The Hurting Game

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Chapter 15

Shawn stumbled to the side of the circle where the Crimson Serpents stood. Most of them were cheering for the next fight, but a few gave him hate-filled looks. One shouted in his direction, “You got your ass kicked again?” He opened his mouth to retort, then closed it again. Anger boiled inside him, and his hands curled into fists. He was bleeding, leaving scarlet droplets on the pavement, and his nose hurt like hell.

Shawn had expected Iziah to be grateful. Not to thank him but to at least give him an appreciative look. But instead he’d sliced him up like a child having a tantrum and nearly broke his nose!


Shawn pulled free of the crowd and leaned against the wall nearby. No one spoke to him. It had been risky warning Iziah in the middle of a crowd, but he figured it was too loud for anyone to hear. If Gray found out... He shook himself. That was impossible. He would more likely be kicked out for losing again. Guilt and tension pressed down on his chest. He’d hoped he would feel better after warning Iziah. After all, he’d done his part, right? He’d washed his hands of the situation.

It wasn’t his fault!

Shawn tried to smile, telling himself that he was absolved. It was in Iziah’s hands now, and if the idiot wanted to get himself caught, it wasn’t Shawn’s fault. Shawn wiped at the blood beneath his nose, trying to push back the relentless unease pounding in the back of his mind.

Iziah couldn’t sleep that night. Shawn’s warning echoed through his head over and over.

They’re coming after you.

All the lights in the apartment were on, and he sat in bed with his laptop in front of him, shivering. Maybe it had been a lie, a petty threat. Something to make him panic. After all, Shawn must have known he was in a fragile state of mind.

But if they really meant to kill him that night...

As much as he assured himself of his safety, he couldn’t stop shaking, his eyes flitting about the room. Fear carved into his face and made him dizzy. He had taken several pills to soothe his headache, leaving him groggy and light-headed. Nick had stopped by late, letting himself in through the unlocked door, and he scared Iziah half to death when he started chewing him out for his carelessness. Furious, Iziah shouted at him to go away. He’d thrown things, yelled:

“Go away!”

“You stupid asshole, go away!”

“I don’t need you! Leave me alone!”

Nick left without a protest, abandoning Iziah to his quiet apartment. Why couldn’t he control his stupid temper when it really mattered? The anger from the incident was building up inside him and exploding forth at the wrong times.

The cut across his collar stung, compliments of Shawn, but it wasn’t very deep. Iziah did his best to clean it, then let it be.

They’re coming after you. They’re coming.

Did they know where he lived? If they didn’t, they would surely figure it out. After all, they’d known where to find him that night. This was no joke; he had to leave before they came after him. Apartment listings were pulled up on his laptop screen, but Iziah couldn’t focus, his ears tuned to every sound. It would be strange living in another apartment, but he couldn’t wait to get out. Every shadow seemed threatening. He was on edge, and he felt sick and feverish. It was close to a week since the incident, and he’d eaten little more than a few snacks. His stomach twisted and knotted inside him, but every time he tried to eat, the food turned rancid inside his mouth.

If they were coming after him, he needed to leave soon. Tomorrow. There wasn’t time to turn in his notice or talk to his landlord. He had to leave without a trace.

Hopefully that would throw them off his trail.

Iziah wanted to leave right then and there, but he knew he needed to sleep. Actually sleep, not just toss and turn, plagued by nightmares. None of the apartment listings appealed, so he chose the first one on the list, a cheap, two-room place. Nicolas had been right after all. The decision having been made, Iziah closed the laptop and put it aside, taking a deep breath. His eyes wandered the room, but nothing seemed out of place. Every second spent alone was pure torture. He turned and dug through the cabinet beside his bed. It was mostly empty, and he pulled out a small pill bottle, turning it over in his shaking, splinted fingers.

Ambien. He’d gotten the stuff years ago to help with twinges of insomnia. He rarely used it, but right now, the thought of unconsciousness was too sweet to resist.

Iziah took one before lying down, pulling the covers over his head, and waiting for the pill to take effect.

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