Rain on glass, windshield breaks.
Screeching tires. Headlights.
Screaming, prayers, and crying. Pain.
Keira ran, crashing through the forest, branches grabbing at her hair and tearing at her clothes. She blinked tears out of her eyes as she collapsed heavily against an old oak, clutching it as she tried desperately to gulp down air.
Instead, she vomited nothing but bile.
She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and straightened, shielding her eyes to see through the dense forest. Where were they?
She ran, the flashes of memory coming unbidden.
Rain. Tires. Headlights.
She stumbled, her foot stubbing against a half-buried root with a sharp pang that coursed up her leg. Her knee raked against a jagged stone as she fell. The urge to scream rose, catching in her throat. She bit her lip to quell it. Digging her nails into the moist earth, she felt the tears fall unhindered.
I have to find them.
They’d been on their way to a dance recital for her little cousin, Molly. It’d been raining, and she’d nodded off, only waking when they slammed into the highway median. They’d hydroplaned, spinning in circles. She remembered the shine of oncoming headlights refracted in rainbow arrays through the raindrops on the windshield. There’d been a crash, metal on metal, then stillness and the sickening feeling of falling. Down, down, down she went.
Screaming. Crying. Pain.
Where was she? Where were the others? Had she somehow been thrown from the car? But she’d been wearing her seatbelt, hadn’t she? She couldn’t see any road from here and thought she might barf again. She closed her eyes and leaned her face against cool earth, listening to the sound of running water.
Hadn’t they driven over a river last night? Keira thought they might have, but she couldn’t be sure. Her brain felt fuzzy around the edges. I have to get to the water, she decided. An icy drink would do her good, at the very least. There had to be somebody, anybody, who would help her find them. She lurched to her feet and tried to run again, but her wounded knee was having none of it. So she limped as fast as she could in the sound’s direction. She saw stars and grasped wildly at trunks and vegetation, lurching from side to side as her balance faltered. Finally, she emerged into a clearing.
The river she’d heard before ran right through it, and she could just make out smoke in the distance. Then she saw him, a lone figure standing at the river’s edge, shading his eyes as he gazed across at her.
Oh, thank God!
She tried to call out and wave her arms. But her voice was a raspy croak, almost inaudible, and her legs seemed unwilling to move even the shortest distance. Her knees buckled, and she braced herself against a tree. He must have seen her, though. Yes, she was sure now that it was a he, the sun glinting off his tall frame and cropped, sandy-colored hair.
He was walking toward her now, hands outstretched, as if approaching a deer that might bolt at any second. Keira didn’t feel capable of bolting anywhere at the moment. Her head swam and black specks colored her vision. The weight of her head seemed enormous, and she thought briefly about how much she’d like to lie down. He was saying something now. His mouth was moving, but her ears felt stuffed with cotton balls, and she couldn’t make out the words.
She felt herself sway and half-decided, half-conceded to plop to the ground. The man ran toward her now, brow furrowed in concern. Strange. Exhaustion washed over her, and she closed her eyes.