Lowlander Silverback(9)

By: T. S. Joyce

Jake inhaled deeply and then let it out in a long, irritated breath. “You know that big barn off the old highway? The one near the gulch?”

“Yeah. What about it?”

“A man named Judge holds fight nights there on the weekends. Real backwoods shit, so it ain’t safe for you to go alone. Kong usually fights last. Judge likes to pin him against any Boarlanders looking to make a quick buck. Kong is the fighter who draws the crowd and keeps them there betting. It’ll take me a while to close up, but maybe we’ll make it in time.”

Layla couldn’t wait on Jake to close up the bar, though, and risk missing her opportunity to give Kong his money back. She wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight with that charity money taunting her. “Thanks, Jake,” she rushed out as she pulled her tips from the drawer and yanked her apron off.

“Where are you going? I said it was too dangerous for you to go alone!” Jake called as she bolted for the door.

“I’ll be fine!” She hoped.

Chapter Three

Cheering echoed from the dilapidated barn through the field to where Layla parked her Civic at the end of a row of cars and trucks. The grass was tall but trampled down by tires as she made her way through one of the tread marks toward the old gray building. If it had been painted, the weather had stripped it away at some point in its history. There was a thin trail of people trickling inside in clusters of twos and threes, so she followed them around the side where two doors had been slid open, revealing a warm glowing light from inside. The building had probably housed eighteen horse stalls before Judge had turned it into a fighting ring. There were still a few stalls on the opposite side that were intact, but the rest had been torn out and tall metal poles held the barn upright now. The crowd was gathered around the middle, but she couldn’t see anything from here.

The cheering and jeering was deafening, but she could make out the chanting from a group of spectators on the other side. “Kong, Kong, Kong.”

With a gasp, she lurched forward and muscled her way through the mob. The closer to the ring she got, the harder it was to move anywhere.

“Hey!” someone behind her yelled. “Bartender!”

She jerked around to a familiar face. He was one of those frat boy types. Blond hair, blue eyes, cocky smile.

“Snakebite?” she asked, recalling the potent lager and cider drinks he’d ordered while he was watching the Beck Brothers.

“Yes! You remember.”

She waved politely and turned to try to get closer to the ring. Only a couple of rows of too-tall men were blocking her from what sounded like a good fight if the cheering was anything to go by, but no good. She couldn’t get any closer.

“Let me,” Snakebite said too close to her ear as he gripped her waist.

She squeaked as he shoved her through a tight hole between two behemoths. He yelled something at the pair of cheering tatted-up bikers as she wiggled past, but she couldn’t make out what he said. As her focus pinpointed on Kong, the noise around her died away.

Shirt off, he was bleeding freely from a gash under his eye down his bare chest. A tattoo ran from his shoulder to his elbow, but she couldn’t tell what it was from here. All black ink and tribal looking, it was just a blur of sexpot as he ducked a hit and swung hard enough to splinter his opponent’s ribs. Kong’s eyes glowed a brilliant green, and if she’d had any question before now about him being a shifter, the unsettling color that had replaced his soft brown eyes would’ve put those doubts to rest. His torso was thickly laden with muscle, his abs flexing with every graceful punch he threw and every breath he took. His waist tapered severely from the width of his shoulders, and she was stunned by how powerful he looked like this, slick with sweat, bloody, smiling, and egging on the titan he was boxing.

Harrison! She nearly swallowed her tongue as she realized Kong was fighting the alpha of the Boarlanders. Holy shit!

“Damn, Bartender, you’re looking hot tonight,” Snakebite yelled over the sound of the crowd.

Fantastic. She plucked his hand off her waist and tried to sidle away from him, but there was nowhere to go. It was too tight here, and she was getting pressed against the wooden railing as the men behind her surged forward and raised their fists in the air, chanting Kong’s name.

He ducked and connected, volleyed and took a hit to the jaw that would’ve knocked her out cold. It hurt just watching. And now she was worried he would get hurt, or worse. Didn’t people die from boxing? No, settle down. Jake said he does this regularly. He would be fine, and oh! Kong swung around and nearly ran into the wooden railing that was driving into her hip bones as the crowd pushed harder against her. A sickening noise sounded as Harrison went to town on Kong’s stomach, blasting his fists against his abs.