Book Excerpt // The Phoenix Project by D.M. Cain
Cold, dark terror trickled through Raven Kennedy’s veins, freezing him on the spot. There was a thunderous drumbeat echoing around his skull and it took him a while to realise it was the relentless, agitated pounding of his own heart.
As he became more nervous, more afraid of his looming fate, his breath came quickly, sticking in his throat and choking him. A cough threatened to burst forth from his lips, but he held it in, afraid it would bring with it the contents of his stomach—the bland, tasteless meal he had been given in his cell.
It was the worst possible time to feel weak, but Raven felt like he could hardly lift his arms, his exhaustion was so great. He hadn’t slept a wink last night. How could he with today hovering over him?
The time for his first fight had come around quickly. He’d hardly been given time to think about it at all. Raven looked down at his hands and was not surprised to see they were shaking.
His opponent’s name was Wilson. Raven knew nothing else about him. He’d never spoken to him, had never even met him. Had they passed one another in the dining hall and never even looked up? If he had spoken to him would that make what he was about to do any easier?
He heard heavy footsteps in the corridor and his heart jumped into his throat. They were coming for him. His eyes remained fixed on his shaking hands as the mechanical doors to his prison cell buzzed and swung open.
“Let’s go.” The order was sharp and direct.
Raven stood to face the guards, crazy thoughts flashing through his mind. He could attack both guards, knock them out and escape. But then what would he do? There were guards everywhere, security gates, locked doors. It was impossible to escape. He felt a surge of panic flood his mind. His chest felt tight and he sucked in irregular breaths. He steadied himself, took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
“Come on. Let’s go,” one of the guards commanded again.
He ignored them. He had to calm himself down before he got in the ring or he’d be dead within seconds. Keep yourself together. He breathed out and with it, he felt some of his panic dissolve. When he opened his eyes, he was ready to go.
D.M. Cain is a dystopian and fantasy author working for US publisher Booktrope. She has released three novels: The Phoenix Project – a psychological thriller set in a dystopian future, Soren – a middle-grade fantasy, and A Chronicle of Chaos – the first in a dark fantasy series. She is currently working on the next novel in the series, ‘The Shield of Soren’, and a novella to accompany it.
D.M. Cain is also a member of the International Thriller Writers and is one of the creators and administrators of the online author group #Awethors. Her short story ‘The End’ was published in Awethology Dark – an anthology by the #Awethors.
Cain lives in Leicestershire, UK, with her husband and young son, and spends her time reading, writing and reviewing books, playing RPGs and listening to symphonic metal.