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“Does that really fucking matter?” Kip stepped again, and Reece didn’t move toward him, but he mirrored his movements until we’d switched positions. Our backs were to the closet now. “There’s no way out of this. I’m not fucking stupid. I know what needs to be done.”

My pulse skyrocketed as Kip’s fingers flexed around the handle of the knife. My mind raced into scary places, one where my throat ended up slit and Kip got away with everything he’d done by doing one thing. Committing suicide via police officer. Kip knew he was done. I doubted he would just put the knife down and surrender.

I saw Reece’s gaze slide to the left, behind us for just a fraction of a second, but I could’ve been imagining it or seeing things, because my vision wasn’t the greatest without my glasses and one open eye.

“We can talk this out,” Reece said, lowering his gun. “You and me. We talk this through. Let Roxy go, and it will be just you and me.”

I could feel Kip shaking his head behind me, and I drew in a shallow breath. Any move I made would most likely result in the knife cutting into my skin, but I couldn’t just sit here and do nothing. My head spun. What could I do that wasn’t virtual suicide?

If this was going to be my last couple of minutes on Earth, I wished I could kiss him just one more time, feel his hands on me.

My voice was shaky when I spoke. “Reece, I . . . I love you.”

“Babe, you’re going to tell me that again for a long time coming, you understand?” Reece didn’t look at me since he was trained on Kip. “But Kip and me are going to talk this out. He’s going to let you go, and we’re going to chat about this.”

“You think I’m going to let her go? That there’s something to say?” Kip replied, his voice cracking. “This is—”

There was a sickening thudding sound that jolted Kip and then me. The knife slipped, glancing over my skin and then Kip let go. Dazed, I stumbled forward as he dropped to the floor behind me.

A second later, I was in Reece’s arms and he was saying something to me, pushing my hair back and gently pressing his hand against my neck, but I wiggled around to see what happened, because I hadn’t heard a gun fire. I hadn’t seen Reece pull the trigger. I didn’t understand.

But then I did.

Henry . . . Henry Williams stood behind the crumpled body.

Chapter 26

Staring out the window across from Reece’s bed, I absently ran my finger along the bottom of my lip. The swelling had gone down, but the cut just off the center was still rough and the inside of my mouth was still tender, especially if I wasn’t careful and ate something with irregular edges. I couldn’t stop messing with it. Sort of like when I had chickenpox as a kid, and couldn’t stop itching. My self-control hadn’t improved.

I didn’t know what time it was. I’d been awake for a while. Sometime in the early morning, I guessed, since I couldn’t make out the time on the nightstand clock. At some point I needed to get my glasses replaced. Unbeknownst to me at the time, they’d been broken when they’d hit the floor in . . . in that apartment.

It had been four days since I’d found that hidden door in my closet. Four days since I stumbled into a room that reminded me of something straight out of nightmares. Four days of my stomach aching and my face throbbing, a painful reminder of how close I’d come to not walking out of that room. Four days filled with a lot of introspection.

I guessed near-death experiences at the hands of a blossoming serial killer did that. Made you rethink a lot of your choices and plans.

Come to find out, Henry had tried to call me back after I’d called him. When I hadn’t answered, he’d called Reece and when he’d found out that I was at my apartment he’d made the decision to come, apparently not wanting to miss his chance to talk to me, and having no idea what he was walking into. When Henry had called Reece to tell him that I hadn’t answered when he returned my call, Reece had tried calling me. He knew I would’ve answered with everything going on. Instinct had led him to my place, and when Henry showed, finding the front door unlocked, he’d grabbed a crowbar from his car and made his way to my bedroom, then he’d heard Reece talking to Kip.

The rest was history.

Funny how one decision, the choice to start letting go, had literally been what had saved my life.

In more ways than the obvious, I was beginning to realize.

Kip had been taken to the hospital for a rather minor head injury and then released into the custody of the county jail. That’s where he was now, and from what I’d been told, he hadn’t confessed to anything, but from what he’d said to me and all those horrific photos on his wall, there was enough evidence to charge him with multiple accounts of assault, plus Colton had explained that Kip would most likely be charged with the disappearance of Shelly Winters even though no body had been recovered. I’d also been told there was a good chance that the district attorney would try to strike some kind of deal if they could get Kip to tell them where Shelly was.

A few weeks ago that would’ve infuriated me. How dare someone like him get a chance to receive a better sentencing—life in prison versus a needle in the arm—when he’d done such terrible things? He’d obviously murdered someone and terrorized innocent women—scared me and violated every definition of privacy—and deserved capital punishment.

But Shelly’s family also deserved closure and she deserved to be found, to be laid to rest by her loved ones. And I was done with holding on to so much hate. For the last six years, I’d let hatred and guilt shape me in more ways than I ever realized. Nothing against those who sought lethal punishment, but for me, I just wanted to move on. To look toward a future where a part of me wasn’t wrapped up in hating someone. I wanted to see Kip pay for his crimes, but I wouldn’t stand in the way if it meant they could locate that poor girl.

So yeah, I’d done a lot of thinking about a lot of things these past four days. College. Painting. The bar. Reece. Henry. Charlie. As corny as it sounded, I felt like I was finally waking up and getting a second chance.

The bed shifted and a hard body curled around me, a warm and bare chest against my back, legs pressed against the backs of mine. An arm carefully settled around my waist.

A second chance when it came to a lot of things.

“Stop messing with your lip,” Reece ordered, voice gruff from sleep. His hand flattened against my lower stomach.