Scent of Salvation
Stars flashed in Susan’s vision. Air finally flowed into her chest, and she let out a groan. She felt more like she’d fallen than been blown to pieces.
Something cool and soft touched her cheek. She flinched and tried to sit up but only managed to roll onto her stomach. That didn’t help her nausea, and she struggled to keep breakfast down.
Fuck it. The blast hadn’t killed her so the military could clean her puke. Then they could haul her ass to jail—or the hospital.
Resting, she waited for Jeff’s yells for her arrest and execution, but the only sounds came from birdsongs. She jerked her face off the moist ground and grunted.
Birds? Had she blow the roof off the building?
She rubbed her blurry eyes and blinked. Her heart did a double beat. She shook her head and blinked again.
Surrounded by lush green plants, Susan sat on a carpet of soft moss. She rose onto shaky, numb legs. A giant tree loomed thirty feet over her head. Three grown men touching fingertips might be able to hug the trunk.
There wasn’t a forest for miles, yet here she stood in the middle of one. She did a slow three-sixty. Tree, tree, bush, tree, building. Bingo.
Before her towered a stone structure overgrown with flowering vines. Taking one slow step at a time, she approached it. The steps were swept clean of any debris or growth. She climbed, listening for anything inside. Huge gaps in the walls let the sunlight in between the stone slabs, and deep, worn engravings covered them. She traced one with her fingertip and didn’t recognize the language. Hell, she couldn’t even read the symbol. Where was she?
Sucking in a sharp breath, she clapped her hands over her mouth.
DOUG had worked?
She was standing in another dimension.
Her trip had been unintentional yet successful. She needed to high five someone. It had worked just like she’d said it would. All those people who’d laughed at her idea could shove it up their collective—
Twisting around with a foolish grin cramping her cheeks, she saw only rainforest. Shadows covered the ground since the trees’ canopy blocked most of the sunlight. Her grin faded and she broke into a cold sweat.
Oh shit, it had worked.
A vacuum of dread sucked the excitement from her body. The explosion must have punctured a hole through the dimensional veil and thrown her through. She couldn’t see the blue portal light. Without the machine, the gateway couldn’t remain open. Or ever open again since it should be slag with the rest of her lab. She shivered and pulled her coat tighter.
She was alone. Stranded God knows where.
For all she knew, T-rex lived over the next hill or worse, the Nazis had won World War II.
Taking a shuddering breath, she closed her eyes. She was a brilliant scientist, graduating at the top of all her classes. The unknown wasn’t something to fear but to be embraced and studied. However, field operations had never thrilled her. She was a lab geek with delusions of exploration. She’d always pictured herself guiding those brave souls who would step onto a new world from the safety of Technocon, not being that person. Glancing over her shoulder at the forest, she took a steadying breath.
What lived out there?
Birds sang, loud and uninterrupted by the hum of cars or machines. She couldn’t see any electrical lines or other buildings. Please, let there be some kind of path or road to follow. How long could she survive in the wilderness? Probably a couple days before something ate her.
The birds fell silent. She froze, facing the forest. Nothing moved. Her heart galloped as she searched the gloom. She backed into the building, not wanting to take her eyes off the woods. A crack in the floor caught her heel, and she stumbled while her arms pinwheeled until she caught her balance.
All right, she needed to get a grip. Just because things were quiet didn’t mean she should panic. Breaking her leg would be a death sentence. She kicked off her shoes. The logic was sound but the adrenaline coursing through her body told her to screw off and run. A cold sweat broke out over her skin, and a cool wind made her shiver.
She scanned the inside of the building. It didn’t have a roof. A stone altar in the center offered the only shelter. She hurried across to it and laid a hand over the smooth, cool surface. Breathing a sigh of relief, she closed her eyes for a heartbeat. It wasn’t bloodstained. That was a good sign, right?
She crept around to the other side and knelt behind it. Hiding felt right.
Crouched on the cold stone floor, she hugged her knees to her chest. At least the military hadn’t gotten her machine. A small consolation while squatting in another dimension, all alone like a frightened animal.
The rustle of leaves to her left made her squeak. She clapped her hand over her mouth and peeked around the corner. Something with silver-gray fur crawled under the vines through one of the wall’s many gaps.
Please let that be a big-ass raccoon. She watched as the creature’s dark, wet nose moved in her direction and sniffed. All her muscles seized. She couldn’t move or breathe.
The nose pushed through, followed by a large, wolf-like head. On his stomach, he crept into the building. Her vision tunneled as he rose to his hind legs and kept rising until he towered over her. Long claws protruded from his fingers and toes. Swinging his head, he sniffed the air. Three jagged scars ran over his muzzle. His amber gaze met her stare, and he bared his sharp teeth. As he moved, thick, solid muscles slid under his silver fur.
With a knocking heart, Susan was anchored to the spot. A werewolf. A real, honest-to-God werewolf stood not five feet from her. She hadn’t crossed dimensions. She’d died and gone to hell.
As he stepped toward her, something flipped off in her brain and it stopped functioning. Deductive reasoning vanished like a cheap parlor trick. Sixty thousand years of human instinct buried in her genes kicked in, and Susan scuttled away from the beast until her head hit the stone wall. Ignoring the sharp pain, she grabbed the vines and pulled herself to her feet. All the while she couldn’t stop staring at this magnificent creature made of nightmares. She took a deep breath and let out a scream that rattled her tonsils.