Gillen Lynch has a complicated relationship with his brother-in-law, Eduardo Sanchez. Gillen hasn’t mentioned his attraction to Eduardo; Eduardo hasn’t mentioned he’s a mind reader. Betrayed by the deception and mortified by his attraction to his sister’s spouse, Gillen decides to take it out on Eduardo by killing him.
Murdering a mind reader is no easy task, but this isn’t the first time Gillen has killed. His other victims didn’t mean anything to him, and they definitely didn’t use their dying breaths to copy their minds into Gillen’s head. Now, with no barriers between them, Gillen can’t stop Eduardo from digging up the secrets he’d hoped to take to his grave. He’s scared, powerless, and unprepared to face the fallout of his actions as he flees from both the cops and a group of mysterious pursuers who are as connected to Eduardo as he is.
With his pursuers closing in on him and Eduardo threatening to tear him apart from the inside, Gillen must overcome his self-hatred and take back his mind. If he can’t, he’ll be at the mercy of the man who has every right to want him dead.
|Publisher:||NineStar Press, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.79(d)|
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GILLEN SHAVED HIS face with care, knowing it would be the last face his friend would ever see.
Therese snaked her arms around his shoulders and smiled at him in the mirror. She had an ugly smile, as usual. Her smile matched her soul.
"You look wonderful," she murmured into his ear. The warm metal of her wedding band pressed against his collarbone as she pulled him in close.
He forced his lips into a grin. "So do you."
"I always look wonderful," she said. "But I'm not the one changing our lives tonight."
His fingers twitched as he envisioned how they'd look wrapped around her throat. She had pale skin, the kind that would turn bright pink from a throttling. Twenty seconds and her cheeks would be the same shade of crimson as her lipstick. Thirty seconds and he'd never have to hear her poisoned voice again.
Before his dark musings could consume him, Gillen took a deep breath and visualized a flickering candle flame. Focusing on the fire helped to clear his head, making space for the benign thoughts he needed instead. He rehearsed one of his many lists of empty topics as practice for the night ahead. What do I need to pick up at the grocery store? Eggs, bread, milk. Emptying his mind helped to calm him down; it also helped him to survive. If he kept himself focused on eggs and milk, nobody who peered into his head would know what was actually inside.
He flicked off his razor and set it on the countertop. He'd done a good job cleaning himself up, but he'd never had much hair to take off. In his youth, he'd appreciated the simplicity his smooth cheeks gave to his morning routine, but he resented it now because it denied him the cover of a beard. Once his picture hit the news, a baby face like his would stick out. A beard wouldn't transform him completely, but it would go a long way toward giving him the anonymity he would need to escape.
Therese slid out of the bathroom and reclined on their sprawling bed. To call it 'theirs' was a bit of a misnomer, since they hadn't slept in the same room in years, but he didn't care to interrupt the charade. As long as she left him alone at night and didn't look on his computer, she could claim all the furniture she wanted. Losing a few chairs and couches bothered him a lot less than the inevitable line of questioning that would come if she saw the sort of things he looked at "after hours." He didn't give a damn what she thought of him or his browsing history, but he also didn't want to listen to her baseless assumptions about his sexual preferences. Those videos were just that: videos. They didn't know him any better than she did.
Therese's dark hair brushed the tops of her shoulders as she made circles on the comforter with her hand. "Do you want to go over things one more time?"
He checked the mirror to make sure she couldn't see the hatred on his face. His reflection beamed back at him, all sunshine and red hair. "I've got it under control, Therese."
"I'm not sure you do."
His fingers tensed again. He clenched his fists below the counter and glanced at her. "All right, how about you tell me what I'm supposed to do?"
A better woman would have taken umbrage with his remark, but Therese had been happy to tell him what to do for years. He'd swear she got off on it, except she never cared if he was there when she got off. In fairness to her, he felt the same way.
"It's about time you ask for my help," she said. "If you'd been smart enough, you would have let me make all the decisions from the get-go."
As Therese ran through her limited understanding of Gillen's job — get in, kill Eduardo, get out — Gillen closed his eyes and worked his way through his actual plan in his mind. While Therese had the basics down, she didn't know the key detail that guided every step he took.
Eduardo could read his mind.
For all Therese knew, killing Eduardo would be as simple as buying a new pair of shoes. Eduardo's ability to read Gillen's thoughts made the task much more difficult. Years of experience had taught Gillen that trying to keep a clear head made even the simplest task mind-bogglingly difficult. In spite of Therese's cavalier attitude, killing someone was no simple task. That was another thing he knew from experience.
Gillen tuned back in to Therese's lecture just as she was wrapping up. "— and by that point, your sister and I will have finished dinner, and we'll share a cab back and I'll get out first. Once I'm home, I'll text her, saying something about how you were there when I arrived, and then she'll get to her house and have a good cry over her husband's body and you and I will have both safely returned home." The red marks from Theresa's earlier eyebrow wax flared up as she scrunched up her nose. "You think you can handle that?"
"Getting home at an appropriate hour? Yes, I think I can handle that." He had no intention of coming home, but she didn't need to know that. If she knew that, she'd probably kill him. Therese had never been the kind of woman to do her own dirty work before — not when cleaning ladies existed — but a betrayal like that would be enough motivation. He almost wanted to tell her, just so he could see the look on her face, but he had nothing to gain from gloating before Eduardo was dead.
Therese glanced at his waistband. "Do you have the gun?"
"Is that why you're looking at my pants, or are you interested in what's underneath?"
She curled her lip and he resisted the urge to smile at her. If she was going to treat him like a moron, she shouldn't have been surprised by his moronic response.
"Yes, I have the gun." He patted the empty space at the small of his back. With his shirt bunched up under his belt, it resembled a weapon at a glance. Therese would figure out he was lying if she decided to look closely, but Therese never looked below the surface of anything.
"Do you have the wine?" she said.
He gestured to the green bottle on the nightstand. Not only did the midrange merlot serve as a good excuse for a visit, but it also gave him the advantage of dealing with Eduardo while he was drunk. Gillen was no expert on mind readers, but he couldn't imagine they functioned better under the influence.
Red lights reflected off the side of the wine bottle, drawing Gillen's attention to the clock. The bright lines flashed in a pattern forming 6:15. If he didn't get going, he was going to be late to his own crime.
"I'm ready to go," he said. "Try not to tip your hand during your dinner with Narcy." He cast Therese a sharp look out of the side of one eye as he snatched the bottle from the table. "You think you can handle that?"
"Don't be smarmy," she replied. "It doesn't suit you."
You don't know what suits me, he wanted to shoot back, but then he realized he'd let his inner monologue take control again and that kind of mistake could get him killed.
He strode past her and into the hall. The scattered shadows of trees waited in front of the windows, obscuring what little of the Chicago skyline they could see from their Lakeview home. Therese had always wanted to cut down the trees to improve their view, but Gillen had no interest in destroying the one thing that made their sterile mansion feel like a home.
His autumn coat waited for him on the rack in the foyer, acting as a dark sentinel in front of the door. With the first signs of snow spreading over the sky, a winter coat would have served him better, but that kind of bulk would only weigh him down once he was on the run.
Therese's sharp heels clicked against the tile floor. "Aren't you going to say goodbye to me?" she said behind him.
He closed his eyes and practiced his times tables. Three times two is six, three times three is nine, three times four is twelve. He'd been hoping to escape without ever seeing Therese's face again, but he couldn't risk upsetting her when he was so close to his goal.
"Goodbye, honey." He turned around and opened his arms. Therese's red lips formed a wicked crescent as she slid her hands around his waist and leaned against his chest. The sickening sweetness of her floral perfume wound through his nostrils, strangling him from within. Poison, the makers called it. Therese found the scent mysterious, but Gillen hated it with a passion. He couldn't argue with the name, though. It might not have been as venomous as its wearer, but it still smelled like seven different kinds of death.
She leaned in and adjusted his collar. "Just think. Once all this is over, we're finally going to be rich." Her hollow voice bounced off the walls of their six-bedroom house, creating a false harmony with the clinking of their crystal chandeliers. "It's everything we've been waiting for."
He faked his brightest smile, knowing it would be the last of him she would ever see.CHAPTER 2
ANDREW'S HEART THUMPED in a persistent, panicked rhythm. He folded his arms over the countertop to make the pounding stop, but his nerves and his veins were dead set against allowing him to relax. They didn't need the help, though — not with Ed staring daggers at him from across the counter.
Deep shadows pooled around Ed's cheekbones as he leaned in close. "Do you have any idea why I asked you over here?" His narrowed eyes disappeared into the darkness.
The bones in Andrew's jaw ached with the effort it took him to keep his teeth from clacking. As he struggled to compose himself, he caught sight of a photo of Ed and Narcy holding hands on the beach. They were total opposites — dark and fair, tall and short, stoic and sweet — but the way they smiled at each other in the photograph made it look like they belonged together. Like she belonged with Ed.
Andrew reached for his drink and grappled with it in a clumsy gesture. Water sloshed over the side, sprinkling the marble countertops. He swore at himself for his clumsiness and swore twice more for his oversized hands. With fingers that resembled knuckled sausages, he should have been able to drink one-handed from a milk jug. Now he couldn't even grab his own glass.
Ed tapped the side of his bubbling glass of beer. "Relax." The edge in his voice made it clear it wasn't a request.
Andrew gulped down his water and wiped his lips. "I'm relaxed."
"Yeah, I can tell."
Ed pulled a stool up to the counter and sat across from Andrew. Though Andrew had a good three inches on Ed — not to mention a hundred pounds — the way Ed kept staring without blinking had Andrew feeling smaller by the second.
"Is Narcy here?" Andrew asked.
"Oh. Okay." Damn. Narcy's sunny attitude would have gone a long way toward cutting through some of the tension in the room. Then again, he'd have to stop himself from flirting with her, and he wasn't sure he'd be able to do that through his already crumbling nerves. "So, did you call me here to talk about work?"
"If I wanted to talk to you about work, we'd be talking in my office."
"Oh. Right." Andrew's fingers twitched against the countertop. "Is it about ... uh ... money?"
Ed furrowed his eyebrows and glanced around his palatial kitchen. Even with the lights dimmed, any idiot could have seen the proof that the owner of the house was rich. The crystal barware, the oriental rug, the opulent chandeliers; every object in the room proved that Ed was not a guy who would be calling for financial help. Especially not when the man he called depended on him for a salary.
"You can stop trying to guess. We both know why you're here." Ed took a swallow of his beer and set it down with a solid thunk. "You're just too chickenshit to admit it."
Andrew swallowed hard. He knows. How can he know? Did I slip up and say something too obvious to her? No, I would have never done that. I haven't said anything to anybody! I only talked about it online! His heart beat that much faster and goose bumps rippled up his arms. Oh God, he knows what I've said on my computer! Did he go through my history, or is he using a key-logger? How much does he know?
"I'm not stalling!"
"Then why don't you grow a pair and admit you're in love with my wife?"
The bitter truth struck in Andrew's face as stomach acid splashed the back of his throat. He clutched his waist and tried not to heave.
Ed's lip curled. "Hijo de puta, just look at you. You look like you're going to keel over and die."
Andrew snatched his glass of water and chugged it as fast as he could. It didn't help his stomach, but it did buy him time to think. I look more pathetic than a dying fish, so there's no point in denying it. Do I have an excuse? Is there an excuse? "How could I not fall in love with her?" is a pretty good one — at least it's honest — but that probably won't make him any happier. Should I say she came on to me? One quick glance down and Andrew dismissed the notion out of hand. No, she'd never come on to me. People don't come on to me!
Something soft settled on top of Andrew's shoe. He looked down to discover Ed's golden retriever, Hester, preparing to doze on Andrew's foot. The muscles in Andrew's back relaxed ever so slightly as Hester tilted his head back and yawned. He sure doesn't seem to have a problem admitting what he wants, so why can't I?
"All right," Andrew said, looking back at Ed. "You're right. I'm completely in love with Narcy."
Ed leaned in farther, crossing the battle line into Andrew's personal space. The little calm Andrew had collected from Hester's visit fell away as Ed said, "Give me one reason why I shouldn't fire you right now."
Andrew spit out the first desperate answer he could synthesize. "Because you'll never find somebody else who enjoys running HR?"
"I don't need someone to enjoy your job; I just need someone to do it."
"Um ..." Damn, that didn't work. "Because you like me?"
"Not right now I don't."
Double damn! "Can I at least explain myself?"
Ed crossed his arms. A brief pause settled between them, stifling the air until at last Andrew dug his nails into the counter.
"I'm listening," Ed said.
"Good. Thank you." Andrew bit his cheek. Now I actually have to explain myself.
After buying himself ten more seconds by drinking the last drops of water in his cup, Andrew sat up straight in his chair and cleared his throat. "Look, I didn't have a lot of friends when I was a kid. Nobody ever wanted to talk to me. I was fat. I was stupid. I was weak — if the only person willing to talk to me was my mom, what luck was I supposed to have with other girls?"
"None that I can imagine."
A shiver ran down Andrew's back. If looks could kill, I'd be dead on the floor. "I never knew how to talk to girls when we were in high school. I didn't even lose my virginity until after college."
"It doesn't count when you lose it to a prostitute."
"She wasn't a prostitute!"
"Oh really?" Ed swirled his glass around in time with his rolling eyes. "Because the way I recall it, she sure took a lot of money from you when she left."
Andrew's cheeks flared. He hated thinking about his former fiancée, Julie, even more than he hated thinking about the debt she left him in with her desire for expensive gifts and dates. It was only in the past year that he'd gotten his finances back together, and he'd only been able to do it because he hadn't been in a relationship since. Just because he'd deserved to be suckered by Julie didn't mean he wanted to go through it again, especially now that he needed all his spare cash for his mom's caretakers.
He cleared his throat again and tried to keep going. "I didn't want to get caught up in another bad relationship, so I've always tried to stay out of people's way. I was doing a good job too ... until Narcy started talking to me."
Even if he'd had the best speech writers in the world to help him, Andrew could have never described what Narcissa Sanchez's small acts of kindness meant to him. He'd been friends with Ed for over a decade, but it was Narcy who made the effort to get him out of his shell when his engagement ended. Just by being herself, she helped him pick himself up again. Her laughter made him want to try to make others laugh. Her smile made him want to give other people a chance. By making him feel human, she'd tapped into a desire for happiness he'd been suppressing since he was old enough to understand desires could be suppressed.
But Ed wouldn't understand any of that. Ed had never wanted something he couldn't have in his life. As long as Andrew had known him, Ed had possessed the uncanny ability to decide what he wanted and take it for himself. Women, money, power; no matter the prize, Ed could win it just by showing up.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Listener's Remains"
Copyright © 2018 L. Julia.
Excerpted by permission of NineStar Press, LLC.
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