Into the Firestorm

By: Kat Martin


“She’s something, ain’t she? Looks like the lady got to your bail skip first.”

“Who is she?”

“Name’s Cassidy. She’s a bounty hunter. Pretty amazing, huh?”

Luke was torn between annoyance and curiosity. “That’s M. Cassidy?”

“Yeah, short for Emma. The guys call her Em.”

Em Cassidy. He knew the name, thought it was a man. He watched the petite brunette—nine inches shorter than Digby’s six-foot frame and no more than a hundred ten pounds—haul Skinner out the side door into the parking lot. Luke reached for his beer, took a last swallow, tossed a little extra cash on the bar, and followed the lady outside.

Chapter One

Seattle, Washington

The first thing she saw was the blood. Thickened into a syrupy dark red mass, it formed a scarlet river down the hallway into the entry of her sister April’s home. Nausea hit her and her stomach rolled. The packages Emma was carrying, purchases she had made at the mall, fell from her nerveless fingers.

“Ginny! Ginny, where are you?” Emma Cassidy raced across the hardwood floor, a scream tearing loose as she spotted Eleanor Harris, the housekeeper, lying motionless in the hall, her head bent at an odd angle, her neck and chest soaked in blood.

Fear expanded inside her. “Ginny!” She ran past Eleanor, whose throat had been cut in a single long gash. The housekeeper’s eyes were open, staring lifelessly up at the ceiling.

Emma started shaking. “Ginny!” Her voice cracked as she shouted her niece’s name. Moving beyond the dead woman, she swallowed the tears and bile in her throat and continued down the hall. Her sister was at work. Emma raced toward her niece’s bedroom, her lungs burning with the effort to breathe.

As she reached the open door, a sob escaped. Her pretty little fourteen-year-old niece sat curled up in bed, her back against the headboard, her jeans gone, her T-shirt in tatters, her arms crossed over her budding breasts. Ginny’s fine brown hair hung in a tangled mess around her slender shoulders. A bruise darkened her cheek. Big brown eyes stared straight ahead as if she looked inward and saw nothing at all.

Emma’s heart simply shattered. She dragged in a shuddering breath, her hands clenched into fists. She had to stay calm, had to be strong for Ginny.

“It’s okay, sweetheart.” Approaching slowly, afraid she would frighten Ginny even more, Emma crossed the floor to her bedside. “It’s Aunt Em, Ginny. You’re okay, sweetheart. You’re safe.”

But was she? What if the man who had done this was still in the house? What if he came back and murdered them the way he had poor Eleanor? Dear God, she needed to call the police but her cell phone was in her purse, lying among the packages scattered on the floor in the entry.

She wanted to reach out and pull Ginny into her arms, tell her everything would be okay, but she didn’t dare. Not until the police were on the way. She pulled the sheet up over Ginny’s half-naked body, leaned down, and kissed her forehead.

“I’ll be right back, sweetheart. I’m not leaving you. I need to get my phone.” Emma turned and ran toward the door.

The whisper of her niece’s voice halted her before she reached the hall. “It was him . . .” she said. “It was . . . Rudy.”

Emma couldn’t move. Hearing his name spoken out loud made the horror somehow worse.

“He tore off my clothes,” Ginny said in that eerie monotone that sounded nothing like her. “He tried to . . . tried to . . .”

“It’s all right, honey.” She swallowed. “Everything’s going to be okay.”

“Eleanor stopped him . . . but he . . . killed her.”

“Oh, God.”

A thick sob escaped Ginny’s throat. “He says he’s coming back for me.”

Emma pressed her trembling lips together. “I’ve got to call the police, honey. I’ll be right back.” She had to get help but she could barely see through the thick glaze of her tears. She raced back down the hall, her sandals slipping in the housekeeper’s blood, grabbed her purse off the floor in the entry, and dragged out her cell phone with a hand that could barely hold on to it.

It took three tries to punch in 9-1-1.

“This is police dispatch. What’s your emergency?”

“There . . . there’s been a murder. A woman named Eleanor Harris. And . . . and a young girl has been . . . has been attacked.” Her voice broke. “Please . . . Ginny needs medical attention. She . . . she needs an ambulance.” She swallowed past the heavy lump in her throat. “Rudy Vance . . . He’s the one who did it. He might still be in the house. Please, you’ve got to help us.”