An Even Stickier Situation
The Trenches (Previously New England)
The taste of blood is potent on my tongue, like copper and iron swirling together into an abhorrent cocktail. I am dizzy, unable to move, unable to open my eyes, but my ears—they hear everything. And it is insanely loud.
There is cheering. Clapping. Whistles. Hoots, hollers, screams. I’ve a vague idea where I ended up after being captured. The woods had been my shelter, my safety from these monsters, and I’d foolishly disobeyed my brother, wandering off, blanketed by a false sense of security.
I’d run right into two of them. They’d laughed as they beat me into submission and dragged me back to their kingdom. I hadn’t realized we were so close to one, and I grit my teeth now, worry for my older brother pinching my chest. Where the hell am I, though?
I try to move, still unsuccessful, but the floor beneath me is springy—not typical unforgiving concrete or wood. It’s loud, still. So I’m around a crowd, then. Panic rises, my eyes springing open as adrenaline floods my system, giving me clarity. I am on a raised platform, and all around me are ropes—a ring. I’m in a boxing ring?
I drag my arm up, attempting to right myself, my cheek pressed pitifully onto the floor of the ring. The cheering hushes, and a garbled voice speaks, but my ears don’t register the words; the pain near my temple tells me why I am struggling so badly. I’ve been concussed. My panic rises more, as does the cheering.
Before I can move another muscle or even think another thought, thick fingers curl around my ankle, and my limp body is dragged backwards. No, no, no. It all snaps together in that small span of time.
I can’t be here.
There’s no way.
The one who grabbed me flips me as though I weigh nothing more than a rag, and with a ringing clarity, I know my life is over. As I stare up into the livid, pale green eyes spiked through with gold, I know in my heart I am truly dead. With a sharp cry, I roll, trying to claw myself away from this massive beast of a monster, but it is all in vain. I sob as he flips me again, pinning me to the platform by my neck, his fingers thick, his palm wider than my entire throat.
I can’t even make out any other distinguishable characteristics of this particular leech; just that he is insanely huge, and those eyes are so filled with rage that I want to vomit from fear. The crowd erupts in wild cheers, and the monster’s eyes snap up, focusing in on something behind me, revealing his thick throat and dense black beard. His long, wild hair falls in tendrils to his shoulders, woven through with caramel.
His lip curls back into a malicious sneer, one that holds so much confidence—one that tells me whoever is approaching will also meet their end. He releases me, standing to his full impending height with me between his legs, slow and controlled, wearing nothing more than black pants that hug his muscles and end mid calf.
I have no other time to waste; I roll back onto my stomach, about to dart to the side, away from the adversaries. I’ve heard of the horrors of these fights, but simply knowing they exist—and knowing I am now part of one—is enough to spur me into action. I can’t move, though, when the two beasts collide in a fight so magnificent that they somehow feel like ancient pagan gods warring over a mortal.
Which is precisely what is happening.
Whoever wins this fight will win a night with me.
For that is the way of this world, of this particular kingdom. How do I know this so well? The beast who’d grabbed me reels his fist back, connecting with the other one’s temple, sending him stumbling into the ropes. I am lost, mesmerized, wondering if this was what she saw on her first night here—wondering how many fights she endured, how many champion’s beds she warmed before she made the ultimate sacrifice and ended her own life.
The beast grabs the man’s shoulders, pulling him closer as the crowd screams in maniacal joy. He snaps his head forward, and with a sickening crunch I can hear the man’s nose break. I don’t realize I am vomiting until my body is racked with the force of my gags. I know I shouldn’t look—I know how these fights end.
But in my dazed and confused and concussed mind, I am morbidly fascinated. The beast wastes no time, his opponent struggling. He forces him to his knees, curling his massive bicep around the weaker one’s throat. I don’t even blink as those dangerous green eyes glint at me beneath the bright fluorescent lights. He sneers one last time, keeping his eyes on mine, twisting his arm as though he simply had to reach to his shoulder to itch it.
But there is a much louder pop, and his opponent slumps to the floor, lifeless.
The crowd has reached its fever pitch. I scuttle backwards, whimpering, but it is not fast enough as he strides toward me. Dominated by his shadow, his hand strikes out like a snake, fingers gripping my hair as he pulls me wavering to my feet. I clutch at his arm as pain erupts along my skull. He turns us in a wide circle, showing off his prize to the crowd.
But all my eyes can see is the brutality he is capable of, the evidence laying before my feet in a pool of his own blood.
I groan, my head pounding in fury, my stomach in knots again. It is dark, wherever I am, and whatever is under me is soft and warm. I pry my exhausted eyes open, remembering all too clearly what I saw the last time I was awake. I am cautious, though, not moving, simply glancing around. Nothing of importance jumps out at me.
There is some light, from a candle, it seems. I am on the floor near a wall, a bed in front of me, a nightstand holding the lone candle. There is a door, and it is open, through which spills more light and sound and the scent of something tangy and spicy. Despite my upset stomach, it growls. Food, out in the woods, is hard to come by, and seasoning it is usually out of the question.
I tense as heavy footsteps thud around the wood floors. I move, trying to see if there is a way out, when a tinkling noise indicates that my wrists are chained to a loop on the floor. My stomach sinks.
The footsteps pause, and then come closer. I grit my teeth, gulping down my fear. I refuse to show it, but my heart is hammering, and the thought of what may be coming for me has tears gathering in my eyes. I am so, so stupid. I never should’ve walked off without Josh. He was only going to check snares. He told me to wait. But every day for years I have sat and waited for him. The one time I decide to just go on a walk, I am captured.
A shadow blocks out the light from the open door. I still, trying to calm my breathing and pretend I am asleep, but I know it is useless. He will do what he pleases with me no matter what; he is the champion, and I am his conquest until the next day.
His feet are as big and wide as the flat end of an oar, his calves muscled and dotted with dark hair. His skin is bronzed—deeply so. I’ve never seen these aliens up close before, but this is the first time I am seeing one that is so dark. He is wearing shorts now, and his knees pop as he crouches down before me. I avert my eyes, trembling, but that won’t deter him; I am his now. At least, for a while.
He reaches toward me, the movement sudden, and I cry out, sitting up and kicking away until my shoulders hit the wall. I can see better, now, with my eyes adjusted. My head still swirls, but my eyes focus in on him. His expression is unreadable, his forearms resting on his knees, his hands dangling between his legs. He wears no shirt, his torso nothing more than one big rippling bronzed muscle.
But his face—everything that makes up the most central part of his features is absolutely perfect in a rugged, barbaric sort of way. His eyes are downturned, his nose long and asymmetrical, his brows thick and pointed up in the middles, giving him a savage, exotic look. His beard is wild yet neat, a depthless shade of black, and his thick hair is just as dark but with those lighter accents.
He simply stares at me, no expression on his face, nothing for me to read in his eyes. Strange, too. Erathians usually have brown eyes, but his are green with hints of gold. It offsets his darker skin tone. Yet as devastating as his features are, they all morph together into something sinister—something deadly.
He stands fluidly, and I shrink back in horror, but he simply leaves. I can hear running water, the clanking of cupboards. Soon, he is back, and in his hand is a wet rag, steam still rising off it, curling in lazy tendrils before it evaporates. He says nothing as he reaches for my chains, wrapping his fingers about them and slowly pulling until I have no choice but to move or be dragged to him. With fear potent in my veins, I obey to survive. He has me incapacitated. If I was unchained and my mind clearer, he’d be in for a fight.
He pushes me with his free hand, pushes me slow but hard, until I am leaned back and eventually laying on the ground, face up. He moves, placing his knee just below my ribs—a warning not to move. I cannot help but shake from head to toe as he brings the cloth to my face, and then deviates upward and to my left, pressing it to my temple.
The pain is soothed immediately, and I am stunned. Gentle, he blots at the cut and the sticky blood. I don’t remember how I got it, but I do know that I passed out and woke up in the ring with him, where I passed out again and woke up here. My eyes rove around. I feel I am safe enough at the moment to figure out my surroundings.
The space is small, yet quaint, and there is wood everywhere, as though we are in a cabin. I can hear wind, can feel the draft of it, even. There isn’t much for decor, but it is somehow homey, warm. I’ve not been in a real home in years.
He pulls the rag away, his fingers capturing my cheeks and forcing my eyes to his. He reaches up, prying my eyelid further open, and a dissatisfied grunt puffs out between his thick lips. I swallow hard, wondering what his appraisal will mean. I’m sure he wants me in tip top shape so I can perform whatever duties he desires in his bed. I’ve no experience with men, but I’ve been warned before.
“What’s yer name, girly?”
His voice is rough around the edges but smooth as silk between the consonants. Fitting, for a man of his size and repute. I swallow hard again. My mind doesn’t want to function properly, which is no surprise. I want to be scared, be pissed off and finding ways to escape and get back to Josh, but all I feel is confusion and exhaustion.
He snaps his fingers in front of my eyes, and I jump to attention, already having forgot his question. He shakes his head, growling something inaudible again. He looks angry. He stands, leaving me alone. I almost fall asleep again when he comes back, sliding a plate of food and bottle of water before me.
I sit up in haste, excitement flooding my veins, mingled with a sense of euphoria. But that soon fades as the urge to vomit rolls through me. I press my hand to my lips as I gag, but nothing comes up. I can hear him make another noise, his bare feet sliding rough across the smooth wood floorboards.
“Slow,” he commands, shutting the door, sealing us both in. I can’t bring myself to listen, despite knowing he is right. He just doesn’t want me puking in his bed.
I guzzle the water and use my fingers to scrape the rice and vegetables and chicken into my mouth. I can’t even taste it, but I know it is the best, most fulfilling meal I’ve had in years. When I am done, I wipe my hands on the least bloody side of the damp cloth, my eyes already slipping closed. I slump back onto the pile of blankets as darkness consumes me once more.
A/N: I've decided to write Power Over Me (about halfway complete) and this one in tandem so there won't be any lapse when one finishes! That being said, I do intend to self-publish this series! I will start editing/start the publishing process with Tear Me Down at the end of summer (August-ish 2021). Once that goes into editing mode, it will be taken down, and so on and so forth!
Anything self-published will be thoroughly edited for plot and content, so you'll be getting new scenes and an overall more well-rounded novel. Can't wait to do some signed copies! What does everyone think so far of Set Me Free?!