but the blows had no effect.

Then he pulled his face back and bit her high on the soft inside of the thigh. He bit down hard, and his teeth sank into the clean white flesh until the blood flowed. Karyn's back arched up off the bed in reaction to the pain.

When the man at last unclenched his jaw and stood over her again his lips were crimson with her blood. Breathing in short, harsh bursts, he reached down and unzipped the front of his pants. Karyn twisted her head away, but could not shut out the sight as he freed himself from the damp jockey shorts and bore down on her.

He forced her legs further apart and positioned himself between them. Blood from the throbbing bite wound left a red smear on the bedspread. With one cruel thrust he invaded her body.

Karyn cried out in pain and rage. She scrabbled at his face with both hands, clawing for his eyes.

'Bitch!' He hit her in the face with a rock-hard fist.

Karyn tasted blood, and the room swam for a moment, but she continued to use her nails to slash at the face above her.

The man pulled out of her for a moment and drove a fist into her bare belly. Karyn felt something break inside, and there was no fight left in her.

'That's better.' He planted his hands on her shoulders and rammed into her again.

Karyn squeezed her eyes shut. When she was a little girl in the dentist chair and the drill hurt her, she would dig her nails into her palms, making a small hurt to ease the larger one. She did it now. The lower part of her body was on fire. The wound on her thigh screamed. The man continued to pump away at her, grunting with every thrust.

Get it over with! she cried inside her head. Get it over with and go away or kill me or whatever you're going to do. Just finish!

And at last he did.

After endless minutes he withdrew and wiped himself with the satin bedspread. Karyn rolled her head on the pillow and looked up at him, but now the man would not meet her eye. Hurriedly he zipped up his pants and went out into the hall. Karyn heard him go through the living room.

She sat up on the bed and winced at the tearing pain in her stomach. Her insides felt loose, as though they might slide out between her legs when she stood up. She pulled the remains of the velour pants up over the mess on her lower belly and walked carefully to the door. She made it as far as the bathroom and vomited into the toilet.

She knelt there for several minutes on the cold tile with her hands gripping the sides of the bowl, waiting for the spasms of her stomach to ease. The sudden sound of someone moving around in the living room brought back the fear. When the bedroom door opened and the heavy footsteps came toward her she started to scream.

Chapter Two

When Chris Halloran found Karyn on her knees in the bathroom she was sobbing incoherently. Finding the front door open, he had sensed something was wrong. He walked in, and that was when Karyn began to scream. Chris held her in his arms for five minutes before she could tell him what had happened. He called the police, then left a message for Roy at the Aerodyne Company in Anaheim.

The two months that followed were a painful time for Karyn. The blow she had taken to the stomach had brought on a miscarriage, but no permanent damage. There was an infection from the bite wound on her thigh that was slow to respond to medication. The doctor advised against plastic surgery until the scar had completely healed.

The police, using their new, more sympathetic procedures for rape victims, made that part of Karyn's ordeal as easy as they could. Her description of the rapist led them at once to Max Quist, the handyman, who had a record of assaults on women. Confronted with Karyn's positive identification, Quist pleaded guilty.

It was psychologically that Karyn suffered most. Twice-weekly sessions with an analyst helped a little, and group sessions brought her together with other women who had been raped. Still, her recovery was painfully slow. She would wake up in the night, eyes wide and staring, and scream that someone was biting her. Of all the violations of her body, it was the horror of the teeth sinking into her flesh that she could not erase. She returned to work, but her life at home with Roy suffered. She could not feel comfortable in their love-making.

The analyst suggested to Karyn and Roy that they go away from Los Angeles for a while. Restful, rural surroundings, he said, would be the best thing for Karyn's full recovery. The people at Karyn's hotel were understanding, giving her a six-month leave of absence. Roy worked out an arrangement with his firm, and they began taking trips out of the city to look for a place.

A friend in the real-estate business told them about an available house in a town to the north called Drago. They drove up to see it, but Karyn was not enthusiastic. The house was weathered and weed-grown, a mile outside the town, which Karen thought looked like a cheerless cluster of wooden buildings. Roy, however, took to the place immediately. He assured Karyn that the house could be fixed up so she would love it. With some misgivings, she acquiesced.

For the next couple of weeks Roy made the trip alone to see that work on the house was being done to his specifications. He did not want Karyn to see it, he said. She would be surprised. When it was time to move in, he left a day early to see to last-minute details. Chris Halloran volunteered to drive Karyn up to the house.

It was a crisp November day when Chris headed north on Interstate 5 with Karyn beside him in the Camaro. In the back Lady stood with her front paws braced on the seat and her face thrust into the wind from the open window.

They left the freeway for a two-lane blacktop road that snaked up into the Tehachapi Mountains. The outside air grew chill as they climbed.

'Do you want me to roll up the window?' Chris asked.

Karyn moved her head, letting the wind play with her loose blond hair. 'No, it feels good. Clean.'

As they drove on the evergreen forest pushed in closer on both sides of the road.

'How much farther is the town?' said Chris.

'A few miles. Just over the ridge up ahead and down into the valley. Don't blink or you'll miss it.'

'I don't doubt it,' Chris said. 'I've lived in California all my life, and I have never heard of Drago.'

'Neither had I,' Karyn said. 'We were lucky to find the place. The house has been empty since the old owners died four years ago. Roy fell in love with it.'

'What about you, Karyn? How do you like the place?'

'It's all right, I suppose.'

'You don't sound convinced.'

'I haven't seen it since Roy had it fixed up. Anyway, it is quiet and out of the way. That's what we wanted. And yet it's only a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, so Roy can commute easily.'

'You won't mind being alone when he comes into L.A.?'

'Why should I? I've got to learn to be by myself sometime.' The words came out more sharply than Karyn had intended.

'That's right,' Chris said. 'It's none of my business, anyway.'

They reached the crest of the ridge and the road leveled off for a stretch before descending into the valley on the other side. The air was pungent with the scent of balsam. Karyn reached out and touched Chris's hand.

'Pull over for a minute, can you?'

Just before the road started down Chris eased the Camaro onto the shoulder and parked next to the metal guard rail. Below them lay a narrow valley thick with evergreens. Where the road straightened along the floor of the valley a dozen or so toylike buildings clustered in a clearing of the forest. Several narrow lanes branched off the main road. They could be seen only faintly through the heavy overgrowth. Here and there along the lanes a tiny house sat on a patch of cleared ground reclaimed from the forest. Although the valley was in shadow, no lights shone in the town of Drago.

'It doesn't look like much from here, does it?' Karyn said.

Chris did not answer.

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