“La-dies and gen-tle-men.” The three words of Hank’s welcome rang out over five full seconds.
Nori searched the crowd and, sure enough, several women had come out of the woodwork to watch the fights.
“Tonight’s final bout is a title match for the current heavyweight champion,” Hank said. “The Killer from Canyon City, a rebel you don’t want to reckon with, Rennnnn-egade.”
The fighter’s name, which Hank had called like revving a motorcycle engine, produced cheers and whistles across the Pit. Hundreds of people she’d never seen stood from their folding chairs, fists in the air. Some held dark-colored beer that sloshed over the sides of their cups onto the floor. Nori growled low in her throat—she’d be the one cleaning it up later.
“Challenging for the title of heavyweight champ: the fighting pride of Trogtown, a giant of a man, the quickest, the deadliest ever made, Kaaaaade.”
Kade was obviously the hometown boy. Shouts and stomps shook chunks of earth from the rafters, and from the top of the Pit, Nori screamed support for her friend. She was the loudest of them all.
When she finally lowered her fists, emotions high and throat sore, she found Hank looking pointedly between her and two chairs near Kade’s corner.
“Me?” she mouthed.
Nori made her way down the steps to the bottom of the Pit and approached Kade’s corner as if she knew what she was doing. As if she wasn’t a girl who, last week, was desperate for even one friend. Nori strutted to the chair and, head high and back straight, started to take a seat.
Kade, inside the ring, waved her over. She cleared her throat and rushed to him.
The man she knew to be a gentle giant looked dangerous as hell. Greased to a high sheen, his massive muscles bulged and glinted in the overhead lights. Her friend wasn’t wearing the face she knew. Kade’s kind and handsome face was replaced with one of focused, evil menace.
“‘Deadliest ever made,’ huh?” She snickered, despite the three-hundred-pound pit fighter before her.
Kade’s face maintained its intimating glower. “Hank’s idea.”
“Not to get killed.”
“Oh, you got this,” she said, clenching her jaw with the force of her confidence. “Renegade,” she scoffed in an attempt to calm her friend, whose eyes had gone wild again. “Where’d he get those shorts, anyway? Ladies’ lingerie? I’ve seen thongs with more fabric.”
Kade’s eyes were the only thing on his face that changed, the bulging whites of them lessening as he calmed down.
“Remember your training,” Hank squawked behind her. “Jabs and leg kicks. Wear him down first.”
Kade nodded and thumped his gloves together.
As Hank pulled her away, the bell to signal the first round expected any second, Nori put every ounce of encouragement she had into her face. “Let’s do this,” she said.
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