for a week after the convention, and they had been together constantly. When he had returned to the Coast he had said he would be back for her on his vacation. She had not expected him to come, but he had. That was when she had finally admitted she loved him.

'Don't be long,' she said as he stood at the door. She kissed him and watched him walk down the winding path through the neatly trimmed shrubbery. Karyn could not imagine how she could be happier. She had Roy and she had an excellent job with a hotel near the airport where she was in line for convention manager when her current boss retired. Tonight she would give Roy her special anniversary gift — the news that he was going to be a father. Yes, her life was just about perfect.

* * *

Max Quist watched the blond young man come out of Unit Two and stride down the walk past him without a flicker. Max might as well have been invisible. The woman stood in the doorway watching him go. Good-looking cunt. Too good-looking. Both of them. Like people in a magazine ad. Young, beautiful, healthy, rich. Max spat on the cropped grass. How he wanted to show them what it's like to be hurt. Hurt them. Yes… hurt them.

* * *

Karyn was in the kitchen putting the lunch things away when the doorbell chimed. Chris was early, she thought. She dried her hands and walked out through the living room to the door. She did not bother to look through the tiny viewer. She never did. There was no danger here. This was Hermosa Terrace, not East Los Angeles.

Karyn opened the door and the heat pushed against the cool inside air. The man in the doorway was not Chris Halloran. He smiled at her.

'Yes?' Karyn said when the man did not speak right away.

He had thick black hair that was poorly barbered. His cotton workshirt was dark with perspiration under the arms. He seemed vaguely familiar.

'I'm supposed to check the pipes in your bathroom,' he said.

'There's nothing wrong with our pipes.'

'It's in the apartment next door. Their shower don't drain right, and it might be plugged up where your drain pipes come together.'

Something in the way the man spoke was wrong. The short speech sounded rehearsed. Something about the man himself was wrong. He continued to smile.

'You'd better come back when my husband is here. He knows about those things.'

Without making any sudden moves the man had somehow come through the doorway and was standing in the living room. He was still smiling, but it was a different smile. 'That's okay,' he said. 'We won't need your husband.'

Over on the couch Lady raised her neat little head and pricked her ears at the strange male voice. After a moment she put her head back down on her paws, but remained watchful.

'I'm sorry, but I'd rather you didn't come in now.' Karyn fought to still the tremor of fear in her voice.

'But I am in,' the man said. He reached behind him and closed the door. Without taking his eyes off Karyn he turned the small knob, shooting the dead-bolt lock into place.

'What do you think you're doing?' Karyn wanted her voice to be angry and strong, but the fear was in her now. She could not hide it.

'You know what I'm doing,' the man said.

'I–I don't keep much money in the house. You can have what there is. And my jewelry.'

'I don't want your money or your jewelry. But you know that, don't you? You know what I want, and you're going to give it to me.' He reached out suddenly and squeezed her breast.

Karyn jumped back as though from an electric shock.

'Please, leave me alone!' The sour smell of his body was sharp in her nostrils. 'M-my husband will be home.'

'No he won't. He just left. We have all the time we need.'

She took a careful step backward. The man's eyes traveled over her body, probing at her. His hands shot out and seized her wrists.

'No!' she cried.

'Relax,' he said. 'You're going to like it.'

'Please… you can't…'

The man pulled Karyn against his body and mashed his mouth down on hers. Karyn clamped her jaws together as his tongue pushed in past her lips. He tasted of stale cigarettes.

'Where's the bedroom?'

Karyn shook her head from side to side, afraid to trust her voice.

With a sudden movement the man twisted one arm up behind her back, forcing her to walk in front of him. He marched Karyn into the hallway that opened between the living room and the room Roy used for a den. She stumbled along in his grasp past the bathroom to the open door, through which they could see the bed.

All the things she had read about rape tumbled through Karyn's mind. All the advice for women. Fight back. Don't fight back. Scream. Stay calm. Blow a whistle. Run. Reason with the man.

Lovely advice, all useless. Fight the man? He was at least seventy pounds heavier than she, and certainly stronger. Scream? Who would hear? Hermosa Terrace Townhomes were proud of their soundproofing. Reason with him? Reason with an animal?

They were in the bedroom now. The man spun Karyn around and pushed her backward onto the bed.

The thinking part of her mind shut off and instinct took over. She crossed her arms protectively over her breasts and drew back her feet to kick out at the man when he came at her.

The man laughed at her efforts and batted the kick aside with an easy swipe of his hand. He grasped her by the ankles and forced her legs apart. Karyn writhed on the bed, helpless against his strength.

The man grinned down at her, showing large, strong teeth. Droplets of sweat stood out on his forehead and upper lip. His eyes moved down to her crotch. Karyn felt open and exposed with the thin velour pants pulled tight between her legs.

'I'm pregnant,' she said suddenly.


'I am' she insisted. 'Three months.'

Then you don't have to worry about getting knocked up, do you?'

He released one of Karyn's ankles and took hold of the velour pants at the waist. He yanked them down, exposing the smooth, pale skin of her belly. The snap and zipper held at first, but he tugged again and the material tore away.

Then she screamed. Not without any thought of summoning help or frightening the man off. A visceral scream of outrage and terror.

'Shut up!' he ordered. He leaned forward and slapped her hard on the face. She stopped screaming.

A sudden high-pitched barking behind the man spun him around. Lady stood braced on her little legs, yapping angrily. The man swung his foot in a vicious arc; the toe of his heavy shoe caught the little dog just below the ribs and lifted her off the floor.

Lady yelped in surprise and pain. Never before had anyone deliberately hurt her. She crouched on the floor whimpering, her eyes pleading for an apology, a comforting pat.

'Get out of here, mutt,' the man snapped.

Still whimpering, Lady moved uncertainly toward the door. She stopped and looked back toward her mistress. The man made a threatening motion with his hand, and the dog retreated into the hall. The man kicked the door shut behind her.

'Hell of a watchdog you've got there.' He grinned and came at Karyn again.

'Please don't do this. Please don't hurt me.' Even as the words came out, Karyn knew they were useless. This unspeakable thing was actually going to happen to her. Was happening to her. What had she ever done that she should be brutalized this way?

The man was upon her again, and Karyn's mind ceased to function logically. He tore away the nylon bikini pants, and his fingers crawled over and into her.

Abruptly he dropped to his knees and thrust his face up between her legs. He clamped his mouth on her, and Karyn could feel his tongue like a thick, wet worm probing, probing at her. She pummeled his head with her fists,

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