Capturing the Devil: Preview the finale of Kerri Maniscalco's Stalking Jack the Ripper series
There’s only one way for Kerri Maniscalco’s best-selling Stalking Jack the Ripper quartet to end: Capturing the Devil.
The series has drawn thousands of fans since it first debuted in the fall of 2016, immersing readers in a new world of horror inspired by an iconic string of murders. We first met Audrey Rose Wadsworth as a 17-year-old born a lord’s daughter, publicly living a luxurious life of wealth and privilege, and secretly getting dragged into the investigation of a serial murderer. Presenting under James Patterson’s children’s book imprint, the YA series then took several shocking twists and turns, most recently on a voyage across the Atlantic in Escaping From Houdini.
For those fans clamoring for details on the fourth and final book in the Stalking Jack the Ripper story, the wait is finally over. EW can exclusively reveal the official cover for Capturing the Devil, as well as an entire excerpt.
But first, as a preview to the preview, the official synopsis: “Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell have landed in America, a bold, brash land unlike the genteel streets of London they knew. But like London, the city of Chicago hides its dark secrets well. When the two attend the spectacular World’s Fair, they find the once-in-a-lifetime event tainted with reports of missing people and unsolved murders. Determined to help, Audrey Rose and Thomas begin their investigations, only to find themselves facing a serial killer unlike any they’ve heard of before. Identifying him is one thing, but capturing him — and getting dangerously lost in the infamous Murder Hotel he constructed as a terrifying torture device — is another. Will Audrey Rose and Thomas see their last mystery to the end — together and in love — or will their fortunes finally run out when their most depraved adversary makes one final, devastating kill?”
That’s the big question. For clues, check out EW’s exclusive preview below. Capturing the Devil publishes Sept. 10, and is available for pre-order.
Excerpt from Capturing the Devil, by Kerri Maniscalco
The Color of Blood
Audrey Rose’s rooms
Fifth Avenue, New York City
22 January 1889
I was too stubborn to admit it, but Uncle was correct again—tonight my bones ached worse than they usually did. Standing for extended periods was difficult enough without wintry weather sinking its claws in, wreaking more havoc on me.
After we’d sewn up the last cadaver, I had the kitchen send a dinner tray to my room, hoping my warm quarters and thick blankets might help. Once I finished eating, I sat in front of the fireplace, scalding tea in hand, and accomplished only burnt fingers. The aching chills refused to leave. Knowing I’d hurt worse in the morning, I limped to the bathing chamber and turned the copper faucet, filling the bath for a good, hot soak.
I stepped out from my robe and gingerly maneuvered into the water, wincing a bit until I acclimated to the heat. I leaned my head against the lip of the porcelain tub, my hair piled in a messy knot, and inhaled the pleasing herbal scent. Liza had taken to concocting more than tea blends—she’d made the loveliest aromatic salts for me, claiming medicinal properties would help different ailments. This particular blend would assist with drawing out toxins and calming my nerves, amongst other things, she told me.
Whether that was true or not, it smelled divine. Steam rose in fragrant tendrils of lavender, lemon balm, and eucalyptus, relaxing both my muscles and soul. I was constantly moving as of late, always rushing from one problem to the next without pausing to restore myself. I wasn’t used taking careful note of each of my movements, and found the learning of it to be tedious at best. Though my body was a stern professor—it let me know when it had had enough and would continue teaching the same lesson until I became an apt pupil. I must learn to pace myself or suffer the consequences.
Death. Murder. Even while relaxing I couldn’t escape such horrors. I closed my eyes, trying to erase images of the most recent mutilated corpse from my mind. I loathed that a woman might be brutalized by her killer and then again by the men investigating the crime. It was an unfair world—one that showed no mercy for those who needed it the most.
Hoping the bath salts might draw those thoughts away, I sank lower, the water now tingling against my earlobes. A door to my outer rooms opened and closed, the soft click reminding me of a bullet sliding into the chamber of a pistol. I sighed. So much for stealing a few restorative moments alone. I silently prayed my aunt hadn’t come to read any more passages of scriptureI was one prayer away from losing my mind. I dipped further into the water and pretended I hadn’t heard her enter, focusing instead on unkinking each muscle. Soon enough, footsteps approached and I wished a thousand unpleasantries upon the intruder.
“Wadsworth?” Thomas called quietly, then pushed the door open, halting as I nearly splashed him in my haste to cover up. Of all the…
I crossed my arms in a feeble attempt at modesty. “Have you lost your senses?”
“If I hadn’t before, I certainly have now.” He blinked slowly, trying and failing not to stare at me in the tub. He didn’t have the courtesy to even blush—he looked positively dumbstruck. As if he’d never encountered a body without clothing before. Perhaps just not one with a still-beating heart. I’d be flattered by his obvious response if I wasn’t so flustered.
“Get out!” I whispered harshly. “If my aunt or father sees you in here—”
“It’s all right. We’re engaged.” He shook himself from his stupor and knelt beside me, a small devilish smile playing on his lips. “That is, if you’ll still have me?”
“Father agreed?” Forsaking propriety, I almost leapt from the water into his arms, stopping myself at the last moment. “I can’t believe you kept that from me all afternoon!” I sat back and his focus shifted to where my bare shoulders met the water. His gaze darkened in a dangerously seductive manner, awakening a growing need in me. “At least be a gentleman and turn around.”
His expression hinted that he was far from a gentleman at the moment, and a quick inspection of my face confirmed I liked it. Excitement thrummed through my veins. I couldn’t deny enjoying the power of his deductions when he directed them at me, and I wondered what that extreme attention to detail focused entirely on my body would feel like.
“As a properly engaged couple, we’re permitted a few more liberties. For instance, we might spend time alone, behind closed doors.” He purposely scanned the bathing chamber, nodding toward the door. “Seems a shame to let those liberties go to waste.”
The scoundrel had the unmitigated gall to indicate joining me in the bath. As I turned that thought over, my entire body heated up, having nothing to do with the steaming water. I found the idea of bathing together to be—I splashed water onto my face. When I looked at him again, I noticed a slight furrow in his brow. “Was there something else?”
“Other than informing you that we’re finally, truly, engaged, dear fiancée?” I nodded, the word sending a little thrill through me. As if recalling he had a purpose more important than flirting, he pulled a small velvet pouch from his jacket pocket, his attention now fixed on it. “My sister arrived bearing gifts.”
I almost jumped from the bath again, but settled for craning my head around Thomas to see if his sister was making an appearance in my chambers, too. “Daciana’s here?”
“She and Ileana arrived shortly after supper.” He ran his thumb over the velvet pouch, seemingly lost in another place and time.
“Cresswell?” I gently prodded. “What is it?”
He sounded so sad, my heart nearly broke. I motioned to the little pouch, wanting to drag him from his despair. “That’s the strangest letter I’ve ever seen.”
He glanced up through thick lashes, humor flickering in his eyes before he looked away. “Instead of being terrified of her imminent death and thinking only of darkness, my mother wrote us letters. She wouldn’t survive to see either of us married, but…” he shook his head, swallowed hard. His emotions were on full display, unlike earlier during the autopsy when he’d seemed so cold and remote. “She wrote one for me to read upon my engagement.”
Forgetting about any cursed rules of the world, I reached over, water dripping onto the hexagon tiles, and laced my fingers through his. “Oh, Thomas. Are you all right?”
A single tear slipped down his cheek as he nodded. “I’d forgotten, almost, what it was like. Listening to my mother’s advice. Her voice. The soft accent that was never quite British or Romanian, but somewhere in between. I miss her. There isn’t a day that passes where I don’t wish for another moment with her. I’d hoard it away forever, knowing how precious it was.”
I gently squeezed his hand. In this most unfortunate circumstance, we understood each other too well. I missed my own mother terribly. While I was thrilled Father had finally agreed to our engagement, the wedding planning and celebration would be difficult to go through without her. Her absence—along with Thomas’s mother’s—played a large role in our second request to my father. I hope he’d consented to that as well.
“It is a gift, having her letters to look forward to,” I said. “They’re invaluable little mementos—proof that some things are truly immortal. Like love.”
Thomas swiped at his nose, smiling, though his expression was still too despondent for my liking. “Beyond life, beyond death. My love for thee is eternal.”
“That’s beautiful. Was it in the letter?”
“No. It’s how I feel about you.” I swore my heart stuttered a moment. The young man who London claimed was nothing more than a cold automaton had created poetry. Thomas quickly opened the velvet pouch, tipping its contents onto his palm. A ring with a large crimson jewel lay there like the deepest drop of spilled merlot or crystallized blood. I gasped as he held it up to the light. The unblemished stone was quite literally breathtaking.
“Red diamonds are the rarest in the world.” He turned it one way then the next, showing off its magnificence. I couldn’t stop staring at it. “My mother told me to follow my heart, no matter what others might counsel, and give this to the woman I choose to wed. She said this stone represents an eternal foundation, one she hopes is built on trust and love.” He inhaled deeply. “I’d already jotted down those lines for you, ‘beyond life, beyond death; my love for thee is eternal.’” At this admission, he blushed. “When Daciana brought me this letter today—the very day your father gave us his blessing—and I read that line, it felt as if my mother was here, offering her own blessing not just for me, but for you, too. She would have welcomed you as her daughter.”
He took my left hand in his, his gaze now locked onto mine. All teasing and shyness had vanished. I knew him well enough to realize how serious he’d become, how important these next words would be. His coldness this afternoon in the makeshift laboratory was self-preservation; he was preparing to open himself more fully than the corpse we’d flayed apart. I remained still, as if one unexpected movement might frighten him away.
“This ring is a gift from my mother, passed along from her mother and so on. It was once owned by Vlad Dracula.” Without breaking my stare, he nodded toward the jewel. “It’s yours now.” Gooseflesh rose along my arms, catching his attention. “I’ll understand if you’d rather have another diamond. My family legacy is rather—”
“Majestic and incredible.” I cupped his face, noticing a slight tremor go through him. I didn’t think it had anything to do with the bathwater. Thomas Cresswell still didn’t believe he was worthy of love. That his lineage was some sort of dark curse. I thought he’d banished his doubts by the end of our voyage here. Some monsters were harder to slay, it seemed. I’d gotten chills because I was honored he’d share his deepest fears with me. With this blood-red diamond, he was giving me another piece of his heart. It was a gift rarer and more precious than the stone he wished to place upon my finger. “I will wear it proudly and cherish it forever.”
I worked my mother’s pear-shaped diamond off and put it on my other hand, pulse racing as Thomas slipped his family heirloom onto my ring finger. It fit like it was always meant to be mine. Thomas kissed each knuckle, then drew my arm around his neck, uncaring that he was getting his shirt wet.
“I love you, Audrey Rose.”
Without prompting, I placed my other arm around him. My shoulders were now completely out of the bath and I was perilously close to being exposed further, but I didn’t care. Thomas’s body was both a shield and comfort as he pressed it firmly against me.
“I love you, Thomas.” When we kissed, I swore the earth shook and the stars burned brighter. Thomas moved out of my grasp long enough to hop into the tub, fully clothed, and pulled me onto his lap. Heat shot through me at the unexpected but welcome contact. “Are you quite mad? I’m not wearing any clothes!” I whispered, laughing as he dunked under the water, then shook his head like a dog. Droplets pelted me. “My aunt will die from the scandal!”
Thomas brushed a piece of hair from my face, then slowly moved his lips from my jaw to my ear and back, kissing my bare skin until I was convinced we soaked, unhurt, in a pool of fire, and each of my fears and worries of being caught burned away. “Then we ought to be very quiet.”
He lifted me higher and I stared into his eyes, losing myself in the sensation of running my fingers through his damp hair. He looked at me like I was a goddess—like I was fire and magic and spell work combined in human form. I traced a finger down to his collar, teasing the first button open. I suddenly wanted to see more of him, I needed to. I tugged his jacket off, leaving his shirt on, though it might as well have been off. Soaked through, it left little to the imagination. A faint image bled through the fabric. I leaned in. “What is that?”
He glanced down as if he hadn’t a clue, then shrugged. He unbuttoned the first few buttons and pulled his shirt open, revealing a tattoo. They’d become quite popular with the upper class, but I hadn’t thought he’d be interested in such fads. Not that I minded. It was…tantalizing. I touched it with my fingertips, careful to avoid the red splotches around its edges indicating it was fairly new. He watched me, his attention intent and focused, while I inspected it.
“A skull and rose?” I finally asked. “It’s beautiful. What does it mean?”
“Oh, lots of things.” He drew back, exhaling, a self-satisfied smile in place. “Mostly it’s a study in contrasts; light and dark, death and life, decay and beauty.” His expression turned thoughtful. “To me it also symbolizes good and evil. Placing it on my heart proves love conquers everything. Naturally I needed a rose on my body forever, too.” He kissed me, slow and sensuous, as if to make sure I didn’t misinterpret his innuendo. “When you saw Prince Nicolae’s tattoos you seemed intrigued, so I deduced you’d enjoy it. I hope that’s true.”
I gave him a bemused look. “You’re free to ornament your body however you’d like. No permission needed.”
“Truthfully, I thought it’d be a good reason for you to take my shirt off.”
I grinned. Thomas enjoyed saying shocking things to gauge my response. There was no reason I couldn’t match him in that area. “Your deductions might not be as sharp as you think if you believe I lack motivation, Cresswell.”
His jaw practically hit the floor. Immensely satisfied, I bent my head, kissing the inked area above his heart. With or without the rose tattoo as a permanent marking, Thomas Cresswell was mine. When a small gasp escaped him, I covered his mouth with my own, claiming him fully.
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