Excerpt: Perfectly Tortured
Book 3: CORE Above the Law
I think my mask of sanity is about to slip.
—Patrick Bateman, American Psycho
“WHAT ARE YOU waiting for?”
Liam Forrester glanced in the rear view mirror. The demon sat on the center of the SUV’s backseat. Her long, dark curly hair was slicked back in a severe bun. Her green eyes glittered with sadistic amusement and stood out against her heavy black mascara and eyeliner. Her lips, stained red and matching her dress, slid into a smile.
“You’re not supposed to be here, Adeline,” he said. Fear gripped him, but excitement twisted him from the inside out. She’d promised to stay away from him. Nearly two months ago, while he’d bathed in the blood of his victims, she’d assured him that he was free. Afterward, he’d retrieved the backpack he’d hidden in Atlanta, Georgia, then had moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where he’d taken a job, found an affordable apartment, and bought a car. Adeline would not ruin what he now had—a steady income, the promise of a normal life.
He’d kill again before he would allow that to happen.
Hatred burned through him. For her. For the wicked cravings hollowing out his stomach, making room for what he knew could come…what he knew he shouldn’t allow. He looked away from the mirror and toward the small house tucked behind the tall Florida pine trees. “Go away.”
“I can never leave you, lover.”
Which meant he could never stop killing. The hairs along his skin rose. “Then where have you been?”
“Cute. You have missed me,” she said on a chuckle. “Where’ve I been? I never left. I’m in your heart, in the blood pumping through your veins. I’m in your mind, Liam. I hear your thoughts, I know your fears, and what excites you. We’re so much alike, lover. I know you’re just as hungry as I am. So, again, what are you waiting for?”
He ignored the pangs shooting through his stomach. “I’m nothing like you,” he said, determined to leave and prove to her that he wasn’t the man she thought she’d created. His hand shook as he reached for the gearshift. When her taunting laughter filled his head, he curled his fingers and dropped his fist in his lap, leaving the SUV in PARK.
“Then why have you been sitting at the end of this woman’s driveway?”
“Because it’s against store policy for employees to use their personal vehicles to deliver or pick up equipment from customers’ residences.”
“You’re a terrible liar. Tell me the truth. You were trying to decide how to go in there and…take.”
“I wasn’t,” he denied with vehemence. Since fleeing the House of Archer, where Adeline and that sick prick, Rodney, had imprisoned him—filling him with drugs, torturing his mind—his wounds had healed. His body only held a few minor scars from the time he’d spent there. After he’d given Adeline what she’d wanted, killing the old couple he’d come across during his escape, the darkness that had been threatening to take over his mind had gone away.
Most of the time.
“Come on, Liam. You know you want to go in there and take. Imagine how good she’ll feel.”
As Adeline’s seductive voice washed over him, he did imagine, just as he had the moment Bella Johnson had walked into the tool rental department at The Home Zone, asking to rent a carpet cleaner. She’d looked so damned much like Adeline that he’d thought his mind had fractured again, that the psychosis could be returning. Then Bella had spoken. Her voice wasn’t purposefully seductive like Adeline’s, but sultry with a sweet Southern tang. During the rest of his workday, he’d replayed their interaction dozens of times. Last night, he’d lain in bed picturing her with him. Naked. Her creamy skin glistening with perspiration and flushed from sex. He fisted his hand tight. Her blues eyes wide, frozen with terror, with shock. Her mouth gaping open on a silent scream.
Adeline laughed. “Yes,” she hissed. “That’s how I picture her, too. How did you kill her, Liam? Tell me, lover. Did you choke the life out of her? Or did you cut her?”
“She’s not dead.”
“No dip, silly. For someone who lived with multiple personalities, your lack of imagination surprises me.”
He’d had no problem fantasizing about killing Adeline. Maybe if he’d been given the satisfaction of ending her life, she wouldn’t be in his head—haunting his dreams, keeping him awake at night reliving the hell she and Rodney had put him through. Reliving the murders, how killing those old people and tasting their blood on his lips had quieted her…
“Let’s make her dead, Liam,” Adeline continued. “No one will know. They don’t know about you, or me and Rod. Even your sister doesn’t have a clue.”
Kiera. He closed his eyes and pictured his sister’s familiar smile. She was such a good person, and he didn’t want to disappoint her any more than he had. “I can’t do it. Not like this.”
“Fine. We’ll come back later.”
He shook his head. “It’s not right.”
“If it wasn’t right, then it wouldn’t feel so good, so liberating. It’s been too long, lover. Don’t you miss it?”
“The power.” She let out a throaty moan. “Feed me, Liam. Give us what we both need.”
“No,” he repeated. He’d starve the bitch. He’d deprive her of what she craved, even if he longed to watch the life burn out of a person’s eyes. Even if he ached to release his hatred and rage for Adeline and Rodney. As a tool rental technician, his job kept him busy. But there’d been slow days, when the hours had dragged by and his thoughts had drifted. Adeline didn’t think he had a good imagination? She must’ve been sleeping when he’d been considering what kind of damage he could cause to the human body with a forty-two-inch bolt cutter.
He flinched when his cell phone rang, picked it up and looked at the screen, at Bella’s number. Two days ago, he’d memorized her number and address after she’d left the store with the carpet cleaner. He still couldn’t come up with an excuse why, or explain what his intentions had been when he’d driven by her house after he’d gotten off work that night, or why he’d followed her while she’d run her errands the next morning.
She’d called the store yesterday afternoon, upset because her car, a little blue hatchback, had broken down and was still in the repair shop. Since her car wouldn’t be ready until later in the week, and she had finished with the carpet cleaner, she’d worried about paying for additional days on the rental. After she had explained her problem, she’d then asked if he would be willing to swing by her house, pick up the steam cleaner and return it to the store.
He hadn’t been lying to Adeline. Because of liability reasons, it was against store policy for him to pick up equipment from a customer’s house. Once he’d explained this to Bella, she’d replied, “What if I wanted to be more than a customer?”
“Answer the phone, Liam. Tell her you’re here and that you can’t wait to kill her,” Adeline said, laughter in her voice.
Ignoring Adeline, he answered the phone. “Bella? Hi.”
“Hey, Liam,” Bella greeted him, and he loved the way she pronounced his name LEE-yum. Would the pronunciation change if he shoved his way into the house, uninvited, wielding a razor-sharp switchblade? “Is that you I see sittin’ at the end of my drive?”
He glanced toward the house, which reminded him of a double-wide trailer, only a little fancier with wood siding and a covered porch. Between the tall pines he saw her waving to him from the top step. “Yeah, sorry. I was just finishing a call. I’m heading your way now.”
“Great. See ‘ya in a sec.”
He set the phone on the passenger seat and looked in the rear view mirror. The corner of Adeline’s mouth curled as she cocked a dark brow. “Go away,” he ordered.
“That’s the girl you masturbated over this morning in the shower? She’s a little beneath you, don’t you think, Lee-yum?”
His face heated as he shifted the car into DRIVE. “There’s nothing wrong with her.”
“Nothing wrong…yet. After all, she’s still alive.”
“And she’s going to remain that way. I’m taking the cleaner, and leaving.”
“But she wants to be more than a customer,” Adeline reminded him. “I think you should go for it. Take a little piece of that trailer trash.”
“She’s not trash,” he seethed, and tried desperately to control his anger.
“Take, lover,” Adeline said, her voice coaxing. “Let her spread her legs wide for you. Fuck her with that big cock like I know you can. Remember how I rode you? Remember how good it felt to be inside me?” She let out a breathy moan. “Remember how much you wanted to wrap your hands around my throat as you came?”
He pressed on his thickening erection and tried to control his body, but he couldn’t stop the images surfacing… Of Adeline—of Bella—riding him, large breasts bouncing, moans escaping from her throat, ecstasy crossing her face. He hated her. Hated that he hadn’t been able to control his desire for her, that he’d loved fucking her. She’d taken part in strapping him to a bed, had tortured him by keeping his eyes taped open, and had forced drugs into his body. He’d wanted her dead, had wanted to kill her himself.
“Now you can,” Adeline reminded him, and pointed toward the front porch.
As he brought his vehicle to a crawl, dark, demented desire settled on his soul. He stared at Bella, lust heating his blood, his skin. With the exception of how she dressed, Bella could be Adeline’s twin. Instead of the faded jeans and T-shirt she wore, he imagined Bella the way he’d last seen Adeline… Her low-waist, frayed denim shorts barely covered her hips and crotch. Her white shirt was unbuttoned and tied at the waist, revealing a patch of her stomach and lack of a bra.
“Mmm. I remember,” Adeline said. “You were so hard for me.”
He’d been painfully aroused by Adeline. Despite hating her, he’d enjoyed her body. He would enjoy Bella’s body as well, and immediately pictured…taking.
But only if she was willing. He was a killer, not a rapist, and knew all too well what it was like to be held down, to be powerless, to have his body used.
Adeline laughed. “Oh, stop. You loved every minute of it.”
“Fuck you,” he muttered, and brought the car to a stop at the apron of the gravel driveway.
“No. Fuck her, then kill her. Please, lover. It’s been too long.”
He ignored Adeline and got out of the SUV. Bella gave him a shy smile and twirled a dark curl around her finger. Her smile grew as her gaze shifted over him, before meeting his eyes.
“The little twat wants us,” Adeline whispered.
Me, he countered. She wants me. There is no us.
“No one will ever know. I’ll show you how, just like before. It’ll be so easy, lover. Remember how much you loved the way the blood tightened your skin when it dried?”
His head hurt as Adeline continued to talk, encouraging him to be bad, violent, cruel and merciless. He tried to ignore her and keep his attention on the subtly sexy woman waiting for him.
The hunger pangs pierced his side. They’d been bad before, but not like this.
He glanced toward the planter near the door. He could easily smash it over Bella’s head.
“Wait until you’re inside and you’ve had her.”
He hadn’t had sex since Adeline, and could use a good lay.
“It’s going to be so good, lover. Feed us.”
“Thanks so much for helpin’ me out,” Bella said when he reached the bottom porch step. “I really appreciate it.”
“I’m hungry. Give me what I need.”
He mentally shook off the nagging bitch. “No problem,” he said, moving up the steps. “I’ll take it to work with me this afternoon and make sure you’re not charged. But you have to promise not to tell anyone about this, or I could lose my job.”
“You’re the only one who knows I’ve even rented the carpet cleaner,” she said with a grin, and reached for the screen door handle. “So this is our little secret. Besides, I thought we were going to be friends?”
“See? No one knows. Go with her, Liam. Give us what we need.”
“I’m still new in town and could use a friend,” he said, following her inside. When he noticed the metal coat rack in the small entryway, his vision momentarily swam. He stared at Bella…shock, pain and horror registered in her eyes…blood spurted from her nose and mouth, flowed from her face and dented head…
“You okay?” Bella asked, and touched his arm.
He smiled and closed the door behind him. “I’m just a little hungry.”