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Prologue

Julia sprinted through the dark, stumbling on sharp rocks that bit into her feet, ignoring the shooting pain from the deep gash in her right hip. A thick stream of blood ran down her torn knee and mingled with her sweat. A woman’s body holds about eight to ten pints of blood. How much could she lose before she blacked out? Her heart beat uncontrollably. She was on the verge of hyperventilation, and blood loss was making her dizzy. But she could not stop—she must not stop. Sweat dripped into her eyes, but she couldn’t spare the energy to wipe it away. Every extremity throbbed. She wanted nothing more than to sink into oblivion, to succumb to the weariness in her bones. Ocean waves crashed at her feet, urging her to pick up her pace. Almost there. As her legs pumped harder, the blood that oozed from both her hip and her knee pulsed faster, leaving a distinct trail in the sand. Big splotch, little splotch, big splotch, little splotch. With luck, they’d be able to follow it to find her body. Don’t you darepass out before you get there! The moonlight blurred and faded—or was that her dimming sight? She could just make out the rough outline of the pier in the darkness. Her final destination. In desperation, she cried out, “Nadia!” Her voice was so cracked with fear and fatigue that she didn’t recognize it as her own. She stumbled and fell. She’d lost too much blood. She couldn’t go any further. The world began to turn gray.