A current of rasped breath wove through the inky brush hemming the path. The hoarse panting rose to an eddy of low growls.
Rayanna’s throat squeezed her voice to a rodent-like whisper. “I hear it.” A twig snapped within a few feet of the narrow trail. “What do we do?”
The flashlight beam swept the encompassing thickets. Over a dozen sets of crimson eyes glinted at waist-level, spangling either side of the trail.
Officer Bowery cursed.
With an expletive of her own, she muttered, “Huge.”
“Switch places.” Taking her by the shoulders, he shifted her to the lead. Then he unholstered his pistol.
Rayanna gaped at him. “How many–?”
“Run!” He shoved her with his forearm. “I’ll cover you the best I can.”
She sprint-staggered downhill, following the errant bob of his light beam when it hit the path. Rustling tore through the night-cloaked forest. Snarls deepened the chills pricked on her skin by the icy mist. She stumbled over roots, but grabbed reedy branches to stay aright. The steep path’s momentum threw her onward.
Bowery’s boots thundered behind her. Clawing noises pelted the forest floor.
Accompanying the snap of jaws and a shivering gust across her back, two massive shadows swooped to eclipse the beam. And the boot steps halted.
*** TO BE CONTINUED ***