Roses from My Killer
Josie Yearwood gazed out at the blue-black night waters of Roanoke Sound and the twinkling lights of fishing boats in the distance.
She’d always loved living here on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, with its miles of beaches, its luxury vacation homes, its close-knit communities. Even in the off-season when the vacationers left and shops closed down and the winds turned cold, the barrier island coastline had its charms. And at night under the stars and the vast expanse of midnight blue sky and ocean, the coves and inlets and seashores took on a majestic beauty that was hard to surpass anywhere else.
She was glad she’d come back home, she thought, as she stole a glance at the man behind the wheel of the Mercedes she was riding in.
Tall and lean, with casual ease he wore a pair of slim tapered Dockers, a navy-and-white dot half-knit shirt, and a dark sport coat. His face was intriguing. Great bone structure framed by wavy amber blond hair cut long on the top and short on the sides. His deep penetrating eyes were as blue as the ocean.
He was better-looking than she expected from his online profile. Having dated several dozen prospects from various dating sites, she’d decided to try a new one. And so far, this guy was rating higher than average. He got extra points for being a CFO of a logistics company in Charlotte.
Josie always did have a soft spot for rich men.
He’d taken her to her favorite restaurant in Manteo and had spared no expense, earning him more points. When he’d asked her if she’d like to go to the microbrewery in Kill Devil Hills for dessert and a handcrafted beer, she couldn’t say no. Even though she had a rule about not going anywhere with a guy until the third date.
Something about him made her break it this time.
They drove across the bridge and a few miles along South Croatan Highway, then he turned onto a side street and into one of those pricey oceanfront neighborhoods. After a few yards, he made another turn.
Looking out the window, she smoothed the skirt of the heather three-quarter sleeve jersey knit dress she’d paired with a plaid jacket and leather ankle boots. “Where are we going?”
“You’ll see.” He gave her a heart-stopping smile.
They drove past more homes and condos. Three- and four-story luxury homes like the kind her grandmother used to clean for a living. Josie had lived in a penthouse when she’d been in New York, but she hadn’t been inside one of these edifices since she was a child. Most of them were rental properties, and this time of year over half were vacant.
They went a little farther and he pulled into a drive and came to a stop.
Josie gazed up at the massive three-story structure. Under the yard lights she could see it was painted a sunny yellow and had pretty white trim. A long white staircase led to the front door and two white wooden decks that ran all around to the back of the house.
“Is this your rental?” she giggled, suddenly realizing she’d had too much Sangria at the restaurant.
“I’m using it while I’m here.”
He’d told her he was on vacation for three weeks.
“I thought we were going to the microbrewery.”
“I wanted to take you here first.”
She could just imagine the amenities on the inside. Plus there would be a breath-taking view of the Atlantic.
“It’s got a hot tub on the second deck. You’ve got to see it.” Without waiting for an answer, he hopped out of the car and came around to open her door.
A warning bell went off in Josie’s head and she hesitated.
Chuckling he leaned in. “What are you waiting for?”
What was she waiting for? She really wanted to see this place. Was it the alcohol making her let down her guard? Before she could figure that out, she let him take her hand and pull her out of the car.
When he put his arm around her and led her to the door to the lower level of the house, she stopped. The wind blew against her face giving her a strange chill and waking her brain up a bit.
“We’re going in that way?”
“It’s got an elevator. C’mon.” There was a slight harshness to his tone that set her nerves on edge.
“Maybe we should just head for the microbrewery.” Or better yet, home.
His grip around her grew tighter. He pulled her along, and before she knew it she was inside the dark enclosure.
Most of the houses near the waters had spaces like this for storage and water flow during storms and hurricanes. Some were furnished. This one wasn’t, but it had a concrete floor.
He slid a door closed behind her and reached for a switch. A single light bulb with no shade came on. Beneath was nothing but a single wooden chair. Not exactly the amenity she had imagined.
Before she could ask where the elevator was, she felt cool metal clamp around her wrist and heard it click shut.
She looked down. Handcuffs? Had he had them in his pocket the whole time?
Her heart began to pound. She spun toward him, forcing a smile. “Hey, I’m not into kinky stuff. Especially on a first date.”
“That’s not what I heard, Beauty Queen.”
Beauty Queen? No one had called her that in years. “What?”
“You really don’t remember me, do you?”
She stared at him, trying to recall his features. She’d dated a lot of guys over the years. Tons of them. She didn’t remember this one.
“Look, I think it’s time to call it a night. Why don’t you just take me home?”
His sharp laugh was hollow and frightening. “But the evening’s entertainment is just about to start.”
Her heart began to hammer in her chest, but she knew she couldn’t let him know she was afraid. “I mean it, now.”
“And so do I.” Suddenly his eyes filled with such hate, it took her breath.
He pulled her over to the chair. She struggled, clung to a nearby cabinet for a moment. Then he yanked her off it and forced her down into the chair. Holding her with his body, he jerked her hands behind her.
“You’re hurting me.”
“Not nearly enough.” He fastened the cuff to her other hand.
She twisted and kicked out at him, but he moved away and her foot hit only air. She let out a scream.
“Help,” she cried wildly.
“Why are you making this so difficult?” Swiftly he pulled a pair of dark leather gloves out of his pocket and put them on.
Then the leather clamped down over her mouth.
She screamed into the glove, even though she knew no one could hear her.
His face twisting with irritation, he shoved his free hand into his coat and drew out a pocket knife. With a flick, he snapped it open and held it to her face.
The blade was long and sharp. It glistened under the light bulb. Oh, my God, she thought, her brain fully awake now. This guy was crazy.
“You will be quiet now, won’t you, Josie?” he said to her as if she were a child.
Realizing he’d cut her if she tried to fight, she nodded. Slowly he pulled his hand and the knife away. Then he turned toward the row of cabinets against the wall.
She took several deep breaths, trying to keep panic from engulfing her. If she could talk to him, reason with him, maybe she could get free.
“Please let me go,” she begged softly. “I won’t tell anyone about this.”
Instead of answering, he opened a cabinet and pulled out a roll of duct tape.
She twisted her wrists in the handcuffs, trying to get loose. If she could drag the chair over to that door they’d come through, maybe she could get out. But the chair wouldn’t budge. She craned her neck and saw it was fastened to the floor with metal bolts.
A wild thought went through her brain. He had the cuffs with him. And the gloves. He was prepared. How long had he planned this? Since he’d asked her out online? Before then? Had he done this before?
Oh, why hadn’t she checked him out more thoroughly?
He sliced through the roll of duct tape in his hands and turned toward her, lifting it toward her face. He was going to gag her.
“You don’t have to do that. I won’t scream again.”
A corner of his mouth turned up. “Oh, yes, you will.”
Her blood went cold. “I have money,” she lied. “My family is wealthy. They’ll give you anything you want.”
He forced the tape over her mouth. “You don’t understand. It’s you I want. Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for you? Do you know how humiliating it is to be rejected by everyone? To live every day in torment? Wanting to die?”
What was he talking about? Nobody was rejecting him.
“Of course you don’t. You’re popular. You’ve always been popular. That’s why I have to show you what it’s like to feel real pain.”
He strolled to the counter and picked up the knife again. Once more he turned toward her.
She stared at him, fear clawing her insides. Please, please don’t do this, she tried to beg. But the tape muffled her words.
He came toward her. She tried to plead with him with her eyes.
He ignored her and began to slice open her new dress. She felt the cold air against her skin. Every part of her shivered with terror. No. Please, no. Please don’t do this.
But he did.
And just as he’d said, she began to scream into the tape, though she knew no one could hear her. She closed her eyes and felt the tears start to stream down her face.
And then she felt the incredible pain as he dug the blade into her flesh.