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“Yeah, though I tried at first.” Unfortunately, the ground was almost like cement during the winter in Alaska.

“Did you go back in the spring to check on the body?” Melena asked.

Cori nodded. “I tried, but I couldn’t find the spot. I’d been so out of my mind with grief that I couldn’t remember exactly where I put him. The cops questioned me about his disappearance, especially because he was wanted for manslaughter, but when his body never turned up everyone just assumed he ran away to get out of being punished for his crimes.”

“What about the blood and stuff at his house and in your car?”

“I got help removing all the evidence.” Cori shrugged. “My dad put me in touch with a guy who wasn’t the type to ask questions.”

She had a few acquaintances like that thanks to her father’s connections. He hadn’t been a criminal himself, but he knew a lot of people and helped more than a few when they were in jams, so they owed him favors. Her parents had grown up in Fairbanks, and they’d continued to live there until Cori was sixteen when her dad got a job offer in Anchorage. After he passed away a couple of years ago, her mother decided to stay there with her sister and her family. Cori couldn’t live near them again. The guilt from killing Griff ate at her, so she decided to settle in Fairbanks where the memories might have been uncomfortable, but at least people wouldn’t ask questions the way her family did.

Melena’s forehead creased. “How sure are you that Griff was dead when you left him?”

“He wasn’t moving, and he didn’t appear to be breathing,” Cori said, though now she wished she had checked his pulse.

“What was the general area where you put his body?”

“Do you have a map?” Cori asked.

“Yeah, I do.” Melena left the kitchen, returning a minute later with it. She unfolded the map across the counter. “Where?”

Cori pointed to a remote area east of Fairbanks where she’d left Griff’s body. “Somewhere in there.”

“How long ago was this?”

She considered it. “Almost four years ago.”

“Damn.” Melena rubbed her face. “You aren’t the only person who was using that spot back then.”

Cori’s gut clenched. “What do you mean?”

“You remember that vampire-witch I told you about who used to run this area?”

“Wasn’t her name…Variola or something?” Cori remembered hearing about the vampire who’d been master of the Fairbanks area before Melena and others had taken her out. They said Variola had been evil and taken countless human lives during her reign. No one outside the supernatural community had a clue, though, since she’d covered her tracks well.

“That’s the one.” Melena glanced at the map. “And I think you put your ex-husband’s body right next to her dumping ground. They could have found him, and if he wasn’t dead yet…”

Cori gasped. “You don’t think they would have saved him, do you?”

Melena’s lips thinned. “I wouldn’t put anything past that woman or her minions.”

“So he might not be a ghost, and he could be alive?”

“It’s possible.” She started folding the map back up. “But if he was near death they would have had to turn him, and there’s only a fifty-fifty chance of survival when someone is transitioning into a vampire. What exactly happened when you saw him? Did he seem solid?”

Cori relayed the full story for her, leaving no detail out. The more she thought about it, the more it seemed plausible that Griff had been real and maybe not a ghost.

“Dark eyes, moves fast, and probably able take a bullet?” Melena shook her head. “It sounds like there’s a greater chance he was turned.”

“But I thought you killed all of Variola’s people except Emily’s mom,” Cori argued.

“We killed the ones who were here. If he wasn’t in town, he might have just decided to stay away until now.” Melena knitted her brows. “But it’s surprising he didn’t go after you right after turning.”

Cori stared into her coffee mug. “That’s what I’m wondering, too.”

“Variola could have had a tight leash on him, or maybe she sent him away. There’s no telling what that woman was up to back then.” Melena straightened her shoulders. “But we’ll figure it out.”

“I’m not trying to get you involved in this,” Cori said, though she was relieved to finally tell someone the story. A weight had lifted off her shoulders by finally sharing it with another person, and it hadn’t been quite as horrible as she’d expected. “It’s my problem to handle. I just wanted to figure out what I was dealing with so I’d know how to proceed.”

Melena rolled her eyes. “You’ve helped me plenty of times, and if this guy is a vampire, you can’t fight him by yourself. He’ll be too strong. I wouldn’t be surprised if the only reason you aren’t dead already is because he’s toying with you.”

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