Be Mine Forever – D. K. Hood

Fear gripped Laurie Turner in a rush of panic, and wrapping her coat around her, she hastened her step along Stanton Road. Night dropped like a curtain, plunging her into darkness in the middle of nowhere. A storm rumbled in the distance and the first splashes of rain brushed her cheeks. As thunder rolled across the midnight sky, the forest, so beautiful during the day, had become a threatening menace. Within the intermittent flashes of lightning, shadows moved through the trees like faceless men in long black coats. She dashed on into the night stumbling on the uneven sidewalk. The cut-through to Ravens Way was only a few more yards away. As the ground shook and lightning zigzagged the sky, she glanced over one shoulder at the empty street. Not a soul was out in the storm, not a single vehicle rode the blacktop. But was she alone? Consumed by the creepy second sense that someone was behind her, she turned into the dark alleyway and hustled along. With each step, tree branches reached out with long witch-like fingers to drag her into the murky depths. An unfamiliar noise came close by and she stopped mid-stride to listen but the only sound came from the wind rushing down the alleyway. A gust whipped up the fall leaves and they swirled around her, mixed with twigs and dirt. Ahead, she made out the dim glow of streetlights and hurried on. Panic had her by the throat as footsteps sounded on the gravel.

Was someone behind her, hidden in the dark? Heart pounding, she took off at a run, burst onto the sidewalk, and headed in the direction of her home. She slowed at the corner and glanced behind her once more at the empty road. As she turned back, the headlights of a vehicle blinded her as it rounded the corner and slowed beside her. Nerves at breaking point, she grasped her backpack to use as a weapon and then sighed with relief at the sight of a familiar face. “Wanna ride?” Looking all around, she fumbled with the door handle and then climbed inside. “I’m sure glad to see you. My car wouldn’t start and I dropped my phone so I had to walk.” She fastened her seatbelt and leaned back, closing her eyes. “It’s kinda spooky tonight with the storm and all.” “Uh-huh.

” He turned up a tune on the radio and accelerated at speed. As he flew past her turn, and headed back to Stanton, she swallowed hard. Where was he taking her? Unease crawled up her spine. “I live out of Ravens Way.” “Uh-huh.” His eyes remained fixed on the road. “I saw a deer in the forest a ways back, I wanna go see if it’s dead.” He stopped the vehicle and pointed into the trees. “Over there.” As thunder rolled and rain splattered the windshield, she turned to stare into the dark forest.

“I can’t see anything.” “Surprise.” A singsong voice came from the back seat. The next instant, a band slid around Laurie’s neck and tightened with force, dragging her up and back in the seat. Pinned by the seatbelt and helpless, Laurie grabbed at her throat, and fighting for one precious breath of air, opened her mouth in a silent scream. A wad of cloth hit her tongue and filled her mouth with a rancid taste and then someone dragged her hands away; she couldn’t fight. Heart bursting, pain shot through her head and as her sight moved in and out of focus, she heard a deranged giggle. As the next flash of lightning filled the interior, she stared into the contorted grinning face of pure evil. ONE Sunday “He’s perfect—maybe too perfect.” Sheriff Jenna Alton had been scrolling through the applications for a new deputy and had finally found someone suitable.

“Well, I asked you all to help me find a suitable deputy and out of the six applicants, this one sure looks interesting. Who found Zac Rio?” “I asked him to apply.” Shane Wolfe smiled at her. “I’m glad he did.” Jenna lifted her gaze to her good friend and Black Rock Falls Medical Examiner, Shane Wolfe. “How did you find him?” She eyed her friend across the outdoor table she’d set up for a Sunday cookout with her friends. It was a beautiful fall day and they’d spent a relaxing time enjoying each other’s company. Dr. Shane Wolfe was a man wearing many hats. As handler for Deputy Dave Kane an off the grid special forces sniper, he had contacts that went to the Oval Office.

The proud Texan, who resembled a Viking marauder, was a widower father of three girls. His daughters and his role of medical examiner over three counties in Montana kept him busy. “Well, it was Julie.” Wolfe was referring to his daughter. “She met a couple of new kids at the school who mentioned their brother was a LAPD detective. He’s been working as a teacher’s aide at the high school. Hardly a fitting occupation for a man with his skill set. I checked him out, introduced myself, and asked him if he’d be interested in applying.” Wolfe smiled at her and sipped his beer. “He’d fit in your team just fine and you have that big house with separate accommodation for a housekeeper or nanny sitting empty.

” Jenna peered at the image of the young man, Zac Rio: twenty-five, six-three, dark curly hair and with skills far beyond what she required in a deputy. She shook her head. “I’m not sure. He has a ton of degrees. How did he do all that by twenty-five?” She handed the iPad to Dave Kane, her second in command and close friend. “What do you think, Dave? He sounds too good to be true and he’s overqualified for the job. Why would someone like that want to live in Black Rock Falls?” “The background check on him revealed a few more details.” Kane shrugged. “He’s the genuine article. Maybe he wants to rest his mind.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a memory like his or his IQ. He would have been a child prodigy if someone had recognized his intelligence. He finished a law degree but didn’t sit the bar exam because of problems at home but by that time he had a few other degrees under his belt. He joined the LAPD and made detective but after his parents died in a plane crash, things went downhill fast family wise. So, he decided to care for the sixteen-year-old twins, one of each by the names of Cade, and Piper. They were pretty wild and he needed to get them settled in a different environment.” He scratched his cheek and then met Jenna’s eyes. “A contender for my job, huh? He’s also a sharpshooter.” “Never.” Jenna laughed.

“His hobbies are everything and anything to do with media. He’d be an asset at crime scenes and be able to handle the dreaded media releases.” “That doesn’t explain why he wanted to leave the sunshine and come here. California is a big state, with plenty of room to move around.” Deputy Jake Rowley handed his wife Sandy a plate of food from the grill and dropped into a chair. “The kids were staying with their grandma.” Wolfe leaned back and crossed his legs at the ankles. “Well, step-grandma and they’d never gotten along with her. They started getting into trouble at school.” He frowned.

“It often happens after a tragedy; kids feel lost and take their aggression out on everyone. Zac tried keeping them in the big smoke but it didn’t work out. He figured a complete break and a new start in a backwoods town would straighten them out. He’s been here a month now.” “In Black Rock Falls?” Kane pressed two fingers to his forehead. “Does he know about this town’s reputation?” “He does now.” Wolfe shrugged. “I’ve spoken to him and he’d welcome the challenge. He figures he can keep his siblings safe.” “We’ve had an influx of twins of late.

” Sandy, Rowley’s wife, passed a bowl of salad to her husband. “This will make three sets of new twins in town, all around the same age and all fraternal. Susie Hartwig at Aunt Betty’s mentioned it yesterday.” “Rio sounds interesting.” Suddenly starving, Jenna piled food on her plate. “Do you think he’ll cope? It’s nothing like Los Angeles.” “Yeah, I do. He’ll prefer the slower pace and there’s plenty for him to do around here on his downtime. We have great schools and he can get involved with the local drama society. I hear he writes plays and directs as well.

” Wolfe glanced around as his daughters emerged from Jenna’s ranch house. Surprised, Jenna stared at him. “So, he’s a man of many talents? I like that he has a cultured background.” “Are you saying we’re not cultured?” Kane grinned at her and raised a glass of pinot noir in a toast. “I figure we’re doing okay. Look at Julie, she’s had her artwork displayed in the town hall. Can’t get more cultured than that.” Jenna chuckled. “I didn’t mean to suggest y’all aren’t cultured. Now getting back to discussing a new deputy, I want this to be a team decision, and if you all agree, then we’ll take him.

” “We need the help and he’s solid.” Kane helped himself to a steak and added the trimmings. “And we do have a spare SUV cruiser just sitting in the parking lot.” “It’s a yes, from me.” Rowley grinned. “I’ll be glad to show him around.” “Great. I’ll contact him later.” Jenna looked up as Emily, Wolfe’s eldest and a fine ME in the making, sat down at the table along with sixteen-year-old Julie and Anna, the baby of the family. She looked at the girls.

“Grab some food before it gets cold.” She’d barely finished her meal when the 911 ringtone sounded on her phone. She pushed to her feet and walked away from the table, heading to the house to take notes if necessary. As she climbed the steps, she accepted the call. “911, what is your emergency?” “My daughter is missing.” The man sounded frantic and his voice quivered as he spoke. “She went to cheerleader practice last night and wasn’t in her bed this morning. I figured she’d left early and I’d missed her but she’s not answering her phone.” Jenna walked inside the house and heard footsteps behind her, Kane had followed her and dashed past her to the kitchen, his boots clattering on the wooden floor. As she walked through the door, he had a pen and notebook waiting for her on the table.

She put the phone on speaker. “Okay, I’ll need to take down some details. Who am I speaking to?” “Dr. Bob Turner out of Ravens Way.” His breath was coming fast as if he’d been running. “My daughter is Laurie, Laurie Turner.” Jenna sat down and placed the phone on the table. “Okay Dr. Turner, you’re speaking with Sheriff Alton. I’ll need your full details and Laurie’s.

How old is she?” “Sixteen.” Turner gave his details. “I’ve been calling her friends and nobody has seen her since she left practice at the school gym last night.” The all too familiar shiver of uneasiness slipped down Jenna’s spine and she exchanged a meaningful look with Kane. “Okay, and what time was this?” “Around nine, nine-thirty last night.” Turner heaved a long sigh. “I didn’t notice her missing until this morning. I called her phone and it’s not responding. I went out to hunt her down this morning in case she’d slipped out before I woke. I went to Aunt Betty’s Café and then I checked around town again but I couldn’t find her.

” With her mind running down her list of the necessary procedures in a missing person’s case, Jenna stared into space for a beat. “Does she own a vehicle?” “Yeah, but that’s not here either.” Dr. Turner sounded frantic . “No one has seen it and it’s distinctive, it’s a 1950 Ford pickup, and painted fire-engine-red.” Jenna made notes. “Okay, we can put out a BOLO for the truck. Does she have a boyfriend she might be with?” “Nope, she broke up with a boy by the name of Wyatt Cooper a couple of weeks ago. I called him and he hasn’t spoken with her since.” It had been such a relaxing Sunday.

Jenna stared at Kane and his face was grim. She gave herself a mental shake. “Okay, Dr. Turner. I’m on my way.” She disconnected and pushed the phone into her pocket. “I’ll go grab my jacket and weapon.” Kane hurried from the house. “What’s happened?” Wolfe came into the room loaded up with dirty plates. Jenna explained.

“We’ll head out now. Sorry to ruin the cookout.” “We all had a relaxing afternoon. It was great!” Wolfe smiled at her. “Don’t worry about anything. I’ll explain what’s happened to the others and get these in the dishwasher. I’ll be sure to set the alarm before we leave.” Relieved, Jenna smiled at him. “Thanks, Shane. I’d appreciate it.

” “I’ll tend the horses to save you time when you get home.” Rowley appeared at the kitchen door, carrying plates of food. “Sandy will store the leftovers in the refrigerator.” Grateful for such wonderful friends, Jenna squeezed his arm. “Thanks, Jake.” She rushed to her room to collect her duty belt and sheriff’s department jacket. Giving her friends a wave, she hurried out the door as Kane drove up in his black unmarked truck, affectionately known as the Beast. Climbing inside, she fastened her seatbelt and entered the address into the GPS. A thought came to her. “Just how many glasses of wine have you had, Dave?” “One.

” Kane gave her a long stare. “Have you ever known me to drink more than two glasses of wine, like ever?” Jenna shook her head as they headed out the gate and hit the blacktop. “No, can’t say that I have. Why is that?” “Living in Black Rock Falls is a delight as well as a curse.” Kane flicked her a glance. “I’m never sure what’s going to happen in any given hour, and I like to be clear-headed and ready for anything.”

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