Cal took my arm and wrapped it around his neck. “What if I said Sin would win if you’d be mine for the rest of the contract year? Voluntarily agree to do whatever I asked. I don’t want to fight you. That’s not my kink. I want total and utter obedience.”

I stilled and stared into his face, trying to measure the weight of his words. Was he lying? “Why do I care if he wins or not? I wish him dead every morning when I wake up.”

He smiled. “You aren’t fooling me. I can see you’re considering it. Good. Though it’s not up to you, really. Sin would have to agree since, technically, he owns you now.”

“How do I know you’ll keep your word?”

His face hardened, and he slapped me. “Don’t ever question my honor, you little cunt.”

My ears rung but I tried not to react to the pain along my cheek.

Gavin yelled, the sound throaty and full of rage.

The crowd roared.

Cal’s sneer turned into a smile. “I think that’s my cue.” He scooted me off his lap and stood.

Brianne lay motionless in the grass, her eyes closed. Gavin knelt beside her, tears streaming down his face as he stroked her hair. Her face was bloodied, his knuckles red.

“Looks like we need a medic. Get her revived for her bout with Stella. In the meantime, Red, you’re up.”

Two attendants rushed out and grabbed Brianne under her arms before dragging her back through the door we’d entered. Gavin sat heavily and stared up at me, his eyes open windows of pain and regret. I kept taking deep breaths, refusing to panic at the rising tide of horror around me.

Red walked to a steel table along the battlement, though I couldn’t see what was on the top. I shivered as Cal came up behind me and lay his forearm across my chest above my breasts.

“You’re really going to love this part.” He held me in place so I was looking right at the chained victims.

Red picked up something that looked like a monkey wrench, the metal dull and heavy.

“Oh, good choice, my man. Let’s see what he can do with it.” Cal laughed, and the rest of the audience laughed with him.

My blood turned to ice as Red approached the bound woman. She tried to stand and back away, but she was chained to the floor. I glanced to Sin. He shook his head almost imperceptibly. Maybe he was telling me not to watch. It didn’t matter. I had to see it, to witness every last disgusting act. It was the only way to keep my fire burning, the same fire that would destroy these animals.

Red pulled the wrench back and swung as Brianne’s mother screamed. The sound was cut off as the wrench made contact with a wet thud. Her teeth flew out, like white pearls in the low light of the clouds. Blood poured down her face.

Gavin retched into the grass, and I bit my cheek hard enough to draw blood.

The crowd leapt to its feet and screamed with approval. Brianne’s mother screeched and fell to her hands and knees. The child wailed, covered her face, and scooted closer to my father. He didn’t comfort her, only stared at Brianne’s mother as she moaned and touched her ruined nose and mouth.

“Well, well. Red’s been working on his aim.” Cal patted my ass. “Good show. Now let’s move on to the next round. Gavin and Stella.” He pushed me toward the stairs and lowered the mic. “Go on, and don’t forget what we talked about. I only hope Gavin doesn’t mess up your pretty face too much. I’d like to do the honors on that.”

I descended the narrow spiral stair and walked out onto the grass, the turf soft beneath my feet as the light mist continued to drizzle down around me.

Pulling another elastic from my pocket, I wrapped my hair into the same tight bun. Sparring with Dmitri was one thing. Fighting a stranger was something else. But having to fight Gavin when the consequences were torture and death?

Gavin still sat in the grass, head in his hands.

I glanced up to my father. He leaned forward, his eyes imploring me. Sin stood behind him, his arms crossed and his mask inscrutable. The child cried and clung to my father. I’d trained, struggled, and pushed myself so I could win any match. But the more I looked at the child, the more I questioned my desire to win.

I stopped in front of Gavin, my hands at my sides. “Gavin, you need to get up.”

“Did you see what he did? Did you see what I did?” He turned his hands over and showed me his bloodied knuckles.

“You did what you had to do.” Just like I was going to do what I had to do. “Get up or I’ll kick you in the face.”

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