He still didn’t understand where they’d gone wrong or how they’d been caught. Well, maybe he hadn’t actually been caught, but the effect was just as catastrophic for him.
They’d been stopped…he and his partner.
Their perfect killing spree had ended.
So he watched and waited, to make sure that there was no way they could tie him to any of this mess.
He wasn’t entirely surprised to see the police chief pull up in his unmarked, city-issued vehicle. It might as well have had PIG emblazoned across the side of it, as conspicuous as it really was. But it wasn’t the chief’s presence that caught his attention; it was the ordinary-looking sedan that followed right behind it. Actually it was the passenger inside the sedan that had him on alert.
He had seen her before…the pretty girl from the search party yesterday.
He’d noticed her out there in the woods, admiring her even then…her youth…her innocence, while the entire community searched for a girl who would never be found. At least not alive, anyway.
Had they been out there alone, just him and the girl, without all of the rescue workers and volunteers, things might have ended very differently.
He froze in place while he watched her, a skill he had mastered after years of military training, surveying and analyzing the scene before him.
He’d learned later, after that chance encounter with the girl, that she was Chief Ambrose’s niece. And until this very moment, he hadn’t given a second thought to the fact that she happened to be there when they’d discovered his partner, while he’d been standing right where he’d been ordered to stand, making sure that no one searched that spot too closely.
And yet here she was again. Strange coincidence.
He watched as she led the police chief, and a man he assumed was her father, around, the three of them speaking quietly among themselves. He saw how Chief Ambrose marked the spots where she pointed.
This was wrong, something was wrong about her being here today. And was it really just a coincidence that she had been there yesterday too? She knew something, but how? How could she know anything…and still be alive to tell it?
He wasn’t sure, but he couldn’t take any chances. They’d already captured his partner; he couldn’t let them find him too. He knew what he had to do.
He was going to have to stop her. Silence her. Once and for all.
It was the only way he could stay safe. It was the only way he would be free to hunt again.
The chief’s niece would have to die.
THE NEXT MORNING WAS STRANGE FOR VIOLET. She was nervous about going to school. She even got up and checked the school’s website, hoping that classes had been canceled due to both the discovery of Hailey McDonald’s body and the still-unexplained disappearance of Mackenzie Sherwin over the weekend.
No such luck, and Violet knew that the school would, instead, be overrun once again by the grief counselors, as they tried to soothe the raw nerves of a student body that mourned for not one but two of their own.
But that wasn’t why she was nervous.
She was anxious about seeing Jay again. At school. In front of their friends. And in front of their non-friends, among whom Lissie and Grady were definitely now included.
As it turned out, Violet hadn’t seen Jay since Saturday night. He’d called her on Sunday to tell her that he was going with his mom to his grandparents’ house, which was two hours away. So this morning Violet wasn’t sure what to expect. She kind of hoped to keep it a secret, this new relationship of theirs, at least for a little while…until she could sort it all out in her head. But she had no idea what Jay had in mind.
It was odd for her, pulling into Jay’s driveway that morning, the same way she had countless times before. She saw the door open, but instead of Jay, his mom poked her head out the door and waved enthusiastically at Violet. Jay pushed past his mom, who was smiling conspiratorially at Violet and practically ignoring her own son.
Violet waved back, feeling sheepish. She knows, Violet thought. Jay’s mom knows.
Jay had no intention of letting her keep it a secret.
The low hum of butterflies she’d been feeling all morning became a violent flutter.
Jay slid in, as casual as ever, and kicked his backpack out of the way at his feet. He stretched back in the seat and grinned at her. “Ready?” he asked, as if sensing her hesitation and teasing her about it.
She slumped down a little in defeat and put the car in reverse. “Do I have a choice?” She tried not to, but she knew she was pouting.
He chuckled and cupped her chin in his hand affectionately, stroking her jaw with his thumb. And then he flashed his dazzling smile at her.
“Not if I have any say about it,” he answered, laughing.
School went exactly as Violet thought it would: weird. It wasn’t her best, and it wasn’t her worst, day ever. It was just weird.
Jay was true to his word, deciding not to hold anything back. And it started the second they got out of the car, when he claimed her hand and refused to let go, even when Violet tugged and pulled to try to get it away from him. He ignored her mute protests and held on tight, smiling more to himself than to her, and paraded her right into the school like that.
Not that they’d never held hands before, because they had. But this was entirely different, and Jay was hell-bent on making sure that everyone knew it. And just in case anyone wondered what the hand-holding actually meant, he made sure to clear things up for them by planting a big, albeit very satisfying, kiss on her lips, right in the middle of the hallway. Violet didn’t try to pull away from that; in fact, she was dismayed to find herself leaning into him, craving more, and not caring—at least at that moment—who might see them together.