My mind was racing. I still couldn’t shake the events that took place a week ago. Yes, it was over. But the fact that I almost lost Jayden still gnawed my insides. Since then I had kept her close. I’m convinced that I need the security of her near me more than she needs mine.
I held Jayden’s hand in my one good one as I waited to be called up for the weigh in. My coaches were standing not far off keeping an eye on me in case I was taunted by a fellow fighter— Not that any were close by—so they could hold me back. After all, I was ticking a time bomb. I was looking for any excuse to explode. Other than red, I didn’t see many colors.
And that was dangerous ground.
My pre-fight conference with Xavier hadn’t gone to hell. Not completely. I held my cool and ignored him as much as I could. But then again, he hadn’t brought up Jayden. I flipped him shit as much as he did me. But those were just words. He had no idea what I was going to bring tomorrow. Because I was leaving here with that title belt in hand.
Paconi stood in the center of the stage in front of the scale as he talked to two guys with clipboards. I just wanted to get the weight in and done with it.
I couldn’t wait for tomorrow.
“You need to breathe.”
I tore my eyes from the stage and looked at Jayden who was taking every inch of me in.
I hadn’t realized that I had been holding my breath so I breathed in. I reached up with my broken hand and rubbed my thumb across her sharp jaw.
“Keep your head on the fight. Nothing else.” Her eyes were intense and solid in a chastising way. She poked me in the chest. “All this— tension you have brooding— save it for the fight tomorrow.”
It wasn’t her words that had me grinning at her but her tone. It was firm. Bossy. And it was really sexy. “Yes, mam.”
“Gage Buchanan” I looked to one of the security guards who approached me. “They’re ready for you to weigh in.”
I gave a nod. The man eyed me cautiously and I saw him tense as he looked over his shoulder. Clearly he saw that I was near falling off the edge and knew that he was going to have his hands full if someone so much as looked at me the wrong way. I’m glad he recognized a raging bull when he saw one, it meant the guy was good at his job.
I dropped Jayden’s hand and took the dum-dum out of my mouth before I leaned down and kissed her. Popping the root beer flavor back in my mouth I walked on stage, Alex and Tom lingered not far behind. The fans in the audience went wild. The camera’s flashed.
“That is the sound of over nine thousand fans just to see your weight in.” Paconi grinned at me. “We normally have three to six.”
“I’m getting a good pay day then?”
“You’re my highest paid fighter so don’t pull that shit.” Paconi chuckled. “You get paid millions per fight which is a hell of a lot more than the majority of the fighters. Not to mention the PPV and other shit that you won’t budge on.”
“That’s because I won’t fight for less.” I grinned. I wasn’t lying about that. Where I was in the seven figure mark I knew that Xavier stood in the range of one-hundred and fifty thousand to two-hundred thousand. Not a bad payday...I just wanted more. And I knew I could get it. “You can’t complain, Paconi...I bring in a shit load of money for you guys.”
And I did.
It wasn’t arrogance. It was a fact.
Which was why I wanted more than one slice of the piece of the pie.
“I have to say that I’m pretty fucking excited for tomorrow.”
“You should be.” I said. And without waver I added, “Because I’m going to knock that fucker out within the first round.”
“Now that—” Paconi pointed at me with raised eyebrows, “would be a site to behold my friend.”
He glanced over my shoulder. He grinned at me like an ass whole. “So that’s her. The one that had you turning down that bombshell of a blond at the club.”
I didn’t look back at Jayden. Nor did I answer him.
“I see why you’d turn down the blond though This one’s— Wow! She must be pretty special. Because you’ve never brought a girl to one of your fights before. Never thought I’d see the day my friend.”
“I forgot how observant you are.” I said. “It’s annoying as shit.”
A rich chuckle escaped Paconi and he walked away.
Kicking off my shoes, I pulled my socks off and stripped out of my sweats and t-shirt. Tossing my clothes and sucker to Alex I stepped on the scale.
“Two-hundred and eight pounds.” One of the men with the clipboards I saw earlier with Paconi announced. Hearing the ruckus coming from my left I looked over to see Xavier striding right for me. I stepped off the scale and stood my ground as Paconi stepped between us. I ignored the solid hand of my boss pushing me back.
“Nice piece of ass you brought with you, Gage.” Xavier gave me a grin that made me want to punch it off his face. “Jayden de Luca— Really, bro? I’ve always thought she was the hottest Angel. Hmm...hmm...hmm! The things I’d like to do to her.”
Paconi looked at me but I ignored him. “That’s Knox’s sister?”
The mention of Jayden got my blood flowing through my veins at an alarming rate. “Fuck you.” I spat. Xavier didn’t understand the dangerous ground he was treading on.
He didn’t want to fuck with Jayden.
“Have to say I haven’t ever seen a body so tight. Let me know when you’re done with her, huh?” Xavier grabbed his dick. “I’ll show her what balls deep really means.”
I lunged forward. I was glad to see that he did too. Before my fist could connect to his jaw, I was pulled back by two police officers.
“Both of you walk away.” Paconi raised his voice. “No fighting until tomorrow.”
I didn’t retreat. Nor did I advance. I stood my ground aching to lay my fist into Xavier's jaw.
I was pumped.
I had four hands pressing into my chest to keep me back.
“No swinging.” Paconi warned me.
“Why you gettin’ all worked up man?” Xavier chuckled. “We’ve shared girls before— Remember Tiffany? Oh, what about Amber? Or Veronica? Vicky... Now, that girl we traded a few times, you remember that back in the day?”
“Save it for tomorrow.” One of the police officers said just inches from my face.
I hadn’t realized that Alex and Tom were being pulled back from Xavier's coaches as they too were trying to rip each other apart.
“You good?” Paconi barked at me.
I didn’t acknowledge him.
“Gage, you good?”
His shout was heard but I didn’t look at him as I answered. “Yeah— Yeah, I’m good.” But just barely. Like a broken record, Jayden’s words of ‘All this— tension you have brooding— save it for the fight tomorrow’ played over and over in my head.
Paconi strode away with Xavier. Not sure what he was saying but I hoped it had to do with the fact that he was telling him that I’d be ripping him a new asshole in a few seconds if he didn’t shut his mouth. The hold I had on my temper was dwindling and if that fucker said one more word about Jayden, the two officers wouldn’t be able to hold me back.
A second later, Xavier and his team stood on the other side of the stage and Paconi approached me. The officer’s had yet to let up on their hold.
Paconi looked at me and chuckled. He shook his head in amusement, fully aware that I was ready to say ‘Fuck the fight tomorrow’ and kick Xavier's ass here and now.
“Like I said, ‘I’m pretty fucking excited for tomorrow’.”
Several minutes later I was calm enough to allow Alex and Tom to walk me off the stage. I can’t say that I didn’t stop and turn around a few times to look back at Xavier because I did. I wanted to shove that middle finger he was flipping me up his ass.
“Dare I ask what that was about?” Jayden was wide eyed.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” My words came out harder than I wanted. Explaining it would just piss me off more and I’d find myself being pushed back by a couple officers for the second time.
I held up my broken hand to Deion. My chest still heaved and my heart was slamming against my chest. “Make sure you wrap this really fucking good tomorrow.”
* * *
Tomorrow night came quickly.
But it hadn’t come quickly enough.
I was still brooding from the weigh in. Thankfully, Jayden hadn’t asked me again as to what Xavier said that set me off. For all she knew, it was the mention of my lollipop. That’s all it would have taken anyway. Ok, well, perhaps not to that extent. I knew Alex and Tom rehashed the events to Deion but Deion hadn’t spoken to me about it. He knew better. He let me brood knowing that it would all be unleashed tonight.
I threw a combination of punches to the mitt’s Alex was holding up, careful not to actually make contact with my left. “Done.”
I looked at Jayden who was curled in the corner of the couch reading. As if sensing my stare she looked up. The blush that filled her cheeks was sexy as hell. Damn, she had been blushing at me all damn day.
And I knew why.
Sex with her has always been amazing. Honestly, I had never had better sex in my life. At times, I felt my soul merged with her. Others, the hunger was so raw and carnal that it left me sated beyond imagine. But last night...It was positively mind blowing. I barely was able to keep my knees from buckling after I had sex with her up against the wall in the shower. And again on the table in our suite. Not to mention the bed early this morning.
I gave her a wink. Chuckling because I didn’t think her blush could have gotten any brighter. She mouthed ‘Stop’ as she smiled before ducking her head and putting her nose back in her book.
“Time to wrap.”
Reluctantly, I tore my eyes from Jayden and sat down. At the mention of wrapping my mind went once again to the fucker who’d I’d be knocking out tonight. All because he ran his mouth and thought he was better than me.
And tonight he and the world were going to be reminded of that.
“I ill.” Deion affirmed. He paused. “Just because I’m wrapping it well doesn’t mean that you can use it. I know you’re a lefty but keep your right hand dominant, Gage. We don’t need any more damage to your hand.”
As if he didn’t believe me, he gave me the stare parents do when they warn their teenage kid not to drink when they go to a party. “I mean it.”
“I will.” I said again. “But I will use it if I see an opportunity, Deion.”
I looked at Jayden again who still had her nose in her book. I knew that her attention wasn’t on the story because she hadn’t flipped a page in the last two minutes. And Jayden was a fast reader. Not to mention she bit her lower lip which was a dead give away.
“You’re all set.” Deion shook his head as he stood; tossing the tape in my duffle bag.
“Leave it alone, Deion.” Tom whispered. “He’s made up his mind. And none of us can change it.”
“She can.” Deion didn’t try lowering his voice.
“Yeah, you’re right.” Tom agreed. “But we’re not going to do that.”
A knock came at the door along with a shout. “You’re up, Gage.”
A wicked grin crossed my face.
Tom opened the door and Frank, one of the security guards I spoke to earlier, walked in.
“You’re the one going to be walking Jayden to her seat, yeah?” I wanted to make sure she wasn’t left unattended. I knew Knox, Spencer, Lily and Eagan were already in their seats and Jayden would be sitting alongside them during the fight. I just need to make sure she’d get there unscathed. I knew she was no longer in danger— I just needed time to adjust to it.
“Yes, Mr. Buchanan.” The guy’s baritone voice rang. “She’s in safe hands.”
Before I knew it I was standing in the cage. I shook out my arms and rolled my shoulders. I couldn’t wait for the ring of the bell.
My blood was pumping rapidly through my veins and my fists itched to make contact with any body part of the asshole who danced in front of me.
Xavier flew his hands in the air trying to get the crowd hyped up more than they were. The screams and hollers were so loud they began to meld together in a harmonic buzz.
There was a part of me that understood his assuredness. He had beat me once before. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, as much as it pinged my pride, he had beat me. Had I taken that fight seriously as I did now his pay scale wouldn’t have increased and his head wouldn’t be too large for his shoulders to carry.
Unfortunately for him, he was about to receive the same humbling that I had. Except he’d be licking a larger wound than I did because I hadn’t lost by TKO but by unanimous decision. It had all boiled down to points. Some would argue that I got a lucky shot in tonight. That I didn’t have it in me to go all five rounds.
I can assure you there wasn’t going to be any luck involved.
I watched as the announcer entered the cage in his dark navy blue Armani suit. His baritone voice rumbled throughout the auditorium. The crowd began to settle and my ears were no longer ringing. After the announcer left the cage I was waved forward along with Xavier and we met in the middle with the ref keeping one hand on each of our chests flanked by two security guards. Clearly Paconi didn’t trusted me not to finish this before it even started.
He was smart like that.
“Fucked a burnette last night. Poor thing didn’t even know it was that sweet tight ass Jayden de Luca I was envisioning instead of her. Tell me, are you bored with her yet?”
I didn’t take the bait.
As much as I wanted to punch my first through his face, I held back. I needed to wait for that fucking bell. A few more seconds and I was able to let loose.
The ref looked at me.
“We went over the rules— You understand them, right?”
“I do.” I never broke my gaze from Xavier.
The ref turned to Xavier. “We went over the rules— You understand them, right?”
“Yep.” Xavier grinned and wiggled his eyebrows at me.
“Alright. You both keep this fight clean. I expect you to listen to me. Take my warning’s seriously. If I call the fight you walk away. Now, bump gloves and retreat back to your corners.”
We didn’t bump gloves.
I walked backwards to my corner, keeping my gaze locked on Xavier.
“He’s favoring his left leg. Work it.” Tom shouted at me.
I gave a nod without turning around so at least he knew I heard him.
The bell rang.
It was music to my ears.
I advanced towards the center putting my fists up once I made it halfway. I tucked my fingers into the palm of my broken hand because there was no way that I could make a tight fist. Whether Xavier knew or not I hadn’t a clue. Most likely he did. Either way it didn’t matter. My hand didn’t hurt but I knew it would be like a son-of-a-bitch if I punched him with it. I had no intention of using it but I would if I had to. I faked a left punch and kicked his left thigh. I almost smiled because my hit was solid. I knew it hurt. Xavier frowned and threw his right shoulder and I dodged to the side. I kicked forward causing him to stumble back as my foot landed on his stomach. I threw my right fist, connecting with his jaw. Immediately he threw his right fist, hitting me solidly on my cheek. I tasted blood instantly. I rolled my tongue around my mouth and swallowed. For the next few seconds we exchanged jabs and kicks, most of which didn’t connect. He danced around, keeping his distance and it was beginning to piss me off. Getting him near the fence, I kicked his left leg again and he stumbled back. His jaw clenched and a deep furrow set between his brows. I leapt forward and punched his jaw with my right, causing him to stumble again. I threw another right knowing he wasn’t expecting it. His eyes glazed over and he fell back backwards. Lunging, I dropped to my knees beside him and threw my left fist connecting it to his chin. I threw another hard right connecting to his upper cheek.
Suddenly the ref’s hands were on my shoulders pulling me back.
Rolling away and I shouted at the top of my lungs and ran to the fence and straddled the cage.
The crowd went wild. My coaches rushed into the cage; they were jacked higher than I had seen them in a while. “Twenty-one seconds.” Tom shouted at me as I hopped down. “You knocked him out in twenty-one seconds. That was fucking amazing.”
I gave Tom a hug as he threw his arms around me; padding me on the back.
“How’s your hand?” Alex asked and too gave me a hug. Pulling back, he slipped the something in my glove that I had him hold for me during the fight.
I was now beginning to feel the throb. “It fucking hurts.”
“I’m proud of you.” Deion gave me a tight smile. It screamed of both proudness and parental chastising.
I gave a nod and accepted his father like hug.
I pulled back. “Give me a minute.” I said and walked over to Xavier who was just waking up. He still lay on his back with his knees bent and his hands on his chest. The doctor was checking him out and his coaches were surrounding him.
“I want to talk to him.” I said to his head coach.
Giving me a lopsided smile that was only caused by defeat he stepped aside and I crouched beside Xavier. I tapped him on the side of the rib to gain his attention so he knew I was there.
“You alright?” I still had a grudge against him. I didn’t regret knocking him out. In fact, if I had the chance again after this I wouldn’t hesitate to do so. I may be an asshole about it but I didn’t want to see the man medically incoherent because he pissed me off by running his mouth.
“You’ve gotten quicker with your punches.” Xavier sounded tired.
I offered my right hand. “Are you able to stand?”
“Yeah.” Xavier wrapped his hand around mine and I pulled him up. “I’m going to call you out again.”
“I wouldn’t expect anything different.” And I didn’t. “I walked away and saw Jayden emerging from the crowd gathered in the ring. My brother and sister’s right behind her.
I knew I was grinning like an idiot but I didn’t care. My beautiful girlfriend was standing right in front of me. Jayden wrapped her arms around my neck and I pulled her up until her legs were gripping me around my waist.
“I told you you were going to win.” She whispered against my neck. I held her tight. I couldn’t hold her close enough.
“I love you, baby.” I kissed her neck and squeezed her tighter. “I love you so much.”
“I love you too.”
I was thankful that no one approached us. Selfishly, I wanted this moment with her alone. I loosened up my hold and she pulled back enough so that we now faced each other. “I love you.” I said again. “More than I can put into words. You have managed to crawl into my heart and burrow in. You’ve changed me for the better. Turned me into a man that I thought I’d never become. I will always protect you. I will always be there for you. I will always take care of you. And hell or high water I will do whatever I have to in order to keep you happy. I want more with you. Being your boyfriend is good and all but I want more. I want you as my wife. I want to have a family with you. And I want to grow old with you.”
Jayden wiped away the tears that streamed down her face. Keeping one arm around her, I freed my broken hand and held the ring in my palm in front of her. I wished I could have held it in between my fingers but my hand was fucking killing me.
Jayden gasped. Her eyes wide. Her hand covered her mouth as she glanced from me to the ring a few times.
“Jayden Marie de Luca— will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
“How did you—When did you manage—”
“When I arranged for you to go to the spa yesterday.” I replied. “You came back early and I almost had a heart attack when you walked in the door because I thought you saw the diamonds scattered across the fucking coffee table.”
Her smile grew and she laughed.
“I can’t tell you how relieved I was when you want to take a shower.”
“Gage this diamond is, “she looked at it once again, “it’s so beautiful. You didn’t—”
“Don’t worry about it. Now— will you please put me out of my misery and say ‘Yes’...Because I’m fucking dying here, baby.”
“Yes.” She cried. “Yes, Gage Buchanan . I will be your wife.”
I kissed her with the urgency and hunger that filled me to my core. She had said ‘Yes’.
I hadn’t realized the camera’s were on us until the entire stadium filled with the uproar of the crowd.