U.S. Marshal, Wyatt Tanning is in a race to catch a serial killer who has evaded the authorities. Just as the case hits a dead end, an unexpected email gives him a lead. As much as he wants to share the surprising message with his lover, Rye Daniels, he must hunt a killer first.
Darby Grant never expected that one night would change her life forever, but that’s exactly what happened. Not only has she been abducted, but she is in a situation that nightmares are made of. As she begins to lose all hope, fate steps in to offer her aid, but she’s well aware things will never be the same again. Soon, though, Darby begins to realize that might not be such a bad thing…
Wyatt drove down Gregg Street in Houston, Texas. The siren atop his truck blared in the night while he pushed the truck far past acceptable speed limits. Low class, economy houses whipped by the driver’s side window, but being close to midnight he wasn’t concerned about injuring someone if they stepped out onto the road. Elderly people would be fast asleep and so would children. Anyone up at the late hour knew enough to get out of his way.
He glanced in the rearview mirror and spotted Taryn’s truck behind him with the four deputies inside. He focused back on the road, passed Nobel Street and pushed harder on the gas pedal, gripping the steering wheel tight. His urgency wasn’t only to catch Marcus. He worried that Marcus held other women there who needed rescuing besides Darby Grant.
As he drove on, a thought rose that he couldn’t push away. The last time Madame Eve contacted him had been the night he met Rye. He wondered if somehow she’d set this up for him to find him the match he’d originally asked for—a woman to form a life with.
Rye made him happy, but Wyatt longed for a woman to bear his children. Now though, he asked himself if that could even be possible. He had no intention of ending the relationship with Rye, and he hadn’t met any woman who’d want a ménage relationship with two male lovers.
Lee Street passed by in a blur. He shook the thought from his mind. How could Madame Eve have arranged this? There was no way she’d set up such a dangerous situation for Wyatt to meet a woman. He snorted at the absurdity.
He sped toward Campbell Street, grabbed his phone from the dash, and clicked to initiate the radio. “Ya’ll ready?”
“Ready and eager, sir,” Taryn responded.
He threw the phone onto the seat. The abandoned house came into view. His heart raced. The windows were boarded up, the garden wild, and the grass dead from the hot summer sun. The house barely stood—whitewash peeled off the warped wood, while a porch falling to pieces led to the front door.
At the corner, he slammed on his brakes, threw the truck into park, and cut the engine. Grabbing his flashlight off the passenger seat, he jumped out, ran around the front of the truck, and drew his weapon with his team right on his heels.
He sprinted up the front porch, hearing the wood crack and groan under his weight. At the front door, he raised his foot and kicked it open with a crash. Holding his weapon at shoulder height, he placed the flashlight underneath to offer light in the dark space and entered cautiously.
“Spread out,” he ordered.
His team dispersed, each taking a room to search. Wyatt strode forward and kept his gun in his line of vision. He scoped out the living room; if he could even call it such. Old furniture situated around the room sat covered in dust—so much in fact, it itched his nose.
“Clear,” Taryn called from the kitchen.
He glanced around, looking behind the couch first then searched everyplace someone might hide. He found nothing. “Clear,” he replied. Each of the deputies issued the same response from upstairs to confirm the house lay empty.
Lowering his gun, he sighed. He’d hoped the lead Madame Eve gave would have brought them to Marcus. Apparently, she’d been wrong, and that not only confused, but irritated him. His hopes had risen only to plummet again.
He spun around to approach Taryn in the kitchen, and a light caught his eye. If he’d come in the daytime he never would’ve seen it, but being pitch black in the room, the light glowed through the dark space. A small hole, maybe the size of a pea, sat at the bottom of the far wall.
Wyatt raised his gun and approached. “I’ve got something here.” At the wall, he squatted and ran his finger over the light. He looked to Taryn when she stepped in next to him. “There’s something behind here.”
He stood, raised his leg, and after a few well-placed kicks, his foot went through the wall. He peered through the hole to see a set of stairs, and a wall lined with soundproofing. Turning his gun around, he used the butt end to bash through.
The loud cracking of wood filled his ears, but the second he stopped, something else registered in the air—a loud scream for help. He jerked his head toward Taryn. “Did you hear that?”
“I heard it.” She pushed on his back. “Go.”
He squeezed through the hole and ran down the stairs, searching for the location of the scream. Taryn, joined by the other deputies, stayed right on his heels.
After hitting the last step, he kept his gun and flashlight up, and scanned the area. The basement consisted of stone walls. To the left was a hallway he could only assume had been recently added, since it didn’t appear to have been built with the original house, and more so, had been dug out. He had no idea what they were walking into and glanced at Taryn, raising his finger to his lips as a precaution.
They silently proceeded down the hallway. There were five doors with no windows or anything else to indicate what stood behind them, but the scream for help came again. His heart skipped a beat and reality set in.
“We’ll come back for them,” he whispered over his shoulder at Taryn. They needed to press on to see if Marcus stayed there. Undoubtedly, they’d discovered where he housed the women he’d abducted.
The cries of women sounded all around him. He’d never been so disgusted in his life. Clearly, they’d been caged like animals underground, and although the trauma on the body from Marcus’ last victim showed he hadn’t raped her, it appeared he had tortured her.
The hallway ended at a door with a dead bolt. He kept his weapon up, but with his free hand he reached for the lock. He drew in a deep breath, attempted to open it, but it didn’t budge. Stepping back, he kicked the door and it sprang open.
Rushing into the room, he was unable to process the scene in front of him. Against the back wall, strung up against steel bars, a woman hung by her wrists with her head bowed. If that wasn’t enough to horrify him, her naked body was marked with what looked like welts from a whip.
He scanned the small, dungeon-like room. There was nowhere to hide—only bare walls and a dirt floor. Clearly, Marcus had already left. He lowered his weapon and hurried over to the woman bound to the bars.
Placing his fingers on the side of her neck, he searched for a pulse, relieved to find it strong and steady. He hooked his finger under her chin to draw her face up. Covered with dirt and grime, she didn’t rouse, her long, brown hair knotted and straggly. His heart bled for her.
“Go check those rooms for other victims,” he said to the deputies. “Get the paramedics and the crime scene folks here, and bring me a blanket when they come.”
The others left the room in rush. Wyatt grabbed the rope on the woman’s right wrist and removed it, grimacing at the deep burns along her skin. He made quick work of the other. She slid along her back and sank down, and he let her, not wanting to touch her. She had so many injuries, he didn’t want to cause her more pain.
But what choice do I have? He had to get her out of there. Reaching down, he hooked his arms under her legs and back. The moment he stood, the woman’s eyes opened, and she screamed.
The sound would haunt him until the day he died.