Chapter one.


Lex shot through the woods with an animal speed. Sharp branches nipped at her tender skin, her bare feet trampled over nettles, she ignored it, pressing on. The night encompassed her, hiding her from view in the folds of its darkness and those would seek to harm her, what was her long time ally was also the key to her destruction, for she knew not of what hidden dangers could seek shelter amid its treacherous depths. Every shape, corner or mere sound was a potential enemy to evade. Trees became daunting figures of doom, reaching out as if to ensnare her forever. Nature, her once trusted friend, was now a devilish trickster. From behind her-she could hear nothing. Still, she couldn't waste time by stopping to check if she was safe. If she did, Lex was certain the very cost would be her life.

A brilliant burst of pain shot through her stomach, causing her to fall to her knees. Even as she fell, she knew she couldn't run anymore. She had nothing left. Lex took deep, gasping breaths, she felt like she was drowning. She could take up every bit of air in the universe and it wouldn't be enough. Her ears desperately tried to detect footsteps, some other sign of human life in these woods apart from her. Blessedly, she heard nothing.

She slowly regained control of her breathing.

After casting darting, furtive glances around the width of the woods, Lex inspected the damage to her person. Both her feet were red, itchy and bleeding. Wincing, she pulled herself into a more comfortable sitting position, wondering how, now down, she'd ever manage to get back up. Her arms and legs were a mass of painful scratches and scrapes, her once pretty white gown now resembled cut up rags. You could see right through to her corset.

What would mama say?

Lex privately laughed, grimly noting that if anybody found her they'd think her nothing more than a common savage. Using a tree to pull herself up, she got to her feet... and promptly fell back down again. Now the immediate danger had passed, for the first time, she really felt the pain. God, her feet. It was a wonder they were still attached.

Had she damaged them badly?

Would she be a cripple?

She shoved the thoughts away.

I have never been weak and I do not plan to start being a frail, fainting damsel now!

With renewed vigour, Lex rose, albeit somewhat awkwardly.

It was then that she heard it.

A bang that made her hands shake and heart pound.

She recognised the sound instantly.

It was a warning shot.

He was within range.

She squinted using her good night vision and observational memory to see if there was anything different about her surroundings. Anything disturbed. Again she detected nothing.

Another bang, closer this time. Lex knew she didn't have the energy to run again, but there was no way she would just stand here and let him shoot her either.

How far off is he anyway? Usually she would have been able to tell. Self-hatred ran through her. How stupid could I have possibly been to believe I could outrun him? How did I get myself into this mess? Papa was right. He knew my mouth would get me into trouble eventually. Why did I not do as I was bid and listen to him and mama when they tried to teach me to be more becoming? Maybe if I had behaved more court like...

A bullet whizzed past her, denting the bark of the tree she was leaning on, landing only a bare inch off her shoulder-blade.

Oh lord, he nearly hit me. It was only by chance he missed.

An invisible, cold finger slid down the length of her spine. A second later it was replaced by a fiery blaze from deep within her.

"What is the matter?," Lex called out into the night, seeing it useless to helplessly wait here till he happened to get lucky. "Why not come out to face me, or are you too coward to kill me face to face? Yet," she calmly continued upon receiving no answer, "since you hunt a gentlewoman like a fawn, why show any nobility now?"

"I want you to know," he murmured, so close behind her she involuntarily jumped, "I have never hunted a gentlewoman in my life."

He positioned himself a bit in front of her, the rifle held carelessly in his hand.

Lex peered out at him from her tumbling dark mane, her grey eyes heating with fire. "And why would that be, my lord? They all too quick for you?"

"Maybe I'm too quick for them."

"Or maybe you just cannot shoot straight."

In response the rifle was aimed at her head. "I have been told I'm a very precise shot."

From up ahead the moon bore heavily down on them, casting light on the fiend before her. He looked, for all the world, Lex realised, like a true harbinger of death. His jet black hair shimmered with undertones of blue, brief flashes of colour that simply made him more inhuman.

Like a raven. Omen of doom.

She was aware that her heart was beating unnaturally fast….. yet there was no need to let him know that. "Well congratulations, it is nice to know you can actually succeed at doing something right. I guess it makes a welcome change from being a disappointment and failure."

He gave her a grim smile. "Oh, when I set out to do something I never fail in my mission."

She met his midnight eyes unflinchingly.

He no doubt wanted her to scream, beg or cry. She would not give him the satisfaction.

I am Lex Arrell Hunt and I yield to no one.

"Goodbye, Alexandra."

He pulled the trigger.