“I’m afraid you’ll see who I really am. What I am.”
Luke almost didn’t hear the whispered confession. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he’d just imagined it. Because that didn’t make a bit of sense to him—and f**k, time to call it like he was damn well seeing it. “Bullshit.”
She braked. A cloud of dirt rose around them. Monica spared him a glance. “Trust me, Dante—”
Dante? Oh, hell, no, she—
“You don’t want to know what’s inside me. Even you couldn’t handle it.” She shoved on her cap and reached into the backseat and snagged her bulletproof vest.
Clenching his teeth, he did the same. But this wasn’t over. “We’re saving Sam,” he told her, “and then you and me, we’re tearing down the walls between us, ripping ’em all down.”
“I’ll know you, inside and out, and you’ll damn well know me,” Luke promised.
The place was too familiar. Monica froze beside the SUV, her eyes flickering toward the treetops. Sunlight drifted down to her, fading in tendrils toward the ground. The chirp of birds and insects filled her ears.
The dirt road. So similar.
Her heart thudded into her ribs.
Kenton’s car pulled up behind her. Monica swallowed and took a quick breath.
Hold on, Sam.
She turned around and found Luke watching her. I’ll know you and you’ll damn well know me. Yeah, the promise was in his gaze. But there was more. When it came to her, the guy always saw so much more than others did.
“What’s going on?” he asked, a quiet demand.
“We’re stopping a killer, that’s what’s going on.” They’d parked a safe distance away from the cabins. If the guy was there he wouldn’t be able to hear the sound of their vehicles, not from here. “Kenton, don’t forget your vest.” Because she had a bad feeling about this one. He’s ready for us.
Kenton jerked on his vest and jogged toward them. “You think—you think Sam’s still alive?”
Since Sam had disappeared at the airport, she’d been missing for a little over four hours.
Plenty of time to die. “Yes.” Sometimes, it didn’t really matter what you thought. You had to say what was best for the others.
He let out a hard expulsion of air. “Then let’s go find this bastard.”
Luke didn’t say anything. Just watched her.
He knows I’m lying. And since when could he see past her lies?
He brushed by her. “When this is over, you’re telling me everything.”
She grabbed his arm. “When this is over, I’m locking up a killer, and I’m making sure he never sees daylight again.” This wasn’t getting personal. Not now. They were staying focused on the killer.
Monica pulled her weapon. “We go on my count.” She allowed herself a deep breath. “Stay to cover, no risks, understood?”
“Understood.” From Luke.
“Kenton? Understood?” He always seemed so controlled, like me, but she knew there was a dangerous core to the agent. She’d glimpsed it on a few field missions before.
Like to like.
“Then let’s go bring Sam back.”
They ran, heading for the first cabin on Briars Lane. So isolated. The two cabins on the east side were the only homes within a fifteen-mile radius. The guy was sure good at picking his kill spots.
The smell of sap had her nose twitching. So many pines here. The ground was hard, uneven, but she moved easily, leading the others.
They found the first cabin almost immediately. Small, one story, with big picture windows along the front. Not on the water, but nestled farther back in the trees. In less than four minutes, they’d gone in and searched every inch of that place, barely making a whisper of sound.
They went back into the woods, moving quietly, quickly. And then she saw the second cabin. Wooden, with an old-fashioned wraparound porch. A small chimney jutted from the top of the second-story’s slanting roof. A picturesque place. The lake glittered behind the cabin, dark waves moving in the sun.
Luke and Kenton stilled beside her.
“Don’t see anyone,” Kenton murmured.
Neither did she, and that didn’t mean a thing. “Go in slow,” she whispered. Maybe Sam was in the cabin, alive.
Hiding in a closet. Waiting for that one weak moment to escape. The stench of death surrounding—
Monica shook her head. “You two take the house. I’ll take the lake.” Because this place would be the perfect kill spot. Isolated, with that second-story view giving the perfect vantage point for a lookout. And the lake, so close by… Sam’s worst fear just a few feet away. If she’d awakened in the house, she would have been able to hear the water. The better to stir her fear.
Monica motioned with her hand, giving the signal to advance. Then they were moving quickly, cutting a trail through the brush and keeping their weapons up.
The men slowed near the cabin and crept up the porch. No groan of the wood. Sweet, sweet silence.
Monica circled around the back of the cabin. That water was Sam’s fear, it would—
“Sam!” The scream tore from her lips even as she broke into a run. “Dammit, no!”
Sand flew from beneath Monica’s feet as she charged for the lake, and for the still figure, floating face down in that murky water.
She jumped up on the dock. Ran over the wood. The thump thump thump of her shoes on the dock perfectly matched her heart.
Monica dove into the water. Sam wasn’t out far, just drifting there, face down, so close to the dock. So close.
She grabbed Sam and spun her around. “Sam!” Pale face. Bruised. Closed eyes. Wet hair clinging to her cheeks. “Sam, breathe!”
But she wasn’t breathing. Her body was heavy and cold.
“Give her to me!” Luke’s yell. Monica kicked, turned around, and found him jumping from the dock. She pulled Sam, holding her tight.
Then Luke was there, taking Sam from her arms. Lifting her still body onto the dock and jumping up after her. Kenton laid Sam across the wood and bent over her, checking for a pulse.
Find one. Monica climbed back onto the dock. Find one. They needed a pulse. A beat—
He shook his head.
Water trickled from Sam’s mouth and nose.
“You’re not dying,” Kenton’s fierce order. He turned her head to the side and forced her mouth open wider. More water poured from her lips.