Home > Paint It All Red (Mindf*ck #5)

Paint It All Red (Mindf*ck #5)
Author: S.T. Abby

Chapter 1

We are rarely proud when we are alone.

—Voltaire

LOGAN

Hadley jumps when I sling open the door to her room. She jerks out her earbuds, clutching her chest with her free hand.

“Cheese and rice, you lunatic. Don’t scare someone like that when there’s a serial killer literally in our backyard.”

“Or living just a few cabins down, right?” I ask dryly, though there’s an edge to my tone that has her entire body stiffening.

She doesn’t even have to say the words, but I want to hear them.

“You knew?” I ask her quietly, my tone full of disbelief and heartbreak.

Everything hurts right now, even as I fight off the onslaught of emotions. In this unit, you train against showing emotion at all costs. I’ve never found that to be harder to do than today.

Her lips move for several seconds before words actually start coming out.

“Logan, I’m sorry, but—”

“You knew!” I shout with accusation, as my fist slams into the wall, and my entire body heaves for a breath of air that doesn’t feel lined with lead.

“Logan!” she yells, but I turn around and face her, slowly regaining my calm. “Listen. It was complicated, and she—”

“We’re done, Hadley. You and me. I’m fucking done with you,” I say on a broken promise.

Tears immediately spring from her eyes.

“Are you serious?” She has the nerve to ask that with incredulity in her tone.

“Yeah. I can’t be friends with someone who could watch me fall in love with someone like that and not tell me the truth.”

Her eyes narrow, and her lips tremble. “Someone like that? Someone who would kill or die to keep you safe? Someone who loved you so much that she almost gave up her revenge?”

“Her revenge?” I ask bitterly, shaking my head as I turn and stalk away. “It’s not her fucking revenge!”

I slam the door behind me, and stalk next door to where Leonard almost falls off the chair when I burst in. “Shit! Easy, man. I’m trying to find some more info on Ken—”

His words die when he sees my face. “Oh shit,” he says on an exhale.

“Yeah,” I say, dropping to a chair and grabbing the bottle of whiskey he has hanging out of his go-bag. “She admitted it.”

“She what?” he asks, shocked.

“She basically admitted it. I couldn’t stick around for a full confession.”

“Where the hell is she?”

I run my sleeve over my eyes, then turn up the bottle.

“Cuffed to my bed,” I say when I lower the bottle.

His eyes grow wider.

“I have no idea what to do right this second. She’s fucked my head up so much that I can’t bear turning her over to anyone in this town or the FBI. But I know I have to do something. Since I don’t know what, I cuffed her in place.”

It’s a terrible fucking way to stall, but it’s the only solution I currently have.

He scrubs his face before shoving a file at me.

“I can’t find anything at all in her history—besides drug use—that would make her willing to do anything like this. She’s been clean for years though, and I haven’t noticed any track marks. And she’s not delusional or suffering a psychotic—”

“Hence the fucking reason I don’t know what to do,” I growl. “She’s lucid, well aware of her surroundings, too fucking smart to be too stupid, and definitely not the type to be easily manipulated by anyone—not even Jacob Denver.”

I laugh humorlessly as a memory surfaces. She called him Jake, even fucking told me Jake was her bisexual business partner. I never pieced the shit together. Because I was too blinded by everything I felt for her to even consider such a possibility.

“Here’s the file,” he says quietly. “Have a look at it. Maybe it’ll help you figure it out.”

I jerk the file from the tabletop, and I flip it open. I’m immediately grimacing when I see the folder, because of the grizzly pictures. But there’s one thing that doesn’t make sense.

“What the hell?” I ask quietly.

Blue eyes. In the picture they have on file before the accident, Kennedy Carlyle looks nothing like Lana Myers. And her eye color was blue—no contacts.

I flip the pictures, finding the photos taken for the police report of Kennedy’s damage. I know Lana’s body too well, and the marks in the picture, though somewhat similar, aren’t exact.

A chilling sensation creeps up my spine as sickening possibilities start to unfold.

“Any chance you have the file on Victoria Evans?” I ask calmly, keeping my voice steady.

He hands it to me immediately.

“Why?”

I take a quick, steadying breath before I open the file, and a pair of haunted green eyes stare back at me with a face that doesn’t match Lana’s, but still carries some resemblance.

My heart sinks to my toes as I flip open the pictures, finding the ones they also sent to the police. Nausea almost overwhelms me when I see the marks aligning perfectly with the scars I know by heart.

“Oh shit,” I say on a hissed breath.

“What?” Leonard demands.

My eyes pop up as regret wells and explodes inside me, shaking me to the core.

“Lana Myers is not Kennedy Carlyle.”

He looks genuinely confused, and I hand him the same folder.

“Lana Myers is Victoria Evans.”

He drops the folder like it’s on fire as his eyes jerk up to meet mine, wide with shock.

Somehow, probably with some help from Jake, she went in as Victoria Evans, and left as Kennedy Carlyle. Considering I can barely stomach looking at either of their badly crushed faces in those photos, it’s not a surprise that he did it with such ease.

“That changes everything,” he says on weary breath.

He breaks out his laptop, and I lean back, my anger slowly fading as my mind starts to work. I stopped at that coffee shop by chance, because our usual spot was too crowded. I pursued her, wanted to earn her trust, even saw something in her I needed for myself.

Every smile before me was probably rare. Every smile with me was given freely with genuineness. Every touch was hungry and full of emotion she struggles to show.

She trusted me.

“You may very well be the damn reason she’s not suffered a break,” Leonard hisses, still typing away on his laptop.

I take another shot of liquid courage and stand, but Leonard catches my wrist.

“These images don’t match up on the computer.”

“What?”

He points to the files. “I got copies of their paper files. You know I’m old-school. But on the computer, the images are swapped.”

I look on the screen, and sure enough, Victoria Evans has the wounds of Kennedy Carlyle and vice versa. Green eyes meet mine from Kennedy’s file.

“Jake could change what they had in the computers, but not before they started a physical file,” I whisper to myself.

I’d have never known.

“What are you going to do?” Leonard asks me.

“Tell Hadley not to say anything. I can’t talk to her right now. And you don’t say anything either.”

He almost smiles, but stops himself. He’s been advocating for her from the sidelines, and I’ve been on the verge of removing him from this case.

All along, I was in love with the girl who wants this town dead.

I jog back to my cabin, swing open the door, and practically sprint to the bedroom. That’s when my heart sinks.

The handcuffs are tossed on the floor, along with the sheet. And everything Lana brought is gone.

I swallow against the knot in my throat, slowly lowering myself to the bed.

She saved my life.

I cast her aside.

It takes me a minute to realize I’ve been gone for over an hour, even though it feels like only minutes. I gave her too much time to disappear.

I grab my phone and dial Leonard as I walk outside.

“I need to know any ties to this town that they still have.”

Typing rattles in the background. I’m tempted to ask Hadley, but after what I just said to her, I doubt she’d be likely to help.

“Christopher Denver owns one of those hunting cabins in the woods. I’ll text you the location.”

I hang up and immediately change clothes and shoes. You can’t run through the woods too well in a suit.

I dart out of the house seconds later, reading the text with the location. More memories flit through my head as I run.

Lisa fucking taunted her, practically tried to provoke Lana. Lana could have destroyed her.

Or Victoria, rather.

She left the argument with Johnson and the sheriff earlier because they were pissing her off, and she was afraid of what’d she’d do, not what’d she say.

Seeing the sheriff had to be hard on her, and she asked for two fucking hours, as though she needed me. And I came back, fucked her, then unloaded mayhem, as if I was daring her to show her true colors.

I walked out when she simply cried. The cold-hearted killer who tortured and slaughtered the monsters from her past… I made her cry. She never even got angry.

There are so many unpredictable variables about her, and I have no idea what to do.

As soon as I reach the cabin, I pull my gun from my ankle holster, holding it at my side. After two quick breaths, I kick in the door, but stop moving, my gun still at my side and not aimed at anything.

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