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.
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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.
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.