The Heartbeat Journal – Excerpt

Everly's head felt light. She followed the street to her hotel, wishing she'd worn her flip-flops, because each click of her heels alerted her to the fact that she might fall and break a leg, or it might out her to strange men that could be following her. She smiled, remembering her pledge to stop worrying about such things and held her bag of leftovers to her chest. Its warmth could still be felt through the foil.

She saw her hotel just a block away. Almost there. The garden in front of it, full of green things and flowers, looked just a little looming in the misty darkness. Too many hidden places. She quickened her pace as she approached it.

Something moved near a tree inside the garden. Maybe it was just a shadow.

Her legs, wobbly now, took on a life of their own and the stride of a lady in heels had left six paces behind her. The shadow moved with a quickness, and she dumped her leftovers and bolted up the stairs, pulling herself by the rails and hurdling two steps at a time. Footsteps followed her. She scrambled through her wallet to find her card-key and nearly dropped it. Her key wasn't there.

"No, no, no!" She panicked. The clanging of her heart in her throat almost made her wretch. The heavy bread, butter, and wine sloshed around in her stomach like a boat lost in a storm.

"Your key, my lady." A deep voice came from behind her and something plastic brushed over her cheek, sending a rash of shivers through her. She slumped against the door.

He had her inside the door in two beats. Handfuls of her hair dropped to the floor as he threw her onto the bed, climbed on top of her, and slammed his hand over her mouth.

"Did you think I was done with you, Miss Afton?" It was the same man who had attacked her before, but he looked more disheveled than ever—his hair was longer and his beard had taken over his face. "If you even try to scream I will slit your throat from ear to ear. Your breath won't even have time to reach that supple little mouth." He clicked open a switchblade and ran its tip over her quivering lips.

A swift urge to knee him swept over her, but then her life flashed before her eyes. Her bunny, her mom, Corrine. The life she'd made for herself writing about love and war and how love would survive it all. Her brother would want her to fight for her life, but if that meant dying then how could she? She squeezed her eyes shut and pictured his face and prayed.

Get me outta this one, twerp. I really need you.

A flurry of noises exploded around her. Splintering wood, the rush of the wind, and the man's body being torn away from her while his knife chinked a chunk of wood out of the floor—and the sound of air leaving his throat.