“Vics always hate talking about the attack.” One of the hardest parts of the job. Seeing those shattered stares and hearing the hollow echo of pain in their voices. “They just want to forget.”
“Forgetting’s not easy.” Monica sounded certain. “Just because you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t mean you forget. She’ll talk with us. She’ll tell us everything she knows.” More certainty. “Because she’ll want the bastard stopped.”
Vengeance. That he understood, and he knew the victims understood, too. Sometimes, the thirst for vengeance was all that kept them going.
“Go to bed, Dante,” she said again, her voice softer, but still firm.
He turned away from her. Stared at the white connecting door. Walk away.
He could do it. She had.
He stalked forward and curled his fingers around the door knob. “I know it shouldn’t matter.” This was choking him. “Who you see. What you do.” He wouldn’t glance back because this time, he didn’t want to see the ice staring back at him. “But it does. And after today, when death was so damn close I felt him breathing on my neck when we were digging up that girl’s grave…”
He knew death. No mistaking that chill on his spine.
“Sometimes you want to feel alive. When you see death so much, you just… want to feel alive again.” Being with her had always made him feel alive. Running fast and hot and free. He opened the door and the squeak of the hinges seemed way too loud. “If you wanna feel alive, you know where to find me.”
And that was all there was to say.
• • •
When the door closed, Monica let out the breath that had filled her lungs. She slowly unballed her fists and saw that her fingers were shaking.
Weakness. At a time when she just couldn’t afford anything less than full strength.
But the girl had gotten to her because Monica had recognized the terror in Laura’s eyes. The fear so deep it ate your soul and stole your hope.
Dante had been right. Death had been with them that morning. Laura knew it. She’d felt him coming. Laura’s chest had rattled as the woman fought to breathe—the rattle was proof that they’d been minutes away from finding a corpse instead of a live victim.
When you knew you were going to die, those last moments were the darkest and longest that terror could bring.
She’d seen those moments, seen the fear reflected in other eyes. Eyes that she couldn’t forget, no matter how hard she tried.
Monica looked down at her hands. Those stupid shaking fingers. Another few seconds and Dante would have noticed.
She’d known bringing him on the team was a mistake. She’d tried telling Hyde, but once the boss made up his mind there was no changing it. And, hell, Hyde had been right. He almost always was.
The SSD did need Dante. The guy could get to victims like no other. She’d read through his files, all his supervisors’ reports. He knew how to pry information out of the vics that they’d even forgotten themselves.
He slipped right past their guard, made them feel safe, and got them to tell him their nightmares.
They needed him.
So she’d spewed the tough talk on the plane. Hands off. Just work the case. Blah, blah.
But the truth of the matter was that he was tempting her again. Chipping the ice away and making her feel.
And just how was she supposed to hold out against that? Against him?
Because she could spout bullshit with the best of them, but the reality was she wanted back in his bed. She’d missed him, dreamed about him, and just—
She wouldn’t kid herself. An explosion was coming. If he hadn’t left when he did—
Luke had always been so good at working past her defenses.
Monica pulled off her shirt and headed toward the shower. Goose bumps were on her flesh, and she was so tired of feeling cold. Just so tired.
She wanted to feel—
Lust. Heat. Need. Passion.
She wrenched on the hot water.
Monica woke with a scream on her lips. Her heart raced, the thud filling her ears, even as she reached for the gun she’d learned to keep close.
Closer than any lover.
Her fingers curled around the cold butt of the weapon. Her grip wasn’t steady. No, her hand shook too much for that.
Sometimes, she just couldn’t tell.
The faint light from the bathroom spilled toward her. A beacon. She stared at that light, stared until the trembling stopped and she could breathe without feeling like a fist was pounding against her chest.
But she didn’t lower the gun. Not yet.
Trapped in that coffin. No room to move. Darkness all around.
Monica knew to fear the dark, too.
That damn fist was back. Pounding, pounding…
A car door slammed.
Her head snapped to the right, toward the blinds that covered her only window.
Instinct had her moving from the bed. She spared the briefest of glances toward the clock. Three a.m.
She lowered her weapon and used her left hand to part the blinds, moving them just enough to see into the parking lot.
Probably some late night truck driver. A traveler who couldn’t go any farther or—
A man stood in the darkness near her and Dante’s SUV. The man wore a sweatshirt, one with a hood pulled up high to shield half his face.
She couldn’t tell for certain, not with the darkness, but the guy seemed to be looking straight at her room.
No, straight at her.
The light from the bathroom—was it showing her silhouette? Oh, hell. She shifted a bit to the right and her bare feet brushed against something.
Monica glanced down and saw a small scrap of white paper. Her brows pulled together and she bent, reaching down. She hadn’t noticed that before, but she’d been tired and—
What scares you?
Dammit! The note fell from her fingers, and she shot back up to her feet. Her hand slammed against the blinds, parting a big hole so she could see… him. Still there.
Her heart slammed into her ribs. He lifted his hand and yes, the guy pointed straight at her. Then he whirled away, and started moving fast, running, zigzagging through the parked cars.
Hell, no. Monica yanked on a pair of sweats, screwed the shoes, clutched her gun tighter and wrenched open her door.
She knew how the games were played.
Into the minds of monsters.
The only place she could go.
Luke shot up in bed. The image of a dead woman still floated in his mind. What was—