Wednesday, June 1, 2022

CAPTIVE (The Survival Race, book 1) - CHAPTER 18

Last week's episode ended with Addy under the Hyborean's technologically advanced medical care. Still determined to escape, Addy come up with another idea, but Max has a plan of his own.

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  Ch 2  Ch 3  Ch 4  Ch 5  Ch 6  Ch 7  Ch 8  Ch 9  Chs 10 & 11  Ch 12  Ch 13  Ch 14  Ch 15  Ch 16  Ch 17 or buy the full book for only $2.99.


Chapter Eighteen


“Hello, Max.” Tess’s voice was soft, tentative. The last time he had a visitor had been three years ago, after his last Survival Race Championship win. He rolled over to see her nod hello before she and Duncan entered the cage across from his.

He should have known she wasn’t there for him.

“What happened to ye, lass? We’ve searched all over for ye.”

Max tried not to notice the way the woman slumped to the floor. “Yesterday morning I was out for a run when Regan sexually assaulted me.”

His gut clenched. Although he’d already known that, it pissed him off to hear her verbalize it again. He should have mutilated the bastard when he had the chance.

“But his ringtone sounded before he got too far. He commanded me to meet him at midnight finish.”

Regan hadn’t raped her? Why did the relief feel as if a weight had lifted? Must be his damn predatory nature. He didn’t like the idea of anyone else mating with, or forcing himself on, his broodmare. Not like any of it was his choice. Nothing on this planet was.

“I was not going to let another gladiator rape me.”

What the hell did she mean by another? They’d been through this already. “I didn’t rape you.” He kept his tone neutral.

She didn’t acknowledge him. Hell, she wouldn’t even look in his direction.

“When will it end with these gladiators? I had to stop Regan, so I poisoned him. But all I did was make him and his race master angry. At least Regan’s attack and Xanthrag’s shock therapy didn’t harm Superbaby.” She placed a hand on her little belly, rubbing it tenderly. 

He’d never been around to see a woman’s body grow from his seed. It was kind of weird, but in a good way. “You’re one tough kid, aren’t you?” she said.

The baby wasn’t the only tough one. She had more guts than he’d ever seen in a woman. Her spirit was fire. But sooner or later this frozen planet would snuff out that fire. Look what it had done to him.

“It takes after its mother,” Tess said.

“Aye. Determination, athletic ability, strength. Ye have all the genetics the Hyboreans want, lass. Yer offspring will be—”

“My children,” she corrected, “will be taken from their mother and forced into a barbaric life of torment, rape, and fear. They’ll fight and die and be gambled upon for alien entertainment.”

Why was he suddenly feeling guilty about that? It wasn’t his fault she got pregnant. Okay, it was his fault to some extent, but it hadn’t been in his control.

“Yer bairn will only know this life. It will accept its fate.”

“Well, I don’t accept its fate. My daughter won’t be a sex slave. And my son won’t compete in some bloodsport.”

If her kid didn’t do as the Hyboreans commanded, it would be beaten and starved like he’d been. He didn’t verbalize the thought.

“Yer son will become an alpha champion.”

“My son will not learn to be violent. I refuse to let him grow up to be Regan. I don’t care what anyone says, we’re getting out of here if it kills us.”

It would kill her. She’d no idea of the dangers out there.

If she were truly serious about escaping, she was going to need serious help.

* * *

Four days later, Addy stood at the kennel’s door, one foot pointed toward her cage, body bent in a runner’s starting position. If Regan were waiting for her in the foyer, she’d sprint back to safety before he could grab her. She hoped.

Living in fear of Regan sucked, which was why she remained in HuBReC’s kennel even though she could have returned to Duncan’s home the moment she’d woken up from Xanthrag’s shock treatment. At least in here she could plot her escape without worrying about Regan attacking her. She could bear his daily taunts knowing she was protected behind bars, but what would happen when she met up with him on the outside?

Her heart rate accelerated.

She punched the button on the wall. The door sublimated to an empty foyer. After a pause to be sure no sound came from behind the doors to HuBReC’s waiting room and the Yard, she gathered supplies from the first aid shelves.

The Yard door sublimated, and her heart stopped.

“Hi,” Tess’s cheery voice called as she stepped through the vapor. “I brought everything you asked for.”

Her heart started again.

“Thanks for doing this,” Addy said when they were settled inside her kennel cage. “And for not telling Duncan.”

“I don’t want you to leave, but I know I can’t stop your determination. Just promise me two things.”


“First, be careful out there.”

“You got it.”

“Second, when you reach the clan at the equator, look for an ex-gladiator named Kedric and deliver this to him.” She pulled out an envelope from the backpack she brought.

“Who is he?”

“My brother.”

“Your brother escaped to the equator? Why am I not surprised no one mentioned that little fact?”

“Don’t be angry, Addy. Da thought it best not to tell you. He cares for you like a daughter and fears losing you.”

“If he cared for me, he’d wish me freedom, not captivity.”

Tess’s mouth formed a word, but no sound came out. Instead, she sighed and placed the sealed envelope into Addy’s hands. “He’s twenty-nine and has the same red hair and gray eyes as I do. He’s a good man and will keep you and the baby safe.”

If he hasn’t been captured by poachers, Addy thought but didn’t say. She nodded and began ripping and tying together the bedsheets Tess had brought. Once she made her bedsheet rope, Tess would take it back to the house and hide it in the bathroom until Addy had a chance to escape. She’d then break through Ferly Mor’s window and rappel down into the city.

“Be quick,” Tess said. “I have to go soon. Ferly Mor placed chokers on Da and me. He only does that before taking us from HuBReC.”

“I can escape tonight then.” The excitement percolating inside had to be tamped down in order to concentrate. She couldn’t afford to make any mistakes. If her knots weren’t tight, she’d break her neck climbing out of the window.

“I’ll miss you, Addy.”

“I’ll miss you, too.” The words came out easier than she thought they would have. She’d never been one to make friends with women easily, but Tess had been kind and patient and almost motherly—in a good way.

“Take care of yourself and that baby.”

She nodded. If only she knew how to take care of a baby. She’d grown up an only child, and her mother never hung around other young moms because her wilderness rescue job kept them surrounded by men. Addy had been a tomboy. She never babysat anyone, and she never gushed over other people’s children.

Just like Mom.

Her heart sank. “I’m going to make a terrible parent. My kid’s going to hate me.”

“Don’t be silly. Your baby is lucky to have you for a parent. I’ve never known another woman with more strength and determination. I know you’ll succeed at anything you want to. Including being a loving mother.” The sincerity in Tess’s eyes made Addy’s breath hitch. No other woman had ever believed in her that much.

Blinking back tears, she reached for Tess and gave her a hug. “Thank you.” She really would miss her friend.

Now all she had to do was get to the clan before giving birth.

After suppertime, Max had disappeared—like he had the past two nights since the removal of his cast—so he wasn’t around to witness Addy pulling on her form-fitting, white thermal suit. Not that any man would want to watch a pregnant chick dress. Except maybe for Regan.

No, he’d rather rip off their clothes. She shuddered. Well, in another hour she wouldn’t have to worry about Regan or Max ever again.

She slipped into her backpack, too heavy with supplies. It didn’t matter how many times she had dug through searching for unnecessary items to take out. She needed everything: food, canteen, first aid supplies, lightstick, furnace, knife, prenatal gun. Of course, a compass and map would have been good...and some energy bars...a polar tent...a snowmobile...a space OB/GYN—

Okay, okay. Focus.

Back home she had never gone camping with so little. But thoughts of the Underground Railroad and the slaves who’d successfully escaped with the clothes on their backs fortified her. She could do this.

She shrugged into her backpack and concealed her white thermal suit beneath Duncan’s dark cloak. She slapped the button on the wall, stepped through the white cloud, and took her first step toward freedom.

She entered the Yard under the cover of a moonless night and sprinted into the trees, staying in the shadows for fear someone might see her through their observation wall.

Katydids chirped and whirred. A screech owl hooted in the distance. Any other night she would have taken comfort in the glittering sky and nature’s music. But not tonight. Nothing could calm her heart, which scampered like a chipmunk on espresso.

When she reached the edge of the trees in front of Duncan’s house, she flipped up her hood, kept her head low, and ran to his door, praying no one—especially Regan—would see her.

She entered a quiet and empty house and breathed in relief. She hung up the cloak, shouldered the bedsheet rope Tess had hidden for her, and then borrowed Duncan’s twenty-seven-inch, hand-painted, cast-iron garden gnome. She stepped inside Ferly Mor’s apartment for, hopefully, the last time.

Securing the rope to the couch had been easy. Climbing it with a heavy backpack and lugging an almost fifty-pound garden gnome had been somewhat trickier. Of course, this was the icing-flowers on the cake compared to what challenges awaited out there in the Hyborean night.

Few vehicles passed on the empty street below.

She could do this. She could break the transparent wall and climb down twenty feet. Hadn’t she scaled and rappelled higher confidence-course walls? This should be easier. She didn’t have to place her trust in a belayer.

She pressed her hand to the windowed wall. The thermal suit prevented an icy chill from reaching her fingertips. The high-tech material would protect her from the arctic environment. Plus, it was white, a perfect camouflage.

She really could do this.

Knees bent in a solid stance, Addy lifted the statue onto her shoulder like a baseball bat. She took a few deep psych-up breaths, preparing for a glass-shattering home run.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

She yelped and dropped the gnome onto the cushions. “What are you doing here?”

“I’ve come for you.”


“Hell, woman, you gonna play twenty questions or do you want to escape?”

Addy jumped to the cushions and then off of the couch. “You’re going to help me escape?”

“No. I’m helping us escape.”

“Are you serious? You’ll freeze out there.” Max was still wearing torn pants and a T-shirt.

“Let me worry about that. You said you were a strong woman and that you can make it to the equator.”

“That’s right.”

“It’s a long and dangerous journey.”

“I know.”

“Then know this. My life isn’t worth spit. If I get caught again, I’m dead for good. You slow me down, I leave you behind.”

She gulped.

“Still want to escape?”


“Then get your rope and follow me.”

Inside Duncan’s bedroom, Max rattled the doorknob to the closet. He took a tool out of his pocket and picked the lock.

“What are you doing?”

“Getting supplies.” He disappeared inside.

“But I already have a bottle of whiskey.”

He peaked out from behind the door. “You have no clue what’s in here, do you?”

Evidently, more than whiskey. She followed him into Duncan’s secret closet. The little room, lined floor to ceiling with shelves, had been packed with books, clothing, pictures, cups, plates, guns, knives, and boxes of God knew what other Earth treasures.

A folded khaki uniform atop one of the boxes caught her attention. It couldn’t be, could it? Though it had been washed clean, the heady fragrance of wood smoke clung to the fabric. “Why would he hide this from me?”

“Damn you, Duncan,” Max muttered and tossed a box aside.

“What’s wrong?”

“The guy collects seven guns but only one with ammunition.”

“One is better than none.”

“Hardly. There’re only three bullets in it.” He rummaged through some other boxes and whistled in awe when he unsheathed a Rambo-looking knife. “I’ll be damned.”

She returned the uniform to the shelf. “What?”

“Kedric’s flesh-eater.” He turned the fourteen-inch stainless-steel weapon in his hand. “Nine-inch blade. Short handle with finger grooves for a secure grip. A recurved lower edge designed to cut through a man and keep better edge contact than a straight knife. This is one serious weapon.”

Addy gulped. He certainly knew his knives.

“How the hell did Duncan get this?” Max sheathed the flesh-eater, stuffing it and the gun into his backpack along with some other items before leaving the walk-in closet.

He relocked the closet and led Addy back to the main room. “Put this on.” He tossed her Duncan’s cloak. “I don’t want your thermal suit giving us away out there.”

Max sublimated the door to the Yard, and they slipped out into the dark night, heading straight to the infirmary.

“Why are we back here?”

Max didn’t answer. He climbed to the top of the foyer’s shelf, pulled out his all-purpose tool, and easily unscrewed a ceiling panel. “Come on.” He disappeared into the ductwork.

Once she joined him, he repositioned the panel over the hole, pocketed the large screws, and crawled above HuBReC until they came to another panel. This one he plucked out without needing to unscrew it first.

Max took off his pack, left it in the duct, and lowered himself through the ceiling, hanging for a moment before dropping onto a counter. His presence triggered the lights.

There were no windows or observation walls in the examination room, which minimized the chance of anyone seeing them. It was doubtful any Hyboreans were working at this late hour. Unless they had an emergency, they usually clocked out before their evening meal.

Max motioned for her to come down. Following his lead, she took off her pack and lowered herself through the hole, feet dangling. His arms encircled her legs, and he slid her down his hard body. Once her feet touched the countertop, she leaped out of his arms, pulse pounding from more than the fear of getting caught.

She had to get a grip. Escaping together meant they were bound to touch each other.

Max jumped to the floor and inhaled sharply. The guy had been healing for two weeks—how did he maneuver so well on his broken leg?

“Come here.” Max held what looked like oversized wire cutters. “If you leave the apartment complex with your choker on, it will alert your master.”

“Really? What about cutting it? Won’t that alert him?”

“Not in here.”

“Why not?”

“Chokers shut off automatically in exam rooms. They screw with the instrumentation. Kind of like electrical devices at takeoff or cell phones in a hospital.”

“How do you know this?”

“Because I’ve never been shocked in an exam room when I should have been. On more than one occasion.” He snapped off her chain, and it fell to the floor.

Rubbing her neck, she thought back to the exam room a few days ago. Xanthrag hadn’t shocked her after she’d punched and bit him. He waited until they left the exam area before hurling his vengeance.

Max snapped his own choker then used adhesives found in a drawer to tape them to the top inside wall of a cabinet.

“What are you doing?”

“Buying time.” He quickly put everything back where he found it before they climbed back through the ceiling. The lights below shut off. She crawled behind him in the dark space until he stopped and snapped on a lightstick. The duct made a ninety-degree turn straight up.

Her breaths came out in puffs of white. At least the cold air in the duct prevented her from overheating. She thought about discarding Duncan’s cloak but feared a Hyborean maintenance worker might find it. There couldn’t be any trace of their escape.

“You first.” He moved aside.

Standing inside the vertical duct, she glanced upward. “That has to be over thirty feet tall.”

“Forty-one.” Max snapped off the light. “This is the easy part. If you’ve changed your mind about escaping, tell me now.”

“No way.” She pushed the cloak behind her shoulders, planted her feet and hands on each side of the duct, and carefully shimmy-stepped up, thankful for the nonskid grip on her Hyborean shoes and the ridges every ten feet where two pieces of ductwork had been fastened together.

She climbed and rested and climbed and rested until she reached a T at the top. “Which way?”

“Left.” He pushed her legs up. A moment later she sensed his arms, his head, then the rest of his body emerge from the hole. She barely caught her breath before Max continued on past her. They crawled for what felt like hours through a dark maze. Up. Down. Left. Right. For the hundredth time she fought the urge to ask him if he had any clue where he was going.

“This is it.” Max easily lifted another ventilation panel.

So that was what he’d been doing these past nights after disappearing from the kennel. Unscrewing panels. Preparing for an escape. “Where are we?”

“Xanthrag’s apartment.”

“You son of a—” His large hand covered her mouth, crushing her lips to her teeth. She struggled, but he yanked her to his chest, holding tight. Did Regan make him bring her here? Had they struck some sort of a deal? Why did she listen to this bastard? She knew she couldn’t trust anybody.

“Settle down, woman.” His whispered breath fell hot on her ear. “We can’t survive the arctic without thermal cream and protective gear. Xanthrag keeps them in this room.”

When Addy stopped struggling, his grip relaxed. “I’m going to remove my hand. Don’t make a sound. Understand?”

She nodded, and he let go. “Stay here while I retrieve the gear. If I get caught, stay quiet, stay hidden. No matter what happens to me do not let Xanthrag find you.”

Her heart pounded. If Max got caught, she couldn’t survive the outside temperatures without that special gear. If Max got caught, she couldn’t escape. If Max got caught, she didn’t know how to get out of the ductwork.

He retrieved her bedsheet rope from his backpack, tugged on it to be sure the knots were secure, and tied one end to a bracket in the ductwork before climbing down. Lights illuminated a room full of gladiator equipment. Swords, knives, bows and arrows, and other weapons stood behind a transparent case. Not sparing them a glance, Max moved by the weapons to the colorful thermal suits hanging from wall pegs. He took the lightest color, a winter gray, and found matching tall, chunky-soled, pirate-like boots.

Holding her breath, Addy watched him sneak around the room gathering things, stuffing them into his pack, and rearranging the clothing on the pegs, making it less obvious something went missing.

On the opposite wall from the suits, dozens of holographic movie clips played images of men fighting and killing huge angry beasts and each other. One showed a large dirty-blond man covered with blood. Regan. He ran a sword through another bloody gladiator who staggered forward. Regan kicked him, and he fell onto his back in the snow. Max’s green eyes stared at the sky, sightless. Dead.

Regan stepped on Max’s chest and raised his arms in victory. The hologram paused, faded out, and replayed from the battle’s beginning.

Sickened and mesmerized at the same time, Addy couldn’t look away from the two men fight to the death. Yet the one who had died moved around the room below.

“You okay?” The top of Max’s head drew close. She hadn’t realized he’d climbed back up.

“Uh, yeah.” Addy retreated back inside the duct.

“Here.” He handed her a tube of cream, a pair of dark-gray boots, and goggles. “Strip down, rub this in, and put the boots on. Save the goggles for outside.”

“You want me to undress right here?”

He pulled off his T-shirt. “Hell, woman, it’s not like I haven’t seen you naked before.” He squeezed the tube and rubbed white cream on his chest.

Heat flooded her body. If she had been outside, she’d have melted the street. Clamping her teeth together to keep from telling him where to go and risk someone overhearing them, she turned her back to the jerk. Scooting away into the darkness, she unhooked Duncan’s cloak and peeled off her thermal suit.

“Apply it thick. Don’t miss any skin, including toes, scalp, nose, and eyelids.”

It didn’t take long before the thermal cream started working. Heat covered her body like an electric blanket, and by the time she donned the gladiator suit and lightweight boots, sweat had broken out on her forehead. She wiped her brow, turned around, and caught Max taking things out of her backpack.

“Hey,” she whispered.

“You have too much shit in here. It’ll slow you down. Take only the essentials.”

“These are the essentials.” She shoved her things back in as fast as he took them out.

“You’re carrying too much food.”

Addy grabbed the backpack from him. “I’m pregnant. I need all this food.”

“We’ll find food on the outside.” Max yanked the backpack away.

She yanked it back. “What if we don’t?”

“Fine. Take it.”

After stuffing her things back in, the zipper barely closed.

“Climb down the sheets. I’ll drop the backpacks to you.”

She shinnied down, praying a Hyborean wouldn’t walk in on them, trying not to think about the consequences if one did. When the rope pooled at her feet, she looked up to see Max hanging by one hand and covering the vent as best he could with the other. He let go and dropped to the floor, hitting it with a loud thud certain to draw attention and a stifled moan. That fall had to have hurt. 

He stuffed the rope into his backpack, gathered their discarded clothing, and then sublimated a two-foot-square hatch on the wall. A rotting stench wafted up. “After you.”

“You want me to climb into the garbage chute?” Images popped into her head of Luke, Leia, and Han Solo in the trash compactor. “What if the Hyboreans decide to compact it while we’re in there?”

“Don’t worry. They don’t do that.”

“They don’t?”

“No.” Max climbed into the shaft legs first. “They incinerate it.”

“What?” Her voice echoed in the empty shaft. Max had slid out of view.

Addy glanced back at the repeating holographic pictures of violence and death. If she stayed, that could very well be her baby’s fate. Heck, if she stayed that could very well be her fate.

She climbed into the chute, held her breath, and slid down. A light at the end grew brighter and brighter before she splash-landed into liquid and garbage.

“I wasn’t sure you’d follow.”

“What, and miss out on bathing in this lovely stench?” Pinching her nose and breathing through her mouth gave little relief. Her stomach convulsed, and she dry-heaved. The refuse reeked to both moons orbiting this damn planet.

She snapped on her lightstick and pointed it in every direction looking for rats or other Hyborean garbage-eating animals. Perhaps only three-quarters of the garbage had been bagged in what looked like thin burlap; the rest had been mixed together, forming a brown muck. At least nothing seemed to be moving or gnawing in the dark.

“Now what?”

“Now, we wait.”



Sorry Max and Addy for leaving you in garbage for a week while we wait for Chapter 19. For those of you who can't wait to see how they get out, read the full story now at your favorite retailers.



Romance with a rebel heart


  1. Loved the garbage shoot imagery in an otherwise tense and suspenseful scene. It's obvious escape isn't going to be easy.

  2. Thanks, Laurie! Yes, escape will not be easy. Max and Addy have much to overcome. ;)


Thank you for chiming in! We love to see your comments. (All comments are moderated so spam can be terminated!)