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Female Prey (S J Lewis)


Female Prey by S J Lewis

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Female Prey: The Trek by S J Lewis

Ready for a wild adventure, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty, Kimberley, hikes into the forest alone, knowing that somewhere nearby are anonymous men who will hunt her down like an animal, take her captive, and keep her as their sex toy for days on end. She is eager for the experience - in fact, she set up the game with a clandestine company that specializes in unique wilderness adventures like this one. But, just to make the experience more fun, she decides to make the hunters work before she lets them have her. Her scheme takes the men by surprise, and the days that follow are grueling for Kimberley and the posse that tails her. Maybe it's not so much fun after all, she begins to think... maybe she should call off the hunt, and go back to the resort hotel where she started - spend her week enjoying the luxury of room service...hot baths and sensuous pampering...

Unfortunately, it's too late to change her plans and she's on the run...forced into a game of escape and evade. While Kimberley knows the outdoors and can survive on her own, her pursuers know it better. Tired and hungry, she is finally captured, and her days of naked slavery begin.

She's kept in a cell below ground...unable to tell when one day ends and another begins. She knows there is a limit to her captivity, but she has no idea when it will end. As the days go by, Kimberley learns about her captors, especially the big, strong leader of the gang she calls 'Alpha'. He's rough with his newly captured slave, and as the days goes by, Alpha's power over her increases...the things they make her do alarm her. But soon she's doing more than enduring the forced nudity, bondage and torrid sexual gangbangs. Perhaps, she doesn't want her adventure in the wilds to end?

This steamy novel is a sexy, savage read...including a shocking sexual awakening for the unsuspecting Kimberly and plenty of hard-hitting sexual content ... BDSM, imprisonment, mild torture, straight, oral and anal sex, girl/girl action and hot group orgies.

Product type: EBook    Published by: Pink Flamingo Media    Published: 7 / 2011

We do not recommend this book for readers under 18 years of age

No. words: 55000

Style: BDSM/Bondage - Content: Moderate -    Male Dom - M/F, Sado-Masochism (SM)

Available Formats: Palm  MobiPocket (MOBI)  EPUB  Sony Reader (LRF)  PDF  MS Reader  This book has a format which can be downloaded to Kindle

Current all-time sales ranking: #1998


Excerpt..

CHAPTER ONE

Third Day Out
Thunder rumbled and echoed behind her. Kimberley halted on the trail and turned to look back. The sky was growing dark, clouds piling up. She took off her well-worn cowboy hat and wiped her forearm across her brow.
There…she saw a distant flash of lightning. She began counting off the seconds until the sound of thunder reached her. Five, maybe six miles. The storm looked as if it was heading her way. She put her hat back on, tugging the brim down to shade her eyes. If the map she was following was right, there was a shelter of some sort about three miles further down the trail. On flat ground she was sure she could beat the storm there, but this damned trail meandered up and down, around and around, like a demented snake. Off to her left was the long, green bulk of the mountain. Small spur ridges ran off of it, sloping down towards a lake miles away. The trail went up and down these, sometimes taking odd little detours. Between the spurs were occasional small, rocky streams. While the trail itself seemed to have been kept cleared, it was rough going at best, and she’d have to push herself to beat the rain. Shrugging her backpack into a more comfortable position, she set off again, down slope.
From his up slope vantage point about a quarter mile away, he’d gotten a good look at her when she paused and turned around. He’d even had time get his field glasses out. He’d been trailing her since late yesterday, and this was the first chance to see her close up.
From the backpack and the bulky flannel shirt she wore he couldn’t tell how she was built topside, but those were very nice legs coming out of those tan walking shorts. He zeroed in on her face. It was a good face: high cheekbones, aristocratic little nose, full lower lip, upper lip a bit thin, nice big blue eyes. Those eyes were narrowed as she looked at something far off, a small crease appearing just over the bridge of her nose. He could see her lips moving slightly as she kept watching. The face matched the picture he had, except for one thing. In the photo, she’d had long, really long, honey-blond hair. The hair was the same warm color, but it had been cut so short that now it was more like a curly cap for her head. What he found most interesting was that with her hair that short, now he could see her ears. They were pretty enough ears, to be sure, but they seemed to tilt back a bit more than usual, were a bit narrow, which made them seem longer than they were, and they came to rounded points at the tips. The whole effect made him think of drawings he’d seen of elves.
The roll of thunder reached him, and a moment later she turned back down the trail and disappeared down the slope. Trying to beat the storm, he guessed. There was a rickety old shelter a couple of miles further along. She must be trying for that. He took out his small radio. Time to contact Kurt.
As she trudged along, Kimberley kept hearing occasional growls of thunder…getting closer, it sounded. She was tempted to quicken her pace, but on this trail it would be risky. There were too many loose rocks, too many slopes. The approaching storm came as no surprise to her. The past three days had been hot, dry and dusty, and it was about time for the weather to change. The timing was inconvenient, though. She topped another of those innumerable spur ridges and started down the other side.
She had the odd feeling that she was being watched. It had started yesterday. She hadn’t seen or heard anybody since, but the feeling wouldn’t go away. Well, these woods were thick enough to hide any number of people. Maybe it was just her isolation getting to her. Maybe…but she didn’t think so.
It was time for one of her regular five-minute rest halts, but that storm kept sounding closer and closer. She kept walking. Almost halfway there, now.
He could hear the thunder too, getting nearer. He was traveling on an upper trail that wasn’t shown on her map. The going up here was a bit easier, except for the small branches that kept slapping at his face. He pushed on. He could get to the old shack before she did, and be under cover before she arrived. Kurt was somewhere up ahead, on the same trail as she was. Lloyd was out of range of his radio, but Kurt was in touch with him and could relay messages.
It was ominously dark by the time she reached the shelter. It was a weather-beaten old two-room shack sitting at one side of a clearing. It leaned disturbingly, the windows were long gone, and what she could see of the roof was unpromising. But there was a narrow porch on the lee side of the building. The roof extended over it, and looked sound enough. She shrugged off her backpack and leaned it against the grayed wooden wall, then sat down alongside it. The air had grown very still. Even the birds she’d been hearing for days were quiet. There was a faint grumbling of thunder from far off, and then a cool breath of air stirred the leaves. A moment later, the rain hit. It fell as if someone had emptied a lake overhead, a driving curtain of rain that blocked her view of anything more than a few feet away. Then lightning struck somewhere very close by, leaving her blinking and unable to see much anyway. When the afterimages faded, she looked up at the roof overhead. A few small drips here and there were getting through, but not over her or her gear. The old building shook and groaned as the wind hit it, but it seemed to be up to the onslaught. She relaxed a little, and wondered how long the storm would last. She still had some ground to cover today.
He lay flat in the thick brush at the edge of the clearing as the rain pounded on his waterproof poncho. He hoped it really was waterproof. It was a camouflage pattern, but right now that was unimportant. Visibility was almost nothing. Fat raindrops were splashing water and bits of loose dirt into his face. Nothing to do but wait it out.
The downpour seemed to go on and on, but after a while he thought he could see some signs of it letting up. A little bit later, he could make out the outlines of the shack, some sixty or seventy feet away. He kept his eyes fixed on it. When he could finally see her, she was sitting on the porch, knees drawn up, back against the shack. She looked perfectly at ease, smoking a crooked little black cigar.
Kimberley took another slow drag, exhaled the acrid smoke out into the rain. It was definitely letting up now, but there was no way to tell how much longer it would go on. The front seemed to be moving pretty quickly though.
Well, it would have to happen soon, she thought to herself. She had at best only two more days’ rations, and she was down to her last change of clean clothes. If she had to, she could wash stuff out in one of those damned little creeks she had to keep crossing, but food was another matter. If she ran out, she would have to forage something from these woods. The cigar was down to a stub. She flicked it out into the rain, and stood up, stretching. The past days had been hot and sweaty, and there’d been no chance to do more than a quick wash-up from a stream. Right out there was a perfectly good shower, and she wasn’t going to let it go to waste. She fished the soap and a towel from her backpack and began to undress.
He watched, fascinated. The information he had on her only covered so much: Kimberley Anne Jacobsen, age twenty-six, height five-four, degree in archaeology, blond hair, surprisingly light blue eyes. But that, and the few pictures, only told you so much. He was getting more of an education now. Under the flannel shirt, she wore a snug green T-shirt. As she pulled it off over her head, he saw that under that she wore some sort of sports bra. It followed the T-shirt, and then she shucked off her shorts and panties. He must have missed her taking off her hiking shoes. She stretched once, slowly and luxuriously before stepping lightly off of the porch and into the rain. He heard her yelp as the chilly water hit her and grinned. He could have told her about that. She began soaping herself quickly.
He was reminded even more of an elf. She was slender: slim-hipped, with long, strong legs and cute little teats. He had categories for women’s mammaries: titties, teats, breasts, boobs and “Lower Back Pain.” They corresponded roughly to A, B, C, D and E cups. She did a very thorough job of showering. Every so often, she’d give a tiny yelp as her bare feet stepped on something uncomfortable, and dance around a little. He wished he were close enough to see her better. She seemed to be a natural blonde, but he was interested in seeing the effect of the cool rain on those pink nipples. Well, time enough for such things later. Meantime, it was very hard to just lie here and watch her. He was tempted to jump up and rush her right now...but neither Kurt nor Lloyd would approve. This had to be done properly. He gave one silent sigh, and kept watching. She looked to be in great shape. Might even last out the whole thing.
Cold water was starting to seep in under his poncho. With her so close, though, he didn’t dare move. He thought about getting his hands on that lovely young body later, and grinned.
When she couldn’t stop shivering, Kimberley decided she was clean enough. She hopped back up onto the porch and picked up the towel. It was a good thing she’d had her hair cut short for this…hike, she thought. If it were the old length, thick as it was it would take forever to dry. Besides, she rather liked the pixie-ish look this style gave her. In the right light, she looked nineteen again. She rubbed herself down vigorously with the towel, going over her bare skin until it glowed pink. That done, she hung the towel on a protruding nail and broke out her last clean clothes from her backpack.
Watching her dress was nowhere near as interesting as watching her undress. He stayed still under cover and watched, though. Her new outfit looked much like her old one, except that the oversized flannel shirt was some shade of dark blue. Still barefoot, she sat down on the porch as she had before, and lit another one of those little cigars. Apparently she was going to wait out the rain. There was a cold puddle under him now, and he put it down to her account.
At long last the rain began to peter out. Sunshine began to poke through the last ragged dark clouds. Kimberley pulled on her socks and shoes. The towel was still damp. She folded it up and stowed it away anyway. She could spread it out for drying when she camped for the night. Shouldering her backpack, she set off along the trail again.
He gave her a ten-minute head start before following. By now his whole front was dripping wet, cold and very uncomfortable. Nothing he could do about that right now. He took out his radio to contact the others. He had an idea where she’d probably make camp for the night. Kurt and Lloyd could intercept her there, while he followed her in case she tried to double back, or stopped early.
The ground was still a bit soggy, but drying out fast. Kimberley loved the smell of the woods after a rain, rich and earthy. She could hear birds again: blue jays squabbling over something. The storm hadn’t lasted all that long, but she’d still have to make up for some lost time. There was a spot marked on her map that looked like an ideal campsite. There was a spring near it, and plenty of firewood available. She’d need the firewood. It would get chilly tonight, after the storm. It was already noticeably cooler. She loved the outdoors, the physical activity, pushing herself...she stopped abruptly. She had been pushing herself. Frowning, she took out the map she’d been given and looked at it. It was a pretty detailed relief map, showing the rugged country she’d been hiking. It also showed just the one trail, the one she’d been on since the start. On that trail, her ultimate destination, marked “Safety Zone”, was about seven days’ walk from her starting point. When she started out, they’d given her five days’ rations for the trek. Without thinking much about it, she’d been trying to squeeze a little bit more distance out of each day so that she could—just possibly—do it in six days.
She sat down on an old fallen tree trunk to think things over. Not all that long ago she was sure that it would have to happen soon. She’d also had the feeling she was being watched, though she didn’t have it at this particular moment. She looked at the spot she’d picked for her campsite tonight. It was obviously a good spot. And, if it was obvious to her, it would be just as obvious to anyone else with a similar map. She chewed on her lower lip for a moment. It was the perfect place for them—whoever they were—to intercept her. She shivered, not entirely unpleasantly. Well, that WAS kind of the point of her going out into the woods alone, wasn’t it? Still, why make it easy for them? She stood up and began to pace back and forth, every so often looking up the trail she’d been ready to follow. Now it smelled like a trap. She could still walk into it, but somehow it wouldn’t be as much fun. Was fun the right word here? She shook her head as if to clear it. She wanted an adventure, damnit.
So…what to do? The first thing that came to her mind was to follow one of those ravines down towards the lake. Going downhill would be easier, and near the lake the ground looked to be more even. Even so, it would take more time to get to the “Safe Zone”. Food would run a bit short. She patted the survival knife she carried at her belt. Inside the hollow handle was some fishing line and a few hooks. She didn’t really need them, though. She could catch fish without them. Yes, the lake would be ideal. So, she’d have to go uphill. She looked up at the mountain and grinned. She’d hiked in much rougher places.
He was still uncomfortably soggy when he came to the spot where she’d stopped for a bit, then seemed to have walked back and forth for a while before setting out on the trail again. Her footprints were easily visible in the still-damp earth. He was a bit puzzled. There didn’t seem to be any reason for her to do that. Maybe she was trying to work out a cramp?
He shrugged. It wasn’t that important anyway. He set off along the trail again, grinning in anticipation of the night to come. It took him some time to realize he’d been had. He took out his radio and called Lloyd and Kurt.
“Yeah?” Kurt sounded tired and testy.
“Any sign of her yet?” he asked.
“Not yet.” Kurt replied. “Why?”
“Doesn’t she seem to be running a bit late?”
“Well, yeah…” Kurt agreed. “You have her in sight?”
“Nope.” He answered. “She went off the trail someplace back. I have to go find out where. Lloyd with you?’
“About a half-mile away now.”
“Okay. The two of you wait there until you hear from me. She might double back yet.”
As he clicked off the radio, he grinned to himself. It looked like the elf-girl wanted to make them work for her. That was fine by him. He always liked it when they did that. Nothing in the world beat hunting down human prey. Mentally, though, he was kicking himself for simply assuming she’d stick to the trail and not bothering to look for her tracks. Well, she’d fooled him that once. He retraced his steps, looking for her tracks. He had to go all the way back to the last ravine he’d crossed and re-crossed it. Her tracks were there on that side, all right, but they didn’t come out on the other. She’d gone along the ravine, then, where it was too rocky for tracks. He looked uphill and down, trying to see some clue as to the direction she’d taken. No luck. Okay…which way would she go?
He wished he had a bit more information to go on than the little in her file. It didn’t tell him much about her. He sat down on a boulder that the stream in the ravine had half-excavated to do some thinking. He hadn’t been expecting her to do this. She had, though, which meant there was a bit more to her than he’d first allowed. He almost regretted not grabbing her earlier as she pranced in the rain, but she was giving them a more interesting game to play.
Downhill? Well, maybe. The ground got a lot easier close to the lake, but the underbrush was a lot thicker there too. He looked up the ravine. It was rocky, very tough going, and the stream was starting to rise as the rain began draining down the mountain’s flanks. He clicked on the radio.
“Hey, Kurt…”
“Yeah?”
“Lloyd there yet?”
“He’s here.” Kurt replied.
“Okay, look. I’m at a ravine. She went into it, but didn’t come out. She can only go up or downhill. One of you head down towards the lake, keep an eye out for her there. I’m going uphill.”
“You think she went up?” Kurt asked.
“Not sure.” He answered. “She might have gone a little ways just to throw us off. I think she’s going to try to beat us to the Safe Zone, whichever way she went. So one of you has to stay put, in case she tries to get back on the trail.”
“Okay…which one of us goes, which one stays?”
“I don’t care. Figure it out yourselves. I’ll call in if I pick up her trail.”
“Roger that.” Kurt acknowledged. “I like it when they run.”
He clicked off the radio and stored it away. That climb looked rugged. He hoped she didn’t break a leg or something before they caught up to her. He stood and began trudging up the ravine.
Kimberley noted how fast the water was rising, and decided it might be a good idea to get up out of this thing and just walk alongside it. She looked around for a way out, and spotted a smaller gully that fed into the ravine. That ought to do.
It was trickier going than she’d expected. The bed of the gully was mostly loose rocks that threatened to shift under her weight, and in the end it took maybe half an hour to climb out onto more level ground. She was breathing heavily when she was done, but at least now she was safe from being swept away by the water. It was rushing through the ravine now with a constant hissing roar. The soil must not be very deep to get so much runoff so quickly, she noted. She struck out upslope, keeping the ravine to her left. Trees and underbrush sometimes forced her away from it for a while, but she could always find it again just by going towards the noise. She grinned to herself. They’d have to work pretty hard to find her now.
The water was getting too high and too fast, and he had to haul himself out of the ravine by some exposed tree roots and handy vines. Standing on the edge, he looked down at the water surging by and hoped she hadn’t gotten caught in it. He doubted she had, but if she’d gotten out on the other side it was going to be damned hard to spot her tracks from over here. Still, if she went up far enough, she’d strike the upper trail, and probably follow it for a while at least. Since it wasn’t shown on her map, she wouldn’t be sure just where it finally led. Shrugging his backpack into a more comfortable position, he moved uphill. It would be getting dark soon. Maybe he’d be lucky enough to stumble across her camp before it got too dark. He’s settle for picking up her trail.
Kimberley was feeling rather pleased with herself. She’d hiked a long way today, much of it over rough ground. She felt a bit tired now, but the good kind of tired you get from pushing yourself physically. Still...it was getting darker, and soon it would be too dark to see things she might walk into or trip over. It was time to make camp for the night.
Some time ago, one of the taller trees had toppled over, the result of wind or age and death. The opening it left in the canopy above had given a number of small pines the chance to grow. They were pretty thickly clustered, and offered plenty of cover. She eased in between them, finding a spot just big enough for her to unroll her sleeping bag. This would be perfect.
She shucked off her backpack, wincing a little as various muscles announced they had cramps, and propped it up against one of the pines. In a few practiced minutes, she had the sleeping bag laid out. She sat down gratefully on it and began to unlace her hiking boots when she paused. What if they came across her during the night? She’d need the boots for running. But, somehow, the thought of sleeping in her rather muddy boots was distasteful. If nothing else, they’d get the inside of the sleeping bag dirty. She shrugged. If they could find her in this cover in the dark, being able to run probably wouldn’t help her much. She unlaced the boots and placed them carefully close to hand, so she could find them in the dark. Her socks she kept on. It felt like it was going to be a cold night, and she’d welcome any little extra insulation she could get. The last thing she did before climbing into the bag was to retrieve her canteen and some food from her backpack. She wouldn’t risk a fire tonight.
He’d been searching the ground carefully as he moved uphill, looking for any sign that elf-girl had been this way. It slowed him down, but if he came across her trail he was sure he could catch up to her in time. Meantime, until he did find her trail speed meant nothing.
It was almost too dark to see when he came across what he’d been looking for. There in a patch of bare ground were three distinct boot prints, heading uphill. They looked fresh, they looked like hers, and in any case, who else would be out here now? He couldn’t tell how long ago they’d been made. Could be a few minutes, could be a few hours. But she was definitely heading upslope, and would probably find the upper trail some time tomorrow morning. He took out his radio. It only had enough range to reach whoever had stayed put on the trail, but that ought to be enough. Once he’d made his report he could think about where to sack out for the night. All he had for sleeping was a blanket roll, but that would be enough. When he was still in the Rangers, often he’d had to manage with a lot less.
Zippered snugly into her sleeping bag, Kimberley slept very soundly, untroubled by dreams.


Excerpt..

CHAPTER ONE



Third Day Out

Thunder rumbled and echoed behind her. Kimberley halted on the trail and turned to look back. The sky was growing dark, clouds piling up.
She took off her well-worn cowboy hat and wiped her forearm across her brow.

There…she saw a distant flash of lightning. She began counting off the seconds until the sound of thunder reached her. Five, maybe six
miles. The storm looked as if it was heading her way. She put her hat back on, tugging the brim down to shade her eyes. If the map she was
following was right, there was a shelter of some sort about three miles further down the trail. On flat ground she was sure she could beat
the storm there, but this damned trail meandered up and down, around and around, like a demented snake. Off to her left was the long, green
bulk of the mountain. Small spur ridges ran off of it, sloping down towards a lake miles away. The trail went up and down these, sometimes
taking odd little detours. Between the spurs were occasional small, rocky streams. While the trail itself seemed to have been kept cleared,
it was rough going at best, and she’d have to push herself to beat the rain. Shrugging her backpack into a more comfortable position, she
set off again, down slope.

From his up slope vantage point about a quarter mile away, he’d gotten a good look at her when she paused and turned around. He’d even had
time get his field glasses out. He’d been trailing her since late yesterday, and this was the first chance to see her close up.

From the backpack and the bulky flannel shirt she wore he couldn’t tell how she was built topside, but those were very nice legs coming out
of those tan walking shorts. He zeroed in on her face. It was a good face: high cheekbones, aristocratic little nose, full lower lip, upper
lip a bit thin, nice big blue eyes. Those eyes were narrowed as she looked at something far off, a small crease appearing just over the
bridge of her nose. He could see her lips moving slightly as she kept watching. The face matched the picture he had, except for one thing.
In the photo, she’d had long, really long, honey-blond hair. The hair was the same warm color, but it had been cut so short that now it was
more like a curly cap for her head. What he found most interesting was that with her hair that short, now he could see her ears. They were
pretty enough ears, to be sure, but they seemed to tilt back a bit more than usual, were a bit narrow, which made them seem longer than they
were, and they came to rounded points at the tips. The whole effect made him think of drawings he’d seen of elves.

The roll of thunder reached him, and a moment later she turned back down the trail and disappeared down the slope. Trying to beat the
storm, he guessed. There was a rickety old shelter a couple of miles further along. She must be trying for that. He took out his small
radio. Time to contact Kurt.

As she trudged along, Kimberley kept hearing occasional growls of thunder…getting closer, it sounded. She was tempted to quicken her pace,
but on this trail it would be risky. There were too many loose rocks, too many slopes. The approaching storm came as no surprise to her. The
past three days had been hot, dry and dusty, and it was about time for the weather to change. The timing was inconvenient, though. She
topped another of those innumerable spur ridges and started down the other side.

She had the odd feeling that she was being watched. It had started yesterday. She hadn’t seen or heard anybody since, but the feeling
wouldn’t go away. Well, these woods were thick enough to hide any number of people. Maybe it was just her isolation getting to her.
Maybe…but she didn’t think so.

It was time for one of her regular five-minute rest halts, but that storm kept sounding closer and closer. She kept walking. Almost
halfway there, now.

He could hear the thunder too, getting nearer. He was traveling on an upper trail that wasn’t shown on her map. The going up here was a bit
easier, except for the small branches that kept slapping at his face. He pushed on. He could get to the old shack before she did, and be
under cover before she arrived. Kurt was somewhere up ahead, on the same trail as she was. Lloyd was out of range of his radio, but Kurt was
in touch with him and could relay messages.

It was ominously dark by the time she reached the shelter. It was a weather-beaten old two-room shack sitting at one side of a clearing. It
leaned disturbingly, the windows were long gone, and what she could see of the roof was unpromising. But there was a narrow porch on the lee
side of the building. The roof extended over it, and looked sound enough. She shrugged off her backpack and leaned it against the grayed
wooden wall, then sat down alongside it. The air had grown very still. Even the birds she’d been hearing for days were quiet. There was a
faint grumbling of thunder from far off, and then a cool breath of air stirred the leaves. A moment later, the rain hit. It fell as if
someone had emptied a lake overhead, a driving curtain of rain that blocked her view of anything more than a few feet away. Then lightning
struck somewhere very close by, leaving her blinking and unable to see much anyway. When the afterimages faded, she looked up at the roof
overhead. A few small drips here and there were getting through, but not over her or her gear. The old building shook and groaned as the
wind hit it, but it seemed to be up to the onslaught. She relaxed a little, and wondered how long the storm would last. She still had some
ground to cover today.

He lay flat in the thick brush at the edge of the clearing as the rain pounded on his waterproof poncho. He hoped it really was waterproof.
It was a camouflage pattern, but right now that was unimportant. Visibility was almost nothing. Fat raindrops were splashing water and bits
of loose dirt into his face. Nothing to do but wait it out.

The downpour seemed to go on and on, but after a while he thought he could see some signs of it letting up. A little bit later, he could
make out the outlines of the shack, some sixty or seventy feet away. He kept his eyes fixed on it. When he could finally see her, she was
sitting on the porch, knees drawn up, back against the shack. She looked perfectly at ease, smoking a crooked little black cigar.

Kimberley took another slow drag, exhaled the acrid smoke out into the rain. It was definitely letting up now, but there was no way to tell
how much longer it would go on. The front seemed to be moving pretty quickly though.

Well, it would have to happen soon, she thought to herself. She had at best only two more days’ rations, and she was down to her last
change of clean clothes. If she had to, she could wash stuff out in one of those damned little creeks she had to keep crossing, but food was
another matter. If she ran out, she would have to forage something from these woods. The cigar was down to a stub. She flicked it out into
the rain, and stood up, stretching. The past days had been hot and sweaty, and there’d been no chance to do more than a quick wash-up from a
stream. Right out there was a perfectly good shower, and she wasn’t going to let it go to waste. She fished the soap and a towel from her
backpack and began to undress.

He watched, fascinated. The information he had on her only covered so much: Kimberley Anne Jacobsen, age twenty-six, height five-four,
degree in archaeology, blond hair, surprisingly light blue eyes. But that, and the few pictures, only told you so much. He was getting more
of an education now. Under the flannel shirt, she wore a snug green T-shirt. As she pulled it off over her head, he saw that under that she
wore some sort of sports bra. It followed the T-shirt, and then she shucked off her shorts and panties. He must have missed her taking off
her hiking shoes. She stretched once, slowly and luxuriously before stepping lightly off of the porch and into the rain. He heard her yelp
as the chilly water hit her and grinned. He could have told her about that. She began soaping herself quickly.

He was reminded even more of an elf. She was slender: slim-hipped, with long, strong legs and cute little teats. He had categories for
women’s mammaries: titties, teats, breasts, boobs and “Lower Back Pain.” They corresponded roughly to A, B, C, D and E cups. She did a very
thorough job of showering. Every so often, she’d give a tiny yelp as her bare feet stepped on something uncomfortable, and dance around a
little. He wished he were close enough to see her better. She seemed to be a natural blonde, but he was interested in seeing the effect of
the cool rain on those pink nipples. Well, time enough for such things later. Meantime, it was very hard to just lie here and watch her. He
was tempted to jump up and rush her right now...but neither Kurt nor Lloyd would approve. This had to be done properly. He gave one silent
sigh, and kept watching. She looked to be in great shape. Might even last out the whole thing.

Cold water was starting to seep in under his poncho. With her so close, though, he didn’t dare move. He thought about getting his hands
on that lovely young body later, and grinned.

When she couldn’t stop shivering, Kimberley decided she was clean enough. She hopped back up onto the porch and picked up the towel. It was
a good thing she’d had her hair cut short for this…hike, she thought. If it were the old length, thick as it was it would take forever to
dry. Besides, she rather liked the pixie-ish look this style gave her. In the right light, she looked nineteen again. She rubbed herself
down vigorously with the towel, going over her bare skin until it glowed pink. That done, she hung the towel on a protruding nail and broke
out her last clean clothes from her backpack.

Watching her dress was nowhere near as interesting as watching her undress. He stayed still under cover and watched, though. Her new outfit
looked much like her old one, except that the oversized flannel shirt was some shade of dark blue. Still barefoot, she sat down on the porch
as she had before, and lit another one of those little cigars. Apparently she was going to wait out the rain. There was a cold puddle under
him now, and he put it down to her account.

At long last the rain began to peter out. Sunshine began to poke through the last ragged dark clouds. Kimberley pulled on her socks and
shoes. The towel was still damp. She folded it up and stowed it away anyway. She could spread it out for drying when she camped for the
night. Shouldering her backpack, she set off along the trail again.

He gave her a ten-minute head start before following. By now his whole front was dripping wet, cold and very uncomfortable. Nothing he
could do about that right now. He took out his radio to contact the others. He had an idea where she’d probably make camp for the night.
Kurt and Lloyd could intercept her there, while he followed her in case she tried to double back, or stopped early.

The ground was still a bit soggy, but drying out fast. Kimberley loved the smell of the woods after a rain, rich and earthy. She could hear
birds again: blue jays squabbling over something. The storm hadn’t lasted all that long, but she’d still have to make up for some lost time.
There was a spot marked on her map that looked like an ideal campsite. There was a spring near it, and plenty of firewood available. She’d
need the firewood. It would get chilly tonight, after the storm. It was already noticeably cooler. She loved the outdoors, the physical
activity, pushing herself...she stopped abruptly. She had been pushing herself. Frowning, she took out the map she’d been given and looked
at it. It was a pretty detailed relief map, showing the rugged country she’d been hiking. It also showed just the one trail, the one she’d
been on since the start. On that trail, her ultimate destination, marked “Safety Zone”, was about seven days’ walk from her starting point.
When she started out, they’d given her five days’ rations for the trek. Without thinking much about it, she’d been trying to squeeze a
little bit more distance out of each day so that she could—just possibly—do it in six days.

She sat down on an old fallen tree trunk to think things over. Not all that long ago she was sure that it would have to happen soon.
She’d also had the feeling she was being watched, though she didn’t have it at this particular moment. She looked at the spot she’d picked
for her campsite tonight. It was obviously a good spot. And, if it was obvious to her, it would be just as obvious to anyone else with a
similar map. She chewed on her lower lip for a moment. It was the perfect place for them—whoever they were—to intercept her. She shivered,
not entirely unpleasantly. Well, that WAS kind of the point of her going out into the woods alone, wasn’t it? Still, why make it easy for
them? She stood up and began to pace back and forth, every so often looking up the trail she’d been ready to follow. Now it smelled like a
trap. She could still walk into it, but somehow it wouldn’t be as much fun. Was fun the right word here? She shook her head as if to clear
it. She wanted an adventure, damnit.

So…what to do? The first thing that came to her mind was to follow one of those ravines down towards the lake. Going downhill would be
easier, and near the lake the ground looked to be more even. Even so, it would take more time to get to the “Safe Zone”. Food would run a
bit short. She patted the survival knife she carried at her belt. Inside the hollow handle was some fishing line and a few hooks. She didn’t
really need them, though. She could catch fish without them. Yes, the lake would be ideal. So, she’d have to go uphill. She looked up at the
mountain and grinned. She’d hiked in much rougher places.

He was still uncomfortably soggy when he came to the spot where she’d stopped for a bit, then seemed to have walked back and forth for
a while before setting out on the trail again. Her footprints were easily visible in the still-damp earth. He was a bit puzzled. There
didn’t seem to be any reason for her to do that. Maybe she was trying to work out a cramp?

He shrugged. It wasn’t that important anyway. He set off along the trail again, grinning in anticipation of the night to come. It took
him some time to realize he’d been had. He took out his radio and called Lloyd and Kurt.

“Yeah?” Kurt sounded tired and testy.

“Any sign of her yet?” he asked.

“Not yet.” Kurt replied. “Why?”

“Doesn’t she seem to be running a bit late?”

“Well, yeah…” Kurt agreed. “You have her in sight?”

“Nope.” He answered. “She went off the trail someplace back. I have to go find out where. Lloyd with you?’

“About a half-mile away now.”

“Okay. The two of you wait there until you hear from me. She might double back yet.”

As he clicked off the radio, he grinned to himself. It looked like the elf-girl wanted to make them work for her. That was fine by him.
He always liked it when they did that. Nothing in the world beat hunting down human prey. Mentally, though, he was kicking himself for
simply assuming she’d stick to the trail and not bothering to look for her tracks. Well, she’d fooled him that once. He retraced his steps,
looking for her tracks. He had to go all the way back to the last ravine he’d crossed and re-crossed it. Her tracks were there on that side,
all right, but they didn’t come out on the other. She’d gone along the ravine, then, where it was too rocky for tracks. He looked uphill and
down, trying to see some clue as to the direction she’d taken. No luck. Okay…which way would she go?

He wished he had a bit more information to go on than the little in her file. It didn’t tell him much about her. He sat down on a
boulder that the stream in the ravine had half-excavated to do some thinking. He hadn’t been expecting her to do this. She had, though,
which meant there was a bit more to her than he’d first allowed. He almost regretted not grabbing her earlier as she pranced in the rain,
but she was giving them a more interesting game to play.

Downhill? Well, maybe. The ground got a lot easier close to the lake, but the underbrush was a lot thicker there too. He looked up the
ravine. It was rocky, very tough going, and the stream was starting to rise as the rain began draining down the mountain’s flanks. He
clicked on the radio.

“Hey, Kurt…”

“Yeah?”

“Lloyd there yet?”

“He’s here.” Kurt replied.

“Okay, look. I’m at a ravine. She went into it, but didn’t come out. She can only go up or downhill. One of you head down towards the
lake, keep an eye out for her there. I’m going uphill.”

“You think she went up?” Kurt asked.

“Not sure.” He answered. “She might have gone a little ways just to throw us off. I think she’s going to try to beat us to the Safe
Zone, whichever way she went. So one of you has to stay put, in case she tries to get back on the trail.”

“Okay…which one of us goes, which one stays?”

“I don’t care. Figure it out yourselves. I’ll call in if I pick up her trail.”

“Roger that.” Kurt acknowledged. “I like it when they run.”

He clicked off the radio and stored it away. That climb looked rugged. He hoped she didn’t break a leg or something before they caught
up to her. He stood and began trudging up the ravine.

Kimberley noted how fast the water was rising, and decided it might be a good idea to get up out of this thing and just walk alongside
it. She looked around for a way out, and spotted a smaller gully that fed into the ravine. That ought to do.

It was trickier going than she’d expected. The bed of the gully was mostly loose rocks that threatened to shift under her weight, and
in the end it took maybe half an hour to climb out onto more level ground. She was breathing heavily when she was done, but at least now she
was safe from being swept away by the water. It was rushing through the ravine now with a constant hissing roar. The soil must not be very
deep to get so much runoff so quickly, she noted. She struck out upslope, keeping the ravine to her left. Trees and underbrush sometimes
forced her away from it for a while, but she could always find it again just by going towards the noise. She grinned to herself. They’d have
to work pretty hard to find her now.

The water was getting too high and too fast, and he had to haul himself out of the ravine by some exposed tree roots and handy vines.
Standing on the edge, he looked down at the water surging by and hoped she hadn’t gotten caught in it. He doubted she had, but if she’d
gotten out on the other side it was going to be damned hard to spot her tracks from over here. Still, if she went up far enough, she’d
strike the upper trail, and probably follow it for a while at least. Since it wasn’t shown on her map, she wouldn’t be sure just where it
finally led. Shrugging his backpack into a more comfortable position, he moved uphill. It would be getting dark soon. Maybe he’d be lucky
enough to stumble across her camp before it got too dark. He’s settle for picking up her trail.

Kimberley was feeling rather pleased with herself. She’d hiked a long way today, much of it over rough ground. She felt a bit tired now,
but the good kind of tired you get from pushing yourself physically. Still...it was getting darker, and soon it would be too dark to see
things she might walk into or trip over. It was time to make camp for the night.

Some time ago, one of the taller trees had toppled over, the result of wind or age and death. The opening it left in the canopy above
had given a number of small pines the chance to grow. They were pretty thickly clustered, and offered plenty of cover. She eased in between
them, finding a spot just big enough for her to unroll her sleeping bag. This would be perfect.

She shucked off her backpack, wincing a little as various muscles announced they had cramps, and propped it up against one of the
pines. In a few practiced minutes, she had the sleeping bag laid out. She sat down gratefully on it and began to unlace her hiking boots
when she paused. What if they came across her during the night? She’d need the boots for running. But, somehow, the thought of sleeping in
her rather muddy boots was distasteful. If nothing else, they’d get the inside of the sleeping bag dirty. She shrugged. If they could find
her in this cover in the dark, being able to run probably wouldn’t help her much. She unlaced the boots and placed them carefully close to
hand, so she could find them in the dark. Her socks she kept on. It felt like it was going to be a cold night, and she’d welcome any little
extra insulation she could get. The last thing she did before climbing into the bag was to retrieve her canteen and some food from her
backpack. She wouldn’t risk a fire tonight.

He’d been searching the ground carefully as he moved uphill, looking for any sign that elf-girl had been this way. It slowed him down, but
if he came across her trail he was sure he could catch up to her in time. Meantime, until he did find her trail speed meant nothing.

It was almost too dark to see when he came across what he’d been looking for. There in a patch of bare ground were three distinct boot
prints, heading uphill. They looked fresh, they looked like hers, and in any case, who else would be out here now? He couldn’t tell how long
ago they’d been made. Could be a few minutes, could be a few hours. But she was definitely heading upslope, and would probably find the
upper trail some time tomorrow morning. He took out his radio. It only had enough range to reach whoever had stayed put on the trail, but
that ought to be enough. Once he’d made his report he could think about where to sack out for the night. All he had for sleeping was a
blanket roll, but that would be enough. When he was still in the Rangers, often he’d had to manage with a lot less.

Zippered snugly into her sleeping bag, Kimberley slept very soundly, untroubled by dreams.


Excerpt..

CHAPTER ONE





Third Day Out


Thunder rumbled and echoed behind her. Kimberley halted on the trail and turned to look back. The sky was growing dark, clouds piling up.

She took off her well-worn cowboy hat and wiped her forearm across her brow.


There…she saw a distant flash of lightning. She began counting off the seconds until the sound of thunder reached her. Five, maybe six

miles. The storm looked as if it was heading her way. She put her hat back on, tugging the brim down to shade her eyes. If the map she was

following was right, there was a shelter of some sort about three miles further down the trail. On flat ground she was sure she could beat

the storm there, but this damned trail meandered up and down, around and around, like a demented snake. Off to her left was the long, green

bulk of the mountain. Small spur ridges ran off of it, sloping down towards a lake miles away. The trail went up and down these, sometimes

taking odd little detours. Between the spurs were occasional small, rocky streams. While the trail itself seemed to have been kept cleared,

it was rough going at best, and she’d have to push herself to beat the rain. Shrugging her backpack into a more comfortable position, she

set off again, down slope.


From his up slope vantage point about a quarter mile away, he’d gotten a good look at her when she paused and turned around. He’d even had

time get his field glasses out. He’d been trailing her since late yesterday, and this was the first chance to see her close up.


From the backpack and the bulky flannel shirt she wore he couldn’t tell how she was built topside, but those were very nice legs coming out

of those tan walking shorts. He zeroed in on her face. It was a good face: high cheekbones, aristocratic little nose, full lower lip, upper

lip a bit thin, nice big blue eyes. Those eyes were narrowed as she looked at something far off, a small crease appearing just over the

bridge of her nose. He could see her lips moving slightly as she kept watching. The face matched the picture he had, except for one thing.

In the photo, she’d had long, really long, honey-blond hair. The hair was the same warm color, but it had been cut so short that now it was

more like a curly cap for her head. What he found most interesting was that with her hair that short, now he could see her ears. They were

pretty enough ears, to be sure, but they seemed to tilt back a bit more than usual, were a bit narrow, which made them seem longer than they

were, and they came to rounded points at the tips. The whole effect made him think of drawings he’d seen of elves.


The roll of thunder reached him, and a moment later she turned back down the trail and disappeared down the slope. Trying to beat the

storm, he guessed. There was a rickety old shelter a couple of miles further along. She must be trying for that. He took out his small

radio. Time to contact Kurt.


As she trudged along, Kimberley kept hearing occasional growls of thunder…getting closer, it sounded. She was tempted to quicken her pace,

but on this trail it would be risky. There were too many loose rocks, too many slopes. The approaching storm came as no surprise to her. The

past three days had been hot, dry and dusty, and it was about time for the weather to change. The timing was inconvenient, though. She

topped another of those innumerable spur ridges and started down the other side.


She had the odd feeling that she was being watched. It had started yesterday. She hadn’t seen or heard anybody since, but the feeling

wouldn’t go away. Well, these woods were thick enough to hide any number of people. Maybe it was just her isolation getting to her.

Maybe…but she didn’t think so.


It was time for one of her regular five-minute rest halts, but that storm kept sounding closer and closer. She kept walking. Almost

halfway there, now.


He could hear the thunder too, getting nearer. He was traveling on an upper trail that wasn’t shown on her map. The going up here was a bit

easier, except for the small branches that kept slapping at his face. He pushed on. He could get to the old shack before she did, and be

under cover before she arrived. Kurt was somewhere up ahead, on the same trail as she was. Lloyd was out of range of his radio, but Kurt was

in touch with him and could relay messages.


It was ominously dark by the time she reached the shelter. It was a weather-beaten old two-room shack sitting at one side of a clearing. It

leaned disturbingly, the windows were long gone, and what she could see of the roof was unpromising. But there was a narrow porch on the lee

side of the building. The roof extended over it, and looked sound enough. She shrugged off her backpack and leaned it against the grayed

wooden wall, then sat down alongside it. The air had grown very still. Even the birds she’d been hearing for days were quiet. There was a

faint grumbling of thunder from far off, and then a cool breath of air stirred the leaves. A moment later, the rain hit. It fell as if

someone had emptied a lake overhead, a driving curtain of rain that blocked her view of anything more than a few feet away. Then lightning

struck somewhere very close by, leaving her blinking and unable to see much anyway. When the afterimages faded, she looked up at the roof

overhead. A few small drips here and there were getting through, but not over her or her gear. The old building shook and groaned as the

wind hit it, but it seemed to be up to the onslaught. She relaxed a little, and wondered how long the storm would last. She still had some

ground to cover today.


He lay flat in the thick brush at the edge of the clearing as the rain pounded on his waterproof poncho. He hoped it really was waterproof.

It was a camouflage pattern, but right now that was unimportant. Visibility was almost nothing. Fat raindrops were splashing water and bits

of loose dirt into his face. Nothing to do but wait it out.


The downpour seemed to go on and on, but after a while he thought he could see some signs of it letting up. A little bit later, he could

make out the outlines of the shack, some sixty or seventy feet away. He kept his eyes fixed on it. When he could finally see her, she was

sitting on the porch, knees drawn up, back against the shack. She looked perfectly at ease, smoking a crooked little black cigar.


Kimberley took another slow drag, exhaled the acrid smoke out into the rain. It was definitely letting up now, but there was no way to tell

how much longer it would go on. The front seemed to be moving pretty quickly though.


Well, it would have to happen soon, she thought to herself. She had at best only two more days’ rations, and she was down to her last

change of clean clothes. If she had to, she could wash stuff out in one of those damned little creeks she had to keep crossing, but food was

another matter. If she ran out, she would have to forage something from these woods. The cigar was down to a stub. She flicked it out into

the rain, and stood up, stretching. The past days had been hot and sweaty, and there’d been no chance to do more than a quick wash-up from a

stream. Right out there was a perfectly good shower, and she wasn’t going to let it go to waste. She fished the soap and a towel from her

backpack and began to undress.


He watched, fascinated. The information he had on her only covered so much: Kimberley Anne Jacobsen, age twenty-six, height five-four,

degree in archaeology, blond hair, surprisingly light blue eyes. But that, and the few pictures, only told you so much. He was getting more

of an education now. Under the flannel shirt, she wore a snug green T-shirt. As she pulled it off over her head, he saw that under that she

wore some sort of sports bra. It followed the T-shirt, and then she shucked off her shorts and panties. He must have missed her taking off

her hiking shoes. She stretched once, slowly and luxuriously before stepping lightly off of the porch and into the rain. He heard her yelp

as the chilly water hit her and grinned. He could have told her about that. She began soaping herself quickly.


He was reminded even more of an elf. She was slender: slim-hipped, with long, strong legs and cute little teats. He had categories for

women’s mammaries: titties, teats, breasts, boobs and “Lower Back Pain.” They corresponded roughly to A, B, C, D and E cups. She did a very

thorough job of showering. Every so often, she’d give a tiny yelp as her bare feet stepped on something uncomfortable, and dance around a

little. He wished he were close enough to see her better. She seemed to be a natural blonde, but he was interested in seeing the effect of

the cool rain on those pink nipples. Well, time enough for such things later. Meantime, it was very hard to just lie here and watch her. He

was tempted to jump up and rush her right now...but neither Kurt nor Lloyd would approve. This had to be done properly. He gave one silent

sigh, and kept watching. She looked to be in great shape. Might even last out the whole thing.


Cold water was starting to seep in under his poncho. With her so close, though, he didn’t dare move. He thought about getting his hands

on that lovely young body later, and grinned.


When she couldn’t stop shivering, Kimberley decided she was clean enough. She hopped back up onto the porch and picked up the towel. It was

a good thing she’d had her hair cut short for this…hike, she thought. If it were the old length, thick as it was it would take forever to

dry. Besides, she rather liked the pixie-ish look this style gave her. In the right light, she looked nineteen again. She rubbed herself

down vigorously with the towel, going over her bare skin until it glowed pink. That done, she hung the towel on a protruding nail and broke

out her last clean clothes from her backpack.


Watching her dress was nowhere near as interesting as watching her undress. He stayed still under cover and watched, though. Her new outfit

looked much like her old one, except that the oversized flannel shirt was some shade of dark blue. Still barefoot, she sat down on the porch

as she had before, and lit another one of those little cigars. Apparently she was going to wait out the rain. There was a cold puddle under

him now, and he put it down to her account.


At long last the rain began to peter out. Sunshine began to poke through the last ragged dark clouds. Kimberley pulled on her socks and

shoes. The towel was still damp. She folded it up and stowed it away anyway. She could spread it out for drying when she camped for the

night. Shouldering her backpack, she set off along the trail again.


He gave her a ten-minute head start before following. By now his whole front was dripping wet, cold and very uncomfortable. Nothing he

could do about that right now. He took out his radio to contact the others. He had an idea where she’d probably make camp for the night.

Kurt and Lloyd could intercept her there, while he followed her in case she tried to double back, or stopped early.


The ground was still a bit soggy, but drying out fast. Kimberley loved the smell of the woods after a rain, rich and earthy. She could hear

birds again: blue jays squabbling over something. The storm hadn’t lasted all that long, but she’d still have to make up for some lost time.

There was a spot marked on her map that looked like an ideal campsite. There was a spring near it, and plenty of firewood available. She’d

need the firewood. It would get chilly tonight, after the storm. It was already noticeably cooler. She loved the outdoors, the physical

activity, pushing herself...she stopped abruptly. She had been pushing herself. Frowning, she took out the map she’d been given and looked

at it. It was a pretty detailed relief map, showing the rugged country she’d been hiking. It also showed just the one trail, the one she’d

been on since the start. On that trail, her ultimate destination, marked “Safety Zone”, was about seven days’ walk from her starting point.

When she started out, they’d given her five days’ rations for the trek. Without thinking much about it, she’d been trying to squeeze a

little bit more distance out of each day so that she could—just possibly—do it in six days.


She sat down on an old fallen tree trunk to think things over. Not all that long ago she was sure that it would have to happen soon.

She’d also had the feeling she was being watched, though she didn’t have it at this particular moment. She looked at the spot she’d picked

for her campsite tonight. It was obviously a good spot. And, if it was obvious to her, it would be just as obvious to anyone else with a

similar map. She chewed on her lower lip for a moment. It was the perfect place for them—whoever they were—to intercept her. She shivered,

not entirely unpleasantly. Well, that WAS kind of the point of her going out into the woods alone, wasn’t it? Still, why make it easy for

them? She stood up and began to pace back and forth, every so often looking up the trail she’d been ready to follow. Now it smelled like a

trap. She could still walk into it, but somehow it wouldn’t be as much fun. Was fun the right word here? She shook her head as if to clear

it. She wanted an adventure, damnit.


So…what to do? The first thing that came to her mind was to follow one of those ravines down towards the lake. Going downhill would be

easier, and near the lake the ground looked to be more even. Even so, it would take more time to get to the “Safe Zone”. Food would run a

bit short. She patted the survival knife she carried at her belt. Inside the hollow handle was some fishing line and a few hooks. She didn’t

really need them, though. She could catch fish without them. Yes, the lake would be ideal. So, she’d have to go uphill. She looked up at the

mountain and grinned. She’d hiked in much rougher places.


He was still uncomfortably soggy when he came to the spot where she’d stopped for a bit, then seemed to have walked back and forth for

a while before setting out on the trail again. Her footprints were easily visible in the still-damp earth. He was a bit puzzled. There

didn’t seem to be any reason for her to do that. Maybe she was trying to work out a cramp?


He shrugged. It wasn’t that important anyway. He set off along the trail again, grinning in anticipation of the night to come. It took

him some time to realize he’d been had. He took out his radio and called Lloyd and Kurt.


“Yeah?” Kurt sounded tired and testy.


“Any sign of her yet?” he asked.


“Not yet.” Kurt replied. “Why?”


“Doesn’t she seem to be running a bit late?”


“Well, yeah…” Kurt agreed. “You have her in sight?”


“Nope.” He answered. “She went off the trail someplace back. I have to go find out where. Lloyd with you?’


“About a half-mile away now.”


“Okay. The two of you wait there until you hear from me. She might double back yet.”


As he clicked off the radio, he grinned to himself. It looked like the elf-girl wanted to make them work for her. That was fine by him.

He always liked it when they did that. Nothing in the world beat hunting down human prey. Mentally, though, he was kicking himself for

simply assuming she’d stick to the trail and not bothering to look for her tracks. Well, she’d fooled him that once. He retraced his steps,

looking for her tracks. He had to go all the way back to the last ravine he’d crossed and re-crossed it. Her tracks were there on that side,

all right, but they didn’t come out on the other. She’d gone along the ravine, then, where it was too rocky for tracks. He looked uphill and

down, trying to see some clue as to the direction she’d taken. No luck. Okay…which way would she go?


He wished he had a bit more information to go on than the little in her file. It didn’t tell him much about her. He sat down on a

boulder that the stream in the ravine had half-excavated to do some thinking. He hadn’t been expecting her to do this. She had, though,

which meant there was a bit more to her than he’d first allowed. He almost regretted not grabbing her earlier as she pranced in the rain,

but she was giving them a more interesting game to play.


Downhill? Well, maybe. The ground got a lot easier close to the lake, but the underbrush was a lot thicker there too. He looked up the

ravine. It was rocky, very tough going, and the stream was starting to rise as the rain began draining down the mountain’s flanks. He

clicked on the radio.


“Hey, Kurt…”


“Yeah?”


“Lloyd there yet?”


“He’s here.” Kurt replied.


“Okay, look. I’m at a ravine. She went into it, but didn’t come out. She can only go up or downhill. One of you head down towards the

lake, keep an eye out for her there. I’m going uphill.”


“You think she went up?” Kurt asked.


“Not sure.” He answered. “She might have gone a little ways just to throw us off. I think she’s going to try to beat us to the Safe

Zone, whichever way she went. So one of you has to stay put, in case she tries to get back on the trail.”


“Okay…which one of us goes, which one stays?”


“I don’t care. Figure it out yourselves. I’ll call in if I pick up her trail.”


“Roger that.” Kurt acknowledged. “I like it when they run.”


He clicked off the radio and stored it away. That climb looked rugged. He hoped she didn’t break a leg or something before they caught

up to her. He stood and began trudging up the ravine.


Kimberley noted how fast the water was rising, and decided it might be a good idea to get up out of this thing and just walk alongside

it. She looked around for a way out, and spotted a smaller gully that fed into the ravine. That ought to do.


It was trickier going than she’d expected. The bed of the gully was mostly loose rocks that threatened to shift under her weight, and

in the end it took maybe half an hour to climb out onto more level ground. She was breathing heavily when she was done, but at least now she

was safe from being swept away by the water. It was rushing through the ravine now with a constant hissing roar. The soil must not be very

deep to get so much runoff so quickly, she noted. She struck out upslope, keeping the ravine to her left. Trees and underbrush sometimes

forced her away from it for a while, but she could always find it again just by going towards the noise. She grinned to herself. They’d have

to work pretty hard to find her now.


The water was getting too high and too fast, and he had to haul himself out of the ravine by some exposed tree roots and handy vines.

Standing on the edge, he looked down at the water surging by and hoped she hadn’t gotten caught in it. He doubted she had, but if she’d

gotten out on the other side it was going to be damned hard to spot her tracks from over here. Still, if she went up far enough, she’d

strike the upper trail, and probably follow it for a while at least. Since it wasn’t shown on her map, she wouldn’t be sure just where it

finally led. Shrugging his backpack into a more comfortable position, he moved uphill. It would be getting dark soon. Maybe he’d be lucky

enough to stumble across her camp before it got too dark. He’s settle for picking up her trail.


Kimberley was feeling rather pleased with herself. She’d hiked a long way today, much of it over rough ground. She felt a bit tired now,

but the good kind of tired you get from pushing yourself physically. Still...it was getting darker, and soon it would be too dark to see

things she might walk into or trip over. It was time to make camp for the night.


Some time ago, one of the taller trees had toppled over, the result of wind or age and death. The opening it left in the canopy above

had given a number of small pines the chance to grow. They were pretty thickly clustered, and offered plenty of cover. She eased in between

them, finding a spot just big enough for her to unroll her sleeping bag. This would be perfect.


She shucked off her backpack, wincing a little as various muscles announced they had cramps, and propped it up against one of the

pines. In a few practiced minutes, she had the sleeping bag laid out. She sat down gratefully on it and began to unlace her hiking boots

when she paused. What if they came across her during the night? She’d need the boots for running. But, somehow, the thought of sleeping in

her rather muddy boots was distasteful. If nothing else, they’d get the inside of the sleeping bag dirty. She shrugged. If they could find

her in this cover in the dark, being able to run probably wouldn’t help her much. She unlaced the boots and placed them carefully close to

hand, so she could find them in the dark. Her socks she kept on. It felt like it was going to be a cold night, and she’d welcome any little

extra insulation she could get. The last thing she did before climbing into the bag was to retrieve her canteen and some food from her

backpack. She wouldn’t risk a fire tonight.


He’d been searching the ground carefully as he moved uphill, looking for any sign that elf-girl had been this way. It slowed him down, but

if he came across her trail he was sure he could catch up to her in time. Meantime, until he did find her trail speed meant nothing.


It was almost too dark to see when he came across what he’d been looking for. There in a patch of bare ground were three distinct boot

prints, heading uphill. They looked fresh, they looked like hers, and in any case, who else would be out here now? He couldn’t tell how long

ago they’d been made. Could be a few minutes, could be a few hours. But she was definitely heading upslope, and would probably find the

upper trail some time tomorrow morning. He took out his radio. It only had enough range to reach whoever had stayed put on the trail, but

that ought to be enough. Once he’d made his report he could think about where to sack out for the night. All he had for sleeping was a

blanket roll, but that would be enough. When he was still in the Rangers, often he’d had to manage with a lot less.


Zippered snugly into her sleeping bag, Kimberley slept very soundly, untroubled by dreams.



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