Deadly Fear Page 31

“I did that for a while, until I realized I was still cold inside. The sex didn’t matter. The men didn’t.”

Had he been one of those men? A shadow in the night?

“Then I met you.”

She had to feel the sudden hard racing of his heart.

“And you tempted me to want more. I went with you when I’d always kept my work and sex separate. I went with you because I wanted you, and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from having you.”

The same way he felt.

“Even though you scared the hell out of me.”

Been there.

“Still do.” Her voice was husky.

Done that.

Luke cleared his throat. “Some things you should know.”

He felt her stiffen. His back teeth clenched. Did the woman really think he was about to turn away? Did he look like a fool?

“You don’t have to—” Oh, yeah, that was her already withdrawing.

“I hate what he did to you—and I’d love to tear the bastard apart.” Let’s see you scream, a**hole. “But knowing about your past doesn’t change the way I feel about you, baby.”

“And… how do you feel?” Did he imagine it or did her breath seem to catch?

Confession time. If she could bare her soul and reveal her past, then, it was way past time for him to show some trust, too. “You’re it for me, Monica. I’ve known it from the first time I kissed you.” His f**king world.

“Luke…”

He had to get this out. “I know you don’t love me,” he said gruffly. Bluntly. Better for him to say it than her. Hell, after what she’d been through, she might never be able to trust or love anyone completely—and that pissed him off. She should have had more. They should have. Damn Romeo to hell. “But give me a chance. That’s all I’m asking. When this case is over, even if I have to leave SSD for us to be together, just give me a chance.” He brushed back her hair. Smoothed his hand down her cheek. His c*ck was up, she was near—what was new? But he choked back the lust. This was the time for something else. “Give me a chance to show you what we can have.”

She pushed up, and he knew she was trying to see his eyes in the darkness. “And what can we have? Luke, you don’t know what I’m—”

“I know you. I want you. Always have, always will.” Felt good to say it. Maybe he should have said it years ago. Wonder what difference it would have made? “Knowing about your past doesn’t change a damn thing about the way I feel.”

A part of him wanted to hold her close, keep her safe, but Monica wasn’t the type to stand back and let others protect her. Not her.

They’d both kept secrets, but no more.

This time, he’d get things right with her.

“What if I hurt you?” she whispered.

She already had. He’d survived. “You said I tempted you then… do I tempt you now?” She tempted him. Eve couldn’t have tempted him more.

“Yes….”

“Don’t worry about the pain.” He kissed the soft column of her neck. “Let me tempt you, and we’ll worry about the darkness later.” Because with her, he knew there would always be darkness. It was in her soul, and she was in his.

And he’d fight like hell to keep her by his side, even if he had to fight the nightmares from her past.

And the killer waiting at the door.

CHAPTER Fifteen

A pounding at the door woke Monica hours later. She shoved her hand under the pillow automatically as her heart raced in her chest.

“Not there, baby,” Luke’s gruff voice, coming from the dark beside her. Because there was no bathroom light on—

Her memory came flooding back.

No shame. No horror.

Just relief. He knows… and he still wants me.

A fist thudded against the door. “Monica! Open up! Or tell Dante to drag his sorry ass out of your bed and open the door!” Kenton’s thundering voice.

But he should have been at the hospital. They couldn’t leave Sam alone!

She flew out of the bed. Raced to the door. Her eye pressed against the peephole. Had to be sure, someone could be forcing him—

No, just Kenton, looking pissed as he stood there with narrowed eyes and faint lines bracketing his mouth.

She yanked open the door.

His gaze raked her, and his eyes widened. “Wow, didn’t expect to see you—”

“What? In a shirt?” Her hand caught the front of his shirt, and she pulled him inside. “Why aren’t you at the hospital? What’s—”

“I’d advise you to keep those eyes up, partner,” Luke ordered as he walked toward them.

So she didn’t have on shorts or pants. The shirt was long. She had on panties and now really wasn’t the time for modesty.

But then, she hadn’t cared about modesty in years. Not really. She’d stopped caring after Romeo.

“Hyde’s working this shift. He sent me after you.” Kenton kept his eyes on Monica’s face. “He saw the surveillance footage from the airport. Got one of the techs at SSD to monitor every second of that video. He saw Sam.”

Monica rocked forward. “Did he see the killer? Did he—”

“Oh, yeah.” His lips pursed. “And get this shit. The bastard was wearing a deputy’s uniform. Hyde thinks he knew where the cameras were located, and he had his hat on, pulled low so we couldn’t see his face.”

A deputy’s uniform. She shoved back her hair. “He could have stolen that uniform. He took a doctor’s scrubs when he went after Laura.” They thought he had. Maybe…“This guy is good at blending in.” The cell phone had been at the sheriff’s station, right there in the midst of all those deputies.

And who was working every crime scene? Deputies.

Davis worked hard at keeping his men and Melinda apprised of every development in the case. There wasn’t a move they’d taken that the deputies didn’t know about.

“Something else you should know.” Kenton’s eyes bored into her. “Kyle West is a dead man.”

Monica shook her head. “No, we talked to his aunt, she—”

“Jon called from the SSD. According to the records he’s found, Kyle West was killed in a one-car accident six months ago.”

“His aunt didn’t know, and the sheriff didn’t say anything about his death when we asked about Kyle.” Didn’t make sense.

A shrug. “What can I tell you? The man is dead.”

Then that put her back with her growing suspicion that the killer was very close indeed.

“Hyde said you’d know what to do. Seems to me we either got us a bastard dressing up like a cop—”

Not a cop. A deputy. “Or…” Monica said quietly, “one of Jasper’s finest is killing and making us all look like fools.”

A killer who’d been right there with them, for every step of the hunt. Watching…

Watchman.

Monica shoved open the glass door at the sheriff’s station. Four a.m. Who’d be there?

“Agent Davenport?” The sheriff came out of his office, rubbing his eyes, looking dead on his feet, with a red mark on his cheek and a long, thin wrinkle on his forehead. “What are you doin’ here?”

She glanced over at the fax machine. A pile of papers lay scattered on the floor near them.

Luke crossed the room and started gathering up the papers.

“Oh, shit, he hasn’t taken another one, has he? Not another—”

Luke whistled. “Damn. It says here that May Walker was institutionalized twice in the past ten years.” His eyes met hers. “She was schizophrenic.”

That would explain her medications. And the woman’s affect had been off, her responses too slow, and her anger had stirred too suddenly.

He rose, reading the pages. “May was told about Kyle’s death a week after it happened.” He shook his head. “She told the officer to keep the body and, ‘bury it wherever the hell you want. Just don’t make me see it.’ ”

And she’d forgotten to tell them? Or just hadn’t remembered the guy’s death? With a diagnosis of schizophrenia, there was no telling. If May had been having hallucinations, well, maybe she actually believed that Kyle was still alive.

“Kyle West?” Davis muttered. “Wait—ain’t he our suspect?”

Luke held up a grainy photo for Monica. The same grainy license photo they’d accessed through the Department of Motor Vehicles before and given to the deputies. The image showed a guy with glasses. Too-long hair. An angular nose and weak chin.

“Not anymore,” she muttered. But if it wasn’t Kyle…“Why didn’t Sheriff Martin tell us this?” Yes, okay, she could see May not being fully aware if she’d been off her meds, but Sheriff Martin should have known about Kyle’s death. Informing local authorities was standard procedure. He had to have known.

And Martin had to know that they’d find out the truth. The guy knew the system. A search would turn up Kyle’s death certificate.

But he’d held back that information about Kyle. And that part, well, it was damn interesting.

She’d remembered that dark night with Jake Martin… had he been just pretending? Had he really remembered her, too?

He’d gone to Angola, the prison that housed Romeo. A prison he visited every month. And the killer kept throwing Romeo up in the case. “It’s all about Romeo,” she muttered. Damn him, why couldn’t he stay buried?

“Romeo?” Davis straightened. “Dammit, I’m tired of hearing about him. My f**k-up, coming back to haunt me.”

Monica stiffened. Her gaze lifted, slowly, and locked on the sheriff. “Run that by me again.” His f**k-up?

“You don’t know?” Luke’s rough whisper.

But she didn’t look his way. Monica was too focused on the Sheriff. His lips pressed together, and for a minute, she wasn’t sure he’d answer her. Then Davis said, “The Romeo Killer grew up here in Jasper. I met him when he was just a kid, when he was mutilating pets, and I—”

The Romeo Killer grew up here in Jasper. That was all she heard. Her face flashed ice cold, then pin prickles of heat shot beneath the skin.

“You didn’t know.” Luke spoke slowly.

Monica managed to shake her head. She hadn’t wanted to know. Not a damn thing. She’d made a point of staying away from all the Romeo case files. She hadn’t wanted to learn what made that a**hole into the freak he’d become. After she’d gotten away from him, she’d never wanted to see him or hear about him again.

At the Academy, she’d even dodged a few profiling classes because she hadn’t wanted to sit there and hear Romeo’s crimes re-told to everyone.

Buried my head in the sand. Pretended he didn’t matter.

“Are you…” A hand brushed her shoulder. Sheriff Davis. “Are you all right, agent?” Real concern rumbled beneath the words.

No, no she wasn’t all right. She’d been so focused on protecting herself and hiding her past that she’d been blind. So blind. “That’s the link.” She spun away from him and his comforting hand. Her gaze shot to the victim board. Sally. Patty. Laura. Jeremy. She hurried forward, read their profiles again. All born in Jasper. Just like Romeo.

“Monica?” Luke paced to her side.

She shook her head and pitched her voice low. “The messages weren’t about me.” Blind. A rough laugh escaped her lips. “The killer’s been telling us, but I didn’t listen.” Her head turned and she found Luke watching her, eyes so intent. “The newspaper clippings, the bloody flower—it’s all pointing to Romeo.” Not her.

Hell, maybe she was some kind of sick side benefit. But all the other kills…“Like a damn tribute to him.”

He used fear to break them. Romeo hadn’t just killed his prey, he’d broken them first.

Just like the Watchman.

“What’s happenin’?” Davis asked, standing hesitantly behind them, the lines on his face thick. “Who’s gettin’ a tribute?”

“Romeo.” The name left a bad taste in her mouth and she swallowed quickly. “Sheriff, I want you to get the warden from Angola Prison on the line.”

His brows rose. “Now?”

“Now.” Her temples began to throb. Someone would be there, someone was always in the Angola office. “We need a log of every visitor that Romeo has had in the last two years.” That would be a start. They might have to go back even further.

But if she was right and the Watchman was in Jasper, killing here because of some sick homage to Romeo, then she’d bet the bastard had paid Romeo a visit.

He’d gone to hell, and he’d learned from the devil.

The victims were different, the kill methods so different, but that damn rose had been left for a reason. That clipping had been about Romeo.

And he knows me. The killer knew her secret, a secret Romeo could have shared with him.

Too many damn links to overlook—especially since they were playing this deadly game in Romeo’s old backyard.

A light rapping shook her door. Monica glanced up, expecting to see Luke. But the door opened and Davis was there.

“Uh, we need to talk….” He glanced back over his shoulder.

Okay. Monica eased back in her chair, her eyes narrowing when Davis shut the door and took a hesitant step forward. Not really the sheriff’s usual style. “Did you contact Angola?”

“Yeah, yeah.” His head bobbed up and down. “Me and the warden there, we go way back. Huntin’ buddies.”

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