Alex cracked another egg into the skillet. Bacon and eggs would be her last meal. Hardly a feast, but that wasn’t the point. How she behaved after that meal was what mattered. If she were smart, she would enjoy these final few hours. In exchange, he’d kill her quickly.
All this killing. If someone had told him that killing Julie would have lead to this, he would have laughed. Then again, he’d never wanted to kill her in the first place. Hell, he’d loved her. Never laid a violent hand on her until that night when she threatened to leave him and destroy his plan to become son-in-law to the powerful senator, Charles Sarazen.
If only Julie hadn’t fought him, hadn’t turned from him, he wouldn’t have had to shoot her. He could have proposed instead.
It was all Rory’s fault. She had been the one to tell Julie to live her own life. But ten years ago, she was hardly a threat and he could afford to ignore her. She was just some fresh-out-of-college nobody who wanted to write. If those damned hikers hadn’t been trespassing, Julie would still be buried. He wouldn’t have to dispose of yet another body. Scowling, he dumped the scrambled eggs onto a plate. No doubt she would want to escape. She was…
A floorboard creaked behind him.
Alex turned in time to see bare legs, a Seton Hill sweatshirt – and one of his steel-toed work boots, which he’d worn while burying Richard this morning, coming directly at him. Before he could react, the boot connected with his head and sent him crashing to the floor. The dishtowel he’d been using as a potholder landed on the stove’s open flame and caught fire.
Rory dropped the boot and ran to the front door, frantically working the lock. No, God no… don’t do this to me… Then his hands were on her, gripping her upper arm so tightly she thought her bones would snap. “I ought to kill you now,” he snarled in her ear. “Carve you up and dump you on top of Richard’s grave for all the scavengers to find. Would you like that?” She threw her head backwards and connected with his nose. “God damn you!” She slammed her foot down on his, then jammed her elbow into his ribs.
Alex spun her around, shoved her against the wall, and gave her a solid right hook to the jaw. She collapsed. He dumped her body on the floor in front of the stove. “You aren’t worth it,” he said with a glance at the burning dishtowel. “What a shame you won’t wake up in time to save yourself.”
He watched the flames spread, licking at the curtains and the wooden cabinets; then left, locking the deadbolt once more. He’d watch it from a distance, just in case, to make sure her death was accidental.
“Look up there, Cade. Something’s burning.”
“Call 911. Tell them to get to the Webster estate in Lafayette. Tell them we found Rory.”
As he leaned against a tree a few years away, Alex imagined the flames spreading to the floor and the ceiling and to Rory. Would she burn to death or suffocate first? Regardless, she didn’t stand a chance.
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out her fountain pen. It was the only item of hers he wanted to keep. He had to remember to add it to his box. He studied it, turning it over in his hands. A lovely, elegant piece. Perhaps he ought to buy one for himself in memory of the woman he’d lost in this tragic fire. Today ought to make good press, especially with the bracelet. Rory was missing, she was found on his property wearing the bracelet he’d given to Julie the night she disappeared, surely someone was after him. Someone with a grudge.
After the way she had treated him at Bar-Mart, Rory had almost disappeared that night. And would have, if that damned writer hadn’t taken her home. Did she spread her legs for him that night? Whore. Well, he had the man’s wallet. Maybe that could help him out somehow.
Someone with a grudge was out to destroy Alexander Webster, and that someone was no doubt Richard Daniels. Richard hated him for taking Julie away and who had viewed Rory as another one “taken” from him. What a shame he had to frame his friend, but it wasn’t as if Richard would know.
He was going to miss her. Perhaps even more than Julie. Of course, he would be the one to find her, having come up here to retreat from the press and the pain of yet another vanished love. How was he to know that Richard had decided to come here to destroy her? The damage to his face was simply incurred as he fought to save his beloved. A good plastic surgeon could repair it. He should have sliced her face to match his before killing her.
He could hear her screaming. Alex shook his head in disgust. Leave it to her to spend her last breaths cursing him. Didn’t she know that she was supposed to beg his forgiveness?
Black smoke filled the sky. It looked like the whole right side of the cabin was engulfed. Century-old wood certainly goes up fast. Laughing, Alex tucked her pen back in his pocket. Too bad he hadn’t been able to find out what it was like to carve her open, but one couldn’t have everything.
A sound caught his attention. A side window shattered and a moment later, Rory struggled through the opening, landing on the ground a good eight or nine feet below.
He heard her whimper; saw her grab her ankle. Like a lamb to the slaughter. Watching her try to stand, Alex smiled. It was a dream come true. In an instant, he was on top of her, pinning her down, driving his knife into her right shoulder.
“You’re going to beg me to die.”
He pulled the knife out and slammed it back into her upper arm. Arms first, then hands. Then her perfect face. All of it slowly and thoroughly, disabling but not quite killing. His laughter mixed with her screams as he drove the knife in once more.
Raising his arm, he paused. “Beg me, bitch. Go on, beg me to stop.” Blue eyes stared up at him, glassy with pain yet still somehow disdainful. “You’re too proud, aren’t you? Too fucking proud to beg for your own life. Stupid bitch, stupid fucking bitch. Too goddamned dumb to do anything but lie there and let me carve you to ribbons. Come on, princess, give me a challenge. You have one arm left.”
Somehow she managed to answer him, gasping out the words in spite of the blinding pain. “Go on, Alexander. Kill me. Do what Paul couldn’t. At least you’ll have someone you can measure up to.”