Sacrificial Muse (A Sabrina Vaughn Novel)
was going. Anyway, he came back and said he was through. Told me to take his last paycheck and shove it up my ass. Haven’t heard from him since.”
    “You got a new reporter following me?”
    “For now it’s just Heather and me. Can’t afford to hire another reporter.” He cleared his throat again. “Now, if you’ll excuse me—”
    She didn’t wait to hear more. “If you hear from Croft, tell him I’m looking for him,” she said on her way out the door.
    She didn’t get it. If Croft quit, why was he still chasing the story of her abduction? Was he working for another paper, or was there another reason he was following her?
    Lost in thought, Sabrina got her car door unlocked and opened before she saw it.
    A red square envelope, sitting on the front seat.

TWENTY
    Sabrina took a step back, driven by instinct to preserve evidence. She heard the blare of horns a fraction of a second before she felt the weight of someone’s hand drop on her shoulder and yank her out of the path of oncoming traffic.
    Instinct took over again. Her left hand shot upward, closing around a wrist, anchoring it to her shoulder. Her right hand balled into a fist and swung hard and fast into his stomach, collapsing his diaphragm. Air whooshed out of his lungs and he doubled over, throwing out a hand to block the assault, but it was too late. Switching her grip from his wrist to his hair, Sabrina drove her knee into his face. The constant hum in her thigh ignited into a symphony of pain, crashing down on her, singing over every bone and muscle. She drove her knee into his face again before she let him go, just to prove a point.
    Croft lay in the street between two parked cars, a stunned look on his bloodied face. “ It’s just me ,” he shouted when she took a step toward him.
    “I know who it is.” She glared down at him, fists clenched at her sides, ignoring the small throng of rubberneckers her kicking of Croft’s ass had drawn. She could feel them watching her, and she stifled the urge to hide the badge clipped to her waistband. Instead she looked up at The Sentinel ’s offices just beyond the crowded sidewalk. The walking coronary and the receptionist were staring at her through the window. The corner of her mouth quirked into a half-smile. In return, Little reached over and locked the office door.
    “How long have you been following me?” she said, glaring down at Croft while he pulled himself up to sit on the curb. He didn’t answer, just hung his head between his splayed knees, letting blood drip from his nose and mouth, splashes of bright red against the gray of the gutter. Sabrina unbuttoned her shirt, revealing the tank she wore beneath it. Pulling the shirt off, she tossed it at Croft. He caught it.
    “Thanks,” he muttered before using it to mop the blood from his face. “Where’d you learn to fight like that?”
    “An old Japanese maintenance man for the apartment complex I lived in as a kid taught me how to defend myself.” She gave another quick look around, spotting a couple of beat cops, drawn by the small crowd they’d gathered. The situation had officially just gone from bad to worse.
    Croft glared at her around the wad of Oxford pressed to his face. “Did you just beat the shit out of me and blame it on the plot of The Karate Kid ?”
    “Yup.”
    The uniforms wove their way through the crowd, headed straight for her. She lifted her hip, putting her brass on display. “It’s alright, guys. I’ve got it,” she said, hoping her badge was enough to slow the tidal wave of shit that kicking Croft’s ass in public threatened to bury her under. One of the two officers looked down at Croft for a moment while the other surveyed the gathering crowd, giving her time to do the same. Almost every single bystander had a camera phone aimed at her and Croft. And to top it off, she could see Little, still standing at the window scribbling notes like crazy.
    One of the uniforms smirked. “Got your ass handed to you,

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