“You got away with murder.” It would have satisfied him for a while. But not forever. “Did you kill May, too? Did you torch her house and trap her inside?”
He laughed at that. A low, dark laugh. “Didn’t have to.”
What? She’d been certain he was behind that fire.
“All I had to do was call her. When she heard my voice, she thought I was a ghost.” Another laugh. “I told her to burn the house. I knew you wanted all those papers, that shit, she kept for years. I told her to burn it and to stay inside, to make sure the flames were bright enough.”
Oh, Christ. “And she did.”
His mouth hitched up. “Like I said, May was never good at taking her meds. And when she was off ’em, she’d do just about anything. Believe anything.”
She swallowed. “How many bodies are out in that swamp?” Close to the cabins. Close to the tree that had become Saundra’s grave. There could have been more. So many more.
His head cocked, and his lips stretched in a taunting grin. “You think you know me, huh? Well, he told me all about you.”
“He?” But she knew.
That knife was too close to Luke’s chest. Luke’s eyes hadn’t left Kyle’s face. The promise of deadly retribution glowed in those emerald depths. If she could just get him free…
“What the f**k do you know about Romeo?” Luke yelled.
But Monica stared into Kyle’s eyes and finally understood the game. “Everything.” The night one killer had been captured, another had been born two counties over. And coincidences, they just didn’t happen.
“You had to go see him, didn’t you? You read about him in the papers. His story was everywhere while your kill didn’t even get a notice.” It had been about pride. Some killers were desperate for their time in the light. Even boys…
“Romeo was the king.” Kyle’s gaze tracked down her body. “He was in every paper, on every TV show. He’s a legend.”
“Bryan Tate.” It was hard to get the words out. “Guessing that was you visiting, not Romeo’s lawyer.” So many visits. Plenty of time to talk about death.
He leaned forward just a bit. “Tate’s one of them bodies you’ll find near Saundra’s tree.”
“I needed a way in. He was my ticket.”
So what if another life was lost? And Romeo, oh, he would have loved the attention. He’d wanted someone who could appreciate his work. That’s one of the reasons he kept me alive. He wanted someone to see what he was doing. Someone to think he was God. “You told him that you had the ‘instinct,’ right?”
A quick nod. “He didn’t believe me at first. He gave me a test. Wanted to see if I was for real.”
“What kind of test?”
“A guard. He wanted him dead.” His gaze bored into hers. “That kill was easy enough to verify for Romeo.”
And Romeo would have known he had the perfect lapdog. “What did Romeo teach you?” Because he’d always wanted to teach, wanted someone to cross the line and be just like him.
His tongue swiped over his lower lip. “He said—he said I had to aim big. That I had to prove how smart I was, how good.”
“He told me about you and that prick Hyde.” A bark of laughter that held only darkness. “If it hadn’t been for Romeo, I never would have found you. But he told me—he told me you’d be the perfect prey. If I could take you down, if I could break you, then the world would know how good I was. I would be the legend.”
Romeo. Playing games so that he could finish the kill he’d lost years before. “Romeo was jerking you around.”
“No, no. He said you’d tell me that.” A pause. “He said you’d tell me anything to stay alive.”
She glared back at him.
“Everything he told me was true. I got you in his city, I got you down here, and now… I’ll break you.”
“Romeo’s going to rot in prison.” She bared her teeth at him. He was totally focused on her now. His mistake. “Just like you will.”
And she never looked away from Kyle as Lee slammed into him. The knife flew from Kyle’s hand and clattered to the floor. The two men fell in a tangle of limbs and fists.
Monica snatched up the belt buckle. The knife was too far away. She’d never be able to reach it. “Hold on,” she whispered to Luke, and started sawing with the buckle. If she could just get him free…
“No, run,” Luke ordered. “Get out! Go baby, go.”
She wouldn’t leave him.
Kyle slammed Lee’s head into the floor. Once. Twice. The sickening thuds had her stomach heaving.
The strap near Luke’s shoulder gave way. She leaned over him, sawing, sawing…
“What are you doin’?!” Kyle was on his feet. He swung his fist at her, driving his knuckles into her face, and Monica stumbled. “You can’t save him!”
Too late. She already had.
Luke shot up, blood dripping, and plowed his fist into Kyle’s stomach. The killer doubled over, groaning.
Monica’s jaw burned. It popped when she opened her mouth. Block it. “Luke… keys.” They were right there, hanging from Kyle’s belt.
Luke ripped the keys off and slammed his elbow into Kyle’s nose. Down, down he went. Luke tossed her the keys. She caught them and had her cuff open in three seconds.
That was long enough for Kyle to pick his ass up off the floor but not long enough for Luke to get completely free.
Monica scrambled around the table. The knife was right there, waiting for her. Her fingers closed around the hilt just as Kyle let out a roar of fury.
The gun. No.
She spun around. He had the gun aimed at Luke, aimed straight at his heart. His finger squeezed—
He hesitated, started to swing toward her.
She came up on him fast and drove the knife into his chest. As deep as she could.
His eyes widened. His lips trembled as if he would speak.
She twisted the knife, then ripped the gun from his hands.
His knees gave way, and he hit the floor hard.
Monica’s breath heaved as she crouched over him. Blood trickled from his lips. His pupils were dilating, blackness spreading.
A moan bubbled in his throat.
She knew her weapon had found its mark. In that split second, there’d been no time for taking chances. She’d had to stop him, and she’d gone for the kill.