The phone bit into her palm. She forced herself to ease her grip. It was either ease the grip or shatter the cell.
Luke’s deep voice, still tinged with the rough need that had burned so hard moments before.
She glanced back at Luke. “It was him.” The note hadn’t been enough. He’d wanted to make a personal connection. To taunt. Was that the way he always worked? They’d have to pull all the victims’ phone records and see what they could find.
“The damn killer was just on your phone? He’s got your number?”
She’d need to call in at headquarters. Get them to trace the call A-fucking-SAP. Ten to one, though, it would go back to a disposable cell. She glanced down at her caller ID.
No, it wouldn’t be an easy trace. This guy wouldn’t be so sloppy. He wouldn’t get tripped up so fast.
“Monica?” Luke stood right in front of her. “What’s happening?”
She swallowed. No more time for pleasure. Back to death. And wasn’t that always the way for her? “We need to get that note down to the station. And we’ve got to talk to Hyde, right away.”
“Sonofabitch.” He swung toward the blinds, his hands clenching.
Was he watching them now? Because this guy, she knew he liked to watch. But what he didn’t know, not yet… was what scared her.
If she had her way, he never would.
No one would know.
He whistled while he walked down the long hospital corridor. He looked like he belonged, so no one even so much as questioned him as he strolled right through the place.
His boots squeaked on the tile. He glanced down, and his reflection shone back up at him.
He rounded the nurses’ station, tossing up a wave. The guard was there, just as he’d known he would be since Miss Sissy Sue Hollings worked the night shift. Pretty little Sissy Sue with her corkscrew curls and slick red mouth.
The deputy barely glanced his way. The guy was too busy leaning over the counter and hitting on Sissy Sue.
So he whistled and strolled down the hall, then took a left. Ah… there. Room four-oh-eight.
Too easy, really.
He slipped into the room. Silence greeted him. No hiss and moan of machines. Perfect. He pushed back the green hospital curtain that enclosed her bed and saw his little survivor.
Laura’s eyes were closed, the lashes casting shadows on her cheeks. No cuts, no bruises—not on her face. He glanced down at her hands.
Ah, there we go.
Torn nails. Jagged and discolored flesh. She’d tried to get out on her own but failed.
He wanted to talk to her. To find out what it had been like. Those moments after she’d awoken and realized she was in her personal hell.
How terrifying. How perfect.
He reached for a pillow, but he… hesitated.
This seemed so wrong. To die like this, sleeping. So easy.
A smile lifted his lips. Really, this wasn’t his way at all.
Laura Billings had feared the darkness, feared being trapped. He’d given her a taste of that hell.
But now, she’d fear him.
In seconds, he had his gloves on. Ready for work.
He let the back of his fingers skim down her cheek. The doctors had pumped her full of drugs. He knew it—that’s what they did with the patients who wouldn’t stop screaming. And after Laura had snapped from her silence, she’d screamed and screamed.
He’d heard some of the nurses talking about those sweet screams downstairs.
“That poor girl…”
“Can you imagine? Trapped in the ground…”
If only they knew.
He stroked her face again, and her eyelids flickered. Ah. Good.
No time to waste.
When her eyes opened, confusion appeared first. A furrow etched a line between her brows. She licked her lips. “Where—”
“Shh…” He put his finger against her lips. Then he lifted the pillow. “Don’t worry, I’ll make it faster this time.”
Then it came. The fear. Blossoming in her stare, growing, spreading, making those pretty eyes bulge as her mouth opened to scream.
He shoved the pillow onto her face. Caught her wrists in his left hand and held her while she thrashed.
She fought more than he’d expected. Once, she almost got free from him.
Then… she was still. So very still. No more fight left.
If she’d been hooked to the machines that were pushed in the corner, one of the nurses would have been racing to the room, wondering why the patient had flat-lined. A lucky break for him.
He touched her again. Couldn’t help it. She was still warm. He could feel her warmth through the gloves. Not that the warmth would last long now.
When he lifted his hand, he saw the tremble that shook his fingers. Not from fear, never that.
Carefully, he arranged her pillows.
One last look, because death could be such a thing of beauty, then he slipped from the room.
When her cell phone rang again, Monica was ready. She answered even before the first ring was finished. “Davenport.”
“We traced the cell,” Sam’s voice, high with excitement. “Are you armed?”
What? Her gaze met Luke’s. He stood just across the room, arms crossed over his chest. “I have my weapon here.”
At her words, he took out his own gun.
“The cell phone came up as registered to Laura Billings—”
“We used repeater triangulation to pick up the GPS chip in the phone… Monica, the phone is right outside your room… Whoever called you—”
“Laura Billings is still in the hospital.” Her gun was in her hand, and she hurried for that door. “It’s her attacker, playing a game.”
“Be careful! You don’t know—”
“Dante’s here. I’ve got backup.” She hung up the phone. Took a deep breath. “He called from right outside.”
A muscle flexed in Luke’s jaw.
They went out together. The light near her room flickered, sending out bursts of sickening yellow. Monica’s gaze swept the lot. Left. Right. Left—
The SUV waited just a few feet away. The first place she would have gone to the next morning. The one thing she would have seen.
In seconds, she was at the vehicle. No broken windows. The doors were still locked. Luke covered her while she ran around to the rear.
The phone had been tossed beneath the back tire. It was still on; it had to be so that Sam could track it with the FBI’s satellite.