Identity: Episodes 1 through 6
Book 3 in the Smoke & Mirrors Series
Ebook Pre-Order August 4th
Ebook Available September 4th
Someone wants Skye Hunter’s son, Tyler, and they’re willing to kill to get him. On the run for her life, Skye turns to the only person she believes can help her—a complete stranger with a shared past.
David Bishop thinks Skye is crazy. But when he realizes she has the same strange phenomenon inside her body that he does—the ability to move objects with her mind, David is forced to question his life, his childhood and his father’s motives. Can these two lost souls uncover the mystery of their telekinetic powers and save Tyler and themselves in the process?
1st place in the CTRW Connections Contest
Website Link: http://www.hdthomson.com
Bio of H. D. Thomson
Multi award-winning author, H. D. Thomson, writes romantic suspense, paranormal and contemporary romance. She writes about tortured heroes and ordinary people placed in extraordinary circumstances. She loves everything by Dean Koontz, Mary Higgins Clark, Harlan Coben, and Linda Howard. Their fast-paced, twisting plots have all influenced her writing style.
H.D. moved 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.
• Two-time Romance Writer's of America Golden Heart Finalist Author.
• Winner of the Ready-Set-Go Peninsula RWA Contest Finalist in the Suzannah North Louisiana RWA Contest
• 1st place in Peninsula RWA Chapter’s contest.
• 1st place in Beacon Contest under the Paranormal Category.
• 1st place in the Emily West Houston Chapter RWA Contest – Paranormal Category
• Honorable Mention from On the Far Side Contest from the Fantasy Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter of RWA
• Finalist in First Coast Romance Writers Unpublished Beacon Contest
• 1st place in the CTRW Connections Contest
o one 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 nineyear-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.
“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.
The gun jammed.
The thug tried again.
Again, nothing happened.
“Bitch!” The acne-faced thug hurled the gun at her and charged.
Tensing, Skye glanced at the display case of sunglasses and watched it tilt and crash in front of him. Unable to slow his momentum, he stumbled over the case. Plastic cracked. Metal twisted and bent. Hands outstretched, he fell, slamming his head and stomach into the case. Then he landed on the floor with a groan.
He didn’t get up.
A gun blast ripped through the store. A bag of chips exploded by her head. Skye ducked. These guys weren’t giving up. She scrambled wildly across the floor and glanced over her shoulder. As the bald robber fired at her and missed again, the clerk behind the counter bent down and came back up with a baseball bat.
The clerk swung. The metal bat smacked against the side of the bald robber’s head with a sickening whack. The thug dropped to his knees and dove forward until his face slapped against the floor. He stayed down.
Skye gulped in a lungful of air, peered down the aisle to the security mirror and found Tyler still crouched behind the coffee bar. Thank God, he’d stayed hidden and hadn’t tried to save her or the situation.
The clerk rubbed his palms against his shirt and glanced at the short robber sprawled on the floor by Skye’s feet before
meeting her gaze. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah. Their guns.” Skye nodded in the direction where she’d seen the stocky man toss his. She wasn’t going to put her prints on anything. “You might want to get them before either one comes to.”
Not about to wait around for the police to arrive, Skye hurried to the counter where she’d seen Tyler in the surveillance mirror. With his arms wrapped around his drawn up knees, he huddled there on the floor. He wore a pair of beige shorts and a white t-shirt, neither of which showed signs of blood or tears.
Her baby was going to be okay. They both were.
A tide of relief washed over her, and with it, her legs started to shake beneath her weight. She caught the counter with one hand and took in a breath, forcing herself to calm down and focus. She couldn’t afford to react now. Maybe later when she was alone with her son safely asleep for the night.
Fear glittered in his large, brown eyes. “Are they—are they gone?”
She offered her hand and whispered, “They’re unconscious, but we need to get out of here now. They might wake up at any second.”
Tyler jumped up and grabbed her hand. Silently, she guided him along the perimeter of the store and to the front entrance, avoiding both unconscious men.
“This security system’s a piece of crap,” the clerk said into a phone as she and her son reached the door. “I hit the button ages ago and still no cop. I could be dead for all anyone cares.”
While the cashier, his attention focused on the two men sprawled across the floor, had his back to them, Skye eased open the front door with a shoulder and guided her son outside.
A hot July sun burned from above. Used to Boston’s milder weather, Skye found the intense heat of Vegas daunting as she urged Tyler to hurry across the sidewalk.
Skye and her son made it to her truck. Once inside with the doors locked and her son buckled in his seat, Skye backed out and guided the truck onto the street. The air-conditioner blasted cold air against her bare arms as they headed west and away from the robbery, but she didn’t relax. The howl of a siren penetrated the truck’s interior. The sound swelled, then slowly, surely, as Skye continued to put distance between themselves and the store, the siren’s wail dimmed and melded with the other city noises.
She glanced over at Tyler, who wiped a tear from his cheek with a forearm and exhaled in one, loud, ragged breath.
Guilt caught at her heart and twisted as she reached over and squeezed his arm. “We’ll be okay.”
“You always say that.”
“Things will be different. You’ll see.”
She knew couldn’t blame Tyler for not believing her. Why would he? Nothing had changed these last two years. They were still not okay. Still moving from city to city with no stability or security.
Now this latest trauma.
Somehow Tyler had kept his head and known when to keep quiet. But then, he’d had experience on his side. Few adults— never mind nine-year-old kids—had to deal with what he’d been handed these last couple of years. Thank God they’d gotten out of there alive. She didn’t know what she would have done if Tyler—
No. She couldn’t think that way. Instead, she’d focus on what she needed to do later in the week. Find the nerve to meet David Bishop and make that meeting look like a chance encounter. Thoughts about Bishop didn’t make her feel better. The man was an enigma and could prove more dangerous than the thugs with a gun.
“I’m hungry,” Tyler complained.
“Then how about we get that hotdog I promised you?”
“I don’t want a hotdog anymore.”
Skye nodded in complete understanding. “I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t we get something to eat at the Sphinx? Jamie will probably be working and we can say ‘hi’. Sound good?”
“We’ll have a hotdog another time.”
But Skye didn’t think they’d want a hotdog any time soon. She’d always known they were unhealthy, but until today, she’d never thought of them as downright lethal.
Twenty-minutes later, Skye turned down Las Vegas Boulevard toward The Pharaoh, one of the larger, more prestigious casinos along the Las Vegas strip. Over a month now, she’d stayed there in a room with Tyler and watched one of the hotel’s star attractions, David Bishop. Not the most ideal living conditions, but it beat the street.
After parking, they entered the casino and headed for the Sphinx on the second floor. They arrived before the dinner rush and the hostess immediately led them to a booth in Jamie’s section. Tyler liked the place because two huge, but fake sarcophaguses stood on either side of the entrance and hieroglyphics filled the metallic gold walls. And of course, Jamie worked there.
“Well, who do we have here?” Jamie, tanned, bleached blonde, sleek and sexy in black pants and a low cut white blouse, grinned down at them. She leaned over and tweaked Tyler’s chin with a knuckle. “Hey, sweet cheeks. I see you’re looking as cute as ever.”
“Hi.” Tyler rolled his eyes and flushed before he ducked behind his menu.
Skye hid a smile. On some things, her son acted very normal.
She opened her menu, looked at the items with little interest, then glanced up at Jamie. “How are your college classes going?”
“So far, so good.”
“Getting all As then?”
Jamie shrugged a shoulder, her gray eyes darkening. “It’s expensive and harder than I thought. Then I made the stupid mistake of taking summer school, which is worse when it comes to cramming in homework, exams...”
Skye gave Jamie’s an encouraging smile. “It’ll get easier. Just give yourself more time, and you’ll see. It’s tough going back to school while raising a boy. I remember. At least for the most part, I wasn’t doing it alone as a single mother.”
“But you are raising a child on your own now.”
“Yes, well, so I am.” Shifting in her seat, Skye cleared her throat and stared at her menu. “I guess we’ll have pizza and ice
water. Sound good to you, Ty?”
Above the menu, the top of Tyler’s head nodded.
“Then pizza it is.” Jamie flapped her order pad at them before moving to a couple down the aisle.
After their pizza arrived, Skye took a bite, chewed and forced herself to swallow. Tyler’s appetite looked as dismal as her own, the way he picked the pepperoni off his slice and piled them into a short tower on one side of his plate.
“I know how frightened you must have been at the store.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Fine.” But Skye remembered other moments in their past when she hadn’t been able to stop him from talking. My God, those days seemed more of a figment of someone else’s life.
Several minutes later, Jamie came over and placed the bill on the table by Skye. “I see the pizza wasn’t much of a hit. Want me to box it up?”
Skye thought of the small refrigerator in their hotel room, but then she eyed the pizza’s congealed cheese. “Maybe next time.”
“Can I pay the bill?”
Skye met Tyler’s eager brown eyes, and then glanced around the restaurant with its open floor plan. The cash register, visible from their table, rested to the left of the restrooms, while the diners, tourists and little else, populated only a few tables. At least no one looked like some crazed wacko out to get them.
“Sure.” Amazing how confident she sounded. “Just don’t wander off.”
Tyler rolled his eyes and scrambled from the table.
With a crease between her finely drawn brows, Jamie slipped into his vacant seat. “Hey, are you okay? I wanted to ask earlier, but Tyler was around.”
“I’m fine.” Skye didn’t want to get into any detailed explanations. Yeah, she might look like the Grim Reaper from ducking a couple of bullets, but no one else needed to know it. She wanted her life to stay private—one of the reasons why she’d slipped from the store before the police arrived.
“Well, you don’t look good. You couldn’t get much whiter when you first walked in, and right now your color isn’t much better.” Jamie tapped a manicured nail against the table. “You know, if you’re worried about being low on cash, that offer still stands. With your looks, Roger’ll hire you on the spot. You could bring in some decent money. The tips are real good here, even better when the customers have had a couple of drinks.”
“No thanks. I’m fine right now.”
“Hey, if I could make a living off gambling, I’d be doing the same. I’ve met a few pros in my time, but they always seemed to have a cigar in one hand and a drink in the other.”
“I’ve never liked cigars.”
Jamie winked. “Oh, it depends on where you put them.” Skye lifted a brow.
Jamie laughed, a loud, full-bodied sound Skye suspected turned many a male head if her figure and face didn’t do it on the first look.
When Jamie started to rise, Skye said, “Oh, while I’ve got you here, I wanted to ask you for a favor.”
Jamie sank back down. “Shoot.”
Skye tensed. ‘Shoot’ wasn’t exactly a word she appreciated at the moment. “Can you watch Tyler later this week? I forget which night you’re off.”
“Crap, I have a hard enough time remembering myself with the way Roger changes the schedule all over the place. But if my mind hasn’t completely gone down the toilet, I’ve got Thursday off.” She stood and brushed the creases from her pants. “You know, I’m always happy to have Tyler come over. He’s like my very own babysitter. With him around, I don’t have to constantly entertain Houston and keep him away from the video games.”
“Thanks. It means a lot.” Far more than Skye was willing to admit aloud. When it came to having her son in a safe, secure environment, she’d lucked out at finding Jamie, a woman who dripped ‘normal’ in every aspect of her life—something Skye envied, craved and hoped to somehow achieve.
“You betcha,” Jamie said and walked away to take care of a customer.
Skye sighed. Thursday might turn out to be the night she finally faced David Bishop—something she dreaded, yet desperately needed. The evening would also bring in some cash—just in time to pay for their room and keep Tyler and herself off the street for another month.
But she was too exhausted to think about that now, and because Tyler was equally exhausted, they went up to their room on the eighth floor and stayed there for the remainder of the evening. After she finished taking a quick shower, she stepped from the bathroom and into the adjoining room to find Tyler on her bed in a position much like a mummy inside one of the sarcophaguses he found so fascinating. The blue-white tint of the television cast an eerie glow across the room and Tyler’s inscrutable features.
She frowned. “Is everything okay?”
“Can I sleep with you, tonight?”
She glanced at the two queen-sized beds. Merely feet separated the two. Then memories, violent and vivid, flooded Skye’s mind. The gunshots, the anger and rage from both robbers, the possibility of dying—all traumatic for an adult, never mind a nineyear-old boy.
“And can we keep the TV on?”
“I don’t have a problem with that.” She put her dirty clothes in a bag inside the hotel’s bureau. “I wanted to tell you how proud I was of you and how you reacted.”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“I know, but you were—”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
Skye nodded abruptly, unable to shake off the savage prongs of guilt. Too many times she’d thrust Tyler into situations he had no business being a participant in, no matter how coincidental. “But you do know I’m here if—”
“Okay. Okay. I’ll drop the subject.” But one of these days, she wasn’t going to be dismissed.
Skye slipped under the covers beside Tyler. With tentative fingers, she clasped his hand. Suddenly, he rolled toward her and wrapped his arms around her in a fierce hug. Skye cupped his head against her shoulder and held on. Beneath the television’s blue-white glow, she lay silent, still, too afraid to move for fear he would turn away.
Skye’s throat thickened and a band of emotion tightened around her chest as she inhaled his distinct scent of soap and vanilla. The baby powder days were long gone. Even the hugs and kisses seemed to be fading.
After a while, his hold slackened and his breathing slowed. When she feathered his bangs from his brow, his nose twitched and he snuggled deeper against her side. Knowing this closeness would disappear with tomorrow’s dawn, she cherished the touch of his breath on her neck, the weight and warmth of his head against the crook of her shoulder. As her limbs grew languid with exhaustion, Skye realized what life was all about.
But at twenty-nine, she’d also learned love came with a price.