“What the hell?”
She shoved the clipping back into the envelope. “We can’t stay out here.” Her voice trembled and so did her hands. “Let’s get closer to the house, get better cover. With that bastard watching, we can’t take chances.”
And they were sitting ducks right then. Yeah, they needed cover, so they could spot him and attack.
But going for a long shot with a gun wasn’t really the guy’s style. He was more the up-close-and-personal type. A man who enjoyed getting his hands dirty or covered in blood.
The Romeo Killer? He shook his head. That didn’t make a damn bit of sense. What the hell did that bastard have to do with anything?
“Let’s go,” she said, and spun away. She ran through the darkness, her light extinguished now, and her steps nearly silent.
And he was right behind her.
Because he didn’t know what kind of sick message the killer was trying to send, but he wasn’t taking any chances. The guy wanted to play, that was certain, and the game could begin anytime.
Or maybe it already had. Because he’s watching us. Waiting.
The Romeo Killer.
Bile rose in Monica’s throat. She rocked back on her heels as her stomach knotted.
How had he known? No one should know. Especially not some sick, twisted bastard who…
“Yeah, we’re out at the Moffett scene. Tires are slashed. He’s here, Sheriff. What, how do I know? Because the freak left us a message. No—just get us some transportation out here, got it?” Luke barked into his cell phone.
He didn’t understand the message because that clipping wasn’t meant for him. It was for her. Her nightmare, coming true.
Looked like the killer knew how to get to her. But how had he known?
Not Hyde. Hyde wouldn’t leak that information to anyone.
“What’s he doing, Monica?” Luke demanded.
She swung toward him. “I haven’t seen—”
“No—why’s he leaving me crap about Romeo? I remember that bastard. He got off on carving up girls.”
Yes, he had.
“What is it? Is he trying to tell us he’s another Romeo? Because as far as I can tell, this creep isn’t charming his victims; he’s attacking—cold, hard and quick.”
Charming? Yes, that had been Romeo’s style. At first. “I don’t—I don’t know what he meant with the clipping.” Lie. Lie. Sometimes, it was way too easy to lie.
She rolled her right shoulder. Caught herself.
“The sheriff’s coming,” Luke said, running a hand through his hair. “Fifteen minutes, maybe twenty with these back roads from Hell. He wants us to sit tight.”
“I don’t think he’s coming after us tonight.” No, he’d just wanted to leave his little message. Screw with her head, and let her know that he knew. And what would she do when Luke started putting the pieces together? Hell, was that what the killer wanted? For Luke to learn the truth about Romeo? “He’s just playing with us tonight.”
Building the fear. He wouldn’t kill them, not yet.
Luke crept past her, his gun in his hand. “Sitting back isn’t my style. Let’s see what we can—” His breath whistled out. “Sonofabitch. He’s coming.”
She crouched, bringing her gun up. No streetlights, but the moonlight trickled down, showing them.
“The bastard’s walking in the middle of the road. And he’s coming right for us.”
Her fingers tightened around the gun. She could see him. The thick bulk of a man stalking toward them. But that didn’t fit. The killer wouldn’t come right at them. Not his style.
She glanced at Luke. Too much darkness to see his face. “This is wrong.”
He was already heading for the steps, keeping his back close to the house. “Cover me.”
He was gone. “FBI!” he yelled out. “Identify yourself!”
Sweat slickened her palms. She went after him, keeping cover, staying low. Her weapon was aimed and ready. But…
This isn’t right. It’s not his way.
The man didn’t stop walking. The shuffle of his feet traveled easily in the night.
“I said, identify yourself!” Luke’s order shook the porch.
But the guy didn’t speak. And he was getting closer.
Then the guy’s hand lifted.
And Monica saw the glint of a gun. “Luke, he’s armed!”
Even as she screamed her warning, a bullet exploded, firing at the house, chipping wood just inches from Luke’s head.
The man ran now, full-out ran, toward them. Yelling something as he fired, over and over.
Luke fired back.
So did she. Not aiming for the head. Or the heart. She should have, she knew, but…
Her bullet clipped him in the shoulder, and he staggered. Luke’s caught him in the chest. Blood burst from his wounds, spraying around him.
But still, somehow, he fired.
“Drop the gun!” Luke roared. “Drop it! Drop—”
“On… me!” The gunman screamed. “It’s on me!”
Monica’s finger froze on the trigger. Not our guy. “Luke, hold! Do you hear me? Hold—”
The guy fired again, and the bullet blasted right across her left arm. Oh, shit. Fire ripped the flesh away.
“Monica!” Luke shot again. The bullet thudded into flesh.
The gunman fell back.
“No.” She shook her head and raced across the overgrown grass.
“Monica! Stop, he’s not dead. It wasn’t a heart shot!”
The guy raised his head and somehow managed to lift his gun. Under the moonlight, she saw his eyes. So much fear there, and anger. Rage.
“B-bitch… not gonna… get me…” Blood dripped from his mouth.
“Drop your weapon,” she told him, never wavering with her own gun as she ignored the throb of fire racing up her arm. “Do it, just drop—”
But he shook his head. “N-not… like… him…”
She saw the tremble of his hand. Squeezing the trigger.
He wouldn’t miss her heart this close. Couldn’t miss. “Don’t make me shoot you,” she whispered.
“Monica! Get out of the f**king way! Give me the shot!” Luke’s furious shout.
The man, young, thin hair, thin face, tried to smile. “F-fuck y-you.” The gun shook. “F-fuck him.”