"Have to give Burns credit," she thought. "The girl's tougher'n she looks!"
The woman in question was one Brooke Burns, a 5'9" brunette stunner; a relative newcomer to the ring but one who was quickly plowing through the ranks with a string of impressive victories. The newcomer had asked for, and received a match with Campbell that evening and the ladies had torn the place down. Being a Texas native, Brooke had ninety five percent of the crowd behind her from the opening bell and she gave her pale opponent everything she could handle. Brooke attacked Neve with a seemingly piecemeal combination of brawling, wrestling and submission holds that kept the more experienced brunette guessing throughout the battle. But Neve had returned her rival's attacks in kind, taking every opportunity to toss Brooke around the ring, wearing her down with a vicious array of suplexes and joint locks that had the taller girl writhing on the mat. The two women had traded control of the match several times when the end came, nearly twenty minutes into the contest. Brooke had countered a Neve Irish Whip and locked Campbell in position for her finisher, a Twisting Rock Bottom type slam some clever pundit had already dubbed, 'The Burn Out'. Acting mostly on instinct, Neve had fired a pair of elbows hard into Burn's temple, staggering the taller woman and forcing her to release her grip. As Brooke cleared her head, Campbell dug deep and absolutely buried one foot in Brooke's gut. With her rival doubled up Neve wasted no time in setting up the Sit Out Pile Driver. With one quick lift and fall, Brooke's head smashed into the mat and Neve went for the cover. Three seconds later she had the win and a crowd hissing for her blood, the multitude upset that the local beauty had been defeated. Neve took the boos in stride, resting and gratefully acknowledging the half dozen or so hardcore Scream Queen fans in the audience. She had been seconds from leaving the ring, when someone grabbed her shoulder and turned her around. Brooke stood before her, looking very sore and a bit disappointed, but none the worse for wear. Neve braced for an attack, but Brooke simply extended her hand, smiled gamely and said, " Good fight. Next time I'll be ready for that Pile Driver."
Surprised by the rare display of post match goodwill, Neve smiled slightly and returned the handshake, replying, "Anytime you want a fight, just ask. You're a challenge."
Grinning, Brooke spoke again, "I'll take that as a complement."
Breaking the handshake, the Texan turned away and drank in the cheers of a crowd that relished the show of sportsmanship. Wanting nothing more than to take a shower and massage some of the aches from her muscles, Neve slipped silently under the bottom rope and headed back to the locker room.
Twenty minutes later, she stepped from the steaming shower into an empty locker room to begin preparing for the long ride to the hotel where everyone was staying before moving on to the next stop of the tour.
These memories of the last hour flashed through her mind in the few seconds it took the brunette to tie her shoe. She was just about to stand up when the slightest sound reached her ear. The sound was very mundane, one that would bear no notice if the locker room wasn't supposed to be abandoned at this hour. It was the noise of a shoe scraping the scuffed tile.
"There's someone in here with me," she thought, and a chill ran down her spine.
Throughout her career, Neve had learned to recognize the presence of her greatest adversaries before they announced themselves, usually giving her a slight edge when a battle began. Searching her mind, the Scream Queen ran through the possibilities. She immediately crossed off her first guess, Sarah Michelle Gellar.
"Sarah's not even here tonight plus she's still too banged up from her match with Alba. And even if she were healthy, we're tied 2-2 and she hasn't mentioned wanting to arrange a fifth." Moving on, she thought of the newest woman on her list of conquests. But she eliminated Charlize Theron just as quickly. She had heard that Charlize was fuming after Neve had defeated her in July, but the Scissor Queen hadn't gotten in her face and Neve was willing to bide her time and wait until Theron made a move before taking her down again, only harder this time! "Besides," Neve thought. "This isn't Charlize's style. If she wanted to get my attention she'd do so very publicly. Subtlety and subterfuge just aren't her; no, this feels different - like I'm being watched, or stalked.... or hunted…" Suddenly, realization flooded her face and she stood up slowly, her back to her unseen visitor.
“Hello Ashley! I see you're living up to your nickname," the brunette said slowly as she turned to confirm her suspicions and indeed she’d been correct as she saw ‘The Huntress’ a mere three feet away, dressed from head to toe in black, jeans clinging to her hips and a tank top revealing smooth, muscular shoulders.
"Hello Neve; nice to see you again," Ashley smiled although her smile didn't quite reach her icy blue eyes.
Neve wasn't fazed by Ashley's silent entrance, "No need to lie Ashley; we didn't part company on the best of terms - if I recall."
Ashley's smile dropped away like a thin veil, "No, we didn't. But I'm here to collect on something you said last time we met. It's the last thing I remember before I passed out and the first thing I remembered when I woke up with all your slime drying on my face. Do you remember what it was?"
Neve answered the question instantly, "I said 'Whenever you're ready to hunt again, you know where to find me.' Well, you found me; what're you gonna do, jump me? Do you always make a habit of attacking your prey after they've been through a war? Is this how you're going to try and exact revenge?"
Ashley bristled silently at Neve's accusation, "If I was going to attack you, you'd already be on the ground, bleeding and moaning. Consider this your invitation. When I take you down, I want you to be at full strength."
Neve spoke quietly to her foe, "I was at full strength last time and I finished you off. Does that bother you Huntress? Does it keep you awake at night knowing that you had me beaten and your own arrogance cost you our match? Does it infuriate you to no end knowing that the one time when it really counted, YOU were MY prey?"
In the flash of an eye, Ashley lunged forward, wrapped one strong hand around Campbell's throat and shoved her hard against the row of lockers. Neve grunted as her head slammed against the metal and she saw stars. After a moment her head cleared and she found herself staring into Ashley's arctic eyes.
Speaking just above a whisper, the Huntress answered, "You've no idea how much I've played that battle over in my mind. It kills me I was just seconds away from humiliating you like no one else ever had and then you managed to wriggle your way out and ride my face. I've spent months waiting to even the score and I came to lay down a challenge...if you've got the guts! I'll scrub your face out of existence and make sure you're awake for every second of it." Squeezing her grip on Neve's throat a bit tighter, Ashley added, "Whaddya say bitch? Ready to find out what it's like to........ URGHHHHNNNGHHHH!"
The Huntress's threat was cut off when Neve shot a hand around Ashley's throat and another into the other woman's dark hair. In one smooth motion she whipped Ashley around and slammed her into the lockers. The taller girl groaned and tried to surge forward, but Neve pushed up against her and pressed the bony ridge of her forearm against Ashley's throat. The Huntress gagged against the pressure of Neve's attack, but for the time being was trapped. Furious, she stared into Neve's brown eyes.
Enraged by Ashley's bold attack on her, Neve spoke to her nemesis, "I'll face you anytime, any place. But this time I make the rules. Got it?"
Ashley snarled, "Get bent."
Neve's reply was just as callous, "Shut the fuck up and listen! We're going to fight all right. But only one fall this time. To a finish. No pins, no knockouts. Just one submission. One VERBAL submission. Understood?" Neve pushed the Huntress one more time and released her hold, stepping back to await Ashley's reply.
Ashley massaged her throat for a second before replying, "Understood." Before Neve could blink, she fired a punch at Neve that caught the Scream Queen square across the mouth, busting open her bottom lip. She cried out and staggered back a few steps, shaking off the blow. Clearing her head, she returned the favor in kind, smashing a fist into Ashley's jaw that clacked the Huntress's teeth together and sent a trickle of blood from the corner of her mouth. Neve smiled at her opponents pain and did not flinch when Ashley lunged forward, stopping less than an inch from Neve. The two black clad brunettes said nothing for a second. Standing close enough to smell the blood they had drawn, the two women merely contemplated the damage they had done and the damage they would do.
Breaking the silence, Ashley wiped the blood from her lip and spoke four words soft and clear, "I'm gonna BREAK you!"
Neve turned her head to the side and spat a wad of bloody saliva onto the locker room floor. Looking into the Huntress's eyes, her voice burned with hate. "When this is all over, the undeniable fact of my superiority will be melded with your mind, beaten into your body and SEARED on your soul. You're going to SCREAM for me Huntress."
Ashley launched her parting shot, "You still don't get it. I'm not scared of you."
Neve kept her eyes locked on Ashley's, "You will be!!"
The Huntress said one more thing before turning on her heel and leaving the room, "I guess we'll find out won't we?" She strode out into the darkness of the Texas night as silently as she had come, never once looking over her shoulder.
Neve watched Ashley leave and said under her breath, "Yes.... You will."
When she felt the Huntress's presence fade, she grabbed her bag and headed out into the cold night. The Hunt had started back up, and this time the stakes were higher than ever before.