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What I've Done (Morgan Dane Book 4)

By:Melinda Leigh

Chapter One

Haley gasped, sucking air into her lungs like a person who had just surfaced after being underwater too long. Oxygen flooded her, and consciousness returned with a rush of sensation that swept over her skin and left it tingling. Pain throbbed through her head as she opened her eyes. Her vision blurred. The blur spun, and she quickly shut her eyes again.

What happened?

Shimmering lights and loud music flashed in her mind. It had been Piper’s birthday, and she’d talked Haley into going dancing to celebrate, even though Haley would have preferred to hang out in her pajamas, eat pizza, and play video games. Haley had run into Noah and his friends. She and Noah had ordered drinks and nachos. They’d danced.

Then what?

She blinked. A dim and unfamiliar ceiling fan took shape. She was not in her own bed. Heart racing, she glanced at the pillow next to hers. Vacant. Whose bed was she in? Regret followed close on the heels of the agony splitting her head.

She slammed her eyelids down, rolled to her side, and curled into a fetal position.

This was why she wasn’t a drinker.

This was why she preferred gaming to clubbing.

Had she gone home with Noah? The last thing she remembered was him chatting her up, bringing her a second cosmo. Though she didn’t have much tolerance for alcohol, two drinks certainly weren’t enough to make her black out. She hadn’t had a hangover since college. She’d learned her lesson about overindulging in alcohol during The Great Tequila Incident of freshman year.

But that was before she’d gotten sick. Now she rarely drank, and she never overindulged.

Dizziness swam through her head. Duh. She wasn’t hungover. She needed her medication, and for that, she needed to find her purse. Her stupid Addison’s disease was a pain in the butt. She’d take her meds, then call an Uber and go home. She’d figure the rest out later. Though she hadn’t planned to hook up with anyone, she always carried extra medication with her in case of an emergency.

But last night hadn’t been an emergency. She’d gone home with someone. Shame washed over her, leaving her cold and hollow.

Please let it have been Noah.

It had to have been him. Piper wouldn’t have let her leave with a stranger, even if Haley hadn’t been a best friend last night. She winced as she remembered how much time she’d spent with Noah during a girls’ night out. She and her girlfriend always watched each other’s backs. Always. Piper wouldn’t let something as stupid as a little jealousy bypass their safety pact.

Right?

In the back of her mind, something didn’t feel normal, but she shushed the nagging voice. She’d take her meds, her brain would clear, and things would start making sense.

She opened her eyes and blinked a few times. Her vision was still blurry. The light filtering in through the blinds told her it was daytime. Dehydration was a frequent issue with her disease. Her purse sat on the nightstand next to a half-empty bottle of water. She pulled the purse to her and searched for her phone. She didn’t find it, but she did spot her prescription bottle. She swallowed a tablet and drained the water bottle.

An envelope on the nightstand caught her attention. She reached for it. Through the clear window, the label read Noah Carter above a Grey’s Hollow address.

Relief swept over her. Though they’d met only a few times, the chemistry between her and Noah had been palpable. He was a very cute web designer who had consulted for the bank where she was a social media coordinator.

Haley had a weakness for nerds.

Her focus shifted to a crusty substance on her hand. Haley spread her hand in front of her face. Something dark and dry and rust-colored was smeared on her fingers. It took a moment before confusion shifted to clarity.

Blood?

Disbelief sliced through her haze. She sat upright, the quick motion turning her stomach over. Her gaze cut across the bed. The same rusty marks streaked the bedding, though the dark red was barely visible on the charcoal-gray comforter. Definitely blood. Fear rushed through her. Her heartbeat doubled its rhythm. She turned her hand over but saw no cuts on her skin, nor could she feel any sharp pain anywhere on her body.

She swallowed, her stomach sour. This couldn’t be happening. It must be a nightmare.

With panic gearing up inside her, Haley scooted back against the headboard, getting as far away from the stains as possible. But there was no escaping them. In horror, she stared at her body. She was naked, and her hands, arms, and legs were streaked with dried blood. Panic surged as she searched her skin for injuries. She found a scratch on her arm, but there was no way that scratch had produced the volume of blood on the bedding.

If it wasn’t her blood, whose was it?

Noah’s?

Coldness spread through her limbs, and she trembled as she scrambled to the edge of the bed.

The double bed faced a dresser and chair. On the wall to her left, two doors stood open. One led into a hall. Through the other she could see into the closet, where men’s shirts hung in a row, some still in clear plastic dry-cleaning bags.

Shivering, she climbed out of the bed, her legs shaky and weak, her mouth dry from nerves and dehydration. Frigid air wafted from the doorway. Goose bumps rose on her arms. Where was her phone? Dropping to her knees on the carpet, she looked under the bed. Dust. A sock.

And more blood.

Rusty drops of it led across the pale-gray carpet toward the open door. Even without any clear memory, she knew that the blood had dripped from her hands.

Standing, she took two steps to the window and peered through the blinds. A long lawn and driveway sloped toward the street a hundred feet away. A small red house sat on the other side of the road.

Turning, she crept barefoot to the doorway and eased from the room into the even colder hall. Her heart hammered hard enough to rattle her breastbone and vibrate in her throat. The bathroom was just outside the bedroom door. It was white-tiled, empty, and clean. She glanced through another doorway into a second bedroom furnished as a home office. There was no one inside.

Her gaze snapped back to the trail of blood that meandered down the hallway.

She hesitated, listening. Was anyone else here? Seconds ticked by, punctuated by the echo of her pulse in her ears. All she could hear was the distant whine of a leaf blower coming from outside. No sounds emanated from the living areas of the house.

Whatever she was going to find at the end of the trail wasn’t going to be good. But she couldn’t stop herself. Her feet tracked a line parallel to the blood. The air grew colder, and the dots became more numerous. Clumping together.

As if the blood had dripped less as she’d walked toward the bedroom.

The hallway opened into a living room. Her gaze panned over the furniture and carpet. Her black dress lay crumpled on the floor. Her high heels were under the coffee table. She crossed the room, snatched her dress from the floor, and tugged it over her head. The snug fit, lauded as hot by Piper the night before, felt binding and uncomfortable. It was better than being naked, but the skimpy garment did little to ward off the cold, damp air of early March in upstate New York.

Or the sense that she was acutely vulnerable.

The blood trail beckoned her to follow it through a doorway that led to the back of the house, toward the source of the wind. She walked to the threshold of the kitchen, the sight stopping her forward motion as if she’d stepped in deep, wet cement.

The blood.

The rusty trail led to a sickeningly large smear on the gray floor tiles. In the center of the blood lay a knife.

An image flashed in her mind, and she knew the knife had once been in her hand.

A second line of blood led from the smear out the open door. This trail was not composed of dots but one long streak. Through the doorway, Haley could see the large backyard and the woods in the distance.

The blood crossed the threshold and continued onto the porch.

Her legs threatened to give out as she stumbled out the back door. At the bottom of the porch steps, she saw him.

No.

Her breath froze in her throat. Her knees buckled. The sky spun. She put a hand on the nearby railing to steady herself.

Clearly crawling or dragging himself, Noah had turned right, toward the nearest neighbor’s house, but he hadn’t gotten far. He was sprawled on his side, his arms flung forward. His eyes, once a warm brown, were empty and opaque. He was wearing the same dorky Doctor Who T-shirt she’d thought was so adorable the night before. Saturated, the spinning TARDIS was barely recognizable.

Numb, she sank to her knees beside the body. The cold didn’t register on the bare skin of her legs. One hand reached for Noah. She brushed a lock of hair off his forehead. A bug crawled across his face. She snatched her hand away as if burned.

She sank back onto her heels. Gasping, she stared down at her open palms and the blood on her hands. A scream ripped from her throat.

What have I done?





Chapter Two

“Lincoln Sharp, private investigator.” Closing the door on the March wind, Sharp assessed the woman in the foyer of Sharp Investigations. “How can I help you?”

“My name is Olivia Cruz. You can call me Olivia.” She unbuttoned her khaki trench coat. Black slacks and a pale-blue blouse draped a fit-looking body. She was short, even in her pointy high heels. Her dark eyes, deep-brown hair, and olive skin suggested some Hispanic ancestry. “I’m looking for Morgan Dane.”

Morgan, a former prosecutor turned criminal defense attorney, rented an office in Sharp’s converted duplex.

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