Only Killing Stops The Pain. . .
Callie Cantrell has only fragmented memories of the car accident that killed her husband and son. One year later, she’s still trying to start over, yet she can’t shake her unease. Especially when former LA cop West Laughlin barges into her life, searching for his young nephew. At first he thinks Callie’s lying about who she is and what she knows. But soon it’s clear that Callie and West are linked by a killer who has bent others to his twisted will. The worst night of Callie’s life was just the beginning of his vengeance. And when her turn comes again there will be no escape. . .
The two cars were traveling fast above Laurel Canyon in the cool, California night. Too fast. If she wasn’t careful she could lose control of her own vehicle. It was almost as if the people ahead of her knew the danger creeping up on them. Did they? Could they?
She focused on the driver, knew that he liked speed and risk, loved to push himself. She could see the second head – the woman’s – turn as she flashed at him in anger. She clearly didn’t feel the same way, but her quarry’s response was to accelerate even more.
A grim smile touched her lips. Carefully, she pressed her toe down further and the SUV jumped forward. Did he know they were being followed? She doubted it. He was a narcissistic fool, believed himself infallible. She’d known that from the first time she met him in the dim light of the bar, the way his gaze had caressed her. She’d known just how to play him.
But now she had to time this right. Had to move up closer. They were almost at the spot. The curve was coming up.
She glanced around anxiously. If a car approached in the opposite lane at the point of impact she would be lost. Likely to go over the edge herself. Her SUV gained on the Mercedes as she pushed it to reckless speed. The woman passenger looked back in fear as she bore down on them, her face white, her mouth opening in a scream.
And then the Explorer was on them. Deliberately she clipped the rear of their car, aiming for the back end of the driver’s side.
Bam! The Mercedes whipped around as if spun by a hand on a roulette wheel and slew sideways. The man overcorrected and the car swung back, shimmying as it hit the rail. It went airborne so fast that even she gasped in surprise. She felt a moment’s jubilation until she saw the third head lift from the back seat. A small head.
The boy was in the car? NO! NO!
Oh, God. Oh, God. NO! He wasn’t supposed to be with them!
It felt like the Mercedes hung in the air forever. She was screaming herself as it smashed into the ground with a sickening crunch. Her own vehicle was shuddering and rotating. She wrestled the SUV around, the world spinning. She barely managed to stop its dizzying turn and straighten it out, keep its speeding tires on the pavement. Save it, too, from sailing over the edge as it charged forward. Distantly, she felt her arms aching from the effort. But the boy. The boy. . .
The Explorer flew around the corner and she stood on the brakes. No traffic. A miracle. The vehicle shuddered violently to a stop, and she maneuvered it over to the first place she could, a small strip of dirt on the side of the road.
No. . .no. . .
She had to go back. Had to. It was dangerous. Foolhardly. Suicidal. Undoubtedly someone had seen. There were houses there, nestled into the cliff side far below. But the boy.
She ran back to the site of the crash. An eerie calmness held. There was no evidence of the accident from up here apart from the missing chunk of rail that looked like it could have given way weeks, months, years earlier.
Heart in her throat, she scrambled over the edge and down the cliff. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t safe. Her hands were ripped and bloodied by the bushes and limbs as her sneakers slid in the dried, loose dirt. She approached the car cautiously. The Mercedes lay on its side, wheels spinning, headlights aimed at a distant land far below and the snake of glittering headlights in the valley. The vehicle had been caught by a stump and scraggly line of twisted trees. All that had saved it from tumbling down the cliff. Lucky, she thought with a swept in breath. Maybe still alive.
She saw the boy first. Lying still. Quiet. His booster seat flung to one side. Her heart sank at the sight of his limp and motionless body. Tears filled her eyes as she ran to him. She searched for a pulse and found none. A cry wrenched from her soul. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way! Glancing up, she focused on the car. The woman was tangled up, flopped like a marionette, slung up inside the passenger seatbelt which had restrained her, the airbag crushed up against her.
And the man.
Her quarry was on the ground a few feet from the boy, lying on his back. His eyes were open, reflecting a strip of moonlight. He focused on her and her blood ran cold. Alive.
They looked at each other and he lifted up a hand, as if he planned to reach for her. “Martinique,” he said in remembrance and then died.