Authors: Kathi S. Barton
Kathi S. Barton
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of
the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed
as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or person,
living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
World Castle Publishing
© Kathi S. Barton 2013
Edition World Castle Publishing April 10, 2013
rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner
whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations
embodied in articles and reviews.
Lynne ran. Not that she figured she
could outrun them, but she had to try. And if she could get far enough in front
of them so that she could turn the tide on them then she’d do it. She no longer
looked behind her because every time she did, they seemed nearly ready to grab
her. Taking a small stumble had cost her precious seconds, but she recovered
and kept running. Soon, all too soon, they’d have her anyway, but she wouldn’t
Tree limbs tore at her skin. There were
cuts on her legs and arms that she knew she’d feel if she ever got to sit down.
Her face screamed in pain at her. The last branch that had caught her there had
cut deeply and the blood still flowed down her chin. It was only another wound
on her already battered face where they had punched and slapped at her. Her arm
was broken; she knew this because nothing that was hurting as badly as it did
could be anything less than that. But still, she ran.
Three days ago—had it only been that
short of a time ago when she’d been in her own bed? The alarm to the windows
hadn’t sounded and even the ones to her bedroom door hadn’t awakened her. She’d
been sleeping soundly when, suddenly, there was a rag over her mouth and she’d
breathed in the first whiff of chloroform.
The first pain that ripped into her
shoulder nearly took her down and brought her from her memories. The second one
in her thigh had her falling. She had to get up. When she did, she could hear
them laughing behind her. They thought they had won. There was blood pouring
from her leg and she could only imagine what her shoulder was doing right now.
Limping more, she was off again. She had
just made it to the trees when another pain ripped through her, into her calf this
time. One of them had shot her again. Pain was pounding at her as hard as her
heart was beating and she could barely breathe through it. Leaning against a
tree to try and get her bearings she heard one of the men speak close beside
her. She figured that they were at least ten feet from her now.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are. Come
on, McCray, it’s not any fun when you don’t give us a sporting chance. You come
out and run again and we’ll slow down running after you.” He laughed and she
knew that his brother was close as well. “Tommy here said he’d give you ten
minutes head start. That’s more than you deserve after what you’ve done to us.”
She felt the tears mix with the blood on
her face. She hated tears more than she hated these men. All she’d done was
call the police on the pricks. She thought they should obey the law of not
stealing from your neighbor and they’d broken into her home four or five days
ago and kidnapped her. But she was sure as she was standing there that they’d
had help. Tommy and Jay Ingram were the meanest men she’d ever encountered. But
they were also the stupidest. And today, when they’d told her their plan, she’d
never dreamed they were serious.
She was to be their prey and they’d hunt
her like an animal. If she gave them a good time, they wouldn’t rape her. If
she didn’t play fair, then they’d fuck her over and over until she was dead
then leave her where she lay to let the animals have a feast on her dead body.
“Yeah, you come on out and show yourself
to us and I’ll give you those ten minutes that Jay said I would.” They
snickered like five-year-olds. “I got me a stopwatch all ready for you.”
Someone broke a stick right where she
was standing and she nearly bolted. But at the last second she froze. Right in
front of her was the biggest cat she’d ever seen. She didn’t even know that
panthers lived in this part of the world.
He was staring at her with the darkest,
most intelligent eyes she’d ever seen. And he wasn’t moving. She was sure that
if she did move he would take her down and have her for dinner. Right now, she
didn’t know if having a big cat chew her up would be preferable to being more
than likely raped repeatedly and then murdered by the idiots behind her. When
another branch broke, she looked to her left and saw that Jay was almost close
enough to touch.
The cat was looking between the man,
about two feet away from her and back at her. She didn’t, for whatever reason,
want the panther hurt. So she leaned down slowly, praying that her knees
wouldn’t pop, and picked up a small rock. She showed it to him and was sure he
nodded at her.
Lynne was hurting and couldn’t see well,
but tried to think where would be the best place to throw it. Looking as far to
the left of her as she could without giving away her position, she held her
breath and threw it as hard as she could. When it hit a tree near her, about
ten feet away, she nearly cried out in frustration, but when the men took off
in that direction, she bolted to the other. She’d have to live to fight another
She stumbled twice. Once when the cat
stood up and again when she realized that she was not just in pain, but sick
with it. Falling to the ground, she turned to see the brothers coming at her
and they looked pleased. She didn’t have it in her to fight now, she was all
“That wasn’t very nice, Lynne. We played
fair and now you—” The big cat lunged at Jay and took him down. The shot that
rang out made her think that she’d been hit again, but saw that Tommy had the
gun pointed at his brother and the cat. Struggling to stand, she hoped that the
cat ate them and silently thanked him for his help.
Another shot rang out and she heard a
scream. Shuddering and still moving slowly forward, she tried not to think
about the cat and how he’d saved her life. She might make it if she didn’t
bleed to death first.
Twice she had to stop to lean against a
tree. When she started to get too weak to move, she sat down. Gathering as many
leaves as she could find on the earthy floor, she covered herself up and leaned
gently against the tree behind her. Her back screamed at the pain, but she was
to the point she couldn’t go on. Closing her eyes, she thought that dying right
here would be the best solution to her weakness. Either she’d be too weak when
they found her and she wouldn’t care, or the big cat or one like him would come
find her and eat her up. Again, she probably wouldn’t care.
Corrine reached for her son. The old
fool just laid there, staring up at her. She looked at her mate and wanted to
kick him in the head. The darned old fool. When Khan answered her she wanted to
cry. He always sounded so distrustful.
“You have to come to the west wood. You’re
not going to believe this. Your father has been shot.”
She felt his
immediate concern and she continued
. “He’s going to be fine, more’s the
pity. What possessed him to take on a man with a gun? Could have been the girl,
but I don’t know. I would say it was the poor thing. All beat up like that.”
“Someone beat Dad? When? Where? What
girl are you talking about? I’m coming, and I’m bringing the rest with me.”
She told him to
bring the truck. He would need to load the old buzzard in it.
“Can he shift,
Mom? Is he hurt badly?”
“No. He’ll be fine. He and I were out
exploring when we came up on this noise.”
She looked off in the direction
that the girl had gone, knowing that she wouldn’t get far.
“Tell Walker to
come to me. I want him to see if he can find the girl before…she might already
be dead, the poor thing.”
Mom, we don’t need to find a girl. And
I’m assuming you mean a human girl. Let her die if that’s what is necessary. She
shouldn’t have been on—”
“Listen to me, young man. You will stop
that train of bull hockey right now. I will not have a young woman die on this
property if there is something this old woman and you can do to fix it.”
She looked at
her mate again.
“You stay home if you don’t want to help, but you send
Corrine wasn’t pack leader any longer,
but she was still Khan’s mother and he would listen to her or she’d take a
paddle to his hide. She didn’t care how much larger he was than her, he’d
darned well listen to her. Kneeling down next to George she ran her finger down
his cheek then smacked him. Darned old fool.
Walker showed up first. His long panther
was sleek with sweat from getting to her so quickly. She waited for him to
check out his dad before she told him what she needed. He was a good boy and,
unlike his older brother, Walker didn’t hate everyone that wasn’t like them.
“She was leaning against that tree. There’s
enough blood on it for you to scent her.” He stood up against the tree and
buried his nose in the bark. When he turned to look at her he had a very
strange expression on his face before he turned back to the tree and licked the
blood. “She went that way, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t get far. I know she’s
been shot at least twice and her face…” She wiped at the tear. “Walker, the men
who shot your dad were intent on killing her or worse. I believe they beat her
pretty badly as well.”
Walker dropped to his four paws and took
off. But not before he leaned against her and whimpered. She assured him that
she would be all right until the others got there and sent him on his way. She
had no idea where the girl had come from or where the men who had been chasing
her had come from, but they had been on family land, their land. She sat next
to George and waited for the cavalry to show up.
The first person to get out of the big
truck was Dylan, the bad boy of the family, yet so calm. He was one of her
middle children and the most laid back of all her sons. He walked over to his
dad and felt his pulse much the same way she had every two minutes since she’d
shifted to care for the old man.
Khan and Reed, the oldest at thirty-six
and the baby at twenty-six, rolled out next, each of them nearly vibrating with
anger. Marc just stood back and smiled. He always was one to let others settle
it before he’d take over if they didn’t do it fast enough. Khan, she had an
idea why he was upset, but Reed she didn’t. Before she could ask, he looked at
Khan and picked up the argument that had apparently been going on for some
“And what does it matter to you one bit
if I move out on my own? Maybe if I did then you’d quit breathing down my neck
all the time. I went to college like you made me. I thought you’d back—”
“When you get settled in a job, then
maybe. You want to end up in a dead-in job without any kind of future? I say
no. You’ll do what I tell you or so help me—”
“Enough.” Corrine looked at George and
nearly wept with happiness. But he looked mad enough to tear into both them and
the men who had shot him then his voice thundered again. “That’s quite enough
out of both of you. You’re upsetting your mother. Now, help me up. Where’s that
“I sent Walker after her. She’s hurt
pretty badly.” She let George lean on her as they made their way to the truck. One
of the boys, she noticed, had put a single mattress in the back for him.
“Walker will be able to track her with all that blood. And he’s the best suited
to find her. He’s supposed to let me know when he does.”