Fighter, p.2
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       Fighter, p.2
 

           Tijan
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  She held a hand up. “Hold on. Girl’s working here.”

  Realizing he was a fine specimen, my brother moved as if he were in slow motion. He started to reach for his flannel shirt, flexing his arm muscles, then turned his arm so his shoulder muscle bulged. The pectorals were next, and last, as he grabbed his shirt, he made sure to suck in his breath and twist to the side so his abdominal muscles were as cut as possible.

  It could’ve been a scene out of a sitcom, as Haley wasn’t even trying to hide her reaction. She held a latte in her hand, and while she drank in the sight of my brother, her hand lifted the lid. She let it fall to the floor as she dipped her fingers into the cup, then wiped them at the corner of her mouth.

  She was foaming. I got it.

  A second later, she glanced at me, biting down on her lip and trying to hold back her laughter. She pointed to herself. “Get it?”

  I rolled my eyes. “He’s my brother. You’re disgusting.”

  Dylan realized his Magic Mike moment was over and chuckled, buttoning up his flannel shirt at a faster pace. He gestured to the cup she was holding. “What’s that?”

  “A latte.”

  He narrowed his eyes and pressed his lips together. He started for her, but she held it back and circled the room to me. “It’s for your sister.”

  As she gave it me, I beamed. “Finally. The best friend has arrived.”

  She rolled her eyes, making a tsking sound, and perched at the side of the couch. Then she studied the mound of ice packs. “Uh, is that good for you?”

  Dylan barked out a laugh, slapping his leg. “That’s what she gets for not taking a radio out into the field.”

  Haley frowned at him. “What? She gets ice-packed to death?”

  He stopped laughing. “What?”

  “They said Jaxon is fighting tonight,” I told Haley. “Do you know where?”

  She looked back at me with an incredulous look.

  “What?”

  “Has college sucked all the intelligent cells out of you? It’s Christmas Eve…” She waited, her eyebrows rising higher and higher. Then she made a circling motion in the air. “Come on…”

  Christmas Eve. Fighting. Jaxon.

  It hit me, and I fell back down against the couch. “Fuck me.” Jaxon was fighting at Sally’s, a hick bar known for their underground fighting matches. They always had a three-day tournament, starting Christmas Eve and ending on Boxing Day.

  “Uh…” Haley tilted her head to the side. “I think he actually did that one time right there.”

  “What?” Dylan looked back and forth between us. He’d grabbed his coffee cup and now reached for mine.

  I pulled it to my chest, shooting him a dark look. “Back off.”

  He rolled his eyes. “Whatever.”

  A honking came from outside, and he waved at them through the window. “I gotta go. See you later, and you’d better get all dressed and pretty. You’re going to be seeing your boy later tonight.” He gave us both a cocky smirk as he left, using his back to push open the door.

  The second it closed, Haley turned to me. “Tell me you want to go too.”

  “Hell, yes.”

  We started knocking the ice packs off my leg. When she saw the blanket, Haley grinned and shook her head, but didn’t say a word. When all of them were gone, she took one of my hands, and I pushed up from the couch with the other. Here was the testing moment: could I put weight on my leg or not? I would have to be able to walk.

  Holding my breath and my latte, I started standing up. Nope. Daggers of pain shot up my leg, and I cried out. No way. I couldn’t walk. “Great,” I muttered. The pain almost made me drop my coffee. That would be a cold day in hell. Coffee came before everything. “Now what am I going to do?”

  Haley thought, then her eyes lit up. She let go of my hand, and I barely caught myself as I fell back to the couch. I screamed at the sudden rush of more pain.

  “Oh.” She grimaced. “Sorry about that. But wait…” She ran upstairs, then downstairs, giving me a thumbs-up as she passed the living room. She threw open the basement door, and I heard her going down. She reappeared empty-handed and paused in the doorway to the living room. She scratched the top of her head, then her hand jerked up again. “I got it!” She sprinted back out through the kitchen, and I twisted around so I could see through the window. She was heading for the shed.

  A second later, the big door for the shed opened, and she came back out, pushing my worst nightmare.

  “Fuck me,” I muttered.

  She grinned brightly and waved her arms toward her find. “Voila. A wheelchair!”

  Yep. This was my life. I was going to hunt down my ex-boyfriend in a wheelchair. This had to be a bounty hunter’s most embarrassing moment. I mustered a weak smile and gave her a thumbs-up back.

  She clapped and waved her hands in the air. “This will be fun! I want to wear a bulletproof vest.”

  In the end¸ both of us wore bulletproof vests and sunglasses. As Haley pushed my wheelchair up to the handicapped entrance, my elbow rested on my lap, and my hand held my stun gun.

  Yes. We were badass.

  Then Haley tripped, and my wheelchair bumped into the rail, hitting my hand, and I dropped the stun gun in my lap. I froze, pure terror going through me, but it didn’t go off. Haley stifled a scream as I turned and smacked her.

  She yelped, cradling her arm. “Ouch.”

  “I could’ve stunned myself.”

  She nodded, and a laugh slipped from her lips. “Well, you’re already in a wheelchair.”

  I glared at her. “We had another one in the shed.” I raised the stun gun and pointed it at her.

  She kept laughing and rolled her eyes. “Whatever. Be all menacing. I know you have a mushy heart, and besides, if you stunned me, who’d bring you coffee in the morning?”

  I snorted. “You’re not going to. What are you talking about?”

  “That’s true.” Then, still laughing, she straightened the chair and started up the ramp again. Once we got to the door, we formed our own line. The other line of able-bodied patrons spread down the entrance and out onto the sidewalk. The ones waiting close enough to the door watched us the entire time. Some had their hands covering their mouths, laughing, but others glared. If we got in like this, I had no doubt they were going to rebel.

  The bouncer turned to us, and I smiled, lifting my stun gun. “Let us in, Ace.”

  It was my cousin. He was large and in charge, and dressed all in black, except for the white lettering across his chest that said STAFF. Between his sunglasses, bald head, and tattoo circling his neck and trailing up the back of his skull, he would’ve terrified most people. Not me. He was just a year older than me, even though he looked thirty, and I had enough dirt on him to know he had a healthy fear of his mother. The knowledge I could share with her would be my blackmail.

  “You have a weapon,” he pointed out. “No way, Dale. Besides, your brothers are already here, and I have strict instructions not to let you in.”

  I pointed the stun gun at him. “Still have those strict instructions?”

  He grumbled, but he knew I would do it. It didn’t matter where we were or that my escape would’ve reminisced a tortoise trying to flee the scene.

  He shook his head. “Fine. Whatever.” He held open the door, and as we started in, he grumbled, “You got in through the back door, okay? Ted’s back there, and he’s wasted. If they ask him, he’ll probably be convinced you actually did get in through there.” He stopped talking as Haley brushed against his arm.

  She smiled at him, slow and seductive. “Nice and large,” she said as she dropped her gaze. “I wonder what else is nice and large.”

  He stood upright and fought not to smile back. Still wearing his shades, he scanned her up and down. “Still with that Carl guy, Haley?”

  She tilted her head and trailed a hand down his chest. “We ended things last Friday.”

  “So you’re living free and fun now?”

 
; She winked at him. “How’d you know the names of my two girls?” She jiggled her chest, making her breasts sway. Then, continuing to laugh, she pushed my wheelchair forward. “Let me know if you’ve got some free time. I’ll arrange an introduction.”

  He grunted, his eyes trained solely on her backside now. “Will do. Will do.”

  Once we were inside, I twisted around, frowning. “Who’s Carl? I thought it was Clint.”

  “It was, but your cousin can call my ex any name he wants. I forgot how delicious he is.”

  “My cousin or my brother?”

  “Oh.” She pretended to swat at my head. “I’m single. Clint’s been pretending he was single for the last two years, so I’m doing the same thing now. I have every intention of flirting with all hot male specimens who cross my path. Whether I hook up or not is up to me.” She made a clicking sound from the corner of her mouth and winked at me. “Now, let’s go find you some of your own fun and freedom, huh? Where’s that hot piece of ass I know you’re drooling to see fight again?”

  I scowled at her, but I couldn’t ignore the little burst of sensation that shot through me. A tingle of excitement. She was right. It’d been too long since I saw Jaxon fighting, and when she wheeled me around a group of people to an open space where we could see the fighting ring, I got a view that lit my groin on fire.

  Holy. Shit.

  Jaxon was already in the ring, clad only in black shorts that hung low over his slim hips. As his opponent swung at him, he dodged, and every muscle in his backside contracted, showcasing themselves for my viewing pleasure. Stepping forward, he twisted to the side and brought an uppercut, ramming underneath his opponent’s chin. As he did, the rest of my lady parts jerked awake. I got a view of his front then, and his stomach muscles were just as ripped and sculpted as his backside. They were also red and bruised. He’d already taken a beating. I wasn’t surprised. His opponent was twice his size.

  Wearing a mean-looking scowl, his opponent stumbled back a few steps, then grabbed the rope to steady himself. The crowd was going nuts, and Jaxon didn’t hesitate. He followed the larger man, delivering a series of jabs and uppercuts, from which his opponent couldn’t recover. He fell to a knee, and Jaxon backed up, but he shifted on his feet, and I knew what was next: He sprang up, flicking his knee forward and bringing his foot down on top of the guy’s head.

  It was done after that. His opponent fell to the floor in a sprawl, and when the referee lifted his hand and let it go, it landed with a thump. He was out.

  This was an automatic win, and the crowd roared in approval. Jaxon raked his taped hands over his face, spreading blood from his knuckles. I also saw a cut at the top of his eye seeping blood. He might’ve made it worse, but he didn’t seem to care. A cocky smirk covered his face as he turned to his corner. One of the guys waiting there helped him climb out of the ring.

  “Again! Again!” The crowd started to chant, raising fisted hands in the air.

  Jaxon lifted his head, his smirk growing, and turned back to the ring. His fallen opponent was being carried off, and another guy had jumped in. This one was leaner than the first but wore another ugly scowl. He began bouncing up and down, stretching his arms over his chest, and he waved a finger at Jaxon, beckoning him into the ring.

  I recognized this guy. It was Downtown Sculley. He was known in the underground scene. I wheeled my chair forward and leaned closer to see the gleam appear in Jax’s eyes. If he beat Downtown Sculley, his reputation would be cemented. It would up his credibility, and he could demand more money with each fight he won.

  “No, no,” I murmured to myself. I didn’t know if Jax could win, and I didn’t want to find out. He was awake and conscious. If he got knocked out, my brothers would get him and therefore get the skip money. Jax was my jump, more out of pride than anything else. I’d screwed up, so I needed to bring him in. I grabbed Haley’s arm and yanked her down to me.

  “Ouch!” She glared at me. “What?”

  “He can’t fight that guy.”

  “Why?” She glanced around. The crowd was still chanting because Jaxon hadn’t climbed back into the ring yet. But I knew he would. “If he loses, we can grab him easier.”

  “No.” I shook my head. “My brothers will grab him. We need to get him now.”

  “How?” She kept frowning. “I don’t think he’ll even see us—or hear us if we yell.”

  I bit on my lip. She was right. Think, Dale, think! How could I get his attention? As if answering my own question, the throbbing between my legs deepened, and I squirmed in the chair. I needed to decide whether I wanted his attention to take him to jail or because I needed some other release.

  I gestured for Haley to bend down. “Where’s the closest fire alarm?” I asked.

  “Uh…” She scanned the room, which was filled with Christmas lights. A palm tree decorated with condoms and thongs stood in one corner, and mistletoe hung all over. A waitress walked by with her red shirt knotted underneath her breasts, and I noticed she had a necklace of mistletoe around her neck. She saw us, stopped, and frowned with one hand resting on her hip. She wore a very short pleated green skirt, and she cocked her head to the side.

  I met her gaze. I knew she was wondering whether we should be here or not, so I smiled at her and lifted my stun gun. Her eyes went wide, and she hurried away.

  Hayley groaned. “Why did you do that?”

  That waitress had been eyeing Jaxon earlier. I shrugged. I should’ve hidden the gun, but I couldn’t refrain. Seeing the fear in her eyes had been worth it.

  “She’s getting security.”

  “Well, that seals the deal,” I said as I saw what we’d been looking for. I pointed to the fire alarm. “Go pull it.”

  Just then a guy turned around right in front of it, and we both stopped. It was my brother Dylan. He laughed, holding a beer in one hand and talking to a customer.

  “Thought you guys didn’t drink on the job.” Haley said, eyeing him.

  “We don’t.” But some of us did our own thing. Hello. In a wheelchair here. “Haley, you can still go over and pull it. Go to the side like you’re going to the bathroom and slide behind him.”

  Dylan tipped his head back, taking a good sip from his beer, and his eyes fell on the ass of a girl in front of him. She danced to the music and looked over her shoulder, catching his eye. Giving him a shy smile, she slowed and moved closer.

  “Oh, yeah. He definitely won’t see you—” I began.

  I stopped talking. It was pointless. Haley was already halfway across the room, but she wasn’t hiding. Oh no. She swayed her hips from side to side, and it didn’t take a genius to figure out she was trying to get Dylan’s attention. When he saw her, his eyes widened, but then he frowned and started looking around for me. Haley blocked him. She lifted her arms, pretending to yawn, and as she did, her shirt raised an inch, and Dylan’s eyes went right where she wanted them: to Fun and Free themselves. She had her back to me, but I could tell whatever she was doing was working. My brother looked entranced.

  Stopping right in front of him, Haley hip checked the other girl and drew her finger along my brother’s neck, moving up to the tip of his chin. She lifted his head, curling her other arm around his shoulder, and then—Was she really? Yep.—she pressed her lips to his.

  I was shocked, but only slightly. Haley and Dylan had flirted for years. I waited to see if I should be disgusted. I felt a surge of joy when my brother grabbed her hip and pulled her close against him (not that part—that part was gross). Her arm lifted behind him, reaching for the fire alarm. As she deepened the kiss, her right hand wound around his head and grabbed his hair, then her left finger lifted the handle for the alarm and lingered on the lever.

  I still needed to get in place. She was giving me time.

  I didn’t waste it. Sally’s had three exits: one through the kitchen, a second back by the restrooms, and a third to the left, hidden behind the stage where the deejay had set up that night. Everyone would clamber for the re
stroom exit and the deejay exit. Knowing Jax, I figured he’d go through the kitchen. There would be the least resistance there since a lot of the customers didn’t know about that one, so I started wheeling. I intended to block him and slap my handcuffs on him. I just had to get there first.

  I wheeled past the main bar and was almost to the kitchen entrance. I ignored the attention I received and glanced back to where Haley was still kissing Dylan. Oh whoa. He had her pressed against the wall now, right beside the fire alarm. Both of her hands were twisted in his hair, but she was looking for me. Our gazes collided, and she shoved my brother away for a split second. Taking a deep breath, she pushed down the alarm and grabbed his hand.

  The sound split through the air a second later, along with flashing lights from every alarm in the bar.

  There was pandemonium after that. If the alarms were going off, that meant the fire station had been alerted, and that meant the police too. People pushed to get out. The underground fighting
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