Authors: Lacey Thorn
Tags: #Multiple Partner Contemporary Erotic Romance
He flipped them over, and she was pinned beneath him. “I’ve wanted to hear you say something like that since the first time I met you.”
“We’ve all wanted to hear you say that,” Sam added.
“Make love to me, ” she urged, leaning up to kiss him softly on the lips. “Show me.”
Time seemed to slow down. Charlie eased his cock in and out of her pussy, and neither of them could think of it as fucking. His touch was gentle. His hands and mouth eager to please her. Dasan and Sam joined them, one on each side of the bed. Their hands stroked over her flesh, their lips joining Charlie’s in caressing her skin.
It was more than lust, more than desire. It was the beginning of something far deeper and hopefully, long lasting. Whether her nightmares were gone or not, she knew they’d made changes today, changes that would last a lifetime. But they’d made them, and there was no going back for any of them.
She could finally admit to herself she was in a relationship…with three men. It was bound to bring complications. There’d inevitably be fights and maybe even some jealousy every now and again. She had no idea how it would work. Just that she wanted it to work. She believed it would work. And when the last orgasm left them relaxed and sleepy, she closed her eyes and let exhaustion claim her, content in the knowledge she was safe.
Her phone beeped, and Tara looked at it like it was a coiled snake. It had been a long week filled with endless research, phone calls, and nothing. They had no new leads, no neon sign pointing an arrow claiming, “This Way”. No new pictures. The silence was almost worse. Now, she had no idea what was going on. Was this part of someone’s plan, as well?
Kat was still gone, tying up loose ends, wrapping up any open cases, and telling Tara to stay away. River was fine. No one had called, texted, or sent any pictures to her like the ones Tara was getting. It was enough to drive a sane woman crazy. She understood why she was the focus. She had been the one to pull the trigger. She had shot and killed a man. But was the plan simply to drive her crazy? Because they were close to reaching their goal.
She hadn’t left the ranch since sharing everything with the guys. Her safety was first with them. It was nice to have someone care about her that much, but it was also starting to wear on her nerves. She needed a break, even if it was only to do something mundane like grocery shopping. She just needed to get away.
Her eyes were going crazy from all the reading and skimming of photos she’d done via her laptop. There were only so many crime scenes a person could be expected to view in a day. She was tired. She wanted happy pictures, ones that showed people laughing, celebrating life.
Her phone beeped again. With a sigh, she reached for it. Avoidance wouldn’t bring her any closer.
She had a message from Kat.
Might have found something. Text you when I get back.
Tara hit speed dial and listened to Kat’s phone ring and ring until her voice mail kicked in. She hung up and dialed again. Then did it a third time. When voicemail picked up again, she left a message.
“I don’t know what the hell is going on, Kat, but you need to call me as soon as you get this. I mean it! As soon as you hear this message, you better fucking call me back!”
A beep sounded, telling her it was finished recording. Kat had better be okay. Tara slammed her phone down on the table and almost jumped when it rang. She hit accept, not even bothering to pay attention to anything else on the screen. “That was quick. Where are you?”
“H-hello?” It was a woman’s voice, but not Kat’s.
“Is this Tara from Angel Investigations?”
“Yes.” She kept her answers short and simple. Could be a potential client. They had listed their cell phones on the answering machine for emergency calls. “Who is this?”
“I…I have information for you…about…about the detective.”
She could hear the woman’s breathing. She was nervous, scared, but of what? Or who?
“The one you killed.”
Tara kept her voice even and steady. She’d give nothing away. Was this the person behind the pictures? Was she just as tired of playing the games as Tara was? “What do you need to tell me?”
“Not over the phone.”
“I’m a little bit out of town at the moment. I’m afraid the phone is the best I can give you.”
“I know where you are. I’m just up the road.”
“What?” Tara’s heart was beating like a rabbit’s. The woman was here?
“I tried to speak to your friend Kat. But she’s too close, too many eyes watching her. I heard her talking to you, asking about the ranch and her brother. It was easy to find out where you were.”
Eyes watching Kat? What did she mean? Was she talking about the guards Dasan had called in, or was someone else watching Kat, as well? “Is Kat in any danger?”
“We’re all in danger,” the woman whispered. “There’s a pond just down the road from your ranch house. Do you know it?”
“Yes,” Tara replied.
“Meet me there in an hour. Come alone. I have everything you need.”
The phone clicked off. Tara’s hand went to her hip, where she strapped on her gun first thing every morning. Was this a trap? Did it matter? She was going, and she figured the woman knew it just as well as Tara did.
She pulled up her phone book and hit to call Charlie. Voicemail. She left him a message stating where she would be and that she was armed. At the last minute, she tacked on three little words she hadn’t fully said yet, only hinted at.
I love you.
Then she dialed Dasan. Voicemail again. She left him the same message, right down to the
I love you
Sam. When his voicemail kicked in, she was ready to chuck her phone at the wall. Four people and all of them unavailable. She left her message for the third time. One of them would find the message soon and show up at the pond.
She took her gun out, checked it, and flipped the safety off before slipping it back in her holster. It was time. She took a deep breath, grabbed the keys off the peg by the outside door and stepped out of the kitchen.
She took the truck and parked it off the road about a half mile from the pond, planning to walk the rest of the way. Her heart was galloping in her chest, her palms sweaty. But there was no turning back now. She hid in the tree line around the pond. Glancing at her watch, she saw she was early. She still had twenty minutes before the hour mark from the phone call. She sat, watched, and waited.
About ten minutes later, a small figure emerged from the side of the pond closest to the main road. It was a historical site, well-marked with a place to park for those interested in stretching their legs and viewing it. The woman stood back a ways and kept casting glances over her shoulder. It was easy to see she was nervous. Every few seconds, she would lift her phone, checking the time perhaps.
At a minute to, Tara stepped out of the tree line.
“I’m here. What do you have to show me?”
The woman jumped. She was either a really good actress or not who Tara thought she was. “You already have the pictures. I sent them to your phone.”
Tara lifted a brow and stopped about twenty feet from her. The gun was in her hand, but she kept it at her side, tucked behind her thigh. No chances. She had three amazing men she planned to see later today and every day after. “I got your pictures.”
would come, but your friend came instead. She’s looking in all the wrong places.”
“Maybe you should tell me then? Point us in the right direction. Or better yet, tell me who the hell you are and why you think it’s okay to send me pictures of a dead man?”
“Dead man? The pictures I sent were of the six women. The victims. What man?”
Tara stared at her. Her mind was racing a million miles a minute, trying to sort and filter the photos. She’d assumed they were all from the same person. What if they weren’t? If she sorted the grainier photos from the rest…there were six of them. Six photos of women with their throats slit. They’d all been tied down to the bed. She thought it was someone’s sick joke. A reminder of how she’d been found tied to her bed, mixed with a suggestion of how they’d like to kill her. Then there was the more recent photo.
“You only sent six photos?”
The woman nodded. Her eyes were huge. “You received others?” She glanced around nervously. “Oh, God,” she wailed. “She knows. She knows I sent them to you.”
“Who knows? Tell me about the pictures.”
“Don’t you see? He had the pictures. He took them, covered up the crimes.”
“Yes.” The woman nodded vigorously. “The last woman was my sister.” Tears dripped down her face, and a sob caught in her throat. “She was my sister.”
Tara almost stumbled as wave after wave of revulsion coursed through her. It had been easy to see he was bat shit crazy at the end, but even she hadn’t anticipated this. Detective Marino? A serial killer? Killing women and hiding the crimes? Holy shit! If River found out, it would kill her. She’d slept with a killer. Dated and lived with him. Tara had been tied to a bed by him. Had he planned to slit her throat and make her disappear?
“Why? Why did he do it? Why kill all those women?”
“I don’t know,” she sobbed, falling to her knees on the ground, her purse crumpled in her hands.
Tara moved toward her. “What’s your name?’
“Juliana,” the woman whispered.
“It’s okay, Juliana. You can trust me. I’ll help you if I can.”
“You will?” Julian looked up at her, and Tara had the urge to take a step back. There was something in the other woman’s eyes.
She nodded instead, holding her ground, doubting her instincts.
The woman reached up, and Tara felt a jolt go through her body. Her gun fell from her fingers just before she collapsed to the ground, shaking as if in the throes of a seizure. Her mind locked onto one thing. Juliana had just used a Taser gun on her.
Tara lay there, unable to move for several moments. She watched Juliana pick up the gun she’d dropped and toss it into the pond. Then she patted Tara down, looking for other weapons. She had none.
“You disappoint me, Tara. I expected more from the woman who killed my brother.”
Her brother? This woman was Raymond’s sister? She had to be the estranged one. The one everyone said had been sent to a hospital.
“Why?” Tara managed to ask.
“Why not?” Juliana responded with a smile. “I’ve been out of the game for a long while. Maybe I decided to see if I still had it.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe I just missed it.”
“Watching a woman’s eyes when she knows she’s going to die. Watching her blood drain from her body. Watching the light fade from her.” She closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath. “You’ve been there. With my brother. Of course, you used a gun.” She shook her head and tsked at Tara. “Not nearly personal enough. I like to use a knife.” She traced a finger across her throat in imitation of cutting. “There’s really nothing like it.”
“You killed the women in the pictures?”
Juliana nodded. “I did.”
“And Raymond helped you?”
Juliana laughed. “My brother was many things. None of which was ever helpful. You did me a favor when you killed him.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “It doesn’t matter. Everything will be perfect this time. He won’t let them take me away again. He’s older now. Stronger. Wiser.”
“Who?” Tara asked. She could move now but stayed still. Better to let Juliana think she was still incapacitated by the Taser.
She laughed. “The one I have watching your friend.”
Fear paralyzed Tara more effectively than the Taser had, not for herself, but for Kat. “Who’s watching her?”
“He likes to play games too. We were made for each other. I remember the first time I found a girl. She’d been well fucked by some guy. He left her lying on a blanket under the stars. I waited until he’d been gone a bit, watched her get up and dress, gather the blanket. Then I ran up and told her he’d been in a wreck. I think she must have really loved him. She followed me through the woods, running. She didn’t ask me a single question. Not about who I was, why I was there, or about the old house I took her to. Until it was too late.” She giggled like a little girl. “I knocked her out. Was afraid I’d killed her at first, she was out so long. Had her all tied up when she finally came around. We did things to her. Naughty, naughty things. And when we were done, I used a knife to slit her throat.”
Tara forcibly swallowed the bile that rose in her throat. “Who took the pictures?” It was clicking in Tara’s head. The old photos. They were from crimes committed by this woman.
“Yes,” Juliana agreed with her, somehow understanding what Tara had just figured out. “I took them. Souvenirs to keep with me, to remind me off how it felt.”
“You took them?”
“I took them of all the girls I killed. I kept them hidden until he found them.”
“Raymond,” Tara whispered. She didn’t want to feel sympathy for him. But how must he have felt to know what his sister was capable of?
“Yes, my sneaky little brother. He found them and took them. And they took me away. They sent me away like I was garbage.”
He’d taken them. Hidden the crimes.
Holy fuck! Did anyone know about the crimes? The missing women? The fact that Juliana Martino was more certifiable then her brother had been? She cautiously began a slow movement, sitting up, but doing her best to appear woozy and off kilter.
“They let you come home for the funeral?” Tara tried to keep the woman distracted and talking.
“Yes, and I had to hide how happy I was to see him in that casket. I had to pretend I was better. Until I was sure.”
“Sure of what?”
“He hadn’t told on me. No one else in my family knows about the girls. Raymond took my secret to his grave. I thank you for that.” She smiled.
“So why send me the pictures?”
Laughter again. “I wanted to see what Raymond saw in you. I enjoyed the idea of my brother tying you to a bed and playing with you. My friend and I want to play with you too. Then we’ll try your friend.”