The water dragged at Rayanna’s clothing as she trudged across the stream’s flow. A dripping cocoon of clingy hair and cloth, she emerged with soggy, weighted steps and slogged across the rocky bank. She tugged her blouse at various spots to peel it from her skin. Wrung from the fabric, mineral-scented water splattered the fist-sized rocks underfoot. Tossing the water from her long tresses, she climbed back onto the stone ledge and sat beside the dead man’s keys.
A trickle of moonlight glinted on the handcuff tool. She flicked a glance overhead at passing clouds with a silent plea to afford her enough time to free herself. The crisp night air sent trembles through her wet body. Shaky hands added to the struggle of fitting the key into her cuffs from an awkward angle. She dropped her jangly handful twice. Just as a shadow slinked over the moon, the bit slid into place and she twisted it with a click.
Her fetters clattered onto the stone. Rayanna massaged her sore wrists. As she tossed the cuffs and keys into the center of the riverbed, a breeze whistled through the treetops. Thin branches reached into the open air above the stream and waved. Shivers soon compelled her to rub her arms instead. Her flat, broad perch left her exposed.
She cast furtive glances at the tightly woven darkness hemming the waterway. The bristling creature’s ambush, strewn human carnage, and howls from the bowels of this forest haunted her thoughts.
If I stay here, the cops might never take me in. But something far worse could find me first. She scrutinized the brush around her, but found no red-eyed gleams to substatiate her suspicion. A lurking presence pressed against the air around her back. She shuddered under the palpable gaze of a predator.
With a sharp inhale, she plunged back into the chilly water and forged her way to the opposite bank.
*** TO BE CONTINUED ***