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Ford Stone: Prequel (A Romance Mystery and Suspense) by A. Anders

I don’t have much experience being chased by tigers, but I do know that when one chases you, you run. So I’m running. And my girlfriend’s running. And do you know how I can tell that my relationship might be over? Because I’m secretly hoping that she’s slower than I am.
Ford Stone: Prequel (A Romance Mystery and Suspense)
Ford Stone: Prequel (A Romance Mystery and Suspense) by A. Anders
You might ask me how I could hope for such a thing. Who knows? Relationships are complex. I will mention, though, that she just moved into my apartment. Funny thing, when she did, she removed all of my stuff and then didn’t tell me where she put it. And sure, I really liked my stuff. But like I said, who knows why I feel the way I do? Relationships are complex. Anyway. To celebrate our living together, she suggested that we take a safari. And like when she suggested that we move in together, I agreed. Now, I’m running, she’s running and an adult Bengal tiger is running after us. They say that you learn things about the person you’re dating when you vacation together. It’s true. What I’ve learned about Laura is that she is fast. And I’m no slouch. I’ve stayed in shape. So how the hell did she sprint past me five seconds ago? Seriously, she’s like a gazelle. But I guess I should be grateful for her speed. Her lead will give her the time to open the Land Rover’s door and climb in. Then, with barely a second to spare, I’ll slide in behind her. You know what? I take back everything I thought about Laura. I’m lucky to have a girlfriend like her. I don’t appreciate her enough. From this moment forward, I’ll do better. Because that gazelle is fantastic. And how impressed will people be when they hear how we fell in love? “It was when she helped me escape from a tiger,” I’ll say. Then I’ll turn and kiss her like couples do when they’re telling their story. It will be perfect. Or more precisely, it would have been perfect. Because there was a minor hitch in our great love epic. And it had to do with what happened after Laura got into the jeep. Do you know how they say that traveling together will reveal interesting things about your relationship? Well, the most interesting thing happened as I approached the open door. My girlfriend, Laura, revealed that she didn’t see us having a long life together. And she did it by closing the door behind her, leaving me outside to be eaten by the tiger. Laura has never been much for subtlety. Luckily, this moment wasn’t the first time that my life has been in danger. It was an old, familiar feeling. The electricity that prickled my skin, the high-pitched whine in my ears, the dry mouth, the heightened senses, all of it came rushing back. I looked behind me at my tiger. I say “my tiger” because I was sure that this tiger was going to kill me, that this was the moment I was going to die. Or… you know what? Maybe not. Sure, 400 pounds of rippling muscle was tracking me at 30 miles per hour. But the jeep was right there. Maybe I had just enough time to reach up, open the door, and slide in. The problem, though, was that the tiger was close. I could hear it breathing, sending chills down my neck. A few more steps and a quarter ton of muscle would be on top of me, mauling me, making Laura the last girlfriend I would ever have. Man, out of everything, knowing that Laura would be my last attempt at love had to be the saddest part. No. Screw that. I was gonna live. If a building-sized explosion didn’t kill me, a poorly chosen girlfriend wasn’t going to take me out. The tiger was about to pounce when I saw my escape. The windows were up and the roof was on, but the jeep had a fourteen-inch clearance underneath it. I could slide into it feet first and roll. I dove. The tiger’s rough paw brushed me. How hadn’t it hooked me? I didn’t know. But for the moment, I was free. My tiger, thinking he had me, didn’t slow down. He ran into the door at full speed. The jeep jolted like it had been hit by a car. The collision was deafening. The tiger was shaken, but it didn’t stop. It merely backed up and tried again. And unable to crawl under, it reached out its paw and swiped at me. Its long arms grabbed me, pulling me towards it. I slid across the dirt until I heard a loud rip. He had clawed my shirt though he missed my flesh. I shimmied further back, racing to get away. Surrounded by the smell of diesel and grease, my breath hitched. The smell burned my lungs. I recovered in time to see its paw swipe again. The wind rushed across my face. The toxic fumes were overwhelming. I’ve got to get out of here, I thought. My muscles tensed as my eyes darted around the confined space. I could feel the chemicals slowing my thoughts. My reaction time would be next. After that, I would be as good as dead. It was then that I had a stroke of luck: Laura started the jeep. My girlfriend’s complete disregard for my safety had offered me an escape. Upon hearing the growl of the engine, the tiger jumped back. Watching it move from one side of the jeep to the other, I saw my opening. I could roll out the other side, jump up and get in. Sounds like a good plan, right? I thought so. And it probably would have worked if the jeep hadn’t begun to pull away. You know, I blame myself for this whole situation. I haven’t been making the best decisions lately. Dating a woman who was clearly trying to kill me was just one of them. But seeing my life with a face full of dirt and a rattling engine at my back gave me a new perspective. I saw that my bad decisions had to end. Reconsidering whether the brown stuff on my face was actually dirt, I decided to turn over a new leaf. I would begin by focusing on what was important. Right now, that was my survival. The jeep moved forward, but not very quickly. I looked around in search of the tiger. It stood crouched at the front left. I shimmied to the right. The jeep picked up speed. I kept my eyes locked on the beast as the blazing sun hit my legs. My back was next, followed by my hands and my neck. It wouldn’t be long until nothing stood between myself and the man-eater. Before I knew it, there he was. My chest hurt as he turned his massive face towards me. The world was slowing down, and I couldn’t breathe. It was now a race. Could he redirect his 400 pounds faster than I could climb up the back of the jeep? As if out of the starting blocks, my body rocketed forward. It would have been impressive if I wasn’t racing a tiger. Because in half the time it took me to get to the jeep, he had contorted his striped body and was charging me. I lunged for the ladder as he measured his speed. Just when he sprung towards me, my hand gripped the metal rung. I pulled my torso onto the roof while I felt coarse fur brush against my leg. Was it his paw? His whiskers? I didn’t know. I couldn’t think about that now. I had to focus. The jeep was approaching critical speed, and I had to get down and hold on. In seconds, we would be moving too fast for my friend to leap again. I couldn’t believe it. As long as no one hit the stop button, I was going to survive. Not even Laura was heartless enough to purposely stop the jeep… was she? Miraculously, the jeep never stopped. Was it that Laura still cared about me? Possibly. Could her “not stopping” have more to do with making her spa appointment at the resort? I think that I would have to be pretty cynical to believe something like that. I mean sure, she ran to the spa as soon as the jeep parked. And no, she never asked me if I was okay. But it wasn’t like Laura was some type of sociopath. I think I would know if I were dating a sociopath. I mean, I might have made a few bad choices lately when it came to women. But it wasn’t like all of my girlfriends had tried to kill me… twice… in the same day. No. I was a much better judge of character than that. But, considering what had just happened, I decided that it might be good to make a few changes. Nothing too dramatic, of course. I just needed to address the things that weren’t working in my life. And with a beautiful girlfriend, a high paying job, and a gorgeous apartment, I couldn’t need to change that many things. Right?

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