After patting him down, Braden pulled a large bag of what looked like marijuana out of his back pocket. Then he pulled his wallet from the other pocket. He passed the wallet to Lilly and held the bag in front of the guy’s face. “This looks like more than one and a half ounces. That’s a class one felony.”

“What the hell do you want with me?”

“Why don’t you tell me about your relationship with Mallory Spinoza?”

“Man, what did that bitch say? I broke up with her a month ago and she won’t leave me alone.”

“This is your guy,” Lilly said, flashing the ID in the wallet.

“Come on. You’re coming with us.” Braden wasn’t about to tell him about Mallory yet. He wanted him in their interrogation room and he wanted it on tape that Walker had been read his rights. And he really wanted his reaction when he told him Mallory was dead. In his gut Braden didn’t think this guy was solely responsible for the murders in the past year, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t involved. If he could get everything on tape, it would help with a jury trial later.

Crouching behind the Dumpster of the Japanese restaurant, he breathed through his mouth. After this morning, every nerve in his body felt alive. He’d never planned kills so close together before. It was exhilarating.

He’d always been so worried about planning—especially since he’d fucked up years ago and let one bitch escape. But that was all in the past and he’d changed his MO. If he wanted to kill someone every week or every day, he would.

No one was going to stop him.

He pressed his back against the brick wall when he heard the back door to the restaurant open. Someone grunted as they opened and closed the hatch to the Dumpster. Then he was alone again.

They wouldn’t be back outside for a while so he stood and stretched his legs. When he heard the door to the coffee shop next door opening, his entire body went on alert.

He peered around the Dumpster. His breath quickened when he saw Whitney.

She would be next.

She just didn’t know it yet.

A perfect blend of innocence and seduction. He couldn’t wait to taste her. In a small way, she reminded him of one of his first victims. Kamiko.

Not in looks of course. Kamiko had been delicate, petite, and she’d had beautiful bronze skin. Whitney was tall and blonde with ivory skin thanks to a cold winter. Still, she was barely twenty-one. Just like Kamiko.

Everything about her was young and firm. She was ripe for the picking and he planned to enjoy every inch of her.

An unfamiliar male voice caused him to peek around the Dumpster again. A tall, lanky boy probably the same age as Whitney leaned against the wall smoking a cigarette with her.

The timing to take her wasn’t right anyway. He waited until they both went back inside before jogging toward the entrance of the alley. Her time would come soon enough.

He stuck his hand in his jacket pocket and fingered Mallory’s shredded panties. Of all the ones he’d taken, these were the plainest. Plain, white cotton. Maybe it was fitting that something so simple would be number ten in his collection.

Slowing his pace as he neared the end of the alley, he nearly stumbled when he saw a uniformed cop looking through the driver’s side window of the truck he’d stolen. Without pause, he veered to the left and kept walking down Main Street. With his hat pulled low, he doubted anyone would recognize him. No one was out in this cold weather anyway.

At least he’d already wiped the truck down. Now he’d have to procure another vehicle, but that should be easy enough. He’d done it a hundred times before.

Chapter 7

Braden resisted the urge to slam his fist on the table. He couldn’t let their only suspect see his frustration. The only decent thing they had going for them was the fact that he’d read this loser his rights and Walker had revoked his right to counsel. His excuse for not wanting a lawyer was because he had an alibi for this morning. “Why’d you run, Daniel?”

He raked a hand through his spiked hair. “I already told you, I didn’t know you were a cop.”

“What were you doing with so much marijuana?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, man. You planted that on me.”

“That woman who was with me, she works for the Department of Defense. She saw me pull the drugs out of your pocket. Who’s a judge going to believe? You or us?”

“What do you want from me? It’s just a little grass. Can’t I make a deal or something?”

“First tell me about your relationship with Mallory Spinoza. And don’t lie to me. I know she broke up with you.”

Daniel opened his mouth, then snapped it shut. In response, he shrugged and mumbled something.

“I didn’t catch that, Daniel.”

“Man, whatever. I lost my temper once and that bitch won’t let me forget it. She didn’t really want to break up though. She’s just playing hard to get.”

“Hard to get, huh?”

“Yeah, you know the type. She wants me to wine and dine her for a little bit until she comes around.”

Braden opened the nearly flat manila folder he had in front of him and slid out a picture of Mallory’s dead body. “Is this what you do to women who play hard to get?”

Daniel’s blue eyes widened as he focused on the picture. It took him a second to realize what he was seeing, but in that moment, Braden saw real shock on the man’s face. Daniel shoved the photo away and jumped from his seat. “What the fuck! Oh my God! Is that…is she…oh my God.”

“So you have nothing to do with this?”

Daniel puked on the floor.

Braden scrubbed a hand over his face. Unless he was a consummate actor, the young punk was telling the truth. In addition to his reaction he’d been talking about her in the present tense. Not one slip up in the past hour and a half. Sighing, Braden shoved away from the table, left the room and found Detective Bolinger waiting for him in the hall. Braden turned off the intercom. “Did you get all that?”


“Book him on charges of possession with intent to sell. And check on that alibi. My instinct tells me he isn’t involved, but I want all our bases covered. How’s that warrant coming?”

“Judge is on his way back, but you’ll have it in the morning.”

That was one of the really bad things about living in a small town. Their only judge was on vacation and wouldn’t be back until tomorrow. “As soon as we get it, I want to search his house. I’m taking Lilly home. Call me if you need me.” As far as he knew, she hadn’t eaten all day and when they’d arrived back at the station, she’d looked ready to fall over on her feet. Not to mention, the second she’d arrived in town she’d been thrown into the middle of a shit storm with no warning. After everything she’d been through in the past year, he couldn’t help the desire to protect her.

He stuck his head in his office to find her stretched out on the couch with her eyes closed, but he could tell she wasn’t asleep. “You want to grab some food and head back to your aunt’s place?”

Her eyes flew open and she nodded. “More than anything. Can we go to Yuki’s?”

“We’ll go anywhere you want.” Yuki’s wasn’t the only Japanese restaurant in town, but it was the best. And he hadn’t been there in a long time. Mainly because it held too many memories for him. He and Lilly had gone on more than a few dates there when they’d been younger. But if that’s where she wanted to go, he sure as hell couldn’t argue.

Lilly played with her chopsticks and tried not to think about all the times she’d come here with Braden while he grabbed her another drink from the bar. She automatically stiffened when he slid into the same side of the booth as her. He’d been sitting across from her before he’d gone to the bar and this reminded her of when they’d been younger. Back when they’d been unable to keep their hands off each other for even an hour. Maybe he’d just done it out of habit or something.

She could tell he’d been purposely keeping his distance from her all day. Not overtly. But she’d sensed it. Until now, apparently.

Being near him and working with him all day had sent her senses haywire. At least she hadn’t seen any more masked men running around. It made her feel more in control of herself. After the day she’d had, she needed it. Well, that and a couple of potent drinks.

“They said our order should be up soon,” he said as he refilled her ceramic cup with sake.

“Thanks.” His thigh lined up perfectly with hers, sending heat waves skittering across her skin. She tried to shift a couple inches away but it was impossible without being obvious.

“You know how to use those?” He motioned toward the chopsticks.

She shrugged, and hoped he couldn’t tell what effect he was having on her. “Yeah. After living in Japan for so long, I picked it up.”

“Do you ever miss Hudson Bay?” She didn’t know if it was intentional, but his voice was low and seductive and it made her want things she had no right wanting.

Almost against her will she found herself staring at his lips. It had been so long—too long—since she’d even fantasized about a man. Dreaming about the one man she couldn’t have was stupid though. Beyond stupid. “I miss some things.”

“Like what?” His voice had dropped another notch.

She still couldn’t tear her gaze away from his mouth. Whatever wall he’d erected against her today was gone. He wanted to kiss her. She could see it plain as day.

“Damn it,” he muttered.

He moved fast, closing the small distance between them as his mouth covered hers. Instead of harsh and rough, like she expected, his tongue rasped over hers gently. In sweet, almost teasing strokes. After the way she’d left him, she hadn’t expected anything remotely sweet from him. But this…was perfect.

Lilly could feel herself falling for him again. One kiss and she was ready to melt at his feet. Against her will, her hands wound their way around his neck. His own hand threaded through the curtain of her hair and cupped her head in a possessive, dominating gesture.