Coming 1/28/21

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Fatal Truth series:

Saving Mercy

Capturing Fate


What People Are Saying About Abbie Roads:
“A dark and intense romance that pulls no punches and offers plenty of mind-bending twists.”—RT Book Reviews for Hunt the Dawn

“A haunting story about love, redemption, overcoming the past, and acceptance.”—Harlequin Junkie for Saving Mercy

“Roads blends high-action romantic suspense with the paranormal to tell a love story.” —Booklist for Race the Darkness

Chapter 1

~Two Years Ago~

Mid-May, Ohio

Dolan Watts had volunteered for shitty undercover gigs his entire career with the FBI. He never would’ve thought being a corrections officer in a maximum-security prison would be the worst one.

From his perch five stories above Petesville Supermax in Guard Tower B, he had an unobstructed view of Ohio’s countryside. Green trees separated freshly planted fields of soybeans and corn. The quiet loneliness of the farmland appealed to his solitary nature. He’d rather watch the crops grow than stare down at Petesville. The building was an infection in the middle of the verdant fields.

Petesville was a squat, ugly building, the kind of place that looked devoid of goodness and mercy. After six months of being undercover with the long hours and low pay, Dolan knew that to be the truth. The building and its layers of razor-wire fence were flimsy barriers against the monsters caged inside.

Sweat slid down the channel of his spine, collecting at the top of his standard-issue utility belt. The uniform was old-school polyester and hotter than a hair suit on a hundred-degree day. Without letting go of his loaded rifle, Dolan raised his arm and wiped the sweat off his face with his sleeve.

“It’s gonna be another long, miserable day.” As soon as he spoke, he knew he shouldn’t have said a word. Talking to Snake only encouraged the creature to talk back, and that led to conversations, and conversations led to Dolan believing that Snake was real like he had when he’d been too little to know better.

As an adult, Dolan balanced on the line between sanity and psychopathy with his imaginary friend. He tried—unsuccessfully—to ignore Snake, hoping one day, he would get lucky and the creature would go away. Luck had never been his friend. And if he was being honest, he really didn’t want Snake to go away. It had been him and Snake against the world since he was a little boy.

There are so many interesting cases you could be working on right now if only you’d learn how to get along. That racketeering case in southern Ohio. That recent string of men missing in Columbus. Snake spoke inside Dolan’s head, but the creature wasn’t chastising him, not really. Okay, maybe a little.

Dolan kept hold of his rifle with one hand and settled the other over Snake’s small body where it rested on his left shoulder near his neck. Underneath his fingers, his could feel the reptile’s dry scales and delicate features. He looked down at his hand holding thin air. All his life, he’d never been able to see Snake, but he could always feel him and hear him.

“I know, but this is Killion. Adam fucking Killion. If I crack this one, my future is golden. I’ll land any gig I want.”

Any gig where you can work alone. Sarcasm born of affection dominated Snake’s tone.

Dolan took his hand off Snake. The creature was right. Dolan didn’t like people. Growing up in foster care where people were paid to pretend to care hadn’t instilled much faith in humanity. He trusted himself and—as crazy as it sounded—Snake.

Five stories below, the door to the prison opened, and three men walked out. Dolan gripped the rifle with both hands. His eyesight was beyond exceptional. Where the COs in the other towers had to use binoculars, all Dolan had to do was focus, and he could see everything clearly.

He could make out each man in detail. One was a corrections officer Dolan didn’t recognize. One was the prissy prison psychiatrist. The last man—the inmate—Adam Killion.

It was like the beginning of a bad joke—a corrections officer, a psychiatrist, and a prisoner walked into the yard.

“What the hell is he doing outside his cell?” he half yelled at Snake, as if the creature would have an answer.

Killion was walking in the fresh air and sunshine. Well, not exactly walking, since his ankles were shackled, forcing him into a slow shuffle step. He wore the typical navy-blue prison-issue jumpsuit that on him looked tailor-made—nipped and tucked in all the right places. As he moved, he closed his eyes and held his face to the sun, but even that innocuous gesture looked malevolent coming from him. He was an apex predator outside his cage, tethered on a flimsy leash. Any moment, he could snap and slaughter everyone.

Dr. Edward Payne, the psychiatrist, walked close beside Killion. Too close. He looked at Killion as the man spoke, and there was something about that, something about his rapt attention upon Killion, something…

Too familiar, Snake supplied.

“Exactly.” Dolan kept his gaze locked on the men.

I think you found your leak.

Ever since Adam Killion’s arrest fifteen years ago, his disciples had started clubs and organizations all over the country in his name. They worshipped Killion like he was their lord and savior. They were drawn to his good looks, his charisma, and most of all his lack of conscience. To those groups, the absence of a conscience was considered the ultimate survival skill, an indication of a superior being that would one day rule the world. Survival of the fittest at its foulest.

The FBI had been monitoring all the groups, but still hundreds of copycat murders had taken place and they’d taken copycatting to a whole new level. Too many of the murders were identical to Killion’s, which meant Killion was talking to someone, but no one had been able to figure out how. Until now, when the answer was strolling across the yard in his three-piece suit that looked more fitting for a Wall Street tycoon than a prison doctor. A prison doctor who had unlimited, unmonitored, access to Adam Killion.

“Gotcha, fucker,” Dolan whispered to the psychiatrist. He reached for his contraband cell phone to call his supervisor, SSA Coleman, but then it dawned on him that the men were heading straight toward the staff gate at the back of the prison, which led to the creepy old administration building. A building that no inmate should ever enter. It wasn’t part of the prison. It wasn’t secure.

The admin building might look like a horror show reject, but it was used solely for all the organizational duties that were more easily conducted outside a maximum-security facility.

“There’s no way they can be taking him outside the prison. There should be more than one CO. There should be a convoy. There should’ve been days of planning, practice and preparation.”

He grabbed his radio and hit the call button. Nothing happened. No beep. No static. He pressed it again. Nothing. After he banged it against his leg, he tried again, but the thing was deader than a corpse when it should’ve been fully charged. Suspicion licked his neck with its sharp tongue.

He picked up the receiver to the ancient corded phone hanging on the wall and punched in the prison’s lockdown code. Nothing.

He punched the panic device on his belt. Nothing.

He lay down on the floor. All the COs wore the device because it was also supposed to be triggered if a guard went down. But as he lay there waiting to hear the sirens, he knew nothing was going to happen.

For the first time in his life, he was glad for his contraband cell phone. Without even getting up, he pulled it out of his pocket and tapped the screen, but the device was frozen on the lock screen and wouldn’t fucking open no matter how many times he jammed his thumb against the fingerprint reader. “Fucking piece of shit.”

He jumped to his feet and beat the glass of the tower with his fist, hoping to get someone’s attention.

“Stop him! Don’t let him out!” He yelled the words so loud, his voice cracked and his throat stung. No one down there heard him.

The men walked up to the staff gate as if it were completely normal for one of the world’s most dangerous serial killers to be only a few feet from freedom. “Why haven’t the COs down there started the lockdown protocol? Why aren’t the sirens blaring?”

A lot of people are in on this. Snake confirmed what Dolan knew in his gut.

The first set of gates shuddered and began to roll open.

“No.” A blade of fear speared Dolan’s chest. Not for himself. No. He was terrified of the guilt he’d feel when Killion started killing again. That would be his fault. That he—an undercover FBI agent—stood there watching with his thumb jammed up his ass as Adam Killion strolled out of prison. Un-fucking-forgivable

Dolan ran toward the tower stairs. He didn’t remember going down the flights, he was just suddenly at the bottom, bursting out onto the grounds, sprinting with his rifle to the staff gate.

When he got within hearing range, he started shouting, “Open the gate! Open the goddamned gate!” The COs stared at him like he’d grown a nipple in the middle of his forehead. They didn’t move.

Dolan ran up. “You just let Adam Killion outside. Outside. On free ground. What were you thinking? Open the goddamned gates. Now!”

CO Blanton looked at him and blinked like he was completely innocent, while CO Havers perfected a look of ignorance. Neither of them moved.

Dolan pulled his rifle up to his shoulder and aimed the weapon at them. “My name isn’t Owen Jenkins. It’s Dolan Watts. I’m undercover FBI.” He rattled off his badge number, but he might as well have been speaking Dothraki for all the effect it had. “If you don’t open the gates right now, I will. After I’ve put a hole the size of a frisbee through you both.”

CO Blanton slowly reached for the button that would initiate the opening procedure. As soon as the gate began to shudder and move, Dolan took off, but not before CO Havers reach for his radio to make a call. He’d deal with those two later. The priority was to find and immobilize Killion.

Dolan sprinted across the short spans of grass and up onto the back porch of the administration building.

Call for backup. This isn’t safe. Snake’s voice took on a hurried pace. Dolan put one hand on Snake to calm him, but Snake continued. You could be walking into a trap, Snake spoke with same authority as SSA Coleman. Dolan treated Snake’s words the same as he did Coleman’s. He ignored them.

Slowly, quietly, Dolan opened the back door of the admin building and entered.

After six months of clocking in and clocking out and attending mandatory meetings, he was more than a little familiar with the place. Today was Sunday, the only day the regular staff had off.

Isn’t that a bit too convenient?

Dolan nodded in response to Snake’s words. He stood in the old-fashioned kitchen, the sharp tang of stale coffee in the air. He tiptoed across the space and peered out into the grand hallway that ran down the center of the old house.

Twenty feet in front of him, Dr. Payne had his back to Dolan as he held the doors to the conference room shut, despite the fact that someone on the other side was rattling them, trying to open them. Dolan heard a voice on the other side of those doors, but couldn’t make out the words.

Dr. Payne suddenly released the doors and jumped out of the way as if he expected an angry grizzly bear to come tearing out of the room.

What came out—who came out—changed everything.