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Authors: Melinda Leigh

She Can Scream (36 page)

BOOK: She Can Scream
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“That was weeks before Karen’s death.”

“I couldn’t get her out of my head, so I watched her. I didn’t plan to kill her at first, but she’d been so confident, so convinced she was in control over me. She learned otherwise.” His head tilted. “She was beautiful, though. I admit to being entranced. The only way to break the spell was to take away her power. She wasn’t so pretty when I was finished with her. She was my first.” He raised his chin in wistful pride.

“You couldn’t have killed Karen. The police found evidence—”

Kent grinned. “I did a damned good job setting that dumb jerk up, especially since the frame was a last-minute idea. I smeared a little blood on his passenger seat, some more on the faucets in his condo. The fact that he didn’t have an alibi was sheer luck.” His smile widened. “Prison is going to be a rude awakening for that boring history teacher you jilted.”

“No one will believe Tony killed me.”

“Why not? He’s a little old, but otherwise fits the profile: single white male, intelligent, a loner. He’s home tonight, all alone, with no one to verify his alibi.” Kent’s eyes gleamed. “At first I
was going to pin it on your new man, but the history teacher is a better fit. He has a better motive. Juries love to find angry ex-boyfriends guilty.”

Brooke couldn’t speak. She’d helped send David Flanagan to prison. The jury had only deliberated for an hour before giving their verdict.

“Natalie was a decent likeness to Karen, don’t you think?” Was he looking for praise? Kent was sick and perverted, but there was nothing insane about him. He knew exactly what he was doing. “I’ve learned a lot over the years. Karen’s death was over too soon. I couldn’t risk being discovered. But I brought the rest, including Natalie, here.” With the gun, he gestured to the table where Haley sprawled limp and helpless. “She screamed so loud the cinder block bled. It was beautiful.”

Kent took off the bulky jacket. He reached across his body with his left hand, holstered his gun at his hip, and pulled a knife from a sheath on his belt. “If you didn’t always have to be in control, you and your daughter wouldn’t have to die tonight.”

Kent’s smile leaked pure evil.

He reached to the low ceiling. A pulley was affixed to the rafter. A hook, the kind a slaughterhouse might use to hang a side of beef, dangled from it. He rolled it toward her. “Put your arms over your head.”

She raised her hands high with no hesitation and let her fear show through her eyes for a few seconds before casting them down in a show of submission. If he was overconfident, maybe, just maybe, he’d slip up. His arrogance was her only hope.

Her heart pounded hard enough to break a rib.

“Loop the cuffs over the hook.” Oh, God. He wanted to hang her like a piece of meat. With Brooke incapacitated, Haley had no chance.

Brooke stretched. Her hands were level with the hook, but the short chain between the metal bracelets dipped two inches below. She was already on her toes. No matter how much he threatened her, there was nothing she could do. If he wanted her suspended from that hook, he was going to have to do it himself.

Kent watched her. Irritation flickered as he recognized his miscalculation, the single kink in his otherwise smooth chain of events. He’d planned everything down to the smallest detail, but he hadn’t accounted for her shorter stature. He shifted the knife in his grip, his expression calculating, the blue of his eyes as cold as a layer of frost on autumn grass. Was he deciding how risky it would be to approach her?

Brooke held still, arms raised, poised as if obediently awaiting his next command. He stepped closer. She offset her hands and clasped them together like an opera singer. Then she slammed them down club fashion on his already-smashed nose. Fresh blood spurted. His head shot back. He dropped to his knees and glared up at her, evil and rage contorting his features as the monster within him took control.

One hand grabbed her ankle, the other thrust toward Brooke. Light glinted on metal.

The knife!

Instinct moved her body. Her scream punctured the dusty air as the blade sliced through her flesh.

The garage doors were solid, the sole window covered. Shotgun at the ready, Luke crept along the side of the house. Drizzle dripped from his face and slid into the neck of his hoodie. He rounded the corner and jogged to the back of the house. Curtains
obscured the windows across the back as well, but light glowed behind them. In a crouch, he traversed the wet grass to the back door. Putting his ear to the metal, he listened for sounds of movement.

Nothing.

He put his hand to the knob and turned. Locked. A muffled female scream came from inside the house. A fresh burst of adrenaline coursed through Luke. The door was steel. The only way to open it would be to shoot his way in. Repeated blasts from a twenty gauge weren’t the best way to conduct a surprise attack.

He ran to the nearest window and smashed the butt of the shotgun through the glass. The noise was louder than he liked, but he saw no other quick way to gain entrance to the house.

And the devil only knew what Kent was doing to Brooke and Haley right now.

A vision of Sherry’s pleading eyes invaded his mind. Luke blinked it away. Screaming meant someone was still alive. If he was going to save them, he had no time for past guilt. Present guilt was more than enough.

He reached in, unlocked the window, and raised the sash. Climbing over the sill, he fell through the opening and landed on his hip in an empty living room, the heavy gun still clenched in his grip.

Luke held still, listening. Sounds of movement leaked through an interior door. He scrambled to his feet and hefted the shotgun. Leading with the barrel, he eased the door open and started down a flight of lighted stairs, his running shoes quiet on the treads.

Near the bottom of the stairs, he leaned forward and peered into the cellar. His gaze fixed on a door beyond, a flimsy interior
job. It was barely a barrier. He tried the knob. Locked. Scuffling sounds came from the other room.

Luke stepped back and kicked the door open. He burst through and ducked sideways in case Kent had a weapon ready.

Brooke was ten feet away. She was handcuffed and bleeding. Kent was on his knees in front of her. They were too close together for Luke to shoot the bastard. Kent clenched a knife in one hand. Blood dripped from its blade and from Brooke’s forearm. Kent’s attention shifted to Luke. Brooke pulled her cuffed and clasped hands toward her chest and drove them, knuckles first, into Kent’s windpipe. His eyes bulged. Gasping, he dropped the knife and grabbed for his throat. Short wheezes panted in and out of his lungs. He fell backward. His ass hit the concrete.

“You bitch,” Kent choked out, red-faced, and swiped for the knife on the floor.

Brooke kicked him in the head. “Fuck you.”

Footsteps pounded on wood. Ethan and Lieutenant Winters rushed in. They had Kent disarmed, rolled onto his face, and cuffed in seconds. One of the cops unlocked Brooke’s handcuffs.

Luke yanked Brooke to his chest, but she pushed him away. “Haley.”

His head snapped up. Behind Brooke, Haley lay on a workbench, unconscious and bound, her slight teen form utterly still, her face white as bleached bone.

“Please get her out of here.” Brooke took the shotgun from Luke’s grasp.

Ethan was beside him with a handcuff key. He released Haley from the table, then cut the plastic ties that bound her wrists. Luke took off his jacket and wrapped it around the girl. He gathered her in his arms.

“Brooke, don’t do it,” the lieutenant said.

Luke turned. Brooke was aiming the shotgun at Kent’s head. Her eyes were leveled at him with a stare as frigid as the killer’s had been. Her hands were steady, even the bloody one, and she radiated rage, raw and primal and deadly as a grizzly sow defending her cub.

“He took my daughter. He hurt her. He was going to torture and kill my baby.” Brooke’s voice was disturbingly flat. The shotgun didn’t waver. “He doesn’t deserve one more breath.”

With one knee still ground firmly in Kent’s lower back, the lieutenant shook his head. “I know, but you can’t, Brooke.”

Pressed to the concrete, Kent’s face was red. Air rasped in and out of his lungs, his lips bluing as they watched. Luke thought the killer might not make it anyway. Brooke’s strike to his windpipe had been on target. With some luck, his throat would swell enough to strangle him.

“Brooke,” Luke said gently. “We need to get Haley out of here.”

Brooke’s shoulders fell. She handed the gun to Ethan and leaned on Luke as he carried her daughter out of the basement. As they emerged into the cleansing rain, Luke couldn’t help but wonder.
If the police hadn’t arrived, would she have pulled the trigger?

CHAPTER FORTY

“I am not leaving her for one second.” Standing in the corner of the ER cubicle, Brooke pressed a towel to the bloody gash on her forearm.

The nurse tried again. “Ms. Davenport, your arm needs to be stitched. I have the next room all ready. You’ll be ten feet away.”

“I am not leaving.” Brooke stated through clenched teeth for the tenth time.

Dr. Wilson, the ER doctor checking Haley’s pupils, looked up at her. Kind blue eyes met hers. “I’ll stitch her right here in a minute.”

The nurse shrugged and walked out.

“Her vital signs are good. I don’t see any visible injuries other than the bump on the head. I’d like to schedule her for an X-ray and an MRI.” He checked Haley’s pulse again, turned to the computer mounted on the wall, and typed. “Ketamine is a powerful drug, but the effects are short-lived. She should be coming around soon. One of the side effects is amnesia. She might not remember any of tonight.”

Which would not be a bad thing.

The nurse wheeled a metal tray into the room.

Dr. Wilson washed his hands at the tiny sink. He yanked two latex gloves from a box on the wall. “Have a seat.”

Brooke dropped into the plastic chair. She’d remained standing this whole time because she wasn’t entirely sure she’d be able
to get up again once she was down. Now that Haley had been checked out, she supposed it didn’t matter all that much.

“Local anesthetic.” Dr. Wilson picked up a syringe and injected her forearm in three places. She flinched. Considering all she’d been through that night, the injection hurt more than she expected, as if her pain threshold had maxed out. He irrigated the wound. Tears filled her eyes at the sting.

“We’ll give that a minute to work.” He tapped on her arm. “Can you feel that?”

Brooke shook her head.

“Don’t watch,” he said. “Look at your daughter. She’s going to be all right.”

Brooke turned her head away from the deep gash to watch Haley’s monitors blink and beep with regular assurance. Her mind was simultaneously numb and reeling, and the
blip, blip
of Haley’s heart monitor was mesmerizing.

The energy drained from her body like water from a tub. A tear slipped down her cheek.

“All done.” Dr. Wilson snipped a thread. Brooke glanced at the neat row of stitches on her arm. He covered the stitches with rolled gauze. “I’m keeping Haley overnight. We’ll move her to a room shortly. Are you all right?”

Brooke’s lips could barely form the word. “Yes.”

“You’re not injured anywhere else?”

“No.” Brooke glanced back at Haley.
Blip. Blip.

“In the meantime, then, we’ll get you a more comfortable chair.” Dr. Wilson rose, wheeling the tray away with a foot. “And I’m going to have a psychiatrist check in on you both tomorrow. You can’t ignore psychological trauma any more than physical injuries. Both need treatment to heal properly.”

After he left, Brooke leaned her head back against the wall.

The events of the night were too much to comprehend. How would Haley cope with the trauma? How would Brooke?

Kent had killed Karen. How could that be when Karen’s ex-boyfriend had been in prison for sixteen years for the crime?

Brooke’s mind shut down. It was all too much. She slid her chair closer to the bed and grasped her daughter’s hand. She could have lost everything tonight. She was making changes in her life. She was going to get the counseling she should have had all those years ago. It was time to let Karen, and the grief that smothered Brooke’s life, go.

A shadow appeared in the hall. Luke peered in. “Is she OK?”

“She will be.”

Relief and exhaustion dragged at his face, while gratitude swamped her heart. He had come for them. Risked his life and faced a killer to rescue her and Haley. If she hadn’t loved him before, last night was the clincher. She couldn’t resist a man who kicked down doors to save her child.

Wait.
She loved him?
She stared up at his too lean face, and his intense green gaze focused on her.

Her heart thumped in answer. She couldn’t regret an ounce of her love for him.

He glanced down the hall. “Ian is here.”

Ian. A small surge of anger lent her strength. It was going to be a while before she forgave him.

“The police want to talk with you. Are you up to it?” Luke asked. “It you’re not, I’ll tell them to come back tomorrow.”

“I can talk to them.” But Brooke dreaded getting to her feet. Luke put his hand out, and she took it, letting him help her stand.

BOOK: She Can Scream
11.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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