Karen Ridley sucked in a breath and fought not to scream again. Unreasonable fear damped her skin with sweat. She hated fear. Hated reacting to it. But the bathroom floor was crawling with scorpions.
Perched on the tiny inside edge of the bathtub, she saw that some of the tan insects had squared off to fight one another. The dry scratch-scratch as they clamored over each other, skittered up her spine and lodged in her neck. She wanted to whimper. She didn't dare take her eyes off of the shifting floor, even to snag a towel to dry off or cover up with.
Few knew of her phobia, and fewer still knew where she was holed up in the tiny run-down motel. Her brain was too frozen to dredge up which of her enemies could have pulled off this stunt.
She wasn't a supernatural or a fey to slough off that much poison, but her metabolism was way better than a normal human's.
But then, she wasn't really human. Not according to the purists who'd hunted her across two states. She wasn't about to test the endurance of her mixed supernatural and human biology, either.
Karen took a deep breath and crept around the edge of the tub. Some of the crawlies were trying to scale the slick side of the off white enameled tub. Bile rose in a burning line up her esophagus. She forced her leg out and gingerly rested five toes on the toilet seat. Normally, Karen was fairly agile. Another shudder and the sight of a scorpion clinging to the hand towel hanging above the toilet nearly made her lose her footing.
It won't jump on you. It won't jump. She stared at the tiny six-legged monster with its pincers and tail at ready to jump at the first opportunity. Like her naked boob.
She shook off the vision. Don't jump. Please, don't jump.
Both feet now secure on the toilet seat and her eyes glued to the scorpion on the hand towel, she leaned out to the shut door and twisted the knob. It swung open. Yellow light shone down from the vanity area, highlighting the industrial brown carpeting. Something on the floor moved.
Karen whimpered and caught movement out of the corner of her eye.
Screaming for all she was worth, she reached and flicked the towel onto the floor. She swiped the spare towels and wash rags at the horrid things as well and stood shaking, gripping the shiny chrome bar as a lifeline.
She could have been safe at Packhome with her mom, step-dad, and the rest of the wolven pack. Mom made it clear that she was more than welcome every time Karen phoned. Only with her ex-fianc� Bradley and his mate living there, Karen had to think of her pride first.
She didn't want their pity, or the guys' advances. Since she cycled like a wolven, her hormones were on overdrive like a female wolf in heat. And the guys being guys, were dogs. Or werewolves. Most of them were like brothers and uncles, not potential mates.
And then there was Brandon. Her ex-fianc�'s identical twin was so completely different from his brother that they had never looked the same to her.
She'd get herself out of this fix. It was no worse than some of the others she'd gotten into. She'd probably laugh at this one day. Right. For God's sake, they were scorpions, not injured predators, angry fairies, or even serial killers. Those she could deal with, maybe even bemusedly mull over later.
But not the serial killer. Being forced by the crazy psychic werewolf hunter to drive at knifepoint had been the worst thing that had happened in her life.
Occasionally, she still dreamed of being forced to drive the car at knifepoint by the crazy psychic claiming that they were werewolves. Karen could still hear each gasp of air her mother fought for as her lungs slowly filled with blood.
The insane werewolf hunter had been so intent on trying to escape her mom's last effort to stop him that he hadn't seen the real wolven until too late. It had been a bloody and fitting death.
Karen took another breath. It was time to save herself. She considered her options.
There was the open door and there was no telling how many creepy-crawlies in the main room ready to sting her. She made another sweep of the tiny bathroom. Above the tub was a small opaque ventilation window about three feet wide.
Yeah. Let's hear it for a bed on a budget. As in a really small, I-left-my-job-without-notice-because-my-boss-turned -the-crazy -mob-loose on-me, kind of budget.
Lawrence Dailey had been a human psychic and a fairly unimaginative one at that. He lived for his computer programs and sucking up to the company's higher-ups. Dating then sleeping with him had been a stupid mistake.
She should have realized that not all psychics were like her and her mother.
Rabid paranoia of the supernatural races and a cultist religion had ruled the lives of the community born psychics she'd lived among in Arkansas. Once they had found out she wasn't 'pure' the psychic community rallied to eliminate her.
Lawrence, her lover, had led the mob.
Karen worked her way back over to the tub. Her initial fear was beginning to ease, though an occasional shudder worked its way up her spine. She tiptoed up to check out the window. It was wide and narrow and had that swirly opaque pattern found on cheap bathroom glass. It was dark outside and no light filtered through.
Thank God she was taller than her mother. Mom would never have reached it.
The window turned out to be a hand-cranked jobber that was caulked into place and served no function other than being tacky.
She glanced down at the scorpion covered hand towels and wished she'd kept at least one. Well, she wasn't getting one now.
The towel bar took a moment to wrench from the wall. Another cheap bathroom fixture, the aluminum paint was beginning to flake off of the bar. She took an experimental swing. It skittered across the glass, leaving a scratch.
She rapped at it again. Her imagination worked overtime. Visions of being trapped naked with a room full of scorpions eating her alive gave her strength. The glass cracked. Another good whack and a chunk of glass fell. She moved before it could cut her.
Karen stared at the glass. She'd be sliced to ribbons crawling through that. She looked at the floor, considering.
Were there more of them than before? Karen shuddered and smacked the weakened window pane. Broken glass was preferable to scorpions any night.
"Dammit! Stop whacking on the window."
The order came from the darkness on the other side of the cracked glass. Startled, Karen nearly fell from her perch on the side of the tub. Throwing her arms out, she balanced. The cool air on her naked skin sent a shiver of goose bumps over her body.