He’s silent... he’s dangerous... and he’s dying.
Amid the ruins of a destroyed building, a young woman finds a fresh corpse, a tightly-bound prisoner of war with a bloody knife beside his one free hand... and a deadly choice to make.
She knows this man is dangerous, and yet she’s drawn to him. He needs her help, and for a person who’s spent a lifetime defining herself by being strong for those who need her, that is enough.
But the war-torn town is filled with her patient’s enemies, his presence puts her in danger, and his quiet strength awakens fears, desires and inner demons that she thought she’d put to rest long ago.
Either the two of them will save each other, body and soul... or he’ll take her down with him.
Poetic, suspenseful and profoundly moving, My Fugitive will make you cry, hold your breath, and fall deeply in love with two unforgettable characters.
"The story moved me. I found myself still thinking about it hours after I finished the book." - Nicole L'Esperance.
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My mother told me a story once. A story about a wave that washed up all the starfish and left them on the shore, in a place where starfish can’t survive.
I can hear the ocean in the distance, but I know that it’s only my blood, pounding in my ears like the flying surf. Dust hangs in the air like sea spray, seeking a way into my lungs and eyes. It covers everything, and the place where it falls thickest is the wall I’m lying on.
The building is toppled on its side. A wave moved through the earth, and somewhere outside, the starfish are starting to stir. I can hear their muted voices, calling, crying.
These starfish are human, and that makes it all the worse.
There are people inside the building, too. I lost track of them when the world moved, but now I force myself to my feet, looking around, seeking the nerve to call out.
Do I want them to hear me?
A swirl of dizziness passes through my head, and my feet are unsteady beneath me. My surroundings shiver slightly, and I realize I have to move quickly, before an aftershock can turn this place into a tomb.
As I take my first uneven steps, I decide to remain silent. I’d rather see them before they see me.
A dull burning fills my skull, and it’s only now that I realize I hit my head as I fell. The vertigo remains, but I have already learned to disregard it, and the trembling ground no longer slows me down.
I know how to walk when everything wants me to fall.
A sound is reaching for me, and I move toward it, prowling like a cat. If I keep my body low enough, I can keep my balance—and perhaps avoid being noticed.
If they’re hurt or trapped, I’ll help them. Otherwise, I’ll run.
I can hear one moving around now, swearing to himself. His footsteps are uneven, but his anger doesn’t seem to focus on his injury. He’s speaking to someone.
I hear a jagged thumping, like heavy furniture tilting upright.
Then another impact, and that one sounded worse.
My silent motions quicken, following the noise. There’s a soft scuffling now, but it seems to be one-sided. Something is moving against the floor, but it doesn’t sound like feet. It’s more like wood on drywall.
Dark eyes flash through my memory, and I understand.
A sharp cry stabs through the floating dust, as if in angry protest. There is a grunt as the footsteps falter, and I can hear liquid falling to the floor, limp splashes like fish dying on the sand. A tearing sound, more wet noises, and then a heavy thud.
The moving wood goes still.
The voices from outside melt into the distance, swallowed by the beating of my heart. My breath trembles, and my feet move on their own.
My mother told me a story once. A story about a man who found a beach full of starfish, washed up by the sea.
She never told me what he’d do if one of those starfish was a shark.
I climb through a doorway, and the room paints itself in my dust-clouded eyes. The wall-turned-floor is stained with blood, spilled from a ruined stomach and throat. The light hangs pale in the air, and it looks more like a tombstone than a moment in life.
The world stands perfectly still, and the shark is dead.
I stand in the room, this desolate shore, and all my thoughts seem to gather on the person who sits beside the dead man. His head is down, and his long, black hair is a curtain round his face, hiding it from view. He might have fallen asleep in his chair, but I know that he was moving just seconds ago. A stab to the stomach, a slash to the falling throat—my mind draws the picture as if I had been watching.
His whole body is bound.
His wrists, his elbows, even his fingers are tied to the armrests, and his shoulders and waist are pressed to the back of the chair. Thighs, shanks, ankles, feet—all are held immobile. He is breathing deep and heavily, and I’m strangely glad that his chest is not restricted, even as I find myself reluctant to approach.
One of his hands is free. On the ground just below it, the knife lies sheathed in blood.
My foot nudges against something, and I look down to see another man, the second shark. There were two of them when I first came in, fleeing from the firefight only to find more soldiers. Two armed men, beside one who was shirtless and bound.
This one, too, is dead. He died when all the furniture fell, and I’m glad that I can’t see his head.
Swallowing hard, I walk past him with small, quick footsteps, flinching as a pen and notebook crackle beneath my feet. I glance down, and am bemused to see writing on the paper, a short phrase jotted in faltering script. I cannot read it; I never learned how, and I decide not to linger on it. I have to check the other one, the man trapped in the chair. The person he killed must have knocked the knife from his hand as he fell, or else he surely wouldn’t have dropped his only way to cut himself free. I don’t believe for a second that he fell asleep and let it go—a person strong enough to kill so easily does not pass out that fast.
He’s probably still awake even now, listening as I come.
Ten feet, five feet, close enough to touch. His raven head is still lowered, but his breath is far too deep and hard. I don’t think he can help it.
The knife is lying by the leg of his chair. The knots look tight, and cutting them would be easier than fighting with them, but I don’t want to get within reach of that hand. Not yet.
Not without poking his forehead first.
Instantly those dark eyes are deep inside my soul, saying nothing, asking everything. The brows above them are damp with sweat, low with concentration. He wants to know what kind of person pokes such a man in greeting, but there’s so much more behind that probing stare. There’s a dangerous, powerful mind churning in the night behind his gaze: the kind that should be filled with the puzzles of the universe, but instead its stormy intensity is focused on me.
The person in front of me is no shark. I have no idea what the sea has brought ashore.
My hand falls to my side, and as I slowly crouch and reach for the knife, I cannot help but smile.
“You’re a terrible liar,” I tell him, and I start to cut the ropes.