RYDER (Antagonist to Lovers)

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C H A P T E R | 28


Ryder internally groaned as he realized how close of a call that was. His brain was all over the place -- from horny as hell, to disappointed, to missing her already -- and he couldn’t come up with a good lie.

“Was trying to fucking score tonight, but you’re cock blocking me, man,” Ryder said, feeling like he’d pretend it was with someone else.

Everything about the lie felt wrong, though. Thinking of Julie as someone to ‘score’ with felt wrong. Shit, he had been so caught up in that moment just now that he didn’t know if he should have kissed her goodnight, or call her something other than Julie. For a moment, he wanted to.

Well, he did call her ‘darlin’ in the heat of the moment, but that was different than from parting for the night.

In that, he knew this was going to amount into more than a fling. Why is the timing for everything always off?

Andrew raised a brow. “Julie is on this level.”

Ryder looked around and shook his head. “So? Maybe she’ll get lucky too. Plenty of dudes around here,” he said.

An image popped up into his mind of her taking another guy into her room, and that got his blood running hot in ways he hadn’t expected.

“I saw your complication," Andrew said, moving on.

“The fuck does that mean?” Ryder asked, frustrated and tired of the cryptic speech.

“Heather. You were right, she’s come to Barclay, but shit, I didn’t think she’d come to stay here.”

Ryder took in a deep breath and sighed with purpose, trying to figure out why the fuck all this drama had to happen in the span of an hour.

Especially two days before the first round of fighting.

He clicked his tongue, staring at a vase to focus. “Fine. I’ll figure that out.”

Andrew said, “Just get back to the room and take a cold shower or something. You can get laid tomorrow, or after the fight -- women are all over fighters then. And if you encounter her, just call me if you want an out from this Heather chick. We don’t need that drama right now and it sounds like you two got a past that’s unresolved still.”

Ryder hardly blinked, still staring at the vase. “Where’d you see her?”

“In the lobby looking around like she wanted something,” he said, calling the elevator by pressing the button.

Ryder clenched his jaw, hating the way Heather swirled uncomfortable memories in his chest, especially when he felt something so good just now with Julie. “She’ll be lookin’ for me. She texted me a week ago to wish me luck.”

“What the hell happened between you two?” Andrew asked, furrowing his dark brows. “She’s the one related to your stint in jail?”

“Yup,” Ryder said with hardly any emotion.

Although, he didn’t go to jail because of anything she caused, and even the judge expunged his record once they cleared the air and understood the situation was misunderstood.

It seemed that Heather still hadn’t shaken him from her mind, even though it’s been almost three years.

“I won’t ask what happened, man. As long as the record was cleared, I trust you. The system screws over all kinds of people.”

“Good thing I could afford a fucking good lawyer,” he said bitterly, spending an unnecessary amount of money on that.

A heavy stone weighed in the pit of his stomach, dreading telling Julie that his ex-sports therapist was here, and that he hadn’t seen since he got out of jail. Oh, and that Heather clearly wasn’t over him and he knew she still loved him.

They stepped into the empty elevator and Ryder leaned his head back against the wall, knowing he’d have to address the shit with Heather. He had to prepare himself for seeing her. While he was done with her, he knew she wasn’t; and they never really resolved anything, just sort of going radio silent rather than talking about it.

It took him an entire year to get over her.

Andrew said, “Son of a bitch...you know, I heard that Dune Legends has a new sports therapist, and it was a quicker hire.”

“So?” Ryder asked, still thinking that the name was ridiculous.

“Legends is someone we’ve been training to fight against. The dude is good. I bet he fucking hired your ex to get into your head. I know his coach. It’s something he’d do.”

Ryder opened his eyes, not doubting any of that. “Jesus Christ, when did MMA fighting become a soap opera?”

Andrew snickered and patted Ryder on the back as they got off the elevator. “Oh, I’ll make it one for them. I’ll confirm my suspicions first, but you just relax and shower, man. I’ll handle the drama. Got two daughters; I’m used to it.”

Ryder grunted and went back to the room that they shared. They were going to get separate ones, but the hotel booked up so early in the year that they only had the option for one of them getting to be alone, with Tony staying at an Air BnB.

He walked in and sat down on the bed, collecting himself.

This wasn’t what he needed before the fight. His mind was all over the place, and so was his focus. He decided to take a shower, and then would watch something on Netflix and turn his phone off.

He looked at his phone, seeing missed calls and texts from Andrew.

Then he saw another.

8:49 P.M. Heather: Hey Joey. Wondering if I could talk to you tomorrow, at the Gala?

He left it read and opened up his messages for Julie, seeing their conversation from the airport. He smiled. There was something about Julie that Heather never had, at least to him.

The only thing he was worried about was how Julie was going to react to all of this.

Get through the gala, then get through the fights, and deal with all of that after.

He nodded. He could channel his focus for the next two days, then deal with whatever he had to.

He’d have to ask Andrew to help him avoid Heather tomorrow. Fucking hell if Heather tries to talk to Julie.

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