Home > Enemies in Ruin

Enemies in Ruin
Author: Vi Carter








Five souls.

That’s what the Pits demand of each fighter. I’m about to deliver my fifth life to the beast. That’s how I see the Pits—as a living, breathing thing, a beast that feeds off the blood that’s spilled across the concrete floor. Once I do this, I’ll have my freedom.

The roars are electrifying. I’ve stood in this caged ring five times now, but the screams of the men never cease to set every nerve ending on edge. My body transforms along with my mind. I am no longer a man. I’m not bones and flesh. I’m something darker. I become the beast. I’m part of the Pits now. I’m part of this underground fight club that belongs to the Mafia.

The fingers of the spectators dig into the cage, and they rattle it as we wait for my opponent. I walk in a slow circle, my bare feet dragging the freshly poured white sand with them. I tighten my fingers as another wave of electricity rolls across my bare shoulders.

Anticipation has me roaring at the gate as I wait for the next dead man walking to enter.

My shout sends a wave of thirst across the audience. They thirst for blood, and my roar bounces back to me, hundreds of men strong.

I’ve been avoiding glancing any higher than the men who cling to the cage, still high on adrenaline from the previous fight and the anticipation of this one, but my gaze travels up to the box that hangs over the crowd. Inside the box are five red armchairs, each one filled with a powerful man from one of the Five Famiglias who make up the leading Mafia clans in New York. One of them is my father. When our gazes clash, he gives a slight nod.

I fucking hate him.

I look to his left and am met by the grinning face of the Bratva Romanov head, who caused all this by jabbing at my father.

Pussy won’t survive the Pits. Not one fight, let alone five.

His own son, Ivan, had already fought his five and emerged victorious. In a moment of pure stupidity, my father sentenced me to the Pits. Sentenced his son to the belly of the beast, all in the name of his ego.

I focus on the white sand and jerk my neck from side to side. The lights dim, and every hair on my body rises. This is it. One last fight, and I have my freedom.

I exhale a long breath that expels the last of any lingering fear and find my stance. The sounds disappear from my hearing like a switch has been flipped. Men rattle silent bars, their mouths open in roars that get swallowed up before reaching me.

My breath—that’s all I hear. One long dragged-in lungful of air before I release it through my nostrils. I focus on the gate, which opens. I see the shadow of a man; he’s not as big as I am. I know that isn’t a given, but it’s a plus that I can use to my advantage. I flex my fingers before letting my arms dangle at my sides. I have the urge to bounce on my feet, a vicious grin ready to steal the grim look from my face.

And then I see him.

Recognize him.

Know him.

Sound crashes back with the impact of an explosion, and I stumble back as the man in front of me becomes fully visible. A cold shower of dread, fear, and shock consume me as I look into Francis’s terrified eyes.

I blink several times, trying to make him disappear, but he’s still standing in front of me. The gate slams shut behind him, locking him in with me. It’s the sound of death. The roars for blood rock my body, and I snap my head toward the VIP box. My father’s face gives nothing away, but as I glance at the Bratva leader, he grins, revealing a glint of gold with his front tooth.

“Francis.” Sand billows around my feet as I rush to my best friend, who’s closer to me than even a brother. He’s the Scarpetta family’s youngest—Carina’s twin. We’ve all been friends since we were children, drawn together by virtue of similar heritage and family expectations.

“I had no choice.” His green gaze gnaws at me. His tongue flicks out and licks at the dried blood on his lips. His breathing is erratic. For most men who enter the cage, it’s the adrenaline that causes it. With Francis, it is fear.

He knows my reputation.

Static crackles as the announcer moves between us and begins to speak. “On my left, we have the brave and foolish Francis Scarpetta, weighing in at one hundred and fifty-two pounds soaking wet.” The crowd boos, the sound deafening, and Francis looks miserable.

“Francis! You have to fucking leave, man! You can’t fucking be here—“

“And on my right, we have our current champion, Luca “Lucky” Marzano, weighing in at one hundred and eighty-eight pounds and with an absolutely vicious left hook. A brutal right hook, too. That’s right, folks, he’s ambidextrous, amd a lethal combination of grace and skill. Francis…good luck to you, young sir. Gentleman—“

“Francis…” I look at my friend, imploring.

He shakes his head. “I don’t have a choice.”

“The fight starts now. To. The. Death.”

Francis pulls away from me, startled as the announcer states the rules. I walk back up to Francis as he spins in something like confusion, taking in the savage screams of the crowd around us.

“What did you do?” I shout at him.

He can’t really be fucking here. This isn’t happening.

Something close to tears fills my best friend’s eyes. “I didn’t do anything.”

I’m shaking my head. We have to stop this. Even as I think about it, I know that’s not possible. Only one man ever leaves the Pits. I’ve never heard of a fight being stopped while two people still breathe the same air.

“I’m sorry,” Francis says, and I have no idea why until he rushes me and lands a solid punch into my jaw.

Pain and shock send me rolling to the ground. Sand and sound rise as my back collides with the pit floor; the sand is no cushion against the concrete below the thin surface.

Francis opens his mouth and lets out a battle cry but doesn’t charge. I’m watching him lose his mind with what he must do—with what we must do. Only one of us is leaving this cage.

I stand against my better judgment and turn to my father. I know everyone is watching, but I can’t do this.

“Please,” I mouth.

A body collides with my side, and I find myself eating a mouthful of sand. Francis’s fists pound into my skull in a rage I never thought he could possibly achieve. This is Francis, my cool, chilled-out friend who makes me drink more than I can handle, who makes me laugh though I’ve spent most of my life in misery. He’s my anchor to sanity, and now he’s unleashing hell on me.

The roar of the crowd turns to chanting. They are chanting my name. They want me to get up. They want me to spill his blood.

“Make it quick.” It’s a whimper on a plea that’s brushed against my earlobe.

I almost wonder if I really heard it as Francis’s fists slam into my ear, and the sound around me turns into one high-pitched, buzzing note. I’m climbing to my feet, clinging to the cage as my balance is completely thrown.

Francis’s wild green eyes are screaming at me, and even through the pain and disorientation, I shake my head. I can’t kill my best friend.

He charges, and my back slams into the cage. Greedy hands touch my bare flesh from the crowd behind us.

“End it,” Francis roars, no longer hiding what he wants me to do.

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