Hey folks! Here’s a snippet of C.M. Moore’s latest 1:05.A.M. And check out the interview I did with him about his ex-soldier past here.
In a dystopian future, an assassin must choose to fulfill a final contract or keep the love of her life alive.
Yearning for a normal life, assassin Karmen-Marie has had enough of of the post-apocalyptic world. Forced to take one last assassin’s job, Karma sets out across the frozen landscape of Earth.
Rea MacBain’s job is to ensure the safety of Earth’s precious few water purification plants. He believes his abusive past must stay buried under the snow that encases his domain.
Ice cold assassin’s blood drives the woman sent to kill him, yet it ignites the fire which thaws Rea’s heart.
Karma rolled out of bed and landed lightly on her feet. She grabbed one of Rea’s button-up shirts out of the plastic drawers and slipped the garment over her head. Without making a sound, she crept into the bathroom and used the facility before returning to the bedroom again.
She came out to check on Rea, who was snoring. He looked handsome even while he slept. A lock of red hair covered one eye. His face seemed serene, and worry was no longer evident. She resisted the urge to crawl back in bed and wake him in a very naughty way. He looked so calm she didn’t have the heart to wake him, even if it would be fun. It made sense why he was sleeping so hard. They had both been up most of the night. Not that she was complaining.
Last night, she’d been awakened by him twice, and both times were everything she had missed about him.
The first time he woke her, he was sweet and loving. He carefully pulled her to him and touched every inch of her as if trying to memorize her skin. She could tell by his murmurs of approval that he missed her screams of pleasure and her declarations of love.
The second time was when she’d stroked him until out of pure frustration, he flipped her over and took her from behind. She thought she should be more tired after a night like that, but for some reason, she was refreshed.
Instead of getting back into bed she meandered over to the computer and clicked on a few of the buttons that showed different areas of the water bases. Strange, but snooping around the computer seemed natural. Nothing looked familiar on the screen like she’d hoped, so she roamed into the kitchen space. She figured she could make Rea food, and she ambled past the dark wood cabinets and tan counter. She opened some broken drawers and the fridge, but she didn’t know what he would want to eat.
Frustration flooded her that she couldn’t remember even the most basic item of what he ate for breakfast. Giving up on food, she glanced at the clock on the microwave in the kitchen. The time blinked 7:11. Her body had summoned her awake fairly early. She thought about that. She was restless and fidgety. Did she normally get up this early? She used to love to sleep in and snuggle all day in bed with Rea.
As she glanced around the room, a few other thoughts struck her as well. From what she gathered, this was an entirely different water base than the one they grew up on. If that was the case, everything looked exactly like she remembered. The broken plastic drawers that held his clothes were in the corner. The blanket on his bed was the same thin rag with the blue diamond pattern. The few plates and cups in the cabinets were adorned with the same green flowers, and even the bathroom layout was identical to what she remembered. If she and Rea were so much older, why was their home the same? Why had the two of them not cleaned his room and decorated together? Did Rea’s father still hate her? She remembered how bad life got right after Rea’s mom died. Was he still being beaten? Too many unanswered questions nagged at her, and she resolved to get some answers today. When Rea awoke, she’d ask him then.
Karma started to head back to the computer, not bothering to turn on any of the lights since her eyes had adjusted to the dark perfectly. As she moved silently, so as to not wake Rea, she passed by the kitchen table. When she reached one of the pushed-in chairs, her ears picked up the sound of footsteps outside the door. She moved around the table and checked to see if Rea had awoken.
Curious about who’d be here this early, she opened the door. Gears was standing just outside the door with his fist raised in a position ready to knock. A look of surprise was written on his face when she appeared. He cleared his throat uncomfortably.
“Good morning,” she whispered with a slight nod.
She didn’t know why, but around the doctor she was edgy, like there was a secret he wasn’t telling her. Gears looked at her with apparent distrust, and she considered all the actions she could’ve done to warrant that look.
“Good morning, Karma.” Gears gave a solemn smile. He looked around the hall nervously. He then tried to lean past the doorframe. “Is Rea here?”
“He’s sleeping,” Karma answered. She kept her voice low so as to not wake Rea. Why did everyone keep asking stupid questions? Of course, Rea was here, where else would he be? She waited for Gears to say more. Did he regularly show up this early? That seemed odd to her also.
“He’s sleeping, really?” Gears’ eyes went wide with astonishment, but Karma couldn’t think of what could possibly be so shocking about that. People had to sleep, didn’t they?
As a snore cut into the brief pause in the conversation, Gears began looking her up and down. She could tell he was assessing her and drawing conclusions as to what they’d been doing during the night. She tugged at the bottom of Rea’s shirt and wished the fabric was longer. She also awkwardly brushed some of her wild hair so the tendrils didn’t look like she had just been rolling around in bed.
“He had intercourse with you?” Gears voice went high on the last word. He cleared his throat and pushed his glasses up his nose in an almost nervous gesture. Karma thought she was either getting used to that particular move, or his action was familiar.
“We’re grown adults. I don’t think you should be concerned. People do sleep, and they have sex, and they eat too. It’s all really boring, actually. I thought you were a doctor.”
There was something about how Gears reacted to her that bothered her. She had the impression that when she was talking to him, he was silently interrogating her. Maybe she had caused some type of rift between Rea and Gears. It was also possible Rea’s father could favor the doctor over Rea. There was a chance Gears worked for Rea’s dad and was reporting back. If they’d just tell her what was wrong, she was sure she could make amends.
Gears seemed to recover and collect his reaction. She noticed a tiny smile play on his lips.
“That came out all wrong. You’re right. I’m a doctor. I was making sure you were healing. I didn’t want you to engage in any activity that might not be good for your health. I know you’re an adult. I was concerned as your doctor only. Just keep your wounds clean. That’s important. I always say cleanliness is next to godliness.” Gears paused awkwardly, like he wasn’t sure what he should say next. “I brought you some clothes my girlfriend left at my place. I thought you might need them.”
Karma looked down at the pile of fabric in his arms and relaxed. Maybe she’d gotten Gears all wrong. She offered him a small smile. She shouldn’t be so quick to judge him. He was the doctor here, and she should give him the benefit of the doubt.
“Thanks for the clothes. I didn’t know I didn’t have any here. Where are my clothes normally?”
Gears looked uneasy and glanced past her again. Was he hoping Rea would answer her question? Another awkward silence filled the air between them.
“Maybe you should wake Rea and tell him what time it is. You can ask him your questions. This is a friendly doctor’s suggestion.” With that curious sentence, the doctor quickly departed.
Karma was left standing in the doorway, and as Gears left she mulled over what to do next.
She supposed the first thing she should do is get dressed. She closed the door and went into the bathroom to try on the clothes he’d brought.
One by one, she tried them on, only to find nothing fitted properly. If this clothing was Gears’ girlfriend’s, then the other girl was a lot shorter than she was, Karma concluded.
Finally, she discovered a pair of black stretchy pants that had enough fabric to cover her legs down to her knees. She then chose the largest shirt she could find. The shirt was royal blue, and the garment covered her breasts but clung to her like a second skin. Since she couldn’t find anything else that looked like it might fit, she dressed. She then brushed out her hair with a hairbrush she found on a shelf.
As soon as she got back into the bedroom, she decided it was probably a good idea to take Gears’ advice and wake Rea. A part of her didn’t want to wake him, but if he had somewhere to be, she’d hate if he slept all day and missed his appointments.
From what she gathered, Rea was somewhat of a busy man. If his father were still around, he wouldn’t be happy if Rea wasn’t doing whatever he was supposed to be doing. The idea of meeting an irate Rea’s father was a frightening thought. She remembered how he used to bust into Rea’s room. She hoped he didn’t still do that.
Karma lay down on her side and cushioned her head next to Rea’s face. She softly kissed him and waited to see if he’d wake up. He mumbled incoherent words in his sleep and moved closer to her, as if seeking her out. When his hand found her breast, he brushed his fingers over her shirt and then gave a lazy smile. She loved when he did that, and she scooted closer so he could wrap his arm all the way around her.
“Hey, handsome,” Karma purred as his eyes leisurely lifted open.
“What’s going on, Kitten?” he mumbled sleepily, still caressing her.
“It’s past seven, so I thought maybe I should wake you. We could have breakfast or…”
The word “seven” brought out the strangest reaction in Rea. One moment he was snuggled next to her making lazy circles on her back, and the next second he’d thrown himself out of bed like he’d been laying on razor blades.
“After seven? Shit!”
Karma scooted to the edge of the bed as Rea started to wildly throw on clothes. She was amazed at the speed with which he could get fully clothed. When he was dressed, he shoved his feet into boots that lay next to the bed.
“What’s wrong with seven?”
“I’m late for training. I haven’t been late since—” Rea looked like he was going to say more, but he stopped himself and ran his hand through his rumpled hair.
Frowning, he crossed to the door of the bathroom and disappeared. Karma sat on the side of the bed and waited for him to come back. How was she supposed to know what time he had training? She didn’t even know where her clothes were.
Rea rushed out of the bathroom and headed straight for the exit. He paused at the door with his hand on the knob. For a moment, she thought he was going to exit without saying anything more to her. He spun around and looked at her like he’d completely forgotten she was there. Karma was mildly annoyed.
“Damn it. What am I supposed to do with you?” He swore two more times and then swiveled his head back to the door.
Karma stood up and went to stand next to him. She could tell he was worried, and she could see the war within him starting.
Ignoring his frantic state, she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and brought his mouth down to hers. She kissed him with barely leashed passion, not letting him go for a second. She swept her tongue inside his mouth to taste the toothpaste he used. She clutched at his muscled upper arms. She didn’t let go until he wrapped his arms around her body and crushed her to him. When he finally surfaced from the kiss, he looked at her with a bemused expression on his face.
“What was that for?”
“I wanted to say good morning before you left, and tell you I had a great time last night. I can wait here for you. I can sit around and try to get my memory back while you’re out. You don’t need to worry about me.”
Rea’s expression turned grim. He ran his hands through his hair again. Her words had the opposite effect on him than what she’d intended. He looked more worried now than before.
“No, you can’t stay here alone. Your boots are over by the chair. Put them on and come with me.”
“You want me to go with you… to training?” Karma was truly astounded.
Once she’d snuck in to watch his training with his dad. After his father had humiliated him in front of everyone, he then pitted Rea against two men who were better trained.
Karma remembered keenly watching Rea get slammed into the mud repetitively. When Rea found out she’d seen it, he had made her promise to never come to training again. She’d honored his request because she couldn’t watch his sadistic father in action ever again. Watching the love of her life get crushed had been a hell like none other.
“Hurry up.” He pulled a pair of socks from a drawer and tossed them at her.
Karma was still stunned he invited her. She fumbled with the socks as she put them on. She grabbed the soft black leather boots he pointed to and sat in a chair by the table. They felt like they were made for her, and she zipped them up over her calf. These boots gave her a measure of comfort because out of everything, these were familiar. A memory of her zipping up these boots popped into her head, and the thought was comforting.
Rea didn’t spare her another glance as they hurried out into the hallway. As Karma trotted along after Rea, she glanced at the empty rooms to the right and left. The plain cement walls were smooth on either side of the large walkway. Bright round lights hung every few feet above them. Each room they passed had the door open, and empty beds and sparse furniture came into view.
“Why are all the rooms around here empty? Are we antisocial?”
“It’s ‘coz once I leave to build a new base my room and all the rooms in this area go to the scientists and their families. Once the men are trained, they’ll be the police and the safety of this water base. Scientists, women, and children can’t move onto the base until it is safe. It’s my father’s rule.”
“I didn’t know this was a new base. Thank you for bringing me along while you build it. I heard you’re not supposed to do that.” Karma mulled what they’d been discussing. Was having no one around him hard, or did he want it that way? Maybe he liked that his life was just her, him, and his dad. Karma shuddered at the thought of Rea’s father. She was glad she hadn’t run into him so far.
After a few seconds of silence while they walked, she started to wonder if they were going to stay on this base or if they were going to move on to build another one.
“After this base is fully operational and people move in, will a family or a couple live in your room? After the scientists and workers move here and this base is safe, where do we go?”
They turned a sharp corner and headed down similar hallways of cold cement with large fat columns. The walls were sterile, like they were waiting for someone to decorate them. She thought that adding finishing touches to a base might be fun.
“My room and the others around me are for single people and sometimes for couples. Down further, there are rooms for larger families. This way is past the greenhouses that grow some of the food. Spouses and children are responsible for the underground farms that get added after I leave.” Rea sounded resigned to this, like he was a tour guide educating her. “All the best shit gets added after I leave.”
Rea hurried Karma along over the rock flooring, past the different areas of the water base. They rushed past large equipment rooms where the scientists would clean water from the surface and put it into huge tanks. They passed barracks for the single men and an enormous empty cafeteria.
Something about the greenhouses was familiar to her. The time 1:05 a.m. leaped into her mind. As soon as she tried to catch the memory, it was gone again.
“Until the families get here, who takes care of the greenhouses?” she asked to chase away the perturbed feeling seeping into her. She was practically running to keep up, and she was irked she had no memories.
“All the men have to spend time in the greenhouses. It’s partly ‘coz we have to grow our food, but mostly it’s mandatory that we all have to be under the sun lamps. Gears gets after us if our vitamin D drops too low. He checks our health once a month.”
“That makes sense, but you didn’t really answer my other question. Where do we go after this water base is built? What do we do when we don’t have Gears with us? Does he come with us, or is there another doctor?”
“We?” Rea gave her a quick side glance and kept up his jog.
“Yes, we. Are we going to a new base to train others, or are we going back to an already established base? Do we stay here? Where does your father go? Does he come with us? Does Gears move with us? I thought he was a close friend of yours.”
Rea abruptly stopped. They came to a large metal door and paused. His hand reached out and grasped a long metal handle.
“That’s a lot of questions, Kitten. We’re going to work it out.” He spoke meticulously. He stopped and turned around to look at her. A fierce frown wrinkled his brow as his eyes slashed over her. “What are you wearing?” he added after studying her.
“That’s not clothes. That’s a second skin, only in color.”
Karma looked down at herself and shrugged. The boots came up to where the black stretch pants left off, and the blue shirt covered her torso even though the top was snug. The clothes did fit, but he was right about the fabric not hiding much. It seemed tight, but she could move easily.
“Gears gave the clothes to me this morning.” She smoothed her hand over the bottom of her shirt. “He also told me to wake you. I think he was surprised you slept in.”
“I bet he was,” Rea grumbled. He then mumbled under his breath a few more words about how Gears was trying to make his life miserable. With a frown now permanently plastered on his face, he put his hand on the doorknob and swung the door wide. The entrance was a large double door, but the opposite one stayed firmly shut.
“I would’ve worn my clothes if you’d told me where they are,” Karma commented to his back. What did he expect her to do, run around the base naked? This was better than nothing.
“We can work that out too,” he grumbled, preoccupied.
It was apparent he was now dismissing her from his thoughts.
Rea’s stride was swift. He entered the room with head held high and back straight. Karma followed him, and she recognized the huge training room. The massive room had only a mud floor, but the ceiling was cement and at least twelve feet high.
She looked up at the columns, which held up the giant chamber, and she let her eyes pass over the different things going on around her. On her left side, near where they entered, two shirtless men were fighting with jagged looking knives. On the opposite side, a large group of men was practicing with some type of club and shield. The center of the room was only a big ring, which wasn’t occupied, but all the way around the circle, men were standing as if waiting for someone to enter it. The ring in the center was familiar. She remembered Rea in the center, being beaten to the floor while everyone stood by watching. A part of her knew this wasn’t the exact same ring, but the area was so recognizable a feeling of helplessness swamped her.
To banish the raw memory, she looked at all the different sizes and shapes of the men around her. Every male was fit, but they were as different as light and dark. Some were black, some Hispanic, and some maybe Asian or Indian. Tall, short, and medium, the room was a collage of sturdy warriors, and all of them were intimidating and well built.
“I want you to stay close to me. Don’t talk or draw attention to yourself. You already look too damn sexy. These men haven’t been around a woman for a few months. Dad says women are a distraction and shouldn’t be around during training. Especially, not a hot woman like you.”
“You think I’m sexy?” she purred.
“I said don’t talk,” Rea groused, but Karma couldn’t help but smile anyway.
“If women aren’t allowed on the base because they’re not safe, then why did you let me come?”
Karma knew she shouldn’t ask, but she couldn’t help herself. She hated that she still didn’t have the ability to recall even the simplest information.
“We’ll talk about it later.”
He was brushing her off again. Karma wanted to be offended, but she wasn’t. She could tell Rea wasn’t happy about bringing her near a bunch of men while they were in training mode. If Rea hated doing this so much, he must have an excellent reason to have asked her along. He wasn’t the kind of man to jeopardize her safety or cause problems for his men.
Even though he told her not to say a word, it didn’t matter. Her presence caused enough of a stir that she might’ve shouted at all of them instead of meekly walking behind Rea.
“Boss-Mac got a piece of ass?” someone in the back called out.
“I thought he was gay!” Another man remarked loudly.
“I heard that, Essie,” Rea yelled over his shoulder as he kept striding forward.
A few other men gave out hoots and whistles behind her.
“Now we know why he slept in.” A man to her left gave out a sharp bark of laughter at his own comment.
“Did you bring us a prize to fight for? I heard your dad used to do that. If we get to do her when we win, then I’m first up to fight.” A large Asian man to her right spoke, as his eyes raked her body like she wasn’t wearing a stitch of clothing.
He adjusted the small pistol on his belt so he could grab his balls and wink at her.
The vulgar way he looked at her made Karma’s blood run cold with rage she didn’t even know she had inside of her. She thought she wasn’t a violent person, but the idea of grabbing his gun off of his belt and beating him over the head with it filled her head.
“I’m up for fighting this morning if she’s the prize,” a shorter blond with a big nose called out from the back of the crowd. “Hell, I’d even marry her.”
Karma felt like a piece of meat thrown to dogs. She quickly assessed what other weapons were around the room and which ones would be easiest to steal.
“Hey, Boss-Mac,” a brawny brunet man standing next to her side spoke up. “You said if we’re late for training then we have to be in the ring first thing to fight you, so who do you fight if you’re late?”
Karma studied Rea. His face looked like it could’ve been carved in granite. He seemed like he didn’t care if anyone had sex with her or if he had to fight in the ring with all of them. He took bored to a whole new level. Karma couldn’t believe this was the man she’d had sex with last night. When he was with her, he was so expressive and caring. Now he looked like an icy stranger.
“First off, I’m the Water Base Boss. I get the women around here. If you guys want to get laid, then become better fighters. Learn the rules to make this base secure. After it’s safe, you can chase as much trim as you want. You can also bring your girlfriends and wives here once this is fully operational.
“Second, as boss, I can be late. However, to honor the rule, I’ll step into the pit. Who is first up for me to beat?”
Rea strolled into the center of the ring without even looking back at her. Karma found her hands going up to her hair. She began swiftly pulling the strands into a tight ponytail. She didn’t know why she was doing it, but the action was as if it was ingrained in her to have her hair out of the way right at this time.
From behind her, she heard some of the men grumbling about fighting Rea. She could tell from his overpowering confidence he wasn’t worried about sparring with any of them. She recalled a bandage near his rib cage that she’d seen last night. She couldn’t believe he’d fight with an injury. He didn’t appear concerned about any of it, injury or men.
As he stood casually in the center of the mud, he waited like he had all the time in the world. His body was hard and muscular, with strength radiating off of him. Karma’s body felt like her insides were winding up. As if someone was twisting her internal organs. She could feel the heat of the men around her pressing in, and a deeply rooted battle cry was trapped in her throat. She wanted to fight all these men. She wanted to defend Rea even though he was standing so mighty before her. She didn’t want him to stand alone.
“I’ll take you on, Boss-Mac,” a Hispanic-looking man, with a thick accent, called from behind her.
Karma turned slightly to look at the tall, husky, curly-haired man casually striding toward the ring. He stopped when he came to her, and something about him seemed recognizable. He smiled at her, but the flash of teeth wasn’t friendly.
“How about you watch a real fighter?” Curly spoke as he walked up to her. He was talking loudly enough for Rea to hear from where he was standing.
She glanced to Rea to gauge what he wanted her to do. Once Curly had Rea’s attention, he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her to him.
“Playing a damsel in distress, Karma?” he whispered to her before he nuzzled her neck. No one seemed to hear what he said, and she had no idea what that meant.
Disgust filled her at his smell and touch. She tugged away from him. He only laughed at her squirming, but he let her go and slapped her ass. She restrained herself from striking him, but her muscles tensed to do so.
The slap seemed loud in the space. Although it only took seconds for him to touch her, it was as if time had slowed down. She saw Rea’s eyes darken only slightly, but he kept his face as an unreadable mask.
“Quit fucking around,” Rea barked out.
When Curly entered the ring, Karma could tell he was slightly shorter than Rea but just as fit. The two of them looked evenly matched. Karma’s heart dropped to her stomach. Curly was a good fighter. He was dangerous. She didn’t know how she knew that, but she did, and she trusted her knowledge.
As soon as the two men faced each other, Rea’s eyes narrowed. Karma started to study Curly as if she was going to enter the bout with him herself.
“Who are you?” Rea asked as they eyed each other.
“My name’s Nash,” Nash spoke with a slow drawl. “I’m new.”
“I don’t remember seeing your name on the roster.” Rea’s voice was flat.
“I transferred here from another base. I showed up yesterday, around the time you kicked out Charlie and Josh. I heard about what went down. Guess I can’t blame you. If I were fucking an ass as fine as that bitch, I wouldn’t be sharing either.”
Rea’s anger swelled noticeably. He threw the first punch.
Nash blocked Rea’s fist. He landed his elbow straight into Rea’s gut. Rea bent over with the hit. The crowd of men cheered. The room filled with noise all the way up to the ceiling. Rea got back up quickly, and his eyes flashed with rage. He threw his entire body at Nash, wrapping his arms around the other man’s waist. They wrestled to the floor. More cheering followed.
Karma moved closer to the ring. Rea’s eyes caught hers for a moment. She shifted slightly through the men, who were now captivated by the spectacle before them. They cheered and shouted. None of them even noticed her any longer.
As Karma moved through the crowd, she had the urge to call out the command for Rea to focus on what he was doing. He needed to stop looking for her.
Biting her tongue, she moved until she was standing on the opposite side of the ring. She was following Nash’s movements. She didn’t know why. As she moved, the two men exchanged hit after hit. Nash was pounding at Rea’s injured side. Blood could be seen smearing across his shirt.
She thought she should be appalled at the blood, which splattered on the dirt, or at the crack of bone hitting bone, but she found the fighting dull. She was resigned, bored even. An odd jaded feeling was filling her. She shifted her weight to the balls of her feet. She was waiting for something. Even though she was waiting, she didn’t know what she was looking for.
The air crackled with unexplained discord. What was she expecting to happen? It was the way Nash moved, the way he glanced at her. His actions were speaking silently to her. She trusted her instincts.
Everything happened so fast Karma wasn’t sure why she did what she did.
As she saw Nash pull a sleek steel dagger from the side of his boot, she turned and grabbed a handle-heavy throwing knife off the belt of the man shoved next to her. For some reason, she wasn’t happy with his knife selection, but that idea came like a quick bolt of lightning. She balanced the rusted blade on her palm. The action was as if she’d done this a thousand times.
With ease, she threw the cumbersome knife with practiced grace. The throwing knife lodged in Nash’s hand. Swiftly, she moved again between two more men. Nash hollered with pain and surprise. His eyes shot to her for a second. Her actions startled the man next to her, but she slinked away from him around the circle. None of the men moved quickly enough to stop her.
Stepping to the edge of the circle, Karma assessed what other weapons were within arm’s reach. The dagger Nash had held now lay on the ground, forgotten. The knife was stained with mud and splattered blood. The blade had never reached its intended destination.
Nash swore at her in fury.
Rea stumbled backward. Shock etched into his features as he rotated his head toward her.
Nash brought his hand, with her knife stuck between the bones, down to his middle. With a concentrated effort, he pulled the oxidized blade from his skin. Dark, rich blood spurted in all directions.
Now that he had the old throwing knife clutched in his good hand, Nash turned to her. His eyes were ablaze in outrage.
“Fuck you, Karma. I knew you switched sides, you sneaky bitch.”
The entire room stilled collectively as if they were holding their breath.
Nash charged her. In a flash, she felt the swipe of the knife at her belly. Karma jumped back before the next swing of Nash’s weapon. Warm blood and ripped cloth fell to the ground. Her body reacted even as her mind went blank.
Karma crouched low, sweeping her leg under Nash. She knocked him backward to the dirt. As her hand reached for the gun hung on the belt of the man behind her, her mind rejected her actions. She fought to focus on what was happening. This was starting to feel like a dream… or a nightmare.
Rea threw his body over Nash. He kept him pinned to the ground. They grappled for the knife Nash still held. Rea’s hands forced Nash to stab himself in the neck.
The sound of a single shot being fired reverberated around the room. Scared, she glanced around to see who’d fired a gun.
Finally, there was only an eerie silence in the training room.
Blood flowed freely from the huge gash that had been cut into Nash’s throat. As the dirt around him turned red, she spun away. She was lightheaded and trying valiantly to not vomit. What had she done? She looked around the room. The weight of every man’s eyes was on her. This time, they weren’t assessing her figure; they were afraid of her. Every man, including Rea, looked tense and alert.
Rea stood unsteadily. He stepped between her and the lifeless body. He didn’t speak but merely stared at her like all the other men. Her eyes jumped to him. She wanted to beg him to hold her, to chase away what had happened. She wanted Rea to comfort her, to tell her he was there for her.
“Karma?” Rea said her name slowly.
His voice wasn’t more than a whisper of sound, but she felt it in her heart. She could feel the persistent connection that said he’d be there, no matter what. Rea would be there for her. He loved her.
“Kitten?” Again he spoke slowly, like he was trying to soothe a wild animal.
He took one tiny step forward, then another, until he was only a few inches from her. Carefully, with his hands steady, he reached out to her.
Karma looked down at her hands when he reached for them. She realized she was tightly gripping a gun. Where had she gotten it? When?
Wildly, she spun around. She let her eyes return to the dead man on the floor. A perfect bullet hole was in the center of his forehead. What had she done? Tears welled up at the corners of her eyes, but she couldn’t seem to let them fall. Everyone was waiting for her to give up the weapon she still clutched. This was evident without the words being spoken. She didn’t want to let the gun go. That idea frightened her more than anything that had happened so far.
She released the small pistol into Rea’s hand and waited to see what would happen. She had killed a man who worked for Rea. What would Rea’s father say when he found out? What would Rea do?
“Gears,” Rea called to the doctor, who appeared at his side. Karma was stunned to see him. She didn’t even know he’d shown up in the training room. “Take Karma back to my room and check her injuries. Check her memories.” Rea linked his fingers through hers. They rushed through the men who moved out of their way like they were an avalanche.
They got to the far side of the room with Gears following them. Rea opened the door. The hallway looked like a welcoming sanctuary that would let her escape this madness. She turned to Gears, who was now standing next to her. Gears and Rea exchanged a look. The men were silent, which made the training room seem abnormal.
“Gears, I’ll stay here and handle the body. I have to speak to Ken. Take Karma home. I’ll be there soon.” Rea pressed the gun she’d had moments ago into Gears’ hand. Gears looked at the weapon and wagged his head back and forth.
“Back to your room again? Really? Don’t you think you should reconsider that?” Gears pushed the weapon back at Rea. Rea pushed it back again.
“Take her to my room. Do what you have to do to look after her. I’ll tell Ken what happened and have him handle it. I’ll be there soon.”
“I don’t think so.” Gears shoved the gun back again into Rea’s hand. “What if this triggers all her memories? Does Ken know what’s going on? Maybe I should talk to him instead. You go with Karma. I’ll stay.”
Gears’ hands were shaking. He looked like he was scared of going with her. She hated that. He took a step away from her and moved closer to the training room door.
Rea was not to be swayed. He stepped in front of Gears, handing the gun to him one final time.
“I’ll only be a minute. Ken will help me remove the body and talk to the men. He’s efficient.” Rea started to push him out into the hallway. Karma meekly followed, feeling dejected.
“What if she…” Gears trailed off.
“She’ll be fine,” Rea insisted.
Rea returned to the crowd of men around the body. At this point, she didn’t believe him. She thought she’d never be fine again.