Chapter 23: Love Revealed
I need to break something and that fucker’s neck is at the top of my list right now. As Lysa requested, Daniel was brought to us. The velvet curtain is raised and there is Daniel, tied in chains, held by two bulky guards with black balaclavas over their heads. Behind him I see a round area with a metal cage in the middle. And around it, seven identical curtain-covered doors. The other contestants. And a balcony over the cage for the perfect viewing of the fights. A damn arena.
“Daniel!” Lysa jumps off the bed and goes to the glass.
Daniel gives her a big reassuring smile and my heart tightens. He loves her, his one daughter, his only child. And I love her, too. I goddamn do. I walk up to Lysa and I put one hand on her shoulder. Like she has done before, she puts her hand over mine, her other glued to the glass. Daniel shifts his look to me and I nod to let him know I got Lysa. I got her forever. Daniel scowls in a warning look but he turns his attention to Lysa. He is not going to waste this moment on me.
“Lysa, you don’t have to do this,” Daniel tries once more.
“You all are breaking my heart. The father, the daughter, the boyfriend,” Jack chuckles. “But I only need the Cold Bitch tonight.”
Lysa stiffens and eyes Jack with knit eyebrows and the fucker takes one instinctive step back. Fuck, I tighten my grip on her. 64 deadly fights. 64 victories. This is not just some tough, street-wise girl. She is a true warrior.
“May I remind you, Jack, what you are risking here?” Lysa delivers clearly over the glass. “Keep the deal clean and this will all be over tonight. Cross me and you’ll have nowhere to hide.”
“We’ll hunt you to the depths of Hell,” I growl.
Jack cowers on impact but regains his composure soon. He waves and the curtains are dropped. Lysa groans and hits her tight fist on the glass. Her shoulders go up and down and she breathes as if there is a weight on her chest. Still, she says nothing.
“The guests will be here soon,” she finally utters. “I need to get ready.”
I follow her as she moves around and changes into her fighting gear. I help her with her wraps and she warms her shoulders and neck with utter calmness. There is nothing I can do for her, just be here, make sure to have her back if things go south and tend her wounds between fights. When our eyes collide, I take in a sharp breath. I don’t recognize the soul behind these cold, dead eyes, nothing of her warm, chocolate look is there. When this is over, I will always make sure she smiles, that her look is nothing but soft and her soul at ease. She turns her back to me and starts warm-up.
When Lysa said the guest would be here, I never expected the circus-like spectacle I am witnessing. Lysa was on her punchbag when the curtain was raised and outside stood a small crowd. They are still standing there, champagne glasses in their hands and wide smiles on their faces. Men in expensive tuxedos as if they are attending some formal event and women wrapped around their arm, most of them bitches paid to spend the night, in long elegant dresses. Everything on them screams money, from their manicured nails to their golden watches. And they all watch Lysa train, speaking behind raised hands.
“Come forth,” Jack hits the glass.
I want to break through the glass and break his neck for speaking to her as if she is same slave girl. And then all these people weighing Lysa like a piece of meat are next. I look at her as she drops her hands and walks to the middle of the glass door standing tall, her arms on her sides, her chin up.
“So this is the infamous Cold Bitch?” a grey man asks.
“The one and only,” Jack says proudly. “The undisputed champion of my little tournament for three years. 64 victories, 17 by submission, 46 by a knock-down, some of those incapacitated for good. And one...” Jack turns to Lysa that bites down her jaw, “by death.”
What? I frown and take one step to her. Lysa has killed someone in the cage? Mixed feelings rise in me that range from concern to pride and from fear to anger. Fuck me, but I feel even closer to her right now. The life I lead is not for nice, quiet girls. I have killed in cold blood and I have maimed, kicked, hurt more people than I can count. It takes a strong woman to stand by a Rider. A woman that has been through shit. Like Ava. Like Iris. Like Lysa. If I had any doubts she is my Valkyrie, they all go up in smokes.
At the same time, hearing that Lysa has killed, clears those dark corners of her soul she keeps hidden at all costs. She is a fighter, all right, and she has stained her hands with blood. But that doesn’t sit well with her. She took no pleasure from that and it tainted her. She fights with guilt and now I know why no matter how tight I hold her at night, she never sleeps well. And damn me if that doesn’t make me love her more.
Jack chuckles at some stupid comment made by his valuable guests and drops the curtain. I hear the group move to the next fighter and I rush to Lysa. I make an effort to wrap her in my arms but she pushes me back.
“Not yet, Vik,” she looks over my head. “I...I forget who I really am deep down when you are near. But I need her, Vik. Daniel needs the Cold Bitch.”
“Lys,” I force her to look at me.
Slowly, painfully as if that simple act costs her more than the tough training she has been through the past weeks, she looks in my eyes. She has dropped her icy cold façade she has put on ever since we set foot in this place. She is fucking scared and I can read her loud and clear. She is scared she is going to lose it all. Daniel, the Riders, me. No fucking chance. She is not going anywhere, I am keeping her with me. Never thought this would happen to me but now it has I am not letting her slip away.
“Lys,” I take one step to be right before her, “I love you.”
She gasps and shakes her head lightly in disbelief. We are here for three brutal fights and it’s the first I see her back down. These three words make her more scared than the pain that awaits her in the cage. Well, tough luck. She tries to take a few steps back but I pull her in my arms.
“I fucking love you, Lysa, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.”
“No, no, Vik. I’m a...I have...”
“You and me both, Lys. You’re it for me. I want you forever, scars and shit.”
“Vik,” she struggles.
“Finish this and we go back,” I raise her chin up to me. “And you are staying. On the back of my bike, in my bed, in my heart.”
Best fucking pep talk ever, I lean in and take her lips in mine with merciless fervor. I don’t care who the fuck watches. I know Lysa is scared to let it be known what we are to each other. Fuck them. What we have is not a fucking weakness. This is a warning. Fuck with us and we will fuck you up. We are one.