ELAINA MCCORD WANTS TO FIND A KILLER. BUT HE’S ALREADY
Elaina McCord’s dream of being an FBI
profiler is threatened by her very first case—investigating
a string of murders near a Texas beach resort. The victims,
all young women, were drugged and brutally murdered, their
bodies abandoned in desolate marshland. Elaina’s hunch—met
with disbelief by local police—is that these are only the
latest offerings from a serial killer who has been
perfecting his art for years, growing bolder and more
cunning with each strike.
True-crime writer Troy Stockton
has a reputation as an irresistible playboy who gets his
story at any cost. He’s the last person Elaina should trust,
let alone be attracted to. But right now Troy, along with
the elite team of forensics experts known as the Tracers, is
her only ally in a case that’s turning dangerously personal.
A killer is reaching out to Elaina, taunting her, letting
her know how ruthless he is and how close he’s getting. Now
it’s not just her career that’s in jeopardy—it’s her
life. . . .
Stockton’s boat was flat and narrow, and looked nothing
like the other
flat, narrow fishing boats living at the Lito Island
black,” Elaina said, gazing down at it from the dock.
He undid the bow line and whipped it into a neat coil,
which he tossed
on the boat’s floor.
all the other boats are white.” She stepped aboard.
and he caught her arm to steady her.
law against black.” His hand dropped away, and he turned to
switches at the helm. Soon the engine grunted.
like it can go in pretty shallow water.”
inches,” he said with a touch of pride.
looked around for a good place to stand. There weren’t many
so she rested a hand on the captain’s chair as they eased
of the slip.
on.” He shifted gears, and then they were gliding in the
moving out of the sheltering cove the marina shared with
dock. Elaina glanced over her shoulder and watched the pier
She was going out on a boat with a man she barely knew,
her boss or anyone else know what she was doing. Not
patted her back pocket, where she’d tucked her cell phone.
had waited out on the patio at her hotel, she’d showered
into the jeans and T-shirt she kept stashed in her gym bag.
was strapped to her ankle, just above her Nike. She had her
if Troy tried anything funny, he was going in the bay.
shifted, putting some distance between them. She couldn’t
why he made her uneasy, but he did. It made no sense,
because she spent
every day surrounded by macho types—guys trained in
hand-to-hand combat, and mind games. As a border town,
more than its fair share of gun-loving lawmen. Since day
one, many of
the Bureau, DEA, and Homeland Security guys had attempted
her either physically or by getting in her head, and she’d
to blow them off.
Troy was harder to ignore.
stood between the helm and the captain’s chair, and she
him, trying not to cling too tightly and reveal her fear of
out of the boat. She glanced over and noticed his ropey
powerful-looking calves. He was some sort of athlete,
she tried to guess the sport.
get seasick?” Troy asked.
look uncomfortable.” But he wasn’t even looking at her.
were the exact green color of the bay—were trained on the
horizon. He wore cargo shorts today and Teva sandals. His
contrasted with his sun-browned skin, and she envisioned
him on a surfboard.
was she even thinking about this? She needed to focus on
the case, not
Troy Stockton. The man had a reputation. It was coming back
to her in
bits and pieces. She didn’t usually read celebrity mags,
but she had
a vague recollection of the People she’d flipped
her dentist’s office. Troy had been photographed with some
starlet. That girl from Corpus Christi. What the hell was
was some profile you came up with.”
cut a glance at Troy and saw the smile playing at the
corner of his
mouth. She bristled.
do you mean?”
male. Likes hunting and fishing. Owns a boat. Sounds like
half the men
on this island, including me.” He stared down at her,
“Except for the getting-it-up part.”
felt a blush creep up her neck. “Look, Troy—”
we are.” The boat slowed abruptly as he pulled the throttle
she stumbled into him. “She was found just over there,” he
looked in the direction he was pointing, but saw nothing
more grass and water.
do you know?”
tapped his control panel, and she noticed the GPS. “I got
got the coordinates. From the police, no doubt, who clearly
information with members of the public, but leaving her
got a good set of prints from the victim yesterday night.”
veered close to the shoreline, and the water was so
could see grass on the bottom. “They’ll run the thumbs
hopefully get a positive ID soon.”
thought of Valerie Monroe, who’d graduated third in her
class at Baylor
med school and recently had been accepted as an intern at
Hospital. She wondered what Valerie’s parents were doing at
although she figured she knew. Most likely they were either
to Lito Island or camped out at the police station, waiting
veered left into a narrow inlet.
want to see it, don’t you?”
but…” she watched him deftly steer the boat through the
The water wasn’t even a foot deep, and she saw ripples in
as they skimmed along the surface. “What if we run
smiled. “You get out and push.”
they didn’t run aground. He tipped up the engine and slowed
using just enough speed to maintain control over the
steering as they
maneuvered this way and that through all the channels. She
doubt that he really knew where he was going. Maybe he was
to some generic patch of marsh.
spotted something yellow tangled in the reeds. “Look
She pointed at it.
shit.” He let the motor stall and then jumped out of the
waded over to take a look. “I’ll be damned.”
boat drifted into the grass, and bumped against the
gazed down at the thin yellow twine, but didn’t touch
must not have seen this,” he muttered. “Or maybe they came
looked up. “The crime seen guys. Breck, Maynard, Chavez.
have collected all this. It’s evidence.”
trudged back to the boat and shoved it into the center of
your unsub.” He climbed aboard and got them moving
marsh, it’s like a maze. I grew up all over this bay, and I
half the time. Looks like the killer used twine to mark the
he could find his way out after dumping the body.”
stared at the twine, struck by the idea.
how do we know it came from him?” she asked. “Maybe Breck
do you know?”
Troy gave her a hard look. “They found it in Gina’s case
leaves it every time.”
continued to look queasy, so Troy hugged the coast as he
in. He felt her behind him as she gripped the chair and
off into the distance.
hadn’t liked him poking holes in her profile, but that was
bad. Sure, the profile sounded good in theory, but given
around here, it didn’t narrow things down a whole lot. Troy
cared much for mind hunters. Most of them stayed holed up
in their basement
at headquarters and rattled off psychobabble while the real
up their sleeves and worked the cases. If criminal
profiling was Elaina’s
thing, she was going to have an uphill battle getting
here to buy into it. Profiling and fortune-telling were
as far as Chief Breck was concerned.
she’d figure that out soon enough.
glanced back at Elaina and saw that she still had that
Her nose was pink, too, and she’d forgotten sunscreen. She
from around here, evidently, but he didn’t know her
needed to do some digging and find out just how green a
squinted at something up ahead, and he followed her gaze.
he said. But as they neared the marina, it became clear
gone down during their little sight-seeing cruise. Cars and
filled the LIPD parking lot.
holding a press conference,” Troy guessed, turning into the
They glided past the police station, and Elaina turned to
gape at the
pulled into his slip without touching the dock. He hopped
out and tied
the bow line to a cleat, then held out a hand for
barely glanced at it as she stepped onto the pier without
hope your police chief knows what he’s doing,” she
said. “If he
releases too much detail, he’ll compromise the
one thing you don’t have to worry about. The man hates
he talks to you?”
walked across the pier and surveyed the situation. Breck
to the media—or more likely, dodging their questions—from
house steps. Cinco stood on the sidelines. Troy caught his
the deputy joined them on the lawn beside the marina.
glanced at Elaina. Then he eyed Troy’s muddy sandals and
put it together where they’d been.
news and bad news,” Cinco said. “We got an ID. Girl’s name
felt Elaina go rigid beside him.
about Valerie?” she asked.
the bad news,” Cinco told her. “Valerie Monroe is still
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