Home > Day Zero (The Arcana Chronicles #3.5)(11)

Day Zero (The Arcana Chronicles #3.5)(11)
Author: Kresley Cole

I’d earned my nickname of Richter—because I put players into the boards with the force of an earthquake. Good thing, too. How else was I gonna show the scouts what I was capable of? Fight? Whenever I tore off my gloves and yelled, “You wanna go?” more and more players skated away. Eight was from the States, must not have heard to steer clear of me. Most of the others had. Hell, I thought I’d even dated Twenty’s sister.

Yeah, I remembered now. She was a crier.

I glanced at my older brother. Brody was at the edge of the rink, leaning heavily on his cane. He was still a badass, even though he couldn’t skate anymore, could barely walk.

Because of me.

At fourteen, I’d gotten hauled in for questioning (the bitch thought she could “change her mind” after teasing me all night?), and he’d come to bail me out. On the way home—wham!

Car crash.

In seconds, he’d gone from star player to cripple. Then later to my agent and coach. Weeks after the accident, he’d told me, “You’re quick, you’re still growing, and you’re mean. By the time I’m done with you, you’ll fly over the ice. You’ll be big as a tank. Nobody’ll be more vicious. The perfect grinder.”

His coaching technique? Pain. Lots of it. Every time I fucked up.

At first I was so slow and stupid he had to use his cane on me every day. Now only a couple of times a week. . . .

Number Eight didn’t move as they wheeled his stretcher away, didn’t even give a feeble wave to the crowd so they could cheer.

I shared a look with Brody, not quite a smile. His beefy face was just like mine, a face that turned ugly when he smiled. He’d noticed the scouts’ interest too. It was all happening according to his plan: Red Wings before I turned eighteen, then Stanley Cup by twenty.

I mouthed to him, I told you so. He’d been thinking those new accusations would follow me to Vancouver, had been worrying for no reason.

Nothing could touch me!

I glanced at the game clock, and got a spike of adrenaline. Three . . . two . . . one . . .

Back on the ice. Puck in play.

Number Twenty was giving me looks like he wanted to dance. At the thought, my body got hot, my skin flushed. This was what I loved! He was coming right at me. Bring it on, you little bitch!

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Number Thirty too late. Double-teaming me—

WHAM. As hard as the car wreck . . .

Next time I opened my eyes, I saw the roof of the stadium. Couldn’t breathe! I was laid out on the ice, gliding across the surface like a puck. Needed air! I was never on the ice.

They were laughing. Twenty skated closer, skidding inches from my head to spray my face with ice shavings. “That’s for my sister, you sick fuck.”

I needed to pummel their faces to meat! To goddamn meat! Breathe, Richter! Why couldn’t I move? My vision was going blurry, my body fever-hot. My fists felt like they were burning!

I got the weird sensation that I was sinking. Was the rink . . . melting? Surely I was unconscious, and this was a dream.

People started screaming. Players tried to run/skate off the thawing rink. There was no more smooth ice, just slush and sand. My head lolled to one side, and I saw my right hand. The glove looked like goop, like soup spilled on my knuckles. Melted too? Impossible.

Suddenly light flared through the stadium roof; outside the night was . . . day? Was I dying? Going to the light? I’d dreamed of hellfire for so long, there was no way I was going up.

More screams. That meant everyone else was seeing this! Where was Brody?

Fire rained down, flames landing all around me, on me. They didn’t burn. Felt . . . good. My lids went heavy.

No! I had to get up. I needed to get to my brother! I struggled to rise. The world seemed to tilt.

My eyes rolled back in my head, and my mind went under. . . .

When I came to, I couldn’t see shit. How long had I been out? I rubbed my eyes. Wait, where were my helmet and gloves? My pads and jersey? I slowly sat up. As my vision cleared, I saw black char marks all over my buck-naked body, but no burns. I gazed around. My brain refused to compute this sight.

The stadium was gone; only the metal skeleton that used to be the bleachers and a ring of steel girders were left. Farther out was a parking lot full of scorched cars. Tires smoked.

All around me were weird piles of ash. I made it to my bare feet. Where the hell were my skates? I blinked down at a pair of blades. My skates had . . . burned away.

Where the hell was Brody???

I lumbered toward the bleachers. I was sore, the way I got if I didn’t practice for a couple of days. Damn it, how long had I been out?

I passed an ash pile. Skate blades jutted from the bottom. Was that . . . a player? I saw another pile, and another, all with blades. Somehow their bodies had burned to ash. We must’ve been bombed by terrorists or something!

How had I survived? Why had I liked the fires hitting me?

“Brody!” I yelled. Silence.

I ran toward the spot where he’d been standing, hoping to see footprints in the ash. Instead, I found the golden end of his wooden cane, as well as the surgical implant they’d put in his knee. I shuffled the ash, uncovering the titanium rod that had been attached to his spine.

This is my brother. Brody was dead.

Rage like I’d never known exploded inside me, the need to kill—

The ground ruptured between my feet. I yelled, lunging to one side. When the crevice yawned wider, I took off in a sprint toward the parking lot, running full speed between scorched cars. But the opening kept growing, the edge right at my goddamned heels, like it was chasing me! Cars toppled down; ash swirled in the air till I could barely see, barely breathe.

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