Gifted profiler Sloan Skye joins the hunt for an elusive serial killer—and discovers a breed of criminal few know exists…
A cynic by nature, Sloan Skye wasn’t thrilled when she was assigned to the FBI’s Paranormal Behavioral Analysis Unit. But her doubts are slowly easing, especially when she sees that working on the fringe allows her to use some of her more unconventional tactics. Most of all, Sloan’s grateful her career is on track—because her love life, if you can even call it that, is in shambles.
Sloan is searching for a suspect who slays his female victims at night, and bizarrely drains their bodies of blood. Bad enough, but when Sloan learns what the killer is really after, she can barely sleep at night. When the suspect guns for someone very close to Sloan, it’s time to throw out the rules and face her deepest fears…
Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
There are three things I would have gladly given my right arm—and leg—never to see.
How hot dogs are made (trust me, you don’t want to know).
How PortaPotties are emptied (ditto).
I’m Sloan Skye, summer intern for the FBI’s PBAU— that’s the Paranormal Behavioral Analysis Unit. You know how the BAU, aka the Behavioral Analysis Unit, profiles criminals? We profile criminals too. But our bad guys have fangs and fur.
At the moment, I was standing in a pretty neighborhood, in a pretty house, in a pretty bedroom . . . that also happened to be the scene of a horrific crime.
It wasn’t that it was a grisly scene. There was no blood spatter. No sign of a struggle. The victim was lying in her bed; her blankets were tucked under her chin. She looked peaceful, as if she were sleeping, with the exception of her eyes. They were staring blindly. And she was grimacing. It was a creepy sight.
At my first crime scene—which happened to be on my first day on the job, which just happened to be last week—I threw up. I was determined not to do that again.
When a cool gust from the open window carried the scent of death to my nose, I gagged. It wasn’t looking good for me.
I headed for the window, hoping some fresh air might help.
Special Agent Jordan Thomas—aka JT, aka the droolworthy, heartpalpitatingly handsome man I’d kissed a couple of days ago—was standing next to the bed. I was guessing he was completely unaware of my struggle to keep my lunch where it belonged.
“Hmm. Looks like the killer punctured the femoral artery,” he said.
I had to assume he’d uncovered the victim. There could be no other way for him to know that. “Is that so?” I said, sticking my face up to the screen and poking at a little hole in the corner. A big blackbird was perched on a tree limb outside. It snapped its wings, zooming into the earlymorning sky.
Using gloved hands, I pulled the screen up and looked down. There was no way for a killer to get up here. Unless he was a really good climber. And small. The scraggly ornamental tree outside wouldn’t hold the weight of a fullgrown adult, by my estimation. “I don’t think he or she came in this way.”
“No sign of forced entry downstairs either,” Gabe Wagner, another member of our team (who also happens to be just as goodlooking as JT), said as he strolled into the room. “And look, jewelry sitting in plain sight on her dresser. Nice stuff too.” My body bristled at the sound of his voice. It tensed even more when I realized he was coming toward me. “What do you have there?” He leaned in, close enough for me to smell his cologne and the subtle hint of warm summer air still clinging to his clothes.
Avoiding eye contact, I slid the screen back in place. “Nothing.”
Before you get the wrong idea, let me explain something to you. Gabe and I have a bumpy history. We dated. A long time ago. He dumped me for another girl. We’ve been frenemies since. Actually, we’ve been more like enemies than friends. He even stole my dream job with the BAU. That was just last week. Then he had the nerve to request a transfer a coupleof days later. To the PBAU.
So, of course, I was in full Ihatehim mode at that point.
But then, a few days ago—right after I was rescued from a kidnapper—he confessed he still had feelings for me.
I wasn’t sure what to say or think about that.
Then JT kissed me.
And I didn’t know what to say or think about that either.
It’s all very messed up.
And it’s pretty much all my fault.
At the moment, I just wished it all would go away so we could concentrate on our jobs. Someone had killed this woman. It was up to us to profile who did it and help the police stop him.
“Oh, damn,” JT said.
Thankful for any excuse to get away from Gabe, I headed back toward the bed. As crazy as it sounds, the corpse was the lesser of two evils. “What is it?”
“I think this woman is—was—pregnant.”
“Oh, damn,” I echoed. “Is there any chance . . . ? The baby . . . ?” I couldn’t say the words. They wouldn’t come out.
“Based on the fact that rigor has begun to set in, I’m thinking . . . no.”
The contents of my stomach surged up my throat.
I raced back to the window, shoved open the screen, and hung my head outside.
So much for my pride.
And my lunch.
“‘A single white prince, with a passion for juicy steaks, good beer, and moonlit strolls on the beach, seeking single elf with similar interests for longterm commitment.’”
Katie, my roommate, best friend, and the closest thing to a sister that I’ll ever have, spewed a mouthful of cola all over me. After hacking for about five minutes like a lifelong smoker, she said, “Sheesh. Sorry I spit in your face, but you can’t post that.”
Blinking away the droplets that had landed in my eyes, I scrutinized my personal ad for errors. I didn’t see any, not a typo. Nada. “What’s wrong with it?” I wiped a cheek with my sleeve.
“What isn’t wrong?” Katie kindly went to the kitchen for some paper towels. “It’s clichéd. It’s misleading. Not to mention, you used the word ‘elf.’ You’ll get a bunch of fruitcakes dressed like Santa’s little helpers if you post that.”
I ripped several towels off the roll and dabbed my face. “But I need an elf. That’s the most important part.”
Katie flopped next to me on the couch. She didn’t pick up her glass of cola, thank God. This conversation clearly needed a spew warning. “Regardless, you can’t put that in the ad.”
“How else am I going to find an elf? Elmer needs a bride. And that bride must be at least halfelf, like me. If I can’t find him a willing vict . . . er, wife, he’ll be dragging me down the aisle. Again. Have you looked at him? That face.” I shuddered. “Those creepy eyes—”
Sniffing the air, Katie patted my shoulder. “I know, honey. Scary.”
“Scary doesn’t even come close.” I clicked delete.
So much for that.
This wasn’t going to be easy.
I was no matchmaker. I couldn’t even manage my own pathetic love life—at the moment, I was trying to figure out what to do with not one but two men. And here I was trying to hunt down a bride for the prince of the Sluagh?
If I’d had any choice in the matter, last week I wouldn’t have promised Elmer, my socalled exfiancé, I’d help him. But I was desperate. He’d kidnapped me and was trying to force me to marry him. Besides, I sort of felt bad for the guy. Not only was he freakishly ugly, but he was also miserable. He can’t eat. He can’t drink. Being fond of food myself, I couldn’t survive a single day walking in his shoes. Not to mention, he can only materialize after sunset. Supposedly, all his problems will magically disappear when he marries.
Being a cynic, I wanted to tell him that plenty of people had believed that over the years. Many had learned otherwise.
Staring at the keyboard, I sucked in a deep breath in preparation for a long, drawnout sigh.
“Katie.” I pointed at the thick haze billowing out of the kitchen.
“Oh, shit.” Katie jumped up. “I’m on it.”
Katie is finishing up her master’s in chemistry. I love her dearly. And I generally have no issues with her doing experiments in our kitchen. It would go unused, otherwise. But sometimes it got a little old, living with the constant stench of eau de sewer.
“Shitshitshit,” Katie yelled.