Just like I froze you out.

But she didn’t say anything. Sometimes she felt like her damn secrets were suffocating her.

Always wondering, worrying. What will he think if he knows the truth? What would he see when he looked at me?

What would they all see?

She didn’t want to be a victim, and she’d be damned if she accepted anyone’s pity.

“You need to take a break. Get some coffee, get—”

“No.” Her shoulders snapped back. They didn’t have time to piss away, and she was not going to break. “We don’t have time to waste. We have to find her, and fast.”

His blond brows pulled low. “Twenty-four hours isn’t a lot of time.”

Monica laughed at that. She couldn’t help it. “Do you really think he’s giving us that long?”

Luke blinked.

“She’ll be dead in six. He’s f**king with us.” And that pissed her off. “He wants to have his fun with Sam, but he wants to watch us scramble. So he’ll play with her, kill her, then sit back and watch us struggle. And he’ll be watching from a safe distance. A safe, un-catchable distance.” Monica realized her voice was too loud. Her hands shook, and everyone was watching her.

Watching me break down.

Sam would break, too. The innocence that had been in Sam’s brown eyes would be gone soon. If it wasn’t already. She was an agent, yeah, but she’d been protected, kept safe. Hell, she’d probably only been in the field a handful of times.

There’d be no safety now.

Why did everyone have to stare? They needed to move. “Sheriff, I want a listing of every cabin or house that’s got lake access in this area. Every one—and I want it yesterday.”

He wiped his handkerchief across his sweaty brow. “Yes, ma’am.”

Her chin lifted. “We’re finding her, and we’re finding her now.”

The floorboard squeaked.

Every muscle in Sam’s body tightened. She didn’t know how long she’d been in that damn room, listening to the water, but she wasn’t alone now.

Maybe she’d never been.

A scent teased her nose. Strong and thick. Not cigarette smoke. Deeper. Smells like Uncle Jeremiah…

But this wasn’t her sweet old uncle. This was a sick freak who wanted to hurt her.

Then he whistled. A stupid, light tune. What was that? Something—

“I know.” A whisper. One that came right next to her ear. Close enough for her to feel his breath against her skin.

To catch that smell—stronger now. Cigar smoke.

She jerked away. He laughed.

Don’t show your fear. Her fingers curled down behind her. “You’ve made a mistake.” Her voice came out sounding calm. Monica would have approved. “I’m a federal agent, and my team will be tracking me. You don’t want—”

“That’s exactly what I want.” And he shoved something over her head. Something thick, heavy. A bag? Oh, God, he was suffocating her; he was going to kill her.

“Hold on, bitch, this might hurt.” He sliced the ropes away. Cut her skin. “Hope it does.” Ankles. Wrists. The blade pierced her skin every time.

But she didn’t scream.

She did attack. The minute the ropes fell away, she shot to her feet, spun around—

And fell, taking the chair down, slamming her elbows and knees onto the floor. Legs won’t work. No circulation. Can’t—

He had her tied again in seconds. Just her hands this time. Thick knots of rope that scraped away her skin.

He hauled her up and dragged her because her legs wouldn’t work. From the ropes or the drug? What had he done to her?

A door squeaked. Light flickered through the bag he’d shoved over her head. The lapping of the water teased her ears—louder—

“I know.” Damn whisper, grating in her ears. “I know all about you, sweet Samantha Kennedy.” His steps echoed, as if he were walking on something hollow.

Something hollow.

Fuck. A dock. They were walking on a dock. She could feel the slight shift in the wood beneath her.

“You really think you’re the only one who knows how to dig and pick apart a person’s life? A computer can show you so much these days. If you know just where to look, you can find anything.

Water lapped, so close.

“I know your father has spent his life screwing around on your mother. I know she spent her days and nights with the bottle to make it all better.”

No, her mom didn’t drink. Not anymore. Not since—

“And I know you, poor little Samantha. You were alone so much. Alone that day when you fell.”

Please, God—

“And no one heard your scream.”

She screamed now, as loud as she could. The bag didn’t stop her; it was loose around her head. She could—

“No one but me can hear you now, and I don’t give a shit.” He threw her onto the dock, grabbing her arms and twisting another rope on her hands. She was tied enough. Enough! Sam tried to kick out at him. Pinpricks shot through her feet and up her calves. Feeling was coming back, painful and burning.

Her feet hit something. Not him. Something hard and heavy. Something that made her bare feet throb.

His laughter filled her ears, and her heart slammed into her chest. Sam shook her head, trying to get out of that bag. “What are you doing? What are—”

Splash. She jerked forward, moving hard to the right. What the hell?

Goose bumps covered her arms. “I haven’t done anything to you!” A scream broke from her. Splash. “Why are you—”

“Because I can.” Splash. “Guess what? You’re next—”

He grabbed her, spinning her around. No, he wasn’t pulling her, something else was. The rope he’d just tied to her; it was pulling her—

Sam slammed into the water. Hit it hard and sank fast because something was pulling her, pulling her down to the bottom of the lake.

The bag drifted away from her twisting head and fluttered up in the murky water. Bubbles flew past her face. Because she was still screaming. Swallowing water and choking.

She couldn’t get free. The rope wouldn’t break, and he’d tied her to blocks. Looked like cinder blocks. Fucking splashes. That’s what the sound had been.

The blocks were dragging her down, straight to that sandy bottom. Swimming with the fishes…


God! Her lungs burned. The water stung her eyes, filled her nose, and poured down her throat.

Help me!

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