Rendezvous With Yesterday(8)By: Dianne Duvall
Bending, she picked up the Ruger 9mm that lay at her feet.
Her backpack and other belongings lay there, too, but she would tackle that puzzle later.
Beth ejected the empty magazine and replaced it with a full one from her pocket, advancing the first bullet into the chamber.
“Josh?” she called hesitantly, looking all around her. If Kingsley and Vergoma’s men lurked nearby, calling out was a very bad idea, but she didn’t have much choice if she wanted to find her brother.
A moment passed. No answer came.
Backing away, she turned toward a stand of trees several yards distant.
Somewhere a bird stopped twittering.
“Josh, where are you?” she shouted, fear rising. “Josh!”
The forest beckoned. Turning this way and that, she started toward it, walking forward, then backward, then forward again, searching for some sign—any sign—of her brother.
Why was everything so unfamiliar to her? Had she gotten lost in the forest? That forest? The one in front of her?
Maybe before she had passed out she had stumbled away from her brother in search of help, had ended up wherever she was now, and just couldn’t remember it.
Grasping that small shred of hope, she took off into the trees, racing through them as fast as she could, praying she would zip past a tree trunk any minute and run smack into Josh’s chest.
“Josh, where are you?”
He has to be nearby, she thought. I mean, how far could I have gone with a gaping hole in my chest?
Her initial burst of energy dwindled at an alarming rate, confirming just how weak she had become. Her voice grew hoarse and fearful.
She didn’t know how long or how far she ran, tripping over fallen branches, crashing through shrubs and ferns and vines, always calling his name, before she saw light up ahead.
Another clearing? The clearing?
Hope reviving, breathing hard, she stumbled out of the trees and skidded to an astonished halt.
Four men on horseback stared down at her with equally stunned expressions as they pulled back on the reins to keep their mounts from plowing into her.
Falling back a step, Beth raised her 9mm and gripped it with both hands, aiming first at one man, then the next, not knowing upon whom to settle. “Where is he?” she gasped, so out of breath she could barely speak.
Three of the men looked to the one in the center.
Assuming him their leader, she transferred her aim to him. “Where’s…” Her voice trailed away as she got a good look at them. “…Josh?” she finished weakly.
Lowering the gun, Beth gaped.
They created quite an image, lined up before her—side by side—on impressively large, horses with gleaming coats. Every single one of the men was handsome (especially the leader), with broad shoulders and muscled bodies that must surely be a challenge for the horses to carry.
But that wasn’t what made her stare until her eyes began to burn.
All four men wore chain mail, sported long broadswords strapped to their trim waists, and looked as if they had just ridden off the pages of a medieval history book.
Or maybe a movie set.
Shoving her gun into her shoulder holster, Beth eagerly moved forward. “Hey, are you guys actors? Is there a set nearby? Does it have security? Maybe HPD or sheriff’s deputies? Because—”
The one on the far left barked something in a language she didn’t recognize. He appeared to be the oldest of the four, boasting rich brown hair that grayed at the temples.
“English,” Beth said. “In English, please. Are you guys actors?”
The leader said something she again could not understand. What was that—Gaelic?
“Do you speak English?” she asked. “Parlez-vous anglais? Sprechen sie Englisch? Habla used Inglés?” She had always had a knack for foreign languages, both for learning them and speaking them proficiently. She had learned Spanish in high school, then French in college. Marc, who was fluent in at least five or six different languages, had taught her enough German to carry on basic conversations. And her geography professor in college had claimed that knowing English, Spanish, French, and German had enabled him to communicate in every country he had visited throughout Europe.