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Chapter Excerpt from HUMAN SACRIFICE by M. Elaine Moore
For as long as she can remember, Aubri’s life has consisted of pain and perseverance. A past she can’t explain. A future she can’t quite face. Then, the last thing she wants…a new partner. One she barely tolerates. Strangely, one who seems to understand her. As soon as she begins to feel a connection to him, she finds herself in the worst situation of her life. And suddenly, Aubri is faced with the ultimate decision…save her own life and hand over the partner she thought she never wanted, or save his and make herself a human sacrifice.
They've done a full search of her place, and found nothing. Not even a fingerprint that doesn't belong. The lock on her door was expertly picked, and there isn't a trace of a struggle. Had she even known they were there?
Her house is now a crime scene, the center of an investigation, the place from which his partner has been abducted. The place he had been last night for that oh-so-short, impromptu visit to check on her. The place he had finally lost all sense of caution and had kissed her.
He wanders back through the memories of last night. Had he let things go on, had he pressed his luck instead of drawing away, would she have let him? Would it have ended up as more than one kiss? Would she have pulled him into her bedroom for the night? What if? He rakes his hand through his hair and lets out a breath. Would she still be here had he stayed?
"Chris," says Waite, yanking him out of his headspace. "There's nothing more we can do here. Let's go."
He nods, still lost in last night, still knocked flat by the reality of the situation at hand. Aubri is gone, and for once, he has absolutely no idea how to help her.
* * * * *
She fights to keep her face emotionless, her gaze blank. She cannot let them see the recognition in her eyes at the mention of his name. They have to think they're wrong. She stares at the man, feeling his filthy hand on her throat. She wants to vomit.
"I don't know who that is," she says, keeping her voice level.
"Bullshit," he yells, grasping her throat again, slamming her head against the pipes.
She struggles to breathe. "I really don't know him. You have me confused with another woman."
"Really, mija, because we've seen you with him. We know you're his girlfriend."
His girlfriend? Really? That's the best they can do? She nearly laughs, but the situation is far too grave. "I'm not. You're wrong. I don't know a Chris Avery."
They look at each other. She can't tell what either one is thinking. She sees fury, hate, frustration. She's pissing them off. But she won't give him up. She has no idea why they want him, or why they would dare go to these lengths to get him, but she knows with certainty that if they find him, they probably intend to kill him. How can they not know where he is? They knew where to find her.
"You were with him last night," the Caucasian guy says. "So yeah, we know you're his girl. Where is he?"
Shit. "What do you want with him?"
The Hispanic smiles. "If you don't know him, why do you care, huh?"
"Because if you're willing to do this to me, it makes me wonder what you plan on doing to him."
He smiles again, a sickening, sadistic grimace. "Worse, mija. Much, much worse."
* * * * *
Time passes with alarming speed. And still, there's no clue where she is. Or who has her. Nothing makes sense, and it's infuriating. He paces around like a caged animal, trying to figure it out. Someone has gone to great lengths to abduct a police detective from her home. They have to have a reason. They have to want something in return for her life. But if you're leveraging someone, they have to know that you have what they want. And so far, no one has come forward with a demand.
Which terrifies him.
Leverage is one thing. Revenge is another. If it's retribution they want, there's little to be done. If this person wants revenge against Aubri, he's not going to contact anyone, not going to make any demands. Because the one thing he wants, he already has.
Hours pass. Darkness falls. With it, comes a sense of hopelessness he's sickeningly familiar with. He drives around, praying he'll see something. He talks to contacts on the street, asking about a beautiful, dark-haired woman. No one knows a thing. It's as if she never really existed, except in his own mind. He goes back to her house and ducks beneath the crime scene tape. Total silence. A heavy darkness oppresses the room. His heart squeezes. Where is she? If she were dead, wouldn't he feel it? He's so in tune with her, so in sync now, wouldn't he know? Grasping for something to hold onto, he tells himself he would. It's the only thing he can do.
* * * * *
They've left her alone again. Her face throbs, her throat is dry, everything aches. None of that even compares to the idea that they want him. And if they found her, they can certainly find him. But why haven't they? How much simpler would it have been to just snag Chris from his apartment? Or from her house last night? There's something else to this, but she can't figure out what. She has no idea why they gave up so easily before. She had expected them to keep at her until they got what they want. But they hadn't.
Light fades from the room. The night becomes maddeningly silent. Where the hell is she that there is no sound? No traffic, no voices, nothing. If she screams, will anyone hear her? No. She's alone.
When will they come back? She's sure they will, knows they aren't done with her. She also knows, with sickening certainty, that when they do, they won't give up as easily. They'll attempt to beat the information out of her. She imagines that at some point, they'll decide they like the looks of her. She's surprised it wasn't their first line of attack. She squeezes her eyes shut at the thought. They'd have to un-cuff her for that, wouldn't they? This would be too awkward. She could fight then. They're big, but so far she's seen no weapons. It gives her just a bit of hope. She clenches her fists and relaxes them, and remembers the ink scrawled on her palm. Her fortune. I will always save you. Trust me. She sucks in a breath, feeling her throat constrict.
She has hours upon hours to think, to access all the dark thoughts and memories swirling around in her head. Hours to ask herself questions. Just what has Chris Avery come to mean to her? Why is she willing to suffer for him? Is it for him, or for Evan? Is she determined to save her partner's life at all costs because she's that connected to him now, or is it because she couldn't save the first one? She imagines it's just a bit of both. Loyalty and penance. But the truth is, Chris has come to mean something to her. Something she can't allow herself to lose. She curls her hand and strokes her fingertips over the ink on her palm.
Sitting on the cold concrete, her ankles now raw from rubbing against it, she begins to go a little stir crazy. She has never been prone to panic, and she forces herself to remain calm now. But she can't help but fight the cuffs. She tugs, trying to pull her aching hands through. She knows better. They'll swell, and there will be no hope of escape. Not that she has much hope. She's alone, and for all she knows it's forever.
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