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Stop Me [Mass Market Paperback]

Brenda Novak
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 1 2008
Who was the real killer?

Romain Fornier lost his reason for living when his daughter was kidnapped and murdered. He used a cop's gun to mete out his own justice and spent the next few years in prison. Once he was freed, he returned to his Cajun roots in small-town Louisiana. But now he learns that he might have killed the wrong man.

Jasmine Stratford, a psychological profiler, is convinced his daughter's killer is still alive—and that she and Romain have something in common. She believes the same man kidnapped her sister, Kimberly, sixteen years ago.

What happens next?

Jasmine is determined to track him down when she receives an anonymous package, postmarked New Orleans—the bracelet she gave Kimberly for her eighth birthday. She approaches Romain because she knows he can help her… if he chooses.

But searching for the man who irrevocably changed both their lives means they have to rise to a killer's challenge:

stop me.


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About the Author

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak has penned over 45 novels. A two-time Rita nominee, she's won The National Reader's Choice, The Bookseller's Best, The Bookbuyer's Best and many other awards. She runs an annual online auction for diabetes research every May at www.brendanovak.com. To date, she’s raised over $2 million. Brenda considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life. --This text refers to an alternate Mass Market Paperback edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Sacramento, California

The present…

When Jasmine Stratford opened the package, she was standing in the middle of a crowded mall. Suddenly she couldn't hear a single sound. The laughing, the talking, the click-clack of shoes on the colorful floor, the Christmas music that'd been playing in the background—it all disappeared as her ears began to ring.

"What is it?" Sheridan Kohl touched her arm, eyebrows gathered in concern.

The words came to Jasmine as if from a great distance, but she couldn't speak. Her lungs worked frantically, but her chest felt so tight she couldn't expand her diaphragm. Sweat trickled down her spine, causing her crisp cotton blouse to stick to her as she stared at the silver-and-pink bracelet she'd just pulled from the small cardboard box.

"What is it, Jaz?" Still frowning, her friend took the bracelet from Jasmine's cold fingers. As she read the name spelled out in silver letters separated by pink beads, her eyes filled with tears. "Oh, God!" she murmured, pressing a hand to her chest.

Jasmine's head spun. Afraid she might pass out, she reached for Sheridan, who helped her to the center of the mall and asked a man sitting in one of the few seats to move.

He collected the shopping bags piled at his feet and jumped up, allowing Jasmine to sink onto the hard plastic chair.

"Hey, she no looking good, eh? She sick or somet'ing?" he asked.

"She's just suffered a terrible shock," Sheridan explained.

The words floated over Jasmine as if they'd been written in the air, each letter flying past her, meaningless. Her nervous system seemed to be shutting down. Overload. Rejection of current input. Inability to cope.

"Don't move," Sheridan barked and put the bracelet back in the box on her lap. "I'll get you something to drink."

Jasmine couldn't have moved even if she wanted to. Her rubbery legs refused to support her weight, or she would've walked out of the mall. People were beginning to stare.

"What's wrong?" someone murmured, pausing near the Mexican man who was still watching her curiously.

"I don't know, but she no look good, eh?" he repeated.

A teenage boy ventured closer. "Are you okay, lady?"

"Maybe someone should call the paramedics," a woman said.

Wave them away. But Jasmine's thoughts were so focused on what was in her lap, she couldn't even raise her hand. She'd made that bracelet as a gift for her little sister. She remembered Kimberly's delight when she'd unwrapped it on her eighth birthday, her last birthday before the tall man with the beard entered their house in Cleveland one sunny afternoon and took her away.

Jasmine's mind veered from the memories. Until she was twelve, she'd led such a safe and happy life she'd never dreamed she would encounter a threat in her own home. Strangers were people outside on the street. This man had acted like one of her father's workers, whose faces changed so often she wasn't familiar with them all. They were always coming to the house to pick up equipment for his satellite TV business, to get a check, to drop off some paperwork. Occasionally he hired vagrants to organize his warehouse or build a fence or even clean up the yard. In any event, she'd believed their visitor was a nice guy.

Heaven help her, she'd believed he was nice. And she'd let it happen….

"You want I should call an ambulance?" the Mexican man ventured.

Jasmine had to cover her mouth so the screams inside her didn't escape. Breathe deeply. Get hold of yourself. After nearly destroying each other with their bitterness and grief, her parents had given up hope. But she'd kept a candle burning deep inside. And now this…

Sheridan returned and nudged her way through the four or five people who were watching to see if Jasmine would rally. "I've got her. Everything's fine," she told them, and they began to drift off, but not without a backward glance. "Drink this," she said.

The freshly squeezed lemonade tasted reassuringly normal.

A man seated next to them stood and offered Sheridan his chair. She thanked him and perched on the edge of it.

After a few minutes, Jasmine's breathing and heart rate slowed. Still, she was damp with sweat and when she tried to talk tears slipped down her cheeks.

"It's okay." Putting an arm around her, Sheridan squeezed her shoulders. "Take all the time you need."

Jasmine appreciated her friend's empathy, but now that the shock was wearing off she had so many questions. Who had sent the bracelet? Why after so long? What'd happened to her sister? And the biggest question of all—was there any chance that Kimberly was still alive?

"I'm so sorry I brought that package with me, that you had to deal with this in a public setting." Sheridan's expression revealed her chagrin. "When I saw it sitting on the reception desk with the rest of the mail, I thought it might be something you've been waiting for. I knew you weren't planning on coming into the office today so I was…" she shrugged helplessly "…trying to be helpful."

Jasmine wiped her eyes. "It's okay. Of course you'd never expect anything like this."

"Who sent it?"

"I don't know." She studied the box. There was no return address. There wasn't even a note, just some crumpled packaging material—

Jasmine's pulse spiked. Wait a minute… There was something written on one of the papers that'd been wadded up.

Careful not to tear the note or get her fingerprints all over it, she flattened it out—and saw two words printed in what appeared to be blood: Stop me.

That night, Jasmine hovered over the phone. Should she tell her parents about the bracelet? She couldn't decide. According to the cancellation stamp, the package had been sent from New Orleans, but she didn't know if she'd ever be able to glean more information than that. She was reluctant to open old wounds—and yet, her folks had a right to the information, didn't they? Would they want to know?

She picked up the handset. Her father would. After the bearded man took Kimberly, Peter Stratford had become so single-minded in his quest to find his youngest daughter that he'd eventually lost everything—his business, his wife, his home. He'd searched until he'd nearly driven himself mad. Searched until everyone else in his life, including Jasmine, had become nothing more than shadows. Even then he'd given up only because he had no choice. There was nowhere else to go, nothing more he could do.

Now that Peter had moved on, he was doing better than he had in years. Would learning about Kimberly's bracelet send him into another tailspin?

Jasmine set the phone down again. It probably wasn't wise to take the chance.

And then there was her East Indian mother. Gauri was so full of bitterness and blame, toward Peter and Jasmine, she had difficulty being in the same room with either of them.

The phone rang. Nervous that it might be one of her parents—that she'd be confronted with a situation she hadn't figured out how to handle—she checked caller ID, then breathed a sigh of relief. It was her friend and coworker, Skye Kellerman. Actually, Skye Willis since her marriage last year.

Dropping into a seat at the kitchen table, Jasmine rubbed her fingers over her left eyebrow as she answered. "Hello?"

"I just got your message. And several from Sheridan, too." Skye's voice came across as brisk, worried. "I'm sorry it took me a few hours to get back to you. David and I were in Tahoe and didn't have phone reception."

"It's fine," Jasmine said.

"It's not fine. Are you okay?"

Jasmine wasn't sure. One minute she was filled with rekindled hope, the next terrified that nothing could change the outcome of her sister's abduction. "I'm okay," she said, although her mind added a little "not."

"This is so…unexpected," Skye exclaimed. "Why now? Why after so many years?"

Jasmine had asked herself the same question. But it hadn't taken long to come up with the most probable answer. "It must be because of the publicity on the Polinaro case." Four weeks ago, she'd been on America's Most Wanted, profiling a sex offender who'd victimized nine boys. When authorities got too close, he fled. She'd been invited on the show to suggest places he might have gone, things he might be doing.

"Of course," Skye agreed. "That episode aired right before Thanksgiving."

"How else would he have known where to find me?" After her mother had remarried and left Cleveland, where Jasmine was born, Jasmine had dropped out of high school and moved away from home, starting a three-year descent into drug abuse and self-destruction. During that time, she'd drifted from one city to another, working odd jobs, even begging in the streets for enough money for one more fix. She doubted anyone could've tracked her movements back then. Her parents certainly hadn't been aware, much of the time, of where she was or what she was doing. It wasn't until Harvey Nolasco, a long-distance trucker, picked her up and insisted she get some help that she settled down. And then she'd married a white man, like her mother, and became Jasmine Nolasco for a short while.

"I'm pretty sure they posted our address at the charity," Skye said.

"They did." When dealing with the media, Jasmine always mentioned her affiliation with The Last Stand. TLS relied exclusively on donations to keep its doors open. She couldn't miss the chance to raise public awareness and support, and it'd proved to be a good move. Since the episode had aired, they'd received thousands of dollars—and more requests for help than ever before.

"The package came to the office, right?" Skye clarified.

"Sher found it with the other mail and brought it with her when we met for lunch."

"Have you had anyone inspect that note?"

"We took it directly to the police."

"And?"

"They confirmed it was written in b-blood." She stumbled over the last word because picturing the large square letters on that note sent a chill up her spine.

"Do you think it could be Kimberly's?" Skye said.

"Even if she's dead, I suppose it could'...


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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Romantic suspense at its best! Jan. 8 2009
By GinRobi
Format:Mass Market Paperback
After Jasmine receives the package with her sister's bracelet and a message: StOp Me, she flies to New Orleans, determined to find the man who kidnapped her sister sixteen years ago. With one question asked to the hotel owner, Jasmine got an idea of someone who might be able to help her: Romain Fornier.

A few years before, Romain's daughter had been kidnapped and murdered. The man found, the case was brought to trial, but when the evidence was deemed inadmissible, the alleged kidnapper and murderer, Moreau, was set free. On the steps of the courthouse, he was gunned down, by Romain. However, he doesn't even remember grabbing Detective Alvin Huff's gun, nor does he remember pulling the trigger. Having served his time in prison, Romain now lives alone on the bayou, near the tiny town of Portsville. Having already lost his wife, then his daughter, Romain is determined to live out his life there - alone.

But fate likes to screw with people, and Jasmine arrives on his doorstep, asking questions, knowing things about him that she shouldn't know. The question is: Can he believe her, believe everything she's telling him? Because the thought of having shot an innocent man doesn't bode well on his mind.

Starting her own investigation leads Jasmine into hot water almost at the beginning. First, she's shoved and locked into the Moreau's cellar, losing her purse and contents at the same time, and stumbling upon on a several-years-dead body. Then she's attacked outside her hotel, narrowly escaping and running to Romain. Determined, they will find the answers they seek, only neither can believe what they find, when it's almost too late.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read! Nov. 22 2010
By Michel
Format:Mass Market Paperback
My first encounter with this author was not disappointing! THis book kept me interested in the story, turning pages one after the other, wanting to find out what happens to the characters in this book.

The writing? Easy to follow, super language!

I recommend this book for those of you who want something easy and fast to read, and of course very enjoyable!

- Michel
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  34 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Romantic Suspense doesn't get much better! Aug. 16 2008
By Tooncesmom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Stop Me (Last Stand, Book 2)

Romain Fournier wants nothing to do with people. Four years earlier his young daughter Adele was brutally murdered, and he served two years for the shooting of the man responsible. Now he's out, living a lonely life on the Louisiana bayou...until Jasmine Stratford finds him.

Jasmine is still searching for the man who abducted her younger sister Kimberly sixteen years ago. When her sister's bracelet is mailed to her in a package bearing a New Orleans stamp, she leaves Sacramento and the Last Stand office to do her own sleuthing. A similarity in the Fournier case and her sister's abduction sends her on the trail to Romain, but he chooses to keep the past in the past.

Each carries a boatload of baggage, however, an undeniable sexual attraction overwhelms both of these well-drawn and intriguing characters. As clues begin to appear and events to unfold, Jasmine and Romain are caught up in a chilling and sometimes gruesome hunt for the truth.

The sex sizzles, the suspense dominates and Ms. Novak superbly manages to captivate the reader as she delves into the criminal mind. This is a complex story that will keep you guessing right up to the final pages.

I'm a Brenda Novak fan, so I expect her books to be good. Stop Me, the sequel to Trust Me in The Last Stand trilogy surpassed my expectations and then some.

Highly recommended.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even better than Trust Me. July 2 2008
By Janet - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Brenda Novak just keeps getting better and better. I liked Trust Me, but I liked Stop Me even more. It's edgier, creepier, darker than Trust Me. I could not put the book down. It was suspenseful and kept me guessing till the end, and the romance was touching. Jasmine and Romain are haunted, hurt characters who try not to care for each other, but together they find healing and love. The conclusion was heart-wrenching.

As with Trust Me, I would have liked a more romantic conclusion, but that didn't take away from the book.

Don't miss this series.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They keep getting better! July 5 2008
By L. Gondelman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Book two in the last stand trilogy focuses on Jasmine, a woman who is determined to find the sister that was kidnapped 16 years earlier. After receiving the bracelet her sister was wearing when she disappeared in the mail, Jaz heads to New Orleans, where the package was post marked from. She finds similar traits in the kidnapping and murder of Romains daughter Adele. After her murderer is let go, Romain takes matters into his own hands and kills the guy on the courthouse steps - or does he? Jaz and Romain team up to figure out what happened to the ones the loved. They find themselves in the middle of something bigger than either of them could have imagined. Did the wrong man die for Adele's murder? Is Jaz's sister Kimberly dead or alive? Did Romain kill an innocent man? While Jaz and Romain work together to solve these mysteries - if they should happen to fall in love along the way - well, that's not so bad is it?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Quick Read Sept. 6 2008
By Guy V. De Rosa - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I read this one sitting by the pool on my vacation. My first Brenda Novak endeavor. Thoroughly enjoyed this story of a woman in search of finding her sister who was kidnapped many years earlier while under her watch. I liked it alot and I will most definitely read other titles by this author. An intense plot, with good characterization, makes this a good one to curl up with by the fire in the upcoming cold winter months.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book! March 1 2013
By Peg - Teacher - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Continues the series and is very fast paced and exciting. I couldn't wait for my order to arrive so that I could find out more about the characters.
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