Winward, Chapter One
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Dianne sprinted through the front door. Her gaze fell on the outline of her car in the dark but before she could fish her keys out of her pocket, she tripped and pitched forward. The rotting wood of the steps splintered, and her arms ripped over exposed nails, drawing blood in deep gashes. The impact at the bottom caused her to bite down hard on her tongue, followed by the rusty taste of blood filling her mouth. She wanted to curl up on the ground, beg for sympathy that she knew would not be offered.
But she had to keep moving.
Gripping the keys tightly in her hand, she pushed herself to her feet and staggered to the car. It took several stabs before she scraped the key in, shoving it home as she finally lined it up.
Something was in the lock.
Dianne stared at it, shaking her head. This was the exact same thing she did every day when she left for work in the morning. Position the key, insert and turn. She didn’t understand what wasn’t working. Bending down, she peered into the tiny opening, squinting through the low light. She could just catch a reflection off of metal. Something had been jammed into the lock and snapped off. She ran around to the other side, only to find the lock filled there as well.
“God dammit!” she screamed, looking for anything on the ground she could use to smash the glass. A broken window in the grand scheme of things would be preferable if it meant she could get out of town and stay safe.
A popping sound rang out through the night, one she did not fully identify until she felt the impact. She blinked, suddenly on the ground and on her back as she heaved, trying to catch her breath. Pain flared out from her shoulder and she looked at the burned and collapsed flesh, now oozing darkened blood into her shirt. She reached over to touch the wound but before her fingers even made contact, her head filled with a high-pitched ringing and the pain made the world spin. She tried to move the arm, but the injured shoulder seemed to be blocking all signals as it proved to be unresponsive.
Dianne rolled over onto her good shoulder and pushed up, leaning against the car to struggle back to her feet. There wasn’t time. All she had left was to run. Gravel scraped under her feet as she shuffled towards the road, much slower than she had been running before. The pain flared with every step and she gritted her teeth to keep from screaming. If she could get away from the house, she would have a chance. She might be able to get away from this maniac.
She heard the engine revving before she felt the impact. Half turning, she had just enough time to see the car door swinging open to meet her, lifting her off her feet. She spun in the air, landing on her side. Rolling out of control, she began to tumble down the embankment. From somewhere within herself, she heard a snapping sound and wondered vaguely what she had broken.
On the road above her, she heard the sound of his car coming back. It crunched the rocks and debris as it came to a stop and the headlights speared out into the dark above her as she caught the sound of the door opening.
Broken bones or not, she had to get away. Lying there would only get her killed. She couldn’t just give up. Pain lanced up her leg when she tried to stand and she dropped back to the ground. She rolled over, grabbing fistfuls of grass and weeds as she tried to pull herself away. The will to live propelled her, even as she listened to the sound of his footsteps approaching.
“Son of a bitch.” She heard herself starting to cry. How had she ever thought she could get away from him in the first place? Even if she did elude him, she would likely just end up passing out somewhere.
A work boot came down on her shoulder and applied pressure. Pain surged through her as the wound pulled open. After several seconds, the foot let up, but just enough to hook underneath her arm and roll her over onto her back. She heard the dry click of a revolver.
She knew it was pointless, hated herself for being so weak, for giving him the satisfaction of seeing that weakness. But in the end, her panic forced her to grab for whatever straw she could think of. “Please. Please don’t, I—”
He knelt and brought the barrel of the gun down until she felt the cool metal against her forehead. Her pleading increased in pitch, rushing up towards panic.
“Please don’t do this. You don’t have to…you can’t—”
The single shot drowned out Dianne’s screams and silenced her forever.
Winward is available for the Kindle and in paperback. It is also available to read for free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.