The Hurting Game

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Chapter 21

The next couple days were uneventful. Nicolas was having a harder time sleeping than usual. Perhaps it was due to the disturbing events of the past couple days. Or perhaps it was because Iziah’s presence gave him a horrible sense of deja vu. Iziah didn’t seem to be sleeping either, so during the next two nights, they stayed up late, silently watching television. When they spoke, it was about casual things, such as the last movie they watched or the current weather. Nicolas knew he should go to the office and check on things, but he didn’t like the idea of leaving. Iziah’s eyes were constantly flitting to the door, lines of suspicion carved into his face. Plus, he seemed to be in pain from the blow to his head.

However, it felt good to take care of someone. Something in Nicolas ached for it, really. Iziah devoured everything put in front of him and would raid the fridge shortly afterward. Nicolas hadn’t been well-stocked in the first place, so, after two days, he needed to make a stop for groceries. The prospect made him uneasy. He couldn’t take Iziah into public where he might be seen, but he didn’t want to leave him to his own devices. But, in the end, that seemed like the only option.

It was early evening. If he hurried, he could get back before it dark.

“I’m going to run out and get some groceries,” Nicolas said as he put on his coat.

Iziah shrugged. His hair was wet from showering, and he looked bored, flipping through channels on the TV. “Okay.”

So far, so good. Iziah didn’t seem worried about the prospect of being alone. “I’ll only be an hour. Keep the door locked.”


Nicolas grabbed his keys and his wallet and walked out of the apartment. The hallway was quiet. After closing the door and making sure it was firmly locked, he headed down the hall. Being out here also gave him an opportunity to make sure no one was watching the place. There was no one around, not even in the reception center, so he walked out of the building and to his car without a second thought.

Iziah continued flipping through channels for thirty seconds after Nick left before stopping.


While he had little desire to leave the apartment or really do anything, he felt restless, and he couldn’t help but miss the adrenaline rush the weekly fights gave him. He’d come to depend on it. It was the one thing that distracted him, and he was more desperate for that now than ever before.

Iziah didn’t want to be alone. In the silence, he could hear every sound in the apartment and the floors above and beneath. Not to mention, darkness was approaching outside the window. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end. But there was no way he would tell Nick that. After everything Nick had done for him, it would be selfish and pathetic to ask him to stay. The man was babying him enough as it was. Anger pulsed through Iziah. He just wanted to move past this, to feel okay again. To escape this strange, psychological hell. The fear never stopped plaguing him. Before, he had always been able to defend himself, but now he was weak and injured. He felt small, out of control, like a child again. The sensation filled him with hate.

He rested his head in his hands, taking a long breath. It made him feel better that his attackers were dead. If only the man with the yellow eyes wasn’t still out there. His teeth clenched. He wanted to make him hurt. To make him feel what Iziah had felt – the fear that he wouldn’t make it to his apartment alive, the utter humiliation, the agony that pulsed through his body.

He could hurt him. Iziah knew that. After all, he’d killed before, and he was a good fighter. But the dead man still haunted his nightmares, and the prospect of doubling his blood-guilt made him nauseous.

His mind drifted back to the fight with Shawn. It was obvious that he knew what happened, and for some reason he felt bad. Why? That didn’t make sense. Shawn hurt him plenty of times back in foster care and just laughed. Hell, when Mr. Davis hit him, he didn’t look at all worried. So why now? Had this crossed a line in his mind? Now that he thought about it, he wondered how the Crimson Serpents found him in the first place. Maybe they had seen him at one of the fights, but it was always dark and often rainy, so they surely wouldn’t have recognized him. Besides, most people didn’t even call him by his name. He was just “the rat”. Maybe they’d made a deal with Kanra, but that wouldn’t explain how they’d figured out his identity. He didn’t know anyone from the Crimson Serpents except Gray, and he’d never met the man.

Except Shawn.

Something dark began to coil inside him. Maybe Shawn helped them find him. Maybe he gave them a name and a place to look. Rage filled his senses, and he began to see red. It would make sense. How else would they have connected his face with a name?

Iziah took a long breath, trying to calm himself. The apartment suddenly seemed cold, and he shivered, pulling his sweater tighter around him. It was a rather far-out hypothesis. But it would explain why Shawn hadn’t cut him up during the fight. He felt bad because things had gone too far, and it was his fault.

Fury. So irrational and strong that he could taste it, feel it set his cheeks on fire.

It was bad enough that Shawn knew, but it was a whole different matter if he was responsible.

All Iziah knew was that he had to get out. Being in the apartment for so long was suffocating him. He needed to go outside. Besides, now that he had some painkillers in his system, he felt okay. His head was no longer splitting, and he could walk without his ribs shrieking. Iziah turned off the television and hauled himself off the couch. It didn’t seem like a smart idea, and Nick would be ticked if he got home before Iziah. But Iziah was too angry to care. He needed to be in control of something, even if it was just the right to come and go. He had to prove that he was still powerful, no matter how small and shaken he felt.

After putting on his shoes and checking that he had his knife, Iziah walked out the door and made his way toward the elevator.

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