I am getting ready to send The Hunted off for editing, but I wanted to share this pretty awesome scene that is still sticking in my mind after I've read the book three times cleaning up! I think today is a great day to introduce you to Avie. I wish I had a picture to go with it, but not yet. Still, I think you will get a lot from this awesome scene! Without further ado, here is when Avie meets the gang:
Avie was regretting her choice of leaving the road, left to trip through underbrush and getting caught on low-hanging branches. Her pursuer was somewhere nearby and every time she got close to the edges of the bramble, he would block her path. She was cornered, trapped. She didn’t know why he was toying with her, or what he was going to do to her.
Exhaustion pulled at her feet and shoulders, and she could barely keep going. The path of her escape was erratic. There was no thinking ahead, only the overwhelming urge to keep moving so he couldn’t hurt her. And she didn’t know why she knew that he wanted to hurt her, but she had no doubt. Every inch of her skin burned with the knowledge that he was going to hurt her. That knowledge was what kept her moving, that blind panic is what drove her forward.
Avie tripped and stumbled, sticks and rocks digging into her palms as she pushed herself up and propelled herself forward. There was light filtering down through the leaves above. She was getting close to the edge again, and he would be on her, pushing her back… but he wasn’t. Maybe she'd lost him? In her gut she knew that if she were going to survive, she had to get into the light.
Veering sharply toward the edge, Avie pushed through a patch of thick undergrowth. As she fought to pull her hair free from the brambles, she was tackled from the right. Her attacker knocked her hard to the ground and she was pinned face down in the dirt. Blind panic overwhelmed her and she flailed about with all her might, still her attacker had her pinned. The world went white. Can't...breathe! She clawed at the hands at her throat, but her attempts to flail got weaker.
The pressure on her back got heavier, and then it seemed to release. This is what dying feels like. She was floating toward the light.
A bone-jarring hit to the ground shook her free of her stupor and she was flying down a wash, skin scraping against clay. She slammed into a root system which sent her spinning backwards. A large black man was tumbling down the wash right behind her. Avie hit the bottom of the wash and rolled backwards trying to get away from the man, but his weight launched him further past the base of the wash and he landed on top of her.
Avie started swinging, ready to fight.
“Stop! Stop, you crazy girl!” the man screamed. “We have to get out of here!” He grabbed Avie’s flailing fist and pulled hard, bringing her halfway to her feet. In surprise, she pulled away and took off running down the wash away from him. He was up and following her fairly quickly.
Avie glanced back, but he wasn’t gaining on her. He seemed to be keeping pace easily enough. As she ran, what he had said processed through her brain. This man, whoever he was, was helping her. The wash opened up ahead. They were now in full light and Avie slowed for a moment.
A tall Native American man came around the side of the wash, and Avie was once again ready to defend herself. He waved to the man behind her. “Hurry, we must get her out of here.”
“Uh uh,” Avie growled. “I’m not going anywhere with you!”
“Your attacker may have had others with him,” the Native American man said calmly.
“What do you know about it?” she growled.
“Enough to know that we need to be far away from here before nightfall. He risked a lot to follow you, which must mean that they are willing to risk a lot to keep up with you.”
There was a screeching noise from above them and the man looked up warily.
“Do you need to?” the black guy nodded back, but the other man shook his head.
“Fury can take of herself and will catch up with us quickly when she is done disposing of him.” The Native American man turned and began picking his way up the other side of the wash. Avie watched him move smoothly and gracefully. A warm breath tickled the nape of her neck and she turned to find the black man too close for comfort.
“You heard Havoc, we need to move.” He gestured after his friend. When Avie didn’t respond he shrugged. “Alright then, good luck with the vamps.” He followed after his friend.
“Wait…” Avie followed tentatively. “Vamps?”
The man grinned at her. “Yeah, as in vampires. You didn’t know that was what was after you?”
Avie’s head spun. “N..no” she stuttered.
The man tsked. “Trust me, you are better off with us.” He gestured again to his friend.
The Native American turned and looked back at her and she realized he had the kindest eyes she had ever seen. “We will help you,” he assured her warmly.
Avie continued to follow them, even though it made no sense.
They walked for several hours. As they came along a stream the leader stopped, gesturing to the water. “We should rest for a bit. We will not want to stop when the sun goes down. Just in case.”
The black man buried his face in the water, coming up and shaking like a dog, then scooping up water to his mouth. Avie looked at him disdainfully. She moved a bit further upstream and dipped her kerchief in the water, wiping her face. The two made her nervous. There was something ominous about them, despite their rescuing her. Despite the leader’s warmth, she sensed he was very dangerous. She watched discreetly as he knelt and scooped water gracefully up to drink. He caught her looking and nodded. She blushed and turned away.
A moment later he was behind her. “We have not been properly introduced.” He startled her badly and she whipped about, once again ready to defend herself. He ignored her aggressive stance and offered his hand. “I am Havoc.”
“Havoc,” she muttered, letting the strange name roll across her tongue.
“That charmer over there is Screvin.” Havoc gave his friend a wave. Screvin was sprawled out on the grass watching her warily. He gave a half-wave back to Havoc. Havoc turned back to her. “And you are?”
Avie wanted to respond with none of your business, but she hesitated. They had, it seemed, saved her life. Rudeness was hardly the correct response. At the same time, she wasn’t keen to get too cozy with them. She knew nothing about them.
“How… how did you come to help me?” she asked nervously.
“A fair question,” Havoc responded, sitting cross-legged on the grass and gesturing for her to join him. She sat skittishly, choosing to angle herself so she could keep an eye on Screvin as well. He was certainly watching them. “We are vampire hunters. We came across the vampire's tracks early this morning and realized he was following you.” Havoc watched her to see if this was a satisfactory response.
Avie could sense that there was more, but he didn’t seem forthcoming. “Who was the woman you mentioned earlier? The one who would catch up?”
Havoc nodded. “Her name is Fury. She should be along soon.”
“And she took the vampire on all by herself?”
Screvin barked a laugh. Avie stared at him sharply. Why would he think that was funny? She looked to Havoc and a small half-smile danced across his lips.
“I assure you, she is more capable than any of us,” Havoc replied calmly. He scrutinized Avie and she wilted under that intense look.
“So, you're just some good Samaritans who rescued me?”
Screvin sat halfway up, paying more attention to their conversation.
“Not quite,” Havoc studied her carefully. “We were looking for you.”
A cold tingle crept up Avie’s spine and her mouth went dry. “Why?”
“Because… you turned Screvin over there.”
“Turned… what?” Avie looked about for an escape.
Screvin rose up ready to pounce. Havoc raised a hand halting him. “We are not going to hurt you. As I said, we want to help you.”
“I have no idea what you're talking about,” Avie insisted, her eyes wildly scanning around them. The urge to flee was overwhelming.
“You do not remember attacking Screvin?” Havoc asked calmly. Screvin pulled the sleeve of his shirt up to reveal a myriad of jagged scars from elbow to shoulder.
Avie went cold. Locked up memories flitted in her mind, battering against the prison holding them locked tight. An image of Screvin, terrified and bleeding rose to the surface along with the overwhelming fear, and a metallic tinge in her mouth. There was blood….