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Scarlet Angel: Chapter 5

LANA

Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind.

—William Shakespeare


“You’re serious,” I say to Logan, grinning as he nods, not the least bit unsure of himself.

“Alright then,” I say on a sigh, matching his bet, pushing in all my Tootsie Rolls. “Show me what you got.”

He grins before putting down his cards. “Read em’ and weep. Flush, baby.”

It’s when he waggles his eyebrows that I start laughing, because he’s pretty cute when he’s competitive.

“Before you get too excited…”

I put my cards down, and his face falls instantly, causing me to laugh harder as he stares in disbelief at my royal flush.

“But…but…but…”

I pull the Tootsie rolls toward me, and he suddenly launches himself at me, tackling me to the bed as I laugh. His lips find the curve of my neck, and I grin as he kisses a small spot there.

“Somehow, you’re cheating,” he says against my neck.

“I just have an awesome poker face,” I say, winding my legs around his waist.

For three days, I’ve had him all to myself. I’ve heard that time heals all wounds, but that’s not true. Falling in love? That’s what makes you forget your anger. If it wasn’t for my brother and father, my quest for vengeance would be over.

The media is all over my lawn, which is concerning. Jake had to sneak in and check my secret kill room, making sure no one had tampered with it. Fortunately, no one realizes there’s a room inside a room.

Craig went to my house and retrieved my purse and some clothes for me. He had to take them to work—which Logan got bitched at endlessly for requesting, since people are still giving Mr. Pretty Boy hell for carrying a purse into the building. They even checked it at the search point, while he waited in the purse line, apparently seething.

I find this hilarious, of course.

Then, he passed it onto Elise, who put it inside her duffel bag—Craig was pissed that idea never occurred to him—and she brought it and my clothes to us, so that the media wouldn’t learn where we were.

Also, there were some paparazzi shots of Craig carrying my purse. I really love the things that interest the news some times.

I also hate them. Because that makes moving down my kill list harder.

I’m going to have to speed up the timeline once things settle down. My bruised face was splashed all over the newspaper and such, but everyone wants an interview with the girl who killed a man that managed to elude all types of law enforcement.

So, yeah. I didn’t think this all the way through. Being a woman who took down a woman’s nightmare has made me an accidental celebrity. Celebrity status is not fun when you’re a serial killer who needs a low profile.

Logan has gone Peter Pan, essentially sewing himself to me like an errant shadow these past few days. Not that I’m complaining. I could get used to having him to myself so much.

Logan’s phone rings, and he groans, still on top of me, as he reaches over and grabs it. My legs stay wound around his waist, keeping him where he is as he answers.

“Bennett.”

His brow furrows, and he lifts off me, frowning. I release my legs from his waist as he stands up completely.

“When?” When he closes his eyes, his lips tensing in a tight line, I know he has to leave. “Yeah. Don’t tell them not to touch anything. I’ll see if Hadley is up to it and be there as soon as possible.”

He gets off his phone, and he blows out a long breath while studying me. “I need to go speak to Hadley and see if she’s able to work. We just got two bodies from another one of our killers.”

Ice slithers over me. Lawrence and Tyler. They’ve finally been found. By now they’re steaming piles of rot.

“I’ll go talk to her for you,” I tell him, sliding back on the bed. “We sort of bonded with the whole Boogeyman thing.”

He studies me for a long minute. “You sure you’re okay? We haven’t really talked about what went down.”

I nod grimly. “It’s not something I’m ready to move on from just yet, but I’m handling it better than I thought I would.”

It’s misleading, but it’s not a lie. Well, not in the conventional sense. I’m handling the ‘aftermath’ better than I thought I would, considering I expected him to be more suspicious. He just seems relieved that I’m not an inconsolable mess.

“You’re amazing,” he says, thumbing my chin before brushing his lips over mine.

“I’d like to talk to Hadley for a second too,” I say, making sure I have time to clear the air with her before she’s alone in a car with him.

“Okay. Yeah. Sure. Just let me know if she’s ready to work, and let me know when you’re finished if so.”

I stand and throw my arms around his neck, dragging him down for a kiss. He holds me to him, his touch so demanding and strong. I love being in his arms, feeling that security that exists within a simple embrace.

“I’ll hurry,” I tell him against his lips.

He grabs my ass, totally groping me, then winks before heading toward the bathroom.

My smile disappears the second he shuts the door.

I’ve been delaying this, worrying about her game. Wondering why she’s not told anyone.

After tugging on some clothes, I check the hallway, always worried about someone finding out where we’re staying. When I see it’s empty, I take quick steps to the end of the hallway, suck in a breath, and knock on her door.

It opens immediately, and I swallow thickly when I realize I’m staring down the barrel of a gun.

“Been expecting you,” Hadley says, peering around me.

She steps back, but her gun stays trained on me as I step inside, closing the door behind me. I keep two feet of distance between me and the gun, ready to react if I see her trigger finger get itchy.

“I actually expected you a lot sooner than this,” she says, her eyes watching me, as though she’s waiting on an excuse.

Remaining calm, I stare at her with my coldest expression.

“Logan wants to know if you’re up for a case. He’s waiting for your answer.”

“Don’t pretend that’s why you’re here right now,” she says, an edge to her tone.

“Why haven’t you told Logan who I am?”

She slowly backs up, and she gestures for me to sit on the bed closest to the door. I do as the gun-wielding girl silently beckons, sitting down, and she steps back, sitting across from me on the other bed, never lowering her weapon.

“I’m not here to hurt you,” I tell her, and she snorts out a laugh.

“I’ll be the judge of that. And to your other question, it’s because you told the Boogeyman you were killing him to keep Logan safe. You had no idea I was there, obviously, so that wasn’t a show. I believe you actually think you’re in love.”

“I am in love,” I immediately blurt out, then grimace. Didn’t mean to tell her before I told him.

Her eyebrows go up. “Psychopaths can’t love. They can only imitate.”

“You think I’m a psychopath? I mean, I joke that I’m psycho, but I’m not the true definition of the word.”

“Really? I saw a different story.”

I lean forward, and she wraps another hand around the gun handle.

“Easy,” I tell her, holding a hand up. “Just getting comfortable. You’re calling me names without knowing anything about me. A good profiler digs into the past.”

“I’m not a profiler. I’m a forensics expert and a tech genius. I saw what I saw. And I’m telling Logan. I just wanted you to know that first, since you killed my own nightmare and saved me from Plemmons. Call it a courtesy.”

Tears bubble up in my eyes, and the first one spills down my cheek. The air is sucked from my lungs, and my entire body feels like it’s dipped in a vat of ice.

She cocks her head, studying me, and I bat away a tear.

“Then give me a five minute head start,” I say quietly.

I start to stand, and she moves with me, keeping her gun trained at my head.

“This gun is the only thing keeping you from killing me right now,” she says randomly.

I spin so fast that I hear her hiss out a breath, and I snatch the gun from her hand, then completely disassemble it, all in less than two seconds. I toss the pieces to the bed, feeling broken and defeated.

“No. I’m not killing you because you don’t deserve to die,” I tell her as she stumbles backwards. “Guns don’t scare me.”

“But losing Logan does,” she says quietly, her throat bobbing.

“There are only two people in my life that I love. One is like a brother. The other is the first person I’ve ever been in love with. So yes, losing Logan terrifies me.”

“Revenge killers have had a psychotic break. They lose sight of their intended goals and their morals get skewed. Revenge becomes their sole focus, and anything or anyone that gets in the way becomes collateral damage in the name of revenge.”

“You’re profiling me, yet claim not to profile. You should stick to your day job, because you know nothing about me or what I’m capable of.”

I turn to leave, and she calls out, “Wait! It was a test.”

Confused, I turn around as she stands up, her body shaking a little bit.

“Care if I put my gun back together? Obviously you’re quick enough to disarm me, but it still makes me feel better to have it after what I saw you do to Plemmons.”

“Just use the one you have under your pillow,” I tell her, watching as she pales.

“How’d you—”

“You’ve gone through a lot in the past week. It’d make sense to sleep with one under your pillow if you need it to feel safe right now. You’d have more than just your service gun. I need at least two guns to feel safe when I’m at my most vulnerable.”

She sighs harshly before grabbing the gun out from under her pillow, and I sit back down, facing her, staying at the exact right distance I need to disarm her again if the need arises.

She doesn’t point the gun at me this time.

“Start at the beginning. Explain what could have turned you into this,” she says, gesturing toward me with her hand.

“They turned me into this,” I tell her softly. “They stripped away my soul and left me devoid of any empathy toward the monsters in the world. I’m not a psychopath. I know the truth from the lies. I know the reality from the delusions. In fact, there are no delusions.”

“We’ve found nothing in that town to point to this level of violence.”

I lean forward, but this time she doesn’t react. “Dig deeper.”

“Just tell me. I’m not deciding what to do until you tell me what could turn someone into a killer so cold that you didn’t flinch when you killed Plemmons. You wanted to torture him.”

“Just like he tortured those women. Don’t you think death was simply too easy?”

She stares at me with the eyes of an unscarred soul, despite the scars I know she bears.

“Fine. You want the story; I’ll tell you. But you can’t tell your team. They have to learn for themselves,” I bite out.

“Why?” she asks. “Why don’t you want them knowing?”

“Because I want the town to confess to the sins they covered up,” I say bitterly.

“Prove to me you’re not going to hurt someone innocent, and I’ll make that deal. Tell me the story.”

“I could have killed you several times, Hadley. From the day you walked into my house and called me out for stealing Kennedy’s identity.”

“Why did you steal her identity?”

“To survive,” I say quietly.

Her lips tighten, but she gestures at me, meaning she wants to hear what I have to say. Needs to know I’m not suffering a psychotic break. Needs to know that despite the brutal way I kill, that I’m in control of my mind.

So I tell her. I start at the beginning, telling her about my father. Tell her about how he died. Tell her about how small town justice works. I tell her every sick, twisted, demented detail until she’s pale and grabs the garbage can, heaving into it as her stomach loses the battle of control.

The vomit doesn’t bother me, so I keep talking as she retches. I tell her about Marcus, about his beauty, and how they stole it all away. About how they destroyed him in the last few hours of his life.

About how he was so desperate to save my life that he sacrificed his own by driving so far away from Delaney Grove while trying to keep pressure on his wound.

I tell her about Jake, and how his father was my father’s lawyer and best friend. We proved over and over that Dad couldn’t be the serial killer they charged him to be. I tell her about how they ran Christopher Denver out of town for trying to save an innocent man’s life.

I tell her about how Jake left before the town could turn against him, because he needed to be innocent for my sake. For the sake of justice—not just revenge.

I tell her about Lindy, and what Kyle did to her. About how even her husband believed a rapist over his own, terrified wife. I tell her about Diana, and the threats they made toward her son to keep her quiet. I tell her every dark detail that town covered up. Every dirty secret finally gets aired.

And though I feel free, knowing another person now knows the truth, Hadley looks like she may never recover.

At least I spared her one detail.

The name of the man who will die the most painfully.

The man who started the dominoes back then.

We sit silently for several long minutes, and I check my phone, knowing Logan is showing patience, even though he’s in a hurry. No texts.

“How did you survive?” she asks in a rasp whisper, tears streaming from her eyes when I look back at her. I have no tears left for this. I’ve cried them all already.

“No one knows,” I say honestly. “But my mother always believed in avenging angels. Marcus’s last words to me were that we’d come back as avenging angels, and we’d make them pay. We’d do it together. But he didn’t come back.”

My voice breaks on that last bit, but I force the emotion back. “Jake took his place. He loved my brother as more than just a friend, but was always too worried what the town would say or do if they came out about their relationship. It’s his deepest regret.”

She wipes away more tears, and she runs a hand through her hair.

“I won’t tell the team,” she finally says. “Unless someone innocent gets caught in the crosshairs, I owe you my silence. You saved the lives of countless children by ending a monster I let go free. You saved women all over, possibly even Logan, and saved me from Plemmons. Until you have that psychotic break, I’ll hold my tongue.”

That’s more than I expected. My entire chest feels like an anvil is being lifted off it.

“I’ve trained against the psychotic break. They turned me into a shell of a person. Now I use it against them. But my mind? My mind is whole, even if my soul is not.”

“How?” she asks, confused. “How do you train against the break?”

“Every form of martial arts I could squeeze in. From Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, to American Karate, to Colombian Grima, to Taekwando, to Bokator, to Krav Maga… You get the idea. I’ve gotten various black belts in an array of martial arts. Not to mention the weapons’ training I’ve mastered—knife throwing being one. You learn discipline over your mind with each new form of fighting or training. You learn control. It made me stronger mentally, physically, and emotionally.”

She wipes away another tear, then sucks in a sharp breath.

“Then let’s hope it keeps you sane enough to finish without hurting anyone who doesn’t deserve to be hurt. I don’t know if I can handle more guilt.”

I start to leave, then turn back to face her. “You tried to tell people when you were a child. Those people failed you. They failed those kids, and they warped your young, impressionable mind into believing you made it all up. Everything that has happened since then is not your fault. It’s on them. They may not deserve to die for their failures the way he deserved worse than death, but they do deserve to bear that guilt. Call your mother. Give her the burden to bear. Call that therapist, give her all the nasty details of his sins. Call the police station that ignored the cries of a child in pain. Only they deserve the weight of that failure. Not you.”

She sucks in a breath as I turn to leave.

“How’d you get that big bastard out of the basement and up that big-ass hill?”

The question is so random that it makes me smile. “I’m stronger than I look,” I say, looking over my shoulder. “But it wasn’t fucking easy.”

Her brittle smile toward the morbid humor is almost like a peace treaty. We’re not going to be besties or anything, but we have an understanding.

“Tell Logan I’ll be there in five,” she says as I walk out.

As soon as I’m out the door, I text Jake.

 

ME: Calling in twenty. We need to adjust our timeframes. I have some catching up to do.


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