Her Perfect Mate(103)

By: Paige Tyler


Ivy didn’t answer. She couldn’t. She felt herself slipping into the feline zone, felt that uncontrollable urge to let go and allow her animal to come out and play—and hunt. This time there was no way she could stop it.

“Ivy!”

She turned and ran toward Jeff’s scent. Every other thought in her head disappeared, leaving only one—find the man who had tormented her and kill him.

***

Stutmeir was faster than he looked. Landon chased him for a solid fifteen minutes before getting a glimpse of the ex-Stasi again. It didn’t help that the scar-faced man ran in a different direction, confusing the trail and making it tough to figure out which set of tracks belonged to Stutmeir. Luckily, Landon picked the right one.

Instead of going deeper into the forest, Stutmeir led him into a clearing. Strewn with small boulders, it made for dangerous footing, and Landon had to scramble to keep from falling as he ran across the slope. He raised his gun, aiming it at Stutmeir, but the German had already disappeared into the forest again.

Landon ran after him. He was halfway across the clearing when he heard the sound of rocks falling above him. He’d just fallen for the oldest trick in the book. Stutmeir had doubled back and gotten into position above Landon on the slope so he could ambush him.

He swore and threw himself behind the only cover he could find—a rock that wasn’t much bigger than a coffee table. He’d barely hit the ground when the dirt exploded around him. He did his best impersonation of a groundhog and tried to bury himself to avoid getting shot, but the rock wasn’t big enough to provide much cover. Landon wasn’t sure exactly where Stutmeir was, either, so he had no idea what angle he had on him. He sure wasn’t going to poke his head up to take a look. He prayed nothing important was hanging out.

What was Stutmeir carrying—an MP5? That meant a thirty-round magazine. But had the man started the ambush with a full clip?

A distinct clack of a bolt locking back as the weapon ran out of ammo answered his question. The sound was clear and unmistakable. Now was his chance to get to more substantial cover before Stutmeir could reload.

He had about two and a half seconds to cross the fifteen feet of rocky, uneven ground between him and the edge of the forest—unless Stutmeir was faster at reloading an MP5 than Landon thought. Not wanting to take the chance, Landon darted out from behind the rock and ran for the forest’s edge. He threw himself the last few feet, hitting the ground in a roll and slamming hard into a tree.

Landon leaned against the tree, waiting for Stutmeir to open fire again. But all he heard was the sound of the ex-Stasi heading farther up the slope. Landon got up and ran after him.

Fighting gravity, the slippery rocks, and the thick undergrowth was hard, but all Landon had to do was think about how Ivy had looked when he’d first found her in the basement of the lodge. All the torture they’d inflicted upon her precious body. The drugs they’d given her. The countless ways they’d made her suffer. That gave him all the strength he needed, and by the time he crested the ridge, he could have killed Stutmeir with his bare hands.

Unfortunately, Stutmeir was nowhere in sight. He must have already gone down the slope and up the far side.

Landon’s first instinct was to barrel down the slope after the man, but he stopped himself. Stutmeir had already proven himself adept at setting up hasty ambushes, and there was absolutely no way the other man could have made it all the way up the far slope in the time it had taken Landon to crest the ridge.

There was a blur of movement above him, then a stabbing pain as something sharp sliced down the outside of his right arm from shoulder to elbow. He swore, but barely got the curse out before Stutmeir hit him square in the chest. The impact knocked the air out of his lungs and sent both of them tumbling down the slope.

***

Tree limbs smacked against Ivy’s legs. Rocks dug into her bare feet. She ignored them. She had Jeff’s scent. Nothing was going to slow her down.

But then the breeze stilled in a heavily overgrown section of the forest and she suddenly lost his trail.

She froze in her tracks, the animal in her so frustrated she almost screamed out loud.

She turned in a slow circle, sniffing the air. She’d worked with Jeff, knew the way he thought. He’d stay on the course he’d been following. If she did the same, she’d catch him.

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