The Hunting Game, book 1 of The Lake Snow Chronicles

August 2018

The Hunting Game, book 1 of The Lake Snow Chronicles, will be released very soon!

David is an FBI agent who walked away from Taylor 15 years ago, he had no idea she was pregnant at the time and no one has ever told him he had a son. David has been undercover working a case where over 50 women have gone missing. It is suspected that these women have been used as a sort of "prey" in a dangerous hunting game.

Simon, David's older brother, is the local sheriff and has just received a call that Taylor is missing. When they respond to the call David comes face to face with the son he did not know existed.

David's undercover assignment was to gain access to this hunting game and take it down. He got in and now he had to hunt the only woman he ever loved. Would he be able to save her or would she fall prey to one of the other hunters in the sick game?

The Hunting Game 2 Chapter Teaser


Fifty-six women simply gone. Fifty-six families without closure or answers. They’d been single with no children. Nobody to miss them. Until now…

David Spencer, a special agent with the FBI, silently vowed to bring those families the closure they deserved, and justice to the ones hurting those women. David was positive that these women had been taken for the hunt. All of the witness statements matched those of other women they were also positive had been taken for the same reason. None of them had been found to date, or even heard from after they had disappeared. These women had simply vanished, gone almost as if they had never existed.

The group, calling themselves The Wild Hunter’s Group, had been kidnapping women and using them as prey for a sick game they called “The Hunt”. They made millions from each hunt and each hunt left more than one woman dead. Although the bodies had never been found. Even with an entire team working the case they had yet to pinpoint the location of these hunts. David had always felt that they were missing a piece of the puzzle, that there were other women gone that had not been reported into the system, some sort of piece that would make it all come together. But he had no idea what that piece might be or where to even look for it. The people involved in this sick game were good, but not good enough.

He sighed and thought of his past and the woman he left behind for his career. Taylor Cahill, beautiful and headstrong. She had been a distraction to him his entire career, once causing him to take a bullet to the side. David’s thoughts clouded with visions of how her hair hung around her face like the mane on a lion. God how he wished things could have been different. He shook it off and continued studying the board. Everything had to go down perfectly. No hitches, no surprises. But most of all, no distractions.

The business of hunting humans was always an unpleasant one, especially when the missing women never turned up, nor did their bodies. Families left hanging without any closure or answer, loved ones still waiting for any kind of word. David was glad he did not have to work the field, not directly with the families. That was the part of the job that he hated the most and was glad to take the undercover assignments.

The one lucky break they had that brought the investigation to a full head was the lone survivor and her tale of a sick hunting game. The story she told was far too twisted to even consider, but it was true, all of it. How she managed to escape alive was a miracle in and of itself. The poor woman will be permanently scarred and never the same mentally. Without her they might have never gotten a break in this case. With her help they were able to infiltrate the application process and get David accepted as a hunter for the next hunt. This survivor also told of other women who had not been so lucky during the hunt she had been involved in.

All of the women had some commonalities. They were single, no children and typically no one very close to them who would report them missing right away. Many had no family and were not even reported missing. This made his job all that more difficult trying to chase down leads on women who had disappeared with no one left behind to care about them. Those were the ones he wanted justice for the most. Those lonely souls just seeking a safe life and to have it taken away so cruelly was beyond reprehension.

“Call just came in,” Mike said as he stormed into the room. Mike was a nerdy guy, glasses and scrawny in comparison to David, but then most people were.

“What kind of call?” David asked without taking his eyes from the white board, from the pictures of all the women they had confirmed as being victims of this hunt game. What kind of hell did they endure because of these evil people? Would he ever find them?

“Well, word is they are searching for their prey right now, in your hometown,” Mike announced as he handed the tip sheet to David.

“What?” David almost stammered as he turned to face Mike. Nothing much ever rattled him, except the idea of predators in the same spot that he had left the only woman he had ever loved. David still had this deep need to protect her even though he had walked away from her so many years ago.

“Yeah, tipster said suspicious men had been seen around town and the descriptions fit what we know of those who have been kidnapping the women,” Mike relayed as he went to the desk and rifled through some paperwork on top of it. “They also report a suspicious vehicle in the area of your old home place.”

“What?” David asked, not expecting an answer. Why would they be out in that area? The ranch was remote to say the least. His mother had chosen the land and built their home there to be away from the city.

“Black van has been seen cruising around your old neighborhood,” Mike read from the tip sheet.

“But that makes no sense Mike, my parents house is the only place out there,” David was deep in thought trying to figure out why their spotters had seen the suspect vehicle in such a remote area.

David bristled with anger at the thought of these men on his home turf. Although he had not been there in almost sixteen years, it was still his home. His eyes clouded as he silently thought of her. She had been a distraction for him his entire career but he had to let it go. Her face was always just behind his eyelids no matter how hard he tried to push her away. Those emerald green eyes staring back into his own. He made his choice and now he had to live with it. Even now he still shuddered hearing the glass shatter the day he walked away.

David stood head and shoulders taller than Mike. He had trained with special forces and when he left the military he joined the FBI special task forces. His physique and demeanor made him an excellent undercover agent. He looked like a bouncer from hell Mike had said once. But all of his training never taught him how to deal with the regret of leaving her behind. He sighed heavily knowing he had to make a trip home after all of these years.

“When do I leave?” David asked, knowing Mike would have already made the plans. He glanced back at the board and nodded, knowing one way or another he would close this case.

“This afternoon, go home get packed and report tonight at the agreed time, like always,” Mike said with a laugh. The two of them had worked together for so long they had a comfortable working routine and trusted each other.

“Talk to you then,” David laughed as he walked out of the office. He muttered under his breath as he unlocked his car. It was such a small town there would be a good chance he would run into her. On the other hand it would be great to see his brother again, it had been years. Simon was the local sheriff and had recently been investigating a string of disappearances that might actually be related to the case at hand. He would be beside himself to have his little brother in town.

David chose to drive rather than fly so he could get his head together. The idea of running into Taylor consumed him and he had to reconcile this before he arrived. As the miles sped by his thoughts were of nothing but Taylor.

Why could he not let her go? Why could he not move on?

She consumed him always, every waking moment her face was staring back at him in everything he did. Did she hate him or still have feelings for him? It appeared he may soon find out with this trip home. He was not sure how he felt about the possibility of seeing her again after all these years. Had she moved on with someone else? How would he handle it if she had? Too many questions and too many raw emotions still lingered within him. Maybe now he could resolve them once and for all.

As the desert sped by his hometown finally came into sight and he sighed heavily. Lake Snow, of all names. They had named it that because of the year round snow capped mountains reflecting in the shimmering lake. Sadly the years of drought here had nearly dried up the lake. His thoughts flashed to a time when the rain had been abundant here, the lake nearly overflowing and the good times he had swimming in it. Now it was closed with no clue when it would ever open again. Whatever he felt he would be forced to deal with soon enough. He sped past the fields of dried vegetation until he saw his parents house sitting on a ranch almost as large as the town itself.

Although David had not been home in nearly sixteen years he had kept up on the town news. Simon keep him in the loop on just about everything. At least he thought he did. This way David still had that connection, he had hated to leave but knew he had to. There was no way he could remain in town as long as his parents killer was still free, he felt in danger and felt the need to escape from the sadness. Leaving her behind though was tragic, consequences of that night. He had wished it had been different but could not go back and change it now.

Before he made it to his driveway though he noticed a new house built farther back onto the property. When did that happen, he thought to himself as he pulled up to his old home.

David cringed as he pulled up to the old home place and saw his brother’s cruiser sitting out front. He had hoped he could slip in and not face his brother right away. The house looked the same, even the old peeling paint had not been changed since the last time he had seen it. His parents would have been mortified at the sight of the home his Mom had been so proud of. Simon had really let the place go. Just before his parents had been murdered his dad had bought everything to paint the outside of the house, he and Simon were supposed to help. David wondered if those supplies were still out in the storage barn waiting to be used. Simon had heard the car and was walking out the front door when David exited his vehicle.

“Well, look what the cat dragged in,” Simon laughed and gave his younger brother a manly hug and a firm pat on the back. “What brings you back into town?”

“A case,” David replied, not wanting to go into details, not that he actually could. This case was completely classified and even his brother could not be privy to the smallest details.

“Care to share?” Simon asked with a smile, glad to have his younger brother home. Calling him little brother would just be wrong since David was so much larger than Simon.

“I can’t, sorry, classified,” David frowned. Simon could be a great resource if he could utilize him, but there was nothing he could share at this point.

“Come on in bro, it has been far too long since you came home,” Simon held the door open and the brothers walked into the home where they both grew up, the same home where their parents had been murdered all those years ago.

“It hasn’t changed has it?” David said as he looked around. He set his bag on the easy chair as he walked through to the kitchen. No smells of Mom cooking anymore though. The only smells were those of coffee and stale cigarettes that his brother liked to smoke.

“Not really,” Simon laughed. “I wish you had let me know you were coming I have to run back to the office.”

“It’s fine. I will be in town for a few days at least,” David replied as he continued his tour of memory lane. If he closed his eyes he could almost see that night, smell the fear and the blood.

Images of that night flooded his vision, Momentarily blinding him. He looked to the stairs and saw his mother stumble down them holding her chest and blood dripping everywhere. He heard the fight upstairs and his father scream for the David to run and get out of the house. He saw his younger self run down the stairs and trip over his mother’s body, slipping in her blood. The look on his younger self’s face as he realized his mother was dying and there was nothing he could do was burned into his memory. David blinked to make it all go away, make these memories disappear. This was not the case he was here to work and he had to stay focused. But then he remembered something, his younger self had turned back towards the stairs as if he had heard something. His father coughed and there were footsteps crossing the room above. He had heard his father say his brother’s name. With that he was back to reality when Simon spoke.

“You know, David, she still hasn’t married,” Simon teased as he headed to the door. His smile beamed knowing that his brother still loved Taylor and silently hoped the two would finally get together.

“Simon,” David hissed with a chuckle, knowing what his brother meant. “Get to work. I am going to get some work done myself.”

“Have it your way. Are you going to at least look her up while you’re here?” Simon asked before he walked out, not waiting for David’s reply.

David walked upstairs and to the landing, stopping to take in everything. Simon had not changed a thing. It looked now just as it had the night of the murders, only without the blood. His parents room had been the master suite at the end of the hall. His own room stood right before him with the door closed. How he had dreaded coming back here, everything stood frozen in time and the memories of that night threatened to overtake him again. David inhaled sharply and turned the knob to his old bedroom door.

His room was just as he had left it so many years ago, the night his parents had died. He had never stepped foot back in the house until today and really did not want to be here now but had little choice. What he had left behind then had mattered little after his parents died, he wanted nothing that would remind him of the horror of that night and how the killer had never been caught. When this case was finished he would set his team on task to solve his parents murder, it was long past time to close the book on that chapter of his life.

When he opened the door to his old room she stared back at him from a picture sitting on the dresser, and one on the nightstand. He paused and stared at the picture. Taylor had such beautiful green eyes, her hair was like a mane surrounding her face, even then it had been long. She had the grace and agility of a cat and he used to tease her about it. All she would do was purr playfully in response to his teasing. Her smiled teased him, taunting him. Taylor had eyes only for him back then and she never let the other guys forget it. They had been so envious in high school. Taylor was the only woman David had ever been with and until he had left he was positive he had been the only one for her as well. They had made a vow to each other, one he had kept even after all of these years.

He stepped quickly to the dresser and slammed over a picture of Taylor that he had placed there so many years ago. He had completely forgotten that it might even still be there and did not want to see it at the moment. It did not seem to matter where he was or what he was doing, she was always there somehow.

“Shit!” David cursed as he slammed the picture down. In his haste and frustration he had slammed it so hard the glass in the frame had shattered. The sooner he got out of this town the better he thought as he went to get the broom to clean up the glass. Even now she provoked such a strong response in him.

Taylor sighed as she watched the sunset from her porch, she had seen a car go past and head to Simon’s but paid it no mind. It was common for Simon to have plenty of visitor’s he was the sheriff after all. Late summer in the desert of south central California was hot to say the least, but she loved it. She had lived here for nearly all of her life and had long ago acclimated to the dry heat. A welcome change after living in the south and it’s heat with humidity. The snow capped mountains loomed on the horizon as she watched the sunset to the west. The desert could be warm and inviting, but it was deception. When the sun finally set it was a desolate land with danger everywhere.

Taylor watched the sun slip away as rocked back and forth on her porch swing. She was so proud of this home. A house she had designed and helped build with her own hands. As she sipped her coffee her thoughts wandered to the past, to him. A man she had never forgotten about, never wanted to forget and had always hoped would return some day. David Spencer. She both loved and hated him. He broke her heart when he left without a word. He chose his career over her and that hurt her deeply. Where was he now? Why should she care anymore it wasn’t like he would ever walk back into town again.

“Michael?” Taylor called to her 15 year old son as she went inside. “It’s almost bedtime did you get your homework done?”

“Yes Mom,” came a male calling from somewhere upstairs. The usual answer. How could Taylor not think of David when every time she looked at her son she saw David’s face?

“Good, make sure to clean up your room before you go to bed I want that laundry down here by morning or I’ll go in and get it myself,” she chuckled as she called to him. He hated it when she went in his room. Her son liked his secrecy almost as much as his father did. Although her son had no clue who his biological father was.

“Michael, I will pick you up after practice tomorrow ok? I have some errands to run,” Taylor reminded her son. She rinsed her mug out and put it in the drainer then headed to her own room to shower.

“Ok Mom,” was the last thing she heard as she shut her door and turned the water on. Michael was on the track team and practiced nearly every day. She worried about him in this heat and made sure to remind him to stay hydrated. The last thing she wanted was a call saying he had been rushed to the hospital.

Although she had been grateful to Simon, she could never open up to him the way he had wanted her to. After David left Simon had tried more than once to convince her to move on. Taylor couldn’t, she really had no closure and without closure she could not shut the door on the only love she had ever wanted, needed or longed for. David was the only man she craved, the only one she had ever craved. David is the only man who had ever turned her on in ways she had never dreamed of, or imagined. Many men had tried to date her, Simon being the most insistent, but she turned them away. To this day her heart still belonged to David no matter how badly he had broken her heart and hurt her. She wanted him back.

Steam filled the bathroom as she allowed the water to course over her body. Taylor had kept her youthful, athletic build over the years but it had not been easy. Her taut body relaxed under the hot water as she ran her hands over her form still admiring herself. She had not allowed herself to get close to a man after David left. She would not allow herself to be hurt like that again, nor would she have allowed any man near her son. Their son, she mentally reminded herself, their son. Not like he was around to help raise him though. Her efforts to locate him over the years had failed. Even his brother refused to tell her where he was, saying his job was classified.

“Do you know about your son?” Taylor spoke into the mist of the shower. She had always wondered why he had never even inquired about Michael, surely Simon had told him although she had sworn him to secrecy so long ago.

With a heavy sigh she finished her shower and stepped out onto the rug. The entire bathroom had filled with steam almost as thick as fog. When she reached for the towel someone grabbed her from behind and clamped a cloth over her mouth.

“Help,” Taylor tried to cry out as she fought with the person behind her. “Mfftt!” Immediately her hands went to the gloved hand covering her mouth and pulled at it, trying to pull it away. The hand remained firmly clamped over her mouth pressing the cloth tightly over her lips and nose.

“Help me,” she cried as loudly as she could, but the feeling of helplessness was quickly overcoming her. The radio was on and there was no way Michael would be able to hear her from upstairs. How had he gotten in? She was sure she had set the alarm.

Taylor struggled hard, pinching her hands on the gloved hands, kicking with her feet and trying to scream through the rag over her mouth. Although she had made contact with her feet her kicks were not enough to even make this guy stumble or loosen his grip. Nothing she did seem to have any effect on the person behind her. Her feeble attempts to kick his knees made contact but her bare feet had little impact. There were times when she hated the fact that she was short, this was one of those times. This man behind her was easily three times her size and there was no way she would best him, not without help.

“Help!” Taylor tried to scream, but the sound was muffled through the cloth and a sweet smell wafted into her nostrils making her woozy. She kicked at the intruder to no avail, with each passing second her grip on reality began to fade. Her body weakened as she tried to remain conscious, she had to fight. Her eyes began to flutter and the room blurred but she fought the need to pass out. Her last thoughts before she lost consciousness were of her son upstairs and his safety.

Taylor’s head was splitting as she blinked trying to recall what had happened. She tugged at her wrists but they were tightly behind her. When she opened her eyes the light nearly blinded her and did not help with the stabbing pain in her head. Michael! Where was her son? Panic nearly strangled her as she tried to calm herself and figure out where she was and what had happened. What did she remember? The shower, the steam and David. Someone was there, in her bathroom when she reached for her towel. Then nothing.

“Help!” Taylor cried out, not sure if it was really a good idea or not but she had to know where she was and what had happened to her son. “Owwww.” The pain in her head was worse than any migraine she had ever had.

No response. No sounds from outside the door, simply silence.

“Help!” She cried louder and struggled with the zip ties surrounding her wrists when she suddenly realized they circled her ankles as well. She panicked.

“Help me, somebody please!” Taylor cried loudly as she tried to free herself from her restraints only to have them dig deeper into her skin. “Please help me!”

Tears coursed down her face as she tried to take in her surroundings and figure out where she was, or who had brought her to this place. She was lying on a bare concrete floor, metal cot was on the wall, a metal table on the opposite wall. There was no window though. She surveyed the rest of the room with dread. There was an overhead light that shone brightly down on her, an intercom on the wall above the steel toilet. The door was steel, solid from the looks of it and completely secure. Whoever took her meant to keep her here. It also brought some relief, it meant they did not want to kill her, at least not yet. But what did they want with her?

“Hey! Can you hear me?” Taylor called out loudly. Her head was splitting and she grimaced at the bright light above her head. She realized she had been here for a while because the last thing she remembered was stepping out of the shower and her hair had been wet. It was completely dry now.

“We can hear and see you Taylor what do you want?” a male voice cracked on the intercom.

“Why am I here?” She gasped. She had not really expected an answer. “Where is my son?”

“Your son is safe at home Taylor and if you ever wish to see him again you will cooperate,” the disembodied voice informed her.

“But why am I here?” Taylor asked as she tugged at her bonds. Was her son safe? Could she really believe these people? For the time being she didn’t have much of a choice and she stopped fighting with her bonds.

“All in good time Taylor,” the intercom crackled off again.

“How do they know my name?” She whispered just as the door clanged open and two men wearing black masks entered. The larger one approached her and the other one stood by the door with a very large gun. The larger man silently took a knife from his belt and cut her bonds, stood and walked away. Just as quickly as they entered they had disappeared and the door clanged shut behind them. Taylor had not even had time to see them well, just that they were large, armed and masked.

“Hey, wait!” Taylor called after the men who had left without a word. Only the echo of the door was left to answer any questions she might have asked them.

What the hell was going on? She wondered as she began to explore the room. It took her a few moments to realize she was wearing her own bathrobe. She grabbed the belt and cinched it tightly, no way these jerks were going to think they had any kind of liberties with her! It seemed they did not wish her harm yet and she wanted to keep it that way.

A thought rushed to mind, the other missing women! She knew Simon had been working a case where several women had gone missing and never turned up. Had she been taken by the same people? What had happened to those other women? She wasn’t sure but she was sure of one thing. She would find a way to go home, one way or another. She set about exploring her cell and seeing what she could do to calm herself. Panic was threatening her again and she had to stop it.

Above the toilet was a poor excuse for a mirror, in which she saw her wild hair and tried to tame it with her fingers. Her hands trembled so much that her attempts to tame her hair seemed to only make the matter worse. A shelf was next to the shower area and she located a brush. Stroking her hair she tried to calm herself with normal activities, it was not working. She laid the brush back on the shelf and saw another shelf where a window should have been. It held books, lots of them.

It wasn’t that she was silently accepting her fate at all. Taylor was smart and knew she should conserve energy if she wanted to escape. She would need her wits about her and for that she must be rested. She was in an inescapable room so why pound on the door and make them angry?

Taylor was a captive yes, but for the moment safe. She looked over the reading material and chose one that looked interesting. She settled onto the cot and tried to get as comfortable as she could. She had no idea how long she might be here, but she would not make them angry. As long as they were not angry they might not hurt her. The thought gave her some comfort as she began reading. But her thoughts were of her son and what he must fear when he found her gone.

Michael was a smart boy, he would call Simon and they would find her. She had to believe that because nothing else would do. Taylor was all her son had and she could not allow these people to take that away from him. She would do whatever it took to get home to him. He was all she had. She said a silent prayer that Simon would find her quickly and put an end to whatever this was, and get her home safe to her son.


The next morning David drove around looking at the town and how it had changed over the years. He knew Taylor had a bookstore in the town square and thankfully it appeared to be closed as he drove by. That was an encounter he was not prepared for, one he wanted to avoid if at all possible. He was here on a case not to rehash old feelings. Although those old feelings seemed to be everywhere he went and filled his every waking moment. He tried to push the thoughts of her to the back of his mind, but it wasn’t working. It was almost as if his brain was alerting him that she might be in danger, as it had when he was dating her. With a sigh he tried to focus on the scenery, but again her image was everywhere. The sooner he closed this case and got out of here the better.

The town had not changed, not in fifteen years. Small towns were like that sometimes, trapped in a time that others forgot. The town square looked just as it had the day he left this god forsaken place. He could almost see her walking hand in hand with him around the town square as they had so many times before. He hated it then and he was not liking it now. How he remembered their discussions about escaping this town and running to the big city, the ocean and what they saw as freedom. He had ran but she had stayed. Why? Too many memories, too much raw emotion and he had to push it aside to deal with the case at hand. He would never get over his parents murder though. That killer still walked free and one day he would find them, and make them pay.

As he pulled into the sheriff’s office he wondered why the bookstore wasn’t open, it was almost noon and it wasn’t in Taylor’s nature to be a late person. He glanced at the town square seeing it as he had all those years ago. The only real change was the bookstore. It used to be a library that had shut down long after he left.

The sheriff’s office was a small storefront type building with no real jail. It had a couple of holding cells in the back but that was it. It was sparsely furnished and looked as if it had not been dusted in ages. The feeling was like that of an old town sheriff’s office where the local drunk would walk himself into the cell on the weekends. Papers were hung on the wall, simple notices, nothing that really seemed urgent. When he walked in the front door a dark haired woman greeted him.

“Hi can I help you?” She asked, staring at him in awe. David was an impressive vision to behold for sure.

“Looking for Simon,” David replied and waited for her to point which way.

“You must be David, his brother, he talks about you all the time. Just down the hall to the right,” the woman pointed and watched with a smile as David disappeared down the hall. Kate thought she had just seen Adonis in person only with darker hair and a brooding smile. For the first time since she had met Taylor, Kate was jealous. She knew this was the love of Taylor’s life and god was he gorgeous.

“Hey Simon, what time does the bookstore usually open?” David asked as he sat in the chair across from his brother’s desk. A brief flash of Taylor’s face clouded David’s vision. Her sparkling green eyes staring at him when he told her he was leaving. The anger he saw there was something he would never forget.

“She’s usually open by eight, why?” Simon looked up at the clock with some concern showing on his face. Even he knew that Taylor was a reliable person, being late was not her nature. “You in a hurry to see her?”

“No, it’s closed and there is no notice on the door is all,” David tried to play it down but his training told him this was off on so many levels. Something deep within him stirred, an old need to protect her and keep her from harm. But his training sent alarms off in his head that it was too late she was already in danger.

“Hey Kate, can you walk down to the bookstore, David says it isn’t open yet and that isn’t like Taylor. See if she posted anything about being closed today and let me know right away,” Simon called to his deputy.

“Sure thing, be right back,” Kate replied as she jumped up from her desk and darted out the door.

David watched the door as he thought about Taylor and wondered how much she had changed. He shook his head and turned back to his brother. Simon had aged well, like whiskey some had joked. His broad features and stone chiseled face bore the scars of his time in the service. David had been lucky enough to serve with his brother in the special forces, but a roadside bomb sent Simon home before he was ready to call it quits. The deep scars etched his face, a grim reminder of just how close Simon came to death.

“Taylor has not missed a day since she opened that store,” Simon said as he sipped his coffee. “It’s the second most important thing in the world to her.”

Simon smiled a bit as he knew he was about to drop a bombshell into his brother’s lap, but it was about damn time his brother knew. Taylor had sworn him to secrecy a long time ago and to this moment he had kept that vow. David seemed lost in thought as his brother prepared to drop the bombshell in his lap. Simon knew his brother must be overwhelmed with the memories of what had happened, hell David had not stepped foot in the house since that night. Simon remembered how upset David had been at the loss of their parents and the injustice that the killer had never been caught. He also knew that the case is what drove his brother into the FBI, that maybe one day with his connections he might solve the case.

Simon stared at his younger brother, some had called him a Greek god. Chiseled described his brother best, chiseled out of stone. David stood well over six feet tall, near black hair and eyes that changed with his moods. Taylor had called them calico eyes, like her son’s. David was disciplined and kept his physique in fine shape. His daily workouts made him almost terrifying in appearance. He had not looked like that on his last day here though. David used to look lean and scrawny, like the runt of the litter but so tall. David’s face had healed up nicely after his bout with teenage acne and bore no visible scarring from it. Taylor had not cared about the acne, she loved David anyways. Not like Simon’s face now, scarred and pitted with the reminder of what ended his career.

“What’s the first one?” David asked, almost not wanting to know the answer. His memories of her were too painful, still too fresh after nearly sixteen years away.

“Her fifteen year old son Michael,” Simon replied flatly.

“What?” David nearly choked on his coffee, sending droplets spraying halfway across the room. “Son? I didn’t know she had been involved with anyone after I left.” He grabbed some paper towels and began cleaning up the spewed coffee and then a moment of clarity it hit him. Simon said fifteen year old. Fifteen years David had been gone.

“Taylor has not been with a soul since you left town Brother,” Simon informed him as he pretended to busy himself with some paperwork on his desk. Simon was well aware of what he had just dropped on his brother and sighed heavily with a satisfaction that it was finally out in the open now, a secret he no longer had to keep. The satisfaction filled Simon, for now it would have to do.

Just then Kate knocked on the door. “Sir, there is no notice on the door and this is not like Taylor at all.” Kate sounded quite concerned.

“Head over to her house see if she is home, call me when you find something out,” Simon sent her on her task and she pulled the door closed.

Just as David was about to speak the phone rang. “Sheriff,” Simon answered and listened as a male spoke frantically. David could tell they were frightened and it was about a missing woman. “I am on my way.” Simon hung up the phone and grabbed his keys.

“Let’s go, it’s Taylor,” Simon announced. “She’s missing.”

“Where to?” David asked as the rushed to Simon’s cruiser.

“Taylor’s place, she has a small ranch near ours,” Simon replied, without revealing exactly where that ranch was. “I wish you would let me in on some details of your case, it might be related to mine,” Simon suggested, knowing that David could not share those details unless a positive link was found.

“You know I can’t bro, wish I could though,” David answered as he watched familiar scenery out the window and thought about her.

David cursed under his breath as he and Simon pulled up to Taylor’s house, a house built on his own family’s property. He had noticed the house when he drove up but had not even considered that it belonged to Taylor. It was a charming two story farmhouse, wraparound porch and looked like she had detailed it herself. Did he still know her that well? The house stood where the old storage barn used to. A new barn had been built further back on the property, nearly completely out of sight of the road. He decided not to ask Simon why Taylor had built the house here, of all locations, not after what Simon insinuated at his office. David still had a million questions for Simon about what he had said, and insinuated, but those would have to wait for now.

David’s jaw nearly dropped when they exited the car and he saw a teenage version of himself standing on the porch talking frantically to Kate. The boy looked just as David had at that age and he could not help himself but smile. It appeared Taylor had raised a great son, responsible and caring, but why had she never told him? Anger filled him as he stared at the boy before him. His eyes filled with rage and he wanted to tear apart Simon for never telling him, but he also wanted to know why Taylor had never told him. He silently fumed as he stood there staring.

“Don’t let him see you like that, the boy has no idea who his biological father is,” Simon whispered and then strode up to the steps. “Hey Michael, calm down and tell me what’s going on.”

Simon seemed to be enjoying the torment he had just laid on his brother as he gave David a tiny smile. Simon was glad to have it off his chest, out in the open now. Soon everything would be.

Michael repeated frantically to Simon the same thing he had told Kate. When he went to bed his Mom had been in the shower. When he woke up she was gone, but her car was still here. Michael’s eyes never even noticed David until Simon gave a nod. The boy seemed to stare a little too long, a little too intensely. Did he suspect anything? He decided that if the boy asked any questions about him that he would play them off somehow, at least until he had a chance to speak with Taylor and confirm what his eyes were trying to convince his brain was true.

“Have you checked the house?” Simon asked Kate.

“Yes sir, no sign of forced entry, no sign of anything out of place,” Kate sighed. Her dark hair falling into her eyes and she gave it a swipe pushing it back. “The only thing that seems to be missing other than Taylor herself, is her bathrobe.”

“Ok, she obviously did not leave on her own her car is here, get out there and search for signs of another vehicle,” Simon ordered, then spoke into his radio. He looked so calm and natural that David had a sense of old times as he stood there. “Dispatch get me every unit out to the Cahill place, Taylor is missing and it might be related.”

“Related?” David asked, his eyes never leaving Michael. In his heart he knew it was his son, but why had she not told him?

“We have had several disappearances, all women, all single and not a single one has turned up dead or alive,” Simon sighed. “Michael knows he has been writing about the case in the school paper. He wants to be a writer like his Mom.” Simon beamed at the boy.

“Hello Michael, I’m David, Simon’s brother,” David extended his hand and the boy gave him a firm shake. He couldn’t help but notice that for a writer the boy seemed to have very strong hands.

“Michael, nice to meet you. Are you working the case with Simon?” Michael asked. David caught his own breath as he looked into the boy’s eyes, eyes just like his own. Taylor had called them “calico eyes”, swirls of all colors mixing and changing with the winds.

“I am a special agent with the FBI in town on a case, I’m not sure if it is related to his though,” David answered. “I wish I could tell you more but it’s classified.” David studied the mirror image standing before him and wondered if the boy had his own suspicions.

Now was definitely not the time to discuss Michael’s paternity. His Mom was missing and David needed to find her now more than ever before. He needed to find her so he could confirm what he already knew in his own heart. This young man before him was his son and he now wanted to learn as much as he could about the boy since he had already missed so much. But finding Taylor came first, then there would be time for catching up and learning everything he could about this young man before him. At fifteen, the boy was nearly as tall as he was.

“Did she say anything about expecting anyone?” David asked Michael.

“No, she hasn’t even dated not that I can ever recall, she has focused on her writing and her bookstore,” Michael appeared frantic. “We have to find her. Those women, something terrible had to have happened to them and I do not want that to happen to Mom!”

“We will find her and bring her home to you Michael, on that you have my word,” David vowed, and he meant to keep that vow, but had no idea how he would accomplish it. His mind warred with itself as he stood here looking at the boy. The case at hand, his case and the situation with the boy all seemed at odds with one another, but at the same time seemed somehow related.

Simon had joined his deputies in searching for clues and was excitedly discussing something near the barn. He pointed to the ground and then to the squad cars and another deputy ran to his trunk. They found tire tracks! David smiled. At least it was something. It was far more than they had found in most of the other abductions. David and Michael remained on the porch in an awkward silence as they watched the search of the property.

“Simon talks about you all the time, he is very proud of you,” Michael said softly. The boy was visibly nervous and obviously very concerned about his mother. He wrung his hands together the very same way she did when she was worried about something. David noticed the little things as they stood there in the awkwardness of the situation.

“He does?” David turned back to the boy. If he looked hard enough he could see Taylor, but the image before him was like looking into a mirror at himself as a teenager. “What does he say?”

“Just that you are a great agent who has never lost a case,” Michael replied with a bit of confidence and was that a touch of pride he saw glinting in the boy’s eyes? At the moment David did not feel that confident.

“All true,” David chuckled. If Taylor had been taken by the same people he had been investigating, this might not end well for her, or Michael. “Come on let’s get some coffee and let Simon finish up.”

“In here,” Michael said and led David into the breakfast nook. David noticed that Taylor’s tastes had not changed much over the years it still seemed that she definitely favored the color pink, it was everywhere. Each room he walked through had different hues of pink as well as some blues, but overall it wasn’t in a girly fashion it was warm and welcoming. He took a seat at the breakfast bar and waited as Michael poured him a cup of coffee.

“What else do you remember, about last night or this morning?” David asked, trying to fill the awkward silence threatening to consume them. The truth hung in the air around them but neither of them verbalized it.

“Just what I said, she was in the shower and then just gone,” Michael sighed deeply. “How could anyone have gotten into the house though? We have a security system.”

“Where is it?” David asked and Michael walked him to the patio doors. “Can you pull up the history?”

Michael punched in a few codes and the display screen revealed that the system had been disabled the night before by Taylor herself, or at least someone using her code.

“We each have our own code, I don’t know hers she doesn’t know mine. She wanted it that way,” Michael explained as David stared at the display trying to make sense as to why she would have disabled her own security system.

“Can you email me a copy of this?” David asked, turning back to the boy. “I don’t think she was the one who disabled it.”

“Then who?” Michael wondered out loud. “I’ll need your email address.” David handed the boy a business card as they went back to the kitchen for their coffee.

David wanted to know everything about Michael, but most of all he wanted to know why Taylor had never told him. His life would have been so different had he known he had a son. He would have never left. Maybe she knew that and that’s why she didn’t tell him. Or maybe that was why she was so angry with him that day, she was trying to tell him but he wouldn’t listen. Sometimes he was too stubborn for his own good and this time it had hurt him in the long run. He had missed out on so much it appeared, but he silently vowed to not miss another minute.

The two of them sat sipping their coffee in awkward silence as they waited for Simon to give them an update. David watched the boy and his brain tried to process everything that had happened in the last few hours. He could tell the boy was checking him out but did the boy even have a clue? It would seem impossible not to look at the two of them and know there was a biological link, but was the boy distraught enough about his mother that he would overlook this for the time being? David was not prepared to handle questions the boy may have right now, his thoughts were a whirlwind without adding the boy’s questions to his own, as selfish as he felt about that. David could not handle the boy’s questions without getting answers to his own first.

“Got tire tracks but nothing else,” Simon sighed as he poured a cup of coffee and stood on the opposite side of the bar looking between Michael and David. Was that a spark of recognition he saw in Michael’s eyes? Simon had tried over the years to make sure the boy had no idea who his biological father was, but looking between the two of them now, he wasn’t so sure he had succeeded.

“At least it’s something,” David remarked, watching every nuance about this young man before him and seeing only a mirror image of himself at that age.

“You know, she’s a fighter David and that might not be a good thing,” Michael sighed as he rinsed out his mug. His long fingers came from his Mom, hers were long and delicate and perfectly manicured. Was her manicure still perfect? David shook his head he could not allow his thoughts to go there, not with the situation at hand.

“She is also very smart Michael, and she would not put herself in undue danger,” David assured him as he stood to leave. “I need to borrow your office Simon.”

“We will bring her home Michael,” Simon gave the boy a pat on the back as the two left silently. “If you hear anything, if she calls you let us know you hear me?”

“Yes sir,” Michael replied and walked them to the door. “Hey David, don’t be a stranger. I would love to talk to you about the case you’re working, as much as you can tell me anyways.”

“Sure thing,” David waved and ducked into the car. Every fiber of his being filled with anger and it was everything he could do to keep it in check until they were out of sight of the house.

Once they were in the car and beyond the boy’s sight David allowed his anger to get the best of him if only for a second and punched the dashboard. The strength of the punch sent cracks in the dash in every direction. Tiny pieces of the dash flew everywhere as he cursed aloud. David wasn’t sure if he was angry at Taylor, Simon or both of them. But knowing now that he had a son and had missed so much time with him hurt him deeply, and for that he wasn’t sure if he could ever forgive his brother. Simon had known how to reach him, had vacationed with him more than once and had never once even hinted that Taylor had been pregnant let alone had a child, his child.

“Damn it Simon,” David growled and continued to mutter under his breath.

“Hey you gonna fix that right?” Simon laughed, knowing his brother had an unusual ability to control his emotions, and knowing that seeing Michael hit home.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” David almost hissed at his brother. His eyes stared holes in his brother’s head as the car sped towards the sheriff’s office.

“She swore me to secrecy David and I could not break her trust,” Simon explained as they pulled into the parking lot.

“You should have told me,” David was angry, very angry. If he had known he would have stayed, chosen a different path in law enforcement. How different all of their lives would have been if he had only known.

“Hey Mike there has been an abduction, a woman named Taylor Cahill,” David hurriedly spoke into his cell phone as he rushed into the office behind Simon. Once in the office he shut the door and took over his brother’s desk, moving things around so he had room to work. “Also, can you get information about the details I just emailed to you?”

“Here let me log you in,” Simon reached over and entered the password granting David full access to the office computer.

“Thanks,” David said as he continued speaking to Mike. “Yes, disabled, not by her, email me what you find.” David explained and went to work on the computer.

“What was disabled?” Simon asked as he sat on the opposite side of his own desk staring at his younger brother who was living the life he had always dreamed of, but had been cheated out of.

“Her security system,” David replied without looking up. “Her code, the boy said neither knows each other’s codes.”

“Wow, I remember when she had that installed. Taylor wanted to make damn sure that kid was safe,” Simon mused out loud, not expecting a reply.

David went to work researching his brother’s cases and found that they held many of the same clues. The reports were nearly identical to those he had been working himself, each single and alone, typically no children. Many had no other family that would report them missing. Oddly though the missing women here had never been entered into the database that the FBI had access to. Otherwise they might have already been a part of the case and might have lead the case in a different direction. David noticed that more women seemed to be missing from around here than any other area, like a small cluster. It might mean something he mentally noted and kept reading reports.

“Yes, just disappeared right out of her own home, and Mike,” David paused. “She’s my ex girlfriend. Can you find a way to see if my cover has been blown? How could they possibly know about her?” His fingers worked like crazy over the keyboard as he read each case only to realize he and his brother were working the same exact case.

“Hey Simon, we’re going to need to set up a task force office here and pull together in order to end this. I will explain in a minute,” David spoke to Simon and then to Mike. “Yeah Mike, make damn sure that my cover has not been blown. If it has this whole case has just gone down the tubes.” He clicked the phone off with a heavy sigh, knowing he had to tell his brother everything so the two offices could coordinate the cases and pull resources together to end this case.

Over the next few days David and Simon arranged the conference room to accommodate the team and assigned duties to deputies. Many of David’s team had already arrived and begun working, but the lead investigators would arrive the next day. David micromanaged everything to the point of being obsessive. He had to find Taylor no matter what, only she held the answers he sought. His thoughts turned to the son he had not known about and wondered what it would have been like to have seen him born, his first steps and all of the other things he had missed out on. He shook his head to chase that train of thought away. He had to remain focused or this case could go sideways in a hurry.

As he laid in his old bed trying to fall asleep he wondered if Simon had ever hinted to the boy who his father was, or if the boy had noticed any resemblances when they had met. It didn’t matter because when he brought her home they would tell him and he would be a part of Michael’s life from this point forward. David grabbed his phone and popped off a text to Charles. When this case was over he would retire and come home. It was time, he had his spent enough time away and he was still young enough to enjoy life. He could work his parents case from here, off duty and let Charles take the lead on it.

Now, what mattered most, was making up for lost time and finding Taylor. This time he had no intention of walking away from her. This time he would make her understand just how much he still loved her and wanted her. As he drifted off to sleep his dreams were haunted by the day he left and the sound of the glass shattering against the storm door as he walked away. He had always been haunted by the thoughts of what might have happened if he had just turned around, looked at her one last time.

“Talk about a bad hair day!” Taylor grumbled as she fumbled with the mess on top of her head. There were days she wished she would have cut this mop a long time ago, but she didn’t because of David. He had loved her lion’s mane he called it and she had never cut it because of that. “Stupid reason.” She muttered, trying to get it under control.

Taylor stared into the poor excuse of a mirror trying to tame her mane. She searched the shelf, found a pony tail holder and whipped her long hair into submission with the twist.

“Why won’t they talk to me and tell me why I’m here?” She wondered aloud. With her trembling hands on the cold steel sink, she stared at herself wondering what these people could possibly want with her. She fought with the terror and panic trying to keep it at bay. If she knew what they wanted maybe it would calm her some, but they were not ready to share that with her yet.

“Hey!” She screamed at the intercom. “Why am I here?” Her heart nearly stopped when the door opened and the same two masked men entered. The smaller one stood by the door with his big gun and the larger one was carrying something. Taylor could see out into the hallway and also see that it too was concrete, as if she were being held in an old jail or something. If that were the case then escape was out of the question, too many keys would be needed and as long as the man with the big gun had the keys she saw no way to get them from him.

“Boss said to bring you this,” the man held out a picnic basket. His gloved hands revealed nothing about him, the same way their masks showed only their eyes.

“Oh?” Taylor asked, reluctantly accepting the basket. She peeked inside and it seemed to be coffee and food. “Thank you.”

The man stared at her for a moment then turned to leave. What did he see that made him pause? His eyes seemed vaguely familiar but she just could not place them. She wondered why they were being so kind to someone they had just kidnapped and locked in a cell, or were these just hired men and someone else was pulling the strings? She had way too many questions and not enough answers to calm her panicked nerves.

“Wait, please,” Taylor gasped quickly before she changed her mind.

“Yes?” The large man turned around to face her. She studied his face trying to get as much detail as she could. If she ever escaped she would need it. His eyes glared at her, dark and foreboding, as if they were warning her that she would face far more serious challenges than this room.

“Can you tell me why I’m here?” She asked as she set the basket on the cot.

“Boss will come see you and explain everything Taylor. Until then our orders are to keep you comfortable and rested,” the man said and dismissed her.

The two men exited the cell and the door clanged loudly shut behind them. The ominous click it made let her know that she was locked securely inside without a hope of leaving this room until they chose to allow her to. How did they all know her name? They used her name as if they had used it a thousand times before, so comfortable saying it and the voices were vaguely familiar too. With a sigh she let it go for the time being, it would come to her sooner than later she hoped.

“At least there’s coffee,” she sighed and sipped the hot brew. She always had a knack for finding humor in all sorts of situations, even inappropriate ones. It had gotten her in trouble more than once over the years.

What felt like weeks but in reality was just a few days later, Taylor paced the floor, boredom was setting in and she really wanted out of this place. Why was she here? How many days had it been? It felt like ages, but was likely not nearly that long. It was impossible to track the passage of time in this cell, no window, no daylight, no darkness, just existing in a timeless world awaiting whatever fate these people had in store for her. She was beginning to think she could pace a hole in the floor to escape when she finally reached out to them again.

“Hello?” She said near the intercom, hoping just to hear a human voice. She didn’t know which was worse, the silence or the captivity.

“Can I help you?” A male voice replied. There was something about these men that was eerily familiar if she could just put her finger on it.

“Um, I was wondering if someone would tell me why I am here and when I will be going home,” Taylor asked softly. She did not wish to anger them but her boredom was going to drive her insane. In such a closed environment there is little do. With no window there is no way to tell the passage of time, only by the body’s internal clock and Taylor couldn’t be sure hers was working correctly given the circumstances.

“I will ask the boss to come see you,” the man answered and clicked off the intercom.

Taylor paced the small cell wondering how long it would be before this boss would come to see her, how long had she already waited? Panic threatened to overcome her again and she fought it back by wringing her hands nervously. The door banged open and made her jump. Before her stood a short, portly man that could only be described as creepy. Everything about the little man sent terror ripping up her spine.

“Hi,” Taylor stuttered when she saw him.

The man was short, but still taller than she was, not handsome by any standards. His belly poked over his belt and his glasses set low on his nose. Some would call him fat, but portly was the word that came to Taylor’s mind. She soaked in every detail. His hair was thinning and he raked it back with his fingers as he stared at her. He seemed to be taking her in the same as she was him. His eyes were a shade of grey that gave away nothing, but she could see the desire and it disgusted her.

“Welcome Taylor, I am sure you have many questions,” the man said as he stood between her and the door. The large man with the gun stood directly behind him, not like she was going to run though. Taylor knew these men were armed and would not take that kind of chance with her life, not yet anyways.

“Why am I here?” She inquired, knowing this man could not hurt her but the one standing directly in the door could, he had the gun.

“All in due time Taylor. For the time being just take some time and relax, you haven’t done that in a long time,” the man smiled and his thin lips revealed yellowed teeth that looked as if they had not seen a dentist in years.

“May I let my son know that I am ok?” Taylor asked, hoping the man would but knowing in her heart he would not. Her heart yearned just to hear her son’s voice, let him know she was alright.

“That is not possible but you already knew that,” the man frowned. “No one must know where you are Taylor.”

“Why? My son should know that I am, for the moment, anyways, safe, aren’t I?” Taylor fought back her tears and anger. She wanted to rip this man’s eyes from his head, but held back as she eyed the gun the other man held.

“You will be safe here, no harm will come to you,” the man announced, much to Taylor’s relief. “If you cooperate you could go home very soon, fair enough?”

“Ok,” Taylor sighed, with silent questions still on the tip of her tongue. Why should she trust this man who has taken her from home and locked her away? “Is this a ransom thing? If so I can pay you.” Taylor offered, hoping she could just buy her own freedom.

“No, this is not a ransom thing,” the disgusting little man laughed, “Can I get you anything that will make your stay more comfortable?” The man seemed sincere enough.

“I do not wish to sound ungrateful for the hospitality, but it is very boring in here,” Taylor spewed out. She wanted to sound sincere because she wanted something to do. The books in the room were ones she had read a long time ago and she was going to go insane without something to do. She wrung her hands out of fear.

“I suppose it is,” he chuckled. “What is it that would make the stay more enjoyable?” His eyes seemed to twinkle as he looked at her and it sent fear ripping down her spine. There was definitely something he was not telling her.

“I had not actually thought about what would make it more accommodating,” she gasped, not really believing that he would grant her anything she asked for. “More books I suppose, music, anything to break the silence in here.”

“Is there a radio on the guard desk?” The man asked the guard at the door. The guard nodded. “Go get it and set it up in here.”

“Thank you,” Taylor spoke softly, maybe some music would help ease some of her tensions about why she was here since the man obviously was not ready to share that with her.

“Other than the accommodations is everything acceptable? The food, coffee and so forth?” The little man seemed distracted as he made an attempt at small talk. He was terrible at talking to women, this is why he liked to watch.

“Yes,” she replied, not trusting this man’s intentions. There was something about him that gave her the creeps. She also sensed that he wasn’t the one calling the shots, he was the go to guy. Trying to negotiate with this man would accomplish nothing she sighed silently, knowing at some point she would have to figure out who was in charge and deal with them to gain her freedom.

“Good, I have things to tend to. If you need anything let the guards know,” the little man exited without another word and the lock boomed loudly behind them.

Taylor had no way to measure time in this cell. At least now she might be able to with the help of the radio. She had no real idea of how long she had already been here, but her estimate was several days. How much longer would it be? Her terror grew with each passing minute because minutes felt like hours and hours felt like days in this windowless prison she was being held in. What she wouldn’t do just to feel a breeze on her skin right now! She turned on the radio only to realize it was prerecorded stuff with no time or live disc jockey. At least she had something to kill the total silence though.

“I miss you Michael, I pray that you are safe,” she cried into her pillow as she listened to the radio. “I will find a way to come home to you my son, my precious son.” Her tears fell onto her pillow as she drifted off to a fitful sleep, one in which she imagined all the terrible reasons these people had taken her.

The Hunter and The Prey, book 2 of The Lake Snow Chronicles in in progress right now! Teaser's will be posted on the TEASER page!

Autographed Copies Direct from the Author

August 2018

Now available! Autographed copies of MANY published works! See the link below to get yours before they're gone!

© by Raven Skyes, 2018 All rights reserved.
© Cover Artwork for the books done by Sondra Hicks