London Casey & Karolyn James & Ana W Fawkes
He looked like a monster in the sexiest way possible. Standing, facing a wall, his wrists and hands were wrapped in black tape, with his fists against the wall. He was shirtless, leaving my eyes to gaze upon rippling muscle. Not crazy huge bodybuilder muscle but rather intense cut muscle. The kind of muscle that was earned by surviving fights.
That’s where I was.
At another fight.
I had grown up in the world even if I still wasn’t used to it all. The smell of sweat and blood in the air. The buildings were always rusted, abandoned buildings, so the smell of the rust and must mixed with the smell of fighting.
There were guys walking all over the place. Getting themselves pumped up before a fight. Guys begging to have the chance to fight. And then the guys who were quiet after their fights.
“Keep his head up!” a voice yelled.
I stared at the muscular back, black sweaty hair down past his neck, slick with wetness, the tips curled, dripping water.
Was his head bobbing? Was he cr…
“Hey, sweet thing? Get the fuck out of the way!”
I turned and jumped back.
Two guys were dragging a third guy. His face was destroyed, blood everywhere. I saw the whites of his eyes but wasn’t exactly sure if there was life behind those eyes. One of the guys dragging him grabbed the guy by the hair and kept his head straight. His feet were limp, knees scraping the concrete floor as he went by me.
“Pretty girl like you don’t need to see this,” one said to me with a stubby cigar in his mouth.
Chances were the bloody guy was a fighter for the two guys dragging him. He wasn’t a human but rather an investment. Fight to win to survive, sure, but it was about money. Winning, gaining pride, having your fighters train harder, faster, more often, and then getting them ready for the next fight. If the guy was that badly injured, or he lost really bad, he’d get killed.
I’d seen it before. Many times.
From the time I was little, I’d stood next to my father as he set up the fights, took the bets, pocketed some money, winked at me, and then got out there and sold the fights to the crowd of people desperate to see something raw and, honestly, terrifying.
I turned and looked at the man facing the wall again.
He slid his fists down the wall and let them hang at his sides. His triceps curled and flexed, making his arms totally defined. Muscle ran up and around his well built shoulders, connecting to his impressive back. I never really dug the long hair thing on guys, but this guy made it totally work.
He spoke to me.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Go the hell away.”
I had no business being near any of the fighters. I definitely had no business trying to approach this guy. Not that I lived my life judging others but there was always a dark story that sent these guys into this world of fighting. And those stories usually raged on deep within their core. Those fires and stories only died when they did, usually at the hands of a loss in a fight.
I didn’t say another word.
He hung his head again. All his muscles seemed to flex at once. At first I thought he was getting pissed at me even more, ready to turn and attack. Instead, his head bobbed. This time I knew he was crying.
A fighter… standing there… crying.
A hand touched my shoulder and I jumped. I looked and saw my brother, Luke, standing there. He was in a black suit, hair slicked back, his fingers digging at my shoulder. He pulled at me without speaking a word.
He basically dragged me away and pushed me into an abandoned office.
“What the fuck are you doing?” he growled. “Looking for some dick?”
I swallowed hard. “No, Luke. I was…”
“Yeah, exactly. We’re done here. You shook your ass, people cheered, now you go the fuck home.”
The first time I got a reaction from the crowd was the end of my life. I had begun to fill out way too young and I was quickly given skimpy clothes and told to smile as I walked through the open circle before, and in between, fights. Apparently my body made the guys drink more and bet more. I was then sent through the crowd when I was older, doing anything to collect money. Even if it meant men shoving cash into my clothing. I used to walk through the crowd with a smile and then cry my eyes out as I peeled the money away from my body.
The only good that came was an agent who got me a modeling contract. Even that, considering the guy was at an illegal fight, put me in a bad position. I was at the mercy of Luke. I was at the mercy of deep family ties, dirty money, and I was told that my beauty was the only way to keep things right.
“I thought I needed to be here,” I said to Luke.