Release Date: August 25, 2016
The gamblers at the Red Fields call Avery Faro a Monster. I call him my cousin. I know about his secret weapon though, the thing that wins him all those fights. Avery can’t feel anything, not pain, and not love. We aren’t even that close, third cousins, really. But, somewhere along the way, we became closer than that… far too close. Now I think that he’s lost it completely. He’s jealous. He’s possessive. He’s hiding something from me. He calls me his Laurel, only his. But I know there are secrets at the Red Fields. By day, Avery is just a regular schoolboy. By night, he morphs into an underground fighter. How can I save Avery from himself?
How do you defeat somebody who doesn’t even feel?
The fist made contact with the left side of my jaw. It should have hurt; it really should have. It should have killed me.
But it didn’t.
I blinked away the memories of last night’s fistfight. I had been at the Red Fields, the usual place, and my opponent had been a young man, anxious and thin.
But he had never even touched me…
See, a few things happen when you get the living daylights beat out of you. Not a lot of people have experienced it firsthand like I have, but let me enlighten you. First, came the point of contact. It was just pressure hitting the side of your face, like pressing a finger against your cheek. Like all other things that I experienced, it never hurt me. Pain was all in your head. I had only been blinded for a little bit before I paused and stared up at the opponent in front of me. I was like a scholar and he was the experiment, ready to be dissected and disposed of. I gave him a blank, deadpan stare. I had no emotion in my eyes. Others told me that, when I got like this, it reminded them of a cadaver. It was like I didn’t have a soul. The other guy hit me, more times than I could possibly count.
I hadn’t felt a thing.
And just like that, I was back in the classroom, staring off into space as memories and images flashed into my mind. The words formed a senseless jumble, thoughts that could never be placed. My mind was incomprehensible, a mystery unto my own self. Well, when school got boring like this, all I could think of was the last fight I had. I needed to fight, as badly as any other person needed to breathe. Anything would be better than doing nothing and being force fed facts all day. Even bleeding was more stimulating than rote memorization.
“Click…click…click…” Came the sound of the teacher’s heels against the floorboards. The dean taught this class. Where was he, again? I remembered, faintly, hearing something about Shakespeare before I was off daydreaming again…
I somehow snapped back to reality. I couldn’t let flashbacks from the Red Fields bother me so much. Right now, I had to focus on my inane studies. I had a ninety percent in my Literature class. That was ten percent below perfect. It was ten percent too many. I blinked, rubbing my fingers against my eyes before realizing a thin dribble of blood and drool trailing from my bottom lip. I pressed my fingers against it, completely ignoring the neglected open textbook in front of me. And then I paused and examined the blood. It glittered against the palm of my hands, kind of like rubies.
And just like that, I was back at the Red Fields. My opponent’s fist made contact with my jaw. Was that the exact moment that my lip had split? All I could remember was seeing scarlet and black and blue all at once. That’s the other thing nobody really knows about fights. A person could experience the most beautiful colors when getting pummeled half to death. I stared at my opponent, a solid mass of tissue shielding a beating heart. I could hear his heart beating. And whether the other guy knew it or not, he was afraid of me.
And if he wasn’t, then he should have been.
After all, everyone came to fear the monster beneath their beds at some point or another.