Authors: T. L. Haddix
“So, Counselor, to summarize, I have a man to whom I am deeply attached and attracted, who is deeply attached and attracted to me. This man wants to learn
how to make love. This man wants me despite knowing I can’t have children, and despite all the other personal baggage I carry. And I get to shape this same man into the perfect lover. Does that cover all the bases pretty well?” she asked, her mouth against his ear.
He nodded vigorously. “Well, you forgot the sweet but psychotic cat,” he said as Murphy ran across the room like all the demons of hell were pursuing him. He felt, as well as heard, Annie’s laughter.
“Okay, an addendum. He’s willing to share his cat.” She sat back, and the bra slipped down on her chest, uncovering her breasts. With an easy movement, she pulled it off the rest of the way, and Chase could no sooner have stopped his eyes from falling to her breasts than he could have stopped the sun from rising.
“God, you’re beautiful,” he whispered, his tone reverent. Annie placed her hands over his where they rested on her waist and slid them up to cover her breasts. His groan was tortured, and he closed his eyes at the shaft of pleasure that pierced him. She kept her hands over his, waiting until he opened his eyes again and looked at her.
“I’ve never felt so much for anyone, Chase. Ever. Not Rafe, not anyone since. I feel so much for you, it scares me, but I need to say something to you. I need you to hear it. I love you.” Chase’s eyes flew to hers. She nodded. “It scares the crap out of me, but there it is. I love you.”
“Annie… you just leave me speechless.” He pulled her close and buried his face in her neck. “Do you have any idea what you mean to me?”
“Some idea.” She turned her face, and their lips met. For long, heated moments, they kissed. Annie reluctantly pulled back.
“Chase, would you like to go upstairs with me?” she asked. “Absolutely no pressure, just you and me, enjoying each other. What happens, happens.”
For a moment, he didn’t think he could answer. He finally found his voice, and said, “I’ve never wanted anything more in my life. I mean this, Annie, you’re everything to me.”
She stood and held her hands out to him. Without hesitation, he grasped her hands and rose. Unable to resist, he pulled her in for another kiss. Before long they were both breathing hard, and Chase’s shirt met the same fate as Annie’s. The sensations and the heat were too much for him, and the need almost brought him to his knees. He managed to pull back and let her lead him to the stairs. He stopped her on the first step and cupped a hand around her neck to draw her close.
He rested his forehead against hers and spoke. “No matter how well or how badly tonight turns out, I want you to know something,” he said, his voice rough. “Whatever happens tonight, I’m glad I waited. I’m glad this is going to happen with you. I mean that.” He pressed a hard, fast kiss to her lips and, as they started up the stairs, he realized it was true. All the years, all the pain and loneliness, it all melted away as he climbed the stairs next to Annie.
Not too many miles away from Chase and Annie, the killer sat in a bar, nursing his second beer of the evening. He was trying to decide whether he wanted to bother driving to Cincinnati that night. It had been a long week while he waited for the payoff from his carefully laid plans. The thought of picking up a prostitute to blow off some steam held a lot of appeal. It was a ninety minute trip one-way, but he supposed he could call in sick the next day.
Just as he decided to make the drive, one of his old high-school classmates, Joe, came in, followed closely by a woman the killer assumed was his date. Joe was a dispatcher with the state police. When he saw him sitting at the bar, Joe lifted his hand in a wave and made a beeline for him. The killer settled back down on his barstool with a sigh and plastered a fake grin on his face.
“Hey, man,” Joe said. “Haven’t seen you in a while. How’ve you been?”
The two men shook hands, and the killer nodded at the woman who was clinging tightly to Joe’s arm. “I’ve been busy, Joe,” he replied. “You know how it is. Work, work, and work some more.”
Joe introduced his date. “She’s a dispatcher with the Olman County Sheriff’s Department,” he said. “It was a rough day down there today.”
“Oh?” he responded, trying to show the appropriate interest but no more, even though his adrenaline had started flowing at the man’s words. “How so?”
“Big blow-up between the sheriff and some out-of-town detective,” the woman said. She placed her drink order, and it was all the killer could do to not scream at her to finish the story. To his relief, Joe picked up the tale.
“Yeah, apparently the guy was there questioning one of the Hudsons about a murder. Sheriff Dixon didn’t take too kindly to it, and they just about came to blows.”
His girlfriend corrected him. “It wasn’t quite like that, Joe, I told you.”
Joe shrugged dismissively. “Whatever. Point is, the Hudson family slipped out of justice’s grasp once again. Must be nice to be able to buy your own sheriff.”
His girlfriend turned on him angrily. “Damn you, Joe. I’ve had it with your attitude. The Hudsons are nice people, and nobody owns Wyatt Dixon!” Before Joe could stop her, she stalked away. “I’m going home,” she yelled back from the door. “You can go fuck yourself!”
Joe didn’t even make a token protest, and the two men watched as she stalked out the door. Joe sighed. “Plenty more where she came from. Fucking Hudsons.”
The killer gestured for a refill, hiding the fury rising inside him. “So I guess they didn’t arrest the guy?”
Joe shook his head and snorted. “Are you kidding me, man?” he asked. “The guy’s probably going to literally get away with murder. Makes me sick to watch, rich SOB.”
When his drink came, he downed most of it in one gulp, wincing at the bite of the alcohol. “I know what you mean,” he said. He pulled out his wallet and laid some cash on the bar. As he stood, he slapped Joe on the shoulder.
“You heading out?” Joe asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “Long day tomorrow.” He left the bar, barely making it outside before his fury overwhelmed him. He slammed a fist into the door panel of a nearby truck, not feeling the pain as it traveled up his arm. With all the evidence he had planted, the trails he had laid, the careful planning, Chase Hudson should be rotting in jail.
More angry than he could ever remember being, the killer got in his truck. He started the engine and peeled out of the parking lot, headed for Cincinnati. He had no choice now. The demon was riding him hard. It wouldn’t be satisfied until he had blood on his hands.
~ * * * ~
Ten minutes into the drive, his headlights picked out a lone figure walking along the side of the road. It was a woman, he saw as he got closer, scantily clad in a short black skirt and tube top. She was carrying a pair of high heels in one hand and, every few steps, she would hop as her bare feet hit a gravel or rock that she didn’t see in the dark. The killer looked in his mirrors and realized just how deserted this section of the highway was. Making a split-second decision, he passed the woman and pulled over. In the glow of his taillights he saw her hesitate, but then she sped up her stride, bouncing up to the passenger-side window, which he had lowered. When she leaned in the window, the smell of alcohol drifted in. The killer smiled, and the woman smiled back.
“Where are you headed, handsome?” she asked, her voice slightly slurred.
“Depends,” he told her. “Where do you need to go?”
“Oh, up the road a little ways to a friend’s,” she said. “Think you could give me a ride, darlin’?” She licked her lips and lowered her gaze to his crotch.
A slow, wicked grin slid across his face. “Baby, I can give you a ride you’ll never forget. Hop in.” As the woman opened the door and climbed into the truck, he glanced around, hardly able to believe his luck. Not a single vehicle had come along during the time they’d been talking, and as he pulled away from the side of the road, he laughed.
“You saved me from a long drive, sweetheart,” he told his passenger. “I’ll be sure to thank you properly for that. Are you from these parts?”
She giggled. “Parts… I’ll bet you’ve got some parts, handsome. Yeah, I’m from here. Why?” The killer out held his arm, and she scooted across the seats to sit beside him. When she reached for his belt buckle straight away, he sucked in a breath.
“Where’s a good place for me to park while we have a little fun?” he asked as she laid her head in his lap. He couldn’t prevent a moan as she put her mouth to use. She lifted her head to answer his question.
“Just about a mile up the road, you’ll pass a farm house with a big, red barn. About a half-mile past that, there’s a little lane. You can pull down there.” She returned to what she had started, and he moaned again. It looked like the night wouldn’t be quite the waste he had thought it would be.
~ * * * ~
When the killer had left the bar earlier, he had been furious and angry. That wasn’t a spot on how he felt now. It hadn’t taken long for his prediction about the night improving to go horribly awry.
Things had been going well. The woman he had picked up turned out to be exactly what he thought she was. He’d followed her directions to the deserted lane, and the fun had continued. The pertinent articles of clothing had been removed, and he had been happily pounding away. He had almost decided to be generous, to just get rough with the woman and not kill her, but he found his hands closing around her throat as his climax approached. Lost in the moment, his eyes locked on hers as his hands tightened; he misread the signs of her growing panic. He didn’t react in time, and before he could stop her, she was clawing at his arms and hands with her fingernails, raking his skin into a bloody mess.
“Shit!” he yelled, and let go of her throat to grab at her hands. “Stop it, you stupid bitch. Look what you’ve done!” he howled. The woman tried to scream, but the only sound that came out of her bruised throat was a hoarse croak. The strength of her struggles was increasing, and he knew he had to regain control of the situation. He drew his arm back and slammed his fist into her face. Blood from her shattered nose spurted everywhere, and her hoarse screams turned into a sickening gurgle as the blood slid down her throat, choking her. The blow had the desired effect, and her struggles stopped. Her low moan rose through the truck’s cab as the pain from the broken nose spread across her face.
“Shit, shit, shit!” he cursed, tugging his hands through his hair as his mind raced frantically. When he realized he had just smeared blood all over himself, his rage increased beyond all reason. He felt himself go utterly still inside, as if time itself stopped. He watched from outside his own body as he dragged the woman out the door of the truck and onto the open ground. He saw his hands, his feet, his teeth, as they pummeled, kicked, and bit into her flesh, but he couldn’t feel it. On and on, the assault went, until finally, the demon riding his back let go. He slumped down on the grass beside the now lifeless body, and a peace stole over him.
After a while, he stirred and roused himself to get to his feet. He looked down at the savagely mutilated body lying on the gravel underneath his feet. A primal thrill shot down his spine, and he erupted in a climax so fierce it dimmed his vision. The spasms ended, and he reached down to fasten his pants. He suddenly realized he was covered in blood and tissue, among other things.
Now that the rage had passed, he began to understand just how big a problem he had. He glanced around and saw that the lane led down to a small pond. Deciding that getting some of the blood off was priority number one, he started in that direction. For an instant, he thought about dragging the body along, but it just seemed like too much effort. He used a booted foot to push her a little further away from the truck, not wanting to run over her corpse when he left. Dismissing the woman from his mind, he headed down the path toward the pond.
It was a clear night, the storm having passed through earlier in the evening. The half-moon lit his way as he carefully slipped into the water, stopping when it reached a level just above his waist. He rinsed off as best he could, ducking down under the water to rinse his face. The scratches on his hands and arms burned as the water hit them, and he drew in a hissing breath at the pain. When he was satisfied with the amount of blood he had removed, he climbed out and went back to his truck. He didn’t even glance at the body as he passed.