Authors: H. D. Thomson
Tags: #serial killer, #Paranormal Romance, #science fiction romance, #fantasy romance, #H. D. Thomson
Finally, he managed to drag in a lungful of air, but its frigid sting rushed passed his throat and into his lungs too fast. Oxygen flooded his head and white sparks danced across his peripheral vision.
No. He needed to stop. Now. And focus. Think.
He forced himself to relax, to calm the wild thump of his heart. After a moment he managed to breathe in a slow, steady rhythm, and the panic eased. He turned and noticed the passenger to his right. A man sat slumped, silent, his body thrown forward and held in place by his seatbelt.
“Hey, are you okay?”
He nudged the man’s shoulder with a hand. “Can you hear me?”
Something wasn’t right.
He unbuckled his seatbelt and slapped a palm against the dashboard to stop from pitching forward. Awkwardly, he twisted in his seat, eased forward and ducked to get a better look at the person’s face. That’s when he noticed the hole above the passenger’s open and unblinking eye. For several long, heart-rending seconds, he stared at how the blood pooled from the wound, and then dripped, again and again, slowly but steadily onto the person’s jean clad leg.
A gunshot wound. Had to be. “Jesus!”
Until now, he hadn’t noticed the pungent odor of death and how it clung to the interior of the car. At the stench, his stomach lurched but kept from heaving its contents.
The passenger wasn’t even a man but a kid in his late teens. A dead one at that. And the boy sure as hell didn’t die from a car accident with a bullet hole in his head.
Repulsed by the idea, but determined to find something of importance, he dug inside both outer pockets of the teenager’s jacket. He needed something to tell him what the hell was going on or at least who sat dead in the car with him. Next, he unzipped the kid’s jacket and felt around. His fingers caught on something jutting from a shirt pocket. He pulled it out and lifted it up to get a better view.
A picture. He managed to make out that it was a photo of the passenger and a woman with her arm draped over his shoulders. They stood in front of a building of some type. He turned the photo over and read:
Me and Katherine at the Morning Dove.
At least it was something. But not nearly enough to tell him who either one of them were.
Had he been the one to kill the kid?
There’d have to be a gun.
Quickly, he stuffed the picture inside the pocket of his down jacket and started searching. The fading light forced him to grope around the seat and floor by his feet and that of the dead teenager. He reached for the glove box, the most logical place for a weapon, and kept his gaze away from the body.
He didn’t find a weapon inside but he did find a flashlight, which he flipped on and aimed at the car’s floor. Still no gun. The relief was almost immobilizing. Because if he’d found a gun, he’d have proof that he’d murdered the boy. The idea of sticking the barrel of a gun into that kid’s face—
No. He didn’t want to go there.
He aimed the light in the back of the car where the beam caught on a navy blue duffle bag. Finally something. Not liking the idea of reaching over the back and brushing up against the dead teen, he decided to go outside and around. He opened the door, jumped out, and landed in a foot of snow, which seeped under his pants and bit into his skin.
Suddenly lightheaded, he bent over and rested his hands across his knees. Eyeglasses, he hadn’t noticed until now, slipped from his nose and fell to the ground. He plucked them from a snow as gray and lifeless as the sky. When he rose, a wave of dizziness seized him. He swayed and latched onto the car’s roof with one hand. God, he was weaker than he’d thought.
After he regained his equilibrium, he opened the back door, unzipped the duffle bag and aimed the light inside. And froze. He’d hoped for some clue to his past—anything—but what he discovered was far from what he’d imagined.
Cold, hard, cash. The bag was stuffed with bundles of it, all tied by bank straps. With the flashlight trained on the bag’s interior, he lifted one bundle out and fanned the top edges and did it again to insure he wasn’t hallucinating. Hundreds. Every single one of them. The bills trembled against his fingers, while his heart rate kicked into a rapid rhythm. At the very least, there had to be more than a hundred thousand in front of him.
How? Why? What type of person carried this amount of money around with them?
He dropped the bundle back into the bag, opened the sides wider and realized he wasn’t done. Far from it. Something large rested inside. He wrapped his fingers around the handle and pulled the item from the bag. Beneath, the flashlight’s beam, the dark silver gleamed as if recently polished.
Something big had gone down, and he’d been involved. But what?
He hated the feel of the gun beneath his fingers as he shoved it back in the bag. But even though he disliked touching the weapon, he’d obviously found it important enough keep one around.
What the hell type of person was he?
Then he heard something other than the wind through the pines. A cry. It had a distinct rhythm, growing low, then high, increasing in intensity as it approached.
The murdered teen, the cash, the gun. All incriminating, all unexplainable. The police or paramedics would never believe him. He didn’t even believe himself.
Fear shot him into action. He grabbed the bag—he might have lost his mind, but he wasn’t stupid enough to leave something like that behind—pivoted and stumbled away from the car and the dead boy.
EXCERPT OF SHROUDED IN ILLUSION
Hope sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible....
“No one fuckin' move! You! Get away from the door."
Skye Hunter snapped her head up from looking inside her purse and gaped at a tall, bald-headed man several yards away. In his tight-fisted hand, he pointed a gun at her chest.
She blinked. For a moment she didn't understand. Then panic crashed through her body and her breath hitched painfully inside her throat.
My God. Tyler.
She whipped her gaze across the inside of the convenience store. Aisles of chips, dip and candy, but no sign of her nine-year-old son.
They'd been separated but minutes. While he'd gone to get a hotdog, she'd run into the restroom. And now this sick nightmare.
The acrid taste of bile bubbled up her throat. Savagely, she swallowed it down. She needed her wits. For Tyler, for herself.
"Didn'cha hear him, bitch!" Another man, short and stocky, stood in front of the counter and several feet to the side of the other robber. Acne scars spattered most of his face, while his eyes, black, small and closely set, regarded her with rage.
"Okay, okay." She jerked her hands into the air. Her purse, its straps sliding along her arm, swung wildly and banged against her side. "Just don't shoot."
Great. They'd fled the violence in Boston only to encounter it here in Las Vegas.
Tension cut into every muscle and tendon across her back and shoulders. Skye stared past both men to the front door and freedom. Seeing no sign of Tyler through the glass panels, she inched away from the counter and register.
Another empty aisle without Tyler.
Where the hell was he?
“Are you an idiot?" the bald thug asked the clerk, a boy not much older than twenty. "Open the damn drawer.”
In horror, Skye stared at the redheaded clerk as she eased further from the trio and the front door. The kid was crazy. These men weren't playing around. Agitation and fury radiated from both. Neither of them wore masks to hide their identities, screaming their recklessness, stupidity or savage intent.
“The cash, asshole. Now,” the acne-faced thief growled, shoving his greasy black hair from his face.
“I can’t believe this shit.” The kid shook his head. “Second time this week. If you think—"
“Shut up, you fuck!” The bald thug lashed out at a display rack with the flat of his hand, pitching packets of energy pills across the counter and onto the floor. “Give him the money. Now! Before one of us blows your mother-fucking head off!
A new wave of panic rolled through Skye's body as she edged further away. Tyler had to be somewhere. He’d never run off voluntarily. She glanced past the surveillance camera to the far corner of the store and the convex mirror, which reflected the back section of the room.
There. Partially hidden behind the counter of the store's coffee bar in the back corner, a figure huddled on the floor. Tyler. Relief turned her limbs unsteady, but that relief mingled with a new fear. If she could see him in the mirror, the robbers could do the same.
"Where the hell do you think you're going?"
Skye jerked her gaze back to the acne-faced thug now glaring at her. She couldn't believe she'd dragged Tyler into this mess. "Nowhere."
"Don't give me that shit. I saw you."
"No. You've got it wrong." She lifted her arms higher. "I didn't—" Horror strangled the rest of the words from her throat. Two brainless thugs weren't going to end her life and that of her son in some sick parody of random violence. Not when she'd managed to elude far smarter killers.
The thug lifted his gun and aimed at Skye's head. Her peripheral vision faded as she stared at the gun. It gleamed silver-gray beneath the florescent light. From this angle, she could see the man’s blunt, dirty fingers around the gun's handle. His index finger rested across the trigger, then flexed.
“Don't!” She dropped her hands and lurched to the side.
The thug pulled the trigger.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
H. D. Thomson moved from Ontario, Canada as a teenager to the heat of Arizona where she graduated from the University of Arizona with a B.S. in Business Administration with a major in accounting. After working in the corporate world as an accountant, H. D. changed her focus to one of her passions-books. She owned and operated an online bookstore for several years and then started the company, Bella Media Management. The company specializes in web sites, video trailers, ebook conversion and promotional resources for authors and small businesses. When she is not heading her company, she is following her first love-writing. You can read more about her and her books at
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