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«The Prey», Allison Brennan

Иллюстрация к книге

Predator – #1

To my mom

You always had faith in me

 

PROLOGUE

He studied her from afar. Objectively, as a scientist might contemplate an interesting germ. Even at this distance, she was a beautiful woman.

Long blonde hair pulled tightly back in a braid; aristocratic profile; small, sharp point for her nose. Her facial bones might be considered regal, though he thought them too angular. Her athletic body lean, quietly muscular. No one feature was soft.

Except her eyes.

They were covered behind dark John Lennon glasses, but he remembered they were the color of the sea, the blue-gray hue of the Atlantic Ocean on a clear day. Yes, her eyes were soft because they showed emotion, so she kept them hidden behind those hideous glasses. She wanted to be as hard as she appeared, but inside she was soft. Weak. Female.

He’d see those eyes again one last time in the moments before he killed her. They would fill with fear; she would know the truth. Heart pounding hard in his chest, he now heard the blood rush to his head. Yes, when she knew the truth, he would be set free. He smiled.

She thought he couldn’t touch her. Did she even think about him anymore? He didn’t know. But before the game played out, she would be thinking of him, fearing him, feeling his vengeance.

Killing her wasn’t the beginning, and it certainly wouldn’t be the end. Many others deserved to die.

But her death would be the most satisfying.

Watching her, he noticed her hesitate as she opened the door of her black Mercedes coupe and looked around. His heart skipped a beat in excitement. Did she feel him? She couldn’t see him, and even if she did, would she remember? His was an average face, the face of anybody. She knew madness, but he wasn’t mad. She knew terror, but he wasn’t terrifying. Not now. He skillfully concealed his excitement, his anger, his rage.

It was so much fun playing with her! A final look around; she stared right at him but couldn’t see him. She must have sensed something, though, because she quickly slid into her sporty car and started the ignition. Heart pounding, fists clenched, he envisioned seizing that long, slender neck and snapping it in two.

No, I won’t break her neck. Too easy, too fast.

Instead, I’ll squeeze it slowly. Put pressure on her windpipe. Watch as she turns blue. Then release it, give her a breath or two. Make her think she’s got a chance. That there’s hope.

Then tighten up again.

He would watch her eyes fill with recognition, fear, and faint hope with each breath he allowed. And finally, the awareness: no hope. Only death. And when those pale eyes looked into his own, she would know it was all her fault.

She should have died years ago.

He stared down the road long after her car disappeared from sight. Carefully, he put the binoculars back in their case.

She wasn’t going anywhere; there was plenty of time to kill her. Walking down to his car, he glanced once again at her house before heading to the airport. There was much to do in the next twenty-four hours, but he’d be back in time to see her face when she was told what had been done.

Time to begin.

CHAPTER 1

Rowan Smith learned about Doreen Rodriguez’s murder from the reporters camped out in her front yard Monday morning.

A car door slammed and she awoke with a start. Instinctively, she reached for the gun that was no longer under her pillow, searching the cool cotton sheet before remembering it was in her nightstand. Hesitating briefly, she retrieved the cold Glock. She couldn’t think of a good reason for needing her gun, but it felt right in her hand.

She’d slept in sweatpants and a T-shirt, an old habit of being ready for anything, and padded down the stairs in bare feet to look out her den window and see who was visiting so early in the morning. The grating sound of a sliding van door shutting told her she had more than one visitor. She used her index finger to bend down the blinds a mere inch to peer out.

She could tell from their rumpled attire and notepads they were print reporters. Television hounds were far more concerned with appearance. Three vans and two cars crammed the driveway of her leased beachfront home. She despised reporters. She’d had more than enough of them while working for the Bureau.

The doorbell echoed, startling her. Though she could see the driveway from her den, she couldn’t see the door. Presumably one of the bolder reporters had summoned the courage to ring her doorbell.

What did they want? She’d just given an interview about the premiere of Crime of Passion two days ago; surely they didn’t need a group session.


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