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Into a dangerous mind, p.1

Into a Dangerous Mind, page 1

 

Into a Dangerous Mind
 



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Into a Dangerous Mind


  Into A Dangerous Mind

  By

  Tina Gerow

  ISBN: 978-1-927111-46-8

  SMASHWORDS EDITION

  PUBLISHED BY:

  Books We Love

  192 Lakeside Greens Drive

  Chestermere, Alberta, T1X 1C2

  Canada

  Copyright 2011 Tina Gerow

  Cover art by Michelle Lee 2011

  All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

  Dedication

  In memory of my brother, Jim, who would’ve been very proud to walk into a bookstore and see his sister’s book on the shelf.

  He introduced me to the world of science fiction and nurtured my passion for reading. I think he would’ve enjoyed this mixture of romance, suspense and paranormal.

  I’ve written other books, but this, my very first book, holds a special place in my heart.

  So, Jim…this is for you…enjoy!

  To AJG who inspired a lot of this book. Hopefully like Zach, he’ll embrace what’s possible before it’s too late.

  To Kathy, my best friend who inspired the Kathy character in the book. You’ve always been there for me, and I love you dearly.

  Chapter One

  She hadn’t dropped a lobster tail down the front of her dress or puked escargot on her date yet. So far so good. Cassidy James stepped out onto a secluded terrace at the Top of the Rock Resort, taking a few minutes away while her date paid the bill. The empty ballroom behind her stood dark and silent, which left the terrace quiet and deserted, a welcome change from the lights and noise of the restaurant below.

  Cassidy cringed as the mortification of that long ago date assaulted her. But, she reminded herself, none of those things happened this evening. Tonight, she’d been graceful, cultured and elegant, and the date so far had been intimate and romantic…and the most boring few hours she’d ever spent.

  What the hell’s wrong with me?

  Trying to ignore that particular question, she breathed deep and let out a little sigh of pleasure. The scent of the desert filled the air, ripe with the monsoon rains she knew would sweep through later that evening. A light breeze toyed with the ends of her shoulder-length auburn curls as she looked out over the glorious Phoenix mountainside—red and ochre in the moonlight.

  Resting her forearms on the waist-high terrace railing, she glanced skyward at the gentle explosions of stars, and wondered as she always did, why everyone didn’t live here.

  Lost in thought, she trembled as Brian stepped close behind her, gently pinning her in. Turning in his arms, she smelled his expensive cologne as he cupped the back of her neck and leaned in ever so slowly for a kiss. She thought about pulling away, but as long as he wasn’t looking for a way to talk her into bed on their second date, she didn’t see the harm in a simple kiss.

  His lips brushed across hers gently before he dipped his tongue inside to taste her. Very sweet and pleasant, but nothing that could be mistaken for blood-boiling or passionate. Cassidy relaxed against him and into his touch, enjoying the sensations of being in a man’s arms…and wishing she felt more than she did.

  The hairs on the back of her neck prickled, gooseflesh broke out all over her body, and a hard ball of dread settled low in her stomach making her nauseous. Before she could react to the signs her body sent her, Brian changed the intensity of the kiss and slammed her back hard against the railing, grinding his body against hers. He swallowed her gasp of surprise and outrage before he clamped a hand into her hair. He gripped and squeezed her everywhere as alarm bells developed a shrill clang inside her head.

  She struggled against him and tried futilely to push against the wall of his chest with both hands. This couldn’t be happening.

  Cassidy bit his lip until she tasted hot, metallic blood. “Brian! Stop it!” she screamed against his mouth. She pounded her fists against his chest and finally succeeded in breaking through to him enough to stop his hands from roaming over her. Even as she looked up into predator’s eyes, his rock hard erection pressed against her stomach, and terror rose in the back of her throat, tasting of bile.

  Her heart pounded painfully inside her chest as he crushed his mouth against hers again. She struggled as her internal instincts screamed for her to escape.

  A sudden, intense pain seared inside her head, and, for a moment, she staggered against him.

  Fear and adrenaline flowed through her in a rush, and she vowed to do everything she could to get away. She tried to pull back. He tightened his hold on her face and pressed her harder against the railing, his mouth still fused forcefully with hers. She squirmed against him, clawing at his neck and arms. Tears welled in her eyes when she realized the hot flow of blood coursing from the furrows she’d scored down his arms had done nothing to loosen his hold.

  Her ears rang, and bright lights danced in her vision.

  No, she couldn’t black out. What would happen to her then?

  Cassidy slumped against him again, conserving her strength as panic swelled inside her. That primal self-defense urge to fight, to flee, to survive, broke through her panic as a fresh surge of adrenaline gushed through her body. She elbowed Brian’s side, and he stepped back giving her room to stomp a spiked heel down hard onto his foot. As soon as he winced and widened his stance, she drove her right knee into his groin.

  The white-hot pain inside her head stopped instantly.

  Brian’s hands dropped away from her face to grasp at his injured crotch.

  As he collapsed on the ground in a heap, she stumbled away. She raised one hand to her lips as she stumbled, and grabbed the railing to steady herself.

  Still dizzy and weak from the aftereffects of the pain, she took a deep breath and tried to make her legs move.

  Brian looked up at her. “You stupid bitch, you’ll pay for that!”

  Cassidy jumped. Brian’s lips hadn’t moved. No words had come out of his mouth. But she’d heard his voice inside her head.

  What the hell is happening? Am I losing my mind?

  Brian’s hand snaked out and latched firmly around her left ankle, startling her out of her shock.

  She met his blazing gaze, and renewed pain seared inside her head. Still reacting to the overdose of adrenaline, she kicked Brian in the face, and heard a satisfying crunch. Blood gushed from his nose, and she bolted away, rushing toward the long flight of stone steps that hugged the side of the building and led down to the front of the resort.

  As quickly as her spiked heels allowed, she raced down the steps straining to hear any sounds of pursuit behind her.

  “Don’t trip, don’t trip, don’t trip!” she chanted until finally she reached the last stone step. She rounded the corner and rushed into the noisy crowd bustling around the front entrance.

  Thank God for all the people. I should’ve never gone somewhere so secluded!

  A young man in the khaki uniform of the resort sent her a concerned expression. “Are you okay, Miss?”

  “I need a taxi—fast, please…” She pulled a handful of bills from her purse and thrust them at him.

  “Thank you, ma’am, that’s very generous.” He gestured with both hands to a line of waiting taxis.

  Tears stung her eyes as joy and relief warred inside her chest, and she bolted past him toward the taxi that drove up in front of them. She tore open the door and dove inside. She reached out to pull the door closed and came up short as she realized the man in the khaki uniform stood in
the open doorway.

  He leaned down to look at her. “Are you sure you’re all right?”

  “Yes, I have to go.”

  Too bad I’m too busy with the Reaper tonight to wipe the frown off that pretty face, but I’m glad she isn’t leaving with him.

  “The Reaper?”

  Shock traveled over the man’s face before a movement near the front entrance caught her attention. Brian rushed out of the restaurant with a handkerchief pressed to his gushing nose.

  “I have to go!” She pounded on the clear partition between the front and back seats. “Drive! Drive!”

  The cab darted forward, and she fell back against her seat. Scrambling up to perch on her knees, she watched out the back window as her nerves tightened into painful cords. She kept expecting to see another cab or even Brian’s car come hurtling down the street behind them. But only the sight of the dark desert on either side greeted her.

  She continued to watch until they pulled out onto the freeway. Then she gave the driver her address and collapsed limply against the seat, letting out a long sigh as relief roared through her. The adrenaline had run its course leaving her drained and hollow.

  Cassidy tried to string thoughts together, to make some sense out of the past half hour, but concentration eluded her. Unshed tears burned in the back of her throat, and her body began to shake with reaction.

  A chuckle came from the front seat. Probably some love affair gone bad, or she caught him with his mistress.

  Offended, Cassidy leaned forward to address the driver. “Excuse me?”

  The driver glanced back over his shoulder, confusion plain on his beefy face. “I didn’t say anything, ma’am.” He continued to glance at her warily in the rear view mirror.

  Doubts swirled in her already foggy brain. She needed to make sense of it all. If she could just bring everything into focus, it would somehow make sense.

  She shook her head, and reached again for the wisps of logic that floated just outside her grasp, trying to piece together what had happened, but they continued to confound her.

  A milder version of the harsh pain throbbed inside her head, sending repeated ice pick strikes of agony through her eyes and out the sides of her head. She reached up to massage her temples.

  Is this what it feels like to have a brain tumor?

  I can picture the headlines now! Phoenix Symphony cellist dies of brain tumor in the back of a Yellow Cab. The single twenty-nine-year-old developed the tumor due to stress associated with an extremely bad second date.

  A nervous laugh bubbled inside her throat at the thought. Tremors began low in her stomach and spread up and out through her limbs until her entire body quaked with reaction. She leaned back, closing her eyes against the events of the evening. Her stomach roiled and she swallowed hard at the taste of bile which crept up the back of her throat.

  She pressed her fingers to her aching eyes and prayed for the night to end.

  “And people wonder why I don’t date,” she murmured loud enough to make the driver cast her another wary glance.

  *****

  Zachary Hatcher continued to vent his frustrations by bench-pressing increasingly heavy reps. He’d decided a workout would take his mind off waiting for the op to begin—always his least favorite part of the job.

  In the time his dossier assured him it would take the Reaper to drive back to Cassidy James’ house, he could be in the mindset for the op.

  “Why the hell hasn’t Gerald called yet? And why hasn’t the Reaper made his move?”

  Zach laid the barbell on its cradle and sat up with a loud huff. He wouldn’t break radio silence and possibly compromise Gerald’s cover just to get an update. They’d call when the Reaper left the restaurant with Cassidy James, and not before.

  A cold slice of pizza might take his mind off the wait, but he decided on coffee and padded barefoot toward the kitchen, surprised to find it so dark. Once again, he’d lost track of the time and had forgotten to turn lights on in other parts of the little house.

  Loud chatter throbbed suddenly inside his head. “Inconsiderate bastard who doesn’t know how to keep from broadcasting to everyone within range! Christ almighty.” He brought his hands up instinctively to cover his ears. But as the noise throbbed inside his head, his hands did little to help. “Anyone that strong has used their gift long enough to know how to control it better than that.”

  He concentrated and filtered out everyone but the person—no, the woman, he corrected himself, who still filled his head with chatter.

  Not wanting to intrude on her privacy, he quickly closed his eyes, picturing small, colored building blocks with different letters of the alphabet on them erected in a loose wall around his mind. Mental shields just strong enough to filter out the worst of the onslaught, but loose enough to not cut him off from all outside perceptions. His mother had taught him how to erect shields from a young age, and had demonstrated by using his alphabet blocks. He’d pictured his every day shields in terms of his childhood toys ever since.

  He weaved through the sea of boxes stacked around his living room. No one around the neighborhood possessed this much power, he would’ve sensed it earlier. No one remotely open enough to recognize him as another with the gift lived within hundreds of miles. But then again, he’d only moved in yesterday, and this presence may have been out of town. Whoever she was, she needed to learn to be more considerate.

  While fumbling for the kitchen light, he stubbed his little toe on the edge of the counter. “Holy Christ!” he yelped as he cradled his injured foot in the dark. “It’s her fault. Damn woman, chattering on incessantly.”

  He found the switch, and light flooded the crowded kitchen. Still favoring his injured toe, he wound his way through the stacks of boxes and furniture to the only item he’d babied as much during the move as his gun—his automatic coffee maker. It held an honored place within the household, and he’d cleaned the kitchen countertop first, to make a place for it.

  He reverently pulled out the basket, added the filter and coffee, pushed the power button and waited for the lifeblood—caffeine—to spill into the pot.

  He decided that a watched coffee pot wouldn’t perk faster, but would just serve to darken his already black mood. Clutter from the move claimed every inch of available space, so he wandered out to the living room, opened the front door, and took a seat on the porch swing he’d inherited from the previous tenants.

  He sighed and began the gentle to and fro motion of the swing. Hours of tension and stress drained from his body like water from a broken cup. He breathed deeply, inhaling the earthy smell of rain not yet fallen. A gentle breeze played against his face and bare chest, and an eerie glow cast from the full moon bathed everything visible in a surreal luster.

  Zach sensed her before he saw the cab turn the corner. The woman who broadcast into his head appeared to be his new neighbor. The cab stopped, and she stepped out alone, which explained why Gerald had never called. They were tailing the Reaper, not Cassidy James.

  Sexy and tall with nice curves in all the right places, her legs seemed to go on forever.

  Why didn’t I sense her when I looked over the neighborhood?

  She possessed a powerful gift. Even now, he blocked her out to ensure he didn’t intrude on her personal thoughts as she carelessly broadcast them to anyone within range.

  The cab pulled away, and she hurried up her driveway. Just as she reached the door, she dropped to the ground clutching her head like she’d been shot.

  Without conscious thought, Zach bolted from the swing and raced across the street in nothing but his favorite pair of jeans. The sharp edges of the desert rock from her yard bit into his bare feet, but he ignored the sharp stings while he rushed to her side.

 
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