When it hit me who Shelly was—the girl that had gone missing at the beginning of the summer—my knees went weak. I doubted showing her how good he was had anything to do with something I wanted to be a part of.
I thought about the other women—the ones in the photos on these walls. “You . . . you hurt them because of Shelly?”
His lips curled up in a mockery of a smile. “I don’t think I hurt them.”
The guy was insane, absolutely crazy-pants insane. I opened my mouth, but then I heard what felt like a lifeline. The distant ring of my cell phone. I’d left it in my closet. I had no idea who could be calling, but I prayed that it was Reece, because I had to think he’d check on me if I didn’t answer. He knew the passcode to the security system and he had a key.
Kip didn’t acknowledge the sound of my phone. He was studying me like one would look at an insect through a microscope. “I sent you flowers.”
I blinked. “What?”
“I sent you the flowers,” he repeated, taking another slow, measured step forward. “I sent them after I heard you talking with your mother,” he continued, sending a shiver of repulsion through me. “I told you things would be better.”
The man was seriously deranged.
“You never brought them home. That upset me.” He shrugged again and then he reached out, brushing his fingers along a photo. “I wanted you to know I was here with you.” A real smile appeared and somehow that was creepier than anything else. “I loved how you thought the place was haunted. Cute.”
Those dark eyes settled on mine. They were bottomless, wholly frightening. I heard the phone ringing again downstairs, and as my heart pounded in my chest, he lowered his arm. His hand opened and closed. “I never got to do that with the rest of them. Only Shelly. I knew where she kept her spare key.”
My arms were shaking so bad I wrapped them around my waist as I took a sideways step, moving closer to the door. I had to keep him talking. That much I knew.
“You really pissed me off when you brought him home,” he said. “I thought you were different. You were different from the rest of them—artistic, funny.”
“You messed up my apartment.”
“Of course I did. How else was I to get you back here?” He inclined his head again. “Sometimes I would watch you at Mona’s. I’d be there and you’d have no idea. Just like I’ve laid beside you and you’ve had no idea.”
My stomach knotted with disgust and horror. I couldn’t even wrap my head around that, couldn’t even allow myself to truly think about it.
“What . . . what are you going to do?”
“That’s such a repetitious question,” he replied, the grin slipping from his face. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I didn’t plan this. You weren’t supposed to come up here. I was supposed to come to you, when the time was right.”
When the time was right? Dear God, I was staring into the face of someone truly unhinged. I heard my phone start ringing again, and this time Kip’s eyes narrowed. His hands closed once more, and I sprang into action, my flats slipping on the wooden floor as I took off toward the door. My stomach was in my throat, and all I could let myself think about was making it to that door—making it outside.
I didn’t make it very far.
Tackled from behind, I went down hard, my glasses flying off, my knees smacking the floor, and my palms scraping across a rough board. Pain flared, but I didn’t cave in to it. I wiggled and twisted, trying to loosen the arms circled tight around my waist.
Kip grunted as he flipped me on my back, and I swung out. His round cheeks flushed, he shifted, pushing his knee into my stomach with enough force to knock the air out of my lungs. “Knock it off,” he ordered, jerking back as I swung again. This time he wasn’t fast enough. My fist connected with his jaw, and I hit him like my brothers taught me to. Hard and fast. Dull pain danced over my knuckles, but I swung again, screaming as loud as I could.
“Scream all you want, Roxy.” He caught my hand and slammed it down, pinning it to the floor with bruising force. “James and his girl aren’t home and you know the Silvers can’t hear shit.”
That didn’t stop me from screaming.
He hauled me up by one arm and slammed me back down. My head cracked against the floor, and for a second, bright lights flashed in back of my eyes, dotting my vision. I was stunned as pain whipped around along the side of my head and down my neck.
Fear rose inside me, insidious as choking, thick smoke, but so did a fury that was far stronger. This would not happen. Not after everything. I wasn’t stupid. The other women obviously hadn’t been able to identify him, and Shelly—that poor girl didn’t sound like she was still walking this earth. I knew the chances of me walking out of there were slim. I was not going to go down like this. There was no way.
I was going to fight.
Rolling my hips, I succeeded in knocking him to the side. Once his weight came off my stomach, I didn’t hesitate. I rolled onto my knees, scrambling to put space between us. “Help!” I screamed until my throat felt raw. “Help!”
Kip snatched my ankle, yanking hard enough that I cried out as sharp pain flew up my leg. I didn’t stop. On my hands and knees, I crawled across the floor, toward the bedroom door.
“I don’t know where you think you’re going.” He grunted as he got a hand on my upper leg and pulled.