Authors: Skyla Madi
BROKEN: Round One
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Copyright © 2015 by Skyla Madi
Formatted by Max Effect
All rights reserved.
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This is a work of fiction. The names, characters, incidents, and places are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or actual events are entirely coincidental. The author acknowledges the trademark status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
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I know what you’re thinking. Why a series of novellas? Why the hell would Skyla Madi write a series of novellas? Well, let me answer that for you right here at the beginning of the book rather than at the end or in a blog post. On January 29
(give or take) I am having a baby. Yay! We’re all very excited here in the Madi household, but unfortunately, it’s not good news for everybody. As you know, or don’t know, newborn babies are hard work and this fresh little bundle of joy will take up most of my time and all of my energy—not to mention my four-year-old daughter, who needs mummy time too.
I don’t want to say it (and the thought of having to kills me), but my writing will suffer and I feel it’s a safe move to write a small series until I’m able to establish a proper routine. There is no ulterior motive to my decision. I’m not trying to earn money by working less than any other author does, that I can assure you. I did my best to keep my readers happy in the nine months leading up to my baby’s birth. I wrote Forever Consumed, The O Intention, The Unfortunates and Slammed but now it’s time to slow it down a little bit. When I’m comfortable, expect many more full-length novels from me. ♥
PRONUNCIATION OF THE NAME JAI
Jai = Jye
It rhymes with pie.
The First Mistake
The lights in the train car flicker as we pass through another tunnel. I let it pull my attention from my e-book on nursing etiquette and I glance around the train. I hadn’t noticed how many people have gotten off since I first stepped on. The once full car is now empty leaving only me, a snoozing old lady and a hooded,
broad-shouldered man with
his back turned. I guess we’re all from the same part of town. Poor bastards … and I mean that in every sense of the term. We’ve long since passed both upper and middle New York. From here on out, luxury isn’t a word anyone knows.
As we exit a tunnel, the lights above me stabilize and I let my attention float out the window. Masses of colors and shapes blur past. I’ve always liked graffiti, or at least the pretty kind. Nothing brightens your day quite like a good painting of an animal in a hoodie telling the government to go fuck itself. It’s nice to see the constant shades of gray, black and white broken up by a rebellious streak of color. Even when it’s dark like this, at one a.m., it’s nice to have something stand out in what feels like a never-ending blackness.
I return my attention back to my book and read the words on the screen. I try to become intrigued even though I’ve lost my place. I haven’t been a student nurse for long. I’ve learnt enough to know how to dress a wound and insert a cannula, but that’s the extent of it. I spend most of my time watching other nurses, learning as much as I can through them, not with my head stuck in books. I’ve never been good with reading. It never sticks and, as a result of that, I now spend every minute of my life outside of the hospital studying for the exam in three weeks. I’m a hands-on kind of girl, one who chose nursing as a career not only to help people, but for the thrill of not knowing what’s going to come through the door each second. I crave suspense and the unknown. I live off the flurry of excitement and nervousness that comes with surprise.
Strangely, my skin prickles
at the thought
, like it knows something I don’t, and a loose tendril of excitement twists around my spine. Subtly, I shiver and relish in the feeling, until the random bout of excitement disintegrates and I feel nothing once more.
A crackly voice blares through the speakers announcing my stop, but I don’t need anyone to remind me where I live. I’m aware of it—hyperaware. I couldn’t forget, even if I wanted to.
I reach for the large, brown bag at my feet and pull on the strap, slinging it around my neck and adjusting it between my breasts. It’s heavy and my spine complains as it takes on the weight. Ignoring it, I fumble with my tablet, closing the flap on its screen before the train has arrived at the platform. As the brakes screech and the sound of the slowing wheels becomes more prominent, I move from my seat and into the aisle. I keep my eyes downcast
to my black runners
mentally ticking off my checklist,
making sure I’ve got
I grip the pole in the middle and wait patiently as the screeching sound of train brakes echoes through my carriage. The vibrations seize my shoes and tingle up my legs, like a million tiny spiders, as metal clings desperately to metal in a desperate attempt to get the train to stop. Eventually, it slows before finally grinding to a halt. I feel a large body move into the space beside me, but I don’t bother to lift my eyes. Living in this part of the city, I’ve learnt to keep to my own. Something as simple as a glance in the wrong direction can get you in trouble, and trouble is the last thing I need at this time of night.
Two distinct dings chime through the train car and a recording of a robotic woman thanks us and reminds us to watch our step. I linger for a few seconds before the doors pull open with a groan. I move forward before they fully open, and conveniently, so does the stranger beside me. What the fuck happened to common courtesy? Ladies before gentlemen?
With a squeak, I bounce off of the man’s large frame and into the edge of the door. The door shudders as I collide with it and I curse as the tablet I clench in my left hand slips from my grasp and crashes to the dirty, concrete floor, along with my stomach. I stumble forward in an attempt to regain my balance and I manage to, but the cracked screen of my tablet is long gone. Irredeemable. And I don’t have the goddamn money to fix it.
I look up at the man in the black hoodie with the broad shoulders. He keeps walking, his shoulders square and his head down, his backpack slung casually over one shoulder.
“Hey!” I shout after him, but he doesn’t turn around.
I scoop up my tablet and clasp it against my chest. I look east, in the direction of my home, but the rude stranger heads west. Common sense tells me to forget about it, to not follow the large stranger into the shadows, but my empty, moth-eaten wallet demands he replace what he broke. My hunger and hardship team with my pride. There’s no way common sense has a chance. It’s stupid to risk my life for money, but these are dark times and money is the only thing keeping me from throwing myself off the Brooklyn Bridge.
Behind me, the doors of the train close and I hear the brakes release the tracks. Despite my better judgment, I march in direction of the stranger, leaving my sanity and an empty train behind me.
* * * *
I hate the taste of it. Even so, I let the metallic tang trickle over my taste buds. A fresh bout of fear flares through my system and I bite down on the inside of my lower lip to keep my body from trembling violently. I follow the man in the hood down a dark alley and into a former industrial area. Rundown warehouses and abandoned machinery litter the space, all of it forgotten by the ever-modernizing world. I purse my lips, worried the rapid sound of my terrified heart will escape through my mouth and awaken whoever and whatever is hiding in the rusted corners of the wasteland. Right now, the tall man who smashed my tablet isn’t my biggest concern. Spiders and tetanus, however … I shudder.
I’ve called out to the stranger a hundred times, but he doesn’t react. I’d thought he was being ignorant until he’d plucked an iPod from the pocket of his hood and scrolled briefly before stuffing it back in.
He can’t hear me.
Heavy, gray clouds block the glow of the moon and a cold thread of regret slithers down my spine as I follow him further into the dim, industrial abyss. Tall, steel and beaten warehouses tower over us, but the stranger doesn’t glance around him, not even once. It seems he’s comfortable here, much more comfortable than I am. Then again, if I were a man of his size there’d be little I’d be scared of too. A lot of words come to mind when I look at him, but prey is definitely not one of them.
He walks without a care, as if he were going for a casual midnight stroll, but his wide shoulders are held with purpose and determination. His shoes, an expensive pair of thick, white sneakers, barely scuff against the crunchy rubble under his feet. I, however, make no attempt to quieten my steps. Under my worn, black sneakers rocks crumble and small pieces of tin, metal and glass all grind against each other.