Luke tore his mouth from hers and stepped back. “Christ, sorry. I shouldn’t have touched you.”
But she’d needed him. Monica eased away from Luke. No one had seen them. They were safe. But the game they were playing was so dangerous.
“You just looked broken when you found her,” he muttered. “I can’t see you that way.”
She swallowed over the lump in her throat. “He’s not going to break me.”
“No, he isn’t.” His gaze lingered on hers. Then he turned and strode down the hall.
He nearly collided with Deputy Pope. “Sorry, ah, special agent,” the deputy said.
Luke muttered something back and kept walking. Her eyes narrowed. The deputy was supposed to be outside, helping with the search.
Lee’s gaze darted to her, and a flush stained his cheeks. Oh, shit, had he seen—
“Agent Davenport.” Lee nodded, but his eyes were hooded. Too watchful.
Monica lifted a brow. “Something you need, deputy?”
His shoulders hunched a bit. “You—you like what you do?”
“Some days.” But today…“Other days, when I have to get deep into a profile, those days are harder.” Couldn’t turn off the killers. No matter how hard she tried.
“How do you know…” he inched closer to her, “what he’s thinking? I mean, you found the woman here so fast. How’d you know?”
“Because this perp works on fear. I found out what his victim feared, and I used her fear to track him.”
A drop of sweat slid down his right temple. “You had school for that, right? Where they taught you how to tune in?”
Not exactly. “I’ve got a doctorate in psychology, but I also studied in the behavioral sciences division at Quantico.” Then there had been the hands-on training she’d gotten from a sociopathic killer.
He licked his lips and glanced back over his shoulder. “I-I heard what you said to the sheriff.”
She lifted a brow.
“I-I got to that airport on time, I swear I did, but the flight was early. Agent Kennedy had already left.” His thin shoulders straightened. “I didn’t screw up this time, ma’am. I was there.”
Just too late.
“I checked everywhere for her, everywhere. But she was long gone.” His gaze bored into hers. “I tried to find her.”
She believed he had. “Pope, how long have you been working in law enforcement?”
He swallowed and wiped his palms on the front of his pants. “Four years.”
Longer than she’d thought. “You worked a lot of crime scenes?”
“Not ’til lately.”
Yeah. Not until their killer started terrorizing the town.
“With Jones… that was… bad.” A stark whisper. Monica remembered that he’d known Jones. Gone to school with him.
“My old man died like that.” His shoulders were so stiff. “Ate his gun.” A fierce shake of his head. “You got to be desperate to do that.”
Jones had been. As for Lee’s father…“I’m sorry.” Would the words always seem hollow?
He shook his head, seeming to shake off her sympathy. “I’m not like him. I’m not. I can help. I can do—”
“Pope! Get movin’! Dante needs more men!”
He flushed. “I can help,” he said once more, then hurried out at the sheriff’s command.
Monica watched him leave. “Sheriff, how long has Pope been on your team?”
“About six months.” He took his time coming to her side. “Got me some new recruits when Barnes and Lakely retired.”
“He worked over in Gatlin County for a few years.” His voice lowered a bit. “Word was that he’d had him a bad break-up so he got out of Jasper.” Of course the sheriff would know the gossip. He shrugged. “But then he finally transferred back home early this year.”
Home. Jasper County. The not-so-safe place to live. And he’d been in Gatlin, where Saundra had been killed.
Could be coincidence, or it could be one hell of a lot more.
“Sam? Sam, everything’s all right.”
She heard the voice from a distance. A man’s voice, muted. Drifting to her so slowly.
She tried to open her eyes, but it was hard, and just when she’d get her lids up a bit, they’d fall again.
Where am I? What’s happening?
Someone grabbed her fingers and held tight. “We’re taking you to the hospital.”
Because she’d been in the water, drowning, over and over and—
Sam shot up, screaming. Wrenching cries that hurt her throat.
Strong hands clamped around her shoulders. “Hold her, we need—”
A voice she knew. Blinking, she turned her head and saw Kenton. His clothes were wet. His handsome face tense.
Safe. Kenton wouldn’t hurt her. He was on her team. Trust the team or trust no one.
She sucked in a sharp breath. Another, but still tasted only the bitter water on her tongue. “Did you… get h-him?”
A slow shake of his head.
Fear squeezed her heart, a tight grasp that had her gasping.
“We will,” he told her, his voice intense. “We’re going to get him. Monica’s after him. She’s going to track him and stop him. He won’t hurt you or anyone else.”
Her body sagged, and he eased her back onto the stretcher. “She found you,” he said, “and she’ll find him.”
Her heartbeat thudded in her ears. Monica. Sam remembered seeing her. Black hair, soaking wet. Monica had been there, holding her on the dock. “S-saved… me.”
“Yeah, Monica pulled you out. Damn, you scared the hell out of us, Sam. You weren’t breathing.”
No, because that last time, he’d held her under too long. He’d grown tired of his game.
How many times had she been in that water? “He… knew,” she managed. The man had known just how to break her.
Kenton just stared back at her. She saw the lines of worry near his eyes.
The killer knew her fears. This case wasn’t just about random vics in a southern town. Had it ever been?
If he knew her fears, he could have targeted the other SSD agents, too. He could have set up the original kills to lure them in to his game.
“It’s going to be okay,” Kenton told her, but right then, she didn’t believe him.
She wondered if even he believed the words.