I walk closer to the target, and raise the gun. It’s so heavy I have to place my left hand under my elbow to steady my arm.
Fear that I’ll miss and shoot Chance as he moves above the target makes my hands shake. The gun starts to rattle in my line of sight.
It goes silent until I hear his feet hit the floor behind me. I glance over my shoulder at Chance and see him run toward the extension of bars that looks like a horizontal ladder.
He’s doing the whole course, not just the one Kenzo made me do.
He jumps up and reaches the first bar easily. From one end to the other, he pulls his body across, the muscles in his arms straining.
He lets go of the last bar and runs to the grid, not once looking at me.
Knowing he’s behind me, I look at the paper target, lift the gun, and pull the trigger.
The sound is deafening, and the force of the blast shudders up my arm, making me stumble backward. The gun falls from my hand, a sharp ringing in my ears.
When I look, there’s no sign of the bullet anywhere near the paper man.
Crap. Am I even doing it right?
I wait for Chance to run around the arena and jump the scaffolds. Only when I hear him land behind me do I pick up the gun and point at the target once more.
Again, the blast jerks my arm back, and I drop the gun. Looking at the target, a smile stretches over my face. At least, this time, I can see a hole in the wall.
It’s better than nothing.
When I pick up the gun again, I hear Chance stop behind me.
Crap, knowing he’s watching, makes it twice as hard.
My fingers clamp white around the handle as I aim, and when I pull the trigger, the blast forces me to stumble backward.
Chance’s hand presses against my lower back, so I don’t lose my balance, then his cheek presses against mine, his arms reaching around me. He takes hold of my right hand and shows me how to hold the gun correctly.
“It doesn’t help you try to throw the bullets and hope they hit the target. Keep the barrel level with your eyes.” He nudges his foot against my heels. “Stand wider and bend your knees, so your legs can take some of the impact and not just your upper body.”
I bend my knees, lowering myself a couple of inches.
“Too much.” He doesn’t sound as angry anymore.
“Like this?” I ask as I bend them slightly.
His left hand drops to my stomach, and I feel every one of his fingers press into my muscles.
“Tighten your abdomen and hold. Focus everything here so when the blast comes, you’re prepared.”
“Okay.” I do as he instructs.
“Barrel level with your eyes.” His right hand moves beneath mine, and he nudges the gun a little higher. “When you pull the trigger, you have to prepare yourself for the noise and the force. That way, it doesn’t catch you off guard.”
I swallow and close my eyes for a moment.
“Open them. You need to see where you’re shooting, Jai.” Heat creeps up my neck. It’s an uneasy feeling having him watch everything I do. “When you’re ready,” he whispers.
I’ll never be ready.
I squeeze the trigger, and the loud bang stings my ears. Chance helps me keep a hold of the weapon and stops me from staggering backward. He’s a solid wall behind me.
“Let’s check,” he says.
Walking closer, I see I hit the target in the shoulder. Happy, I swing around and throw my arms around his neck.
“You’re still in shit,” he mutters, not sounding angry at all.
Ruth’s sobbing fills the tunnel, and it echoes into the drill zone.
As my eyes snap to the entrance, Chance takes the gun from me and walks back to the cabinet. He places the weapon on a shelf, then grabs the bag of balls and throws it to the side.
“Jai!” He snaps urgently. “Come.”
I jog to catch up as he walks toward the extender bars on the other side of the arena.
“I said run, newbie!” Idris roars at Ruth.
When I reach Chance, he grabs hold of my hips and lifts me into the air. “Grab hold.”
I take hold of the first set of bars, my eyes jumping between Chance and the archway as nerves spin in my stomach.
“Hold on as long as you can,” he orders, sounding as tense as I feel.
“Run, run, run!” Idris hollers, then Ruth sprints into the drill zone, her face ashen with fear.
Her whimpers fill the air, and my heart plummets to the ground.
Idris didn’t even let her get dressed!
I feel Chance’s fingers tap against my thigh. “Hold!”
I tighten my grasp again and then glance down at him.
“Just focus on me. When people are dying around us, you have to keep going. Got it?”