Authors: V. K. Sykes
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #Romance, #Romantic Suspense, #Mystery & Suspense, #Sports
By V.K. Sykes
Copyright 2013 by V.K. Sykes
Cover Art by Patricia Schmitt, Pickyme Artist
E-book Formatted by Jessica Lewis, Authors’ Life Saver
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
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A gripping new romantic suspense from USA Today Bestselling author V.K. Sykes
The brutal murder of her twin sister drove Amy Robitaille into a career as a homicide detective for Palm Beach County. When a serial killer targets the wives of local baseball players, Amy has more than just a professional interest at stake—her only surviving sister fits the profile of the other victims. Amy’s hell-bent on catching the killer, not only to protect her sister but to destroy the demons haunting her since the death of her twin.
Baseball star and former soldier Luke Beckett has just retired from the game and is looking to move on with his life. When he’s asked to consult on the serial killer case for the local police, he finds the challenge he needs—despite the objections of lead detective Amy Robitaille. But Luke has no intention of backing away from the job and every intention of getting to know the intriguing detective.
Amy has no time to babysit a celebrity consultant while trying to catch a serial killer. But Luke is not the man she assumed him to be and he threatens to become a powerful distraction. That’s the last thing she needs, especially when the killer starts closing in on her family. But without Luke’s help, Amy stands to lose everything.
He didn’t want to have to kill his best friend’s wife.
But Rita wouldn’t listen, even when he threatened to tell Eddie what she’d been up to behind his back.
Instead, the bitch laughed in his face. “Mind your own goddamn business, you stupid little punk,” she sneered, all relaxed as she leaned against the wall in the hallway of Eddie’s house.
Stupid little punk
. Nobody had called him a punk since that nightmare of a first week at Maine State Prison. Not since his cellmate Griff Brandt took pity on him and taught him how to fight back. How to kill if he had to.
The smartass bitch had to pay. She had to pay for what she was doing to Eddie. And for treating
like a speck of fly shit.
“Get the hell out of my house, jerk-off,” Rita snarled, coming toward him. “If you ever—and I mean ever—come near me again, I swear I’ll kill your ass. Unless Eddie cuts your throat first.”
He shook his head. Stupid Rita didn’t get that he was here because of Eddie. Because his best friend needed him to do this.
“I don’t think so,” he replied in a quiet voice. He hated yelling. It made his teeth hurt.
When he didn’t move, she bunched her fists and got all tensed up. The stupid Amazon probably thought she could scare him off. Hell, she was at least three inches taller than him and damn near as heavy. Rita worked out, too. He knew, because he followed her to the fitness center and to the park where she jogged most mornings. Not that she ever noticed him dogging her. She was probably too busy daydreaming about that bulked-up carpenter she’d been screwing for the past few weeks while Eddie was at the ballpark.
He’d come tonight thinking maybe, just maybe, he could convince her to stop doing Eddie wrong. But he should have known better. Bitches stay bitches. They never change.
“You want a piece of me, you little shit?” she yelled, shoving him hard. He had to windmill his arms or he’d have fallen.
Knocked around by a bitch! The rage, that familiar rage—red and hot and sharp as a perfectly-honed shiv—flooded every cell in his body, pushing out the humiliation. He got his balance back and planted his feet, burning with the need to lash out. He hadn’t felt like that since those do-rag assholes had tried to gang rape him. Back then, he didn’t think about what to do; he just reacted. Fast and hard.
He whipped a straight, hard punch to Rita’s throat, just like Griff had taught him.
Rita’s eyes bulged out and she collapsed to the floor, sucking desperately for air through her crushed larynx.
He knew the cow would die soon. It would be in agony at his feet, twisting and flopping around as her brown face turned a dark shade of blue, or maybe even purple. Rita deserved that kind of rotten death, but he didn’t want Eddie to have to live with that, too. Eddie was too soft, and the big-hearted goof still loved his wife. He couldn’t let his friend think Rita had died gasping and flailing around on the floor, the terror in her eyes screaming out the agony of her slow, gruesome death.
Deep down, though, that’s exactly what
wanted to see.
He guessed he must be more like Griff than he’d thought. Griff loved to see every little bit of the pain he inflicted. And he liked blood more than a fucking mosquito.
He let Rita be for a few seconds, enjoying the sight of her contorting body. But enough was enough. He had to finish her and get out.
Turning around, he grabbed the bat Eddie kept in the umbrella stand by the door. It felt right in his hands—a good fit, the right weight. He and Eddie had screwed around with that bat at the local diamond, taking turns belting balls over the outfield fence as the kids who hung around the park cheered their hero Eddie and asked him who the hell the little guy was. Eddie always told them his friend was a pretty damn good player. Maybe even good enough to be a pro.
Eddie was the only one who ever told him that since his dad died.
The horror in Rita’s eyes gripped him as he stood over her thrashing body, smacking the bat into his palm. Her look sent a shot of something fantastic through his gut, twisting it into a tight coil.
“Goodbye, Rita.” He brought the bat down on her forehead, just like he used to split fire logs back home.
The deep thud and the splash of blood from her forehead must have sent some more shots of adrenaline through him, because he suddenly felt dizzy. Almost high. And he knew he’d feel even more juiced if he whacked her a few more times.
He shook his head and threw the bat down onto the scuffed hardwood floor. Only a sick son of a bitch would smash up a dead body.
He sat down for a minute on the cheap, shiny sofa in the living room and thought about the mess in the hallway. He knew the cops would figure Eddie had murdered his wife, especially since they’d made two domestic disturbance visits to this shitbox rental house already this season. But his buddy had an airtight alibi. The team had the night off, so a bunch of the guys had gotten together for beer and poker at Dustin Flatt’s place. Those games always went on past midnight.
That’s why he’d picked tonight to have it out with Rita. No way would he ever let Eddie take the fall for this.
He was glad he’d come prepared, taking precautions like parking six blocks away and wearing black clothes and a dumb floppy hat that half covered his face. Maybe some nosy-ass neighbor had seen him stroll up Eddie’s walk. But on a dark night, what were the chances a neighbor could ID him?
Besides, he had no motive for killing Rita. None the cops would ever figure out, anyway.
Satisfied, he came to his feet. Eddie wouldn’t be back for a couple of hours. He picked up the bat—the barrel end covered with Rita’s blood and a few strands of her curly, black hair—and used his jacket to wipe his prints from the handle. Then he dropped it beside her fucked-up head. Stepping over her and dodging the spreading pool of blood, he pulled a pair of batting gloves from his jacket pocket and yanked them on as he headed through the kitchen to the back door. He opened the door and turned the lock mechanism in the handle before stepping outside. After pushing the door shut, he jimmied the cheap lockset with a shim, making sure he left a few scratches.
Back inside, he rifled through Rita’s purse, pulling out her money and credit cards before he tossed the house. In the master bedroom he found a stash of twenties in a drawer with Eddie’s underwear and socks. Despite a stab of guilt, he pocketed the cash. He had to. Self-respecting burglars were thorough.
He took one last look at Rita. Even with her head caved in, you could still tell she’d been sexy, with her big lips and big tits and sweet ass. A hottie, like so many of the players’ wives.
Sexy, but a mean, rotten bitch who didn’t give a shit about her husband.
After one last look around, he slipped out the back door and scrambled over the fence to the empty field that bordered the subdivision of cheap suburban houses.
Nothing stood in Eddie’s way now. He’d given his friend back his freedom and his future.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Wednesday, July 28
The tall, broad-shouldered man strode through the double sliding doors of the hospital as if he owned the place, and suddenly Amy Robitaille felt like she was sixteen again. Back home in Montreal with her girlfriends. She didn’t much care for the feeling and almost stumbled over her own feet in surprise.
. The last time she’d seen the man in the flesh had been when her girlfriends had dragged her to a late season Montreal Expos baseball game to moon over him.
Le Grand Luc
, the player soon to be named rookie of the year, already darling of the team’s faithful, and heartthrob to practically every silly female in Quebec.
Amy almost laughed. Could it really be fifteen years ago? She felt like she’d aged a half-century in the meantime. But the years had treated Beckett with an easy hand. He was still as hot as the twenty-two year old superstar whose talent and ambition had overshadowed even Montreal’s hockey stars for a few years. Maybe even hotter. Maturity sat well on his lean, handsome features.
As he strode through the lobby in her general direction, she automatically gave him a quick scan. She was used to working with big men—tall, burly cops who threw off guy hormones like a wet dog shakes off water. But Beckett, as big as he was, had more than size and GQ looks. He had the smooth grace of the gifted athlete. And, deep inside, in a place she kept under lock and key, something responded to all that masculine perfection and power, sending a flush of unwelcome heat purring through her body.