“Then somebody had better start talkin’. Now.”

Janie’s troubled eyes searched Abe’s and his stomach lurched. “I was hoping you’d never have to hear this. It still sounds ridiculous to say out loud.” She swallowed. “About four years ago I dated a guy who seemed normal enough, but little things set off my alarm bells, so I broke it off after six months. Stupid me. I didn’t want to text him or leave a voice mail, so we met face-to-face. But he wouldn’t accept it was over. He said I didn’t know him. I hadn’t given him a chance to prove how well he knew me and how much he loved me.”

Jealousy that another man had confessed love for Janie—his Janie—set Abe’s possessive instinct into high gear. But he managed a cool, “He said he loved you?”

She nodded. “So he began to follow me. Sometimes he’d let me see him. But even if I couldn’t see him, I knew he was out there, watching me. Within a month of the breakup, watching wasn’t enough. He approached me in public places, forcing me to acknowledge him. I said nasty things, hoping to piss him off, but he wasn’t deterred.”

“Things escalated. Partially my fault,” Renner said.

“No, you helped me. Dave cornered me in the parking lot of a ranch supply store that’d hired me for an interior redesign, spouting his usual undying love for me bullshit. Renner just happened to see Dave push me against my car. He tried to intervene. So I pretended he was my new boyfriend who’d shown up to tell Dave to leave me alone. Luckily Renner played along.”

“And this stalker, this Dave guy just accepted your relationship with Renner?”

“God no. But Renner did get me out of there in one piece. Dave’s feelings for me turned from adoration to hatred. His actions become violent—not that we could ever prove he was responsible.”

“What type of violence?” Abe asked tightly.

“He slashed my tires. The next time he busted out the windows on my car. Then he whacked off the heads of my flowers, followed by smashing all my planters. The incidents were spread out. I never knew when he’d strike next. Finally he . . .” Janie squeezed her eyes shut.

“He what? Janie, you’ve gotta tell me all of it,” Abe said gently.

“That psycho f**ker broke into my condo and cut out the crotch of every pair of my panties. Then he used the string of my desecrated underwear to hang one of those sex toys, a blow-up doll, from the ceiling above my bed. He’d put a black wig on her, and wrote ‘Die Whore Bitch’ across the chest, after X-ing out the eyes.”

Beyond horrified, Abe watched helplessly as tears rolled down Janie’s face.

“At that point, I did call the cops. They took photos and my statement. They even brought Dave in for questioning. Whatever story Dave told the cops . . . they bought it.”

“Where did this happen?”

“Kansas City,” Renner said. “Right after that, I helped Janie get a job with a buddy of mine who manages a hotel chain.”

“I changed my whole life because of that psycho f**ker. I became an employee trainer in the hospitality industry. I never stayed at a hotel property longer than a month.” Janie wiped her wet cheeks with her fingers. “I thought it was over because about a year ago I lost track of him.”

Abe couldn’t form a noise, let alone a sentence with his tongue stuck to the roof of his dry mouth. Rage such as he’d never felt consumed him. He’d protect her whether she wanted it or not.

“Janie, do you think Dave has been tracking you all along?”

“Jesus, Tierney,” Renner snapped at her, “how is a question like that helping this situation?”

“It’s a legitimate question. If you and Janie have stayed in touch over the years, it’d be easy enough for Dave to track Janie through you. Jackson Stock Contracting isn’t exactly on the down low. Dave has always known who and where you are.”

Renner crossed his arms over his chest. “You’d be right, except that Janie and I purposely had a very public breakup while she was packing her U-Haul a month after the police interviewed Dave.”

“How can you be sure Dave knew about it?”

“He knew,” Janie said softly.

“So Dave also knew you’d lived in Muddy Gap when you were married to me?” Abe asked.

She shook her head. “I never told him or anyone else I’d been married. In fact, I let him believe I was from Colorado since that’s where I finished college.”

Janie glanced at Renner. “There’s part of me that doesn’t think Dave is responsible for any of this. That’s not me being naïve. It just feels different.”

“How so?”

“I can’t explain it.”

“I’m sorry this happened to you, Janie,” Tierney said. “I can’t imagine what you’ve been through.” She came over and squeezed Janie’s hand. “It’s obvious you can’t stay by yourself. To be totally up front with you, I’d prefer you didn’t live on the property.”

Renner got right in Tierney’s face. “What in the hell is wrong with you? Don’t you care about her at all? We’re just supposed to turn her out when that f**kin’ psycho is after her again? Fuck that.”

“As usual, you’ve made a wrong assumption about me and the situation. Yes, I do care about her, so quit being a jackass and making me look like a cold, hard bitch. I’m not suggesting we turn her out into the Wyoming wilderness, Renner. I’m suggesting for her safety, as well as the safety of our resort guests, that she finds a more secure place to live than those unprotected trailers when she’s off the clock.”


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