Hostile Intent (Danger Never Sleeps #4) - Lynette Eason
BEGINNING OF APRIL
Today, the watching ended and the killing started. Anticipation arced through him. The man in the ski mask turned his gaze from the front door of the luxury home to the end of the street. For ten days, he’d hidden and observed—and learned—the routine of the household and even the neighborhood.
Right on time, the mail truck turned onto the street and began its stop, deliver, go. Stop, deliver, go.
As soon as the vehicle moved on to the house next door, the man’s gaze swung back to the front door once more. And there she was. In her midsixties, the woman of the house took care of herself. She ate healthy with the occasional sweet indulgence, used her gym membership daily, and jogged two miles every morning. On Wednesdays, she volunteered at the local elementary school.
He could have snatched her off the street during one of her runs, but he couldn’t take the chance that a doorbell camera would catch him. No, this was better. They had an alarm system, but no cameras.
She slipped out onto the porch, down the walkway, and to the mailbox. She’d done the same thing every day at approximately the same time. Other than the Wednesday break in routine, it was like she had nothing else to do but work out, jog, and wait for the mail. What a sad, sorry life. But that wasn’t his problem.
On the wraparound porch, the planter with the seven-foot piece of lush greenery to the left side of the door hid him well. Adrenaline sent his heart thudding, and his right hand curled around the grip of his weapon. He’d had fifteen years of preparation and training, research and planning. The time was now and he was ready.
She was on the first step, then the second, then walking to the door.
As she twisted the knob, he stepped from behind the tree and clapped a gloved hand over her mouth. A muted scream slipped from her, and he brought the weapon up to the base of her skull. Whimpers escaped through his fingers. She shook so hard, he thought he might lose his grip. He shoved her through the door and kicked it closed behind him.
“Where’s your husband?” He kept his voice low.
A sob ripped from her throat and harsh breaths gushed from her nose. He released his grip to hear her say, “He’s not here.”
“He is, because I know you’re supposed to be leaving in an hour for your holiday in Turks and Caicos. The suitcases next to the door tell me he’s getting ready to load the car. So, if you want to live to enjoy your trip, you’ll get him in here.”
“Darling?” The voice came from the balcony overlooking the foyer. “I’m almost ready. Was there any mail? I’m expecting—” He stopped, gasped. His hands gripped the railing and his gaze met the man’s. “What do you want?”
A smile curved beneath his mask. “Hello, Maksim. Come on down.”
“Don’t hurt her.” The husky baritone held fear—and . . . something else . . . resignation?
“Well, now, that depends on you, doesn’t it?”
“I’m coming.” The man hurried down the winding staircase, stopping at the bottom. “Please. Let her go. I’ll do whatever you want. Do you need money? I have ten grand in the safe.”
Money? He almost snorted. Money was the last thing he needed. He kept the weapon on the woman’s head. “Turn slowly,” he told her without taking his eyes from her husband, “and reach into my left-hand pocket. Pull out the object.” She didn’t move and he narrowed his gaze on the man at the bottom of the steps. “You might want to convince her to do as I ask.”
“Darling, do as he says, and it will be all right.”
The woman whimpered and turned, her eyes downcast. She reached for his right pocket.
“My left,” he snapped.
She jerked her hand away and then slid it into the left pocket of his blazer. “Good. Pull out the photo.”
With shaking fingers, she did so.
He nodded to the husband. “Come get it.”
The man’s brows dipped farther over the bridge of his nose, but he did as ordered without having to be told twice. When he held the picture between his thumb and forefinger, he looked at it—and swayed. “I see.”
“I’m sure you’re starting to.”
“Max? Make him let me go.” The woman mewled and the intruder tightened his grip.
“Who are you?” Maksim whispered.
“I think you know that answer.”
What little color the man had in his face drained away as his