If cold could take a physical form, it would be a snake. Cold had the uncanny ability to slither through clothing, wrap around its victim, and squeeze until it was an effort just to breathe.
Her lungs burned icy hot, and her throat was raw. She tasted blood on her tongue and teeth. If this were any other time, she would have stopped from sheer exhaustion. But this was today, tonight, and they had finally found her. Hysteria, panic kept her going. Stopping would be synonymous with death.
Stop equals death. Stop means death. Stop death stop death. Deathdeathdeath.
A sob tore from her throat and her chest rose and fell rapidly. She was twenty-five years old. She did not want to die.
Her hair streamed out behind her as she ran, the tangled curls blending in with the starless black sky. Even as she sprinted straight into the woods, she did not stop. She risked a glance over her shoulder, and her stomach churned bile. The two men were still very much behind her, and still very much in possession of guns.
Her pace slowed fractionally as she glanced around. Warped and naked braches shot up towards the sky, and moss decorated the ground. Owls hooted and animals scampered, but nothing was louder than her breath, coming out in hisses.
If anything, it would give her away first and foremost.
Crack. A twig snapped from somewhere behind her, as loud as a gunshot. She shuddered and dove into a patch of overgrown bushes. She clapped a hand to her mouth, her skin so pale it stood out against the night, to keep from crying out in pain. Thistles. But she stayed there.
Deep in the darkness, she hid.
Leaves rustled. More twigs snapped.
“You’re here somewhere,” a voice said with enough surety to make her break out in a sweat. “This is the end.” The sound of the man’s voice was pleasant despite the situation, deep and velvety.
And still a ways away.
This was her chance. Quietly as she could, she got to her hands and knees, ignoring the needles stabbing into her palms. And then she made a break—
Bang. A bullet slammed into her chest, knocking her back several dozen feet. Her eyes opened wide. Everything became silent. She drew a last, rattling breath…
Blue and red lights flashed, and sirens blared at the mouth of the woods.
Officer Danvers’s mouth still hung wide open. “They didn’t lie about you, did they? I wouldn’t have believed that shot if I hadn’t seen it with my own damn eyes. You’re somethin’, Detective.”
Jared Moore shrugged and ran a hand through his black hair. “All in a day’s work.”
But his once-haunted blue eyes shone with a degree of contentment. The woman who had killed his fiancée and countless other women was dead.
The Mayfair Murderess was no more.