The Risk (Page 4)

She gasps then laughs, and I relax in my seat while driving out of Quantico, heading toward my house.

“Sounds awkward. But at least the kid wasn’t a sexual deviant.” There’s a tense note to her tone, but then she clears her throat while I yawn. “You really do sound tired. I’ll let you go.”

“I’m driving home. I have thirty minutes of free time. Keep me company.”

“Hmm, I guess you still want me to be your entertainment.”

My smile spreads. “I’d ask for more than just an amusing phone conversation, but I have to head back in as soon as I get some sleep. We had something new turn up in one of our cases, which means the workload is fresh again.”

“Hmmm, what would you ask for if you were able to ask for it?” she asks, sounding like she’s flirting now, which negates the defensive stance she held just days ago.

“I’d ask for dinner. Maybe even a movie if dinner went well and you didn’t have any deal-breaking faults.”

She snickers softly. “What faults would those be? Inquiring minds and all that.”

“The usual. Eating boogers. Drinking urine… Strap-on fetish where you’d be the one fucking me. I’m not into any of that.”

She starts laughing harder this time, and I listen, soaking it in. I don’t know why it feels like I’ve accomplished something by making her laugh. Then again, something tells me she probably doesn’t do it too often.

“Well, I never adopted a booger-eating habit. Drinking urine doesn’t appeal to me. I’ll just have a beer if I’m in the mood to drink something akin to piss. And I’ll hide my strap-on until you’re a little more comfortable with your sexuality to give it a go.”

“Taking a jab at my sexuality. Nice,” I state dryly, listening to her laugh some more as I continue to smile.

“So how do you profile people?” I muse when her laughter tapers off.

“How do I do it? Or why do I do it?” she counters.


“Well, I do it mostly based on body language in person, and micro-expressions, of course. I pay attention to the wording when it’s in writing. I listen to tone and wording over the phone. I do it because I run that online site, and you have to know the bull-shitters from the legitimate users.”

“You run the store alone?” I ask, hedging for more personal info.

“I have a business partner. He handles all the tech work, and developed a program to flag potential fake accounts. It cuts out a lot of hands-on work, even though we still sift through the accounts personally.”

“And this male partner is just a friend?” I ask, prying farther.

She hesitates, but then she sounds amused. “If you’re asking if I’m single, the answer is yes. Have been for a while. I wouldn’t have called you and flirted if I was with someone else.”

“Well, it sucks that I can’t take you out tonight before you get tired of waiting on me to have a free second. I’ll be working overtime in search of new leads. But if you’re up for coffee, I can meet you in the same place we met on my way back into the office in a few hours. Say five or so?”

“I prefer coffee in the mornings, but you can buy me a muffin. They have excellent muffins.”

“Coffee in the mornings,” I echo, my grin growing. “Duly noted.”

“Are you flirting with me, Agent Bennett?”

“Maybe a little. Are you ever going to tell me your name?”

“Oh, that’s right. You don’t know my name. It’s dangerous to talk to strangers, you know.”

“I’m aware. I profile serials for a living.”

She’s a somewhat tiny thing with haunted eyes, yet joking I should be wary of her. I’m sure the fact she knows I have a badge puts her at ease; she assumes all law officials are good souls with clean intentions. That tells me she’s never been in trouble with the law or had any issues with them at all.

“Serials?” she asks, her voice hitching a little, reminding me what I’ve said.

“Serial offenders. I graduated from serial panty robbers to serial killers. Hope that’s not an issue. I’ve had problems in the past keeping a relationship because of that.”

She clears her throat. “Um, no problem. But shouldn’t you keep things like that quiet from strangers?”

“It’s not classified. I’ve been on the news a time or two speaking. And besides, I’d rather we weren’t strangers. So what’s your name?”

She pauses for longer than I’d like. I’ve gotten her wrong and right, but I’m not sure to what degrees on either front. So I don’t even bother guessing why she’s quiet.

“It’s Lana. Lana Myers. Feel free to investigate me, Mr. Profiler.”

The light tone is back, and I cut down the final road to lead me home.

“I’d rather you surprise me, Lana Myers. I only run a non-invasive background check to make sure you’re not a felon or fugitive. That could be an issue, given my job,” I say, laughing lightly.

She laughs as well, then sighs. “Coffee later?” I ask her.

“Muffin, remember?”

“Right. Sorry. Sleep deprived.”

“I’ll see you later, Agent Bennett.”

“Definitely,” I tell her around a yawn as I pull into my house.

She hangs up, and I immediately type in her name in a text to Hadley.

HADLEY: What am I looking for?

ME: A criminal record only.

HADLEY: Done and done. She’s clean.

ME: That was fast.

HADLEY: That’s what she said.

Chuckling, I put my phone away, and I walk inside. My mind is tired, but I’m still running facts of the case over in my head, thinking of anything we might be missing.

The unsub tortures his victims for days, but not for the same amount of days. Three days this last time. Two days apiece on the first two victims. Four days on the third and fourth victims. The lack of consistency doesn’t make sense, neither does the targeted skin that is removed. It’s always different, except for the damn dick removal. Sometimes all the fingers are cut off. Sometimes they’re not.

My house is empty, quiet, and somewhat eerie, considering the case I’m working on. All the victims are a reflection of myself. Single. Alone. Physically fit. Living in a secluded area. Workaholics.

My closest neighbor is a mile down the road.

No one notices the victims missing for days on end. They all call into work. It’s a taped recording of a man’s voice, from what we can surmise, considering the words are exactly the same. None of the businesses record those calls, obviously, so we’re having to trust the person who received the call.

The last body was only found because one of his work colleagues came to find out why he didn’t come to work on the fourth day and never called in for that day.

It’s depressing to know that no one outside of work notices them missing. The same would hold true for myself.

My eyes scan my house out of habit, looking for anything out of place. Once I feel confident nothing has been disturbed, I take off my gun, set my alarm, and then I drop to the bed.

My eyes close, and I expect to see the images of dead bodies like I always do.

Instead, I’m lost in a set of haunted green eyes I’ll be seeing later.

Chapter 3

When you are courting a nice girl, an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder, a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.

—Albert Einstein


It’s after five when I start looking at my watch, wondering if I really am being stood up this time. I’m not sure what compelled me to call him, flirt with him, then agree to a date. Maybe it’s because I need to feel less like a cold monster and more like a woman.

I lived. Others died.

I lived, yet I feel dead.

Maybe I want to feel alive, considering my time may be limited. I should treasure every moment…when I’m not collecting on an overdue debt. It’s not exactly romantic to think of a guy while you’re slicing another one to pieces, but Logan was definitely on my mind during the three days I spent reaping the debt from Ben.

Not in the dark recesses of my mind that are reserved for revenge either. No. Logan was in the good parts that I thought no longer existed. He awakened a long-gone light as though not all the good inside me had been destroyed.

Just as I’m about to text him and find out if he’s okay, there’s suddenly a body sliding into the seat in front of me, and my eyes pop up to meet a set of soft blues. I could stare at those eyes all day. The rest of him measures up to those perfect eyes too.

He’s sin and pleasure wrapped in a package I’m tempted to peek at.

“So sorry,” he groans, motioning a waitress over. “There was a traffic jam. I actually had to abuse my power and hit the lights just to get through.”

My smile surprises me every time he makes me use it. “It’s fine. I was just worried,” I lie, well, sort of. I was worried about him, and I was worried I’d been stood up.

His grin is genuine and instant when he sees I’m not pissed, and the waitress shows up, ending the moment of two idiots grinning at each other.

I honestly can’t remember a time when my stomach was fluttering around. I was just a teenager when my life was shattered and the illusion of normality forever stayed out of my grasp.