He eased off the gas. Dillard was a short distance ahead. He’d texted Lacey as he was leaving the hospital, saying he was on his way.
He started to brake, then creased his brow. A blue Sonic sat at the end of Dillard, ready to turn onto Valley River. It couldn’t be Lacey. She’d never venture out alone in the dark.
The car turned right, moving down Valley River in front of him. Two people sat inside. Definitely not Lacey. If she’d planned to go somewhere with someone, she would have mentioned it. Except…
He squinted at the bumper sticker on the back of the car. Lacey had one that read “When all else fails, hug the cat.” He couldn’t read the words on the one in front of him, but the location was the same. His chest tightened.
He followed, pulling out his phone. After four rings, Lacey’s voice mail came on. A hole opened up inside him, soon filling with dread. Why didn’t she answer?
He held back, careful to not raise suspicion, and dialed 911. The Sonic crossed the bridge spanning the river. When it made a right turn, Jason slowed even more.
The road led to Konehete Park, which closed at dusk. Why would she go there?
He crept across the bridge, keeping the car in view while relaying his concerns to the dispatcher. The siren he’d heard had gotten louder, then faded.
The brake lights came on, and the vehicle turned into a parking area opposite one of the baseball fields.
Jason hurried ahead. Instead of following, he pulled off behind the park entrance sign and retrieved his weapon from the glove box. As he ran their direction, the curve of the road hid him from view.
The park was silent and dark, the nearest streetlight 150 feet away. If not for the half-moon casting its muted glow, it would be pitch-black.
His eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness. Some distance ahead, the couple crossed the street. Jason stopped to stand motionless against a tree.
He spoke into his phone in a whisper. “They’re taking the path to the river walk.”
After disconnecting the call, he trailed behind them, using the trees and greenery to shield him. The couple walked side by side, the man gripping the woman’s arm.
Ivan and Lacey.
About fifty feet ahead of him, they stopped next to a replica of a waterwheel. Ivan stepped in front of her and spun, halting her forward movement.
Jason froze, straining to see through the darkness. Ivan was facing him, Lacey between them. If things turned ugly, he’d never be able to shoot the man without hitting Lacey.
He crept closer, crouching low behind bushes. Ivan’s words reached him against the backdrop of another distant siren. “I thought for sure the fire would take you out. Fifteen minutes that place burned.”
“Let me go, Ivan. You’ll never get away with this.”
Did he have a weapon? If so, Lacey’s body blocked it from view.
“I’d rather die in prison than live with the knowledge you’re with someone else.”
“There isn’t anyone else.”
“Don’t lie to me, Lacey. You’ve never been good at deceit. I’ve seen you with him.”
“You’ve seen me with Jason. He’s a friend, taking care of his mother who’s going through chemo. He means nothing to me.”
Jason winced, pain shooting through him. Even Ivan agreed Lacey wasn’t a good liar, which meant she spoke the truth or was a better actress than everyone thought.
“Do you know what’s significant about this spot?” Ivan’s words held an ominous note.
Silence hung in the air until Ivan continued.
“This is where you broke up with me.”
Jason’s heart pounded. The sirens were growing louder, but help was still too far away. The ugly thing he’d feared was about to happen. He rose and raised his weapon.
Lacey, move over. She was hindering a clear shot. He was only thirty feet away, but the darkness created another obstacle.
“My heart stopped beating here.” Ivan’s tone was flat. “Now yours will, too.”
Jason released a shout, and Lacey dived into the grass. He squeezed the trigger. A second shot rang out almost simultaneously, and searing pain shot through his left shoulder.
Ivan dropped to his knees and fired another round, which went wild. Nearby, Lacey scrambled away. Ivan swung his weapon toward her. He was too close to miss.
Jason’s heart leaped into his throat, and he swallowed his panic. He was a cop. This was what he was trained to do. God, please give me perfect aim.
He fired, and Ivan collapsed.
Lacey ran to Jason with a sob. His shoulder was on fire. But it didn’t matter. He wrapped his arms around her and squeezed.
A police cruiser stopped, and two officers jumped out and hurried in their direction. And still he held her.
If he had a choice, he’d never let her go.
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