Motioning for Jordan to join them, he waited until the three of them stood next to Vanessa’s desk. “I don’t have time to explain but new evidence suggests that Greg Murphy isn’t the man we’ve been hunting. The man we’re after is James Donnelly.”


“Donnelly?” Vanessa asked with an unnatural high pitch.


He nearly choked on the words. “My brother.” Both of their mouths dropped open but he continued before they could ask questions. “I want both of you to gear up with Kevlar vests and grab extra ammo. We’re leaving in two minutes. There’s a possibility that Lilly’s life is in danger.” He wanted to go in hard and fast and assembling a team would take time. Time Lilly might not have.


Wordlessly they jumped into action and he did the same. If his brother was alive and he’d been the one stalking Lilly, there was going to be hell to pay.


Lilly clutched the steering wheel as she drove the truck down the narrow dirt path toward Braden’s family cabin. If she hadn’t known exactly where she was going, she’d have almost certainly missed the turn. Since she didn’t want her presence announced she’d only turned on the parking lights.


Before she’d left Alma’s house she’d contemplated trying to cover a few miles on foot, but trudging through the woods—in the dark no less—was too terrifying considering who she was looking for.


Braden’s phone buzzed in her pocket and she nearly jumped out of her skin. When she looked at it, she frowned. It was a D.C. area code. “Hello?”


“Lilly, it’s Gina.” Gina Hill was the woman she’d contacted at the FBI to run deeper profile checks on their killer and she was also who Lilly had contacted about the sealed juvenile records.


She’d decided to call in all her favors at once instead of letting anyone at the NSA know. If she had, her boss would have inevitably found out and she hadn’t wanted to deal with the fallout of going behind his back later. “Hey, how’d you get this number?”


“Girl, are you seriously asking me how I got your number?”


“Right. Sorry.” Before Gina had been recruited by the Feds she’d been one of the world’s youngest—and most talented—hackers.


“I’m just messing with you. I called your phone and when I couldn’t reach you I called the Hudson Bay Sheriff’s Office. They gave me this number.”


“Tell me you have good news.”


“Depends on what you’re looking for. I ran the various scenarios and I found three similar killings in Las Vegas and two in Los Angeles. The killings span the last few years but there wasn’t any DNA at any of the scenes.”


Lilly bit back her disappointment. This guy was careful. “Thanks for trying.”


“I didn’t say I was finished. I also managed to look into that other thing you asked me about.”


“And?”


“The reason this kid’s records were sealed was because of his parents. When he was at military school, he started a fire in one of the dormitories. The school wanted to press charges, but when it came out that he’d been sexually assaulted by another student, the entire matter was dropped and everything was brushed under the rug. The kid’s name was James Donnelly and he’s related to that sheriff you’re working with. The only problem is, he died a few years ago, something you no doubt already know.”


In her heart Lilly had known she wasn’t crazy, but to be validated lifted an unexpected weight off her shoulders. “Thanks, Gina. Call Detective Vanessa Isaacs and tell her what you told me.” If Braden didn’t want to believe her about his brother, she knew someone else would. “Hello…Gina…hello?” Lilly glanced at the phone and cursed. Searching for service. She was surprised she’d had service for as long as she did.


As she neared her destination, she put the truck into park then flipped off the dome light before opening the door. The pounding in her heart overtook everything else as she slid out of the front seat. With her pistol grasped tightly in her hand, she looped the rifle strap over one of her shoulders and quietly pushed the door shut.


The surrounding forest was deathly still. It was too cold for crickets or other smaller animals to be out. That should have made her feel better. This way she could hear if someone tried to sneak up on her. Instead, it only increased her sense of isolation.


In the distance, a wolf pierced the silence with a mournful howl and she fought the chill that trailed down her spine. Using the small penlight she’d grabbed from the glove box and the moon as her guide, she made her way down the leaf-covered trail. When her boots crunched over a few branches she thought her heart would explode from her chest.


She desperately wanted to turn back and find help, but if that monster James was going to take Barbara somewhere, this would be the perfect hideout. If she did flee and it turned out Barbara died because they couldn’t get to her in time, Lilly would never forgive herself. After helplessly watching her friend die in Africa she couldn’t leave without trying to help Barbara.


After a few moments passed and no one jumped from the trees with a machete, she started moving again until she stood behind a giant oak tree. She stared at the small wood cabin. There weren’t any lights on that she could see and she wasn’t sure if she should be disappointed or ecstatic.


Using the forest as cover, she darted from tree to tree until she was ten yards from the back door. Part of her brain told her to leave and never come back, but the other part screamed at her that she had to find out for herself if the place was empty or not. A woman’s life was at stake.


Leaning the rifle behind the tree, she kept her pistol drawn as she ran toward the outside wall. She stood up on her toes and looked inside. A small nightlight shone from one corner of the room. That alone gave her pause. It meant the power was working and had at least been occupied recently.


Pressing her back to the wall, she shimmied along until she was at the edge of the house. She peeked around the corner. Through the wooden slats around the porch, she could see that the back porch was empty. From what she could tell, the woods were quiet too. Everything was so dark it was impossible to make out much other than shadows and trees.


Fighting her fear, she tucked her gun into the waist of her pants and grasped onto the railing of the porch. She propelled herself up and over until she was crouched behind a dead plant. There was another window but inside a curtain covered any possible view she might have.


She felt like an extra in a horror flick. Even though she’d brought a weapon—two in fact—she shouldn’t have come out here alone. Now there was no turning back.


Using her lock pick kit, she jimmied the old lock in seconds. With the exception of the blood rushing in her ears, the cabin was eerily silent. She flipped on her penlight and swept the small place. Years ago she and Braden had used the cabin for privacy on more than one occasion so she was more than familiar with the layout.


Her shoes seemed to echo like gongs as she walked across the wood floor. An unmistakable acrid scent permeated the air. Blood.


As she crossed into the connected living room, her flashlight illuminated dark red stains blotching most of the coffee table and what looked like sliced fishing wire. But there was no one there. There was only one bedroom and after finding it empty, she decided to get the hell out of there.


If Barbara wasn’t there, she was either dead or she’d escaped. Somehow Lilly doubted she’d made it out alive.


After peeking out the window and finding the porch clear, she returned the way she’d came. As her boots touched the hard earth, a nauseous feeling settled in her stomach. Everything in the woods looked the same, but when a wolf howled loudly in the distance, the hair on the back of her neck tingled.


Sticking to the shadows, she retraced her steps back to the tree where she’d left the rifle. When she rounded it, the gun was gone.


An icy fist clasped around her lungs. He was there. Watching her. Even though she couldn’t see him, she could feel it straight to her bones. She was being hunted.


Now that her options were limited, she hunkered down by the giant oak and tried to think. She might have a gun but she was still exposed. Her heart raced wildly, echoing loudly in her ears.


The immediate thing to do was hide. She contemplated going back toward the truck, but chances were if he’d found the gun, he knew what direction she’d come from. No, she’d have to make a break for the woods. She was familiar with the area and if she was fast enough, she could make it back to Alma’s house. It was her only option.


Peering around the tree, she nearly stumbled when she found herself staring down the barrel of a rifle.


James Donnelly stood there with his feet shoulder width apart, pointing a gun right at her face. Looking at his familiar face brought back too many memories. Memories she’d spent years burying. His dark hair was shorn close to his head in a military style cut but he still had those pretty boy looks. Hell, that’s probably how he got his victims. He looked like the boy next door. Utterly harmless.


She knew better though. Instinctively she stumbled back a step, but he simply raised the gun a notch and grinned, showing a perfect row of white teeth.


“You’re alive.” Her words came out as a whisper. Even though she’d told Braden she was sure of it, there had been a tiny part of her that had actually wished she’d imagined it.


“It would appear so. Now drop your gun,” he ordered. His familiar voice echoed around her brain, stirring up a healthy dose of fear and anger.


She still clutched the pistol in her hand. In the time it would take to raise it and fire, he’d have already blown her head off. She gritted her teeth. Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. She’d seen what he did to those women and she’d rather die now than be raped and tortured.


“Do it or I’ll blow your head off!” His dark eyes glittered with hatred.


Lilly heard him, but everything around her funneled out as his words sank in. He wouldn’t shoot her. He’d been hunting her for a couple of years. At least. No way would he give up his prize. Gathering what little courage she had, she took another step back.

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