She gasped, blinked, and looked again to be certain it really was him.
He straightened when he saw her, stood erect and returned her gaze. In the pale glow from the corner street lamp, his eyes seemed to blaze. She could almost feel the hatred coming from him.
But that was crazy! He didn’t hate her. He came to her for help. He trusted her. They’d even scheduled a return appointment for the following day.
It was only the shadows flitting across his face, she told herself, trying to be rational.
Yet she knew that wasn’t it. Enmity burst from him, surrounding him like an aura. It was there in his stance, in the tilt of his head...it was in the air, and it was directed toward her.
Her hands clenched the curtains, and she wanted desperately to continue what she’d started, to close them, to shut out this strange apparition.
But his gaze held her as if he had the Medusa power to turn her to stone. Slowly his lips parted in a grim smile that spoke of anger and loathing.
This man was Eliot, of that she was sure, but at the same time he wasn’t Eliot.
His question about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde hit her in the gut. Could he be right? Was she seeing another personality?
His eyes never leaving hers, he raised an arm, and it seemed that one finger glowed red.
Of course his finger wasn’t on fire. It was only a cigarette. He lifted it to his lips, took a drag then lowered it and blew out a long, indolent stream of smoke.
As his head tilted to follow the movements of his own arm, she felt her gaze inexorably drawn along. He tossed the cigarette to the pavement and ground it out with his heel. Leanne shuddered. Somehow the simple action took on menacing overtones.
Greta barked and jumped for the window sill, startling Leanne and breaking the spell, diverting her attention to her dog. Greta growled, looked up at Leanne, then sat down beside her. The hairs on the dog’s back bristled.
“You feel it, too? We can’t both be wrong, can we, little one?” She turned back to the window, intent on lifting it and calling out to Eliot, demanding to know what he was doing there.
The street was empty.
Whoever had been there was gone.
But Greta gave another low growl.
The neighborhood was old with lots of trees and bushes. In her own yard she had enough shrubbery to hide an army.
Leanne shivered, though the room was warm. The air seemed to hold a residual chill as if from the gaze that had come uninvited into her home.
When she’d talked to him in her office, Eliot had been attractive, likeable, sane. But she knew from experience that the mentally ill could appear completely well and normal just before they totally lost touch with reality, before they hurt themselves or someone else.
She stooped and gathered Greta into her arms. “You’re more perceptive than I am. You growled at him. I thought he was sexy.”
Eliot Kane was a very sick man, possibly even suffering from multiple personality disorder, just as he’d suggested. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He was a package deal. With the attractive, appealing man came the monster she’d seen outside her window.
He’d seen her, knew she had seen him. She would confront him when he came in for his appointment tomorrow.
He leaned against the big tree, well hidden among the shadows and lit another cigarette. The woman was terrified. He gained strength from her terror. He smiled as she pulled her drapes closed. As if she could keep him out. When the time came, she wouldn’t be able to stop him any more than Eliot would. He was growing stronger every day. Things were falling into place.
He closed his eyes, drinking in a sense of power. He pictured himself sneaking around, hiding in the overgrown bushes, checking doors and windows, testing to see if one would open.
And one finally did.
In his fantasy he slid the window up and crawled in.
The interior of the house was fuzzy and out of focus because he didn’t know what it looked like. He needed to see it so his dreams could gain substance and become real. He had seen through the window of her bedroom upstairs. He focused on that, on opening the door and seeing the bed clearly with its white comforter. Exactly what he’d glimpsed from the street.
But in his vision the woman lay in the bed instead of standing at the window. Her arms were outside the comforter, her head turned to one side on the pillow, dark, shiny hair spread out behind her. He stood still, watching the soft rise and fall of her breasts under the covers, admiring her, wanting her, knowing soon she would be his.
He moved soundlessly toward her, put his hands around her throat softly, caressingly.
She opened her eyes and looked at him, fear flooding her beautiful face. Her slim white hands thrust up, reaching for his, trying to push him away. But he tightened his grasp, drinking in her terror, becoming stronger, invincible. Her lithe body heaved under the dainty comforter, her legs thrashed about until the bed covers slid to the floor and he could see all of her, claim all of her as he choked the life from her body, watched the glaze of death slide over her eyes.
The vitality leaving her seemed to flow into him, and he was intoxicated, potent, in control of the whole world...free. Nothing was beyond his ability now.
Only a dream now, but soon…
Eliot shot upright in bed, his breath coming in ragged gasps. Sweat burst out on his forehead, and bile rose in his throat as the ecstasy from his dream was replaced with revulsion.
He turned his hands over, stared down at the palms, curled the fingers, and remembered with horror and disbelief how they’d felt wrapped around Leanne Warner’s throat in his dream.