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“Good. Again.” Alex demanded. I jabbed with my left twice and then my right before I landed the final blow with my left.


I threw the same combination.


This time I threw my right twice, then my left and then a right.

“Now rest and hydrate.” Alex removed the boxing mitts and tossed them into the corner of the ring. “Damn you’ve gotten quicker.”

I caught the water bottle Tom tossed at me and drank up.

I saw Tom check his phone. “You guys headed out?”

“Yeah.” Tom tucked his phone back in his pocket. It had been a few weeks since Tom saw his girlfriend and Alex was itching to get home to visit his wife and kids.

“Deion will pick us up Sunday night from the airport.” Alex explained. “Thanks for letting us go home for the weekend man.”

“I should be thanking your family and his girlfriend for allowing you guys to leave town with me like you did.” I replied.

“My wife understands.” Alex shrugged.

“You mean she likes those paychecks.” Tom interjected, making us all laugh.

“She doesn’t complain.”

“Heafy checks like those they never do.” I smiled.

“I wouldn’t know.”

I looked at Tom.

“Kimber has no fucking clue how much I make.” Tom said with a heavy chip on his shoulder. “Nor is she going to.”

I understood why.

Tom dated his last girlfriend for nearly two years when she moved up and decided to move to greener pastures. All because she thought Tom didn’t make as much as her fellow co-worker who she ended up screwing at the office. When she discovered that Tom had seven figures sitting in his savings account and made twice as much more than her co-worker did annually she tried crawling back. In response, Tom just gave her the middle finger.

Deion approached. “You sure you don’t want to ride with me to drop them off?”

“Yeah.” I motioned towards the sauna room. “I’m going To Hell and Back.”

“Want me to pick up some food for you and Abel?”

“Just Abel.” I slipped on my sweats and sweatshirt over my shorts and shirt. Bringing up my hoodie I tied it tight and grabbed a bottle of water from the refrigerator.

“You think Spencer and Jayden will want anything?” Deion pressed.

I shook my head. “They’re out doing errands.”

“Ok. See you in a few hours.” Deion followed Alex and Tom outside.

After a half hour of sweating like a pig, I needed to quench my thirst. Damn was it hot in here. More than normal it seemed.

Grabbing the water bottle from the holster I chugged it down. I crawled off the exercise bike and removed my sweatpants and sweatshirt and wiped the sweat from my face.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. My head was beginning to spin.

What the fuck?

Hearing a tap on the glass I looked to the door.

Oh fuck.

There was nothing but a face filling the small eight-by-eight inch window centered in the cedar slat door. His head fully covered by a mouthless black ski-mask, his eyes hiding behind matching shades. A six inch double-edged knife held in his right hand that he’d used to tap on the window. I looked closer at it. It was serrated on one side, smooth, but sharp as hell on the other.

Is that what he’d used on Jayden?

I felt like I was punched in the stomach.

I went straight for the door.

It was locked. Balling my fist, I slammed it into the window. My hand bounced back off the tempered glass. Of course it was. This was fucking great. My chest heaved as the man stuck a yellow post note to the window.

Jayden belongs to me.

“You son-of-a-bitch.” I seethed. Pointing right at him I promised, “I’m gonna find you.”

The man shook his head, slowly.

I grabbed the handle and tried to push it open once more. It wouldn’t budge. Taking a step back, I rammed my shoulder into the door. It didn’t budge. What the fuck did he do to the door?

I grabbed my phone from my pocket and dialed Abel. I was beginning to see black spots and my head spun. It was becoming harder to breathe. I wasn’t one to panic. So what the fuck was happening to me?

“You better not lay a hand on her you sick fuck.” I smashed my fist into the glass; burning my skin.

Dread rushed through me. Had he turned the heat up?

From the angle of the man’s head, I couldn’t miss the smile that hid behind the mask. I had no other choice but to watch as the man walked away without a care in the world. I looked at the note once again and my blood boiled.

“Gage!” I heard a shout from my phone.

I had forgotten that I had called Abel.

Suddenly my body became weak. I leaned against the burning cedar wall just before my legs gave out. I held the phone to my ear. “The fuckers here.” I managed to choke out. “He locked me—” The room began to spin as everything turned into one vast blur.

And then everything went black.

* * *

I woke without being disoriented this time. What a relief. I absolutely hate that feeling. But what was even more welcomed was to find Jayden lying alongside me. Her head was tucked the crook of my neck and her hand on my pectoral.

I reached over and cupped her cheek only to find it damp. She was out cold but a hick-up escaped her. My chest hurt knowing that it was because she had cried herself asleep.

“I told them she was your fiancé.” I looked to the corner and saw Abel on his computer. “That was the only way they’d let her in.”

“Thanks man.” I kissed her brow. Warmth spread through my chest at the thought of my ring on her finger announcing to the world that she was mine.

“So you know he sent a text to her. I traced it but it was a burner, a different number from the last one, and the signal came from an abandoned warehouse in Spokane. No cameras around so I got nothin’. Fucker’s smart. Don’t worry though, Gage, I’ll catch him.

“I called mom.” Abel closed his computer and walked over, pushing the nurse button. “I didn’t think you’d want her or the family to know what’s going on so I just told her that you pushed yourself too far— She didn’t like hearing that so, most likely you’ll be getting your ass reamed by her later.”

“You did right.” I closed my eyes for a moment. I tightened my grip on Jayden’s cheek. I tried to block out the hospital monitor beside me. That constant beep was annoying as hell.

I heard the door to my room open and the curtain was pulled back.

“She can’t lay with you.”

I opened my eyes to find a nurse with her hand on her hip glaring at Jayden.

“Keep...your voice...down.” I warned. I didn’t want Jayden to wake up. I loved holding her right where she was at. Jayden hiccupped again.

The nurse pointed to my newly acquired fiancé for pretense purposes. “I told her she couldn’t lay with you.”

“Not your call.” The monitor beside me that tracked my heart rate started to beep quickly. I was getting pissed. There was a gleam in the nurses eyes that I had seen a hundred times. She was jealous.


Just the shit I needed to deal with.

“Get out.” I said to her, causing her brows to raise.

“She needs to—”

I covered Jayden’s ear and raised my voice. “She’s not moving— Get out.”

The nurse huffed and left the room.

“Did she actually think she had a shot with you or something?” Abel laughed.

Irritated, I replied, “I don’t know.” I closed my eyes again. “And I don’t fucking care.”

A moment later I heard the nurse ranting as her footsteps approached my door. “She refuses to get up.”

I held my hand over Jayden’s ear and glanced at her, relieved to find that she hadn’t stirred.

“See?” The nurse motioned to Jayden.

“I don’t see the problem.” I recognized the doctor was the same one I had earlier.

“She refuses to get off.”

“Oh, I assure you she gets off.” I said. “If you need proof,” I pointed to my left shoulder blade, “you can check out my shoulder blade because she likes to dig her nails there.”

The nurse looked pissed whereas the doctor choked back his laughter.

“I didn’t mean—”

“Enough, Amber.” The doctor’s voice filled the room. “I said, ‘it’s not a problem.’ Go.”

The nurse stormed off.

“My apologies for her behavior. She won’t be coming back to your room.”

“Thank you.” I replied.

He pointed to Jayden. “It’s good to see her rest. She was— Well, let’s just say you’re a lucky man. She clearly loves you a lot. So, when’s the big day?”

“Haven’t set one— Yet.”

The doctor looks at her hand resting on my chest seeing no ring. He glanced at Abel and grinned. I wasn’t expecting him to be amused to find that my brother had lied about her being my fiancé. He turned back to me and shrugged, playing it off. “How are you feeling, Gage?”

“Fine. Just a little tired.”

Jayden hiccupped again.

He checked my eyes with his slit lamp. “You look good. Do you remember what you were doing before you passed out?”

“I was in the sauna.” I replied. I wasn’t about to reveal that I was locked in. Small town, gossip spreads. And I didn’t want anyone knowing about Jayden’s psycho stalker. “Not to be rude doc but we went over this earlier.” I closed my eyes and rubbed over my brow.

“We did.” He smiled. “You were pretty out of it last time we talked and I wanted to make sure you remembered. I think it’d be a good idea for you to stay over night and you can—”

“I don’t want to do that.” I said firmly.

The doctor looked me over, clearly recognizing a stubborn man when he saw one. After a moment he gave a nod. “On two conditions— Rest. Hydrate. And I mean...hydrate.”

“That I can do.” I gave a lopsided grin in triumph.

“Ok. Because I already placed a hefty bet that you were going to win your fight and I can’t lose to my brother-in-law.”

I chuckled. “Thanks for the confidence doc.”

“Good luck with your fight. I’ll be in the stands rooting for you.”

“Much appreciated.”

He patted my leg, “I’ll get your discharge paper’s rolling,” and left the room.

I heard my phone ring and Abel and I looked at eachother. I was filled with dread. I knew exactly who it was. I accepted the phone from Abel and swiped my thumb across the screen. “Hi mom.”

“Hi, mom? That’s all I get?”

I rubbed my forehead. “I’m fine.”

She gave a heavy sigh. “You scared me, your father and both your sister’s to death, young man.”

I grinned. Only my mother would scold me like I was a teenager. “There’s nothing to worry about.” Well, that was partially true. The reason for me being in here wasn’t a small matter.

“How is my son being rushed to the hospital for passing out nothing to be sorry about?”

“I just pushed myself too far, that’s all.” I wouldn’t be having this conversation if that psycho asshole hadn’t barricaded the fucking door with a crowbar. I want to take that crowbar and shove it up his ass.

For starters.

“I really think that your father and I should come down there.”

“No.” My lips thinned. I hadn’t meant to bark at her like I did. I didn’t want my family down here. Not now. As it was, I’m debating on packing Abel’s things and sending him on his way. I didn’t want to see any of my family hurt. Besides, I was a grown ass man that didn’t need my mother to come down and take care of me.

I heard another sigh.

And then silence.

“Leave him be, Helen. I spoke with the doctor...He’s fine.” I heard my father in the background. Of course he spoke with the doctor. Patient confidentiality clearly went out the window when one spoke with my father Sebastian Buchanan. The fear of Sebastian was far greater than the wrath of a patient with a lawsuit. Just looking at my father one would never guess that he was an oil tycoon. He wore either slacks and a button up with loafers with crazy patterned socks or plain jeans and a t-shirt. He was a generous man but, when push came to shove he was a pit bull.

And you didn’t want to be bit.

Which clearly explains my ‘I’m not budging’ attitude. Clearly, I got it from my father.

“I just—” My mother started, only to be interrupted once again.

“Helen—” Was all my father had to say.

“Alright.” She turned her attention back to me; speaking into the phone. “What are your plans for the next few days?”

I knew that was her way of being subtle and pressing the conversation. “I’m taking Jayden away for a few days.”

“You’re taking Jayden away for a few day’s?” She gave a heavy sigh reeking of annoyance. “Who’s Jayden?”

I heard my sister Jessica in the background. “Pry another one of his bimbo hook-up chicks.” I could see her eyes rolling.

“He doesn’t take them out like that though.” I hear my other sister Daisy add.

“Yeah—You’re right.” Jessica agreed. Now she was more interested. “Who is she, mom?”

My mom covered the phone with her hand trying to block me from listening to them. It didn’t work. “I don’t know.”

“Well, find out.” Daisy pressed eagerly.

“I’m trying to.” My mother replied.

I saved her the trouble of asking again. “Her name is Jayden de Luca...and she’s my girlfriend.”

“She’s your what?” My mom blurted into the phone. She sounded as if she had just discovered I had ten heads.

Jessica gasped, “What is she?” just as Daisy whispered, “Oh my gosh what is it?”

“My girlfriend.” I glanced at Abel and was relieved to see that he was on his computer typing away instead of grinning at me as I was being interrogated from my family. I had enough on my plate already.

“Your girlfriend.” It wasn’t a question.

I heard my dad shift his morning paper, grumbling, ”It’s about bloody time.”

“He has a girlfriend?” I heard Jessica question. “Daisy— Did you hear that?”

“I heard.” Daisy replied. “What’s her name?”

My mom covered the phone with her hand again. I could hear the clank of her rings. “Jayden de Luca.”

Just as Daisy shouted, “Oh, my god!”, Jessica blurted, “Are you serious?”

“Who is she?” My mom sighed as if preparing herself before she was told that I was dating a stripper. Rightfully, I couldn’t blame her. I had shown up a few times to social events with a woman looking the part of just that.

“Mom— Seriously? She’s a model.” Jessica said matter of fact. “She models for a lot of brands. Delise Berry being one of them.”

“Here.” Clearly Daisy had pulled up a picture and showed mom. I only hoped it wasn’t one of the pictures I loved so much where she was wearing barely a stitch.

“Oh, ok.” Mom sounded off. “She looks nice. Pretty— Not that that’s surprising.”

“Are you guys done talking like I can’t hear you?” I was partially amused, I had to admit. This was by far the longest conversation I had ever had as I sat on the sidelines.

“When can we meet her?” Daisy pressed mom.

“Mom.” I said loudly so she’d turn her attention back to me. I wanted to hang up but I was raised better than that.

“Oh, sorry dear.” Mom said. “She looks like a nice girl.”

“She’s—” I paused because I wanted to say ‘fucking amazing’ but I settled for “Amazing. She’s amazing.”

“She’s amazing?” I knew my mom was looking between my sister’s with her brows raised.

I heard my sisters whispering and giggling in the back but I couldn’t make out what they were saying. Did I want to?

“You sound smitten.”

I gave a low chuckle and looked at Jayden as another hiccup escaped her. She looked so damn peaceful. Even with the swollen eyes and red blotches on her face from her crying earlier. All I wanted to do right now was wrap my arms around her and squeeze her tight. I settled for kissing her forehead. “You could say that.”

“Wow! I ah— I wasn’t expecting that. So, are you serious with this girl?”

“Yeah. Yeah, mom I am.” I couldn’t pull my eyes off Jayden. Smitten didn’t even come close to what I feel for this girl. I was downright in love with her.

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