Home > Deep Dark (Tracers #10)

Deep Dark (Tracers #10)
Author: Laura Griffin



CHAPTER 0

 

 

Laney Knox blinked into the darkness and listened. Something . . . no.

She closed her eyes and slid deeper into the warm sheets, dismissing the sound. Probably her neighbor’s cat on the patio again.

Her eyes flew open. It wasn’t the sound but the light—or lack of light—that had her attention now. She looked at the bedroom window, but the familiar band of white wasn’t seeping through the gap between the shade and the wall.

She stared into the void, trying to shake off her grogginess. The outdoor lightbulb was new—her landlord had changed it yesterday. Had he botched the job? She should have done it herself, but her shoestring budget didn’t cover LED lights. It barely covered ramen and Red Bull.

How many software developers does it take to change a lightbulb? None, it’s a hardware problem.

Laney looked around the pitch-black room. She wasn’t afraid of the dark, never had been. Roaches terrified her. And block parties. But darkness had always been no big deal.

Except this darkness was all wrong.

She strained her ears and listened for whatever sound had awakened her, but she heard nothing. She saw nothing. All her senses could discern was a slight chill against her skin and the lingering scent of the kung pao chicken she’d had for dinner. But something was off, she knew it. As the seconds ticked by, a feeling of dread settled over her.

Creak.

She bolted upright. The noise was soft but unmistakable. Someone was inside her house.

Her heart skittered. She lived in an old bungalow, more dilapidated than charming, and her bedroom was at the back, a virtual dead end. She glanced at her windows. She’d reinforced the original latches with screw locks to deter burglars—which had seemed like a good idea at the time. But now she felt trapped. She reached over and groped around on the nightstand for her phone.

Crap.

Crap crap crap. It was charging in the kitchen.

Her blood turned icy as the stark reality sank in. She had no phone, no weapon, no exit route. And someone was inside.

Should she hide in the closet? Or try to slip past him somehow, maybe if he stepped into her room? It would never work, but—

Creak.

A burst of panic made the decision for her, and she was across the room in a flash. She scurried behind the door and flattened herself against the wall. Her breath came in shallow gasps. Her heart pounded wildly as she felt more than heard him creeping closer.

That’s what he was doing. Creeping. He was easing down the hallway with quiet, deliberate steps while she cowered behind the door, quivering and naked except for her oversized Florence and the Machine T-shirt. Sweat sprang up on the back of her neck, and her chest tightened.

Who the hell was he? What did he want? She had no cash, no jewelry, just a few thousand dollars’ worth of hardware sitting on her desk. Maybe she could slip out while he stole it.

Yeah, right. Her ancient hatchback in the driveway was a neon sign announcing that whoever lived here was not only dead broke but obviously home. This intruder was no burglar—he had come for her.

Laney’s hands formed useless little fists at her sides, and she was overwhelmed with the absurd notion that she should have followed through on that kickboxing class.

She forced a breath into her lungs and tried to think.

She had to think her way out of this, because she was five-three, one hundred ten pounds, and weaponless. She didn’t stand much chance against even an average-size man, and if he was armed, forget it.

The air moved. Laney’s throat went dry. She stayed perfectly still and felt a faint shifting of molecules on the other side of the door. Then a soft sound, barely a whisper, as the door drifted open.

She held her breath. Her heart hammered. Everything was black, but gradually there was a hole in the blackness—a tall, man-shaped hole—and she stood paralyzed with disbelief as the shape eased into her bedroom and crept toward her bed. She watched it, rooted in place, waiting . . . waiting . . . waiting.

She bolted.

Her feet slapped against the wood floor as she raced down the hallway. Air swooshed behind her. A scream tore from her throat, then became a shrill yelp as he grabbed her hair and slammed her against the wall.

A stunning blow knocked her to the floor. Stars burst behind her eyes as her cheek hit wood. She scrambled to her feet in a frantic dash and tripped over the coffee table, sending glasses and dishes flying as she crashed to her knees.

He flipped her onto her back, and then he was on her, pinning her with his massive weight as something sharp cut into her shoulder blade.

She clawed at his face, his eyes. He wore a ski mask, and all she could see were three round holes and a sinister flash of teeth amid the blackness. She shrieked, but an elbow against her throat cut off all sound, all breath, as she fought and bucked beneath him.

He was strong, immovable. And terrifyingly calm as he pinned her arms one by one under his knees and reached for something in the pocket of his jacket. She expected a weapon—a knife or a gun—and she tried to heave him off. Panic seized her as his shadow shifted in the dimness. Above her frantic grunts, she heard the tear of duct tape. And suddenly the idea of being silenced that way was more horrifying than even a blade.

With a fresh burst of adrenaline she wriggled her arm out from under his knee and flailed for any kind of weapon. She groped around the floor until her fingers closed around something smooth and slender—a pen, a chopstick, she didn’t know. She gripped it in her hand and jabbed at his face with all her might. He reared back with a howl.

Laney bucked hard and rolled out from under him as he clutched his face.

A scream erupted from deep inside her. She tripped to her feet and rocketed for the door.

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

 

This case was going to throw him. Reed Novak knew it the instant he saw the volleyball court.

Taut net, sugary white sand. Beside the court was a swimming pool that sparkled like a sapphire under the blazing August sun.

“Hell, if I had a pool like that, I’d use it.”

Reed looked at his partner in the passenger seat. Jay Wallace had his window rolled down and his hefty arm resting on the door.

“Otherwise, what’s the point?”

Reed didn’t answer. The point was probably to slap a photo on a website to justify the astronomical rent Bellaterra charged for one- and two-bedroom units five minutes from downtown.

Reed pulled in beside the white ME’s van and climbed out, glancing around. Even with a few emergency vehicles, the parking lot was quiet. Bellaterra’s young and athletically inclined tenants were either at jobs or in classes, or maybe home with their parents for the summer, letting their luxury apartments sit empty.

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