She ran like the hounds of hell pursued her.
She’d sensed It the moment she’d left the hospital, known It watched her, waiting for the chance to find her alone. Wasn’t it enough she felt its presence on the floor, waiting to steal souls that weren’t protected by loved ones? She knew It abhorred her, hated that she protected the dying from its clutch. She swallowed paralyzing fear and tore full bore across the parking lot.
Her breath huffed out in sobbing, frightened gasps as she ran into the parking garage and dug the parking ticket out of her jeans pocket.
Level two. Slot thirty-nine.
Jesus. So far. She chugged up the incline between the first and second floor and snapped a nail on the pocket of her scrubs in search of her keys.
It gained on her, its heavy breathing closing in until heat brushed her neck. Another shot of adrenaline accelerated her movements and she shrieked and redoubled her efforts, the slapping of her footsteps echoing between the cement pillars and metal I-beams of the garage.
Surely, the parking attendant would hear her, or cameras would detect this crime. Cars, pickup trucks, SUVs passed by in a colorful blur as she huffed toward the second level. Another blast of heat hit her neck in warning and with knees threatening to buckle, she whipped around and swiped at her assailant with a sharp key. A quick flash of another-worldly evil flitted before her before the image changed shape and a huge man fell to his knees. He bellowed in pain and furious anger. Without breaking stride, she watched over her shoulder as he clutched his cheek.
Up ahead, her silver Elantra beckoned. Legs tightened and protested as she pumped toward the compact car. Fumbling with the fob on her keyring, she repeatedly hit the unlock button until the doors clicked and she clutched the door handle. Oh, thank you, God.
Without any warning from behind, a hard hand slammed her face against the driver’s side window. Her teeth bit into her cheek and blood filled her mouth.
Oh, God. It caught up with me. She began to sob at the futility of running. She’d felt It, felt its presence every single time a patient passed. Felt its deep hatred for her skills, her desire to keep patients safe until their loved ones could come to claim them.
And she’d never expected her life to end this way. Please let death come swiftly.
Rapid movement and a sudden roar of protest sounded behind her. Heavy weight fell away and a blessed warmth replaced the feral force pushing against her body. Even so, she fought the comforting hold, choking and fighting against abject fear.
“Shhh,” a deep, welcoming voice sounded in her ear. A large hand slipped around her waist. “Go home, sweetheart. You’re safe now.”
Refusing to acknowledge her savior, she opened the door and slid behind the wheel. A shaking hand slipped the key into the ignition and the engine gunned in reverse. Without a backward glance, she slammed the car into drive and tore out of the garage.