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Sleeping With Fear

before she opened her eyes, Riley Crane was aware of two things.
Her pounding head, and the smell of blood. Neither was all that
Instinct and training made her lie perfectly still, eyes
closed, until she was reasonably sure she was fully awake. She was
on her stomach and probably on a bed, she thought. Possibly her own
bed. On top of the covers, or at least not covered up.
opened her eyes a slit, just enough to see. Rumpled covers,
pillows. Her rumpled covers and pillows, she decided. Her bed. The
nightstand, holding the usual nightstand accessories of lamp, an
untidy stack of books, and an alarm clock.
red numbers announced that it was 2:00 p.m.
Okay, that was unusual. She never slept late, and she
never took naps. Plus, while either a headache or the smell of
not uncommon in her life, the two together were setting off alarm
bells in her mind.
Riley concentrated on listening, her unease growing when she
realized that she could hear only on the “normal”
level. The faint hum of the air-conditioning. The muffled rumble
and crash of the surf out on the beach. A gull screaming as it flew
past the house. The sort of stuff the usual everyday sense of
hearing could glean automatically without any added concentration
or focus.
nothing else. Try as she might, she couldn’t hear the
underlying pulse of the house that was made up of things like the
water in the plumbing and electricity humming in the lines and the
all-but-imperceptible shifting and creaking of seemingly solid wood
and stone as wind blew off the ocean and pressed against the
couldn’t hear any of it. And that was bad.
Taking the chance, Riley pushed herself up on her elbows and
then slid her right hand underneath the pillows. Ahhh . . . at
least it was there, right where it was supposed to be. Her hand
closed over the reassuring grip of her weapon, and she pulled it
out, giving it a quick visual scan.
in, safety on, no round in the chamber. She automatically ejected
the clip, checked that it was full, and slid it back into place,
then chambered a round, the action quick and

smooth after so many years of practice. The gun in her hand felt
comfortable. That was right.
something else was very wrong.
could see the blood now as well as smell it. It was on her. Riley
rolled and sat up in a single motion, her gaze darting around the
bedroom warily. Her bedroom, something she recognized with a sense
of familiarity, the reassurance of being where she should be. And
it was empty except for her.
head was pounding even harder from the quick movements, but she
ignored it as she looked down at herself. The hand holding the gun
was smeared with dried blood, and when she shifted the weapon to
her other hand, she saw that it was as well. On her palms, on the
backs of her hands, her forearms, even, she saw, underneath her
far as she could tell, there was no blood on the covers, the
pillows. Which meant all the blood on her had dried before she had
apparently fallen across the bed fully dressed and gone to sleep.
Or passed out. Either way . . .
Jesus Christ.Blood on her hands. Blood on her light-colored T-shirt. Blood
on her faded jeans.
lot of blood.
she hurt? She didn’t feel any pain, apart from the throbbing
headache. But she did feel a cold, growing fear, because waking up
covered with blood could not, by any stretch of the imagination,
possibly be a good thing.
got herself off the bed, a little stiff and more than a little
shaky, and moved on bare feet out of the bedroom. Quickly but
cautiously, she checked her surroundings to reassure herself that
she was alone, that no immediate threat existed here. The second
bedroom was neat as a pin and looked as though it hadn’t been
used recently, which was probably the case; Riley seldom had the
sort of guests that required an extra bedroom. Checking out the
remainder of the house was quick work, since most of it consisted
of a large open area that was kitchen, dining area, and living
room. Clean, but slightly untidy, with books, magazines,
newspapers, CDs, and DVDs stacked here and there. The usual clutter
of everyday life.
looked like she’d been using the small dining table as a work
surface, since place mats were pushed aside and her laptop carrying
case was on one of the chairs. The computer wasn’t out, which
told her only that she probably hadn’t been working on it
doors were closed and locked. The windows were also closed --- it
was hot in summer along the South Carolina coast --- and
was alone.
Nevertheless, Riley took her weapon along when she went into
her bathroom and checked behind the shower curtain before she
locked herself in the relatively small room. Then she suffered
another shock when she looked into the mirror above the
dried blood was on her face, smeared across her cheek, and some
appeared to be matted in her pale hair. Thickly matted.
stomach churned, and she stood there for a moment, eyes closed,
until the nausea passed. Then she laid her weapon on the vanity and
stripped to the skin.
checked every inch of herself and found nothing. No injury, not
even a scratch. It wasn’t her blood.
should have been reassuring. It wasn’t. She was covered with
blood, and it wasn’t hers. Which left her with a hell of a
lot of unsettling, potentially terrifying, questions.
--- or who --- had bled all over her? What had happened? And why
couldn’t she remember?
Riley looked down at the crumpled clothing on the floor, then
at herself, pale gold with her summer tan, her skin unmarked except
for the dried blood on her hands and forearms.
Forearms. Somehow or other, she’d literally been up to
her elbows in blood. Jesus.
Ignoring all the training that insisted she call the local
authorities before doing another thing, Riley got into the shower.
She made the water as hot as she could stand and used plenty of
soap, scrubbing away the dried blood. She used a nailbrush to reach
the dark slivers of dried blood underneath her fingernails and
shampooed her short hair at least twice. Even after it was clean,
after she was clean, she stood under the hot water, letting

it beat against her shoulders, her neck, her still-sickly pounding
What had happened?She
didn’t have the faintest clue, that was the hell of it. She
had absolutely no memory of how she’d gotten herself covered
with blood.
remembered lots of other things. Almost all the important stuff,
really. “Your name is Riley Crane,” she muttered aloud,
trying to reassure herself that something wasn’t terribly
wrong. “You’re thirty-two years old, single, and a
federal agent assigned, these last three years, to the Special
Crimes Unit.” Name, rank, serial number—more or less.
Knowledge she was certain of.
amnesia there. She knew who she was. An army brat with four older
brothers, she’d grown up all over the world, had a rich and
varied education, a wide range of training of a

kind few women could claim, and had been able to take care of
herself from a very young age. And she knew where she belonged, in
the FBI, in the SCU. All that she remembered.
for her recent life . . .
Christ, what was the last thing she remembered? She
vaguely remembered renting the cottage, sort of remembered settling
in. Carrying boxes and bags from the car. Putting things away.
Walking on the beach. Sitting out on the deck in the darkness at
night, feeling the warm ocean breeze on her face
alone. Somebody out there with her. The vague, fuzzy memory of
quiet voices. Hushed laughter. A touch she felt, for a fleeting
second, so strongly that she looked down at her hand in
then it was gone.
as she might, Riley couldn’t remember anything else clearly.
It became a confusing jumble in her head. Just flashes, most of
which made no sense to her. Faces that were unfamiliar, places she
didn’t remember being, random snatches of conversations she
didn’t understand.
Flashes punctuated by jabs of pain in her head.Blaming the headache for the huge blank space that was her
recent past, Riley got out of the shower and dried off. It was just
the headache, of course. She’d swallow a few aspirin and get
some food into her system, some caffeine into her veins, and then
she’d remember. Surely. She wrapped a towel around her and,
picking up her weapon again, returned to the bedroom to find fresh
struck her, as she opened drawers and checked the closet, that she
had been here awhile. She really was settled in, far more so than
was her habit. This wasn’t her usual living-outof- a-suitcase
jumble. Her clothing was fairly neat in the drawers, hanging in the
closet. And it was more than beach vacation clothing.
Casual stuff, yes, but several dressy things as well, from nice
slacks and silk blouses to dresses. Even heels and hose. So, okay.
She was here to work, that had to be it. The problem was, she
couldn’t seem to remember what the job was. Riley opened one
drawer and pulled out an extremely pretty, lacy, sexy bra-and-panty
set, and felt her eyebrows rising. Not her usual stuff at
obviously new, and there was more in the drawer. What the
hell kind of job was she here to do, anyway?
question echoed even stronger in her mind when she also discovered
a garter belt.
garter belt, for crying out loud.
“Jesus, Bishop, what’ve you got me doing this
3 Y e a r s P r e v i o u s l y

“I need somebody like you on my team.” Noah Bishop,
Chief of the FBI Special Crimes Unit, could be persuasive when he
wanted to. And he definitely wanted to.
Riley Crane eyed him, her doubt and her wariness obvious.
Knowing her background, he understood and had expected
was interesting, he thought. Physically not at all what he’d
expected: A bit below average height and petite, almost fragile in
appearance, she didn’t look as if she could throw a man more
than twice her size over her shoulder with little apparent effort.
Large gray eyes that were deceptively childlike, gazing innocently
out of an elfin face that was quirky and intriguing and infinitely
memorable without being in any way

Fascinating that such a face belonged to a
“Why me?” she demanded, straight to the
Bishop appreciated the directness, and answered
“Aside from the necessary skills as an investigator, you
possess two unique abilities I expect will prove highly useful in
our work. You can fit yourself into any situation and be anyone you
choose to be at any given time, and you’re
Riley didn’t bother
to protest. She merely said, “I like playing dress-up.
Playing Let’s Pretend. When you live in your imagination as a
kid, you get good at stuff like that. As for the other, since I
haven’t gone out of my way to advertise --- just the
opposite, in fact --- how did you find out?”
“I keep my ear to the ground,” Bishop replied with
a shrug.
“Not good enough.”“I’m building a unit around agents with paranormal
abilities, and I’ve spent a great deal of time these last few
years . . . casting out lines. Quietly alerting people I trust,
within law enforcement and outside it, as to the sort of potential
agents I’m

looking for.”
“Psychics.”“Not just any psychics. I need exceptionally strong
people who can handle both their abilities and the emotional and
psychological hardships of the work we do.” He nodded to the
scene just past her. “It seems fairly obvious that you can

the sort of extreme stress I’m talking
Riley glanced back over her shoulder, where the rest of her
team was working in the rubble of what might or might not have been
a deliberate explosion. The victims had been located and
carried—on stretchers or in body bags—from the scene
hours ago; now the army investigators were searching for
“I haven’t been doing this particular sort of thing
for long,” Riley said. “I tend toward investigative
work, sure, but my last job dealt with base security. I go wherever
I’m sent.”
“So your CO told me.”“You spoke to him?”Bishop hesitated only long enough to make it obvious, then
said, “He’s the one who got in touch with
“So he’s one of those trusted people you
“He is. The friend of a friend, more or less. And open
minded to the possibilities of the paranormal, a trait not terribly
common in the military. No offense intended,
 “None taken. Obviously. What did he tell
“He seems to feel that your talents are being wasted and
that he can’t offer you the kind of challenges he believes
you need.”
“He said that?”“Words to the effect. You’re on short time, I take
it, with a few weeks left before you re-up. Or
“I’m career military,” she said.“Or not,” Bishop said.Riley shook her head slightly, and said, “Offhand, Agent
Bishop, I can’t think of a single reason why I’d want
to exchange the military life for one with the FBI—however
specialized your unit is. Besides, even if I do get an
occasional hunch, it never makes a difference in the outcome of any
given situation.”
“Doesn’t it?”“No.”“We can help you
learn how to channel and focus your abilities, how to use them
constructively. You might be surprised at just how much of a
difference that can make --- in any given situation.” Without
waiting for a response from her, Bishop opened the briefcase he
carried and extracted a large, thick manila envelope.
“Take a look at this when you get the chance,” he
said, handing it to her. “Tonight, tomorrow. After that, if
you’re interested, give me a call. My number’s
“And if I’m not interested?”“Everything in there is a copy. If you’re not
interested, destroy it and forget about it. But I’m betting
you’ll be interested. So I’ll stick around for a few
days, Major. Just in case.”
Riley stood gazing after him for a long moment, tapping the
envelope against her hand thoughtfully. Then she locked it in her
vehicle and got back to work.
wasn’t until much later that evening, alone in her small
off-base apartment, that she discovered Bishop hadn’t been
entirely truthful. One thing in the envelope wasn’t a
had half-consciously steeled herself before opening the envelope,
partly because common sense told her the sort of thing she was
likely to find and partly because her extra sense was tingling a
warning as well --- and had been from the moment she’d first
touched it. But years of disciplined living, particularly in the
military, had taught her a fair amount about concentration and
focus, so that she was usually able to damp down those distracting
feelings until she needed them.
Until she was ready to focus on what she saw when she upended
the envelope onto her desk.
Copies, yeah. Copies of
hell. Autopsy reports --- and autopsy photos. Crime-scene photos.
Not just one crime, but half a dozen. Murders of what appeared to
be healthy young men. Brutal murders, cruel and bloody and
Without looking through the autopsy reports, Riley nevertheless
knew the murders had taken place in different cities and towns. She
knew all the victims had known their killer. She knew only one
killer was responsible.
also knew what Bishop intended to do in order to catch that
“So that’s why me,” she said to herself. A
challenge? Oh, yes, definitely. The challenge of a lifetime. A
deadly test of her skills. All of them.
reached out slowly and picked up the single object from the
envelope that was not a copy. It was a coin, a half-dollar.
Nothing, apparently, unusual about it at all. Except that when she
touched it, Riley knew one thing more.
knew what would happen if she refused Bishop’s invitation. In
the end, there wasn’t a great deal to think about. Riley
found the card with his cell number on it and placed the call. She
didn’t bother with pleasantries when he answered.
“You don’t play fair,” she said.“I don’t play,” he replied.“Something I should remember, for future
“You tell me.”Riley closed her fingers over the coin in her hand, and sighed.
“Where do I sign up?”
P r e s e n t D a

It didn’t take Riley long to get dressed. She avoided the
lacy underwear

and pulled on the plainer and more practical --- and more
comfortable --- stuff she usually wore, then found jeans and a
cotton tank top. She didn’t bother to dry her short

just finger-combed it and left it to dry on its own.

Barefoot, she went to the kitchen and set up the coffeemaker,
then rummaged around until she found some aspirin.
swallowed them dry with a grimace, belatedly discovering orange
juice in the fridge to wash down the bitter aftertaste.The fridge
was well-stocked, which again raised Riley’s brows. Generally
speaking, she was a take-out girl, not much given to cooking more
than eggs and toast or the occasional steak.
stomach rumbled, telling her she hadn’t eaten in a while.
That was something of a relief, actually, because it also offered a
possible reason why her senses were so muffled: There was no fuel
in her physical furnace, an absolute necessity for her to function
at peak efficiency.
was her own individual quirk; most of the SCU agents could claim at
least one such oddity.
Riley fixed herself a large bowl of cereal and ate it leaning
against the work island in the kitchen.
weapon was never out of reach.
the time she’d finished her meal, the coffee was ready. She
carried her first cup with her as she went over to the Oceanside
windows and the glass doors leading out to the deck. She
didn’t go out but opened the blinds and stood drinking the
coffee as she scanned the grayish Atlantic, the dunes and beach.
Not a lot of activity to be seen, and what was there was scattered.
A few people stretched out on towels or beach loungers,

soaking up the sun. A couple of kids near one sunning couple
building a peculiar-looking structure out of sand. One couple
strolling along the waterline as small waves broke around their
beach between Riley’s small house and the water was empty;
people here tended to respect the boundaries of public/private
beach access, especially at this less-populated end of this
particular small island, and if you paid the higher bucks for
oceanfront you generally had your little piece of the sand to
Riley returned to the kitchen for her second cup of coffee,
frowning because her head was still pounding despite aspirin, food,
and caffeine. And because she still couldn’t remember what
had happened to leave her covered in dried blood.
“Dammit,” she muttered, reluctant to do what she knew
she had to. As with most agents in the SCU, control was a big issue
with Riley, and she hated having to admit to anyone that a
situation was out of her control. But this one, inarguably,
least for the moment.
Leaving her coffee cup in the kitchen but still carrying her
weapon, she searched for her cell phone, finding it eventually in a
casual shoulder bag. One glance told her the cell was dead as a
doornail, something she accepted with a resigned sigh. She found
the charger plugged in and waiting near one end of the kitchen
counter and set the cell into it.
There was a land-line phone on the same end of the counter, and
Riley stared at it, biting her lip in brief indecision.
Shit. Nothing else she could do, really.She
finished her second cup of coffee, perfectly aware that she was
stalling, then finally placed the call.
he answered with a brief “Bishop,” she worked hard to
make her own voice calm and matter-of-fact.
“Hey, it’s Riley. I seem to have a bit of a
situation here.”
There was a long silence, and then Bishop, his voice now
curiously rough, said, “We gathered that much. What the hell
is going on, Riley? You missed your last two
chill shivered down her spine. “What do you mean?” She
never missed check-ins. Never.
“I mean we haven’t heard a word from you in over
two weeks.”
Riley said the only thing she could think of. “I’m
. . . surprised you didn’t send in the cavalry by
Grimly, Bishop said, “I wanted to, believe me. But aside
from the fact that all the teams were out and hip-deep in
investigations they absolutely couldn’t leave, you had
insisted you could handle the situation alone and that I
shouldn’t be concerned if you were out of touch for a while.
Any of us going in blind didn’t seem like the best of ideas.
You’re one of the most capable and self-sufficient people I
know, Riley; I had to trust you knew what you were
Almost absently, she said, “I wasn’t criticizing
you for not riding to the rescue, just sort of surprised you
hadn’t.” Which told her that he himself was undoubtedly
“hip-deep” in a case he was unable to leave; whatever
she’d told him, Bishop tended to keep a close eye on his
people and was rarely out of touch for more than a day or two
during an ongoing investigation. Then again, he also likely would
have sensed it if she had been in actual, physical danger. Or at
any rate had certainly done so more than once in the past. He was
like that with some of his agents, though not by any means all of
“And, anyway, I’m all right,” she said.
“At least . . .”
“What? Riley, what the hell is going on down
there?” His question made her grimace half-consciously,
because if Bishop didn’t know what was going on here,
she was most

likely in very big trouble.
on earth had she managed to end up in a situation deadly enough to
cover her in blood and apparently trigger a short-term memory loss
and yet still manage to conceal what was happening from the
formidable telepathic awareness of the SCU chief?
Perhaps the memory loss had something to do with that? Or maybe
the same thing that had triggered the memory loss had thrown up
some kind of block or shield? She didn’t know. Dammit, she
just didn’t know.
“Riley? You didn’t believe there was a risk of
violence, at least according to what you said when you did check
in. No suspicious deaths, no one reported missing. I got the
impression you were half-convinced it was just a series of pranks.
Has something happened to change that?”
Avoiding the direct question, she asked one of her own.
“Listen, what else did I say?”
a moment she didn’t think he was going to answer, but finally
he did.
“Since you arrived at Opal Island three weeks ago,
you’ve filed only one formal report, and that one was
seriously lacking in details. Just that you’d settled in, you
had a reliable contact in the Hazard County Sheriff’s
Department, and that you were confident you could successfully
resolve the situation.” Riley drew a breath and said
casually, “The situation being?” The silence this time
was, to say the least, tense.
“Riley?”“Yeah?”“Why did you go to Opal Island?”“I . . . don’t exactly remember.”“Have you been injured?”“No.” She decided, somewhat guiltily, not to
mention the blood. Not yet, at any rate. She thought she might need
that later. “Not so much as a scratch, and no bump on the
“Then it’s likely to be emotional or psychological
trauma. Or psychic trauma.”
“Yeah, that was my take.”Being Bishop, he didn’t waste time exclaiming.
“What do you remember?”
“Getting here—vaguely. Renting this house, settling
in. After that, just flashes I haven’t been able to sort
“What about before you left Quantico?”“I remember everything. Or, at least, everything through
the close of the investigation in San Diego. I got back to the
office, started in on all the paperwork . . . and that’s
pretty much it, until I woke up here a couple of hours
“What about your abilities?”“Spider sense seems to be out of commission, but I woke
up starving so that probably doesn’t mean anything. I dunno
about the clairvoyance yet, but if I had to guess . . .” She
knew she had to be honest. “Not exactly firing on all
cylinders.” Bishop didn’t hesitate. “Go back to
Quantico, Riley.”
“Without knowing what’s happened here? I
can’t do that.”
“I don’t want to make it an
“And I don’t want to disobey one. But I can’t
just pack up and leave with this—this huge blank place in my
life. Don’t ask me to do that, Bishop.”
“Riley, listen to me. You’re down there alone,
without backup. You can’t remember the last three weeks. You
don’t even remember what you’re there to investigate.
And the abilities that could normally help you focus on and sort
through undercurrents aren’t available to you—either
temporarily or permanently. Now, can you give me a single reason
why I should ignore all that and allow you to stay
drew a breath, and gambled. “Yeah. One very big reason.
Because when I woke up today, I was fully dressed and covered with
dried blood. Whatever happened here, I was up to my elbows in it.
One call to the local sheriff and I’d probably be sitting in
his jail. So I have to stay here, Bishop. I have to stay until I
remember—or figure out—what the hell’s going
McEntyre wasn’t at all happy with the local ordinance that
kept dogs off the beach from eight a.m. until eight p.m. It
wasn’t that she minded getting up early to allow her two Labs
a good long run on the beach, it was just that big dogs—hers,
at least—would have been happier if they’d been able to
get out into the water a few times during the day as well.
Especially during a hot summer.
Luckily, there was a big park skirting downtown Castle with an
area complete with wading pond where dogs were allowed off-leash
anytime during the day, so at least once every day she loaded Pip
and Brandy into her Jeep and off they went, across the bridge and
onto the mainland.
this Monday afternoon, she didn’t expect it to be crowded;
summer visitors tended to be baking on the beach or shopping
downtown, so it was mostly locals who used the park, and most of
them for the same reason Sue did. She found a space closer to the
dog area than usual and within minutes was throwing a Frisbee for
Brandy and a tennis ball for Pip, giving all three of them plenty
of exercise as shethrew and they happily fetched.
wasn’t until Pip abruptly dropped his ball and shot off into
the woods that Sue realized a section of the fence was down and
that the bolder and more curious of her two dogs had seized the
opportunity presented.
“Damn.” She wasn’t too worried; he
wasn’t likely to head toward the streets and traffic. But
neither was he at all likely to respond if she called him,
especially since he loved exploring the woods even more than
running on the beach and had perfected the art of going suddenly
and temporarily deaf when his interest was engaged.
called Brandy and clipped a leash to her collar, then set off in
pursuit of her other dog.
would think it would be easy to see a pale gold dog in the shaded
woods, but Pip also had the knack of making himself virtually
invisible, so Sue had to rely on Brandy’s nose to find her
brother. Luckily, it was a common enough occurrence that she
didn’t have to be told what to do and led her owner steadily
through the woods.
patch of woods was fairly uncommon in the area, consisting as it
did of towering hardwood trees and fairly dense underbrush rather
than the more usual spindly pines in sandy soil. But since it was
also less than a mile from downtown Castle, it was hardly what
anyone would have called a wilderness. Sue and her dogs had
probably explored every inch in the five years she’d lived on
Opal Island.
so, she would have avoided the big clearing near the center of the
woods had Brandy not been leading her straight for it. She’d
heard the talk about what had been found there a week or so ago and
didn’t like the realization that what had seemed to her just
an interesting jumble of boulders providing a seat to pause and
enjoy the quiet of the forest now had a possibly more sinister
purpose in her mind.
Satanism, that’s what people were saying.Sue
had never believed in such things but, still, there was no smoke
without fire, hunters weren’t allowed in these woods, and why
else would somebody kill an animal—
began barking.
Conscious of a sudden chill, Sue picked up her pace, almost
running beside Brandy along the twisting path to the clearing.
Anybody who would butcher an animal out in the woods for no good
reason, she thought, probably wouldn’t hesitate to kill
someone’s pet, especially if it was in the wrong place at the
wrong time.
“Pip!” Not that it would do any good to call him,
but she was desperately afraid suddenly, afraid in a way
she’d never been before, on a level so deep it was almost
primal, and that terror had to be voiced in some kind of
wasn’t until much later that she realized she had probably
smelled the blood long before she reached the clearing. She and
Brandy burst into the clearing to find Pip only a couple of yards
in, standing still and barking his head off. Not his happy
I’m-having-fun bark, but an unfamiliar, nearly hysterical
sound that spoke of the same primal fear Sue felt herself. Holding
the whimpering Brandy close to her side, Sue went to Pip and
fastened his leash to his collar blindly, her gaze fixed on what
was at the center of the clearing.
seemingly innocent jumble of boulders was there, no longer innocent
but splashed with blood, a lot of blood. Sue paid little attention
to the rocks, however, nor even noticed that there had been a fire
built near them. Her gaze was only for what hung over
Suspended by ropes from a sturdy oak limb, the naked body of a
man was only barely recognizable as such. Dozens of shallow cuts
all over him had bled a great deal, turning his flesh reddish and,
clearly, dripping down onto the boulders.

Dripping for a long time.
ropes were tied around the wrists, both of them tied together and
stretched above . . . above the . . . Except that the wrists
weren’t stretched above the head.
There was no head.Sue
turned with a choked cry and ran.
took considerable persuasion, but in the end Riley prevailed. In a
manner of speaking.
Bishop agreed not to recall her, but he wasn’t willing to
leave that open-ended. It was Monday afternoon; she had until
Friday to “stabilize” the situation—by which he
meant recover her memories of the last three weeks and/or figure
out what was going on here. If she couldn’t do that to his
satisfaction, she’d be recalled to Quantico.
she was to report in every day; one missed report, and he’d
send in another team member or members with orders to pull her out.
That or come himself.
was also to send the bloodstained clothing she’d awakened
wearing to Quantico for testing immediately; Bishop would send a
courier within a couple of hours to pick up the package. And if the
results showed human blood, all bets were off.
“You think it could be animal blood?” she
“Since you went down there to investigate reports of
possible occult rituals, it may be more likely than not.”
Bishop paused, then went on. “We’ve had a number of
these reports across the Southeast in the last year or so. You
remember that much?” She did. “But nine times out of
ten, there’s no real evidence of occult activity. Or at least
nothing dangerous.”
“Nothing satanic,” he agreed. “Which is
always the idea feeding local hysteria, that devil worshippers are
conducting robed rituals out in the woods that involve orgies and
sacrificing infants.”
“Yeah, when in reality it’s almost always either
pranks or just somebody jumping to conclusions when they find
something on the weird side while out taking their daily
“Exactly. But once the gossip gets going, such incidents
are blown out of all proportion, and fear can stir up real trouble.
Sometimes deadly trouble.”
“So I came down here to investigate possible occult
activity?” Riley was still struggling to remember and still
trying to reconcile the clothing and underwear she’d brought
along with what sounded like a perfectly ordinary
investigation—for her, at any rate.
was the go-to girl of the SCU when it came to the occult.
“The possible beginnings of occult activity,” Bishop
said. “A friend and former colleague of yours got in touch.
He didn’t want us down there openly and, in fact, lacked the
authority to ask us to get involved, but he had a very bad feeling
that whatever’s going on in Castle and on Opal Island is both
serious and more than the local sheriff can
“So I’m here unofficially.”“Very unofficially. And on the strength of Gordon
Skinner’s request and your confidence that his instincts were
“Yeah, Gordon has a rep for hunches that pay off. I
always figured him for a latent precog. And he’s not a man to
jump at shadows.” Riley frowned to herself. “I guess he
got in his twenty and retired just like he planned. To Opal
“So you said.”“Okay. Well, Gordon’s definitely somebody I can
trust. If I’m here because of him, it’s a cinch
I’ve spent time with him over the last three weeks. He can
fill me in.”
“I hope so. Because you aren’t there undercover,
Riley. You haven’t hidden the fact that you’re an FBI
agent. As far as the locals are concerned—including the
sheriff, since you checked in with him when you
arrived—you’re on Opal Island on vacation Taking some
accumulated leave time after a particularly tough
“Oh,” Riley said. “I wonder if that was smart
of me. Being here openly, I mean.”
“Unfortunately, I have no idea. But it’s clearly
too late to second-guess that decision.”
“Yeah. So I picked the island for a vacation spot because
my old army buddy Gordon retired here.”
“It gave you a legitimate reason to be there.”
Riley sighed. “And that’s all you know?” His
silence spoke volumes, and she hastily added, “Right, right,
my fault. Should have reported in. And I’m sure when I
remember why I didn’t report in, there’ll be a
good reason.”
“I hope so.”“Sorry, Bishop.”“Just be careful, will you, please? I know you can take
care of yourself, but we both know investigations that turn up
genuine black-occult practices or some other variation of evil go
south more often than not. Usually in a hurry.”
“Yeah. The last one involved a serial killer,
didn’t it?”
“Don’t remind me.”She
wasn’t all that happy to have reminded herself, because that
memory, at least, was quickly all too clear. She had come within a
hair of being that particular killer’s final
“I don’t like any of this, Riley, for the
record,” Bishop said.
“I know.”“Remember—you report some degree of success by
Friday, or I pull the plug.”
“Got it. Don’t worry. I’ve got Gordon to
watch my back, if necessary, while I figure out what’s going
“Be careful,” he repeated.“I will.” She cradled the receiver and stood there
for a minute or so, frowning. Her headache was finally easing off,
but although the pounding was somewhat muffled now, so were her
refilled her coffee cup, then rummaged in the pantry for the
high-calorie PowerBars she tended to buy by the case. It was normal
for her to carry at least two of them in her purse or back pockets
at all times; if she didn’t eat something about every hour or
two, she simply couldn’t function at peak
Psychic efficiency.Several of the other SCU members envied her the high metabolism
that enabled her to eat anything she wanted—and rather
astonishing quantities of it, at that—without gaining
announce. But they also understood the downside. It was not always
possible for Riley to eat enough or often enough during the course
of a busy investigation to continually provide fuel for her
abilities, and at least once it had nearly cost a life.
ate a PowerBar with her coffee and placed two more in the shoulder
bag she had found. She checked the contents of the purse, just on
the off chance that something unusual might trigger her memories,
but everything looked normal.
tended to travel light, so there wasn’t much. Keys to her
rental car and this house. A small pocket phone/address book. Tube
of lip balm; she wasn’t a lipstick kind of girl. Mirrored
compact with pressed powder that was barely used, because she
wasn’t a makeup kind of girl either—unless the
situation called for it. Billfold with cash, credit cards in their
protective case, and her driver’s license; her FBI I.D.
folder and badge would be in her nightstand, or should be, since
she was technically off duty.
went and checked, and it was.
Returning to the main living area, Riley turned on the TV to
CNN to check the date and find out if she’d missed anything
crucial in the way of world news.
14. And the last clear, solid memory she could claim was somewhere
around June 20, at Quantico. Paperwork at the desk, nothing
unusual. Feeling a little drained, which was normal for her
following the conclusion of a tough investigation. And then . . .
nothing but flashes. Whispers in her mind, snatches of conversation
that made no sense. Faces and places she thought she knew but
couldn’t put names to. Feelings that were oddly unsettled and
even chaotic for a woman who tended to take a reasonable, rational
approach to life. . . .
Riley shook that off and frowned at the TV. Okay, so she
wasn’t doing so hot. How went the world?
earthquake, two political scandals, a celebrity divorce, and half a
dozen violent crimes later, she muted the set and returned to the
kitchen for more coffee.
old, same old.
“I can’t just hide in this house until it all comes
back to me,” she muttered to herself. For one thing, there
was no guarantee it would; short-term memory loss linked to some
kind of trauma wasn’t all that uncommon, but in a psychic it
could also be a symptom of bigger problems.
Bishop hadn’t needed to remind her of that.For
another thing, nothing here was sparking her memory.
she needed information, fast. Needed to have some idea of what was
going on here. So the most imperative order of business was,
clearly, contacting Gordon.
took the time first to bag the clothing she’d been wearing
and managed to find what she needed to construct a decent package
for shipment back to Quantico. And she did another search through
the house, this time looking intently for anything
Aside from the sexy underwear, there was nothing she considered
unusual. Which meant that she found nothing to either answer any of
her questions or raise more.
the time she was finished with the more thorough search,
she’d also eaten another PowerBar and her headache was all
but gone. But when she attempted to tap into her extra senses, she
got nothing. No deeper, more intense connection to her

that was her spider sense.
for her clairvoyance . . .
was stronger with people than with objects, so it was difficult for
her to be certain that extra sense was out to lunch when she was in
the house all alone—
doorbell rang, and Riley’s first reaction was an intense
suspicion that came from both training and a lifelong addiction to
mystery novels and horror movies.
visitor just when she needed one was not a good
took her gun with her, held down at her side until she reached the
front door. A small clear-glass viewing panel in the solid wood
door allowed her to see who was on her porch. A woman in a
sheriff’s deputy uniform, no hat. She was a tall redhead,
rather beautiful, and—
“I don’t know, Riley. We just don’t see
this sort of thing around here. Peculiar symbols burned into wood
or drawn in the sand. An abandoned building and a house under
construction both burned to the ground. That stuff we found out in
the woods that you say could indicate someone’s been
performing—or attempting—some kind of occult
“Leah, so far it’s just bits and pieces. And
weird bits and pieces at that.”
“What do you mean?”“I mean something’s not adding
flash of memory vanished as quickly as it had come, but the
knowledge it left her with was certain.
Deputy Leah Wells was her “reliable contact” inside
the sheriff’s department.
Riley stuck her automatic inside the waistband of her jeans at
the small of her back, then unlocked and opened the
“Hey,” she said. “What’s
“Nothing good,” Leah replied grimly. “Sheriff
sent me to get you. There’s been a murder,
you think it was a good idea to leave your door unlocked?”
Leah asked a few minutes later as she drove the sheriff’s
department Jeep toward the middle of the island and the bridge that
would take them to the mainland.
“Like I told you, a courier should arrive in the next
hour to pick up that package I left just inside the door.”
She had made a quick call to Bishop to alert him to the location of
the package.
“You could have left the package in your rental
“Yeah. But doing that was a bit too . . . visible for my
taste.” Leah sent her a glance. “I probably
shouldn’t ask, but—”
“Did it have anything to do with what’s going on
here?” Riley shrugged. “Maybe. I’ll know more
when Quantico reports back. At least, I hope so.”
had debated, but in the end Riley decided against con- fiding her
memory loss to Leah. Not yet, at any rate. She was independent
enough that even Bishop had never been able to match her with a
permanent partner, and that independence demanded that she keep her
current vulnerability to herself as long as possible.
Plus, it was quite simply a reasonable precaution until she
could wrap her mind around whatever was going on here. Leah sent
her another look. “You know, you’ve been awfully
secretive the last week or so.”
“Have I?” It was more an honest question than a
mere response, something Riley hoped the other woman wouldn’t
pick up on.
“I’d say so. Gordon thinks so too. He thinks
you’ve either found something or figured out something
that’s making you very uneasy.”
“He told you that?”“Last night in the shower and again this morning at the
breakfast table. He’s worried about you,
Of course. Gordon always did love redheads; that’s
why I can trust Leah. They’re involved, and he vouched for
Aloud and somewhat offhandedly, she said, “Gordon’s
worried about me for years.”
grinned faintly. “Yeah, he’s mentioned that a few
times. Says you keep digging when any rational person would 
throw away the shovel. That’s why he wanted you
here—even knowing he’d worry the whole time. And now
we’ve got this murder. I’d say the stakes just went up,
and maybe we’ve all got something to worry
“Is the sheriff sure it’s a
I’m sure—and I’ve never seen
a murdered body before, not outside the textbooks. Believe me,
Riley, it’s a murder. The guy’s hanging from a tree
over that possible altar in the woods. And he didn’t hang
“Who’s the vic?”“Well, we don’t exactly know yet. And it may take a
while to find out. There isn’t—he
doesn’t—his head is gone.”
Riley looked at the deputy, conscious of a cold finger gliding
up her spine. There was something eerily familiar about
“And it wasn’t found nearby?”Leah
grimaced. “Not so far, when I left. We’ve been
searching, but it’s just a little patch of trees, you know
that, and I’m guessing that if we haven’t found it by
now, we won’t. Not in those woods anyway.”
Nodding, Riley turned her gaze forward again. There was
something nagging at the back of her mind, but she had no idea if
it was a memory or some bit of pertinent knowledge. Or something
utterly irrelevant and useless, of course, which was what lots of
nagging things tended to be.
“Leah, the sheriff still thinks I’m here on
vacation, right?”
“Far as I know.”“Then why call me to a crime scene?”“Apparently he knows you’re with the SCU. And he
considers this a special crime, being as how we
haven’t had a murder in these parts for, oh, a decade or
more. Deaths, sure. Even a killing or three, but not like this, not
anything like this.”
Riley wasn’t very happy about the sheriff’s
knowledge, although she also wasn’t surprised. Of course he
had likely checked on her, and any law-enforcement officer at his
level could easily learn that she was assigned to the Special

should, however, be all he could learn.
Before she could ask, Leah said, “From the way he talked,
I gather he doesn’t know what your specialty is. The occult
stuff, I mean. Because this one has to be occult-related,
and he didn’t say that was why he wanted you at the scene.
Just for your general expertise in investigating crimes. All he
knows is that you’re an FBI agent working with a unit that
uses unorthodox methods to investigate unusual crimes—and
this one is definitely unusual.”
“He knows I’m psychic?”“He doesn’t believe in psychics. But there’s
an election coming up in the fall, and Jake Ballard wants to be
reelected. What he doesn’t want is to be accused by the
voters of not taking advantage of any possibly helpful source in
investigating a brutal murder. An FBI agent staying in the area has
to be counted as an excellent source, no matter which unit she
belongs to or what extra senses she claims to have.” Leah
shook her head. “I assumed you two had talked about stuff
like that.”
“Why?”“Well, it is the normal sort of chitchat for two cops on
a date.”
Oh, shit.“Then again,” Leah continued, clearly oblivious of
having delivered a shock, “it seems you ex-army types tend to
talk less than the rest of us, at least about your work. I’ve
been sleeping with Gordon for nearly a year now, damn near living
with him, and he still won’t tell me what wakes him up in a
cold sweat some nights.”
“He doesn’t want you to know the ugly stuff,”
Riley murmured.
“Things he’s seen. Done.”“Yeah, I get that. Still feels like he’s shutting
me out of a very big part of his life.”
“Past life. Over and done with. Let it go.” Riley
forced a smile when the other woman looked at her. “Advice. I
know you didn’t ask, but I’m offering anyway. The
monsters under the bed and in the closet? Leave them be. If he
wants to show them to you, he will. But that may not be for a long
time. If ever.”
“And it isn’t about trust?”Riley shook her head. “It’s about scars. And about
giving them time to fade. Twenty years of scars aren’t going
to fade in a hurry.”
“If at all.”“Well, good men tend to hold on to their bad memories.
I’d be a lot more worried about him if he
didn’t wake up sometimes in a cold
“You know what he’s been through,” Leah
“Some of it. Not all of it.”“But they’re his stories. He has to be the one to
tell me.”
“That’s the way it works. Sorry.”“No, it’s okay. I get it.”Riley thought the other woman probably did get it; she was a
cop and even in this small coastal town would likely encounter a
few horror stories of her own during the course of her
Starting, possibly, with what she’d seen
silence fell between the two women. Riley wanted to break it, but
there didn’t seem to be any good, reasonably casual way to
guide the conversation back to her date or dates with the
Dates? Jesus, what on earth had possessed her to do
that? With a reliable source inside the sheriff’s
department, it didn’t seem likely that she’d gone out
with him on a fact-finding mission, especially since he knew who
and what she was. What he wouldn’t confide professionally he
wasn’t likely to confide personally, not if he was like most
of the cops she’d known.
Was it personal? Had she set aside the training and
preferences of a lifetime to go out with a law-enforcement officer
while she was investigating occurrences in his town?

Investigating, possibly, him?
would have compelled her to do something so out of character for
her? With her busy life, she barely dated at all, but to date
someone during an investigation—
sudden, uneasy suspicion surfaced in her mind as she abruptly
recalled the fleeting memory of quiet voices and a lingering touch
out on the deck of her house.
Surely she hadn’t . . . surely to God she hadn’t
gone further than a few casual dates? She hadn’t taken a
lover. No. No, that would be so totally out of character
it was unheard-of for her. But. What if? In a situation so torn by
uncertainty, how could she discount the possibility?
most important of all, what if neither her memories nor her
clairvoyance kicked in when she saw the man again? How was she
supposed to fake her way through that?
woods were dense enough that getting a vehicle to the clearing near
the center was virtually impossible. So Leah parked her Jeep near
the other police vehicles, and they got out. Riley had another
flash of memory, and said, “Somebody’s dog found the
body, right?”
“Just like one found all that stuff in the clearing last
week,” Leah confirmed. “Different dog,
Riley paused to study the break in the fence, ignoring a bored
deputy stationed there to prevent the idly curious from entering
the woods at this point. It wasn’t a particularly strong
fence, meant more as a border delineating the park from the woods
than a barrier to hold a determined animal in—or out. She
frowned as she half-turned to look back at the area used for local
pet owners. “Odd,” she murmured.
“What’s odd?” Leah asked.Riley kept her voice low. “Rituals aren’t meant to
be public. Especially occult rituals, and even more especially if
you mean to sacrifice something or kill somebody. You don’t
want outsiders watching or even knowing what’s going
“Makes sense.”“Yeah. So why choose this place? There are patches of
woods farther from town and much more private. Forests with a lot
more acreage that would offer far greater secrecy. Places where a
fire wouldn’t be seen. And where local dog owners don’t
bring their pets every single day.”
“Something special about this patch of woods?” Leah
guessed. “You did say that group of boulders looked like a
natural altar. Or something old that was used a long time

Maybe that’s it?”
“Maybe.” But Riley wasn’t convinced. Still,
she continued with Leah through the break in the fence and into the
woods. She was trying very hard to focus and concentrate, to settle
and ground herself so she could get through what lay ahead without
making a fool of herself. Or betraying herself. Professional, that
was the ticket. Cool, detached, and professional. Whatever the
reason she’d dated Jake Ballard, he would expect her to
behave like a professional at a crime scene, however unofficial her
Riley remembered all that sexy underwear, and winced. Christ,
she hoped he expected an FBI agent and not a lover. Surely
she’d remember if she’d taken a lover in the last
couple of weeks.
Surely.“Grand Central Station,” Leah muttered as they
reached the clearing.
There was plenty of activity, all right, and Riley was aware of
a fleeting, though resigned, wish that she had been able to see the
scene before it was trampled by many feet. Trained feet, for the
most part, but not specially trained. And it showed. Rather than
join them, Riley stood where she was at the edge of the clearing,
her hands in the front pockets of her jeans, and just looked for
several minutes. She ignored the uniformed deputies and technicians
moving about, ignored the snatches of conversation she heard,
closed out everything except the scene of a murder.
had been right: No one could see this and not know they were
dealing with murder.
Riley looked at what the killer had left. At the headless body
that was still hanging by its wrists, at the blood-spattered rocks
below. At the evidence of a fire nearby, which a technician was
currently photographing.
all looked . . . familiar.
“Riley, thanks for coming.”She
turned her head at the sound of his voice, holding on to her
professional detachment with an effort. It was a nice voice. It was
a nice package, of the tall, dark, and handsome variety. With
piercing blue eyes thrown in just for gilding.
Okay, so he was gorgeous. Maybe that was why she’d dated
Sheriff Jake Ballard wore his uniform with an air that said he
knew he looked good in it. He walked with an authority that
wasn’t quite a swagger. And he had the sort of
smile—even here and now—that nature had designed to
charm the female of the species.
Riley was hardly immune.“Hey,” she said. “Nice goings-on in such a
pretty little town.”
“Tell me about it.” He shook his head, adding,
“Sorry to pull you out of your vacation, but, frankly, I
wanted an opinion from someone who probably knows a lot more about
this sort of thing than any of us.”
“And you thought I might?”He
looked sheepish, and Riley tried not to believe it was because he
knew it was a good expression for him.
“Okay, so I checked up on you when you arrived. I
didn’t mention it later because . . . well, because I thought
you’d tell me about it in your own time.”
“It?”“The Special Crimes Unit. It isn’t exactly a secret
in law enforcement circles, you know. I made a few calls. And
learned a bit more than the standard FBI line of bullshit
Taking a chance, Riley said, “You don’t believe in
the paranormal.” His eyebrows lifted. “Is that a
“Not for me, no. It’s the sort of thing we run into
more often than not.”
“I imagine you would.”“But if it isn’t something you believe in, then how
much value can my opinion have?”
“You’re an experienced investigator, and your unit
deals with murder on a regular basis. Yes?”
“Yeah.”“I believe in that. Your experience. That’s enough
for me.” Riley looked at him and tried to find a memory, a
single memory.
for her clairvoyant sense, it was as absent as her memory. All she
knew was what her usual but slightly dulled senses were telling
her. He was gorgeous, he had a nice voice, and he was wearing Polo
“Riley, I need your help,” Jake Ballard said.
“Or at least your expertise. I can call your office, make it
official so you’re on the clock. No need to waste vacation
hesitated, then said, “If you make it official, my boss will
probably want to send another agent or two down here. We seldom
work alone.”
sheriff grimaced. “That, I’m not so crazy about. A
major FBI presence wouldn’t sit well with the civic leaders.
If we scare away the summer visitors . . .”
didn’t have to complete that sentence. Towns like Castle and
Opal Island weren’t as dependent on summer dollars as the
northern coast areas were; winter this far south was mild and
brief, and visitors came year-round. But the summer season still
produced the most income through higher rentals and for other area
voice mild, Riley said, “Well, I imagine my boss will be okay
if we keep this semiofficial.” Yeah, sure he will. Bishop
is not going to be happy that we’ve got a murder now.

And why the hell hadn’t she mentioned that fact when
she’d called him back to explain where the package for the
courier would be found? Man, what is wrong with
“I can explain the situation,” she continued,
pushing her way through uncertainty, “and I’d be on the
books as an adviser to your office, not an
“Suits me,” he said promptly. “Look, the doc
wants to cut down the body—”
“No.” She softened that with a smile. “It
would really help if you could clear most of your people out for a
bit. Not long, just a few minutes. I’d like to wander around,
take a closer look at the scene before anything more is
“For the psychic vibes?” His voice
“For whatever I can pick up,” she returned
eyed her for a moment, then shrugged. “Okay, sure. My
forensics team has done all they can do, and God knows we’ve
got plenty of shots of the scene. But the people I’ve got
combing the woods aren’t done yet.”
“No reason to call them in. I just need the immediate
area around the body clear.”
nodded and stepped away to begin issuing orders to send his people
temporarily back to their vehicles.
Leah, who had stood silently nearby, murmured, “What I
can’t figure out is if he really wants your help or just
wants a reason that Ash can’t argue with to keep you
“Mmmm,” Riley said.Who the hell is Ash? she wondered.

Excerpted from Sleeping with Fear © Copyright 2006 by Kay
Hooper. Reprinted with permission by Bantom, an imprint of Random
House. All rights reserved.

Sleeping With Fear
by by Kay Hooper

  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0553803182
  • ISBN-13: 9780553803181