The two men circle slowly, their chests heaving wildly up and down, both struggling to catch their breath before the other. Fourteen, thirteen…

Unable to sit anymore, I jump from my seat, anxiety getting the best of me. “Come on Vinny…you can do it!” I hear myself scream, but it’s like an outer body experience. Everything is in slow motion as I watch it all play out in front of me. Ten, nine…

Hearing anyone over the roaring crowd would be impossible, but yet, as I jump at my seat, one hand on each side of my mouth to direct the sound coming from within me, I could swear I catch Vinny’s eye…just for a split second.

Eight, seven…

Vinny fakes to the right, Lamaro falls for it, dropping his hands just slightly on the left and then Vinny goes for it, hitting him with a powerful right that’s too much for his opponent’s battered body to absorb.

Five, four…

His opponent staggers, a last ditch effort to remain on his feet, but his body can take no more. Collapsing to the mat in slow motion that ends with a thud as the arena goes quiet, Lamaro’s body sprawls across the mat on his back.

The crowd cheers as medical personnel rush into the cage. They run something under Lamaro’s nose and he comes through, his eyes darting open. For a second, it looks like he might attempt to get up, but then his head falls back and he realizes he can’t continue. It’s over.

Two, one…

The referee raises Vinny’s arm in the air and the crowd goes crazy. The decibel’s rising to painful levels, people jump out of their seats, screaming and shouting. Everyone loves to see the underdog win, especially one from their home town.

The cage starts to fill, and I watch with tears of joy in my eyes as Nico rushes to Vinny, lifting him in the air in celebration. Elle nudges me, “Come on.” She wants me to go with her to the cage to see them, help them celebrate the win. More than anything, I wish I could. Wish I could rewrite the story of my life to bring us both a happy ending. But I can’t and I want more than anything for Vinny to have his moment. “You go. Help them celebrate. I want him to be happy.”


Sadness in her eyes, she smiles at me, pulling me close for a hug. I watch as she tries to make her way to the ever filling, chaotic cage, but I can’t bear to let him pass me when he exits. So I leave, never turning back as I make my way out of the arena.

Chapter 52


The celebration at Nico’s gym is in full swing before we even arrive. Two hours of interviews and photos leaves me feeling restless, but also pissed off at myself. I won the f**king championship. I should be reveling in every minute of the attention, god knows in this business it sometimes doesn’t last long. There’s always someone bigger and better.

With every interview and every photo, I find myself looking at the door, wondering where she is. I still have no idea how she pulled off the shit she did. Liv doesn’t have the kind of money to buy them off, I’m not even sure how the hell she knew what I was up to.

Grabbing a beer from the makeshift bar set up behind the practice ring, I try to make my way over to Elle, but I’m stopped with every step by someone offering me congratulations. Nico’s brothers alone take up almost an hour. Great guys, but sure as shit can talk your ear off.

It’s after midnight by the time I’ve made the rounds, and the GIMPs have started to trickle in. Word spreads quickly when a gym party pops up, the groupies know it will be filled with fighters. Avoiding passing by two aggressive women that have no qualms letting me know their plans for the evening entails them sharing, I find myself standing off to the side with Nico.

Raising his beer to clink with mine, he smiles, “Tonight, we celebrate.” Drawing a long swig, he nods his head to me, “tomorrow, we talk about what the hell almost happened out there.”

Fuck. I nod my head. He must be happy, normally he’d be in my shit, never giving me space. “Where’s Elle?”

“Babysitter needed to go. She went up.”

Shit. “I really need to talk to her.”

Pushing off from the wall he’s casually leaning against, Nico chugs the rest of his beer. Slapping me on the back, he smiles. “She said you wouldn’t rest till you had answers.”

I wait, hoping she’s given him some to pass along to me. Help me make sense out of the last few hours.

“She said to tell you to go talk to your mother.”

“Really?” My mother has the answers? She’s usually the question.

Nico walks away and then stops, looking back at me pointedly and smirks. “Oh yeah, she said to tell you when you’re done with that, pull your head out of your ass and go get your girl before it’s too late.”


Seven in the morning is not usually a time my mother is awake, unless it’s from the night before. I quietly enter her apartment and I’m surprised to find her standing in the kitchen, pouring a cup of coffee. She smiles at me and pulls down a second cup.

“I watched on TV.” She hands me a full cup of steaming black coffee, not letting go, forcing my eyes to hers. “I’m so proud of you.” Searching my mother’s tired, weary eyes, I’m surprised to find sober staring me back. I nod, accepting the compliment.

She sits at the kitchen table and sips her coffee, motioning for me to sit as she begins, “That woman loves you.”

My jaw clenches, she sees the anger in my face, it’s difficult to hide. She’s cut me deep.

“This is all my fault. You shouldn’t blame her. My lies got us here. I know it will be hard for you to understand, but she was only trying to protect you. Keep my lies from hurting you.”

“Start from the beginning, Mom. I don’t need protecting, I need answers now.”

Two hours later, and a bucket load of tears from both of us shed, I have my answers. It reads like a f**king tabloid story. One that Liv was supposed to write. But instead she lied, trading keeping my secrets for the job she’s dreamed about since she was a kid. And then sells her keeping that secret to my rich scumbag of a father, only to pay off my drug addict mother’s debt so that I can take a shot at my dream. Only in my life does shit like this happen.

Kissing my mother on the forehead before I leave, she reaches for my arm. “I have no right to give you advice. I’ve been a shitty mother to you. But if you love her, find a way to figure it out, because you’re a good man and you deserve to be happy.”


“Where’s your boss?” Skinny ass Summer turns at the sound of my voice.

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