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No one alive could stand the fishing lures poking through his eyes.

Her lungs wouldn’t expand.


Dizzy, she glanced up to see Jack stepping toward her. His hands and arms reached out as if to catch something. To catch her. She felt his arms close around her and she pressed her forehead against his hard chest, squeezing her eyes shut. The vision of the fishhooks persisted on the inside of her eyelids. Her shoulders shook. She was so cold.

But he was warm, and she collapsed into him, shivering against his heat.

Something wasn’t right.

Lacey had disappeared off his radar. Maybe his note had been too much, too soon. He’d watched her leave the police station with Harper. Assuming the two were going back to her house, he’d sped ahead and beat them there. Then continued to wait for an hour. No one came.

Never assume. His number one rule and he’d blown it.

He resolved to be strong. Trust his inner control. No more stupidity. Why did Lacey Campbell always steer him off his course? She caused him to make impulse decisions that had no place in his plan. He had to stay on track.

Why’d he write the damned note? He probably shouldn’t have sent that video clip of Richard Buck to her phone either.

He couldn’t resist communicating with her, and now he was paying the price.

Where’d they go? He’d driven downtown and checked Harper’s condo, sneaking into the security parking garage behind a minivan full of hyper kids. The harried mother at the wheel hadn’t noticed a thing. But Harper’s vehicle wasn’t there. Had he scared Lacey enough to send her into hiding? Surely she’d grab some things from home first. That was where he’d pick up her trail.

So he parked across the street from her house again and waited. And waited.

He’d nearly completed the New York Times crossword when a knock on his window made him jump and drop his pencil. An older man with a wiggly black lab on a leash motioned for him to roll down the window. He complied, his brain rapidly reviewing his cover story.

Sharp eyes under shaggy gray brows studied him. “You keeping an eye on the Campbell house?” the man barked at him.

“Yeah, you notice anyone snooping around since the disturbance last night?” He acted bored. A plainclothes cop on a dull duty. Thank goodness his black sedan looked somewhat like a standard government-issued vehicle.

The old man shook his head, loose jowls wagging. “All those police cars and sirens and shouting woke me up. Haven’t slept since and haven’t seen anyone stop by. What the hell was going on over there?”

“Apparently, Dr. Campbell had a prowler.”

The shaggy brows shot up. “And that reporter boyfriend of hers caught him? I see him around all the time. Looks like he can handle himself in a sticky situation.” The old man leaned closer in confidence, breath reeking. “She lives alone, you know. Just asking for trouble, an attractive young woman living by herself. Don’t know what her father was thinking when he let her live there.”

“You know James Campbell?” A neighbor who loved to gossip. What sort of useful information could he squeeze out of him?

“Of course. I’ve lived across the street from the Campbells for twenty years. Good neighbors, kept to themselves, kept their yard neat. I remember when his wife died.” He shook his head pityingly. “Didn’t know if James was going to ever get over her. Beautiful woman. The girl looks a lot like her.”

“She had any visitors lately that you didn’t recognize?”

“Had some other man spend the night a few nights back. Not the usual boyfriend. This one had black hair. Hadn’t seen him before. She doesn’t get much in the way of visitors.” The dog sniffed the front tire and raised a hind leg.

His fist tightened on the steering wheel, but he ignored the dog. His brain rewinding the man’s words. Black hair? Overnight? Was Lacey closer to Harper than he realized? He’d seen only one kiss. The bitch had him in her bed already? Slut.

“Also saw a police car parked in front of her house a day or two ago.”

He nodded at the old man as if that was a fact he already knew. “You’ve probably noticed a couple of visits from two detectives.” He glanced at his watch, getting a hunch the prying neighbor was nearly tapped out on gossip.

“That’s what they were? They looked like life insurance salesmen or something. The ties and jackets, you know. Cooper. Sit!” The dog promptly sat and tilted his head to study the car and driver, his wagging tail flinging snow.

He thought about another dog from long ago.

“That’s a good dog you’ve got there. Time for me to get back downtown. I don’t think you’re going to have any more disturbances around here, Mr…”

“Carson. Jefferson Carson.” The neighbor straightened his back, releasing an audible series of cracks.

“Good day, Mr. Carson. Give us a call if you notice anything unusual.”

The old man backed away.

He turned the car around in Lacey’s driveway, giving the old guy and his dog a careless wave as he left.

Nice guy. Must spend all his free time spying on his neighbors.

Hopefully, I won’t have to kill him.

Amy Smith’s father wanted to throw Michael out of his house. Michael was getting that message loud and clear. Janet Smith would touch her husband’s hand as his temper started to rise and her simple movement would calm the man down. Michael was fascinated by the interaction. The couple was like two halves of a whole that could read the other’s thoughts. Gary Smith was action and emotion. Janet was calm and analysis.