Wednesday, September 28, 2022

CAPTIVE (The Survival Race, book 1) - CHAPTER 38

In last week's episode of CAPTIVE, Addy's water broke weeks early. Now she has to deliver a premature baby on an umiak boat that keeps crashing into ice floes without Max's help. He needs to protect the vessel from bring smashed to pieces and killing them all. Can Max and Addy survive?

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  Ch 18  Ch 19  Ch 20  Ch21  Ch22  Chs 23&24  Chs 25&26  Ch27  Ch28  Ch29  Ch 30  Chs 31&32  Chs 33&34  Ch35  Ch36  Ch37

 

CAPTIVE

Chapter Thirty-Eight


Beep beep beep beep.

Max stopped rowing. Addy’s running watch had been set to sound every fifteen hours for her prenatal injections. Though she hadn’t needed the shots since giving birth yesterday, he hadn’t shut it off.

He looked forward to the sound just as he looked forward to Noah’s feeding cries. It gave him another reason to go to Addy’s side. Though touching her arm when turning off the alarm didn’t hold as much pleasure as touching her breasts when feeding the kid.

Of course, her breasts inevitably triggered intimate memories of the breeding box...or the ice cave...or the shower.

Hell, yeah, the shower. Hot water and steam and her naked body inches from his in a tight space. When she had turned from him to lather, he would have killed to be the soap sliding up and down her wet, tempting skin.

He’d had to recall every bloody battle and savage gladiator death he could to prevent slamming her against the wall and forcing himself deep inside her.

Blood rushed to his groin. Again.

Hell.

The woman was one-day postpartum, fever sick, and unconscious, yet he couldn’t stop thinking about having sex with her. “Damn beast. Control your urges.” Five—maybe ten—seconds in the ice-cold water should quell his lust.

Beep beep beep beep.

Right. The watch. His swim would have to wait.

He dropped the oars on the umiak floor before crawling into the tent and turning off the alarm.

She burned with fever. The rise and fall of her chest faded to near nonexistence. Weaker than a newborn lemming, Addy grew worse. In and out of consciousness the past thirty hours, she managed a few sips of water and broth. Under normal circumstances that would have been a good thing, since his cold fish soup tasted like crap, but this wasn’t normal. Addy was noticeably dehydrated.

Noah stirred and cried.

As Max positioned Addy and the kid for feeding, a thick lump fisted in his gut. How much milk could the boy get this time? Was he even doing the right thing? Nursing had to be dehydrating Addy and using up precious energy she needed for healing. What if he were prolonging Noah’s demise and speeding up Addy’s?

Her alarm rang again. He turned it off. What if he gave her the prenatal shot? Maybe the vitamins or whatever was in those injections would help her get better. He found the syringe in her bag, positioned it at her navel, and waited for the buzzes before the injection.

Nothing happened. No buzz. No kickback. No vibration from a shot. He repositioned it again and again, but nothing happened.

“Dammit.” He threw the syringe aside, and it ricochet off the wood frame. Now what?

Heat radiated from her body. Goose bumps covered her flesh. What was causing her fever? An internal infection?

Leaving Noah to suckle, Max took a piece of baby blanket he had ripped into rags and slipped out of the tent to dunk it into cold seawater.

He didn’t know how many miles south they had traveled, but guessed the day’s temperature hovered between zero and fifteen degrees Fahrenheit. The warmer weather would be good for Addy and Noah, especially since they ran out of thermal cream. Limiting his application to face, fingers, and toes the last week had extended the cream’s use. At least the heating cube did a decent job of keeping the tent a good fifty degrees warmer than the outside.

Once again at Addy’s side, Max wiped her forehead with the cold cloth.

Recalling their first night together, she had looked so young. Vibrant. Healthy. Now her face was drawn and sallow, her hair greasy and matted with thermal cream and sickness, her body limp.

His throat constricted. He couldn’t breathe. Gulping in air did little to help. He hated being as helpless as she looked.

Gone was the wildcat who had shredded his chest with her nails. Gone was the woman who didn’t take crap from anyone, including the damn aliens. Gone were the two things he loved most about her: her fire and passion.

He rubbed his chest, but it didn’t alleviate the ache. There was nothing more he could do.

Why the hell couldn’t he protect anyone?

“Why won’t your fever break?” he whispered so as not to disturb Noah. He had fallen asleep with her nipple in his mouth. Lucky kid. Maybe when Addy got better, she’d let him do the same thing. His libido stirred. Dammit. The poor woman was dying, and he couldn’t stop thinking about sex. What was wrong with him?

The hair on his neck perked up, warning him to listen. Something didn’t sound right.

He scrambled out of the tent and scanned the horizon. The familiar, unwelcome hum preceded a surfacing subaquatic behind them. The Hyborean craft loomed a good distance away.

Crouching, he made his way to the bow rope and pulled hand-over-hand until the umiak met the iceberg towing it. He tied the shortened rope around the gladimort jammed in the ‘berg, hoping the ice would provide a bit of cover.

Though clearly in the South Arctic Current, the subaquatic gained no ground. The craft held its position. Ferly Mor must have learned they were on Tuniit land and figured he’d wait for them to come through the Southwest Passage. If Max hadn’t pressed the wolves as hard as he did, Ferly Mor would have been ahead of them. The umiak would’ve drifted right into his ship.

Vaulting into survival mode, he yanked the sword out of the ice, and reached for the oars. Addy’s languid body, seared on his mind’s eye, stopped him. How long could she teeter on the verge of death before slipping away?

Ferly Mor held the power to save her. He also held the power to lock her in a breeding box and force Noah to suffer a gladiator’s savage existence. That would happen over Max’s dead body, which about summed up his fate if he were captured.

If he went forward, he’d risk Addy’s ultimortem and most likely starve Noah. If he went back, he’d risk his own death plus Addy and Noah’s unbearable fates.

I’d rather die free than live like an animal, she had said.

It wasn’t an easy decision to pick up the oars and row away from Ferly Mor.

Max rowed into the night, pausing here and there to check on his precious cargo or to rub the ache from his shoulders or to quench his thirst, before pulling the oars harder to make up for lost time. Blistered hands burned inside his gloves. Exhaustion attacked his body. Every muscle ached to the point of numb fatigue. Still, he rowed.

His grip slipped off the oar again.

Sleep. He needed sleep. But he had to keep rowing. The current alone wasn’t enough to distance the umiak from Ferly Mor. How long might the Hyborean linger there before continuing his search south? No way in hell could he outrun a Hyborean watercraft.

With each heavy blink, the starry night disappeared and reappeared until it vanished all together. His body slumped forward, waking him. Okay, maybe a ten-minute catnap would revitalize him enough to row harder. Besides it was time to check on Addy and Noah.

He wiped sea spray and sweat from his face. With the amount of heat radiating off him, he’d warm up the tent in minutes. He dragged himself inside. The lightstick cast an ominous glow over Addy’s body.

He shuddered. Max squeezed her hand, and Addy’s eyes opened. She didn’t say a word. She didn’t have to. Gray irises spoke with an intensity that ripped through him like the arctic wind, and his gut froze into a lump.

Her eyes said Promise me as clear as if she’d articulated the words, then they closed and she exhaled her last breath.

Endorphins flooded his veins, empowered him with the vigor of five gladiators. He searched for a pulse. Nothing. He rested an ear on her chest. No heartbeat. No rise or fall.

Please, no! She can’t be dead. She couldn’t leave him now, not after her fire had melted the abominable beast inside, not after she’d made him feel human, not after she’d made him feel.

He pinched her nose and covered her mouth with his. Did he even remember CPR? ABC. Airway. Breathing. Circulation. He blew twice into her mouth then pounded on her chest.

No response.

Two more breaths. More compressions.

Still nothing.

“Breathe, dammit.” His yell startled Noah, whose apathetic cries spoke volumes.

Again and again he performed mouth-to-mouth, but Addy wouldn’t reawaken.

Panic, frustration, and anger rose inside him, annihilating what little composure he had left. He grabbed her by the shoulders, shaking her. “Why the hell didn’t you stay with the Tuniit, you stupid woman?”

Her head flopped back. Matted red-blonde hair hung limp behind her lifeless body.

“Oh, Addy.” He choked back raw, unfamiliar emotion. His lungs constricted. How could he breathe when everything inside him broke? Gently, he cradled her head and drew her body to his, holding her tight against an aching chest, burying his face in her hair. “Why didn’t I go back to Ferly Mor?” He repeated it over and over again as he rocked her.

Noah’s weak cry pierced Max’s heart until he could bear it no longer. He released Addy, her hair clinging to his tears as he laid her back on the pelt.

With heavy, trembling hands, he picked up his scrawny son, who barely filled his palms. “Forgive me”—he choked on hot tears—“for killing your mommy.”

#

Wait...what?!? Addy can't be dead, can she? How will the baby survive without its mother? Find out next week in Chapters 39 & 40 or read the full story now for only $2.99 at your favorite retailers.

K.M. Fawcett
Romance with a rebel heart  

 

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