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KILL WITHOUT MERCY
ARES Security #1
Released Dec 29th, 2015
From the hellhole of a Taliban prison to sweet freedom, five brave military heroes have made it home—and they’re ready to take on the civilian missions no one else can. Individually they’re intimidating. Together they’re invincible. They’re the men of ARES Security.
Rafe Vargas is only in Newton, Iowa, to clear out his late grandfather’s small house. As the covert ops specialist for ARES Security, he's eager to get back to his new life in Texas. But when he crosses paths with Annie White, a haunted beauty with skeletons in her closet, he can't just walk away—not when she’s clearly in danger…
There’s a mysterious serial killer on the loose with a link to Annie’s dark past. And the closer he gets, the deeper Rafe’s instinct to protect kicks in. But even with his considerable skill, Annie’s courage, and his ARES buddies behind him, the slaying won’t stop. Now it’s only a matter of time before Annie’s next—unless they can unravel a history of deadly lies that won’t be buried.
“A fantastic blend of romance and suspense…thrilling to the end.” --Mary Burton, USA Today bestselling author
Annie stopped at the gas station at the edge of town, filling up her tank before she headed back to
God, she was an idiot.
She’d prepared herself to discover that there was another murderer sneaking around town. Or even that her visions were a symptom of her growing mental instability. But it’d never occurred to her that she might actually be recognized.
Now she felt raw. Exposed. And vulnerable in a way she hadn’t felt for years.
God forgive her. She didn’t want to be a coward, but she couldn’t bear to endure another round of the lingering stares and finger pointing. Or even the sickening pity that had nearly drowned her after she’d been found in the bomb shelter with her father and the bodies.
For no reason at all, the image of a lean, fiercely beautiful male face rose to her Rafe Vargas.
He’d been gorgeous. And charming. And sexy enough to make her body tingle with appreciation, even when she’d been trying to make him go away.
The sort of male who could have any woman he wanted.
And now he knew she was . . . broken.
It made her feel ridiculously ashamed.
She shivered as the early morning air cut through her sweatshirt, and replaced the gas nozzle as she headed into the nearby building. The best thing was to return to
hope she could get her job back. Denver
Yes. She would pretend she’d never even traveled to
the visions . . . well, if she ignored them long enough they would eventually
go away. Wouldn’t they? Newton
But first she had to have a cup of coffee.
The bell tinkled as she pulled open the door and entered the warmth of the convenience store that had three small tables at the back where a group of elderly men were gathered to drink their coffee and discuss the weather.
She deliberately avoided their curious gazes as she headed to the side of the store to fill a Styrofoam cup with coffee. Popping a lid on top, she moved to the front counter where a middle-aged man was filling a glass container with freshly baked pastries.
On cue, her stomach growled, her mouth watering at the sight of the doughnuts and fritters and muffins.
Deep-fried sugar and grease.
It was exactly the sort of temptation she usually tried to avoid. But today she allowed her gaze to linger. She’d skipped dinner, and breakfast had been shot to hell.
Why not indulge?
Some days low-fat yogurt just wasn’t going to cut it.
“Morning,” the man boomed, ridiculously happy considering it was barely seven.
“Nip in the air,” he unnecessarily pointed out. “Snow can’t be far off.”
She kept her head bent, her gaze focused on the glass case. “Yes.”
Accepting that Annie wasn’t in the mood for chitchat, he got straight to business. “Can I get you something?”
She pointed to her pastry of choice. “A blueberry muffin.”
“You got it.”
She stepped to the end of the counter as he efficiently wrapped the muffin and dropped it into a bag. Setting down the coffee, she pulled out her debit card, her gaze captured by the poster plastered to the back of the cash register.
HAVEYOU SEEN THISWOMAN?
A REWARD FOR ANY INFORMATION.
PLEASE CONTACT THE NEWTON POLICE DEPARTMENT.
Annie hissed, feeling as if she’d taken a punch to the gut. “Shit,” she muttered.
Deep inside, it was exactly what she’d been expecting, and yet it still came as a mind-numbing shock.
The man placed the bag next to her coffee, studying her with open curiosity. “Something wrong?”
She nodded her head toward the poster. “Is the woman still missing?”
“Yep.” He folded his arms over his barrel chest, his expression one of genuine concern. “Jenny Brown. A local gal.”
“When did it happen?”
“Eight days ago.” He grimaced. “She went to
and never came home. Most believe she
took off with some man she met on the Internet.” Des
She studied his broad face. Clearly he didn’t buy the story. If he did he wouldn’t have up a missing poster, would he?
“But not you?” she prompted.
“It’s possible, I suppose. It wouldn’t be the first time Jenny ran around on her husband,” he reluctantly admitted. “But it’s not like her to leave her kid behind.”
Annie gripped the edge of the counter, her knees feeling oddly weak. “She has children?”
He nodded. “A little boy.”
They always had children. Except for her.
She studied the picture in the middle of the poster, her stomach churning with fear. “She looks so young,” she breathed, taking in the rounded face and big brown eyes.
“Jenny had a rough start to life,” the man said, his tone defensive. Did he think Annie was judging the poor woman? She hoped not. She hated people who judged the victim, as if being hurt was somehow their own fault. “She was only fifteen when she had her son, but she’s always tried to be a good mom.” He abruptly halted, his blue eyes narrowing with suspicion. “Wait. You’re not a reporter, are you?”
“Good Lord, no,” Annie denied in fervent tones.
The press had hounded her until she’d at last arrived at her foster parents’ ranch. Thankfully,
threatened to shoot them the first time he caught them on his property.
They’d eventually disappeared.
“We had one bastard down here just yesterday trying to tie Jenny’s disappearance to the Newton Slayer,” the man said, shaking his head in disgust.
“How could that be possible?” she asked, her voice hoarse. “The Slayer’s dead, isn’t he?”
The man scowled. “Of course he is. Had his throat slit in his jail cell. The sheriff claims he has a part of his ashes in that trophy he keeps on his desk.”
Her fingers tightened on the counter until her knuckles turned white.
Oh God, oh God, oh God.
She couldn’t think about her father now.
Even after all these years, it still hurt too much.
“Then why would the reporter suspect the missing girl is the work of the Slayer?”
“Just looking to sell his story,” the man said. “Tried to imply we arrested the wrong man and the Slayer is still out there.” He gave a short, humorless laugh. “We shut that down right quick and in a hurry. Then he said it must be a copycat, but if that were true another girl would already be missing. Everyone knows the killer took women every two days. Regular as clockwork. Well, except for the sheriff ’s wife, who was taken just the day after Kathy Benson.” He blinked as Annie made a small sound of distress, and belatedly punched in the cost of the coffee and the muffin into the cash register. “I assume the reporter’s next guess would have been that the Slayer’s ghost was taking women, if we hadn’t run him out of town,” he muttered, clearly trying to lighten the atmosphere.
Annie swiped her debit card, anxious to be away from the man’s distracting chatter. “Probably.”
“So, are you just passing through?” the man demanded as he handed her the receipt.
Annie wanted to say yes. She’d already made the decision to leave.
Jenny, after all, was probably off playing house with some other man.
Or in Vegas with a friend.
There was no reason at all to connect her disappearance to the previous murders.
But even as her lips parted, she knew she couldn’t just drive away.
“No,” she muttered, turning to head toward the door. “It looks like I’ll be staying.”
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ALEXANDRA IVY graduated from Truman University with a degree in theatre before deciding she preferred to bring her characters to life on paper rather than stage. She currently lives in Missouri with her extraordinarily patient husband and teenage sons. To stay updated on Alexandra’s Guardian series or to chat with other readers, please visit her website at www.alexandraivy.com.