Authors: Blake Pierce
“Come on,” he said. “We’ve got to take care of the woman.”
But Riley found that she couldn’t stand.
“I killed him,” she said.
“You did what you had to do,” Bill said.
“No,” Riley said. “I killed him.”
She broke down and sobbed as the sound of approaching sirens filled the air.
As she looked around her new townhouse, Riley felt freer, luckier, and richer than she ever had, even in the elegant house she used to share with Ryan. This home, after all, was hers.
Even so, something was troubling her deep down.
What is it?
She couldn’t put her finger on it.
Without a doubt, this place was better than Riley had dreamed of. The main floor of the house was open, with the living and dining area flowing together and a large deck at the back. The kitchen was fabulous, more than Riley thought she would ever need, but Gabriela loved it.
And it had been Gabriela’s room that had really sold the house to Riley. The basement room that opened to the little back yard had been converted into what the real estate agent called an “in-law suite.” It was a big carpeted room with a gas fireplace and a private bathroom.
Gabriela was down there now, unpacking and organizing her things.
April came wandering out of the kitchen, munching on a sandwich.
“How are you coming with getting your room organized?” Riley asked.
“It’s so big!” she said, beaming. “It’s like twice the size of what I had! And so is the closet!”
Riley smiled, feeling happy for the first time in a long time. Feeling like a real mom.
“So is it ready for me to see yet?” Riley asked.
“Not yet. Just a few more things to put away. Then I’ll need your help hanging some things on the wall.”
“Just let me know when.”
April swallowed the last of her sandwich. Then she said, “Mom.”
“Mom, I love it! I love this house. I love my room.”
“And I love you,” Riley said, giving her daughter a hug.
April hugged her back and then scampered away upstairs.
Riley drew a deep breath of relief. Not only did her daughter love the new house, but she was once again the bubbly teenager who had been missing for months now.
She had been lucky to find the house on a tip from a co-worker before it actually went on the market. The drive to Quantico would only take her thirty minutes, and April would be able to get around by public transportation—no more hitchhiking ever. And she wouldn’t have to change schools.
It certainly marked a new beginning, the start of a different life. She felt confident that it would be a better life for both April and herself. Her divorce was final, and Ryan was paying the support that he had promised. Riley and April both understood that their contact with Ryan would most likely be civil but infrequent. Riley thought that would probably be best for all of them.
Ryan had already moved on to a more suitable liaison, a divorced D.C. society woman who could support him in every way. Riley wouldn’t be surprised if he moved closer to Washington sometime soon.
this will suit all of us fine—April, Gabriela, and me.
Still, some nagging discord kept whispering through her brain. She decided to ignore it. She looked around, thinking about where she would need to fill in with a new piece of furniture here and there.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the front doorbell. When she answered the door, Bill was standing outside.
“Just thought I’d stop by and see your new place,” he said.
Riley could tell by his forced smile and his ragged, tired look that he was here for more than that.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Can I come in?” Bill said.
Bill came inside and the two of them sat down on the couch.
“Maggie is filing for divorce,” Bill said. “I’ve already moved out, into an apartment near the BAU.”
“I’m sorry,” Riley said.
Bill shook his head with confusion and dismay.
“It’s just that I’ve tried so damn hard for so many years,” he said. “It’s weird to think that it’s really all over. Maggie and I have been strangers for a long time. But the kids … I don’t want to be a stranger to my boys.”
Riley patted his hand.
“You won’t be,” she said.
“You don’t know that,” he said.
Riley sighed. Bill was right. She didn’t know anything of the kind. There were far too many things in life that she didn’t know.
Bill seemed eager to change the subject.
“That last case,” he began, then shook his head and sighed. She could see that it was still haunting him, too. In some ways it was comforting to see she was not the only one who was haunted. “Have we ever dealt with one that twisted?”
Riley thought for a moment.
“Twisted? No, that’s not exactly right. He was the most damaged, though.”
“Damaged, twisted, take your pick,” Bill said, shaking his head. “Chains and straitjackets and a straight razor—it’s a new combination for me.”
Riley remembered her experience of the chain killer’s mind.
“Eugene was the most reluctant killer I’ve known,” she said. “But he would never have stopped if we hadn’t caught up with him.”
“And we did stop him,” Bill said. “We’re good at that. Together, we’re very good.”
After a short while, Bill left. He’d said he didn’t want to bother Riley when things were going so well for her. She’d protested that he was no bother, that he was never a bother and never would be, but he went away anyhow.
As she watched him drive off, she thought about what a deeply decent man he was. She was lucky to have him as a partner and a friend. Whatever happened between them in the days ahead, she hoped their friendship wouldn’t be ruined. They’d come too close to losing it already.
Then she walked through her house and out onto the back deck. Several houses down, children were playing in the yard. Riley had longed for exactly this—a bustling neighborhood where people went about normal lives in an ordinary way.
What was missing? What was wrong?
Then she remembered—she still had trouble looking into a mirror. The faces of all those victims and monsters kept looking back. And now there was Eugene’s face also, his beady eyes full of hurt, guilt, and self-hatred. She’d understood what had gone on behind those eyes only too well. And as horrible a man as he was, his fate still haunted her.
She had merely fought with Peterson and killed him in a primal way, in a blur of self preservation, for herself and for her daughter.
With Eugene, she had used her powers of empathy and understanding.
With Eugene, she had used deadly force.
And not a person in the world could understand that except Riley.
She knew that more monsters lurked out there in the world, probably in more variations that even she had yet imagined. It was her job to stop them. But what would she do the next time she faced those who tormented and destroyed?
She remembered what Hatcher had told her.
“Stop fighting it.”
She still didn’t know what “it” was—but she was starting to think that it was something huge, maybe as big as her whole life. And what did it mean that a multiple murderer understood something about her that she didn’t know herself?
Her cell phone interrupted her questions. She saw that the call was from Brent Meredith. She knew he wasn’t calling just to find out how the move was going.
Her heart beat faster. He was calling about a new case.
She stood there and looked at her buzzing cell phone. She turned and looked away, looked out the window, down the block, at her new house—anywhere but at the phone.
Yet still, it kept consistently buzzing. It was like her life, like the flood of cases that never ended, always buzzing at her.
Stop fighting it.
Had he meant fighting the urge to take on a case? Or had he meant something else? Fighting having a life? Living life for the first time?
Riley watched her phone buzz, again and again.
This time, she was not so quick to answer it.
And she did not know if she would again.
NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER!
TO BE PUBLISHED MAY, 2016!
(A Riley Paige Mystery—Book #3)
ONCE CRAVED is book #3 in the bestselling Riley Paige mystery series, which begins with ONCE GONE (Book #1)--a free download with over 100 five star reviews!
When prostitutes turn up dead in Phoenix, not much attention is paid. But when a pattern of disturbing murders is discovered, the local police soon realize a serial killer is on a rampage and they are in way over their heads. Given the unique nature of the crimes, the FBI, called in, knows they will need their most brilliant mind to crack the case: Special Agent Riley Paige.
Riley, recovering from her last case and trying to pick up the pieces of her life, is at first reluctant. But when she learns of the grievous nature of the crimes and realizes the killer will soon strike again, she is compelled. She begins her hunt for the elusive killer and her obsessive nature takes her too far—perhaps too far, this time, to pull herself back from the brink.
Riley’s search leads her into the unsettling world of prostitutes, of broken homes, and shattered dreams. She learns that, even amongst these women, there are glimpses of hope, hope being robbed by a violent psychopath. When a teenage girl is abducted, Riley, in a frantic race against time, struggles to probe the depths of the killer’s mind. But what she discovers leads her to a twist that is too shocking for even her to imagine.
A dark psychological thriller with heart-pounding suspense, ONCE CRAVED is book #3 in a riveting new series—with a beloved new character—that will leave you turning pages late into the night.
Book #4 in the Riley Paige series will be available soon.
(A Riley Paige Mystery—Book #3)
Blake Pierce is author of the bestselling RILEY PAGE mystery series, which include the mystery suspense thrillers ONCE GONE (book #1), ONCE TAKEN (book #2) and ONCE CRAVED (#3).
An avid reader and lifelong fan of the mystery and thriller genres, Blake loves to hear from you, so please feel free to visit
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BOOKS BY BLAKE PIERCE
RILEY PAIGE MYSTERY SERIES
ONCE GONE (Book #1)
ONCE TAKEN (Book #2)
ONCE CRAVED (Book #3)