Maeve raced through the alley, bumping into walls and tripping over debris in her haste to escape. The terrified young woman stumbled along despite the excruciating pain pouring from a bloody gash in her leg. She hurtled around another corner and heard the voices behind her fade as her pursuers split up. Maeve sensed only one person tracking her now, but gaining quickly.
As the hunter closed the gap between them, his prey knocked over a few garbage cans to slow his progress and careened into another alley. She skidded to a stop. Dead End. Trapped. Maeve whirled around in a panic, hoping to double back before the hunter caught. . . too late. The young woman put a hand over her wound and stared at the man tracking her. He paused a few feet away, blocking escape. She used that moment of hesitation to lunge at him, hoping to take advantage of the momentum and barrel past. Maeve slammed into the hunter hard, throwing them both off their feet and on to the filthy pavement. She began to crawl away, struggling to regain her footing, but the man grabbed her leg. She managed to roll on to her back and kick once before the hunter hurled himself on top of her. A wretched cry was trapped in Maeve's dry throat as the stranger clamped a calloused hand over her mouth.
Desperate, Maeve looked up, hoping to communicate a plea from her eyes to his, but her attacker's hair fell across his face, obscuring his features. Ragged breathing hissed in her ear and burned against her neck, sparking a new wave of panic. Maeve thrashed frantically, but her movements were limited by the man's weight. One arm was painfully trapped beneath her, the other forced down. She was completely immobilized. Helpless.
The man suddenly released Maeve's arm and moved his hand down to her injured thigh. She frantically began pushing at her captor, managing to deliver a few useless blows. The young woman whimpered against her captor's palm, shutting her eyes to the horror of what was happening. Tears of terror streamed down her face. This wasn't real. This was a nightmare. It had to be. She would wake up in her shabby room, all alone. Wake up, wake up, wake up.
The man pressed mercilessly against Maeve's wound. She let out a muffled shriek as the unbearable pain shot through her body, setting every nerve on fire. Maeve clawed at the man's wrist in a futile attempt to pull his hand away. Her mind reeled with pain and fear. Why didn't he just kill her? Why did he have to be so sadistic? Why…
The young woman gasped softly as she felt a tingling sensation on her leg. The tortuous pain began to ease and was replaced with a soothing warmth that slowly spread out from the gash in a calming wave. Maeve hesitantly stopped struggling as she felt her entire body fill with the warmth. A light moan worked its way up her throat as something powerful washed over her, dissolving her agony in its wake. A trace of the fear lingered, but the pain was gone.
Maeve felt the stranger's body tense against hers and he grunted softly. His head dipped forward, causing soft hair to brush against Maeve's face. The part of her brain that was still rational noted the acrid smell of smoke. He had been there. He was one of the men who tried to kill her, she was certain of it. Maeve's panic faded into pure confusion.
The man's body suddenly relaxed and he removed his trembling hand from her leg. Maeve slipped a hand down to feel the wound, but the man grasped her wrist, gently moving her arm to the side. He remained limp for a few minutes as a bewildered Maeve lay shuddering beneath him. The pressure of the man's weight combined with Maeve's lingering fear made breathing difficult. She lay completely still and concentrated on taking in air. At last the man rolled off. Maeve scrambled away, trembling violently. She stared at the man warily, ready to lash out if he made another grab for her, but realized it was unnecessary. He was slumped on the ground, breath shallow and labored…too weakened to move.
Still shaking uncontrollably, Maeve looked down at her damaged leg. The gash was gone. She wiped at the residual blood and found only a bruise where the gaping wound had once been. What the hell just happened?
The young woman's head snapped up in alarm. Maeve watched as her healer slowly pushed himself to a kneeling position and looked towards her.
"Go," he repeated more firmly, "before the others catch up…"
The man's voice was smooth and deep, his tone surprisingly gentle. Maeve wanted to ask him who he was, why he tried to kill her then …what?…healed her? She sat there and stared at the man, struggling to make sense of the whole impossible situation.
"Why…" she started but was interrupted as the exhausted healer drew a shaking breath and shouted, "GO!"
Maeve raced out of the alley and didn't look back.