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SNEAK PEEK of The Last Hunt!

Updated: Jun 14


Madison clamped a hand over her mouth to muffle the cry that escaped when her ankle rolled

off the side of her heeled sandal. A crack split the air, and pain shot up the side of her foot. The

sound hadn’t come from a branch crunching beneath her feet but from bone. She stifled a

whimper and forced herself to keep moving, gritting her teeth as her ankle gave out.

She sank to the uneven ground. With a trembling hand, she ripped off her sandals,

straining to hear the man’s heavy footsteps running after her. The handcuff still dangled from her

wrist, fastened so tight she was losing feeling in her hand. She struggled to her feet, resisting

the urge to grunt from the agony in her ankle, and ran through the woods with her arms out in

front to keep from smacking into a tree.

She could no longer hear the man behind her. Maybe the setting sun had been a

blessing in disguise. The darkness would give her a chance.

She tripped on a log and went down with a thud. Her palm scraped against a pinecone

as a bright beam swept the branches hanging beside her. Madison crouched lower as the beam

swung to the left, willing her shaking body to be still.

The man’s voice drifted through the trees. “This will go easier for you if you give up.

Trust me, Madison.”

Madison closed her eyes and inhaled a shallow breath. The venom in his voice was

obvious now. How had she been so stupid to get inside his car?

But when she met him outside the Wolf Pack Bar, he seemed so harmless. So nice.

“You need a hand with that?” he’d asked after she slammed the hood of her first-

generation Ford Focus. He motioned to the adjacent parking lot in front of the diner. “I’ve got

jumper cables if you need some.”

Turning around, she found a dark-haired man standing a few feet behind her. “Thanks,

but it won’t help." This had happened before. Her car was a year older than she was, and it

needed a new transmission. But she was hoping it would run for at least another year, so she

could save up from her first year of teaching to buy something more reliable. She sighed,

knowing that was no longer an option. “I’ll have to take it into the shop tomorrow.”

“I can give you ride.”

“Oh.” He had a kind face, and an attractive one at that, but she wasn’t about to accept a

ride from a stranger in a town where she knew no one. “That’s okay. I can walk.” The house she

was renting was only a couple of miles from the bar.

After a few steps, the balls of her feet already ached. She looked down and remembered

she’d worn her most uncomfortable shoes, not anticipating she’d be walking any farther than the

ten feet from her parking spot to the bar.

The man put up his hands, his plaid shirtsleeves rolled up to his elbows. “Sorry, I wasn’t

trying to pick you up.” He smiled sheepishly.

Even in the waning daylight, Madison could see his face change color. Was he blushing?

“It’s just that we get a lot of truckers passing through here.” He pointed his thumb over

his shoulder where drunken laughter erupted from the row of semis parked outside the diner.

“It’s not the safest town to be walking around alone at night.”

Despite it being only dusk, it was nearly midnight. And it would be dark long before she

made it home. She remembered the college girl who’d gone missing last fall after her shift from

this very bar. Bethany. When her body was found, it had been all over the Fairbanks news,

where Madison did her student teaching. Like herself, Bethany had been an ed major.

“I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. Just be careful.”

She watched the man continue toward the bar, knowing she was likely being paranoid

not to accept a ride from him. He was just trying to help.

More laughter reverberated from the other side of the parking lot. Madison glanced in the

direction of the parked semis. She would have to walk right past them to get home.

She took a few steps in her cheap-heeled sandals before turning around. The man

reached for the door of the bar.

“Hey,” she called out.

He turned.

“Actually, I’ll take you up on that ride. Thank you.”

It wasn’t until after he missed the turn for her house that his demeanor changed. The

disarming man she’d met in the parking lot was gone. After ignoring her pleas to turn around,

the man’s voice had morphed into a vicious snarl as he sped along the Alaska Highway and

announced that she wasn’t going home.

He could be the same monster who killed Bethany.

Madison had reached for the door handle. The man cinched a metal handcuff around

her wrist and yanked her arm away from the door. Fueled by terror, Madison grasped the handle

with her other hand and threw herself out of his speeding car.

Now, she held her breath as the bright beam swept across the forest in the opposite

direction from where she lay. A twig dug into the raw flesh on her elbow from where she’d skid

across the pavement.

She exhaled, lowering her face to her forearm as branches crunched beneath his shoes

a few feet from where she lay. Her lungs stilled as the beam shone onto her back, illuminating

the forest floor around her. She pushed against the ground with her palms.

She was only a few inches off the ground when the weight of the man’s knee on her

back shoved her down. His grip clamped around her handcuffed wrist, yanking it behind her

back. With her other hand, she frantically swept the ground around her until her fingers brushed

the edges of a cold rock the size of a softball.

She gripped it, then twisted her torso and swung the rock into the side of her assailant’s

skull. The man’s head recoiled sideways from the blow. He grunted in pain and his grip

loosened. She pulled her arm free as he rolled off her back, cradling his head in his hands.

She got to her feet, pain shooting up the side of her leg like an electric shock. She bit the

inside of her lower lip and limped in the direction of the highway.

When she reached the edge of the forest, she sagged forward, resting her hands on her

knees. Ahead, the light from the moon drew the edges of an empty stretch of highway. A branch

snapped on the ground several feet behind her.

She whipped around, envisioning the man creeping toward her through the darkness.

But all she could see was the outline of the dark woods. As fast as her ankle allowed, she raced

down the dry ditch separating her from the road when a pair of headlights appeared in the

darkness. Thank God. She waved her arms above her head before her ankle gave out again,

then crawled up the side of the ditch on her hands and knees.

When she reached the blacktop, she stood, stepping over the white line into the lane of

the oncoming car, frantically waving her hands. The headlights slowed. Her chest heaved with


She stole a glance over her shoulder, making sure the man hadn’t followed her onto the

road. Her breath stuck in her throat as the vehicle’s bright beams illuminated a pair of eyes in

the tree line. They stood much too short to belong to the man.

Something emerged from the trees as the car braked to a stop, the heat from its engine

warm against her legs. The headlights illuminated the forest and lit up the figure’s tail, and

Madison watched in horror as the coyote ran beside the ditch in the opposite direction before

tucking into the forest.

The driver’s door opened, and Madison pivoted slowly on her bare feet, knowing who it

was even before he stepped in front of the car. The road swayed beneath her as his plaid shirt

moved in front of the headlights.

“There you are.” A sick smile played at the sides of his mouth. Blood dripped down the

side of the face she'd found attractive less than an hour ago. “I told you this wasn’t a safe town

to be walking alone at night.”

Madison spun and ran in the opposite direction along the vacant highway as fast as her

injured ankle would allow. Please let there be another car. Someone. As she strained to see

through the darkness, the image of her parents waving goodbye to her from their Fairbanks

driveway last week flashed to the front of her mind. Her dad wrapped his arm around her mom’s

shoulders as Madison backed out of their sloped drive. It had never occurred to her that it could

be the last time she’d ever see them. The two-lane road was dark as far as she could see. She

choked back a sob.

Behind her, the driver’s door slammed. The car’s engine revved seconds before tires

squealed atop the pavement. Its beams grew closer. Madison darted for the ditch.

Before she crossed the fog line, the metal bumper struck the backs of her thighs,

throwing her to the ground as everything went black.



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