Authors: Janelle Stalder
Tags: #Alpha Male, #Dystopian, #N/A Paranormal
A New World Series Novella
By Janelle Stalder
Copyright 2016 Janelle Stalder
Cover Design by Mae I Design and Photography
Ebook Formatting by
White Hot Formatting
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Table of Contents
ALSO BY JANELLE STALDER
NEW WORLD SERIES
In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of
Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Outlands, New Berlin, 2040
The second they walked up to the entrance, Pixie knew this was a bad idea. Unease slithered through her, settling in the pit of her stomach, turning it. The men looked as cold and as lifeless as their surroundings. The entrance was built into the side of a mossy hill, camouflaged amongst the rolling green countryside. It had taken them days just to locate it, and even then, they weren’t sure if they’d be allowed entrance.
As far as they knew, Trent and Phoenix had been kidnapped by human traffickers who ran an illegal fighting ring here in the outskirts of town. From what they’d been told, these fights were no laughing matter. The losers never saw the light of day again, and the winners were only to be returned to fight for their lives once more the following week. People from all around came to bet on these fights, something she still couldn’t understand. With all that was wrong with the world at this time, she would have hoped that people would have some sense of humanity left in them.
Surprisingly, the men guarding the door had listened to Garrett’s spiel, taken one look at Tyler, and opened the door, motioning them in. Pixie had wisely kept her surprise from her face, following her friends into the depths of the underground world.
Dampness seemed to stick to you as soon as you entered. There was no light to be seen, almost as though nature itself was warning you to turn back now. They followed the hallway downward until the dirt walls changed to stone ones, built by man. One could almost think they were inside a building instead of under the earth.
The man in the lead opened a door wordlessly, gesturing for them to enter first. Pixie stuck close to Garrett, just to be safe. She could sense the tension rolling off all of them, especially Missy, but didn’t make any move to console her. They needed to exude confidence if they were going to pull this off. Plus, if she was supposed to be a fighter owned by them, she wouldn’t be trying to ease her fears. Each one of them had to play a part. She could only imagine how pissed Tyler was feeling that he couldn’t just take Missy’s hand, and had to leave that gesture to Garrett.
The room they walked into was a large gym, exercise equipment on one side, with a large boxing ring in the middle. Pixie instantly zeroed in on the bright red hair currently behind the ropes. She breathed a sigh of relief to see that her friend was still alive and well. Another scan brought her to Trent, and again she thanked whatever God there was that neither of them had died in this hell-hole.
She stood there, observing the room slowly as was her habit, ignoring the conversation going on around her. Getting all of them out of there alive was her number one priority. Being below the ground was going to be a huge problem. She needed to have a closer look around and see if there was another way out besides the one they’d entered. Something told her that was the only one.
“Who’s the little one?”
Pixie’s focus snapped to the speaker instantly. She was used to being called the little one, and knew instantly he was referring to her. She’d grown up her entire life being picked on for being so tiny. But what she lacked in size, she made up for in other ways. She was quick, smart, and not afraid to blow things up. People could take that and stuff it, for all she cared.
Her eyes snagged on the man Garrett was addressing and something funny happened. All her life, Pixie was used to being silently disconnected and untouched by everything around her. Yes she was quiet, especially when compared to the other girls, but it was more than that. Her father hadn’t been an easy man to live with. He was the type of man that wanted to see his kids, not hear them – and most times not even that. Pixie was used to keeping a low profile.
In doing so, she’d also gotten used to keeping herself slightly numb to everything and everyone. Not that she didn’t love her friends, she did, but she also knew that they didn’t know her half as well as she knew them. She supposed that’s what happened when you didn’t share your thoughts and feelings with anyone, but she was comfortable that way.
Throughout her twenty years, Pixie had never felt any sort of emotional stirring when looking at another person. Everyone was the same in her eyes. Looking at the man whose blue eyes seemed to see right through her, she suddenly felt like a trapped mouse, her stomach tightening with that flight or fight sensation. It was strange and unfamiliar, and she decided that she didn’t like it at all. She wanted to look away in order to rid herself of the sensation, but she was caught in the snare he’d created with his bold stare.
The man was perfection at first glance, but while he had all the looks of an angel, she could see the cold, calculation in his eyes that spoke volumes, telling her he was anything but. He held himself in a way that made her think perhaps he, too, kept a large part of himself hidden away from the world. She wouldn’t be surprised, considering he ran fights to the death.
The realization of just who she was looking at helped to slightly ease her initial discomfort, rebuilding her carefully constructed walls of indifference. But those walls suddenly didn’t seem so sturdy under his gaze, and Pixie didn’t know what to make of it.
“My wife?” She distantly heard Garrett ask. Everything suddenly sounded muffled to her, as though she were wrapped in a bubble, separated from the others.
“No, the other one,” the man replied, never taking his eyes from hers.
“Oh, her,” Garrett said, glancing at her. “She’s a prospect. For now, she helps with training until I can figure out if she’s good enough to pull in some cash herself.”
The man’s eyes slowly dropped down the length of her body, following each curve as though it were a physical caress. Pixie had to fight the shiver that threatened to roll through her. What the hell was wrong with her? This man was evil incarnate, and she was acting like some love-struck school girl. “Seems a bit small for a fighter.”
Those words seemed to snap her out of her daze immediately. Narrowing her eyes at him, she swore she’d show him just how fierce she could be, despite her size. Who was this guy to make such a judgement without even seeing what she could do? As a matter of fact, she was one of the best fighters out of all the Archers. She was fast, and her boney hands hurt – or so Sam always complained. She wasn’t some little, helpless child!
Garrett laughed. “Don’t be deceived. She’s fast. Sometimes that’s all that matters, as your girl up there can attest to.”
Pixie felt grateful toward Garrett for the first time since she’d met him. She looked over at him, to see him watching her with a strange look. She raised one eyebrow, as if to say “what?” Garrett looked away, confronting the other man again. She wished she had listened and heard what his damn name was, but she’d missed it during her appraisal of the room.
They continued their conversation as Pixie looked down at the floor, trying her best to regain some focus. The last thing she needed was to be off her game while down here. They were literally sitting ducks and couldn’t afford to make any mistakes.
All of a sudden, Garrett motioned to her to follow him out of the room, and she complied, not looking back at either Phoenix or Trent. She didn’t want to give away the fact that she knew them, and somehow she knew that the man in charge was carefully watching her every move. She couldn’t quite figure out why, but the hairs on the back of her neck told her she was right. It was as though her entire body was now connected to him, aware of his glance even with her back turned.
They were brought down winding halls that felt maze-like. Most people would probably have got lost, but Pixie wasn’t most people. Keeping a mental map of every twist and turn they made, she followed the group into a small, yet cozy room. It was simply furnished, and if you hadn’t known any better, you wouldn’t have thought it was underground. While there weren’t any windows, the furnishings were all well maintained and were nicer than anything she’d ever owned.
A large bed, larger than any Pixie had ever seen, sat against one wall. Its fluffy white coverings made her think of a big cloud. If she were alone, she’d be tempted to run and jump on it, just to see how soft it really was. On the opposite wall was a beautiful vanity, with an antique chair sitting in front of it made out of dark wood and a deep red fabric seat. She could only imagine sitting there as some high-born lady, putting on her make-up and gold.
Another dresser sat against the wall, while two large chairs and a small loveseat sat before a roaring fire. Pixie squinted at the flames, her eyes wandering up to the ceiling, wondering where it might be exhausted to. She made a point to remember to look into that.
“I hope everything meets with your satisfaction,” he said, entering the room behind them. Pixie kept her back to him, uncomfortable with their close proximity now.
Garrett let out a low whistle, taking in their surroundings with an appreciative gaze. She wondered if he was truly impressed or just putting on a show for their host, as planned.
“This will suit us just fine,” he said, smiling at the man. His head swiveled back and forth then, his brows furrowing in confusion. “There’s only one bed though. Where do my fighters sleep?”
Pixie looked over her shoulder to see the man, Bastian, as Missy had informed her discreetly, raise his eyebrows at Garrett’s question.
“Not that I see anything wrong with them on the floor,” he quickly added. “But with such high stakes on the line, I wouldn’t want either of them getting a sore back…or something.”
Pixie rolled her eyes.
“Fighters are all kept in the cellblocks,” Bastian answered. He turned and looked at the two guards that had followed them in, motioning toward Tyler. “Take him to the men’s block.”
“Both of us, boss?” one asked.
She looked back at Bastian again to see him nod. “I’ll take care of the girl,” he said.
Heat infused her cheeks at the thought of being alone with him. She instantly looked to Missy, the panic probably plain to see in her eyes. Missy understood. Neither of them was overly fond of men. While Pixie hadn’t had anything as tragic happen to her as what had happened to Missy, she was still wary of the opposite sex. She was little, and often times that made people think of her as weak.