Authors: Grace Hugh
MMA Sports Romance
This book is an original publication of Grace Hugh.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not assume any responsibility for third-party websites or their content.
© 2016 Grace Hugh
Cover Photos: 123RF
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any printed or electronic format without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
“She in there?” I ask as my brother and I step out of the car and walk up to the Family bistro. A red carpet runs from the door and ropes mark the entrance. A big guy in a suit stands with his arms crossed by the front door.
“Why? Didn’t you get enough tail in lockup?” Axel asks.
I punch him, hard. He dances back laughing and rubbing his arm at the same. Axel has the same build as me, tall and muscular with a long reach. He’s deceptively strong and I know firsthand he can take a hit, but it’s our thing. I also know that I’m in better shape than he is. Doing time left me with little to do but lift weights and train for when I got out. I’m in the best shape of my life and I can’t wait to set foot in the octagon again.
“Ow, douche,” he says.
“Toughen up, bitch,” I laugh.
“Fuck you, man.”
“Is she in there?” I repeat.
“How the hell should I know? You know how Vinnie is, he don’t want her around the crew. Why do you think she didn’t come see you in prison?”
I know why she didn’t come. We can’t let our dad, Vinnie, know about how close we are. Not that he’s her dad. Well, not really. He didn’t even raise his real kids like a dad, we even call him by his name, Vinnie, not dad. Vinnie’s been fucking her mom and that’s how we met, more or less, but whatever. Two damn years inside and all I want right now is to see her. Her full lips, the line of her shoulder, the way her hair bounces when she moves. I can feel the curve of her hip under my hand like I’m trailing my fingers along it right now. Fuck, I’m getting hard just remembering.
I should blow this shit party and go find her. Screw these guys.
“Fuck this, I’m going to the house,” I say, turning around.
“Ain’t a good idea, Jans,” Axel says. “Vinnie’ll kill you, man. He’s got the whole crew in there and some big shots from up the lines, too. Hell, the heads of the other Families are here.”
“Not my family,” I say.
“Sure, fuck ever. You got your cherry popped, they want to have a drink with you,” Axel says.
He’s right and I hate him for it. If I don’t go in it will cause problems. Mostly I don’t give a shit about problems. My whole life is nothing but a fucking problem, but this kind of problem I can do without. If Vinnie gets pissed then it just spins out of control. He finds out I’m fucking his almost stepdaughter, well, that shit would be bad. I know what he does to guys, especially since I’m the one who does the doing, or was. I’m done with that shit.
“Fuck ever,” I say but I turn and head in.
I shove the double glass doors open harder than I need to ‘cause I’m pissed with no other target to hit. As soon as I step in, people cheer and crowd around. They pat me on the back, shout, and carry on. I don’t see them though, she’s here. LeAnne. My eyes are drawn to her, inexorably, I can’t look away. She’s the center of the universe like a sun shining brightly in this faux high society joint filled with evil bastards who have no right to breathe the same air as she does.
Sammy Costa, a slimy, big-nosed, scrawny little shit sidles up next to her and says something I can’t hear. Anger pulses with every beat of my heart just seeing him speak to her. I storm through the crowd of well-wishers intent on him. I’m going to destroy him. He’s the son of one of the Family heads but I’ve never liked him and knowing he’s probably been hitting on her the entire time I’ve been gone pisses me off.
“Jans!” a huge man steps in front of me and pulls me into a bear hug.
Every muscle tenses and I fight my instinct to resist his grip. It’s more trouble than it’s worth. Big Tony isn’t just a made guy, he’s head of his own family. He’s a guy you don’t piss off. You take his fat, sweaty hugs when he wants. At least you do if you don’t want to be on the wrong side of a meeting with a guy like me in a dark room. He used to be a fighter but now he has guys to do that for him. He spends his time and money on stuffing his face. It disgusts me to see what a man can do to himself.
“Hey, Tony,” I say, patting his back.
He steps back and looks me up and down. An unlit cigar hangs out of the corner of his mouth dripping ash on his expensive suit, his thin black hair is slicked back against his head, and his beady eyes drift over me while his hands grip my biceps then my forearms. I stay focused on him the best I can but my eyes keep drifting to LeAnne. Sammy is still next to her and talking. I know, with a bone deep certainty, that he’s hitting on her. My vision edges turn red as hot rage fills me but I can’t show it here. In this room rage like that will get me killed.
“Joint was good to you,” Tony says. “You’re in even better shape than when you went in.”
“Yeah, well, not much to do but beat down pricks and lift weights,” I say.
“You hear this, boy?” Tony calls out to the room. “Beat pricks he says! We all know about beating some meat in the joint, don’t we, boys?”
Raucous laughter responds to him. They think it’s funny but it’s true. What else was I going to do with my time? Training is all I know and the only way I know how to survive. Train and think. Now I’m out and I’ve got a plan. I’m going to change our lives forever. I look past him to LeAnne and she meets my eyes. My heart stops. She looks over Sammy’s head, he’s a short piece of shit, and gives me the slightest of smiles. It’s enough, just enough, it drives my heart into motion and straight to overdrive.
“Yeah, Tony,” I say absently.
I’m sure he said something else but I missed it and couldn’t care less. I just want to get past him to her. I had no idea how much I’d missed her. I knew it but I didn’t know it at the same time. I’d kill every man in this place if it would just get me to her faster. I want her in my arms, to wrap myself around her…
“You did good, kid,” Tony says, then there’s an envelope being shoved in my hand. “Little token, you know, appreciation for your time.”
“Thanks, Tony,” I say shoving it into my back pocket without looking.
It’s tradition. You go away and keep your mouth shut, and they take care of you when you come out. I didn’t go away for the business but they’re honoring the tradition. It’s a start.
“You going to fight again? You look good,” Tony asks.
“Yeah,” I say.
“Good, that’s real good. We made a lot of money on you. Lot more to be made with a good kid like you.”
I nod. He’s right. Underground fighting deals in big pots. The Families run most of the action and get paid a percentage so they always win.
“That’s good,” I say. “I need to earn.”
“All right,” Tony says just as the sound of metal tapping glass fills the room.
It’s Vinnie standing with Lou, his bodyguard and right hand man. Lou’s a monster. I mean, kids cry when they see his ugly mug on the street. He’s over seven feet tall and built like a brick shit house. He’s wide and strong and his hands are as big as my head and despite all that, he’s surprisingly fast. The thing is, his face is scarred, bad. The left side was cut up by some punks with switchblades when they thought they could cut in on one of Vinnie’s trades. They didn’t know what they’d started. They got the jump on Lou and when they thought he was dead, he got up and killed them with his bare hands. Now he’s ugly and doesn’t talk much. He never was bright but he’s loyal to Vinnie beyond reason. Vinnie treats him like shit and he just takes it. He’s not a bad guy, just a man with no options.
Vinnie holds two champagne glasses in his hands looking at me. He’s kept his fighting frame despite his age. He’s shorter than me by a few inches, just under six foot. He carries a little extra weight now but the thing with Vinnie is his eyes. They’re dead. Empty and soulless. When he stares at you, you know, deep inside, he’ll kill you without a second thought. There’s not an ounce of warmth in him.
“My boy!” Vinnie yells, motioning at me with the glasses.
I walk over and take one. I look at the shimmering gold liquid. This isn’t on my menu, I can’t put anything into my body that will slow me like alcohol. Vinnie stares, sizing me up with his hard, steel eyes. I meet his stare and don’t back down. The scar that runs over his right eye twitches. I look at all the scars on his knuckles as he raises his hand up closer to me. I raise my glass and clink it against his. The crowd erupts into cheers and chants my name. I toss it back and over my shoulder, keeping myself turned so most of them will think I drank it. Vinnie sees though. He sees and his jaw tightens, his lips turn down into a frown, and his eyes narrow. Screw him, I’m in training.
Everyone returns to conversing with each other. They’ll drink, talk, and bitch until early morning hours. The crew heads file up and give respect to Vinnie then hand me an envelope. Tradition. My gut tightens into a hard knot filled with vile acid. These men in their fancy suits, high polished shoes, and their facade of being ‘respectable.’ It’s all a lie. I glance over and catch LeAnne’s eye. She smiles then quickly looks away.
My heart does that whole skipping a beat thing again. She’s worth it. The risk, the pain, she’s worth it. I’m doing this for her.
The last of the crew chiefs comes and gives their respect with a nice, fat envelope. I’ve been piling them on the bar behind me. No one here will touch it. I could lay a million dollars on the counter, go take a piss, and it’d be sitting there when I got back. I’m Vinnie Manarchy’s son. It’s my money and they know it. No one here wants the shitstorm that would come with touching it. No one but Vinnie himself. When I turn around to face the bar he’s thumbing through the envelopes.
“That’s mine,” I say.
Vinnie looks at me. His dead eyes scare most men and all my life they’ve scared me, too, but I’m done with that. Fear is weakness, fear will not get me what I want. Fear is for pussies. I meet his stare with my own. His hand rests on the pile of envelopes. Like he needs it. He’s got more damn money than he knows what to do with. Him in his fancy mansion, his fancy cars, and his high dollar suits all tailor made. Hate pulses in me as I look at him.
“Grow a spine, did you?” he asks, his voice low.
“I earned that,” I say.
“You earned what I gave you,” he says. “And you owe me. You owe me everything. You think anyone in this room doesn’t give me my cut?”