The only acknowledgement she had that Andrea heard her was when she did as Izzy said.
As soon as Andrea was hidden by the camouflage of the woods, Izzy made her move.
The night air had grown quiet. Too quiet. The longer she stayed, the higher the chance of being discovered.
She risked one glance behind the tree to see if their attacker had shown himself yet. Her heart jumped in her throat.
He stood two feet away from her.
By the expression on his face, she wasn’t sure who was more shocked. Her or him. She had nowhere to go so she screamed for Andrea.
The loud shout jerked him out of his surprise.
Stick in hand, she advanced and swung at him. He ducked out of the way and she stumbled on a tree root. Still clutching her makeshift weapon, she sprawled on her back.
He lunged at her, but she rolled over and barely missed being tackled by him.
“Why couldn’t you just mind your own business?” he growled, and stumbled backward, nearly falling.
Obviously when she’d hit him with that chair, she’d done some damage. Not enough though.
The psycho was still standing. She didn’t respond to him, fearing it would deplete her energy and piss him off even more.
A bit unsteadily, they circled each other. He’d lost his gun at least, but he had a wicked-looking knife in his hand. She hadn’t really seen him up close until now, but the dead look in his eyes told her he’d enjoy using it on her. And he wouldn’t be quick.
A blurred movement from out of the corner of her eyes caused her to turn.
“Don’t move.” Adam appeared as if out of nowhere, and he was aiming a gun right at the man’s chest.
The man looked at Adam, who was about twenty yards away. Then he looked back at her.
She was only five feet away.
He shifted so that Izzy blocked him from Adam’s weapon.
Raising the knife, he lunged at her. She tried to dodge him and tripped on another root. Something sharp dug into her foot, piercing her already raw skin. She didn’t bother to stifle a cry of pain as she rolled onto the hard earth. Her shoulder took the brunt of the impact but it was better than being stabbed.
Behind her she heard Adam shouting something, but she couldn’t make out his words over the sound of blood rushing in her ears. Knife still in hand, her attacker was closing in on her.
He was almost on top of her. Using all her strength, she kicked out at him and aimed low.
When her foot connected with his inner knee, he grunted and crumbled next to her.
She tried to scramble away but he caught the edge of her shirt and held fast. With his other hand he raised the knife. She lifted her arms, trying to deflect the blow but braced herself for the pain.
Loud shots rang out.
With wide eyes, he stopped midair as if he’d hit an invisible wall. The knife in his hand fell to the ground and he slumped back with a sickening thud. Something wet hit her face. She touched her fingers to her cheek, but it took a second to realize it was blood.
Crimson poured from the four holes in the middle of his chest. Izzy stared at the limp body, unsure what to feel. Relief? Horror?
Uncontrollable shudders racked her body so she wrapped her arms around herself.
Unable to move, she watched as Adam checked his pulse, then a moment later Adam’s strong arms encircled her. She buried her face in his chest, unable to express anything other than tears. He murmured something too low for her to understand against her hair. Whatever it was, it didn’t matter. His presence made her feel better.
“You came for me” was all she could manage.
Her throat was so tight it hurt.
His arms tightened further. Enveloping her in warmth. “Baby, of course I did.” He leaned back and wiped a few stray hairs out of her face. “Are you…okay? Did he hurt you?” His eyes were tormented, his face a mask of concern.
“He didn’t touch me.” But he could have. Her skin crawled at the thought of that sharp blade cutting into her. She could still see it. The jagged length gleaming as it swung toward her. She fought off a shiver but it was no use.
Adam cursed under his breath and tucked her face into his shoulder, his hands stroking over the length of her spine. Protective and soothing all at the same time. She tried to get closer to him, wanting to take all his strength. “You’re okay, Izzy. I’m never letting you go again.”
His words caused something inside her to burst. She didn’t bother to hide her response. Her grip on him tightened. She absolutely loved this man. Had known it but had been too afraid to tell him. “Adam, I…”
The sound of crunching leaves caused them both to turn.
It was Andrea. “Is he dead?” Her voice was barely a whisper.
“Yes,” Izzy answered, clenching her jaw to keep her teeth from chattering and because she was afraid she’d start crying at any moment.
“He had both of you?” Adam looked back and forth between them.
Izzy nodded. “Yes.”
He scrubbed a hand over his face. “Come on.
We’re not too far from the road. I’ve already called Jack. They can come back for the body.”
She wasn’t inclined to argue. As they started to walk, her knees buckled as she stepped on a stick.
“Damn it, Izzy, I’m sorry. I should have—” He shook his head in disgust as he swept her up in his arms.
Wrapping her arm around his neck, she laid her head against his shoulder and soaked up his warmth and strength.
Andrea looked over at her as they trudged over the leaves and branches. “Thank you doesn’t seem adequate, but it’s all I’ve got. I wouldn’t have made it without you.” She swallowed and wiped a few tears away before averting her gaze.
Fighting back tears, Izzy nodded at her and closed her eyes. A few minutes later, the sound of sirens and people talking forced her to raise her head. “What’s going on?” she whispered in Adam’s ear.
When he turned, his hair tickled her nose.
“Jack probably called in the National Guard.”
“That’s fine with me.”
As soon as they emerged from the woods, men and women in uniform rushed at them. And they were all asking questions at once. “I can walk,”
she said quietly.
Adam’s grip tightened around her. “You’re sure?”
She nodded and when he let her down she put a reassuring arm around Andrea’s shoulder. The pretty brunette’s eyes were filled with unshed tears and Izzy was afraid she’d pass out at any moment.
She threw what she hoped was a pleading look at Adam. He turned to the two officers trying to talk to them and placed himself in front of her and Andrea. “Before they answer any questions, they both need to see a medic. And they’re not talking to anyone but Jack Dennis.”
One of the men hustled off in the other direction and Adam led them to the back of one of the ambulances. “I’m going to find Jack. Don’t move.”
When she was alone with Andrea sitting on the back of the ambulance she looked at her. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“He didn’t rape me if that’s what you’re asking.” She sniffed and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. “But he made it clear he was going to.”
“Did he say anything else to you?”
“Not anything that made sense. He called me a whore and a lot of other racial slurs. And he said he wanted you to watch what he was going to do to me. Do you think…do you think I could call my parents?”
“As soon as Detective Dennis gets here, I’m sure he’ll let you call whoever you want. Just hang tight. The worst part is over.” She hoped her smile was reassuring, but didn’t have the strength to do much more.
One of the EMTs walked over and immediately started firing questions at them. The man’s demeanor was gentle as he examined them but it didn’t make the situation any easier. Despite her desire to curl up in a ball and hide under a rock somewhere, she found the energy to talk. In a few hours, she’d be at home in bed with Adam.
Something told her Toby wouldn’t make either of them go into work tomorrow.
Adam traced his finger down Izzy’s bare arm.
Shallow scratches nicked her soft skin and a few bruises dotted her arms. She shifted against the sheets, but didn’t open her eyes. He could tell she was awake so he pulled the sheet down, exposing her naked breasts. When he rubbed a thumb over her nipple, the corners of her lips curled up.
“Does the fact that I was almost killed yesterday mean anything to you?” she asked, eyes still closed.
“You’re alive, aren’t you?” He tried to laugh, but the vise around his chest tightened, and his laugh came out more like a bark. He’d almost lost her last night. The thought made him break out in a cold sweat. It also made him want to lock her up and never let her out into the real world again.
He didn’t know that he’d ever get over witnessing her almost die. If he could, he’d go back and kill the guy all over again. “Open your eyes.”
“Depends. You plan on making me breakfast?”
She opened one eye and he rolled his eyes.
“I’ll make you anything you want, woman.” He leaned down and nipped her jaw. “Come on. I want to talk. Don’t make me beg,” he growled in her ear when she still didn’t move.
Sighing, she propped up on one elbow to face him. “Somehow I don’t see you begging for anything. ”
He draped a hand over her naked waist as they stared at each other. “Listen darlin’, I’ve got to go out of town for a day.”
Hurt and confusion played across her face for a moment. “Today?” The question came out raspy and he forced himself to continue. Before he could move on with her, he needed to take care of some things.
“Now that I know you’re safe, there’s something I need to do and it can’t wait.”
She frowned at him and bit her bottom lip in that sexy way he was coming to love. “Is there something wrong?”