Slumber Page 57

All this I’d tell Haydyn… if I ever got out of this.

With renewed determination I thumped my bound hands down onto the floor, ignoring the bites and splinters from the wood. I began to drag myself along the ground. I didn’t have great upper body strength but I might have managed more easily if it weren’t for the stinging pain of my feet and the throbbing cut on my breast needling my brain, trying to slow me down.

I made it to the door, but I was already soaking with sweat. It took me another five minutes to wobble up onto my feet so I could pry the door open. As soon as it opened and the fresh air of the forest rushed against me, stealing me from the stink of the shack, I was submerged in dizziness. I leaned against the doorframe to collect myself.

Finally, I opened my eyes. My magic reached out to me, beckoning me back onto the path. If I could manage to hobble far enough away, perhaps I could find some way to untie the ropes. Carefully, concentrating, I balanced my body just right and hopped down onto the first step out of the shack. I wobbled a little, making my heart pitch in fear, but I was still standing. I took another breath and hopped again. This time I lost my balance and went crashing with a painful oomph onto the forest floor. A little winged bug stared up at me before flying off. I growled in fearful frustration and tried to pull myself into a standing position. Five falls later and I was back up.

That’s the pattern of how the day went. I couldn’t even remember how far I had fallen, hopped and dragged myself to. I kept freezing at every sound in the forest, trying to hear over the blood rushing in my ears. By nightfall, I was covered in sweat and mud and forest. But with no coat and a ripped shirt, I was thankful for the heat of the exertion. The shack felt long gone now, but still I remained terrified. I had no idea how far I’d come.

Night had fallen a few hours past when I heard a loud snap of a tree branch. I stilled, my heart fluttering like a snared animal. I glanced around sharply, trying to see movement in the dark. A large plant rustled and I whirled around. I could feel eyes on me. Boring into me. Trapping me.

A rush of warm fluid slid down my leg inside my trousers.

The rustle sounded again, another crack of tree.

Beady eyes appeared in the dark, low to the ground. I let go of my breath, my whole body sagging as some kind of possum darted out of the bush and away from me. Realisation dawned and I looked down in the dark at my trousers. Already I could smell the stench of urine.

Silently, I began to cry.

***

I made another mistake.

Sometime during the late night, perhaps early morning, my mind blank with agony and exhaustion, I had fallen again. I had only intended to take a minute to collect myself. But when my eyes finally peeled back open it was because a stream of sunlight was begging them to.

I blinked, confused. Where was I?

“Finally, ye be wakin’.”

The nightmare that had unbelievably been real, came rushing back at the sound of the Mountain Man’s voice. I closed my eyes as I was roughly turned around, the taste of dark soil on my lips.

“Open yer eyes!” he bellowed in my face, the putrid breath bringing back memories of the day before.

Not wanting to, but somehow needing to, I did as he demanded, opening my eyes to see his ugly face inches above mines, his large hands gripping my upper arms.

His eyes blazed with rage. “Ye goin’ to be gettin’ it bad, wife, for runnin’ off.”

I was dragged up into his arms. It took me a minute to wake up, but as soon as I did I started struggling. I was in so much pain already, his pinches and slaps didn’t stop me from giving him hell as he strode in long lurches back to his shack.

The magic screamed at me again, as he pulled me from its path.

When the shack appeared, I stopped struggling, slumping in his arms. We had walked perhaps thirty minutes using his long strides.

It had taken me hours to get thirty minutes away from this beast.

I gave a roar of rage and clobbered my bound hands against his head in impotent wrath. He snarled back at me, giving me a wounded look as if he were the victim, and not I. The fact that this man was clearly deranged made it worse. There would be no reasoning with someone like him.

I was thrown down on the pallet, as he slammed the shack door shut. The stench of dead meat filled the shack, and I gagged at the carcass of an animal in the other corner of the small room. But the carcass was the least of my worries.

My heart froze as the Mountain Man began undressing. I struggled away from him, my back pressed against the wall of the shack, my eyes frantically searching for a weapon as the Mountain Man loomed over me naked.

Fuck the chafing! I pulled my wrists back and forth frantically, desperate to be free. I could hear him laughing as he lowered himself to the ground, but still I kept rubbing my wrists back and forth, growling and crying at the agony as I ripped my wrists raw, the wetness of blood joining the savage sawing. Saliva and tears dripped off my chin as I refused to look at the man before me; refusing to give in.

I slammed back against the wall, wide-eyed as he crawled over me, straddling me. I looked into his face with so much hatred I hoped it incinerated him. His stench overwhelmed me as it had the last time, and my stomach lurched in response. His stale sweat and bad breath would have been enough to make me sick, but the odour of blood and old meat swam out of him as well. He smelled like death.

I closed my eyes and pushed away from him as his hands pawed at me, the muscles in my body twanging and twitching like the taut strings of a lute.

“Ye better start playin’, wife, or I’m goin’ to get mad.”

Despite his threat, I couldn’t stop flinching from his touch; I couldn’t have even if my mind had told me it was the safest thing to do. Instead I incurred his anger over and over again, pushing and struggling and jerking to get him off of me. One of his huge hands slid down over my face, and he pushed me, slamming my head off the wall. The minutes after that were distant and unclear. My head lolled on my shoulders, and I could only see and hear images. I swore I heard Wolfe’s voice, saw Haydyn’s face.

But they weren’t here.

As the present came back to me, my situation had worsened. I was flat on my back on the pallet, the Mountain Man still straddling me. My shirt had been ripped completely open by the knife in his hands. I was covered in little shallow cuts.

I gave a garbled cry and swung at his head with my hands, a weak hit, but enough to give me a moment to summon my energy. I bucked under him, trying to throw him off. I swung at him again, causing him to jerk away, giving me the momentum I needed to shake him off. I screamed like a banshee the entire time, using it to draw my adrenaline into usefulness.

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