Whitney blew out a breath of relief as the brunette walked away. “I’m sorry to bother you now. I know I could have come down to the station, but you’re here and well…”


“Whatever it is, you can say it. Are you in some kind of trouble?” Sheriff Donnelly’s brow furrowed.


“Not exactly. It’s probably nothing, but lately, I’ve gotten the feeling that someone’s been watching me. Saying it out loud I feel kinda stupid, but my roommate’s out of town for the next week and I swear, it’s like everywhere I go, I feel like someone is following me.” She held her breath as she waited for him to respond. Either he’d lock her up in a mental institution or he’d smile at her condescendingly. Both options sucked.


“How long have you been experiencing this?”


“Truthfully, I’ve felt this way for about a month, but the feeling has gotten worse since my roommate left. I’ve lived on my own before so it’s not that I mind being by myself. I can’t explain the feeling, but…” She shrugged, unsure how to go on.


“Do you have a place you can stay the next couple days? A friend’s house or your parents’?”


She glanced over her shoulder to find Sheldon watching her. He smiled shyly when their gazes locked. Her parents were vacationing in Hawaii for the next month and most of her friends were away at college, but she knew Sheldon would let her stay over. If she made it clear they were just friends…yeah, it would work. She turned back to Sheriff Donnelly. “I have somewhere I can stay.”


“Do me a favor and write down where you’re going to be staying and your contact information. I’m going to have one of my guys sporadically drive by your place. Remember, if anything feels out of the ordinary or anyone rubs you the wrong way—for whatever reason—run. I don’t care if you feel stupid. If something feels off about someone, you run,” he repeated himself.


A lead ball congealed inside her as she digested his ominous advice. He wasn’t even weirded out by what she’d told him. As Whitney contemplated what that meant, the pretty brunette brushed past her as she took a seat across from the sheriff.


Whitney smiled at both of them. “Thanks, Sheriff. I’ll be right back with your drinks.”


Maybe there was something going on in Hudson Bay she didn’t know about. Either way, at least he hadn’t laughed in her face.


Chapter 10


He grasped the needle tightly in his hand as he slid down into a sitting position against the sandy beach. With the exception of the waves and the wind, everything was otherwise silent.


The sun barely peeked over the horizon. Soon, the sky would be lit up with orange and reds, and his sweet little Page Matheson would be jogging by the pier listening to her MP3 player without a care in the world. The young woman did everything in her life like clockwork.


Get up, work out, go to work, meet her current boyfriend for drinks or dinner, go home with him or go home alone. She was one of his easiest marks yet. She even went grocery shopping the same day every week.


He hadn’t planned to take her so soon, but since grabbing Whitney was now growing more difficult, he’d have to speed up his plans. Maybe he’d go back for Whitney once he’d killed Lilly. Only time would tell. He didn’t know why, but she hadn’t come home last night and he’d seen the same undercover cop car cruising by her place more than once. For all he knew, it could be a coincidence, but he wasn’t going to take the chance and find out.


He shifted against the unforgiving sand and glanced at his watch. Page would be here soon. Thanks to the perfect cover provided by the pier, she’d never see him coming.


Or if she did, it would be too late. Page was in good shape, but she was a runner. She was petite with little muscle. He probably didn’t even need the drugs to subdue her, but he couldn’t take the chance she’d wake up while he was preparing her.


His heart pounded wildly against his chest. Everything was finally falling into place. This was one more step in finally bringing Lilly Carmichael to her knees. It might take her a while to understand the connection but Lilly was smart. She’d figure out what he was doing with Page. And if she was fast enough, she’d save her. Too bad she wouldn’t be able to save herself. And neither would the sheriff.


Lilly opened her eyes to an unfamiliar sound. Her heart pounded erratically as she sat up in bed and glanced around. Pale moonlight streamed in through the open blinds, bathing her bed and giving her just enough light to be able to see everything clearly. Nothing was wrong or out of place. No strange shadows dancing around her room.


Just her furniture and her. She’d even checked her closet again before going to bed. So why did she feel so edgy? Sighing, she punched her pillow before collapsing back against it. The air whooshed out as her head landed. She stared at the ceiling as thoughts tumbled through her brain. Her analytical side was perfect for her chosen profession, but right now, her thoughts wouldn’t let her sleep.


There were still too many unresolved issues. No one had been able to locate Greg Murphy but at least they’d put out notices to all the local hotels and motels. They’d let his wife go after questioning her. She’d been a little helpful once she’d calmed down, but all they really knew was that Greg had been disappearing for days at a time over the last year and when he was in town, he’d been just as scarce.


They might have a solid suspect but if they couldn’t find Greg, it didn’t do them a lot of good. Even though she felt like they’d made some progress yesterday, the rest of the day with Braden had been ridiculously uncomfortable on a personal level. Even though she knew she should keep things on a professional level, it was hard when she was working side by side with him.


A loud creak interrupted her thoughts.


Swallowing, she sat up and held her breath. She heard it again. Then she saw a shadow pass under her door.


Blood rushed in her ears as she tried to make sense of things. The digital clock on her nightstand brightly announced the time. Two in the morning. Maybe Braden had gone to get a late night snack.


So why was her stomach twisted up? She pushed the covers off and cringed at the rustling sound. Her feet hit the floor soundlessly. Trying to keep her movements muted, she picked her gun up off the dresser and crept toward the door.


Pulling the slide action back, she chambered a round. The metallic click seemed to reverberate off the walls and windows like a cannon blast. Her heart pounded mercilessly against her ribs as she pressed her ear to the door.


Nothing.


Grasping the handle with her free hand, she twisted it and pulled the door back a few inches. When it made a soft groaning sound, she froze.


A golf ball sized lump formed in her throat as she stepped out into the hall. It was empty. She glanced to the right. No one coming up the stairs but she’d seen something move in the direction of the guest room. Forcing her legs to obey, she headed that way.


The thought of something happening to Braden was the only thing that pushed her forward. As she inched closer toward her aunt’s old room, time seemed to move slower.


Since the door to her aunt’s room was closed, she picked up her pace and rushed down the rest of the hall as if hellhounds were after her. Her feet were silent along the carpet runner, but she could barely hear a thing with the pounding in her ears. As she neared Braden’s door, she wiped a sweaty palm on her pajama pants.


When a crash sounded in Braden’s room, her throat seized. Keeping her gun tightly in one hand, she twisted the doorknob to his room. It swung open easily.


An invisible fist clasped around her throat. A masked man stood over Braden’s lifeless body. Blood covered his neck and hands.


There was so much blood. Too much for Braden to survive. Crimson spatters covered the sheets, the wall and the wicked looking knife. Her heart twisted. There was no possible way he was alive.


“Where should I start cutting? His arms or legs?” The deep growl of the masked man was animalistic.


His words sliced straight to her heart. Without pausing she lifted her gun and pulled the trigger. When it simply clicked, but didn’t fire, the man grinned.


With his free hand he tugged on the bottom of his mask and began to pull it off.


Using all her energy, she let out a piercing scream, hoping someone, anyone, could hear her.


“Wake up! Lilly, wake up!”


Lilly opened her eyes to find Braden shaking her shoulders and staring at her.


“You’re alive!” She reached out and wrapped her arms around his neck. Her fingers dug into the hard skin of his back, but she didn’t care if she was hurting him. It had only been a dream.


“What the hell happened? Are you all right? Did you see something?” He gently pried her fingers off him and clasped her hands in his own as he leaned back to look at her.


She removed one hand and wiped a sweaty bunch of hair out of her face. Her pajamas were soaked through with sweat. Somehow she found her voice. “I had a dream. It was so real though.”


Braden cupped her cheek and furrowed his brow as he stared at her. “What was it about?”


“You. He killed you. He killed you right in the guest bedroom—” Her voice broke as she bit back a sob. It wasn’t real. She kept repeating the words to herself. Braden was alive.


“Honey, don’t cry.” He gathered her in his arms and she let him hold her. Her tears slowly dried when it registered he wasn’t wearing a shirt.


Nope, just boxers. As he held her, her heartbeat increased as she pressed her face against his bare chest. A girl could only take so much until she combusted. Finally, she pushed away, afraid that she’d do something stupid like throw herself at him. And that’s exactly what she would do if he continued holding her.


“I’m sorry. You must think I’m an absolute nutcase,” she mumbled.


He wiped a stray tear from her cheek, letting his thumb linger longer than necessary. “No, I think you’re handling things pretty well, considering.”


She managed a small smile. “Thanks.” When she glanced at the clock, relief surged through her veins. It was three in the morning. The clock in her dream had said two. It’s not that she necessarily believed in premonitions, but her chest loosened a little nonetheless. “I’m going to change. Would you mind waiting?”

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