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I’d like to think not.

I focus on the next scaffold and launch myself at it. There’s a loud bang, and my ears ring again. I cringe, and my shoulder slams into the edge of the next scaffold. Not able to grab hold of something, I slide right off and fall hard on the concrete. A sharp pain shudders through my ribcage, pulling a groan from me.

My body aches, but I scramble to my feet and run. Kenzo lifts his arm, pointing the gun at me, and at the last minute, I swerve and throw my body into his. There’s no way I can outrun a bullet, but maybe I can stop him from shooting.

When I slam into Kenzo, he staggers back a step. I reach for his right hand, the one holding the gun, but he flings it away from us. The weapon skids across the floor, and relief washes over me.

Suddenly, Kenzo grabs hold of my shoulders, and as he kicks my legs from under me, pain burns through my ribs. I land on my back, the air whooshing from my lungs. Before I can gather my senses, Kenzo’s on top of me, and he pins me to the ground.

I try to scramble out from under him, but he grabs hold of my wrists, shoving me back against the floor. When his knee presses into my stomach, panic takes hold of my chest. I gasp for air, and with my entire torso on fire, I’m unable to move.

“Get up. Come on,” he taunts me. “I’m not that heavy.”

I try to roll to my right, but his knee presses deeper into my stomach, sending another wave of pain through my chest.

I take shallow breaths and try to pull my arms to my chest, but his fingers tighten his hold on my wrists.

Fear ripples through me as I realize I’m not strong enough to fight him off.

With panic flooding my veins, I scream, “Get off me.”

I twist my arms, trying to free them from his tight grip. I manage to roll my hips again, but I only budge him an inch.

Kenzo lets out a dark chuckle. “You’re totally at my mercy, kid. I can do anything to you, and you won’t be able to stop me.”

His hands are getting sweaty from holding my wrists, and I pull and twist until I manage to free my right arm. He reaches for my wrist, but I duck into him, which has him grabbing hold of my shoulder. When he shoves me back to the floor, my vision darkens from the pain.

“It hurts!” I scream, but he doesn’t seem to care as he restrains me again.

I bring my knees up as hard as possible and slam them into his back.

“Good one,” he laughs as if this is funny.

My chest feels like it is going to explode, and Kenzo is laughing at me.

With a roar, I rip my right arm free, and a second later, a slap echoes through the arena.

My palm stings, and I fist it against my chest as Kenzo pulls away. His neck is red from where I slapped him.

The moment I’m able to, I scramble out from under him and put a safe distance between us. My throat is thick, and my chin trembles as I whisper, “I told you to get off me.”

Kenzo doesn’t look angry but instead smiles. “You did good, kid. Tomorrow I’ll teach you how to throw a punch.”

“What?” I shake my head, not understanding what this lesson was meant to teach me. “Why did you do that?”

“I needed to see if you would give up or keep fighting when the odds were against you.” He pats me on my shoulder. “I’m glad you chose the latter.”

I watch Kenzo walk away, the urge to cry still stuck in my throat.

I can’t pretend everything is fine after the training session.

Chapter 23


I’m woken in the middle of the night with an ominous growl in my ear. “Time to pay your dues, newbie.”

Before I can wake up properly, I’m yanked from my mat. Confusion blurs my mind, then a piece of cloth covers my eyes. The cloth pulls my hair as someone ties a knot at the back of my head, and as I struggle, arms lock around me, restraining me.

“Let go!” I scream, fear flooding my senses.

It’s definitely more than one man. Crap.

Before I can cry for help, a rag is shoved into my mouth with so much force I gag. Another piece of fabric is tied around my mouth to keep me from spitting it out.

I’m picked up and tossed over a shoulder, making pain streak through my side. No amount of writhing dissuades them.

Almighty! What’s happening?

With every step I’m carried away from the sleeping quarters, my fear thickens. I try to concentrate on where they’re taking me while I struggle to free myself. My screams are stifled by the cloth, and I know it’s useless, but I keep trying.

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