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It was quarter after eleven and everyone had gone to bed over an hour ago. With tomorrow being my first day of training, I should have been in bed already. But, I couldn’t sleep. Instead, I’m flipping through the channels with the image of Jayden lying in the hospital ingrained in my mind.

I’m still pissed off.

After I said I was staying, Deion followed me out of the living room and pulled me aside.

“I know you like this girl, Gage. But this is a distraction you don’t need. Your head needs to be focused.”

I knew he was right. But I didn’t care.

“I’m not leaving, Deion.” I said plainly. I stretched my arm towards the kitchen. “If you and anyone in there want to leave, that’s ok. I won’t hold it against any of you.”

“Do you really think any of your coaches will leave? Hmm?” He raised his bushy brows at me. “Because you and I both know they won’t. But if we are going to do this, we need to know that you’re head—”

“I’m taking the title belt from Xavier, Deion.”

And I was.

I wasn’t out to prove to everyone that I had it in me to win. I was doing it for myself. Losing that fight woke me up. I was faced with the ugly truth that I let my ego get the best of me. It was a hard lesson to learn.

My phone pinged, alerting me that I received a text.


Where’d you get that stuffed animal for Isabella?


Little Purple Hippo. It’s on 1st. Why?


She won’t go anywhere without it. She had it in bed with her, woke up and it was gone. SHE FREAKED. She must have dropped it in her sleep and I think one of us kicked it under the bed when we came in.






How is Isabella now?


Sleeping, thank God.


Otherwise, soaking up attention. Bossy.


She goes back to ortho in a few weeks


Tell the little warrior that she’s got us topped.


That’ll make her head too big.


How’s Emma?


You were right. She didn’t blame me.



I tossed my phone aside and continued to flip through the channels when the light creek coming down the stairs caught my attention.

I looked up to find Jayden descending slowly. I hadn’t seen her since she disappeared upstairs earlier. She never did come back down. Not even for dinner. According to Knox she was, at the time, out like a light. By Spencer’s reaction it sounded like a heavy burden was lifted.

With her head bowed her mid length hair concealed her profile. Her sweats made me grin. They were in no way hers. Judging by the size, they had to be Knox’s. They were baggy as hell and folded a few times at the ankles. The lacey trimmed v-tank revealed her slender firm build.

Jayden lifted her hand, sank her fingers in her hair and looked up. “Oh! Sorry, I ah...I thought you were Knox.”

I pointed to the ceiling. “Everyone went to bed already.” I turned the volume down. “Did I wake you?”

“No.” she shook her head. “I always wake up several times a night.” She admitted, flicked her hair over her shoulder. “The sandman doesn’t visit me too often. So I take advantage of it when I can.”

“Have a seat.” I scooted over to make room even though there was another empty couch and two chairs. I was glad to see that she didn’t pass it up.

“Thanks.” She replied and sat right beside me.

“What do you want to watch?” I asked.

“Anything, I’m not picky when it comes to television. I actually don’t watch it too much.”

“I find that a little hard to believe.”

She lifted her legs, they nearly touched her chest as she tucked them close. “Why’s that?”

“Spencer claim’s you know everything there is to know about the EIC. You can’t do that unless you live and breathe it.”

“I know some, but not everything.” She smiled. “Spencer tends to over-exaggerate on that.”

“How did I lose the fight with Mike Kado?”

“You haven’t fought Mike Kado. You lost to Lucas Terrell earlier in your career by unanimous decision. And I believe the fight was held in Toronto. You only lost one other fight and that was in August of last year to Xavier. You were defending your title.” She shrugged her shoulder and added. “Not to mention you have twenty-three wins— eight of which are knock outs I believe.”

There was something sexy about how much she knew about me. I grinned. I couldn’t help it.

She studied me closely. Her eyes scanned every inch of my face before they locked with mine. “You’re going to win, Gage Buchannan.” Her voice was full of assurance. It held no trace of doubt.

It was sexy as hell that she had that much confidence in me.

“Yes, I am.”

Nodding, she gave a slight smile. “You seem to be taking it well enough, the loss.”

“I didn’t at first. It was kind of rough there for a while. Being knocked out doesn’t mesh with me too well. But my trainer Deion, he’s amazing. My team is amazing.”

“I don’t think a TKO sits with anybody. Dings one’s pride a bit. I remember the first time Knox got knocked out. He and Spencer were sparring in the backyard— This was years ago...Anyway Spencer got a lucky punch. Clipped Knox’s jaw...Knox woke up and was really pissed.” She started to laugh. “I’m sorry, it’s really not all that funny but it’s one of those moments where you had to be there. And with him being my brother I tend to find the humor in it, because he never lashes out like that. He’s pretty cool headed.”

I couldn’t help but join her laughter. It was intoxicating. She was intoxicating.

After a few seconds, our laughter died down and I dropped my gaze to her neck. Her scar more specifically.

For a moment neither of us said anything. We just sat there. Slowly, she reached up, slightly hesitating before she brushed her hair aside. She angled her head making it come into plain view. The vein at her neck quickened. I locked my eyes with hers. She was nervous. And fuck...Who wouldn’t be. It made me pissed off that someone had the ability to strip a piece away from a treasure such as her. To break a part of her that may never be fixable. Her voice was quiet when she said, “It’s ok.”

I didn’t pretend to mistake her meaning. She was offering me to touch a part of her that she guarded heavily.

I wanted to touch her. My hands ached with the need to erase the wicked memory. But I knew that no matter how hard I tried that memory would never be forgotten.

“I know you don’t like to be touched.” I lifted the corner of my lip. Telling her that I understood.

She licked her lower lip. She turned her gaze away but not before I caught the sadness and hurt in her eyes knowing that Knox had filled me in. After a moment, she turned back to me. The feelings she was having before were replaced with an apprehensiveness that was understandable. But the closer I looked I saw the urgency pleading me to not hold back. “I want you to.” Her voice cracked and her eyes glossed over.

My chest tightened at her words. I’m not going to lie...It scared the shit out of me with what I felt for her. How bad I wanted her. And how bad I wanted to protect her.

I had wanted to taste her from the moment I laid eyes on her in Vegas. Hell, I wanted more than that. I wanted her naked beneath me, or on top— Really whichever position she preferred I was more than okay with. I liked them all.

Unlike before when I just wanted to give in to my dominant need to satisfy my hunger, all I wanted to do now was take the pain away from her.

I leaned in. Cupping her slender jaw in my hand, I rubbed my thumb across her lower lip. My eyes never left hers. I wanted her. I didn’t try to hide it. Our eyes drifted close just before my lips brushed against hers. She responded as if she hadn’t been kissed before. The urgency was there as was the newness of it all. I pulled back slightly, giving her ample time to pull away in case she decided it was too much too soon. When she didn’t, I kissed her gain, only this time I didn’t pull away. I moved my lips to the corner of her mouth. Then followed along her sharp jaw. I heard her gasp. She leaned in. Her hand went to the back of my neck and gripped. There was no stopping the groan that escaped me. Meeting the junction of her neck and jawline, I placed a firm kiss, feeling the goosebumps spreading over her olive smooth skin. I pulled her so that sat on my lap. Slowly placing one kiss after the other I hovered over her jagged scar. I felt her tense. But when I thought she was about to pull away, she leaned in, sliding her hand to the base of my skull sending a shiver through my body. A desperation of need that I had never felt. Not with anyone. I leaned down and placed my lips to her marred skin. Allowing my mouth to linger longer than all the others, I placed another. I felt a drop of a tear on the top of my hand before it slid down my knuckles.

I pulled back.

My gaze landed on hers and I wiped my thumb beneath her eye.

“I’ve needed this— For so long.” Her voice quivered.

I wrapped my arms around her, pulling her close. I buried my face in her neck and breathed in her clean floral scent.

“I don’t know why I feel safe with you.” She sounded like she was at confession. “But I do.”

I wanted to tell her that I’d protect her. That she was safe with me. But I knew better than to utter those words. Right now, she needed to say what was on her heart. For me to just listen. So I did.

“I broke up with my boyfriend the day before I flew to Vegas. He proposed and I ended it.”


My heart dropped a little at the news.

I couldn’t help but wonder— Would she go back to him?

But then it hit me...

She had said ‘I’ve needed this for so long’. Had her ex not been able to touch her? If so, was it that he couldn’t or was it that she wouldn’t let him?

“It was a breakup waiting to happen. There was someone else besides me in his life and I was just too blind to see it. He’s actually in Montana right now getting married to the mother of his unborn baby.”

Who in their right mind would go out on her? “The guy’s a fucking idiot.” I couldn’t hold the words back.

She pulled back.

Her hands rested on my chest.

My hands stayed wrapped around her. “I’m sorry you had to go through that.” And I was. I just wasn’t sorry about the asshole not being in her life anymore. My reason was completely selfish of course.

I want her.

“Don’t be,” she shrugged, “I’m not. Besides, I’m not crying on my pillow so what does that tell you?”

My heart leaped at the news.

Because now I know I had a shot with her.

For the first time, I wanted it desperately.

I walked her to her room. After kissing her goodnight, I laid flat on my back, my arm resting across my forehead as I stared at the dark ceiling above.

Her mention of engagement had been a blow. But her declaration of no longer caring for the guy; I hated to admit it but, it was rather nice to hear.

I wondered why it mattered.

She had told me the truth. It wasn’t only in her candid tone, but in her eyes as well. They alone did the speaking for her. They were genuine; pure. I couldn’t remember the last time when I’d seen eyes like that from any woman. Prowling and seductive, I saw plenty of those. Hell, it’s all I ever looked for. My moto was simple: Bed them and leave before they had a chance to recover. I wasn’t interested in small talk. That just turned me off.

Jayden had turned out to be far more of a distraction than I had first anticipated. I’d been here less than a day and already I was losing sleep over her; which had never happened to me.

Not in my entire fucking life.

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