“You don’t answer your phone?”

“It broke.” When I threw it against the f**king wall.

“This have anything to do with the girl I saw come in last night?” Nico questions disapprovingly.

“Yeah, but it’s not what you think.”

“Listen to me.” Nico stands before me, putting one hand on each shoulder. “You’re too close to screw this up. Whatever’s going on, deal with it quick or tap it down. There’s no time for games.”

“Got it,” I growl through clenched teeth. “I was a little late, don’t blow it up into something more.” I push his hands off my shoulders.

Brows furrowed, eyes squinting, Nico assesses me. “Go do five miles, clear your head. Then we’ll start.”


Half an hour later, the remnants of last night’s alcohol sweated out through my pores, my buzz has turned into the start of a rip-roaring headache. Although the pain feels good. I strap on my headgear and climb into the ring where Alex waits for me. He’s one of my sparring partners, but he thinks he’s better than he is and he doesn’t know how to keep his mouth shut. Today I’m in no god damn mood for his mouth.

Jumping up and down a few times to get my blood pumping, I wait as Alex clasps his own headgear. “That your new woman I saw come in last night?”

“No.” I answer shortly, hoping he’ll take the hint. No such damn luck.


“You still seeing that other one? The writer?” I throw a one-two jab combination, which he catches, but barely.

“No.” The simple one syllable word burns my throat as I speak it.

Alex grins, even his smile at my response pisses me off, although it’s his words that send me over the edge. “If you’re done, can I get her number? What an ass on that one.”

Like a bull being taunted, I see red. My body full of testosterone and mind angry, nothing could stop me. I take him down in one punch he didn’t even see coming. So full of rage, it takes me over, possessing me past the point of no return as I pound blow after forceful blow straight into his face while he’s pinned to the mat. By the time the four guys trying to wrestle me off of him are successful, the poor ass**le’s face is a bloody mess.

The half full gym backs away from me, no one dares come within twenty feet. Except Nico. Fucker never did know when to keep his distance.

“You done? Hope you enjoyed yourself, because you aren’t going to be able to lift your arms by the time I’m done putting you through the ringer today.” He pauses, taking a step closer to me, standing nose to nose. “Get your ass to the bag. Twelve three-minute strike rounds. One minute between. Max.”


Any normal fighter, even one in the most pristine shape, would be soaking in a hot tub after the intensity of the workout Nico ran me through today. But not me. Adrenaline still pumping wildly through my veins like a current through wire, I head back out on my bike after a quick shower. I need to stop thinking. Need to forget. Stop feeling for a little while. It’s been a while since I went GIMP trolling, but not long enough to forget what I need to clear my head. A little power f**king till I can’t see straight ought to do the trick.

Stopping at the light, I look up at the looming building towering over me as I settle my feet to the ground to wait. Daily Sun Times. The urge to run my bike through the plate glass window is so strong, I have to fight myself to stay in place. Something burns a hole in my front pocket, itching at me from the depths of my mind, till I dig in and pull out a card with an address scribbled on it. Summer Langley. I turn left instead of heading straight.

She answers the door with only a skimpy robe and a smile, and steps aside for me to enter. No words are exchanged, although I know the smile well. She may look classier, have more window dressing than the average GIMP down at Flannigan’s, yet she’s the same nonetheless. Has no idea who I am, doesn’t even want to try to find out. Prefers the idea of me in her mind to the reality. Usually I’m more than happy to play the game. But tonight…tonight I’m here to get what I need.


Exhausted from lack of sleep, my body desperate for rest, I pry myself from the bed against the protest of every aching muscle in my arms and legs. I’m sure Nico thinks I’m gonna no-show today, be too weak to train after the rigor he put my body through yesterday, but I’m too stubborn to give him the satisfaction of thinking he’s right. So I take an extra ten minutes in the shower, allowing the scalding hot water to run over my aches, before I head out early. I need to stop and check in on the only other woman that I’ve allowed to cause me real pain.

Grabbing for the door knob, it turns before I put the key in. Not a good sign. When she’s wasted she’s careless with her own self-preservation. I’m surprised to find her awake and alert, sitting on the couch, smoking a cigarette. A full ashtray in front of her. Not her usual two dirtbags sitting opposite her on the couch, the dynamic duo is back. These two look better than most, but looks can be deceiving. They’re more trouble than anything she’s ever gotten herself into before.

The shorter of the two, the one that does most of the talking, spots me first. He opens his jacket ever so slightly, silently reminding me of who’s in charge before I can even open my mouth.

“What’s going on, Ma?” The room is so quiet, I hear the draw she takes on the cigarette. She’s smoked it so low she’s inhaling the filter, not far off from burning her fingers.

Closing her eyes, she smiles at me. It’s a face that apologizes at the same time it tells me she’s glad I’m here. “They found Jason.”

Exhaling a deep breath, I feel a small sense of relief. Although it doesn’t last long.

“Dead. Overdose,” the gun carrying drug dealer says to me stoically.

Great, just f**king great. I hang on for dear life, desperately needing someone…anyone…to catch the lifeline I’m throwing out. “The drugs or cash happen to turn up next to the body?”

Slowly, he shakes his head back and forth in silence.

Of course not, what was I thinking? This is my life, land of the ‘I don’t f**king believe this shit’ for the last twenty odd years. “So what now? You’re out 200 K.” I look to my mom who watches me and I see her wince at my next words. “You kill her, you’re still out 200 K. Gets you nothing, except now you gotta watch over your shoulder every minute of every day. Because I’ll snap your neck when you least expect it.” I stare unwavering into the eyes of a man that has killed before.

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