“We’ll take it from here.”

I swallowed hard and shook my head. “With all due respect, sir, there isn’t a chance in hell you are stopping me from getting my girl out of that house. If I lose my job over this, so be it. But she’s my world, and the only reason she’s in here is because I fucked up and didn’t do my job in protecting her.” I pushed past his hand, only to stop again when Mason held something in front of me.

A gun.

Good thing, because I hadn’t ever gotten mine back at the station. I looked at my best friend, and with a nod, he pulled out his second duty weapon and we quickly moved in on the house. All the curtains were closed, and as the five of us quickly set up to kick in the door, muffled screams came from somewhere in the house and Mason didn’t waste another second.

The door went in easily, and I rounded the frame followed by the others.

“Austin Police Department,” I yelled as I charged into the open room, “show me your hands!”

“Travis County sheriff, drop your weapon!”

My blood boiled as my eyes narrowed in on Blake leaning over Rachel’s body on the bed. He straightened on his knees and slowly lifted his hands in the air, a scalpel in one hand and what looked like a sickle in the other.

A disturbed smile covered his face as we closed in on him. He looked completely at peace, even with five guns pointing at him. I chanced a glance at Rachel and it took me a moment to realize that the roar that filled the room had come from me. She had blood covering her bare upper body and running down her arms, which were cuffed to the bed. I automatically took a step in her direction before I could remember the safest way to go about this for her—to keep my eyes and weapon on the shitbag still straddling her knees.

“Drop your weapons,” I said through gritted teeth, and forced my eyes not to move from Blake’s hands. I wanted nothing more than to keep my gun aimed right at his head, but training took over and I put it at his chest instead. My finger itched to move closer to the trigger. Mason was right. I was too close to this and I wasn’t thinking clearly. But I couldn’t have left someone else to save Rachel.

Blake started lowering his body over Rachel again.


“Freeze or I will shoot you!”

“You really don’t want to do that,” he said calmly.

Want to fuckin’ bet?

“If my men don’t hear from me every fifteen minutes, they have orders to kill. Since I was listening to Rachel during your touching phone call earlier . . . I know you know who will die. So you decide. Shoot me or arrest me and have the deaths of Rachel’s loved ones on your hands . . . or let me go and we can hope you can get an ambulance out here fast enough so that our poor Rachel doesn’t bleed out.”

My eyes betrayed me and flashed back over to Rachel, running over her blood-covered body. There was a lot of blood, and she was pale and drenched in sweat. I prayed one of the guys was calling in an ambulance; I didn’t even have a radio on me and wasn’t about to reach for my phone. Just before I looked back over at Blake, I caught her gaze and wished I hadn’t. She wasn’t even looking at the man practically lying on top of her with knives. She was looking at me as tears poured rapidly down her face. And it was a look I’d been dreading for months. Like she had no idea who I was.

I could hear the other sheriffs and detectives trying to get Blake to put down the knives, but I couldn’t stop looking at her. I had failed her. And I hated myself for it. When I came to Austin, I’d had one job to do: find the Carnation Killer before he found another victim. When I met Rachel, I was given a new job: love her and keep her safe. Not only had I let her go with the killer I was supposed to find, I’d kept a part of my life from her to keep her safe, and in doing that had ultimately put this look in her eyes. This look of distrust mixed in with the fear. My chest ached and I prayed that one day she would understand why I’d kept all of this from her.

Tearing my eyes from her, I leveled my gaze back at Blake. He was still ignoring orders and was looking directly at me with the same smile he’d had when we’d first walked in. Detective Ryder switched out his gun for his Taser next to me and gave final warnings. At the last moment, Blake raised his hands up high, the sickle and scalpel hanging directly above Rachel dangling from his fingertips. I knew if he got tased or shot, those would fall down, and I had no doubt the sickle positioned directly over her throat would do serious damage.

Before anyone could act, I quickly holstered my weapon and threw myself over the bed at him. I knocked into him and we went flying over the other side of the bed; the sound of metal hitting hardwood had never been so beautiful as it was then. I heard the guys moving in behind me, and though Blake didn’t even attempt to struggle against me, I couldn’t stop myself from punching him over and over again until Mackey and Barnes were pulling me away and Ryder was rolling Blake over to cuff him.

Turning around, I found Mason taking the gag off Rachel and I pushed his hands away, taking over for him. “Get the cuffs, Mase.” Running my hands down her tear-streaked face, my heart broke when her eyes met mine. She was looking at me, but she wasn’t seeing me. There was nothing in those beautiful blue eyes. No pain. No fear. No betrayal. No love. They were empty and were looking right through me. “I’m so sorry, Rach. I’m sorry. We got you, baby. You’re safe now.”

I kissed the top of her head and looked down at the rest of her body. There was so much blood and her skin was turning an unnatural gray. I couldn’t tell if the blood was coming from multiple wounds but ripped my shirt off to press down on her stomach, where some was still pooling out.

“We need an ambulance here.”

“Already on the way. Dispatched one right before we caught up with you,” Mackey said as he emerged from the bathroom with towels. He and Mason wrapped them around her arms.

Keeping my shirt pressed firmly to her stomach, I took one of the towels and began gently wiping where more blood was coming from her chest. Lifting the towel to make sure I was over the wound, I saw what looked like a word carved into her chest before blood was pooling out of it again. I pressed down harder and whispered over and over again how sorry I was as I searched the rest of her body to see if we were missing anything. Just before Barnes announced the ambulance was here, Rachel’s body started gently shaking, then full-on convulsing.

“She’s going into shock,” Mason breathed. “Get EMTs in here, now!”

“Come on, babe, stay with us. Keep your eyes open, Rachel. I need you to stay awake, okay?” Her chapped lips were a chalky white and her eyes rolled back; fat tears were falling down her face and into her hair. “Stay awake, Rachel!” I felt someone pushing me back, and when I tore my eyes from her I saw three EMTs with a stretcher.

As they worked over her and loaded her onto the stretcher, Mason was handing me my blood-soaked shirt and pushing me out of the house. “They’ll take care of her, but we’re in the way, Kash. Let’s go.”

“I can’t leave her.”

“I know you don’t want to, but we still have a job to do. The faster we start taking care of this, the sooner you can be with Rachel.”

This was a case going back years, and investigations on this man went back months. No way this could be over quick enough. They’d just have to come find me in Rachel’s hospital room. She was my priority.

We’d just reached Detective Ryder when Rachel was wheeled past us, and both he and Mason had to keep an arm on me to keep me from going after her.

“We’ll get you out of here soon enough, Hendricks. I know you want to be with her.”

Need. Need to. I turned and my mouth popped open. “Who the fuck gave him a phone?!”

Mason’s head snapped to the right to see what I was looking at, and we both took off for the squad car Blake was in the back of. The back door was wide open; his hands were cuffed behind his back and a phone was between his shoulder and cheek.

“He’s calling off his men,” Mackey explained when we reached him. “I’m listening to the call, he’s doing as he’s been told.” Grabbing the phone when Blake looked up at him, he put it in an evidence bag and stepped to the back of the car.

“Why are you smiling, dipshit? You’re going down for three murders and an attempted murder.” Mason was gripping the top of the door tightly as he stared over it and at Blake.

His shit-eating grin just got bigger.

“For those three girls, I will make sure you rot until you die. But for Rachel, I will make sure every one of those days you are suffering more than any of them ever had to,” I promised, and stepped back to let Mason shut the door.

Blake’s smile somehow broadened even more. “Such harsh and unnecessary words. Too bad that won’t be happening.”

I heard the distant crack a split second after Blake’s head flew back and blood sprayed me. Mason and I turned as yells that there was a shooter went through the scene. Another two shots and Mason hit the car before sliding to the ground. I’d barely registered he’d been hit when I felt the pain tearing through my body. My knees gave out, and as one arm struggled to keep me up, my other hand pulled away from my bare chest, which was covered in blood. The last thing I saw was Mason checking his bulletproof vest and reaching for me.




My eyelids fluttered against the harsh light and I turned toward the voice. Mason—if that was even his name—was sitting next to my hospital bed, holding the hand that wasn’t completely covered in tubes and wires. Removing my hand from his, I looked straight ahead and continued to blink until my eyes adjusted to the buzzing fluorescent lights.

“How are you feeling?”

“You both lied to me,” I whispered, and continued to stare at my door.

He sighed heavily. “Rachel, you have to understand something—”

“No. I need you to leave.” Why was he here with me? Where was Kash? Or Logan . . . or were either of those even his name? My vision got blurry and my chest heaved with a sob. The man I had fallen in love with, the man I was engaged to marry, had been lying to me the entire time. I had been about to marry a man I didn’t know a thing about. Other than the fact that apparently he was a cop and a liar.

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