Amy skirted a fat spruce at the bottom of the hill she was navigating and froze. A beautiful grassy meadow, about thirty yards across, opened up before her. Crossing it without being seen would be hard, but not impossible. What made her pause, however, was the prickly awareness running along her skin like goose bumps. Slowly, she eased back into the spruce’s needles, ignoring the thousands of tiny pin-pricks against her skin. Someone was out there.
She forced her breathing to slow, quieting the rush of air so she could listen. Leaves rustled, limbs creaked. No voices or footsteps broke the stillness. Not even a faint echo. Anyone else would have assumed there wasn’t a soul for miles. The peaceful quiet only made Amy more nervous.
With the ease of long practice, she melted farther back into the tree’s embrace, sideling through the thick branches with very little sound or movement. Reaching the thick trunk, she knelt on the carpet of old needles to make herself as inconspicuous as possible while she planned her next move.
That wild river ride should have put her several miles ahead of any pursuit. How had they gotten in front of her so fast? More importantly, who was it that waited so quietly for her to step into their trap? Couldn’t be the Wassiles. Despite their self-taught skills and knowledge of the area, Chet and his brothers were like a back-woods version of the Three Stooges compared to men like Chambliss and Velavich.
And the Harrier.
Amy’s heart jumped in her chest. The thought that Joshua might be tracking her made her limbs turn to jelly. If he’d somehow discovered she’d been taken, he’d probably just assume from the evidence that her kidnappers were the Wassiles. He wouldn’t be expecting a professional like Chambliss, or worse, Adrik himself.
She needed to warn him.
She stood, only to have her common sense stop her. She didn’t know for sure that it was Joshua out there. Odds were not in his favor. He’d probably already discovered her missing from the vet clinic, but how would he know where to search for her? That meant her stalker had to be either Chambliss or Adrik.
It would be just like her ex-lover to play a little cat and mouse before re-taking her. The sick bastard. He was so like his namesake, lying in wait until his prey came within striking distance. She hated the thought of being anywhere near him again. He’d almost killed her the last time.
A slight noise at the top of the hill she’d just descended caught her attention. The heavy footfall came again, followed by another, and another. Then the snap and crackle of broken brush. It sounded like a herd of elephants coming down the hill, which meant Chet and his stupid brothers had caught up to her. Amy quietly let out a disgusted breath. Damn it. She’d waited too long to cross the meadow. Now she was pinned down in her hiding spot. And if those three were here, Chambliss couldn’t be far away.
She’d have to—
An arm snaked around her from behind, hand clamping tight over her mouth. Amy didn’t waste time on screaming. She leaned back to put her attacker off balance, then threw her weight forward, trying to roll him beneath her. Satisfaction shot through her when she succeeded, only to change to chagrin when her attacker’s free arm and both legs wrapped around her, effectively trapping her. She had barely enough room to bring her hand around her hip, aiming for the tender flesh beneath the hard bulge pressing into her butt.“Careful, sweetheart, we might need those later.”