The Key to the Cage

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Part II--Aaron's Ritual

"No, goddamn you. Come on, Burns, don't do this," Selarah screamed.

She had no idea why she was screaming; it was doing no one any good. She supposed she was screaming at him because she didn't want to face Burns' wife and two kids. Her partner of four years, Jayce Burns, was fatally shot while running down a suspect. Selarah had allowed the perp to flee so she could take care of Burns until an ambulance arrived. But it was too late. Burns was dead. Selarah had seen enough death in her career to know.

Selarah was a homicide detective at the police department in Lexicon, Florida. She had transferred there when Trevor was offered a tenured position at a nearby university. She had started as a sergeant and eventually struggled her way to detective. Burns had been her partner throughout the duration of her career. He, like her, had worked his way up the same ladder. She was quite fond of Burns; he was like a brother to her. And now he was dead.

When the ambulance came, Selarah accompanied her fallen partner to the hospital. Even though it was obvious he was dead, the paramedics tried to save his life. The back alley was flooded with cops, and she was oblivious to it all. Someone would have to call Burns' wife. She knew it would have to be her, but she didn't want to do it.

It was all a drawback to... No, must not think of him, it's better left alone. It was definitely better left alone. She often thought about Kantor and wondered where he was now. She knew he kept in touch with his former partner at Radner. However, she hadn't seen Jeff Gibson in months. Even when she did see him, she dared not speak about Kantor, but Gibson always waited for her to ask about him.

The ambulance screeched to a halt at the entrance to the emergency room. The hospital was still trying to salvage the detective's life. Selarah followed the gurney until she was told to turn back. There were several phone calls she needed to make, and the first would be heartbreaking.

* * *

Aaron Holmes watched the girl closely. He had never seen one so pretty. Not even his mother was as pretty as her. Aaron didn't think of his mother often. She was a cruel, crazy woman. His father had been no better. Both of his parents were sick fucks who liked to have sex with hookers while videotaping it. Mom and Dad included his sister in the games on more than one occasion.

One day, Aaron came home from school and noticed that his sister was gone. Mom said that she had been 'sent away.' He was too young to fully understand why she was gone, and neither of his parents offered an explanation. Aaron had always hated Caroline. She had been the lucky one, the one who got away. Even though Mom and Dad had sent Caroline away, her departure had seemed to anger them. They beat Aaron within an inch of his life, as if he were responsible for Caroline leaving.

After Caroline's departure, Mom and Dad had initiated Aaron into the family ritual. Every weekend, the elder Holmes' would rent videos. These weren't the typical family-type get together videos. Mostly, they were porn. He hated watching the people doing nasty things to each other. However, Mom and Dad forced him to watch the movies. It didn't take long for Mom and Dad to involve Aaron in the sex games that they favored.

Unfortunately for Aaron, Mom and Dad were often easily bored. Their sex life became varied and sicker. Mom and Dad began to bring home hookers. They'd then play these crazy bondage games. Every now and then, Aaron was forced to join in. Sometimes he lucked out and was allowed to run the camera without having to participate.

As Aaron expected, Mom and Dad eventually screwed up. They began kidnapping hitchhikers. The terrified girls would be brought in the house, raped repeatedly, and then either Mom or Dad would strangle them. This, of course, was taped as well. It didn't take long for the police to track his folks down and discover their sacred tapes. It was a huge story. After all, it wasn't every day that a famous female doctor and her celebrated attorney husband were arrested for a series of gruesome murders.

Somehow, some way, Mom and Dad bailed out of jail. Aaron was too young to understand how they even managed it. While on bail, Mom shot Dad before turning the gun on herself. Aaron was taken into the foster care system where he languished until his eighteenth birthday.

Aaron was all grown up now, and he had inherited his parents taste for the bizarre. He highly enjoyed pornography. He had begun peeping into the windows of unsuspecting female victims. As of late, he had begun stalking a few girls he particularly liked. Tonight was no exception.

The girl's name was Kate and she worked at a local bar as a drink hustler. She often served Aaron, but didn't pay him much attention. Most of the pretty girls didn't. Aaron would gaze after her as she walked away. He'd stare at her ass and lick his lips, wondering what she tasted like. However, he wasn't stupid. He knew Kate would never give him the time of day. He wasn't exactly her type. But that was okay. If he didn't get what he wanted through conventional means, he could always take it.

And tonight just might be the night, he thought.

Kate was unaware she was being watched. All she was aware of was that she was tired. She had been asked to work a double shift, and she hadn't been pleased. She didn't understand why she always had to pay for others who called in sick. Not only that, she wasn't living in the best of neighborhoods, and coming in during predawn hours was always an adventure.

She was a bit shaken up that evening. There had been a creep at the bar, staring at her. This particular creep had been at the bar every night for two weeks straight. She never had a high tolerance for weird people. She shook it off. If she didn't stop thinking about the creep, she would never sleep tonight.

Kate crawled into bed and then realized she had forgotten to call her boyfriend. Fuck it, I ain't budging, she thought. Her boyfriend had a day job and never had to work overtime. He was in bed at the same time every night and usually went in at the same time every day. If he wanted to talk to her, he would have to wait until tomorrow. Within minutes, she was asleep.

Aaron easily gained access to Kate's apartment. It wasn't equipped with the best of locks, and there were no security lights to give him away. Not that he had to worry anyway. When he went out on his nightly peep shows, he almost always wore all black clothing and a ski mask. It was a pain in the ass on muggy nights, but he didn't care. He liked to sweat; it made him feel as if he were doing a good job.

Kate's apartment was tiny; it didn't take him long to find her bedroom. She lay in bed and was deeply asleep. For an undetermined amount of time, he simply stood and stared at her. She was definitely gorgeous, and her short hair framed her face. He liked women with short hair. He began to sweat as he saw one of her nipples poking out of the top of her nightgown. He had to greatest urge to touch it. However, it wasn't time yet, he had to prepare.

Kate jerked awake as she felt a body landing on top of her. She tried to get out of bed, but her attacker took her by the throat and slammed her head back down. She had taken defense classes before. If a single woman lived in her neighborhood, it was a matter of life and death to do so. However, in that space of seconds, she had forgotten everything her instructor had taught her.

"If you don't do what I say, I will not hesitate to kill you. Do you understand?"

The pressure on her throat was preventing her from swallowing, much less speaking. She managed to struggle out an affirmative answer. He released her throat and that's when Kate began to try to push him off her body. Angered, Aaron balled his hand into a fist and hit her square on the nose, breaking it. The pain ballooned and literally knocked her back. She began to cry.

Unaffected, Aaron took out a roll of duct tape and covered her mouth with it. Since Kate was fiery, he taped her hands together as well. He didn't want her to try to overpower him again. He had yet to kill anyone, but he knew he could if pressed. He ripped her out of her nightgown and was finally able to see, feel, touch, and taste the body he had lusted over for weeks. His control over her, his power, was an ecstasy like none he had ever known before.

* * *

Selarah lingered near Burns' family during the entire service. She did the same once they were out at the cemetery. It seemed as if every cop at Lexicon had shown up at the services. There were dozens of patrol cars and officers in their dress blues. Funerals were always horrible, but it seemed even more so when it was a cop.

While trying to offer Burns' widow comfort, Selarah allowed her eyes to wonder over the crowd of mourners. She was hoping that the perp who killed Burns would be there. She knew the guy very well; he had a long history with the PD. He enjoyed watching the havoc he wreaked. A detective 24/7, Selarah wouldn't rest until the fucker was behind bars. Her scan of the crowd didn't yield her suspect. However, her eyes did catch a looming figure standing yards away by a shade tree.

She could just make out that the figure was a man, but she couldn't see him well enough to take in his features. She didn't think it was the perp, however, he could have sent one of his friends over. Discreetly, she excused herself and moved through the massive crowd. Her movements were not unnoticed. The looming figure saw her and he began making his way out. Not one to give up easily, Selarah continued to pursue him. There was a cop killer on the loose, and there was no room for mistakes.

The man was too far ahead of her, but she tried to run anyway, although high heels weren't the ideal running shoes. He disappeared around a line of cars and she could no longer see him. It mattered little to her. She drew her weapon from her shoulder holster and carefully picked her way around the cars. She then heard an engine revving to life and she bolted toward the sound. She was too late. He had gotten away, and she hadn't even been able to see the car.

"Goddamn it," she swore under her breath.

* * *

Aaron's next victim was named Emily. She was not as beautiful as Kate, but her eyes were emerald green and her red hair was cut short. He loved both those qualities equally. She was also a totally different person than Kate. Emily thought everyone had good qualities in them. Kate was cynical and suspicious. Emily had been easier to follow, and she had also treated him a lot better than Kate had. He decided to take his time with this one. As lithe as a cat, Aaron climbed her fence and made his way toward her home.

* * *

"We're going to partner you with the new guy," the chief of detectives told Selarah.

"New guy? What new guy?"

"He transferred in a few days ago, he's our newest detective. Can't remember his name right at this moment, but he'll be here later today."

What great attention to detail, she thought sarcastically. And this guy is my boss. What's wrong with this picture? She pushed the ugly thoughts out of her mind and said, "Bruce, I don't want to be partnered with anybody right now. I was with Burns four years, and we just buried him."

Bruce didn't appreciate her aggressiveness or her insubordination. He had had more trouble with Steeler than all of his detectives combined. He had even thought about firing her, but she was the best he had. They shared a regular love/hate work relationship.

"You know the deal, Steeler," he began. "You will be partnered with the new guy," he repeated.

She wanted to say, thank you for listening to reason. Instead of tweaking his nose, as she loved to do, she said, "Okay, Bruce, fine. Can I go now?"

He nodded. "Sure take off."

Selarah made her way out of Bruce's office and headed toward her own. She had a ton of paperwork to do that sprang up after Burns' death. As she approached her office, she passed by the reception area where two women and their families were waiting. She noticed that both women had recently been beaten. Selarah didn't work with the Sex Crimes Unit, but she had heard about the two rapes. Cops talked to other cops. This particular rapist was bizarre. He had not penetrated either victim with his penis. Instead, he used dildos or other objects. He also had an affinity for oral rape, but used condoms on his tongue to eliminate DNA evidence. He was a sharp criminal, and she knew the SCU had their work cut out for them. Selarah shut it out of her mind for the time. She had her own caseload to worry about.

Around noon, Selarah's intercom buzzed just as she was finishing the last of her yogurt. Impatiently, she hit the flashing button. "Yeah?"

"Jamie Hunting is here," a voice squawked.

"Excellent, thanks."

Jamie Hunting was a friend of Burns' killer. She felt he was ready to fold like origami. She left her office to retrieve him and then stopped dead in her tracks. A familiar tall figure stood speaking with Bruce. His wavy black hair was long, to his shoulders, and he had grown a beard to accompany the goatee. But other than that, Falk Kantor still looked the same. For a moment, Selarah couldn't move. She had forgotten about everything, including Hunting and Burns.

"There's Steeler now," Bruce said, drawing Kantor's attention to her.

Kantor had seen Selarah twice since they parted. He had attended her wedding and he had seen her at the cemetery. She had not changed much physically, but emotionally, he could sense she was cold and hard. Her face told the tale. Of course, he knew he was more than responsible for her new personality.

Selarah glared at Kantor. She hated him for coming back into her life. She couldn't see his eyes as he was wearing sunglasses. But she could see the smug smirk on his lips, and she hated him even more for that.

"This is going to have to wait," Selarah said after she tore her eyes off Kantor. "There's somebody here to see me," she told Bruce.

Without another word to Bruce or glance at Kantor, Selarah retrieved the scumbag waiting for her and took him into her office.

Later, Hunting left shaken up and nearly in tears. He had no useful information for Selarah, and she had been tempted to beat the life out of him. Instead, she used words to beat him down. She shook it off. She couldn't allow Kantor's sudden return to ruin her career.

She heard a knock on her door before Kantor opened it and stood in the doorway. He had casually pushed his sunglasses back over his hair. She could finally see his eyes and see the change in him. He was no longer stoic or cold. He was still smug, but he had left his machine-like personality five years ago when he left her. She couldn't stand to look at him.

"Bruce apparently doesn't like to deal with you much, so he suggested I introduce myself," he said. "I didn't tell him introductions were a bit unnecessary."

"What the fuck are you doing here," she demanded.

Figuring their conversation would become quite heated, Kantor entered her office and closed the door behind him. "I transferred. I was burned out in Narc and needed a change of pace. How was I supposed to know you would be here, working in this unit?"

"Save it, asshole. I know as well as you that you have friends over at Radner, and I'm sure they are more than willing to share information with you. Why didn't you go back there? They love you, and I'm sure they would have killed to have you back. Why here?"

"Selarah, despite what you think, I didn't come here intentionally. I didn't set out to be partnered with you. It just happened."

Kantor was telling the truth. It was true he had friends at Radner, and more than once, he had asked about Selarah. Gibson had told him she had transferred, but hadn't mentioned where. His friend knew that Selarah was his soft spot and would never set out to hurt him by putting him near her again.

"Would you mind," she asked. "I have work to do."

"Yes, Selarah, I do. We need to discuss our cases. You must brief me."

She gave him a hard, bitter sideways smile. "Oh, I'll brief you. Know this, both of us are detectives now, which means that you're not my superior."

It hurt him a little to know she was so bitter, so hard hearted. He wondered for a moment if her behavior was only an act created to hide her true feelings. Kantor had always been able to read her, but this time, he could not. He had hurt her so badly, and perhaps, just perhaps, he deserved her ire. He wanted to say more, but apparently Selarah had had enough. She left her desk, moved past him, and opened her door. She stood back and glared at him. He could feel her eyes boring into him. Kantor turned toward her and regarded her glare of hatred for a moment. It killed him to see the hate seemingly oozing out of her pores. Defeated, he sighed and left her office.

Selarah closed her door behind him and quickly pulled the shades. She hadn't cried over Falk Kantor in five years, but right at that moment, that was all she could do. She buried her face in her hands and literally bawled. Kantor came back into her life when she had least expected it. She thought he was in her past, forever put behind her. However, he was not. She loved him still, but didn't want to give into it. She would not allow him to hurt her again.

Later, Selarah and Kantor were out in the field looking for Jamie Hunting. Selarah had received a tip that Hunting was housing Burns' killer. They checked out Hunting's residence, but found nothing.

Another fucking dead lead, she thought. She supposed they would have to get a search warrant and check out the place more thoroughly, hopefully when Hunting was around. She said nothing to Kantor as they got into the car. She insisted on driving, so he sat in the passenger seat and slipped on his sunglasses.

Selarah gunned the engine and pulled out into traffic. She glared at him hatefully. "Take off those ridiculous sunglasses. You're a cop, not a fucking rock star."

He smiled bitterly, but did not remove the sunglasses. "I missed you, too." After a moment, he decided to ask the question most on his mind. "I take it you and Trevor are still together?"

"How did you know," she asked, then said, "Never mind. I know how you found out."

"It wasn't hard to figure out, Selarah. Bruce called you 'Steeler,'" he said, amused. "Are you?"

"Yes," she said shortly, "we are."

"Are you happy?"

She sneered at him. "Painfully so, more happy than I have been in five years," she lied.

He looked down for a moment. "Ouch," he said, and it did hurt. He loved her still. "I suppose Trevor is the lucky one, the smart one. He always wanted you, you know."

Her glaring stare returned. "You're full of shit, Kantor."

"No, you're in denial. I saw it then. It never bothered me because we were so devoted to each other." He nearly added, or so I thought, but he hesitated. He knew she had loved him as much as he loved her. "I don't want to argue with you, Selarah. Trevor got you, and I'm glad."

"You make it sound as if we were biding our time."

He shook his head. "Not you. He definitely was. Trevor fell in love with you the same time I did. I didn't and don't hate him for that. I understand it. I suppose I drove you to him."

"You didn't, Falk."

It was the first time in five years that he had heard her call him by his first name. It was almost magical. Ah…progress. "Drop it, Marx, okay?"

"It's Steeler now."

He sighed. "Do you have children," he spat without thinking.

Selarah stiffened up the slightest bit. "No, not that's it any of your fucking business."

Two steps forward, four back. He really knew how to hurt her. He didn't like himself much anymore. "Selarah, I'm…"

She cut him off. "Why did you come back?"

She had asked him this question already, but he was unsure whether or not to tell her the real reason. What the hell, he thought. He had hurt her once; he might as well salt the wound some more.

Kantor sighed; hurtful comment number two was about to rear its ugly head. "I was shot again," he said softly.

"Oh God, Falk," she cried, "not again!" There were tears just behind her eyes, but she didn't want him to see her crying as the memories came flooding back. "How…how bad was it?"

"Totally unlike before, nothing life threatening, but it scared me enough to want out of Narcotics for good. You see the only reason I went back to Narc was to die. That's how low I felt."

Selarah couldn't take it. She found a place to pull over and brought the car to a screeching halt. She turned on him and roared, "Fuck how low you felt, Kantor. Do you think it was a picnic for me? I lost you and my baby all at once."

He did not recoil from her. He simply took her verbal abuse because he thoroughly deserved it. Calmly, he said, "Go ahead and hate me, Selarah. I have had five years to hate me."

"Don't expect any sympathy from me. You killed me. I've not been the same since."

It was Kantor's turn. "Oh really," he spat, "is that so? How long did it take you to go to Trevor? I remember hearing about your wedding. Every fucking cop in Radner was there. You know how I found out? Gibson sent me an announcement. He was the only one with the balls to do it. Why didn't you tell me? How long, Selarah? How long did it take for you to start fucking him?" He had nearly told her he went to her wedding, but he bit the words back.

Enraged now, Selarah swallowed a huge lump in her throat. She was very tempted to strike him, but he was trained well and could easily overpower her. "Need I remind you that you left me. Don't try to turn this around on me. What choice did I have? You didn't want me. You didn't want me to wait for you. You wanted me to live my life and I did."

Kantor sighed. He took off his sunglasses and briefly rubbed the bridge of his nose. His head was pounding sickly. "I'm sorry, Selarah. I don't think we should work together."

"We'll be fine as long as you can keep this personal ancient history bullshit out of our work."

He didn't know if he could do that. It had been five long years, but he loved her the same as he did when he first told her. He knew she didn't love Trevor, never had. He wanted her back and would do whatever it took.

"There's only one thing I need to know, Kantor," she said.

He nodded. "Okay. What is it?"

"Why did you take the engagement ring but leave the photos?"

He closed his eyes against the painful memories and quickly put his sunglasses back on. He wasn't prepared to tell her. Their son would have been five-years-old by now. Kantor often wondered what the child would look like, if he'd have Selarah's nose or his eyes. He would break down in tears and end up feeling more destroyed than ever.

"I don't know," he finally muttered.

For the time being, she was emotionally exhausted and couldn't have argued with him if she tried. Without another word, she put the car in gear and pulled back into traffic. She dropped Kantor off at the PD and left him standing. He stared after her for a very long time.

Selarah's heart grew heavier at the thought of going home. She had no idea what surprise Trevor had in store for her. Since he began his professorship at the university, he had grown strange. Selarah was certain he was cheating on her, but other habits he had were stranger. Trevor had begun acting out weird sexual fantasies. Selarah was never comfortable with them. At times, he would set up a rape fantasy. Yet at others, he would try bondage. It was bizarre, but she was always his unwilling guinea pig. When she married Trevor five years ago, he had been a normal, sweet man. She never thought he would turn into a freak with sick fetishes.

That evening, Trevor was awaiting her as usual. He had another idea in mind and couldn't wait to try it out on her. He stripped Selarah down, blindfolded her, and led her into the bedroom.

"I'm going to tie you to the bed," he said.

"Trevor, I'm really not…"

He placed his hand over her mouth. "Don't speak."

He laid her on the bed and tied her to it spread-eagle. He began kissing her, tasting her body. He left her a few moments later.

A little ill at ease, she called, "Trevor?" A hand, not Trevor's, began touching her. "Trevor," she called again.

"Relax, honey," a woman's voice said before an alien tongue entered her.

When Trevor had had enough, he sent the woman away. He then announced to Selarah that he had videotaped the whole thing and wanted to show it to her. Selarah balked; there was no way she wanted to see it. However, Trevor insisted and showed it to her anyway. It made her sick, Trevor horny, and he took her on the living room sofa.

Later, over a proper dinner, Trevor said, "You're preoccupied."

No shit, she thought. I was just raped by a woman you brought in. "I'm fine," she said.

"I've invited someone over for drinks later tonight."

"Really," she said blandly, "who? That porno chick, Janine?"

He laughed, but he was not amused. "No, but that would be interesting. It's Falk."

"Falk? How did you know he's here now? I didn't even get a chance to tell you."

He smiled a little. "He actually called me. He also wants me to introduce him to the sorority girls on campus," he said.

Liar, she thought. That wasn't Kantor's style. However, she didn't doubt he called Trevor. She hoped he had done so to be near her. "I hope you have fun catching up."

"We all will."

Selarah's jaw set. "I'm not staying anywhere near Falk Kantor."

"Come on, Sel. It'll be fun. We can sit and compare notes."

"Trevor, you're an asshole."

When Kantor arrived that evening, Selarah stayed in the kitchen and puttered about. She wasn't a domestic type person, but she cleaned every corner of the kitchen. She only snuck one glance at Kantor. With his longer hair and newly relaxed personality, he was more appealing to her than ever before. She could hear his voice as he and Trevor talked. She desperately wanted to be near him, but she fought the urge and began wiping down the kitchen table for the fifth time.

After an hour, Trevor entered the kitchen. "We ran out of vodka and I'm going for more. Would you like anything?"

Selarah sighed. She needed something all right, but it wasn't anything that came in a bottle.

"Yes, Trevor, I would. Could you bring me a fifth of Jack? I think I need a drink."

He smiled his lopsided smile and said, "You got it."

He left her, and a few minutes later, she heard him leave the house. She hoped Kantor had accompanied him. However, when she heard the kitchen door open, she knew Kantor had stayed behind.

Kantor approached her and said, "Trevor has really changed."

"Yes, in more ways than one," she said with slight sarcasm.

Kantor didn't pick it up; he wasn't paying attention to her words. He had another mission in mind. "Do you love him?"

"Kantor, please," she said, not turning to look at him. If she looked at him, he would see the answer in her eyes.

He stood close against her back and when he placed his hands on her shoulders, she shivered. "You don't, do you?"

She closed her eyes and sighed, "Don't."

He knew she could not resist him. He ran his hands down the length of her body and then turned her toward him. "I fucked up, Selarah, and I'm sorry."

"It's too late for that," she said, her lips quivering.

"No, it isn't."

His eyes were on her face, consuming her. His eyes always had the same effect on her. "Kantor, I'm married. Do you understand what that means? Of course you don't, because you ran out before we could be married, didn't you?"

He chose to ignore her latter comments. She had only said those words to hurt him, to break his embrace. It didn't work.

"Your marriage is far from perfect. Do you love him at all?"

"Fuck you, Kantor," she growled.

"You don't love him," he said simply. "I can read it in your eyes. You don't, Selarah, because you still love me, don't you?"

"Fuck you," she spat emphatically, but didn't once attempt to break free of his embrace.

"You have every right to be mad. I know I would be. Again, I fucked up, but there was a lot of emotional garbage I had to work through. I hurt you, even worse than I can imagine. But I see you, and I know you're unhappy."

"Trevor and I are fine, Kantor. I knew I'd never have any feelings for you again when I saw those photos you left behind. You took the ring, but left the baby. What did you do with the ring, Kantor? Did you pawn it?"

Kantor let go of her long enough to dig a gold chain out from under his shirt. A pendant dangled from it, one that took her breath away. It was the engagement ring.

"This was the part of us I wanted to remember," he whispered harshly as he fingered the ring. "I couldn't have taken those photos and remained sane, not then. I know what I did was wrong, but I couldn't handle it. I wear this to remind me of what I threw away."

"And it took five years for you to realize this," she demanded.

"No. It only took a few hours, but I let you go anyway. When I heard about you and Trevor, I backed away even further. When I was shot again, I knew I had just run away. I came back, came home to do the right thing, even if I hadn't found you again."

"You knew," she asked in shock.

"No, I didn't know. Lexicon and Radner aren't that far away. If you had still been there, I could have easily found you. But I was at your wedding."

"My…you were there?"

He nodded. "You saw me, you looked right at me."

She closed her eyes for a moment and turned away from him. She remembered seeing a man whom she thought was Kantor.

She recalled how she shrugged it off because she still loved him so very deeply and saw him in every corner, in every room.

She turned on him. "Goddamn you," she cried moments before her fist connected with his chest.

The blow only made Kantor stumble back a few steps. She had meant for the punch to land on his face, but tears had blurred her vision, obstructing her aim. She had never hated or loved one person so much. He recovered quickly enough and grabbed her arms. He pinned her against the kitchen sink.

She looked up into his face and cried, "Why now, Falk? Why? You told me to marry somebody like Trevor. I did and it's been…"

From the living room, they heard Trevor call, "The booze is here."

"Finish," Kantor demanded.

She broke out of his grasp. "No, Kantor. No!" She quickly made her exit.

He didn't know whether to stay or go.

* * *

Selarah didn't want to see or speak to Kantor. After she had left him standing in the kitchen, she had gone to the bedroom and locked herself in. She had no idea when he left, and she hadn't really cared. She simply could not face him. However, she had to work with him, and she'd have to face him plenty.

She went to work the next day and shot directly for her office. Normally, she left the door open until the place started to pick up, but that day, she closed it immediately. Of course, it didn't stop Kantor from barging in the room.

"Don't you ever stop," she asked.

"Selarah, I came by to say I'm sorry for what happened last night."

The only thing she was sorry for was not kissing him. She shook the thought away. "Whatever," she said, waving a dismissive hand.

He sighed and decided to change gears. "I have the Hunting search warrant."

"Let's do this," she said, removing her personal mask and putting on her professional one.

There was nothing at Hunting's apartment that even indicated Burns' killer had been staying there. Selarah was livid. She had had a hunch that she would find the ass there, but she didn't. Her hunches were rarely wrong. She climbed back into the cruiser and updated Bruce. During her fit, Kantor simply sat and watched her.

When she finished her conversation with Bruce, she turned to look at Kantor. "What?"

"You're obsessed with this case," he said simply.

"He was my fucking partner for four years, Kantor. I would think you could understand," she said, her pulse booming at her temples.

"I can, to a degree," he stated calmly. "Aren't you letting other things slide?"

Incredulously, she gaped at him. "What the fuck do you know about it? You just started working with me. You know fucking nothing, Kantor."

"I know you," he said gently.

"Correction, you knew me."

He sighed. "Selarah, you're obsessed. You know you are. No one has to know you well to see it."

She began to calm down little by little. "Maybe you're right," she said. "They never caught the people who shot you, did they?"

"Not that I recall, but I don't think about that very often."

Kantor noticed that she wasn't looking at him at all. In fact, she hadn't looked at him much the entire morning. She was staring straight ahead as if she were in a trance. There was obviously something on her mind that she needed to get out. He knew better than to argue with her when she was like this.

"No, you wouldn't, would you," she said dreamily from far, far away. "I can't blame you, but I think about it every day. I never told you that I requested to aid in hunting down those people, did I?" Kantor was stunned, he opened his mouth to speak, but Selarah wouldn't let him interrupt. "No, I suppose I didn't. I tried, but I wasn't allowed because I was so close to you. They were afraid my personal judgment would be clouded. I never wanted to let something like that happen again."

"You're allowing this murder to eat you alive because of what happened to me?"

She kept her eyes focused straight ahead. She nodded. "Yes."

Oh God, what had he done to her? He knew his getting shot was not something he could have controlled. But he should not have left her, especially after she had carried his son nearly six months, and then lost him. He had had the loving support and care of his family. What kind of love and support had she received? He certainly didn't consider Trevor as a factor. Selarah had nothing. She had lived five years with the pain of losing her child and her fiancé in one shot. He thought he had understood the incredulity of it all, but he definitely had not. It hit him full force, in that brief instant when she let her guard down.

Her hands were clasping the steering wheel tightly. Kantor reached out and covered one of her hands with his own. She didn't react at all. She was still imprisoned in her faraway place.

"Selarah," he said gently.

She finally tore her eyes away from whatever object she could only see. She looked at him, and pain was there, incredible pain.

"Can you ever find it in your heart to forgive me," he asked.

She shook her head. "I…I don't know."

He could accept that for now. "Okay."

Kantor started to let go of her hand, but she wouldn't let him. "Falk," she moaned.

He wanted so much to kiss her and he fought the urge with all he had. He lost the struggle after about ten seconds. He couldn't help it. Kantor drew her toward him and brought her lips to his. At first, their kiss was the tentative kiss of two strangers. However, after a brief moment, familiarity sunk in, and their kiss deepened. She plunged her hands into his hair and put everything she had into the kiss.

When she realized what she was doing, she broke the kiss. Kantor was as startled as she was. "I'm sorry," she whispered.

"I'm not," he said. Why lie?

"I can't do this," she whispered. "I just can't. When we get back, I'm going to request a partner change."

He sighed. "Selarah, please…"

"No," she said, cutting him off. "I can't."

* * *

Later, Selarah sat in Bruce's office impatiently wiggling her foot. She had been sitting there for a little over twenty minutes, and Bruce had yet to acknowledge her. Every time he tried to say two words, his phone rang. At one point, she glanced over her shoulder and saw Kantor leaning against the U-shaped reception desk. He had been looking right at her. She turned around so she would not have to look at him again.

Bruce finally hung up his phone and focused his eyes on Selarah. "Okay, Steeler, let's talk," he said.

His phone rang again, and Selarah's patience gave out. She reached over Bruce's desk and slammed her hand down on the receiver. "Can't you give me five minutes," she asked through clenched teeth.

Bruce allowed his phone to ring. Satisfied, Selarah sat back down.

"I've actually made some decisions," he said evenly.

Well, there's a first time for everything, she thought. "I thought I came in here to talk to you, not the other way around."

He smiled a little. "You don't like me much, do you, Steeler?" She said nothing. She waited for him to finish. "I didn't think so," he continued. "I'm taking you off the Burns case and giving charge of it to Kantor."

"You're doing what," she spat. "You can't."

"Steeler, this is my division, and I can pretty much do what I want. I'm taking you off and leaving Kantor," he repeated. "I'm also placing you on psych leave until further notice from the department's shrink."

Selarah saw red. She glared at Bruce hatefully. "I do not need psych leave," she said slowly, carefully. "I refuse to take it."

"If you don't take it, then you can consider yourself fired. You need to make your choice right now."

She sneered at him. "You'd really like to get rid of me, wouldn't you?"

"Steeler," he said, sighing. "You are under a lot of stress due to Burns' death. Everyone has noticed, including your new partner."

"My new partner," she said. "Falk Kantor came to talk to you?"

"Steeler, you need the time."

Selarah didn't hear what Bruce said. She was so angry she could hardly see straight. Of course it was Kantor, she thought. He always had to have the upper hand in everything. He had no right to intervene, no right at all.

"I'll take the time," she said stiffly.

Without another word to Bruce, she left his office. Kantor was still standing by the reception desk, seemingly waiting for her. She could tell by the look in his eyes that Bruce had told her about their conversation. At the moment, he didn't care. If she didn't take the time, she would definitely lose her edge. He was worried about her, rightfully so. Selarah approached Kantor. She didn't speak to him; she didn't say one word. Instead, she drew back her fist and drove it into his stomach. The blow knocked the wind out of him, and he doubled over in pain. When he straightened up, he was laughing.

Selarah glared at him. "You're insane, Kantor, utterly insane."

There were tears coming out of his eyes. She didn't know if they were tears of pain or from laughing so hard. "God, Selarah," he spat, breathless. "You haven't changed."

"You had no fucking right to say anything about me. Fuck off and leave me alone."

They had an audience. The entire PD shifted their attention from their work to the quarreling partners. Suddenly, they realized that Steeler had known Kantor before. Not caring one bit about the spectators, Selarah stalked off toward her office with Kantor trailing behind. As lithe as ever, Kantor slipped through the door before it slammed shut in his face.

"If you're not out of here in five minutes, I'll aim lower," she spat.

"Selarah, you need the time. Bruce was going to do it anyway. He even said as much."

"Yes, but you helped him, didn't you? You're both trying to ruin my life. You've only been here a few days, and you've already screwed up my career."

"Selarah, you're overreacting. You're on psych leave. You just see the department psychologist, and you'll return whenever she says you're ready. You need the time. If you don't take it, you'll end up like I was. Remember that?"

She wasn't listening, didn't care to. "I want you out of here, Kantor. I don't want to see you or hear your voice. Stay out of my way."

* * *

When Selarah arrived home later, she was glad that Trevor was still at the university. It felt odd to be home before her husband. She was never home before him. She took the opportunity of solitude to go through Trevor's things. She was searching for his private tape collection. In more than one recording, she was the subject. She needed to find them, to destroy them. After an hour or so of searching and finding nothing, she gave up. Likely as not, he kept them at school where he knew she couldn't get to them.

She had not wanted to take leave. Taking leave meant that she had to be at home with Trevor. She wasn't afraid of much in life, but Trevor scared her. Kantor didn't know this. She had nearly spilled her guts about Trevor, but she hesitated. More than once, Trevor threatened to reveal his sex tapes to the public if she ever left him. It wouldn't matter that she had been an unwilling participant. The tapes would be damning.

At that exact moment, she hated Falk Kantor. He didn't even realize what he had done to her. But then, it wasn't necessarily his fault. He didn't know about Trevor's habits. She could tell no one, and nothing could protect her, not even Falk Kantor.

* * *

Kantor didn't see Selarah for two weeks. He had heard through the interdepartmental grapevine that she was seeing the shrink regularly and would return to work soon. He saw her at a local health club while she was working out. He had been intent on doing his own workout, but stopped the moment he saw Selarah. He wasn't sure that he wanted to be there at the same time she was, but he couldn't stay away.

He chose a treadmill right beside her. She didn't notice him at all. She was wearing headphones and staring straight ahead. He couldn't help but look at her. Horrified, he noticed bruises on her arms. He hadn't ever seen them before. Of course, at work, she wore professional clothing instead of a sports bra and shorts. Kantor stood stock still on the treadmill, surely looking like an idiot. After a moment, he stepped off the treadmill and stood right beside her. Noticing him for the first time, Selarah shut down the treadmill and walked away. Kantor was right on her heels.

"Selarah, wait."

She didn't even acknowledge his existence. She stalked off toward the exit. Kantor didn't give up. He continued to pursue her. He caught up to her in the parking lot, and gently took hold of her elbow. He pulled her back to face him.

"Selarah, stop," he said. "Please."

Exasperated, she sighed. "What do you want, Kantor? Why are you following me around? What else do you want to take from me?"

He released her elbow and shook his head in disbelief. "I'm not following you. I'm worried about you." He ran his hand down the arm with the bruises. "What's going on?"

"Can't you stay out of my life," she cried. It wasn't what she meant. She wanted him in her life.

"No," he said, "Not now. I'll kill him if he hurts you, Selarah, I swear."

"You fucking don't know what you're talking about."

He cocked his eyebrow. "I don't? What's going on? Talk to me. I realize I've lost you forever, but I still want to help you."

"Help me? You want to help me? If that's the case, the only way you can help is if you go back to New York. I don't want you here."

Her eyes told the story, they always did. "I don't believe that."

She took a few steps away from him. "I have to go," she said through her tears.

"You can always come to me," he said as she walked toward her car.

She stood at the car door with the key sticking in the lock. She shook her head, but refused to look back at him. "No, I can't. You have no idea."

* * *

Selarah returned to a darkened home. She hoped Trevor had either retired early or gone out for the night. He had been spending a lot of time out at bars in the last two weeks. She didn't mind. When he wasn't home, they weren't having sex. She climbed upstairs to hit the shower. Once in the bedroom, she noticed that Trevor was in bed, and she hoped he would stay asleep until she finished her shower.

When she slid into bed a half hour later, Trevor turned to her, propping himself up on his elbow. "I'm sorry about your arm. I do get excited sometimes."

She didn't want to speak to him, not tonight, not ever. "It's okay," she said.

"Are you fucking Falk again," he asked clearly out of the blue.

"Don't be ridiculous," she spat. "I can't stand to look at him, much less fuck him."

He didn't immediately respond. He stared at her for a few minutes. "None of the old feelings have come back at all? You were engaged and having his baby. There's nothing?"

Selarah hated Trevor. She wanted to kill him. "No, Trevor," she said flatly. "There's nothing." She was a liar. She loved Kantor and would have been in his bed in an instant if there weren't sex tapes looming over her head.

He laughed. It was a cold, cynical sound. "Do you expect me to believe that? You would die for Falk."

She closed her eyes and wished he would disappear. "Trevor, would you drop it? I couldn't give a tin shit about Kantor."

"Good. Then it won't hurt you if I invited him over for drinks again, would it? There's a girl in my department who wants to meet him."

Her heart screamed: No no no no! She didn't want to see Kantor outside of work ever again. Not only that, she didn't want Trevor setting him up with someone else. She felt sick. She couldn't have him and didn't want anyone else to have him, either.

Fighting against her heart for the millionth time and winning, she said, "Do whatever you want, Trevor."

He smiled. "Great."

Kantor had balked when Trevor called him about dinner for Saturday night. It was one of the first weekends he had off since moving to Lexicon. The invitation struck him oddly. He had no earthly idea why Trevor had made the call. Perhaps Trevor was simply testing him, trying to discern if he still had feelings for Selarah. He nearly refused the invitation. However, one thing stopped him: the image of the bruises on Selarah's arm. It might be one of his only chances to see her, to make sure that she was safe.

When Kantor knocked, Selarah answered the door. With very hungry eyes, he drank her in. She was dressed simply but elegantly in a white silk blouse and black skirt. Her golden blonde tresses rested over her shoulders in a sparkling cascade. He wanted her so badly. Every second he gazed her, he wanted her even more.

Her eyes did their own once over. Kantor was wearing a black turtleneck sweater, black slacks, and a tan jacket. His appearance was achingly similar to the night she had been certified. He had made love to her the first time that same night. She vaguely wondered if he had dressed like this on purpose. She was tempted to ask, but she didn't. Trevor had set him up on a blind date, and she wasn't the focus, the other girl was.

Selarah didn't say a word to Kantor. She stepped back and simply allowed him to enter the room. Trevor and Kantor's date for the evening saw him enter the room.

Trevor stood as Kantor approached. "Glad you could make it. I invited a friend from the English Department. Amanda Case, this is an old dear friend of ours, Falk Kantor."

Amanda stood to greet Kantor. She was a green-eyed redhead, very nice looking, but he was very uninterested. However, he shook her hand and said hello. His mind was on Selarah. She had chosen to sit at the opposite side of the room. She was concentrating hard on her wine glass. He wanted to be with Selarah, not with the redhead who was admiring him as if he were a nice cut of beef.

Trevor and Amanda dominated the conversation that evening. Kantor mostly listened politely to their stories about their department. Every now and then, his eyes would wonder to Selarah. She had yet to utter an entire sentence. She was distant and hadn't made much eye contact with anyone.

Neither Amanda nor Trevor took much notice when Selarah left the room and headed for the kitchen. After a few moments had passed, Kantor announced he wanted a drink of water. Again, Amanda and Trevor didn't notice. They were engaged in conversation about a piece of literature they both admired.

Selarah's hands were clasped on the sink. She was leaned over crying. He approached her and placed his hands on her shoulders. He thought she might straighten up and move away. She didn't.

"Are you okay," he asked.

She nodded. "I'm fine. You should go back to your date."

"I'd rather not," he said. "I'm concerned, Selarah. You don't look well."

"Go back, Kantor, before they start looking for you."

"I'm not going back unless you come back out. I won't leave you in here alone."

"Okay, I'll come back. Just go."

"You first."

He released her shoulders and stepped back. She wiped her tears away and turned toward him. He caught her arm and leaned down to kiss her, but she turned her head away. She broke away from his grasp and then she went back to the living room. He mutely followed a few minutes later.

Throughout the rest of the evening, Kantor kept watch on Selarah. She stayed in the room with them, but remained isolated from them at the same time. She didn't speak or make eye contact. She continued to nurse a glass of wine and stared off into space. Kantor wanted her to speak, wanted her to at least act as the living did. What worsened it for him was that her husband didn't seem to care. He was more interested in Amanda.

Kantor found himself gazing at Selarah more and more, trying to get her to look at him. She did after a very long time. Her eyes met his, and they were pitiful. What is it, he thought. Why won't you talk to me? As if she could read his thoughts, she looked away.

"Oh my," Amanda said suddenly. "Would you look at the time? I should really be going."

For the first time that evening, Kantor agreed with her. He wanted out as well. However, he didn't want to leave Selarah behind. He couldn't prove it, but he felt that Trevor was doing something to her, something sinister.

Amanda's hand fell on Kantor's arm. "Would you be a dear and walk me to my car," she asked with a smile.

Kantor wanted to refuse. He had no desire to become this woman's new lover. But there was really no way out of it. "Sure," he said. "Goodnight, Trevor… Selarah."

She looked up at him again and her eyes begged him to stay, but she knew he must leave. She didn't say anything. She allowed Trevor to dominate, as she had the entire evening. The glib bastard stood and shook Kantor's hand. A look passed between them, and in that one look, their thoughts seemed broadcast to the world. Kantor: I know you're hurting her. Trevor: Maybe I am. Who's going to stop me?

Selarah went upstairs without drawing the attention of her husband. She didn't want to see Kantor walk out the door with Amanda. She knew he didn't want her, but it didn't matter. She had seen him walk out of one too many doors already.

Much later, Selarah couldn't sleep. Actually, she didn't want to sleep in the same bed with Trevor. She crept downstairs and sat down in her favorite overstuffed chair. She gazed blankly out the window. She wanted Kantor, wanted him more than she ever had, even more than when he first left her. She wanted to tell him about her horrid marriage, the threats, the videos, Trevor's bizarre behavior, everything. She couldn't. Trevor's threats were real, and she couldn't risk her career over his sickness.

She got up, grabbed her car keys, and headed for the door. She went outside to her cruiser, unlocked it, and let herself in. She grabbed her cell phone and dialed a number from memory.

"Can you meet me somewhere," she asked.

Kantor looked up as he saw Selarah enter the diner. She hadn't even taken time to get dressed. She had apparently thrown a coat over her nightgown. It was no consequence to the patrons of the diner, all four of them. Without a word, she sat opposite him in the booth he had chosen in the back.

"What's going on," he asked. He wanted to reach across the table and take her hands, but he hesitated.

Before she could say one word, an overly animated server approached and offered Selarah coffee. She refused. She didn't need to be any more wired up than she already was.

Once the server was away from them, she said, "I can't tell you everything, Kantor. I just needed to get away from the house. Is that okay?"

He was disappointed, but wouldn't say so for anything. "Yes, it's fine. Are you all right?"

"No. But I need to go back to work. I can't stay at home anymore."

"For God's sake, Selarah, fucking leave him," he spat harshly, not caring if anyone could hear him.

She wouldn't look at him. "I can't."

Not caring about the consequences, he reached out and took her hands in his. "What is it? Do you love him? Does he even love you? What, Selarah? Please talk to me."

Tears began to stream out of her eyes. "I wish I could tell you," she whispered.

"You can, Selarah. You can tell me anything. I want to help you, but you have to talk to me."

She pulled her hands of out his and covered her face with them. Without hesitating, he got up and slid in the booth beside her. He took her unyielding body in his arms and held her. She was shattered, and he was reminded of the night her apartment had been invaded. She had been assaulted, beaten down. He closed his eyes against the memory and prayed that Trevor hadn't beaten her. If he ever found out that Trevor had laid one finger on her, he would lose his professional demeanor and shoot him down.

After a while, Selarah finally calmed down enough to pull back from Kantor's embrace. She did so hurriedly, as if embarrassed. He sat back and gazed at her, her tears drying on his shirt. He wanted to say something, but there was nothing he could say without alienating her further. If only she would tell him how Trevor had hurt her so. If only she would leave her husband. If only she would simply admit she still loved him. If only…

"I need to go before Trevor notices I'm not in bed," she said quietly, blotting her eyes with a napkin.

"Don't go back to him," he said gently, urgently.

"I have to. You must accept that and leave it alone. I can't leave him and I can't cheat on him. I'm sorry. Please let me out, I have to go."

Defeated for the time being, he slid out of the booth and allowed her to get out. He walked her to her car. She tried to insert the key into the lock, but her hands were shaking so badly she couldn't. He took the keys from her, unlocked it, and opened the door for her. She stood behind the door, so that her body could not be against his. At her weakest, she was very tempted to go with him, and it wouldn't take much to convince her.

"I'm sorry to keep dragging you into the middle like this. It won't happen again," she said.

"I'm here for you, Selarah, always," he said.

Kantor's eyes were fixed on her, so warm, so passionate. Her desire for him was intense, her hunger insatiable. He never had to say a word, all he had to do was look at her, and she could see what he was feeling and know what he was thinking. In that moment, it was as if their five-year separation never happened.

He opened his mouth to speak, perhaps to tell her he loved her, but she shook her head before he could. "No, Falk, don't. It's best if you don't."

She didn't say another word. She climbed into her car and shut the door, shutting him out of her life yet again.

* * *

Aaron had another target in mind. He had conquered other strong girls since Renee, and he was ready to try yet another strong one. Her name was Steffie. Steffie worked as a teller in a bank, and she had an affinity for martial arts. She would present a nice challenge for Aaron, but he didn't mind. He tended to like challenges. Besides, he was quite fond of martial arts himself.

Unlike the others, Aaron took his time researching this one. She would be his masterpiece, so to speak. He giggled to himself. Oh, this will be so damn much fun. The sweat began to trickle down the back of his neck. The feeling was starting to wash over him. When he got the feeling, it was a sign for him. It meant his hunting would yield the right game. And Steffie was it.

Steffie stood naked in front of the full-length mirror in her bedroom. She examined her profile on each side of her body, and then she looked over her shoulder at her butt. She turned back around and gazed at her figure straight on. Her hands slid to her flat belly. Nope, still don't look pregnant, she thought. She wondered how Drake would take the news. She had been dating him for a few months, so she was pretty sure he wouldn't take it gracefully. The bizarre thing about it was that she wanted to keep the baby. She was thirty-three-years old, wasn't getting any younger, and she wanted children. Steffie figured she'd end up a single mother, and she wasn't sure if she was necessarily ready for that, either.

"Pretty," a voice said from behind.

Steffie wasn't startled. Drake had a key to her apartment, and he liked sneaking in and surprising her. When she did turn around, her guest wasn't Drake. It was a figure draped entirely in black, wearing a ski mask, and carrying a black cloth gym bag. Although naked and vulnerable, she hadn't forgotten her martial arts training. Almost immediately, she went into a defensive stance. The masked intruder simply chuckled and went into a stance similar to hers, mocking her. This action pissed Steffie off, but she kept her stance.

"Get out of my apartment, or I'm going to beat the shit out of you," she said and meant it.

The intruder laughed this time. "Wanna bet? Come on, Steffie, let's see what you got."

For a second, panic seized her. He knows my name, she screamed to herself. She shrugged it off immediately. This piss ant was trying to knock her off her guard, and there was no way she would allow that to happen. Her attacker suddenly rushed her. She swung out, but her move was blocked. Oh dear God, she thought, this freak has training as well. He swiftly grabbed her, but she threw him. He landed hard on his back.

"Little bitch fucking threw me," he growled.

He brought himself quickly to his feet. He was lithe and very physically fit. Steffie went into a flying kick, intent on knocking the guy's lights out for good. However, Aaron saw it coming. He grabbed her foot as it came flying toward his face. He shoved back hard, and she landed on the floor.

"Olé," Aaron screamed gaily.

He took the opportunity to rush her. Aaron threw his body on top of hers. Only stunned for a few seconds, Steffie wasn't quite ready to give up. Her hand connected with his chin and she began to shove upwards. Aaron's hands went around her throat, but she wouldn't let up. Neither did he. Aaron simply squeezed her throat harder and harder. Eventually, Steffie began to lose consciousness. Her world grew dimmer and dimmer until it blacked out altogether.

When Steffie regained consciousness, she found that the freak had laid her on the bed and had tied her hands together with duct tape. He had also slapped a strip over her mouth. He approached where she lay, and she kicked out with her leg. He responded by punching her square in the face. Dazed and in pain, she decided not to move. He had taken away her voice so reasoning with him would be impossible. He refused to look her in the face, so she could not communicate with him through her eyes. She found that she could wiggle her hands, so her bindings weren't that sturdy. Perhaps she had a chance, if only his attention could be diverted.

Steffie watched as the freak dug around in his bag. He dug out a gigantic vibrator. Horrified, she watched as he flicked the instrument on. In a flash, he was on top of her, with the buzzing vibrator in his hand. Sickened, she turned her head away from his face as he slid the vibrator from her breasts to her belly and then down to her thighs.

"You're so beautiful," he said. "You'll enjoy this as much as me, I promise."

Without a word, he flipped her body over so that her face was in her pillow. At that point, she began to wiggle her hands. The bonding hold of the duct tape was weakening due to the sweat trickling down her arms. She worked frantically as the freak brought her to her knees and rammed the vibrator deeply inside her. She didn't focus on the pain, the horror, or the terror. She focused on releasing her bonds.

He rammed the vibrator in and out of her a few times before removing it and discarding it to the floor. He flipped her back over and buried his face between her thighs. At that point, Steffie had freed one of her hands. Instinctively, she yanked at the sick fuck's ski mask and jerked it off his head. Her attacker, surprised for the moment, looked up at her. When she saw the intruder's face, she gasped aloud.

"Oh fuck, oh fuck," she cried. "I know you!"

"Oh fuck is right, you bitch," Aaron screamed.

Out of control now, Aaron kept hitting Steffie over and over again until she was unconscious. His face had been seen. If he left, Steffie could identify him. There was no way he wanted to be identified, not until his work was completed. He would have to take the step his parents took before him. He had yet to kill one of his victims, but he was sure he could. Calmly, Aaron picked up his mask and put it back on. He retrieved the buzzing vibrator and crudely jammed it inside her where it would stay. He dug around in his black bag until he found his weapon of choice. Cool and collected now, he approached the bed and plunged his knife into her chest repeatedly.

* * *

Selarah's pager went off. She groaned against the intruding noise. She had only been back on the job for two days, and she had been called out three times. She retrieved the pager and recognized the number as coming from dispatch at Lexicon. Without trying to disturb Trevor, she slid out of bed and grabbed the phone.

"Steeler," she said into the phone, "What's the deal?"

"We have a 187 at 289 Juniper."

How many times had she heard the numbers 187? She hated it, but it was better than listening to Bruce calling homicides 'blow outs.' "I'll be there in twenty minutes. Contact Kantor."

"He is already on the scene."

"You sexist fucks," she growled into the phone before slamming it down.

By the time Selarah arrived at 289 Juniper, there were tons of cop cars, an ambulance, and unmarked cruisers parked all around. It was only around four thirty in the morning, but it seemed as if the entire neighborhood was on the street trying to take a peek inside. The crime scene investigators had already cordoned off the area around the house. Selarah flashed her badge at a Lexicon rookie and he allowed her admittance.

She saw Kantor standing over to the side, questioning potential witnesses. She moved past him and went inside the house. The CSI guys were still taking pictures and dusting for fingerprints. Selarah saw that the house was a wreck. Apparently, a great struggle had occurred in this room.

Before she could make it to the bedroom, Kantor entered the house and took her by the arm. She turned to him. "What do you know," she asked.

He released her arm and shrugged. "Not much at this point. Her boyfriend came over and found her. He called the police. The victim was sexually assaulted before she was murdered."

She left Kantor standing and went into the bedroom. Once the CSI guys saw her, they stepped back a bit to give her access to the body. The victim was lying spread-eagle on the bed. She had multiple stab wounds to her chest. A vibrator had been crudely shoved inside her vagina and a thin trickle of blood had dried on her thigh. Selarah hated crimes like these. They were so brutal, so senseless. She wondered if anyone had contacted her family yet. She turned and saw Kantor standing a few feet away.

"Do you think this is related to the rapes that SCU has been working on," Selarah asked Kantor as she approached him.

"Maybe," he said. "It certainly fits the MO, doesn't it?"

She nodded. "Yeah. We should get with them in a few hours. Have you interviewed the boyfriend?"

"No. He went back home, but he said he'd be there all day. I don't think it's the boyfriend."

Again, she nodded. "I still want to talk to him. It could always be a copycat, and he could have done this."

Although Kantor was focused on the job at hand, he couldn't avoid looking at Selarah's face. She was troubled, and not about the case. Without another word to him, she moved along and began assessing the scene.

* * *

At 8:00 a.m. sharp, both Kantor and Selarah sat in Bruce's office and briefed him about the homicide. After their meeting, Bruce excused Kantor, but kept Selarah in his office.

"I'm separating you from Kantor and partnering you with someone else," he said.

Typically, Selarah would argue with him tooth and nail. However, that morning, she said nothing.

"What," Bruce said, surprised. "You're not going to argue?"

She shook her head. "No."

"Care to explain?"

She shrugged. "Why should I? Don't you already know?"

Bruce smiled a little. Selarah was sharp. It was one of her few endearing qualities. "You have a personal history with Kantor, don't you?"

"And again, I ask, don't you already know?"

"You should have said something earlier, Steeler. I wouldn't have put him with you if I had known about your past with him. I understand now why the two of you can't seem to get along."

"My private life is none of your business, Bruce. Before I was sacked on psych leave, I was going to request a change. I told you then and I am repeating it now. I don't need a partner."

He sighed. "And I'm telling you again that you will be partnered with someone, I just don't know who yet. In the meantime, I am allowing Kantor to assist you with this new case until I can get someone else. I'll be bending the rules, of course, but I have no choice since we're short-handed. Can you work with him until then?"

No, she wanted to scream. I can't because he is close to finding out about me, and I don't want to fuck up. Instead, she cleared her throat and said, "Of course. I can be professional. Kantor and I are working on our differences."

Selarah left Bruce's office and went in search of Kantor. He wasn't hard to find. He was in his office and she stood in the doorway.

He looked up. "What is it," he asked.

"Bruce is partnering me with someone else. Until he can do some rearranging, we're going to work together on this new case."

He nodded thoughtfully. "Okay. Would you like to visit the boyfriend now?"

"Definitely."

Selarah and Kantor sat in the tiny living room of Drake Hensley. He was visibly upset and had been crying. She noticed an opened bottle of scotch by his feet and decided that he had been drinking this morning. However, he was quite coherent and talked endlessly about his dead girlfriend.

"Did you know Steffie was pregnant," Selarah asked.

Hensley looked up in shock at the stony faced detectives. "Pregnant," he spat as if he had no idea what the word meant.

"Yes," Selarah spat sarcastically. "You know, pregnant. Pregnant as in with child, as in Daddy, as in Mommy."

"No, I didn't know," he spat before he broke down in tears.

Patiently, Selarah waited until he gained control of himself. "Were you and Steffie fighting," she asked.

"No."

"Where were you last night," Kantor asked.

"I… I was with another woman. When I… I found… her, I was about to break it off."

"Who was this other woman? What's her name?"

Before Hensley could even answer the question, Selarah burst in. "You just said you weren't fighting, but then you said you went to break it off. Were you or weren't you fighting?"

Bewildered, he looked at Selarah. "No, we weren't fighting. I was getting bored in the relationship. We weren't fighting." He then looked at Kantor. "Her name is Sarah, Sarah Atkins. I can give you her phone number if you need to contact her."

Kantor and Selarah left the apartment not long after Kantor took down Hensley's information.

Once in the car, Kantor said, "Weren't you a little hard on him?"

"Nope," she said simply.

He chuckled a little. "I think I rubbed off on you."

"Maybe so," she said, smiling a little.

They hadn't walked away from a joking matter. However, it did Kantor's heart good to see her smile. She hadn't genuinely smiled in days. Kantor's heart sank just a little when he noticed a band-aid on the tip of her finger.

"Selarah," he said, "what did you do to your finger?"

She glanced at it, but wouldn't look at him. "Oh," she said nonchalantly. I ripped the nail off. I got it caught in the bathroom door."

He didn't believe her, but he didn't say anything. He wanted to ask if Trevor had done something to her, but he hesitated. Kantor knew that if he were ever around Trevor again, he would throttle him.

"I know what you're thinking, Kantor. I am not a battered little wifey. I can hold my own against anyone, even you."

"Selarah, I…"

She sighed. "Please don't say anything, Kantor. I don't want to go into this again."

"Okay," he said. "I'm sorry."

* * *

Selarah didn't make it home until well past ten that night. Trevor was sitting up in bed typing away on his laptop. For a moment, he acted as if she didn't exist. She didn't mind. She had lied to Kantor about a couple of things. The first, of course, was how her fingernail was torn. She had not snagged it in the bathroom door. Trevor had tried to tie her to the bed, but she fought him. He had shoved her body violently off the bed. She landed face down on the hardwood floor. Her fingernail had gotten caught in a crevice and snapped right off. She didn't scream or cry. Trevor didn't like that. The second was that she was a battered little wifey. She fought back, but Trevor normally won. All he had to do was mention the tapes, and she usually submitted.

Trevor stopped typing long enough to watch her undress. She could feel his eyes on her, but she fought not to make eye contact. Before long, there would be another fight, and another injury she would have to lie about to Kantor.

When Selarah turned so that her back was facing Trevor, a small smile framed his lips. He had placed a nice bite mark on the left cheek of her buttock. It was still visible and he was pleased. It had looked better when he first put it there, but it would do for a few more days. His smile dropped when she covered herself with a cotton nightgown. He didn't like it when she wore what he considered 'granny gowns.' She had plenty of teddies, crotchless panties, and see through negligees, but she always chose those ugly pieces of shit.

She sat down at her vanity to brush out her hair. At that point, he closed his laptop. When she heard that sound, her skin began to crawl. His attention would be focused on her instead of the great American novel he was working on.

"I was thinking about something, today, Sel," he began.

Inwardly, she groaned. What kind of game did he want to play now? "Oh yeah," she said. "What were you thinking about?"

"I think we should have a child."

She had to fight to maintain a calm exterior. Her freakish husband wanted to bring a child into their loveless marriage. She couldn't believe his gall.

"I don't think I'm ready yet," she said.

"Really," he said sarcastically. "You seemed ready five years ago, didn't you?"

She closed her eyes against the pain. Trevor knew how to cut her and he had cut deeply. "It was different then," she said softly.

"So, you're saying that having my baby wouldn't be as good as having Falk's? I've taken the liberty of getting rid of every birth control device in the house. I think we should start immediately."

She turned to face him. "Aren't you listening to me? I'm not ready to have a child. My career at this moment is very important to me. I don't have time for a baby."

"Tough shit," he said.

Selarah stood and took off her nightgown. She began digging for the clothing she had just discarded.

"What do you think you're doing," Trevor asked.

"I'm going to spend the night at a hotel."

He stood. "The hell you are."

Trevor came toward her and her fist connected with his jaw. There was nothing worse for him than being hit by a woman. It enraged him to the point of murder. He reacted by kicking her in the stomach. She went down to her knees. When he bent down to come after her, her hand went around his ankle and she sank her teeth into his leg. She tasted the harsh cotton fabric of his pajama bottoms. He grabbed double hands full of her hair and pulled until she released him.

He dragged her to the bed by her hair. She landed face down on the bed. Here we go again, she thought. But at least he had thrown her down on a soft bed instead of a hard floor. She heard the rustle of his pajama bottoms going down, and she felt his swollen penis against her buttocks. She closed her eyes and waited for it to be over.

Kantor had only been out of bed for a few minutes when he heard a knock on his door. Surprised, he glanced at his watch and saw that it wasn't quite five in the morning. He opened his door to Selarah. She was fully dressed for work and it appeared she had been awake for hours. He hadn't even had a chance to shower. He was still in his robe and boxer shorts.

"What are you doing here," he asked, bewildered.

"I don't know," she said. "Can I come in?"

He moved out of her way and allowed her access to his apartment. He closed the door behind her, but didn't immediately move toward her. He stood by the door as if it were a neutral zone. He watched as Selarah's eyes surveyed his living room before settling on him.

Selarah saw the fine gold chain with the engagement ring encircling Kantor's neck. He apparently never took it off. His robe was open, revealing his naked chest and the scar from when he was shot. Ironically enough, the engagement ring seemed to dangle directly over the scar tissue. She wondered if he had intended for the ring to lie that way, or if it was just a coincidence.

"Selarah, I'm confused," he said.

She nodded. "It's okay. So am I." She sat down on the couch, finally taking her eyes off him.

Kantor didn't know whether to stay put or join her. He had noticed that her movements were stilted, as if she were in pain. He wanted to ask, but didn't want her to say that nothing was wrong. There was plenty wrong, and he only wished she would talk to him. Not knowing exactly what to do, he chose to sit in a chair next to the couch.

"There are few things in life that I can control," she began. "When you came back, I tried and failed to maintain control."

"What are you saying? I don't understand."

She fixed her eyes on his face. He was gazing at her intensely. "I was a wreck when you left, and I spent five years trying to hate you. I married Trevor partly to spite you. I don't hate you, Falk, I never have. I hate myself for being so weak, so unable to control my emotions. Neither of us can change what we've done. We've both made mistakes, and each of us are paying for them."

He didn't exactly feel comfortable with her words. She spoke with a flat affect, and it was scary. She did not sound well. "Selarah, I'm really worried about you."

She sighed. "You don't have to be. I have my own shit to work through, I suppose." She stood. "I'm sorry. I'll go now. We're due at work in a few hours, and there's a ton of things that need to be done."

Selarah walked past him. Just before she was out of reach, Kantor took hold of her hand and pulled her back. He gazed up at her with his warm brown eyes. He stood up without releasing her hand. For a moment, he was simply satisfied with gazing at her, drinking her in. Before long, he drew her body toward his and kissed her. She didn't push him away or fight him. She let him kiss her, and when he pressed forward with his tongue, she opened her mouth and accepted it.

She took her hands from his and slipped them inside his unbelted robe. She wrapped her arms around him, to hold him tightly. His hands went into her hair, tangling in it. Her mouth was sweet, hot, and insistent, as was his desire for her. It amazed him that he could still feel this way about her, that she still held such power over him. This woman before him was never meant to be with anyone other than him, and he had been foolish enough to leave her, to think that he would get over her.

Selarah broke the kiss. He kept his eyes locked with hers. He noticed that she had yet to release her hold on his body. Kantor wondered if she intended to walk out on him again. He honestly didn't know if he could stand to watch her leave.

"You asked once if I'd ever forgive you," she said softly. "I have."

He closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, his eyes not only showed warmth, but relief. He kissed her again, but softly and briefly. "I still love you, Selarah, I never stopped," he said, unable to hold it in another second.

"I know," she said, "because I never did."

Slowly, she withdrew from his embrace. She wanted him to make love to her; she was literally aching for him. She simply didn't want to undress. If he saw her naked body, he would also see the bruises on her stomach, her back, and Trevor's bite mark. She was ashamed of the bruises; ashamed she had allowed a man to beat her and get away with it. She was also terrified. If he saw her injuries, he would demand an explanation. At that point, at her most vulnerable, she would tell him everything.

Perplexed, Kantor watched helplessly as Selarah backed away from him. What was she thinking? What was she doing? It was, of course, obvious. She was trying to back away, to make another escape. Did she think he would allow her to walk out on him after she told him she loved him?

After she had stepped back a couple of feet, Kantor asked, "Do you think I'm going to stand here and watch you leave? We still love each other, Selarah. Five years didn't change that."

She wanted to refuse him, to use her 'I can't' excuse. No matter how hard she tried, the words wouldn't come out of her mouth. She knew he would put up a fight before she left him again. She loved him, told him as much, but she couldn't stay with him. She didn't even know if she could tell him why.

Selarah stood stock still as Kantor approached. He kissed her again, deeply and hungrily. She again surrendered to his kiss without an ounce of a fight. During the kiss, one of his hands came up and began unbuttoning her blouse. She broke the kiss and took hold of his wrist.

Her voice broke as her eyes filled with tears. "No," she moaned. "No. I can't let you…"

Confused, he whispered harshly, "What? Goddamn it, Selarah, tell me."

"You can't see me, you can't see my body," she said, lowering her head in shame.

He placed his finger underneath her chin and lifted her head so that her eyes could meet his. "What has he done to you, Selarah?"

She stepped back from him and turned so that her back was facing him. She unbuttoned her blouse and allowed it to slide down her arms to the floor. Kantor gasped when he saw the dark purple bruise covering one entire shoulder. She then removed her bra. When her slacks and panties came down, his eyes identified an old, but quite obvious bite mark. She then turned to face him and he saw another angry bruise blooming on her stomach. He approached her and enveloped her trembling body in his arms. She buried her face into his chest. She didn't cry; there were no tears left in her.

"How could he do this to you?"

Kantor honestly didn't expect her to answer, but he simply couldn't understand. He was instantly assaulted with a burning anger and hatred. He wanted to do to Trevor what he had done to Selarah. But at that exact moment, he could only feel her pain and shame. He lifted her trembling body and carried her to his bedroom. He laid her on his bed and drew the covers up over her. His need to make love to her had become a need to comfort and protect her.

"What are you doing," she whispered.

Kantor climbed in beside her and smoothed her hair away from her brow. "What I should have done weeks ago." He cradled her in his arms and held her close to him. He was so close he could hear her heart beat.

"I can't do this, Falk," she said. "I have to…"

He cut her words off by placing a soft kiss on her lips. "I'll take care of everything. All you have to do is stay here and stay safe."

She leaned over him and kissed him. "I want you," she said against his lips. "If you don't make love to me right now, I'm going to go crazy."

He had never wanted her so much. But he hesitated. Her body was battered and bruised. Kantor had no intention of hurting her further. She seemed to know what he was thinking. There was a look of understanding in her eyes.

"It's okay," she said. "You're not going to hurt me."

Without hesitation, Selarah threw back the bed covers. Kantor sat up long enough to slip out of his robe as she worked on getting him out of his boxers. With his clothing barriers out of the way, Selarah straddled him.

For a very long time, all she could do was look at him. She couldn't move a muscle, couldn't touch or kiss him. He placed one hand on each side of her waist and allowed them to slide upward toward her breasts. When his hands cupped her breasts, she sighed. It had been so long since he had touched her in such a fashion. It felt wonderful and natural. She had longed for his touch without even realizing it. She had simply forgotten how gentle a touch could be.

Kantor sat up so he could kiss her. During their kiss, he slowly lowered her to the bed so that he was hovering over her. The moment his mouth left hers, his lips made a slow trail down her throat, to the hollow between her breasts, then down toward the angry bruise on her flat stomach. He ran his lips gently over her discolored skin and wished that his touch could draw the pain away. He gently turned her over so that his lips could touch the ugly bruise over her shoulder blade. It killed him to see her bruised flesh and he again wondered how anyone could hurt her.

Selarah turned herself back over to face him. They kissed again, but very briefly. His mouth went down to her breasts again, and his lips encircled one hardened nipple, then the other. Nearly out of her mind now, Selarah tangled her hands into his thick black hair. After a moment, she removed her hands from his hair so that his mouth could continue its journey downward. She drew in a hissed breath as his tongue dipped into her navel.

She drew her legs up as his body slid in between them. When his tongue entered her, she cried out sharply. She couldn't stand the intense fluttering sensations building inside her. She wanted him to stop, but was helpless to stop him. It had been five long years since he had made love to her, but it seemed as if no time had passed.

"Oh, stop," she moaned. "I want to come with you, and I won't if you don't stop."

He slowly withdrew from her and left a trail of kisses that ended with his lips once again on hers. She felt the hardness of him against her. It was the first time in years that she actually craved to have a man inside her, that she had actually wanted a man inside her. He broke the kiss and soon thereafter, she felt him slide slowly and deeply into her. With each thrust, it seemed as if he were touching her soul. No one had ever had that effect on her; no one ever would again.

When he came inside her, he didn't immediately withdraw from her. He lay on top of her, his face buried in her sweet smelling hair. She held onto him as if she were afraid he'd disappear. She then began to cry. She was overjoyed that she no longer had to hide her feelings for him. However, she was devastated because she could no longer be with him. She had taken an incredible risk allowing him to make love to her in the first place.

The moment he realized that she was crying, he slowly withdrew from inside her. He moved to lie at her side and he turned her to face him. "You have to tell me what's going on," he demanded. "Neither of us is going anywhere until you talk to me."

Selarah moved away from him and sat up. It was ridiculous. She had made love with him, had allowed his seed to fill her, and yet she couldn't talk to him about Trevor. He sat up as well and moved where she would be forced to see his face.

Kantor took her hands in his. "Please, Selarah. I love you and I want to help you. But I can't do anything if you don't talk to me."

She looked at the man she loved so dearly. She had to confess, there was no other way around it. "Trevor…"

Her voice died out. One of Kantor's hands moved up to rest gently on her neck. His thumb caressed her lower cheek. "What about him? Tell me."

She swallowed hard to control her impending tears. "Since he began teaching at the university, he has had affairs with his students. But that's not the worst thing. Trevor has these bizarre fantasies, and he plays these games. Most of the games involve me and other people. He videotapes me while these women touch me. At first, I went along with it thinking that it would save our marriage. Over time, I began to realize that nothing could save us, and that Trevor is a very sick, perverted man. His behavior has gotten worse since you've come back. When I refuse him, he beats me and sometimes forces me to-"

Kantor groaned and closed his eyes. He couldn't stand to hear anymore. He clenched his teeth as he imagined the horrid things Trevor had done to Selarah. "Oh God," he said. He opened his eyes and focused them on her face. "I'll fucking kill him."

His hand was still on her neck. She covered it with her own and took it back into hers. "No," she cried. "You don't understand."

He slowly regained his composure, but he was still intent on killing Trevor Steeler. "There's more," he asked carefully.

She nodded. "If I ever leave him, if he ever finds out that we made love, he'll send these videos to Bruce. I can't leave him, Falk. He'll take away everything I have."

"You have me," he said, "and he could never take that away. You can't go back to him. He's killing you, Selarah. I can't keep letting him do this to you. You have to leave him."

She understood what he was saying and knew it was true. However, his words were only a dream. Selarah was dictated by reality. There was no point in arguing with Kantor further; he simply wouldn't listen to her.

Her silence spoke volumes to him. "Selarah," he said. "Please. Stay here today and think about it. I know what you're thinking of doing right now. I can read it in your eyes. Promise you'll stay here until I come back."

"Okay," she said, knowing in an instant she would break that promise.

* * *

Selarah was called out to another homicide. Again, the victim was a young female who was raped and then murdered. It was a scene identical to the Steffie Grant murder. Selarah was first on scene; Kantor appeared fifteen minutes later. They exchanged brief glances. When Kantor had gotten home that evening, he discovered that Selarah had left. He hadn't seen her since that morning, and he wanted to talk to her, but at the moment, their jobs were top priority.

Toward dawn, Selarah and Kantor had finally gathered all the information they could at the scene. She had left the victim's apartment first and made her way through the throngs of police officers, reporters, and medical personnel. She had barely gotten her car door open when Kantor stepped up behind her.

"Would you wait a minute," he asked.

She turned around and looked at him. "I have to go," she said.

"No you don't," he said. "You can give me five minutes."

Selarah sighed and closed her car door. Kantor was not a man with whom one could argue and win, especially when he was obviously right. "I can't risk it, Falk, you don't get it. No one can protect me from this. If he releases those tapes, my life is over. It's as simple as that. I can't let him do that."

"So you continue to stay with him? You're going to continue to let him rape you, beat you, and exploit you? He will eventually kill you. Can't you see that?"

"I can take care of it," she whispered weakly.

Incredulous, he gazed down into her eyes. "Can you? All I have to do is look at your naked body and see that you can't take care of it. He has already killed you in a way. I can see the difference in you."

"Goddamn it, Kantor," she spat. "Leave it alone. Nothing can change this, nothing."

"I love you, Selarah. Let him do what he wants with those tapes. You don't have to stay with him." He extended his hand toward her. "Take my hand and come home with me."

She only hesitated half a second before taking his hand and allowing Kantor to win yet one more argument. They went back to his apartment. Kantor took her to his bed and made long, languid love to her. After, they took a shower together and dressed. They both had to go into the office and continue work on the two murders.

"I have to go back and get my things," she told him suddenly.

"Not alone. You wait until we can go together."

She nodded. "Falk, this is going to be bad."

He kissed her. "We'll deal with it. Just don't see him alone."

* * *

Kantor was surprised and pissed when he didn't find Selarah at his apartment. She had left before him and she should have gotten back before him. He hoped she hadn't decided to go back to Trevor without him. Worried, he grabbed the phone and dialed her cellular number. It rang five times before a mechanical voice told him her phone was not on. At that point, he was almost certain she had gone home.

He trusted her, and he didn't immediately want to break that. He stood and took several deep breaths to calm himself down some. He would wait before he ran out half-cocked. Selarah knew Trevor was dangerous to her, and she wouldn't go back. However, his little voice nagged him. Has she listened to you before? No. She has gone back once. She will do it again. If you do not go after her now, Trevor is bound to hurt her again.

I'm panicking, he thought. He calmed down little by little until another thought struck him. Panic was usually his body's way of telling him something was wrong. He remembered the night Selarah had been beaten in her apartment. He had been panicky and on edge the entire night. He recalled how unsettled he was the night he had drinks with Trevor the first time. Trevor had been beating Selarah the whole time, had probably been doing so throughout the five years of their marriage.

Other thoughts began to antagonize him. Kantor's mind drifted to the two murders and the rapes. Each victim had been bound and gagged. Each had been raped and beaten. The scenarios sounded exactly like what Selarah had described Trevor doing to her. What if Trevor were the freak terrorizing Lexicon? What if Selarah was his next victim? Calmly and collectively, Kantor checked his weapon before holstering it. He was afraid he would need it.

Kantor drove out to the house Selarah and Trevor shared. His heart nearly leapt into his throat when he saw Selarah's cruiser in the driveway parked beside Trevor's Volvo. Just as he had feared, Selarah had gone home without him. For a moment, he was so angry he couldn't think straight. He knew he wouldn't be any good to anyone if he didn't calm down. For half a minute, he took several deep breaths. His tried and true method of calming down wasn't quite working like it should.

Cautiously, he got out of his car and approached the front door. The knob turned easily in his hand. He held his breath as the door creaked open. Kantor stepped inside the foyer and scanned the living room. His sharp ears detected a woman moaning, but not from pleasure. The moan was coming from upstairs. He then heard two distinct sounds: the crack of a whip and Selarah's anguished cries.

Kantor's heart thumped sickly in his chest. He wanted to scream her name and run to her, but he had to remain calm. His instincts and training told him to call for backup, but he ignored procedure for once. This had nothing to do with police business; this was personal.

Kantor slowly climbed the stairs and slipped around the hallway. Another crack of the whip, this one louder, issued from a nearby bedroom. The door to the bedroom was wide open. He heard Selarah moan again and then she begged Trevor to stop. He closed his eyes tightly and fought his impending panic. Sweat had begun to trickle down his face. His breath came in sharp and heavy.

Carefully, cautiously, he stole a glance into the room. He had to suppress a gasp. Selarah's naked body was bound at the wrists and ankles onto a rack-like device. Trevor stood behind her, hitting her with a whip. The whip wasn't some kind of toy used by S & M freaks; it was real and mean. Horrified, he noticed that the whip had cut several long welts down her back. A few of them were oozing blood.

Kantor drew his pistol and slid into the room. He held his weapon level with Trevor's legs. Selarah saw Kantor before Trevor did. She was crying and her face was a mask of pain. Her silently pleading eyes made him so angry, so very enraged. How could he do this to her?

"Trevor, drop it," Kantor demanded. His first instinct was to shoot him, but he had to remain calm.

Trevor, whip in hand, glanced at Kantor. He smiled a little. "Sorry. I had to punish her because she told me she's been fucking you. I don't like it when women cheat on me."

"You son of a bitch, drop it. Don't think I won't shoot you," Kantor said calmly.

"She always loved you, Falk, and I never quite understood why. You knocked her up, but I took care of that. There are many drugs that don't show up in the blood, but effectively end pregnancy. She would have had your bastard if I hadn't intervened."

Trevor's words knocked back Kantor like a strong kick. All those years, he had blamed himself for the loss of his unborn son. It had influenced his decision to leave his love behind. The hatred flooded into him. Kantor moved the gun and aimed it at Trevor's head.

"You killed my son and took my fiancée away from me," Kantor said, nearly snarling. "I should put a bullet in your brain."

Trevor laughed. "You lack the balls, Falk."

"FALK! NO," Selarah cried. "Don't do it! He isn't worth it!"

Trevor cracked the whip again and Selarah screamed. Kantor fired his weapon and Trevor fell.

Selarah couldn't see Trevor. She was sure Kantor had blown his brains out. Although the thought of that didn't quite appall her, she didn't want her lover to suffer any consequences because of her. "Why, Falk, why," she cried.

Kantor moved toward Trevor and slapped handcuffs on him. "He's not dead, Selarah, I shot him in the leg."

Ignoring Trevor, Kantor stripped a sheet off the bed. He gently took Selarah down from the rack. Once he had her wrapped in the sheet, she passed out in his arms. While Kantor took care of the legal red tape, Selarah was sent to the emergency room. When Trevor was taken away, his sneer drove Kantor insane, and for a moment, he wished he had shot him dead when he had the chance.

Kantor didn't make it to the hospital until visiting hours were over, but he talked his way back. When he entered the room, Selarah was laying on her stomach. The angry welts had been treated and covered. The moment she saw him, she turned to her side with an audible moan.

"Please, love, don't," Kantor said.

"I'm okay," she insisted before bringing herself up to a sitting position.

He dropped down to one knee in front of her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. He was afraid to touch her; afraid he would hurt her. When she broke the kiss, she laid her head on his shoulder and cried.

"It's over now, it's all over," he whispered. "Why, Selarah, why did you go back?"

She pulled back from him for a moment. "I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to demand a divorce. But I've also been thinking, Falk. I think Trevor is the one who's been raping these women, the one who killed Grant and Shaw."

"Goddamn it, Selarah, he could have killed you. You should have talked to me. I've had my own suspicions about Trevor. You shouldn't have gone alone."

She nodded. "I know, I'm sorry."

He drew her back into his embrace. "It's okay. It's over and you're free."

Selarah pulled back from him again. "Would you stay with me tonight?"

He smiled a little and kissed her forehead. "Did you think I was going somewhere?"

* * *

Kantor was exhausted. However, he refused to stay home. He wanted a chance to speak to Trevor one on one. He stood in the interrogation room and was amazed at how calm he felt. Kantor turned as a jailer brought Trevor into the room. Trevor was decked out in the standard shapeless orange jail jumpsuit and slippers. He noticed that Trevor's leg wound had been treated. He was almost disappointed to note that his leg wasn't in a cast.

As posh as ever, Trevor was wearing his reading glasses and managed to look as aristocratic as the King of England. Kantor was sure he was a popular inmate. The jailer sat Trevor down in a chair parked in front of a small table. He watched as Trevor carefully crossed his ankles as if he were having lunch instead of being questioned in a police department. He hoped Trevor would speak before demanding an attorney.

Kantor did not sit. He leaned over a chair, grasping it until his knuckles turned white. He and Trevor were literally glaring at each other. Kantor was desperately trying to keep his rage in tact. He was more than tempted to reach across the table and choke the life out of Trevor. However, he managed to keep control of himself.

Trevor's eyes gleamed behind his glasses. With a smirk, he asked, "All this over Selarah, Falk?"

Kantor's brown eyes turned black. A very small, bitter smile touched his lips. "You assaulted a police officer, Trevor. That carries a very stiff penalty. But there's more. Much more. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about."

"I haven't the foggiest, Falk."

"Oh, I'm sure," he said, amused. "The assault on Selarah will put you away for a while. But if you cooperate, you may receive life instead of the death penalty for the others."

"What others? Have you cracked a fucking gasket? I have no idea what you're talking about. Further, I didn't assault Sel. She's my wife, and what we do as a married couple has nothing to do with assault."

Kantor lost it. With one swoop of the arm, he knocked over the table and went for Trevor. The jailer simply stood in the corner and watched. He knew when to cut in. Not only that, but he admired Selarah Steeler and didn't bat an eye when Kantor took after Trevor. Kantor grabbed Trevor's jumpsuit collar and jerked up on it hard. Trevor didn't react at all. He was as relaxed as ever.

"You'll never touch her again, do you understand me?" Kantor's nose was nearly touching Trevor's. "You're finished, Trevor. Done."

Trevor laughed. "Never touch her again? I touched her plenty, as did several able-bodied students, hookers, and strippers. You'll enjoy the tapes because Sel is quite the actress."

Kantor released his hold on Trevor. The other man fell back in the chair, almost toppling over. If he hadn't let him go, Kantor knew he would have hit him.

Trevor straightened out his wrinkled jumpsuit. "I'm not saying another word until I have an attorney present," he announced suddenly.

Kantor glared at Trevor. He then focused his eyes on the jailer. "Get him out of here," he spat angrily.

* * *

Kantor returned to the hospital the first opportunity he got. He was surprised to see Selarah sitting up in bed. She was a hard woman to break. He had always admired that about her. She smiled when she saw him enter the room and then she tried to get up.

He held up his hands. "No. Stay put." He approached the bed and sat down so he could face her.

She hesitated for half a second before kissing him. "I've been waiting all day to do that," she whispered once the kiss was broken.

"You look so good," he said.

"I feel good. I think they're springing me tomorrow." She passed her hand over his cheek. "You look tired. Maybe you should go home and get some sleep."

He shook his head. "No, I'm fine. I'll go home later. There is something we have to talk about."

"Okay," she said. "What is it?"

He took a deep breath and exhaled. "I think Trevor will be charged not only for what he did to you, but for the rapes and murders as well. It looks like he's our guy."

She closed her eyes for a moment and nodded. When she opened them, Kantor was still gazing at her. "What about…"

He didn't let her finish her question. "He mentioned the tapes. We're in the process of getting search warrants for his office at the university. If Trevor is our guy, they'll have to be admitted as evidence. But I don't think they will end up hurting you further. You don't have to worry, Selarah."

She sighed. "I really don't care anymore."

"Good. That's one less thing you have to worry about." He reached out to caress her hair. "You know, the woman I see sitting before me is the one I knew five years ago."

Her smiled returned. "This is the first time in five years I've felt normal and relieved."

Kantor took her hand and kissed it. "There's something else I wanted to talk about."

"What is it," she asked, expecting to hear more about Trevor.

He dug the necklace from under his shirt and took hold of the engagement ring. "This," he said simply.

Enchanted now, she asked, "What about it?"

Kantor smiled a little. "I suppose you're going to make me work? I still want to marry you."

She leaned toward him and kissed his lips ever so gently. When she broke the kiss, she said, "So, what are you waiting for? I'd like to have my ring back, please."

* * *

When Selarah was released from the hospital, she took a leave of absence from work in order to heal. She immediately moved in with Kantor, but she hadn't returned to the house she had once shared with Trevor. Kantor took off on Selarah's first weekend on leave to help her pack her things. She didn't want to go back to the house alone. She knew Trevor was no longer a threat to her, but she was still afraid.

The two of them entered the house, and Selarah stopped in the living room. She had no idea if she could progress any further. The bedroom was upstairs and that was where most of the abuse took place.

"Selarah? Are you all right? We can do this at another time."

She shook her head and looked up at him. "I'm fine, baby. If I don't do this now, I won't ever do it."

He offered her his hand. "Let's go."

She took his hand and nodded. "Right. The sooner I'm finished, the better it will be."

They slowly climbed the stairs together. Selarah kept having flashbacks of the last time she was in the house. She had come home and found Trevor in the living room. Without hesitating, she spat out that she had slept with Kantor and wanted a divorce. Trevor had literally gone berserk. He had hit her with something and she passed out. The next thing she knew, she was strapped to the rack. She visibly shuddered.

Kantor noticed and looked at her. "Selarah?"

"Just having a flashback."

Once in the bedroom, Selarah went to the closet and dug out a suitcase. Both she and Kantor began throwing clothes into the suitcase without bothering to fold anything neatly. Selarah wanted to finish and get out. She never wanted to see the house again. She went to the dresser and pulled open a drawer. It was Trevor's drawer. She almost slammed it shut until a green ink pen caught her eye.

"Oh shit," she gasped.

Kantor came over to where she stood. "What is it," he asked.

"Falk, this is an ink pen from the bank where Steffie Grant worked," she said as she examined the pen. "Who was this man?"

"Leave it," Kantor said. "We have Trevor."

She nodded. "Okay." She dropped the pen back into the drawer and forgot about it.

The two of them finished packing in an hour. Selarah walked out the door, never to return.

* * *

Aaron sat and perused the morning paper. He read the paper every day. There was usually something about the rapes and murders, sometimes on the front page. Aaron liked reading about his deeds. It made him feel proud of himself. If his parents were alive, he was sure they would have been proud as well. He had done something that they would have definitely approved.

That morning, the front-page story nearly made him choke on his oatmeal. The headline screamed: Professor Arrested for Assaulting Police Officer. Professor Might Also Hold the Key to the Lexicon Rape/Murder Spree. Some geek from the university had been tagged as having raped and murdered the women Aaron had attacked. He didn't know whether to laugh or scream in frustration. He, not Professor Trevor Steeler, had done the work. However, there was a positive side to it. Aaron could lay low for a few weeks and plan out his next attack. He already had a person in mind. Since Lexicon had nabbed a suspect, they would be off guard for a bit. Aaron was ready to have fun.

* * *

Kantor stood with two of the Lexicon rape victims. Even though they had not seen their attacker, Kantor had arranged for a line-up. He was hoping that the two women could identify their attacker at least by body type and voice. He simply wanted to establish that Trevor was the right man. Trevor stood with the other men of similar build and height. He was smart; he knew he was being watched behind a two-way mirror. He was smirking. Kantor wanted to strangle him.

One after another, Kantor had each man to step forward and speak. He held his breath when Trevor stepped forward. He tried to maintain his calm exterior and poker face. He didn't need to influence the victims at all. He glanced at the women and was slightly disappointed when no recognition crossed their faces.

"Okay," Kantor barked into the intercom, "That will be all for now."

When all the men were escorted out of the room, Kantor flipped on the light in the room. Both women were upset. He dragged a chair over and parked it right in front of the women. He sat down and faced them.

"No one," he asked gently.

Kate shook her head. "None of them."

"I seem to remember that the guy was shorter," Emily said. "The voice was different, too. All of these guys were tall and really thin. I'm sorry, Mr. Kantor, I don't think it was any of them."

"Neither do I," Kate said.

Kantor nodded. "Okay. Thank you for coming in."

Later that day, Kantor repeated the same process with another victim. Again, she was positive that her attacker was built differently and had a different voice. Kantor knew there were tough decisions to be made, and he hated breaking the news to Selarah.

When Kantor went home that evening, Selarah was in the shower. On any other day, he might have stripped and joined her, but not today. He sat quietly on the foot of the bed and waited. He had no idea how he would tell her about the line-up or Trevor's lawyer demanding he either be charged or allowed to post bond.

Selarah came out of the bathroom a short time later wrapped in a towel. Without looking at him she said, "I'm surprised to see you home so early."

Kantor said nothing. He was lost in a dream world. What he had to say would break her heart, and he had vowed not to break her heart again. Yet another promise broken. He glanced up at her for a moment and saw that her back had nearly healed. However, she would always have scars. Looking at her made the task at hand even more difficult.

She glanced at him over her shoulder. His eyes were on her, but he was still distant. "Kantor? What's wrong?"

"Selarah, I want to talk to you."

"Okay," she said, removing the towel. She grabbed her robe and slipped into it before she approached him. She sat beside him and waited expectantly.

He turned toward her and took her hands in his. "We did a line-up today with three of the rape victims. None of them picked Trevor."

Shocked, she spat, "What does this mean?"

"The only charge that can stick is assault. I'm almost positive that prosecution will drop the others."

"But Trevor…"

He interrupted her. "The only evidence we have is circumstantial. If Trevor went on trial right now, our case against him would be slaughtered. He'll be sent up for what he did to you, but the other charges will surely be gone by tomorrow morning."

She took her hands out of his. "Oh God," she moaned, covering her face.

Kantor moved to hold her, but his pager went off. "Goddamn," he growled. He ignored it for a moment and took her in his arms.

"Answer your call, Kantor, I'll be fine," she said against his chest.

He released her. "It can wait, Selarah. You're not fine."

Selarah drew away from him and stood. "Falk, really. Answer your call."

Sighing in frustration, he grabbed his pager and glanced at it. His stomach grew sick when he recognized the number as coming from dispatch. He went to the telephone on the nightstand and called in. Selarah watched him closely. He didn't say much into the phone, he never did. When he hung up, she was still watching him.

"There's been another murder, hasn't there?"

Kantor turned toward Selarah. "Yes," he said simply.

She knew what it all meant. Trevor was not the maniac terrorizing Lexicon. He had only terrorized her.

"I have to go," he said.

She approached him and wrapped her arms around him. He held her close to him for a moment before pulling back.

"I don't like leaving you like this," he said. "I'll be home as soon as I can."

She nodded. "I know."

* * *

Goddamn fucking bitch, Aaron thought. He was holed up in his hideout nursing a massive headache. He had recently spent some quality time with his latest victim. Her name had been Rozalee. She was like the others; beautiful with cropped locks and light colored eyes. However, she was spunkier than his first murder. He had gotten bolder with his girls since Steffie. He saw no need for the ski mask once he gained entry into the house. He had shown Rozalee what he looked like right off and damn if she didn't grab a handful of his hair. She had tugged and tugged until the little bitch managed to pull some strands out.

Aaron had made her suffer. He had taken his time about killing her. Instead of stabbing and slashing or making her life end quickly, he had choked her to the point of suffocation, and then released her throat. When she took a quick breath, he would wrap his hands around her throat again and start the process over. He did this repeatedly, for an hour or longer, until he grew bored. After he finished her off, he took special care of her body and cleaned it. He had been horrified when he saw his hair still grasped in her fist. He took his hair from her hand and slipped it into a baggie.

He was staring at the baggie of hair while he nursed his headache. The bitch had really pulled hard. He didn't like leaving evidence behind, as his job was not complete. There were several girls he wanted to finish before he retired. There was one in particular he wanted, and he knew he would have something special planned for her. She would be his last and best feat of all.

* * *

Kantor grimly studied the lifeless nude woman before him. She had been murdered like the others with one exception. This one had been strangled instead of stabbed. The CSI team had bagged her hands, and with good cause. He could just make out a strand or two of light blond hair. It was the first physical evidence ever left by the killer. He looked away only when he saw Bruce approaching.

"We have a serial killer, Kantor," Bruce said. "We have to call in the FBI."

Kantor didn't like the idea of the FBI coming in and taking over. However, Bruce was right. What was a serial rapist had become a serial killer. However, he felt unsettled. Something about the hair disturbed him and he couldn't quite put his finger on it.

Selarah was waiting up for Kantor when he came through the door. She immediately noticed how haggard and drawn he looked.

He stood in front of the closed door and gazed at her. "What are you doing up?"

"I didn't want to go to bed without you," she said quietly.

Kantor slowly approached the couch and sat beside her. He leaned back against the couch and closed his eyes. She drew her legs up under her and caressed his hair. After a moment, he opened his eyes and focused them on her face.

"Bruce is calling in the FBI. We have a serial killer. And tonight, this guy left behind some evidence… his blond hair," he said.

"Oh," she said with a small voice. "So I suppose it really isn't Trevor."

"Selarah…"

She interrupted him by briefly placing a finger over his lips. "No, Falk, it's okay."

He took her hand. "No, it's not okay. I can see that plainly on your face. Trevor won't ever hurt you again. He'll be sent off for a while for what he did to you. But we were both wrong. He's not the Lexicon killer."

She looked down for a moment before meeting his gaze again. "I want to go back to work Monday."

"Are you ready?"

She nodded. "More than ready. I realize I'm going to be jerked off this case, but I have to go back. I can't keep hiding."

He sighed a little. He wasn't sure if he could tell her what was on his mind. However, he knew she needed to know. "There's something I need to tell you," he began.

"What is it?"

"We searched Trevor's office at the university. The tapes were in a safe under his desk," he said carefully.

She closed her eyes and turned away from him. "Oh dear God," she moaned.

"Selarah, I'm sorry."

She could tell by the tone of his voice that he had seen some of the tapes. Her shame and hatred came back full force. She felt as if Trevor were abusing her all over again. As was her custom, she moved away from Kantor and shut him out. Of course, Kantor would not leave it alone. He took hold of her and cradled her in his arms as if she were an infant.

"Nothing will ever come from those tapes, Selarah. Please don't do this," he said softly.

She had yet to begin crying, but she felt the tears just behind her eyes. She didn't want to shed any more tears over Trevor. "I don't know why I ever married him. I could have said no, I should have said no," she whispered.

Kantor shut his eyes for a moment. The pain was too immense; he nearly couldn't take it. "If I hadn't left you, none of this would have happened."

Selarah pulled back so she could look at him. "My decision to marry him was not your fault, baby. No one held a gun to my head. No one threatened me. Some of what happened was Trevor's fault. But nothing, nothing, was yours."

"I love you," he said.

"I love you, too, baby." She kissed him, running her tongue over his lips. "Make love to me," she whispered.

She moved to straddle him. He worked his hands inside her nightgown and slowly pushed it upward until it was over her head and off her body. He didn't take his eyes off hers as she shifted position so she could unbutton his shirt and open his slacks. He leaned back against the couch as her lips traveled over his chest. She ran her tongue over the scar tissue in the center of his chest before her mouth moved back up to his.

During the kiss, her hand found him. He moaned a little against her lips as her feather light touch tortured him. He was hard and erect within moments. Her mission complete for the moment, her hand left him and she straddled him again. She was hot and moist against him. The sensation was mind numbing. She lifted her body a bit and slid him inside her.

They made love madly, focusing only on themselves and their love for each other. They had no idea that they were being watched. Their watcher frowned at them and then focused his eyes on Selarah. She should not be so happy; she simply wasn't allowed to feel such joy when all he felt was pain. One way or another, he would make her pay.

* * *

For two weeks straight, Kantor came home to an empty apartment. Selarah had begun working again, but she had enforced a strict hush mouth policy when it came to discussing her new assignment. He figured her secretive behavior had something to do with her internal battles with Bruce. The chief of detectives, according to Selarah, had always had it in for her. And now, with hers and Kantor's relationship no longer a secret, Bruce was harder on her than ever before. Not only that, but the FBI had all but taken over the Lexicon killings, and the entire department felt insignificant.

He was clearly worried about Selarah. Her assignment kept her busy throughout the night. However, his worry also stemmed from Selarah having to testify in court against Trevor. His trial had basically made her relive the horrors of her marriage. She had grown withdrawn and troubled. Kantor had supported her throughout the ordeal, and her work had helped her come out of it a bit, but he was still very concerned.

Kantor lay dozing on the sofa one night when Selarah came home. The odor of cigarette smoke wafted all about her. She bypassed him and went straight for the bedroom bathroom. He got up and followed her. She stood in the doorway of the bathroom removing her clothes.

She turned around with a start. "Damn, baby, you scared me," she said, placing her hand over her heart.

"Can we talk," he asked.

"I'd like to shower first."

"Okay," he said. "I'll wait for you."

True to his word, Kantor was waiting for Selarah as soon as she stepped out of the bathroom. She slipped into her robe and went over to her side of the bed. Kantor was sitting on the foot of the bed, and he didn't immediately move. Something was going on, but he didn't know if she would talk to him. After a moment, he stood and turned to face her.

"What's going on, Selarah? For two weeks you've come home at dawn and you've been very withdrawn. I'm worried; you've gone though a lot in these last few weeks."

She was not looking at him. Instead, she began massaging lotion into her legs. "You shouldn't worry. I'm doing fine."

He sighed. "No, Selarah, I don't think you are."

She put away her lotion and looked up at him. "Falk, I cannot discuss my assignment with you. I'm under a strict gag order. Talking to you about it would give Bruce just enough ammo to get rid of me for good. This stuff with Trevor is almost over. He'll be sentenced, and then he'll go to prison. End of story."

Right when Kantor was about to speak, his pager went off. He didn't have to look at it to know that another victim had been found. "We need to finish this," he said.

She nodded. "I know, baby. But the thing is, I can't tell you anything that would jeopardize either my assignment or career."

Without another word, he turned away from her to answer his call.

Kantor arrived at the scene a mere twenty minutes after the call. He saw Bruce and a couple of FBI agents huddled together. When Bruce saw Kantor, he left the agents and approached.

"There was hair left on or near the bodies of the last two victims," Bruce began, telling Kantor something he already knew. "Well, we have some peculiar news for you. Some of the hair came from a man, and some from a woman."

Kantor suddenly became interested in what Bruce was saying. "A man and a woman? Are we talking about a team?"

"Could be."

For some strange reason, the information didn't settle well with him. He felt a bit ill at ease and couldn't exactly pinpoint why.

It was around nine in the morning when Kantor came home for a brief respite before returning to work. He went into the bedroom where he saw Selarah in bed. She had apparently fallen asleep while reading. Her body was in a half-sitting/half-laying position and there was a closed book beside her. Since moving in with him, she had taken to sleeping in the nude, and this morning was no exception. The bed covers had fallen away, revealing one of her breasts. He wasn't sure if it was the stress of a few hours ago or just the simple fact that he loved her so, but he thought she was more stunning than ever before.

Kantor kicked off his shoes and climbed into bed carefully, so as not to awaken her. He propped himself up on one elbow and was content to gaze at her as she slept. After several minutes, he reached out and gently traced a circle around her nipple. She stirred only a little, shifting her body a bit closer to Kantor, as if she realized he was there, touching her. He then cupped her breast in his hand and very gently caressed her nipple with his thumb. She sighed in her sleep. He shifted his position so that he could softly nuzzle her nipple. She stirred again, not quite coming awake, but she was alert enough to plunge her hand into his hair.

"I love you," she whispered.

"Me too," he said against her breast. "I'm sorry about last night."

"So am I."

He then moved so he could kiss her. When the kiss was broken, Selarah snuggled close to Kantor's body.

"I have to go back," he said.

"I know," she said. "How long can you stay?"

He kissed the top of her head. "Not long."

Her hand moved down and opened his jeans. Her finger traced a light line on his lower belly. Her hand then moved down and fell upon him gently.

"Are you sure," she asked him softly as her fingers moved lightly, but with urgency.

"Perhaps I could spare a few minutes," he said.

Her hand began to move a bit faster. "Just a few?"

"Okay, maybe more than a few."

Later, Selarah stood in the doorway of the bathroom as she watched Kantor readying himself to go back to work. Through the mirror, he could see her gazing at him steadily. She was still nude, magnificently so. She approached him from behind and wrapped her arms around him.

"You shouldn't do that," he said. "I'm already late."

Although she had to stand on tiptoe to do it, she rested her chin on his shoulder. "I know," she said with a small laugh.

"We're both so busy, and I miss you. And last night, we argued. I really hate arguing with you."

She stepped back to allow him to turn around. He leaned against the counter and took her into an embrace.

"We need to make time to get away. I wanted us to be married by now, but you haven't even had enough time to finalize your divorce."

"It'll be over soon. He wouldn't dare contest it now."

"No, he wouldn't." He kissed her briefly and then he broke the embrace.

She followed him out into the bedroom and slipped into her robe. She watched solemnly as he strapped on his shoulder holster. Selarah had lied to Kantor. She was, in fact, withholding information. As she watched the man she loved, the man she intended to marry, she wondered if she should tell him right now or if she should wait until her assignment was over. She didn't like lying to him, but she had little choice. She knew he sensed that she was keeping secrets, but he thought it centered on her work. However, it did not. Her job was only a tiny part of what she was hiding from him.

Kantor turned toward Selarah and noticed that she had yet to take her eyes off him. He didn't want to leave her. It reminded him of the day he was shot. He hadn't wanted to leave her then, either. There was a sinking sensation growing in the pit of his stomach, and he wasn't sure what was going to happen. There was so much she wasn't telling him, that she would not tell him. In his heart, it felt as if he were about to lose her. He shrugged the premonition away. He hoped his feelings were wrong.

He approached her and kissed her lips very softly. When he pulled away, he thought he saw tears in her eyes. Kantor said nothing about it. He was willing to let it go for now. "You need to go back to bed and get some rest. You look tired," he said.

She gave him a faint, teasing smile. "Yes, Daddy."

He returned her smile. "Page me if you need me."

How odd of him to say that, she thought. Does he know? Has he somehow figured everything out? "Okay," she said, not wanting to press the issue any further. She had made the decision to keep her mouth shut.

* * *

Aaron walked into the crowded bar. There were dozens of girls roaming through the crowd, hustling drinks, working for tips. There was one girl in particular he couldn't stop looking at. She was just his type. Her short hair was bright red. He wanted to move closer to her, but the crowd was too thick. He would have to elbow his way in, and he didn't like to do that very often. He liked to be nondescript. However, tonight, he needed to get close to the female bartender.

As he drew near her, he stepped back behind a few people in the crowd. He knew who she was, and he chuckled. If the noise in the club hadn't been so deafening, his chuckle would have sent chills down the spine of the hardest person. He was so very glad he had stepped back when he did, because the girl would have surely recognized him. She had dues that needed to be paid, but not right now, not yet.

* * *

The Lexicon killings did not slow down. They, in fact, began to happen with more frequency. Bruce had set up a group of detectives to work exclusively with the FBI on tracking down the possible team of killers. Bruce dubbed the team the Lexicon Taskforce or LT. He appointed Kantor to lead the team. Kantor and his team knew that something had to be done before any murders occurred in other states. Thus far, no other murders had been reported that were similar to Lexicon's. They only had a few shards of evidence, and nothing that pointed to any particular person.

One morning, Kantor was summoned to Bruce's office. Patiently, Kantor sat in an overstuffed visitor's chair as Bruce schmoozed with a FBI agent on the phone. He had begun to see why Selarah held the chief of detectives in such contempt. After about fifteen minutes, Bruce hung up the phone and began flipping through a file.

"There's something I'd like to ask," Kantor said before Bruce started.

Bruce did not look up at Kantor. He continued to rifle through a thick six-part file folder. Kantor realized it was the main file for the Lexicon killings. He leafed through it daily as if it were his bible.

"Sure," he said nonchalantly.

"I don't expect you to agree with this for obvious reasons, but I want Selarah on my team. I know that you have her on a special assignment, but she's the best detective you have, and I need her help with this case."

Bruce looked up then. "I can't let her work with your team. But I'm confused. I don't have her on any type of special assignment. She isn't even in homicide anymore. In fact, I'm surprised you didn't know she transferred to SCU right after she came back. I thought you knew, especially considering your special relationship with her."

Kantor didn't appreciate Bruce's tone. "Transferred," he spat. The word was like a curse.

Bruce nodded and smiled. The smile was smarmy and vicious. "Yes, Kantor transferred. Steeler-um-Marx and I never could get along. I suppose she felt it was time for a change, and I agreed."

Kantor was pissed to the extreme and devastated at the same time. He didn't understand why Selarah hadn't told him about the transfer or why Bruce hadn't mentioned it before now. He wanted to react to Bruce's utter enjoyment at his confusion, but he was actually too shocked.

"So, anyway," Bruce said, looking down at the file. "We have the lab analyzing the hair, and we should hear something in a few hours. The prime male suspect is Jamie Hunting. He voluntarily gave us a sample of his hair."

Kantor came out of his shock long enough to listen. He remembered the name. Hunting was allegedly involved with Jayce Burns' murder. "Jamie Hunting?"

Bruce leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head. "Yup. He fits the physical description the rape victims gave, and I'd like to get him in for a line up. We're still not sure where the female hair came from. It could have been a transfer off a friend, but not likely."

Kantor had stopped listening to Bruce again. He was lost in thought. His mind kept going back again and again to Selarah. His relationship with her was still good, but her behavior had not changed. She was still keeping secrets, still coming home at dawn smelling of cigarette smoke and sometimes booze. Selarah's late night excursions also coincided with several of the murders. No, he thought, what am I thinking? Where is this going? Bruce continued yammering, and Kantor's mind continued to float. The intercom cracked to life, and it brought Kantor out of his daze.

"Detective Bruce, line two. Detective Bruce, line two."

Bruce picked up his phone and punched the blinking light. "Bruce here. Uh huh? Yes? Great. I'll tell Kantor." Bruce hung up the phone and looked over at Kantor. "We have a match. It's Jamie Hunting's hair."

Kantor was up and out of the office before Bruce had a chance to breathe.

* * *

That same night, Kantor worked a double shift to stake out a bar that Jamie Hunting was known to frequent. He dressed down in ripped jeans and an old tee shirt. He stuffed his hair into a bandana and covered his eyes with a pair of shades. He hoped that if he ran into Hunting at the bar, he would not recognize him. Kantor took a member of his team with him inside while the others waited with the FBI outside on surveillance.

The bar was very crowded and smoky. If Hunting actually showed up, it would be very difficult to spot him. However, Kantor was gifted with persistence and had 20/20 vision, even when wearing dark sunglasses. Much like Aaron, Kantor noticed the female bartender right away. And like Aaron, he recognized her. For a moment, Kantor forgot about Jamie Hunting.

The bartender was wearing a skimpy outfit and her hair was bright red. However, Kantor had no trouble with her identity. He was standing several feet away from Selarah in a shoddy disguise, more shoddy than his own. He was tempted to rush over and demand that she tell him what she was doing. But something stopped him. He had a job to do, and he couldn't allow himself to forget it. He turned away from her before she saw him. A new horror had dawned on him, and for the moment, he could not deal with it. He went over to a dark corner and radioed his partner inside the bar. He needed a few minutes to calm himself, and he didn't want to draw any attention to Selarah behind the bar.

An hour before the bar closed, the shift changed, and Kantor went off duty. His second in command took over surveillance. Normally, Kantor would not have given up so easily, but that night, he wanted to follow Selarah. From his vantage point in the corner, he watched as Selarah covered her skimpy outfit with an overcoat. When she went out the back door, Kantor exited the bar from the front and ran to the back alley where the bar employees parked their cars.

He noticed that Selarah got into a car he had never seen before. He waited until she was inside the vehicle before he went to his own. From a safe distance, he followed her as she drove down several seedy streets before stopping at a dimly lit warehouse. He was tempted to follow her inside, but he refrained. He honestly didn't want to know what she was doing, because he could not deal with the thoughts racing through his brain.

Kantor didn't immediately go home. He continued to drive for a few hours to clear his head. He couldn't handle the suspicions that bit him like persistent mosquitoes. He went home as the sun began to rise and he noticed that Selarah's cruiser was parked in its normal slot. For once, he hoped that she would be in bed.

She was in bed, very deeply asleep. She was lying on her stomach and the bed covers were pulled down to the very tip of her buttocks. He stood and stared at her for a seeming eternity. He loved her so very deeply, but he had doubts about her, doubts that could not be extinguished. However, he had a job to do, and he would do it.

He tore his eyes away from her and then went into the kitchen. He grabbed a plastic baggie off the kitchen counter and went back into the bedroom. For a few more moments, he stood and gazed at her again. He forced himself to move away and into the bathroom. For another seeming eternity, he stared down at her hairbrush. There were several hairs caught in it, but he only needed a few strands.

Selarah was awake when he stepped out of the bathroom. She watched as he stuffed something in his back pocket. She reached for the lamp.

"Don't," he said.

The tone of his voice stopped her. "Falk," she said, "what is it?"

"Nothing," he said stiffly. "Go back to sleep. I have to go back to the office for a few more hours."

* * *

There was blood on the bed. He couldn't see a body anywhere, just blood. He had been a cop for quite a few years, but he had never entered a crime scene where there was no body. He leaned closer to the bed as he noticed that someone had dipped a finger in blood and had written a message on the bed sheet: Selarah Steeler did it. Love, the Lexicon Killer. Sickened, he turned away.

Selarah stood before him. Her body was stripped naked and covered in blood. Oddly enough, she was hugely pregnant. She held up her arms to show him the slashes that ran from her wrists to her elbows. Blood spurted from them like a fountain. She was trying to speak, but he couldn't hear anything coming from her mouth. She lowered one of her arms and dipped her finger into the spurting blood. Upon the wall, she wrote: It's not me. Open your eyes before it's too late.

In horror, he watched as she collapsed to the floor, apparently dying. He tried to go to her, but his feet refused to move. Her belly began to ripple. The baby inside wanted to come out. He again tried to move, but his feet seemed glued to the floor. Selarah lay very still and gave birth to a dead infant. When she saw the dead baby, she began to scream. Her screams sounded just like the metallic squawk of the intercom in his office.

Kantor jarred himself awake. Someone was paging him. Sleepily, he groped for the phone. "Kantor," he spat, his voice scratchy, his throat dry.

"Joey from the lab on five."

He punched line five. "What do you have for me, Joey," he asked groggily.

"They don't match, sir."

He closed his eyes against the burning sting from tears of relief. "Thank you." For the past week, he had been living in hell, waiting and wondering.

Joey proceeded to tell him that the hair matched one of the victims, but Kantor did not hear those words. He had dropped the phone on his way out the door.

Kantor asked for and received time off. He wasn't going back to work until he straightened some things out with Selarah. Although the hair had not come from Selarah, his suspicions had not died, and he needed answers. As he was walking toward the apartment, he saw Selarah locking the front door. She turned toward him and noticed that he looked like hell. He was in desperate need of a shower and several hours of sleep. She was still shaken up from his harsh words to her a week previously. She hadn't seen him much. She knew he had been avoiding her, but she could not begin to explain why. It hurt having him virtually ignoring her.

"We need to talk," he said.

"I have to go in early today. Can this wait?"

She knew what he was going to say. His jaw was set, his eyes determined. She knew that today would be the day she would have to come clean. He would not let her leave until she did.

"No, Selarah, it can't. I requested time off, and I think you should call in."

"Falk, I can't," she said stubbornly. She was not ready to tell him.

He nodded. "Okay." If she wanted to be evasive, he would have to shake her. "But first, I have a question for you, Selarah. Since when do you moonlight as a red haired bartender," he asked pointedly.

She maintained a solid poker face. "I don't know what you're talking about."

He took her arm and then unlocked the door. "The hell you don't. We're going inside and we're going to talk."

She allowed him to open the door and she willingly went inside with him. He sat her down on the sofa and he chose to sit in a chair across from her. She refused to look at him, but he kept his eyes focused on nothing but her face.

"I've seen you every night for the past week," he began. "Bruce told me that you transferred to the SCU. Somehow, you failed to mention this to me. I want you to tell me what's going on."

She looked up at him, but couldn't keep eye contact for long. It was something she shouldn't have done in front of Kantor, or in front of any detective she knew. It was a sure sign of deception. Even the rookies knew that. Damn Bruce and his big mouth, she thought. She specifically recalled telling Bruce not to mention the transfer. Even though her secrets were tearing her relationship with Kantor apart, she said nothing. She stubbornly held onto them.

Kantor knew the ploy well. She had been acting in such a fashion for several weeks. But this time, he refused to let it go. There was too much at stake. "I want some answers, Selarah," he insisted. "You've been telling me half truths for two months now. It has to stop, and today is the day. Your recent behavior has made me quite suspicious, and I-"

Horrified, she spat, "You think I'm involved with these murders?"

"Selarah, I don't-"

"Oh my God," she cried, interrupting him again. "How could you think something like that of me?" She stood then, intent to leave him.

"Sit back down and let me finish," he demanded through clenched teeth. Once she sat down, he continued, "I don't think you're involved," he spat. "Not anymore. But something is going on and you're lying to me. I'm fucking glad I'm wrong, but you have to tell me what's going on, and why you are doing this."

His accusation ate away at her soul. She didn't know that her assignment would push him to believe that she was a killer. She also couldn't blame him for becoming suspicious of her actions. If the situation were reversed, she might have been suspicious as well. If she didn't tell him the truth, he would leave her.

"There is a lot to tell you, Falk. There is a lot going on," she told him.

"I'm not going anywhere," he said. "We've got all day, all night, all week. Just tell me."

She sighed and knew immediately that Kantor would be upset regardless of what she said. She took a deep breath and said, "I was asked by the FBI to help with the Lexicon investigation. My body type and eye color fit the victim profile, and they needed my help. There was no way Bruce would allow me to work with them. I transferred to SCU because they said they would support me, and allow me to work on this assignment. I've been wearing the garb, working at the bar, decoying to help catch the guy."

Before she could continue, Kantor interrupted. "You're risking your life with no backup. How long would it take for this fucker to abduct you before you received assistance? You would be dead before anyone knew where you were. Selarah, what are you thinking? This person is real. He's serious. This is no game."

"Falk, please," she said. "Don't you think I know this? I didn't tell you because I knew you would overreact."

"Of course I'm overreacting. Can you blame me? I see the woman I love putting her ass on the line every night with virtually no outside help. You're wide open, Selarah, wide open and vulnerable. I don't see how they could put you in danger like this. You're not expendable, and the FBI has no fucking right to use you in such a way."

She sighed again and covered her face with her hands for a brief moment. There was more to tell, but it would only make matters worse. When she uncovered her face, he was still gazing at her intensely.

"What about you, Falk? What is the FBI doing to you?"

He was stunned, but not surprised, that she had up brought his involvement. He didn't like what he was about to say. "It's different, Selarah. I have a team, not only of other detectives, but the FBI is there with us as well. I'm not left out alone, a virtual moving target."

"I chose this assignment, and I intend to keep it. The maniac must be caught, and we're almost certain that the killer will eventually stalk the bar. But there's more, more that no one else knows. If this gets out, I'm sure that I'll be removed from the case. I need your support, and you're understanding, because this is also going to have an effect on you."

"What are you trying to tell me, Selarah," he asked. Somehow, he felt as if he should know.

She took another deep breath and exhaled it slowly. She knew that once the words were out of her mouth, Kantor would blow up. For all his liberal thinking, he was still a man, still instinctively protective.

"Selarah," he prompted. "Tell me."

"I'm pregnant," she spat before she lost her nerve.

He closed his eyes for a moment to let her news sink in. He remembered the dream he had, and then he recalled his premonition of losing her. It was all starting to make sense. Of course he would have gone nuts about her assignment if he had known she was pregnant. Unlike the last time, she had hidden her pregnancy well. He opened his eyes and focused them on her face. She had been watching him, waiting for his reaction.

"How long have you known," he asked when he could finally speak again.

"Almost eight weeks."

He didn't know what to feel or how to act. He wanted to laugh because he had thought her 'big secret' was that she was one of the Lexicon killers. He wanted to cry because he was ecstatic that she was once again pregnant with his child. He wanted to be angry with her for not telling him sooner. The only thing he knew for certain was that he didn't want her acting as a FBI decoy.

"Falk," she called softly. "Aren't you going to say anything?"

He looked up and motioned for her. "Come, please."

Not knowing what to expect from him, she did as he instructed. He reached for her and took her hand. He drew her down to his lap. Their eyes locked in mutual gazes.

"I want to tell you that I'm sorry I even remotely suspected you of these fucked up murders. I can see that I hurt you, and I'll do whatever it takes to make it up to you."

"Falk-"

He cut her off. "No, don't tell me you understand. I had no excuse. Absolutely none. I only wish you had told me sooner, but I understand why you didn't. I have to be honest and tell you that I don't want you to keep this assignment. But I also realize you're going to keep it regardless of what I say."

"What about the baby," she asked. "How do you feel about that?"

His premonition and dream continued to invade his thoughts. For a moment, he shoved it aside. "I'm a bit shocked and a lot scared," he admitted.

"I know," she said softly. "So am I."

She leaned down and kissed him. She meant for the kiss to be brief and soft, but once their lips met, his hand went into her hair to hold her there, to deepen the kiss. Kantor pulled away first. There were tears shining in his eyes. She was a bit mystified. It was rare to see him cry.

"I don't-" His voice broke for a moment. He cleared his throat. "I don't want to lose you again, Selarah."

"You won't," she said. "I know what I'm doing." She placed a very gentle kiss on his lips. "I have to go. You must get some rest."

Kantor had opened his mouth to protest, to ask that she stay with him. However, he had no time to speak. She left him almost immediately.

He sat back in his chair and covered his face with his hands. A huge dilemma faced him. He had interfered in her career once when she was put on psych leave. He knew he had the power and opportunity to do it again. Neither the FBI nor the SCU would put a pregnant woman in danger. But he would be overstepping his bounds, especially since Selarah had specifically asked him to help her, to keep silent. However, he didn't know if he could. The situation was serious to begin with, but now, it was critical.

Kantor dragged himself out of the chair and he made his way to the bedroom bathroom. He started the shower and began to strip out of his clothes. His eyes fell upon Selarah's robe hanging from a hook on the door. Kantor touched the robe. It smelled faintly of her body's natural perfume. He did not know to whom he should be loyal. Should he put his lover first or his child? Saving Selarah would only hurt her, and he wasn't sure he was prepared to hurt her again. However, he certainly did not want to lose another child.

After her meeting at work, Selarah went back to the apartment. She knew about Jamie Hunting being the primary suspect. She would be required to go back to the bar to try and catch him. None of the other teams, including Kantor's, had any luck finding him anywhere else. It was only a matter of time before Hunting showed up.

Selarah found Kantor in bed. He was asleep and she didn't intend to wake him. She turned away from his sleeping form and made her way toward the bedroom door.

"Selarah," he said sleepily, "wait."

She turned back toward him and saw that he had sat up. "Yes?"

"I won't tell the FBI or your superiors that you're pregnant. But I want you to promise me something."

She approached him and sat on the side of the bed. "Okay."

He fixed an intense gaze on her. "Promise you won't try to do this alone, that you will ask for assistance immediately before you go after anyone. That's the only way I'll agree not to say anything."

Kantor knew her well. Selarah was very stubborn and often threw procedure out the window. He also knew that during her first pregnancy, she continued to perform her standard job until she was literally forced to stop.

"All right," she said. "I won't put myself in physical danger."

He wasn't sure he trusted what she said. Her job had nothing to do with the first miscarriage, but he didn't want to take any chances with this pregnancy. He only hoped that she would keep her word.

* * *

It was another night, another stake out. Selarah was behind the bar mixing drinks and watching the crowd all at the same time. Tonight, she was particularly tired, and she would be more than happy to see the night end. A server yelled out a long order for her, and she began to busily fix the drinks as quickly as possible. She looked up from time to time, surveying the crowd.

Her sharp eyes identified a very familiar person looming in a dark corner. She quickly laid out the drinks for the server and yelled that she was taking a break. As soon as her relief arrived, she walked out into the crowd, hoping that the person in the corner would not leave before she got to him.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing," she demanded of Kantor. His disguise had not fooled her for a second. "Are you trying to blow my cover?"

Kantor sat back casually. "My team and I split time between here and Hunting's residence. I specifically requested to be here."

"We'll finish this later. I have to get back," she told him.

She turned away from her lover and went back to the bar. She looked up from time to time and noted that Kantor had not left. She was livid about his blatant mistrust of her. She was too angry to realize that she hadn't intended to keep the promise she made to him. It would have been easy to break the promise as long as Kantor was not around. However, he was intentionally staking her out, watching her as if she were a breakable China doll.

Selarah made herself forget about Kantor so that she could continue to scan the crowd for Jamie Hunting. The pager at her hip began to vibrate. She stopped what she was doing long enough to check her message. She hit the retrieve button on the pager and a heart-stopping text message scrolled by: Hunting entered the building. Be ready. She slowly replaced the pager. She could feel her pistol resting comfortably in its holster beneath her skimpy vest. She glanced over at Kantor. She couldn't see what he was doing, but she thought she saw him speaking into a cell phone. She looked away from him to scan the crowd again. When she saw Hunting approaching the bar, she held her breath. She simply hoped he would not recognize her.

She told the other servers and bartenders not to approach Hunting that she would take care of him. She didn't tell them enough to startle them. Before she approached Hunting, she glanced toward Kantor and noticed that he was moving through the crowd, positioning himself. She quickly took out her cell phone and sent a text message to the FBI agents on surveillance: Tell LT to back the fuck off. She put away her phone, took a deep breath, and approached Hunting where he sat. He looked directly into her face, but there was no recognition in his eyes at all.

Hunting was in a bad mood. He had heard the cops were looking for him, but he had no idea why. Regardless of what the fucked up cops thought, he had had nothing to do with the dead detective. He looked up as a gorgeous bartender approached him.

Kantor received word that he was to back off. However, he absolutely refused to do it. Selarah was in the clear and in danger. He continued to stay in the crowd, in view of Selarah and Hunting. His phone kept ringing, but he ignored it. In fact, he turned it off. He would surely be disciplined for his sheer insubordination, but right at the moment, he didn't care. He wasn't about to allow Selarah to be harmed.

He began to move a bit closer to them. He could almost hear their shouted conversation. At any time, Hunting and Selarah would be gone. Kantor was very close now. Selarah was aware of his presence, but she refused to look at him. He was perhaps twenty feet away from the bar when a person in the crowd knocked him flat. It was an accident, and the person even helped Kantor get up. However, by the time he was back on his feet, Selarah and Hunting were gone.

Kantor panicked. He fought his way through the crowd and flashed his badge to gain entrance to the employee parking lot at the back. Nervous sweat trickled down his face as he realized they had not gone out the back. He ran back through the bar and radioed the team to look out for Selarah and Hunting. Sheer terror ripped through him and he was certain that he would never see Selarah alive again.

He could not move fast enough. It seemed as if he were moving in slow motion as he pushed his way through the crowd toward the main entrance. His premonition seemed to be coming true. Although it had only taken him a few minutes to get through the crowd, it seemed like hours. His radio squawked to life and three words stopped him dead in his tracks: "We have him!" He didn't care about Hunting; he didn't care if he had been caught. All he was worried about was Selarah.

Kantor made it outside and he saw Hunting down on the ground. Two members of Kantor's team were holding the man down. Hunting was screaming curses at everyone. He saw Selarah with her weapon drawn. Her wig had been ripped from her head and her vest was torn open. She had covered herself with a SCU jacket. She looked up at Kantor and glared angrily at him. She was supremely pissed at him, and the feeling was mutual. However, his concern was outweighing his anger.

Hunting was dragged to a cruiser parked nearby. He continued to curse and threaten all those around him. Once Hunting was in the car and secured, Selarah holstered her pistol and crossed her arms over her breasts. She didn't want to argue with Kantor out here.

"Are you all right," Kantor asked as he approached her.

"I had a wig snatched off my head and my blouse torn open, Kantor, but I'm fine," she said sharply. "What the fuck did you think you were doing?"

"What do you think I was doing, Selarah? I was doing my damn job."

"No, Kantor, you were spying on me. I can fucking take care of myself," she spat.

"Goddamn it, Selarah-"

She held up her hands. She wasn't about to listen to him. "I don't want to do this out here," she said. "We can finish this at home." Without another word, she stalked away from him.

"Kantor," a voice yelled behind him.

When he turned around, he saw Bruce approaching him. The chief of detectives didn't look very pleased.

Kantor made it in hours after Selarah got home. He had received a thorough chewing out from Bruce regarding his refusal to follow orders. He had only half listened. He was worried about Selarah, and he had wanted to get home to her. Besides, he felt more than justified protecting her. He only vaguely remembered signing the write up warning. It was the first one he had ever received in his entire career.

As he entered the apartment, he could hear the hiss-like noise of the shower. By the time he entered the bedroom the hissing had stopped. He stood in the bedroom and watched as she came out of the shower. She stood in clear view of him and he noticed that her breasts were scratched up and a thin scrape ran down the length of her left arm. Although he hadn't noticed before, he saw that her middle was beginning to thicken just the slightest bit. Naked, she actually looked pregnant. As she slipped into her robe, she saw Kantor's reflection in the bathroom mirror. She turned toward him and found she couldn't say a word.

"You broke your promise, Selarah, just like I knew you would," he said.

She sighed. "I'm sorry, Falk," she said. "I handled it, and I'm fine. Do you realize how stupid your actions were tonight? Do you realize the risks that you took? If he had seen you, that fucker could have gotten away."

He ran his hand through his hair. "Selarah, do you realize the danger you were in? You shouldn't have even been involved at all. But you insisted."

"I was doing my job," she spat.

"I saw what he did to you. Look at yourself. You could have been killed."

"You sexist fuck. You do the same shit as I do, but that's okay. However, it's not okay for me to do it. I am not some delicate flower that will wilt at the slightest breeze."

He had heard this from her before, and perhaps she was right. "Selarah, goddamn it, you're pregnant. Whether you like it or not, that changes everything. I was trying to keep you from getting harmed. The only backup you had was a cell phone."

She was extremely angry with him and was unsure what she wanted to do next. She approached him with her mind set on slapping him. Instead, she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him hungrily. Perhaps she had finally realized her own mortality; perhaps she finally understood that her lover had only done what he felt he needed to do in order to protect her and his unborn child. She didn't know, nor did she care. Her sudden ardor startled Kantor, but he returned the kiss just as hungrily.

She broke the kiss first and looked up into his eyes. "I don't want to fight with you, Falk. I'm really, really pissed at you, but I don't want to fight. We have the killer, and for now, it's over. This craziness with us, our careers, and this case will see an end."

He opened her robe and slipped it off her body. He ran his hands over her injuries. "I'm pissed too, and looking at these injuries is making me feel even angrier. I don't want to fight either. What I want more than anything is to take you to bed and make love to you."

She pulled back from him, taking his hand in hers, and led him to the bed. She then released his hand and sat down on the foot of the bed. Kantor stood in front of her. Without taking her eyes off his, her hands worked on unbuckling his belt. Slowly and deliberately, she opened his jeans. She continued to keep her eyes locked with his as she slipped her hand inside his boxers. As she began a maddeningly slow caress, one of his hands went into her hair.

It didn't take long for her hand to do its job well. Only then did she break her gaze with him. She ran her tongue up the length of him before taking him fully into her mouth. A few teasing strokes later she pulled away.

"You do know how to torture me, don't you," he asked, his voice a bit unsteady.

She smiled at him innocently. She slid back on the bed and propped herself up with her elbows. "After what you did tonight, you probably deserve to be tortured."

He chuckled, shaking his head, and then he quickly discarded his tee shirt. "Oh, we shall see." He then removed the rest of his clothing.

Kantor climbed onto the bed from the foot and slid his body toward her. His lips found hers and he allowed his hand to slide down the length of her body. He broke the kiss and let his wandering hand insert itself between her legs. She parted her thighs willingly as his hand found her sex. As his hand gently stroked her, his mouth moved to her breasts. His stroking hand grew more insistent as his lips encircled one of her nipples. She closed her eyes tightly and arched her back, giving him more.

His slid his hand from between her legs up her body, and withdrew from her breast. He kissed her again, and she was certain he would come inside her. She was more than ready for him to do so. Instead, he brought himself to his knees. She gazed up at him as if he had lost his mind. He smiled at her and took her hand. He helped her rise up to her knees and he turned her so that her back was facing him.

"What are you doing to me," she asked. "Talk about torture."

Kantor moved all her hair over to one shoulder and then he brought his lips to the side of her throat. "Trust me," he said.

His warm breath on her flesh sent a shivers through her body. His lips began to caress the flesh on the back of her neck and across her shoulders. Almost instinctively, she leaned forward as his tongue traveled down the length of her spine. As his mouth moved back up her spine, he placed his hands on each side of her waist and brought her body upright. From behind, one of his hands slipped down between her legs as his other moved to her breasts. Her arms hung loosely at her sides. The sheer ecstasy of what he was doing was completely disabling.

After several mind numbing minutes, the hand between her legs stopped. He turned her toward him and she wrapped her legs around him. His lips captured hers hungrily as their bodies drifted down to the bed. He broke the kiss and entered her slowly, deliciously. His thrusts were slow and deliberate, as slow and as deliberate as she had been when helping undress him. She slid her hands down his back and dug her nails into his buttocks.

Beneath him, she moaned. She wanted release, needed release, but he continued to move within her slowly, deeply. She began to match his thrusts in the age-old rhythm of lust, love, and desire. As she brought her hips up against him harder and harder, his own thrusts came in faster and harder. She tossed her head from side to side as her first orgasm shook her entire body. Groaning now, he felt his own climax building, just waiting to burst out. Kantor felt the sharp sting of her fingernails raking down his back. She came again, crying out his name.

"Oh," she cried out, panting now. "I cant… can't stand it… can't stand another one."

But she did, and again, and again. She was shaking and crying, entirely enslaved by his lovemaking, driven insane by pleasure. Kantor could hold out no longer. He closed his eyes tightly and gritted his teeth against the overwhelming intensity of his own climax. Shuddering, he collapsed on top of her.

Selarah couldn't be happier. It had been a very long time since Kantor had made love to her so passionately. She could hear him breathing, could hear his heartbeat. When she felt him stir, she held her breath, dreading the moment when he would withdraw from inside her. It always seemed to sadden her a little. It was as if his vacating her body meant he was vacating her. He withdrew slowly, reluctantly, as if he understood what she felt. He kissed her long and hard, thrusting his tongue into her mouth, much like he thrust himself inside her.

"I love you," he whispered after he broke the kiss.

"I missed you, Falk, I missed this," she said.

"So did I."

Kantor lay awake for hours after Selarah fell asleep. He noticed that the sky was black, with no stars. Normally, he would get out of bed and stare out of the window. Not tonight. He didn't want to release the hold he had on Selarah's body. He couldn't shake the feeling that he would lose her. He slid his hand down to her abdomen, placing it there protectively. He prayed to whatever God existed that he not lose his love or his child. Kantor couldn't shake the thought that their loss was inevitable.

* * *

Aaron had heard of the arrest of the supposed Lexicon killer. The thought sent a delicious thrill through his soul. He was almost tempted to find another victim for the hell of it. However, he resisted. He still had control. Aaron decided to wait it out, to let the grand detectives believe they had caught the right person. A break would do him good. Perhaps he would go on vacation. He had always wanted to go to a nice, hot tropical location. He chuckled at the thought. He wondered how many redheads he could find there.

* * *

Selarah stood close to a set of sliding glass doors, gazing at the scenery as the sun began to rise. She wasn't necessarily looking at anything in particular, but the view was too breathtaking to ignore. Naked, Kantor came up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist, and pulling her back a step toward him. The strong, musky scent of his skin enveloped her, and she felt a little dizzy. He kissed the side of her neck and cupped her breasts through her thick terry cloth robe. She sighed, as her nipples grew hard and erect.

"We might be giving quite a show," she said.

"I hope so," he said, laughing.

"Is that the only reason you married me," she asked, not unkindly.

He laughed again. "Well, that, and the fact I knocked you up."

With the Lexicon killer behind bars, both Kantor and Selarah demanded a leave of absence. The couple was a celebrated team, respected by their peers and the public. There was no choice for their superiors but to give them time off. Selarah was granted her divorce from Trevor within days. The ink was barely dry on her divorce decree when Selarah and Kantor married in a very private ceremony in front of the justice of the peace. The same day, they flew to Hawaii, looking forward to three weeks of uninterrupted time together. They had been in Hawaii a few days, and Selarah found herself never wanting to go back home.

"Kantor, you're so cruel," she said with a smile.

He turned her around to face him. "We're married now, it's okay to call me Falk."

She playfully slapped at his chest. "Oh you, stop!"

He gazed at her for an undetermined amount of time. His overwhelming paranoia of losing her had not subsided. He loved her so much, and he intended to protect her at all costs.

"I know now that we should have done this years ago," he said.

"No more regrets about the past, okay? What's important is that we're together now."

He kissed her very gently. "Yes."

* * *

Kantor and Selarah had not gone to Hawaii alone. They had been followed. Their every move, private and public, was being watched. Their stalker was simply waiting for the right opportunity.

* * *

Her name was Caroline Holmes. She was an adult now, but the little girl she had been was buried deeply inside the woman. The woman couldn't remember her upbringing, but the child remembered plenty. Her horrible parents had injured her physically and emotionally. She recalled being in school and wishing that she had a normal life like her classmates. However, her life was anything but normal.

By the time she was twelve, she had had sex with Mom, Dad, and a couple of 'friends' they brought home. One of the 'friends' had given her a 'sex disease,' as she thought of it. She couldn't pronounce it. It sounded like 'gone arear.' Anyway, Mom treated the disease. It was easy to hide the sex disease from school officials because Mom had been a doctor. Mom and Dad were rich as well. Their wealth helped them hide lots of things, including a pregnant daughter. Caroline got pregnant at thirteen. Either Dad or one of his 'friends' had slipped up and forgot to wear a rubber [his words, not hers].

Mom was really pissed off about that. "How the fuck are we going to take care of this, Dad," she demanded. "How many fucking times have I told you and your idiot friends to put on a goddamn rubber before you fuck Caroline?"

As with the sex disease, Mom used her connections and sent Caroline away. Caroline was only supposed to be gone long enough to have the baby sucked out of her belly. When the baby was gone, she didn't return to her parents. She ran. She never saw Mom, Dad, or Aaron ever again. She worried about and thought of Aaron often. Aaron was sick, like Mom and Dad.

Caroline lived on the streets for a while. She ate out of dumpsters and shoplifted what clothes she needed. The police picked her up six months after she ran. She lied convincingly about her name and said her parents were dead. She lied so well that even she began to believe it. Slowly, Caroline was no longer Caroline. She became someone else and buried Caroline deeply within her. Every so often, Caroline the Child emerged, only to be buried again just as quickly as she came to surface.

* * *

Kantor sat straight up in bed. Sweat had literally drenched him. He had been dreaming again, but this time, he didn't remember it. He glanced over at Selarah. She hadn't moved a muscle. He covered his face with his hands and wondered when these dreams would stop torturing him. After a moment, he uncovered his face and slipped out of bed. He knew he had to occupy his mind with something mundane or he'd never go back to sleep.

He went over to a table by the sliding door. The moon was shining brightly in their suite, and gave off just enough light for Kantor to pen an overdue letter to his parents. They didn't even know he and Selarah had gotten back together. There were lots of things he had to update, including his marriage and the baby.

Kantor had gotten only two words down on paper when he was assaulted by a violent flashback. He saw himself standing with Selarah, kissing her swollen abdomen, and then going off to work. He recalled being dragged out and shot. He couldn't even remember what his attackers looked like anymore. He saw this, and then saw the same thing happening, except it was Selarah who was shot.

Oh God, he thought. If he kept having these dreams and visions, he was sure he would go insane. He had been tempted to discuss his feelings with Selarah, but he was afraid she would only dismiss his fears due to what happened the last time she was pregnant. Perhaps he was simply overreacting. However, he didn't think so. His dreams were becoming more vivid and extreme. Each one ended the same with Selarah and the baby dead. He would not be able to function without her.

A hand fell on his shoulder, and he almost reached for his gun when he realized that he wasn't wearing it. He looked over behind him where Selarah stood gazing at him with a look of concern.

"Baby, are you okay," she asked. "You look ill."

He placed his hand briefly on top of hers. "I'm fine. I was trying to write a letter to my parents. I didn't mean to wake you."

She placed her other hand on his other shoulder and she began to give him a massage. "You didn't," she said. "I just woke up and saw you sitting over here."

He closed his eyes and lowered his head a bit. Her hands were magic. "What you're doing feels terrific." He had actually begun to relax, to get sleepy.

"You're really wound up tight. Is something wrong?"

It was on the tip of his tongue to tell her about the dreams, but he held back. "No."

Her massaging hands stopped and she backed away. "Okay," she said with a sigh. She moved back toward the bed. "Are you coming?"

He glanced over at her. He had no intention of going to sleep, but he felt the urge to protect her. "Yeah."

* * *

He followed closely behind the newlyweds. He could not believe they had gotten married. Sickened, he watched as she took him by the arm and pressed her body as close to his as she could get. The display they were putting on was shameful, absolutely shameful. He had to get her away from him. He had no idea how he would go about separating the couple, but tonight was the night for a little revenge.

* * *

It felt completely unnatural to Kantor, but he had to admit to himself that it was nice. Selarah had persuaded him to accompany her on an early evening stroll through the market district. Most of their time had been spent in their suite in bed. Tonight, she had wanted to actually get out of the room for once. Kantor found himself smiling about that. He honestly couldn't recall relaxing so thoroughly and actually enjoying it. Again, it was unnatural. The air, the scenery, and his love for her had cleared out his mind and had made him forget his sense of foreboding doom.

Selarah ran ahead of Kantor as something caught her eye. He stood back and watched her. She looked absolutely breathtaking in her colorful sari. It was the first time in months that she looked so healthy and at peace.

With a mischievous sparkle in her eyes, Selarah brought back a pair of Bermuda shorts and held them against his waist. "Perfect," she said with a smile.

"No fucking way, Selarah," he said, his face puckering in disgust.

"Come on, don't be an old fuddy duddy. You'll look hot in them, you look hot in anything."

"Selarah, what were you thinking? Put them back," he insisted playfully. "You'll have to shoot me first."

She sighed in feigned disgust. "Oh, all right."

She turned away to take the offending garment back to the stand. She dug through a pile of gaudy Hawaiian shirts and when she turned back around, Kantor was gone. She didn't immediately become alarmed, she was sure he was only playing around. Selarah put the shirt back where she got it, and she began to work her way back the way they came. She had only turned her back a few minutes, but it seemed as if Kantor had fallen off the face of the earth. She called out his name a few times, but received no answer. At that point, she began to worry.

"Kantor, this isn't funny anymore," she called out.

The few tourists strolling by looked at her curiously. She was tempted to ask them if they had seen him, but she didn't want to panic yet. She began to wish she had brought her pistol, but then she dismissed the thought. What she was thinking? Nothing had happened to Kantor, he had simply stepped away from her, and he would return, probably laughing at her silliness.

* * *

He had paid off a couple of street thugs to take care of the blushing groom. He told them they could do whatever they wanted, including killing him, just as long as they got him away from her. He made sure to let them know that they would have to take him down swiftly and as a team. The fellow was trained well and could defend himself against any and all aggressors. He stood in the shadows and watched as she began to search for her husband. It was really amusing. For all her independence and roughened exterior, she fell to pieces the instant her hubby disappeared.

* * *

Selarah had swept the area for the second time. Now, she began to panic. She had yet to find Kantor. She turned to go back toward the hotel, hoping desperately that she would find him in the suite. She had walked perhaps five feet when a man's body collided into her back. Moments after the collision, his arms went around her waist. To any onlooker, it might have seemed as if he were embracing her, to keep her from falling. The touch was familiar to her, all too familiar. However, it wasn't the person she was expecting.

"Surprise, Sel," Trevor whispered, his voice falling in her ear. He felt her grab his arms as if she intended to flip him, but he tightened his grip around her waist, squeezing her abdomen. "Don't you dare, my love, not if you want to see Falk alive."

"You sick son of a bitch, what have you done," she asked through clenched teeth.

"It's not up to you to ask questions. There's a project I need to finish, and I need your help with it. You know what kind of project I'm talking about, don't you? You remember what we did the last time we were together, don't you?"

"What have you done to Kantor? Where is he?"

The arms gripping her waist squeezed tighter. The pressure was unbearable. She didn't want him to harm the baby.

"Don't worry about, Falk, Sel, he's fine. I'm going to release you and we're taking a little stroll. If you run, Falk is dead. Do you understand?"

She nodded. "Yes."

* * *

When Kantor regained consciousness, he had no idea where he was. He lay in a cot in what appeared to be a medical clinic. He had a massive headache and when he brought his hand up to his forehead, he winced in pain. There was a bandage covering a spot over his left eye. It was extremely sensitive to the touch. His next thought was Selarah.

He tried to sit up, but couldn't. "Selarah," he called. When she didn't respond, he called out again. "Selarah!" No response.

A portly woman wearing a white uniform entered the room. "Settle down, there. Do you know your name?"

He tried to focus his eyes on her face, and for a moment, he saw two women instead of one. "Of course," he spat, aggravated. "It's Kantor, Falk Kantor. Where is my wife? Where is Selarah?"

She checked his bandages. "Settle down," she said again. After a few moments, the woman left him.

Panic seized Kantor's heart. Through the fog, through the pain, he remembered his premonition. He had to get to Selarah. Utilizing every bit of strength he could muster, Kantor sat up. For a moment, his field of vision began to fade. He was almost certain he would black out. But he didn't. He could barely move. What the hell happened to me, he thought.

He swung his legs over the side of the cot. Little dots swam before his eyes, and he wasn't sure he could walk out. Thankfully enough, he was still dressed. He needed all his strength to leave the clinic. Having to get dressed would have been too much at once. Selarah. He needed to find Selarah.

* * *

Although Trevor was sweating and agitated, Selarah remained cool. She allowed him to tie her up without a fight. She actually didn't want to fight him. His threats regarding Kantor were real. Trevor had lost his mind.

She couldn't believe that Trevor had followed her to Hawaii, had managed to book the same hotel. He was supposed to have been on his way to prison, but he had apparently jumped bail or escaped. She wasn't sure which. She also wasn't quite sure what he had in mind for her, but she found that she was not scared of him at all. She again wondered if he had played a role in the Lexicon killings.

Trevor brought a chair over near her. He flipped it backward and sat down, facing her. He stared at her, through her, for a very long time. He was insane, she knew this, insane and hungry for revenge. Trevor never liked losing, especially to Falk Kantor.

"I know what you're thinking," Trevor said suddenly.

"You do?"

"Sure. You and Falk have some crazy idea I'm a killer. I'm no killer."

"Trevor, please let me go and tell me what you've done to Falk. I won't even turn you in. This is senseless, and it has to stop."

He chuckled. "Your spark has returned, hasn't it? I worked very hard to douse that. I almost had my way. Falk ignited it again, didn't he? He has that way about him, doesn't he?" He sighed. "I don't want to fuck you, Selarah, I don't even want to watch anyone fucking you. I just want to finish punishing you. I couldn't bring my rack, which is your fault. But I've been known to improvise. I truly loved you, Sel, but you used me."

"Yes, Trevor, I did, and I shouldn't have done it."

Trevor's intense gaze turned to one of curiosity. "Reverse psychology is so cliché, my love. I thought you were a better cop than that."

"I'm not using reverse psychology, Trevor. I'm simply stating the truth. I used you, I admit it, and it was wrong."

"Fucking shut up, Selarah. I don't want to hear anymore. I have work to do."

* * *

Kantor was wandering around, lost. Since leaving the clinic, he had gotten totally turned around and wasn't sure where he was. He had literally had to fight with the clinic personnel to leave. They had called an ambulance to have him transferred to the hospital, they were certain he had a bad concussion. However, he didn't care. Selarah was in danger and he had to find her. Nothing else mattered.

As he walked up and down street after street, he struggled to remain conscious. After what seemed like an eon, he found the street side stand where he had last seen Selarah. My God, he thought. Finally. The hotel was not far from here. He was not a stupid man, he didn't expect Selarah to be in the room, but at least there he could find a phone and get his revolver. Kantor had to stop for a moment as black fog attempted to consume him. There would be no revolver. He was off duty, on his honeymoon for another week and a half.

* * *

Selarah watched gravely as Trevor stripped the bed of every sheet, every blanket. He was designing his own rack. Of course, it wouldn't be as nice as his, but he did say he could improvise if necessary. Horrified now, her skin began to crawl, and she felt the first stirrings of fear building in the pit of her stomach. She was certain that her insane ex-husband had killed Kantor. Her chance for escape would soon present itself, and she had to be ready.

Once Trevor finished stripping the bed, he moved over to one of his suitcases. He dug out a glistening bullwhip. It had yet to be used and was still coiled up, but it looked mean and evil, snake-like. He threw the whip on the bed before approaching her.

"I'm going to untie you now, Sel," he said, his voice sweet and contrite. "I know you'll behave, won't you? Falk's life depends on it."

She gazed up into his eyes, her hatred hardly hidden. "Of course I'll behave," she said, her voice just as contrite, just as sweet. "I'll do whatever you say."

He released the bonds from her ankles and she stayed seated. She didn't intend to move a muscle until Trevor's guard was down.

Trevor hesitated before releasing her arms. Like Kantor, Selarah was trained to physically take people down. He had fought with her before, and she was a formidable opponent. Instead of removing the bonds totally, he simply cut them away from the chair. He then tied her hands together behind her, figuring it would be harder for her to resist. He moved away from her when the job was completed. He then stood in front of her to examine his handiwork on the makeshift rack. His back was turned to her, and Selarah had her chance, but only for a moment.

Carefully, she slouched down in the chair. She wanted to get her legs as close to Trevor as she could. Preoccupied, Trevor wasn't paying attention to her. Pain began to sing in her arms, but she ignored it. She took a deep breath and sprang to life, scissoring his ankle between her legs, pulling with all the strength she could muster. He fell forward, landing on his face, and she came down after him.

With bound hands, it was easy for him to throw her off. She began struggling against the bonds as she watched Trevor grasping for the bullwhip. She brought herself up clumsily to her feet. She kicked out, her foot connecting with Trevor's temple, knocking him back down, and subsequently knocking herself back down in the process.

* * *

Kantor stumbled into the valet parking lot. The injury above his eyebrow had begun to bleed, and the blood kept trickling into his eye, blinding him. He couldn't see, but he was certain this was the right hotel. A couple [Kantor recognized them as another pair of newlyweds he and Selarah had met a week ago] came to his aid. He resisted their help; he needed to find Selarah. However, he was really in no condition to walk, but he pushed himself.

"Police, call the police," he said groggily.

* * *

Selarah brought herself back up to her feet. Trevor was still down on the floor. Her kick to his head had stunned him. She used the time she gained to find a way out of the bindings. She couldn't see anything near her that would be helpful in freeing her hands. She decided to get to the door instead. Trevor was desperately trying to stand up. He was disoriented, but he managed to get to his knees. Slowly, Selarah continued to back away. He again groped for the bullwhip and found it. She saw him turn his waist slightly and she heard the distinct crack as he snapped the bullwhip toward her. It missed her ankle by an inch.

She found the door, but knew it had been too easy an escape. He had shot the deadbolt, and she didn't know if she could reach it. She began to kick the door, and at the same time, she screamed for help. Trevor was nearly back up on his feet, and he fixed a murderous gaze on her. She fought hard against her impending panic. Once and for all, she was going to show Trevor she was not afraid of him.

"Come on motherfucker," she roared at him.

As Trevor closed the distance between them, she could hear people outside the door. She turned away from Trevor and screamed again. She began pounding the door with her knee, kicking it. She heard the crack of the whip again and it connected with the back of her legs. Moments later, the door swung open, knocking Selarah down.

* * *

Cuffed and secured, Trevor was snarling at Selarah. She didn't care; there was only one thing she had on her mind. Two officers were holding Trevor, ready to take him and lock him up. She approached him with the greatest desire to kick him in the nuts.

"Where is Falk," she demanded.

He spat toward her, but she dodged before it could hit her. "He's dead, Selarah, and good fucking riddance to him."

She drew back and punched him in the face.

There was a huge commotion in the lobby of the hotel. Selarah thought it might be due to the police and paramedics that had flooded into the building. However, she was soon to be proven wrong. Her ears heard the distinct sound of Kantor's voice demanding to be released. The welts on her legs were bleeding and needed treatment, but she ignored the pain as adrenaline coursed through her veins. She pushed through the sea of bodies and stopped dead in her tracks as she saw Kantor.

He was being held down on a gurney as a couple of paramedics tried to treat an injury on his forehead. Blood had run from the injury, streaking his face. He was struggling against them even though it was highly obvious he was weak and disoriented.

"Selarah," he said. "I must find Selarah."

All it took was hearing him say her name. She dashed toward the gurney. Her wounds screamed at her, but she didn't care. Only she could calm him now. "Falk? I'm here, baby, I'm here," she said softly.

It was a painful drawback to his shooting. She tried not to make comparisons.

He tried to sit up, but couldn't. He saw Selarah's face, saw that she was alive, and blackness overtook him.

* * *

Selarah had fought with the paramedics and the hospital, but she allowed them to treat her. She was more interested in Kantor. She was allowed to see him very early the next morning. Limping a bit, she approached his bedside. His eyes were closed and his head turned away from her. Carefully, trying her best not to disturb him, she lowered herself into a chair.

Kantor's eyes opened and he turned his head toward his visitor. He had been dreaming vividly and could detect a hint of Selarah's perfume. When he opened his eyes, he realized he hadn't been dreaming at all.

"Selarah," he said, trying to sit up.

She jumped to her feet as quickly as she could, mindful of the bandages on her legs. She took hold of his arm and tried to guide him back to the bed. "No, don't get up. You shouldn't move at all."

Stubbornly, he didn't listen to her. He had to get his hands on her, to prove to himself that she was real. "Oh God," he sighed as he ran his hands over her face and through her hair.

Her eyes began to fill with tears. "It's okay," she whispered. "Everything is okay."

He pulled her to him and kissed her. He wanted her in the bed and in his arms. He never wanted to let her go again.

She backed away from him, breaking the kiss. "You have to be careful. You got a pretty bad knock on the head."

Tired again, he didn't argue. He lay back, but kept one of his hands clasped to hers. "What happened," he finally asked.

Without releasing his hand, she dragged her chair close to his bed and sat down. "It was Trevor, Falk. He jumped bail or something and followed us here. The police arrested three men who admitted he paid them to beat you up."

Kantor's jaw set and he clenched his teeth together. "Trevor," he spat. "What did he do to you?"

She took her free hand and caressed his cheek. "You don't need to get worked up, baby. I'm okay, I just have a few more scars to add to the ones I already have."

She was trying to make light of the situation, but Kantor closed his eyes against the pain. His eyes came wide open when another thought entered his mind. "Selarah, the baby?"

She stood briefly and brought his hand to her abdomen. "The baby is fine, Falk."

He felt tears welling up in his eyes as his hand settled on the slight bulge in her middle. She took his hand back into hers and leaned toward him, kissing him gently. Selarah drew away from him after a moment.

"She's a scrapper, like me. But she's also very strong, like you," she said with a smile.

He gazed at her curiously. "She?"

She kept her smile. "Yup. Looks like we're having a daughter."

His welled up tears began to slide slowly out of his eyes. She gently wiped away his tears with her free hand.

She cocked her eyebrow and chuckled. "I'm the one who's supposed to be hormonal," she told him.

He didn't care about his head injury or his concussion or the price of tea in China. Kantor sat up and drew his wife toward him. His lips took hers, and he kissed her deeply, not allowing her to pull away from him until his thirst was quenched.

* * *

Kantor and Selarah returned from Hawaii, and they each threw themselves back into the swing of their day-to-day jobs. Kantor also began cleaning up the paperwork that had built up around the Lexicon killings and from the arrest of Jamie Hunting. He suffered no premonitions, nightmares, or visions. He finally felt settled, but he had no clear idea that it was a false sense of security.

The real killer, the true maniac lay dormant. It was only a matter of time before Aaron's own poison burst forth like molten lava. He wanted to wait; he fought with his impulses to wait. Aaron wanted to surprise them all, and he certainly would. In the meantime, he would sit back and watch while an innocent man languished in jail.

* * *

Almost five months to the day of Kantor and Selarah's return home, Nasya Abigail Kantor was born. The first time Kantor held his infant daughter, his heart melted. He fell instantly in love with little Nasya, something of which he never felt possible. Kantor had also sent for his parents. He wanted them to see their grandchild being born. They had never seen their son so happy or so proud.

Hours later, Kantor sat alone with Selarah and the baby. Earlier, he had taken his parents to their hotel. When he came back to the hospital, Selarah had passed out. Nasya's birth had been a difficult one, and she was exhausted. Kantor took his infant daughter in his arms. He had a hard time resisting the urge to pick her up every time he was near her. You're going to spoil her, Kantor, Selarah had warned. And if you do, you're going to be getting up with her all night. Not me. Actually, it was fine with him. After they had lost their son so long ago, he didn't think he'd ever want to have another child again. Gazing down at his daughter, he realized how selfish those thoughts were.

"You're spoiling her, Kantor," Selarah said.

He looked up into her eyes. "I know," he said with a smile. "I never thought it would feel like this."

"I know," she said softly. "Look at all that hair, jet black. She's going to look just like you, I think."

"We did good."

"Yup."

For an undetermined amount of time, their eyes locked together in mutual gazes. They didn't have to say a word, everything seemed to be communicated with their eyes. It was over; it was all finally over. They could be a normal, yet hardworking, couple.

* * *

Aaron's ultimate target would have to wait. But for now, he had to find somebody. He could no longer control his impulses. If he didn't find a girl soon, he'd flip out and just start grabbing people. He didn't want to do that. He wanted to find one more girl, just one more, to let the police know the Lexicon killer was active and free.

His eyes caught the glint of blonde hair. He normally went after redheads, but this particular girl spoke to him. He was beginning to 'get the feeling.' When he 'got the feeling,' he knew it was right. He knew she was right. Oh, how utterly exciting this would be. She would be his next to last victim before his deeds were completed.

* * *

Kantor found Selarah in the bedroom. She lay belly down on the bed, her head propped in her hands, and her legs swinging back and forth behind her. She appeared to be reading, but he couldn't tell. The baby was in her carry crib beside Selarah. Nasya was sleeping at the moment, but Kantor knew that a feeding was due at any time. Nasya had been keeping both of them up at night, and he didn't understand how Selarah could even still be awake. Her maternity leave was just about over and she would return to work only to face new problems.

He wanted to stand where he was and watch her and the baby. He wanted to fight reality and sink into his own dream world, but he couldn't. He didn't think she had heard the news yet, because she seemed calm. Early on, Selarah refused to watch television or listen to the radio. She hadn't wanted to hear or see anything about the murders, especially since she had had to deal with it on a daily basis.

"Selarah," he called.

She turned her head and glanced at him over her shoulder. "Hiya, sexy," she whispered with a saucy grin, and then she stifled a yawn.

Kantor said nothing. It was a normal everyday thing for her to greet him in such a fashion. However, there was no banter in him. The situation was too grave. Selarah regarded his serious expression, and her smile fell away. She took care in shifting her position so she wouldn't disturb Nasya.

"Baby," she said. "What's wrong?"

"We need to talk."

Whenever he said those words, it was never good news. "Okay," she said, her heart skipping several beats.

She moved off the bed and approached him, taking his proffered hand. Together they walked into the living room.

"We have a problem, Selarah," he began.

The look in his eyes told her everything. He didn't have to say a word. "No," she cried harshly, keeping her voice low.

"But this one is blonde, with long hair not short. It's the same MO, just different hair," he explained gently. "Bruce thinks this murder may have been committed by a copycat, but I'm not so sure."

She released Kantor's hand and turned her back to face him. She covered her face with her hands and began shaking her head. Kantor approached her and placed his hands on her shoulders.

"Maybe it is a copycat," she said, her voice muffled in her hands.

He slid his hands down her arms and encircled her waist. "It's possible. But my gut is telling me that it's not."

"Six months, Kantor," she sobbed into her hands. "Why did this fuck wait six months to kill again?"

He turned her toward him and brought her hands down away from her face. "I don't know. Maybe he was in jail for six months? Maybe he left town? I've been communicating with other states to find out if similar murders have been reported. The only thing I can't figure out right now is why he switched to blondes."

"I'm coming back to work in two days. I'm not waiting until next week. I want this over and done."

They wrapped their arms around each other and clung together desperately, as if they were drowning.

* * *

Selarah returned to work just as she planned. She hadn't wanted to leave the baby, but there was no way she would rest until it was over. If it ever ended, she often thought bitterly. She didn't immediately go into the office. She told Kantor she had an errand to run. If he knew where she was going, he would likely throw a fit.

The state prison was no more than thirty miles from Lexicon. Selarah had been there on dozens of occasions in her career. But this was a special occasion. She had set out to meet with Jamie Hunting. She had called ahead and arranged the visit the previous day while Kantor was at work.

Selarah approached the huge electric gate of the prison and held her breath. She couldn't imagine being locked away behind steel bars for years at a time. The front gate clacked open and she entered. When it banged shut behind her, she jumped. No matter how many times she visited, she would never get used to the bangs and clanks of the mechanical doors.

The prison officials wouldn't allow Selarah to visit with Hunting in the same room, so she had to sit behind a pane of glass. A phone hung on the wall opposite her, and it's twin hung on the other side. It was almost like a scene in a bad prison movie, but this was no movie, it was real.

Hunting was brought into the visitation room by a guard. When he laid his eyes on Selarah, he smirked at her. He hated this bitch, absolutely hated her. Hunting was no murderer, but he would become one just to strangle the life out of her. He didn't want to speak to the detective, but he was curious. He sat down, keeping his smirk, and stared at her.

After a moment, he picked up the black phone receiver and waited for her to do the same. Selarah didn't know what to expect from Hunting. He was no angel, but he was serving time for a series of murders he likely knew nothing about. Despite the fact that Hunting was a punk, his incarceration wasn't right or just.

She slowly picked up the receiver and held it to her ear. "Hunting," she said, acknowledging him.

"What the fuck are you doing here, lady cop," he asked.

"You're innocent," she said simply.

He was surprised to hear her say so, but he didn't completely trust her. "No shit. When my hearings and shit are over, I'm going to be on fucking death row, you cunt. And it's your fucking fault," he spat viciously.

She sighed evenly. "Yes, it is my fault, Hunting. If we can get the right guy, you'll walk. But I need to ask you some questions."

"I don't want to talk to you without my lawyer," he said, almost sulking.

She would have to honor his wishes, and she supposed she should have ended her visit right then and there, but she didn't. She hesitated, because he hadn't made one move to indicate a desire to leave. It was a good sign, and she hoped he would talk to her.

"Jamie," she said, "please talk to me. I want to help you get out."

"Then why the fuck did you put me in here," he demanded.

She chose to ignore his outburst. It was common for Hunting to have tantrums. She had known him for a few years, and he used the tactic to throw investigators off him. One not exposed to this behavior would shout at him, and he in turn would seal his lips and not say one word. If his behavior were ignored, he would cooperate.

She dove right in to her questions. "How many times do you think you've been busted?"

Her question threw him. She enjoyed throwing curve balls. "By you? Prolly a dozen times," he said, calm for now.

"And how many times have we searched your apartment?"

Hunting cocked his eyebrow at her. Where was she going with this? "Steeler," he said, calling her by a name she despised, "I don't remember exactly. Lots?"

She nodded, satisfied with his answer. "I have one more question. How do you suppose your hair ended up on one of our victims?"

He sighed. "As I've said a hundred fucking times, Steeler [That name again, she thought in disgust], I don't know. I never knew any of those chicks. How many times do I have to say that before somebody fucking believes me?"

"I believe you, Jamie," she said. "Now I believe you. And I'll do what I can to get you out."

The cold bitch had actually made him feel better, had actually given him hope, but he wasn't quite ready to trust her just yet. "Yeah, Steeler, sure."

She leaned close to the glass partition. Sweetly, she called, "Jamie?"

"What," he spat, leaning toward her.

"My name isn't Steeler anymore. If you call me that again, I'll let you rot in here. It's either Marx or Kantor, got it?"

The venom in her voice seemed to soothe him somehow. He managed to smile at her. "Yeah, lady cop, whatever. Sorry."

Selarah left him where he sat. She had to get back to Lexicon before people became suspicious.

She made it back to the PD around noon. There weren't many people around at lunchtime, so she hoped she would be able to sneak in unnoticed. Of course, she was noticed, and unfortunately it was by her former chief, Matt Bruce.

"Well, good afternoon, Marx, long time no see," he said. His green eyes seemed to leer at her. "You recovered nicely from the baby," he said with a smarmy grin.

Oh, how I fucking hate this man, she thought. "Yeah Bruce, thanks. Sorry I can't chat with you longer, but I've got work to do."

He laughed. "Yeah, you sure do, don't you? Our boy seems to have friends who like to copy him, doesn't he?"

His amusement sickened her. She didn't know how anyone could milk any enjoyment out of the murders. However, Bruce was and always had been a media hound. She didn't say another word to him. She moved on to her office.

Selarah went to her desk and opened her key drawer. She began to dig around in it, trying to find the key to the evidence room. Losing her patience, she grabbed all of them and stuffed them in the pocket of her slacks. She left her office and went down the long hallway that separated the main offices from the evidence room.

The evidence room was jammed packed with packets of drugs, weapons, and physical evidence from homicides and other crimes. Evidence seized from small time crimes was stored in small lockers. She walked up and down each row of lockers until she found 478A. 478A was dedicated to Jamie Hunting and his petty thefts and drug deals. She dug the keys out of her pocket and tried them all. It was just her luck that the last key unlocked 478A. The shelves of the locker were packed with junk. She went through each item meticulously. She was looking for something specific, and her patience would pay off.

"Ah ha," she cried triumphantly.

Among the stolen jewelry and packets of marijuana was a baggie that contained a few strands of Hunting's hair. She recalled he had given samples of his hair a couple of years ago when a hooker accused him of raping her. He had also given new hair samples per request of Matt Bruce, and his hair was found on a victim, which meant-

"MARX," a voice barked, breaking her train of thought.

She looked up and saw Bruce standing a couple of feet from her. "Goddamn it, Bruce," she said.

"What are you doing back here? SCU has its own evidence room, and that's where you should be. You're not even in homicide anymore."

"Give it a rest, Bruce. Most of the shit in this locker came from busts that I led."

Without another word to Bruce, she threw the junk back into the locker. She locked it up and turned to leave the room. However, Bruce had blocked the entrance with his body.

"Surrender your keys, Marx. I won't have you back here pilfering."

She rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically. She slammed her fistful of keys into his hand. "Satisfied?"

"Not quite yet," he said evenly, and then he turned away and walked toward the exit.

"Have a nice day, dickhead," she said in his wake.

Later, Kantor found Selarah in her office. She was bent studiously over a notebook and seemed totally engrossed in her project.

"Selarah?"

She looked up at Kantor before flipping her notebook over. He noticed, but said nothing. Please don't start with the secrets again, he thought.

"Hey, sexy. What's up?"

He came into her office and closed the door behind him. He walked around to her desk and leaned on the edge of it. "I overheard Bruce talking to your chief. He was trying to have you put on administrative leave. What were you doing?"

She rolled her eyes. "What a prick. I've only been here a few hours, and he's already trying to get rid of me."

"Selarah, what were you doing?"

"I was in the evidence room looking around and he got all bent out of shape. He demanded my keys, and I gave them to him. It's not a big deal."

He wasn't sure if she had disclosed all that she needed to, but he didn't want to nag her. "Stay clear of him, Selarah. I know there is no love lost between you."

"You got that right," she said.

* * *

Selarah came home later than Kantor that evening. He was sitting on the couch in the living room with the baby in his arms. She stood by the front door for a while and watched him. He was talking to the baby in hushed tones, and she was squirming against him, as if she understood every word he said. Smiling, she approached the couch and sat beside him.

"You're spoiling her, Kantor," she said for the millionth time.

He looked up and smiled. "You sound like a broken record," he teased. "Some day, she'll be a teenager, completely embarrassed by us. I'm taking advantage of this time."

She leaned over his arm and caressed her soft hair, so like a butterfly's wing. "She definitely has your hair and eyes."

He took his eyes off the baby and glanced at Selarah. "And she has your nose and chin."

She laid her head on his shoulder. "I really missed her today. I might want to take some more time off if this case ever gets closed."

"Are you sure about that?"

"Yeah. I liked being a stay at home mommy." She laughed. "Damn, never thought I'd ever hear myself say that."

He chuckled. "You'd get bored before long. I know you, love."

She sighed. "Yeah, maybe."

Selarah sat with Kantor and Nasya for a long time. She moved only after the baby was asleep. She stood and stretched. "I hate to move away like this. But I have to hit the shower and then get my ass to bed. I'm exhausted. Do you want me to take her?"

He looked up at her and shook his head. "No. Go on, I'll take care of her."

She left him where he sat and she went into the bedroom. As she was undressing, he walked past the bathroom door with the baby in his arms. She watched as he laid her down in the crib set up in the spare bedroom. She turned and reached into the shower to turn the water on. He came up behind her, cupped her breasts in his hands, and gently squeezed her nipples between his forefingers and thumbs.

"I haven't been to the doctor yet, Kantor," she said, her voice not quite steady. Six weeks without his lovemaking was more like a prison sentence.

"I know," he said, but he didn't stop. "I miss you."

"Oh, that's obvious," she said. She could feel the hardness of him pressing against her.

His hands moved away from her breasts as his lips began to caress the side of her throat before moving to her shoulder. She closed her eyes and sighed. She had begun to physically ache for him.

"Oh, screw doctor's orders," she said.

He smiled against her shoulder and a tingle rushed through her body. He turned her toward him and kissed her. She broke the kiss after a few brief moments.

"I must get in the shower. You can do what you want," she told him with a lusty grin.

Shaking his head and smiling, he began to strip out of his clothes as she climbed into the shower. When he finished undressing, he joined her. They didn't make love in the shower. Instead, they took turns bathing each other, touching, exploring, and tasting. By the time the water began to cool, both of them were feverish with desire. They hurriedly dried themselves off, and laughed like idiots as they raced to the bed. They were surprised that the commotion didn't wake the baby.

He came down on the bed first, and she after. Without hesitation, she grasped his hardened sex and slid it into her slowly. He made love to her furiously, as if he would never make love to her again. It would be this night that Kantor would remember for the rest of his life.

* * *

Over the next few days, Kantor didn't see Selarah much at the PD. Uncharacteristically, she stayed holed up in her office and took few calls. When he had the time or opportunity to drop by, she would act as if nothing in her routine had changed at all. However, she was preoccupied and worried. Kantor wasn't concerned just yet. He knew her behavior was due to the case, the case that would never end.

Even though Bruce was sure a copycat committed the last murder, he put the LTs back in force. Kantor once again insisted that Selarah be put on his team. This time, his wish was granted. Of course Selarah readily agreed. She didn't agree to be an LT simply because Kantor was her husband. She was willing to do anything to stop the killer from taking another life.

Selarah sat in her office with the door closed. She pored over her notes. She was staring down at the name she had scribbled onto her notepad a dozen or more times. He was the only person left, the only one who could have put the blame on Hunting, the only one who could have evaded detection.

For a moment, she focused her attention on the latest victim. She had been a blue-eyed blonde similar in height, weight, and age as Selarah. Kantor said he couldn't understand why the Lexicon killer had chosen a blonde. But Selarah understood. She understood more than she actually wanted to. Selarah suspected that she was the next victim on the killer's list, and if she were right about the identity of the killer, her suspicion would become fact.

This information was something that needed to be shared immediately with Kantor and the rest of the LT team. But there was something she needed to do to finally prove it to herself. Circumstantial evidence had no room on the table. It had failed with Trevor, and it would soon fail with Hunting. She was trained not to go into a situation without backup. But this time, she had to ignore training and stick to her gut feeling.

* * *

Kantor glanced down at his wristwatch. Selarah was late. He had sent the babysitter away an hour ago. Normally she came home before he did. Nasya began to cry, and Kantor realized she was due for a feeding. He went to the kitchen to retrieve her bottle. He began to feel on edge again, but he shoved his feelings aside.

After Nasya was fed and tucked away in her crib, he was assaulted by a major headache. Since the incident in Hawaii, Kantor occasionally suffered terrible headaches. Every once in a while, he would black out for a few minutes. He found himself thankful that he had gotten Nasya settled in before it hit.

Kantor went quickly to the couch and lay down. The pain was exploding all over his head now, and he began to feel sick to his stomach. He closed his eyes tightly, but saw a constellation of shooting stars behind his closed lids. At that moment, he began to feel as if he were floating. The black out was coming on; it would only be a matter of minutes now. The blackness overtook him and he sank into it gratefully.

He wasn't sure how long the blackness held him captive. It could have been minutes or hours. He sat straight up, his body soaked in sweat, and he screamed out, "CAROLINE!"

Selarah was just coming in the front door as Kantor screamed. He settled back on the couch and closed his eyes again as if nothing had happened. His scream had made the hairs on her arms stand straight up. In the back bedroom, the baby began to cry. She bypassed her husband for the moment and went to tend to her child.

By the time Nasya was asleep again, Selarah heard Kantor enter the bathroom. A moment later, the shower was running. She went into the bathroom and saw that Kantor had already climbed into the shower. He was singing [badly, but lustily] a popular song of the day, acting as he normally did.

Selarah left him for the moment as she headed toward the kitchen to get something to eat. A little while later, donned in a robe, Kantor came into the kitchen and saw that his wife was sitting on the kitchen counter. She had prepared a gigantic sandwich and was eating it with gusto. As he approached her, she put her sandwich down and crossed her arms in front of her chest. She studied him curiously. Unceremoniously, he picked up her sandwich and began eating it.

He regarded her with a comic expression. "You snooze, you lose," he said around a mouthful of turkey, bread, and cheese.

"Babe," she said.

He glanced over at her, his jaws working, and he cocked his eyebrow. "Hmm?"

"Did you have another headache tonight?"

He nodded and then swallowed his bite of sandwich. "It was pretty bad. I think I blacked out again."

"Who is Caroline," she asked.

Unaffected, he took another bite from the sandwich, chewed, and swallowed. "Caroline? I don't know a Caroline. Why do you ask?"

"Just as I walked in the door, you sat straight up and screamed out the name Caroline."

He put the sandwich down, grabbed a napkin from the holder on the counter, and wiped his mouth. He stared straight ahead for a moment, trying to recall who Caroline might be. "I don't know, Selarah," he said and shrugged his shoulders.

She thought the incident odd, but she didn't push it. She picked up her sandwich and resumed eating.

"Hey," he said, feigning deep hurt. "I was about to finish that."

She smiled at him, revealing the half chewed bite of sandwich in her mouth. It was disgusting, but he laughed anyway.

"You snooze, you lose, babe," she said sweetly, mocking him.

* * *

Selarah asked for and received permission to work her LT shift during the day. Kantor, Bruce, and one other member of the team would have the night shift. Selarah needed her night free. It was time for her to stalk a killer.

Before she went off shift, Kantor came by her office and gave her a kiss. She knew she wouldn't see him tonight, and she was glad he came by. However, Kantor was under the impression that she would be at home with Nasya. She hated lying to her husband, but she held onto her stubbornness. After it ended, Kantor would understand.

That evening, Selarah gave her daughter a kiss and thanked the sitter for agreeing to stay an extra three hours. She was then on her way. She drove out into a nice residential area just a short distance from the police department. It took a lot of money to buy a house in this area, and she couldn't believe that this neighborhood housed a killer. She knew he wouldn't he home, but she had to move fast before Kantor discovered that she wasn't home.

Selarah parked her car several blocks down from the house and she casually strolled up the sidewalk. It was just getting dark, but the streetlights hadn't had a chance to pop on yet. She was glad; it would give her cover, because if she were caught, the madness would never end. The house was a two-story job with a nice lawn and very well trimmed hedges. There were several trees giving shade to the house, and likely hiding secrets as well. The trees would also provide her cover.

She entered the yard and dashed into the shadows of the trees. Once covered, she slipped on a pair of leather gloves. The house was locked tight, but he had left a window open. Not too smart, she thought. It was especially dumb since the man was a horrid killer with secrets to hide.

Selarah climbed into the window with no trouble. She hoped the prick didn't have a security system. Crazily, she laughed at the thought of what would happen if the police came blazing through only to find one of their own breaking and entering. She wondered if she would share a cell with Jamie Hunting. You must stop this, she scolded. This is serious shit.

She began pilfering through the house, trying to find some type of hard evidence. The killer was stupid, but he wasn't that stupid. Her search stretched from minutes to hours. The house was large and had many rooms. She had almost given up for the night, and she began to backtrack to find the window where she had gained access to the house. Her foot caught on something in the floor and she fell face first onto the hardwood.

"Damn it," she cursed softly.

She brought herself up to her knees. She shined her penlight over to the spot where she had tripped. Her attacker was a door handle. It was partially hidden by an expensive Oriental rug. The house had a basement with a hidden entrance. Her heart began to pound in her chest. Had she found the lair of the Lexicon killer?

She crawled over to the handle and pulled. The door came open easily so it was obvious he used it quite frequently. Shining her penlight down into the darkness, she descended the short flight of stairs. She shined her penlight around the room and saw several newspaper articles pasted onto the wall, like wallpaper. She knew she was flirting with disaster, but she began to search for a light switch. She found a cord dangling from an uncovered light bulb.

Selarah pulled the string and the basement was bathed in weak, but revealing light. The articles pasted to the wall were about the killings. Photographs of the victims were also pasted on the wall. Each photo had a strip of tape on it. Written on the tape were the names, phone numbers, and addresses of each victim. The only photo missing was that of the last woman.

There was a desk and a filing cabinet in the room and Selarah made her way to them. Neither the drawers in the desk nor the filing cabinet were locked. He is stupid, she sneered. She ignored the filing cabinet for the moment and focused her attention on the desk. She opened the main drawer and found a diary. Stenciled on the cover was the name: Aaron Holmes. Who was this Aaron Holmes?

She opened the diary and began to thumb through its pages. Aaron's secrets were revealed to her, and the horrific content of the diary made her feel ill. Craziness, plain utter insanity, Selarah thought. She finally understood. She had had her suspicions, but now she had a name to go with it-a real name and a fake one. How had Aaron fallen through the cracks? How had he managed to get so far?

A clock hanging on the wall opposite her began to chime. She gasped out loud, and then sighed impatiently at her own nervousness. With a pang, she noticed it was well after nine. She had to get back home. She suddenly felt a great need to be with her baby. She didn't get a chance to turn around. She was viciously grabbed from behind and her body was slammed against the desk. A very sharp knife was put to her throat. She could feel the cold steel digging at her flesh. Aaron had come home.

"You just couldn't mind your own business, could you, Caroline," he spat, his rotten breath falling in her ear.

Caroline. There's that name again. "I'm not Caroline, you fucker."

She attempted to throw him off her, but as she did, the blade gouged into her flesh. Aaron might have been stupid, but he knew how to subdue his victims, and he was well versed in physical intimidation.

"Oh, Caroline, such language coming from your mouth. Mom and Dad taught you well, didn't they?"

"I don't know who Caroline is," she said calmly.

He dug the knife deeper into her skin. Selarah felt the sting of the blade as it bit into her flesh. "Shut up, Caroline," he shouted.

Terrified now, she said, "I'm not Caroline, Aaron. Let me go. We can talk. You don't have to do this anymore."

"Shut up, sister dearest. I wanted to take my time with you, I really did, but you gave me no choice. You ran away and left me, and I'm going to fix you forever."

"Please," she begged.

"Fuck your talking, Caroline. It took years to find you. YEARS! I want you to feel what happened to me, you bitch. FEEL!"

Keeping the knife at her throat, he grabbed one of her hands and began leading it to his crotch. She resisted, but it was difficult to fight against the knife. One wrong move, and her throat would be slit open. With horror, she realized that he had already opened his pants. How long has he known I was here? Her hand went into the opening of his underwear. Oh dear Jesus, she thought, his penis is mutilated. She finally understood why Aaron raped his victims without penetration.

He jerked her hand out of his pants and tightened his grip on her body. "Scarred for life. YEAH BITCH. It's YOUR fault. I wanted to fuck you, to take my time, but you couldn't keep your nose out of it, COULD YOU, CAROLINE?"

Knowing it was over, knowing there was no hope of escape, she screamed, "I'M NOT YOUR FUCKING SISTER, YOU CRAZY MOTHERFUCKER!"

"I'll see you in hell, Caroline," he said softly.

He slashed the knife across her throat, cutting from ear to ear. After his deed was done, he threw her down to the hardwood floor.

As blood spurt from her mortal wound, Selarah thought only of Kantor and Nasya. If she had not been stupid, if she had only used common sense… I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. She hoped that some day Kantor and Nasya would forgive her for her stupidity. Darkness began to engulf her as her lifeblood drained from her body. There was little pain, only a great aching in her heart as she realized she would never see her husband or daughter again.

As Kantor's wife lay dying in a dank, musty basement a mere five miles from where he stood, his cell phone began to ring. Kantor groaned inwardly. He was almost positive it was Bruce calling to beg him to work a double shift. Not bloody likely, he thought. Especially not since you left early to go home.

He punched a button and barked, "Hello?"

"Señor Kantor, é quase meia-noite e sua esposa não é casa," a voice screamed in Portuguese.

He realized it was the sitter, but he didn't understand Portuguese. "Olivia," he said, "calm down and speak English, I can't understand you."

"Oh," she sobbed, "I'm so sorry. I was just saying that it's almost midnight, and your dear wife is not home. I'm still here with the baby."

He felt a knot forming in his stomach, but he didn't immediately panic. "Didn't she come home six or seven hours ago?"

"Yes," Olivia cried, "but she went back out again. She said she would be home by nine, but it's midnight, and I'm much worried."

He closed his eyes tightly. "Okay."

"I can stay with the baby if you need me."

He nodded. Oh yes, he had a feeling he would need her. Whenever he found Selarah, he was going to strangle her. She was playing games again, deadly ones. "Thanks, Olivia, I would appreciate that."

As soon as he finished speaking with Olivia, he hung up the phone and dialed Selarah's cellular number. It rang several times before her voice mail kicked on. When the beep sounded, he said, "Selarah, I love you with all my heart, but I'm going to strangle you when I find you. Later."

He went off shift a few minutes later, but before he left the PD, he went into Selarah's office to find out if she had left any clues as to where she had gone. Once in her office, his eyes spied her date book. He picked it up and thumbed through it, but it didn't offer any information. Where is she, he wondered, where has she gone? At a time when Kantor needed a sign, a vision, there was none.

* * *

Aaron was pissed off. Caroline had ruined all his plans for her. Now there was a mess to be cleaned up in his basement. The cunt had fucking bled all over the place. He had no clear idea how long it would take to get rid of the blood evidence. He kicked at her body to roll her over on her back. Her dead, glassy eyes cheered him up a bit. Perhaps now, his torment would end. He was contemplating his next course of action when her cell phone began to ring. He saw the gadget attached to her hip, but he didn't make a move toward it. He figured it was her husband calling to check up on her. He laughed at that thought. Well, hubby, it looks like you're a widower now.

A bright idea entered his mind, one that was almost poetic in nature. However, before he could carry out his plans, he needed to clean up. Leaving evidence behind was bad form.

* * *

Kantor searched any and every place he could, but Selarah never turned up. By the wee hours of the morning, he still hadn't located her. He left more than five voice messages on her phone, but he still hadn't heard from her. He went home to relieve the sitter, but he knew he wouldn't sleep for the rest of the night. Something was wrong, something was very wrong.

He found himself wandering into Nasya's bedroom. The infant was tucked away in her crib, sleeping soundly. There was an old rocking chair sitting close to the crib. He remembered that Selarah had bought it from an antique shop two days before the baby was born. He sat there and kept his eyes on the baby and listened to the snuffling noises she made in her sleep. The sound comforted him.

The cold embrace of grief seized his heart for a moment. At the time, he didn't understand what was going on. The overwhelming sadness ate at his soul and he broke down in tears. Years later, he would think back to that moment, and realize that he had known Selarah was dead, but he had been too stubborn to accept it. In his heart, he had known, he had known all along. However at that moment, it was blocked out of his mind. Another headache overtook him, and he passed out in the rocker, his tears still falling from his eyes.

The next morning, Kantor left Nasya in the care of her sitter as he made his way toward work. It had been a full twenty-four hours since he had last seen Selarah. He intended to file a missing person's report and spearhead his own search. Although deep down inside he knew she was dead, he still refused to give up.

As he pulled into the parking lot, he noticed a throng of marked and unmarked police cruisers. He had never seen so many cops at the PD at once. He parked his cruiser in his assigned slot and got out of the car. Curiously, a group of officers had crowded around the back of the building where the dumpsters were located. He saw a young rookie look his way and then turn around.

He distinctly heard the man say, "Get Bruce. Kantor is here."

His colleague said: "Kantor can't see this."

Kantor can't see what, he thought frantically. He ignored the queasiness that was building in his stomach, and he continued to press forward. From the front of the crowd, he saw Bruce elbowing his way through.

Bruce approached Kantor and put his hand on his shoulder, stopping him. "You can't go around there, Kantor."

"Why not," he asked as cold sweat began to pop out of his pores. "What's going on?"

"You can't go," Bruce insisted.

The crowd shifted its position a bit, and Kantor's eyes caught a glimpse of a morgue blanket. "No," he whispered harshly.

Bruce tightened his grip on Kantor's body. "You can't-"

Bruce's words were cut off abruptly as Kantor broke free. His fist connected squarely with his chief's jaw. As Bruce fell to the ground, Kantor moved past him, and shoved his way through the sea of officers. Five men were on him at once, and he struggled against them desperately. He was in plain view of the covered body. He didn't have to be told his wife was under the blanket, he just knew.

"Let me see her," he roared.

Somehow, some way, Kantor was able to break free of the arms holding him back. When the officers tried to grab him again, he gnashed his teeth at them like a wild animal. They backed away, giving up. There was no stopping him.

Surrounded by a crowd of his peers, Kantor slowly approached the body and said a silent prayer, asking that it not be his wife. He went down on one knee and carefully pulled the blanket back. Selarah, his beloved Selarah, lay beneath the blanket. Her killer had stripped off every stitch of her clothing. The throat he had loved to kiss was brutally slashed open. There was no blood, and her body looked as if it had been cleaned. Her eyes were wide open and glassy. There was nothing in her expression that gave away any of the horror she must have felt as she died. He suddenly felt detached, numb. His heart was breaking, trying to accept her death, but his mind still fought valiantly. This is a dream, and very soon, I'll wake up. When I do, I'll see my beautiful wife in bed beside me. If I get up right now, and walk away, everything will be fine. However, nothing would ever be fine again.

Reality slowly began to sink into his conscious mind. It was all coming together. A sound came out of his throat, one completely indescribable. It was the sound of a man who had not only lost his love, but his sanity. Dizzy now, his body partially fell atop hers. His hand began to caress her hair, and his grief caved in on him like an avalanche. He couldn't even cry, he could only moan.

Two men flanked Kantor on each side. One of them was Bruce. They took hold of his forearms and began to pull him away. At the moment, Kantor couldn't even fight them. He had become detached again. He was in a far, far away place.

Bruce and a sergeant led Kantor into the building and took him to Bruce's office. They sat him down on the couch in the corner. Kantor was expressionless, unreadable. His eyes were glazed over and he stared straight ahead. He was in shock and his mind was numb. His worst fear had been realized, and he silently begged the higher powers to take him instead.

"How did you find her?"

Startled, Bruce looked up. He hadn't expected Kantor to speak. Actually, he didn't think Kantor could speak. "I didn't find her. Some kid was out back early this morning dumpster picking. This kid found her there."

Kantor closed his eyes tightly. She had been discarded as if she were trash. His pain, his grief, was swiftly turning into rage. "I suppose no one saw who did it," he asked, keeping his eyes closed.

Bruce shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "Uh, no."

Kantor's eyes flew open. He stood up suddenly and went for Bruce. He made the distance between the couch and the chief's desk in two swift steps. He grabbed his chief by the lapels of his suit and lifted him out of his chair. Glowering down in Bruce's face, he roared, "No one saw this? This is a goddamn fucking police department and no one saw it?"

"Beating me up isn't going to bring her back, Kantor," Bruce said evenly.

Regaining his composure somewhat, Kantor released him. He glared at the chief for a moment before saying, "She died by the hands of the Lexicon killer. If it takes the rest of my life to find this sick fuck, I'll do it. And when I get my hands on him, I'll tear him apart."

"Kantor," Bruce said gently. "The Lexicon killer is Jamie Hunting. He's in prison. Soon enough, he'll die in the electric chair."

"Fuck you," he spat venomously.

Without another word to Bruce, Kantor stalked out of the office. He had no clear idea where he would go. He didn't want to go back home. He wasn't ready to look at his daughter. Looking at her would only shatter his already broken heart.

Kantor ended up going out to his cruiser. He had tried going back where Selarah lay, but he was not allowed. The CSI had yet to be summoned to the scene. Kantor's peers knew that whatever evidence existed would be disturbed by his interference. He had wanted to fight them, to enter the scene despite hell. However, he couldn't investigate her death, he was too close to her, too apt to act on an impulse and destroy the case. She is not a fucking case, he had growled at them. She is my wife!

He leaned back in the seat and stared up at the roof. The daze overtaking him had screwed up all space and time. He sat behind the wheel for hours without even realizing it. He sat while the CSI assessed the scene and collected evidence; while the coroner came to officially declare Selarah dead; while Selarah's body was taken to the morgue to be autopsied. When he took his eyes off the roof to glance down at his watch, he noticed that he had been in the cruiser nearly three hours.

Although he wasn't ready to go home, he really had no choice. Selarah would be all over the apartment, in every corner, in every room. But Nasya was there. Nasya, his much cherished daughter. He could not avoid her; she was all he had left of Selarah.

Once at home, Kantor dismissed the sitter without explaining Selarah's disappearance. He started for Nasya's bedroom, but he didn't quite make it. His eyes feel upon a robe hanging from a hook on the bathroom door. Selarah's robe, he thought. He approached it and pressed it to his cheek. She can't be gone. She can't be. It was a nightmare that would never end.

* * *

Selarah's funeral was held a few days later. She was honored in death as any other decorated officer was. Hundreds of fellow officers attended from several different departments and counties in the state. Jeff Gibson and Corporal O'Neill from Radner had also attended, but Kantor was oblivious. He wouldn't have known they had attended at all if they hadn't approached him first.

By the time the huge procession had made it to the cemetery, it had begun to rain. It was just as well, because Kantor could not cry. The stone that had replaced his heart wouldn't allow him to cry. The falling rain would be the only tear to touch his cheeks. He stood between his mother and father and stared straight ahead. His lips were pressed tightly together in a stiff grim line. He remained stoic and emotionless throughout the gravesite service. His mind was focused on the killer. He had an obsessive need to find him. Selarah would not rest; he would not rest until her killer found his own grave.

After the funeral, Kantor's parents had tried to get him to come back to his apartment with them, but he balked. There was something he needed to do. His mother, in tears, kissed him and joined his father in a waiting limousine. He knew they wanted him to go back home with them, but this time, he would not run.

The Lexicon PD was nearly cleared out when Kantor returned. Half of the force had been at the funeral, and the other half was out in the field. Without hesitating, Kantor went into Selarah's office. He hadn't gone inside it since her murder. He remembered seeing her scribbling on a notebook, and he needed to find it. Perhaps it would give him some kind of clue as to what had happened in the last few hours before her death.

He stopped abruptly as his eyes caught sight of a Polaroid picture propped up against her computer. It was a photo of them on their wedding day. The JOP's secretary had snapped the picture right as they kissed for the first time as a married couple. He couldn't stand it, nor could he take it. Snarling, he slammed the photo face down onto the desk. It was too painful recalling that day.

Kantor went through each drawer of Selarah's desk, but couldn't find the notebook. Her filing cabinets were locked, but he found the key [the only key] in the drawer labeled 'key drawer.' He glanced over the files in each drawer, but had no luck finding her elusive notebook. She had a briefcase, which she called her 'shit case,' but he didn't see it in the room. He then remembered that her cruiser was parked outside in the lot.

Kantor quickly left her office and ran out to the back parking lot where the unused cruisers were parked. Selarah's had been brought back just yesterday. He wasn't sure if anyone had cleaned it out yet, but it was worth a try. He glanced into the car and saw her black 'shit case' in the backseat. He tried the door and it was unlocked. Kantor grabbed the briefcase and rested it on the trunk of the car. He popped it open and saw that her notebook was lying right on top.

He grabbed the notebook and began thumbing through it. Written and circled on one page were the words: Hunting… Hair…Planted evidence? His heart began to pound in his chest. He then remembered that Selarah had gotten Bruce in a tizzy when she searched through Hunting's evidence locker. Neither of them quite understood why Bruce gave a damn about the evidence room. Kantor began to feel sick. He turned the page and saw: Inside job. LK cop? Sweat beaded on his upper lip as he turned to another page. His eyes grew large in surprise and he was overcome with rage when he read the name scribbled all over the page: Matt Bruce. The next page: Address for Bruce is 1256 Holland Drive. Scope it out, get proof, and get Hunting out of jail.

The chief of detectives, Matt Bruce, he thought. He had always hated Selarah and felt joy at her displeasure. It began to make sense to him [FINALLY]. Only a cop could cover his tracks so well. Only a cop could overpower another cop. Only a cop could dump a body without being noticed. Dear God, all this time he had been blinded by it all. If he had only known sooner… Must not think of that now, he thought. He snapped the briefcase closed and threw it back into the cruiser.

Kantor went back into the building and noticed that Bruce was not in his office. In a way, he was relieved. He wasn't sure if he could control his rage if he saw the bastard. He still had his head about him, but he intended to keep the vow he had made to Bruce. As Selarah did before him, he decided to visit Bruce at home, but he wasn't going to sneak in, he was going to barge through the front door. Before he went, there was something he needed to do…

Little Nasya was sleeping soundly. Kantor asked for a few moments alone with his daughter. He could cry for her, and for the fact that she would never know her mother. However, beyond that, he didn't think he would ever cry. He didn't know if he would meet the same fate as his wife, but he didn't care. It had to end, and tonight it would.

He leaned over the crib and kissed the baby's forehead gently. "Sleep well my little miracle," he whispered.

Before leaving, he stopped and gave his parents a hug and a kiss.

* * *

Kantor didn't bother parking down the street; he pulled right in to Bruce's driveway. The chief lived in a very nice two-story house. His career had been good to him. Kantor picked up his cell phone and dialed up his LT team.

"Come out to 1256 Holland, but standby," he commanded.

"Sir? 1256 Holland? Did I hear you correctly?"

"Dig the wax out of your fucking ears," he snapped. "That's what I said."

Without further hesitation, Kantor hung up the phone and left his cruiser. He walked right up to the front door and knocked.

Bruce opened his door to Kantor and was quite surprised to see the detective. He didn't like having guests over, especially this particular guest. "Kantor, what are you doing here? Surely you're not working today?"

"Yes, I'm always working," Kantor spat, trying hard to fight the hatred flooding into him. "We need to talk, and it can't wait until tomorrow morning."

"Kantor," Bruce said, "Take some time off, you should be at home with your kid during a time like this."

His rage threatened to boil over and spill onto the ground. Kantor fought like mad to contain it. "We'll talk about time off after I speak with you. Are you letting me in or not?"

At that point, Bruce was no longer Bruce; he was Aaron. He smiled a glibly. "Sure, Kantor. Come on in."

Aaron moved out of his doorway and allowed Kantor to enter. While his back was turned, Kantor took an opportunity to survey the house. He saw nothing unusual, nothing suspicious. The house was modestly furnished and neat as a pin. However, the walls were devoid of pictures. Kantor thought it strange. He figured that there must be some type of hidden room somewhere.

"So, Kantor, what's on your mind?"

He didn't keep his back turned for long. He wasn't going to take any chances. "My wife was a very hard worker, a very good detective. She had a few things figured out that I never caught onto," he said.

Aaron didn't like where this conversation was going. "Kantor, your wife and I never got along, and I'm sorry she was murdered. But I hardly think I'm the right person you should be reminiscing with right now. Go home, Kantor, I'm ordering it."

"I will, and I intend to. But first, I must ask another question."

Aaron sighed and stuffed his hands in his back pockets. He was only armed with a pocketknife right at the moment, but it might just do if Kantor wanted a fight. Perhaps he would initiate a fight and grab some hairs while he was it.

"Sure, Kantor, ask anything you'd like."

Kantor glared at Bruce. All his hatred and rage flooded into him, and he itched to reach for his pistol and fill him full of bullets. "How long did you think you could hide behind your mask?"

Aaron kept his poker face. He sighed sympathetically. "Kantor, you've gone through a horrible ordeal. Might I suggest that you take a few weeks of psych leave?"

Within mere seconds, Kantor had whipped out his gun and aimed it right at the killer's head. "Cut the glib shit, fucker," he snarled. "The game is over."

As lithe and as quick as a cat, Aaron rushed Kantor. Kantor fired his weapon, but missed. Aaron slammed into his body, knocking him flat. They fell onto a delicate table, shattering it to splinters. Kantor's pistol flew out of his hand.

Driven by his insanity, Aaron had the upper hand in their struggle at first. He pummeled Kantor's face, ribs, and stomach. However, Kantor was driven by rage and grief, and at the moment, he felt more insane than any killer. He somehow managed to free his hands and wrap them around Aaron's throat. Aaron dug into his back pocket for his knife and he pulled it out, releasing a glittering seven-inch blade. He took his last remaining moments of consciousness to slash out at Kantor. The knife bit into his hand, but Kantor didn't let go. Only when Aaron stabbed him viciously in the arm did Kantor's grip loosen.

Aaron was then able to escape Kantor's choking hands. He crawled toward Kantor's gun. It was in sight. Aaron's way wasn't to shoot. He preferred cutting, but he had to get rid of this insane cop. His hand connected with the cold steel of the pistol, and he grinned. He turned toward Kantor and saw that he was trying to stand up. When Aaron aimed the pistol at Kantor, he stopped moving. Kantor had managed to sit up, his face drawn into a snarl. It was almost funny, and Aaron had to stifle a laugh.

He stood slowly and walked toward Kantor. He brought the pistol close, but not close enough for Kantor to take it away. "Your wife was my sister, you arrogant piece of shit. She left me at home and I suffered at the hands of my fucked up parents."

Horrified, Kantor watched as Aaron unzipped his pants and took out his penis. It looked like it had been put through a meat grinder. He stuffed it back into his pants as he cocked the pistol.

"SHE was the reason this happened to me. My name is Aaron Holmes, and I searched for years until I found my sister. She made me kill all those girls. They were just like my mom, but it was her fault I did what I did. The fucking cunt is dead, and you're about to join her."

"Caroline," Kantor spat without taking his eyes off the crazy fuck.

Aaron laughed; it sent chills down Kantor's spine. "You betcha," he screamed gaily. "She insisted she wasn't my sister until the exact moment I sliced her throat open. She had to be. She fit the profile. I wanted to fuck her, Kantor, and fuck her good, but I'm not a stud like you. She's dead and so are you."

He squeezed the trigger like the professional he was, but the only thing that came out of the gun was a clearly audible click. Surprised, Aaron stared down at the gun, and then down at Kantor.

Kantor's arm quickly snaked down to his ankle. He whipped another gun out of its holster and carefully aimed it at his target. "That gun only had one bullet," he growled. "But this one has nine."

He squeezed the trigger and Aaron's body began to jerk and dance about as he was hit nine times. Even after the ammo was exhausted, Kantor continued to squeeze the trigger: click click click click. He didn't stop until backup arrived. One of his fellow team members had to wrench the gun from his hand.

The LT team rushed into the Matt Bruce/Aaron Holmes residence and was stunned by the sight of their fallen leader. They weren't quite sure what to think. Kantor actually expected to either be arrested or shot. However, the discovery of the basement put a stop to any suspicions against Kantor. One of the LTs tripped over the door handle in the floor in almost the same exact spot that Selarah had fallen before him.

After Kantor wrapped a handkerchief around his knife injury to stem the flow of blood, he followed his team down the steps to examine the basement. He hoped to put together Selarah's last moments. He saw a spot of blood on the floor, and he kneeled down to examine it. He was sure it was Selarah's blood, and equally sure that Selarah had died here. Grimly, he stared at the blood until he felt he might go insane. He stood up and turned away as his heart ached fiercely.

He knew better than to disturb anything in the room before the CSI team arrived. However, his eyes caught a glimpse of some type of book or diary laying out in plain view. He took an ink pen out of his jacket pocket and flipped the book open. In it, he recognized Bruce's small, neat script. He was sure that the diary would answer a few questions. He wasn't so sure it would ever explain why his wife had to die.

Kantor abandoned the diary for a moment as another object caught his eye. A cell phone lay partially hidden underneath the desk. He again kneeled down to have a closer look. Selarah's phone, he thought with a start. He gazed at the phone for what seemed like an hour. It didn't come to him for a few minutes why the phone had sparked an interest in him other than the obvious. When it came to him, it hit him with the force of a megaton atom bomb. It rocked his body and sent him reeling. He dropped to both knees as his body began to quake. His last thoughts of Selarah, his last words to her were that he would strangle her. Oh how he wished he could take it back.

Since Selarah was murdered, he had been too numb to cry, too cold to grieve. He hadn't shed one tear at her funeral. But as he sat and stared dazedly at the phone, his tears overcame him. It was a very long time before the storm passed.

* * *

CSI came and used luminol on the basement floor. A huge amount of blood evidence existed despite Aaron's efforts at cleaning it up. The drop of blood left on the floor was collected and tested. As Kantor had known, it matched Selarah. Aaron's diary gave the details of his twisted upbringing and his hatred for his sister, Caroline. Nothing in the diary gave any comfort to Selarah's grieving husband. However, in Aaron's mind, Selarah's death completed his ritual.

Several days after Matt Bruce/Aaron Holmes was buried, Kantor received a bizarre card in the mail. It had no return address and the postmark came from a state where Kantor had never been. It was a very beautiful sympathy card emblazoned with roses. My Deepest Sympathy, the outside of the card read. When Kantor opened it, there were no other inscriptions to be found. It was plain with a few sentences handwritten inside: The death of your wife saddened me. I am so very sorry. You are in my thoughts and prayers. It was signed simply with the letter 'C.'

* * *

Five years later, Falk Kantor stood behind his desk. He ran his hand through his neatly shorn locks. He had only recently had it cut and he still wasn't used to it. However, he had been willing to sacrifice his hair to take over as chief of detectives.

He sat down after a few moments and bemusedly stared down at an elementary school progress report. One teacher had written: Nasya is a bright child, but she's too pushy with her classmates. Another: Nasya is aggressive and bossy. A third: Nasya is academically gifted, but her temper flares quite easily. Kantor didn't know whether to be angry or amused.

"Daddy, are you mad at me?"

Kantor looked up and fixed his eyes adoringly on his daughter. She sat in a chair that seemed to swallow her, but she had insisted on that particular chair. She refused to sit in what she considered a 'baby chair.' He regarded her long, curly black hair and warm brown eyes with a sense of wonder. He had to admit that physically, his child resembled him in many ways, but her spirit came directly from Selarah. You live on, my love, he thought.

"No, I'm not mad," he said, finally answering her.

He crooked his finger at her in a 'come here' gesture. Obediently, she hopped down off the chair and approached him. He lifted her up easily and sat her on his knee. He leaned down a bit and kissed the top of her head.

"My darling daughter," he said, "you must learn to control your temper."

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