The Risk (Page 8)
I went in as Victoria, left as Kennedy, took on her rich, orphan life, and ‘legally’ changed her name to Lana Myers to avoid anyone from her past finding me out.
It was the easiest way to build a fund to support us and to change my identity. Jake didn’t get good at more inventive forms of identity changes until the past couple of years.
It took a while to see my scars on my face as marks of survival instead of brutal reminders of that night. The scars on other parts of my body didn’t heal as cleanly. But the scars on my soul took the longest to deal with.
They say everyone has their own healing process.
The first year of mine was spent mourning for my family and suffering from all the trauma. I cried until there was nothing but sand left to fall from my eyes. I curled into a ball and showered three times a day, never feeling clean.
The second year was spent being angry and seeking outlets. I took on kickboxing first. By the third year, I’d moved on to various other forms of mixed martial arts. Several black belts are mine now.
I never want to be anyone else’s victim.
The fourth year was spent getting stronger, dealing with all my fears, and learning to stand on my own without all the sleepless nights.
The fifth year was the first time I could withstand any physical contact. I learned to grow. I learned not to flinch away when someone barely touched me. I learned to be as normal as I could be.
The sixth year was when I could finally handle intimacy without wanting to kill the person touching me. It was the year I decided I was no longer their victim. It was the year I took back control over my life and embraced my future before it was destroyed completely.
The seventh year was when I decided to get revenge. The planning began.
The eighth year was when I started locating them all. I learned all there was to know about them.
The ninth year was spent hacking the case files from my father’s trial, learning all the police had, searching for the truth instead of the lies.
The tenth year… The tenth year is when I decided to start killing one a month.
Jake convinced me to be cautious. I’d hate to be caught before I can finish.
My life will happen in between kills. I can have both. Because I doubt I’ll make it out of this alive.
Denise decides to text Tyler back, breaking me out of my reverie, and it’s a picture of her in a lace nightie. Unreal. If this is how you’re supposed to date, then I really am out of my depth. I’m not spending thirty minutes slipping into something like that just for a picture.
My phone buzzes as Tyler and Denise send dirty texts to each other. Those dirty texts will find their way to his wife if needed. She sure as hell can’t be home when I collect his debt.
My actual phone rings, and I reach over and grab it absently, still reading the latest sick text from Tyler. How does Denise find this sexy?
“Hey, it’s me,” Jake says, clicking away in the background. He’s always at the computer, lining everything up for me. Best partner ever.
“What’re you doing?” I ask, curious.
“Just finished writing Olivia her check, and now I’m working on our website.”
“Are you reading this?” I ask him, wrinkling my nose when Denise describes a blowjob in detail for him.
“Unfortunately. What are you doing tonight? I was thinking we’d grab a bite and watch surveillance together. I’ve already gotten his entry code. You’re getting better angles with the cameras with each install.”
Idly, I lift my gaze to the monitor, watching as Tyler starts lowering his boxers. Yeah, no. I don’t need to see that.
Cutting my eyes away, I answer, “I learn more with each one. His wife is gone a lot on business. There’s a conference two days before the planned kill day. She’ll be gone all weekend. I can strike then. He’s a two and done deal.”
“Don’t get cocky and strike too soon. When you lose your caution, mistakes happen, and you’ll get arrested.”
“True. There’s a conference the weekend after. I can always prolong the date as well.”
“That’s better than moving it up, but it’s best to stick to a consistent schedule if possible. That way you don’t lose focus.”
Snorting derisively, I roll my eyes. “No worries on that. My focus can’t be derailed.”
Their taunts no longer haunt me at night. Now I dream peacefully to the sounds of their screams.
Which I realize is probably psychotic, but I wasn’t born this way. They turned me into this. Karma wasn’t finding them. Neither was justice. Destiny seemed content with leaving them on their perfect little paths of love, peace, and blissfulness.
Only one person wanted them to suffer. Well, two. Jake wanted them to hurt as much as they hurt me. As much as they hurt—
“You say that, but you seem to lose more of your anger with each kill. You almost seem…a little too peppy these days. For the past few weeks, you’ve giggled and acted high every time I’ve talked to you. You getting tired of this? It’s not too late to back out.”
That has nothing to do with the kills. It has everything to do with Agent Bennett. Not that I’ll tell Jake that. He’d flip his lid if he knew I was… Well, I’m not really sure what I’m doing with Logan to be honest, besides smiling like a loon every time my phone goes off with a new message from him.
If I told Jake I’m interested in an FBI agent who happens to investigate serial killers, and is possibly investigating my case, he’d probably flip the hell out.
Because it’s stupid.
And I should end it.
But I can’t.
When you go so long feeling cold and detached, then a complete stranger ignites the dormant feelings you thought were forever gone…you can’t help but be addicted to it. You can’t help but revel in the smiles you forgot how to use, or the laughter that sounds unnatural coming from the lips that haven’t laughed in years.
Whoa. I need to slow down. I’m one fantasy away from tattooing his name on my ass.
I can’t help but wonder how things might have been if my past hadn’t been derailed and cluster-fucked to hell and back. I think he would have really liked the old me. I was clever, funny, quick-witted, and slightly dramatic. I also cried if I accidentally killed a bug.
Now… Now I’m a 5’4 package of vengeance that no one sees coming.
“I’m peppy because it feels good. Maybe it’s a high from the adrenaline or something,” I lie.
“Really?” he asks, sounding confused.
I know Jake supports what I’m doing. He was there. He helped me pick up all the pieces and glue them back together the best he could, even though I could barely stand to be around anyone.
But he doesn’t want the grim details, and I doubt he feels comfortable with me telling him it makes me feel like a goofy grinner—even though it isn’t the kills making me a goofy grinner. But I can’t give him the true facts. Because…World War III and all that. I don’t want him to talk me out of Logan, when I’ve almost done it to myself too many times.
“Really,” I lie again.
I really hope I flirted right with Logan. I thought I was following his lead. He often gets called away during the middle of our texting sessions, which means it could be hours before he texts back, so I try not to overthink it.
My eyes flick back to where Tyler is already cleaning up. He’s just as quick as I remember.
One more week until kill day.
“I still think you have should nixed the castration. If they dig too deep into the town’s history, they could eventually unravel it all too soon,” Jake says, reminding me he’s still on the phone.
“You remember what they did, right? I want them to feel the worst pain imaginable. I want to remove that last ounce of power… That last shred of dignity.”
Blowing out a long breath, I listen to him grow silent on the other end.
When he continues to hold his tongue, I try to put his mind at ease.
“Even if they did figure out a ghost rose from the dead, I take plenty of forensic counter measures. The feds suspect some big, strong guy. I strangle them to render them unconscious, instead of using anything to aide in incapacitating them, the way a woman would normally do. And I do it while they’re on the ground so as not to betray my height. I’ve trained for this for years. Stop worrying.”
He sighs harshly. “I hate you leaving the bodies there for them to find. I’d prefer it if you took them to an isolated, controlled location, then dumped the bodies somewhere they’d never be found.”
“I wanted them found. I wanted them linked together. I just didn’t want it to happen this soon. I want them scared when I start dropping lower on the list. By the time I reach Kyle, I want him to be crying in fear. That’s why I’m saving him for last.”
“And what happens if he goes to the cops when he figures out the pattern? Eventually this will hit the media, you know?”
I’m surprised it hasn’t already.
“I knew the risks going in, and Kyle speaking to the feds about a ghost girl killing people who brutalized her ten years ago isn’t one of them. He’d have to explain why someone was picking these guys off. You know none of them will ever do that.”
A secret like they’ve kept would eat anyone alive…if they had a conscience. Only they feel they were justified in hurting innocent people.