Chapter Excerpt



It’s dark, wet and freezing and the soles of my feet are raw from running barefoot across the forest floor. My body is exhausted but I can’t stop. I can’t let them catch me.

     I have been running for what feels like thirty minutes, although it could be longer. There’s still no sign of a road anywhere nearby, there’s not even a hiking trail in sight. I shouldn’t be surprised really, Dante wouldn’t keep his precious ‘merchandise’ anywhere near civilisation, less risk of someone stumbling across his ‘business’.

     My breath comes in short, deep bursts as I run as fast as my legs will go. I am surrounded by nothing but large, haunting trees. I hide behind a particularly wide tree and try to catch my breath for a minute, the thick leaves of the trees hiding me in near darkness despite the blazing sun overhead.

     I look myself over for any serious injuries. My body is covered in bruises and dirt, there are some day-old cuts and some scratches from the struggle of my escape. I have a large wound on the left side of my stomach that I got from one of the guards during the escape. I place my hands over the hole to apply pressure to stop the bleeding, ripping a strip of fabric from my dress, I wrap it tightly around my waist, then focus on my breathing.

     With my eyes squeezed shut, I try to imagine what life back home is like. Are my parents still looking for me? Does my boyfriend still wait for me to come back to him? Has my best friend found a new bestie? I have lost track of how long I’ve been away from them. Almost four months, I think.

     The sound of a twig snapping brings me back to attention. I look into the trees and can’t see anyone, with one last breath I take off running. I can hear the footsteps of the men chasing me, the shouts as they shout to one another, they’re close. I only go a few more steps before the sound of a gun being loaded stops me in my tracks.

     “Don’t take another step, Tayla.” comes a voice from behind, I look around and find myself surrounded by dark figures, all of who are pointing their guns at me.

     I slowly turn to face him and find myself looking down the business end of his gun. I meet his eyes briefly before I feel a sharp pain in the back of my head and then the world goes black.

     My last thought: I only hope they’ll kill me quickly.