She tensed, waiting for the pain to come, refusing to scream as long as she could hold off…

“Lilly, wake up. Hey, wake up.”

Groggily, Lilly opened her eyes to find Braden sitting on the couch, frowning at her.

“What…was I screaming?” As realization of her surroundings hit, shame washed over her. She was still in the privacy of Braden’s office, but if everyone in the station had heard her pathetic crying, she’d never be able to show her face anywhere again.

Braden shook his head. “No, you were thrashing around. Are you okay?”

Groaning, she pushed up on her elbows and planted her feet on the ground. “Just another dream. I’m fine.”

“You sure?” He rubbed her back in small, circular motions.

“I promise. Trust me, that wasn’t a bad one.” Shivers of cold still racked her bones, but she fought them off. She was alive and in North Carolina. Not dying in Africa. “What happened with Abby Murphy? Did you guys pick her up?”

He shook his head and before he said the words, she knew what was coming. “She’s dead, Lilly.”

Hollowness settled over her. Their first big lead was gone. And if Greg Murphy had no problem killing his wife, nothing would stop him from coming after her. “How?”

She watched his Adam’s apple bob up and down for a second. “Almost the same as the others. More violent though. She has a lot of defensive wounds.”

“This guy is like a ghost,” she muttered.

“He’s just a man and we’re going to catch him. Vanessa’s talking to a few of the local news stations now. Greg’s picture is going to be released on the five o’clock news.”

“You’re telling the public everything?” She pressed a hand to her stomach. Maybe this would finally push the case in the right direction.

“No details. Just that he’s wanted and dangerous.”

“That’s an understatement.” She tugged at her scarf and loosened it. All these layers had been helpful before, but now they were stifling.

“Before I came in here, I received a fax from Vegas P.D. so I called them back. Someone saw our request for info and remembered an old case that wasn’t filed with the other two they sent us. He thinks he might have a lead for us.”

Her heart leapt. “What kind of lead?”

“A woman that got away.”

“What? How did they miss this?” She tried to contain the excitement humming through her since she knew it might end up being nothing.

“It happened over six months before the other two women were raped and murdered. With the time lapse and the fact that she wasn’t murdered, they didn’t classify the cases together. After he stopped at two women in Vegas, they obviously didn’t follow up anywhere else.”

“Why does this guy think she might be one of his victims?”

“She was young at the time and a guy working vice remembers her because of the knife wounds she received during her attack. He wasn’t homicide then but when he saw our request, he remembered her.”

Lilly didn’t respond, but she allowed herself a small measure of hope. If they could locate the woman, maybe they could find this monster after all.

Chapter 13

Lilly stripped out of her jacket and scarf before slipping on her Duke University hoodie over her jeans. She tried to tamp down the excitement humming through her, but it was impossible. She was still reeling from the news that they might have a witness. While she hated that they had to wait for more news, there was nothing she could do about it.

A detective had been sent out to locate the missing victim but four and a half years had passed and she’d been a prostitute at the time of her attack. From what the Vegas P.D. had told them, she didn’t have a permanent address they could find and even though she hadn’t been arrested for solicitation in a while, they figured she was still in the same line of work. After her attack she’d worked with a sketch artist but either her evidence box had been misplaced or lost completely. It pissed Lilly off but according to Braden, it wasn’t that uncommon for cold cases to get shoddy treatment in terms of evidence storage.

Braden was downstairs making sandwiches for them, and by the heated looks he’d been throwing her all afternoon, she knew what was going to happen tonight.

Her movements were silent as she descended the stairs. She stopped in the entryway of the kitchen and watched him at the counter. With his back to her, she could stare all she wanted. His sweater stretched across taut muscles and broad shoulders. The sight made her mouth water. He’d been the good looking All-American boy when they were younger. The biggest surprise seeing him again had been that his fresh good looks had been transformed into something a little darker. Edgier.

And it had everything to do with his eyes. Sure, he’d grown into himself, bulked and toned up, but his eyes occasionally betrayed the tragedy he must have seen overseas. Even though she’d been in college when he’d been in the Marines, she’d constantly worried about him.

“You okay?” Braden’s voice cut through her thoughts and she realized he’d turned around.

She averted her gaze from his chest to his face and hoped he couldn’t see the heat she felt creeping into her face. “Fine. A little tired I guess.”

“Still hungry?” he asked as he picked up the two plates.

“Starving.” A sandwich might not be much but it would be enough to fill her up before they called it a night. Even though she wanted to do more, until they heard back from the Vegas P.D. there wasn’t anything else they could do this late.

As she grabbed two bottles of water from the fridge, Braden’s phone buzzed across the counter, causing them both to freeze. She met Braden’s gaze as she clasped her fingers around the bottles.

He frowned as he picked up the phone. When his features relaxed, she shut the refrigerator door while he answered. Half listening, she picked up their plates and moved to sit at the table.

“That was Perry. All the equipment is working,” he said after he hung up.

“Thank God.” She leaned back in her chair.

The Hudson Bay Sheriff’s Office could trace practically any calls that came in directly to their operators, but they didn’t have the high tech equipment she was used to working with. Thankfully the FBI had sent the equipment to trace calls made to their cell phones. Everyone within the department was set up. If that monster called any of them again, they’d be ready for him.

“What’s going on in that head of yours?” Braden asked as he sat across from her.

She wasn’t sure how to answer. Part of her wanted to put some distance between them. Tell him the kiss had been a mistake and it couldn’t go further between them. There were too many things between them. Their past and a big secret she’d been holding on to for too long. Too many conflicting thoughts bounced around in her head. She took a sip of her water before she spoke. “I’m wondering if you were having second thoughts about…earlier.” If he said yes, it would be a lot easier to walk away from him.

“Not a chance in hell, sweetheart.” His words were low and sensual.

The hungry look he raked over her erased any doubts she might have had. A wave of heat rolled through her like a tidal wave, sending tingles shooting to all her nerve endings. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been turned on so much by a simple look.

His neck muscles corded tightly as they stared at each other. It was impossible to move from her spot, even if she’d wanted to. Swallowing, she stared into his dark eyes, hoping she didn’t get devoured by what she saw there. Sometimes she could see everything going on in his head. Other times, it was like a veil fell into place, completely blocking her out. Now, she could see his lust, plain and simple.

Finally, he tore his gaze away, breaking the spell. Putting some distance between them was mandatory unless she wanted to dissolve into a puddle of mush at his feet.

More than anything, Braden wanted to forgo food and take Lilly right on the kitchen table. Or the floor, or the stairs. It didn’t matter where. After that kiss he’d been worked up all day. Well, longer than that, but he shoved those thoughts aside as he turned the stove off.

Despite his desire, she needed to eat first. Between the nightmares and everything else, he didn’t want her passing out from lack of sustenance.

As he watched her take a small bite of her food, then lick her lips, he imagined what it would feel like to have her tongue and mouth all over him. He tried to shift in his seat to alleviate some of his discomfort, but it was no use. Just being in the same room and knowing what the night held, had him twisted up. Somehow he willed his jaw and throat to work.

Lilly’s hands shook as she picked up her water. Avoiding his gaze, she stared at her plate but didn’t make a move to pick up her partially eaten sandwich again.

“Not hungry?” he rasped out.

“Not for food,” she muttered.

Braden let out a frustrated growl. At the sound, Lilly’s gaze locked on his like a heat seeking missile. For a split second, her eyes widened, then a seductive, sexy smile played at the corners of her mouth.

He didn’t even remember moving, but suddenly they were kissing. Hot, raw, primal kisses. Years of built up lust surged through him as his tongue rasped against hers. Tasting her wasn’t enough. Nothing would ever be enough.

A low rumble sounded and he realized he was practically growling. He felt like an animal and there wasn’t much he could do about it. “Upstairs now, or we’re doing it on the floor.”

In response, Lilly clutched his shoulders and wrapped her slim legs around his waist. “Hurry,” she whispered against mouth.

His erection pressed painfully against the denim of his jeans as he carried her up the stairs. When she raked her teeth over his jaw, his entire body jolted but he forced his legs to keep moving. He would not screw this up.

The guest room was too far so he stumbled into Lilly’s room. As soon as their bodies hit the bed, her hands went for his belt and his went for her sweater. In a flurry of movement, their clothes flew off in record time until he was stretched out over her lithe naked form, barely controlling himself. Now it was skin on skin.