Cold in the Shadows

By: Toni Anderson

A wave of unease stole over her as she became aware of how dark it was. In the five minutes since she’d parked, dusk had eased into the velvet blackness of night. The porch light on the cabin hadn’t come on the way it was supposed to—the bulb must have burned out.

The snap of a twig made her startle and glance around.

Oh, no, you don’t. No running from shadows.

She pushed aside the fear that wanted to rear up and forced herself to keep moving, one awkward step at a time. One tragedy was not going to define her life. She was the lucky one.

Living through violent crime made her sister’s choices all the more frustrating, but that was the beauty and burden of freedom and personal choice. Not everyone got it right. Audrey dragged her load the final few steps to her front door and searched her pockets for the key. It was so dark she could barely see her hand in front of her face. Behind her, the scream of a howler monkey filled the air.

Her heart virtually stopped. Then she laughed and the tension eased. She loved the wildlife here—except for the cockroaches. She could definitely live without the cockroaches.

Using touch alone, her fingers scraped over the smooth wood and found the cool metal of the lock. She inserted her key and stepped inside, flipping the light switch. Nothing happened. Dammit. She was going to have to head back down the hill and talk to the caretaker.

An arm snaked around her middle, pulling her roughly against an unyielding body. Terror flooded her mind as a gloved hand clamped over her mouth.

No, no, no!

Her assailant hauled her off her feet, and she dropped the groceries. Eggs smashed against the tile floor. The scent of sweat, the power in his arms, the rigid muscles of his chest told her the attacker was large, physically fit, and male. She drove her heel backward, connecting with his shin, but her sandals made little impact. Adrenaline flooded her body, reminding her of another time, another pulse-pounding moment of terror when she’d thought she was going to die. Reaching behind her, she dug her nails into the flesh of his waist. He hissed as she scratched him, then shook off her grip like she was an annoying fly. He carried her to the kitchen and maneuvered her until she lay face-first on the unforgiving floor.

He grabbed one of her arms, wrenching it behind her back. Pain shot to her shoulder blade and she yelped as he looped something thin and stiff over her wrist, roughly jerking her other hand to meet the first. He tightened the plastic zip ties and her arms were securely bound.

Oh, God!

He was going to rape her. She was going to die.

Panic detonated like a nuclear device inside her brain. She scrambled like a mad thing, twisting and squirming, then found her voice and screamed. His weight crashed full-force onto her chest and stole the air from her lungs. Her cry was smothered and she could barely move. This couldn’t be happening.

“No te voy a hacer daño.” The voice was a hoarse whisper of Spanish. A local? I’m not going to hurt you. Sure. That’s what murderers and rapists said so people didn’t give them any trouble while they destroyed your life. “I have a message for you.” English this time.

She wheezed. “Most people use email, asshole—”

The pressure on her back increased as he gave her his full weight. God, why hadn’t she kept her stupid mouth shut? Tears pricked her eyes. Her wrists strained against the tight plastic as he straddled her back then swiveled toward her feet. She kicked at his face, but he captured her legs one at a time, and wrapped another tie around her ankles, cinching it tight. Less than twenty-seconds and she was trussed up like a Sunday frickin’ roast. He rested on top of her for a moment, breathing heavily. She grabbed his testicles and squeezed.

He swore and shifted quickly out of reach, turning to face forward again, putting even more of his weight on her back as he lay down on top of her. Her skin crawled.

Then he chuckled. “Luchadora.”

Feisty? She wasn’t feisty, she was furious.

Nausea threatened. “Please, I-I can’t breathe.” Terror made her voice thin, and she tried to force herself to calm down even as her heart raced. It was impossible. She wasn’t too proud to beg. She didn’t want to die.

Her vision wavered. The walls pressed in on her. The sound of her heartbeat thrashed in her ears. The floor was unrelentingly hard against her cheek, the tile digging painfully into her hipbones and breasts. She went inside herself, concentrated on trying to expand her ribs. After five long seconds of silence, the man eased up the pressure on her back, enough that she could suck in a little oxygen. He moved warily, even though it was hideously obvious she wasn’t the threat. She twisted her head to look at him, but it was too dark to make out any distinguishing features. He wore black clothes and possibly even a mask.

Top Books