Her hand slapped against the door. “Keeping me locked up isn’t going to scare me, ass**le! I’m not afraid of being in your damn closet!” Small spaces didn’t bother her. If they had, she would have gone crazy with Romeo in those first nightmarish days. She didn’t like them, but she could handle them. She could handle anything.
“Ah… Monica… I know you’re not like poor lost Laura.”
Couldn’t save her.
“The dark doesn’t bother you, either, though, at first, I did wonder about the light you liked to leave on at night.”
She’d rip the door apart. It was wooden, not metal like Romeo’s. She’d get out.
Before or after he killed Luke?
“Then I realized you weren’t scared of the dark. You were scared of being caught off guard. No weapon, defenseless.”
She always kept a weapon close. Except when she was with Luke. Then she’d just needed him.
“You didn’t want to be helpless ever again, did you, Monica? Because you were helpless before. You were in that prison, listening as Romeo killed those girls, and there wasn’t a thing you could do to stop him—or to save them.”
She’d tried. When she’d been strapped to his table, Monica had never made a sound.
But when she’d been in that closet, and she knew what he’d been doing to the others, she’d screamed. Screamed until she’d lost her voice. Screamed for Romeo to let her out. To let them go.
But the other girls had screamed louder. They didn’t understand that he wanted them to be silent. Didn’t understand until it was too late.
Then there was nothing but silence.
That bastard knew how to get me to scream. Pain wouldn’t break me, so he used the other girls.
“I’ve been watching you….” came the taunting voice.
She swiped something out of her eye. Blood. Dripping down from her forehead.
“I saw your face when you found Samantha floating in that water. You were scared. Terrified.”
Because she’d thought another victim had died on her watch.
“Tell me,” he said, and she knew he was getting off on this. Baiting her. Teasing the trapped prey. “Why did you join the FBI?”
“To put f**ked-up ass**les like you behind bars!”
Silence. Then, “That was the wrong answer.”
“Then you tell me!” His game. Let him talk all he wanted. Monica tried to find the crevice that would mark the side of the door. Had to be there. Maybe she could pry the damn thing loose.
“You got your shiny FBI badge…” His voice came, slow and sure, “because you wanted to make up for all those girls you killed.”
Her head pressed against the wood.
“You couldn’t save them, could you? So you’ve been trying to make up for their deaths all these long years.”
She wasn’t going to answer him. That was what he’d want. The prick. Like she needed him to profile her.
“All these years, people talked about how good you were at catching killers, but really, you were trying to save the victims.” He gave a faint chuckle. “And now you’ll be a victim. You and your lover.”
Her nails dug into the wood. “Let him go!”
“No.” His voice grew quieter. He was leaving. She shot to her knees and strained to see through that hole. Heading back toward the table. Back to Luke.
Why wasn’t Luke talking? Had Vance gagged him? The deputy had knocked him with the butt of the rifle, but Luke should have awakened by now—unless Vance had already started having his fun with him.
When she swallowed, she tasted fear. Once, that had been all she could taste. When she’d been trapped in the darkness, just like this.
She’d tasted fear, and she’d smelled blood.
Scream for me.
“Without him, there’d be no fear.” Light glinted. Christ, he had a knife in his hands. “It has to be like before, Monica.” Romeo carved them up. “You have to be helpless. You have to know what’s happening to him, and you have to fear.”
“I am afraid, you bastard! I’m f**king terrified! Is that what you want? I’m scared to death!” She swiped more blood away from her eyes. The cut on her forehead was streaming blood. “You don’t need him. Let him go and keep me!”
“I think you care for him.” Considering. “That’ll make it even better. What do you think? Should I take the gag out so you can hear him scream?”
A gag. That hadn’t been groaning. That had been Luke trying to talk.
“Monica!” Luke’s voice.
Tears stung her eyes.
“Monica, don’t worry about me, don’t worry about—”
He broke off.
“Ah, that’s not fair,” Vance snapped, and she heard the fury in his voice. “You’re supposed to scream when I cut you. Scream!”
Monica shoved her fist in her mouth.
Not like before. Not at all. Because Luke, damn him—he was staring at death and still trying to protect her.
“I’m gonna slice you apart, bastard. We’ll see how f**kin’ brave you are when I cut open your chest. You’ll scream then.”
“No!” She was the one screaming. Because she knew Vance would do it. He’d carve Luke up and keep her trapped for every moment. So she could hear it all.
Pain has a sound.
Luke would die knowing Vance had her in that closet, and he’d know that she’d be the killer’s next victim.
“I know what you fear.” The bastard wasn’t talking to her now. His voice had lowered even more. “I know all about you, too, Luke Dante.”
“Big damn deal,” Luke snarled.
“Tough guy, huh?”
He was cutting him.
“But you weren’t so tough when your mom died, were you? Tell me, what was it like to watch her die in front of you?”
Her breath caught.
“Piss off.” Luke’s words were coming slower. Pain there. What had Vance done to him? That f**king knife! Covered in red now.
“Her killer, it was her lover, wasn’t it? The guy she’d ditched your old man for. I guess the cheatin’ bitch got what she deserved.”
“I’ll… kill… you.”
“No, you won’t.”
She found the crevice where the door would open when it swung back on its hinges. She tried to shove her fingers in that little wedge, but her nails broke. Splinters pierced her fingers. Dammit!