ABBY CROUCHED LOW in the underbrush. The fading echo of gunshots still rang in her ears. Her loose brunette curls were soaked with sweat and matted to the sides of her face. Her drenched tank top clung to her small frame.
He was out there.
She couldn’t remember exactly how long it had been, but it felt like Bryce had been hunting her for days. She had hardly slept in that time. She stayed low, remaining still and quiet. Even breathing seemed like too much noise.
He was close. She could sense it.
Abby gripped her knife tightly, ready for action. The sound of a mosquito buzzing by her ear caused her to instinctively swat at the unseen assailant, which also knocked aside a branch. Forty feet away Bryce turned in her direction, swinging his gun out in front of him. He couldn’t see her, but she was looking directly at his face.
She could see his ice blue eyes glowing with hatred. Sweat poured from his short-cropped blond hair as he took a few steps toward her, his limp from their last meeting obvious. Abby had torn nearly every tendon and muscle he had above his knee when she plunged her knife into his leg nearly a year ago. Bryce had kidnapped her to take her out to sea and murder her, until she turned the tables on him with some help from Eric. Now she regretted that she didn’t just finish the job and kill him on the boat when she had the chance.
After taking a few steps, he stopped again to listen. He stood there facing squarely in her direction. He was tall, and had a broad chest that made a perfect target. She silently wished she had better knife-throwing skills. She had a clear shot, but wasn’t about to disarm herself and take the chance that the knife would sail wide of her target and land in the trees behind him.
That gave her an idea, though. What if something else went crashing through the trees behind him, distracting him and giving her a chance to make a move? Without taking her eyes off Bryce, she felt around the forest floor until her hand lay upon a rock just a bit smaller than her clenched fist.
She had to aim carefully. She wanted to throw it wide to his right and high enough that he didn’t see it sailing by his head. With any luck, it would fly over him silently and crash into the trees behind him. He would turn around to see what it was, providing her the opportunity to pounce on him from behind.
Abby lay still, waiting for the right moment. Bryce was scanning the trees in her direction. She couldn’t risk throwing it when he was looking in her area. He would see movement, and she would be found.
She wished she knew how many shots he had left. When he had been chasing her ten minutes ago, she had the thought that she was supposed to count the shots so she would know how many he had left. She was certain she saw this in a movie at some point. She counted five, and then realized she had no idea how many shots he actually had to begin with, so she gave up. How many bullets are in a clip? Abby had no idea, and realized she would simply wait for the clicking sound of an empty chamber.
Hopefully that would come sooner than later.
She palmed the rock in her hand as he scanned past her location. With his eyes diverted, she took a deep breath. Now or never, she thought. She cocked her arm back and launched the rock through the air. It sailed directly over his head and cleared the initial trees beyond him. It crashed through several large palm branches before slamming into the thick trunk of a tree with a thud, ricocheting off and crashing through several more branches before coming to rest on the forest floor.
Bryce whipped around toward the commotion, gun up and firing away, hoping to hit Abby. He was completely unaware as she sprang from the undergrowth forty feet behind him and raced through the trees straight toward him, the sounds of her movement masked by his gunfire.
They both heard the click click click of the empty magazine at the same time, the sudden silence revealing Abby hurtling through the trees and coming up fast behind him, knife in hand. Bryce glanced over his shoulder to see her coming. He slammed a fresh cartridge into his gun and loaded one in the chamber as he spun to bring it eye level.
He didn’t move fast enough.
Abby pounced as he turned. He managed to fire off two harmless shots into the air. Although they had gone off inches from her head, neither the danger nor the concussive sound of the gunfire fazed her. She twisted the gun from his grip and sprang up with it pointed at his head. Lightening fast, he slapped it out of her hand as though she were a child, and they both watched it land in a small stream ten feet to Abby’s right.
Empty handed, she reached down to retrieve her knife from its sheath, only to find it gone. Her thoughts were unclear, and she couldn’t remember losing it. She swore that she had sheathed it just before grabbing the gun, but the fact was that it was gone.
Bryce smiled as they stood staring at each other. Each soaked with sweat from the tropical heat, and their lungs working overtime to suck in enough air. Separated by no more than an arm’s length, Abby felt a primal fear in the pit of her stomach. Though her memory was missing, she knew that she had been in a situation much like this one before. The close proximity to this madman was setting off alarm bells in her head that drowned out all other thought.
Bryce sized her up. She was small, just over five feet, but strong and fast. She was beautiful, her gorgeous light brown eyes still holding an innocence, though the scars on her arms and dirt smears on her face made her look tough and rugged.
Abby stared back at him. He towered over her at a sound six feet, his confident chest puffed out. He was a man who commanded what he wanted and was used to things going his way. He didn’t just look tough, he was tough. A professional killer when he had to be.
She was faced with a choice — stand and fight, unarmed and overmatched, or run. Her mind said run, her heart said fight, and her feet refused to cooperate with either. It was as though she were cemented in place. As she saw his large right fist swing through the air toward her face, she swiftly ducked forward and under it, and took off at a sprint through the trees, running alongside the stream.
Abby had spent countless hours traversing the terrain on this island. She did not think Bryce had even half a chance of keeping pace with her, never mind catching her. However, as she glanced over her shoulder, she saw him gaining on her with what she could only describe as superhuman speed. Her mind couldn’t process how he was able to move so fast.
She tried to pour on the speed, but he came up fast and tackled her. Abby hit the ground first, cushioning Bryce’s fall with her small frame and losing the air in her lungs. She laid on the ground, defenseless, his massive frame pinning her down.
She frantically scanned the tree line in search of Eric. Where are you? Just a short while ago he had been by her side, and then disappeared without warning or explanation. I need you now, where are you? Her eyes probed the forest, finding nothing but vegetation and boulders. Eric was nowhere to be found.
Without a word, Bryce grabbed a fistful of her hair and lifted her off the ground. Her legs kicked wildly as he dragged her toward the stream. Panic and terror set in as he plunged her face under the water. Legs flailing, she reached behind her head and clawed at his hands with her fingernails. She was already out of breath and couldn’t hold it much longer. As she swung out with her fist, hoping to connect with any part of him, he shoved her head even further under the water. She contorted and twisted her body, but could not contend with his strength.
She could not find the surface.
ESCAPE, Past Sins
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