Nicole Strickly is excited to get out of the city and spend a weekend in the mountains, even if her date is a little sketchy. They aren’t far down the road before she realizes her mistake, but there’s no turning back, and what awaits her when they arrive at camp is far worse than she could ever have imagined.
Forced to run or die, Nicole finds herself embroiled in a gruesome game where the only reward for winning is three more rounds with the huntmaster himself, and an experience that will change the fiber of her very being…for as long as she can survive.
“I’m Nicole,” she said, taking a seat in a third chair when neither woman acknowledged her presence. “And you are?” she prompted.
“Amy,” the gum-popper said, not looking up from her nails. “And this is Patricia.”
Patricia looked up from the magazine she was reading just long enough to look Nicole over, raise her eyebrows and then lower her gaze again.
“You’ve done this before?” Amy asked, a slight note of fear in her voice that struck Nicole as odd. She noted that while Amy was in low heels and professional dress, Patricia’s clothing was marginally more suited to the environment, though she still had her hair and makeup done.
“Done what, exactly?” Nicole asked.
Patricia put the magazine down then, her icy blue eyes meeting Nicole’s as her lips curved up in a grin.
“Well now,” she said, rubbing a hand on her thigh. “Maybe we’ll finally have an actual competition this time.”
Nicole raised her eyebrows. “What exactly are we supposedly doing?” she asked again, looking at Amy and ignoring Patricia. “I thought this was just a friendly camping trip.”
Patricia laughed, too loud, and way too long before answering while Amy just sat quietly in her seat, looking uncomfortable and biting her lower lip.
“It’s nothing to be afraid of,” Patricia said when she finally got a hold of herself. “Just a little moonlight hike. A contest, really. The guys like to bet on which girl will win, but they have to bet early just from profiles the other guys hand out, so if they choose the wrong one, they’re usually pretty pissed.” She looked Nicole up and down again. “I’d say Evan must have bet on you, considering how he has you dressed.”
So many things became clear in that moment. Nicole nearly laughed herself, but somehow managed to contain her amusement. No wonder Evan had been upset when he picked her up. He’d probably bet against her…and obviously, she wasn’t going to lose with Amy in heels. Served him right for playing stupid games, though she was still nervous. Patricia was holding something back, and from the smirk on her face, it was a substantial piece of information.
“So what’s the catch?” Nicole asked, watching one of the creepy guys – Davin, she thought – come up behind Amy and rest a hand on her shoulder. The poor girl jumped a foot, but the man just laughed.
“Come on, girls – let’s eat. You’ll need good energy for tonight.”
Amy got up, and Nicole noticed the careful distance she put between her date and herself. Interesting. Patricia stood as Nicole did, and as they walked behind Amy, Patricia leaned closer.
“Three go in, only one comes out,” she whispered. Then with a wink she veered off to take a seat between Sean and another man Nicole hadn’t met at one of two picnic tables that had been butted up against each other. Evan sat further down on the other side of the table next to yet another unfamiliar man, and patted the space between him and Amy.
She took a seat, but refused the plate he’d dished up for her, reaching for a bottle of water instead. Evan frowned.
“What’s the matter? Eat. You’ll need your strength tonight.”
She shook her head. “I’m not playing your stupid little game. You can either take me home now, or leave me in one of the trailers. You can’t just force people–”
All of the men save the one on the other side of Evan snickered at that.
“Oh, but you’re wrong,” Evan said with a grin. “We’re stronger, and we outnumber you. You’ll do whatever we want you to.”
“And if I don’t?”