A hand grabbed her ankle. Her stomach clenched in terror. Looking down, she made out the white of one malevolent eye glaring at her. Petre was still alive and had dragged himself across the apartment to get her.
“Katya.” A guttural growl rumbled in his throat. His face was set with ugly resolve.
“No! Get away from me!” She kicked his arm with her other foot until he let go and his head dropped limply to the floor. Gasping for breath, she backed against the door. The storm might be deadly, but staying inside with a killer was suicide.
She groped for the handle. The wind tore the door out of her grasp and banged it against the wall. Rain whipped inside and immediately drenched her shirt and shorts. Without a second thought, she stepped into the storm. A furious gust stole her breath as an otherworldly shriek pierced the night.
The wind. Only the wind.
The reassurance didn’t quell her racing heart or ease a sickening dread jelling in her middle. She had to face the hurricane head-on with no protection.
Shoving her fear aside, she lowered her chin and headed down the stairway. Her running shoes skidded on the wet, slippery concrete. She grabbed the wrought iron railing in time to prevent a tumble to the ground below.
Wind clawed at her blouse, lifting it away from her body, exposing her to the storm. She reached the ground level, ran to her car. No keys. They were still in the apartment, with all her other possessions. She glanced at the door. She wasn’t returning—not with that man still there…waiting.
If she couldn’t go back or take the car, she needed to find shelter. Now.
The gale roared like an out-of-control locomotive through the narrow breezeway between her apartment building and the one next to it. She ran from door to door, pounding, testing locks, shouting for someone to let her in.
No one answered. Everyone had evacuated, exactly as they were supposed to. All the doors remained secure—deaf barriers to safety.
She was alone. Saturated to the skin and barely standing. And out of options. Looking up at the dark stairway to the apartment, she wondered if Petre had given up. Unwilling to take the chance that he’d follow, she opted for more distance.
The apartment complex’s laundry room was about twenty yards away. It shouldn’t be locked and might offer temporary sanctuary. Not wasting any more time, she shielded her face, leaned into the wind and ran for all she was worth.
Rain surged in sheets of opaque gray against the waning light. Her shorts pasted against her legs like a second skin. The cutting water pelted her until, mercifully, her exposed flesh grew numb.
Over the wail of the storm, she thought she heard her name. She spared a glance behind her. No one followed. Only trash, broken tree limbs, and other debris tumbled through the passages between the buildings.
Once she turned the corner toward the laundry room, the wind eased a little. The adrenaline that had spiked during her escape began to seep away. Her legs trembled from the strain of running, and constant shivering racked her body. She’d only gone a few more steps when an ominous sound rumbled ahead. Squinting into the night, she saw a wall of foaming water plowing straight at her.
“No!” She cursed between clenched teeth. Changing direction, she sprinted for another stairwell. With luck, the second-story platform would be high enough to avoid being swallowed by the surge.
As she reached the stairs, churning water gushed under her feet. She braced herself along the wrought iron handrail as the current’s force stopped her from moving forward. Water rose to her ankles, then her knees. In desperation, she leapt for the top landing that would put her above the flood.
With flailing arms, she grabbed the railing. Her body jerked to a sudden stop and her head whiplashed, striking the sharp corner on the concrete landing.
Then the world went silent.
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