Fatal Promise by Kelly Gendron
Tex McCoy may have gone to jail for murder, but after almost a decade of being incarcerated, he too is dead inside. Resurrecting any of Tex's feelings-including the ones he once had for Rainey Ann McKenna-could not only be hazardous to her heart, but fatal to her body.
But beyond his crime, Tex has many other secrets, and with a single word spoken from the killer's mouth, Rainey's ordinary life will be changed forever...
But being left alone with Tex McCoy, the murderer, she found it difficult to summon her characteristic stubbornness. She glanced up at him and saw him gazing out the window. With him filling it, her normally decent-sized kitchen suddenly appeared small. It seemed to shrink even more when his eyes slithered from the window to her—so much so that it seemed to become devoid of oxygen, and her breath caught in her throat. He took a step toward her. At that point, her breathing seized altogether. His hand came out, nearing her face. Or was he going for her throat? She panicked and gasped for air as if his hands were already around her neck and squeezing. Was he going to…strangle her? She slapped his hand away. “Don’t you dare touch me!”
He shoved his hand into the pocket of his jeans. His eyes, if at all possible, became darker, almost black, but his expression remained impassive. “You have dirt on your face,” he said flatly and remotely, as if he’d expected her impulsive reaction.
“Oh.” Her hand went to her cheek, the one he had planned to innocently wipe off for her. She rubbed it, wondering if she’d overacted. What was she going to do when he freely walked around her house, took a shower in her bathroom, or slept in the bedroom below hers? Was she going to jump with every step he took? Was she going to lay awake all night? And the shower—her shower. Rainey decided thinking about Tex McCoy naked in the shower wasn’t a good idea. He was a killer. But he already served his time, right? Was he…reformed? Wait, was she really trying to rationalize here? It was manslaughter, not murder, right? And he did claim self-defense. Right. Then why’d he brutally stab Curtis Watson multiple times?
The questions swarming through Rainey’s head were undoubtedly the same questions the jury had asked. Their answer to that question had earned Tex the maximum sentence of fifteen years. The unanswered question that remained was why Tex McCoy and Curtis Watson, a hired hand who’d worked at the McCoy ranch three years prior to the murder, had gotten into a brawl outside of the bar in the first place, the scuffle that eventually led to Curtis’s death.
For the sake of her son, Rainey had to believe Tex was reformed. She had to trust he had no other choice and that he had a damn good reason for killing Curtis Watson.
“Uh, I’ll show you to your room,” she said, diverting her eyes from his so she could start down the hallway. She couldn’t hear him behind her. She glanced over her shoulder. He was right there, near and looming, with all the prowess and silent pursuit of some sly, predatory panther. Her heart slammed into her chest wall. She straightened her back, valiantly suffering through another panic attack. When she reached the spare bedroom, she opened the door and walked in. “This used to be my grandmother’s room. Nobody’s stayed in here since she died, but it has a queen-sized bed, an empty dresser…” She stopped and turned, practically bumping into him. Swallowing her insistent fear, she took a step back. “You do have clothes, don’t you? I, um…well, I don’t see any luggage or a duffle bag.”
“Yeah, I have clothes,” he said and moved forward, recapturing the distance she’d intentionally placed between them. “My things will be dropped off later.”
“Oh,” she breathed, backpedaling until she hit the wall. “Good.” Her body went still. He was standing just inches from her. He wasn’t touching her, but she felt pinned against the wall just the same.
He lifted his hands and placed them alongside her head, resting them on the wall. Now, she was literally pinned. His eyes drifted to her mouth, and every nerve trembled from the inside out. She wanted to run. Her breathing seized, and her heart had stopped midbeat. Fear was winning.
He leaned forward, and his dark lashes lifted until his eyes met hers. “You look scared,” he said, in a voice so low, ominous, and deep that it shook her insides.
She stood there, speechless.
Ever so slightly, like his menacing approach, his lip curled up. “That’s good,” he said, swaying dangerously closer. “You should be, Rainey Ann.” His eyes ran over her face. “In fact, you’d better take that fear and hold it real close.”
His hand came from the wall, dark lashes lowering once more. He gazed at her lips. They were quivering, but at that moment, Rainey couldn’t have cared less if he saw it. She was terrified. Warm fingers scraped her shoulder, slithered up her nape, and gripped around her neck. His fingers indented her skin, and being strangled came back to mind.
“Or,” he said, tilting in toward her ear, their bodies bordering lethal contact, “you could give in to that fear right now and scream.”