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‘I will take you and protect you.’ Those were words I did not want to hear. I did not want to be taken. Not that I had a choice. I’d long since given up. I knew I no longer controlled my fate. Yet somewhere deep inside, I harbored hope for rescue.
I wished for a savior. And, yes, for the briefest of moments, that sliver of time when the light shone across your body, I had imagined you would defeat the monster who sat in your place and rise up to free me.
So, yes. I had dared to hope you would be different. Gnawing on the bread which made up my evening repast, it became clear I’d traded one monster for another. If you survived, you wouldn’t hesitate to take that which I held so precious.
“How long have you been here?” Your deep voice travelled easily across the cavern.
I glanced up at the gentleness of your question. Why did you care? Taking another bite of my food, I curled into myself and turned toward the unyielding stone of my prison. There was no reason for us to speak, so I remained silent.
The gift for winning your first fight was a prize. Well, here I was. Look all you damn well pleased. I wasn’t going to sit and have a conversation with you.
A grunt sounded from your side of the cave. “They came upon my pride four days ago. We fought for two days before we were overcome.” A loud slurp and a bang might have indicated you’d finished your pitcher of water, but I didn’t turn around to look. I didn’t care to engage you in small talk.
A heavy sigh fluttered across the air. I sensed a profound depth of sorrow in it. “Twenty warriors fell.”
I craned my neck and twisted around to find the golden orbs of your eyes staring at the ground between us.
“I could not save them,” you said. “They took me as I jettisoned the life pods.” A howl split the air. “I watched my brethren die.”
I remembered my capture. The smoke, the whoosh of air as the vacuum of space stole life-giving air. My mad dash into a pressurized suit. Then the sucking pull as I had been jettisoned into the blackness of space. Minutes passed and turned into hours. My oxygen pack bled into the red zone, and just when I thought rescue had arrived, the true terror had only just begun.
The sounds of your pain reverberated against the rock, and echoed through the chamber. I hugged my knees to my chest against the unbearable pain of your loss. I, too, had lost everyone I’d ever known.
“Tell me, female, what is this place? Where have they brought me? And why have they locked me in a cell with you?”
My mouth gaped, and now I stared. I reached for the pitcher, my mouth and throat parched, but my hand shook so hard I pulled back. I couldn’t risk spilling a single drop.
I glanced over and saw pain in your eyes. My voice came out a whisper. “Do you really not know why you are here?”
“To fight and win, and rut with you, yes, but this does not answer my question. Fear not, female, once I mark you I will protect you.”
I wanted nothing to do with being marked.
Although sexy as hell, perhaps you were also a simpleton. I broke it down, so even an idiot would understand. “They will lower you into the pits. You will fight. If you win, they will let you get closer to me.” Until the fifth and final fight, but we didn’t need to go over that again.
“And if I lose?”
Silence descended for a time, while you finished your meal. Finally, you spoke. “Then I will endeavor to win. You are under my protection.”
Such a fool. There was no escaping this prison.
I turned away. Our conversation was done.
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