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Beneath beauty, evil lurks...
Katie Anderson has no idea who she is, or why she was abandoned to her fate after an attack by an escaped Sumatran tiger — the pet of a local Californian scriptwriter. Who was she with when she was attacked? Why was there a severed goat's head secreted in her rucksack? In the five years since the attack, Katie has grown accustomed to the indelible paw print etched on her cheek, which draws sympathetic glances and repulsed stares in equal measure. That is, until the cruelty of a casual comment from a wrinkle-free diner at The Alice Garden restaurant in Sanur Beach sparks her quest for answers, launching Katie on a painful path to discover the truth. Will Katie find the spiritual and emotional serenity she craves? Or will society's obsession with physical perfection defeat her progress?
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Copyright 2015 © Lindsey Paley
“Run! Run! Faster!”
James’s words pierced her ears despite the cacophonous sound of her blood crashing through her veins. Her heart threatened to explode, not from the physical exertion, but from terror forcing its alarm into her every extremity.
The razor-sharp blades of the rice crop slashed at her bare shins like whips as she shot along the lush fringes of the steeply terraced paddy fields, their stagnant waters stinging her lacerations and seeping into her trainers as the verdant shoots flattened under her pounding feet. Dense jungle and presumed safety loomed ahead to her left, and the imposing hulk of Mount Batukaru rose on her right.
Her mahogany hair lashed across her face, obstructing her vision, the mingling of perspiration from her strenuous sprint and the intense humidity doubling its volume. The rucksack James had insisted she carry bounced heavily on her shoulders, serving only to slow her escape.
Lit by dappled silver moonlight, the tropical forest of palm and banyan trees appeared darker and more impenetrable than by day. Before being swallowed by the waiting jungle, James twisted his face over his shoulder toward her. A jolt of horror caught in her chest as her eyes met his distorted glare, crammed with such naked hatred it caused her to miss her stride. Her foot slammed into the opaque, motionless waters of the rice field, submerging her ankle and interrupting her essential flight.
As she righted her balance—shrugging the ancient rucksack higher onto her shoulders—even in her panicked state she caught a glimpse of bleeding crimson fingers slice through the thick hessian material. She slowed again, losing vital seconds.
“Run!” His voice was muffled now, cocooned in the density of the steaming jungle, smothered by the night cries of its residents.
She shot into the canopy of the palm and Intaran trees, her body enveloped by the cloying gloom and chest-high bamboo, gulping moist air into her lungs.
No sign of James, but her senses screamed she was not alone. Her forearms prickled, their dark hairs erect, and her hairline tingled. She ditched the blood-soaked rucksack onto the jungle floor, strewn thick with nature’s detritus, and sprinted into its crowded depths like a fleeing gazelle. Her speed slackened as the thick, dangling roots of the banyan trees snaked across her path and bamboo leaves slapped at her face.
As her peripheral vision recorded a sleek flash of amber and black, treasured memories began to flash through her mind’s eye and she knew she was about to die without the necessary satisfaction of knowing why.
She tumbled backward with the force of the blow and an intense, blinding agony permeated each and every nerve ending before blackness engulfed her questions.