Pride (Bareknuckle Boxing Brotherhood Book 3) (6 page)

BOOK: Pride (Bareknuckle Boxing Brotherhood Book 3)
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Efficient people in surgical uniforms examined his hand, cleaned his wound with something that stung like a fistful of hornets, made him bend and flex his fingers. One of them, his ring finger, wouldn’t respond, wouldn’t bend at all and the pain ran across his palm down into his wrist.

In the fog of whiskey and icy fear, he took in the fragments he overheard—severed flexor tendon, surgery, physiotherapy, splint, months. He shook his head. He didn’t have months to be out of commission, helpless. He had a tournament to win, a family name to uphold. Slinking away with an injury wasn’t part of his plan.

After an x-ray, Bronny found himself struggling to focus while a surgeon detailed what was going to happen.

“Mr. Dolan, you’ll be having surgery on that hand in about an hour. We’ll reattach the flexor tendon that was cut when your palm was slashed. You’ll wear a bent plastic splint during recovery to protect the area and do intensive physiotherapy starting the day after tomorrow. I’ll keep you here tomorrow night so you can have the good painkillers post-operatively. I know that you’re an athletic sort but you’ll find your training must focus solely on rehabilitating this injury. If you don’t care for it just so, you’ll have lifelong problems with use of that hand and the possibility of more operations.” The doctor said perfunctorily.

“Can my son fight again? He comes from a proud line of prizefighters. This isn’t—it isn’t a career ending wound is it?” His father asked hesitantly, his voice thick.

“I’m afraid it is, sir. It would destroy your son’s hand if he did something so foolish as punching anyone with that right hand. In six months of proper care he may regain full use of the hand, everyday use that is, not a boxer’s use.” The doctor said, his voice stern.

As soon as the physician left the room to make arrangements for the operation, Bronny’s dad turned to him.

“You’re not to let that man’s advice stop you,” he said. “You’re going to be just fine, Bronny.”

Bronny nodded. He couldn’t tell if his dad was reassuring his son or himself. His family had never put too much store by medical science anyhow. If the tendon in his hand had to be stuck back together, it would have to be done fast so he could get back to training.

“Don’t worry, dad. I’m sure they can patch me back together,” he said awkwardly.

 

Chapter Eight
Bronny

 

The next thing Bronny remembered, right hand was bandaged in great pale strips of tape and held immobile. His head was foggy, his mouth was dry and Camila Saunders was crying beside his bed. He tried to raise his left hand to pat her tangled hair consolingly but he couldn’t make his body obey his commands. Her hectic sobs shook his bed as she leaned against it. He finally managed to make a noise, something that was meant to be a soothing, ‘it’s okay’ but came out more of a grunt.

“You’re awake. Thank God.” She choked.

He nodded dumbly in response.

“How do you feel? I mean, you look like total shit but considering you got stabbed and just came out of surgery, that’s probably normal,” she said. “I can’t believe how bad he could have hurt you. How did that fucking Carney get in the ring with a knife? I mean, he wore boots. No legit sportsman wears boots to play anything. I should’ve known he was up to something, should have had him searched or something—God, Bronny, he might’ve slashed your throat!” She started sobbing again, mopped her face with a tissue.

“Your dad’s plenty pissed that I’m in here. He was arguing with your grandpa out in the lobby and when the nurse came to say you were out of recovery I—I said I was your girlfriend so I could see you. Your grandpa was shouting curses after me.” She gave a short laugh.

Bronny managed to smile, a lopsided grin, absurdly pleased that she’d called herself his girlfriend, that his grandfather had lost his shit over it in typical tyrant fashion. Sure, he’d have a hell of a lot of explaining to do at the next family brunch the day after tomorrow, but he mainly wished he could have seen his granddad’s face when she said it.

Camila bent over his bed, giving him a killer view down her shirt. She smelled of garlic and sweat and there was a smear of mascara under one eye from where she’d been crying over him. She leaned over and kissed him on the mouth. Not a sweet, thank-goodness-you’re-okay kiss but a full, parting his lips with her tongue kiss that made him really wish his body would follow directions.

He wanted to lift his left hand and hold her face down to his, to kiss her breathless, to do things that his postsurgical anesthesia hangover would not permit. Bronny marshaled all his force of will and managed to raise his hand to her hair, to kiss her deeply with all the intensity of the fear and relief he felt. Camila stroked his face, his jaw and neck with eager hands. He smiled beneath her mouth and she drew back.

“Don’t give me that look, Dolan. I’m not climbing into a hospital bed and doing what you’re thinking.” She teased, but the heat in her eyes told him she was tempted. “I’m glad you’re all right. I’m glad you won’t be fighting anymore.”

He shook his head.

“No, don’t say anything. You don’t have a choice. This—wound has finished your fighting career. Now you can be a lawyer and have a normal life where no one hits you and you don’t punch anyone for money. I know you’re disappointed but I’m glad for you. It’ll set you free.”

She kissed him again, a quick, frantic kiss that had tendrils of desire heating his blood as her tongue touched his, and headed for the door of his room.

“If I don’t see you again because your family stones me to death, I hope you have an easy recovery,” she said with a smirk. “It was fun being your girlfriend.”

She shut the door behind her leaving him to wonder how much fun they could have if he wasn’t stoned from anesthesia.

 

*****

 

Bronny turned down the narcotics the doctor offered him in favor of going home a day early with his hand useless in a clawlike plastic splint. When his dad dropped him off at his house, he walked to the Cheeky Bowman as soon as the car was out of sight.

He wanted to see Camila, to see if she would let him kiss her again now that he was out of the hospital and the drama was past. She was behind the bar polishing glasses when he walked in to the empty bar.

She looked up, her dark eyes wide with surprise as she put down the glass and rounded the bar to reach him.

“I didn’t think you’d be released until tomorrow. How’s your hand?”

“It hurts.”

“Then let me make you feel good,”

Bronny felt frozen in place, paralyzed, as she laid her cool palm on his chest and rubbed her lips against his sensuously, with the promise of more.. She rested her hands on his shoulders and looked up at him searchingly.

              “I’ll be careful of your hand…will you come upstairs with me?” She asked softly. It was her unsureness, her hopefulness, that undid him.

Bronny stepped closer, caught her against him with his stiff right arm, and kissed her. Not a tentative tease of a kiss. He tilted her back over his arm as his tongue swept into her mouth. She moaned when he cupped her breast with his left hand, rubbing her nipple through her shirt, feeling it harden against his palm. His other hand stroked her neck, his thumb caressing the spot where her pulse beat wildly.

Bronny picked her up, set her back up on the edge of the bar. “Stay still for me,” he said, his fingers working the button on her cutoffs.

Camila held on to the lip of the bar, raised her hips when he tugged her shorts down and tossed them on the floor. Bronny Dolan, still naked to the waist, still smelling of sweat and struggle, parted her knees and stepped between her legs. She held her breath, chewing her lip, waiting for him to climb on the bar with her, to shed his shorts and push inside her. It made her wet just thinking about it.

He put his left hand on her, rubbing her through her panties, and she squirmed against him until he pushed the silky fabric aside. She watched him, breathless, waiting. Her skin stung with anticipation. His touch was gentle, questing, but his fingers were rough and calloused. The friction from his roughened skin made her moan as he stroked her lightly, tentatively. The rasp of his fingertips pressed up into wet, sensitive folds. She arched against his hand eagerly.

“Shh. I want you to stay still for me,” he crooned. She bit down hard on her lip and nodded.

Chapter Nine
Camila

 

Bronny put his mouth to her, his tongue warm and insistent in her secret folds, lapping at the nub of her desire. She moaned, her head dropping back as she panted. Waves of creamy desire rose in her as Bronny Dolan’s insistent tongue laved her to the point of that burning jolt. He gripped her hips in his hands, his breath steamy against her cleft. He probed and licked and lapped until she convulsed, quivering, wet against his mouth. Muscles deep inside her, low down in her belly, clenched. She growled at the release. She lay back on the bar where she’d been propped on her elbows, and tried to catch her breath. She shut her eyes, not wanting to look at him, because she felt like she might cry.

So when Bronny Dolan reached down and pulled her into his arms, she buried her face in his shoulder to hide, embarrassed. He held her for a minute, and she slowed her breathing by counting backward in her mind. She had to pull herself together, great sex or not. This was a one-off. A hot boxer, a vacation fuck while she was overseas. This was not going to turn into feelings and ugly crying. She just felt shaken because he was a skilled lover, she lectured herself, even as her fingers traced his collarbone, his neck gently.

“Let’s go upstairs,” he said against her tangled hair, and she nodded.

She tried to steady her seemingly boneless legs, but he swept her up and carried her. Even with his injured hand, the plastic splint, he scooped her up as if it was effortless. She laughed. She couldn’t help it. She never thought of herself as someone who’d ever be carried to bed. A waitress from Jersey, an orphan, the girl everyone dumped, everyone left holding the bag, the pub, the debt. Nothing in her life had prepared her for Bronny Dolan to pick her up and carry her up the stairs and kiss her like he was going to war in the morning and wanted the taste of her in his mouth when he left.

For a man whose frantic onslaught of passion had left her shaken, collapsed on the bar with tears in her eyes, he took his sweet time upstairs in her dad’s shitty apartment. He set her down on the bed and kissed her, pulling her into his lap and teasing her tongue into his mouth.

They both gave in to the back and forth, ebb and flow of the kiss. She wound her arms around his neck and forgot everything. Everything she was afraid of, everything she’d lost, everything she’d have to put back together once he left her in an hour or so. She’d go back downstairs, clear-eyed, and wash the dishes when he walked out, she thought recklessly. She deserved this; one night, hell, not even a night, half an hour to be consumed, to forget.

It was obvious early on that he could make her forget everything including her name when he set his mouth at the spot behind her left ear that sent chills through her and made her toes curl. He sat beside her on the lump mattress, lifting her hair and kissing the back of her neck.

Camila stopped him and looked in his eyes. It was a mistake, the mistake of her life. She knew it instantly. Even if they stopped that minute and he walked out, she’d never forget the way he was looking at her. Not like she was some body he found attractive, that he was about to take pleasure from. Like he saw her, like he felt something for her, a breathless compassion and closeness that struck her in the chest. She clutched at him, wrapping her arms around him and holding him tight.

“Don’t look at me like that. Don’t look at me at all,” she breathed.

“I like looking at you.”

She shook her head. “No. Not like that. Not making me think this is more than it is. I’m not stupid, Bronny.”

“I never thought you were.”

“I’m starting to think I am.”

“You need to quit thinking so much,” he said, loosening her arms from around his neck and kissing her cheek, her chin, the corner of her mouth, “Because this is more than it is.”

“Bronny—I thought we were up here to have a good time, not have a serious talk.”

“You’ve already had a good time, if I recall, and there’s more in a while. But you have to know I’m not coming upstairs with you for an hour of fun and leaving off at that.”

“You’re not?”

“I want you to stay here. In Murrawallen.”

“And I’m to do what, then? Wait tables at Cucina Crap in Kilmuck? I don’t have the money to keep this joint open with two mortgages. I got fired, my job back in Newark, when I called to ask for more time off. I don’t even have my crap job to go back to. I’ve got no prospects. I want a restaurant of my own, not a double mortgage in Potatoville with—”

“With me,” he finished bleakly.

“I like you. I just can’t dump my life and my plans and rely on you to make me happy. It doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t even work at all.”

“You could stay here and run the Cheek.”

“I told you, second mortgage. The first one, well, the profits will make the payment on that, but my dad owed more than that. I can’t afford the payments. And it’s not like I have thirty grand laying around.”

“That’s what you need? What if I could…what if you could pay off the second mortgage? Would you stay?”

“There’s no point talking about it. It’s not going to happen. My dad didn’t hide cash in the floorboards. I checked.” She snorted.

“What if you let me worry about that? Just tell me you’d stay.”

“No. You’re not paying off my mortgage—not that I think being a backwoods lawyer pays that well. I just wanted you to make me forget for a little while.”

“I don’t just want a little while. I want more.”

“You can’t have more,” she said bluntly, feeling oddly choked up, “You can only have tonight. So do you want me, or are you going to keep talking about commitment and codependence?”

“A fighter knows when to change weapons.” He grinned and pulled her against the length of him.

“I thought you fought with your bare hands.”

“I do,” he said, stripping off her t-shirt and running his left hand up her rib cage and down her back.

Bronny unhooked her bra with one hand. Her breasts spilled into his hands, full and warm and responsive. He kissed her neck while his thumbs stroked her nipples. She made a small noise as her nipples elongated and hardened under the onslaught of his fingers rubbing and pinching. She was achy and sensitive, making a needy pull start between her legs again. She pressed her bare stomach against his, parting her legs and rubbing against his thigh. Camila pushed his shorts down and took him in her hand, hard and thick. All she could think of was moving up and down the length of him, and she stroked him, feeling him get rock hard in her fingers.

Bronny took her mouth with his, his tongue sweeping into her mouth as he tugged her nipple between his thumb and forefinger, making her grip his erection all the tighter. She turned her head away from his kiss, barely able to break away long enough to get a condom from her purse and sheath him with it. He kissed her again, deep and slow, and she breathed him in, the smell of sweat and man and tart apple. When he pulled her panties off and laid her on the bed, she reached for him. She wanted Bronny Dolan on top of her, between her legs, inside her and burning his fingerprints into every inch of her skin. He held himself up above her on his elbows, and she trembled with anticipation, wanting him to part her lips and push inside her, fill her. Her whole body was moaning for it, a thin film of sweat coating her skin, the dampness between her legs.

“Please,” she said, eyes glazed with desire.

“I want you to stay, Camila,” he said against her mouth. “I want you to want to stay with me.”

She laid her hands on his chest, feeling his smooth skin, the heat of his body, the line of muscle and bone. She gripped his face and pulled him down to kiss her, rising up off the bed to reach for him. Bronny positioned himself between her legs and thrust into her deeply, to the hilt. He claimed her mouth, swallowing her cry as he seated himself within her. She clung to his shoulders, moaning from the pleasure of his invasion, the tightness of her own flesh gripping him, pulsing around him. They kissed frantically, tongues meeting. Her hips surged upward to meet his thrusts, rocking against him furiously. She tried to possess him, to hold him in her body, in her arms, but he moved, thrusting out and in with such power and speed that it overwhelmed her.

Her senses seemed to fire all at once. She felt like she could taste him in her, could feel sparks where he rubbed her nipples, shrieked as he reached between them. He stroked her nub as he thrust into her, hard. She felt him stiffen and grow rigid in her arms, felt him jerk and shoot out. She had tears on her face when she came. She surged around him, splintering apart. When she opened her eyes, she was in his arms and he was kissing her softly, sensuously.

She could have wept into his shoulder. Instead, she licked his tattoo. She’d been wanting to do that, wanting to lick him and bite him and take him savagely again and again. She was afraid of why she wanted him so much even when she’d just had him, still had his sweat on her skin, his taste in her mouth. Camila wound exhausted arms around him and held him against her, his head on her chest. She shut her eyes just for a moment, but woke with a start to his mouth on her nipple. He looked up and grinned at her.

“Wake up and teach me how to cook something. I’m hungry.”

“All right. I’m making braciole for tomorrow night. You can grate cheese and mince garlic.”

“I doubt I should test my knife skills left-handed, lass.”

“You did fine with only one hand just a few minutes ago,” she said.

Camila struggled into her bra, panties, and t-shirt, and realized with slight embarrassment that she’d left her pants down in the bar. She went downstairs with as much dignity as she could manage and found them. Soon, they were in the warm kitchen. She covered his hand with her smaller one, teaching him the proper stroke for grating pecorino cheese. Something about it was sexual—she suspected it was Bronny, and not the cheese or the actions.

“It was my best friend Patrick who said everything was sexual,” she told him suddenly as she set the sauce to simmer.

“Was he in love with you?”

“No. He was gay. He was—I lived with his family for a while after my aunt died, and he was my family then.”

“Where is he now?”

“St. Martin’s cemetery by the highway,” she said roughly, spreading the breadcrumb mixture on the meat.

“What happened?”

“We were—listen, I don’t like to talk about this,” she said. “Hand me the twine?”

He passed her the kitchen string, and she tied the roast and scrubbed her hands.

“I wish you’d tell me.”

“I don’t—the only person I ever told, besides the cops I had to tell, was a counselor, and she was a useless bitch.”

“Well, I’m not a useless bitch. I’m your lover. So give me a try,” he said, covering her hands with his.

She nodded, her jaw set and eyes bright. “We had a rehearsal. We were walking home late and singing a song from the show. Some guys were heckling us on the street. Patrick said ignore them when they started calling him a fag and saying they’d show me what a real man did. He’d been beat up a few times for being—how he was—and he said it was better not to give them a reaction. But they blocked our way, got all in our faces and said just—the ugliest things you can imagine, Bronny.” She stopped, sniffed, and went on.

“Patrick told them to back off, and this blond guy, he grabbed me and he was talking about what all he was going to do to me—” She sobbed, and Bronny pulled her against him. “Patrick went after him, and they—I saw most of it. They got him on the ground, and they were hitting him and kicking him. And when I tried to drag one of them off, I got punched and I—was knocked out. When I came to, they were gone, and Patrick—they killed him. He was there, in his brown coat, on the sidewalk, just unrecognizable. His face, his hands, there was blood everywhere—”

“That would be why you hate fighting, then,” he said softly. “I’m so sorry.”

She pulled her hair back on one side to expose her temple. A faint line ran from her eyebrow back into her hairline, about five inches long.

“That’s where I hit the brick wall,” she said. “Then Patrick was gone, because of me. Because he was trying to protect me—I figure they only left me there instead of raping me and killing me because they thought I didn’t see it. I’d be too afraid to identify them. But I wasn’t. I told. I told every fucking detail I remembered, right down to what the blond guy’s phone case looked like…it was a Nets case. They went to prison, but it didn’t bring Patrick back. I couldn’t stay with his parents after that—”

Camila was shaking and choking back sobs. He wrapped his arms tighter around her and leaned back against the wall. She held on to his shirt like he would try to get away. She felt sick thinking about Patrick. At the same time, she thought incongruously how Patrick would’ve liked this guy, with his bravado, his good heart, and how he was helping people with their rent problems in secret. She rested her head on his chest and sighed.

“What’s that?”

“What?”

“Right back there,” he said, pulling back from her. She watched as Bronny reached back beside the water heater and pulled out a plastic bag, old and nasty-looking.

“Ew. Trash, it looks like.” she remarked, feeling off balance.

“Open it.”

She peeled back several layers of plastic shopping bags and found a plastic freezer bag. Inside it was money. A lot of it. She looked at Bronny in disbelief.

BOOK: Pride (Bareknuckle Boxing Brotherhood Book 3)
4.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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