Because chapters 33 & 34 are short (6 and 2 pages respectively), I included both for your reading enjoyment.
Last week's episode ended with Regan in the Tuniit village looking for Max and Addy, but they had just left--Max on foot and Addy by umiak sleigh pulled by a team of wolves. Addy caught up to Max and they made an accord to work together to get to the refuge. Will things start heating up between them now that they are working together again?
An abducted cop and a gladiator prisoner must learn to trust each other with their lives…and their hearts…to escape their alien captors.
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 Ch 18 Ch 19 Ch 20 Ch21
Ch22 Chs23&24 Chs25&26 Ch27 Ch28 Ch29 Ch 30 Chs31&32
Using pelts and her survival skills, Addy covered the back of the umiak with a makeshift tent long enough to lie inside. Now they could sleep out of the harsh wind and bitter cold. She placed the last pelt on the floor for insulation, placed the heating cube on its non-flammable tray, and double-checked her handiwork. Satisfied, she sat at the tent’s door flap watching Max drive the team.
The skin showing through his ripped gladiator suit had turned a blue-gray hue around his lacerations. What if she hadn’t come upon him out there? Or what if she had gotten to him too late? Chills shot up her spine. Best not to think about what-ifs.
Max hadn’t moved from the driver’s seat since she’d started on the tent hours ago. He drove the wolves hard as if something chased them. A smilodon? Or perhaps Ferly Mor.
From the moment Max learned about the prenatal shots, he feared a shortened head start had Ferly Mor hot on their heels. She couldn’t blame him for leaving her behind. After all, he’d warned her of that possibility before leaving the Hyborean’s apartment. Max probably thought if Ferly Mor found her at the Tuniit village, he’d give up the search. Or if he didn’t give up, at least Max could travel faster without a pregnant chick stopping every hour to pee. Either way, taking her out of the equation meant he had a greater chance at freedom.
Now, after promising to be teammates, her capture equaled his capture, thus he pushed the wolves to their limits.
Addy took a pelt off the floor and wrapped it around him, hoping it wasn’t too late to prevent frostbite. “You should put more thermal cream on your exposed skin.”
He grunted his agreement yet made no move to get up.
“I appreciate your haste, but what good will it do us if you turn into an ice pop before we get there?”
“You’re not fine.” Why was everything with him a fight? She picked up his ratty, old backpack, rummaged through the thing until she found the tube, pulled it out, and proceeded to rub thick, white balm over the slashes on his back.
He stiffened, whether from the cream’s sting or from her touch she wasn’t sure. She eased up on the pressure, trying hard to be like a feather over his wounds.
Max stared silently out toward the horizon.
She moved her fingers from his back to his ribs, gently working balm into his skin, imagining she could feel his hard body through her gloves.
For all that he angered her—and sometimes frightened her—she couldn’t help feeling drawn to him and drawn to the incessant man-versus-beast struggle in his soul. His moods were as unpredictable and enigmatic as the rest of him. And it enticed her damned curiosity.
What had his life on Hyborea been like? Where had he come from? Did he have a last name? Why wouldn’t he talk about home?
He said he’d forgotten that life, but she knew she never could. She gazed over the umiak’s side at the ground speeding past in a white blur and thought about home.
She envisioned her lake, calm and pristine, surrounded by lush trees. She could almost smell the pine and hear the geese honking overhead and the water lapping against the dock and the rowboat. Her memory floated up the winding dirt path to the log cabin’s porch. She could smell wood smoke wafting from its stone chimney. It reminded her of another fire. An inferno. Had those wild flames shattered her windows and surged up the walls, consuming her cabin and leaving nothing but charred remains in its destructive wake? She shook her head of the thought and saw the frozen white blur again.
She moved to Max’s side and worked cream into the slashes on his chest. “Did I tell you everyone back home thinks I died in a forest fire? And remained dead?” A few weeks ago she wouldn’t have had to clarify that.
He didn’t reply.
“It’s probably better that they do. At least they won’t have to worry over me.”
The sled scraped through the packed snow as the wolves bounded over the land. Rushing air filled the quiet void.
No matter how hard she tried to widen the path of communication, Max never walked down it unless it had to do with survival. Had she really expected this time to be any different? The guy was never going to open up.
Why did that bother her so much?
Even if Max didn’t want to get to know her, you’d think he’d want to get to know his child. But he would never be the type of guy to talk to his kid through the mom’s belly. Would he talk to his child after she gave birth in the refuge? Would he want a relationship with Superbaby then?
She hoped so. It hurt not knowing your biological father. She didn’t wish that pain for her child.
She capped the thermal cream, tucked the tube back into Max’s pack, and brushed a thumb across its threadbare patch.
What made a savage gladiator carry around a cartoon duck? If he’d desperately wanted to forget his old life, why had he held on to it for fifteen years? Was he trying to punish himself?
“It was our mascot,” he said.
Startled, she dropped the pack. “What?”
“The Fighting Ducks. UO.”
“You went to the University of Oregon?”
“Small universe,” she said, and he cracked a half-smile.
She liked when Max smiled. Even the half-smiles that didn’t reach his eyes relaxed the hard angles of his face. Plus, it was usually a sign he was feeling more human than beast.
Max sighed long and heavy, like he didn’t want to tell her something, but had to. “My mom sewed it on.” He kept his eyes on the team. “I hated that dorky backpack. I wouldn’t be caught dead using it on campus.”
“It looks like it’s seen better days.”
“It’s never left my side since I’ve come to Hell.”
Addy wrapped the pelt back around his shoulders, trying to imagine what he might have been like fifteen years ago. What kind of person had he been? What had he liked to do? What had been his dreams?
“What was your major?” It seemed a safe question he might actually answer.
Max gave her a sideways glance and flashed a crooked, sexy breeding-box smile that made her breath catch. “You mean besides girls?”
“Oh, big partier, huh?”
“Never during the season.”
“What did you play, football?”
“Decathlon. You know, track and field?”
She nodded. She could see him as a well-rounded athlete. “I bet you were good.”
The green in his eyes sparkled. “I was better than good. I was five points shy of an American record as a freshman. I was Olympic bound. Until—” The muscles in his jaw hardened before he went mute again and Gladiator Max returned. That seemed to be his intermediate state between man and beast.
“If you want to talk, I’ll listen.”
“Do you know how long I’ve tried not to think about it?”
Addy stroked the pelt around his shoulders. “Fifteen years is a long time keeping your heart locked.”
“You’ve no idea.”
“I won’t pretend to understand what you’ve had to endure on this planet. I’ll never know the extent of your suffering, but it’s time you stop torturing yourself.”
Max pulled the team to a halt.
“There’s nothing wrong with thinking about home,” she said. “Yes, it’s painful, but isn’t it equally painful not thinking of it?”
“No.” He gathered his survival knife, a canteen, a bowl, and the food sack Yakone had given her to feed the wolves, and then jumped out.
Addy repressed the guilt that started welling inside for bringing up his old life. It wasn’t her fault Max’s past wasn’t left in the past. If he could understand that no matter how much he tried running, his past would always keep pace with him, drafting off his shoulder and breathing down his neck. One day he’d have to stop running and face it.
Sound advice, Dawson. Maybe you should follow it, too.
She shook off the thought. She had meant him, not her.
Her watch alarm sounded.
By the time Max climbed back in, Addy had taken her prenatal shot, reapplied thermal cream to certain cold areas, and rationed out some food. Max ate in silence as he drove the team.
“I’m sorry,” she said when she finished eating, “for everything you’ve lost, Max. For everything they’ve done to you. But you’re not alone. They stole my life, too.”
She moved to sit next to him again. “I had recently bought a log cabin on a secluded lake. It was perfect. It was my sanctuary. But one night, my life went up in flames. Literally. And though home is worlds away, it’s not gone. It’s in here.” She tapped her chest.
“Yeah, well, I don’t want it in my heart or my head.”
“Because it’s a bogus point of reference. It’s not reality. This is reality. Earth was a dream I woke up from. And there’s no sense in discussing dreams.”
“Hell, woman. No more talking.” He slapped the reins, pushing the wolves faster.
“Ye had to slit the man’s throat, didn’t ye?” Duncan called from Ferly Mor’s arms. Regan remained at Ferly Mor’s heel while the Hyborean “talked” with the Tuniit chief standing on the other side of the ice cage.
“What’s the big fucking deal? He dies, they reawaken him. So what? Why the hell are we locked in here?”
“Quiet, lad. I’m trying to understand the Hyboreans.”
If that old fart weren’t in his master’s arms right now, he’d beat him to death. He punched his palm, imagining it was Duncan’s face.
They’d been close. One day behind. And now they were trapped in a cage made of ice. The Tuniit had confiscated his weapons and Ferly Mor’s tech-ring. How long before they got their things back and could leave this tech-less wasteland?
If he didn’t capture and return Xanthrag’s special broodmare— He almost shuddered at the thought but didn’t. Shuddering displayed weakness.
Minutes later, Ferly Mor placed Duncan on the powdery floor before flopping his large, hairy body down as well. His legs sprawled out as he leaned back and head against the wall and closed his eyes. Failure and misery emanated from the Hyborean like a reawakened gladiator after a survival race loss.
Stupid Hyborean. If Xanthrag were here instead of Ferly Mor, they would have been freed by now.
Duncan hurried over.
“Well? What did that Neanderthal say?”
“The Tuniit are primitive Hyboreans, to be sure. I think their ancestors’ spirits are angry at the evil Ferly Mor brought.”
Regan laughed. He wasn’t evil. He was a warrior.
“Ferly Mor offered his healing skills, but they refused. They believe it to be dark magic. Can ye believe that? He could have easily reawakened the man.”
“Screw the guy. What about us?”
“The Tuniit will discuss our fate and return with a decision.”
Duncan shrugged. “I dinna ken, lad. We must have patience.”
“Patience is a fancy word for ‘wasting time.’ You sure you understood everything?”
“Aye. The closer I am to Ferly Mor, the more precisely I can interpret his emotions and thoughts.”
“And what of my broodmare? How long before she hits open seas?”
“Traveling that distance by wolf-drawn sleigh? I’d say about twelve days. Providing she survives the birth.” His last words came out soft, tentative.
She’d better survive the birth. If she died, Xanthrag would torture Regan for not tracking her down in time.
Bitch would cause his ultimortem.
Will Regan and Duncan's imprisonment afford Max and Addy enough time to get to the refuge? Will their time together on the umiak sleigh give them a chance to warm up to each other? Max's cold heart seems to be melting slightly. Can Addy help heat him up and learn who he truly is inside? Find out in next week's episode Chapter 35 or read the full story now for only $2.99 at your favorite retailers.