She shook her head again. This time a wooziness threatened to swallow her up. Taking several more breaths, she bent over and managed to keep from blacking out again.

“You need to find shelter and pronto, Leigh Ann Readon. Shelter and a phone. Maybe not in that order. Just seeing another person would be a better start. Give you an idea of where you are.”

She took her time getting to her feet. Turning in a complete circle, she searched the landscape again, hoping to find some sign of civilization. If not that, maybe a body of water. People always flocked to bodies of water. But the raw countryside continued as far as she could see.

“Well, shit. Guess I’ll have to hoof it, and hope I find something soon.”

Off to her left was a tree line. She debated whether or not to head in that direction. Not knowing the area, were there any wild animals she’d have to worry about?

“What if there’s bears? Bears can climb trees. So can mountain lions, or any lions, for that matter.” She looked around her again. “What if I overshot France, and I’m now in Africa? Does this look like the veldt to you?”

Trees? Or open field? Six of one, half-dozen of the other.

“Well, the longer I continue to stand here and debate the issue with myself, the later it’s going to get, until it’ll be too dark to keep going.”

She opted for the open field. “That way, if someone shows up, I’ll be able to see them and flag them down. Or if some kind of creature shows up, I’ll be able to see them… Stop it! What am I doing? Trying to freak myself out?”

Pain sliced up her arm when she inadvertently jostled it. Hissing, she winced. A check of her wound showed a long tear into her skin from her elbow to about midway toward her wrist. The bleeding had slowed to a crawl, and there was a hole at both ends, making her believe the bullet had exited and wasn’t lodged in her arm. Saying a quick prayer of thanks, she removed her blouse and wrapped it tightly around her arm before tying the ends in a knot, using her teeth to make it tight. Slipping it back over her head, she set her arm inside the improvised sling. Once it was settled, the pain lessened. Okay, so now I’m walking around in my bra. Big deal. I’ve seen skimpier bikinis.

She checked the area again as she took off. She needed something to drink in addition to getting medical attention. Although it wasn’t a hot day, it was muggy, and it wasn’t long before she began to think sticking to the open field wasn’t one of her best decisions. Twice she was forced to pause and rest in order to keep from blacking out.

At the bottom of a hill, she silently rejoiced to see a small stream. Rushing to it, she knelt and scooped up several mouthfuls of the cold liquid. She couldn’t remember tasting anything as wonderful. Once she was full, she wiped her face and chest. It was enough to give her her second wind.

Leigh scoped out the terrain again. She didn’t know how far she’d gone, but wherever she was, it was literally in the middle of nowhere. “I’m not in France. I’m willing to bet anything I’m not. But I’m not in Kansas anymore, either.” She managed a wry grin at the bad joke.

Something caught her eye. A movement. She stared into the distance, waiting to see if it happened again. It did, and she jumped to her feet. She started to wave her good arm and shout at it, when common sense took over. What if it was an animal? What if it was something—

Another movement. This time there was no mistaking what she’d seen. A figure stood from where it had been crouching in the tall grass. His back was to her, but there was no mistaking it was a man.

She frowned. A man who appeared to be naked, at least from the waist up. He was looking off into the distance at something, and he raised his arm. He raised his spear.

Leigh stared in wide-eyed fascination. A half-naked man with a spear? “Where the hell am I?”

The guy gestured and shouted something she couldn’t make out. Was he shouting to someone, or at something?

“All right, Leigh Ann. Do I attempt to approach him? What if he’s not friendly to total strangers? And don’t forget the fact that I’m female. I could be setting myself up for something I’ll regret later on.”

She swiped the hair away from her face, when a soft growl came from over her left shoulder. Fear threatened to turn her legs into concrete as she slowly rotated her head to look in that direction. Again, a rumbling came from the throat of some creature she couldn’t see, this time closer.

She backed away, moving as slowly as she could. Something moved in the grasses. Whatever it was, it blended in perfectly.

She fought to keep calm. Fought not to bolt and run, because if she did, whatever was stalking her, and it was stalking her, would bring her down before she took a dozen steps.

The thing took two steps forward, parting the grasses until she could see the enormous, broad head the color of sun-ripened wheat.

Oh, shit! It’s a mountain lion. A big, ginormous mountain lion!

She blinked, and the blood seemed to drain out of her body. Were those teeth sticking out of its jaws? Or tusks?