“I knew he was dead,” he said. “I got rid of his shit and told the boss he’d taken off for a different city. He’d only been working there a few weeks and had a hot temper. No one was sorry when they heard he’d split.” He hadn’t cared that Kenny was gone. He’d always known the man was dangerous. He’d been the driving force behind the attacks on all the women. He’d followed Kenny’s lead, loving and hating the simultaneous rush of power and danger.
He’d known it couldn’t last.
But he’d learned something from his adventures with Kenny. He liked having a woman subject herself to his demands. The power was exhilarating. One day he’d realized that Rose was the perfect woman for him. She needed a man in a way no other woman did.
But once Kenny was gone he’d been scared straight for years. He’d tried to walk the straight and narrow. He’d had a few long-term relationships with women but always found himself jumping to meet their needs, not the other way around. They’d managed to hold the power in the relationship. Not him.
Not the way he wanted it to be.
With Rose he knew it would be different. He’d waited for her for a long time.
And now she’s mine.
“Do you know where Kenny’s body is?” he asked.
She gave him a stubborn look.
Satisfaction rolled through him. “I don’t think anyone will stumble across his bones anytime soon.” He leaned against the door frame, crossing his arms on his chest, remembering how he’d lived in fear for weeks that someone would knock on his door, asking if he knew anything about an attack at the Kilpatrick place.
Instead there’d been nothing. No rumors had circulated. No cops had knocked on his door.
No one had talked of an attack.
The Kilpatricks had kept it to themselves.
Just as he’d been promised they would.
Karl Kilpatrick was a take-care-of-our-own type of guy who didn’t like outside interference in his family. He’d often imagined the patriarch crushing all mention of the attack on his daughters, not wanting the cops nosing around his home, especially if one of the attackers had been killed on the premises.
A thought struck him. “Your father does know what happened that night, right?”
Her fingers tightened on the pillow, but she kept quiet.
“He doesn’t know? You girls didn’t tell your father?” Shock rolled through him and he laughed. “Holy shit. I’m impressed.”
Rose held perfectly still.
Something like admiration warmed his chest. “That’s part of the reason Mercy left town way back then, isn’t it? She needed to get away from your family full of liars. If you only knew how many liars have the last name Kilpatrick. Killing someone is a big secret to live with, and I admit I was surprised to see her return as an FBI agent. I wonder if the Bureau knows they hired a murderer?”
This time Rose caught her breath, filling him with glee that he’d triggered a reaction. “I wonder what would happen if they got an anonymous tip about the background of one of their agents.”
Her brows narrowed. “They’d immediately be led to you. I’d tell them of your involvement.”
A big grin split his face. “How are you going to do that when you can’t identify me?”
She tilted her head, a small smile on her lips. “That’s where you’re mistaken, Craig Rafferty.”
It’d been a process of elimination.
Rose had originally heard the mystery voice at the Bevins ranch fifteen years ago. A minute ago when he said he’d told his boss that Kenny took off, she figured the pair of attackers were probably ranch employees. The job was known for its high turnover, and Bevins often hired hands who simply showed up looking for jobs. If this speaker was able to erase all signs of Kenny by simply disposing of his belongings, then Kenny had been one of the hands who traveled until they found a ranch where they fit in comfortably.
There were only a few men who’d been employed at that ranch all this time.
She could easily recognize the voices of Mike Bevins, Chuck, Tim, Randy, and Les.
Craig Rafferty had typically been a silent shadow when she encountered a group of the hands. One whose presence she always felt; he’d emanated the aura of a large, silent man. She’d assumed he was shy or tongue-tied around women.
When she’d delivered scones to the ranch on Thursday, she’d listened closely. Craig Rafferty hadn’t been around, and most of the men she’d met were too young. It wasn’t until she was locked in this room that she’d realized Craig was one of the men who hadn’t been present.
Had he purposefully avoided her?
His heavy steps told her the kidnapper was a large man.
He’d spoken to her as if he knew her, which he did.
Every name but one had been crossed off her list.
She’d been ready to pretend she didn’t know his name until he’d threatened her sister. No one threatened her family.
What did I do?
Her legs began to shake.
She’d instinctively defended her sister, and now Craig had a witness who could identify him.
For the first time, she was truly terrified.
The pillow against her stomach wasn’t going to stop him.
It took her a moment to realize the whispered voice wasn’t part of her dream. As she woke, she was surprised to find that she’d fallen asleep. Nervous energy had kept her pacing her parents’ home past two in the morning. Her parents had gone to bed and Pearl had crashed in a spare room while the FBI and county sheriff maintained a quiet vigil in the kitchen.
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