Helios Andreadis is the aloof president of Áf̱xi̱si, an ordinary college org during the day and an underground bike racing club at night. Áf̱xi̱si̱ means ‘rise’ in Greek, symbolizing the cornerstone in which all the club’s rules were founded on. Every member of the club had his own story to tell, his own tragedy to overcome, and a self-made cage to break free from.
The younger son of a famous Greek politician from an adulterous affair, Helios had migrated to the United States in hopes of putting to rest his older brother’s jealousy. Past betrayals had taught him to be hard and unfeeling, but his heartless ways would soon be put to the test when a shy, stubborn girl literally skidded into his life like some backup dancer auditioning for the King of Pop.
Her name was MJ Cartwright. She wanted to apply as the club’s official photographer, but any job would really do since as it turned out, all she wanted was to be close to one of Áf̱xi̱si’s daredevil drivers. That man was her secret crush and the more time Helios spent with MJ, the more he wanted to kill that man, whoever he may be.
Helios was determined not to let MJ’s secret crush take her away, but neither was he ready to put a name to his feelings. To do so would make him vulnerable, and that he would never allow to happen, not even if it meant having to hurt MJ instead.
The trick to lying flat on the ground was to relax. Too tense could get you killed. If your back was too straight, that wasn’t any good either. You’d be creating this tiniest amount of space between your spine and the floor. That space could be your COD if you had a drunk dad like mine. A former bike racer, my dad liked to perform stunts in our yard. One of his favorites was to run over me while I was lying on the ground. Shows off my perfect control, he liked to say in his usually slurred voice.
Another trick was to cut your hair short, like I did. Sometimes, that one strand of hair could get tangled in the wheels. It happened to me when I was thirteen. That was the first year James took it upon himself to use me as a prop for his DIY motorcycle stunts. It was an epic fail and got me ten stitches below my hairline. I chopped my own hair after that. Good thing I did since a week later we were doing it again.
Finally, you needed duct tape.
“Where the fuck are you?” James roared from the garage.
“Coming,” I shouted back. My hands worked more quickly in wrapping the duct tape around my chest. My boobs barely existed, to be honest. But with stunts like this, even A-cups like mine were still suicidal. You had to be flat. Inhumanly flat.
Pulling my shirt down over my handiwork, I ran out of the garage. My dad was already on his bike, the engine running. The sound of it was enough to make goose bumps pop all over my skin.
“I’m not going to wait forever,” my dad snarled.
His voice caused me to stumble. The drawing on the ground, outlined in chalk, never failed to make me wince. That was where I was supposed to lie down.
Kneeling down, I said a quick prayer. If I die today, God, please let it be quick.
James gunned towards me, the roar of his old Harley Davidson making me scramble. He did say he wasn’t going to wait forever. Terror licked its way all over my body as I forced myself to relax on the ground. The sound of his motorcycle was so close. James was running circles all around me now, taunting me to move. If I did, that was when he’d fly over me.
Little boys made that sound all the time, and every time they did I wanted to cry.
“Ready?” James asked with a sneer and a laugh.
I didn’t speak. I knew if I did, he’d love to have the chance to cut my tongue with his bike.
I badly wanted to close my eyes but couldn’t — I always had this powerful fear that having the lids folded over my eyes took me one extra fraction of an inch closer to death.
So close now. Dear God, it was so close.
And then he was flying, so close that I could feel the air coming from the furious spin of his bike’s wheels as he soared over my body.
I wondered if that would really be the last sound I’d hear before I died.
It always took me forty-five minutes to stop throwing up.
No need for stitches today, but I did have a little discoloration on my cheek. James didn’t enjoy our father-daughter moments when there was no violence involved.
By the time I was done with my puke fest, the world had stopped spinning as well. The sound of a motorcycle whizzing past me had also stopped roaring in my ears. I pressed my hand to my chest, just to be sure I wasn’t suffering from PTSD. Shock, if left untreated, could get you killed.
A sigh of relief escaped me as I felt my heartbeat slowing down. My brain had finally accepted I wasn’t going to die. Not today at least.
Forcing myself on my feet, I grabbed my SLR from the table. It was my only prized possession. When I was looking through the lens of my camera, the world didn’t seem so bad or ugly. I liked the feeling of power it gave me. Adjust the brightness, sharpen the contrast, and find a unique angle – click. I had found a piece of world that was beautiful, and that moment would last forever.
Pressing my ear to the door, I listened for sounds of movement, any indication that James was still up. There was none. But I didn’t want to take my chances so I decided to use my other exit.
Jumping from a second-floor room window took guts when you had nothing to hold on to. But it wasn’t impossible. The first time got me a broken arm. The second time produced a twisted ankle. But nowadays, all I had were gashes, which were fine. I liked gashes. They kept me alive.
I landed awkwardly on my side. I checked myself for wounds and saw I had grazed my elbow. The tiny rip of skin started to bleed.
I lifted my camera and turned my elbow out even as I winced at the effort.
That should earn me another fifty.
I belatedly remembered the slap James gave me and, twisting my face to the side, I lifted my SLR in the air for several selfies. I hoped one of those got a good shot of the discoloration on my cheek. You wouldn’t believe how much money gore shots made me on the Internet. You just needed to find out where to sell them.
I checked my camera after. The shots were great. Like I said, I liked gashes. These little wounds got me my camera. One day, hopefully before my dad killed me, they could earn me my freedom.
About the Author
Marian Tee is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of steamy romantic comedies. She is Filipino-Chinese, has lived all her life in the Philippines, and is a frustrated mangaka. She is addicted to horror flicks, misses hip hop dancing, and loves all things Japanese.
Next Title to Watch Out For:
Greek Billionaire Series 5: Wedding A Greek Billionaire