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Midnight Fear (Chasing Evil Trilogy #2)

Midnight Fear (Chasing Evil Trilogy #2)

3.9 18
by Leslie Tentler

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"I trusted you, Caity"

The still of the night is once again shattered by Caitlyn Cahill's recurring nightmare—her brother standing before her, gripping a butcher knife, his eyes black with hatred. Two years ago, the former Washington, D.C., socialite defied her powerful senator father and risked the ruin of her family by helping the FBI


"I trusted you, Caity"

The still of the night is once again shattered by Caitlyn Cahill's recurring nightmare—her brother standing before her, gripping a butcher knife, his eyes black with hatred. Two years ago, the former Washington, D.C., socialite defied her powerful senator father and risked the ruin of her family by helping the FBI link her troubled brother to a string of horrific murders. "The Capital Killer" was sent to prison for life…and Caitlyn's entire world fell apart.

Now, FBI agent Reid Novak is forced to rend the peace Caitlyn has found on a rural Virginia horse farm. A copycat killer is on the loose and slowly toying with Caitlyn—his ultimate target—in a terrorizing cat–and–mouse game. Almost destroyed two years ago by Caitlyn's family, not to mention the Capital Killer's haunting final murder, Reid vows to save the woman he's never forgotten or die trying.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A smooth prose style and an authentic Big Easy vibe distinguish Tentler's debut...the shivers are worthy of a Lisa Jackson."-Publishers Weekly on Midnight Caller

"...filled with suspense and mystery, and centered around a compelling plot with a terrifying villain...This is one riveting read." -Romantic Times Book Review on Midnight Caller

"A romantic thriller that continually keeps you on the edge of your seat."-Fresh Fiction on Midnight Caller

"Leslie Tentler shows what she is capable of...producing a first-class suspense/mystery novel."-Manic Readers on Midnight Caller

"...this refreshing new talent proves she's got a promising future in this genre." -Suspense Magazine on Midnight Caller

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Chasing Evil Trilogy , #2
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Two Years Later

Near Middleburg, Virginia

I trusted you, Caity.

Caitlyn Cahill jerked awake, her heart racing. It took a second to realize she'd been dreaming again. Still, her brother's face—his voice—had been as clear as if he'd been standing next to her bed. In her dream–image of Joshua, he gripped a large kitchen knife and his eyes were black with hatred.

She had the nightmare at least once a week.

With a slow release of breath, she sat up and looked at the clock on the nightstand. Outside her bedroom window, she heard only familiar morning sounds. Although it wasn't quite light yet, a meadowlark chirped from a branch in the stately orange–leafed oak, and a horse's whinny drifted up from the stables. Caitlyn had taken refuge in the rolling horse country of Northern Virginia, using her trust fund to purchase the rambling, two–story farmhouse with stables and acreage. She'd had to get away.

After Joshua's capture, after her father's fatal stroke, there had been little left in Washington to keep her there. The high–society lifestyle she'd been raised in had come to an abrupt end. Ostracized was the more specific description of her treatment. At times, she admitted only to herself that she wished Joshua had died from his gunshot wound, or drowned after his fall into the Potomac, instead of law enforcement fishing him from its icy depths. But then she felt guilty, then guilty again for thinking of her brother instead of the six innocent lives he had taken.

He was sick. But was that an excuse?

Nothing could ever explain what he had done.

When Joshua's trial was over—a three–week maelstrom involving forensic evidence and psychological testimony—Caitlyn had quietly packed and left without a word to those who had once been her family's supporters and friends. She understood anyone with the last name Cahill was a pariah now, and that it was best for others to disassociate lest they carry residual dishonor.

Her father, Senator Braden Cahill, hadn't been able to bear the weight of Joshua's sins. He'd collapsed during a press conference announcing his resignation, and died a week later. Then her mother, Caroline, had lost what was left of her mind.

The Rambling Rose stables and farm had provided the distraction Caitlyn needed, had given her a purpose that made it possible to go on living despite the notoriety and shame. She'd transformed the stables into a therapeutic equine center that helped disabled and dis–advantaged children by allowing them to groom, care for and ride horses. Caitlyn had given her time, energies and funds to create the nonprofit, animal–assisted therapy program. In her mind, Rambling Rose was a way to somehow try to make up for the evil her brother had done.

It was late October, and the crisp early morning air made the old house chilly. Caitlyn pulled a roomy cable–knit sweater on over her pajamas, then padded downstairs to make coffee and prepare for the day. A bus full of special needs children from D.C. was expected in a few hours, and she needed to arrange for box lunches— turkey sandwiches, yogurt, apples and oatmeal–raisin cookies—from one of the quaint restaurants in nearby Middleburg. Caitlyn also planned to lead the afternoon program herself, taking the more advanced children out for a ride along the forested path. On top of that, Eli Burton, one of the area's large–animal vets, was coming out to check on a weanling.

The coffeemaker had just begun its steamy drip into the carafe when the telephone rang. Caitlyn picked up the handset, settling it between her right shoulder and ear as she rummaged in the stainless steel refrigerator looking for the last carrot muffin.

"Ms. Cahill?"


"This is Hal Feingold."

She closed the fridge door. The reporter's name caused a churning sensation inside her stomach.

"I apologize for the early hour. You may remember me. I covered the Capital Killer investigation for the Washington Post, but I'm out on my own now."

"I know who you are, Mr. Feingold," she said.

"I wanted you to know that I'm working on a book."

"About my brother?"

"About your family, actually. About their role in the murder investigation."

Caitlyn hated the faint tremor in her voice. "I won't give you authorization."

"I don't need it, Ms. Cahill," he replied in a calm tone. "It's a matter of public record. Not to mention your father was a public figure. One could argue you are, as well. You played a key role in your brother's arrest. You took his journal to the FBI after the judge—a friend of Senator Cahill's—refused to sign the search–and–seizure warrant on the Logan Circle property. A very brave decision. I know what it did to your family—"

Caitlyn's words were clipped. "Goodbye, Mr. Feingold."

"The book is happening with or without your cooperation. I'm offering you the opportunity to present your side of the story. You should consider it."

Caitlyn stared at her image in the window over the deep farmhouse sink. The glass created a mirrorlike reflection, and she ran a hand through her sleep–mussed, honey–blond hair. She didn't want the book in print, didn't want it to create any renewed interest two years later. She couldn't live through it again.

"Ms. Cahill? I'd like to come out and speak with you in person. Perhaps we could talk about you writing a preface—"

"Please don't," she whispered, and disconnected the phone. It actually didn't surprise her that someone wanted to write her family's story; it had all the characteristics of a bestseller. Two foster children brought into a loving, prominent family and given everything they needed to succeed. Only one of the children couldn't fight his internal demons and became one himself. Cait–lyn had been adopted as a newborn, but Joshua had been years older when he was taken from his abusive, drug–addicted mother. According to psychologists, the damage had already been done. But it had taken years for the evil to seep out. The fact that D.C. had no capital punishment was the only thing that had kept Joshua off death row.

Thinking of him, a mixture of anger and bittersweet nostalgia built inside her. He wasn't her biological brother, but there had been a strong connection between them, up until Joshua's schizophrenia had progressed in his early twenties. She wanted to remember him like he was in their childhood—shy, intensely intelligent yet withdrawn—but somehow she couldn't. All she saw was the face of a killer. Caitlyn left the muffin on the distressed butcher–block counter, the coffee equally forgotten. But she hadn't yet exited the kitchen when the phone rang again. Expecting the pushy journalist, she answered tersely.

"Mr. Feingold—"

"Caitlyn, it's Manny Ruiz."

"Manny," she said on a sigh, relief threading through her. The big, raw–boned foreman managed the day–today tactical activities on the working ranch, including the stables. "I'm sorry. I thought you were someone else."

"I've got some bad news." Sorrow roughened his voice. "It's about Aggie. One of the stable hands found her this morning. She was about fifty yards off the trail…she's dead."

His words stunned her, tightening her throat. Aggie was a gentle, fifteen–year–old dappled mare and a particular favorite of Caitlyn's. She had been missing from the Rambling Rose stables for several days. Aggie was known to occasionally wander away in search of sweet clover, and Caitlyn herself had taken out another horse looking for her, to no avail. "What happened?"

A long beat of silence. "Someone killed her, Caitlyn. Her, um…her throat's cut…among other things. It's a pretty big mess. I'd say it happened days ago."

She felt the blood drain from her face. Finding her voice, she said, "I'll be right there."

"Maybe you shouldn't—I'm not sure you want to see it."

"I'm coming down," she repeated. "Have you called the police?"

"They said they'd be by later this morning."

After she said goodbye and replaced the phone on its console, Caitlyn stood, immobile, shock still coursing through her. She wrapped her arms around her slender frame and slowly shook her head in disbelief. She'd loved Aggie. Her heart twisted at the thought that someone could kill such a beautiful, living creature. And for what? The senselessness of it rocked her and made her realize that violence could reach far beyond the urban sprawl.

Even out here, nothing was safe.

The cell phone woke him, a Justin Timberlake ring tone one of his nieces must have downloaded as a joke. Reid Novak squinted against the morning sunlight angling through the window blinds. He lay on the couch in his apartment in D.C.'s Adams Morgan neighborhood, the television on and turned to CNN. Running his hands over his face, he reached for the phone, desperate to shut off its electronic wail.

"Novak," he muttered.

"Agent Novak, it's SAC Johnston—"

Reid sat up, caught off guard by the SAC's deep baritone. He hadn't heard it in months, at least not in any official capacity.

"Sorry to be calling so early. I realize you're still on medical leave for another three weeks. How are you feeling, Agent?"

He squeezed the bridge of his nose. "I'm fine."

"Good. We've been keeping up with your recovery at the Bureau. If you're up to it, there's something I'd like to discuss with you. I need your professional analysis."

Reid picked up his wristwatch, which rested on a stack of Sports Illustrated magazines. He looked at its face—7:32 a.m. "What is it?"

"A homicide investigation. The District police have referred it to us. Agents Tierney and Morehouse are at the scene now," Johnston said, referring to Reid's partner and the rookie agent he'd been paired with in his absence.

"What's the reason for the referral?"

Johnston took a deliberate pause. "There are some notable similarities to the Cahill murders. I thought you should have a look."

Reid felt his shoulders tense. The Capital Killer investigation had been particularly high profile, which was why the FBI's Violent Crimes Unit had gotten involved. "How similar?"

"I'd like you to get over there."

He located a pen and notepad. Listening, he jotted down the street address in the city's Columbia Heights neighborhood where the body had been found.

"You aren't yet cleared for duty," Johnston reminded. "I'm authorizing you to go to the scene and determine the threat level. See what stands out to you. I'm sure Agent Tierney will appreciate the assistance."

"Yes, sir." The SAC didn't have to elaborate. He wanted to know if the specifics of the crime scene were merely coincidental, or if it indeed suggested a copycat looking to emulate Cahill's work. The only certainty was that it wasn't Joshua Cahill himself—he was incarcerated, serving a life sentence without any possibility of parole. That fate had come about only after a roster of high–paid attorneys failed to have him declared mentally unable to stand trial. Reid's own deposition had seen to that. Cahill was psychotic, yes—but he was also highly intelligent and an ordered, methodical killer as opposed to a disordered one. Those facts made him culpable for his crimes.

"Three weeks left on your leave isn't very long," Johnston noted. "Have you been to the firing range?"

"Not yet," Reid admitted. "Soon."

"See that you do. You'll have to re–certify on firearms, as well as use of deadly force. No more blurred vision, I hope?"

He felt his face grow hot. "No."

"That's excellent news. You're one of our best profilers." He sounded sincere. "You've been missed by the VCU."

After the call ended, Reid scrubbed a hand through his dark hair, grown back to its previous thickness after surgery for a benign but critically located glioma some six months earlier. At what point last night had he stumbled out of the bedroom and ended up on the couch? He didn't often use the prescription sleeping pills Dr. Is–relsen had given him, but last night he'd been particularly restless.

I'm fine now. The tumor was gone, and so were the headaches and double vision that had been the first signs of his illness. He was working out at the gym regularly and felt back to his old self. His last two MRI scans were clean. Reid knew he was one of the lucky ones. But the health scare had changed him. For the first time since graduating top of his class at Quantico nine years ago and starting work for the FBI, his life hadn't revolved around criminal violence. Instead, he'd had more personal problems to deal with, confronted with the very real possibility of his own death or inca–pacitation. Reid thought it ironic that with the dangers his job entailed, it wasn't a homicidal maniac but his body's own rebellion that had nearly killed him.

Without warning, an image of the woman in the abandoned factory—Cahill's last victim—flashed inside his head in Technicolor clarity. He saw her terrified eyes and the glinting knife Cahill held to her throat. Then the bright spray of blood, the prim white blouse turning red and her body shuddering as she bled out in front of him. Reid's bullet had been a half–second too late, his hesitation costing Julianne Hunter her life. She had been the wife of an up–and–coming prosecutor in the federal courts, with two small children who were now without a mother. His failure in stopping her death had cut him particularly deep.

His hand traveled over the sofa's leather as he shook away the brutal recollection. Only to himself, Reid admitted that the one small benefit of his illness had been the temporary distance he'd gained from all that—the victims' haunting faces, the shocking cruelty he'd been witness to, his self–recrimination for not stopping the madness sooner.

Sometimes he wasn't completely sure he wanted to go back there.

The row houses were being converted into condos in a newly revitalized area of Columbia Heights, an urban neighborhood just a few miles from the White House. Although the area still had a reputation for gang activity and drug–related crimes, it was slowly giving way to gentrification, evidenced by the smattering of upscale coffee shops and restaurants.

Reid pulled his Ford Explorer next to a semicircle of police cruisers blocking the end of the street. Just like riding a bicycle, he thought with a slow release of breath as he opened the door and climbed from the SUV. He pulled his shield from the pocket of his leather jacket and flashed it at the uniforms congregated outside the last unit. Then he ducked under the crisscrossed crime scene tape, went up the short flight of stairs that led to the stoop and entered the building.

Inside, the hardwood floors were battered and gang symbols had been spray–painted on dingy walls. A rickety staircase missing sections of its banister snaked up to the second floor. Just inside the front door, a barrel–chested cop with silver hair and a guard–dog expression stood sentry.

"What do you know, a fibby in jeans," he mused, examining Reid's shield. "Thought you boys had a dress code."

Meet the Author

Leslie Tentler worked in PR before writing fiction. Her first manuscript won multiple RWA chapter contest awards, including the prestigious Maggie Award of Excellence. Leslie is a native of Kingsport, TN. Growing up, she was an avid reader, first of Nancy Drew novels and then surreptitiously devouring her mother's historical romances at probably too young an age. Her reading interests later moved to dark, contemporary romantic thrillers, which she writes today. She lives in Atlanta.

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Midnight Fear 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story with suspense and romance. Loved chasing evil trilogy which don't have to be read in order.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DoB77 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed it. Thought I had it figured out until I was surprised at the end... of course, thinking back the author had given little clues along the way that added up.
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Heather Dujakovich More than 1 year ago
I read both the books in this series in three days! I could't put them down. If you like romantic suspense you will enjoy these books. I thought I knew the killer in this one until the last minute and was shocked by who it turned out to be.
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harstan More than 1 year ago
IN DC FBI Agent Reid Novak extorts Joshua Cahill to drop the knife he has pointed at the throat of his latest victim. Blaming his sister Caitlyn for betraying him by giving the Feds his journal, Joshua slices the woman's throat before Reid and his partner Mitch Tierney shoot him. Joshua's subsequent conviction as a serial killer destroys his father's political career; Senator Braden Cahill died from a stroke shortly after and his wife Caroline went insane. Over the next two years, Caitlyn struggled with survivor guilt with what happened to her parents though she knows she did the right thing with the end of the Capital Killer's terror reign. Ostracized by the Washington social class who blame her for betraying her family, Caitlyn left the city retuning to her family farm Rambling Rose near Middleburg, Virginia. However, recently a copy cat killer has surfaced who reenacts her brother's killings and terrorizes her for betraying Joshua. Still haunted by the last victim he failed to save, Novak vows to keep Caitlyn safe while also ending the second Capital Killer's reign of terror. The second exhilarating Midnight FBI romantic suspense (see Midnight Caller) is an exciting thriller from the moment Reid confronts Joshua and never slows down until anticipated final confrontation. Reid and Caitlyn are terrific protagonists who met during a tragedy that left both suffering from PTSD. Although the motive for the copy cat killer is clichéd, he is a shocker as readers will enjoy Leslie Testler's dark police procedural. Harriet Klausner
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I need to talk to you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very intense suspense.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What do you need to talk to me about?