Hunting the Shadows

Amy has spent her entire life in isolation. Locked away in the Centre, a secret government facility where children with extraordinary abilities are raised as highly skilled fighters, she longs for a normal life. A life where being around people doesn't overload her sensitive telepathic mind. A life where she can't see through the eyes of a murderer as he hunts his next victim...

J.C. Nikolaiev was a top researcher, but when his conscience got the better of him, he tried to destroy his work and free his subjects--and was imprisoned as a traitor. To save himself and prevent more people from dying, J.C. must catch the  serial killer stalking the halls of the facility. But his only leads come from a woman whose thoughts have invaded his mind...

Finally out of the psych ward, Amy joins forces with J.C. to find the killer before he closes in on them. Can their growing attraction withstand the truths they uncover?

80,000 words

EXCERPT from  Hunting the Shadows 
Text Copyright © 2012 by Alexia Reed
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

Chapter One

He hated to admit it, but if he’d listened to the warnings of his stalker, he might have avoided this clusterfuck.
J.C. Nikolaiev whipped his body through thick brush, ignoring the pain that tore up his side, every muscle in his body tense as he searched the shadows for an explanation of the voice in his head.
Listen to me. You need to get off the mountains.”
He was losing his mind. He’d finally lost his sanity in this world where monsters really did exist in the form of the psychic agents he served with…had served with.
Monsters didn’t always hide in the closet. Sometimes they looked like regular people with abilities too terrifying to imagine.
Like him.
He couldn’t stop moving. If he didn’t escape and seek medical help soon he was going to be in deep shit. He was losing too much blood, the sticky wetness already soaking the material of his shirt against his side. His hand shook as he pressed it against his ribs but nothing alleviated the agony of the cuts.
J.C. glanced over his shoulder toward the smoke that lifted in the distance, snaking through the trees and around the rocky ledges of the mountainside. The fire from the explosion might have slowed the agents down, but they weren’t far behind.
Hunched against the chill of the wind, he limped over a fallen, rotted tree, fingers tightening around his gun as he quickened his pace.
Move, J.C., before they find you.”
“Damn it.” Pressure built behind his eyes as the words buzzed inside his head, the sensation unnerving and warm.
He studied the overhang of rock and the darkness beneath it. As much as he hated to give the voice credit, whoever she was, she was right. Staying still meant giving up and he was far from ready to hand himself over to be executed.
“Who are you?”
“Someone trying to help. You need to hurry before you’re surrounded.”
“No shit, Sherlock.” He stepped off the path toward the sound of trickling water. His pace slowed to a stagger, his movements dulled by the gnawing pain. If he could follow the river down the mountain…
“The trap has been set at the ridge.”
Damn them. How had they gotten in front of him? Frustration made his pulse jump, his fingers curling into a tight fist until pain radiated up his wrist. J.C. shoved the woman’s words away and stepped cautiously over a log.
Branches rustled overhead and he turned sharply toward the threat, catching a blur of movement in his peripheral vision. They were closing in.
A man jumped from the thick canopy of leaves above.
His assailant dropped into a roll, then fired a gun as he came to his feet. J.C. jerked to the right and lifted his hand to create a shield of air. He’d already aimed his own gun, pulling the trigger, but the man had already disappeared in the thick forest.
J.C. ran. He harnessed his psychic energy, focusing his mind on the ground until he could feel everything that made it up—not only the rock but also sediment and organic material. Directing his ability down, he scattered the molecules. Rocky plates pressed up against each other, the ground lifting and falling to create a wall of dirt.
Ahead, the jagged path was riddled with sharp drops. A misstep and his ankle gave out, the wind snatching his grunt of pain. He didn’t have time to regain his balance or retrieve the fallen gun. Someone crashed into the back of his knees and he fell hard. His forehead cracked soundly against a tree—the impact making his vision darken.
Warm blood slid from his hairline, down the side of his face.
“Damn it, J.C.” A dark-skinned agent stood five feet away, his body flickering as he faded into the shadows. Rematerializing at J.C.’s side, he shifted into a fighter’s stance. “Do you know what you’ve done?”
J.C. wheezed out a breath. Slapping a hand at the ground, he rose unsteadily to his feet. “What I’ve done? Tell me, Davan, what have you done to stop the Council?”
What had any of them done?
He backed away. The others were coming. He could feel it, apprehension brushing through the base of his mind before he even heard the crunch of rock under their feet. The crackle of electricity licked along his skin in warning. Instinctively J.C. lashed out to counteract the psychic energy that struck him in the chest, burning through his mental shields. He steeled himself against the pain, gritting his teeth as he fought the specialized attack of Stefan Gurvitch. The fiery touch reached deep, stealing the oxygen from his lungs. His skin prickled, his ears popping as though he’d fallen into a vacuum.
Davan’s shadows shifted around him—a play of darkness that solidified to form a prison. The shadows tightened like a python around J.C.’s wrists, restraining him. It was as real as the moss against his palms and the dirt under him. He could do nothing but wait. Glaring at Davan, J.C. shook from the force of the shadow manipulator’s power.
His body weakened under Stefan’s attack—an assault that had once shredded an enemy’s mental shields so badly that the man went insane and died within twenty-four hours. There wouldn’t be a lot of time before his mind gave in to Stefan and rendered him completely defenseless.
Before that happened, he snapped the phantom chains enslaving his wrists, the shadows dissipating in a darkened cloud. Twisting his body, he avoided a series of hard kicks as Davan attacked him. He gathered molecules of air, turning each into a heated spray of vapor. Davan leaped back in a summersault and dissolved into a trail of smoke before landing safely back on the ground.
“Give it up, J.C.,” Davan ordered.
J.C. bared his teeth, ignoring the sharp stab of Stefan’s mind. It felt like someone was taking a hacksaw to his brain, each slice causing his consciousness to waver. “Never.”
He would never stop. They’d have to kill him first.
Branches and leaves snapped to the left and J.C. spun, using the momentum to grab his attacker’s arm. He charged in a blur of movement, slipping behind the woman to catch her around the neck. “Drop it, Darilynn. Damn it, I don’t want to hurt you.” He whispered against a lock of black and pink hair.
They were his friends. He trained with them. Had suffered with them. He’d destroyed his reputation for them and this was how they repaid him. Betrayal fueled his anger as he glared at the gathering group of agents.
The gloved hand holding the knife relaxed and the blade fell harmlessly to the ground at his feet.
He pressed his palm against her throat, eyeing Davan over her shoulder. At the touch of his skin to hers, he blinked back the images of blood vessels and cells. The blueprint of the insides of her body flashed in his mind. One thought and a careless tap of his finger could shatter all of her bones. “Don’t come any closer.”
Stefan backed off, his mind retreating with a reverberating snap as the shields came back in place, and J.C. took a few quick breaths to steady himself.
A bright orb flew through the trees. Ajay. He held Darilynn closer. The light blinded but no attack came. It simply faded and a small blonde stood in the place of the orb. He looked into the violet eyes of Davan’s partner.
“Come back with us, J.C.,” Ajay said soothingly. “Do you really think you can fight everyone? You don’t want to do something else you’ll regret.”
It was nothing but a stall tactic as they tried to figure out how to regain control.
“Anyone else have anything to say?” The words were said through clenched teeth, a low hiss as he swayed on his feet in challenge.
J.C. took a step back, easing Darilynn with him. He felt more than heard the movement behind him. He eased his fingers up, searching for the carotid artery. He pressed against it, interrupting the flow of blood and oxygen to her brain.
Within seconds she went limp.
He let go and whirled around in time to dodge Stefan, who’d stepped out of the trees. While the first blast of kinetic energy missed him, the second caught him in the shoulder. The third sucker punched him in the gut. He staggered back.
Tossing his hands in the air, J.C. gathered the energies within him. He twisted them around his hands and shoved them down at the ground. The blast rippled out of his fingertips, the earth shaking beneath his feet as it whiplashed outward. While some agents dodged the blast, those caught in the radius of the attack braced themselves as the ground ripped at the seams. He exploded into action, branches slapping at him as he ran.
Electricity hit him from behind. It dropped him to the ground, every muscle in his body locking. His heart jolted against the force of it. He couldn’t move, could barely even breathe when a gun clicked against his ear.
“Game over, J.C.” Stefan stepped around him. “Don’t try anything. I swear, I will pull the trigger.”