The knife came down again. This time, she twisted hard to the left. The blade caught the edge of her right arm and drove into the ground below. His hand, slick with blood, lost its grip. The knife stayed where it was.
For a moment, he stared. Then laughed. Below him was the haughty Aurora Haverly, panting with pain and – slowly – surely bleeding to death. Her face took on the bloodless pallor he so loved. “You remind me of Julie. So beautiful in these last minutes.” He reached for the knife, then changed his mind. He laughed and caressed her face first. His hand ran down her cheek, her neck, to her breasts. “So beautiful,” he murmured. “I could keep you here forever.”
A shout, a man’s voice. Someone was calling her name. Cade. “Here…” her scream was a ragged cry, too weak to be heard. Another shout. She heard him, as did Alex. His head snapped around in the direction of the sound. “He’ll be too late. He can’t save you.” His voice cracked with panic. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen. The voice was closer now and he recognized it as Ransome’s. Rory screamed again, louder.
“You’ll die first,” Alex hissed, his eyes still seeking Cade, trying to see the direction where his adversary was coming from as he groped for the knife.
With the last of her strength, Rory grabbed the knife’s handle, feeling the fire in her shoulder as she pulled it free, praying as she stabbed blindly, then feeling the blade connect, sinking into flesh. She heard Alex’s shout,then nothing. Nothing but the sensation of his body falling away from her. A dull thud dimly registered in her consciousness as he fell next to her, his eyes wide open. The knife lodged in his chest.
“Rory!” Cade’s voice made her look up, but she couldn’t answer. She leaned against a fallen log where she’d dragged herself to get away. She couldn’t bear to be near Alex’s body, to see his face – his open eyes, forever disbelieving of his mortality. The feel of the knife’s handle was still in her palm, and she kept clenching and unclenching her fist, desperate to remove the sensation of the way she clutched it and drove the blade into his chest. His shout of denial still echoed in her mind. He hadn’t expected her to reach for the knife or to aim without pause. She hadn’t expected it to be so easy.
“Rory,” Cade’s voice came through the fog as he gathered her in his arms. Blood soaked the front of his shirt, but she couldn’t understand why. Alex hadn’t bled that much. Was Cade hurt? “Sweetheart, can you hear me?”
She could. She nodded. Her eyes drifted back to Alex’s body. “He killed Richard,” she whispered, beginning to shake. “He buried him under the picnic cloth. He killed Richard, Cade. He killed him. He killed Julie, too. There’s a box in his room. He wants to kill me. He wants…” He helped her pull on his jacket. “You have to stop him. He killed Richard.”
“Rory, he’s dead. He’s dead, honey. He can’t hurt anyone now. We have to get you out of here and to a hospital. Come on, look at me,” he pleaded, shaking her lightly. “Look at me, Rory. It’s over. Done. He can’t hurt you now.”
“I can’t, I’m not… I’m not…” everything was on her, ready to crash down, bury her. If she let go, it would, and she’d never have to worry again. Or she could forget it all. Bury it instead of it burying her. Push it aside.
Cade watched her struggle, saw how her eyes looked through him. “Help me, Cade.”
Pulling his jacket off, he wrapped it around her. Gathering her in his arms, he made his way back, using the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles as his guide.