The Captive by Fiona King Foster

The Captive by Fiona King Foster

Author:Fiona King Foster [Foster, Fiona King]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Ecco
Published: 2020-10-30T00:00:00+00:00


THE STALLION’S HOOFPRINTS ENDED HALF A MILE IN, AT THE SWAMP. A LINE OF bent and leaning reeds showed where Cawley had ridden into reflectionless black water, where Brooke could not follow. She stood looking out at the gray spurs that had once been trees. She would have to circuit the swamp to find Cawley’s exit point, and all the while she would be ignorant of his position, whether he’d waded clear through to the other side or circled back to come at her from behind, whether he would go east or west.

One or the other, she told herself. Just choose.

Brooke turned east. If nothing else, she might lead Cawley and Delia that much farther from the children.

She kept the edge of the swamp in view, walking in the trees, where she’d have some chance of cover if Cawley came at her from the water. Some way along the broad belly of the swamp, she took note of a granite escarpment that slanted away into the forest. Hardly any snow had settled on the steep rock face. She passed it and, a hundred feet farther on, veered toward the swamp, stepping into the reeds until dark water seeped up in her footprints. Then she walked backwards along her own trail, weighting her steps onto her toes. When she got to the escarpment, she stepped sideways onto a lip of the bare rock.

Carefully, carefully, leaning against the granite with her fingertips, shaping her body so as not to slip and make a mark, Brooke edged her way along until she was well off her original trail. She dropped down into a recently trampled turkey run. A dozen or more birds had passed this way. She kept to their corridor of flattened snow, shuffling her steps roughly, hoping to disguise the direction of her passage from anyone who happened upon her boot prints among the turkeys’ scratches.

She hadn’t gone far when she became aware of far-off hoofbeats—a rhythm barely perceptible as sound, more felt through the soles of her feet than heard. She ducked into the crotch of a forked cedar and brought the barrel of her rifle up against her cheek, listening. In stillness, she was instantly colder. She tried to control her shivering enough that she could hear.

The horse was coming at a walk from the east. Wrong direction for Delia; it must be Cawley. He had left the swamp and was coming back around for her. Strange that he would announce his presence so plainly and give her the chance at a shot.

But the hoofbeats did not seem to get closer. He was passing north of her, some distance into the bush. She must have stumbled on him in the act of doubling back, before he knew her position.

Fearful of a trap but unwilling to let Cawley get out of reach, Brooke moved as quickly and silently as she could to intercept.

The bush here was healthy spruce and cedar; the snow had barely penetrated and the floor was clear of underbrush.


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