Scorpio obsessed, with a mind as strong as twisted steel, Henry Slater, suave, sophisticated, sexy, intelligent, and wealthy is the perfect man—except to women who tell him what he doesn’t want to hear.

Dr. John Trenton is called back to NYC for a case close to his heart, while NYPD Detective Samantha “Sam” Wright and forensic psychiatrist Doctor Frank Khaos, conflicted about their on-again-off-again relationship, take on another case—a serial killer who’s orchestrated sixteen murders across the United States over a nine-year period. The seventeenth victim is Sam’s best friend, Carrie Baines. When forensic science connects Frank to Slater, Frank is pushed to delve into his past, something he swore never to do. Meanwhile, due to the interstate nature of the crimes, the FBI gets involved, convincing Sam to go undercover. But Slater is clever, and Sam is no match for him. Will her psychic skills and police training be enough to survive this close encounter with a killer, or will she end up as his eighteenth victim? And even if she lives, is her relationship with Frank really over?

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Scorpio by Ronnie Allen, NYPD Detective Samantha Wright is back, and this time her best friend has been murdered. Dr. Frank Khaos, her on again, off again, lover, thinks she should pass on the case as she is too close emotionally, but Sam refuses, determined to find her friend’s killer. In the meantime, a former patient of Dr. John Trenton’s is killed, and John comes back to New York to work the case, this time bringing his wife, son, and newborn twins. As Sam and Frank investigate her best friend’s murder, they discover that she was the victim of a serial killer—a smart, clever, and cunning man who picks up women in casinos. Someone who doesn’t make many mistakes. Sam and her team have their work cut out for them, tracking a killer who seems to be always one step ahead of them.

Like Allen’s first two books, this one is filled with fascinating characters, an intriguing mystery, some hot sex scenes, and plenty of surprises. I’m betting you won’t be able to put it down.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Scorpio by Ronnie Allen is the third book in Allen’s The Sign Behind the Crime series. As such it has some big shoes to fill, but Allen doesn’t disappoint. We are reunited with all our favorite characters from the first two books: NYPD Detective, Samantha Wright, forensic psychiatrists John Trenton and Frank Khaos, and Frank’s little boy Frankie. As the story opens, Sam’s best friend Carrie is playing the slots in a Queens casino, when she is hit on by a serial killer. He charms Carrie, seduces, and kills her, leaving Sam both devastated and determined to bring him to justice. But this killer’s smart and Sam may have met her match. When Frank discovers that the lead detective on the case is the brother of the man who killed Frank’s wife, he refuses to work with him. Frank and Sam argue, and Frank breaks up with her. Unrelated to Carrie’s murder, John Trenton is called back to New York because one of his former patients was killed, and the cops need John’s help. Then Sam’s team discovers some disturbing DNA evidence in Carrie’s case that turns it on its ear, and John’s unique skills are needed on that one as well.

As usual, Allen has crafted a tale that is intense, intriguing, sexy, and full of surprises. Scorpio’s a page turner that you won’t easily put down.


The clanging of hundreds of slot machines–with their glaring lights bombarding her at the threshold of the casino entrance–screeched through her body.

She froze.

Finally. Let’s make these babies rock.

Carrie Baines gritted her teeth. Her jaw tightened. If someone spoke to her, she couldn’t answer. As she wiped her sweaty palms on the sides of her thighs, she felt her tight jeans absorb the moisture. Crap. Her thighs felt damp. The frigid air conditioning didn’t do her any favors either.

Come on, girl. Get a grip.

Inhaling deeply, in an attempt to calm the ripples of tension that riveted through her body, proved to be futile. This was not her usual adrenalin rush that made her heart pulsate and nearly jump out of her chest. Today was different. She didn’t like it and couldn’t figure out why. She’d decided to stand there until the trembling ceased. Not for long, though.

She yanked her VIP Players Card from her cross-body bag and pulled the green beaded lanyard down around her neck. It hung low by her navel and bopped up and away from her body as she strutted around the perimeter of the casino to the Player’s Counter in the far right.

She knew she had points on it from her trip here last weekend. Not sure how many, but it would comp her room–which she knew–but she wanted money left over for food. Every penny was worth saving–for the slots.

As she walked, she nodded to the casino staff who knew her. The men and women wearing white shirts and navy blue trousers with sets of master keys hanging from their belts smiled back. They’d better smile at her. She certainly tipped them enough after she cashed out a win or when they brought her the-much-needed drink–scotch and ginger ale on the rocks. She loved this casino in Queens, New York. The machines were all new and when she hit–it was big. Well, sort of big. She’d be happy with any payoff that was bigger than what she had put into the machine. Most of the time, she came home with a few hundred more than she went with. The other times, well, she lost everything and more–too much more. Still, she wasn’t concerned. This was her catharsis. The loud noises, excitement, glaring lights got her mind off her problems. Best of all, the casino was a hundred percent smoke-free.

Feeling herself relax, she smiled at the clerk standing behind the counter as she handed over her ID.

“Thank you, Miss Baines.” The clerk entered Carrie’s numbers into the system. Then she delivered the news with a smile. “You have additional comps for two lunches and two dinners, you lucky woman.”

“Oh, thank you so much!” Carrie retrieved her ID and replaced it in her bag as she walked away, thinking that she’d dine at the buffet today.

She was on a mission.

Traversing the narrow lanes between the various machines, Carrie glanced at the top of them just quickly enough to identify them. Five cents. Nope. Quarter. Nope. Dollar. Um, maybe. She looked at the machines on either side of her as she meandered down the green tweed carpet, watching people play. One machine caught her eye–though it wasn’t her favorite. For the life of her–every time she’d try to find the three dollar machine that could pay off twenty-one thousand with wild sevens–she couldn’t find it. Oh well, she’d play this one, she thought as sat down at a triple diamond dollar machine. One where she could bet on a number of lines, and the amount she wanted to bet per line. She pulled a hundred dollar bill from an envelope that she kept in a secret compartment of her bag and slipped the bill into the money slot. As the machine counted her credits, she put her player’s card into the appropriate slot. She looked at the keys, noting her choices as if she was mesmerized. Okay, she’d start off slow. Nine lines, the max, one buck each. That would give her eleven pulls. She sat up tall on the stool in front of the machine, wiggling her tush to make herself comfortable. With her index finger, she set the bet and then tapped the spin key. The tape inside the machine rolled with some unidentifiable music emanating from within, as the bars in front of her landed with diamonds, sevens, and bars in uneven lines. Yielding her, nothing. She pulled again. Nothing. And again. Nothing.

Come on, Carrie, get your butt off this stool.

Nope. It was as if glue stuck her butt to the seat, forcing her to use her last dollar. She continued to press the repeat-bet key two more times. Nothing. Then she got brave. She upped her bet to two bucks times nine a pull. That would give her three more pulls. She set the bet and pressed play. Nothing. Again, nothing. And nothing. She slapped her thigh. She had just blown a hundred bucks–in less than ten minutes. Oh well. She had lost more in less time. She had the entire weekend left and nineteen more hundred-dollar bills. Plus the ATM if she needed it.


He watched the curvy brunette with the waist-long ponytail for ten minutes. Looked like Lady Luck wasn’t on her side. Grinning, he sat on a stool diagonal to her so he could watch her expressions. She hadn’t taken her gaze off the machine to even bother to check to see who was around her. Not a smart move–especially in a casino. At least she had kept her bag on her lap. She didn’t flinch a muscle after losing the Franklin. He assumed she must have money to spare. His type. As she swirled around in the stool to dismount, his assumption was verified. That was some multi-gemstone ring with about a thirty-carat amethyst on her left ring finger. No wedding band? This prospect suddenly became approachable. She got off the stool and turned in his direction. His gaze caught her oval brown eyes partially covered with wispy bangs, along with a smile. He generously reciprocated.

He leaned back on the chair with an elbow on the backrest not to appear that much interested. As she walked past him, he shifted his body so he could get a glimpse of her from the rear. Oh man, those black designer skinny jeans certainly did her ass justice. Or was that the other way around? What the fuck? It didn’t matter. This woman spelled hot. He wondered what her occupation was that she’d have off on a Friday in the middle of winter along with the desire to spend that day here with a blizzard raging. He figured he’d just follow before he attempted a meet and greet. Last thing he wanted was for her to be here with girlfriends to interrupt their rendezvous or a boyfriend. That would be the worst possible scenario. One that he would avoid at all costs.

He had time today. His work obligation that brought him here was complete. This was going to be a relaxing day, hopefully with a woman whom he’d never see again. Not just any woman. She had to meet certain criteria. Gorgeous. Smart. Rich. Free with her body. And most important of all…

A woman who wouldn’t trigger his painful memories.


Carrie walked down the aisle passing the poker tables to the rear end of the casino. She didn’t give the tables a second glance. That wasn’t her thing. As she walked, she thought about why. At the tables, she had to think too much. Winning or losing was her responsibility. Not really–the dealer was in control–but she had to pay attention. Another reason she never joined table games. Focus and thinking weren’t her strong points when she wanted an escape. She shivered as she let that self-realization register. With the slots, she could sit back and descend into dreamland. She only woke up and paid attention when she hit a bonus. Then she didn’t take her gaze off the multiple spins. Okay, she was off to find the machines with the bonus wheels. She knew what section they were in, but walking in a casino, to her, was like walking in a maze. Going four right turns would never get you back to your starting point.

It felt as if she had walked back and forth a long time. Too long not to play. She looked down at her trembling hands. She’d have to compromise until she’d found the right machines. Sitting on another stool in front of the blazing sevens slots calmed her for the time being. Okay, five bars, three across, two diagonal. One buck a line. Good, she’d be a little frugal this time. Again, she wiggled her tush in the seat and plucked another hundred from her envelope.

As she slipped the bill into the slot, he sat down on the stool next to her. His knee touched her thigh when he swiped his leg around. She felt the tap and looked up. “Oh, hi!” She studied him just for a split second. “Following me?”

He shot her a wickedly sexy grin. “To be honest, yeah, I was.”

“Honesty, I like that.” She chuckled as she looked him over a little more thoroughly. His navy blue sports jacket over a maroon polo and indigo dress slacks fit him real good. He was big–way over six feet–with muscles that bulged from the jacket sleeves. He wore tinted squared off glasses, so she couldn’t see his eyes. The lines on his face under his unshaven skin suited him. His bald head, too. Carrie smiled as she returned her focus to the machine. She tapped the square to the right–max bet. The wheels spun. To her surprise, she hit. Big whoopee, ten bucks. She frowned.

“Hey, it’s better in your pocket.”

She didn’t turn her head. “Oh, you’re still here?”

“Yeah. I’m still here.”

She turned toward him, this time smirking.

He extended his hand to shake. “Henry. Henry Slater.”

Okay, a gentleman. “Carolyn Baines. Most people call me Carrie.” She took his hand, intimidated by his firm grasp.

“Hello, Carolyn Baines. I prefer your real name, if you don’t mind. It’s more womanly.”

“That’s so sweet.”

Henry smiled. “You like these machines, don’t you?”

“You think? I love it!”

He emitted a hearty laugh. “Yeah. I do, too. Don’t get here much, though.”

“Sorry, to cut the conversation short. I have to get back.”

“To where?”

“To my machine!” She turned away, facing the monster head on, erecting an imaginary barrier between herself and the hunk. Yeah, he was some hunk, but no time for a man now.

Go try to get another woman into bed, Henry Slater. I’m done with men like you. Even the one, not like you, who I married.

Carrie pressed the max bet button again. As soon as it yielded nothing, she pressed again immediately–not even giving herself a chance to breathe. The nape of her neck became damp with sweat. She wrung her hands together on her lap. Crap. She just blew another hundred bucks. In twenty minutes this time–no thanks to that intruder. She swiveled around on the stool, her knees bumping into his.

“Looks like you’re not a happy camper right now.”

She rolled her eyes at him. “So, you’re the slot police?”

“No, but I do know when to quit.”

“I’m a long way from quitting. Now if you’ll excuse me.” She got off the stool, but it was crowded in the aisle. She had to body swipe him to get around him. As soon as she passed him, it struck her. That hunk turned her on.

Not now, Carrie. Not now. You have to keep it together, girl. Money’s for the taking and I intend to grab it.

Interrupting her thoughts, she felt his hand on her shoulder. She turned around and had to look way up and she wasn’t used to having to look that high up, either. His over six feet, was more like six four or five. At five eight, she’d barely hit his shoulders. “What?”

“Mind if I tag along?”

“Yes! I do. You brought me bad luck.”

“Really, what about the first hundred?”

“My God! You were sitting close enough. Leave me alone!” She stormed off and pushed through the crowd, earning her dirty looks from the other patrons who then glared at Slater, but said nothing in her defense.

Carrie walked quickly, looking around and up to escape him. His bulky frame couldn’t be missed for sure. When she was certain he was out of sight, she turned the corner into another lane. She didn’t know how she did it but she had meandered into the aisle with her favorite machine. Too bad, it was taken. She decided to wait. She sat down on a stool opposite the machine, turning her head from side to side looking for her stalker. After a minute, she relaxed when she was confident he had disappeared. The guy at the machine began to rise from the stool. Carrie’s excitement readied, but no sooner than she prepared to get up, she felt a tug on her arm. It was him. The behemoth, Henry Slater.

He yanked her down on the stool before she could respond. “How about some lunch?”

She jerked her arm away. “Excuse me! You don’t waste any time do you?” She shot him a glare that usually worked on other men she’d tried to dissuade. No luck with this one.

“Come on, you look hungry and maybe some food in that…uh…toned belly of yours, would change your luck.”

“And just how does one look hungry?”

“The desperate look, like you have now, biting your lower lip.”

Carrie’s eyes widened. “Now you’re a shrink?”

“Nope. I’m in the restaurant business. It’s my job to know how to draw people in to my venues. And to know when a good meal will make them feel all better.”

Carrie laughed. “What a line. Have much success with that?”

Henry slipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out a business card holder. He plucked his card from a slot and handed it to her.

Carrie read the card aloud. “Um, Henry Slater, CEO of Foods Unlimited, supplying the best eateries in casinos in the US.” She fingered the black card embossed with gold lettering.

Nice, if it’s real.

“So how long have you been Foods Unlimited, Henry?” she asked as she slipped his card into her right jeans pocket.

“I’ve always been in restaurant management–a frustrated failing chef, I guess. I started the biz about nine years ago. Been real successful. What about you?”

Carrie lowered her eyes before she responded, then her gaze met his. “I’m a hair dresser in a salon in Manhattan. Color. Cuts. The usual.”

He laughed, pointing to his shaved head. “Don’t count on me to be a customer.”

Carrie laughed. “No kidding.”

“Come on, how about it? Some lunch?”

“Yeah, okay. I am getting those annoying little hunger pangs. I was thinking about the buffet.”

“The buffet it is.”

Carrie walked next to Henry to the main aisle around the perimeter of the slot machines. She felt the heat of his strength through his jacket. This was one powerful man. Could she cope with a guy like him? Does she even want to? She’d hold off on her decision until after lunch. Thank God, the air conditioning was on high. She was sweating in the second week of January. The escalator to the buffet was on the far end of the casino from where they started. Carrie knew her way, better than most. Their silent walk intimidated her, especially when she caught the sexy smirk plastered on his face. She halted. He abruptly turned toward her.


“Uh, I don’t know if this is such a good idea.”



“What are you paranoid about?”

“Some vibes I’m getting.”

“You need to loosen up, little lady. At least you can come in and admire my work. I designed the buffet.”


“Sure did. The seven stations, menus for each, seating, artwork, dinnerware placement, cases, even hired the personnel. The entire architecture. You have nothing to be afraid of. Everyone in there knows me. Hell. They’d better. I sign their pay checks.”

That’s what she needed to hear. Carrie relaxed and continued on their stroll.

At the top of the escalator, she stopped dead at the endless line that curled around six lanes and continued to the rest room about a hundred feet away. A line like this meant over an hour wait. She liked to eat fast and resume play. Wasting time was not on her agenda.

“Oh my God! Do you know how long we’ll have to wait here?”

“Come on. I’ll show you my magic. Then you’ll believe me and relax.” Henry led her to the side entrance, and, before he opened the rope barrier, an employee greeted them.

“Hello again, Mr. Slater. Your usual table is unoccupied.” He slipped open the latch on the rope and led them in.

As they walked to their table opposite the fresh carvings section about fifteen “Hello, Mr. Slaters” came across loud and clear. Okay, this guy is on the up and up went through Carrie’s brain. He didn’t have time to plan this. She needed to relax.

“Do you know what you feel like?”

“Definitely. I know this place well.”

They walked to the first plate deck. Carrie grabbed one and took off. She first hit the fresh seafood bar and piled her plate full of peel-and-eat shrimp, then clams on the half shelf. Lastly, she filled the little white ounce cup with cocktail sauce. Back at their table, Carrie looked up and faced the oil painting on the wall opposite her. A huge maroon, non-descript abstract accosted her gaze. She found the painting unsettling, dark, close to ominous. She scanned the rest of the art–mostly maroon or dark reds in tone, dark blue-red leather upholstery on the seating, the same for napkins and place settings. There were black accents in the art and some other primary colors, but the emphasis was serious. The beige marble tile floor with black veining was stunning and lightened the atmosphere–glistening and immaculate. She contemplated on the painting as she absentmindedly peeled a shrimp and tossed it into her mouth.

Henry returned with his plate filled with sushi, chicken and veggies, a couple of egg rolls from the Asian station. He sat opposite her.

“What’s with the faraway look in your eyes?”

She startled as if she hadn’t been cognizant that he had sat down. “Oh, The paintings. They’re striking. But what’s with all the dark maroons?”

“That’s simple. I’m a Scorpio and dark maroon is my color.” He cocked his head and pointed to his polo.

“Seriously? You decorated your restaurant according to your astro sign?”

“For sure. All of them. It’s my signature.”

“Interesting. How come?”

“Good energy for me.”

“Such as?”

“Aggressive. Relentless until I get what I want. Great organizer. And for your information only, at the moment, highly sexual.”

She sat back and flipped her fork onto her plate. “I knew you’d be going there.”

“What’s wrong with that? You attached?”

“No. I’m recently divorced.”

“How recent?”

“A few months. Actually, not officially. We’re separated. Not ready to accept another man into my life. What about you?”

“Never been. Have any kids?”

“No. I don’t.”

Carrie noticed Henry’s expression became somber at her answer. He looked away for a moment but she ignored it and downed the shrimp and clams. She refilled her plate a few more times–mostly with salads and grilled steak. So did Henry.

They talked through their lunch, Carrie becoming comfortable with this man. He seemed open with everything, about his life, businesses, even his painful childhood. She, on the other hand, lied her way through. She’d have a hell of a time recalling what she had told him. Her life would never be an open book with all the demons in her closet, especially with someone she’d just met. But then again, who knows if he told the truth, about anything?

She had even kept secrets from her BFF.

Samantha Wright, her very own best friend forever, Sam, had left their profession to join the NYPD. Now she was a detective, of all things.

All during her personal reflections, she felt Henry’s gaze on her. He kept a compassionate, non-judgmental expression on his face. Maybe she could deal with a man like him. She deserved to relax after what she’d been through.

Yeah, she deserved it. Getting laid would definitely do her some good.


The elevator door slid three quarters open on the fourteenth floor and then jolted to a stop, leaving Carrie and Henry to face pitch-blackness in the hall. The jolt caused Carrie to fall against Henry who didn’t hesitate to seize the moment and wrap his arms around her. She had to admit, his embrace felt like exactly what she needed right now. He pulled his cell out of his pocket and turned on the flashlight.

“Come on. The storm must have triggered a power outage. They’ll get it back up in a minute. How far down are you?”

“The end. The last room on the left.”

The stroll down the hall to Carrie’s room caused some anxiety within her that she couldn’t control. She had just met this man and she was ready to hook up.

Come on, Carrie, there’s still time to chuck this.

Her gut pulled at her, but her heart was yearning–for love, tenderness, the excitement of a man’s touch–all of it. The past few months her body raged and couldn’t take the neglect anymore.

They made it through the darkness with the flashlight guiding their way. At the door, Carrie fumbled in the front pocket of her bag for her room card. Henry kept the light on her. She flipped the card in her fingers and inserted it into the slot, opening the door. “It worked!”

“The back-up generator.” After entering the room and Henry closing the door, the power returned. “See, I told you.”

“You sure you want to be in here?”

“Yeah. I’ve been in my room a few days. Need a change.” He walked in, pulled off his blazer and tossed it onto the club chair in the corner.

What she saw amazed and scared her at the same time. This man was cut! Ripped! Every vein bulged from his forearm up through his bicep. A juicehead wouldn’t describe him. But steroided up to the gills or not, this man was hot.

He pulled her close and tugged her sweater that clung to her hips up and over her head. He wrapped his arms around her now bare waist.

“You don’t waste any time, do you?”

“Nope. Getting too old to waste time.”

She nodded in agreement. Reciprocating by pulling up his short-sleeved polo, Carrie felt the ripples in his six -pack as the front of her fingers skimmed his chest lifting the shirt. He helped her along when she couldn’t reach any higher.

He grabbed her down on the bed, laying half on her, half on the bed. Henry slipped his hand behind her back and with a twist of his finger, unclasped her bra. He pulled her arms out and tossed it to the floor. He unbuttoned his slacks and pulled them off, with Carrie following suit. All in silence. All with a tempestuous look on his face. She studied him. She felt it was right.

With all their clothing carelessly on the floor, Henry took the lead, and began kissing her neck as he cascaded his hands down her body, up and down, landing on and cupping her breast then squeezing. She moaned, enjoying his touch. She didn’t want him to stop. He pushed his body on top of hers and their lips met. They didn’t come up for air. This man was consuming her and she was loving it. She wrapped her arms around his neck. He parted from her mouth and ran his lips down the side of her face, kissing her neck. With his left hand, he gently grasped her neck, and his lips sucked on her opposite side. She moaned and then quivered. The emotions that he had sent through her body were ones she hadn’t experience in a long time.

He gently pecked her neck. “Did you just come?”

She breathed heavily. “Yes.” She smiled.

“That’s my favorite part of a woman’s body. The neck. I could do wondrous things to yours.” He winked at her, then ran two fingers down her breast, past her navel and stopped at her thatch. She separated her legs giving him permission to go further. He slipped two fingers into her, causing her to gasp. She writhed her body, moaning. This man knew how to please a woman in need. After a few minutes of probing with her juices enveloping him, he pulled his fingers out and wiped them on the sheet.

“Why did you do that? I was almost there.” Her tone was pleading.

“You’re a bad girl.”

“How so?”

“You lied to me.”


“Hair salons in Manhattan don’t close in snow storms. The snow melts as soon as it hits the ground because of the underground trains. I live in the city. That won’t fly past me. Now you know what you’re going to get for lying, you bad little girl?”

“Oh my God! What?”

He rolled her over on her stomach. “A spanking. That’s what.” He massaged her bottom to warm her up. Then gently, very gently, he swatted her bottom. Not even hard enough to turn her flesh a light shade of rose. More like love pats.

“You can go harder. You know.”

“You like this?”

“Y–e–a–h. I love it.”

“Okay then.” He increased his firmness, giving her heartier full-handed spanks.

“Okay. Okay! Enough!” Carrie wiggled out of his grasp.

He flipped her around. “So now, bad little girl, what do you really do?”

His sizzling smile made her laugh and she had certainly asked for it. “Okay! I’ll give in! I’m a teacher. Elementary school. Brooklyn schools don’t close very often.”

“Oh, man. Why didn’t you tell me? I love teachers.”

“Carrie caressed his arm. “You do?”

“Yes. They’re warm and nurturing. Especially in elementary school. You have to love children. So do I.”

“I do love children.”

“This may be too forward of me to ask–”

“No, go ahead.”

“So how come you don’t have any?”

She hesitated. “You may or may not like this, but I decided early on that I didn’t want any of my own.”

His face reddened. His eyes widened. Carrie saw his expression change but she was too aroused to think in the moment.

“Why not?”

“Many reasons. I don’t feel like getting into it right now.”

“What if you meet a man you fall in love with? Is that carved in stone?”



As soon as he saw the hostile look on her face, he sat up and straddled her body. As he lay back on his knees, with his groin on her midriff, the rage within him mounted. His anxiety erupted like a volcano. Wild, uncontrollable. Undirected.

You’re just like my mother. My fucking bitch mother! That facial expression, looking at me in disgust.

Henry pounced on her, pinning her arms underneath him. She was rigid under his bulk. He grabbed onto her neck with both hands easily fitting around her. Carrie bucked. She wiggled, fighting him, trying to scream, but he deepened his grasp. She kicked up her legs, though wasn’t able to bend her knees with his butt holding her down. His thumbs pressed on her trachea. He shook her, bringing her upper body up about ten inches above the bed, then down again, five times in rapid succession.

He pressed harder and felt a whoosh of air expel from her crushed trachea. She coughed. Her eyes bulged from the lack of oxygen. In less than two minutes, she went limp and her head fell to the side of the pillow.

Henry sat up, perspiration dripping down from his neck over the scorpion tattoo that ran from the nape of his neck down to his waist. He couldn’t stop hyperventilating. He couldn’t stop himself. His heaving turned to sobbing as he leaned over Carrie’s lifeless body.

He slipped her ponytail band out of her thick brown hair, put the band into the top drawer of the night stand, and then ran his fingers through her hair before he lovingly placed her mane over her smooth, once vibrant shoulders. “I didn’t want to do this Carrie. I swear I didn’t. I didn’t plan for this to happen. It’s been a year. Damnit! I tried to give you a way out. You didn’t take it. So you gave me no choice. You triggered memories. Memories I tried so hard to forget.”

Henry did concentrated deep breathing for a solid minute–yeah, he had to keep to his usual–and then he dismounted her. He stumbled into the bathroom, took a shower, sobbing, as the soap and water cleansed away his sweat and smell of sex, even though he didn’t get any. After dressing hurriedly, looking around the room to make sure he didn’t forget anything, he remembered to remove his card from Carrie’s jeans pocket, and then his gaze sighted the thermostat in the air conditioning unit across the floorboard. Smirking, he nodded and fiddled with the dial. He then slipped his hand into his jacket pocket. He pulled out his master key card.

After putting his ear to a door in the room and not hearing any guests, he opened the door connecting Carrie’s room to the one next door. He was well aware he was taking a risk. But, hey, it was late afternoon. The chance of anyone being in his or her room in a casino at this time was rare. He sauntered into the room, looked around. Good deal. Housekeeping completed. He put his ear to the connecting door. Again no voices. Henry smiled. This plan never failed him. He entered another room, this one in total disarray. He stood still for a moment with his gaze taking in the bedding that lay half on the bed, half on the floor, the clothes hanging out of the suitcases carelessly tossed in the corners–looked like three women shared this room. Yep, the bras hanging over the chair by the desk confirmed it. Ugh. This mess he couldn’t tolerate. He tiptoed to the connecting door. This time he heard people arguing. Okay, his exit plan stopped. An omen? He stopped dead. Thoughts ran rampant.

“When will they stop me?” he whispered. He exited the room through the door to the hallway and disappeared into the stairwell across the hall.

© 2017 by Ronnie Allen