Wednesday, November 30, 2022

CAPTIVE (The Survival Race, book 1) - CHAPTER 50

In last week's episode, Max got caught in a poacher's trap. Regan caught up with Addy and attacked her. Max broke free. With a rock as his only weapon, he raced to save Addy from Regan.

An abducted cop and a gladiator prisoner must learn to trust each other with their lives…and their hearts…to escape their alien captors.    

 

Catch up reading on CAPTIVE here for free: Chapter 1  Ch2  Ch3  Ch4  Ch5  Ch6  Ch7  Ch8  Ch 9  Chs10&11  Ch12  Ch13  Ch14  Ch15  Ch16  Ch17  Ch18  Ch19  Ch20  Ch21  Ch22  Chs23&24  Chs25&26  Ch27  Ch28  Ch29  Ch 30  Chs31&32  Chs33&34  Ch35  Ch36  Ch37  Ch38  Chs39&40  Chs41&42  Ch43  Ch44  Ch45  Ch46  Chs47&48  Ch49

 

CAPTIVE

Chapter Fifty


Max made it to the forest’s edge before Regan pulled something from his boot and wrenched Addy to her feet, jerking her back against his chest, and keeping her there with a flesh-eater’s blade against her throat.

He skidded to a halt. Regan must’ve gotten the knife from the HGC after they arrested the poachers. Not only was Xanthrag or Ferly Mor somewhere close by, but two Hyborean agents might be as well.

Trapped between the bastard and the blade, Addy’s body shook. Her teeth chattered, making the blood from her split lip zigzag down her chin. Her white shirt, soaking and torn down the middle, clung to her heaving breasts.

On the rocky ground behind her, Noah lay still, no doubt unconscious. The baby’s stomach rose and fell with each breath, and red blotches covered his body from his wailing. Max’s pulse pounded. He could taste vengeance. Regan would pay for this.

Max couldn’t rush in and engage Regan in battle. He had to be smart.

Shit. He never had to factor in another’s life during combat. Let alone two.

If he attacked, Regan would cut Addy’s throat. With her out of the equation, he could slay the bastard, but her death meant he’d either have to bring her to the Hyboreans to be reawakened and ultimately taken back to HuBReC, or bury her.

Neither scenario was acceptable.

Regan sneered. “You give up your location then run toward danger unarmed and without a plan? You forget how to be a gladiator?”

He wasn’t fighting as a gladiator; he was fighting as a father. That gave him the strength of ten gladiators. With the rock concealed in his fist, Max stepped one cautious foot in front of the other. Every muscle bunched in a readiness to fight.

“The closer you come, the deeper I cut.” A thin crimson bead streaked down Addy’s pale skin.

She whimpered, and Max halted. “Release her, you bastard.”

“I wonder,” Regan said in mock curiosity, “if I slice her open, will you carry her to Ferly Mor yourself? It would save me time and trouble. Two birds with one blade, and all that. Or perhaps you’ll leave her and run chickenshit to the refuge?”

“You kill her, and I’ll kill you and dump your fucking body in the rapids.”

“Ahh,” said Regan, as though he had an epiphany. “The loser warrior has fallen captive to a bitch and her whelp. How pathetic.”

“Max,” Addy cried. “Get Noah.”

“I can’t.” He kept his voice calm, stoic. He couldn’t let Regan see this was killing him inside. He didn’t need to give him a bigger advantage.

“The beta knows if he so much as flinches, you’re dead and back to HuBReC.” By Addy’s disgusted expression, she no doubt wanted to jerk her head away from Regan’s foul lips in her ear, but couldn’t or she’d slice her own throat. “Yet, look at the fool, he’s dying to bash my skull in. Too bad your insignificant life renders him powerless.” He tongued her ear, and she cringed.

Fire exploded in his veins, but he couldn’t act yet. It wasn’t safe. Regan should have killed her by now. Why was he stalling?

“Hey, Gramps,” Regan shouted, his stare never leaving Max’s. “I know you’ve caught up. I can hear you sucking wind.”

Leaves rustled behind Noah as Duncan stepped out of the forest. His wrinkled eyes widened in fear. “Regan, what are ye doing man? Dinna hurt the lass.”

“Take the whelp to Ferly Mor.”

“No!” Addy clawed Regan’s arm. She cried out and stopped struggling as the knife pressed into her flesh. Her jaw quivered. Tears slid beneath closed lids. Blood slid down her neck.

Max couldn’t stand her bravery. His heart broke. His soul ached for her. He wanted to mutilate Regan but couldn’t risk Addy’s life.

“Don’t listen to him, Duncan,” she said.

“Take the whelp or I’ll make HuBReC your daughter’s living hell.”

Duncan hesitated before picking up Noah and cradling him to his chest. Looking neither at Addy nor Max, he said, “I’m sorry, me hands are tied.” He disappeared back into the woods.

“Duncan, no!” Addy screamed.

“Ferly Mor,” Duncan’s voice came through the brush, “is thirty minutes due north.”

“Yet Duncan’s running northwest,” Max said, enticing Regan to take a peek.

As soon as Regan craned his neck, Max whipped the rock, hitting Regan’s temple hard. The knife dropped from his hand as he stumbled backward with Addy.

Max sprinted forward but couldn’t reach them before Regan punched her. She crumpled into the river.

“Addy!” Changing directions, Max raced the current downstream, watching for her to surface. She hadn’t come up for breath. If Regan knocked her unconscious, she’d be lost forever in the rapids. Come on, Addy. Come on. Where are you, dammit?

She broke to the surface fifty-yards downstream.

Relief flooded him as he watched her find her bearings and deftly swim for shore.

Hard ground slammed into Max’s chest. Rock scraped his mouth. He tasted dirt and blood. Regan’s full weight crushed into his spine. A fist pounded his eye. Regan yanked his head back by the hair. Cold steel pressed against his throat.

He grabbed hold of Regan’s knife hand, trying to keep the blade away.

“Nothing,” Regan said, “would give me greater pleasure than ending your life a second time.”

“Then do it,” he rasped.

“Death is too good for you. You need to suffer. Like I did.” The blade left his throat. Max rolled to face his attacker, but a sharp blow rocked his head back. He barely processed the first strike before the next one landed as Regan ground-and-pounded him. Fists up, covering his face, Max waited for an opening, found it, and grabbed hold of Regan in a bear hug, bringing him down to his chest. Max tried positioning for a reversal, but Regan—young and strong as hell—countered each attempt. Regan slipped him into a choke hold, his forearm cutting the blood from the carotid artery.

A sleepy darkness started at the corner of his eyes.

No. He couldn’t black out. Addy needed him.

His vision clouded.

His body slackened.

Max woke face down in the dirt. His arms were tied behind his back with sticky, wet material—his shirtsleeve? Something tightened around his ankles. He rolled to his side and kicked his bound feet at Regan. He struggled to break free of the restraints.

Winded, Regan backed away in smug amusement. “Remember this?”

Yeah, Max remembered. It happened during a survival race a few years back. Max had trussed up Regan and left him to freeze to death in an ice pit.

“Fighting gives me the biggest boner. Where’s my pet?” Regan scanned the woods downstream where Addy should’ve emerged from the river. He started off in that direction.

“Hey, asshole. While you were distracted, she went after the kid,” he lied. “They’ll be safe in minutes. Looks like she beat you again.”

Multiple kicks landed in his ribs, his back, and his head. “Don’t worry. I’ll let you watch us before I snap her neck.”

Gasping for breath, Max struggled to get free. “Fuck...you.”

“Sorry, I have something better to fuck.” Regan’s knuckles hit fast and hard, breaking his nose. “Again.” Punch. “And again.” Punch. “And again.” There came a short reprieve from the beating before Regan kicked him in the chest.

Footsteps retreated into the woods.

Max wheezed. He coughed. He spit blood and dirt. He curled into the fetal position on his side before managing to roll up onto his knees. Head spinning, he collapsed. His vision clouded. He blinked swollen eyes back into focus. He had to stay awake. He had to find Addy before Regan did. Or before she tried to retrieve Noah. If Duncan, Regan, or Ferly Mor saw her, she’d be gone in a Hyborean minute.

He got to his knees again before he felt it.

It came to him like it always had; slowly at first and then a rush. The burning.

The stinging.

The shooting.

The throbbing.

Damn, he hated when the pain caught up with him.

#

How can Max help Addy and save Noah if he's literally tied up? Looks like it's up to Addy now. Can she help Max and save Noah all while avoiding Regan? Find out next week in Chapter 51 or read the full story now at your favorite retailers.

 
K.M. Fawcett
Romance with a rebel heart  

Friday, November 25, 2022

HAPPY DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING!

Shopping? Fuggedabouddit!   

Thanksgiving is the official start to the holiday season in my house. We watch the Macy's Parade with morning coffee, cook with Christmas music in the background and usually finish the evening with a Christmas classic movie. And Thanksgiving weekend is spent decorating for the upcoming Christmas season. But however you just spent your Turkey Day, you deserve to relax today. Hope you get your chance to do just that! 

Cheers, Donna

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

 


from Spacefreighters Lounge

CAPTIVE (The Survival Race, book 1) - CHAPTER 49

In last week's episode, Max and Addy escaped captivity and fled into the forest. Regan wasn't far behind. Can they make it across the river and into the refuge before Regan captures them?

An abducted cop and a gladiator prisoner must learn to trust each other with their lives…and their hearts…to escape their alien captors.    

 

Catch up reading on CAPTIVE here for free: Chapter 1  Ch2  Ch3  Ch4  Ch5  Ch6  Ch7  Ch8  Ch 9  Chs10&11  Ch12  Ch13  Ch14  Ch15  Ch16  Ch17  Ch18  Ch19  Ch20  Ch21  Ch22  Chs23&24  Chs25&26  Ch27  Ch28  Ch29  Ch 30  Chs31&32  Chs33&34  Ch35  Ch36  Ch37  Ch38  Chs39&40  Chs41&42  Ch43  Ch44  Ch45  Ch46  Chs47&48

 

CAPTIVE

Chapter Forty-Nine


Addy craned her neck at the base of the thirty-foot rocky cliff they had just descended, watching the river plunge straight down into a cloud of mist before the rushing current raced downstream.

This must have been the place where Red Beard had crossed. There weren’t any rapids here.

“I’d bet it’s two hundred and fifty feet wide,” Addy shouted above the pounding waterfall. “If we start here, we should be able to reach the other side before we’re swept into the rapids downstream. I’m a strong swimmer, Max, but I’m not sure I can do it with Noah. Can you take him?”

“Uh...”

“What?”

“Remember when I told you I drowned?”

Addy’s heart dove into her stomach. “You can’t swim.”

“I can doggy paddle.” Max made pawing motions in the air and gave her a cute, sheepish smile.

If they hadn’t been running for their lives, she would have laughed. “Not across this. You’ll be in white water before you make it halfway.”

“Here.” He handed her a rock with a sharp edge. “Cut me as many vines as you can. The longer the better.”

“A raft won’t take us across any faster.”

“We’re not building a raft.”

“What are we—”

“Trust me.” He gave her a wink before striding off into the brush.

She did trust him. Wholeheartedly.

She settled Noah on a soft patch of ferns away from the rocky bank and at a safe distance from the vines she cut and gathered, but close enough that she could reach him in the unlikely event of a predator showing up.

“What are we going to do?” she asked when Max returned with an armful of vines, dropping them onto the pile she had collected. “Swing across like they did in Romancing the Stone?”

Max picked up a stick and, unsatisfied with it for whatever reason, tossed it aside. “Never saw that movie.”

“You’ve seen Tarzan, right?” She sawed through another vine.

He grabbed another stick, weighed it in his hand, then tossed that one, too. “I’ve lived Tarzan.”

Hopefully, they collected enough vines for whatever plan he had in mind. She didn’t need to ask what that plan was. She’d said she trusted him, and she did.

She gathered up the vines and made her way to the ferns where Noah’s eyes focused on his daddy’s as Max murmured something to him. Did he just say disemboweled to a baby? It was best not to ask. “Is this enough?”

“We’ll see. Can you tie them into a long rope?”

“Of course.” She made herself comfortable on the ground next to Noah and began twisting and braiding the vines while Max used a sharp rock to scrape the end of a thick, straight branch about five feet long.

She could get used to this—them sitting together doing domestic chores. Only she wished she were doing them on the “free” side of the river. Something gnawed inside her gut. Would they do chores together on the free side? She assumed he’d want a relationship with her and Noah, but assumptions weren’t truths. She had to hear it from him. “Max?”

“Yeah?”

“What happens after we cross the river?”

“We’ll search for the clan.”

“I mean what will happen to us? To you and me and our son?” There. The question finally came out. They’d been in survival mode for so long, she never had an opportunity to ask. There had never been a right time. Or maybe she was afraid of the answer.

“You and Noah are my responsibility. I’ll protect you until we reach the clan.”

“Not after?”

He stopped whittling the branch and turned questioning eyes on her. “What are you asking, Addy?”

She bit her lip and gathered her nerve. “I want to know how you feel. I want to know if you...if you…”

“If I love you?”

Her fingers went numb and fumbled the knot she’d been tying. God, to hear him say it made her sound pathetic. “I need to know where we stand.”

“I am an alpha gladiator trained to fight, kill, and survive. I am not husband and father material.”

She swallowed the lump in her throat and willed her fingers to continue braiding. How could he say that? He was an awesome father. And as far as his being husband material went, she wouldn’t mind exploring that avenue.

But Max still saw himself as an animal. He needed more time to heal. He wasn’t ready for the dreams that she had, and maybe he never would be. “Right,” she tried sounding aloof. “I understand.”

Max took hold of her hands, stopping her from her task. She refused to look at him, refused to let him see the hurt. The gentle touch of his fingers tilting her chin upward so their eyes could meet engulfed her sensibilities.

“No, you don’t.” His lips, a breath away from hers, invited her to taste them. She closed her eyes and leaned into him. He pulled back. “Look at me.” When she did, she saw pain haunting his green eyes. “I can’t be the man you deserve, Addy.”

“So just be the man I want.”

His eyes closed as if savoring the moment. Slowly, he drew near, his lips parting.

Her heart hammered, anticipating the touch of his mouth on hers. But before she could close her eyes, his opened and he pulled away again. “We’re not free yet. Let’s slay one beast at a time.” Abruptly, he turned his attention back to his whittling project, leaving her aching for his kiss and pondering the possibilities of their future.

He wanted her. He may be fighting it at the moment, but it was plain to see that he wanted her. The question was: when the time was right, would he want her for a while or forever?

They worked in silence until she finished braiding the rope.

Max tied one end of braided vine rope around a notch he’d carved into his pointed stick. He yanked on it to test its strength and then rolled it up around his hand and elbow as if he were wrapping up an extension cord. He placed the coil at the river’s edge and handed her the rope’s tail. “Hold on to this and don’t let go.”

“Why?”

“See that ‘V’ over there?”

On the opposite bank, two trees grew from the same point in the ground, making a narrow “V” with their trunks.

“Yes.”

“Keep your eyes on it.” Max counted off several paces from the water’s edge. He stretched out his neck, rotated and stretched his shoulders, then took in and blew out a few quick breaths. He raised the stick—which looked more like a double-ended spear—shoulder high. His fingers loosened and tightened around its middle until he seemed satisfied with its balance.

The spear steadied.

Slowly, deliberately, he raised his left hand out in front of him. Max sprinted toward the water and released the spear, yelling the entire time it sailed across the river. Its point dove between the “V” of the two trees and stuck into the ground.

“Yes!” Both fists punched the sky in triumph. “Told you I was Olympic-bound.”

She giggled. “Would you like to take the podium for your gold medal and national anthem, or should we cross the river?”

“So much for my victory lap.” He tugged on the vine until the javelin came out of the dirt and braced crosswise in the “V.” He yanked harder—no doubt to be sure it was secure—and then took the tail end from Addy, carrying it toward a fat tree trunk. It didn’t reach.

“Damn. We need one more vine.” He tied it off to a sapling. “Keep an eye on the line. I’ll be right back.” He retrieved the rock he used for whittling the javelin and then disappeared into the forest.

Addy picked up Noah and kissed his soft forehead. “You’re daddy’s a smart man. Once the vine rope is secured to the sturdy tree, we can use it to cross the river without getting swept downstream. Just a few more minutes and we’ll be safe.” Noah’s fuzzy head moved back and forth as he rooted on her shirt. Her breasts prickled like pins and needles. She sat down and bared one for him. He latched on, sucking greedily. “Well, aren’t you a hungry boy.”

“Mmm. You’ve no idea, pet.”

Addy shot to her feet, making Noah cry. She clutched him to her breast. Though she couldn’t see where the voice came from, she knew from the chill in her marrow that Regan lurked a short distance away.

She scanned the woods for Max. Where was he? Did Regan find him first? Had he been captured? Or killed?

Her pounding heart drowned out the slapping waterfall and Noah’s wails. She glanced over her shoulder at the rope hovering above the water’s surface. If she crossed, would the sapling hold her weight?

A twig snapped. Regan emerged from the woods. “Hello, pet.”

She held back her scream. This can’t be happening. Not now. Not when they were this close. Regan’s presence meant that Xanthrag or Ferly Mor was here, too. She would not let those bastards take her son to HuBReC. She had to get Noah to the refuge.

Addy splashed into the river. Ice water, like shards of glass, stung her body. With one hand clutching Noah to her shoulder and the other on the vine, she shimmied and kicked toward freedom. She prayed that the vine would hold, that the current wouldn’t pull Noah from her arm, and that she’d have the strength and speed to make it before—

Heavy legs wrapped around her body. “Going somewhere?”

Addy twisted and wriggled but couldn’t break Regan’s hold. “Let go of me.”

“Most women enjoy my legs around them.”

“That’s ’cause they don’t know any better.”

His crushing thighs forced the breath from her lungs. When would she learn not to antagonize this brute?

“Where’s the loser?”

“Gone.”

“You’re lying.” His legs straightened, squeezing her, dragging her and Noah under the water.

Not her baby! In an explosion of power, she broke to the surface, her bicep straining as her one-arm pull-up brought Noah’s head above the river. “Get off me, you bastard.” She kicked and squirmed to free herself from his viselike grip.

“Where’s your beta gladiator?”

“I don’t know. I swear. He went to get another vine but hasn’t come back.”

“He’s abandoned you again.” Regan’s sinister laugh pierced her soul. “First at the Tuniit village and now, as I close in on him, he escapes, leaving you for capture.”

Bull. Max wouldn’t desert her. Something must have happened to him. Before she could imagine what, her palm burned across the vine as Regan hauled her toward shore.

Her strength was no match for his. Her muscles burned from straining against him. They wouldn’t last. She needed a new tactic. Quick. Oh hell, she wasn’t above pleading. “Let us go, Regan.”

“And face Xanthrag’s punishment? Not on your breeding life.”

Hyboreans couldn’t enter the refuge. If Regan had no need to fear Xanthrag, he wouldn’t have to take them back. “Xanthrag can’t hurt you in the refuge. Come with us.”

“Warming up to me, pet?” A sly smile came to his lips. “You like the feel of me around you. My power excites you. You want to get fucked by a real alpha.”

“Max is more alpha than you’ll ever be.”

“You won’t be saying that when he’s dead, and you’re writhing beneath me.”

She let go of the rope to punch his groin, but he moved his hips, and she caught his inner thigh. His legs crushed her; cold water rose around her mouth, her nose, the top of her head. She lifted Noah straight up to get him above water.

Regan yanked him from her hands.

No! She kicked and floundered for the surface, grasping for the vine, seeing nothing but water splashing. Submerged again.

Too long.

Need air.

A precious breath rushed into her lungs.

“I can take you back dead or alive.” Regan dragged her coughing and gasping onto the bank. “Makes no difference to me. Except in this.” He rolled his heavy weight on top of her, pinning her to hard rock. His hair and nose drooled river water over her face.

Noah wailed somewhere to her right. Her baby was in pain, but she couldn’t move to get to him. Violent and uncontrolled anger raged inside her, fueling her with the strength to struggle, yet Regan’s rock-solid, massive body wouldn’t budge. She strained to see Noah, but Regan’s hot mouth on her neck kept her head from turning.

She clawed and bit and squirmed.

Regan pulled back so his eyes were inches from hers and laughed in her face. “Go ahead and fight. Today, tomorrow, and the next day. Remember this, one day you won’t fight. On that day, you’ll know I broke you.”

He ripped her drenched shirt down the center before capturing her wrists and pinning her arms above her head.

“Max! Help!”

“That’s it. Scream. Let’s see if he comes before I do.” He thrust his hips into hers for emphasis before his mouth assaulted her breasts.

* * *

Max opened his eyes to spinning ground above him. Correction, below him. Ten feet below. Shit. He was hanging upside down by one leg.

The vine—now embedded in his skin—had come out of nowhere, grabbing his ankle, flipping and pitching him against the tree.

Pressure from pooled blood throbbed in his sinuses. His head ached where it whacked the trunk. Pain like a Hyborean blade sliced through his ankle.

How long had he been out?

He couldn’t reach his rock on the ground below. He needed Addy.

“Max! Help!”

Addy? He twisted toward the direction of her cry. About eighty yards away, through branches, leaves, and hanging vines, Regan restrained Addy on the ground as she struggled in vain.

“Get the fuck off her!” Writhing in midair, he’d never felt this helpless.

Regan’s head popped up, and their eyes met. Max cursed the stupidity of his tactical blunder. By giving away his location, he’d lost the element of surprise.

As if he watched it in slow motion, the bastard smirked a come-and-get-me smirk, then licked her nipple as she fought beneath him. He backhanded her across the jaw, drawing blood.

“Addy!” Feral rage exploded inside him, obliterating his senses. No more headache. No more pressure. No more ankle pain. Only wild gladiator fury. “I’ll kill you, you son of a bitch.”

Max grabbed the noose but couldn’t loosen the damn thing enough to force it over his foot. He yanked on the vine. It didn’t break. He’d need more weight to snap it.

Hand over hand he climbed then let go, free-falling until the vine jerked taut, and embedded deeper into his flesh.

Again, he ascended. Fifteen feet off the ground, Max dove straight down. Again he was jerked at the bottom. He reached up to climb once more, but the vine snapped.

Thwump. His left side hit the ground. He felt nothing. Not from the fall or the noose or the ring of blood around his ankle. It would hurt like hell later, but he’d suffered worse pain. He snatched his rock and sprinted toward Addy and the beast he would slaughter.

 

#

Ugh! Can't Max and Addy catch a break? How are they going to defeat Regan? Find out next week in Chapter 50 or read the full story now at your favorite retailers.

 
K.M. Fawcett
Romance with a rebel heart  

About Spacefreighters Lounge

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