I raced as fast as the guard would let me on my way to see Josh. The paper inside my tight shorts scratched uncomfortably at my thigh but I was more concerned about someone noticing it. I had so much to share with Josh, including the appearance of Silvano, but I also wanted to be sure Miguel was okay. Since Ronan's disappearance, I didn't know what to expect.
"Miguel!" I said. "What happened?" but the guard pushed me past him before Miguel could struggle to a sitting position. I was shoved out the room and hurried to Josh's room. My visits were always kept short, and the guards knew I was there only to see Josh. No other fraternising was encouraged.
In Josh's room, we embraced and I voiced my fright over seeing Miguel's face.
"A man that size should never have gone down so quickly," I sighed.
"He wasn't always that big, you know. As a kid he was bullied pretty badly; beaten up more than once," Josh admonished me. "You can build as much muscle as you like, but in the end, it's what's inside that counts. He's just as scared now as he was back then."
I nodded, knowing full well that childhood traumas could last a lifetime. It was a sad fact of life. I could only hope Miguel would find a way to fight his demons and get a second chance to prove himself.
"Jacob has another fighting ring here," Josh continued, lowering his voice. "The guys tell me its for erotic wrestling. Those fights are rigged to give the punters a hot show. When his bruising is healed, Miguel has to fight in that and lose." I nodded, careful not to let on that I already knew about the ring, but then the sting came: "Loser will get fucked," Josh finished.
"It wasn't that he lost," Josh explained when I finally managed to voice my disbelief. "It was because he lost so badly. He didn't put up a fight. He embarrassed Jacob."
I was dumbfounded. The more I heard of what Jacob was capable of, the less I could reconcile it with the man I shared a bed with. I'd seen him angry, but everyone got mad. These deeds though, they were beyond anger. They were the sick retributions of a megalomaniac, not the actions of the sexy, albeit egotistical guy I knew.
They were thoughts I couldn't voice though, so I slipped the paper out of my shorts, eliciting a raised eyebrow from Josh as I reached into the front of my pants.
"These are the plans," I said, handing him the map I'd drawn. "I have a laptop to fill in the time when I'm locked away. I've been progressively drafting a schematic of the building layout and think I've got it all now… at least, all I'm going to see."
"That's amazing!" Josh gaped. "You're amazing!" He grabbed my face and kissed my forehead before eagerly unfolding the map.
"I couldn't bring my laptop down, obviously, so I traced it out on paper. It's not to scale but it'll give you an idea."
He shook his head in disbelief.
"This is perfect," he said. "The other guys want to get out of here too. I've been building support for a revolt, although it’s a while off yet. They're still learning to trust me. But as much as I hate to say it, Miguel's punishment was exactly what I needed to build their support faster. It was a harsh reminder of the eggshells we walk on."
"Silvano?" Josh asked and then it dawned on him. "The crazy Italian?!"
"Yes. I think he was the one whoarranged our kidnapping. That's how they knew to use me as collateral."
"Shit! I thought it had to be an inside job… someone involved with our wrestling games."
"He knows I know," I said. "He saw me the same time I saw him. Do you think he'll try something?! I haven't been able to sleep ever since I saw him. What if he tries to kill me?"
"Remember the golden rule," Josh said. "Keep calm. If you panic you won't be able to think straight. Look at Miguel. Stay around other people as much as you can. If you get the chance, let someone know you're afraid he'll try something. He probably won't - no one seems to do anything around here without permission from Jacob, but if you put the word out, then he'll know the finger will point at him if anything does happen. It might be enough to deter him."
I nodded and said, "We have to get out of here soon. I'm feeling really freaked right now, with Silvano and Miguel, and seeing you get hurt in the ring."
"I'm fine," he promised me. "And we will get out of here. Just remember, you're doing okay so far. You're keeping safe and avoiding unnecessary attention from Jacob. Bit by bit I'm winning the guys over, not just here but in the other Houses too. Just a little bit longer and it will be over, I promise."
It killed me to say nothing, but I reminded myself again that Josh needed to focus on his own plight. If he knew about Jacob and I it would consume him, stopping him from doing his best in the fight pit. It might even spur him into enacting our escape before he was really ready. So I stayed silent and let my eyes drop to the floor. He lifted my chin and smiled reassuringly, confusing my guilt for something more honourable.