Authors: H. D. Thomson
Tags: #serial killer, #Paranormal Romance, #science fiction romance, #fantasy romance, #H. D. Thomson
H. D. THOMSON
By H. D. Thomson
Copyright © 2012 by H. D. Thomson
Previously published as Shades of Gray: A Short Story
All rights reserved. No part of this eBook may be reproduced in whole or in part, scanned, photocopied, recorded, distributed in any printed or electronic form, or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or hereafter invented, without express written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Published by Bella Media Management
First Edition eBook
“I thought we went through this already.” Vaguely aware of the movement of people walking around her, Kennedy sat on a bench in the mall with potted plants on either side of her. She shouldn’t have answered her cell, but then when it came to Luke, she always seemed to cave. Plus, she could only ignore his calls for so long.
“You could have at least given me the respect to break up in person.” Anger laced Luke’s voice. “Shit, Kennedy. We just passed the one year mark.”
She closed her eyes and struggled to bank the emotion wrapped around her throat. What could she say? He was right.
“We both know why you ran.” His husky voice washed over her senses. “I scare you. I make you feel. And you just can’t stand that.”
A baby started bawling ten feet away. “Luke, right now isn’t the time. There are crowds everywhere.”
“We’ll talk later.”
Luke didn’t give her a chance to argue. He’d hung up. She disconnected the phone and sat on the bench. She didn’t like hurting like this. That’s why she’d broken up. If she’d stayed any longer, the hurt would have just gotten worse, and she couldn’t handle that. She blinked back tears but they spilled over her lashes.
Where was her self-control? For God’s sake she was in a public place with people everywhere. She stuffed her phone into her purse, pulled the straps over her shoulder and wiped impatiently at her cheeks with the back of her hands.
She rose on unsteady legs and started for the exit. The idea of seeing Luke again in person made her stomach flop and her chest tighten. And her body... Her body was reacting in a very needy way. The idea of being in his arms again, to feel the weight of his body against her, to—
Enough! Luke was just a man. A man that was screwing with her head. Mentally shaking herself, Kennedy moved toward the main doors that lead to the south parking lot. She didn’t want to buy presents right now, she didn’t want to deal with all the people milling around, shopping, eating, talking.
A woman stepped in front of her. Kennedy stumbled to a stop and almost collided with her.
“Take these.” The woman with a halo of blond, chin-length hair and dressed in a black and white pant suit shoved something at her. In reflex, Kennedy caught the item in both hands.
“What’s this?” Kennedy stared down at her hands. A pair of sunglasses of all things. She glanced up.
“Just take them,” the blond insisted. A strange light—fear, maybe anger, Kennedy didn’t quite know—flared in the woman’s brown eyes.
“I don’t need sunglasses.”
“Hah, they’re not sunglasses. At least not any I’ve ever worn!” The woman backed away. “Just take them. Maybe they’ll work better for you than they did for me.”
Before Kennedy had a chance to protest further, the blond pivoted and lurched into the crowd toward the food court.
Kennedy followed. Two teenage boys bumped against her as she wove around people. Saturday and two weeks before Christmas filled the mall with shoppers in record numbers. Clutching the glasses in one hand, she came to a stop and searched the crowd.
No sign of the blond anywhere.
“Oh, heck,” Kennedy muttered under her breath. Living in Phoenix, she was bound to come across some wacky people. It was such a huge city. But still...
To get away from the noise and people and clear her head, Kennedy stepped outside and onto the sidewalk. Cool air brushed against her face. The crowds were far fewer here.
She glanced down at the glasses in her hand. Frowning, she turned them over, once, twice. They looked like a pair of standard sunglasses. Sleek, modern and expensive if she could go by the lenses and thick silver and black frames. Yet, they were lightweight in her hand. All very normal. The woman must have been talking nonsense.
Still... Kennedy opened the temple arms and ran a thumb over each. She’d never seen a material quite like it. Not plastic, yet not metal. Even with the temperature in the mid-seventies and the sun’s rays warming her skin, Kennedy shivered.
What the heck. Gingerly, she slipped them on her nose and looked over the parking lot. A blinding light flashed across her vision. The unexpectedness of it sent the breath rushing from her lungs. Just as quickly the light vanished. She yanked the glasses off her nose and peered up at the sky.
Lightning in the middle of the day? With no cloud in the sky? Impossible. She peered around her but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. As a woman stepped onto the sidewalk in front of her, Kennedy slipped the glasses back on. Both lenses flickered then flared. Kennedy sucked in a breath of shocked air.
The glasses. It had to be the glasses.
Light radiated from the woman. Not white or yellow, but orange and blue. The colors pulsed and shimmered. Kennedy looked away. The mall, bushes, trees, cars and parking lot all looked normal but a shade darker—all caused from what would be a any normal pair of sunglasses. She glanced back to the woman. Tension slipped across Kennedy’s spine as the woman walked toward her. The colors swirled and throbbed around her head and shoulders, vibrant, near blinding as the woman drew closer.
With each step closer, tension crawled across Kennedy’s back. Was the woman normal? Out of this world? Her features seemed diluted against the colors.
When the woman passed Kennedy on the sidewalk, the light and colors faded and the scene returned to normal... as if she’d been wearing a regular pair of sunglasses.
Maybe it wasn’t the woman but rather Kennedy who was the problem. Was she hallucinating? She searched the parking lot and each time her gaze came into contact with another human being, color radiated off their body or head. Shades of mauve, yellow, green. Every imaginable color of the rainbow.
Except for one person—a teenage girl wearing skinny jeans and a t-shirt with a neon green logo. Gray pulsed from the girl. No color. Just lifeless shades of gray. What did that mean when everyone else glowed with color?
Bizarre. Absolutely, completely bizarre. No. More than bizarre.
She took the glasses off, put them back on, and then off again. Each time looking at some new individual moving along the sidewalk or parking lot. One white, pink with a hint of orange. Another blue, purple and even maroon. Fear had long since disappeared. In its place curiosity gripped her as she sank down on a bench by an ashtray and a potted ficus and rotated the sunglasses in both hands.
Kennedy didn’t see anything odd in the lenses. Not glass, but not plastic. They might be thicker than usual. Even prescription glasses were made into a thin, hard plastic. For one crazy moment she thought of the movie
and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sun glasses. Maybe they were out of this world?
They sure didn’t look computerized. At least she didn’t think so. She searched the frames for any buttons, levers, or switches. The material was as smooth as glass and cool, even cold to the touch, although the day was relatively warm for a December day in the desert.
Just what the heck had the woman given her?
The moment Kennedy stepped out of the car by her apartment, she sucked in air and wanted to dive back in the vehicle.
Leaning a hip and shoulder against the brick wall, Luke stood by the front door of her apartment. Sunlight glittered off his golden hair, caressing the short, spikey strands into the image of a radiant halo.
He wasn’t her angel. She didn’t believe in angels. At least not the human type. But maybe if she just gave him a chance like he wanted...
Panic bloomed in her chest. She didn’t want to feel again. It hurt too much.
He shifted and caught and held her gaze. Twenty yards couldn’t disguise the heat in their depths. She couldn’t take the intensity of his expression and looked away first.
Two weeks since they’d slept together, since she’d felt his skin against her own. Kennedy clamped her teeth together. And if she had any self-control it never would happen again.
But the moment she drew closer and returned his gaze, she realized she really had no self-control when it came to Luke. That’s why she needed to keep the hell away from him.
“What do you want of me, Luke?”
“A chance. That’s all I’m asking. I know you’re not indifferent. In fact, I think you’re terrified of what I do to you. The idea of commitment, never mind marriage, sends you into a mental and emotional tailspin.”
Kennedy clamped down on her jaw. She hated how astute he was, but at the same time his empathy, sensitivity, and need to understand the motivations of others were the characteristics that had attracted him to her from the beginning.
“Whenever the ‘relationship’ word comes up in a conversation, there’s a look of absolute horror on your face.” Shaking his head, he pushed off the wall with a hip and moved toward her until nearly a foot separated them. “I won’t bring up the subject again.”
“You’re probably right.” He inched even closer and glided a thumb across her lower lip. “At least not for a while. But I have to admit, one day I do want to know why the idea scares the hell out of you. There are things you haven’t talked to me about. Things in your past. But I’m willing to wait.”
His scent drifted to her. Masculine, woodsy, with a hint of spice. She caught herself from tilting toward him and drinking in his scent.
“For how long?” she whispered, fearful of the answer, but unable to keep the question from slipping from her lips.
He dipped his head and replied in an equally hushed voice by her ear, “For as long as it takes.”
His minty breath ruffled the strands of her hair, and washed over her senses. He eased back until she met the resolve in his face. She shivered. His reassurance that he’d wait to let her work out her demons, along with the determined glint in his cerulean eyes that backed up those words, melted her insides and resolve.
“I can’t ask you to do that.”
“I wouldn’t want you to ask.” He edged yet closer until his chest grazed the tips of her breasts.
Her heart rate kicked up its pace.
“You’re too special not to fight for,” he whispered.
He kissed the corner of her mouth, just a feather touch, a hint of what could come, while his thumb caressed the sensitive slope of her neck right below her lobe. Another shiver raced across her flesh. She closed her eyes. Luke knew just what to say and what to do. She didn’t back away. She didn’t have the strength. This time she let herself lean into him. God, her will-power was non-existent.
His lips grazed her own while he cupped her cheek and skated a thumb across the line of her jaw. She sank against his chest, unable to do a thing but surrender as she trailed her fingers up over the soft cotton of his shirt to the wide breadth of his shoulders and kissed him back. Soft, tentative caresses, then bolder as hunger swept through her body and pooled in her belly.
Her heart beat did a crazy gallop. She found it difficult to draw in enough oxygen.
“Your keys to get inside,” he urged, nipping at her earlobe, skimming his mouth over the curve of her neck. His fingers linked with hers. Then he cupped his hand and she surrendered them into his palm.
He drew back briefly to unlock the door. The hinges sighed, the warmth of the interior of her apartment beckoned and he urged her inside.
Kennedy didn’t need any urging though. Her body screamed with mounting hunger. The door snapped closed behind her and metal against metal sighed as Luke locked the door.
Anticipation sent her heart rate to a new crescendo as Luke’s kisses grew urgent, demanding.
Her chest tightened. Desire caught at her from all sides. She slid her hands beneath his shirt and ran both palms over the smooth, hard contours of his chest and stomach. His muscles quivered from her touch, and his breathing turned rapid. Knowing that Luke was growing just as excited pulled her deeper into desire and there was no way she wanted out.
When she edged the hem of his shirt up over his waist, Luke didn’t need any further encouragement. He eased back and pulled off his shirt. The cuffs from his sleeves caught against his wrists before he flung it to the floor.