Girl With a Rose
Tess Winnett Book 6
by Leslie Wolfe
Genre: Thriller, Crime Suspense
Her body is frozen, unable to move. Her eyes are locked on the blood leaving her body in a steady string of droplets, collecting in the bone ash porcelain bowl engraved with intricate gold leaves. Her parted lips let out a shriek that no one hears. He just smiles and wipes her tears with cold fingers.
“Wow. I think I just fell head over heels in love with a fictional character. Tess Winnett is one of the smartest FBI agents and profilers I have come across yet and with analytical skills to rival Sherlock Holmes. Hats off to Leslie Wolfe for easily the best thriller I have read in this genre for many, many years!” – Manie Kilianon, five stars review on Amazon.
The girl: missing
After fifteen-year-old Kaylee disappears without a trace, FBI Special Agent Tess Winnett is assigned to the case that falls outside of the normal purview of the FBI. With every lead she uncovers, more questions are posed with only one possible, terrifying answer: there are others like her who have vanished, never to be seen or heard from again.
Is there a pattern in these disappearances? What happened to the others who have vanished? Is there a connection, or is Tess chasing shadows?
The first twenty-four hours: critical
Frantic for answers and painfully aware of each passing moment, Tess has a choice to make, one that could save the life of a young girl: was Kaylee’s disappearance a singular event, or was she the latest victim of a serial killer no one knew existed?
The odds of finding the girl alive drop with every second passing by and making the wrong choice would seal her fate. Her blood would be on her hands.
The best-selling author of Dawn Girl is back with another suspenseful, gripping crime thriller. If you’re a fan of David Baldacci, Melinda Leigh, and James Patterson, you will enjoy Leslie Wolfe’s enthralling police procedural that will keep you reading until the last page.
What Readers and Reviewers Are Saying About Leslie Wolfe
“Wolfe's strong female characters, who all appear to be flawed, never disappoint. ”
“The action is immediate and nonstop, and just when you think you have it all figured out, Wolfe tosses in a twist so masterful that it’ll make your head spin. ”
“Wow... Leslie Wolfe is an incredible story teller. Can't wait for more of Agent Tess Winnett.”
“Leslie Wolfe has a wonderful ability to make you feel as if you were right there watching the events unfold in this fast paced and nail-biting thriller.”
She was thrilled she’d agreed to pose for him.
She almost hadn’t made it past the imposing gates of the mansion, the likes of such she’d only
seen in the movies. But the man had left a four-digit code scribbled with his address, and after
fidgeting in place in front of the twelve-foot high, wrought-iron entrance, she noticed the keypad
on a stand at the edge of the driveway, at the right height to be accessed from the driver’s seat of
a car. She’d entered the four digits with slightly trembling fingers, and the wrought iron set in
motion, opening without a sound.
Mom would kill me if she knew where I’m at, she’d thought excitedly, her rebellion putting a
spring in her step.
She’d walked the long, curvy driveway in a daze, taking in the beauty of the landscape with its
fantastic rose bushes, each of them a different, exotic variety. She’d stopped a couple of times and
buried her face in the dew sprinkled blooms, taking in their aroma, savoring their intoxicating
Then she rang the bell while butterflies swarmed in her belly, and he opened the door almost
immediately. He wore tight, worn-out jeans and a white T-shirt, both stained with paint as were
his arms, and even his smiling face. She followed him inside, too intimidated to articulate a single
word, her eyes riveted on the paintings that covered the walls of the living room. Beautiful girls,
some sad, some playful, all young and innocent, their beauty enhanced by a single rose bloom.
Her step slowed and faltered as a strange sense of foreboding chilled her blood. She gazed
quickly at the paintings again, this time searching the girls’ eyes, looking for something, for a clue
into what was to come, but their expressions remained mysterious, almost grim. The chill in her
body turned to icicles streaming in her blood, and she let a quiet whimper escape her lips.
He turned and smiled, his smile warming up the room. “What’s wrong, my dear?”
She felt like an idiot. Posing for such an artist was a huge opportunity for her, and she was
screwing it up as only she could. “Um, nothing, really,” she managed, wringing her hands
nervously and avoiding his deep, blue eyes. “All this,” she gestured towards the walls covered in
luxuriously-framed canvases, “I—I don’t know what to say.”
“They’re beautiful, aren’t they?” he said, his voice filled with warmth as if the girls
immortalized on canvas were all long-departed friends he dearly missed.
Then he turned toward her and widened his smile. “But they’re gone… and you’re here. You’re
even more beautiful, Kaylee.”
Blood rushed to her cheeks, warming them quickly.
“When we’re finished, I’ll make room for you right here, above the mantle. You’ll be my pièce
de résistance,” he added, the French words lending their charm to his already charismatic voice.
His fingers brushed against her cheek for an instant, in a featherlight touch. “Your beauty is
The last shadow of foreboding coldness left her body under his electrifying touch. She smiled
timidly, painfully aware of how out-of-place she looked, of how childish her behavior was. She
desperately wished she could instantly be a few years older and the kind of girl this man could fall
in love with.
And she didn’t even know his name.
She breathed and decided the woman he would like for more than model for a painting would
have the courage to ask his name.
“What, um, do I call you?” she managed, blushing again at the sound of her voice, strangled
“David,” he replied, searching her eyes and still smiling. “You can call me David.” Then he
turned to leave, looking at her over his shoulder. “Come on, we got work to do, and we’ll lose the
light in a few hours.”
She followed him eagerly through another couple of rooms, then entered his studio. An entire
wall was made of glass panels, letting the sunshine in without restrictions. Through the large
windows, she could see the exquisite garden in the back of the house, intricate alleys weaving
between rose beds with blooms in various colors and shapes. Here and there, wooden benches
under the shade of secular oaks or a fountain springing crystalline water on top of carefully
It was as if she’d left the modern age at the wrought iron gate and had entered the mansion of
a nineteenth century royal.
And it would make one hell of a story to tell Alice tomorrow. She’d have to share some of her
adventures with her best friend, in return for her commitment to cover for Kaylee at school and
with her mother, in case things would run late here and she’d call, all freaked out like Mom always
got when she was even a minute past her curfew. School was easy, knowing how the Catholic
prudes rushed to change the subject when any mention of cramps or other period-related issues
were brought up, especially by a freshman. But her Mom was another thing altogether; no mention
of cramps would fly with her. Being a teenager sucks, she thought bitterly. All day in school, then
rushing home or else Mom throws a fit and grounds me forever, when I could be hanging out here,
with a guy like that.
“Don’t,” David said gently, touching her chin briefly as to invite her to look at him.
“Huh?” she reacted, taken by surprise.
“You’re frowning,” he said, a tinge of disappointment in his voice.
She smiled apologetically and looked around for a place to sit.
There were a few pieces of furniture in the studio, scattered loosely on the vast floor in front
of an easel holding a large canvas, all upholstered in black leather. A large armchair Kaylee
could’ve easily curled up in, with her legs folded under her, and taken a nap. An inviting lounge
chair that looked cozy and comfortable, the kind she’d seen only in fashion magazines. A bed,
covered in red satin sheets and littered with pillows of all colors, the sight of which brought fire to
her face. And a wide bench without backrest, long enough to seat three, maybe four people.
A new smile tugged at the corners of David’s mouth as he followed her gaze.
“Let’s seat you over here,” he said, pointing at the bench.
She obeyed and sat, amazed at the softness of the leather under her touch.
“I brought some different clothes,” she said, taking off her backpack.
“No need,” he replied, his smile gone, replaced with an intense, scrutinizing look.
Her frown returned promptly. “You’re painting me in my school clothes?” Her disappointment
was raw, carrying the promise of tears.
“No, my dear,” he replied, almost absent-mindedly, ambling around her, studying her in detail.
“This will be a head portrait.”
“Oh,” she whispered, feeling intimidated again under his scrutiny. Was her skin perfect? How
about her hair?
“Did you remember to turn off your cellphone, like I asked? I don’t like being interrupted while
“Yes,” she replied quickly, pulling it out of her pocket and showing him the dark screen.
“Good,” he replied, then moved the easel a few feet to the right. He peeked from behind the
canvas to look at her and then disappeared again for a few moments.
She heard his footsteps leaving the room, but she stayed in place, unsure of what to do. In his
absence, the sense of foreboding returned, chilling her blood once again. There was a half-finished
canvas leaned against the wall, the portrait of a girl holding a rose blossom to her lips, but her eyes
looked haunted as if life was leaving her body. Her skin prickled with goosebumps, and she
wrapped her arms around herself, shivering.
“It gets cold in here in the mornings,” David said, startling her. She’d not heard him return, but
he was there by her side, holding a steaming cup of tea. “The studio doesn’t have heating, but the
sun will do the trick.” He offered her the cup. “It’s chamomile with a touch of honey; it will help
She took the cup and, under his commanding gaze, took a sip. It was delicious, warming up
her body and scaring the apprehension away. She thanked him and sipped again, letting the thin
vapor touch her face.
He walked over to a small table and brought back a tray, setting it on the bench by her side.
Laid neatly on the tray were hairbrushes and combs, several fancy hairpins and accessories, and a
few rose blooms in different shades of pink.
“May I?” he asked, picking up a hairbrush.
She shrugged. “Sure.” She bit her lip, trying to hide her nervousness at the thought of him
touching her. Yet strangely, she was disappointed he’d chosen pink blooms for her when the
garden held stunning shades of crimson, purple, even blue with a yellow center. Pink was so banal.
He was gentle, removing her scrunchy without pulling her hair. Then he brushed it until it
crackled with electricity, stopping a few times to evaluate the results of his work. Kaylee wished
there was a mirror in the room, where she could see what she would look like after he was finished.
She’d probably have to wait for the painting to be done to see her new image.
He set the hairbrush down and whispered, “Good.” Then he lifted her hair up, strand by strand,
weaving and arranging it in a high, braided updo pinned in place with a sophisticated, diamondencrusted clip. Then he loosened a few thin strands around her face and arranged them carefully
with his fingers, his face so close to hers she could feel his breath on her cheeks, sending shivers
through her body.
He took a few steps back to admire his work, then let a quiet whistle sum up his conclusions.
She smiled widely. “Is there a mirror—”
His frown returned, digging deep ridges in his forehead. “No mirror, no. Please be patient.”
She lowered her gaze and took another sip of tea, a touch of uneasiness unfurling in her gut, a
feeling she couldn’t name, a warning she couldn’t read.
He picked up a rose, then removed all its thorns. He trimmed the stem to four or five inches,
then slid the stem behind her ear and secured the heavy bloom in place with two hair clips.
“We’re ready,” David said, rubbing his hands together, satisfied. “Finish your tea so we can
She was happy to oblige, her throat feeling parched for some reason. She felt weak, almost
trembling, and hoped the honey in the tea would pick her up a little and give her a touch of sugar
She set the empty cup on the bench near her, seeing more than feeling how badly her hand
shook. His eyes lingered on her trembling hand, but he said nothing. He disappeared behind the
canvas for a few moments and returned pushing a small cart with paint tubes, a small bowl, and a
makeup kit like she’d never seen before. Only artists and musicians must’ve had one like that, a
silver suitcase that arranged in three levels when opened, holding everything she could ever need
if she were a star.
Dizzy and a little nauseous, she took her frozen hand to her forehead, hoping that the cold
touch would make her feel better.
“Don’t touch your hair,” David commanded, his voice strong, almost angry.
She let her hand fall back into her lap. She tried to speak, but only a faint whimper came out.
“Here, lie down,” he invited, supporting her head carefully with his hand until it touched the
soft cushion of the bench. He slid a pillow under her head, then put her legs up on the bench with
gentle, thoughtful moves.
He wasn’t asking the right questions, wasn’t calling an ambulance. Her prior sense of
foreboding had returned as sheer panic, but she couldn’t scream, she couldn’t move. She could
still focus her eyes somewhat and watched every move he made while terror took over her heart,
knowing what he’d done when he’d spiked her tea, but not understanding why.
“You must feel dizzy and numb right now,” he explained patiently as if talking to a small child,
“and that’s normal. Well, maybe not to you, but I can assure you it’s quite normal to me.” He
caressed her cheek, removing a rebel strand of thin, blonde hair. “I know you’d like me to say that
everything will be all right, and it will be, but not for you, my dear. Not for you. Although you
might enjoy what’s coming.”
He picked up a small porcelain bowl and held it above her face. “Do you know what this is?
Bone ash porcelain. Human bones, burned to ash, are mixed in with the kaolin, to make the finest
pieces of china there can be. The bones make the material stronger so that the porcelain can be
thinner, almost translucent. See?”
She couldn’t say a word. She tried, but no sound came out of her mouth, as panicked thoughts
raced through her mind. What time was it? When would her Mom freak out and call someone? A
tear rolled down her cheek and disappeared in her hair. Mom, she called in her mind, please find
me. I promise I’ll be good. I’ll never lie to you again.
She felt a pinprick in her arm and watched as David pierced her vein with a thin needle attached
to a small plastic tube. Unable to lift her head, she could barely see what he was doing, but he’d
elevated her arm on a couple of pillows, and she could catch a foggy glimpse.
Her blurry eyes locked on the blood leaving her body, in a steady string of droplets, collecting
in the bone china bowl engraved with intricate gold leaves. She drew breath and let out a shriek
that no one heard, not even her; no sound came off her parted lips.
He grinned and wiped her tears off with cold fingers. “You mustn’t cry, my dear. I’ll apply
your makeup next, and you’re going to ruin it all.”
Her heart fluttered frantically against her rib cage like a trapped bird fighting for its life, willing
to smash itself against the bars rather than die at the hand of its captor. But all she could do was
watch every move he made, unable to fight, unable to resist.
He mixed a few droplets of blood with paint from various tubes, adjusting the composition
until it seemed perfect to him. Then he applied the paint on her lips, checking the crimson hue
against direct sunlight and shade. He added a few droplets to some scrapings of eyeshadow on a
tiny plate stained with dried paint, tinting the powder’s hue to match the lipstick. She felt the
applicator touch her eyelids gently, while his finger forced her eyes shut, one at a time.
“That’s it,” he exclaimed happily. “You’re ready, my dear, and you are absolutely exquisite.”
He chuckled lightly, but then groaned and rushed to tap her cheek with a napkin. “No more crying,
you hear me? You’ll ruin everything.”
He stared at her and licked his lips with anticipation, his charismatic smile turning into one
filled with lust. He removed her clothing with ease, careful not to pull the needle out of her arm,
then gave her young body one more appreciative look.
She tried to scream again; her desperate efforts, visible only in her eyes, bringing a lascivious
smirk on his face.
“Scream all you want, my dear. I like you more when you’re feisty.”
Leslie Wolfe is a bestselling author whose novels break the mold of traditional thrillers. She creates unforgettable, brilliant, strong women heroes who deliver fast-paced, satisfying suspense, backed up by extensive background research in technology and psychology.
Leslie released the first novel, Executive, in October 2011. It was very well received, including inquiries from Hollywood. Since then, Leslie published numerous novels and enjoyed growing success and recognition in the marketplace. Among Leslie’s most notable works, The Watson Girl (2017) was recognized for offering a unique insight into the mind of a serial killer and a rarely seen first person account of his actions, in a dramatic and intense procedural thriller.
Leslie enjoys engaging with readers every day and would love to hear from you.
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