Authors: Sidney Bristol
Tags: #dangerous serial killer, #edgy romance, #cop and FBI, #motocross adventure, #cult following, #cat and mouse, #psychological drama
Table of Contents
e recognizes the darkness in her. It’s in him, too.
Detective Jacob Payton knows the clock is ticking down. Someone is about to die, and his best suspect is also his only source of information. He’s known Emma Ration’s story for years—after all, a brutal serial killer left his mark on both their lives when they were still young. Meeting her is another experience altogether. She challenges his control and entices him in ways no other woman has.
But is she the killer? As the bodies pile up and their passion ignites, Jacob runs the risk of losing his control. Falling for Emma was never in his plan, but now that she’s part of his life he’s not about to give her up. Not even to the FBI on the trail of the very same killer.
Jacob must figure out if it’s Emma in danger, or himself. If he can’t uncover the identity of the copycat killer, it could be the end for both him and the woman who has fast become the center of his life.
mma Ration was a women who didn’t spook easily, which was a good thing since dark spirits haunted her. She toyed with the discarded wrapper from her straw and glanced toward the door. The latest serial killer creepadoodle wanting to interview her was late.
She sucked down some of her sweet tea and glanced at the Dr Pepper clock on the wall. Fifteen minutes late. If this guy wasn’t here in the next ten, she was gone. The evening crowd was trickling in, and business was picking up. The last thing she wanted right now was to be the sad, depressed person eating alone. She knew enough of the servers that they might ask her where Derrick was, and then she’d have to explain why she’d left his sorry ass.
The door swung open again and she glanced toward it, her gaze sticking like glue to the nearly six foot hottie that entered—all by himself. He had one of those strong, square jaws with a nice five o’ clock shadow, dark hair, and the bluest eyes. She chewed her straw as he searched the patrons. So what if she’d broken up with her jackass of an ex a few days ago—a rebound was a good thing, wasn’t it?
The hottie paused by the hostess stand and pulled out his cell phone. The hostess, a girl named Rachel, stood bent over the podium, no doubt giving him an excellent view of her ample boobage. Emma had been like Rachel once. She’d bussed tables and waitressed in high school for cash, under the table. Even met a few boyfriends in the process. If she was lucky, this guy could be her boyfriend for the night.
Her cell phone rang, startling her out of her drool-fest. She groaned at the name Jacob Payton flashing on the screen. Looked like her serial killer intellectual dinner date at least had enough courtesy to tell her he wasn’t showing up.
“Hello?” she said.
The hottie at the door had his back to her now, and damn what a view it was.
“Yeah, you’re late.”
The hottie glanced around. His cell phone pressed to his ear.
“Yeah, I know. Sorry about that. Are you here?”
Oh fuck me...
The hottie was the creepadoodle. Not that he looked anything like the guys who normally wanted to pick her brain about the TBK murderer. She did her best to weed out the real sickos who got off on murder fantasies, but the only people interested in a guy who killed a dozen people were a special lot.
Jacob Payton was not what she’d expected. From their phone chats, she’d anticipated a thinning, mid-forties man with a thousand yard stare. Oh how wrong she’d been.
Emma cleared her throat. “Yeah, I’m in the back corner, blonde, staring straight at you.”
His gaze landed on her, and it was as if the restaurant faded away. For a few heartbeats, they were the only two things in existence. It was as if she could feel his heart beat, the caress of his eyes across her skin, and the flutter of his pulse.
The corners of his mouth lifted slightly. “I see you.”
The noise of the restaurant crashed in around her, destroying the momentary spell. Her stomach was full of butterflies now. That was a smile that could do dangerous things to a girl if he ever truly unleashed it. She shifted in her seat, suddenly anxious.
She hung up and hastily smoothed her hair down. Her level of effort for this little meet-up was next to nil. Most of her stuff, including her make-up, was in boxes in her best friend’s spare room, waiting for her to decide where she’d land next. At least her iRIDE tank top showed good cleavage. She picked at the lint clinging to the ribbed fabric, willing herself to appear a little more presentable.
“Emma?” Jacob came to a stop at the end of the booth.
“That’s me.” Her throat was horribly dry all of a sudden. She grabbed her tea and took a sip, giving him a slow once-over. Damn, he was fine, toned, and tan, plus no wedding band. If this weren’t business he would so be a jackpot. “Have a seat?”
“Thanks.” He quirked a brow at her, seemingly amused by her appraisal, and scooted into the booth to settle in across from her. “Sorry about the wait. There was some traffic and I took a wrong turn.”
“Not from around here, I take it?”
“Oh, I am, I live closer to downtown.”
Which was probably why they’d never crossed paths. She’d remember a man like him. Despite her inner vow to keep it professional, looking at him reminded her of the months without sex. She had needs.
“You are not what I expected.” She propped her chin on her palm, curiosity piqued. It was way too soon to jump into another relationship. After the disaster with Derrick, she really needed to take time to prioritize her life. But a one-night stand? That might be the perfect thing to get her back on her feet.
“Yeah? What were you expecting?” He leaned toward her, one arm on the table.
“A professor, maybe. A stuffy intellectual type.” She measured the width of his shoulders with her gaze. The man had to be a regular at the gym. Those forearms! She was willing to bet he had a great grip.
“I’m afraid I’m not that smart.” He spread his hands while he studied her closely. She had a feeling he was much smarter than he appeared. “How do you do this? Do you want to eat first or get the
stuff out of the way?”
Right. He wasn’t there to see her, not really. He was here about TBK. Cock-blocked by a killer.
She took a deep breath and shook off the lustful fog. It was time to put her business hat on. “Ground rules. You can’t pull any of the documents out of the sleeves. You can take pictures of them if you like, but no flash. Also, you can’t take pictures of me.”
“People ask for pictures of you?” His brows drew down into a line. “I mean, you’re beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but I’m guessing that’s not what people are taking pictures of you for?”
She chuckled. It was nice to be called pretty, even if he was covering his ass. “Yeah, I used to not think it was that big of a deal, then this kid took some pictures of me, started stalking me, and creating his own TBK letters with my pictures.” She slashed her hand across her throat. “No more.”
“Wow, that’s crazy. I don’t blame you. I promise, no pictures.” He held his hands up. His gaze flicked from her face, down, and back again. Interesting.
“Awesome.” She leaned forward, crossing her arms on the table. If boobs were what it took to distract him, she wasn’t above using them. It was a little harmless flirting. “I will answer questions, but if I don’t know something I will tell you. Um, I won’t call my daddy and I won’t tell people where he lives now. He wants nothing to do with this stuff, as you can imagine. He’s actually gone completely off the grid and is impossible to get hold of, so don’t waste your time. Any questions?”
Jacob chuckled, his gaze firmly on her face. Damn, resilient bastard. Was he onto her trick? “You’ve got this down to a process, don’t you?” He mirrored her pose, his shirt straining across his wide shoulders. How she’d love to discuss anything else with him.
“I think it’s helpful to be up front about this stuff, instead of misleading people.”
“You consider this a service?”
“That’s the best thing I can think of.” She bit her lip.
You always stick your nose where it doesn’t belong.
“What about you? What’s your interest in TBK?”
He shrugged. “Curiosity.”
If he was just curious he’d have asked a lot more questions. He was looking for something specific. It wasn’t any of her business what that was, so long as he followed her rules. The TBK collection was to keep the memory of the victims alive, after all.
Jacob cleared his throat. “Ration. That’s Cherokee, right?”
“Uh, Navajo actually. I think I’m like, one-tenth.” She grabbed the ends of her blonde ponytail. “I bet I look real Navajo, don’t I?”
“No, not really.” He almost smiled, a slight upturn at the corners of his mouth. He struck her as the kind who didn’t smile often. She was willing to bet that if he ever did, it was to be appreciated at length. Then and there it became her personal goal to make the man grin. “Navajo, huh?”
“Yeah. Family moved here in the sixties to start fresh.” She spread her fingers. “Look how well that turned out.”
The fresh start had turned into a massacre with only one living survivor. Her father. The rest was a bloody, sordid history that never got easier to live with.
“Damn.” He shook his head. “Why do you do this? It seems like it would be hard on you.”
Emma bit her lip. Jacob wasn’t following the usual pattern of questions. His inquiries were personal, which she wouldn’t normally allow. There was something different about him though.
She shrugged. “I didn’t know my grandparents, so it’s kind of a way to stay connected to them and my roots. There’s so much history we lost with their death. I started out collecting information about the family, and then I stumbled onto the letters TBK sent them. Collecting the TBK stuff was really an accident. I was documenting their death, and I got curious. So I talked to another family. They really liked the account of my grandparent’s lives and wanted me to do it for them. There was one catch, they didn’t want to keep it. They told another family, that family contacted me, and it just turned into this—thing. Besides, someone has to keep a record of what happened or else people forget, and we should never forget the darker side of humanity. If we forget where the line is, what’s too far, we lose our humanity.”
He studied her, gaze slightly narrowed. It was intense, unnerving, and she liked it. He was a far cry from Derrick, that was for sure.
“What’s your interest in this?” Jacob asked.
“Honestly?” She bit her lip. This was far more personal information than she usually shared and there was no good reason for telling any of this to him. Except she felt like it was important he know.