Her fingers curled in the lapel of his jacket, pulling him closer, as if she sensed he was about to leave. She didn’t want to say good-bye to Brody. Not for the night. Not at all. The realization disconcerted her.
He eased back and lifted his head. He leaned a few inches away from her, and his hands dropped to his sides. Bewilderment flooded Hannah, while Brody’s eyes were full of resignation. What the hell?
“Was that not good for you?” she asked, indignation creeping into her voice.
Brody closed in again. His hands went to her hips and pulled their bodies together. Their torsos aligned from thigh to chest, the planes and angles in a perfect fit. He closed his mouth over hers again. This time there was no asking. If their first kiss kindled her desire, the second lit a raging bonfire. His fingers gripped tighter in the soft flesh of her hips, pulling her tightly against his need.
The teakettle whistled. Brody’s body tensed. When he lifted his head this time, his pupils were wide open with desire. “On the contrary. It was far too good.”
“Oh.” Fluency in three foreign languages, and oh was the best response she could manage?
He broke contact quickly, cleanly, as if it took every ounce of his extraordinary self-control to walk away from her. “Good night, Hannah. Don’t forget to lock up and set the alarm.”
She turned off the burner. No need to warm up with tea now. Every inch of her was hot. She locked up and set the alarm. Taking a glass from the cabinet, she filled it with ice water from the dispenser on the refrigerator.
The dog butted Hannah’s hand with her head. She stroked the retriever’s soft fur. “This visit isn’t going the way I’d planned.”
AnnaBelle padded to the back door, the fur on her neck lifting. Hannah turned to face the glass, but her own reflection faced her. She moved to the wall and flipped two switches. The interior light went out, and floodlights illuminated the yard.
“I don’t see anything.” Her fingertips touched the dog’s head. AnnaBelle growled softly. “But I’ll take your word for it.”
She ran upstairs to get her gun out of the safe. Her New York State concealed carry permit wasn’t valid in New York City, so she’d left the weapon at home. The Glock on her hip soothed her nerves better than a cup of tea. Perhaps it was a herd of deer or a porcupine ambling through the woods, but a girl couldn’t be too careful.
Something was out there in the dark, and it was watching.
Mick watched the man’s car drive away from Hannah Barrett’s house. Where had she been all day? He’d been waiting for her for hours. Tree bark was digging into his ass. He stood and rolled his neck to work out the kinks. Now the man had walked the dog. The blond would be locked up and secure all damned night.
He raised his binoculars and watched her move around the kitchen. She stopped at the back door and stared out into the woods. The kitchen light went out, and lights blazed in the yard. Did she sense his presence?
Uncertainty slid over him, and he drew farther into the woods. Dead leaves rustled around his boots. She couldn’t know he was out here. He was too far away, and his dark jeans and black hoodie blended with the shadow of the trees. It was almost as if they were connected.
As if he were meant to have her.
But it wasn’t going to happen tonight. He needed to catch her outside and unaware. She wasn’t going to be an easy score. He considered his options. Using drugs or a Taser would make the process simple. But he didn’t want simple. He wanted her awake and kicking. She had to be aware of every moment, to look in his eyes and know he was the one who defeated her. That incident in the Vegas parking lot had been a fluke.
No point in sitting out here any longer. Restless, he tucked his binoculars into his hoodie pocket and headed for the car. The coke was low. A bottle of vodka waited back at the house with Sam, but Mick was tired of sitting around that crappy little place. The country was too quiet, and the cable sucked.
At the edge of the trees, he checked for traffic. Nothing but empty road in either direction. Very few cars passed down this road. He shook a clingy red leaf from his pant leg. Jogging across the road, he ducked behind the evergreens and got into the car.
The engine started with a low rumble. Mick curbed the urge to stomp on the gas and roar down the quiet street. He scratched his shoulder. He was jonesing for something, and it wasn’t booze or drugs.
He wanted the blond bitch. Instead of heading back to the house, he cruised down the two-lane rural highway toward town. What was open late at night? The lights glowed on a building on the roadside. Mick slowed. A sign above the door read “The Scarlet Lounge” in neon blue script. He pulled into the lot. Pickups and tractor trailers dominated the parking area.
A small sign warned of surveillance cameras. Mick circled the building once, contemplating spots and finding two cameras attached to light poles. The bar’s attempt at security was pathetic. Half the lot had no coverage. He parked in a blank spot between a couple of pickup trucks and an eighteen-wheeler. He was just going in for a drink, but there was no reason for his car to appear on anyone’s recording.
Dark and seedy and smelling of stale beer, The Scarlet Lounge was exactly the sort of crappy little bar he and Sam had been searching for the other night. People shouted over classic rock blasting through the dim space. Mick went up to the bar and ordered a double shot of decent vodka. He tossed it back, hoping the fiery liquid would eat away at his frustration. But it didn’t. He eased away from the bar into a dark corner to sip at a second round, letting the noise of the crowd wash over him. But the nighttime activity did little to subdue the itch in his blood.
A young woman stumbled away from a man in his twenties, saying, “Asshole. Find your own ride home.”
The man tossed his hands in the air. “Whatever, bitch.”
The woman turned and ran for the door. Mick slid out into the cool night air behind her. She dug in her purse. Keys jingled as she tottered across the asphalt.
She dropped her keys. “Damn it.”
Sobbing, she bent down to pick them up. Tight jeans and high heels showcased a bitching body. Long blond hair swung in a shiny curtain around her pretty face.
“Can I help you?” Mick smiled, the expression feeling alien to his facial muscles. But it wasn’t as if he hadn’t done this before.
She sniffed. “I’m OK. Just going home.”
“You look like you’ve had a lot to drink.”
Straightening, she sniffed and wiped at the mascara running down her cheeks. But she was young enough to still be pretty with puffy eyes. “I’m fine. He cheated on me. I just want to go home.”
“Do you live far from here?” Mick asked.
She shook her head. “No.”
“Why don’t I take you home,” he offered.
“No.” Suspicion dawned in her eyes, as if she’d just realized she was in a dark parking lot alone with a total stranger. Her gaze darted toward the bar, but Mick blocked her return path.
He scanned the area. Lot was empty of people. No cameras pointing in his direction. Sweet. He knocked her out with a single punch to the jaw, then caught her as she collapsed. He tossed her and her purse into the back of the Charger. He drove a half mile and turned onto a dark side road. After securing her with zip ties and duct tape, he transferred her to the trunk. He could barely contain his excitement as he drove toward the house.
Sam got up from his spot on the couch as Mick carried her inside.
“Another one? We’re going to run out of places to put them all.” But Sam’s protest was mocking. His eyes lit with pleasure as his gaze swept over her.
Mick took her into the bedroom he’d claimed. “You can have her when I’m done, but first we’ll have to go get her car. I don’t want it found in the parking lot of the bar.” He took her keys from her purse. The beep of the unlock button on the keychain should lead him to her vehicle.
Sam nodded. “She’s out cold anyway. Not my idea of a party unless they’re awake.”
Mick tied her spread-eagle to the bedposts. No chance of her getting away while they took care of business. Thirty minutes later they returned. Sam hid the girl’s car in the barn out back. She was awake when Mick walked into the bedroom. Her terrified eyes and muffled screams sent all his blood to his groin.
As he approached her, he held up a pair of scissors he’d taken from the kitchen. “I’d hold still if I were you.”
She froze. Mick knelt next to her head and snipped her long blond strands. He was no hairstylist, but when he was finished, her hair was cropped short to frame her face. He collected the hair from the bed and flushed it down the toilet. Tonight, he wanted no reminders that this woman wasn’t Hannah Barrett.
At seven a.m., the police station was mostly empty when Brody knocked on the chief’s office door. He’d purposefully come in early to get his task over with before the administrative staff started at eight. Patrol shift had just changed, and Stella, who’d been on duty overnight, sat at a computer typing a report before clocking out.
Brody had woken Chet and ordered him into the shower. Nursing the mother of all hangovers, Chet had been a cranky old bear. There had been no further conversation. Feeling like a traitor and a coward, Brody had sneaked out of the house before Chet emerged.
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