Mind Game

By: Iris Johansen

CHAPTER

1

LAKE COTTAGE


The woman’s face might be beautiful, but it was also the stuff of nightmares.

And Jane MacGuire just wanted it to go away!

She jerked upright in bed, her heart pounding.

She closed her eyes, her hands clenched into fists.

She wouldn’t do it again. Not again. There wouldn’t be any change from the last time. And if there was a change, what could she do about it?

It was only a nightmare. She sat there in the darkness, every muscle of her body stiff and unyielding. Accept it and go back to sleep, she told herself.

But she found herself reaching for her sketch pad on the nightstand even as she gave herself that very excellent advice.

Okay, just do it. Get it over with.

She turned on the bedside light and started quickly sketching the woman’s face. Same dark flowing hair, high cheekbones, pointed chin, same huge brown eyes, intense, burning eyes, hauntingly familiar eyes, in a face she didn’t ever remember seeing before.

Just focus, don’t think of anything else but the face you’re drawing. Then it would be over and she would be able to go back to sleep.

Maybe.

Because it wasn’t quite the same face. The eyes were still intense, but they held despair.

And this time there was blood.

The lower lip of that beautiful mouth was split as if from a hard blow and a trickle of blood was running from it and down her chin.

It was done!

Now leave me alone, dammit.

Jane tossed the sketch pad on the bed and drew a deep, shaky breath.

But there was no question that she wouldn’t be going back to sleep anytime soon. She got out of bed and threw on her robe. Okay, get a glass of water and then go out on the porch and get some air.

She padded barefoot to the bathroom and turned on the light. As she drank the glass of water, she noticed her face in the mirror was as strained as that of the woman in the sketch. Her red-brown hair was rumpled and her jaw was taut.

And her stomach was still churning as she remembered the blood running from the lip of the woman in the sketch.

“I don’t need this. It isn’t fair. Find someone else.” She turned on her heel and strode through the house to the front porch.

A moment later, she was standing looking out at the lake. If she’d hoped that staring out at those clear, serene depths would soothe her or give her perspective, it wasn’t happening.

All she could think about was the blood.

“Problem?” Eve was standing behind her in the doorway. “You should be sleeping. Your flight leaves at eight in the morning.”

“I can sleep on the plane.” She turned and smiled at Eve. “You’re the one who should be asleep. Michael is the most challenging two-year-old on the planet. Between taking care of him and doing your forensic sculpting work, you need all the rest you can get.”

“Nonsense. Michael may be a challenge, but he’s pure joy.” She came out and stood beside Jane and said quietly, “You didn’t answer me. Problem?”

It wouldn’t do any good to try to lie to her, Jane knew. From the time Eve Duncan and Joe Quinn had adopted her off the streets when she was ten years old, she and Eve had been so close that anything but total honesty was out of the question. Eve was one of the foremost forensic sculptors in the world, but she was also Jane’s best friend. They had been through tragedy and joy together, and now that Eve had given birth to a son, Michael, Jane had been privileged to share that with Eve and Joe, too. “Nothing that I can’t handle.” She made a face. “Maybe I’m a little sad to be going back to Scotland and leaving you and Joe and the baby. Three weeks wasn’t long enough.”

“Jane.”

“It’s the truth.” She grinned. “But I was getting to the other.” She glanced out at the lake. “I grew up here on this lake and I thought the familiarity would be soothing. It appears not to be happening tonight.”

“Why not try me? I’m a hell of a lot better than that lake in the soothing department.” Her arm slipped around Jane’s waist. “I’ve been told I have excellent credentials.”

“Yes, you do.” She felt a rush of love as she looked at her. Eve’s face was always intelligent and intriguing, but these days she seemed to glow. “But I’m out in the real world with a career as a budding artist these days. I was trying not to bother you with something that’s—” She shrugged. “I just feel helpless. I don’t know what I—”

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