Authors: Rita Herron
He pressed his hand over hers. “Yes. Talk to me, Clarissa.”
She sighed and leaned her head against the seat. “I’m sure you’ve heard that I relate to spirits.”
He nodded, looking unfazed, so she continued and explained about Cary Gimmerson’s spirit in the road.
Tim rubbed a hand across the back of his neck with a nod. “You’re right, she’s dead. We just finished at the crime scene.”
Clarissa twined her fingers together. “What happened?”
“She was pushed over a ridge. Shattered her face and crushed most of the bones in her body. They’re transporting her to the state medical examiner’s office for the autopsy.”
“Did you find a piece of black rock with the girl?”
He arched a brow. “Said he was coming to see you.”
Tim kept one hand on the wheel but laid the other one over hers again. “Listen, Clarissa. I realize you trust this guy, and that Waller asked him here to investigate, but he acted strange today.”
“What do you mean?” Clarissa asked.
He clenched his jaw. “For one thing, he found the dead girl. And he acted like he was holding something back.”
She didn’t want to confide the things he’d admitted about his past. Somehow it felt like she’d be betraying Vincent if she did. “I’m not afraid of him,” she said. “Listen, Tim, he’s had a troubled life, but he’s a good agent.”
“He’s dangerous. And I don’t want to see you get hurt,” he said gruffly.
His concern touched her. Tim was a friend, but she couldn’t see him as anything else. “I’ll be careful, I promise.”
He nodded, then cranked the engine and dropped her at the rental car place. She signed out a small sedan, then drove back to her cabin, weary and wondering where Vincent was.
The image of Daisy Wilson’s body dangling from the Devil’s Tree remained imprinted in her mind as she parked in her drive. Again she sensed that a vile force had followed her, and she checked over her shoulder but didn’t see anything around.
The sounds of the forest beyond blended with her erratic breathing as she unlocked her door and went inside.
She froze, her heart racing. The air smelled different, a vile scent heating the rooms.
Someone was in her house.
Suddenly, fingers scraped across her back and tiptoed across her neck.
She screamed, then turned and raced outside to the car.
Hands shaking, she jumped in and started the engine, frantic to escape.
But she glanced up at her front porch, and her breath lodged in her chest. An eerie, faceless black shadow filled her doorway, hulking and inhuman.
The demon had come for her, just as he’d said.
anicked, Clarissa spun the car around and raced down the road toward Vincent’s cabin.
The hills that had welcomed her as home all her life now stretched with endless miles of places for demons to hide and evil to thrive.
She and Vincent had to stop it from spreading and consuming the town.
Anxiety plucked at her as she veered down the graveled road. She spotted his Land Rover by his cabin and parked next to him, then swiped her sweaty palms across her skirt as she ran to the cabin door.
Trembling, she knocked on the door. No answer. She knocked again, then called Vincent’s name, but he still didn’t respond, so she wrapped her fingers around the doorknob and tried it. The door swung open, but a movement caught her eye. A woman.
A faint light spilling from the distant lodge fell across the bed. Clarissa’s throat closed.
Sadie Sue was naked, her breasts swaying as she walked toward Vincent.
Pain splintered through her. He had turned her away, yet now he was going to make love to this other woman.
Sadie Sue glanced over her shoulder at Clarissa and smiled, a wicked smile that sent a chill up her spine.
Steeling herself against the pain, Clarissa’s gaze met the other woman’s and fear cut off her breath. Sadie Sue’s eyes had turned bright yellow and glinted as if shooting fire.
Clarissa stepped inside the room, then glanced down at Vincent to gauge his reaction. He lay beneath the woman, unmoving, sweat and droplets of blood dotting his bare chest, his wrists and arms tied to the posts. His eyes looked odd, glazed as if he’d been hypnotized by the devil.
Could she save him, or was she too late?
The sound of a woman’s voice penetrated the dark chamber holding Vincent prisoner. Somewhere in the far recesses of his mind, recognition dawned.
Shame and humiliation washed over him.
“So she’s what you want, Vincent,” Clarissa said, bitterness lacing her tone.
“Get out of here.” Sadie Sue screeched an inhuman sound. “He’s mine now, and nothing you can do can change it.”
A wild rush of hunger snaked through Vincent. Sadie Sue cracked the whip, the sound cold and violent. Then she ran a finger over his cock . . .
“Go ahead and enjoy it,” Clarissa cried.
Sickened by his own vile needs, Vincent choked back bile. Succumbing to Sadie Sue would mean relinquishing his soul to the very ones he fought, and he’d become his father.
Summoning every ounce of resistance he possessed, he focused on escaping her clutches, then snapped the ropes in two and flung Sadie Sue off of him. “Get out of here,” he growled.
She toppled onto the floor, stunned and flailing her hands in fury, but lunged back up in attack. “You can’t do that, you beast. You belong to me now.”
“No!” With a growl, he sent her away from him again, this time so hard she fell against the wall. Body wound tight with sexual need and fury, he flung his hands out and shattered the lamp next to her, sending glass scattering. He’d never hit a woman before, but he was tempted now.
She screamed and vaulted toward Clarissa, who’d backed up against the door. “He’s mine—I have to have him to please the master. If you’d leave him alone, he’d come to me.”
Clarissa tried to escape, but Sadie Sue was a mad-woman and threw Clarissa against the wall.
Fury raged through Vincent as Clarissa slid to the floor with a moan.
Vincent clutched Sadie Sue’s arm and dragged her toward the door. “Touch her again and you’ll find out what pain really is.”
She kicked and screamed, her shrill voice echoing off the walls as he threw her outside. Determined to get rid of her, he flung his hands, and wood splintered and exploded around her. Then he bared his teeth.
He must have finally frightened her, because she pushed herself up and ran to her car.
A heartbeat later, her car engine fired up and she screeched down the mountain. When he stepped back inside, he was sweating and shaking.
Clarissa dragged herself up, stunned, rubbing the back of her head.
Horror and regret suffused him. She’d seen the animal he’d become, the way he’d let Sadie Sue use him.
Through the haze, her face registered. A bruise marred her forehead and another marked her chest. Sadie Sue hadn’t caused those.
What in the hell had happened to her?
Suddenly oblivious to his nakedness, he strode toward her. “Why did you come here, Clarissa?”
Her breath rattled out. “I saw another spirit tonight; Tim said you’d found her.”
He zeroed in on the cut on her hand, then her bruised forehead. Emotions warred in his chest, and he reached out and tipped her chin up with his thumb. “Jesus. What happened?”
“I wrecked my car to avoid hitting the girl.”
“I thought you said she was dead.”
“She was, but I didn’t realize it until I’d crashed.” She wet her lips, but her gaze fell to the shattered glass on the floor, and he realized how much of himself he’d revealed tonight.
Hell, better she see the real Valtrez man. And he wouldn’t apologize for threatening Sadie Sue. If she hurt Clarissa again, he’d snap her neck in two with his bare hands and take pleasure in her screams.
“I called you, but you didn’t answer.” Her eyes darkened. “Obviously you were busy.”
Words of regret hovered on the tip of his tongue, then died on his lips. “I’m not going to apologize for what I am,” he said in a gruff voice. “I have needs that you would never understand.”
Just as he’d touched her bruise, she reached out and traced a finger over the slash on his chest. Her gaze locked with his, and the softness returned to her eyes, filling the hollow, empty hole inside him with something bittersweet and more painful than the beating he’d just taken. Emotions he didn’t want crowded his chest.
“You don’t need Sadie Sue, Vincent.” She pressed her lips gently to his wound, and a bolt of heat and longing unlike anything he’d ever experienced shot through him. The intensity of his hunger for her fueled his rage.
Dammit. He didn’t want to want her, or to need her, but he did. The darkness inside him warred with the last sliver of conscience he possessed. He knew how to drive her away.
He grabbed her hand, gripped her wrist painfully, and forced her to look into his eyes, to see him for what he was. “All I need is a warm cunt, Clarissa, not love or softness.”
Her breath caught. “No, you need more. I feel it in your touch, in the way your chest trembled beneath my hand. I see it in your haunted eyes.”
He shoved her toward the window, gripped her face, and forced her to look outside. “See how dark it is with those clouds covering the moon? That’s me inside—my heart is black, empty, Clarissa.”
“I don’t believe that.” She took Vincent’s hands in hers and flipped them over and traced a finger over his scar. “There’s good in you, too, Vincent.”
She kissed his scar, then cupped his face in her hands and traced her tongue around his mouth.
He pressed her body into the wall. “I can’t control that darkness, Clarissa. You’re lying to yourself if you think differently.”
“You’re not all darkness,” she whispered breathily. “That’s why you chose to be an agent, why you protect innocents.”
He kneed her legs apart, rubbed his foot up her calf seductively. “I track down killers because their darkness feeds my soul, because I understand the sickos. You can’t save me, Clarissa, no one can.”
Instead of bolting, though, she flicked her tongue along his chest. His skin sizzled where her lips touched the scarred flesh.
“You’d let a whore have you,” she said softly, “let her whip you because you like to be abused? Or because you think you deserve it? Because you couldn’t save your mother?”
He clenched his fists by his sides, hating her words yet aching to tunnel his hands through her hair and throw her down on the floor and take her. To ease the pain that gripped him in a chokehold. “I asked for it,” he said in a gruff voice. “I told her to give me pain.”
Her gaze met his, searching, probing, finding her way deep inside to the void he didn’t want her to see. “Because it’s all you’ve ever known,” she said softly. “I can show you how different it can be. How beautiful lovemaking is when you care about someone.”
He hated that softness about her.
He didn’t want her comfort. Didn’t need anything from her but to be left alone.
Or the release that he hadn’t gotten with Sadie Sue.
Her gaze latched with his. Then she licked a droplet of sweat from his chest and he flinched, knowing that the release from being with Sadie Sue wouldn’t have sated him anyway because, dammit, Clarissa was in his head. He wanted her body, not Sadie Sue’s. And not just for tonight.
He craved her as if she was the seed of life, as if she could obliterate the darkness and guide him back to the light.
“Don’t try to shrink me, Clarissa. I am what I am. A heartless son of a bitch who needs to be fucked every day.” Determined to convince her that she should run from him, he cupped her breasts again, this time even more boldly. Her nipple stiffened between his fingers, and he twisted it so hard she gasped. “If you still think you can fill my needs, here are my rules.” He lowered his head, his lips a fraction of an inch from her ear. “I take a woman only once, Clarissa. And always from behind.”
God, he wanted her. Wanted to feel her in his hands. Hear her moaning his name as he came inside her. Feel her skin slick with his sweat, her flesh quivering with pleasure he’d given her.
He flicked his tongue along her neck, pressed his stiff cock between her legs, and shoved her hands upward, splaying them on the wall, trapping her, taunting her, wanting her even though he knew it was wrong.
“Then take me, Vincent,” Clarissa whispered. “Any way you want me. I’m yours. I’ve always been yours.”
A silent war raged within him. She should be afraid of him. Should have gone running into the night at his crudeness.
Instead, she twisted, stroking his shaft with her center, tormenting him to follow through on his craving.
Take her like the animal you are,
a voice whispered in his head.
Show no mercy.
“Go ahead, Vincent,” she said, rubbing her hips to stroke him. The movement lodged his throbbing cock between her legs. “I’m not afraid. I want you. I’ll spread my legs and welcome you inside me.”
Her sultry offer made his body go even more rock hard with desire and raw hunger. He craved the scent of her cum on his tongue, ached to feel her naked skin against his own, to feel her writhing as his slick cock slid into her wet chamber.
Yet he couldn’t allow himself the pleasure of a slow fuck.
Sensations spiked his need, and he ripped off her tank top and tore off her bra.
Then, he lowered his head and bit her nipples. She cried out, clutched at him, but he grabbed her hands and shoved them away again, holding them prisoner so she couldn’t touch him.
Greedily, he licked and sucked her turgid nipples until she moaned and her knees buckled. The scent of her longing filled the air, the sound of her heart pounding echoed in his ears and drove him onward until he heard nothing but the voice inside his head telling him to love her fast and hard, to make her his completely.
He ripped off her skirt and panties then, spread her pussy lips with his fingers, groaning with arousal at the feel of her wet, slick folds. Then he fused his mouth to her, licking and sucking her clit, thrusting his tongue inside her as he would soon do his cock.