The muffled snap of a twig several feet behind almost made her scream. Rachel burrowed a little deeper. She couldn’t let him find her, not now.
Her aching eyes tightened until stars formed, providing childlike comfort. ‘If I can’t see him, he can’t see me.’ It was silly, but in cases like this even silly things are lifelines.
Crackling leaves assaulted her ears. He was closer now. Her heart, hammering so loud she could almost see her laced collar flutter in the moonlight, was surely about to give her away. Rachel cursed the white and yellow stripes of her shirt, wishing she’d picked the black silk. Yes she would have been freezing, but at least she’d be better hidden.
Breathe quietly, she told herself, praying her nose wouldn’t betray her with the weird whistling noise it sometimes made.
He was closer now, behind her, out of sight. Would it be better if she could see him? Perhaps not. A slight shudder ran through her, unbidden, briefly rattling the leaves of the bushes she crouched within. Rachel stilled, horrified, wondering if he’d heard.
“Rachel?” he whispered. “Is that you?”
Of course she wouldn’t answer. He knew she wouldn’t answer, just as she knew he’d had to try. It was all a part of this little cat-and-mouse game, right?
Neither of them moved for several agonizing minutes. Her back was beginning to cramp, crying out for some form of relief. She couldn’t provide it, however, at least not until he moved on. Did he know she was nearby, or did he only suspect?
A muted pop sounded from far away. A car backfiring? It was a strange reminder of how close they were to civilization, to people.
Footsteps crunched over the ground in front of her, heedless of care or caution. She watched through a cluster of leaves.
“Hey, Jason,” her hunter called out, startling the young man. “Did you find her?”
“Nah, sorry man. We’ve searched everywhere. Any signs of her here?”
The pursuer came into view then, his face in shadow. It didn’t matter. She could easily bring to mind the furrowed brow, the way he’d bite the corner of his lower lip in concentration, the side-to-side flicker of his eyes as he looked around. Who could have known what deviousness had been hidden behind those blue-green orbs?
“Well, there’s no were else she could be,” he said. “Get the others. We’ll start a more thorough search here. And Jason, we need hurry. Time’s almost up.”
Jason headed off to fetch the others, which meant her time was almost up. It wouldn’t take long.
The pain in her back doubled all at once, causing her to flinch forward. Too loud. She watched as he jumped forward, delight dripping from his uttered, “I knew it!” He reached into the bushes and grabbed her arms, dragging her out, pulling her tightly to him.
He was so close. Even in the moonlight she could see the individual lashes hovering over his darkened eyes, the slight dimple in his right cheek as he smiled, feel his warmth seep into her shivering body. Her heart set to thundering once again. Could he hear it? Could he feel it?
The others were coming at any moment. His grip tightened. She knew what he wanted even before he moved. Surely he wouldn’t, not here, not now.
He dipped his head ever so slightly towards hers.
“You found her,” yelled Jason.
“Oh snap, wouldn’t you know,” he muttered, sighing as he let go to turn around. Raising his voice to be heard over the stomping and giggling he shouted, “Just now. Do we have time for one more round before the movie?”
Jason laughed. “So long as Rachel’s it, no problem. Let’s go.”
Everyone scattered except her date. He once again drew her close, whispering in her ear, causing tendrils of shivers to run down her spine. Rachel blushed, grateful for the cover of darkness. He turned her toward the nearest tree and ran off as she began to count.
Now it was her turn to find him.
Dedicated most lovingly to a daughter who made me laugh the first time she uttered the words, "Oh snap!"
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