“Pretty much, yeah. Honey, you’ve gone very pale. Is something—oh my God.” She grabbed Frankie’s arm, pulling her to an abrupt stop.
“What?” She tracked Lydia’s gaze. “What the fuck?” On the floor someone had drawn a large pentagram. It was surrounded by candles and symbols. Worse, there was a huge reddish-brown stain that was quite clearly old blood.
“Oh my Jesus.” Lydia put a hand to her chest. “It was probably just kids being stupid, fooling around and thinking they could summon spirits or demons. Right?”
“That’s blood, Lydia. Look at what’s in the center of the pentagram.” Even though it was peppered with dust, Frankie could see it easily enough.
Lydia drew back, her heart now pounding as fast as Frankie’s. “That’s a photo of Christopher.” Her fingers dug into Frankie’s arm as she asked, “Do you think kids were trying to invoke his spirit or something weird like that?”
“I think someone wanted to talk to him.” Someone crazy enough to not only sacrifice a living creature but think that it would actually work. She jumped as the phone in her pocket rang. Taking a shaky breath, Frankie fished it out of her pocket. “It’s Trick.” She answered, “Hello.”
“Baby, what’s wrong? I can feel your anxiety. What is it?”
She licked her lower lip. “Well, I’m at the old cabin.”
He sighed. “Frankie, you shouldn’t have gone there without me. Look, I’m on my way to you now, okay—there was no sign of Morelli at the landfill. Just go back to Iris’s house and wait for me.”
A board creaked over their heads. And another. And another. Her gut dropped. “Someone’s here.”
“Probably Marcus or Roni,” said Lydia.
“I don’t think so,” she said as another board softly creaked. Because the person above them was trying very hard to be quiet, like they hoped to sneak up on her. “I know who killed my parents.”
“What?” both he and Lydia demanded at once.
“I know who it was.” She listened as the footsteps crossed the floorboards, trying to determine which way the newcomer was heading. Even if she and Lydia hadn’t left footprints in the dust that broadcast their location, the shifter would be able to follow their scents. “And I think they’re here.”
Trick swore. “I’ll be fifteen minutes at most. Go back to Iris’s cabin and wait for—What the hell?” She heard the roar of metal clashing, the screech of tires, and the shattering of glass.
“Trick? Trick!” Frankie looked at her phone, shell-shocked. “The line went dead,” she told Lydia. “It sounded like the SUV crashed into something.” Her wolf completely freaked out—raged, snarled, howled, battered at Frankie to go to him.
Panic punched Frankie right in the stomach, stealing her breath. The only thing that stopped her from joining her wolf in that crazed state was that she knew he wasn’t dead; she could feel him. He was unconscious, but he was alive.
“Shit!” Lydia grabbed her arm. “We have to go now.”
The hinges squealed as the basement door opened. Frankie’s heart missed a beat, and her breaths started to come loud and quick.
Heavy footsteps creaked their way down the stairs. “I know you’re down there, Frankie.” Spoken like a taunt.
Lydia gasped as the male reached the bottom step. “Cruz?”
He grinned at her. “That would be me.” His gaze cut to Frankie. “You don’t look so surprised to see me.”
Frankie swallowed. “I figured it out. Eventually.” She remembered the photo albums, remembered how Cruz had often looked at Christopher, remembered seeing photos of them standing almost intimately close. She also remembered Cruz often glaring at Brad the same way Rio had stared at Frankie. But it wasn’t Brad he’d been glaring at, she now realized. He’d been glaring at Caroline.
“You were supposed to be in bed that night,” said Cruz, as though she were the one who’d done wrong. “You weren’t supposed to hear or see anything.”
Lydia’s footsteps dragged as she shuffled backward, shaking her head in denial. But then he raised his hand and cocked the trigger of the pistol he held. Lydia froze, and every muscle in Frankie’s body went rigid. Fuck.
“Hands up where I can see them, girls. That’s good. Don’t count on your bodyguards coming to help you.” He smirked. “I paid some of the juveniles to lure them into the woods.”
That wouldn’t be enough, thought Frankie. No. Cam would feel Lydia’s anxiety, just as Trick would feel Frankie’s. Someone would come. They had to. Until then, she had to . . . what? She couldn’t think. Couldn’t reason. Not when she knew Trick was hurt and in danger. She needed to get to him.
Her eyes darted around the basement. The only exit other than the stairway was the grimy window behind Cruz. Getting out meant somehow getting past him and his pistol without getting shot. How the fuck were they supposed to do that? She had no idea.
Her wolf wanted to surface and rip the fucker limb from limb. Frankie would have shifted and given the animal the chance if she weren’t so sure that Cruz would put a bullet through her head before she was able to finish the shift.
Hoping to distract him from thoughts of shooting her and Lydia, Frankie flicked a look at the pentagram and asked, “Is that your handiwork?”
Sadness briefly glittered in his eyes. “I missed him. I wanted to apologize for shooting him. I didn’t go there that night to hurt him.”
“You do know that making a blood sacrifice to try to speak to a ghost is pretty fucked up, right?”
“Depends on a person’s definition of fucked up. My definition? Someone tricking a guy into believing she’s their true mate—depriving him of what he truly needs and wants—is fucked up. Caroline trapped him into being with her.”
Frankie clenched her fists. “So you killed her.” Bastard.
“I hadn’t planned to kill her. Just scare her. Make her listen. So I took the gun. That bullet should have killed her, not my Christopher.”
Flicking a look at the pistol pointed at her, she said, “You sure like to use firearms, don’t you?”
“It seems fitting that you’ll die from a bullet, just like your mother should have done.”
Her wolf peeled back her upper lip and lunged for him, but Frankie managed to retain control. “You were Christopher’s lover for a while, before he met my mother.”
His chin lifted. “I was more than that. Sure, we weren’t exclusive. He needed to sow his oats first—I got that. I understood him. Not like Caroline. She didn’t know him the way I did. She didn’t get him like I did.”
Frankie felt Trick regain consciousness. A pulse of his pain traveled down their bond. A lump of sheer terror clogged her throat. Fuck it all, she needed to get to him. Her heart was slamming so hard against her ribs that she wouldn’t have been surprised if one cracked. But she didn’t dare move. Not yet. There was no rationality in Cruz’s eyes, and she knew that she was looking at somebody who was capable of absolutely anything in that moment.
She didn’t want to die. She sure didn’t want Trick to die, but it was unlikely that he’d survive the breaking of their mating bond, despite it not being fully formed. For that reason alone, she’d fight. But really, there was nothing she could do that didn’t involve throwing herself in harm’s way. There was nothing to hide behind. Nothing to throw at Cruz. Nothing to distract him with. He was bigger. Bulkier. Stronger. And motherfucking armed.