Wind ripped through Taylor’s threadbare nightgown, assaulting her limbs with thousands of pin pricks. Ragged breaths tore at her already raw throat, sending her into a coughing spell. But she couldn’t slow down. The baby she carried depended on her. She depended on her.A gunshot filled the air, and her ears rang.
“You’ll never get away.”
At the sound of Jacob’s voice, Taylor’s gut wrenched. She froze to the cold lumpy earth.
Another shot exploded, jarring her back to reality. She dropped to the ground, pulling herself forward with her elbows. The tall meadow grass whooshed as she snaked through it. Sharp blades scratched at her neck and arms. One elbow landed on a stone and tears blurred her vision.
Moonlight ebbed. Sher lifted her head and glanced around. Her breath gushed out. Thank God. She’d reached the shadows. Once she made the forest line the trees would conceal her.
Flattening herself to the ground again, she twisted forward. Her elbows screamed in pain, but that couldn’t be helped. Once at home, they could be tended. Her heart raced and she paused. Home. She’d see her parents and take Joey to the park again. No, she wouldn’t go to the park! That’s what got her into this mess.
A rotted tree trunk lay in front of her. She pulled herself over it and rolled onto her side. Safe at last. The old man couldn’t see her anymore. She took a deep breath and the earthy scent of damp spruce needles filled her nostrils, reminding her of the times she’d cried herself to sleep those rainy nights when she’d been chained to the tree behind the cabin. Her throat tightened, but she swallowed against it. She couldn’t go there. Not yet. Escape first, then the old man would pay for all he’d done.
A wave of light swept across the trees. Shuffling footsteps approached, accompanied by laboured breathing.
Taylor leapt to her feet and dashed down the narrow deer trail she lay beside. Surely, it led to the creek.
A scream tore from hers throat but never passed her lips. Sledge’s front paws hit her back and she fell face first to the ground. The dog’s putrid breath filled the air as its teeth clamped onto her nightie, ripping it from her shoulder.
Then Jacob was there. The barrel of his gun poking into hers exposed back. “Wrench. You’ll pay for this. Mark my words.” He grasped her hair, yanking her head off the ground.
Her neck snapped and her skull burned. She clamped her teeth. There’s no way she’d let him see her cry. Pain shot through her ear and the side of her head, taking her breath away, and her face landed against the packed clay trail.
Jacob grabbed her hair again and hauled her up. He dropped his rifle to the ground and his freed fist crashed into her cheek bone. Bright lights filled her head and she crumpled back to the ground. Sledge’s sloppy tongue grazed her throbbing cheek, and a deep growl came from his throat as she tried to move away.
Beyond the dog, the old man laughed. “That’s all you’re good for, anymore. Dog food. And if it wasn’t for what’s inside you, I’d let the dog finish you off.”
Taylor closed her eyes. “Please God, take me home.”