Home > The Rebel King

The Rebel King
Author: Kennedy Ryan


“Tell me a story.

Make it a story of great distances, and starlight.”

—Robert Penn Warren, Tell Me a Story







I’m running.

Desert wind whistles past my ears and whips through my hair. My feet are feathers, light, quick, but my arms and legs are lead, the muscles aching and burning. The shouts, the encouragement of my tribe spur my spirit when I fear my body will fail.



The Apache word thumps in time with my heart and races through my veins as I run in the four directions.




I turn north but falter, coming to a halt when I see the beautiful woman standing solemnly among the cheering crowd. The wind lifts the dark hair from her shoulders, and her eyes fix on me.

“Mama?” The strangled whisper catches in my throat. I stumble toward her, the ceremony forgotten. The run abandoned. Tears roll over my cheeks, and my hands reach out. Beseeching. Begging for my mother’s touch just once.

The unique blend of her soap and shampoo and natural scent floats to me. Longing, desperate and sharp, spears through me with aching familiarity. I’m almost there, can almost touch her, but she points a finger over my shoulder. She points in the direction I have not yet run.


“Finish, Lennix,” she says, the words firm and unyielding.


Her lips tighten. Her eyes are slits. She is the fierce warrior who lives inside the gentle mother, and she shouts.


I jerk awake in complete darkness, startled, disoriented.

Panic rips my mouth open on a scream, and the sound shatters, falls around my ears. I can’t move my arms. Ropes bite into my skin, my wrists bound in front of me.

Oh, my God. Where am I? What’s happening?

I want to be strong, but a whimper dissolves on my lips.

“Lenny,” a voice says to my right.

I know that voice.

“Wall?” The word grates painfully inside my throat. “Is that you?”

“Yeah. Thank God you’re awake.”

“I can’t see,” I tell him, choking back tears.

“They put a bag on your head. On mine, too.”

I turn toward the sound of his voice, and coarse fabric brushes my cheek. A stale scent clogs my nostrils. I’m entombed in burlap and uncirculated air.

“Shit, Lenny,” Wallace says, relief and torture in his tone. “I thought he was gonna drop you.”

Drop me?

The memory rushes back up at me like the ground when you fall, inevitable and jarring. The horror of a masked madman dangling me over the side of a mountain. The feel of his fingers slipping around my throat. The sight of him straining and struggling to keep me aloft. The utter indifference in his eyes about whether I lived or died.

The images set my heart on fire in my chest, the burning, pounding muscle beating so fast my head starts spinning.

“How long have I been out?” I ask.

“I don’t know. They shot us up with something that put us out. I just woke a few minutes before you did.”

“So you have no idea how long we traveled? Where we could be?”


“Ahh, you’re awake,” a disembodied voice says, coming at me suddenly, an unforeseen intrusion into the darkness sheathing my eyes and ears. I hear the crunch of booted footsteps, sense a presence in front of me and tense, my muscles braced for a blow or a bullet. I have no idea which.

The bag is yanked off my head. We’re in some kind of cave, and the light flooding in from the opening, though dim, hurts my eyes. It’s just Wallace and me and the madman who brought us here. I squint up at him, masked as Abraham Lincoln, the grinning monster with wild blond curls who dangled me over the side of a mountain like an insect trapped between his fingers.

“I thought you could do with a nap while we traveled,” he says. “For your own comfort, of course.”

“What do you want with us?” Wallace asks, his bag removed, too.

“You’ve created something extraordinary, Dr. Murrow,” Abe says.

Wallace frowns. “Extraordinary? What do you mean?”

“Oh, don’t be modest.” Abe places the barrel of his rifle on the ground and leans his elbow on the butt. “You’ve made a thing of beauty in your lab, and there are many people who will pay a lot of money for it.”

“Wall, what’s he talking about?”

Wallace looks back to me, fear and horror dawning on his face, and shakes his head. “Oh God, Lenny. I’m so sorry I got you into this.”

“Into what? What the hell? What’s going on?”

“What’s going on, pretty lady,” Abe interjects, “is none of your damn business since it has nothing to do with you.”

“If it has nothing to do with me, then you won’t mind letting me go.”

His low chuckle rumbles, and interest flares in his eyes. “I like a little spirit in a woman.” His laugh dies abruptly. “But not that much. Keep it up and you’ll die even sooner than I’ve planned.”

“Planned?” Wallace echoes, his eyes wide, his brows bent.

“Oh, yes. Everything is planned,” Abe says pleasantly. “There’s actually no way for you to come out of this alive, lady, but you’ll go when I say you do.”

His words are a loaded gun, pointed to my head, waiting for the trigger to be pulled. I feel the pressure as surely as a barrel at my temple.

“But firrrrrrrst,” he says, eyes shining with anticipation, “let’s have some fun.”

He points the gun at us again. “Get up. It’s time for the show.”







I hate politics.

Politics and oil are two of my least favorite things. My brother is running for president, and my father is an oil baron, if we’re still using words like “baron.”

So fuck my life.

“Did you hear me, Maxim?” Kimba asks, seated across from me in my office. “This is important. Don’t think because it’s The View they’ll throw softballs. These ladies grill candidates.”

I swing my chair around to view DC through my office window, searching out the echoes of Parisienne architecture, ironic because two cities couldn’t be more different. “I’m not a candidate,” I remind her. “And O hasn’t even officially announced yet.”

“You’ll be a surrogate for the Democratic Party’s forerunner.” She leans forward, propping her elbows on my desk. “And you were just voted one of America’s most eligible bachelors. Use this appearance to build some goodwill for your brother. They’ll mention him.”

Would it be immature to stick a finger down my throat and vomit up my lunch? It wasn’t much. Avocado toast or some shit Jin Lei brought in. It would barely stain the carpet.

I’ve been voted one of America’s most eligible bachelors for several years running and have never gone on The View or even acknowledged this…dubious honor. But for Owen, Kimba’s making me do it. Should I decorate myself like a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, too? That’s only slightly less pomp and circumstance than this appearance on The View.

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