Moon 1 killing moon, p.1

(Moon 1) - Killing Moon, page 1


(Moon 1) - Killing Moon

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(Moon 1) - Killing Moon


  Moon 1


  Rebecca York





























  National Bestselling Author

  "[Her] books… deliver what they promise: excitement, mystery, romance."

  —The Washington Post Book World

  Ruth Glick writing as Rebecca York




  York delivers page-turning

  —Nora Roberts

  In the woods, a killer waits,

  surrounded by the graves of his victims,

  anticipating his next kill.

  In the woods, a wolf stalks its prey,

  surrendering only to the laws of nature, not of man.

  Private investigator Ross Marshall has a special talent for tracking—a talent that has helped him locate missing persons when the police's trail has gone cold. Now his current case has led him to a body buried in an isolated rural area—and a serial killer who is looking for a new victim. But while gathering evidence for the police, something goes very wrong…

  The last thing genetic researcher Megan Sheridan expected was to discover her client shot and unconscious. Ross Marshall had requested her lab to run genetic tests on him, but instead of taking a blood sample, Megan found herself tending his wounds. Although frightened by the secrets she knows he is hiding, Megan is compelled to him by a force she can't explain—or resist. Ross tries to deny the ancient instincts clamoring for him to take Megan as his mate, for to do so would sentence her to a lifetime of sorrow. But now Ross has an even more urgent reason to stay away from Megan: The killer that he'd been hunting has turned the tables—and is now hunting him…

  ISBN 0 425-19071-4

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


  A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author


  Berkley Sensation edition / June 2003

  Copyright © 2003 by Ruth Glick

  Cover design by Brad Springer

  Text design by Julie Rogers

  All rights reserved.

  ISBN: 0-425-19071-4


  Berkley Sensation Books are published by

  The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  BERKLEY SENSATION and the "B" design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.



  ^ »

  ROSS MARSHALL WAS dressed for stealth. Black knit shirt, comfortable black pants, black running shoes.

  Just before sunset he pulled under the sheltering foliage of a low-growing maple and cut the truck's engine. After rolling down the window, he sat motionless behind the wheel of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, his dark eyes scanning his surroundings, his ears pricked for telltale warning sounds in the depths of the forest.

  His senses were only those of a man. Still, he had trained himself to watch and listen with as much skill as a human could acquire. In the branches above him a few birds still chirped and rustled. And he saw a doe and a fawn come through the woods on the far side of the road. She stopped, sniffed the air, and tensed, then turned and bounded back the way she'd come, taking her offspring with her. He was sorry he had frightened her. Yet her instincts had been right.

  As the gray of twilight edged into the darkness of night, he grabbed the knapsack from the seat beside him and exited the truck, uncoiling his six-foot-plus frame and brushing back the mahogany hair that fell across his forehead. For a moment he stood breathing in the scents floating on the spring air. Tipping his head up, he looked toward the heavens, toward the pinpoints of light winking to life in the black velvet of the sky.

  As he focused upward, a vision stirred in his brain, and he imagined his long-ago ancestor standing in a sacred grove and asking the gods for powers beyond those of mortal men. His request had been granted. By the gods, or fate, or some cosmic jester. It had been granted for his sons, as well, and their sons after them, down through the generations.

  Fingers of wind shaking the branches above his head brought Ross's mind back to the present. The world was different than it had been for his ancestors, yet some things never changed. Men still reached for the forbidden—and suffered the consequences.

  His face set in hard lines, he hoisted his knapsack over a muscular shoulder and set off, blending into the shadows of the forest.

  With an eagerness for the hunt, he quickened his steps, his running shoes crunching the brown leaves that still lay on the ground. The chain-link fence topped with razor wire was a hundred yards ahead. When he reached it, he squatted, opened his pack, and pulled out the wire cutters he'd brought. The pack contained other tools, as well. It would be too damn bad if he needed them later.

  After laying his pack on a pile of leaves, he cut the links, and pulled the edges of the fence apart, making a hole wide enough to accommodate a low, lime body. Then he quickly stood to pull the knit shirt over his head and toss it on top of the pack.

  Pants and shoes followed. He hadn't bothered with underwear. The air was cold on his bare skin, but he stripped to the buff.

  Closing his dark eyes, he called on ancient knowledge, ancient ritual, ancient deities as he gathered his inner strength, steeling himself for the feeling of disorientation, even as he said the words that he had learned on his sixteenth birthday.

  "Taranis, Epona, Cerridwen," he intoned, then repeated the same phrase and went on to another.

  "Gá. Feart. Cleas. Duais. Aithriocht. Go gcumhdaí is dtreoraí na déithe thú."

  The words and the blinding pain that came immediately after them had been the death of his older brother. Ross had had more luck. At least that was what he thought at the time, when he'd still been giddy with relief at his own survival. It was only later that he'd understood that he'd given up as much as he'd gained.

  On that night so long ago, the words had helped him through the agony of transformation, opened his mind, freed him from the bonds of the human shape. He had tried more than once to watch in a mirror, but his vision had blurred as if his own consciousness rejected that which was beyond a man's comprehension.

  But comprehension was apparently unnecessary for reality. Even as the human part of his mind screamed in protest, he felt his jaw elongate, his teeth sharpen, his body contort as muscles and limbs changed into a different shape.

  The first few times he'd done it had been a nightmare of torture and terror. But once he'd understood what to expect
, he'd learned to ride above the physical sensations of bones crunching, muscles jerking, cells transforming from one shape to another.

  Thick gray hair formed along his flanks, covering his body in a silver-tipped pelt. The color—the very structure—of his eyes changed as he dropped to all fours, no longer a man but an animal far more suited to the forest around him.

  A wolf.

  A surge of freedom rippled through him, and he pawed the ground with the joy of a creature totally at one with nature. Raising his head, he sucked in a draft of air, his lungs expanding as his nose drank in the rich scents that were suddenly part of the landscape.

  His body quivered. The blood sang in his veins. He wanted to throw back his head and howl for the sheer joy of it. But he checked the impulse, because the mind inside his skull still held his human intelligence. And the man understood the need for stealth tonight.

  An owl screeched above him, flapped away into the night, and he saw the wings beat the dark air—saw the grace and power of the bird as it went in search of prey.

  His own prey was on the other side of the fence. He pressed low to the ground, slithered through the hole he'd cut, then shook the dead leaves from his thick fur. Sniffing the wind again to get his bearings, he trotted into the woods. He knew that a house lay to his right, hidden by a dense stand of trees. Instinctively the wolf gave the place a wide berth—avoiding the evil that lurked there.

  Eyes and ears tuned to his surroundings, he noted the rustling sounds of small animals scurrying to get out of his way. But he wasn't here to hunt the creatures of the forest tonight.

  He had come to this tract of land for evidence that would satisfy human laws.

  Scent was his most important sense, but his eyes were sharp, too, helping to guide him through the inky darkness under the trees. A quarter mile from his point of entry, he was stopped short by the thick, sickening odor of decaying flesh—too faint for a man to catch. Cautiously he approached a mound of newly turned earth where someone had dug in the forest floor, then piled the dirt back into place. The grave hadn't been there long. Only a thin layer of leaves and other debris had fallen to cover the fresh scar on the land.

  He circled the mound, fighting the cloying scent, then pawed at the loose dirt, carefully removing the top layer of soil, and more. Less than a foot below the surface he discovered what he had been certain he would find—the partially decomposed remains of a woman's body, the flesh marred by stab wounds. Backing away, he scratched in the leaves to clean the tainted dirt from his claws.

  Penny Delano, he thought. Or maybe Charlotte Lawrence. Both of them had been missing for months. Both of them, he was certain, had ended their young lives on this piece of property. Alone, except for their torturer. A son of a bitch named Donald Arnott.

  It was Penny's parents who had hired him to find their daughter—and his investigation had led him to this grave in the woods. He had hoped that perhaps he was wrong, but now there was little doubt where their daughter was buried.

  He was too focused on the grim pictures in his mind, too sickened by his discovery, to hear the crackle of dry leaves, the stealthy crunch of human footsteps.

  The sound of a rifle shot and a bullet plowing into a tree trunk inches from his head brought his mind zinging back to his own present danger.

  He was already sprinting into the cover of the forest before the next slug splatted into the ground behind him.

  But he wasn't fast enough. The third shot caught him in the right hind quarter, sending a shaft of fire through the leg.

  He didn't let it slow him down. Mind clenched against the pain, he put on a burst of speed, zigzagging through the woods, even as the sound of more bullets echoed behind him. Despite the fire in his leg, he was faster than any man as he circled into the forest, then headed back toward the opening he'd made in the fence, his ears tuned to sounds of pursuit.

  Breathing hard, he reached the fence and flattened his body to the ground, his right hind leg in agony as he clawed his way toward freedom. Relief surged through him once he was on the other side.

  Panting, he stood on wobbly legs, staring at the knapsack and pile of clothing he'd left on the ground.

  If he changed back to human form, he could pick up his belongings, carry them away. But transforming now, when Arnott was closing in on him, was too dangerous. The shock of changing with a bullet in his body might knock him out cold.

  When his wolf ears picked up the crunch of leaves in the distance, he was forced to make a decision. Snatching up his trousers in his teeth, he left everything else where it lay and headed toward the truck.

  Arnott's own fence would stop him for the time being. He wouldn't be able to wiggle through the wolf-size opening—not without enlarging the hole. And the tools for doing that were on the other side.

  Dragging the trousers along the ground, the wolf made it back to the truck and stood with his sides heaving.

  As a wolf he was unable to utter the words of transformation aloud. But the silent chant echoed in his mind as muscle and ligament, skin and bone transmuted themselves once again—this time from wolf shape to human.

  A cold sheen of sweat filmed his skin, but there was nothing he could do about the bullet torturing his flesh except grit his teeth and push past the agony. In the end, the effort was too much.

  He realized he'd lost consciousness when he woke up on the ground beside the vehicle. He was still naked and now shivering with cold. His head was cradled in a pile of leaves and his leg was lying in a pool of blood.

  Muzzy-headed, vision wavering, he longed to simply lie there on the cool ground and close his eyes again, but giving in to that impulse was a death sentence.

  Summoning all his remaining strength, he pushed himself to a sitting position and grabbed his trousers, fumbling in the pocket for his keys. Thank God they hadn't fallen out during his wild dash to the truck.

  Crawling toward the driver's door, he pulled himself up and managed to get the key in the lock. There was no point in wasting energy getting dressed. He simply tossed the pants onto the floor of the passenger side, wincing as his leg hit the console.

  For a moment he sat gripping the steering wheel to keep from passing out again. Then he reached for the bottle of water he'd left on the passenger seat. Fumbling off the cap, he took a long swig, spilling some down his chest and belly.

  With clumsy fingers he reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a first-aid kit. Unwrapping a bandage, he wound it around his thigh, stanching the flow of blood.

  He held back a groan as he turned the ignition key, then pressed on the accelerator, wondering if he could stay conscious long enough to make it home. He'd made a mistake tonight by underestimating the man who'd dug the grave. Or maybe it had only been bad luck that he'd been discovered.

  But it didn't matter what had gone wrong. Either way, he was in a hell of a mess.

  DONALD Arnott stood with the rifle pointed toward the ground as he stared at the hole someone had cut in his fence.

  Playing the flashlight beam over the forest floor on the other side of the chain links, he could see a trail of blood leading toward the road. The dog was hurt, all right. Maybe it was bleeding too bad to get much farther.

  He swept the beam in an arc. When the yellow light struck a knapsack and a pile of clothing, he went rigid, then charged toward the fence, his fingers gripping the cold metal links as he stared in disbelief.

  Holy shit!

  He'd expected to come upon the big dog dazed and wounded—cowering against the barrier—waiting helplessly for the kill shot.

  Instead he'd found someone had cut a damn hole in his fence. A hole large enough for the dog to squeeze through.

  Turning, he trotted back to the house, where he quickly exchanged the rifle for a Beretta and grabbed a plastic trash bag. Then he jumped in his Land Rover and sped toward the gate.

  Jesus. What if he hadn't come outside tonight?

  He'd been walking through the woods—the need for another wo
man building in his gut like gas expanding through a rotting body. It had been weeks since he'd finished with Charlotte. And the memories of the things he'd done to her no longer had the power to bring him to hard, aching arousal.

  After the first little blond bitch he'd taken, he'd waited almost a year before daring to repeat the delicious adventure. Last time, he'd been able to hold off for only a few months.

  He made a guttural sound in his throat. Charlotte had been too weak, given up too easily. And he hadn't gotten the full measure of gratification he craved. That's why he'd been so restless tonight. But he was thankful now that he'd been out of the house because he'd heard the animal digging, taken aim, and scored a shot.

  He screeched to a halt at the gate, jumped out of the SUV, and worked the combination on the padlock. After driving to the other side, he carefully relocked the barrier before barreling down the driveway and turning right, heading for the spot on the road parallel to where the knapsack was lying.

  Was the man coming back for his stuff? Unlikely. Probably he'd gotten the hell out of the area while the getting was good, with or without the dog.

  He found the knapsack and the clothing easily enough. Squatting, he stared at the abandoned possessions, wondering if this were some kind of trap. Like what? A bomb stuffed into a shoe?

  With a snort, he pawed through the knapsack, finding a collection of tools. Then he picked up a shirt and shoes. Only the trousers and underwear were missing.

  Touching the discarded clothing sent a shiver of dread slithering down his spine. Thrusting the feeling aside, he stuffed everything into the plastic bag he'd brought, hoping the guy had been stupid enough to have put an ID tag on the knapsack.

  That would make things easier, although it wasn't essential. Someone had sent a dog to his private graveyard tonight—and he had to assume that it wasn't a random act of bad luck. Some bastard had discovered what he was doing and had come after him with a bloodhound. No, not a hound. Something with thicker, shaggier fur. Maybe a shepherd mix.

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