Chapter Three

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May dove to the side, feeling the rush of the mountain lion as it landed heavily where she had been sitting only a split second earlier. Flapping madly, Fargus flew at the wild cat, dipping and diving into its face to buy May some time.

There would be no running away – at least not if May planned on surviving the ordeal, which she most certainly did. If Dom was to be trusted, all she could do now was be big, be loud, and fight.

Knowing the lion's claws made a mockery of her pocket knife, May ditched it in favor of the walking pole gifted to her by Seth.

"Hey!" she shouted, brandishing the pole like a baseball bat. She made her voice deep and booming as she took a few wild swings in the cat's direction. "Go away! Get out of here!"

The mountain lion snarled, its lips curled back to reveal jagged yellow fangs as long as May's fingers. It crouched low and stalked around her in a slow circle, seeking a moment of vulnerability.

What do I do now? May's mind screamed. If it came to a battle of will, there was no question of who would outlast whom.

She swung again, bellowing nonsensical guttural sounds at the animal as Fargus continued his own airborne assault. Still, the lion circled.

From the corner of her eye, May spotted her pack lying a few feet away. She wondered if she could use it, perhaps to throw at the predator or use as some kind of a shield. Without looking away from the lion, she sidestepped slowly toward the bag. She sank low, waving the pole with her left hand as she reached for the pack with her right.

But something about the motion spoke of weakness to the mountain lion. With a terrible cry it lunged forward just as May drew the bag up between them. She was knocked from her feet and hit the ground hard. Though the pack had taken the brunt of the attack, May's breath was forced from her lungs and a sharp stab of pain seared across her chest.

Blinded by both pain and shock, May could only flail where she laid sprawled on her back. White hot terror curdled at the back of her throat, but she forced it down. After everything she had survived, she refused to believe she was going to die alone in these woods. So she kept swinging.

The world around her was a mess of motion. There was a growl. Then, a flash of something pale and bright flashed above where she lay, followed by a furious yowl.

Another flash streaked passed, this time of grubby tan fur as the mountain lion was thrown over her and landed with a miserable shriek.

Though pain ripped through her body, May scrambled to sit up. She glanced down beyond her feet and the lion lurching to right itself. It turned its massive head toward her, shoulder blades hunched and fur raised in fury.

But the animal was no longer looking at May. It's eyes were trained on something behind her. Something that, unlike May and her desperate attempts at self preservation, actually seemed to scare it.

May considered turning – to lay eyes on whatever the mountain lion could possibly think was more fearsome than itself – when a ferocious roar boomed all around her. The lion wasted no time, kicking up dirt and leaves as it tore back into the underbrush.

Now, May twisted. Her eyes fell onto a massive creature, and whatever sense of relief that came with the mountain lion's departure vanished just as quickly as it had.

The creature was cat-like in its own right, with a lion-ish head adorned with tufted, pointed ears and heart shaped nose. It reared back onto its mighty hind legs and stared May down with fierce, vaguely human magenta eyes; slit pupils constricting at the sight of her. The soft silver of its fur and the downy mane that floated over its shoulders seemed at odds with its hulking size.

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