Home > Secrets Never Die (Morgan Dane #5)(2)

Secrets Never Die (Morgan Dane #5)(2)
Author: Melinda Leigh

“Know this: no matter what you do, no matter where you go, I’m going to find you and kill you.” The sentence was delivered with the same cold-blooded calm that had been in the killer’s eyes when he’d shot Paul.

The faint squeak of a floorboard in the hall nearly made Evan’s bladder give way. He concentrated for a second until it passed. Then he stepped over the glass, easing his way back into the corridor that led to the den.

He slipped into the room. Paul’s eyes stared blankly at the ceiling. Tears and snot ran down Evan’s face as he skirted the bloodstained carpet. Standing next to Paul, he searched his pockets. Keys. He pulled them out, wrapping his fingers around them to keep them from jingling.

“Where are you?” the voice called, irritation clipping the words. “You’re just dragging this out.”

Evan eased to the back door. He held Paul’s keys in his palm, his shaking fingers finding the right key. He held the rest of Paul’s keys quiet as he unlocked the dead bolt. The hinges groaned as he began to open the door.

“I’m going to kill you. You can’t get away from me.” The man was in the doorway between the kitchen and rear hall. He raised his gun. “You’re a dead man.”

Evan flung open the door. The gunshot rang out. A lick of hot pain sliced through Evan’s arm. He grabbed his bicep, automatically feeling for the wound. His hand came away wet, but his arm had gone numb. He felt nothing.

“Don’t think anyone can hide you,” the man called out the door. “I will find you. I will hunt you down.”

Evan sprinted across the backyard, grabbing the top of the tall fence and swinging his legs up and over. He landed hard on the other side.

Was the killer chasing him?

Evan didn’t stop to find out. He bolted away from the house, crashing through the underbrush like a panicked deer. He couldn’t see the ground in front of him in the dark. Sticker bushes pulled at his feet and legs. His foot snagged, and he went down on his knees. He felt no pain as he shoved himself back onto his feet and kept moving.

After a short sprint, he hit the game trail he and Paul had used to hike to the lake. It was the same path that the deer and other wild animals used to access the water. The open trail let him turn on some speed, though the ground was uneven. He tripped twice but regained his footing without falling. He didn’t know how long he ran, but he didn’t slow until he thought his lungs would explode.

The physical movement was a relief. Like every coward, he was more comfortable with flight than fight.

He stopped in the center of the trail. Darkness closed around him. Something rustled the branches. The wind? He scanned the woods, but the sky was overcast, emitting little natural light. He strained for additional sound but heard nothing.

His hands patted his jeans pockets. His phone, which had been in his back pocket, was gone.

Did it matter? Who would he call?

The cops?

Paul had been a former cop. He’d been trained and armed. And this man had killed him. Evan remembered the flash of a badge at the man’s belt. Evan couldn’t trust the police to keep him safe.

The killer was a cop.

And Evan could identify him. He couldn’t call his mom. She’d try to protect him, and she’d become a target too. There was no way he would endanger her. He had to stay far away.

The trail spilled onto the road. Evan came to a stop and stood still, lungs heaving, trying to listen for footsteps over the sound of his ragged breathing.

He didn’t hear anyone behind him.

Evan debated. If he crossed the road and continued on the trail, he would end up at an abandoned campground. He and Paul had hiked through it a few weeks back. There had been a few canoes and kayaks. One of them might float. Evan could get away faster on the water. But where would he go?

On the other hand, if he followed the road, he would eventually see a car. He could get help. His arm throbbed in rhythm with his pulse, the pain strong enough to nauseate him. His wound needed treatment. But who could he trust at this point?

The sound of an engine approached. But as the engine came closer, he backed into the shadow of the trees.

Headlights appeared. The vehicle approached too slowly, as if the driver were looking for something.

Or someone.

He was afraid to move. He didn’t want to draw attention. The vehicle crawled by. It was a dark sedan. Was it the same one that had been parked across the street from his house? Evan’s pulse kick-started. The sedan stopped. His heartbeat scrambled inside his chest like a fawn trying to gain traction on icy ground.

Behind him, he heard the sound of a car door opening and closing. He’d been seen. As he turned to run, the killer’s words echoed in his head.

I will hunt you down.

Chapter Two

Morgan Dane woke to the buzz of a cell phone. Raising her head, she glanced at the clock. One thirty-nine a.m. As a defense attorney, she occasionally received middle-of-the-night calls. People were arrested twenty-four hours a day. But a stomach virus had been making the rounds at the grammar school, and the two oldest of her three daughters had suffered through the bug. This was the first night in four that all her children were sleeping, and her head was as heavy as a bowling ball from lack of sleep.

Her hand was halfway to the cell phone charging on her nightstand when a second vibration, clearly from the other side of the bed, told her the call was for her fiancé, private investigator Lance Kruger.

Nudging Lance, she let her head drop back to the pillow. He was already reaching for his own phone. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and sat on the edge of the mattress.

“Lance Kruger.” His body stiffened. “Did you call 911? Do that now. I’ll be right there.”

The alarm in his tone roused Morgan. She levered up on one elbow.

Lance set the phone back on the nightstand, switched on the bedside lamp, and stood. Cotton pajama bottoms rode low on his hips. Morgan’s French bulldog, Snoozer, burrowed under the covers. Dog number two, a bulldog mix named Rocket, raised her head and pricked her ears at the activity.

Morgan sat up. “Who was that?”

“Evan Meade’s mother, Tina.” Lance rushed for the adjoining bathroom, grabbing a pair of pants from a chair on the way. “Do you have anything important on your calendar this morning?”

“Nothing I can’t reschedule.” Morgan tossed back the covers.

Lance coached a hockey team of at-risk youths, a role that had started when he’d been an officer with the Scarlet Falls PD. Even after a bullet had ended his career on the police force, Lance continued as coach. More importantly, he was a mentor to the troubled kids. Since she and Lance had started dating last fall, Morgan had handled most of the boys’ legal issues. “Is Evan in trouble?”

Zipping his black cargo pants, Lance hustled out of the bathroom. His blond hair was short enough that brushing one hand across the top was enough to settle it into place.

“What happened with Evan?” Assuming the boy had gotten himself arrested for something stupid, which was the usual reason one of the hockey parents called Lance, Morgan hurried past him and took a quick turn in the bathroom. Thirty seconds later, she opened her closet, grabbed a pair of black slacks, and stepped into them.

Lance tugged a gray T-shirt over his head. Tall, jacked, and grim-faced, he wore the tactical look well. “Tina came home from work. She found Paul shot to death and Evan missing.”

“Paul is dead?” Shock froze Morgan’s fingers for a heartbeat, then she continued buckling her belt. She’d briefly spoken to Tina’s new husband a few times during hockey games or when he’d picked up Evan from the rink.

Lance sat on the chair to put on his boots. “Yes. That’s all she said. When I told her to call 911, she hung up.”

“She didn’t do that first?” Odd. Morgan put on a white cotton blouse and shoved her feet into a pair of black pumps.

“No. She was upset.” Lance retrieved their handguns from the safe in the closet.

If Morgan had found a dead body, her automatic reaction would have been to call the police.

He holstered his gun at his hip and tucked it under his shirt. “I’ll start the Jeep.”

Morgan took her Glock and did the same. She grabbed her black blazer from the closet and her giant tote bag from the dresser. “I’ll be out in one minute.”

Her live-in nanny slept in the room down the hall, across from the bedroom that Morgan’s three little girls shared. She tapped on the door. At Gianna’s sleepy “yes,” Morgan poked her head into the room and gave her the news.

In an attempt to isolate the youngest from her contagious siblings, Morgan had put three-year-old Sophie in Gianna’s room. Morgan had made a bed on an inflatable mattress, but the little girl had climbed into bed with her nanny and stolen most of it. For a small and wiry child, she could take up a surprisingly large amount of space. Poor Gianna slept on her side in the remaining eight inches.

The dogs slipped through the open door, jumped onto Gianna’s bed, and curled up around Sophie’s sprawled limbs. Gianna responded to Morgan with a nod, rolled over, and tried to pull the edge of the blanket over her shoulders, but the child and dogs weighed it down and she gave up.

Closing Gianna’s door, Morgan turned and went into the girls’ room. Five-year-old Mia slept in a pile of stuffed animals, her loyal zebra tucked under one arm. Ava, at age six, barely moved in her sleep. Her covers were as tidy as when she’d gone to bed. Even her teddy bear was neatly tucked in. Morgan pressed a light kiss to each of their foreheads to check for fevers. Both were cool. A rush of love filled her chest and blurred her vision. She wiped a tear from her eye. She really needed some sleep.

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