The Prey (Predator Thriller Series #1)

The Prey (Predator Thriller Series #1)

by Allison Brennan

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First, she imagined it. Then a killer made it real.

“Taut, fast-paced suspense . . . a killer debut.”—Mariah Stewart

Rowan Smith is living in a borrowed Malibu beach house while her bestselling novel is made into a Hollywood movie. A former FBI agent with a haunted past, Rowan thinks she has outrun her demons. But fiction and reality collide when a dismembered body is found in Colorado: the real-life victim had the same name, occupation, and looks as a character in Rowan’s novel. By the time the FBI, the LAPD, and her own private bodyguard gather around her, another person is killed–again, the murder ripped from the pages of Rowan’s book.

In the company of a former Delta Force officer with secrets of his own, Rowan faces an excruciating dilemma: the only way to chase down the tormenting killer is by revisiting the darkness of her past–and by praying for some way out again.

After the prey is chosen, the hunt is on and the kill is certain.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345490766
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/27/2005
Series: Predator Trilogy , #1
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 5,363
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Allison Brennan is the author of ten bestselling romantic thrillers, including The Prey, Speak No Evil, Killing Fear, and Playing Dead. For thirteen years she worked as a consultant in the California State Legislature before leaving to devote herself fully to her family and writing. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. She lives in Northern California with her husband, Dan, and their five children.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Rowan Smith learned about Doreen Rodriguez’s murder from the reporters camped out in her front yard Monday morning.

A car door slammed and she awoke with a start. Instinctively, she reached for the gun that was no longer under her pillow, searching the cool cotton sheet before remembering it was in her nightstand. Hesitating briefly, she retrieved the cold Glock. She couldn’t think of a good reason for needing her gun, but it felt right in her hand.

She’d slept in sweatpants and a T-shirt, an old habit of being ready for anything, and padded down the stairs in bare feet to look out her den window and see who was visiting so early in the morning. The grating sound of a sliding van door shutting told her she had more than one visitor. She used her index finger to bend down the blinds a mere inch to peer out.

She could tell from their rumpled attire and notepads they were print reporters. Television hounds were far more concerned with appearance. Three vans and two cars crammed the driveway of her leased beachfront home. She despised reporters. She’d had more than enough of them while working for the Bureau.

The doorbell echoed, startling her. Though she could see the driveway from her den, she couldn’t see the door. Presumably one of the bolder reporters had summoned the courage to ring her doorbell.

What did they want? She’d just given an interview about the premiere of Crime of Passion two days ago; surely they didn’t need a group session.

She started for the door, then remembered she was carrying her gun. She imagined the headline: Paranoid Former Agent Armed for Interview. She slid the gun into the top drawer of her desk and briskly walked to the front door, barely registering the coolness of the tile under her bare feet.

Her phone rang at the same time the doorbell repeated its obnoxious ding-dong. Great. Reporters coming at her from every direction. She’d dealt with them before; she’d have to again. It was only as she opened the door that she feared something bad had happened and that maybe she shouldn’t talk to them.

Too late.

“Do you have a comment on the murder of Doreen Rodriguez?”

“I don’t know Doreen Rodriguez,” she said automatically, even as alarm bells went off in the back of her head. The name was familiar, but she couldn’t place it. A sick feeling ate at her gut as she tried to connect the dots. As she was shutting the door, another question rang clear:

“You don’t know that a twenty-year-old woman named Doreen Rodriguez was killed in Denver Saturday night in the same manner as the character Doreen Rodriguez was murdered in your book Crime of Opportunity?”

Rowan slammed the door shut. She didn’t fear reporters walking in uninvited; she’d have them arrested for trespassing without a qualm. She simply wanted the resounding finality of her “no comment” to ring loud and clear.

The phone finally stopped ringing. Then, thirty seconds later, the incessant ring-ring started again. She ran back to her den and glanced at the caller ID: Annette. Her producer.

Picking up the receiver she said, “What in the hell is going on?” She heard yet another car screech to a halt in her driveway.

“You’ve heard.”

“I have a bunch of reporters on my doorstep, more arriving as we speak.” She peered out the blinds again. Television van. She pressed a hand to her stomach. Something was very wrong.

“I got the details from a reporter in Denver.” Annette said rapidly, emphasizing some of her words. “A twenty-year-old waitress named Doreen Rodriguez was killed Saturday night. They found her body yesterday in a Dumpster outside of, and I quote, ‘a small Italian café off South Broadway that could have been called quaint if not for the blood drying on the white brick façade.’ ”

Rowan listened to the words she’d penned years ago. Rubbing her temple, she craved a cigarette for the first time since she’d quit the FBI four years ago. “This is some kind of sick joke.”

“I’m so sorry, Rowan.”

“Dear God, I don’t believe this is happening.” She squeezed her eyes shut in an effort to absorb what Annette had told her. Her breath caught, and she placed a hand over her mouth. It had to be a coincidence. Some idiot reporter taking a violent crime and trying to sensationalize it by comparing it to one of her novels.

The image of Doreen Rodriguez’s bloody, dismembered body flashed in her mind. She opened her eyes immediately, her vision of the murder far too real because she had created it. It couldn’t have been a similar crime. Just the name was the same.

“Rowan, she was killed with a machete against the restaurant wall, her body thrown in a Dumpster!” Annette’s voice took on a feverish pitch. “She worked in Denver and was born in Albuquerque. Some crazy person copied the crime exactly as you wrote it.”

Rowan pressed fingers deeper into her right temple. Someone had copied her fictional crime? It couldn’t be possible. How had the killer found someone so exactly like her fictional character?

More important, why?

She sunk to the floor next to her desk and buried her face in her arms, holding the phone with her shoulder. She took another deep breath and held it. She had to get hold of herself; then she’d get to the bottom of this.

There had to be a mistake.

“Are you okay?” Annette’s voice was full of concern.

“What do you think?” Her voice came out a raspy whisper.

“I’m worried about your safety, Rowan.”

“I can take care of myself.”

“I’ll come right over.”

She almost grinned at the thought. Petite fifty- something Hollywood producer Annette O’Dell rushing over to protect her star screenwriter from a pack of vicious reporters. Rowan shook her head. “No, after my run I have to go to the studio and talk to the director about reworking a scene.”

“The reporters will follow you. They’re probably staked out there now.”

“Damn the reporters! I have no comment. Period. Nothing, nada, zero. I don’t want you saying word one about this to anyone. I am going to the studio and going to do my job. I’m not a cop; let them take care of this.” She didn’t want to play cop anymore. She didn’t want any more blood on her hands.

But there it was. She wiped her hands on her sweats until Lady Macbeth came to mind, madly scrubbing her hands of blood that wasn’t there.

Doreen Rodriguez. Rowan didn’t kill the poor woman, but she had somehow caused her death just the same.

“Rowan, let me hire a security—”

Rowan cut Annette off with a click as she replaced the receiver in its cradle.

She took a minute to gather herself before getting up from the floor. Outside, another car drove up, more vultures ready to pounce. It made great copy, she thought wryly. Real-life murder mystery: The Fiction Copycat. The Copycat Killer. The press seemed to actually like murders. Especially high-profile, gruesome crimes. Nothing exciting in a typical domestic dispute, a hit-and-run, or a routine gang drive-by. But being sliced and diced by a machete against the side of a quaint Italian café . . .

She shook her head. Was she any better? She wrote violent murder mysteries. Even if her corpses were fictionalized, didn’t she do the same thing as the reporters? Capitalizing on people’s interest in gruesome crime? The human fascination with death went back thousands of years. Violent Greek and Roman myths had relieved people’s fear of the unknown. Similar gruesome entertainments could be found in every generation since.

Doreen Rodriguez. Could the murder possibly have been the same as Rowan had written it? Her heart beat double-time as she imagined the pain and horror that poor young woman had suffered.

It would do her no good to dwell on the victim now. Rowan mentally summoned more than ten years of training to distance herself. When it got personal, that’s when mistakes happened.

Ignoring both the door and phone, on her laptop she logged onto the local Denver newspaper website. She hoped against hope there was a mistake, some misunderstanding. But the press was on top of the story. Bad news travels fast, evidence of which was parked in her driveway.

Everything Annette had told her was there on the screen. Rowan wondered what details had, in fact, been withheld. She wondered how long it would take for the police to come and interview her. With the press already showing an interest in the coincidence, the police wouldn’t be far behind. She’d get more details from them once they tracked her down.

No. No, she couldn’t get involved. She had a meeting at the studio in two hours. She had made a new life for herself, a quiet life. Damn if she was going to let a murdering lunatic control her future. Again.

She started for her bedroom to dress for her run when a familiar pounding on the front door interrupted her. Cops.

That was fast.

“Ms. Smith!” a mumbled voice called. “Ms. Smith, this is the police. We need to talk.”

She turned toward the door. It had started.

They sat at the dining room table, in front of the picture window that framed the blue-green Pacific Ocean. From here, twenty feet above the beach and a good hundred feet inland, one could still see the individual waves and whitecaps, tossed up by a light wind. The tide was out, the beach empty of people.

Rowan placed two mugs of hot black coffee in front of the detectives, then opened the window. The tangy, salty sea air relaxed her as she breathed in deeply. She needed to be calm and alert, but above all else, she needed to maintain control.

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Prey (Predator Thriller Series #1) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 53 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Allison Brennan's first book is a tightly written thriller with a romance that sizzles. Rowan left the FBI four years ago with hopes of finding peace in seclusion at a Malibu beach house where she's penning best selling mystery novels. She's a tortured heroine who still sleeps with her weapon and contends she needs no one. But she wakes one morning to a front yard filled with media, because a killer is using real people to recreate deaths of fictional characters in her story with grisly accuracy. The fast paced story is woven with gripping emotion, high action and tense scenes as Rowan, her hot Delta Force bodyguard and the FBI try to find the murderer before an end game is played out with Rowan as the final prey. The ending of THE PREY is terrific and the ride to get there intense. I've already ordered THE HUNT and THE KILL.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't believe how awful this book was. It made no sense and was just a horrible read. The one star goes to Adam the only character worth mentioning and forgotten in the end.
Sparky_Patches More than 1 year ago
Overall Rating:  4.95 // Action: 4.5 / Emotion: 5.0 / Romance: 5.0 / Sensuous: 3.5 / Suspense: 5.0 // Laughter: 1 // Tears: 12 / Teary: 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  The Prey: 4.95:  Since the Romantic Suspense genre is a favorite, it was a joy to find another author who not only keeps the story filled with edge-of-your-seat suspense, but also includes the romance and sensuality that really enhances the story.  This well-told story was so intriguing and engaging that it made for an un-put-down-able read. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Hero: 4.0:  John Flynn:  The typical alpha hero.  Ex-DEA Agent, driven, honorable, loyal, loves his family (brother, Michael, and sister, Tess), has that sexy, hunky, tough guy thing going on, but still exhibits a compassionate, understanding nature and is strong enough to stand up to Rowan.  Liked the way Brennan stressed the way John seemed to understand Rowan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  {quote} John understood her.  And she hated him for it.  (Rowan, page 112) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Heroine: 3.5:  Rowan Smith:  An intelligent, beautiful, strong-willed, determined ex-FBI Agent turned crime novel authoress who refused to let anyone get close to her because of the horrific childhood she endured.  It was easy to admire Rowan as a survivor.  Even though Rowan tried to bury all her emotions, she was unsuccessful. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Story Line: 4.5:  Brennan successfully weaves an undeniable attraction between John and Rowan after the Flynn's security agency is hired to guard Rowan when she is targeted by a ruthless killer who is using the scenes and people she creates in her novels as the blueprints for his heinous crimes.  The Copycat Killer makes it quite clear that he knows about Rowan's past and that she is his eventual target. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Action: 4.5:  The story proceeded along at a steady, constant pace as John, Rowan, Michael, Tess, Quinn, Roger and other law enforcement officials investigated the murders perpetrated by the Copycat Killer and tried to bring him to justice. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Emotion: 5.0:  Brennan did such a phenomenal job of creating multi-faceted characters who experienced powerful emotions in spite of the barriers they had erected around their hearts that it was impossible not to become deeply connected to them -- to experience their fear, their compassion, their love and to cry right along with them.  Sometimes there are things going on in your life that make a book even more powerful than expected.  Such was the case when I re-read The Prey. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Romance: 5.0:  The attraction between John and Rowan was instant and run prevalently throughout the book in spite of the many obstacles that stood in their way.  Obstacles like Michael's attraction to Rowan, a killer's determination to bring Rowan to her knees, and a history of angst that made Rowan come across as cold and unapproachable. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Sensuous: 3.5:  Loved the fact Brennan included several love scenes in this book and added spice, sizzle and zing to them. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Suspense: 5.0:  The suspense was just as intense as the emotion and the romance.  Brennan is truly gifted when it comes to steadily building the suspense factor in this book as the plot unfolds.  It was impossible not to experience nail-biting, spine-tingling, pace-the-floor tension by the time the big showdown between the villain and the protagonists took place at the end of the book. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Secondary Characters: 4.5:  Most of the secondary characters were well-developed and added wonderful depth to the story.  The inclusion of these memorable secondary characters added great interest to the story: {a} Michael Flynn, {b} Teresa "Tess" Flynn, {c} Special Agent Quincy "Quinn" Peterson, {d} Assistant Director of the FBI, Roger Collins, {e} Rowan's brother, Father Peter O'Brien, {f} simple-minded, Adam Williams, and {g} high-class call girl, Suzannah "Sadie" Darlene Pierce. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  See Wolf Bear Does Books for a more in-depth, detailed review of *The Prey*. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
StephanieD More than 1 year ago
Rowan Smith is a murder mystery writer. Her third movie is in production and her fifth book is due out in two weeks. Her world is about to be drastically changed forever.

Someone is taking murders from her books, one from each, and making them reality. Except for with each killing, it becomes more personal. The killer starts sending tokens. Tokens that bring Rowan's bloody past glaringly into her present. A past she has desperatly tried to keep buried.

John Flynn is a former Delta officer who now runs his own security operation with his brother Michael, and his sister Tess. John was in the South American jungles chasing his own demon when Michael received the job of protecting Rowan Smith from the killer. John quickly takes over the job when he comes back to California because he is afraid Michael's objectivity is being compromised. Michael has a thing for damsels in distress.

John must fight a past that Rowan won't talk about and keep her safe. Protecting their hearts becomes difficult as they come closer together to try and catch her tormentor.

Neither of them know just how close Rowan's past is........

This is a very suspenseful book that I almost finished in one sitting. It was a fantastic book and I am glad that I have the next two readily available.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Allison Brennan is right there at the top with this series. Her storyline caught me from the first page and held me to the end. I've read hundreds of book and this series is right at the top!!! Thank you Allison and please... keep it up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The concept of a killer using fiction to create reality is not unique, but Brennan's spin on it is. The twists and turns in the plot keep coming and hitting hard. The romantic element is an added bonus to a twisted and complex story. This is an awesome debut with the next stories eagerly anticipated. This was a real page-turner that kept me up way too late, but impossible to put down before the last page.
callmejacx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Got the series from a friend the day before I got sick. I always trust my friends taste when it comes to books. I grabbed the book and read it when I had the strength. It was simple enough to follow and exciting enough to want to pick it up again. I have to admit that I was disappointed when Michael died. He seemed to be the best man for Rowan. I also figured out who the killer was. I don't think the mystery was who the killer was, but how. I enjoyed the story, but I feel the romance could have been written on less pages. I so wanted to skip that part and get on with the story. I gave it a 4 and looking forward to her other books. (My friend gave me 11 of them)
JennieLeigh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first Allison Brennan book I have ever read and it will not be the last. In fact, I've already gotten the second book in this series. I enjoyed the writer's no nonsense style and admit that I was surprised when she opted to kill off one of the primary characters. I hated to see it happen, but remember smiling to myself and thinking, "That's gutsy, girlfriend!" I did find it just a little bit unlikely that the killer was able to track down a victim that so closely matched Rowan's fictional characters. Granted, there was only one victim that was particularly detailed. (The waitress) Still, no matter how devilishly twisted and/or smart the killer was, the reality that he could find one woman with not only the specific name and occupation of Rowan's character, not to mention the right age and history seemed incredibly far fetched to me. I had to put my disbelief on hold to get past that part. Other than that, I was able to buy into the rest of the story with reasonable belief. The romance aspect of the story was interesting at the start. The "which one will she choose" thing was just enough to make me curious, but not done to death so that I got irritated with it. There were a few moments in the story where characters had thoughts or asked questions that never really seemed to get answered. But then I suppose that kind of thing happens in real life often enough. As a fan of the suspense genre, I admit that I guessed who the killer was very early on. It was just too obvious to ignore. Even before it was revealed as a possibility, I knew where the story was heading. Even so, it didn't cause me to put the book down.I did find myself just a tiny bit disappointed in the way the inevitable showdown played out. Again, there was nothing unexpected there, but I really thought Rowan would be a bit more aggressive. Perhaps that's just my fondness for kick-butt female protagonists coming through, though.All in all, I enjoyed the read quite a bit. As I said, I've already picked up the second book in the series and will likely read a lot more of the author's work.
miyurose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was just okay for me. I liked Rowan okay, despite her being so guarded that you don¿t really get to know her, but I liked Michael more than John, so John and Rowan¿s relationship didn¿t sit real well with me. I did like that there was a little bit of a deeper storyline here¿ it wasn¿t all about the murders. I think a lot of it was about siblings and the relationships between them, as well. But overall, it just left me with that ¿meh¿ feeling. I don¿t know that I¿ll bother finishing the trilogy unless I have a compelling reason to.
sarad on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rowan Smith is a former FBI agent turned crime novelist. She's survived a traumatic childhood to find success, writing for a living and making movies from the world in her books. She's detached and distant, but she prefers her life that way. Uncomplicated. Private and protected. All good things must come to an end. When a series of murders that copy the crimes in her fiction novels begin, Rowan finds herself with a bodyguard. More than one, to tell the truth. She doesn't appreciate being protected and insists she can take care of herself, but when push comes to shove, she realizes that she needs her protector as much as he needs her. This was a slow starting book for me. As I read the first four or five chapters, I worried that I just wasn't Allison's target audience and that I'd have to put the book down and move on to something else. Fortunately, I didn't give up and found myself getting drawn into the story. Let's hear it for persistance! I think the procedure is probably what interested me most about the book. The process the characters went through to figure everything out. I'm not entirely sure whether I'm relieved or disappointed that I had the identity of the killer figured out relatively early on. On the one hand, it makes me feel pretty clever. On the other, since I'm not a big mystery reader, and I'm usually wrong, I wonder whether the mystery of whodunit was as complex as it could have been. I also found the fact that there appeared to be two rival heroes for a while a little disturbing. I'm not fond of being manipulated emotionally and I felt a little like one of the heroes was introduced simply to have someone to use to tug at the heartstrings. It also meant that I was biased against hero #2 and it took me a long time to warm up to him at all. Still, in the end, I thought it was a pretty good story. I'm told that the books get better as they go, and so I'm more than willing to think well of this one and look forward to the next.
cookiecat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the story - bit romancey for me, but still an enjoyable read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am hooked!!! Allison Brennan bas become my favorite author hands down!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There are twists and turns. A quick read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really WANTED to like this book, esp. because there were some good reviews of it, and I have been looking for a riveting mystery book/author to get into. But I just couldn't with this one. The beginning seems promising but I truly disliked the main character - found her annoying actually - and did not for a second buy into the male characters falling for her. The main reason for this was 1) her personality wasn't interesting or strong enough and 2) there just wasn't enough substance to their relationships. And to be honest there wasn't enough plausibility to the killer - maybe not enough background or explanation to suit my skeptical mind. At any rate, I suffered through this book, hoping it would get better...but it didn't. From start to finish, I disliked it. Weak characters, weak plot, many cliches. Blegh.
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The story was good, and was full of twists and turns. However, I had it figured out half-way through. The heroine wasn't very engaging and I had trouble believing the attraction. It was mildly entertaining at best.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Had it all - great mystery and romance between two strong characters.
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