Read Bad Nights Online

Authors: Rebecca York

Bad Nights

BOOK: Bad Nights
3.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Copyright © 2013 by Ruth Glick

Cover and internal design © 2013 by Sourcebooks, Inc.

Designed by Danielle Fiorella

Photography by Jon Zychowski

Cover image © Caitlin Mirra/Shutterstock

Cover image © Mikael Damkier/Shutterstock

Model: Steve Moriarty

Sourcebooks and the colophon are registered trademarks of Sourcebooks, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca, an imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc.

P.O. Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410

(630) 961-3900

Fax: (630) 961-2168

To Norman, who is always there for me.

Chapter 1

Above the muted sound of laughter coming from the television set, Morgan Rains heard a noise that made the hairs on the back of her neck prickle.

With a click of the remote, she turned off the DVD she'd been watching—of herself and Glenn in happier times—and sat very still in the darkened room, listening intently for sounds from outside.

The rustle of dry leaves came again, louder this time and closer to the little vacation retreat nestled in a hollow between two foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Morgan was sure that either a person or a large animal was out there.

In the years she had been coming to this cozy cottage, there had never been any problem with intruders, but modern life might have changed that, which was one of the reasons she was here—to start getting the place in shape to sell it. She didn't need a vacation home, especially one where so many memories lurked.

Even when she'd told herself the house was perfectly safe, Morgan hadn't been foolish about staying here alone. Quietly, she walked to the desk drawer and pulled out the automatic pistol she kept with her, feeling more secure with the weight of the weapon in her hand.

Not so long ago, owning anything more deadly than a water pistol would have been as foreign to her as going back for a second PhD in quantum physics. That was before her husband had been shot and killed by a burglar, and her world had shattered.

Glenn Chandler. The love of her life.

She'd dragged herself through almost a year and a half without him, throwing herself into the psychology courses she was teaching. Although the joy had gone from the work, keeping up with research in her field, preparing lectures, giving tests, and grading term papers filled her time.

Now the semester was over, and she'd come back to the little house she'd inherited from her parents to finally pack up the clothing Glenn had left here and decide which of the furnishings should go to charity shops and which she'd move to her house in Falls Church. But when she'd come across the videos they'd made during the five years of their marriage, she'd sat down to watch. Starting with their wedding day, when they'd been smiling and happy, surrounded by family and friends.

She clicked off the gun's safety and held the weapon down by her right leg, wondering if she was going to end up like the heroine of a mystery novel who was too stupid to live.

Confronting danger was usually a bad idea, yet she didn't see any option in her present situation. This vacation retreat was in the middle of nowhere. The closest neighbor was over a mile away, even if she knew who lived in the house on the other side of the woods. And calling 911 was hardly an option, since it would take the local cops forty minutes to get here. Too late if someone outside was getting ready to break in.

She couldn't simply sit here and wait for an intruder to pounce. Of course, she reminded herself, there had been sightings of mountain lions in the area. If a big cat was prowling around out there, staying inside and opening the blinds so the cat could see her were the best alternatives. That would probably make it run away. But if it wasn't an animal, that was exactly the wrong tactic.

With her heart thumping inside her chest, she settled on a compromise. Walking to the window, she eased the curtains aside with her free hand and scanned the woods beyond the house. At first she saw nothing in the fading light. Then a flash of something that wasn't part of the natural environment made her go very still.

She was seeing flesh. Not fur. Naked flesh.

A man or a big woman. She kept her gaze trained on the figure, looking for details. It was definitely a man. He was in the woods fifty yards from the house, weaving his way through the trees on unsteady legs as though he was coming off a three-day bender.

The breath froze in her lungs. Who the hell was out there in his birthday suit? Some pervert who knew a woman was staying alone in this isolated location? A nudist who'd wandered onto the wrong property? Or an escapee from an insane asylum?

She'd seen him only briefly from the front—long enough to confirm that he was very male.

But he'd turned away from the house. Which meant that he wasn't stalking her. Unless the maneuver was designed to make her drop her guard if she was watching.

While that paranoid thought spun in her head, he wavered on his feet. His large fingers clawed at the trunk of a tree as he made a desperate attempt to stay upright.

She watched him lose his grip on the bark and slide downward to his knees.

Again he flailed out toward the tree, but his hands slipped away, and he fell onto the ground, lying on his side in a pile of dry leaves with his knees curled toward his chest. Unmoving.

She'd thought he might be stalking the house. Now it looked like he was a man in bad trouble, unless he was still pulling an elaborate scam.

But she couldn't simply leave him there. As she looked around, her gaze fell on a striped maroon and orange afghan, one of the many her mother had crocheted on long winter evenings. Snatching it off the couch, she threw it over her arm, concealing the gun as she hurried to the front door.

Outside, on the porch, she shivered in the evening chill. Not a night to be out naked, she thought as she looked around to make sure an accomplice wasn't lurking behind a tree. When she saw no one besides the guy on the ground, she crossed the patch of straggly weeds that had once been a lawn and stepped into the shade under the tulip poplars and maples. The man hadn't moved since she'd seen him claw at the tree trunk and go down.

As she approached, she took in his head full of close-cropped dark hair, broad shoulders, and narrow hips.

What in the world had happened to him? Had some disease felled him?

When she got closer, she saw well-defined muscles, and more dark hair fanned across his chest, peeking out from behind the raised knees that hid his genitals.

But that wasn't what riveted her attention. Now that she was close to him, she gasped as she realized his condition. The side of his face she could see was dark with beard stubble that didn't hide the bruises on his cheek and jaw. Or the dried blood around his nose and mouth.

There were more bruises on his back and shoulders and over his ribs. And something else made her draw in a quick breath—the small, angry red circles peppering his back, arms, and thighs.

A rash? She didn't think so.

She'd seen something similar once when she'd been a teenager. She and a bunch of kids had been out in the woods smoking. Billy Anderson had dropped a cigarette on his hand, and the mark had looked like the ones on this man, only these were deeper, angrier.

He might have gotten the bruises in an auto accident or a tumble down one of the nearby mountains, but not a dozen cigarette burns on his skin.

She shivered. Much as the idea alarmed her, the only thing she could figure was that he'd been tortured by someone.

But who would do such a thing? She couldn't ask because he was unconscious, lying out in the open with the temperature falling, his breath shallow.

Again her mind spun unwanted scenarios. There were people in these hills growing pot. Others with meth labs. Had he gotten into a dispute with one of his fellow criminals?

Her gaze landed on his hip which was covered with a particularly nasty bruise. The rational part of her mind knew that taking him into her house was dangerous. The reckless part sent a different message.

you? You've been dead for over a year anyway. If he finished you off, it would be a kindness.

She made an angry sound, dismissing that last self-destructive thought as she turned to the injured man and murmured, “We have to get you inside.”

At the sound of her voice, he stirred.

“Don't worry,” she said. “Everything's going to be okay.”

The words were automatic. She'd said them to Glenn when he'd lain dying on the hall floor, a pool of blood spreading around his head.

Clenching her teeth, she shoved that unwanted image out of her mind. She didn't need it now. Or any time.

“Who are you? What happened?”

He had been lying absolutely still. Now he rolled to his back. As his head moved on the bed of leaves, she saw that one of his eyes was swollen closed.

“We have to get you inside,” she repeated, knowing she couldn't carry him. “Do you think you can walk?”

As she was about to come down beside him, his good eye flew open. It was dark and unfocused, until it lit on her. A kind of wily intelligence seeped into his face, and she knew he was going to attack.

“Don't,” she gasped.

But it was already too late. He lunged, and she jumped back. Even in his battered condition, his reflexes were good. He closed his hand around her ankle, his grip surprisingly strong for someone who'd been unconscious a few moments ago.

She hadn't known what to expect, but it certainly wasn't this.

His voice was steely as he asked, “I don't remember you around the camp. Did they send a woman to work me over this time?”

“No,” she answered automatically. “Who are they?”

He laughed. Not a pleasant sound in the gathering gloom of the forest. “What? Are you fucking Trainer? And he's having some fun letting you play with the prisoner.”

“No. I'm trying to help you. Who are you? Who did this to you?”

“You know damn well.” Even as he said the words, a look of confusion crossed his features.

“Please, I don't know anything about you—except that I found you in the woods outside my house. You're hurt. You need help.”

The gun was still in her hand, but she didn't want to shoot him, unless there was no alternative.

“What's your name? Is there someone looking for you?”

“Looking for me? Get real.”

He'd been lying unmoving on the ground, his large hand gripping her ankle. Still holding her in place, he surged up and grabbed at the afghan. As it slipped off her arm, he fell back, but the damage was already done. His gaze riveted to the gun in her hand, and she knew that a dangerous situation had just become a whole lot more deadly.

BOOK: Bad Nights
3.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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