Braden stopped a few feet onto the sand. “That’s Lloyd Redford’s boat,” he muttered.


“The old fisherman?”


“Yeah.”


“Do you think he broke in to my aunt’s house?”


Still frowning, he glanced at her. “I don’t know why he would, but I’ll send a squad car over to the marina right now. They can get there quicker than us.”


The wind whipped up and fluttered the bottom of her jacket. She wrapped her arms around herself to ward off a chill.


“Come on, let’s get inside and make sure nothing was taken,” Braden said as he pulled out his phone.


After he made the necessary calls, together they secured the windows and doors and met back in the kitchen. Nothing looked remotely out of place in her room or the rest of the house. That in itself was strange. If someone had broken in, what could they have possibly been looking for?


When they met back in the kitchen she noticed Braden had taken his jacket off. Without the barrier of his jacket, there was one less layer of clothing between them. Something she shouldn’t be aware of. She took off her coat and was thankful she was wearing a bra underneath her turtleneck sweater. Her nipples rubbed painfully against the cups, reminding her of the intense kiss they’d just shared. But if he wasn’t going to mention it, neither was she.


She opened the refrigerator and eyed the contents. “I’m just going to grab an apple.” Lilly glanced over her shoulder to find Braden leaning against one of the counters. He’d reported the break-in, and the sighting of Redford’s boat, but before she officially filed a report, she needed to grab some food. She hadn’t had breakfast and she was starving.


“Sounds good.” His words were calm, but the heated look in his gaze caused her cheeks to heat up.


Desperate to break eye contact, she turned around and grabbed a couple pieces of fruit to take with her. Other than the cold wind whipping at the windows and the constant tick of the wall clock, their movements were the only other sounds in the kitchen.


“Has Lloyd Redford ever gotten into any trouble around town or anything?” she asked to break the silence.


“Not that I know of.” He glanced at his phone and frowned. “Perry said he wasn’t far from the marina. As soon as he knows anything he’ll call us. If Redford doesn’t show back up, I’ll contact the Coast Guard and have them look out for his boat.”


She opened her mouth a couple times, but just as quickly, shut it. She might want to talk about that kiss but she wasn’t going to bring it up.


Braden beat her to it anyway. “We need to talk about what happened.” His deep voice enveloped her the same way his strong arms had.


She leaned against the counter and forced herself to meet his gaze. Despite the coolness of the room, her palms were damp, but she resisted the urge to wipe them on her jeans. “Okay. Talk.”


“When I get around you everything feels so…familiar. I can’t seem to control myself.”


She sighed softly. “I know.” Whenever he was near she just wanted to lose herself in him.


He was silent so long she wondered if the conversation was over. But when he spoke again, she froze. “Why’d you leave, Lilly? The real reason.”


Shit. She’d talk about anything other than that. Not now. She cleared her throat and glanced away. “We don’t have time for a trip down memory lane. That kiss was…well, just a kiss—a good one—but let’s leave it at that.” She didn’t mean the words coming out of her mouth but if it got him to drop the subject of why she’d left, she’d say anything. No need to let him know her knees were still weak with desire. Turning from him, she grabbed her purse and hooked it on her shoulder.


His eyes narrowed slightly, as if he was trying to read her mind but when she extended him an apple, he took it.


Silently they locked the house up and headed out again. She hated the fact that someone had just broken into her aunt’s house with seemingly no motive but she really hated that she’d created this chasm between her and Braden. The ache between her legs wasn’t going away any time soon and neither was the growing ache in her heart. Working with him was a sweet torture all by itself and the messed up thing was, she still liked being near him. Avoiding his gaze, she took a bite of her apple, though she didn’t taste it.


His fists tightened around the steering wheel of his stolen SUV as he stared through the tinted glass. That stupid bitch Whitney was getting into some guy’s truck. She must have decided to get a ride to work with someone. In the weeks he’d been watching her, she’d never done that before. And her car hadn’t broken down. He was almost sure of it. She’d just gone grocery shopping yesterday.


She couldn’t know he was watching her. Could she?


No! He’d been so careful.


Now his plans were completely ruined. He’d planned to take her this morning, enjoy her all day and possibly tonight, but now that was impossible. With her roommate out of town, it would have been so easy.


Looked like he’d have to move his other plans up by a day. It shouldn’t be a problem. This was probably for the best. It was a sign. Yes, that must be it. Now he would get to play with Lilly. Fuck with her head even more.


And right before her aunt’s funeral of all days. It would be perfect. The only thing he regretted was that he wouldn’t get to see the expression on her face when he called her.


Lilly set her purse down at the far end of the long rectangular table in the middle of the conference room. Since she was in a sheriff’s office, she actually felt relatively safe for the first time in a couple days. Instead of taking a seat, she walked the perimeter of the room, looking at and memorizing the blown-up photographs tacked up on corkboards.


The first four victims of the serial killer were older, ranging from forty-five to sixty-seven. While those killings had been brutal, according to the ME, he hadn’t kept them around long and he’d sodomized them postmortem. That was an interesting fact, but she wasn’t sure what to make of it. The last two victims he’d made suffer, so Lilly guessed he killed the first four to make a point. He’d wanted Braden’s attention first.


“What do you think?” Braden asked, leaning against the table next to her.


“Not sure yet,” she murmured. Putting together pieces of a bigger puzzle had always come naturally to her. Which was why she was so good at what she did.


“You said you ran this guy’s MO through NLETS right?” The National Law Enforcement Teletype System was a valuable tool for sharing information to connect possibly linked cases.


“Yep.”


“I only got my tattoo two years ago.”


Braden pushed up from the table. “Shit, that means—”


“If we change the MO just a little, take out the carving on the victims’ backs, and even eliminate the use of a cattle prod, we might come up with something similar. Maybe this guy made a mistake when he first started killing women. If, of course, these aren’t his first.”


Braden nodded in agreement. “They can’t be. He’s too methodical. Too clean. I get the feeling he’s been doing this a while.”


“Me too,” she muttered.


“I think we should leave the sixty-six knife wounds in the profile,” he said.


“I agree. The number is probably meaningful. If we don’t want to wait for the profiler to finally make his way to Hudson Bay, I have a friend at the FBI I can call to speed up the process.”


He nodded. “Make the call…You want to take a break when you’re finished?”


“Yes. My eyes are about to fall out.” They’d been at the station for hours. She’d reviewed all the paperwork and evidence they’d collected over the past year and despite the horrid pictures she’d reviewed, her stomach was growling for sustenance.


“Want to go to Beach Hut Café? They’ve got sandwiches and salads in addition to coffee.”


“That sounds perfect.” A small smile touched her lips as he left the room. This might be the break they were waiting for. They still hadn’t heard back from the lab Hailey had taken the strand of hair to, but if there were more victims and this guy had left DNA at one of his first killings he might be in the system. Maybe even have a record. And they might finally be able to put a face to this monster.


Whitney glanced up as the bell to the coffee shop jingled. The lunch crowd had already left and she was about to take a smoke break. When she saw Sheriff Donnelly and a pretty woman walk in, she cut off Amy, the only other server on duty. “I’ll take them.”


“It’s my rotation,” Amy huffed.


“I’ll give you my next two tables and I’ll close for you.”


Amy’s dark eyebrows rose in amusement. “Dang girl, you really got it bad for the hot sheriff.”


It wasn’t true, but Whitney shrugged. When she’d been a senior in high school she’d had a massive crush on him, but not anymore. That wasn’t what this was about. “Do we have a deal?”


“Sure.”


A lot of people just ordered coffee but she knew the sheriff would order food. He always did. She grabbed two menus and hurried over to the table.


He smiled when he saw her. “Hi, Whitney. How are you?”


“Great. Coffee?” When he nodded, Whitney looked at the woman with him. She smiled prettily.


“Do you have green tea?”


“Yep…” She shifted from foot to foot. This was harder than she’d imagined. The sheriff had always been so nice, but what if he thought she was crazy or paranoid? She’d never be able to look him in the eye again. Maybe this had been a mistake.


“I think we need a few more minutes.” His voice made her jump and she realized she’d been staring.


“I figured. It’s just, ah…” She should have just gone to see him at the station. There was no way she could talk to him in front of a stranger.


As if she read Whitney’s mind, the pretty woman cleared her throat and stood. “I’m just going to use the restroom.”

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