After the devastating loss of her husband in Iraq, Morgan Dane returns to Scarlet Falls, seeking the comfort of her hometown. Now, surrounded by family, she’s finally found peace and a promising career opportunity—until her babysitter is killed and her neighbor asks her to defend his son, Nick, who stands accused of the murder.
Tessa was the ultimate girl next door, and the community is outraged by her death. But Morgan has known Nick for years and can’t believe he’s guilty, despite the damning evidence stacked against him. She asks her friend Lance Kruger, an ex-cop turned private eye, for help. Taking on the town, the police, and a zealous DA, Morgan and Lance plunge into the investigation, determined to find the real killer. But as they uncover secrets that rock the community, they become targets for the madman hiding in plain sight.
Tessa had been afraid of it most of her life. For as long as she could remember, she’d gone to bed dreading nightfall, looking under the bed, double-checking her nightlight.
As if a lightbulb the size of a lit match could possibly banish her nightmares.
But tonight, she prayed for the blackest of nights. For the moon to stay hidden behind the shifting clouds. For the shadows to make her invisible.
The darkness had changed sides. Head spinning, lungs screaming, she ran into its embrace. What had once been her greatest fear could now be her savior. Her miracle.
That’s what it was going to take to keep her alive until the sun rose.
“Tesssssa.” The voice floated over the forest. “You can’t get away.”
Where is he?
Evergreen boughs grabbed at her arms and scratched her face as she plunged through the forest like a panicked deer. Her heart beat with the frantic staccato of a prey animal. She slowed, her body protesting the abuse of little-used muscles. She passed the scorched carcass of a burned tree. Its blackened branches pointed upward like a charred hand reaching for the sky. She ducked behind the shelter of a towering oak. Bark scraped her back as she pressed against the trunk and listened.
Where did he go?
A mosquito buzzed around her face. To her right, she could hear the sounds of the forest that surrounded Scarlet Lake. The stillness of the night sharpened her senses. Frogs croaked. Crickets chirped. An animal, small and light, scurried through the underbrush nearby. The air was thick with the scents of pine, lake water, and fear.
Not for the first time, she wished she could shrink and disappear into a rabbit hole.
Hoot! An owl landed on an overhead branch.
Tessa startled, a gasp slipping from her lips. She covered her open mouth with a hand. Liquid dripped over her fingers, and when she lowered her hand, it came away wet with tears—and blood. She touched the corner of her mouth, where his fist had split her lip. Other parts of her face and body ached from what he’d done in the clearing before she’d managed to land a kick to his groin.
Then he’d dropped her, and she’d run. Blindly.
The owl took flight, slow flaps of its wings sending it soaring through a break in the canopy. The clouds parted, and moonlight shone through the opening. For a few seconds, the raptor was silhouetted against the inky sky. And then it was gone.
Sliding down the tree trunk, she sat on her heels and huddled.
Despite the coolness of the September night, her lungs burned as if she’d inhaled gas and swallowed a flame. She panted; the sound echoed in her ears and seemed loud enough to carry a mile through the trees.
He was going to hear. She was out of shape, and her mad sprint had taxed her lungs. She hadn’t gotten far. He had to be close.
The drumming of her heartbeat muffled his voice. She couldn’t tell which direction it was coming from.
She pressed her lips together, but her lungs demanded more air. Red rimmed her vision as dizziness enveloped her. Opening her mouth, she kept her breaths shallow, hoping, praying her ragged gasps weren’t as loud as they sounded echoing in her own ears.
Maybe he’d gone in the other direction.
Her breathing eased. Her legs began to tremble from the cramped position. She’d partied in the clearing countless times. But everything looked the same in the dark.
She’d lost track of her location. She glanced around the trunk. Twenty feet ahead, moonlight cast a trail in silvery shadows. Was that the path that led to the main road? Beyond the narrow break in the foliage, the trees closed in, and darkness smothered the forest.
Sweat ran down her spine and pooled at her lower back, soaking the waistband of her jeans. She squinted. What choice did she have? She couldn’t stay here long.
He’d catch up with her.
He’d kill her.
But in order to run, she’d have to come out from behind the tree.
Where is he?
No matter. She had to keep moving. If he hadn’t caught her yet, he soon would. There was no way he’d let her go now. Why had she trusted him? Because he’d said he loved her?
He wasn’t capable of love. She’d known it in her head, but her heart had wanted to believe.
And now the truth would kill her.
At the beginning of the evening, she’d considered walking into the cold lake and putting an end to her misery. But now that death was breathing down her neck, terror had taken over. Her survival instinct overrode any fears about her future.
I don’t want to die.
About the Author
Melinda Leigh abandoned her career in banking to raise her kids and never looked back. She started writing as a hobby and became addicted to creating characters and stories. Since then, she has won numerous writing awards for her paranormal romance and romantic-suspense fiction. Her debut novel, She Can Run, was a number one bestseller in Kindle Romantic Suspense, a 2011 Best Book Finalist (The Romance Reviews), and a nominee for the 2012 International Thriller Award for Best First Book. She is the author of the Midnight Novels, including Midnight Exposure (a finalist for the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense) and Midnight Sacrifice.