From the Author
Welcome to Katsu Espinoza's nightmare...
This book was published before. It used to havea different title, Baited, and Iwrote it under another pen name, Crystal Green, because my Chris Marie Green nomde plume hadn't really come into existence yet. (Vampire Babylon and a certainGhost for Hire hit the scene afterward!) Chris Marie Green usually writes urbanfantasy books with heavy paranormal elements, and this story doesn't have anyof that. But I decided to use "her" name on this because, like the urbanfantasies, there's a lot of mystery, action, thrills, horror, and yes, graphicviolence here--so if you're not into the last one in particular, you might wantto duck out of Terror Island now!
But if you decide to stick around, I hope youenjoy the ride. (Or maybe "enjoy" isn't quite the word for what's coming yourway...)
Chris Marie Green
Thepulse in her head kicked to a deafening beat while she lifted her face to thegray sky, panting, blinking as a drop of rain bled from a palm frond andsplashed onto her forehead. She tightened her grip on the long screwdriver inher hand--the best weapon she'd been able to scrounge from their sad store ofsupplies back at the cave.
Please, Kat thought--no prayed.Please give me another sign to follow.Even if the sign was another tortured yell that would let her find the nextvictim--whoever it was--before it was too late.
At thesame time, she wished for silence. God knew what the killer was doing to thescreamer right now. From what she and the other survivors had seen of theprevious victims, she didn't want to guess.
Blood running to the ground from themutilations... Eyes staring in dead terror at nothing... Mouths open in silentcries...
Katshut her eyes against a surge of nausea, but the vivid red images of flesh keptstabbing into her.
Murder.A killer in the midst of a group of people she'd set out on a boat tour withonly days ago. It'd started off so innocently, just like any other morning whenyou got out of bed, brushed your teeth, ate your breakfast, and did your thing.
Butthen the storm. The wreckage. This island.
Evennow, she couldn't believe what a nightmare the harmless little cage-divingexpedition had turned out to be. Couldn't believe a person like her--a normalgirl whose biggest problems included endlessly paying off old credit-card debtand navigating a hapless love life--was actually chasing down a killer.
But allthat was behind her, a hazy dream that was just as out of reach as the thoughtof being rescued from whatever nameless piece of land they'd found themselveson.
As Katwaited, a flash of lightning flickered, whitening the sky and the forest aroundher. A rumble of thunder shook the air, covering the chop of her own laboredbreathing. Tiny explosions of raindrops on leaves echoed her crazy heartbeatwhile she stood braced, ready to run toward...
Startled,adrenaline sparked her forward, toward the sound.
Ohgod, ohgod, ohgod...
Kattook hold of the screwdriver as if it were an ice pick and charged forward,parting the vegetation, dodging leaves, tripping over vines, and sloshingthrough the mud. Before she could really think about what she was doing, shestumbled into a clearing, screwdriver poised.
Oppositeher, the newest victim sat slumped against the trunk of a tree, blood andraindrops mingling on a terrified face. His mouth, gaped open, still held afrozen yawp for mercy. His hands were wrenched behind the tree--obviously tied.When the victim spotted her, he leaned forward, his eyes widening.
Lipsforming a soundless word.
Kathitched in a breath as she took a sharp look around. Dark foliage. Quickeningraindrops. A body...two bodies...sprawledin the high grass to her right.
Legsturning to slush, she dragged her gaze away and fought to walk to the victim.Still, she couldn't help eyeing the bodies, trying to see who they were.
Or whothey used to be.
Careful, she told herself. What if this victim is actually the killerand he's tricking me, luring me?
Don't trust anybody.
"Whodid this to you?" Kat whispered, crouching. She still had the screwdriverready, just in case.
Thevictim's eyes weren't focusing, and Kat could tell he was struggling to stayconscious. Could she get him back to camp in time to save them both?
Thenext blinding second, the victim's gaze fixed on something behind Kat, hismouth falling open again... But it wasn't to answer Kat's question.
Hisblood-rimmed mouth was forming the shape of a scream.
Blindedby panic, Kat grabbed a handful of mud, preparing to whip around to throw it inthe face of whoe