Home > Say You're Sorry (Romantic Suspense #22)(4)

Say You're Sorry (Romantic Suspense #22)(4)
Karen Rose

“No.”

A single word. How could one single word be filled with so much pain?

Gideon swallowed. “I mostly wanted to make sure you were all right.”

Although he knew she wasn’t all right. She would never be. Neither of them would ever be totally all right. How could they be?

“I’m okay,” she said, but he didn’t believe her. She didn’t sound like she even believed herself. “You?”

“Same old, same old.” He hesitated, then murmured, “Take care of yourself, Mercy.”

“You too,” she said sadly. “Good night.”

The phone clicked in his ear and Gideon took a moment to calm his racing heart, to settle his churning gut. To fight back the tears that threatened every time he talked to his sister. To wish that things could be different.

He went to the shelf beside his TV, which was still paused on Fixer Upper. On the shelf was a polished box made of cherrywood, a gift that Irina and Karl Sokolov had given him for Christmas, at least five years before. Inside the box were his cuff links, a few ticket stubs, and a handful of photos. He riffled through the photos until he found the one he needed. Pocketing it, he retrieved his Glock from his gun safe, got into his car, and headed for downtown Sac.

It looked like he’d finally be meeting Daisy Dawson after all. At least Irina Sokolov would be pleased.

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 10:30 P.M.

Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. He drew his front door open wider so that he could slam it hard, but his hand stilled as he resisted the urge. No need to call attention to himself. The Neighborhood Watch group kept their eyes and ears peeled for loud noises and signs of domestic disturbances. The nosy neighbors were the only things he truly hated about living in his otherwise perfect little Midtown neighborhood. All he needed was for someone to call 911 on him for something he hadn’t actually done.

He headed to the basement and slammed that door behind him, effectively closing himself off from the rest of the world. The basement was the one thing he loved the most about his house. It was tied with the fact that he didn’t have to share space with Sydney any longer.

He’d soundproofed his basement, bricking over all doors and windows and installing enough insulation to create a little cocoon. No scream would reach prying ears, even those pressed right up against the outside wall. Not that he’d made that simple, either. His rosebushes had enormous thorns. He’d chosen the varieties for that very reason. Luckily, they were pretty, too. Nobody would be able to get close enough to put their ear to the wall, even if they wanted to.

Now he trusted his soundproofing and keep-away thorns to do their jobs because he needed to scream. He did, venting his frustration at the fucked-up mess this night had become. He screamed until his throat hurt and his head throbbed.

But it wasn’t enough. It was never enough. Only one thing took off the edge, and one thing only. And that one thing had escaped him tonight.

He glared at the bed in the corner, neatly made up and ready for the guest that would not be partaking of his hospitality. Damn that blond bitch. He hadn’t expected her to fight back. At least not successfully. Someone had taught her well.

That fucking dog. Its yapping had distracted him. I should have just shot the stupid thing. His hesitation had ruined his plan for tonight, might even have put him in jeopardy. He’d need to take care of the blonde. He didn’t think she could identify him, but he’d spoken to her. And she’d been way too savvy for her own good, no matter that she’d first appeared to be just another teenager.

She hadn’t been that young, though. Close up, he’d seen her eyes. The grim determination that came from experience. She had old eyes. And she’d seen enough of him that he needed to be worried about her. He’d have to get rid of her.

Of course, he had to find out who she was first. He’d need to wait until the next morning to look at the log of all the calls taken by 911.

Stripping off his clothes, he shoved them in a bag to be burned. He’d already discarded the stocking he’d worn over his face as well as the coat and gloves. Those he’d soaked in gasoline and set on fire, burning them in the barbecue grill of a deserted park until they were stinking blobs of melted plastic.

The stocking mask had been a huge mistake. He’d known it in the back of his mind the whole time he was buying the stockings, prepping, and dragging the mask over his head. He usually carried at least one disguise in his duffel bag, but he hadn’t had it with him when he’d left the house that morning to go to work.

It was just supposed to have been a staff meeting. No big.

But it was big. It was a disaster. He hadn’t been prepared for the news. For how it would feel, everyone staring at him with pity because his own father was selling the company, putting them all out of a job. That his father hadn’t even had the nerve to face them himself, sending his assistant to deliver the proclamation that the new owners would be replacing them with their own people, that the current employees would be receiving severance benefits depending on how long they’d been with the company.

He hadn’t been prepared for how much it had ripped him apart. How his world had just collapsed. His rage had taken over and it was all he’d been able to do to escape the meeting without breaking his father’s assistant into little pieces.

He’d needed something—or someone—on which to vent his rage, and he’d needed it right then. Hell, he needed it right now. Fucking blond bitch.

He stepped into the bathroom he’d installed in the basement and stared at his reflection. “Goddammit,” he hissed as the full impact of what he was seeing hit him hard.

Deep red scratches scored his flesh, which was bad enough. Forensics would have skin samples. They’ll have my DNA.

But even worse . . . The locket was missing. The moment rushed back, stealing his breath. It had been when the blonde had grabbed for a hold on his coat, right before she’d kneed him in the nuts.

“Bitch.” She’d be so sorry she’d done that. Once he got his hands on her . . . He fantasized her on her knees, begging his forgiveness. She’d tell him she was sorry. They always said they were sorry. Eventually.

More pressing was the likelihood that the police would find his fingerprints on the locket. He’d caught himself rubbing the silver heart from time to time since taking it from his last victim. But he’d worn gloves tonight, so hopefully his prints had been rubbed off.

Either way, they’d have to catch him first before using the physical evidence against him. He wouldn’t be popping up in any of their databases. I just won’t get caught. Simple enough.

He started the shower and stepped under the spray, wishing he weren’t on duty for the next few days. Otherwise he’d smoke some weed and calm down. But there was always a chance that he’d be chosen for a random drug test, which would pick that shit up.

He ran his hands over the scratches at the base of his throat, hoping whatever they’d scrape from under the bitch’s nails wouldn’t be too damning. He needed to figure out how much the cops knew.

He was edgy. Too jumpy. He needed to calm the fuck down. He needed a woman in the basement bed. Now he wished he hadn’t dispatched the last one so quickly. He normally kept them alive for a long time, using them to slake his rage, but Miriam had made him so furious. So get yourself another houseguest. That he could do.

Tomorrow. After work. You can hunt tomorrow. Take off the edge. And then his mind would be clear and he’d figure out how to eliminate the blonde.

He’d been operating under the radar for years. He wasn’t about to allow a loose end to jeopardize that now.

Tonight, he needed to sleep. He left the basement, taking the stairs two at a time. Hopefully, a run would tire him out enough to sleep.

He opened the back door and clucked his tongue. “Mutt,” he called softly. “Come here, boy.” The Airedale mix trotted in from the backyard, dropping to sit just inside the kitchen door, lifting his paws, one at a time, so that they could be dried off. Mutt was very smart. He’d learned that trick within days of being brought home.

He wondered if Mutt’s previous owner had done the same. It was a possibility. Seattle was known for its rain and the woman who’d been walking him had seemed the fastidious type. Janice Fiddler had been her name. He’d been unable to transport Janice to his basement guest room, finishing her off in her own basement instead, but she’d provided him with the best of souvenirs.

Mutt was good company.

TWO

SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 10:30 P.M.

Gideon found Rafe Sokolov leaning against the wall outside one of the SacPD interview rooms, waiting for him. Big and blond with a relaxed air that made him appear far younger than he really was, Rafe always looked more like a surfing frat boy than a cop. But few cops were as smart and there was no one on the planet Gideon trusted more.

Rafe gave him a considering look. “Did you talk to Mercy?”

“Yeah. Right after I hung up with you.”

“Figured as much. She okay?”

Gideon shrugged. “As okay as she can be.”

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