ENGAGING JAYDEN

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JAYDEN


So what did Knox have to say about Brock?”

“Hold on.” Grabbing my Louis Vuitton, I climbed out of the black sedan and looked to the approaching bellhop. Pointing, I directed him to my shopping bags that filled the trunk. “Can you have someone take my things to my room please?”

“Your name miss?” The bellhop asked.

“Jayden de Luca.” I turned my attention back to Lily. “Sorry. What was that?”

“So, what did Knox say about Brock?” This time, her words were much slower.

“Oh, I— I didn’t tell him.” I held the cell away from my ear and waited for the tongue lashing I knew was coming. Stealing a glance of the bronzed Lion I was so fond of, I passed by the Atlas statues and entered the green lit hotel.

“What do you mean you didn’t tell him?” Lily’s words came more pitched.

“He has a fight tonight Lily. And it’s not just a fight. He’s going for the title in his division. There is no way I’m going to tell him what happened between Brock and I. He can’t have any distractions right now. It could cost him the fight.” Pressing the phone to my ear again, I made my way to the elevator. Lily was a good friend, but even she didn’t understand the importance, hard work and dedication behind my brother’s career. The EIC (Elite International Combat) wasn’t an effortless trouble-free sport.

“Jay…”

“I’m going to be late.” I rolled her eyes, inwardly kicking myself for lying to my best friend.

I grabbed my pass from inside my purse and hung it around my neck. “Hi.” I mouthed. Flashing the two security guards a smile as I pass by with my Christian Lubitons stilettos echoing down the narrow corridor. The unexpected footsteps behind me, made me peer over my shoulder. It was one of the security guards.

Pull it together Jayden and stop being so paranoid. They’re probably just making their rounds.

I squared my shoulders and looked forward. Pinpointing the security camera above was definitely a relief.

I checked my Apple watch and upped my pace. “I’ll call you in the morning alright and stop worrying. It’s for the better anyway.”

“I always worry, you know that. And by the way, you won’t be late. You’ve never been late for anything...″ Lily stopped short. And I could just see her now, hitting the heel of her palm against her forehead mouthing, ’Way to go Lily.” But she was right. I had never been late to anything— That is, except the one morning nearly six months ago when I was supposed to pick her up to have breakfast. But it wasn’t Lily’s fault. And I knew that in some way Lily felt responsible for what had happened to me because she had gone home early. But, I had told her to. And no matter how many times I told her that it wasn’t her fault, there was nothing I could do to make her believe otherwise. Sometimes...sometimes bad things happen.

To release the tension that flowed from the opposite end of the line, I changed the subject. “We’re going to the club afterwards. I don’t know how late we’ll be, so I’ll call you in the morning. And please tell Eagan thanks again for moving the rest of Brock’s things out. I really appreciate it.”

“No need to thank me darlin’.” Eagan chimed in. “Just call if anything comes up alright and hey, tell your brother hi for me and that we’re watching him.” By Lily’s disgruntlement, her husband must have taken the phone from her and I couldn’t help but smile. They made the best of pairs. In a way I envied what love they had for one another. The way they could drive to hell and gone and never turn on the stereo because they were so engrossed with their conversation amazed me. Some people just fit, they were that very couple. Being in their second year of marriage, they made it clear to everyone that children were not to be expected for some time yet. That they were going to hold off a tad longer. But the truth was that Lily had had two missed carriages in the past three years. Even being bed ridden, she couldn’t make it through the first trimester. That was beyond heartbreaking for them both. I was the only one they had told, not even their parents were aware of it. They couldn’t stomach the idea of everyone pitying them.

“I should have known that you would be listening.”

“Who, Me?” Eagan scoffed. “Wouldn’t think of it. Just tell Knox that I spent a good amount of money to watch him.”

“What, no good luck or anything?”

“Do you think he needs it?”

“Of course not”

“Just take care of yourself in Sin city.” Eagan’s voice was laced with concern.

“I’ve been to Las Vegas before Eagan. Now, I really have to go.” I pressed, coming up to the door of Knox’s quarters.

“All right darlin’. See ya.” Eagan said.

“See ya sweetie.” Lily shouted from the background.

Pressing end, I slipped my cell into my tote along with my glasses and entered the room. Knox’s back was toward me and I eased the door shut as I watched him spar with the punching mitts his trainer Vick held. The hood of his black pullover was flipped forward, covering his fully tattooed head, green and blue shorts that stopped mid thigh.

“Keep that up and he’ll have nothing on you my man.” Vick praised and removed the mitts. “Hey Jay, decided to finally show huh?”

“She’s late.” Knox replied and turned to face me. He pointed to my black shirt that bore the TAPOUT logo. “Ah...I was hoping you’d like it. I was afraid it would be a little small.”

I peered down in front of me. “It fits like a glove.”

“Yeah...that’s what I was afraid of.” Reaching over to the chair beside him, he grabbed a pullover that matched his own and tossed it to me. “I got you this too just in case.”

“Thanks.” Setting my tote on the floor, I slipped on the sweatshirt, grabbed my purse and secured it on my shoulder. My brother knew me too well at times. The shirt may have fit like a glove but ever since six months ago, I really didn’t like eyes pinned on me. And well, let’s face it...A fitted shirt with size B bra was bound to catch an eye or two.

And it had.

Knox glanced to the door, then back at me. “Where’s Brock and Spencer?”

“Brock liked the shirt and as far as it goes for Spencer...he was lured away by a pair of Botox filled platinum money sharks. I just wanted to slip down here and see you before the fight.” Catching his leer of disapproval, I forced a smile. “Oh, also, Eagan says ‘Hi’ and that he paid good money to watch you.”

I never could pull a fast one on him.

Damn did that get frustrating at times!

If it had been up to me, I wouldn’t have shown in the first place. With all things considered, I would have preferred to see him after the fight. That way, he would be oblivious to my new rising tribulations and be going into the cage with a clear head. But, he had in fact been expecting me. There had never been a time where I hadn’t visited him before any fight and if I hadn’t shown up, he would have known something was amiss and no doubt he would have sent out a search party. So, there was no winning no matter what route I took. All I could do was flash a smile and do my best to divert his attention.

And then my cell notified me that I had received a text.

Thank God for small favors.

I had plastered on that spurious smile of mine and done my best to hold my afflictions at bay, but with him it rarely worked. Sometimes I wondered if he knew me too well. I held up my index finger. “Hang on.” I flicked my gaze to Vick and grabbed my phone.

Vick clued in and tapped Knox on the shoulder. “Stay focused my man. Just let it go alright. She’s fine.”

Thankfully Knox allowed Vick to pull him away but I could still feel his gaze.

Pulling out my phone, I pulled up the text not recognizing the number. It wasn’t anyone I knew. The person sending it probably just sent it to the wrong number.

Curious, I pushed play.

Though the video was dark, effortlessly, I made out the setting. My lungs seized.

I was in the shower— Eyes closed, head thrown back as I rinsed the suds from my hair. My side profile in plain view.

Given by the hazy glass shower and gray tile flooring it was taken when I was at Knox’s place.

Had this been last night?

My hands became sweaty.

As the person behind the filming turned the camera, he settled it on the mirror and wiped his gloved hand across the mirror to remove the fog.

My chest tightened.

I was beginning to feel faint.

My pulse quickened.

Wearing a black long sleeved shirt, his face remained hidden behind his ski mask and dark shades, showing himself to me once again. As if I could ever forget him. That dark presence was permanently engraved in my mind like an engraving on a tombstone, haunting my dreams nearly every night.

Oh, my...

I hadn’t noticed the paranoia that had crept into my life until it was to the point of near destruction. He had taken everything from me. I wanted nothing more than to tear my eyes away. I couldn’t. Now, all I could do was stare at the masked body that lingered in the archway of the bathroom.

“Jay?”

My brother’s voice was nothing but a faded echo.

“Jay!” he shouted.

I snapped my head up.

“You alright?”

I swallowed hard and took a deep breath before dropping the phone into my oversized purse. I forced a smile and prayed to God that that it wasn’t as factitious as it felt on my face. I pointed to the door behind me with my thumb. “Everything’s fine. I’m going to go. I’ll see you out there.”

“Hey!” He flipped his hood back, revealing his fully tattooed scalp. From hairline to hairline, a detailed outline of a skull covered his head. On the right side, just behind his ear, a skeleton broke through, trying to free itself. “Are you alright?”

I fluttered my eyes and shrugged my shoulder. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

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