The bullet zinged past her ear, ricocheting in the dark. She couldn’t see if she’d hit the son of a bitch. Dear God, what if she hit Reilly. Where was he? “Reilly,” she whispered, not wanting to alert Peacock to her whereabouts. Dam, which way was the right way? Just as she turned on her heels, a steely arm coiled around her waist, yanking her to his chest. “Lily, sweet, sweet Lily,” he snatched her gun away, pitching it into the woods. He pressed the blade of the knife to the hollow of her neck. “Now what’s my sweet Lily doing with a gun, huh, sugar?”
She let loose with a blood curdling scream, wanting Reilly to hear it and track her. But then she remembered the mascara brush in her sleeve. With her right hand, her fingers shaking with trepidation, she fumbled beneath the sleeve of her sweat shirt and snatched it. With a fight or flight reaction, she hitched her left arm upward, dislodging the knife from his grasp. She whirled around, and, using her mascara for a weapon, stabbed it several times into Peacock’s eyes and ran for her life.
“You bitch!” a primitive howl ripped from his throat, rolling through the thicket. “You’ll pay for this. I’ll make you suffer.”
Where the hell was Reilly? Candace tore through the woods, branches and pinecones snapping beneath her feet. The smell of the dank earth filled her senses. Bristly pine branches slapped her in the face, slashing her skin. But adrenaline pushed her, making her sprint like a marathon runner. Another bullet zinged past her, then another, barely missing her ear. Her heart galloped wildly in her chest. Which way in the dark? In a race against time, she fled, legs pumping, she tore through a path, vaguely registering the fact there were no snarling branches. Then the air changed. It was sweeter, fresher. And lighter. The moon glinted through a canopy of undulating pines. And then, with a start, she saw them. Bushes and bushes of wild roses. And not just any roses. White roses. And her heart skipped a beat a second before it jackhammered in her chest, evoking a pitiful sob from her very soul. “Nooooo!”
Dark laughter rang through the woods. And before she could take a step out of the trap, Peacock yanked at her hair and began thrashing at it with his knife like a wheat shredder. Terror froze her dead in her tracks. She could feel him hacking off her hair, her glorious raven hair. She struggled to break free, but…
the knife sliced through the rose-scented air. Then she felt it slice her tender skin. “Nooooo!”
Another slice. She could tell they were superficial wounds, but they hurt like hell. He was just taunting her, hedging her to be bait in his game of cat and mouse. He loved the chase more than the catch. Well, she’d give him the chase of his life. And how the hell could he see when she was so sure she’d jabbed his eyes out with her mascara brush. Reilly? She loved him and wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. But where was he? Dear God, was he dead? Was she all alone in the deep, dark woods with a madman? Her heart in her throat, she hurled her foot as hard as she could, hitting the mark. Right between the balls.
“You bitch!” he bellowed, lumbering to the ground with a crash that reverberated through the woods.
With the light of the moon guiding her, she tore for the main highway. She had to call for help for Reilly. No way could she chance running back into the thicket or back in the trap of the lunatic calling her Lily. But just as she broke into a full run that would make her personal trainer proud, she stumbled on an uprooted pine and fell face down on the path. He lunged on her in a second.
“Gotcha, my pretty.”
And just as she was about to succumb to her demise, gunfire exploded. He’d shot her. She was going to die without ever telling Reilly how she felt. But suddenly, the sound of sirens rang through the forest, the best sound she’d ever heard. The woods were as bright as day, flashing lights everywhere. Car doors slammed, heavy footsteps thundered.
Still belly down to the ground, half wondering if she were dead or alive, she heard his voice. “Candace, are you all right?”
To her shock and extreme pleasure, Reilly had her in his strong arms, feeling her touching her. If she was dead, she didn’t want to be alive. A smile curled her lips. “He shot me in the head, he hacked off my hair,” she babbled in shock.
“It’s all right, sweetheart,” he cooed in her ear. “That was my bullet. I shot Peacock. He’ll never hurt you or anyone again. He’s dead.”
Mouth agape, feeling her head to make sure there were no shots, she gasped. Her hand was slick with blood.
“It’s not yours,” he assured her. “It’s Peacock’s. Look.”
She glanced over her shoulder just as the crime scene was zipping him up in a body bag. She sighed and let the tears fall. She was safe. Reilly had saved her. Her hero.
“Reilly,” she gasped between sobs. “It’s over.”
“Far from it, darlin’,” he pulled her close, his hands massaging her back. “The Raven Stalker is, but we’re far from over.” He kissed her lips, assuring her at long last this was no dream. “We’ve only just begun.”
Coming Soon from The Wild Rose Press
HER BIGGEST FAN
Coming soon from Whimsical Publications
MASK OF THE BETRAYER
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