children are going to be giants. I feel like a munchkin next to you both.”

There was a brief awkward silence as both Jessie and Kyle wondered how to respond.

“Thank you?” he finally said.

“I’m sorry. That was rude of me. I’m Kimberly, your neighbor from that house,” she said, pointing across the street.

“Nice to meet you, Kimberly. I’m Kyle Voss, Jessie’s husband.”

“Voss? I thought it was Hunt.”

“He’s Voss,” Jessie explained. “I’m Hunt, at least for now. I’ve been procrastinating on doing the paperwork to change it.”

“I see,” Kimberly said. “How long have you been married?”

“Almost two years,” Jessie said sheepishly. “I have real problems with procrastination. That might explain why I’m still in school.”

“Oh,” Kimberly said, clearly relieved to move away from the delicate last name topic. “What are you studying?”

“Forensic psychology.”

“Wow—that sounds exciting. How long before you’re officially a psychologist?”

“Well, I got a little delayed,” Jessie said, sharing the obligatory story from every cocktail party they’d attended for the last two years. “I started out in child psychology when we were undergrads at USC—that’s where we met. I was even doing an internship for my master’s when I realized I couldn’t handle it. Dealing with children’s emotional problems was too much for me. So I switched.”

She pointedly neglected to include some of the other details of why she’d dropped out of the internship. Hardly anyone knew about them and she certainly wasn’t going to share them with a neighbor she’d just met.

“So you find dealing with the psychology of criminals less disturbing than children?” Kimberly asked, dumbfounded.

“Weird, huh?” Jessie conceded.

“You’d be amazed,” Kyle piped in. “She has this knack for getting in the heads of bad guys. She’s going to be a great profiler eventually. Any potential Hannibal Lecters out there better look out.”

“Really,” Kimberly said, sounding properly impressed. “Have you had to deal with serial killers and stuff?”

“Not yet,” Jessie admitted. “Most of my training has been academic. And with the move, I had to change schools. So I’m going to do my practicum at UC-Irvine starting this semester. This is my last one so I’ll graduate in December.”

“Practicum?” Kimberly asked.

“It’s a little like an internship, only less involved. I’ll be assigned to a prison or a psychiatric hospital, where I’ll observe and interact with inmates and patients. It’s what I’ve been waiting for.”

“The chance to stare the evildoers in the eye and see into their souls,” Kyle added.

“That might be overstating it just a bit,” Jessie said, giving him a playful punch in the shoulder. “But eventually, yes.”

“That is very exciting,” Kimberly said, sounding genuinely intrigued. “I’m sure you’ll have some great stories to tell. Speaking of, you said you two met at school?”

“Freshman year dorm,” Kyle said.

“Oh,” Kimberly pressed. “Bonded while doing laundry, that sort of thing?”

Kyle glanced over at Jessie and before he even said a word, she knew he was going to dive into their go-to cocktail party story.

“Here’s the abridged version,” he began. “We were friends but started dating midway through the first semester after she got stood up by some jerk. He got kicked out of school, not for bailing on the date I assume. Still, she dodged a bullet in my opinion. We broke up junior year, got back together as seniors. We dated for a year after that before moving in together. We did that for a year before getting engaged. Then we tied the knot ten months after that. It’ll be two years of wedded bliss in October.”

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