Underground 4, page 1part #4 of New World Series
By Janelle Stalder
Copyright 2016 Janelle Stalder
Cover Design by Mae I Design and Photography
Ebook Formatting by White Hot Formatting
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Table of Contents
About the Author
ALSO BY JANELLE STALDER
NEW WORLD SERIES
To my girls, Heather and Karina,
Thank you for keeping me on my game and pushing me to get this book done. I seriously don’t think I’d have finished without those daily texts, and encouraging talks. Your continued support as fellow authors, but mostly just as amazing friends, makes me thankful to have you in my life.
Love you long time xo
Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.
The Outlands, New Berlin, 2040
Phoenix was going to kill him. Sweat dripped down the sides of her face, cool against the scant air that filtered through the dingy space. Her arms and legs felt like jelly as she hopped around the outside of the ring. The illustrious Bastian, or Jesus as she was fond of thinking of him, stood just outside the ropes as he always did.
Her opponent shifted opposite Phoenix, her dark eyes never moving away from her. They were hungry eyes. The kind that told Phoenix that, were this a real fight and not just practice, she'd have to up her game to stay alive. And that was the goal down beneath the streets where she'd been trapped for the past weeks.
Everything had narrowed down to that one, primitive purpose. The fights that Bastian, and his merry band of misfits, ran in the betting ring weren't for the faint of heart. Those who found themselves on the unfortunate side of the ropes either won their fight or died. Plain - simple. You won, or you died.
So far Phoenix had managed to avoid any actual fights, aside from these practices. Bastian kept saying she wasn’t ready. While she wanted to argue, because God knew she was always ready to fight, she was thankful for his doubts. The last thing she wanted was some innocent woman’s blood on her hands.
What would she do when she actually had to fight to the death? The thought terrified her. Not that she admitted that out loud. No matter what, she kept her game face on, and focused on doing her best. If she was going to fight, she was going to have to win, despite the consequences. So far she’d won all her practice fights, so that was something.
As had the only other person she knew down in the depths of this new hell - Trent McKay. They saw each other seldom and usually from afar, but she’d watch his fights, so at least she knew he was winning them. She didn’t know how it was affecting Trent, but she swore she could see it weighing on him every time he won. They hadn't actually been able to speak, but that might have been a good thing, she reasoned, considering when they did it usually ended up in an argument anyway.
“Head in the game, Red,” Bastian called out.
Phoenix looked over at him, wiping the sweat that was about to drip into her eyes as she did.
“You do that shit during the fight, and you'll finally find out what it's like to lose in here,” he said.
She rolled her eyes. “As if.”
He smirked. It was unfortunate that such a beautiful face hid such an ugly person. He was all golden hair and skin, and blue eyes that pulled you in. His body was built like a fighter even though he never actually fought himself. The thick beard covering his face did nothing to hide the perfect shape of his lips, lips that made a girl think things she probably shouldn't.
Phoenix blamed her - frequent - momentary bouts of idiocy when it came to her appreciation of her kidnapper to the lack of vitamin D and fresh air. No matter how beautiful he might be, no one who forced humans to kill other humans for sport was human themselves.
A sudden commotion at the doorway to the room pulled her attention just as her opponent decided to use it to her advantage. The impact to her jaw had Phoenix instantly seeing stars as she flew back, falling on her ass - hard. Air whooshed out of her lungs as she sat there stunned. She could hear Bastian tisking at her from the side.
Moving her jaw slowly, she made sure it wasn't actually broken before looking back over at what had distracted her in the first place.
He stood in the shackles they kept them in whenever they weren't in the ring, his rigid body so still one could mistake him for a statue. His eyes locked on hers, and from the tightness around them and the firm set of his lips, she could tell instantly he wasn't happy. Not that he ever was. If Trent McKay actually acted happy she'd swear hell had frozen over in response.
If she didn't know any better, she would have sworn he had tried
“Let's go, Red. Back on your feet.”
Turning away, she took a deep breath and pushed herself up.
“Yes, sir,” she said, saluting Bastian.
“Keep those hands up, Princess,” she heard Trent shout out.
“I know how to fight,” she snapped.
“Looks to me like you know how to fall on that pretty, little ass of yours.”
She was going to kill him. At this rate, she was going to kill all men, just to be safe.
“Shut-up, hot shot, I'm trying to focus.”
The other girl had spunk, but she was no match for Phoenix. None of these girls were. She’d spent years leading the Archers, a group of girls dedicated to repairing their fallen city and eradicating Ludwig Tennebris, the New World leader. She’d been fighting for longer than she could even remember.
These women were just ones his recruiters had taken off the street. What did they really know about fighting? They could put on a brave face, like the one in front of her was right now, but when it came down to it, they had no idea what they were doing.
At least it was Phoenix they had captured, and not her sister Missy, she thought as she started to move in circles again. Missy wouldn’t have lasted in a place like this. Her sister was one of the strongest people she knew, but not physically.
The thought of her made Phoenix’s stomach tighten just as it had since Missy had gone off to find Tyler. Since then, she and Trent had been taken themselves, and now she didn’t know what happened to either of them. All she could do was hope and pray her sister was home safe.
Another bang resounded through the room, drawing her attention again. Just as her head swung in the direction of the two metal doors that led into the room, a fist connected with her jaw once more, sending her flying to the ground.
“Mother fucker,” she spat, tasting blood. What the hell? That was twice this girl had gotten the best of her. Phoenix gave her head a hard shake. She moved her jaw carefully, wincing at the pain.
Bastian’s laughter rang out. “Serves you right, Red,” he called out. She looked over at him through narrowed eyes just as he turned to see who had entered. “Who’s this?”
“A new recruiter with fresh meat,” someone answered.
“Is that right?”
Bastian walked away, as Phoenix sat there, trying to catch her bearings. Her sparring partner had retreated to the opposite side with a smug look on her face. That was it, this bitch was going down. That was the last freebie she was giving away.
“My wife and I are interested in having our guy here take part in your fights,” a new voice said. It sounded vaguely familiar, but it was hard to tell with the ringing in her ears. Grabbing hold of the ropes, Phoenix pulled herself up, swaying slightly with the movement.
“He looks good,” she could hear Bastian saying. “Where did you find him?”
“That’s not important. He can fight, and he’s loyal to us. Are you interested, or what?”
Bastian was silent. Phoenix blinked back the stars, her eyes going over to meet Trent’s, who looked a little paler. Aw, the big guy wasn’t worried about her, was he? She wanted to give him a smile to let him know his concern wasn’t needed, but it hurt too much. She could only imagine the bruises she was going to have come morning.
Trent’s gaze moved to the other side of the room where the newcomers and Bastian stood, and then back to her. The look in his eyes told her something was wrong, but she couldn’t quite figure it out.
“Who’s the little one?” Bastian finally asked.
“No, the other one.”
“Oh, her. She’s a prospect. For now, she helps with training until I can figure out if she’s good enough to pull in some cash herself.”
“Seems a bit small for a fighter.”
The newcomer laughed. “Don’t be deceived. She’s fast. Sometimes that’s all that matters, as your girl up there can attest.”
Oh hell no. Was this guy taking shots at her too? What was going on today? Standing up straighter, she turned to face this guy, ready to give him a look of death. But as soon as their eyes met, she felt the ground shift again beneath her feet. And this time, she knew it wasn’t from some lucky shot to the face.
Standing just inside the door was none other than Garrett, a stoic looking Tyler, an equally stoic looking Pixie, her eyes focused on Bastian with her own glower – and beside the three of them stood her sister, Missy. She was here. In this hell hole.
Phoenix cursed. “You’ve got to be shitting me.”
Trent wasn’t sure who he was going to kill first, his brother or Phoenix. If she let herself get knocked down one more time, he was going to jump in there and pull her out himself. He could already see the bruise forming on her face. It made his blood boil, his hands straining against the shackles uselessly. She wasn’t staying focused, and that was exactly the sort of shit that would get her killed.
As if standing there watching her lose wasn’t hard enough, the surprise of his life had to waltz into this fucking dump like he owned the damn place. Garrett. He was going to murder his little brother the second he had a chance. What the hell was he thinking coming here when all Trent was doing was trying to figure a way out? Obviously this was some sort of rescue attempt, but that didn’t matter. All he saw was red at the reality that they were all now trapped in this place.
And to make matters worse, he brought Missy and Pixie! The two smallest, timid girls were the ones he thought to bring? What the fuck were they all thinking? While part of him was relieved to see that Missy and Tyler had managed to escape wherever they’d been, and were back with the gang, seeing them here now seemed just as bad – if not worse.
They were on the other side of the room, but he shot daggers at them with his eyes anyway. His brother would feel it. One look at him and Garrett would know he was majorly pissed.
Phoenix muttered something up in the ring that he missed, but from the way her body stiffened, he figured she must have just realized who the newcomers were. Knowing how protective she was of her little sister, he could only imagine how angry she was too.
That was one thing they had in common, anger. It’s what kept people like them alive in these kinds of situations. It’s what made him fight for his life every night, even though he’d return to his cell and heave everything he’d eaten that day when he remembered the sounds of his fists crushing bone until his opponent lay motionless.
This was not for the faint of heart. Despite the fact that Phoenix talked a big game whenever she could – which was always – Trent knew she wasn’t going to handle killing someone else well. How could she? It was primitive and disgusting. Sebastian Black, or Bastian as he was commonly called, was a sick bastard for running this sort of ring.
Trent didn’t even want to get started on the lowlifes that attended these fights, betting what little money they had. It seemed as though when the world around them crumbled, so had many people’s humanity.
“I’ll have some rooms set up for you,” Bastian was saying to Garrett. Trent turned his attention back to them, reluctantly moving his eyes from Phoenix. “When do you want your guy to fight?”
“We’d like to watch a few fights first,” Garrett replied. Trent gave his brother some credit, he sounded legit, although he wasn’t completely convinced that Bastian was buying into all this. The leader of the fighting ring was anything but stupid.
“Of course,” Bastian said, as though he were a normal, accommodating host. “I can assure you, you’re in for a treat. My girl Red up there will be having her first fight in just a few nights,” he continued, turning to bring their attention back to the practice ring.
Trent’s eyes flew to her, seeing her flinch in surprise. He wanted to howl in rage, but bit it down. As if things hadn’t gotten worse than ever, now this. What the fuck were they going to do?
“I’m going to be
Pete looked down at the – slightly – burnt eggs on the plate with a frown. “Aw, come on! They’re not that bad,” he called after her.
Bridgette got up from beside Roman, concern written on her face as she ran after her sister. Pete looked to Roman for back-up. The other man’s face was almost as green as Charlotte’s as he held up a gummy looking piece of bacon.
“It’s not that bad,” Pete said again.
Roman looked up at him with a cocked brow. “I wouldn’t think of becoming a chef anytime soon, if I were you,” he said. “Not that I’m going to turn it away like Lottey, but maybe we should let the girls go back to cooking.”
Pete looked over a Vi and Sam who had yet to touch their breakfast either.
“Seriously, McKay,” Sam said, her lip curled back in disgust. “Who taught you to scramble eggs?”
“If either of my brothers were here, they’d tell you I’m not that bad,” he defended himself.
“I wouldn’t be too sure about that,” his father piped in, walking into the kitchen. He glanced down at the food and then turned back to leave with a shake of his head. “We’re all going to starve,” he muttered under his breath.
Pete flopped down on the bench with a sigh. “Fine, I give up. We need Missy back, or we’ll all be a stone lighter by the time they come home.”
Lake laughed, taking her full plate and placing it back on the counter. “Don’t worry, we’ll manage. I think Sam was actually getting kind of good for a bit there.” No one spoke to agree. Even Sam looked less than convinced.
“I miss Missy,” Sam said after a moment. There was a collective murmur of agreement as they forced themselves to eat the breakfast in front of them. Bridgette walked in not long after, her mouth tight with worry.
Other author's books:
- Underground (New World Series Book 4)EdenBalance (The Balance Series Book 1)Underground 4Switch (New World Series)Simple Beginnings
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