When all eyes are on you, there’s nowhere to run…except TOWARD the truth.
Crime-scene photographer Sara Covington hides behind her camera from the otherworldly ability that’s caused her nothing but grief her whole life. Yet denial doesn’t protect her when she runs across a serial killer with an aural signature she’s never encountered.
Suddenly she’s without a job and with nowhere to turn…except to an enigmatic, sexy-as-hell detective with a disquieting talent for seeing right through her defenses.
Brian Roney’s fascination with Sara compels him to bring her in on the case that ultimately gets her fired. Even though he senses her mutual attraction, something holds her back from stepping into his arms. He’s as determined to find out why she’s pushing him away as he is to keep her safe.
When the killer strikes again, Sara realizes the only way to stop the madman is come clean about her painful past—and embrace the gift she has so long denied. Before the grisly trail of bodies leads right to her doorstep.
Product WarningsA sexy alpha cop, a heroine with a past (and super spidey sense) and a maniac on the loose…what’s not to love?
Copyright © 2010 T. L. Schaefer
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Pure malevolence weighted the air as I pulled my SUV into a No Parking zone and slapped a DPD placard on the dashboard. Guess I’d been right…again. Damn it.
Camera in hand, I walked quickly down the filthy alleyway, trying not to breathe too deeply, but failing miserably. The rank aroma of urine, spilled beer and marijuana permeated the air, and it took everything in me not to spew.
I didn’t because I’m a professional, and I’ve seen and lived through worse. Much worse. But now was really not the time to go there.
My pace slowed as I approached the yellow crime scene tape fluttering feebly in the sweltering, almost-midnight breeze. Kliegs starkly illuminated the scene, showcasing graffiti-riddled walls rising above clumps of refuse that looked disturbingly like used condoms and dirty needles. Yeah, great neighborhood. But in my experience, murderers didn’t traditionally stick to the high-end zip codes.
Enough stalling. I took a tainted breath and slid my tinted glasses off slowly, wincing before the scene had even fully unfolded before my defenseless gaze.
Pure sensation arrowed through me with ripping claws, cleaving my brain before settling into a low throb pounding behind my eyes, making me close them in pure reflex. You’d think I’d be used to it by now.
“You okay, Sara?” The concerned voice came from my left and belonged to Officer Juan Alvarez, the uniform who’d been first on scene and happened to be one of my few friends. Sorta.
I gave him a grunt for an answer and prepared myself for what I would see when I opened my eyes again. I whispered a low prayer that it wouldn’t be as bad as my initial impression, and took the plunge.
As crime scenes go, this one was no better or worse than the hundreds of others I’d visited over my career as a photographer. At least not on the surface. Beneath it was a whole ’nother story.
My stomach rolled as my brain tried to process the lust, hatred and terror imprinted on the next dimension. Sights and sensations only I could see and feel. It was my gift, my curse.
The victim lay naked in the back doorway of a bar that had seen better days, sprawled in a graceless heap, arms and legs askew. Vivid scarlet seeped from the gaping knife wound curving around his neck like a gruesome Valentine’s Day tie. His clothes were folded at his feet in a neat pile, designer dress shoes set tidily on top.
As suddenly and overwhelmingly as the Sight had overtaken my senses, it retreated into a low, almost-nauseating sensation that slid sinuous and shark-like through my senses, that I could taste at the back of my throat.
I pushed the discomfort away, like always, and concentrated on the reality moving, living and breathing around me.
Unseasonable heat blasted off the asphalt and even at ten thirty I could feel sweat rolling down my back, soaking my T-shirt. The sunshine I’d enjoyed this morning had morphed into early summer with a vengeance.
Uniforms and a few plainclothes detectives walked back and forth, cracking jokes. Their morbid humor had pissed me off once upon a time, when I was young and inexperienced. Now I recognized it for what it was—a defense mechanism. I could appreciate that, if nothing else.
I ducked beneath the tape and set myself up for the first shot. Drawing a great, shuddering breath, I raised the Nikon to my eye. At twenty-seven, I’d been shooting crime scenes for almost ten years. You might think that’s way too young to stomach the sights and sounds of death, but I’ve been around it far too long to flinch. Much.
I could easily take the pictures using the two-by-two-inch screen in the body of the digital camera, but that would distill the scene too much, make it too one-dimensional. Using the viewfinder muted the world down to two dimensions, diluting the fourth that had haunted me since childhood, but still giving me the crisp detail I needed to properly shoot the scene.
I snapped the first photo, falling into the clinical detachment that had served me well since the day I discovered the distance a camera could give me. It was with that detachment I saw the victim had been handsome—strikingly so—with a toned, muscular body and pampered hands. How had he ended up here, in the worst part of Dallas? Had he been hunting drugs or “companionship” and found more than he bargained for? Namely, trouble of the worst kind.
I walked around the body carefully, my feet moving of their own volition. I’d shot so many vics before I knew instinctively where I could and couldn’t step in order to preserve the crime scene.
Through the camera, details became vividly clear. The clothes folded at the victim’s feet were pricey, too pricey for this kind of neighborhood. The impression of a rich man’s body was confirmed, as was my initial impression he’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’d’ve had pity for him if he hadn’t put himself in the position in the first place. I had no doubt he’d been here willingly. There was no sign of a struggle, no bruises at his wrists or ankles, no hint of a binding of any sort.
His face was peaceful, as if he’d simply gone to sleep, with not an allusion of horror or pain. The dichotomy of the brutality of the crime and the expression on the vic’s face, the obvious, sprawled positioning of his body, careened through me. This was wrong, very wrong.
When I finally lowered the camera, my heartbeat now ratcheted back to a relatively normal level, one thing struck me again, and it was as bright as a neon sign. And now that my paying job was complete, I could concentrate on the unsettling vision my “gift” afforded me.
The victim’s aura, in direct opposition to his facial expression, screamed of a panic so excruciating it flashed me back a decade, to a place I’d locked away years ago. Bile rose in my throat. I hadn’t barfed at a crime scene since that the first year, and I wouldn’t do it now.
I forced my attention away from the victim and focused on his murderer. Anything had to be better than feeling the vic’s terror roll through me as sure as the tides.
I was wrong.
The killer had left his signature: a thick, viscous smear of purple hovering in the air, an exclamation point of rage and perversion that meandered lazily toward the street. He hadn’t worried about being caught at the scene. His aura was too smug, even as it was tainted by an anger so intense it made my breath catch. More than anything, the anticipation I saw, the pleasure he found in his evil, gave me the shivers. It was an echo of familiarity from my past I wasn’t touching with a ten-foot pole.
My gut told me what I couldn’t tell the cops. This perp had killed before—and would again. The sonofabitch liked it.
I slid my tinted glasses on again and everything faded back to normalcy.
But after what I’d just seen, I had a bad, bad feeling life was going to be anything but normal.