Authors: H. D. Thomson
Tags: #serial killer, #Paranormal Romance, #science fiction romance, #fantasy romance, #H. D. Thomson
Smiling, she placed them in his hand.
He grunted. “If I’m not careful, people are going to call me whipped.”
“They can only say that if I go by a whip and try it out on you.”
“Funny.” Sighing, he slipped the sunglasses back on.
“You look pretty darn sexy in them.” Kennedy cocked her head to one side. The shades added a mysterious sex appeal to Luke’s blond, windswept hair, strong jaw, prominent cheekbones and sensual lips. The man was lethal, but she wasn’t going to keep telling him that. He had too much power over her as it was. “So what do you see?”
“What do you mean ‘nothing?’”
Luke shrugged and tossed them onto the ottoman beside her laptop. “They’re just a pair of sunglasses.”
Kennedy didn’t like how he didn’t meet her gaze. She stilled. Something wasn’t right. “I’m going to keep on asking you until you tell me what you saw. You know how stubborn I can be.”
“Gray? How do you mean?”
“Everything around—sofa, furniture—is in color but you. You were just different shades of gray.”
“Gray, eh?” Unease crept across her back. She did another search on the Internet and found a different site. “On this one, it says gray means death.”
“Stop it, Kennedy. You’re scaring yourself.” He clasped her wrist and pulled her hand away from the computer. “This is starting to feel like some horror movie. They’re just glasses. There’s bound to be some type of explanation of why they do what they do.”
“Still... It makes you wonder. There was this teenage girl I saw earlier. She was also all in gray. What if it does mean an untimely death? Just think of walking around and not knowing you only had a couple of days or weeks.” Her chest tightened with fear.
“I’d prefer not knowing.”
“I’m not sure I’d feel the same. If I knew, I’d make sure I did everything I needed to do. Prepare for it, so the people I leave behind aren’t left with a mess.” The ache in her chest expanded. She needed to stop talking like this before she started cracking. Forcing a smile, she apologized. “Sorry. I’m getting morbid on you. I’ll stop, promise.”
She glanced over at the glasses still resting on the ottoman. They looked innocent enough. But were they? Exactly why would the woman give them to her? Because she saw something radiating from Kennedy? Could she be dying and not know it?
Her stomach twisted and rolled. Maybe cancer was eating away at her insides? Or something far different? An accident? A violent death in the not so distant future?
The room darkened, and for a moment, Kennedy thought it was caused from her equally darkening mood, but then she realized a cloud had crawled across the sky and covered the sun.
A sense of foreboding crawled across her flesh.
Kennedy slumped back in her kitchen chair and shoved a partially eaten piece of pizza into the middle of the table. “Now that I feel like I ate a horse, I think I killed a couple of brain cells from over eating.”
Luke half-smiled. “Speaking of brain cells, I’ve got to get home. I’ve got a report I need to finish up for work. There’s a meeting first thing in the morning, and the boss is riding my coattails.”
“Well, I think I’m going to have to go jogging to make up for all this calorie overload.”
“How about you hold off until tomorrow morning and I can join you?”
“I need to get my daily jog in, and I can still go tomorrow.” She didn’t want to tell him how she needed to get out there, burn some energy. Forget about the glasses, auras, death and the little girl in the parking lot—
“You’re shutting off.”
At his words, she tensed and didn’t try to keep the irritation out of her voice. “Luke, you said you wouldn’t go there.”
“The problem is I don’t know
is. There’s so many off topics that I’ve stopped counting.”
Her lips firmed. She felt that familiar panic welling up inside her. That and claustrophobia pressing down, suffocating her. She couldn’t take it.
Luke was pushing too much. They were heading down the same direction they always did. She felt a fight coming on, and there wasn’t a thing that was going to stop it. Same argument, different day. She should never have let Luke back into her apartment.
“I like my privacy, and I want to keep it that way.”
“Privacy is fine, but a person can take it too far. To the point where it leads to a very lonely life.”
“I’m fine with that.” Better that than dealing with the pain of letting someone into her heart.
Tension radiated from Luke, and Kennedy didn’t do a thing to alleviate it. Maybe it was better this way. Have him angry at her. Anger was much better to deal with than pity.
He stood up, his posture and movements stiff. “It’s getting late. It’s time I left.”
She didn’t argue. She knew he wanted her stop him, but she wasn’t going to. Not now, and probably never. Fear kept her lips firmly shut. She knew something was wrong with her. She’d never gone to a psychologist. She didn’t need a diagnosis. But maybe if she’d let him stay, talk it out, and try to work things out...
She closed her eyes briefly, momentarily bereft of the possibility of never witnessing his quirky sense of humor, seeing his sexy half-smile or feeling his arms around her.
When he walked to the front door, she didn’t get up, didn’t look his way. The click of the door shutting sounded far too final. Kennedy fought back the pressure constricting her throat, the burn against the back of her eyes.
It was better this way.
Quiet permeated the apartment. No television, no ticking clock. She couldn’t even hear the hum of the refrigerator. The silence was deafening, hitting her from all sides.
Kennedy jumped to her feet. She needed to get out. Do something. Jogging. Yes. Probably the only thing that would help calm the restlessness boiling inside her.
She hurried into the bedroom, didn’t look at the messed up bed, the top covers no doubt trailing along the side of the bed to touch the carpet. She tried not to think of Luke stretched out and naked in that very bed with that half-smile of his and those lethal bedroom eyes.
After pulling off her over-sized shirt, she tossed it in the hamper, grabbed a pair of black workout shorts and a sleeveless workout shirt. With her feet in a pair of runners, headphones attached to her phone, she hurried back into the kitchen and grabbed a water bottle. On the way out, she eyed the sunglasses on the ottoman and decided to bring them along. What the heck. So she might be a little addicted to the things. Sliding them over the bridge of her nose, she locked up behind her.
She got in the car, took a deep breath and turned the car’s ignition with a quivering hand. As she guided the car from her parking space and drove through the apartment complex and to the main exit, she wrapped her hands tighter around the wheel to keep the shaking at bay. No matter how many times, she always struggled those first few minutes behind the wheel to get the trembling under control. Maybe one day that might change, but for now, she’d just have to deal with it.
She kept to the speed limit on the freeway and side streets, made sure she came to a complete halt at all stop signs and signaled at every turn. Twenty minutes later, she pulled into the parking lot of Thunderbird Parkway, a hiking trail that threaded through a couple of foothills on the fringes of Phoenix. Several points across the trail a person could see the city’s downtown skyscrapers against the horizon. She parked in the middle of the lot. Three other cars were also in the parking area. Usually in the morning, the place was packed with hikers, taking in cool winter weather. No one ventured out here in the summer, unless they hit the trail before the sun broke over the horizon.
The sun bounced off the hood. She adjusted her sunglasses. The idea of coming across other people and reading their auras was fascinating. So maybe her aura was gray. There could be viable reasons other than death.
She was healthy. She worked out on a regular basis.
Unless an accident waited for her....
A car running a red light and t-boning her....
She should have died four years ago. For some reason she was still walking among the living. But was she really living? Yes, she walked, talked, ate. Even so, she didn’t drink in everything life had to offer. She went from day to day, not caring about what happened to her. Death sounded like a blissful escape. In reality, she was a walking zombie. Or more like a jogging zombie. Maybe that might be the reason she was an ugly gray. Because she was only existing.
Or worse... The unsettling thought wouldn’t go away. Maybe she lacked color because she’d cheated death and it was coming back after her.
Kennedy shrugged off her dark thoughts. After slipping her smart phone and keys in a zip up pocket and tuning into some indie music, she jogged toward the first hill. It was uphill for a good half-mile. She hated this part, but at least she got it over with in the beginning. Ah, but she loved the last part. Almost all downhill and blessed shade.
Her heart pounded. Sweat trailed down one temple. The sun dipped lower in the sky. On her way up, she came across a number of hikers going in the opposite direction. All colored with different auras. Not one bit of gray. Normal.
Which led to her being abnormal.
She focused on the trail. Protruding rocks and shrubs littered the path. If she wasn’t careful, she might land on her face. As she climbed the trail, fewer people appeared.
The main path circled around a foothill. Prickly pear, Palo Verde trees and desert shrub scattered the desert on both sides of her. Shadows elongated and clung to the mountain side by the time she reached the halfway point where she started to circle back around. On this side of the mountain only a few ranch-style houses sprawled across the valley below. No sign of movement from any of the properties.
Heart racing, she pushed forward. Her lungs burned. She unsnapped her water bottle and took a swig. She didn’t slow and water splattered her cheeks. Focus momentarily diverted, she tripped over a protruding rock cemented to the packed dirt. Her hands sprang up for balance and the water bottle went flying. Her ankle twisted to the side. She gasped. Pain flared across muscle and tendon. She stumbled to a stop and caught her breath.
“Damn it,” she grunted to herself.
Stepping forward, she tested her right ankle and winced. “Good going, you clumsy oaf.”
Just what she needed. A good mile back to the car on a sore ankle. She guessed it could have been worse. She might have lost her keys—which could easily happen... Tensing, she quickly patted her zipped pocket and felt the jagged lump of her keys. “Thank God for small miracles. Now if I could just find my water bottle.”
It took all of two seconds to find it. She grabbed the metal container butted up against a rock and snapped the top closed before any more water spilled out.
Even though the sun had dipped even further, Kennedy decided not to push her body and jog the rest of the way. The last thing she needed was to slap the ground with her face. Then she’d have a heck of a time getting out of the place.
Tentatively, she moved down the path, testing her ankle with each step, unable to walk without a distinct limp.
Footsteps against gravel pulled Kennedy from her thoughts. A hiker appeared from the curve in the trail. His figure waved, dimmed and darkened. Even with the fading sun, Kennedy easily distinguished black rays radiating from his body. His clothing, shoes, hair, arms—pulsed pure, undiluted black, not muddy gray, indigo, or deep, dark green. Just pure black.
Uneasiness crawled along the back of Kennedy’s neck and into her chest. The only word that would describe the feeling rolling toward her was evil.
The sun hung low in the sky. She hadn’t seen another hiker for a while. Tension cut a swath across her shoulder. Her heart rate kicked up.
The hiker continued toward her. Bulky shoulders, thick arms and legs. She thought to lift the glasses to get a better image of him because the black masking the rest of his features, but decided against it. She’d just look odd and draw attention to herself.
She touched the phone in her pocket. A lifeline.
Okay she was getting way out of hand and paranoid. She didn’t know for sure what these glasses really told her. Oh, yeah? Then why the black? She’d seen someone radiating muddy green and the guy had looked far from happy.
Black didn’t necessarily mean evil. It could mean death. But she wasn’t getting a feeling of his death. Oh, no. Not at all. Death could very well mean the other way around. He might have killed, murdered, raped.
She stared at the hiker. Approximately twenty-five yards now. Black continued to emanate from all areas of his body but mainly from his chest and head. Who was she trying to fool?
His voice carried across the distance.
Jesus. He was talking to himself and opening and closing his hands. The better to strangle your neck maybe?
Cut the sarcasm, Kennedy. This wasn’t funny.
Last year a female hiker was raped and murdered in another recreational park east of Phoenix.
The idea of passing him made her stomach roll with panic.
Closer. Yet closer. She looked down at the ground as she walked awkwardly forward.
“Hey, are you alright?”
She pulled the headphones from her ears. Forcing a smile, she avoided looking at his face and nodded. “I’m fine.”
“But you’re limping.”
This time, she glanced up. The male hiker stood just six feet away. He wore black track pants and a wife-beater t-shit, which revealed a barrel-like chest and thick, corded muscles along his shoulders and arms. She lifted her gaze and met his eyes.
Oh, Jesus. She sucked in air and viciously pulled back the scream rising up her throat. The glasses revealed a face the color of bleached bone. Black sockets with no eyes inside. A mouth minus lips. A ghoulish, horror-like face. The sunglasses. They were distorting his face. Had to be.
Heart slamming against the inside of her ribs, she ripped the glasses off. He looked human now. A ruddy complexion, thick, brown nondescript hair, doughy cheeks and chin. Now that he looked normal helped but not by much. To hide the trembling in her hands, she stuffed her glasses in another zip up pocket in her shirt. “It’s just a little twist.”