The Body Finder (The Body Finder 1) - Page 62

Her first thought, besides getting home faster, was that it was an animal of some kind. Coyote or wolf…maybe even a bear that had caught her scent as she’d trespassed into the forest. But whatever it was, it was closing the gap quickly, and Violet was desperately afraid that she might never make it out of the woods alive. Home was too far away.

She needed to shorten the distance, even though that would mean leaving the trail. But she was being hunted now, she knew that with a certainty that she couldn’t explain, and she didn’t have much choice. The space between her and her predator was rapidly disappearing.

She lurched slightly to her right, stepping off the fairly cleared pathway and into a sea of lush green ferns and brush that seemed to spring up from every square inch of ground. Stinging nettles clung to the bottom of her pants with their cutting barbs, and she had to lift her feet higher to outmaneuver the obstacles in her way. But adrenaline had kicked in, along with her fight-or-flight reflex. She felt like her airway was clearer and wider, and her steps had become easier rather than more difficult.

Whatever was prowling through the woods followed right behind.

Violet could hear her labored breathing, punchy with each hard footfall, as she concentrated on finding her way. She glanced back, quickly, only to see nothing in pursuit. But she knew better than to trust her eyes. It was there. There was no doubt in her mind that it was coming after her.

And then she tripped, not all the way, she didn’t fall to the ground, but she’d stumbled…hard. Just as her knee grazed the ground, at the very moment that her fingertips shot out to catch herself in case she actually fell, her head turned, just slightly, to the right…and that was when she saw it. Or rather, him.

She regained her balance more quickly than she would have thought possible, and before she could think through her decision she instinctively turned to her left and ran as fast as she could. The problem was, now she was running away from her house. But in that instant, it didn’t matter; all that mattered was getting away from the man who was following her…hunting her.

She tried not to linger too much on the details, concentrating instead on where she should go and how she was going to get away from him. But the image of him, flanking her at that moment, was haunting. He was dressed in camogear, which to Violet was more reminiscent of the military than of hunters she had seen. Even his face had been painted, army green with black smudges circling his eyes. But the most disturbing part of all, the most alarming part, was the imprint he carried with him.

He was a killer. And he was after her.

She heard his footsteps eating up the ground behind her, as he gave up being stealthy and discreet. They sounded like thunder. She ran as fast as was humanly possible through the tangled ground cover, beneath the expanse of towering trees.

She heard the river, and she knew she was getting closer to it. But that was bad…really, really bad. It meant she was going in the wrong direction, and the river, if nothing else, would provide the worst kind of roadblock, trapping her between it and the man chasing her.

Far away, another sound penetrated her terror. She tried to listen to it, but it was gone too soon, before she had a chance to make out what it was exactly.

She squeezed her way through branches that lashed out at her, whipping her face and arms. She was grateful that her feet kept finding a solid place to land, terrified that at any moment she might stumble again and lose any advantage that she might have in getting away from the man pursuing her. But she was growing tired now, winded, and panic was making it harder and harder for her to think clearly.

The sound was there again, louder this time. It was distinctly different from the shrill resonance coming from her predator, but still, she couldn’t decipher it.

She ducked left to avoid a huge cedar tree in her path and heard the heavy, nearly deafening footsteps of the man behind her. She twisted right then, hoping to use the tree between them to cut off his direct path.

This time, when she heard it again, she knew what it was. A voice rang out through the dense woods. She felt a surge of hope, even though it was still too far away for her to hear the words called out or to tell who was behind them.

Without thinking, she yelled back, as loud as she could manage with her chest now constricting tightly, practically squeezing her throat closed with panic. “HELP! HELP!!!” she screamed as hard as she could, but it came out hoarse and disjointed. She couldn’t wait around to see if she’d been heard.

Her toe caught against something sticking up from the ground, and her footstep stuttered, but not enough to really slow her down. She didn’t know how much longer she could keep this pace, or even if this pace was enough to keep him at bay behind her. Her lungs were burning with the fiery strain, and the stitch in her side was pinching tightly.

The voice came again. Louder, much louder now. She could hear the words…and she recognized who it was.

“Vi-o-let!” she heard Jay’s voice calling out to her. “Vi!”

She wanted to cry with relief, not sure that she should even be relieved to hear him. Maybe his presence only meant that the killer tracking her down would carry two more imprints out of the woods today. But she couldn’t help reveling in a moment of sheer delight at the sound of his voice.

“Over here!” she yelled. “I’m over here!”

A group of trees stood in her way. She dodged between them, or thought she had, until she felt her shoulder slam hard against one of the immovable trunks. It practically knocked the wind out of her. And this time she stumbled, slowing way too much. She tried to regain her speed, not looking where she was going as she broke through the cluster of trees and bushes, and by the time she realized that she’d reached the edge of a bluff leading down to the river, it was too late.

Tags: Kimberly Derting The Body Finder
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