Amarah hadn’t known any other life. Since birth, she’d been raised in the best conditions to guarantee a healthy body and brain. She had a role to play. One she’d been born into.
She set her gaze to the transparent screen that projected out of the top of the treadmill she jogged on. It displayed a documentary about the twenty-first century, a time before she’d been born, and before the Immortal Matrix had been created. A world that no longer existed in the year 2217.
“Did you hear what happened to Claire and Brent?”
Amarah turned her head to the left to look at the girl who ran on the treadmill next to hers. She was the same age as Amarah. Instead of long, blonde hair like Amarah’s, Lucy had red, but they each had blue eyes. They wore the same clothes—dark gray form-fitting athletic pants and light gray tank tops. The boys in the room wore that outfit as well.
Lucy was a gossip, and could be relied on to know everything that happened in their pod. “No, I haven’t.”
“They were caught together after curfew. Doing the forbidden.” Lucy looked around before she whispered, “Kissing.”
Amarah scanned the room and noticed two treadmills were empty. That could only mean Brent and Claire were being punished. Not physically, since their handlers would do nothing to jeopardize the profit those two would bring in once they reached eighteen years of age.
Everyone in the fitness room was part of the donor class, or slave class as Amarah thought of it. They were of the same generation, all seventeen, almost eighteen, and were the donor half of the Immortal Matrix. Not that they had any choice about it.
Amarah shook her head. “They were foolish. They knew what the consequences would be if they were found out. It wasn’t worth the risk.”
Lucy chuckled. “Claire and Brent must have thought it was. They were always making lovey-dovey eyes at each other all the time. I’m sure the handlers noticed and waited for them to mess up so they could catch them.”
It was true. The pair’s closeness would have been noted by the handlers. Intimacy of any kind between donors was strictly forbidden. In their station, all aspects of their life were dictated to them. They had no choices, were never offered a chance to plan how they wanted to live as other people did. Especially, like the rich.
Amarah turned her gaze back to the documentary, which she didn’t really pay too close attention to. Lucy kept talking about Brent and Claire. Amarah was finished with that subject. What was done was done, and thinking about the pair wouldn’t change anything.
One of their handlers stepped into the room and went to stand in the front where everyone could see him. They had two handlers—a man and a woman. Their pod had fifty donors made up of twenty-five girls and twenty-five boys, the number and ratio was the same for each pod.
Cliff was Amarah’s pod’s male handler, and had been with them since their birth. Most handlers watched over two pods during their careers. This was Cliff’s first, and once all the donors reached the age of eighteen and were part of the Immortal Matrix, he’d start with a bunch of newborns again.
With a quick clearing of his throat, Cliff gained everyone’s attention before he spoke. “Please turn off your treadmills and gather in front of me.”
Amarah quickly did as requested, as did all the others in the room. In an orderly fashion and silently, they formed a two-row semi-circle around Cliff. His gaze briefly settled on each one of them.
“Very good,” he said. “There are two things I will speak to you about before you leave to your required exercise for the day.” He paused and looked at the entire group once more. “You’ll have noticed Claire and Brent have been removed from the pod. They broke the rules, and are being dealt with. They will not be returning. Since they will reach their eighteenth year in a few weeks, they have been put into the pool of come-of-age donors to be matched with recipients.”
Brent and Claire wouldn’t have a chance to be together—ever. Donors were watched more closely in the pool, and in the adult pods, than in the juvenile pods. Unsanctioned pregnancies were to be prevented at all costs. Donors had no choice when it came to reproducing, which was decided not by nature but by those higher up in the pharmaceutical corporation that owned them.
Amarah looked at the others as Cliff continued to speak, stressing how important it was to follow the rules. Her gaze landed on Dyre, a boy who would turn eighteen two days after she did. His brown hair was cut short, same as the rest of the boys. His green eyes were focused on their handler. As if he felt her staring, he flicked them in her direction for a brief second. They were friends, but in the last couple of months he’d been doing his best not to interact with her. She didn’t know why.
She focused back on their handler. Cliff wound down his speech, then dismissed them to continue with their scheduled timetable. He walked out of the room, and her pod spread out either continuing their cardio exercise or heading to the various weight-training machines.
Amarah went to the latter. She’d done the minimum of cardio that she needed to do for the day. She preferred the weight training. The pull and strain on her muscles somehow always settled her mind. Lately, she’d been thinking too much for her own good. It mostly had to do with her birthday looming so close. She’d be eighteen in two months. Her life would drastically change on that date.
After two hours of required exercise were completed, her pod went to the showers to wash the sweat away and change. The boys had their separate shower area from the girls, of course. They would come together again in the cafeteria to eat lunch, then it was off to the school room for lessons for the rest of the day.
In the shower room, Amarah headed to an empty stall. She stepped inside and closed the glass door behind her. After she toed off her runners, she stripped out of her sweaty clothes, then gathered them up. She pulled open the small door built into one wall and shoved them inside. With a whoosh, they dropped out of sight to be laundered.
Water at just the right temperature sprayed from the showerhead when she stepped under it. She closed her eyes and tipped back her head to wet her hair. Amarah took her time washing. Only there did it feel as if she were alone. Not that she really was, since there were others in stalls on either side of hers. The small, enclosed space just made her feel that way, so she enjoyed it.
After she finished washing, Amarah stepped out from under the stream of water, and it automatically turned off. A section of the ceiling opened directly above her, and a clear tube lowered to surround her completely. Warm air was pumped into it, drying her hair and body at the same time. The tube lifted, and a small door opened in the wall to reveal a set of clean clothes.
She pulled on the white bra and panties, then what she was required to wear during school hours and the rest of her day. The outfit consisted of the same style athletic pants she’d worn while exercising, except these were black, and a dark charcoal long-sleeved T-shirt. The boys would have donned the same outfit. The sexes weren’t allowed to dress differently.
Amarah slipped on her runners and then ran the provided brush through her hair before she exited the stall. She looked around to find she was the last to finish showering, as usual. Their female handler, Josie, waited for her.
The woman shook her head when her gaze landed on Amarah. “You really need to shorten your time inside the shower. Hurry up. The others have already left for the cafeteria.”
“Sorry,” Amarah said softly.
Josie gave her a smile. “I know you are. Go on now.”
Amarah walked past Josie without saying anything else. She hurried out of the shower room and headed for the cafeteria, which was the only communal section in the facility. Each pod had its own workout, shower, living, and sleeping areas.
Once there, she looked around the large, open space. There were rows upon rows of tables. All pods ate together, but were separated into two age groups—newborns to age twelve were kept to one side of the room while thirteen-year-olds to seventeen were on the other.
She walked to the table her pod occupied. The only available seat was next to Dyre, at the very end on one side. Amarah slipped onto the chair without looking at him. A plate with her meal had already been placed at her spot. A clear dome covered it, keeping the food warm. She touched the top of it, and it opened, sliding down to disappear beneath the surface of the tabletop.
Amarah picked up the fork beside her plate and speared a piece of grilled fish. All their meals were portion controlled, and the foods chosen were the most nutritious. It didn’t matter if they didn’t like certain things. They were required to eat everything they were given.
She took a quick look at Dyre to find him staring at her. “What?” she asked as she focused back on her food.
“Why are you always late from showering?”
“I just am.”
“Once you’re put into the adult pool, that won’t be tolerated. The rules are stricter.”
“I know that.” Amarah turned her head to settle her gaze on Dyre. She tightened her grip on her fork as she bit back the nasty remark that sat on her tongue. “Why do you care what I do? You haven’t exactly been talking to me lately.”
He jerked his head around until he looked forward, and his lips settled into a thin line. “I don’t care,” he said gruffly.
Amarah continued to eat, doing her best to not notice Dyre. She didn’t like being reminded that she’d soon turn eighteen unlike the others in her pod. She did not look forward to playing her part in the Immortal Matrix. If she was honest with herself, some of her shortness with Dyre came from the fact that he had chosen to ignore her. She missed his friendship. She didn’t make friends easily, and now that he’d distanced himself from her, she felt like an outsider.
She hurried to finish her meal at the same time the others did. As a group, they left the cafeteria. Their destination was the classroom where they would stay until the evening meal.
Amarah and her pod filed into the room. All took their designated seats at the two-person tables that were set up in rows. She normally was next to Claire, so today Amarah sat by herself.
The teacher, Ms. Blackhorn, entered the room and went to stand at the front of the class. She waited until she had everyone’s attention before she spoke.
“Before we start our lessons, I’m to discuss the Immortal Matrix with you,” Ms. Blackhorn said as she looked at all of them. “A new law was passed yesterday that states donors who are soon to enter the pool and adult pods must be better informed of what is expected of them. We have covered the important aspects of it already, but I’ll be going over that again with more details. Once I’m finished, you will be allowed to ask any questions you might have. Something else the new law has put into effect.”
Amarah sat straighter and glanced around the room. The others whispered to each other in excited, hushed tones. The only thing she felt was dread. She’d now have her doomed spelled out for her, giving her more information to picture what the rest of her life would be like.
Their teacher cleared her throat. “Enough.” She waited for everyone to quiet down. “As you know, donors are chosen from the pool to be matched with recipients, who get the say as to whom they want to be joined in the Immortal Matrix. Gender is linked to gender. Your recipient may be many, many years older than you, though they might not look as if they are. It will be your job to keep them like that. Through your link, you will keep your recipient’s body and mind in perfect health and young. You will do all the work to accomplish that, while they get the benefits as well as you. It’s what they pay for. If a linked female recipient chooses to become pregnant, her donor will be as well to keep her body’s chemistry the same. You have been informed of that before.”
That aspect of the Immortal Matrix Amarah hated the most. Once she was linked to a recipient, and that woman wanted a child, Amarah would be forced to carry a baby. The doctors at their facility would choose who the father of her infant would be from the adult pool by comparing her genes to his, wanting the best outcome. After she gave birth, her newborn would be taken from her and put into a pod to be raised by handlers, just as she’d been. She wouldn’t see the child again, and if she did once he or she grew up and entered the pool, she wouldn’t know him or her. Just as she had no idea who were her parents.
Ms. Blackhorn continued. “The recipient decides how many years they want to be linked to their current donor. Some like to change donors every ten years, while others stay with the same one until they deem the donor is too mature, then will look for a replacement. When a donor is no longer viable for the Immortal Matrix, he or she will be retired. You may now ask questions.”
Amarah looked around the room. None of the others appeared as if they would ask any, so she held up her hand. Ms. Blackhorn nodded in her direction for Amarah to speak.
“What happens when we’re retired?” she asked.
Her teacher smiled. “A good question, Amarah. Donors are sent to retirement facilities where they live out the rest of their lives.” Ms. Blackhorn glanced at the others. “Anyone else have any questions?”
Amarah stuck up her hand again. “How exactly are donors and recipients linked in the Immortal Matrix?” That was something they’d never been told.
Ms. Blackhorn gave her a long stare before she answered. “I’m not allowed to pass on that information. It is against company policy. You will have to wait to find out until it’s your turn to join the Immortal Matrix. Since no one else besides Amarah has questions, we’ll move on to our lessons for the day.”
That was that. Their teacher hadn’t really given them that much more detail about the Immortal Matrix than what they’d already been taught. The only thing really new had been what happened to donors after they were considered no longer viable. Amarah wished Ms. Blackhorn had gone into more detail about the retirement facilities.
She waved her hand over a small panel embedded in the table on her side of the table. There was a match to it for the other seat. Blue light glowed in front of her, and a see-through tablet formed. Amarah tapped the screen to the lesson the teacher instructed them to open. It was about science. She glanced at it briefly. It required them to work with a partner, which she didn’t have.
As if Ms. Blackhorn knew what Amarah had thought, she said, “Dyre, since you’re without a partner same as Amarah, you will join her at her table. That will be your seat from now until you leave the pod.”
Amarah turned her gaze to Dyre, who sat at the opposite side of the room, two rows down. He stood and silently walked to her, now their, table. She decided to make up for her rudeness during lunch by giving him a small smile as he slid into the chair beside her. They’d have to interact with each other like this for the next two months. There was no reason they shouldn’t be able to get along.
Dyre returned her smile before he activated his tabletop tablet. They looked toward the front of the room as Ms. Blackhorn explained what they would be doing for this lesson.
Once the teacher finished speaking, Dyre said, “I’ll get everything we need. You can start reading what we have to do.”
She nodded as Dyre stood and headed to the back of the room to the supply cupboards. Amarah opened the experiment they would be conducting. They’d be identifying different types of metals when they put them into a flame.
Dyre returned with an electric Bunsen burner, four different beakers, and a tray that held metal solutions and tongue depressors. He placed them on the middle of their table before he took his seat. Amarah read the first part of the experiment, then explained it to him. He set up the burner while she got everything else ready.
Amarah dipped one of the tongue depressors into the first beakers filled with a powdered metal compound. Dyre turned on the burner, and she placed the end of the depressor into the radiating heat until it caught fire. She only held it there long enough for the flame to change color, which would tell them the kind of metal that was in that particular beaker. They entered their findings on their tablets.
She prepared the second sample to test, and said, “I want to say sorry. I was a little short with you in the cafeteria.”
Dyre looked at her. “I shouldn’t have said anything about you showing up last. It wasn’t my place.”
“Don’t worry about it.” She paused. “Now that we’re sitting together, are you going to talk to me again?”
He sighed. “I did it for a reason.”
“We’ll be entering the pool soon. I thought it better if I did that without any ties to our pod.”
Amarah scowled. “Why? You do realize we could be placed in the same adult pod after we’re matched to a recipient.”
“I know that. It’s just something I felt I needed to do.” Dyre looked to the front of the class. “We’d better get back to working on the experiment. Ms. Blackhorn is watching us.”
Amarah held the second depressor in the radiating heat. Same as with the first, she and Dyre recorded their findings on their tablets. She glanced at the teacher to find her no longer staring in their direction.
They continued with the rest of experiment without talking, unless it was something to do with their work. Even that small amount of communication showed how much she’d actually missed interacting with him. Amarah spoke with the others in their pod, but she’d always been closer to Dyre.
The rest of the hours of class time passed with no change to the regular subjects they were taught. Amarah wasn’t really fond of school, but she gave it her best. Once she was put into the pool, and then an adult pod, being in a learning environment like this would be over. That was the only thing about turning eighteen she looked forward to.
After eating dinner in the cafeteria, she and the rest of the donors in her pod were confined to their quarters, which was their living space. Each pod had its own, and consisted of a main living area and two separate sections for sleeping quarters for the boys and one for the girls. Each evening was considered their free time. They could read, watch television, play games, or just interact with friends. It was all supervised by their handlers.
Amarah entered the main living area and sat in one of the armchairs at the back corner of the room where the TV was situated. She picked up the remote and pushed the button to have the large, see-through screen drop from the ceiling. She turned it on, then switched through the selection of approved shows they were allowed to watch. She chose one before she put down the remote.
A couple of her pod mates sat on the couch close to the armchair she occupied. Two girls quietly talked to each other. They ignored Amarah. She was fine with that. She was perfectly happy just to watch TV until it was time for them to go to bed.
Amarah vaguely noticed when the other girls got up and walked to another part of the room. She continued to watch the show until a shadow fell across her. She turned her head to find one of the boys standing next to the armchair. It was Randy. He was of average height and looks, with his brown hair and eyes. Usually, he ignored her unless he specifically had to interact with her in the classroom or training room. Randy was nothing like Dyer, whom she found easier to look at. His features were more appealing. That though gave her a slight pause. It wasn’t normal for her to think about Dyer like that.
“Hey, Amarah,” he said with a grin.
“Hey, Randy,” she hesitantly replied.
“What are you doing?”
“Just watching some television.”
“I see that. Maybe I’ll watch with you.”
She expected him to take a seat on the couch the girls had vacated, but Randy sat on the arm of her chair. Amarah shifted to the farther side from him and looked in Cliff’s and Josie’s directions. Neither one of the handlers seemed to have noticed what Randy had done. Usually when a boy was too close to a girl like that, Cliff or Josie was sure to separate them.
“Am I making you uncomfortable?” Randy asked with a chuckle.
“A little. You’d better move before Josie or Cliff sees you.”
He glanced toward their handlers. “Don’t worry about them. They aren’t paying attention to us. It’s not as if we’re doing anything, except watching TV.”
“Still, I think you should sit somewhere else.”
“Ah, Amarah, don’t be a spoilsport. I actually came over to talk to you.”
“Why?” She’d always gotten the impression that Randy didn’t like her too much.
He chuckled again. “Why not? I thought we could get to know each other better.”
Amarah stared at him for a few seconds before she answered, not sure why Randy had a sudden interest in her. “Okay,” she said slowly. “I won’t be in the pod much longer, though.”
“Which means there is no time like the present to work on getting to know you. We could end up in the same adult pod.” Randy reached out and dragged a finger down her arm from her shoulder to her elbow.
She jerked away, not liking him touching her. It kind of made her skin crawl, especially when he stared at her with a sly smile. Randy wasn’t acting as he should. Amarah glanced at Josie and Cliff. They had their backs in her direction. She looked around the rest of the room, her gaze landing on Dyer, who stood close to the TV area. He seemed to be watching her and Randy.
Dyer pushed away from the wall that he’d been leaning against and walked toward her. He took a seat on the couch and stared at the other boy. “What are you doing, Randy?”
Randy scowled at Dyer. “Just talking to Amarah.”
“I think you’re making her uncomfortable. Besides, Cliff is coming this way.”
Amarah looked at the male handler. He walked toward them with a hard glare that he aimed at Randy. She pulled herself tighter into the corner of the armchair. She hoped Cliff wouldn’t reprimand her as well.
“Randy,” Cliff said once he reached them. “There is no need to sit like that when there is plenty of unoccupied seating available. Move.” He briefly glared at Amarah before he settled his gaze again on Randy.
Randy stood. “I’m leaving, anyway.” He walked to the opposite side of the room to the group of boys with whom he usually spent his free time with.
Cliff gave her one last stare before he headed to where Josie stood, watching them.
Amarah felt as if she could take a deep breath now that Randy had left. She focused on Dyer. “Thanks for trying to get rid of Randy.”
Dyer nodded. “Has he ever singled you out like that before?”
“Stay away from him. He says things he shouldn’t when the handlers are out of earshot.”
“That doesn’t surprise me.” Randy was one of the more vocal boys in the pod. He followed the rules like everyone else, but sometimes liked to push the limits.
“If it’s okay, I’d like to keep you company,” Dyer said. “Just in case Randy decides to come back.”
Amarah nodded. “Sure.” She looked to where Randy had gone off. He flicked his gaze toward her, said something, and he and the boys laughed. There was no reason for Randy’s sudden interest in her. She turned back to Dyer.
She and Dyer sat in companionable silence until they had to head to their separate sleeping quarters with the rest of their pod. Even though they hadn’t spoken to each other, Amarah hadn’t found it strange or unnerving, unlike what she’d felt when Randy had bothered her.
The girls’ sleeping quarters offered no privacy. The twenty-five beds were sectioned into groups of five, lined up side by side, throughout the room. A washroom was at the back of it in the corner. The only enclosed area in the space. There were no dressers or wardrobes, since none of them had any personal belongings.
Amarah stood in line with the rest of the girls at the opposite side of the room from the wall that had the chute for their clothes. There was a compartment where they would pick up a set of pajamas. The size was chosen for them by being quickly scanned by the computer attached to it. Josie was there, watching every move they made.
Once Amarah had nightwear, she went to her bed to change. After removing her shoes, which she placed under her bed, she stripped out of her clothes, then tugged on the white T-shirt and gray pajama bottoms she’d been given. It didn’t take her long to put her used clothes into the chute before she returned to her sleeping area.
Amarah climbed under the blankets and closed her eyes. The last girl got into bed, and Josie turned off the lights before she closed the quarters’ door and left. Amarah closed her eyes. Tomorrow would start early, just after dawn, as it did every day. Her life never changed, but all too soon she’d be taking a step into the unknown once she turned eighteen and everything would. She dreaded it as much as the repetition in her daily schedule bored her.
* * * *
Randy’s interest in Amarah hadn’t gone away the next day. As the boys and girls filed into the workout area, he made sure to meet her gaze and smiled with a wink. She quickly headed in the opposite direction he did, not wanting to encourage him in any way.
Amarah placed a thirty-five-pound plate on either end of a barbell that sat on supports, then lay on the flat bench under it. She lifted the bar before she lowered it to her chest and then pushed it back up. She did a set of ten before she replaced it to the supports.
“You’re one of the strongest girls in the pod.”
She sat up and turned to the right where Randy had spoken. He sat on the bench next to hers. “Thanks,” Amarah said as she panted to catch her breath.
“Could you give me a spot?”
Amarah stood and went to stand at the head of Randy’s bench after he lay on it. There was no rule that stated she couldn’t spot him. They were encouraged to help their pod mates, be it boy or girl, to improve when it came to their physical fitness. Their minds were to be kept in shape too, but having stronger bodies was top priority. That was what the recipient valued most highly in a donor.
Randy started his set, and Amarah lightly held the middle of the bar, only helping near the end when he strained to finish his reps. She also helped him set the barbell on the supports after he completed his last one.
He sat up. “Your turn to do a set.” Randy pushed to his feet and grabbed two five-pound plates. “Let’s put more weight on. I’ll spot you, but I think you’ll be able to lift it.”
Amarah followed Randy with her gaze as he slid the added weight onto her barbell. “I prefer to work out without any spotter.”
He smiled. “Come on, Amarah. I’ll only help if you need me to. You need to push yourself every once in a while.”
She only hesitated for a few seconds until she noticed Cliff watched them. Amarah once more lay on her bench and did her second set. The extra weight was a little harder to lift, and Randy only helped with her last rep. She sat up once she had replaced the bar.
“Very good, Amarah,” Cliff said as he came to stand by her bench. “I’m glad to see you increased the weight. I noticed you hadn’t done so in a while.” He looked at Randy. “That was good of you to assist Amarah with that, Randy.”
“I like to help when I can,” Randy said with a smile.
Cliff nodded. “I’ll let the two of you get back to your work out.”
Amarah turned to her bench and started taking off the weights from the barbell. She’d intended to do three sets, but with Randy hanging around, she decided it was best to move on to another piece of equipment. She finished removing the plates, then went to the next machine in her routine. Luckily, Randy didn’t follow her, but lay on his flat bench to do another set.
As Amarah continued working out, she kept her eye on Randy. After he finished at the flat bench, he went and talked to Cliff in a corner of the room, away from everyone else. She pulled her gaze from them, and it landed on Dyer. He stared at her with an expression she couldn’t read before he turned back to the machine. She watched him for a few seconds, then concentrated on doing her next set.
She’d dreamed of Dyer during the night, and not in a way she should. In the dream, he’d held her close. It wasn’t the first time she’d seen them like that while she’d slept. Only this one was different. He’d kissed her, and she’d wanted so much more than that, everything that was forbidden to take place between donors. Maybe it was because two of her pod mates had been caught kissing, her subconscious mind had conjured her and Dyer doing the same thing. She didn’t know. It had left something behind, nonetheless. She felt drawn to him, and not just as a friend.
Amarah pushed those thoughts from her mind. They’d get her nowhere. Not once had Dyer shown that he liked her in that way. It wasn’t even allowed, so she was only being stupid, and wasn’t doing herself any favors. That thinking only led to emotions better left unnoticed and ignored. She’d perfected a shell of indifference since she’d hit her teen years. It needed to stay in place, especially once she was put into the pool. It was either that or be driven crazy by all the things she’d never have in her life.
She spent the last half hour of her work out using the final machines of her routine. Randy had seemed to have lost interest in her after he’d spotted her on the flat bench. Hopefully, it would stay that way.
Exercise time over, the boys and girls separated to take showers. Amarah didn’t hurry. She washed the sweat out of her hair and off her body, then stayed under the warm spray. She closed her eyes and dropped her head forward, the water relaxing her, running over her face.
The sound of the door to her shower enclosure opening had Amarah silently sighing. Her alone time was going to be ended, and sooner than she wanted it to be.
Without turning around, Amarah said, “I’ll be done in a couple of minutes, Josie.”
“There’s no need to hurry.”
The sound of Randy’s voice coming from behind her had Amarah spinning around. She blinked water out of her eyes as she used her arms to cover her chest and between her legs. He gave her a grin that made her skin crawl.
“What are you doing in here? Do you have any idea what the handlers will do when they find out you were in the girls’ shower area?”
Randy’s grin turned into a large smile. “Who says they don’t already know?”
Amarah didn’t get a chance to say anything more before he was on her. Randy grabbed her and clamped a hand around the back of her neck as he dragged her against him. She struggled, tried to push him away, but he was stronger. He kissed her hard, grinding her lips into her teeth so she tasted blood.
He took a step back and pulled her out from under the showerhead, which caused the water to turn off. Randy shoved her against a tiled wall and held her pinned there with his larger body. Amarah tried to kick and punch, but he left her no room to do anything that he’d feel.
She managed to take his bottom lip between her teeth and bite him. Randy jerked back with a snarl. Amarah stiffened as he raised his hand to slap her, but the blow never came. He was roughly torn away and thrown out of the enclosure. She looked up to find Dyer standing over Randy with a hand holding the front of Randy’s shirt as his fist connected with the other boy’s face.
Dyer kept hitting Randy until Randy just lay on the floor, groaning. Dyer turned to Amarah. He ran his gaze over her before he jerked it up to her face. “Are you okay?”
She nodded, then croaked out, “Yeah.”
The shower area door burst open and Josie and Cliff came rushing in. The handlers hurriedly took in the scene, Cliff’s face registering surprise as his gaze landed on Dyer. Josie rushed to Amarah, grabbed Amarah’s clean shirt and held it in front of Amarah.