Authors: Rita Herron
His eyes narrowed, and a frisson of fear slivered through Clarissa. “Stay away from him, Clarissa. For all we know, he may be a cold-blooded killer.”
Vincent and Waller stopped by the real estate agent’s office on the way back to the station, but a sign on the door said the man was out of town on business.
Was this so-called trip a ruse to hide his real agenda?
Back at the cabin he’d rented, he spread the files on Billie Jo Rivers and Jamie Lackey on the desk and examined the notes Sheriff Waller had made.
The photos disturbed him. There was something odd, gray and grainy, like the silhouette of a person’s body, blurring the scene that he couldn’t quite distinguish.
He reviewed the details of each death, searching for connections. Billie Jo had been close to her mother; her father was deceased. Her fiancé, Curtis Riggs, had an alibi for the night she died; apparently he drove a big rig and had been in North Carolina at the time of her death. He confirmed that she was terrified of drowning and that she would not have gone to the creek alone, especially at night. She had no enemies, was well liked, and volunteered at the local Baptist church.
No one would want her dead.
Except that she had died a suspicious death.
A random killing, or were the deaths connected?
He skimmed the notes on Jamie Lackey. Jamie’s father, the town drunk, claimed he hadn’t seen his daughter in days, that she moved into town to be on her own. The sheriff had questioned her roommate, a girl named Wanda Gibbons, who worked at the Dollar Store. She’d been distraught over her friend’s death.
Perhaps the father and Jamie had had a run-in, and he’d been angry with her because she’d defied him and moved out. Maybe the man had killed his daughter and her case wasn’t related to the other two. Or maybe he had murdered her and now was killing others to cover up the crime and make it appear to be a serial killer. Although why use different MOs? And if the man was a drunk as Waller had noted, he probably wasn’t smart enough to concoct such a devious plan.
Now for Tracy Canton. Waller and Clarissa had both vouched for Tracy’s brother, and he had seemed genuinely upset.
Vincent spent the next hour checking Tracy’s computer, searching her e-mails, looking for sites she might have visited, chat rooms she’d signed on to. Nothing struck him as suspicious. She didn’t have a MySpace account, had never been on Facebook. She also hadn’t joined any online dating services, and most of her e-mails were related to the online classes she’d taken from UT and the faculty at the school where she taught.
No love notes, hate notes, not even the hint of someone who disliked her.
And no communication or connections to the other girls.
He examined the girl’s pocket calendar but found no notations for clubs or meetings that warranted suspicion.
He rocked back in the oak chair. Three local girls, supposedly with no enemies. All dead by different causes. And so far, the only connection appeared to be that they were all single.
Yet Clarissa insisted their deaths were related.
He cursed, then stood, shucked off his clothes, dressed in running shorts and tennis shoes, and headed outside.
Heat seeped from the paved drive that wound through the knot of cabins standing on the side of the mountain near Redtail Creek. A central lodge housed individual rooms for rent and served a hot breakfast, but he’d chosen the cabin for privacy.
Darkness cloaked the dense thicket of trees that blanketed the ridge, but Vincent possessed keen night vision, and the deep recesses of the mountain ridges beckoned him. He sprinted into the folds, discovered a hunting trail, and jogged through the woods, the swish of tree branches brushing his arms and the twigs snapping below his feet a welcome reprieve, as if he’d finally come home.
An odd thought when he’d wanted to leave this place forever.
The silence of night met with the distant howl of a coyote, and Vincent sensed a mountain lion nearby, pacing, watching, hungry. Knowing any sudden moves might trigger a predator to attack, he kept his pace steady, the pounding of his shoes creating a calming staccato rhythm in the midst of the animals scurrying through the forest in search of food or cover.
Had Billie Jo Rivers, Jamie Lackey, or Tracy Canton tried to escape from their attacker? If so, why weren’t there defensive wounds? Some kind of tangible evidence?
Something other than Clarissa’s communication with the dead.
And where had the killer obtained the black rock he’d left at each crime scene? Was the cave where Vincent’s father had killed his mother nearby?
Or was there another cave of black rock in these mountains?
Adrenaline racing through his blood, he spent the next two hours searching the area. He found an old abandoned mineshaft and explored the opening, but the structure seemed unstable, so he opted not to explore it further. A cave to the north also drew his interest, and for a moment, memories transported him back in time. He could hear his father whispering his name. Urging him to go deeper. To surrender to his dark side.
He flexed his fingers, remembered the torture he endured if he didn’t comply with his father’s orders, then the surge of power he’d felt when he’d choked the life out of an animal.
The grief and guilt he’d experienced after.
His father laughing, rewarding him, forcing him to take the kill home to show his mother. The pain in her eyes when she’d seen the brutal slaughter.
He’d wanted desperately to please her, to be strong, to resist his father, but he had failed.
Now he had to fight the urge to be like him . . .
But again he lost the battle. Slowly the forest blurred, the colors faded, the darkness pervaded. And he spiraled downward to the ground, falling into the black holes that drained his life and soul.
Where time lapsed and he woke with no memory.
Sadie Sue LaCoy was too seductive not to fuck. Too voluptuous beneath that flowing red cape not to push her to the floor and demand she pleasure him with that red-hot mouth.
Pan had touched her back, knew her fears. Knew she liked to play and be played with.
He’d do that before he killed her.
After all, he hadn’t possessed a real live human’s body in hundreds of years. Might as well take advantage of the perks of being a man. One of them was to take from a woman.
He would have her before he let the snakes at her.
He’d done his research, too. She had a son. Maybe she’d trade her soul for a chance to live for her kid’s sake. Then he could use her to entice Valtrez. The Dark Lord had been wavering lately, having moments of nearly succumbing to his evil side. Entering the black holes made him vulnerable, brought him closer to relinquishing his soul.
Valtrez never had been able to resist a sexy woman. It was part of the charm/curse of the Dark Lords.
The Dark Lords were born demons, part beast inside, were insatiable, their lust for sex driving them just as their lust for blood did.
Pan would use both to destroy any good left within Vincent.
Four days until the rising
ours later, Vincent finally emerged from the dark abyss. He rolled over, realized he was lying inside a cave, the damp coolness of the interior a haven against the infernal heat that seeped from the ground through the soles of his feet. The sound of water trickling over rock filled the ominous silence, soft and soothing compared to the panting of his own ragged breath.
He stood and wiped at the sweat rolling down his face, then turned in a wide arc to study the inside of the cave, but gray stone lined the walls, not the black rock he was in search of.
He flexed his hands, then glanced down and saw they were bloody.
Dammit. What had happened?
He dragged out a handkerchief and wiped off the blood, wracking his mind to recall the past few hours. He had no idea how long he’d been in the cave or how he’d gotten inside, but a faint stream of sunlight streaked the walls, and he realized it was almost morning.
He inspected the cave, but there were no signs anyone had been staying inside, so he jogged back toward the cabin. Broken images surfaced, of being locked in a small closet with no food or water for days, of being taken into the woods and left alone, forced to learn to survive off the land.
His heart racing, he picked up his pace, running faster and faster until he was near exhaustion and ready to collapse. He wanted to purge his soul of the evil that flowed through his veins, but it was impossible.
He was a lost soul. Had lost his soul the day he had driven a stake into his father’s cold, unbeating heart.
Clarissa tossed and turned, the screams of the dead tormenting her and driving her from the Cantons’ couch. Not just Tracy’s voice or the other two girls’, but dozens of voices from years gone by.
“I’m trying to help you,” she whispered as she stumbled outside on the porch, heaving for fresh air. “I just need more time.”
But the voices continued to bombard her, as did the sound of rustling leaves from the woods, cackling laughter, and screams as brittle bones crumbled, the wind scattering them like white ashes across the parched land.
“You can’t stop them,” a shrill voice cried.
“The devil is here,” another cried.
“The evil is too strong.”
“I was murdered, too. In the old mine.”
“A demon took me in my cellar,” another voice shouted.
“He’s coming for you.”
Clarissa covered her ears with her hands to drown them out. Yet the stench of fear invaded her pores, and she began to shake uncontrollably.
Shadows filled the woods behind the house, the glint of glowing eyes shimmering through the spiny leaves as if the demons roamed aimlessly, watching her torment and waiting to strike.
Her grandmother had warned her to be careful of Vincent. Tim had warned her, too. But Vincent was the only one who’d entered the Black Forest and survived.
What if he was the key to stopping this demon and the evil in the town?
By the time Vincent reached the cabin, dawn streaked the sky. He was physically drained and exhausted, but still his body felt tense, raw, needy. The ache of an insatiable man who needed another kind of release. The kind only a woman could offer.
He stripped off his sweat-stained clothes, turned on the shower water, and stepped inside. The soles of his feet burned from slapping against the fiery ground, tension tightened his body, knotting his shoulders and legs.
He threw his head back, letting the water pulse over him, willing it to wash away the darkness that lived inside him.
He’d thought running would alleviate his anxiety, but the smell of trees, mud, rotting foliage had only drawn him deeper into the bowels of the past.
Needing a reprieve, he banned the images of the victims, of his mother’s charred body. He should have gone to that club, met up with a woman, and pounded out his tension between her legs.
He closed his eyes, slid his hand down to his cock. His balls felt heavy, swollen, craved release. Slick from water and soap, he began to knead his cock, working out the tension coiled inside him. His breath puffed out in hungry, angry pants as he stroked his shaft, each touch driven by primal desires spurred by some nameless woman.
He tried to picture the face of the one he’d fucked back home, remember the way she’d climbed on all fours, spread her ass for him and the way he’d rammed inside her.
Instead Clarissa’s heart-shaped face and big catlike eyes obliterated the image. Knowing he couldn’t,
have her, he allowed himself a momentary fantasy, imagined her stark naked on her knees in front of him, her breasts swaying, nipples extended where he’d twisted them to hard peaks with his fingers, her pussy damp and aching for him. But she’d resist when he tried to lift her and impale her with his cock, whispering that she wanted to eat him first.
Lips parting, she licked his rigid fullness, flicking her tongue up and down his length, circling her tongue around the tip of his penis until he couldn’t stand it any longer.
Still fighting his release, he gripped her head and moaned, trying to control her movements, but she enveloped him between those rose-red lips and sucked, long, deep, throaty strokes that milked and squeezed him. His hips jerked forward as she cupped his balls in her hands and massaged them, and he rammed himself deeper into her mouth, the force of her ministrations driving him over the edge. Wild, gut-wrenching sensations of pleasure and pain pummeled him, and he roared, spurting his warm cum down her throat, titillated as she swallowed it.
He cursed and leaned against the wall, spent.
It was the closest he’d ever get to having Clarissa.
But it was not enough.
Clarissa finally lay back down on the sofa, her head pounding from the voices, her mind swirling with thoughts of Vincent. With the possibility that he might be Eerie’s only hope of salvation.
But she jerked awake an hour later, her hair damp with perspiration, her breasts heavy and aching, moisture pooling between her thighs. Odd, but she’d expected nightmares again, and the dead to visit.
Instead, another image haunted her. An image of her with Vincent Valtrez, her in submission. Her kneeling at his feet, rolling her tongue around the head of his giant cock, taking it deep inside her mouth and sucking him, feeling the warm splash of his cum slide down her throat as he plunged deeper into her mouth.
Breathing heavily, she sat up, straightened her clothing, glanced around to make sure she was alone. She could still feel the agent’s thick length inside her mouth, his hands drawing her head closer. Her body yearned to have him between her legs, pumping in and out of her, filling her.
Heaven help her. She never had sex dreams.
So why had she dreamed about
And why did she suddenly sense that her dream had been a shared fantasy, that she had somehow mentally connected to the man?
That had never happened to her before.
Had he dreamt about her?
Impossible. She connected only with the dead . . .