She jumped at the touch, and her gaze shot to the left. Hyde was there, staring down at her from the shadows.

“You just had a bad dream,” he told her. “You’re safe.”

No, she’d never be safe again.

She pulled her hand from his. I can’t be weak in front of him. He’d kick her off the SSD, and she couldn’t leave the team. It was all she’d ever had. Something that mattered.

Something that had almost gotten her killed.

A chair screeched as he pulled it closer to the bed. “There’s no shame in being scared.”

“And what do you know… about being scared?” Shit, had she just said that? To him? But, yeah, that croaking voice was hers.

His brows climbed up high. “More than you might think.” He glanced at the machines that hummed and beeped on the other side of the bed. “If you make it through the rest of the night without any problems, you’ll be able to get out of here tomorrow.”

Her eyes skated around the room. “I want my gun.” She had no idea where her gun was, but she needed a weapon, any weapon.

“When you get out,” he said softly.

“I have to be ready, if he comes again—”

“You will be.” That dark stare was so steady on her.

I won’t break.

“I telephoned your mother. Told her what happened.”

Oh, no, not her mother. She would freak out. She’d—

Reach for the bottle.

No, no, she’s past that. Mom’s strong. She won’t.

“She said for me to tell you she was calling Chris and that she loved you.”

Sam took a deep breath. Chris was her mom’s sponsor. Good.

“If you want to talk to her, I can get you a phone in here.”

She shook her head. “No, not yet.” She just couldn’t handle that right then. If she heard her mother’s voice, she’d cry, and she just might not stop. “She—she didn’t want me to join the FBI.” Mom had always thought working with the FBI was too dangerous. What are you going to do when you get shot at? When you’re on the streets and a killer comes at you? Come on, Samantha, this isn’t for you.

But it had been, until a killer had come for her.

“Glad you didn’t listen to her.” He leaned back in the chair and crossed his arms. “I would’ve missed out on one damn fine agent.”

Her eyes widened. “You think I’m good?” She’d always felt like she didn’t fit in with the others. They had an edge, a sharpness to their personalities, and they weren’t afraid, not of anything.

There was a reason the killer had come after her. She knew it.

He’d realized she was the weak link. And he’d been right.

“I do.” Hyde’s head cocked to the right. “And I know you’re going to get past this, and you will be even better.”

Her lips pressed together so he wouldn’t see the tremble. He said he knew about being scared. Maybe she’d been wrong about him. “What are you afraid of, Hyde?”

His eyes bored into hers.

“Fine, don’t tell me.” Her voice was raspier now. “I’m going back to sleep.”

“I’ve seen a lot of death. Seen bodies mutilated, killers covered in blood…” He took a deep breath. “I know Hell’s real because I’ve seen it. Not once, but many times.”

“You keep working the cases.” Her fingers tightened around the sheets. “Why?” Why didn’t he ever give in and just give up?

“Because I will be damned if I let the killers win.” Flat. “That’s why I started the SSD. Why I go to work every single day. Someone has to stop those ass**les.”

He watched her silently for a time, then said, “Once, I thought there wasn’t any reason to keep trying. Those twisted bastards out there were winning the battle. The body count just kept rising, and the killers kept slaughtering. I was ready to turn away from everything. Everything.”

Now there was an intensity in his voice that she’d never heard before. “What happened to change your mind?”

“I saw a miracle.”

She blinked, not understanding. “What do you—”

“We can stop the killers, Samantha. We can track them, we can catch them, we can put the bastards in cages so that they never hurt anyone else, and we can save lives.”

Like Monica had saved her life. Pulled me out of that water. A few moments more…

“I’m in this business because I’m scared of what the world would be like if no one fought the killers. Someone has to do it.” His shoulders lifted. “Might as damn well be me.” A pause, then, “And you.”

If only things were that easy for her.

Hyde reached into his pocket and pulled out a peppermint. She almost smiled. Her uncle Jeremiah had carried those, too. When he’d given up his precious cigars, he’d gotten hooked on them—

Her fingers dug into the sheets as her heartbeat monitor beeped, loud and fast. Too fast to match her racing heart. “I remember something,” she whispered. The smell that had been so familiar to her. He’d leaned in close—Jeremiah.

“Samantha!” Monica’s voice.

Her head jerked as Monica ran into the room. “What’s happening?” Monica demanded, eyes bright. “Luke, get a nurse—”

Dante. She’d almost forgotten about him. “No, no… I’m okay.”

Monica and Dante shared a long look.

“What are you doing here?” Hyde demanded. “I said I’d stay through the night.”

“I need to get access to that security video,” Monica told him. Sam had no idea what video she was talking about. “I’ve got files on the deputies, but there are more suspects than you know, and I need to see—”

“He smelled like cigars,” Sam told them, blurting across Monica’s words. Goose bumps rose on her arms. “I-I remember… when he untied me from the chair, he leaned in close, and he smelled like… cigars.”

She saw Dante’s gaze shoot to Monica. “Fuck,” the guy swore and he spun around, heading right back for the door.

But Monica didn’t move. “Are you sure about this?”

She could smell the scent even now. “Yes.”

“And you didn’t see his face?”

“H-he was behind me… then he…” Her hand circled in front of her face. “He put some kind of cloth bag over me so I couldn’t see him.”