SINISTER (HAZE Book 1)
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When she met his gaze in the reflective glass, he looked away quickly, but only for an instant. Then he was back again, his eyes intent. He smiled slightly, lifted his glass and took a big swallow from his beer. She did, too. It wasn't really flirting, just an unspoken "hi" to a fellow patron of the good old Buffalo Lounge.
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Along with his Stetson, he was wearing a heavy jacket and jeans, which seemed to be the uniform of all the male patrons around these parts. Don't do it, Amber. Don't toy with a man you don't know. Think of Robert, and for God's sake, be careful. So he's hot. So what? Be smart. For once in your life, don't do something just for the hell of it, for the adventure.
You know it's never worth it. She exchanged a few more glances as she delved into her second drink. A few minutes later, she caught his eyes on her again. He touched the tip of his hat, then left a few bills on the bar and slid off his stool. With one last look, direct this time, not through the glass, he nodded, as if acknowledging their silent conversation, then headed toward the back of the building, either to hit the bathrooms or take the rear exit. A part of her felt ridiculously disappointed as she watched him disappear into a darkened hallway.
Maybe she was being stupid. The Irish whiskey had muddled her brain a bit and the best thing she could do was get over it. After all, she was unofficially engaged no ring, mind you to Robert, and when he returned to Sacramento she was going to have it out with him. Either there was a sizeable diamond under the tree this year or he was getting a big kick in the backside on New Year's Day. Cigarettes weren't the only thing she'd be giving up for her New Year's resolution. She was swearing off loser men who couldn't commit.
Leaving half of her overcooked chicken strips in the basket with a few fries, she accepted a third drink from the bartender. She nursed it, along with a glass of water, for another half hour. By the time she paid her bill, Amber's head was a little fuzzy.
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Maybe she wasn't in the best shape for driving Even though the roads were pretty much empty at this time of night, she knew she couldn't make it to Sacramento. Even Salt Lake City would be a stretch. Elbow on the bar, she rested her head on her fist, sorting her weary thoughts. Gathering her purse and zipping her jacket, she decided she'd just drive a little farther down the road and stop at the first motel she came to.
She could flop for the night. In the morning, she would set out fresh and make it all the way to Sacramento. Clouds covered the moon and snow was still falling, drifting against the buildings. Shivering, she made her way to her Honda, then stopped short. Her front end was listing badly. The tire she'd hit on the pothole earlier had totally deflated.
She didn't have Triple A, and though her father had taught her how to change a tire back when she'd learned to drive, she wasn't sure that her spare was functional or if she had a jack or whatever the hell it was she needed to change the flat. She could go inside, ask for help, or take a cab to Whether she liked it or not, she'd have to depend on the kindness of strangers.
The bitter wind that roared through the valley cut through her coat and stung her eyes. No one would last out here for long. It's bad. See here? Though she really didn't need to lean down to see the damage, she did it just to appease him. Wasn't it funny how some things just worked out? That the tall cowboy from the bar would turn out to be her savior, her Good Samaritan—maybe a friend and a lover if things developed right.
You couldn't fight destiny. Her mind raced through all the horrible stories she'd heard about rapes and abductions. Oh, no! Not her. She had to stop him.
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Someone had to stop him She struggled in his arms, kicking against his legs, but he was unflinching. A tall pillar of a man. Oh, Jesus. Talk some sense into him. Stand tough! Wasn't that how you were supposed to deal with a potential rapist? Her gaze combed the parking lot and the building, willing the door to open and someone to rush to her rescue. She felt him shift, one of his hands lifting, and she used that moment to kick and writhe and try to beat him off.
She bit hard on the glove, tasting dust and dirt and old suede.
She threw her weight against him, and his rumbling laugh, deep and throaty, convinced her that her struggles were useless. In the slight pause she saw the knife in his free hand. The long, sharp blade glinting in the weak glow of a security lamp. Oh, dear God This time, when she tried to jerk away, he lifted her off her feet and dragged her, wiggling and twisting, to a dank patch of snow behind the Dumpster.
No one from the bar would see them back here. No one! It was her last clear thought before her head hit the frozen ground, sending an explosion crackling through her vision.
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Pain and fear shot into her system, but through the misery something called to her. Her head ached and her bones felt heavy as she tried to pull herself onto her feet. Confused, she thought she might get away In the weak light, she could only make out the glint in his eyes. A sickening glimmer of pure evil that chilled her very soul.
Then he lifted the knife again. And in that last fragile instant, while snowflakes fell around her and the faint hum of music from inside the bar reached her ears, Amber Barstow realized she would never make it home to California. Standing outside the entrance to the cave, the killer watched snow fall on the valley below. From up here, through the haze of white, it was possible to see the river, a dark snake winding toward the smattering of lights, hundreds of bulbs illuminating the snow-blanketed streets of Prairie Creek, Wyoming.
He wiped the blood from the blade of his knife on his worn jeans and thought about what the future would bring. As he cleaned the sharp steel, a ghost of a smile crawled across his lips and the pleasant hiss of anticipation buzzed in his ears. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc.
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