“Hey, where’s Heidi?” I asked, changing the subject.
She shrugged. “I have no idea. She didn’t respond to my text. You know I’m too high strung for her.”
I rolled my eyes as I stood. “She’s never said that.”
Linds crossed her arms.
“Okay, she might have said something like that.” Glancing at the time, I sighed. It was already past eight, and I doubted Heidi would come out. “I’ll text her, but do you mind if I take a shower real quick? Jensen and I—”
“Worked up a sweat?” Her eyes widened. “Did you guys have sex before you came over?”
“Oh my God, no.” I laughed. “We were at the warehouse. The whole self-defense thing.”
“Uh-huh. I’m beginning to think the whole self-defense lesson thing is code for sex.”
“Whatever.” I tossed a pillow at her.
She caught it, grinning. “Yeah. Use my parents’ though. My bathroom is a hot mess.”
“No surprise there.” Smiling at the dirty look she sent my way, I grabbed my bag off the floor. “I like your parents’ bathroom anyway. The shower could fit like five people.”
“It’s sweet, right?” She dropped the pillow on the couch. “I’ll go make us some popcorn. And dip. Cheese dip. And you will eat. A lot.”
There was always room for cheese dip.
Hurrying up the wide staircase, I headed down the hall toward her parents’ master bedroom. The double white doors were open and the room smelled like fresh linen. I stepped into the adjoining bathroom, sighing.
The shower had three separate showerheads.
I sat my bag on the tiled ledge around the Jacuzzi tub and dragged out my shower stuff, fresh clothes, and an old terry cloth robe that reached my thighs. Since I was normally too lazy to towel myself off, I sort of enjoyed dripping dry.
Stripping off my clothes, I rolled them up in a messy ball and shoved them into my tote. I reached through the gap between the wall and the blurred glass doors, turning on the water. I stepped under the multiple jets, barely able to contain a groan of envious pleasure. I could live in this shower; it was that awesome.
I took my time, like I always did when I used her parents’ shower, lazily washing the shampoo and body wash off, letting the conditioner soak in longer than necessary.
But there was cheese dip waiting for me.
Tipping my head back under the streaming water, I closed my eyes as the shower did its thing.
I stilled, my fingers in my hair, my eyes wide open.
Under the steady stream of water, I wasn’t sure what I’d heard at first, but something had snagged my attention. Lowering my chin and arms, I peered out the glass doors as the water beat down on me. The room was blurred, distorted through the glass.
The bathroom doors were cracked open, leaving a small gap between them. Tiny bumps spread along my flesh. I swear I’d shut them behind me, but it was possible the doors hadn’t latched into place. Turning away, I quickly set about rinsing the rest of the conditioner out of my hair, hating how easily I could be rattled.
Not that I doubted anyone would blame me.
The sound came again and my eyes popped wide open as my heart lurched in my chest. The bathroom light flicked off, and I turned to the doors just as a dark blur passed through them. The doors eased shut. The click of the latch was like a crack of thunder.
My heart stopped in my chest.
“Linds?” I called out and waited.
There was no response.
My hand shook as I reached over, turning off the water. My hair was plastered to my back as I opened the shower door. Holding my breath, I quickly scanned the bathroom. “Linds?” I called again, but would she have done this, turning the light off on me? I didn’t think so.
Dripping onto the mat, I picked up my robe and quickly slipped it on, belting it at the waist. I crept forward, the tile cool and slippery under my feet. I stood at the door, straining to hear something, anything—there was nothing but silence. Every muscle in my back tensed up as I grabbed the knob and yanked it open.
My heart lurched in my chest as I came face to face with the ghastly white mask, empty black eyeholes, and the open, grotesque red smile.
I jerked back out of shock. He was here! Horror poured into my bloodstream like an ice storm.
The mask tilted to the side as it raised a hand, waving its finger back and forth. A gruff tsking sound came from behind the mask.
Then he sprang forward.
I backpedaled, my feet slipping over the wet tile as a scream tore from my throat. A glove covered hand clamped down on my arm. I pulled back, nearly wrenching my arm from its socket.
He roared into the bathroom, a booted foot hitting one of the puddles as I twisted, ripping my arm free. The loss of contact threw him off balance, and his foot slipped on the wet tile. He went down on one knee.
I tore out of the bathroom, gripping the door and slamming it shut. As I whipped around, the doors exploded open behind me. I took another step and arms clamped down on my waist. Before I could even react, I was airborne.
I slammed into the bed, my hip hitting the bedpost. A sheet of soaked hair obscured my vision as pain knocked the air out of my lungs, but instinct was screaming through me, digging out all the time I spent in the warehouse with Jensen.
He was on me, his hands circling my throat and pressing down with his weight. I sunk a good inch or so into the mattress. All I could see was the terrifying smile, the empty eyes, and behind the hood, the frizzy, fake hair. My mouth was wide open, but I couldn’t get any air into my lungs.
Panic tried to dig its claws into me, but I refused to cave to the terror. Before he could trap my legs with his, I rolled my hips, lifting my knee. With everything I had in me, I shoved it into his groin.
He grunted as his fingers loosened. Air streamed into my throat, and this time I pulled both my legs up, slamming the heels of my feet into his calves. His weight shifted, and I was able to roll out from underneath him.
I fell off the bed, wheezing as my knees slammed into the floor. I didn’t stop. Pushing up, I ran across the bedroom, throwing open the door. My feet smacked off the hardwood floor in the hallway.
“Linds!” I screamed her name over and over, fear amplifying when there was no answer.
Had he done something to her? Was she hurt?
I reached the stairs just as I heard his booted feet connect with the floor behind me. The hairs on my arms rose as I raced down the steps, taking them two at a time. Two steps from the last, my foot slipped and I went down. Catching myself on the banister before I broke my neck, I ignored the screaming pain tearing through my muscles. Straightening, I gained my balance as I reached the foyer.
Weight crashed into me from behind and I went down, my knees and hands smacking the floor. A hand burrowed into my hair, roughly trying to turn me around. I twisted at the waist, brought my knee back, and kicked him in the chest.
He let go, and I launched to my feet. Already on his, he moved around me, blocking the front door. His chest was moving up and down, the hood fallen on broad shoulders, the wig slightly askew.
I almost charged him—almost went with a punch to the throat, but he reached behind him, brandishing something that glinted in the foyer light.
A long, thick, and wickedly sharp knife—the kind serial killers coveted.
Whipping around, I darted for the nearest exit, which was the garage. I screamed for Linds, and I also just screamed. With every step I took I could practically feel the knife slicing through my back, ripping through cloth and flesh.
I slid across the kitchen floor, slamming into the door leading to the garage. Yanking on it, I realized it was locked. My pulse nearing stroke territory, I reached down, turning the little lock. As I opened the door, I glanced over my shoulder.
Clown Face wasn’t there.
Not wasting any time, I stepped into the dark garage, letting the door shut behind me. I dragged in a breath, and immediately I started coughing. At first I couldn’t make sense of the gas smell, the sound, or why I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t understand what was happening, and then I did.
The car in the closed garage—a Lincoln sedan that belonged to Linds’ mom was running.
I pulled up the loose collar of my robe, coughing into the material as I started to turn away, looking for the button to open the garage door, when I realized the car wasn’t empty.