The Fifth Victim Part 36

"I'm sorry." His shoulders slumped. "I know I'm a spineless b.a.s.t.a.r.d. But if I don't keep Big Mama happy, I could lose everything. Big Daddy's done told me this is my last chance. If I screw things up with Laura, he'll write me out of his will."

Jazzy almost felt sorry for him. Almost. "You know I'll never be your mistress. I draw the line at fooling around with a married man."

Lifting his sedate gaze from where he'd been staring at the floor, he looked directly at her. "Would you let me stay tonight? Just for a little while. A couple of hours." He held up his arms in an "I surrender" gesture. "Just let me hold you. I swear, I won't do anything you don't want me to do. I need you, Jazzy. One last time. Please, lover. Please."

Against her better judgment, she nodded. "You can stay an hour. That's all." When he opened his arms to her, she shook her head. "Sit down on the sofa. I'll fix us some coffee. I think you could use some. You should sober up before you head home and try to explain to your fiancee where you've been."

"Hey, honey, if you're planning on getting your gun while the coffee is brewing, there's no need. Believe it or not, I want us to be friends. I'd prefer lovers, but I'll settle for friends. I just can't imagine my life without you in it."

Oh, h.e.l.l. Why had he said that? Don't go soft. Not now. You've heard Jamie's line of bull before. You know the guy can sweet talk his way out of any jam-or into any woman's bed. But not her bed. Not ever again.

"You aren't going to get to me," she told him. "Remember, I've heard it all before. I'm the girl you honed your persuasion skills on."

"You may not believe me, Jazzy, but..." He came up behind her, but didn't touch her, just stood very close, his breath warm on her neck. "In my own selfish way, I do love you. I always have. And I always will."

Odd how a part of her wanted to believe him, maybe even needed to believe him. When she turned to him, he reached out and caressed her cheek. She sucked in her breath.

"Please, Jazzy." He looked at her with those s.e.xy hazel eyes, his expression one of intense longing. "Baby...please."

She didn't protest when he pulled her close. Gently. And kissed her. Tenderly. All the old feelings resurfaced and for a moment-just a moment-she wanted him in the same old way. He allowed her to end the kiss. Then he stood there staring at her, waiting for her judgment call.

"I can offer you coffee and conversation for an hour," she told him. "That's it. Take it or leave it."

"I'll take it." A sly, seductive grin curved the corners of his lips as he turned and walked over to the sofa, then sat and crossed one leg over the other knee.

You're a fool, Jazzy told herself as she rushed into the kitchen and prepared the coffeemaker. Being nice to Jamie wasn't the answer. But G.o.d in heaven, old habits died hard.

Tonight she would say good-bye to Jamie. This time would be the last time. And if he ever came to her again, she knew what she'd have to do. She'd have no choice, not if she wanted to save herself.

The man had to die! It wasn't that she wanted to kill him or anyone else, but he had left her no other choice. Not only would he have to die, but she feared others would have to forfeit their lives, also, if they interfered. Of course, it wasn't entirely his fault; after all, he was only human, a mere man, with all the weaknesses inherent to his s.e.x. But he was the worst of his kind, spineless and weak. He gave in to his baser instincts without regard to how his actions might harm others. He reveled in the depravity that plagued most men and many women.

Her hand settled over her belly. In order to protect herself-and her baby-she needed to plan a strategy that would put suspicion on someone else. But not just anyone. She wanted that woman to pay with her life, and what better justice than to have her executed for murdering her lover? After all, the whole town knew she'd threatened to kill him.

She stood in the shadows, waiting and watching, knowing where he was and what he was doing. He was with that woman, making love to her. How could he do this? He had sworn his love was true. Lies. All lies! They were fornicators. Sinners. Evil to the core. Both of them deserved to die. To be punished.

She shouldn't act hastily, in the heat of the moment. That was the way mistakes were made. She had made mistakes in the past, but not this time. She had trusted when she shouldn't have, but never again. She needed to be calm and in control when she ended the son of a b.i.t.c.h's life. There was no need for her to kill him tonight. As long as she eliminated him before his wedding day, everything would be all right.

She would not kill him quickly. A quick death was too good for him. He needed to die slowly, painfully, tortured and tormented. The thought of listening to his agonizing screams excited her. Her mind filled with vividly gruesome impressions of his last hours on earth.

"Everything I do, I do for you, my sweet baby. I won't let anyone hurt you. They think we aren't good enough for them. They think they can sweep us out the door and pretend we don't exist. But I won't let that happen. You don't have anything to worry about. Not now. Not ever. Mother's here...Mother's here."

NEW GAME.

The game is simple-he is the Hunter. They are the Prey. He gives them a chance to escape. To run. To hide. To outsmart him. But eventually, he catches them. And that's when the game gets really terrifying...

NEW RULES.

Private investigator Griffin Powell and FBI agent Nicole Baxter know a lot about serial killers-they took one down together. But this new killer is as s.a.d.i.s.tic as they've ever seen. He likes his little games, and he especially likes forcing Nic and Griff to play along. Every unsolvable clue, every posed victim, every taunting phone call-it's all part of his twisted, elaborate plan. And then the Hunter calls, wanting to know if they're really ready to play...

BUT WINNER STILL KILLS ALL...

There's a new game now, and it's much more deadly than the first. A brutual psychopath needs a worthy adversary. He won't stop until he can hunt the most precious prey of all-Nicole. And with his partner in a killer's sights, Griff is playing for the biggest stakes of his life.

Please read on for an exciting sneak peek of.

Beverly Barton's.

THE MURDER GAME,.

coming in February 2008!.

Prologue.

I am not going to die! d.a.m.n it, I refuse to give up, to let him win this evil compet.i.tion.

Kendall Moore pulled herself up off the ground where she had fallen, face-down as she ran from her tormentor. Breathless and exhausted, she managed to bring herself to her knees. Every muscle ached. Her head throbbed. Fresh blood trickled from the cuts on her legs and the gashes in the bottoms of her calloused feet.

The blistering August sun beat down on her like hot heavy tendrils reaching out from a relentless monster in the sky. The sun was her enemy, blistering her skin, parching her lips, dehydrating her tired, weak body.

Garnering what little strength she had left, Kendall forced herself to stand. She had to find cover, a place where she had an advantage over her pursuer. If he caught up with her while she was out in the open, he would kill her. The game would be over. He would win.

He's not going to win! Her mind screamed orders-run, hide, live to fight another day. But her legs managed only a few trembling steps before she faltered and fell again. She needed food and water. She hadn't eaten in three days and hadn't had any water since the day before yesterday. He had been pursuing her from sunup to sunset for the past few days, apparently moving in for the kill. After weeks of tormenting her.

The roar of his dirt bike alerted her to the fact that he was nearby, on the narrow, rutted path to the west of her present location. Soon, he would come deeper into the woods on foot, tracking her as he would track an animal.

At first she had been puzzled by the fact that he had kidnapped her, then set her free in the middle of nowhere. But it hadn't taken her long-only a matter of hours-before she realized that she wasn't free, no more than a captive animal in a game reserve was actually free.

Day after day, he stalked her, hunted her down, and taught her how to play the game by his rules. He'd had more than one opportunity to kill her, but he had allowed her to live, and he'd even given her an occasional day of rest. But she never knew what day, so she was forced to stay alert at all times, to be prepared for yet another long, tiring match in what seemed like a neverending game.

Books by Beverly Barton.

AFTER DARK.

EVERY MOVE SHE MAKES.

WHAT SHE DOESN'T KNOW THE FIFTH VICTIM.

THE LAST TO DIE.

AS GOOD AS DEAD.

KILLING HER SOFTLY.

CLOSE ENOUGH TO KILL.

MOST LIKELY TO DIE.

THE DYING GAME.

THE MURDER GAME.

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