The Race

Experience the electrifying thrill of survival in “The Race,” the heart-pounding first instalment of Joan De La Haye’s gripping series. Follow Joanna Perry, an unsuspecting victim thrust into a world where life hangs in the balance, as she embarks on an unimaginable journey.

When Joanna’s life takes a terrifying turn, she finds herself drugged, violently abducted and forced into a deadly contest for the entertainment of the world’s elite. With her own survival on the line, she must confront her limits in a twisted game orchestrated by the rich and depraved.

As the stakes reach unprecedented heights, Joanna must tap into her inner strength and navigate treacherous terrain where each step could be her last. Will she embrace her newfound ferocity and outsmart her merciless adversaries, or will she succumb to the darkness that surrounds her?

“The Race” delivers an adrenaline-fueled narrative that will leave readers breathless. With its breakneck pace and relentless action, this quick read is a perfect fit for fans of pulse-pounding tales like “The Hunger Games,” “Gladiator,” and “The Running Man.” Brace yourself for a rollercoaster ride of danger, courage, and the fight for freedom.

Enter a world where survival is the ultimate triumph, where glory exacts a deadly cost, and the race for Joanna’s life, glory, and gold brook no mercy. Get ready for an adventure that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.


I wasn’t wearing my own clothes.

A headache pulsated through my brain, reminding me of the time that bastard, Jake Stanton, roofied my drink at a club a couple of years ago. The unpleasant memory of waking up in my car in the middle of an empty parking garage, naked and alone, made an unwelcome appearance. Jake had left a note saying: “Thanks for the memories,” stuck to my bare breast.

I found him a few nights later trying to pull the same shit on another girl. I guess I could have called the cops, but then I, and my past mistakes and issues with authority, would have been put on trial, not Jake. My way was so much better and far more satisfying.

I made him drink the girl’s drugged wine with my flick knife pressed against his crotch. I waited for the drug to take effect and then had my fun. He woke up naked, tied to a tree, and with a big, pink, plastic dildo shoved up his arse. Apparently, he had difficulty walking for a week or so, but he never drugged another girl after that. The girl I helped didn’t even bother to say thank you. Gratitude seems to be something that not many people feel anymore. I wasn’t expecting her to name her first kid after me, but a simple thank you would have been nice.  

But this time was different and more confusing. I woke up in a cell with twenty other women, wearing a baby-pink tracksuit with a zip-up top and hoodie, and running shoes that didn’t belong to me. They fitted well enough, and they smelt new, but there was no way in hell I would ever willingly wear pink anything. My cell phone, car keys, wallet, and flick knife were all gone.


The distinct briny smell of the sea drifted up my nostrils, which was impossible since I didn’t live anywhere near the ocean. In fact, the nearest ocean was about a day’s drive from my home—if I drove really fast. The cell walls were slightly damp and had that salty smell you only get when you’re at the coast. My tongue was also thick from dehydration and whatever drugs they’d given me.

Some other women, locked in another cell, looked as though they’d escaped from a Xena convention. They looked like bodybuilders, with those fake dark tans that were supposed to show off their overdeveloped muscles. From the looks of them and the way they flexed their muscles, they’d had a few too many testosterone injections.

The rest of the women in my cell were dressed in similar tracksuits to mine, they also looked as confused as I felt. The fear on their faces made me a whole lot more nervous than I’m used to being.

The warrior women flexed their muscles some more, did push-ups, or gave intimidating stares to the scared women in tracksuits. They seemed to be pumping themselves up for something. The Xena wannabes also had swords of varying types. I wondered if they’d been at some costume party, except the swords looked a little too real and a little too sharp for cosplay.

No one spoke.

I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d managed to get myself locked up in the local drunk tank. Except for the last time I’d been locked up there, the place looked and smelled different. The local drunk tank usually had a hint of piss and puke in the air, not the ocean. Then there was the small problem that I didn’t remember getting drunk. I tried to come up with a logical explanation but failed. The drug idea was the only plausible explanation until men with machine guns showed up and dragged us, quite literally, out of the cells to a ship docked outside. The ship hadn’t seen a coat of paint since the Second World War. My Grandfather might have sailed on it.

We joined more women on the ship. I counted a hundred of us, all from different parts of the world—from the looks of things. About twenty per cent were dressed in warrior costumes and could give the Williams sisters a run for their money in the muscle department. They looked determined. I, on the other hand, was scared shitless.

The ship’s engine sputtered to life, jerked under my feet, and messed with the delicate balance maintained by my inner-ear. We headed out into the open ocean. The waves smacked into the ship’s hull, causing the motion sickness that affected my balance to grip my sensitive stomach. A few other women in tracksuits threw up over the side of the ship. That was it. I lost my lunch or dinner. I didn’t remember when my last meal had been. All I tasted was bile and seawater. To make matters worse, I was now completely dehydrated, and it didn’t look like we’d be getting anything to drink soon.

The men with machine guns prowled the decks, and the warrior women eyed each other suspiciously, while the rest of us cowered. It was the most surreal experience of my life. I kept expecting a fight to break out between the testosterone-soaked women or be shot by a machine gun-wielding goon. Perhaps I’d taken some weird drug, and this was all just an elaborate hallucination, but I didn’t remember chewing any shrooms, so that theory didn’t fit either. Not being able to come up with any kind of reasonable explanation for my current predicament was annoying, to say the least. I knew I’d been drugged, but I sure as shit hadn’t done it to myself. The pink tracksuit was a testament to that.

One of the Xena lookalikes appeared next to me, smoking a cigarette. The blade of her sword looked like it had seen some action. Small nicks peppered the shining edge. The leather on the hilt was sweat-stained and worn.

“Why are we here?” I asked her.

She looked me up and down. Sizing me up, deciding whether or not to kill me right then and there.

“We are warriors,” she said in heavily accented English. I couldn’t place the accent, but she looked Spanish or Portuguese.

“I’m not a warrior. I’m a fucking bartender,” I said, trying not to screech.

“It would seem they disagree,” she said, gesturing towards the cabins above us, and then she was gone, swallowed by the rolling mist that enveloped the ship.

It was the icy breath of an unquiet sea. It matched the fear mounting inside me.

The ship jolted and came to a sudden stop. I slipped, landed hard on my arse. It took a few attempts before I managed to get back onto unsteady feet. My butt ached. One of the guards tried not to laugh. Relief at the thought of his humanity flooded through me; I almost cried. Almost, but not quite. His laughter disappeared as quickly as it had started. He probably realised he wasn’t supposed to be a human being, that he was supposed to be a killing machine. The barrel of his machine gun pointed at me. But I’d gotten a glimpse of his humanity, and that knowledge could come in handy later.

I heard a thump coming from the port side of the ship, followed by women screaming. Running feet approached, fast. Using his machine gun, the guard gestured for me to follow the direction of the screams. My stomach churned, and my scalp tingled. Hysteria started to curl itself around my spine, taking a firm grasp.

They herded us down the gangplank. Angry shouts mingled with screams which dwindled down to incessant sobbing.

The mist cleared once we were off the ship.

I found myself standing on a white, sandy beach. If it weren’t for the guards with machine guns and women with swords, it would have been pretty idyllic.   

The mist closed around the ship again, making it disappear. Thoughts of the Bermuda triangle and the Island of Doctor Moreau surfaced on my fear fogged mind.

“Get moving,” a voice shouted from the mist.

The Xenas walked without hesitation, while I followed them on uncertain legs. We didn’t have far to go. The tree-lined dirt road we followed led to the entrance of a Roman amphitheatre. Alarm bells went off in my head. I had a feeling that whoever was behind this mass kidnapping had a sick and twisted fetish for gladiators.

If I remembered my Roman history correctly, the gladiators were trained fighters with weapons, who sometimes butchered unarmed slaves for the entertainment of the masses. They were also forced to fight and kill each other at the will of some madman. In this scenario, I had a feeling I was one of the unarmed slaves.

The gates opened and we entered like lambs to the slaughter.

It was not the sight I’d been expecting. On the outside, the amphitheatre was ancient, but it was a glimpse into the future on the inside. The rich and powerful, the world’s elite, faces I’d only seen on news broadcasts sat behind—what I assumed —bullet-proof glass. Wait staff stood behind them holding silver trays with drinks and culinary delicacies.

My heart stopped beating for a second and then started hammering away at the inside of my chest cavity. I felt faint. My legs were rubber. I needed to get home. I didn’t belong there. Blood rushed to my head. My own face stared back at me from a giant screen at one end of the amphitheatre. I looked around and spotted another screen at the opposite end. I then spotted the cameras attached to the walls of the arena. Helicopters circled above us. The spectacle was being filmed.

Riders on horseback rode up from behind. Another young woman in a tracksuit was trampled as they galloped past us into the stadium. She couldn’t have been more than twenty years old.

“Stupid bitch,” one of the Xenas said.

I looked into the ashen face of a young blonde girl, her lips trembled. She looked about eighteen.

“Are you okay?” I whispered.

“No talking!” a guard shouted.

Tears trickled down her cheeks as she stared at the dead woman at our feet. I followed her gaze and couldn’t help but be grateful that it wasn’t me lying in the dust.

The Xenas smiled and raised their swords to acknowledge the grudging applause from our audience. They obviously weren’t strangers to this craziness.

Trumpets sounded.

My heart jumped out of my throat. The Xenas ran for the exits. Bullets were fired at our feet. Another woman fell to the ground, riddled with bullet holes. Blood turned her pink tracksuit red.

“Run!” the Spanish Xena screamed at me. “If you want to live, keep up.”

I ran. No questions asked. I wanted to live.

The men on horseback chased us out of the arena. As they rode, they slashed at us with swords or riddled screaming woman with bullets. Another Xena stabbed one of the men on horseback and then threw another woman in a tracksuit under his galloping horse.

But I kept running.

I followed the Spanish woman, who’d become my lifeline.

A gust of air brushed my cheek as a sword’s blade missed my face by less than a millimetre. My companion blocked another attempted slashing of my face from yet another man on horseback. She drove her sword into him. Pulled it out and ran. I stood rooted to the spot, staring at the man who now lay dying at my feet.

“You crazy?” she screamed over her shoulder. “Run!”

“What about the horse?” I said, still looking down at the man, but my mind raced.

“We not allowed to ride. If we ride, we are disqualified, and death is not worst punishment.” She was at my side once again. I hadn’t even noticed her come back for me or that she’d killed another rider.

“We must run.” She grabbed my hand and pulled me along with her. Panic-stricken women ran on all sides. I watched as a man drove his sword through the young blonde girl’s back. I saw the tears in her eyes as she fell to her knees. Disbelief, terror, and shock mingled on her face. Another of the warrior women killed a woman in a tracksuit. It was a bloody free for all. But it was mostly the women in the pink tracksuits being targeted.

“Why did she do that?” I shouted over the sounds of death surrounding us.

“It is race, and only one can win.”

“Then why are you helping me?” I asked.

“Run now, questions later,” she said, shaking her head and running faster than anyone I’d ever seen. Trying to keep up with her would probably kill me just as surely as one of the other women or one of the bastards on horses. But running for my life seemed like a better idea than waiting to be sliced and diced.

And …

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