Read Changeling Winds: Episode Two (The Bachelor Battles Book 2) Online

Authors: Angela White

Tags: #futuristic love story, #apocalyptic romance, #angela white, #action romance, #Fantasy Series, #romantic horror, #apocalypse rebellion

Changeling Winds: Episode Two (The Bachelor Battles Book 2)

Who's ready to play? Are ya? Are ya really?

 

Dear Reader,

This second edition has new content (650 pages worth!) and professional edits. As I rewrote, it grew into a wonderful tale... However, t
his book is very graphic and contains material that made
me
blush as I wrote it. If you’re offended by out-of-the-norm sexual situations and multiple instances of violence, this will NOT be a good experience for you. Please do not come back later and post a bad review for it. You’ve already been warned.

Now that we’ve gotten to know each other a bit, please allow me to take you on a trip through a world none of us have ever known. Try to imagine…

 

500 Years into the future, nine of every ten babies conceived are female. Men have been enslaved for their own protection and the only way to get a mate is to enter the Network Games and fight for one.
The catch?
It's a live battle to the death and the competition is fierce.

Who's ready to play? Are ya? Are ya really?

 

Episode Two:

Changeling Winds

Watch Trailer

*
If you have not read episode one,
flipping to the very back for the 5 Stages of the Change and the history of the Network is recommended.

 

The Bachelor Battles

Episode Two

Changeling Winds

 

 

By Angela White

Edited by Kim Fillmore

Second Edition © 2012

 

Angela White © 2011

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. Standard Copyright laws apply.

Made in the United States.

Let's meet the players...

 

 

“…Angelica Eve Pruett. A member of those merciless Bounty Hunters, this fast-burning Changeling resides in the Ohio Valley Recovery Zone, where she helps to clear the old roads. Following in her brutal cousin's footsteps, she seeks what can only be had here, at the Network Games - a mate. Rank:
9/15
.

“Kim Lee. Longing for a legal family, this Frogtown warrior knows a win will gain her the breeding pass she was denied by the baby registry for being under the 5'5" limit. This wild teenager finished first at the time trials and is ranked
1/15
.

“The Bush Sisters.
Sworn to secrecy as a condition of the Care Campaign, rumors suggest the wealthy starlets from Bangor have fallen on hard times due to unpaid taxes and criminal misconduct charges. If one of them wins, their family will no longer be in Network disgrace. Their ranks:
 
Chelsea:
3/15
. Emily:
6/15
.
 
Danielle:
8/15
.

“And just what are they fighting for?

“Their choice of lot #21207 - fifteen perfectly trained bachelors, all secretly longing for an escape from the Network.

 
“Who's Ready to Play?”

Prologue

 

1

“How far into the Borderlands did Baker get?”

“Almost ten miles, holed-up in a cave. The storms are bad right now, and they can’t move.”

“You’ll try to slip in between the squalls?”

“Yes. We’ll secure and wait. The storm season will be over in a week or so.”

“How many of them did he lose?”

“It doesn’t say. Sam found the message in the abandoned train they hijacked.”

I listened to the conversation between my cousin Candice and her mother without letting them know I was awake. Around us, the apocalyptic darkness was full of death and danger… like my heart.

“Will Sam help us get Baker and his group to the Safe Zone? She’s the best escort they could have.”

“She said there’s a family matter to be cleared up first. She’ll be here around noon. She headed for us two days ago.”

I heard Candice groan. It mirrored my own silent noise of misery. Sam knew I’d signed up for the Games. Little else would get my sister to delay the challenge of escorting fifty rebel males through the lethal land she spent most of her time in.

“She knows.”

“Yes.”

“How?”

“The Network scheduled Angelica’s episode and announced it live two days ago, complete with new amendments to the rules. She has to report to the time trials immediately.”

There was a stunned silence where I could sense them rearranging our plans and worrying, but all I could feel was relief. A week from now, I would be in New Network City, battling to the death. Finally, a place to put all this hatred! I’d been dreading the normal wait it took to be scheduled - a year in the rebel safe zone around those timid, tempting men. All 500 of them…

400
, I amended, still feeling the slashing burn of their deaths.
 
We’d lost a large cut in Stone Mountain - beautiful, skilled, enslaved males whose murders hadn’t been avenged. We couldn’t strike the Network openly, we weren’t ready for that yet, but the real war had finally started. As a Pruett, I was relieved.

“Sam wants to make sure she sees her… just in case,” Mary offered lowly.

My cousin Candice knew our nature so much better than her mother. It was the reason she was in the lead and that sharp intelligence showed in her answer.

“More likely, she wants to escort and cheer from the stands. You know how Sam is.”

I certainly did. My sister wouldn’t like my choice, but she would understand. Sam was the wildest Pruett in the family. Watching her go through an episode would be a real thrill.

“So, the Network has succeeded in splitting us up,” Mary stated ominously. “It gives them the advantage.”

“They’ve always had it,” Candice responded with her usual no-nonsense tones. “Sam will escort her, we’ll go help Baker hide til its over.”

“Whatever you think is best.”

Despite Mary having the legal authority, Candice had ruled our family since she was only fourteen and she’d done a good job. Whatever she chose to do, the rest of us would obey.

“We’ll cover it when she wakes up. No need to ruin a last night’s sleep.”

I thought about rolling over and telling them I hadn’t been to sleep yet, or even trying to frighten Candice like I used to when we were kids, but I didn’t. She was already worried. So was I, but for different reasons. She didn’t want to lose her new mate, or the very special males we were risking everything to help. I didn’t want to lose myself.

The Change had swept me away like it had nearly every other teenage female in the world, but I was burning faster than the rest of my friends and family. Candice had been close to this heat before she won her mate back from the Network, and she’d told me what slowed it down, but I couldn’t. I would never rent a male or have one around just to provide a service when I called. If I did that, I’d lose my chance at a real cure, because I’d never leave his arms long enough to search for a match. It would be hard for me to give up any form of relief from this torment once I experienced it, and I was wise enough to know that.

Due to the lack of males births, my Changeling body was instinctively demanding a mate, was being driven ruthlessly to continue our species. There was no other way I could stop the rages that had come with puberty and would leave with death. The years between would be an agony
of burning under the skin and blood behind the eyes as the disease progressed through the four common levels.
The Changeling Winds had come, twisting me into someone I hardly knew. I would never be the old Angelica again, even if I used that Pruett ruthlessness and took what I needed.
A service might slow the progression, but it wouldn’t stop it. Eventually, I would Burn-out or up.

Mary, Candice’s mother, was a frightening example of Burn-out. My aunt was so happy with her male, so in love, that she had no fire left. The only time she got riled was when he was in danger. If not for the family reputation and the protection Candice now made sure we all got, Mary would have been killed long ago and her mate stolen. That was the most common form of finding relief from this hell. Stealing a man wasn’t a crime in our world, only killing one.

Both were fates that I abhorred. I couldn’t stand the thought of winning one of those timid, cringing males for myself and retraining him, freeing him to live beside me as an equal… then not be able to defend him, or worse, snap and kill him by accident. It was awful how the sight of blood, the feel of it, could send the rage down a notch. Every time I took a life, my control grew.

That was the method my sister used to battle hers into submission, why she stayed in the lawless Borderlands. My family had their ways to maintain that
iron Pruett
control, but they were still burning. In time,
stage three or four
would claim them. They’d chosen to accept what relief they could find until it happened, but I’d sworn none of those would be my fate.

Remission
.
The thought of it made me careful, terrified. The fifth stage of the Change was one few of us found. Remission had occurred 12 times in our history when two compatible, willing partners came together. It didn’t sound that hard, but
willing
… males were slaves. They did what they were told and most Changelings did exactly as my family - took relief where it was found.

I was determined to be stronger… but this fire! Because I denied my body the contact it craved, I was burning faster. I was one of the ones who usually snapped and ended up slaughtering someone for their mate. I could feel that evil part of me and it was growing faster than my control. It wanted blood.

To keep from spilling it out here, I’d signed up to do it in the legal confines of the Network’s complex. It would give me a male of my own and a possible chance at remission if I could spot a brave bachelor - something I doubted existed - but it was mostly to satisfy the endless need and buy time.

At the Bachelor Battles, I was required to spill blood. I was praying it would knock the fire back long enough for me to get to know the mate I chose, so he would come to me
willingly
. Because of the need for a bond, I was afraid of the time we would spend alone together. I didn’t have Candy’s iron control, and I couldn’t wait for the bloody battles to start, so that I could build a tolerance.

It was hard to remember how happy I’d been before the Change. A part of who I was had begun to fade, so many memories, habits, pleasures. Nothing was the same. I loathed the Network and I wanted Baker’s enslaved males freed, but I wasn’t really sure of my place in the rebellion yet. It was the fire that I sought to ease by fighting to the death - live - on wall-screens across our world.

“What type of amendments?”

I’d almost forgotten Mary and Candice were talking, it had been so long since once of them spoke. I wasn’t the only one deep in thought.

“More contestants, no limit on visits with the bachelors as long as she wins and doesn’t give mercy…”

“Mercy?”

“They’ve added a withdraw rope. She can back out of two matches.”

“She won’t, and I pity the one who tries it in the cage with her.”

“I know she’s burning hotter, but are you sure?”

“Yes. Angel will get her own mate now, and their rule changes won’t make a difference.”

“The broadcast said the amendments had been in the works, but I think we both know why.”

“They don’t want her to survive.”

I agreed, but I couldn’t stand the thought of my family worrying over it and I rolled over, shrugging off the chills I’d gotten thinking about unlimited visits with the bachelors. The Network had sweetened the honey-pot. “I think they’re just shoring up chances of success, like we do.”

They both turned in surprise, drawing attention from our guards. Bruce and Daniel were standing watch over the small campsite, but they weren’t as sharp as a Changeling and there was usually someone awake while they pulled their weight.

“They’re covering both ends. Make it hard and maybe kill-off another troublesome Pruett, or follow me straight to the rebels.”

“How can you know that?”

It was Candice I answered, but my mind was seeing those dead males, remembering how full of life they’d been. “Because it’s what I would do. They killed a hundred with your episode. Why fix what’s not broken?”

“They’ll use the same tactics…”

“Yes. We’ll play it like we don’t know.”

 
“And while you’re inside?” Candice asked with a frown that drew Daniel to hover at her side.

I didn’t hesitate or bother to warn them that I’d be using my own rules. I said the only thing that mattered.

“I’ll act it like what I am - a Pruett.”

 

2

“And the final contestant is...
Angelica Eve Pruett!”

The screen blared static in the dawn’s ugly light and the camera paned out to show a menacing, stocky teenager standing in front of a wide-wheeled bike made for rough terrain. It was clear from the battle scars and hard expression that she had prepared to handle what was coming.

The voice faded to a mutter not meant for the wildly cheering audience.
“Is that the same…

A short pause.

“Wow, folks, it looks like this episode will feature another twist. Not one celebrity family, but two! That last contestant is a cousin to the infamous Candice Pruett, who I'm sure you all remember so well from last month’s brutal battles.”

Outside the Network dome, the battling mob is almost loud enough to drown out the next fade and mutter.

“Is she a Changeling, too?”

Another pause… fingers typing.

“Oh, wow, folks! This is
gonna
be good. Angel is a Level One Changeling!”

 
“Strike one.” I growled, as the audience roared their approval from the view-screen that we gathered around. The reporter called me Angel. I’d have to see if I could do something about that while I was there.

I snapped off the tiny viewer with a nasty smirk and straddled the packed Mopar. On either side of me, my sister and her crew of hard Borderlands Runners did the same. Seconds later we were flying toward the Time Trials, and my future, at full speed. I’d never felt more alive.

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