“We did it, Dancer. We got away. Good boy.”
Darby slowed him to a walk and leaned down to stroke his neck.
She squeezed her knees and nudged him forward slowly. The undergrowth, bushes, and trees took on menacing shapes, eagerly stretching their branches and brambles into death traps waiting for a victim. Huge insects darted at her from every direction. A branch cracked to her right.
Darby’s heart pounded like a huge Japanese Taiko drum.
She stopped Dancer in his tracks, leaned forward, and peered through the brush, straining to see whether man or beast stalked her.
Suddenly Dancer lurched. Unprepared, her hands flailed upward. Arms reached up and pulled her off the horse. A powerful hand clamped over her mouth, an arm wrapped around her waist in a viselike grip and hoisted her into the air, while she kicked back her feet to find purchase.
“Hang on, little lady. This won’t hurt a bit.” Her attacker held her in a tight bear hug. Then another man joined him. The one holding Darby dropped her to the ground, flipped her onto her back, one guy grabbed her arms, the other her legs, and they held her down, spread-eagle on the ground. She squirmed furiously.
“Ain’t this a sight.” Earl towered over her, straddled her, placing one foot on either side of her hips. A malevolent grin twisted his face into an evil mask.
“Bet you didn’t see this coming.”
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