The pressure on her chest vanished. “It was.”

“We’ll have to get up there again before you go back to Portland.”

“No doubt we’ll have to go up to the cave for some reason,” Mercy replied, checking her phone again. They rode on in silence.

It wasn’t until after Truman dropped her off that his words echoed in her head.

Was he referring to work when he said, “get up there again”?

She froze with one foot in the air as she changed into heavy-duty hiking boots.

Of course he was.

His simple statement haunted her for the next hour.

TWENTY-SEVEN

“Why is your sister in town?”

Levi’s hand tightened on the coffee shop’s phone as he glanced at Kaylie. She giggled as she chatted with a customer. “Why the fuck are you calling me?” he asked in a low voice. He immediately knew who it was, although the only conversation they’d exchanged in years was about what he wanted in his coffee.

“You know why. Now tell me . . . why is she here?”

“It’s her job. She didn’t request to be sent here. In fact, she’s not happy about it.”

“I heard she’s nosing around in the old murders.”

“I don’t know anything about that,” Levi lied. “The dead preppers are her assignment.” Sweat started under his arms. Why is the past being dug up now?

“As long as our agreement still stands.”

Levi paused. “It does.”

“Good. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to that pretty daughter of yours. She looks good in pink.”

Levi choked back vomit as he stared at the back of Kaylie’s pink sweater, her hair curling in long waves down her back. His gaze flew to every corner of the coffee shop, acid rushing into his stomach, anger racing through his veins. Where is he? “Mercy knows nothing. And it will stay that way.”

“I’ll hold you to that.” Levi slowly set down the phone, his fingers ice cold. He closed his eyes and lowered his head, his hands braced on the counter, trying to slow the pounding of his heart.

Hurt my daughter and I’ll kill you myself. I won’t give a fuck about prison.

TWENTY-EIGHT

Truman pulled over down the street from Sandy’s Bed & Breakfast, where he could see Mercy’s parked Tahoe.

Twenty minutes. I won’t wait longer than that.

Mercy had been so distracted when he dropped her off, he’d had a feeling she wouldn’t sit still in her room. Sure enough, ten minutes later Mercy emerged from the old house and dashed to her vehicle.

Determined, Truman started his own and followed her out of town. He didn’t know what secrets the FBI agent had, but he would get some answers tonight. If she was holding back information that affected his uncle’s murder case, he wanted to know about it.

In the morning I can ask her where she went.

So she can ask why I followed her?

He had a good excuse ready. He would simply say he’d been headed home after a quick stop at the police department when he saw her pull out and followed out of curiosity.

I’m going to feel really stupid if she’s shacking up with someone.

It wasn’t that; he knew it wasn’t. She didn’t give off the contented vibe of a woman in love.

Her vibe was edgy. On alert. Focused. Determined.

He wanted to know what made her tick. Because whatever it was, his interest constantly kept her in the forefront of his thoughts. He was spending more and more time wondering what she was doing when they weren’t in the same room.

It was a huge risk to follow her. It could make her furious and destroy any trust between the two of them.

He nearly hit the brakes to turn around. He wanted her to trust him. Tonight’s interview with the Sanderses had gone as smoothly as if they’d worked together for a decade. He wanted their easy partnership to continue.

She’ll go back to Portland as soon as this is over.

The thought bothered him. Mercy gone, with no reason for her to come back. Hell. If he floored it, he could drive to Portland from Eagle’s Nest in a few short hours. People had made relationships work over much longer distances.

I’m getting ahead of myself. He was working out the logistics of a long-distance relationship before he’d even expressed his interest to her. But something about Mercy Kilpatrick made him want to push forward.

What does she want? Had she considered the possibility of something between them the way he had a dozen times?

He could be totally off base.

But he’d seen her light blush as she tasted her coffee. She knows.

Her taillights flashed as she went around a curve. He followed, swearing she wouldn’t lose him. Thick clouds blocked all light from the moon and stars, rendering him nearly invisible. No lights lit the rural country highways, and he kept his headlights off, feeling sleazy about the covert move. The only way she’d spot him was if an oncoming car’s lights flashed over him. He prayed it wouldn’t happen.

A half hour passed as she took several twisting turns through the forested acres. He inched closer, adrenaline making his nerves jangle as he tried to keep his distance and not lose her. The GPS in his dashboard had given up several minutes ago. According to it, he was driving where no roads existed. He had only a general idea of where he was.

He stuck with her until he saw her turn down a narrow unpaved road. Her Tahoe rocked as it maneuvered through ruts.

There’s no way that leads to another road. Her final destination is down there.

***

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