“Rita, where are you?” he called.
She readied herself to run again.
His footsteps sounded close. “Ready or not, here I come.”
She held her breath. Waited.
Had to get the shoes off.
A shiver shot down her spine.
“You can’t hide forever,” he said, now sounding farther away.
Stomach lurching, she peeked around the corner.
He neared the swings, his back to her.
She loosened the buckle on her right pump. It stuck. Resisted.
Footsteps grew closer.
Now he was heading her way.
She froze. Tried to fix her buckle. Fumbled.
“There you are!”
Heart nearly giving out, she turned.
He stood halfway between the playground and her.
Rita leaped to her feet and ran. Her right shoe clung to her foot loosely, the buckle not fully undone. Made it hard to remain steady. She kicked, trying to free herself from it.
Finally lost it as she darted between bushes. Rough bark dug into her bare foot. Then concrete as she reached the sidewalk. Her hips protested the three-inch difference between her two feet, one shoed and the other not.
“Gotcha!” His arms wrapped around her middle. He squeezed.
She struggled and kicked, barely able to breathe. “Help! I’m being—”
He covered her mouth.
She bit his finger.
He swore at her. Didn’t let go. Pulled her back toward the park.
Rita squirmed and flailed. Scratched at him.
She wasn’t going down without a fight.
They flew to the ground.
She landed with a hard thud.
He crashed on top of her.
She pushed and strained to get out from under him.
“This could’ve all been avoided,” he grunted. “I only wanted to talk.”
“Could’ve fooled me.” She tried to push him off.
“Don’t you see we’re meant for each other?”
Rita almost laughed at the irony of his words. “This is your way of winning me back?”
“You have to see the obvious.”
The truth was clearer now than before. But pointing that out wouldn’t do any good. Just needed to get away. Get her phone back and call the cops.
Had to think fast.
“You think we can work things out?” she asked, and stopped resisting.
“If you’re willing to change.” He loosened his hold.
She bit back a sarcastic retort. Needed to get him to move off her. “What do you want me to do?”
“You have to stop flirting with guys at the bar, for starters,” he said, giving her more space.
Not enough to run.
“Let’s talk about that,” she said.
He rolled off her and started to say something.
Rita jumped up and ran.
He called after her.
She raced to the park. Through it.
He screamed profanities at her, getting closer.
She yelled for help. For all the good that would do.
Her restaurant came into view.
All she needed was to get to her car. Her fingerprint would start it. Thank God for technology. She’d lost her keys and purse somewhere along the way. Hadn’t even noticed when.
She reached her property.
Something hard struck the back of her head.
Rita flew forward. Landed hard on the ground, her car just out of reach.
Another hit to the head.
Everything went black.
Stacy Claflin is a USA Today bestselling thriller author who has published more than 75 novels, including Girl in Trouble and The Perfect Death. She has always been curious about the human mind, and in her quest to learn more, she earned a degree in Psychology. Her favorite course was Abnormal Behavior, which has been useful in writing fiction.
Her love for thrillers goes back to her early childhood when she fell in love with Unsolved Mysteries and America’s Most Wanted. When Stacy was five, she got mad at a babysitter who wouldn’t let her watch the evening news. These days, she spends her free time listening to true crime podcasts or watching documentaries on the subject.
She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, and as child would often get into trouble for trying to convince friends her wild tales were true. Now she puts her creativity to better use by writing page-turning stories that leave readers begging for more.
Stacy occasionally dabbles in other genres, so as you peruse her library of works, you’ll find some romance and paranormal tales, all with strong suspense elements.
Join Stacy’s newsletter to get three free novels: https://stacyclaflin.com/newsletter
Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Newsletter