“You have me alone. Now, start talking,” I said in a stony voice.
Madeline reached into her blue blazer and handed me a five-by-seven manila envelope. “Open it.”
I flipped it over, lifted the silver tab, and pulled out the stack of papers. My blood turned to ice when I took in the first photograph. It was of Paige and me on Hank’s property the night we’d scoped out his place. The image was dark and a tad pixelated. She and I were both holding flashlights and walking between two barns.
My gut coiled, but I kept my expression unreadable. “So what? We trespassed on private property.”
“There happens to be a reporter—Lexie West at The Murfreesboro Times—who is very interested in more details on my husband’s mysterious death. It doesn’t look good with Paige and you on my property weeks before my husband was murdered. She’ll run anything I tell her, Colton. You forget who runs this town.”
I was not threatened by her, so I told her, “Then, I’ll be sure to show her the images I have of my horse sperm in the refrigerator in your stables and the paperwork confirming the fire on my property was arson, committed by your husband.”
“Keep flipping,” she hissed.
The second picture was of Kyle, Jason, Damon, Blake, and me on the night when we’d gone to Hank’s estate and forced him to return what was rightfully mine.
I turned to the next image and immediately went rigid with uncontrollable fury. It was a close-up picture of Rusty’s laceration, followed by a close-up of Foster.
“You bitch,” I seethed.
Her laughter made me feel sick. “Keep going.”
The next images consisted of Ashlee Davis inside of Lovin’ Sweets, baking cookies and helping customers; Nancy Summers cooking in her kitchen and weeding her garden; Dave Summers working with his horses and herding cattle in the field.
My heart raced with each picture and its unspoken threat.
“I was originally here to chase Paige out of town…” Madeline trailed off for a brief second when my steely eyes met hers. “But after watching your face twist and writhe in pain, I’m glad I played a different angle.”
“What the fuck are you getting at, Madeline? Spit it out already. I’m not intimidated by some news reporter.” My patience was wearing thin. I was struggling not to line-drive her into the ground and wrap my hands around her neck.
“You have a grave weak spot, Colton, and I plan to decimate her by forcing her to endure losing everyone she loves, one by one, while I sit back and watch her misery consume her, destroy her, just as she did to me. You can’t protect her twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. You can’t save her from me. She’s going to know what it feels like.” Her body shook violently with indignation. “She made my heart bleed, and I won’t accept anything less than the blood of hers in return.”
So, she wants Paige to live a life without me? That’s her punishment? I swallowed thickly. This woman knew nothing about me—that I would give my last dying breath to save Paige, that my love for her had no bounds. It was endless, unceasing.
I moved with agile speed and got right up in her face, causing a whirl of activity around me. Two handguns were pointed directly at either side of my temples. Blake was right on my heel, shouting something. I didn’t catch a word of it. My fury and focus were concentrated solely on one human being.
“You don’t scare me,” I told her as my lethal gaze roamed over the dark circles under her eyes, her stenciled thin brown eyebrows, and the harsh set of her cheekbones. “You should know, I’ve never hit a woman before in my life. It goes against how I was raised, everything I believe in—”
“Don’t be foolish, boy.” She laughed shallowly. “My bodyguards would be on you in a second.”
I didn’t doubt it. Ignoring her, I continued as though I hadn’t heard her, “I’ll be making an exception for you. So, make no mistake, the first chance I get, I won’t hesitate a split second before snapping your frail little neck.”
“I’m giving you one week to leave town for good, Kingston. Seven days and not a single more, or I’ll start picking off those dear to her, one by one, and you won’t be able to stop me.” She snatched the envelope out of my grasp. “And I promise you, I won’t be as delicate as my beloved husband was with this situation. I’m far more callous.” She retreated with her bodyguards and sneered, “Have a good afternoon, boys.”
Catch up on the series!