Heir in Exile
body so her hands would be free. Picking up the gun next, she checked the safety and slid it into the pocket of the coat. Last, she pulled a beanie over her head for extra protection against the cold. Grabbing one extra bottle of water from the fridge, Chey turned off the lights and exited the house, closing the door behind her.
    Wary of being caught, she jogged off the porch and into the snow, relieved that she could still make her way across the ground without too much struggle. A condition that wouldn't last with the speed the snow was falling.
    Less than ten yards into the woods, she heard the distant sound of an engine. Startled, she gasped and increased her speed, brushing limbs out of her way with her hands. Mattias wouldn't have warned her to leave if he or Sander had been able to reach her first. The incoming vehicle must be guards or police or the military.
    When she glanced behind to see if she could see the clearing she'd left minutes ago, Chey spied the tracks she was leaving behind in the snow.
    It would lead them right to her.
    Cursing under her breath, she lengthened her stride and started looking for a way to make the trail harder to follow. Several patches of ground under the heavier boughs of trees lacked any snow at all, and she headed into those small swathes of needles, dead leaves and other debris. She feigned leaving the patch in another direction, backtracked, then hopped to another bald spot, hoping anyone getting this far would think she diverted and went the other way.
    It was the best she could do. Hurrying through the canopy, protected from the worst of the wind and snow at the moment, she made her way further from the cabin, listening all the while for sounds of someone in pursuit.
    Please, please let them think someone drove me away.
    Then, somewhere behind her, she thought she heard a shout. Pausing mid-step, she twisted to look behind her. Uncovering her ears from under the beanie, she listened again. Panic made her breath come in shallower puffs.
    Another faint shout echoed through the woods.
    They were coming. The men in pursuit had found her trail leading into the woods and they were not far behind.
    Pulling the beanie down, she started ahead, once more attempting to lose the trail by passing through bald patches and back into the snow another direction. In the open areas where branches didn't overlap, snow fell harder. The wind kicked up, too, reducing visibility to less than thirty feet.
    Well, if she couldn't see, then her pursuers couldn't see either. Maybe the new snowfall would obliterate her tracks, making it that much harder to find her.
    In short order, Chey's world narrowed down to a distance of feet rather than yards. She darted this way and that, losing all sense of direction. Warning bells cautioned her not to keep going without checking the GPS on the phone. She might wind up in the endless forests and rough terrain Sander once told her about. In that vast wilderness, she would be exposed to wildlife as well as the weather, a combination that could prove deadly if she was out in it too long.
    Pausing to get her breath, she leaned against a tree and pulled the phone out of her pocket. She pulled up the map utility and caught a glimpse that said she was headed East when suddenly the map flickered and froze. It appeared the GPS had ceased to work, probably because of the storm.
    Chey hissed, turned the phone off to preserve the battery, and was about to lurch forward away from the tree when she heard the snap of twigs somewhere beyond the other side of the trunk. She couldn't decide how close or far it was. Either way she stilled, holding her breath, wondering how in the hell they had found her this fast.
    Sliding the gun from her coat, she thumbed the safety off. Would she really be able to shoot? It's your life or theirs. They won't hesitate to end you where you stand. Are you just going to allow them to without a fight?
    No, she decided. She wouldn't. Swinging out from behind

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