Flustered from the kiss, Nicole wondered what Patrick’s angle was. Had it just been for show – for bringing more viewers in? Or was he trying to confuse her for some reason? Either way, she was annoyed that he’d affected her so thoroughly.
Examining the interior of the boat, she was thankful to find an oar resting against each sidewall. This high up, there were a few waterfalls between her and the more peaceful stretch of the river, and she didn’t relish the thought of going over them only to be potentially crushed by the rocks below.
After some wrestling to get the oars positioned in the locks on each side of the craft, she rowed with the current to the opposite side of the river and into a shallow, still pool where she could get out and wade to shore, pulling the boat with her. Once it was high enough on the makeshift beach not to float away, she took stock of her surroundings.
The forest was thick with trees and brush just ten yards away at the edge of the rocky beach slope. Unfamiliar with this particular area, she knew only that she needed to keep following the river down off the mountain, so she moved into the trees, fighting her way through thorny thickets and low-hanging branches until she found what appeared to be an animal trail of some sort. It was going in the general direction that she needed to, so she followed it, hoping Patrick was still on the other side of the river.
Something was still nagging her about that kiss. The more she thought about it, the more she was convinced that she was missing an important ulterior motive on his part. She just needed to figure out what it was.
She stepped on a dead twig just right and it snapped, the sound loud as a gunshot to her ears. She froze, her heart beating fast as she listened for any sound that would indicate she wasn’t alone. That someone or something had heard her. Her palms were sweaty, and she rubbed them carefully on the front of her pants.
That’s when she remembered the tablet. Or felt it, anyways. How could she have been so stupid? He’d given her all the tools she needed to win, after destroying those she’d made to kill him. This whole time, she could have been tracking his movements.
Rolling her eyes at her own stupidity, she took the tablet out and pressed the button on the side as she started to walk again. She saw Patrick as soon as the image cleared. He was standing in the midst of more trees, his shoulder propped up against one and a granola bar in his other hand.
A small map in the upper left corner of the screen showed a large area with two dots on it, one red and one blue. The blue one was moving, so she assumed it must be her, but…according to the map, she was almost on top of the red dot. Could that be right?
She stopped and looked up, peering through the trees for any indication that Patrick was nearby. The map was tiny, so maybe she wasn’t as close as she thought, but considering he’d taken the weapons she’d made earlier, it didn’t seem smart to keep going toward him.
Turning around, she started walking the other way, fast. Unfortunately, she was going back toward the cabin now, but she’d just have to figure out how to circle back wide to get around him. If he was on this side of the river, she should probably go to the other side again. If she could find the spot where she’d left the boat.
The red dot still hadn’t moved, and Patrick was still visible on her screen, just standing there. Watching. She frowned. Why wasn’t he moving? What was he waiting for?
One of her toes caught on something lose, and she stumbled, struggling to keep her balance as she started to process the rope netting under her feet.
Then there was a loud snap, and she was airborne, the netting closing in on all sides as it scooped her up into a tight, uncomfortable hanging package.
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