…but being left alone with Tex McCoy, the murderer, she found
it difficult to summon her characteristic stubbornness. She glanced up at him
and saw him gazing out the window. With him filling it, her normally
decent-sized kitchen suddenly appeared small. It seemed to shrink even more
when his eyes slithered from the window to her—so much so that it seemed to become devoid of oxygen, and her breath caught in her throat. He took a step
toward her. At that point, her breathing seized altogether. His hand came out,
nearing her face. Or was he going for her throat? She panicked and gasped for
air as if his hands were already around her neck and squeezing. Was he going to…strangle her? She slapped his hand away. “Don’t you dare touch me!”
He shoved his hand into the pocket of his jeans. His eyes,
if at all possible, became darker, almost black, but his expression remained
impassive. “You have dirt on your face,” he said flatly and remotely, as if
he’d expected her impulsive reaction.
“Oh.” Her hand went to her cheek, the one he had planned to
innocently wipe off for her. She rubbed it, wondering if she’d overacted. What
was she going to do when he freely walked around her house, took a shower in
her bathroom, or slept in the bedroom below hers? Was she going to jump with
every step he took? Was she going to lay awake all night? And the shower—her
shower. Rainey decided thinking about Tex McCoy naked in the shower wasn’t a
good idea. He was a killer. But he already served his time, right? Was
he…reformed? Wait, was she really trying to rationalize here? It was
manslaughter, not murder, right? And he did claim self-defense. Right. Then
why’d he brutally stab Curtis Watson multiple times?
The questions swarming through Rainey’s head were
undoubtedly the same questions the jury had asked. Their answer to that
question had earned Tex the maximum sentence of fifteen years. The unanswered
question that remained was why Tex McCoy and Curtis Watson, a hired hand who’d
worked at the McCoy ranch three years prior to the murder, had gotten into a
brawl outside of the bar in the first place, the scuffle that eventually led to
For the sake of her son, Rainey had to believe Tex was
reformed. She had to trust he had no other choice and that he had a damn good
reason for killing Curtis Watson.
“Uh, I’ll show you to your room,” she said, diverting her
eyes from his so she could start down the hallway. She couldn’t hear him behind
her. She glanced over her shoulder. He was right there, near and looming, with
all the prowess and silent pursuit of some sly, predatory panther. Her heart
slammed into her chest wall. She straightened her back, valiantly suffering
through another panic attack. When she reached the spare bedroom, she opened
the door and walked in. “This used to be my grandmother’s room. Nobody’s stayed
in here since she died, but it has a queen-sized bed, an empty dresser…” She
stopped and turned, practically bumping into him. Swallowing her insistent
fear, she took a step back. “You do have clothes, don’t you? I, um…well, I
don’t see any luggage or a duffle bag.”
“Yeah, I have clothes,” he said and moved forward,
recapturing the distance she’d intentionally placed between them. “My things
will be dropped off later.”
“Oh,” she breathed, backpedaling until she hit the wall. “Good.” Her body went still. He was standing just inches from her. He wasn’t
touching her, but she felt pinned against the wall just the same.
He lifted his hands and placed them alongside her head,
resting them on the wall. Now, she was literally pinned. His eyes drifted to
her mouth, and every nerve trembled from the inside out. She wanted to run. Her
breathing seized, and her heart had stopped midbeat. Fear was winning.
He leaned forward, and his dark lashes lifted until his eyes
met hers. “You look scared,” he said, in a voice so low, ominous, and deep that
it shook her insides.
She stood there, speechless.Ever so slightly, like his menacing approach, his lip curled up.
That’s good,” he said, swaying dangerously closer. “You should be, Rainey
Ann.” His eyes ran over her face. “In fact, you’d better take that fear and
hold it real close.”
His hand came from the wall, dark lashes lowering once more.
He gazed at her lips. They were quivering, but at that moment, Rainey couldn’t
have cared less if he saw it. She was terrified. Warm fingers scraped her
shoulder, slithered up her nape, and gripped around her neck. His fingers
indented her skin, and being strangled came back to mind.
“Or,” he said, tilting in toward her ear, their bodies
bordering lethal contact, “you could give in to that fear right now and