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Taylor's Time!

Well, that was a heck of a chapter last week!

I mean, really. Wow.

You want intense?

Go back and read that one!

Then come here and read this week.

Still intense, but not as shocking, if you know what I mean.

And no, I'm not giving anything away!

- Kendra

Chapter Nineteen

I awoke to the blade of a knife. It was orange. Why was it orange? I blinked and saw the flame, bright and hot in the cold grey air. The end of the knife glowed red.

Kain knelt. He pressed the searing metal to Avan's wound. The sizzle of Avan's tormented flesh, the scent of his scorched skin, dove into my senses and would haunt my nightmares for years to come. I blacked out before I heard him scream.

My eyes took in the face in front of me, the blade glowing in Kain's hand, the realization that it was my turn. I gritted my teeth. My skin burned. I cried out, then it all went dark again.

When I awoke, everything was out of focus, the images flickering and dimming before reappearing.

Kain picked up the whipping staff. Avan was a dark, blurry figure, slumped forward, and unconscious.

Or dead.

The men untied him and lifted his legs. The soles of his feet were exposed to Kain, to the whip. My vision cleared in time to see Avan's eyes, his beautiful green eyes, flutter open. They widened as the lashes were administered one after another, a spray of crimson spurting after each one.

No… No! Kain had promised me that Avan would be spared.

"St-stop!" I yelled, weakly.

Avan struggled. Watching him uselessly twist and jerk was like watching an innocent dog being beaten to death during the Yulin festival in China. His hands strained to block the whip. He screamed. And I blacked out again.

I awoke on the floor.

My nose immediately registered the scent of blood and burned flesh.In the distance, I heard the door slam. My vision cleared again, taking in the image of Avan laying unresponsive in front of me. Even from this angle, I could see the long pink burn mark on his back and the blood on his feet.

One arm was stretched in front of him, as if he'd attempted to reach me before passing out. I reached for him, my chest on fire, and touched his hand with my fingertips. He groaned softly.

His head lifted heavily, as if it took every ounce of strength to do so. His fingers squeezed mine gently. His eyes watered, tears leaking silently down his cheek. He buried his face into his arm, then he did something I'd never heard him do before. He sobbed. This man, this solid, unstoppable force who'd defeated countless numbers of men in the cage, crumbled before my eyes.

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