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She heard the sounds of running footsteps behind her. Pursuing her as relentlessly as the smell of her own fear.
They were going to catch her. She couldn’t run from them forever. Somehow, she’d always managed to evade them in the past. Through fate or cunning, she didn’t know. Her heart fluttered and her mouth went dry at the idea that this time… her luck had run out.
She darted through the twisted trees of the forest, tripping over exposed roots and brush. Branches clawed her bloodied face and pulled at her dress with bony fingers. The sharp crack of a foot stepping on a fallen limb behind her spurred her faster. They were so close.
Sobs of frustration and fear clogged her throat and tears blurred her eyes. She tried to take in a deep breath, but she choked instead. Burning pain spread through her lungs at her labored breathing. There was no one to help her. No one who would come to her rescue. Her heart broke with the certainty of that. She had no one who cared enough. In fact … if she disappeared, no one would even miss her.
Hope was something that belonged to those who had love in their lives. It was for those who knew the joy of waking up with the certainty they were valued. She however, knew exactly what her worth was and why she was being chased through this desolate wood. She was good for only one thing in the minds of her pursuers.
“Teran!” an angry voice shouted. “You can’t run forever! Make us angry and we’ll only hurt you more.”
She bit her lip in fear. They’d hurt her as he promised and enjoy doing it. She dodged a large boulder and ran down a deer path deeper into the woods.
“The bitch has gone into the forest,” another man shouted. “Get her! I want to hear her scream when I fuck her!”
Teran blinked back more tears. She raced up the path, but her legs were quivering with fatigue. She was slowing down and it wouldn’t be long before the men caught up with her. She risked a look over her shoulder and her heart nearly stopped when she saw a man’s form leave the shadow of the trees. His lust filled gaze captured hers for a moment and she faltered.
“I’ve got her!”
She twisted back around and dodged into the trees, hoping that they would hide her from the man behind her. It was pitch black, but she blundered forward knowing it was the only chance she had.
When she came up hard against a solid form, her heart fell to her shoes. Arms came up to surround her and she screamed.
She was caught.
With her last ounce of strength she struggled. She kicked and bit the man and she heard him hiss in anger. Her head lifted quickly and their eyes met.
Every bit of moisture in her mouth evaporated. The man’s eyes gleamed red and watched her with an animal like intensity. They were both frozen for a long moment. Suddenly, he smiled, revealing sharpened fangs.
It was all too much. Teran screamed again and fainted.
He had lived in the forest a long time. Longer than many of the trees that surrounded him. Longer than the mortals that called it their own. He used them as he needed. They were his food, his sustenance. Now, one had literally fallen into his arms.
Sebastian gazed down at the unconscious woman. He’d thought at first she was a child, but she was just small boned and very thin. Yet, he could feel her womanly curves as he held her close against him. Her clothing was threadbare and patched, but clean, with the faint scent of flowers.
Brushing the long black hair from her oval face, he frowned at the marks he saw there. They did not belong on such beauty as this. Her skin was like fine porcelain with high cheekbones and a full pouting mouth. Her long black lashes fanned down over eyes he’d seen were a dark blue.
He saw the hot blood racing through her veins. His body tightened and his mouth watered. He wanted to bury his teeth into her neck and taste her living energy. Passion grabbed him in a burning fist. He wanted to bury his cock into her heat and let himself go like he hadn’t in decades.
His thoughts were pulled back by the sound of men crashing through the trees all around him. His eyes narrowed. The men were chasing this woman. Why?
Tucking the small human under his arm, he moved so he was nothing more than a shadow in the darkness. One of the men blundered past him and with the speed of a striking rattlesnake; Sebastian reached out and knocked the man to his knees. Moving faster than the mortal could see, the vampire knelt and gripped the man’s head with his large hand, using his enthralling powers to keep him still.
He snarled as the reasons for the chase were made plain. These men were rapists, intent on ravaging the beauty he held in his arms. He looked down at her bloody face and his anger flared. He would not allow this.
Bending, he put his mouth close to the enthralled man’s ear. “Not this time,” he whispered. “She has escaped you.” Making a fist, Sebastian clubbed the would-be rapist, sending him sprawling to the dirt.
Then lifting the woman into his arms, he melted away into the shadows.
***end of excerpt***
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