“Come alone. All it will take is one kick to this chair and your friend is dead.” Before she could respond, he disconnected.
Ice flowed through Calista’s veins. When she’d been attacked at the salon, she thought she’d known what fear was. This was something entirely different. Her body began to shake as horrid images flashed in her mind. She gave herself a hard mental shake. This was no time to panic. Lexi would survive. She’d make sure of it or die trying.
She needed to get out of the apartment alone. Before she had a chance to formulate a plan, she heard the distant sound of water running. Dane was in the shower. This was her only opportunity. She grabbed the pepper spray Dane had given her and shoved it, along with her cell phone, deep into one of her pockets.
Quietly and quickly she sailed past Dane’s closed door then stopped. His gun, she needed it. The door was slightly ajar, but the sound of the shower ensured her that he wouldn’t be out for another ten minutes, maybe less. She pulled out the top drawer to his nightstand and let out a silent sigh of relief. Still there. She paused for a second and contemplated telling him. No, he would tell Nikolai, and she knew the stalker would keep his word. If he sensed a trap, Lexi would die. Heart pounding, she slipped the gun into the back of her jeans and shuddered as the cool steel made contact with her flesh.
Calista disarmed the alarm and slipped out the front door. Déjà vu overcame her as she ran to the elevator, only now there was no guilt, just fear. Getting out of the building unseen would be difficult, but she didn’t plan on going out the front door this time. As soon as the elevator doors opened, she glanced towards the front desk and sighed when she saw the security guard busy with another resident. In determined, but unhurried steps, she moved towards the doors leading to the garage. She couldn’t afford to draw any attention to herself.
On one of her world tours she’d splurged and purchased a motorbike in Austria. She rarely used it, but loved the idea that it sat in the private garage, always waiting. It was perfect for exiting unnoticed, especially since no one except Robert knew about its existence. She strapped on her helmet, revved the engine, and seconds later, flew out of the exit.
Dane stepped out of the shower and into the steaming bathroom. He wrapped a towel around his waist and opened the adjoining door to the bedroom to let out some of the hot air. He pulled on the pair of boxers he’d laid out when it hit him.
“Calista?” He rubbed the towel over his damp hair and walked out into the living room. When no response was forthcoming, he ran to her bedroom. Empty.
“Shit!” He yelled to the empty condo. He knew her well enough by now that she wouldn’t have left unless she had no other option. A scan of her room let him know that her cell phone was gone.
Dane hurried back to his room and grabbed his phone from the nightstand. As he dialed Nikolai he pulled out the top drawer only to find it empty.
“Nikolai, she’s gone!”
“What? That’s impossible, I’m sitting outside her building as we speak and there’s been no sign of her. Hell, there’s been no sign of anyone coming or going. I did see a motorbike come tearing down the street ten minutes ago, but that’s it.”
“I don’t give a shit, she’s missing and she took my gun and her cell phone. See if you can track the phone.”
“I’m on it, but stay on the line.”
“I’m on my way down. I’ll see you in a minute.” Dane threw on the clothes he’d earlier discarded on his floor, grabbed his coat and back up gun, and tore out of the condo. As soon as the elevator doors opened into the lobby, he flew out of them and almost knocked down Mrs. Howard, one of Calista’s elderly, but feisty neighbors.
Ignoring her protests, he ran up to the security guard. “Have you seen Ms. Kingston come down this evening?”
“No, no one has gotten past me this fine evening.” The security guard drawled.
“Fine, thank you for your time.” He turned and sprinted through the two front doors, and was blasted by a snow flurry. Nikolai waited by the curb. Dane jumped in the front seat and started firing questions.
“What do you have so far? Have you been able to track her cell phone?”
Nikolai kicked the car into gear, driving and talking at the same time. “I tracked it to an address on the outskirts of the city and then the signal vanished. Either she turned off her phone or someone turned it off for her.”
Dane pointed at the screen. “Where is this address? It looks familiar.”
“That’s because it’s on Lexi Thatcher’s dossier. This is the center she works at.”
“I thought we beefed up security at everyone’s house.” Dane pounded a fist against the dashboard.
“We did, but Lexi’s guard didn’t check in when he was supposed to. I called him as soon as I got off the phone with you and didn’t get an answer, even on his personal cell. I’ve got someone on the way to her house as we speak.”
“There’s only one reason Calista would have left without telling me.” Dane spoke the words aloud even though both men already knew why she’d gone. William had one of her friends. It was the only thing that made sense.
Calista parked the bike behind the gymnasium of the center Lexi worked at, just as her stalker had instructed. The door creaked as she opened it, and it took a moment for her eyes to adjust. The lights overhead were dim, casting an amber shadow over the basketball court. Muted clacks sounded against the smooth wooden floor as she took a few cautious steps inside.
Movement from the other side of the gym alerted all her senses. The hair on her arms stood up at the scene. A rope looped around Lexi’s neck, was hooked to one of the basketball hoops. Lexi balanced on a plastic, orange chair that didn’t look too sturdy. Her eyes widened when she saw Calista, and even though she was on the other side of the gym, Calista was sure she saw tears glistening in Lexi’s eyes. Directly next to her stood the man Calista had been living in so much fear from for the past few months. This time he wasn’t wearing a mask.
“You?” Calista asked, her voice echoing loudly in the empty gym. She couldn’t hide the shock in her voice.
“Surprised?” William Angel, the man she knew as Lena’s boyfriend, stepped from the shadows. Calista was a good fifty feet away, but she could see the unbridled hate in his eyes.
Pure terror swept through her, but Calista shrugged noncommittally. She knew she had to play this right or her friend would die.
“Let her go, she has nothing to do with this.”
“I’ll let her go as soon as I’m through with you. I never had any intentions of killing her. She’s not a whore like you.”
Ignore his words. Keep him talking. “You keep saying that I’m such a whore. I’d like to know why.”
“I don’t have to explain myself to you.”
“Unfortunately you do, because if you don’t, I’ll walk out that door and you’ll never see me again.”
He didn’t respond, and a chilled silence descended on the gym. Her stomach knotted, and she feared she might have pushed him too far. If she could just get him to let Lexi go, she could make her move.
After what felt like an eternity, he finally spoke. “I don’t think you’ll do that, not when your friend’s life is in my hands.”
Despite the darkness, his steel blue eyes seemed to cut right through her. She couldn’t control her spasmodic trembling. Then she saw tears roll down Lexi’s cheek, and instead of fear, rage enveloped her. Lexi devoted her life to helping people. She didn’t deserve to die like this.
Gain some of the control back. “I don’t have any guarantees that after you’re through with me you’ll let her go. I need to see her standing on her own two feet before I move any closer.”
“Fine.” He pulled out an arched, elongated hunting knife and sliced through the rope above Lexi’s head. Without any warning, he viciously shoved her off the chair. Lexi fell to the floor in a heap, but quickly jumped to her feet.
“Walk towards me, Lexi.” Calista commanded. Lexi sprang into action before William had a chance to react. Calista whipped out a gun and pointed it directly at his chest.
“Do you think I’m stupid enough to come here without any protection?” Calista’s voice shook, and she could hear her terror, but at least her hand was steady.
His voice was smug as he sneered at her. “No, in fact I expected it.”
Out of the corner of her eye, a blurred movement distracted her. She turned, but before she could react, someone slammed what felt like a two-by-four across her arms and knocked her to the floor. The gun flew from her hands in the process, skidding across the floor with a sickening clatter. All her earlier hopes plummeted. No wonder he’d let her friend go so easily.
Calista looked up to find Lena staring down. “You? This whole time you’ve been helping him?”
Lena laughed, although the sound was hollow. “No, of course not. If I had known about this earlier, you’d be dead by now. It turns out Billy hates you as much as I do, only he didn’t realize my distaste for you until a week ago.”
“But…but why?” Calista didn’t like Lena, but it was hard to digest this woman hated her enough to kill her.
“Because you have everything. When you’re around, men don’t look twice at me.”
“You’re crazy, Lena. You’re gorgeous.”
“But it’s not enough is it? There’s something about you that men can’t seem to resist. Maybe it’s that bullshit ‘girl next door’ quality you have. Whatever it is, I hate it and I hate you. Aidan McIntyre was the final straw.” Lena practically shook with rage.
Calista’s voice raised a couple octaves. “I’m not even dating Aidan.”
“No, but with you around he won’t look at me. This isn’t the first time though.” Lena listed off six men she’d previously been interested in who had dumped her when they’d met Calista.