Federal Paranormal Unit Bundle: Shape Shifter Paranormal Romance (11 page)

BOOK: Federal Paranormal Unit Bundle: Shape Shifter Paranormal Romance
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Trent fisted his hands, ready to punch the little snot in the face for the way he was staring at Erica.

“And who are
you
?” Derek asked, his perverted little smile widening while he openly eyed Erica’s body.

“I’m Agent Villa. This is Agent Buchanan.” She pointed at Trent. “We need to ask you a few questions regarding some young women you dated recently.”

Trent watched her move forward, until she stood across the table from where Derek sat. “We’re investigating the deaths of Lisa Summers and Gina Torres.”

“Yeah? I heard they were dead. What does that have to do with me?” He was still eyeing Erica’s boobs with way too much interest. A snarl worked up Trent’s throat. The wolf inside him wanted to come out, chew the little bastard and spit him out.

Trent focused on the job and not breaking the dumbass kid’s jaw.

“I mean I went out with both of them. But after a while I got bored. Young girls get clingy, and I can’t stand that.” Derek winked at Erica.

Erica smiled, a cold little quirk of her lips that showed no amusement. She gripped the edge of the table. “Mr. Holmes, we’ve spoken to your father, and it was made clear to him that this is just a few questions. We can’t hold you here without a formal charge if you don’t want to be here, but we were told you’d be cooperating. I know your father doesn’t want your family name dragged through the media in association with a murder case.  We just need to ask you a few things. I understand this is not the place you would rather be.”

She sounded almost apologetic, but then she pursed her lips, conveying she didn’t really care how much they were bothering him. “But two girls are dead. Two girls
you
dated, Mr. Holmes. Now I suggest you cooperate with us, get yourself cleared, and then you can go back to your busy life.”

“I’ve had nothing to do with them for months.” He straightened.

She leaned forward, placed her hands palms flat on the table, and stared at him  “Mr. Holmes.” Her voice was soft, dripping ice. “I want to find whoever killed these girls. But I do not want to waste my time with someone who’s innocent. Do you understand?”

“What is it you want to know?” he asked in a more serious tone of voice. Although his gaze was still stuck on Erica’s rack, he appeared ready to cooperate. Trent had a hard time not walking up to Derek and bashing in his head.

Trent’s heart took a nosedive when Erica outstretched her hand to shake the kid’s.

She glanced at Trent for just a second, her eyes filled with frustration, before she turned back to Derek.

“I have a few questions. You are one of the few people both girls had in common. So where were you on the night both girls died, Mr. Holmes?”

“I already told your people that I was at a party both times.” He shrugged. “What? I get invited to a lot of parties. I’m a popular guy.”

“I understand that, Mr. Holmes. But you don’t know who could have killed either girl?”

He shook his head. “I’m a busy guy. Once I’m done with them, I move on to bigger and better. They were kind of pissed at me when I broke things off, so I didn’t bother staying friends.”

“We also need to know if there is anyone you may know of who would want to hurt either Lisa or Gina.”

Derek’s smooth cockiness disappeared momentarily while he thought about her question. “I don’t…wait. Gina mentioned a professor who made her feel kind of uncomfortable a time or two when she babysat for him. Some James Green.

“What about Lisa? Did she mention anyone to you?”

“Lisa had Green’s class too at one point last semester, I remember because she gushed about him, but she never actually said she felt uncomfortable. He’s the only one I remember both of them mentioning at one point or another.”

 

“Mr. Holmes, thank you for your cooperation in this case. You’re free to go. In the future, we’ll direct any questions through your father’s lawyer, who we’ve been told is your representative. But please, if you think of anything else that could be helpful to finding whoever killed these girls, give your sheriff’s office a call or…” She pulled a card out of her pocket. “You can also call me.”

“Oh, OK.” Derek smiled, giving her what was clearly his most charming attempt at smooth and cool. “If you have any other questions you need to ask, you can call me directly. But only you.” He winked at her.

After Derek Holmes walked out of the room, Trent watched Erica sit down and rub a hand over her forehead. She sighed. “He’s not the one.”

Well yeah, he’d known that much when the kid had told the truth, but still. Fuck. When she shook Holmes’s hand and didn’t freak out, he had known for sure. At least they had one suspect less.

 

NINE

 

 

 

Erica was still consumed by the strong emotions radiating off Derek Holmes. The kid was more than met the eye, but he was no killer. She saw and sensed that he liked adulation. But only a slight darkness surrounded him, which was minor compared to what she knew lived inside the person they were trying to find.

Her stomach churned painfully at the thought of another day without finding the murderer. He was intent on killing the college girls. Gulping at the knot in her throat, she followed Holmes outside. She looked at the sports car where Derek Holmes slid into the passenger side. He smiled at her before shutting the door. A strange sensation gripped her. She stopped and took a breath, but the air in her lungs evaporated, and the world went askew.

“What the fuck? Erica?” Trent sounded alarmed. He grabbed her by the arms just when her knees gave under her.

“I don’t understand…” She continued to stare at the sports car.

The sun’s glare didn’t allow her to look inside the dark windshield. All she got was a glimpse of Holmes’s smile. She panted, staring at the car as it made a turn, moving away from them and down the street. Could she have been wrong? Was Derek Holmes the killer? The dread that gripped her was one she’d experienced before, when she’d gotten close to a psychopath projecting his darkness outward. Evil could not be contained in some people. But she’d touched Derek and nothing had come across from the victims’ deaths. So what in the world was going on?

It took her a moment to wade through her muddled mix of thoughts and emotions and realize that Trent was talking, asking her if she was all right. “Yes, I’m fine. Sorry, I got a little lightheaded for a moment.”

Trent cupped her face, examining her for a minute before helping her into their Jeep. She tried to shut off into herself and dissect what happened, but he wouldn’t be ignored.

“So what happened? I thought we established he wasn’t our man?” He asked while he started the engine.

“I didn’t think so, but when he got into his car I got such a strong connection for a moment there that I now wonder if I was wrong.” She turned to look at his profile while he drove. “Which I can be, Trent. I
can
be wrong, and I might have just let a murderer go home.”

He shook his head and grabbed her hand in his own, taking his eyes off the road for a second to watch her. “He’s not the killer. He didn’t lie to you at any point. We couldn’t have kept him there anyway. We have no proof or evidence, but he is a person of interest. Although a group of girls said that he was with them so he’s got an airtight alibi.”

“But what if I—”

“Stop it. We can only work with what we know. As much as that kid seemed like the biggest jerk in this town, he didn’t come across as a killer to me either.” Trent squeezed her hand in his grasp, killing some of the panic growing inside her. “Take a deep breath, babe. We’ll get him.”

His reassurance melted the ice in her veins. He was right. They would catch that man. He rubbed circles over the top of her hand, each stroke decreasing her tension and increasing her desire to be held by him. Cursing her overactive hormones, she shifted in her seat, staring at his sexy face. She bit her lip. He had that scruffy beard that really turned her on and made her want to lick his face.

When she remembered how she’d woken up in his arms, feeling contented and safe, it once again made her heart jump to her throat. She was so fucked. Trent was quickly working his way past her shields and into territory where no one had ever ventured. How did he do that?

“Erica?” His question snapped her out of her thoughts.

“What?”

“I asked if he could have, like, mentally blocked you from seeing his true nature?” He gave her a sheepish grin. “I don’t really know if he could do something like that, I’m just wondering.”

She could tell it was strange for him to ask those questions, but he didn’t back away. It made her like him even more for it.

She shook her head. “Honestly? I don’t think he could. I’ve been doing this for a really long time. I put up shields to protect my thoughts from anyone tied to the victim. It would drive me insane to feel what each person emotionally linked to them is thinking or feeling when they come near me. I opened myself up when I shook his hand and didn’t feel anything.”

She laughed at Trent’s look of disbelief.

“I don’t mean the guy is an angel, but he’s no murderer. If I’m correct, his worst crime is probably being too loud with some of his girlfriends. The murderer we’re looking for is deeply connected to the victim, and I would feel the link when I meet the killer.” She took a deep breath. “The best way I can explain it is: Killers are linked via energy to the person they killed. There’s a darkness inside them that twines to the energy from the murder victim. When I see the killer, I can see the darkness. Even by just seeing or touching something of his, it would come through. That link between victim and murderer is established, and there’s no breaking it.”

He frowned, his eyes back on the road. “But then why did you react that way when he left?”

She shook her head. “I don’t know, but it scares the shit out of me. I’m going to ask Brock to question him again. See what he gets from the kid.”

There was no way she was going to take a chance at being wrong. She’d just opened her water bottle and taken a sip when her cell phone rang. Brock.

“Hi, Brock.” Her gut fisted. Something told her whatever he was going to say would not be good.

“We have another victim.”

Shit.

“Melanie Lee. Same as the other girls. We’re headed to the crime scene now, meet us there.”

He rattled off the address.

“Do we know how long ago this one was killed?” She looked over at Trent. He glanced her way. His jaw clenched, and his hold on the wheel tightened to a white-knuckle grip.

“Not yet. She was found about an hour ago. The medical examiner is there now. I need you to look at her,” he said. “There won’t be any touching today, Erica. Do you understand?”

“I understand. We’re on our way.” She shut off the cell phone and gave Trent the address.

“What are you thinking?” he asked as they sped toward the crime scene.

“This isn’t good.” She bit her lip and frowned. “I have the feeling this man is playing with us. Dangling the bodies one after the other to see if we can figure it out.”

“What do you think he knows that we don’t?”

“I don’t know, but I have a feeling what he knows is what will unlock this case.”

She didn’t like being played with. These were human beings he’d killed, and she’d be damned if she allowed him to continue using those young women as toys in his sick game.

 

Brock and Ramirez were already at the crime scene when they arrived. Erica and Trent rushed out of the Jeep and darted past the police. Yellow tape and a few officers blocked off the entrance to the alley where they body had been dumped.

She stood transfixed, staring at the body of the young Asian woman. The urge to cry punched her in the chest. Her stomach turned. Bile rose as she scanned the mutilated torso. This girl had the same wounds on her naked body as the others but some extras over her face and neck. There were a lot more cuts and stab wounds on Melanie than on Gina. Lisa had only had the word carved into her stomach. Clearly the killer was getting into the swing of things and spreading his wings with each victim. Crouched down, she examined the girl’s face in more detail, making sure not to touch anything. The scent of bleach drifted off the body when she lowered her head to study her wounds.

“Has the medical examiner arrived?” She jerked her face up when a pair of feet stopped by Melanie’s head. It was Brock.

He pressed a button to end the call he’d been on.

“Yeah, the body is going to be moved to the hospital around the corner. I need information ASAP, and this is the closest location she can do an examination.”

She nodded. Urgency ate at her. For every second they wasted, there was another life hanging in the balance. The killer wouldn’t stop. He was having fun. She inspected the young girl’s pale skin, dark hair, and bloody nails. Another fighter. It seemed that while his ultimate goal was to kill them, he got some kick out of hurting them. Sick bastard.

“Did you have any luck with the professor?” Trent asked.

Erica stood. Brock shook his head and grimaced down at the body in front of them. “We questioned him, but he mentioned that Gina was only his babysitter and admitted to having had an affair with Lisa. Once his wife found out they broke things off.” He ran a hand through his short hair. “He mentioned Lisa wasn’t very torn up about cutting things short. She always had a multitude of guys she dated.”

“But what about his whereabouts during the approximate times of death? Did he have anything to say about that?” Erica strained to get the words out. She wanted to scream in frustration. This case was going nowhere.

“Actually, he has an airtight alibi. He’s been out of the country for almost four weeks, visiting family. He just returned two days ago. There’s been a different professor doing his lectures in the meantime.”

Great. Just what they needed, another dead-end.

She turned to Trent and caught him scrutinizing her. “Let’s hope we have better luck with Richard Thompson and Anthony Holmes.”

Trent’s scowl intensified. She frowned, wondering what was wrong. She glanced at her hands, which was what he was staring at. That’s when she realized he’d been studying her fisted hands. In order to calm down, she found the clenching and unclenching of her hands, combined with deep breathing techniques, helped her relax. At least that’s what the paranormal unit psychiatrist had told her. So many victims in such a short span of time were playing havoc with her nerves. Just thinking of how much the victims had suffered made her angry.

* * *

Erica shifted from one foot to the other while the medical examiner went through the physical inspection of the body. Her hands itched to touch the victim, but with Trent on one side and Brock on the other, watching her like she might steal a body part, she decided to wait.

“Same as the others. This one died approximately three days ago,” said the older woman looking at the body. The fiftyish, dark-haired medical examiner wore a white lab coat and gloves. She’d been recording the wounds, stating in a clear and concise manner all the traumas the victim had suffered.

“Was she reported missing?” Erica asked. The ME was poking around the body while they spoke.

“No,” Brock replied. “From what we were told she’d scheduled to take ten days off, and no one had known she didn’t make it to her family. Apparently they weren’t expecting her for a few days anyway.”

“So you’re saying nobody knew that she had been missing?” Disbelief colored her words.

“I’ve got something here,” the medical examiner said, calling their joint attention. In quiet suspense, they strode forward. She used a pair of long tweezers to pull out a piece of paper from the victim’s throat. Erica held her breath. The ME unfolded the paper.

“What does it say?” Trent asked.

“She’s not the last,” the ME said, reading from the paper.

Erica’s heart quaked. Blood froze in her veins, and a shudder racked her body. The killer wasn’t stopping, but she already knew that.

“Give me the paper.” She held her hand.

“No!” Both Brock and Trent yelled at once.

“Look…” She lowered her voice so that the ME wouldn’t hear her. “ I need to touch it to see if I can see him. We don’t have time to waste.”

She rushed around both men. Only a step away from grasping the tiny note, Trent wrapped his arm around her waist, hauling her back.

“Are you out of your mind, woman?” He dropped his head by her ear, his words a low murmur. “I know what you’re trying to do. This is not the way to do it. We’ll find something that belongs to the victim and see if you get any clue that way, but you’re not touching something that was inside that dead girl’s mouth. You know the rules. That is evidence and you can’t contaminate it.”

She wanted to argue, complain that they were running out of time, but what he said was the truth. Panic built inside her at breakneck speed.

“We should get this note analyzed by a handwriting expert.” Brock’s voice jerked her back to the present. “Villa, you and Buchanan question Richard Thompson. Go now. I will look into getting information on Anthony Holmes. After you speak to him we’ll go to Melanie Lee’s dorm room.” He gave Erica one of his do-not-argue-with-me looks. “We’ll let you touch something of hers, but I want to be there. There’s not going to be any more unnecessary risks to your health. Do you understand?”

She nodded, torn over having to wait. “When you visit Anthony Holmes, see Derek too. I don’t know about him. I had a strange reaction when he was ready to leave.”

Brock nodded. Trent followed her out of the building. God, she hoped she got something from Richard Thompson.

Trent marched to the Jeep beside her. Once inside she turned to look at him, knowing he’d been dying to say something. “OK, what is it?”

She thought he might be ready to yell at her over what she had almost done, and her hackles rose. But instead he cupped her face and kissed her on the lips.

BOOK: Federal Paranormal Unit Bundle: Shape Shifter Paranormal Romance
13.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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