Chapter 1

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Tonight she would die. She could feel Death hovering over her like a guilty conscience.

She never imagined exiting the world like this. She always pictured herself dying in a car crash or in some spontaneous way. She wrapped her arms around herself as the wet wind howled outside in harmony with the pelting rain. The house shook and the windows rattled. This wasn't even the full storm yet. The lights flickered. She had ignored the order to evacuate and now she was alone in an old house that probably wouldn't survive against the category four storm that was making its presence known outside.

Above her, a loud squeaking noise sounded as if someone were removing a million nails all at once. She looked up to see the roof was being lifted. She ran downstairs, her feet stumbling over themselves. The sound of glass crashing against the walls told her the wind had broken her windows. She took a moment to look outside. Like soldiers in war, the trees had bowed down to the strong gusts of wind...some never to rise again.

She was now in the living room, what she considered the heart of her home. She heard something pounding against the door, demanding entry. She took a step back as the pounding became louder...more incessant. She could see the wood splintering in places, buckling beneath the strength of Mother Nature's fury.

All at once the wall tumbled down and her yellow Beetle Convertible, carried by the force of the wind, came tumbling towards her.

Dani Deleon awoke with a scream lodged in her throat and her arms outstretched. She gasped for breath as she closed her eyes and plopped her head back onto her soft pillow. The alarm clock to her left displayed the time as 3:15 AM.

She raised her hand to the row of dream catchers above her, playing with their silky feathers and sighed as she thought of the nightmare she just had, "Well...at least she got her wish. She died in a car crash."

After a few moments, Dani pulled herself out of bed and sauntered to her bathroom. She shivered when her bare feet steeped onto the cold linoleum floor as she looked at her reflection in the mirror and frowned. Her brown hair was pulled up into a high ponytail and her chocolate brown eyes looked tired. She dabbed some concealer onto her fingertips and tried to cover the dark circles below her eyes that had earned her the nickname Panda Eyes.

Minutes later, her phone dinged and Dani saw that she had a missed text message.

"G'morning Panda Eyes. Call me when you're up."

It was sent at 3:30 AM.

----

On the outskirts of Roane, Detectives Jax Michaels and Roberto Montoya had arrived at the crime scene of a victim found an hour before. As the other officers scrambled to do their jobs, the two detectives were waiting for a verbal report from Dr. Lisa Wendel, the medical examiner.

Jax was staring at his phone when his partner came up behind and whispered in his ear, "Are you waiting for a call?"

Jax jumped in surprise and shoved his partner away, "Dammit Montoya, I told you before. I don't like it when you whisper in my ear like that."

The two had been partners for a while and Roberto just grinned, "I thought you liked it when people whispered sweet nothings in your ear."

"Not when that person is over six feet tall with a beard and man hands," Jax muttered, causing his partner to laugh.

"I know...I know...you're waiting for that waitress to call you, huh? I haven't seen you this wound up about a woman since...well you know. Even the gossip around the water cooler has been slow lately since you've stopped dating like you were some modern day Don Juan. Has my partner finally fallen in love?" Roberto teased.

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