Kill Without Mercy
ARES Security #1
By: Alexandra Ivy
Released December 29, 2015
From the hellhole of a Taliban prison to sweet freedom, five brave military heroes have made it home—and they’re ready to take on the civilian missions no one else can. Individually they’re intimidating. Together they’re invincible. They’re the men of ARES Security.
Rafe Vargas is only in Newton, Iowa, to clear out his late grandfather’s small house. As the covert ops specialist for ARES Security, he's eager to get back to his new life in Texas. But when he crosses paths with Annie White, a haunted beauty with skeletons in her closet, he can't just walk away—not when she’s clearly in danger…
There’s a mysterious serial killer on the loose with a link to Annie’s dark past. And the closer he gets, the deeper Rafe’s instinct to protect kicks in. But even with his considerable skill, Annie’s courage, and his ARES buddies behind him, the slaying won’t stop. Now it’s only a matter of time before Annie’s next—unless they can unravel a history of deadly lies that won’t be buried.
“A fantastic blend of romance and suspense…thrilling to the end.” --Mary Burton, USA Today bestselling author
The small but stylish condo on the edge of Denver offered a quiet neighborhood, a fantastic view of the mountains, and a parking garage that was worth its weight in gold during thelong, snow-filled winters.
With a muted blue and silver décor, the condo was precisely the sort of place expected of an upwardly mobile young professional.Not that Annie White was upwardly mobile.
Not after walking away from her position at Anderson’s Accounting just six months after being hired.
At the moment, however, she didn’t really give a crap about her future in the business world. Instead she was trying to concentrate on her packing. A task that would have been easier if her foster mother hadn’t been following behind her, wringing her hands and predicting inevitable doom.
“I wish you hadn’t traveled all this way, Katherine,” Annie said to her foster mother, moving from the bedroom to the living room to place a stack of clean underwear in her open suitcase.
The older woman was hot on her heels. Still attractive at the age of fifty-five, Katherine Lowe had faded red hair that was pulled into a tight bun at the back of her head, and clear green eyes that could hold kindness or make a child cringe with guilt.
Dressed in a jade sweater and dress slacks, her narrow face was currently tight with concern. “What did you expect me to do when you called to say you were traveling back to that horrible place?” Katherine demanded.
Annie swallowed a sigh. Unlike her foster mother, her honey brown hair tumbled untidily around her shoulders, the golden highlights shimmering in the September sunlight that streamed through the skylight. Her pale features were scrubbed clean instead of discreetly coated with makeup. And her slender body was casually covered by a pair of faded jeans and gray sweatshirt.
With her wide hazel eyes she barely looked old enough to be out of high school, let alone a trained CPA.
“I shouldn’t have called,” she muttered.
She loved her foster parents. She truly did. There weren’t many people who would take in the ten-year-old daughter of a serial killer. Especially after she’d spent several months in a mental institution.They’d not only provided a stable home for her on their ranch in Wyoming, but they’d offered her protection from a world that was insatiably curious about the only survivor ofthe Newton Slayer.
Now, however, she wished her foster mother would dial back on the fussing.
“You think I wouldn’t have found out?” Katherine demanded.
Annie grimaced. She tried to ignore the fact that while she’d moved away from the ranch, her parents continued to monitor her on a daily basis.
Not only by their nightly calls, but by speaking with her boss, Mr. Anderson, who happened to be a personal friend of her foster father.They only wanted to make sure she was safe.
“I don’t want you to worry,” Annie said.
Katherine waved a hand toward her open suitcase. “Then reconsider this rash trip.”
Annie moved into the bathroom, collecting her toiletries as she struggled to smooth her features into an unreadable mask.
Overall, her foster parents had been supportive. They’d urged her to discuss her past with them as well as a trained therapist. They’d even allowed her to keep a picture of her father beside her bed, despite the devastation he’d caused. But the one thing they refused to accept was her claim that she’d seen visions of the murders as they’d happened.And they weren’t alone.
No one believed the strange images that had plagued her were anything more than a figment of her overactive imagination.Over the years, Annie had tried to convince herself they were right. It was insane to think they’d been psychically connected to her father while he was committing the murders.
Then two nights ago the visions returned.
The images had been fragmented. A woman screaming. A dark, cramped space. The shimmer of a knife blade in the moonlight. Newton’s town square.
Annie didn’t even try to deny the visions.
Either she was losing her mind—or they were real.
The only way to know was to return to the town and confront her nightmares.
“It isn’t rash,” she said as she returned to the living room. “I’ve given it a great deal of thought.”
Katherime made a sound of impatience. “But what about your position at Anderson’s?”
“It’s possible they’ll hold my job for me,” Annie said, mentally crossing her fingers.
It wasn’t a total lie.
Her supervisor had said they might reconsider rehiring her when she returned.
“Do you realize how many strings Douglas had to pull to get you a place at such a prestigious firm?” Katherine demanded, clearly not appeased. “In this economy it’s almost impossible to find anything that isn’t entry level.”
Annie turned to take her foster mother’s hands. She knew she should feel bad about leaving her position. It was what she’d trained to do, wasn’t it?
“And I appreciate everything he’s done for me,” she assured the older woman. “That you’ve both done for me.”
Katherine clicked her tongue. “If that was true you wouldn’t be tossing it all away on this harebrained scheme.”
“I get that you don’t understand, but it’s something I have to do.”Katherine pulled her hands free, clearly frustrated by Annie’s rare refusal to concede to her stronger will. “Nothing can change the past,” she snapped.
Annie turned, unnecessarily smoothing the jeans she’d placed in the suitcase.
This wasn’t about the past. The visions weren’t memories. They were glimpses of the present.
“I know that,” she murmured.
“Do you?” Katherine pressed.
There was a long silence, as if the older woman was considering the best means of attack. Katherine Lowe was a wonderful woman, but she was a master of manipulation.
“Is this because it’s the anniversary of the deaths?” she at last demanded.
The thought had crossed Annie’s mind. Within a few days it would be exactly fifteen years since the killings started.
Who could blame her for being plagued with hallucinations?
But her heart told her it was more than that.
“I don’t think so,” she hedged.
Katherine pressed her hands together, a certain sign she was trying to maintain her temper. “Maybe you should talk with your therapist.”
“I don’t need a therapist,” Annie said, her voice uncharacteristically hard.
What was going on in her head couldn’t be cured by sitting in a room and talking.
She had to go see for herself.
Seeming to realize she couldn’t badger Annie into giving up her plans, Katherine glared at her with an annoyance that didn’t entirely disguise her concern. “What do you hope to find?”
It was a question she didn’t want to consider.
ALEXANDRA IVY graduated from Truman University with a degree in theatre before deciding she preferred to bring her characters to life on paper rather than stage. She currently lives in Missouri with her extraordinarily patient husband and teenage sons. To stay updated on Alexandra’s Guardian series or to chat with other readers, please visit her website at www.alexandraivy.com.