Authors: Tillie Cole
Thank you for buying this
St. Martin's Press ebook.
To receive special offers, bonus content,
and info on new releases and other great reads,
sign up for our newsletters.
Or visit us online at
For email updates on the author, click
The author and publisher have provided this e-book to you for your personal use only. You may not make this e-book publicly available in any way.
Copyright infringement is against the law. If you believe the copy of this e-book you are reading infringes on the author's copyright, please notify the publisher at:
To music for the constant inspiration.
And to Little Big Town, for inspiring this novel with your beautiful words.
You roll through life like a roaring fire.
I bring the rain like a thunderstormÂ â¦
Little Bis Town, “Live Forever”
“They were always meant to be together, one boy and one girl, two hearts split into two, sent to far-off lands on their own. For God wanted to see if true love could be tested. He wanted to see if two halves of one soul could find each other again, even against the odds. Years would pass. They would both be hurt. They would both be sad, but one day, when they least expected it, they would stumble into each other's paths. The question is: would they recognize each other's soul? And would they find their way back to loveâ¦?”
His heart beat like a drumâfast and hard and loud.
His breath blew strong like a windstorm, his chest contracting with his harsh pants.
Fear seeped from his bones, from every cell of his being, his hands shaking like a leaf and sweat dropped from his hot skin.
“Welcome to hell, boy.”
These four words greeted Boy as he was brutally propelled into a dank basement by a hugely built guard. Everywhere was black; the blackest of black. The guards wore black, the walls of the truck that had brought him here were black, the sky outside was black, and the windowless room they now stood in, black. The stagnant air was humid and thick, the temperature in the room, scalding. The stench of slick grease, sweat, and something more putrid burned Boy's nostrils making him retch and his feet stuck to the sticky, grimy ground.
, Boy thought, considering the guard's words. It was a living breathing hell.
Then the guard pushed him again, this time down a steep, slippery staircase, dull lights sunken into the walls. The high brick walls were a browning-yellowing color and ancient fans whined in the background vainly attempting to cool the too-hot air. Overhead pipes steadily dripped raw sewage on the concrete floor and rats and other vermin swarmed around his feet.
The place was a
Once again, a heavy hand pushed Boy's back, thrusting him down a narrow hallway. With every step, Boy could hear his breath echo louder in his ears. With every step, he could feel his pounding heart slam harder in his chest at an almost bruising rate. And with every step, he could hear more and more loudly a raucous cacophony coming from straight ahead, just beyond a thick-looking iron door. People were screaming and jeering, accompanied by the unmistakable sound of metal clanging against metal.
Boy's eyes were wide as he stared at the door, his nostrils flaring with terror. Nothing in this place screamed “safe”; in fact, with every new turn all he felt was pure terror.
The guard reached around Boy; loudly and slowly he knocked twice on the iron door, each knock thudding through his chest like a cannon. Locks unbolted, keys jingled, and finally, the iron door cracked open.
Boy's eyes widened in disbelief as he drank in the scene. Grown men were everywhere in the overcrowded room. There wasn't a spare inch free, sweaty bodies pushing and shoving one another from thick wall to thick wall. The men were drinking vodka, exchanging money, hands waving in excitement as they all faced straight ahead, their focus set on something
“Move, boy,” the guard ordered. Boy dragged his feet, reluctant to step across the threshold into “hell.” He couldn't move. He was frozen to the spot, his legs shook and a dizziness spun in his head.
Gripping the scruff of Boy's neck, the guard tightened his hold, making Boy wince as he was steered aggressively through the baying crowd. Grown men stopped and sized up Boy, some in approval, most in dismissal. They all became a blur to Boy, the sight and smells too much for him to process.
Boy felt faint. His lungs burned with the velocity of his short breaths. Boy's fingers trembled in sympathy with his fear, but he shook his head, cleared his fearful thoughts like his father had taught him to do, and he managed to keep his head held high, meeting the owner of each curious stare right in the eye.
As the crowd slowly parted, Boy startled at the scene in front of himâa huge floor-to-ceiling square steel cage, the top wrapped with sharp razor wire. Flashes of movement were coming from within. Pained grunts and spurts of blood escaped the cage, splattering his gray-uniformed chest and bare face. This time no breath came from his lungs at all. He was frozen; frozen on the spot with shock, the tinny scent of blood invading his nose.
Boy couldn't believe his eyes. Could not digest the sight that greeted him: pain, cut flesh, cries, bloodÂ â¦ so much pain and blood.
Suddenly, a wash of putrid breath blew past his ear. Boy flinched as he inhaled the sickening stench of stale food and acrid tobacco smoke.
“Drink it in, boy. That will be
in the cage before too long.”
Boy held his breath until his chest could take no more. He exhaled sharply, resisting the urge to cough or cry out.
Boy had been taught from a very young age
to show emotion. His father would punish him if he dared complain, never mind cry. He refused to start here and now. Boy resolved to remain composed, lugubrious, and stoicÂ â¦ anything he had to be to get through thisÂ â¦ this, whatever the hell it was.
A loud rip sounded from the cage, the sound slicing down his back and bringing vomit to his mouth. As a huge spectator abruptly moved out of the way smiling in celebration, everything became clear. The fighters in the cage were
Â â¦ boys who looked no older than himself.
And they were fightingÂ â¦ to the deathÂ â¦
Boy's disbelieving eyes darted around the cage. Weapons of all kinds lined the cage: blades, chains, hammers, axes, to name but a few.
One of the young fighters stumbled back, clutching his stomach, as his opponent circled like an animal, crazed eyes bulging as he concentrated on his prey. Clearly the stronger of the two young fighters, the attacker clasped a long-bladed knife, which dripped blood.
When the prey staggered around to face the crowd, he clung to the thick wire mesh that enveloped the cage. Only then did Boy see that the prey's stomach had been sliced open, blood and guts oozing from the gaping wound.
Nausea fought its way up Boy's throat as he watched the mortally wounded fighter drop in agony to his knees. Boy's stomach tightened to a painful intensity and suddenly, he vomited onto the already filthy floor. Wiping his mouth on the sleeve of his gray uniform, Boy righted himself, only to see the young losing fighter expire his very last breath.
The too-full crowd of men erupted, a mixture of shouts of success or groans of dismay, as wads of money rapidly exchanged hands. The fight was done. The noise in the basement intensified and the men focused on their wins and ignored the victor in the center of the cage.
But Boy didn't look away. Couldn't look away, his eyes were glued to the sight.
He watched as the victor, covered in his opponent's blood and guts, dropped to his knees, all energy drained from his too-bulky body. His eyes were red, his body shaking.
Boy watched as the victor tensed with rage, tipped back his head and screamed out in pain upon witnessing his victim's blood, his
, oozing outward.
He watched as the victor let drop his bloody knife as an all-consuming numbness washed over his body.
And Boy watched as the victor's lifeless gaze dropped to meet his, revealing how Boy's future would unfold.
That same rancid breath once again blew past Boy's cheek and he heard, “From now on, you'll be known as fighter
, and if you want to live, you'll learn how to fight and how to survive here, in hell.”
And 818 did.
With the passage of time, 818 became unrivaled.
818 became death.
Present dayÂ â¦
“Fuck, Myshka, your cunt's so fucking tightâ¦”
Pinned to the bed, my fiancÃ©'s strong hands held me down by my shoulders as he slammed into me, his cock pounding my pussy with incredible force, his strong hips locking me in place.
I tried to move. I pushed hard against his chest, but he wouldn't budge, not even an inch.
It was always like this when he took meâhard, rough, rawÂ â¦ totally out of my control.
Alik's blue eyes lit with fire as I fought against him, flaring at my resistance, the aggression he expected me to exude every time he took me in this bedâan aggression he loved, an aggression he craved.
He liked to fuck. Never make love. Just to fuck, hard, so long as he was in control.
His right hand moved from my shoulder and wrapped around the front of my neck, not too tight to stop my breathing, but tight enough to keep me in place as I clawed his back and shoulders with my French-manicured nails.