“That’s one painful way to go,” Kenton murmured, and Monica was pretty sure she caught a shudder working through his body. Figured the city boy wouldn’t be wild about snakes, not that she blamed him.
“Yes, it is.” She waited a beat. “When she was six, Saundra was bitten by a snake while on a Girl Scout trip.” Sam had tapped into the medical records for her. “The doctors gave her anti-venom, and she recovered.”
“But I’m guessing she didn’t go out on any more scouting trips,” Luke said.
“No. She didn’t.” She eased back a bit.
What scares you?
Davis’s fingers tightened around the handles of his chair. “That sick bastard—”
Using snakes for a kill was very tricky business. The guy would have needed to know an awful lot about the rattlers. Snake wrangling sure wasn’t easy. But then, this guy seemed to have all sorts of knowledge at his fingertips.
“This is the earliest kill we’ve found.” But it was not actually the earliest. She knew that in her gut. “Luke and I are going to take a little drive over to Gatlin, Louisiana.” Because there had to be an event that had sparked these crimes. Find that event, find the killer.
In Gatlin, it seemed Saundra was the only kill linked to the perp. But three victims were tied to him in Jasper. Why Jasper? She hadn’t figured that out yet, but she would. He’d picked Jasper for a reason. The killer must have some connection to the city or to someone there. The connection was there.
But before she could put the puzzle pieces together, she had to go back to the past. Louisiana.
Goose bumps rose on her arms. Who said you couldn’t go home again?
“What can I do?” Davis asked, his voice soft, tired. His eyes were bloodshot, and the lines on his face even deeper. “I gotta say something to the people. I got a damn call from CNN today—”
“I’ll handle the media,” Kenton said. “You just keep your patrols out there. Do your damnedest to keep your people safe.”
“And we’ll track this guy,” Monica added, sounding way, way more confident than she felt.
Home was where death waited.
She ran as fast as she could, but the tree branches hit her, snatching her back. But she had to get out, had to help—
A scream cut the air. High. Sharp.
Monica froze. She shouldn’t look back. She knew she shouldn’t. If she looked back…
She spared a glance over her shoulder.
Saw the body. The blood.
The eyes staring sightlessly up at her.
Oh, God, no—
“Monica!” Hands gripped her hard, biting into her flesh.
Her eyes opened, and a scream built in her throat. Her hands scrambled, diving beneath her pillow as she twisted and tried to find her weapon.
“Wake up, baby, wake—”
She had the gun pointed right between his eyes.
Pain squeezed her chest. The damn dreams were back. Four months. She’d slept like the dead for over four months, and now they were back.
“You gonna lower that anytime soon?”
Her hand wanted to shake so she tightened her fingers around the butt of the gun and then, slowly, carefully, put the weapon on the nightstand. “S-sorry.” Her voice came out hoarse.
She’d screamed once. For so long. Until her voice broke and only a whisper remained.
No, no, Laura had been the one screaming. When they’d gotten her out of that grave and put her in the ambulance, she’d screamed and screamed—
Until her voice broke.
“Wanna tell me what that was about?”
The shadows crept around them. The light on the nightstand was on. She’d left it on. Like she always did.
With that faint light, she could see him. Bare chest. Muscles gleaming. He wore a pair of dark faded jeans—Luke had always liked his jeans. As her gaze dropped over him, she saw his length swell beneath that rough fabric.
“Monica…” A warning edge there. One she chose to ignore.
The pounding of her heart filled her ears. Better that than the sound of screams.
Rain fell lightly onto the cabin. The cabin. The only place left for visitors in the dot on the map that was Gatlin, Louisiana. Made of old wood, the one-bedroom cabin probably was supposed to be cozy and quaint.
Maybe for someone else, it would have been. But not for her.
The old cabin, the dark swamp, the constant chirp of the crickets and God knew what else outside—not for her.
They’d arrived after midnight. He’d taken the couch, hadn’t pressed her for sex—and why not? And she’d taken the bed.
Then the damn dreams had come back.
“Talk to me. What were you dreaming about?”
There he was. Caring, being a good guy. That was Luke’s problem. Deep down, past that tough veneer, he was nice. Didn’t he know that was dangerous?
“Talking is the last thing I want to do.” She’d never spoken truer words to him. Her hand flattened over his chest. His heart drummed beneath her fingertips, racing just as fast as her own.
His jaw worked, and she could see the lust on his face, but he held back. Dammit, he held back. “You can’t keep hiding forever.”
Her breath caught. He knows. “The dreams don’t matter.” She wouldn’t let them. “Tonight, I want you.”
Her right hand swept out. Hit the lights. When she had him, she didn’t need the light.
Her lips took his. A wet, open-mouthed kiss.
The fire hit her. Hard and fast. The need that shot through her blood and moistened her sex and made her want. Made her want—
Luke. The rough slide of his body against hers. The feel of him in her, and his voice, whispering to her.
She moaned into his mouth even as her nails bit into his skin.
He came down on her, the strong, hard length of his body pushing against her. His lips were tight on hers, and she knew he was as hungry as she was. Six years.
But it seemed just like yesterday.
His mouth ripped from hers, and his lips took her throat. Kissing. Sucking. Licking. Her sex creamed as she arched her hips toward him. The man knew all of her weak spots.
After all this time, he should have forgotten, he should have—
“Luke…” Her turn to lick. A swipe of her tongue near his ear. Because she still remembered what he liked. “Ditch the jeans.” There’d be no pulling back tonight. She needed him too much.
Silence the victims. Make the cries stop. Make me forget.