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Sidetracked: Chapter 5

LANA

To see and listen to the wicked is already the beginning of wickedness.

—Confucius


I dodge a slow punch from Duke, smirking at how easy he’s taking it on me. He wants me to have some skillset in case things get out of hand. He walked in and demanded we spar so he can see what I need to work on.

He’s weak on his left side, constantly leaving himself open to attack. His form is sloppy, amateur boxing style at best. Most likely he was raised in a militant household where the father showed him a few techniques—archaic and outdated techniques.

In a real fight, I’d have him pinned and begging for mercy in under two minutes.

But I’m supposed to be a normal girl. I eat an excess of calories daily to stay a little soft, hiding the skill behind femininity so that I don’t tone up too much and cast a sheet of transparency over my façade.

Duke is grinning when I throw a weak, pathetic little punch at his left. He easily bats it down, and I bite back the smirk I want to reveal. I love little secrets.

There’s a certain high you get from fooling the world into thinking you’re the lamb instead of the rabid wolf.

“Alright. Let’s train on the wall. Plemmons always chokes the women to the brink of unconsciousness. I’m going to show you how to break the hold, and you’re going to replicate it.”

I nod, following along as he wipes sweat off his brow. It’s good he’s not as apt at profiling as Logan. He’d notice I’m not sweating, meaning I’m in better physical shape than he is. You can’t fake sweat.

He stands against the wall and gestures for me.

“Hands on my throat.”

I do as instructed, overlapping my thumbs as I form a choking hold with my hands. It’s a terribly inefficient way to choke someone. A little bit of wire does the trick much better.

He grins down at me as I tighten my hold, and his arms dart up between mine, shoving them open in a blink. He spins me, and I let him, fighting really damn hard against my reflexes as he slams me against the wall. His hands go around my neck, and he arches an eyebrow as he squeezes just tight enough to piss me off.

“Do what I just did. Okay?” he asks, squeezing a hair tighter.

I feign imitation, acting as though I’m struggling to mirror his earlier movements, when I hear the door shut and something drop.

“What the fucking hell?” Logan’s voice has me grinning, but when I try to move, Duke holds me steady, gripping tighter to my neck.

“She needs to be prepared,” Duke says, tightening even more.

When breathing actually becomes difficult, my mind shuts down the little fuse that holds back my reflexes, and my hand shoots up between the stupid gap he’s left between our bodies.

A pained yelp leaves him as the heel of my palm connects with the soft tissue of his throat, and he falls backwards, choking on air as my senses slam back into me.

Ah, shit.

Logan smirks then recovers, banishing the reaction as Duke heaves for air. I don’t think I hit him hard enough to collapse his windpipe.

I hope.

“Sorry,” I say with forced contrition. “I panicked.”

Duke coughs and then a loud sound of an inhale resonates in my ears as he slowly stands. Thank goodness he’s breathing.

He rubs his throat, his cheeks flaming with a blushing hue.

“Good instincts,” he says, swallowing hard. “Just do that if he comes at you.”

Plemmons won’t leave that large space between our bodies. He’s an experienced choke-artist. Detective Duke is not. If you’re going to choke someone face to face, you give them zero room between your bodies.

But I obviously don’t point that out. A good, sane, non-stabby girl wouldn’t know that.

I move to Logan, wondering if he suspects anything, but he looks like he’s more amused than anything as he tugs me to his body, wrapping an arm possessively around my middle.

“You must be SSA Bennett,” I hear Duke say from close behind me, but I don’t turn around as Logan keeps me pressed to him.

With one arm still around my waist, Logan reaches over with his free hand, and I look over my shoulder as Duke shakes it.

Logan’s hand that’s on me slides down to my spandex-clad ass, and he rests it there, as though he’s proving a point. He’s cute when he’s jealous.

“I wasn’t aware homicide could spare someone to help watch after my girl,” Logan says, though I hear the edge he tries to hide.

A slow, calculated grin curves over Duke’s mouth.

“We’re taking the possible threat very seriously, SSA Bennett.”

“I’m sure it’d be a dream come true to get an arrest this high profile, especially in a field that is always overshadowed by the FBI, since we’re just down the road and all.”

Logan is taunting. Duke is arrogant. And I’m worried there’s about to be a sword fight in my living room. And not with actual swords.

“You mean arresting a man you brought to DC? A man who is killing high class residents because the FBI slipped up and let him get away, even after figuring out his name?”

Logan’s jaw tics, and I internally curse Detective Dipshit.

“Logan, I’m sure you’re exhausted. I’d rather not waste what little time I have with you so you can throw down the gauntlet in a pissing match.”

Duke snorts, and I turn and glare at him. “You shut up.”

He grins and walks down the hall, heading to his guestroom.

“Remove him from my house, and that will solve the problem,” I tell Logan, but he shakes his head and runs a hand through his hair.

“I have Donny running a thorough check on him, but if he’s as clean and decorated as his file suggests, then he’s the best option for keeping you safe.”

I’m the best option for keeping me safe. I think it’s adorable that he believes Duke to be more capable than me though.

I start tugging at his arm, pulling him toward my bedroom. “You look exhausted. Stop worrying about me and get some sleep.”

His eyes are heavy, and I can tell he’s tired. The sun set a few hours ago, but it’s likely he hasn’t slept in over twenty-four hours.

He follows me without argument, and I can tell he’s already close to being asleep when he drops to the bed, fully clothed. Grinning, I start undoing his tie, and he smirks as I do.

“Don’t get any ideas,” I say, pulling away the black fabric and tossing it to the ground. “Sleep first. More later.”

“Only if you sleep with me.”

I help him shed his jacket, shoes, shirt, socks, and pants, getting him down to just his boxers. It’s very tempting to run my mouth over all the lines of lean muscle, but I refrain. The exhaustion shining from his eyes curbs all of my other urges.

In my tank and tiny shorts, I snuggle in next to him, and his arms come around me, holding me close. “Wear pants around that guy. No more of this,” he murmurs against my forehead, squeezing my ass through the little spandex shorts.

Grinning like an idiot, I roll my eyes. “You’re a total caveman.”

“Not normally,” he says around a yawn.

He doesn’t even know how saying things like that does weird things to my soul, adding back the lost pieces I thought were forever gone. I feel more human with each passing day. Less like a soulless monster with a thirst for blood.

Not that I want to stop killing; I just want to feel more like the carefree, happy girl I was before they stole it all. Before they ruined me.

“You should stay in a hotel with more security than this,” he says, half asleep already as his body slowly relaxes.

“I’m fine here. You need to stop worrying about me.”

I run my fingers through his hair, and he groans as he leans into the touch, getting even more comfortable as he fights sleep.

“Hadley said you’re loaded. You can afford something with higher security than any law enforcement can offer. I just want you safe, Lana. I’d never forgive myself if something happened to you.”

My entire body goes rigid.

“Hadley? What else did she tell you?”

“Mm?” His eyes are closed, and I hate prying right now. “She said you were loaded, and I told her to stop prying.”

Obviously she didn’t stop prying.

“Were…um…you two also involved?”

He release a lazy rumble of laughter as his arms tighten around me. He keeps his eyes closed as he answers.

“We’re a pair, aren’t we?” he asks in a soft, sleepy tone. “How long before we trust each other?”

Trust…

Yeah, that’s a whole other issue for another day.

I’m not talking about trust. I’m talking about a crazy girl who showed up with more information than she should have pieced together. I should have anticipated him asking me those questions, but I thought all was clear after the first few weeks.

I never saw her coming.

I hate surprises.

“Well?” I prompt.

He grins, still keeping his eyes shut.

“She’s like a kid sister. I took her under my wing when she first started in our department. Hadley doesn’t date, and when she does date, she doesn’t date men.”

She’s into women? Women only?

A sense of calm washes over me. He’s making me ridiculous. I have a kill list a mile long that could put me on death row—since some of the states still have death row. I’m playing a constant game of life and death.

He snuggles in closer, content to just hold me. Instinctively, I continue running my fingers through his hair, and he moans as he slowly drifts off. When he starts breathing evenly, I know he’s down for the count.

I don’t stop running my fingers through his hair. Something inside of me seems to fuse together, and my heart beats to a steadier rhythm than it has in years.

His arms stay around me, and for once in ten years, I feel safe. I feel treasured.

I feel something other than empty.

I don’t even realize how much time has passed until his phone is going off with an alarm. My eyes dart over to the dresser to see it’s close to midnight.

He groans as his arms leave me, and a chill settles onto every spot his touch has abandoned. He cuts off the alarm, and he rolls back over, wrapping me into his arms again, and kisses the side of my neck.

“I bet you didn’t have this in mind when you signed on to date me,” he says in his sexy, sleep-gruff voice.

“You warned me your schedule was crazy. I don’t mind.”

“I meant all the extra craziness,” he says, running his lips up higher, nipping my ear enough to elicit a small shudder from me.

His hand starts working down my shorts, and I lift my hips, eager to give him access.

Then that damn phone rings.

He curses.

I mutter a few words.

“Everything okay in there?” Duke asks from outside my bedroom door, reminding me he’s in my house.

A serial killer sharing a house with a homicide detective and a FBI agent.

Life doesn’t get more complicated than this.

I just hope it takes Logan forever to find Tyler and Lawrence, that way I have him to myself a little more. He works too much, and I can tell he’s exhausted.

It’s sad that I want to hide my bodies now so that my boyfriend gets a break and can spend more time with me.

How twisted can one person possibly get?

“It’s fine,” Logan calls out, glaring at the door.

He grabs his phone, answering it with his last name only, and I sit up to kiss his shoulder as he talks.

“No, I’m at Lana’s house, why?”

He grows stiff, and I remove my lips from his shoulder. When he blows out a harsh breath, I run my hand up his back.

“Yeah. Come get me. It’s on the way. I’ll grab a shower and something to eat before you get here.”

He hangs up before turning to me, brushing his lips over mine just barely.

“Care if I use your shower.”

I roll my eyes. “You don’t even have to ask.”

“I’d ask you to shower with me, but we have another body. I need to be ready before Craig gets here.”

I gesture toward the bathroom, and he groans as he stands.

Following him in, I hop up on the sink, admiring the view as he strips out of his boxers and climbs into the shower, turning the spray on. I grimace. That has to be cold.

He doesn’t so much as flinch.

“I feel like you’re getting screwed out of all the good stuff and skipping right to the worst case scenarios,” he says over the sound of the water.

“I’m currently not getting screwed. Did he leave more messages?”

He grunts, and I watch as he tips his head back, running his hands through his hair to wet it. I think shower times should get watched from now on. This is hot. I want to video it so I can perv more later—after I buy a replacement vibrator.

“Just his media name and the words ‘You can’t’ were carved. Two bodies in two days is a rapid devolution. He’s getting too bold.”

I dropped two bodies in one day, but I hardly feel like now is the time to brag about my awesome efficiency.

“How’s he choosing his victims?”

We shouldn’t be talking about an active case. It’s against the rules. But this one actually concerns me, considering I’m probably a target. So that makes it…okay?

“He’s choosing mostly brunettes in their mid-twenties. All were low risk victims, but none were put on display until he came here. This latest one was found tied to the top of her car, and the car was moved to the middle of the street. That’s all I know so far.”

I think that over before responding.

“He’s feeling the high. There’s a certain feeling of invincibility when the killer finds it impossible to get caught. It probably turns him on more than the torture to see everyone quivering in fear. He’s also approving of his media name, adopting the persona. Everyone fears the Boogeyman growing up. Now he’s reigniting that fear in adults.”

He blows out a breath of agreement, and I try to think of something to say.

You can’t? That’s an odd message.”

“Yeah. I’m sure it’s a taunt. Maybe he got interrupted before he could finish.”

Maybe…

When it grows quiet, I think of something else to say, just to make it look like I’m asking more questions than about the killer.

“Does it bother you that I didn’t tell you I was rich?”

“No,” he says immediately. “I like the fact you’re humble. My stepdad always said that those who strive to be humble detest the ways of the arrogant.”

I like that.

“And for the record, I can tell your past is a sore subject, so I don’t want to press for any information there either. I enjoy just getting to know who you are now,” he adds, causing me to smile and grimace at the same time.

He’s bringing back parts of me that I thought were dead, resurrecting my soul from ashes. But all the shadows that lurk inside me, hiding the monster within… Those are parts he can never see.

He shuts off the shower and steps out just as quickly, grabbing a towel from the rack. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t distracted by the way the water seems to follow all the lines of his abs to the towel as he conceals my happy place with the fluffy fabric.

An audible sigh escapes me in dreamy fashion, and Logan smirks, arching an eyebrow at me. I’m not even ashamed that I’m ogling him.

It feels good to crave someone and want them. I won’t take it for granted or be embarrassed.

He grabs a toothbrush from his bag—when did that get in here?—and sidles up next to me to start brushing his teeth.

We look like a Sunday morning special right now—instead of killer and hero.

As soon as he’s finished brushing his teeth, he slides my legs apart and settles in between them. I don’t protest at all when he kisses me, tasting minty and ultra fresh.

My fingers tangle in his hair as I pull him closer, savoring this while I can. There’s no telling when he’ll be back.

He laughs when he tries to break the kiss, only to be pulled back down by me. Unfortunately, his phone rings again, and I’m forced to let go.

This time it’s a text, and he reads whatever it says. He puts it away, his face expressionless as he looks up at me.

“I’ll take you on another date soon. And another. And another. I’ll make all this worth it. I’ll also be back here tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. It’s not much, but right now—”

“Stop acting like you’re not enough,” I tell him, kissing him again.

I want to tell him he’s too good for me.

I want to beg him to save my soul from damnation.

I want to plead with some powers above to take away the pain that drives me…

To let karma step in and handle the rest.

But I’m the only reckoning there will be.

 

“Scream for me, little Victoria. Scream loud.”

“Always knew you were a little whore.”

“Hold her down!” Kyle says, laughing as I struggle in vain, holding back the sob on the tip of my tongue, refusing to let them see me break.

“Leave her alone!” Marcus cries from behind me, and my heart clenches as excruciating pain slices through my body.

“Open your eyes, sweetheart. You don’t want to miss this.”

“Do it, Marcus. Do it or we’ll make it so you never do it again.”

 

Hours and hours and hours of taunts. The night I should have died is forever seared into my memory. Their sins stained my soul with so much darkness that their deaths are needed to cleanse me.

To make me feel whole again.

I need to replace their taunts and evil laughter with the sounds of their screams.

I sleep better with each new scream I get to add. The screams override the scent of their breath, the strikes of their hands, and their dirty, disgusting fingers.

They’ll never hurt anyone else. Even if they rise from the dead, they lost their tools of pain.

The rest will join them soon enough.

I can’t stop now.

Not even for Logan.


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