The Ghost (Ghost #1)

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Bonus Chapter - Trip Pt. 2


After lunch with Tyson, Lia and I go on a tour around the city. During the training with Tyson I didn’t really have time to sightsee, so my girl and I are going to use this chance to make up for the lost opportunity.

We drive downtown, to the gym where I trained with Lia’s dad and her ‘uncles’. They’re Tyson’s friends from his time in the MMA, all big and fucking scary. I can’t even remember how many times they threatened to kill me if I hurt their little girl. I would never hurt my kitten, obviously, but I understand where they came from – Lia is their family and they all know what she went through when she was younger. Of course they’re worried about her getting hurt again.

“Lia?! Little Lia?!” An older African American lady exclaims in shock from across the street when we're close to the gym. She looks to be around late 50s or early 60s. She’s wearing an apron and is panting slightly with a teary expression. I recognize her from the few times when Tyson and I went to the diner after training. She crosses the street and stops few yards from us. She seems to be hesitating about something.

“Mama Maria.” Lia gasps, rushing to the woman and embracing her in a tight hug. I hear quiet sobs coming from both women as they stay in each other’s arms.

“My little Lia, it’s been so long! Where have you been, you silly girl?! Were you eating well? Look at you, you got so skinny.” Maria cries, cupping Lia’s cheeks lovingly.

“I’m not skinny, mama. But I’d kill for your famous steak right now.” Lia smirks, thinking about the food.

“And who’s this? – she turns to me imploringly – I’ve seen you with Tyson, but…” She trails off with a teasing look.

Lia grins at me and wraps her arm around me, snuggling into my side. “This is my boyfriend Blake. Blake, meet Mama Maria. She’s like a mother to me. And she’s the best cook I’ve ever met. She taught me most of the things I know.”

Maria comes up to me with a smile. “I’m so happy my little girl found love. Take good care of her, she’s a precious girl.” She cups my face and pulls my head down to kiss my cheeks.

“He’s handsome.” Maria grins at Lia, giving me a once-over, wiggling her brows suggestively.

“I know. But he’s mine, mama, so don’t you dare try to steal him from me.” Lia playfully warns her, making my eyes widen. The hell?!

“Oh, please, he’s way too young for me. I’d much rather go after one of those hunks from the gym. If only I was 20 years younger.” Maria sighs, waving it off, making Lia laugh heartily. “Come on, you two, you’re probably hungry. I’ll make you something good, hmm? Give me 30 minutes and I’ll have your food ready.” Without further ado, she skips back to the diner, leaving us to either follow her or wait for those 30 minutes. She sure is lively for an older woman.

We decide to take a short walk before dinner, per Lia’s request. She leads me to a dark alley behind the gym her dad trained me at, sighing quietly. “You know, this… is where dad found me. I was hiding in that corner. – she points at the furthest corner, completely hidden from view – It was my favorite place to hide, since it’s so dark. No one has ever noticed me there. Except for my dad. When he found me here, he told me that he’d seen me here a few times, but each time he came out of the gym, I was gone. I used to hide here until I heard someone coming. Then I would go away, finding another place to hide. I never went far, though. In my young mind, I thought that maybe one day my parents would come back for me and I wanted them to easily find me. So I roamed around this area, staying close to where they left me.” She explains solemnly, sighing occasionally as she reminisces her past.

I mentally curse, hating the fact that I can’t do anything to ease the pain she went through, to take it away. All I can do is hold her, kiss her, love her. It won’t get rid of the pain she went through, but maybe it’ll help her recover from it.

“You don’t have to tell me those things, kitten. I don’t want you to relive those memories.” I crush her to my chest, pressing a kiss to the top of her head.

“It’s fine, I told you I’m over it. – she wraps her arms around my waist, leaving a kiss on my neck before turning around in my arms – This place is actually a happy one. It’s where my life changed for the better. I may have been hurt and in pain, but weren’t it for my dad, I would be most likely dead. He found me, gave me a home, a family and it all started here.” I put my chin on Lia’s shoulder, keeping her in my arms as she speaks.

“I’m glad he found you. Had it not been for him, I would've never been able to meet you. I wouldn’t be able to hold you like this. I wouldn’t know what it’s like to love someone so much.” I confess, my throat tightening in emotion.

“I’m glad he did, too.” Lia sighs, leaning up to kiss me.

We leave the alley few minutes later, heading straight to the diner. Maria is already waiting for us and leads us to the booth in the corner.

A young guy brings our food, but almost drops it when he sees my girl. “Lia?” He quickly sets the plates on the table and pulls Lia into a hug. I’m close to fucking smashing his face, but thankfully they pull away quickly. “God, you’re still as small as I remember!” The guy teases, putting his hand on Lia's head tauntingly, getting a punch in response.

“Shut it, Owen. Not everyone can be a walking skyscraper like you.” Lia scowls, sitting down next to me. “Blake, this is Owen, he’s Mama Maria’s son. Owen, this is my boyfriend, Blake. So be nice if you want to stay on my good side.” Lia warns seriously, making me smile. She’s as possessive of me as I am of her. It really warms my heart to see her so protective over me.

“Got it. It's nice to meet you. Enjoy your food, shrimp.” Owen quickly scurries away before I can even reply, laughing quietly.

“Shrimp? Really? He’s so unoriginal.” Lia sighs in mock pity before digging into her food with gusto.

“Are you two close?” I decide to ask.

“Not really… Well, a little. When I first came here with my dad, I was still afraid of a lot of people, so we weren’t that friendly. But I’m different now, so…” Lia trails off.

“You were extremely skittish, that’s true.” Maria appears from behind us before sitting in front of us, watching Lia eat with an adoring motherly smile.

“How do you two know each other?” I ask, genuinely curious.

“I've known Tyson for a long time. He's been coming here all the time when he was younger. Few years ago, something changed. Instead of coming here for dinner, like usual, Tyson would often order food to go. But after a while he stopped and I asked him if something happened. Few days later he brought little Lia for dinner. She was so damn scared of everything, she had to sit in his lap, or else she would freak out. Tyson told me all about how the food he bought was for her, how he found her hidden in that dark alley. – Maria sighs – The first time I saw her, she was so small, so fragile. Her face was pale and bruised, she was so skinny it made my heart ache.

Ever since then Tyson and Lia would come here to eat. They would sit right here, in this booth, hidden away from view, snuggled into each other as if the rest of the world didn’t even exist. I've known Tyson for years, but it was the first time I’ve seen him so… protective. He glared at anyone even glancing their way, didn’t let any of my waiters even come close and fought with every guy that as much as looked at Lia the wrong way. He was like a grizzly protecting his cub. Every time he got in a fight, my little Lia would cry until he got back to her.” Lia listens with watery eyes, leaning her head on my shoulder. Maria doesn’t even try to hide her tears, crying as she reminisces the past.

“Mama always felt like a mother to me. After my back got better, dad and I came here few times a week. And just weeks later, I started taking cooking lessons. I would come here while dad was at the gym and learn how to cook.”

“I remember the first thing you made. – Maria exclaims then turns to me – She has a real talent and great taste. Everything she saw me make, she could copy it to the T. There was a time when she made a tortilla wrap with chicken and vegetables, it was the first time she made something from scratch without a recipe, so I was looking forward to tasting it. Even Tyson came by. – She laughs – But Owen found it first and ate it. Tyson was close to killing him when he found out. Lia cried a river and I couldn’t see her so heartbroken, so I beat my stupid son up with a spatula then starved him for the rest of the day.” I burst out laughing at this. This woman is crazy. Now I know where Lia’s craziness comes from. She got her deviousness and sadistic tendencies from Tyson, and the crazy from Maria. Perfect combination.

“I remember that. He tried running away, but dad kept him still while you hit him.” Lia laughs, snuggling into my side.

“You cried? Over a tortilla wrap?” I mock, deciding to tease my kitten a little.

“It was the first thing I made myself! And he just ate it!” Lia whines cutely, reminding me of when Will and Ty ate her chocolate cake.

Maria decides to go back to work, but not before sending Lia away for a minute, saying she wants to speak to me privately.

She gives me a hard stare. “I heard a great deal about you from Tyson, Blake. Now listen carefully and keep what I say in mind. – she leans forward, resting her forearms on the table - Hurt my little girl and I’ll kill you and feed you to my dogs so no one will find you. Lia has gone through a lot and I won’t let her get hurt again, especially by a boy.”

I give her a smile, genuinely happy that my girl has so much support from her family. “I love her too much to even think about hurting her.”

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