Deadly Fear Page 36

Two by three f**king feet.

Darkness.

I know what scares you.

She shoved up to her feet. No, no, the bastard didn’t know. He didn’t know her at all.

She blocked the pain. What she’d always done.

Her hands smoothed over the walls. There had to be a door. A way in, and a way out.

Romeo had taken off the door knob. He’d sealed her in so completely.

Shit, she couldn’t find a knob. Nothing but smooth wood. Nothing but—

Thump.

Thump.

Thump.

A man’s groan. Pain-filled, dazed.

Luke! She didn’t realize she’d screamed his name until she heard the laughter.

Her fingers flattened over the wood. If there was a knob, this would be the right height. She inched along, slowly, slowly, and after a few seconds, she felt the slight ridge. Monica traced it with her index finger. A fat square. Probably a piece of wood he’d attached over what should have been the hole for the knob, and he’d sanded it down for a near-perfect fit.

He’d been preparing for them.

She pressed her head against the wood—from outside she could hear rustles, shuffling, groans. God, Luke.

Her fist drove into that patched spot on the door. Wood shattered. Light trickled through the darkness. She knelt and squinted through that hole. She could see some kind of table with long straps dangling over its edges. A body—Luke’s body.

“Get away from him!” she screamed. Her hand reached down to her right ankle. The holster was gone. No backup gun. Her fist shoved into the door again. Agony lanced through her knuckles. Block it. Block it. She kept pounding. Started kicking. She had to get to Luke.

No, she would get to him.

The sliver of light flickered. The laughter came again, taunting her even as it chilled her blood. “I know what scares you most.” His voice carried easily to her.

Her hand slapped against the door. “Keeping me locked up isn’t going to scare me, a**hole! I’m not afraid of being in your damn closet!” Small spaces didn’t bother her. If they had, she would have gone crazy with Romeo in those first nightmarish days. She didn’t like them, but she could handle them. She could handle anything.

“Ah… Monica… I know you’re not like poor lost Laura.”

Couldn’t save her.

“The dark doesn’t bother you, either, though, at first, I did wonder about the light you liked to leave on at night.”

She’d rip the door apart. It was wooden, not metal like Romeo’s. She’d get out.

Before or after he killed Luke?

“Then I realized you weren’t scared of the dark. You were scared of being caught off guard. No weapon, defenseless.”

She always kept a weapon close. Except when she was with Luke. Then she’d just needed him.

“You didn’t want to be helpless ever again, did you, Monica? Because you were helpless before. You were in that prison, listening as Romeo killed those girls, and there wasn’t a thing you could do to stop him—or to save them.”

She’d tried. When she’d been strapped to his table, Monica had never made a sound.

No screams.

But when she’d been in that closet, and she knew what he’d been doing to the others, she’d screamed. Screamed until she’d lost her voice. Screamed for Romeo to let her out. To let them go.

But the other girls had screamed louder. They didn’t understand that he wanted them to be silent. Didn’t understand until it was too late.

Then there was nothing but silence.

That bastard knew how to get me to scream. Pain wouldn’t break me, so he used the other girls.

“I’ve been watching you….” came the taunting voice.

She swiped something out of her eye. Blood. Dripping down from her forehead.

“I saw your face when you found Samantha floating in that water. You were scared. Terrified.”

Because she’d thought another victim had died on her watch.

“Tell me,” he said, and she knew he was getting off on this. Baiting her. Teasing the trapped prey. “Why did you join the FBI?”

“To put f**ked-up a**holes like you behind bars!”

Silence. Then, “That was the wrong answer.”

“Then you tell me!” His game. Let him talk all he wanted. Monica tried to find the crevice that would mark the side of the door. Had to be there. Maybe she could pry the damn thing loose.

“You got your shiny FBI badge…” His voice came, slow and sure, “because you wanted to make up for all those girls you killed.”

Her head pressed against the wood.

“You couldn’t save them, could you? So you’ve been trying to make up for their deaths all these long years.”

She wasn’t going to answer him. That was what he’d want. The prick. Like she needed him to profile her.

“All these years, people talked about how good you were at catching killers, but really, you were trying to save the victims.” He gave a faint chuckle. “And now you’ll be a victim. You and your lover.”

Her nails dug into the wood. “Let him go!”

“No.” His voice grew quieter. He was leaving. She shot to her knees and strained to see through that hole. Heading back toward the table. Back to Luke.

Why wasn’t Luke talking? Had Vance gagged him? The deputy had knocked him with the butt of the rifle, but Luke should have awakened by now—unless Vance had already started having his fun with him.

When she swallowed, she tasted fear. Once, that had been all she could taste. When she’d been trapped in the darkness, just like this.

She’d tasted fear, and she’d smelled blood.

Scream for me.

“Without him, there’d be no fear.” Light glinted. Christ, he had a knife in his hands. “It has to be like before, Monica.” Romeo carved them up. “You have to be helpless. You have to know what’s happening to him, and you have to fear.”

“I am afraid, you bastard! I’m f**king terrified! Is that what you want? I’m scared to death!” She swiped more blood away from her eyes. The cut on her forehead was streaming blood. “You don’t need him. Let him go and keep me!”

“I think you care for him.” Considering. “That’ll make it even better. What do you think? Should I take the gag out so you can hear him scream?”

A gag. That hadn’t been groaning. That had been Luke trying to talk.

“Monica!” Luke’s voice.

Tears stung her eyes.

“Monica, don’t worry about me, don’t worry about—”

He broke off.

“Ah, that’s not fair,” Vance snapped, and she heard the fury in his voice. “You’re supposed to scream when I cut you. Scream!”

Monica shoved her fist in her mouth.

Not like before. Not at all. Because Luke, damn him—he was staring at death and still trying to protect her.

“I’m gonna slice you apart, bastard. We’ll see how f**kin’ brave you are when I cut open your chest. You’ll scream then.”

“No!” She was the one screaming. Because she knew Vance would do it. He’d carve Luke up and keep her trapped for every moment. So she could hear it all.

Pain has a sound.

Luke would die knowing Vance had her in that closet, and he’d know that she’d be the killer’s next victim.

“I know what you fear.” The bastard wasn’t talking to her now. His voice had lowered even more. “I know all about you, too, Luke Dante.”

“Big damn deal,” Luke snarled.

“Tough guy, huh?”

Silence.

He was cutting him.

“But you weren’t so tough when your mom died, were you? Tell me, what was it like to watch her die in front of you?”

Her breath caught.

“Piss off.” Luke’s words were coming slower. Pain there. What had Vance done to him? That f**king knife! Covered in red now.

“Her killer, it was her lover, wasn’t it? The guy she’d ditched your old man for. I guess the cheatin’ bitch got what she deserved.”

“I’ll… kill… you.”

“No, you won’t.”

She found the crevice where the door would open when it swung back on its hinges. She tried to shove her fingers in that little wedge, but her nails broke. Splinters pierced her fingers. Dammit!

“You tried to stop him, ’cause you’re the hero, right?”

Luke hissed out a low breath.

“Does Monica know?” Laughter grated in the air. “Does she know he beat the shit out of you and left you in your own vomit and blood while he killed your mother?”

No, she didn’t know. Her fist pounded against the door. “This isn’t about Luke! Let him go! You’ve got me! You want to play your f**king games, play them with me!”

Luke. No wonder he’d always jumped to save the ladies. Even in Gatlin, with Lynn. “Fucking makes me sick. Every time I see a guy punching on a woman.”

She tasted blood and the salt from her tears.

“When the cops came, they found you hugging her. What was it like, holding tight to a dead woman?”

A roar of fury.

“I mean, you were like six, right? That had to screw with your head. Would have turned some guys into killers—”

“Like you?” Monica yelled.

“But you…” Vance kept right on talking, too focused now on Luke. And she had to get his focus back on her. He’ll kill Luke. “You became the boy scout, didn’t you? Always got to save the day.”

Monica’s fingers curled around her belt. She pulled it loose, yanked it up. She grabbed the buckle, snapped it back, popping it, and tried to break it free from the leather.

“You’re not gonna save the day this time, Dante. You’re gonna die, and you’re gonna die knowing I have her. I’ll cut her apart, just like I’ll do to you. I’ll cut her, and she’ll cry, and she’ll beg, and she’ll scream for you.” A long sigh. “But you won’t be there to save her.”

The buckle broke free. Monica tossed the leather to the floor and curled her fingers around the metal.

“Just like you couldn’t save your mother.”

Luke’s worst fear?

“I get a f**king two-for-one special!” Vance yelled and laughter followed, the kind that told her the deputy had left the land of the sane long ago. “Now, bastard, let’s see how long you last before you start beggin’!”

Blade hit flesh. She knew that soft noise, the unmistakeable sound as the knife dove in, then pulled out.

“Let’s see!”

Her breath caught. This was it. If she didn’t stop him, Luke would die. She pounded on the door. Pounded until her hands went numb, then choking back the fear and only letting the fury out, she yelled the words that she knew would get to him. Monica screamed, “Romeo let me watch!”

Silence. Breathing. Heavy. Excited.

She swiped her tongue over her lips. Hate the taste of fear.

Footsteps shuffled toward her. Keys jingled. Let me out. Come on, let me out….

Her fingers tightened around the buckle.

Light came at her. A trickle first. Then, bigger, bigger…

Vance’s face popped into that light. His eyes were wild, and he wore a grin that went from ear to ear. “Just when I thought my day couldn’t get better.” He had a gun in his hand. One that he’d aimed right at her. “I was hoping you’d scream those magic words.”

CHAPTER Eighteen

Luke jerked hard against the straps that held him pinned to the table. Pain burned through him. The bastard had sliced both of his arms and had driven that big-ass knife into his shoulder.

“Lee!” Monica’s sharp cry.

Luke’s head reared up, just a few inches because that was all he could manage. His eyes shot to the left, the right, and—there.

The other deputy was tied to a chair in the far corner. His head sagged. Blood dripped from his nose. Bruises covered him.

Because Vance liked to play.

“Don’t worry about him,” Vance muttered, and Luke’s stare zeroed back in on the killer. Vance grabbed Monica’s arm and pulled her close. He shoved the gun under her chin. “With the drugs I gave him, he doesn’t even know where he is. And when I’m done, he’ll eat this.” The barrel jabbed into her flesh. “Just like his old man ate his weapon.” A twisted smile. “Like daddy, like screwed-up son.”

Blood stained Monica’s face. Luke wrenched his arms, struggling to get free. Have to help her. Can’t leave Monica alone.

Because he knew good old Vance hadn’t been lying. Luke would die first, the better for Monica to watch.

Then she’d be on her own with the sick f**k. Pope couldn’t help. And she’d die.

No f**king way.

With his left hand, Vance pulled out his cuffs, that stupid grin still on his face. Luke clenched his teeth. The taste of blood filled his mouth. Kill him.

“Let’s give you a good show. Real up close…” He snapped a cuff around her left wrist. A tear leaked from Monica’s eye as she stared at Luke. She didn’t struggle against Vance. Just stood still and silent. “So close you’ll feel the blood on your skin.” The other cuff snapped around the leg of the table, the one closest to Luke’s head.

She’ll see me die.

He’d f**ked this up. She’d told him to be on guard, but he hadn’t been ready. He’d let this bastard take him down, and now Monica would pay.

I won’t scream. Not in front of her. She didn’t need the sound of his screams in her head. She had enough of those.

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