Home > Say You're Sorry (Morgan Dane #1)(9)

Say You're Sorry (Morgan Dane #1)(9)
Author: Melinda Leigh

Lance took out his phone. “I’ll call the SFPD and let them know we found the car.”

“We should probably call Nick and see if he’s seen her.”

Lance shook his head. “Let the police handle that in case there’s a problem.”

“A problem?”

“Someone slashed all her tires.” His eyes were flat in the darkness as he turned away.

“Nick wouldn’t do that.” But Morgan didn’t make the call.

While Lance called the police, she circled the vehicle, scanning the car and the ground around it for clues. Something metal glinted in the dirt a dozen feet away: a set of keys. The largest was a Honda ignition key. Why would Tessa’s keys be on the ground? If she dropped them while walking away . . .

Morgan walked past the keys. She played the beam of her flashlight over the ground and saw something pink on a mossy tree root closer to the lake. She walked closer. A cell phone. She stooped to pick it up. There was something dark spattered on it.

The wind shifted, and a sense of vulnerability swept over Morgan. Shivering, she glanced around at the dark woods. Branches and their shadows swayed in the dark.

She called back to the clearing. “Lance?”

The hairs on the back of her neck twitched. Had Tessa gone this way? Morgan could see her accidentally dropping either her keys or her phone, but both? She glanced back down at the dark red dots on the phone case.


And Morgan knew.

Tessa hadn’t been walking away. She’d been running.

Morgan followed an imaginary arrow that connected the two objects. Underbrush plucked at her jeans as she scanned the ground but saw nothing but dirt, moss, and dead leaves. Continuing in the same direction, a game trail led toward the lake.

“Morgan, where are you?” Lance called from the clearing. “Did you find something?”

A twig snapped as he approached. She jumped but didn’t answer. Every cell in her body was screaming that something was wrong.

Very wrong.

“I’m here.” She waited until she heard Lance behind her, then followed the trail toward the lake. Cattails rose from the weeds as she neared the water. The ground turned marshy and sucked at her feet. Directly ahead, her flashlight paused on some broken cattails.

Was that blue cloth?

“We should wait for the police,” Lance said behind her.

“I see something.” She moved two steps closer, her need to know warring with her sense of dread. Apprehension prickled at her spine as she moved closer, her feet dragging in the mud as if they knew she wasn’t going to like what she saw.

Morgan took another step forward. The cloth was blue. Denim blue. The sleeve of a jacket much like the one she was wearing. The beam of her light caught a length of long, dark hair. Her stomach went cold.


The cattails had nearly closed over her.

“I found her!” She rushed forward. Six feet from the girl, she froze. Morgan moved the light over the girl’s body. Blood on her torso had dried to a dark red. Lance’s arm swept out to block her path.

“Don’t go any closer,” he said. “You’ll contaminate the scene.”

“But what if she’s . . .” Even as she said it, Morgan knew Tessa wasn’t alive. There was simply too much blood.

“She’s not.” Lance’s voice softened.

The flashlight shook in Morgan’s hand. She leaned forward to see Tessa’s face. Tremors spread through Morgan’s body, yet she couldn’t take her eyes off the trembling light and what it illuminated.

She went cold from the inside out, as if her heart was pumping slush through her veins.

Lance turned to face her and planted himself between her and Tessa. “Look at me, Morgan.”

But even as she stared at the center of his chest, her mind projected its own image. Tessa, dropping her keys, trying to get into her car, seeing her flat tires, running through the woods.

Something—or someone—chasing her.

Catching her near the lake.

“Morgan.” Lance’s hands settled on her biceps. His fingers squeezed gently. “Come on. Look. At. Me.”

But her muscles had frozen. Lance gave her a gentle shake. She blinked and looked up. In the moonlight, his lean face was all sharp angles and shadows, with an underlying paleness that suggested he wasn’t as calm as he wanted to be. She felt the assessing scrape of his gaze across her face.

When he spoke, his voice was hoarse with pain rather than full of conviction. “It’s going to be OK.”

But she knew it wouldn’t, couldn’t be all right.

She looked past him, her eyes pulled back to the sight of Tessa, her body slashed to fleshy ribbons and covered in dried blood. Her face was gray and her once warm brown eyes stared at the night sky.

Across her forehead, rusty red letters spelled a single word.


Chapter Six

“Back up.” Lance steered Morgan away from the body.

Part of him wanted to take a closer look. Another part wanted to run like hell. From the brief glimpse he’d gotten of the body, it was a particularly nasty scene.

Not that it mattered. He had no business getting near that body. He wasn’t a cop anymore, and the SFPD was en route.

Under his hands, Morgan’s body shook, and her teeth chattered. Worry for her quickly wiped out any concern for himself. This wasn’t his first death scene, but as a former assistant prosecutor, Morgan’s experience with homicides would be one step removed. Viewing photos was not the same as seeing the body in situ.

He guided her toward his Jeep. He opened the hatchback and took out a warm jacket. He helped her into it. The sleeves covered her hands, and the hem fell to her thighs.

Before he could think, he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her to his chest. She fit against him perfectly. As wrong as the scene behind him was, having Morgan in his arms was right, and he took as much comfort from the embrace as he gave.

Morgan stirred, talking to his chest. “What happened to her?”

Reluctantly, he stepped back and zipped the jacket to her chin. “It is way too early for theories. We’d be guessing. Let’s wait for facts.” He appealed to the lawyer in her.

“You’re right.” But her blue eyes were dark pools, and her face had gone paler than the moon.

Eyes drifting toward the trees, Morgan took a huge gulp of air. “Could he still be out there?”

“I doubt it.” But he kept scanning the surrounding trees just in case. He’d only gotten a brief look at the corpse, but the blood smeared on her skin had appeared dark and dry. “I suspect she’s been dead more than a few hours.”

Fifteen minutes later, approaching strobe lights swirled in the dark. A patrol vehicle parked next to the Jeep, and Carl got out, his face grim. They didn’t bother with greetings. Lance showed Carl the body.

“Shit.” Carl turned back toward his cruiser.

By the time the first gray of pre-dawn brightened the scene, two more patrol cars, the medical examiner, and a forensic team had arrived. The team hung back, waiting for the ME to do his thing. Kit in hand, the ME trudged across the clearing. His white coveralls looked ghostly in the gray light. Despite the number of personnel, the clearing was eerily quiet. Normally, bad jokes would bounce around a death scene. Gallows humor was a favorite coping mechanism, but not when the victim was a kid.

A dark blue unmarked police car parked at the end of the row. Two figures got out.

Detectives Brody McNamara and Stella Dane hurried down the tract.

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