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There were pictures of Reece and me.

Cuddled up on the couch together. Him sitting on my bed and me standing in front of him. Photos of us kissing. And photos . . . photos of us making love.

Horror dug razor-sharp claws in me as I stared at the photos. I couldn’t get enough air in my lungs. In the back of my head, I knew I needed to get out of here. I needed to call the police, but when I took a step back it was like I was walking in quicksand.

Floorboards creaked, the sound clapping through the room like thunder.

Tiny hairs rose all over my body. Ice drenched my veins.

“I really wish you hadn’t seen this.”

Chapter 25

Terror seized me at the sound of his voice, the shock of realizing I was so not alone making me a little dizzy for a moment. The photos on the wall blurred as I spun around.

He stood in the doorway of the room, his blond hair messy, like he’d run his fingers through it several times. Those sharp, dark eyes appeared to miss nothing, and his arms were loose at his sides, but his hands opened and closed, grasping air over and over.

Kip. It was Kip.

He was the one who’d been breaking into my house and it obviously went further than that. The photos of the other women . . .

Kip tilted his head to the side like he could hear what I was thinking. “You shouldn’t have seen this. You wouldn’t understand.”

Fear had my throat seized up and I croaked out, “What is there to understand?”

One shoulder rose as he glanced toward the closet. “Probably should’ve made sure you couldn’t find your way up here, but I honestly didn’t think you’d find it.” He took a step forward and to the side, putting himself between the closet and the door. My muscles locked up. “I mean, you hadn’t discovered it this whole time. Figured you weren’t smart enough.”

Any other day I’d be insulted for not being “smart enough,” however, today I honestly didn’t care what he thought about my level of intelligence. I had to get out of there. My frantic gaze moved to the doorway. I’d been in James and Miriam’s apartment before, and if the layout was anything like theirs, I knew this room led to a hall and then to the door.

“I know what you’re thinking,” he said gently.

I looked at him sharply. “That you’re a freak?”

His eyes narrowed. “And you’re a whore.” He spat the words out. Drawing back, I stared at him as a muscle flickered along his jaw. “You’re just like all the rest of them—just like Shelly.”

“Shelly?” I whispered.

“When it came to her, I was relegated to the friend zone for years, but I loved her. I loved her, Roxy.” His dark eyes flashed. “But she spread her legs for just about any guy who crossed her path. I wasn’t good enough for her, I guess.” He barked out a short, harsh laugh. “Well, I showed her just how good I was.”

When it hit me who Shelly was—the girl that had gone missing at the beginning of the summer—my knees went weak. I doubted showing her how good he was had anything to do with something I wanted to be a part of.

I thought about the other women—the ones in the photos on these walls. “You . . . you hurt them because of Shelly?”

His lips curled up in a mockery of a smile. “I don’t think I hurt them.”

The guy was insane, absolutely crazy-pants insane. I opened my mouth, but then I heard what felt like a lifeline. The distant ring of my cell phone. I’d left it in my closet. I had no idea who could be calling, but I prayed that it was Reece, because I had to think he’d check on me if I didn’t answer. He knew the passcode to the security system and he had a key.

Kip didn’t acknowledge the sound of my phone. He was studying me like one would look at an insect through a microscope. “I sent you flowers.”

I blinked. “What?”

“I sent you the flowers,” he repeated, taking another slow, measured step forward. “I sent them after I heard you talking with your mother,” he continued, sending a shiver of repulsion through me. “I told you things would be better.”

The man was seriously deranged.

“You never brought them home. That upset me.” He shrugged again and then he reached out, brushing his fingers along a photo. “I wanted you to know I was here with you.” A real smile appeared and somehow that was creepier than anything else. “I loved how you thought the place was haunted. Cute.”

Those dark eyes settled on mine. They were bottomless, wholly frightening. I heard the phone ringing again downstairs, and as my heart pounded in my chest, he lowered his arm. His hand opened and closed. “I never got to do that with the rest of them. Only Shelly. I knew where she kept her spare key.”

My arms were shaking so bad I wrapped them around my waist as I took a sideways step, moving closer to the door. I had to keep him talking. That much I knew.

“You really pissed me off when you brought him home,” he said. “I thought you were different. You were different from the rest of them—artistic, funny.”

“You messed up my apartment.”

“Of course I did. How else was I to get you back here?” He inclined his head again. “Sometimes I would watch you at Mona’s. I’d be there and you’d have no idea. Just like I’ve laid beside you and you’ve had no idea.”

My stomach knotted with disgust and horror. I couldn’t even wrap my head around that, couldn’t even allow myself to truly think about it.

“What . . . what are you going to do?”

“That’s such a repetitious question,” he replied, the grin slipping from his face. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I didn’t plan this. You weren’t supposed to come up here. I was supposed to come to you, when the time was right.”

When the time was right? Dear God, I was staring into the face of someone truly unhinged. I heard my phone start ringing again, and this time Kip’s eyes narrowed. His hands closed once more, and I sprang into action, my flats slipping on the wooden floor as I took off toward the door. My stomach was in my throat, and all I could let myself think about was making it to that door—making it outside.

I didn’t make it very far.

Tackled from behind, I went down hard, my glasses flying off, my knees smacking the floor, and my palms scraping across a rough board. Pain flared, but I didn’t cave in to it. I wiggled and twisted, trying to loosen the arms circled tight around my waist.