Her Last Goodbye Page 61

He was going to lose him.

Shit!

Lungs on fire, leg on fire, Lance gave the chase one last burst of energy. It was now or never.

No doubt Derek had left a car on the street somewhere. If he reached it . . .

Derek glanced over his shoulder as he ran through the shadows of the side yard. Just as he cleared the house and leaped onto the driveway, a tree branch swung from out of nowhere.

The branch clotheslined Derek. His head snapped back. His legs continued forward, and he landed on his back in the dark.

Panting, Lance stopped next to the prone body. He grabbed Derek’s arm and rolled him onto his face. A quick pat down of his pockets turned up duct tape and rope. Lance planted a knee into Derek’s lower back to pin him in place. He pulled a set of zip ties from his own pocket and used them to secure Derek’s wrists behind his back.

When Derek was restrained, Lance looked up at the shadow.

Morgan stood in the moonlight, her black hair gleaming, her face set in a determined mask.

“Thanks,” he said.

“I was hoping he would head for the street.” Morgan crossed her arms and rubbed her biceps. “The police are on the way. Are you all right?” She pointed to her own eyebrow.

Lance touched his forehead. His hand came away sticky and wet. “He kicked me in the head. It’s nothing.”

“Let me go!” Derek squirmed. “You’re not cops. You can’t keep me here.”

“I’m making a citizen’s arrest.” Lance leaned a little more weight on his knee. His thigh throbbed. “You broke in to a home armed with a weapon. And I’ll bet the police are going to find some interesting things when they search your house. You’re in big trouble, Derek.”

“They can’t search my house. Elliot will call his lawyer. Elliot fixes everything.” Derek spat at the ground. “You’ll be sorry.”

“Your brother can’t get you out of this one.” But Lance wondered how many other crimes Derek had committed.

“Why did you do it, Derek?” Morgan asked.

“I love her.” Blood trickled from the corner of Derek’s mouth. “She’s mine.”

“She’s married to Tim,” Morgan said.

“Chelsea was unhappy.” Anger fueled Derek’s words. “Tim doesn’t know how to keep a woman. I do. Women need to be dominated. They can’t make decisions. They don’t know what they want.”

“Is that why your girlfriend broke up with you?” Morgan asked.

“She’s a stupid bitch,” Derek snapped. “I tried being nice to her, but that didn’t make her happy. Women don’t want a nice man. They want a man who takes control. They want decisions made for them.”

Morgan’s head tilted. “You tried that with your girlfriend.”

“If I could have kept her for a few weeks, I could have turned her attitude around. But the bitch ran off to London.” Bitterness clipped Derek’s words.

“She ran away from you,” Morgan clarified.

“Women can’t commit to anything. They let their emotions control them instead of logic. Look what happened to Elliot. He loved Candace. He tried to get her help, and what did she do? She threatened to leave him rather than do what was best for her.”

The truth fell on Lance like a cartoon anvil.

Derek had killed his brother’s wife.

Morgan clearly made the connection as well. Her posture stiffened. “Candace didn’t know what was good for her.”

“Just another example of women needing caretakers.” Derek turned his head to stare at Morgan over his shoulder. “Candace was killing herself with her addiction. Elliot loved her enough to try and stop it. But beating her addiction would have been hard, and she wasn’t willing to do the work. Elliot should have put his foot down, but he didn’t. He was weak.”

“What did you do?” Morgan asked.

Derek’s lips peeled off his teeth. “I tried to make her, but Elliot had let her get away with her bad behavior for too long. It was ingrained. If I could have isolated her for a month or so, I could have turned her around.”

Silence pulsed in the night for a few seconds.

Derek shook his head. “Her addiction was out of control. I went there to save her. To save Elliot. He was unhappy.” He took a breath, anger narrowing his eyes. “But she wouldn’t let me fix her. I tried. I tried my hardest.”

“You killed her,” Lance finished.

“She fell and hit her head.” Derek spat out the words. “It was an accident.”

Lance pressed him harder. “Then why did you cover it up?”

Derek’s lips pressed into a colorless line.

“Was she dead when you sent her car over that embankment?” Lance asked.

Derek didn’t respond, but his flat gaze lifted goose bumps on Lance’s arms.

It hadn’t mattered to Derek. In his mind, she was worthless. Her life simply didn’t matter. Lance didn’t believe for one second that her death was an accident. Derek could have called for an ambulance. Instead, he chose to cover up her death.

“You failed with Chelsea,” Lance prodded.

“I can fix her.” Derek’s voice rose. “She’s sweeter. More pure of heart and soul. Not jaded and ruined by drugs.”

“She has children,” Morgan said.

“She can have more children. My children.” Derek’s face reddened. “I can make her love me. It just takes time.”

“You tortured her.” Lance wanted to find that brand and hear it sizzle in Derek’s skin. The man deserved to feel the pain he’d inflicted on Chelsea.

“I taught her,” Derek interrupted. “There’s a difference. A blend of positive and negative reinforcement to show her that being submissive to a man would make her happy.”

Lance had nothing left to say. There was no point. A man that far gone, that demented, could never be turned around.

Sirens floated on the cold air.

Now it was over.

Chapter Forty-Four

Thirty minutes later, Morgan stood in front of Chelsea and Tim’s house. She wrapped her arms around her waist. Her initial nausea after the showdown with Derek had faded. Adrenaline had deserted her, leaving her limbs shaky and weak.

Derek’s revelations had not been a complete surprise. But she was too spent to fully process what he’d told them. Lance thought his story was bullshit. Morgan didn’t know what to believe.

“Morgan!” Stella’s voice pierced the busy scene.

Morgan braced herself for her sister’s fury.

Stella weaved her way through a foursome of patrol officers and sheriff’s deputies. Both departments had responded to the 911 call.

Stopping in front of Morgan, Stella propped her hands on her hips. “What the hell were you doing?”

Morgan hugged her body against the night chill. She’d ditched Chelsea’s robe in the house so she could move faster. “What did you want me to do? Call you and tell you we had a hunch that Derek Pagano was Chelsea’s kidnapper, and we were planning to camp in their house until he showed up for her?”

“Yes!”

Morgan shook her head. “We didn’t know when or if he’d come. It could have been days from now.”

It hadn’t taken much to convince Tim and Chelsea they were at risk. Chelsea had jumped at the chance to get out of her house. The family had packed a few bags. Sharp had whisked them off to the hotel where her parents were registered and stayed to watch over them.

“You should have told me,” Stella huffed. “At least I would have had a patrol car in the area.”

“What if he didn’t come tonight? Or tomorrow night? Would the SFPD have continued to babysit us?” But Morgan had expected him to come quickly, before any evidence surfaced to make the sheriff doubt the Burns brothers had kidnapped Chelsea.

Stella glared. “I could have done it off duty.”

“So, no. The SFPD wouldn’t have babysat us for a hunch.” Though Morgan knew she probably should have called her sister.

Morgan and Lance had agreed to give her plan three nights. As it turned out, they’d needed only one.

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