“Pierce was denied.”
I close my eyes and take a slow breath.
Go to your happy place.
My heart starts the slow drum roll, a sickness overcoming me.
Flix looks stressed with his pale features and his rapid gum chewing. “Pierce is yelling at me for letting you marry Ajax without clearance,” he pauses, “Looks like we both are in deep shit,” he says and comes to stand beside me with his hand on his little hip, gum chewing erratic. “We are in like in a giant hole filled with used hooker undies.”
I look at him and my mouth twitches. “Are trying to cheer me up?”
Flix forces a smile. “That’s a dirty ass hole to be in, and we are in it neck deep. We gone need some antibiotics, girl.”
I take a breath and smack him on the head. “Tell Pierce to appeal it, damnit. I have dealt with lawyers and the court systems all my life. Pierce can appeal that. He needs to bring bigger guns to the fight.”
Flix tilts his head. “Worth a shot.” He sits back on the locker room bench and starts typing. “Pierce, mad, is frightening.”
I look back to the mirror and shiver.
Pierce is frightening when he’s happy.
I can’t fall apart now; I need to be strong for Ajax. The person I see starring back at me is not the same person I used to be. This place has chewed me up and spit me back out, no one could be the same after that. Not even close. Ajax’s team spent all night on Thunia’s competition suits in case anyone of us gets voted in. I am wearing a body suit that is top of the line, boosting my confidence a little.
Our whole team looks like we should be in the next Avenger’s movie.
I have said this before, but I’ll say it again. Always since I was a little girl Wonder Woman has been my idle, my motivation in life. Now, I am her in the flesh. I look like her, better than her, in my humble opinion.
I am in a metallic, skintight cobalt suit fit for any superwoman. The suit has a black chest plate that flickers and glows red when activated. I turn in the mirror seeing the black design on the back along with a sexy G-string. The G-string hooks to the chest plate and is a part of the design to Ajax’s disapproval.
Since we were secretly married, he’s been very protective and extremely jealous, glaring at anyone who even glances at my ass.
That makes me smile.
The way he looks at me when he thinks I am not watching makes me shiver. It’s like how a hungry wolf watches a wounded rabbit, very predatory but protective. But now none of that matters, what matters is staying alive if I am voted in.
“Red,” Aaron’s voice is behind me.
I turn and take a deep breath. “I am going to throw up Aaron.”
“There is a chance that you will not get voted in Red, let’s not run fake scenarios,” he says and walks up to me in his cobalt suit.
“You know I will,” I say in a whisper.
He looks away then back to me. “Congratulations.”
My eyes widen.
He smiles and crosses his arms. “Do you understand what you have done? Ajax told the team and wants us to be prepared for the repercussions if this marriage goes south,” he continues, “But I have never been so proud. This is our chance to level out our races, you are the face of the new age, Red. You will be a legend. I thought Ajax was playing a joke on us, but he was very serious.”
I swallow, knowing I am a part of something extraordinary in this world. “It happened so fast. It does not seem real.”
“It’s very real, you are technically the Queen of Thunia,” he laughs. “That is a pretty big deal. If you had the paper work you could stop this whole competition. You could do anything,” he says.
Pierce was denied.
I close my eyes. “What are the chances they find the loophole in the Feno blood?”
He looks down, “They are working on it,” he murmurs, not sounding confident. “I am sure they buried that evidence where the sun doesn’t shine.”
I can’t think about that right now.
I need to perform.
“Clear your thoughts,” he says as if reading my mind.
“Red, Aaron!” I hear McFolas. “We got to go!”
A flash of dread washes over me. I have not seen Ajax since yesterday, I am assuming he is trying his hardest to get the information before the competition starts. Maybe he will find it and I will not have to compete. Maybe no one will have to compete.
That would be so amazing.
I head out and see everyone looking magnificent, Thunia warriors. I notice Lila is in the same outfit as me and she looks killer as well, female superheroes. Alok is standing right next to her in his cobalt magnificence, looking intense and ready to fight. Though, we all know who is getting voted in, out of all of us. If I fail, their love will be nothing but a painful memory.
“Guys, we might not have to compete today,” say McFolas. “This game can surprise anyone.”
Everyone’s gaze flickers to me.
“Red,” McFolas beams. “Not every day we compete with the Queen of Thunia.”
Everyone quiets down and stares at me like I have just grown two heads. I look away, feeling a sense of guilt.
“It means nothing if Ajax cannot marry a Feno,” I say and walk past them to our transportation. I don’t need their pitting looks.
I could have just sealed Ajax’s fate of treason.
Nothing to celebrate yet.
Off to the massive orb that is placed in the middle of the ocean. The stadium is so large its knee buckling, daunting. Fey and humans all over the world have come to watch. The ride is filled with tension, everyone is silent, our fate uncertain. I take a breath and glance out the window, seeing us approach the orb of doom.
Ajax has been there all day, from what Aaron tells Alok as I listen. All team leaders are doing whatever it is they do, to play God in human’s lives. I close my eyes, missing Ajax. I bet he is a ball of anger and nerves, especially if they have not required the information in time.
I miss him.
I need his comfort, to tell me everything will be okay and to embrace me in his strong hold. I need to smell him, to feel his energy and to see his knowing stare. That stare that can make me blush in a moments time and render me breathless. I feel like my heart is hung low in sorrow, knowing the impending pain that is sure to come.
We arrive and I can hear the roaring of the crowd and the flashing of lights and cameras.
But something is different.
There are thousands of guards with long scary looking spears, glowing red. They all are lined up everywhere, the perimeter and lining the walkways. Never seeing this measure of security before which makes me feel sick, uneasy.
“What the fuck,” I hear Aaron say behind me as we are escorted down the long walkway like we are prisoners instead of competitors.
The crowd sounds like thunder, it’s terrifying. I swallow and keep my eyes in front of me as cameras zoom around us. Don’t look fearful, look poised. Tap into some unholy anger, let it feed you, not scare you.
I can hear loud drums being played sounding like ancient battle sounds, it’s fast and erratic like some hybrid drums. It’s not a pleasant sound, I think my heartrate is through the roof at this point. We are led into the massive arena into the blue Thunia section, seeing other teams around the gigantic oval center doing the same. We all stare down onto the field, teams lined up on the outskirts.
In the middle is a large platform with all the team leaders standing on it, cameras swarming around them, complete chaos. I shiver as I look at them. They are wearing the same clothing as us except for they are in all black with a stripe of their team color on the side. The stripe is glowing, and I immediately see Ajax in the middle, muscular legs braced, and hands clasped in front of him. He looks like some God-like creature standing there, powerful and untouchable. He holds himself like a king, he has an air of dominance that the others lack.
No one is like Ajax.
I can see him look up at the massive screen as it shows us, the cameras landing on me, showing every inch of my body then my face. Trying to get a rise out of everyone? I raise my chin and I feel Aaron grab my hand as the crowd erupts into a frenzy, screaming and chanting, RED, RED, RED, RED!
I feel Lila grab my other hand and squeeze it.
Then I feel McFolas and Alok me behind me, they are without speaking, showing that they have my back. I feel my chest tighten, being so close to my team, real friendships instead of the fake ones I had back in my previous life.
This is so much more profound.
I can feel it like a stab in the chest, like my heart of ice is now low burning embers.
Ajax looks down then back up at the screen, the expression on his face I know very well. He is not happy, livid, the amount of rage emitting off him is obvious. Jaw is tense and body is rigid. I shiver, wondering what he must be feeling right now.
That sounding so foreign.
I glance at Sarya on the end and she has a smug expression, staring straight ahead like the rest of them, hair in a high bitchy ponytail. A race of powerful Fey, snobby entitlement, and an air of royalty. But the most beautiful creature standing down there could have a valid argument supporting this ego but does not. Its crazy how fast the Fey’s hair grows, some having hair to their butt. Ajax’s chin length hair is down and behind his ears save for a tempting strand that falls forward.
His pale gaze is narrowed and shooting daggers.
I shiver again, not seeing him glance at me once except for on the screen. Maybe he does not trust himself? The announcer is talking, and now large screens are lowering over each team, showing their color and sign.
Then a large podium raises in front of the leaders.
The voting has begun.
A wave of nerves crashes into me, causing me to look away. The team leaders all leave and are supposed to join their teams so the voting process can begin. I look to my left and now see Leon with other Fey members of Thunia. I have two life-lines until I am ejected from the game entirely.
Can I withstand if I am chosen?
I see Ajax say a few words to a member of the orange team, team Broyrus. The same team that speared me through the side. The team leader is not attractive, with long white hair and creepy black eyes. He sneers at Ajax and Ajax turns and heads in our direction.
I wonder what was said, fighting words perhaps.
I watch as Ajax ties his hair back and walks up to Leon, never glancing at me once. He stands mere feet from me, but he stares straight ahead with Leon by his side. I look away from him, not wanting the cameras to see me ogling him on game day.
“Here we go,” Aaron whispers beside me.
I take a shaky breath as I watch the first team leader walks up to the podium.
Nym Kearen of Ebrad.
Their screen over their team shines yellow, waiting for Nym to input their vote. The crowd goes silent as we all watch him typing on the computer.
The picture of Onas Valrieth from Broyrus shows on the screen above their team. Nym just voted in the same guy that speared me in the side from the orange team. The crowd erupts in cheers and boos. The orange team is in last place, so if they win, it does not put the other teams at risk for losing. Smart play, actually. I believe that Nym is Ajax’s close friend.
I expel a sigh of relief that it was not me on the screen, maybe it will not be as bad as we all thought. I glance at Ajax and see him starring straight in front of him, muscled arms crossed over his chest.
“One down, five to go,” Aaron says.
Eroan Jomaer of Brae Shye walks out and is next. Their bright green screen showing above their team, waiting for the decision.
The crowed is silent again with a low hum of murmurs. The screen suddenly shows my headshot and I suck in a harsh breath.
Red Roayn of team Thunia.
The crowd is still quiet. I slightly glance at Ajax but his expression does not change. I feel Aaron beside me nudge me. “Get loose Red.”
That was his way of saying get ready to fight?
Raibyn Enkas of Broyrus is up next and he walks up to the podium. I know this man does not like Ajax, I already know what’s going to be on the screen.
Red Roayn of team Thunia.
I flinch as I see my picture on their Orange screen. Ajax was right, I am clearly being set up here.
Deulara Daetumal of Claoye is next and I close my eyes, praying for a miracle. If she chooses me I am done for. I am already done for, Sayra is the last to vote and I know she will put me down.
“Red you can do this,” Lila says and leans into me, “Keep your life-lines handy.”
I feel sick.
Onas Valrieth of team Broyrus
I see Ajax say something under his breath and Leon pats him on the shoulder, in a comforting way. I can see him take a large breath and still stares forward, eyes of steal. I look back to see Sarya sauntering up to the podium with a cat’s grin.
She turns and raises her arms, getting the crowd to come alive again. I’m sure it’s the Fey in the audience that are cheering for her because I also hear tons of boos from the humans.
Sarya laughs and the crowed sounds like thunder. I can see Ajax starring at her and if looks could kill, Sarya would be decapitated. Ajax’s gaze is starting to flicker, which I have come to know it’s either from two intense emotions.
Love or hatred.
Sarya has the gall to glance up at Ajax when she hits the button showing my picture over her purple screen. She blows him a kiss and the crowd are in a frenzy, then announcer comments on their love/hate relationship now, loving the drama.
Red Roayn of team Thunia.
I see Ajax eyes glowing as he takes a large breath. A loud buzzer rings followed by erratic drumming. It does not matter who Ajax votes for, it will not change the outcome.
Red Roayn of team Thunia. VS. Onas Valrieth of team Broyrus.
I am in a nightmare.
“Let’s go Red,” Aaron says and starts jumping up and down. “Let’s get you warm. Fuck them, you can win that bastard.”
I feel my eyes sting a little and I start moving with them, the whole team warming up with me. I take a breath and feel McFolas rubbing my shoulders.
“Be fierce,” he says in my ear.
Ajax finally turns and he looks at me, his chest taking large breaths. He walks up to me and lowers down close to my face. “I want you to stay focused and do not let that fuck close to you. I want you right now to get all your spirits lined up. Get some big ones and blow the fucking pants off this loser. I was not able to get the documents in time,” he pauses and looks down, “If I have to come for you, I will.”
“You can’t,” I say feeling tremendous fear.
He looks up at me and smiles. “Then you don’t know me very well,” he whispers and stands up. “Aaron get her ready and warm, go through our muscles flexing. I have to go and retrieve the rules.”
Everything passes in a blur, I can hear Aaron and my team talking me up, trying to motivate me but all I can hear it the loud roars of the crowd.
What a mess.
I am ushered out on the main field and the flashing lights blind me. My heart is beating so loud it almost hurts. I can see my spirit animals flying around me ready for battle that I am not ready for.
Onas is down at the other end of the field, waiting for the green light. I turn to see Ajax walking up to me, his powerful figure being much more suited for this than me.
He is close, his face inches from mine. “Red, this is not a long game but very dangerous. You must be the first to get the golden coin in the middle of the field, killing your opponent. Then you will to beat the big boss at the end. This ground will give out and you will have to make your way through and underground tunnel system to the virtual monster.”
I swallow. “That’s a lot Ajax.”
His jaw clenches. “Take one step at a time, you have to stay calm. Onas is very erratic which you can use that to your advantage.”
“I have to kill him?”
“Yes, to make it to the next level. Relay on your spirit animal to do the work,” he whispers. “be strong for me Red, I cannot lose you.”
I try and hold back tears, nodding.
“You have to send shock waves into the beast’s mouth to kill it, it’s in a scene the off button.” he says, his pale gaze searching mine. “You can do this Red. This can be a fast win if you’re focused.”
“Do you think they made this harder or impossible to beat, to kill me?” I ask, fearing the answer.
Ajax takes a breath. “I do not know.”
A loud buzzer is heard followed by the drumming.
“Oh, and one more thing,” Ajax whispers. His gaze hungrily travels over me as he grabs my waist, pulling me into his body. “Hurry up and win so I can take you away from here.” The feel of his lips on mine shocks me, I can hear the crowd going crazy. I can’t believe Ajax is kissing me in front of everyone. The Fey will lose their minds over this, not to mention his father. And It’s not just a simple kiss, his tongue is deep in my mouth in a passionate kiss. I can feel his hand on my ass as his mouth devours me. He is delicious.
If that’s not the biggest ‘fuck you’, I don’t know what is.
He lifts his head and winks at me. “I hope you’re more relaxed now.”
My legs are putty. “Yes,” I breathe.
He walks away and I can see the crowd starting to chant, RED, RED, RED, RED!
I take breath.
Bring it on.