Some secrets are better left dead.
Rachel James’ ex-husband is released from prison determined to reclaim her and her little girl — the child is his key to controlling the James fortune. Frightened, Rachel flees to Denver with the child who hasn’t uttered a word since her daddy went to prison.
Contractor Patrick Thorne wants nothing to do with another of his parents’ charity cases. He failed his own wife so abysmally she took her own life as well as his unborn son’s. After two years, it’s time to concentrate on the bid he’s won and the saboteur trying to destroy his construction firm.
There is no room for trust in either of their hearts. But trust is all that will untangle the secrets that dominate their lives, free a little girl of her silent prison, and save them all from a serial killer who stands too close.
© Copyright 2014 – K.L. Docter
The first time he laid eyes on her, he stood on the threshold of a doorway he dare not cross. He fell into her fathomless dark gaze, unable, unwilling to shake his soul free and, in that one moment, he knew.
She was meant for him to love.
Untouched by the sordid life that flourished around her, she was sunlight in a gray existence. A smile in a dingy room. A joy such as he’d never known. She was a gift from a cold, unforgiving God. Forever innocent.
Why God would give him such a precious angel, he didn’t know. But he suddenly knew what he was willing to die for. What he’d kill for.
In that instant of clarity the monster that lurked in the dark recesses of his mind was freed. A creature designed to kill. To live and die. Over and over again. Until his angel ascended once more to her place in Heaven at God’s feet where he couldn’t reach her.
‘Til death parted them, she was his and his alone.
Certain she’d been lost to him, the shock of spotting her again in LoDo, a lower downtown section of Denver, nearly brought him to his knees. His brain tried to tell him he was mistaken. She had more curves than he remembered. Her hairstyle and clothes were different.
The others were different, too.
He shook his head against the monster’s treacherous whisper. He refused to listen. Couldn’t listen. His angel smiled at him. His soul recognized her. Somehow, some way, his fractious God had been appeased and given him yet another chance.
The past seven days were hell. Watching her. Wanting to take her. Knowing he couldn’t screw up and lose her again. Tonight, his preparations in place, she’d return to his side where she belonged.
Breathing slow and measured through the full-face ski mask he’d bought at a thrift store, he sucked in a lungful of musty stench. In this uncommon late-May heat wave, he was sweating bullets but the wool soaked it up before it could sting his eyes. The itching would drive him insane, though, if she didn’t come home from work soon.
The LoDo sports bar where she waited tables closed almost an hour ago. She couldn’t have gone on a date at two o’clock on a Thursday morning, could she?
Three times he’d entered her ground floor apartment after she’d left for work, and he’d seen no sign she was involved with anyone. No jockey shorts mixed with her panties in the hamper. No extra razor. The food in the refrigerator wasn’t enough to feed a cat, let alone her and a boyfriend, and the only scent on her pillows was floral. The sole message from a male on her answering machine had identified himself as a special research librarian from the Denver Public Library reminding her to pick up the copy of “The Warwick Genealogy” she’d requested.
That doesn’t mean she isn’t still involved with him, the almighty scion of Thorne Enterprises. She’s probably crawling into his bed like a whore right this minute, letting him do things to her, making her scream….
“No! Stop!” he whispered. “That was a mistake!”
Was it? The insidious question lashed him from the dark place in his pounding skull.
He rejected the smirking voice, the vivid images. Think of something else. Anything else. Forgetforgetfor—
A car alarm screamed at an outlying parking lot and dragged him out of his fugue. His eyes cleared. The pain behind them eased to a level he’d learned to carry over the years. He took a deep breath to smother his panic.
Soon, he would kill the nightmares forever. Patrick Thorne would die and the secrets with him. But the contractor hadn’t been punished enough yet. Before he finished, he’d ruin Thorne’s reputation, his livelihood, and destroy everything he loved most in the world.
Just as Thorne destroyed our lives. The man must die! Now!
Restless to escape its bonds the monster thrust knife-hot pain into his brain, but he wrestled it back into the shadows and locked it down. Retribution was almost at hand, but not tonight. This night was about her.
Where the hell was she?
There! Her tennis shoes slapped the sidewalk as she approached. He caught a flash of uniform—shorts and sports shirt, both too tight for decency. Then she walked out of the weak light that pooled across the commons into the dark well that led to her door. Her building superintendent had replaced her broken porch light this morning, but he’d smashed it again. He smiled when she cursed someone named Ronnie.
With a jingle of keys, she passed the niche he’d carved for himself in the shrubs. A bunch of adrenaline surged through him, made him light-headed with anticipation. He shook the buzz from his head and crashed out of the bushes with more noise than he intended.
Her head snapped left. She shot a glance over her shoulder. Her eyes widened. She lunged for the safety of her door.
He chased after her, grabbed her by the throat. A squeeze of her windpipe cut off her scream. He didn’t want to damage her too much. He just needed to get her alone.
To atone. To give him another chance.
With her soft body pressed against him, he groaned with pleasure. It had been so long! For a moment he forgot his purpose, lost in the new scent of her, in the innocent softness of her curves against him. Her breasts were full beneath his forearm. The sweet curve of her ass cradled his stiff penis. With another groan, his grip relaxed.
She screamed. Struggling, she broke loose of his hold.
Shit! Reaching out, he snagged her long ponytail and yanked her back hard. With his other hand, he strangled her next scream into a whimper. “Do that again,” he grated, “I’ll use my knife.” The honed blade was secure in his pocket but she didn’t know that.
“I have money,” she croaked. “Three hundred. Tips. In my pocket. Please! Don’t—”
“Shh. Don’t fight me. Shh,” he crooned into her hair. He tugged a chloroform-laced rag from his pants pocket and fitted it over her nose and mouth. “Just give me another chance, Angel, and everything will be fine.”
This time she’d make the right choice because, God only knew, he’d truly go insane if he had to kill her all over again.