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Brinlee jumped from the branch and aimed her heels at the monster’s head. Both of her feet connected with the snarling jaws and bloodstained chin. The mountain lion’s body flung away from the tree. Brinlee yelled, a deep primeval war cry, as she fell with the lion. Small tree branches scratched at her hands and face. She landed on top of the animal with a thud. Her leg throbbed with pain, but the adrenalin helped her ignore it.
The lion yelped. Brinlee rammed her knee into its blood-tinged teeth, scrambled off of him, and hobbled away from her children. Her heart screamed in prayer, pleading with a merciful Father in Heaven to protect them.
Trevor’s call yanked her head around. His dark eyes flooded with tears. His lip trembled. Oh, heavens. How could she leave them? A roar snapped her to attention. Her legs churned away from her boys. Leaving was the only hope she had of saving them.
The lion leapt into the air. Brinlee darted to the side. A loud boom mingled with the baby’s screams, the lion’s roar, and Brinlee’s pounding heart. She had no clue where the noise came from. The lion’s claws scratched past her head, missing her by inches. Brinlee changed directions and sped off again, but her legs weakened, especially her injured one. She risked a glance back. Blood gushing from its shoulder, the lion pivoted and jumped again.
Not watching where she was going, Brinlee slammed into a tree and fell to her knees. She couldn’t escape. She could feel, hear, and smell the animal as she ducked her head and braced for impact.
Another boom filled the air. The lion’s body knocked her flat. Pinecones, dirt, and rocks embedded themselves in her face and hands. Buried underneath mounds of fur, she waited for the lion’s teeth to sink into her neck.
Warm liquid oozed onto her back. She heard footsteps, then a grunt, and suddenly the lion’s carcass was thrown off of her. Cowering on the ground, Brinlee didn’t dare believe it was over.
Calloused fingers searched her neck until they found her carotid artery.
“I’m alive,” she muttered into the dirt.
She was rolled over onto her back and stared into a pair of concerned sapphire eyes instead of the hungry jaws of the mountain lion. It was like an ice-cold lemonade after days of thirst.
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