I fight through the blinding pain soaking wet, following Alok and Lila. Branches hit me in the face as we make out way through the dense path of the jungle.
Must keep running.
My whole arm is painted in red blood. Aaron tore my sleeve off and used it to tie around my shoulder, slowing the blood flow. I feel like Braveheart as I sprint, wanting this nightmare to be over. I can feel my heart thrashing in my chest as I labor with each pound of my legs, must make it to the finish line.
“Red! Flix here!”
“Flix!” I yell as I turn a corner, trying to keep up with Lila in the distance. I am falling behind making me start to panic. The pain is overwhelming, making me cry out. “How much farther!?”
“Shit! Red, behind you! Life-Line now!”
I gasp as I turn around seeing an opposing team member from the orange team in mid-throw. Everything slows as my eyes take in the threat. The spear sailing through the air straight at my chest. In a moments time I knew this was the money shot.
I wake to blinding lights and chaos.
“This is a code B-007! I need all hands on deck! We have a life-line needing activation!”
“Where the fuck is Phil?!”
“Pierce is coming look alive interns!”
“Suzanne get out of here with that! No one wants donuts!”
I moan and sit up on a long white sofa, pain pounding through my head. What just happened? I suck in a breath as the events play back to me in horrific flashes. Freezing water, falling through the sky, the dark sea... razor sharp jaws, and the spear...
I am breathing hard now, sweat dotting my forehead.
I look around to see men in business suits rushing around and what looks like to be a main hub. Virtual screens are everywhere with people wearing headsets and typing on computers. The door to my left opens and in walks Pierce followed by five serious looking business people.
He is in a crisp white suit with a headset on. “Red! That was a close call!” he points at a random dude. “Get me the time lapse charts now, Kevin.”
“I am at Fairy Godmother Inc?” I ask, heart pounding as I look around.
Pierce sits in front of me. “Yes,” he glances at a woman passing. “Get Red a towel, she’s bleeding my couch!”
I then notice my arm is still bleeding. “Shit! Can you fix this? It hurts!”
I balk at him.
“I need you to get into the pod to be beamed back after we talk. Two things. First, you will still be in a lot of pain unfortunately. Second, we can make the spear wound not fatal and sanitize the spear for little infection.”
He smiles at me and exhales. “This will suck, but I think it’s worth it. If you start succumbing to the wounds you may use another life-line and we will clean you up.”
I close my eyes and hold up a finger. “Are you telling me that I will still get punctured with the spear?”
“We will make it clean and it will miss anything major,” he says with a head tilt. “You’re a tough cookie, you can handle it.”
“But I don’t want to.”
“Right? I wouldn’t either. Ouch.” He stands up and motions me to follow. “Those are the rules, and rules are rules.”
“Pierce, this is bullshit! A life-line is supposed to take me out of harms way!” I yell, following him to the large pod at the very end of the room.
He turns and winks at me. “Do you trust me?”
I stop in front of the space-pod-beamer thing. “I am not sure,” I admit, feel my shoulder throbbing.
He laughs and dusts something off his pristine shoulder. “I knew you would say that but listen. I know what I am doing, I have been in this business for a very long time. This is not my first rodeo Red. A little fear might do Ajax some good, it may put things into prospective. Death can do a lot for persuasion.”
I raise a brow.
Pierce is either a genius or insane.
“Well, you will not be in good shape if that’s what you mean. Flix will watch you. He is able to use a life-line on your behalf if you cannot in this particular situation, I gave him clearance. Have no fear on that account.”
“Oh great,” I gasp. “So, I could also almost die then?”
“Yes!” he says with a smile. He goes to pat my bleeding shoulder then switches to the other one. “Now into the pod you go!” He glances behind him. “Where is Karen with my papers!”
“It’s Kevin, sir.” A man comes runs up almost tripping over himself “Here!”
He snatches them out of his hand then yells to the group behind him. “We need extraction coordinates in place! Are we ready for clearance?!”
“The clearance is ready!” yells a woman from a far computer.
I step into the pod feel my heart pounding; this is going to hurt like hell. “I can’t believe I am still going to get impaled with the spear!”
“You’ll be fine!” Pierce yells as I start to see flashing lights all around me. “You’re doing a great job by the way! Keep fighting the good fight, Red!”
I wanted to flip him off, but everything goes black.
When I come too, all I can feel is extreme heat at first.
Intense heat and pressure.
I blink my eyes and can see the blood covering the dirt in front of me as I am crouched down on my hands and knees.
“Red! Flix here! Keep breathing! McFolas sees you! Breathe!”
Shock flashes over me when I sit up and see a spear sticking out of my side. I go to scream but I cough up blood, choking on the fire coursing it’s way up my throat. My side feels like burning stone being grinded together, white hot pain. I wheeze in agony, not being about to do much else.
Screw you Pierce and your rules!
“Red!” I hear McFolas’s panicked voice. “Holy shit Red! Ahhhhh! I’ll kill you! You piece of shit!”
Then I hear fighting, grunting and screams of agony. McFolas must be fighting my cold-blooded assassin. I cough more and marvel at the amount of blood surfacing. I really hope Pierce meant what he said and nothing major was punctured.
“Red! You might pass out if you don’t breathe! I am getting low oxygen levels!”
I take large breaths, trying to say alert. I see cameras around me, and I know Ajax must be seeing this too. I look around for my earpiece and realize it must have fallen off in the water in our mad dash. Ajax must be having a heart attack; I just hope he does not do anything stupid.
I feel McFolas beside me, breathing hard. “Oh Red! Shit! Don’t move! Stay with me!” he pauses, “Ajax calm down I got her! I can carry her no need for a penalty. Yes, I know you don’t give a shit. I got her, she is still breathing, calm down.”
I feel him pick me up and I scream, blood everywhere. “I am ordered not to touch the spear, if I remove it you could bleed out in seconds. I am so sorry Red, stay with me,” he says calmly, walking quickly through the dense forest.
I feel hot and delirious.
“Red! Pierce administered you some slight numbing pain, as a curtesy.” Flix says.
I still hurt, but the streaking, white hot pain has subsided somewhat.
“Red! Stay with me girl! Keep your eyes open!” McFolas yells, moving faster.
I didn’t even realize I had them shut.
I now hear tons of cheering and screams, sounds like a sea of people. I open my eyes wider and focus. I see the finish line and almost gasp, my vision swimming. Finally.
“We’re here Red!”
I blink again and see Ajax at the line yelling and pointing at people in medical outfits, he looks pale and panicked. I smile. I always feel better when I see him. My gaze flickers over him and I wish I could tell him, very nice suit. When our eyes meet his widens and I know when I see pure fear in someone’s gaze. I’m sure I must look pretty horrific, I am covered in blood with a spear sticking out of me. It’s not a sight anyone wants to see, especially if you care for that person.
Vision swims again.
Flashes of faces are over me again and I am having trouble piecing things together. Much like being super drunk and trying to control the violent spins. It does not really work. My blood pressure must be dangerously low.
“Red! Keep your eyes open for me, baby. Please...please... ”
Did someone call me baby?
I feel shocking pain as the spear is removed, and that I know. I scream, choke, and seize. I am still moaning and crying not even sure where I am at as I feel myself being lifted. I force myself to blink and I see Ajax face coming into view along with several doctors.
I see blinding lights.
I am on a bed, being rolled and someone grabbing my hand, squeezing it. I hope Pierce knows what he is doing because that’s’ my last coherent thought.
“Red, Flix here, can you here me? Testing, one, two, six, eight, bitches, hoes...”
My lids flutter and I see that I am in a large medical room with flowers in vases on the counters. “Flix, “I whisper, my voice raspy.
He materializes in front of me. “Finally, girl, you had me worried and shit, but Pierce made me hold off on the life-line. Well, he was the one to put you into a coma in the first place so that makes sense.”
He stares at me. “What?”
I look around and frown. “How long have I been out Flix?”
“Just four days.”
My eyes widen. “You’re lying. Just four days?!”
He holds up his hand. “So, some major drama. You missed the last competition, and if you were not in a coma, they would have made you compete or take a penalty. Very unfair. They are being little dicks to Ajax. After you passed out the audience started chanting your name, it was pretty cool to see the horrified looks on the Fey.”
I take a breath. “So, Pierce put me into a coma.”
“Pierce has your back.”
“What of Ajax?” I ask feeling super weird that I missed four days.
Flix snickers. “He has been in here for four days, sleeping, eating, doing his work for competitions. Staying up all night staring at you, it’s all pretty romantic and shit.”
My eyes widen and my chest tightens. “No way.”
“His excuse is that he is convinced that someone will try and kill you and he only trusts himself and Leon.” Flix grins at me. “Just be glad you missed the last competition.”
“What was it?” I am scared to ask. “Anyone hurt?”
“A jungle maze full of dangerous traps and shit. It was pretty insane, these Fey are psychotic. McFolas broke three ribs and Lila fracture her hip. They are all okay though and we took first again. They wore red bandannas in your honor, very cute,” Flix says and looks behind him. “Lover boy is coming back!”
My heart starts to pound, and I forgot to ask Flix how I looked.
Too late now.
The door opens and Ajax is reading a paper with a scowl, lost in his thoughts. He looks oddly pale and sleep deprived with circles under his eyes. His dressed in a sexy white T and jeans making my mouth water. My heart flutters and my skin tingles.
I watch him take a big breath and glance up at the monitor. He has not noticed that I am staring at him making me smile. He frowns as he stares at the monitor with a what the fuck look. His pale gaze shoots to me and he actually gasps.
“Holy fuck you’re awake.” He drops the papers and runs over to me. “How are you feeling? Anything hurt? Are you dizzy? Thirsty maybe?—”
“Ajax,” I whisper and grab his hand. “I am fine, just a little confused.”
He is breathing hard, looking from the monitor to me. “Red,” he says looking down at me. “I thought I lost you.”
My skin tingles at his expression. It’s something deeper than I have ever seen on his face. “I am not dead yet.”
“Yet?” he says angrily. “Don’t say that.”
Ajax pauses and a smile flickers over his handsome features. “Bossy already?” before I could respond his lips were on mine, softly kissing me. He smells of soap and something tropical, his heat engulfing me. His arms snake around me, lifting me slightly. “Red, I hate hate this.”
“Hate what,” I breathe into his lips but I know.
“I don’t know how I am going to survive the rest if the games. We have two more I a feel like you will be targeted. I am not sure if I can handle it,” he says and kisses me deeper, his tongue sweeping into my mouth.
It’s like he breathes life into me.
“But I have an idea Red.” He lifts his head to stare down at me, eyes intense.
“We are going fight back and I know just what to do,” he hisses, anger laced through his voice. “I am sick of their shit and I want them to pay.”
“We beat them at their own fucked up game...”
I sit up straighter and swallow. “How?”
Ajax leans down and whispers in my ear. “I find a way to marry you...”