Until You're Mine (Fighting for Her)(6)

By: Cindi Madsen


“Funny, because running stairs Rocky Balboa style is suddenly on tomorrow’s agenda. Until then—”

“Treadmill,” I said. “I got it.”

Sometimes my friends—my true friends who hung with me before the money and fame and were still there when my MMA career crumbled—asked me why I would submit myself to so much physical torture. Why I would give so much to an organization that’d used me as a novelty when I was this close to becoming the youngest guy to win the welterweight title, but immediately dismissed and forgot about me after I lost a few fights. Three in a row was all it took, and I wasn’t even fully present for any of them.

It wasn’t like there were a lot of jobs a guy like me could get, and I knew I could get back into fighting shape and regain my former glory and then some. I felt the need to prove myself to people who’d called my winning streak a fluke, or downplayed how fucking hard those fights had been. To prove myself to people who’d scattered the second it looked like I wasn’t their money train or ticket to fame anymore. Now I knew to put my trust in the right people, and that’d make the difference. I’d also be a hell of a lot smarter with my money.

With my goals in mind, I stuck in my music, turned it up to ear-shattering level, and jumped on the treadmill. When my lungs and legs burned, I sped up instead of slowed down. My feet started dragging after mile four, so I lowered the speed and upped the incline to make up for it.

For the next two to three months, this was my life. Train, train, and train some more. My coaches would say jump, and I’d ask how high. Blake “Bring the Wroth” Roth had been one of my idols, and I still couldn’t believe I got to train with him. There’d been whispers that Team Domination wasn’t what it used to be, but that only attracted me to them more. I wanted a scrappy team who knew how to fight, whether from the top or the bottom, and I had no doubt they could get me to where I needed to be.

My coaches had also assured me that if I showed them I was ready for a fight, they’d find me one ASAP. I was hungry for one, the bigger the better, so I’d dived right into training camp mode, letting that tenacity take control.

Out of the corner of my eye I caught blond hair, and I jerked my head down and stared at the numbers on the display. I couldn’t afford distractions, and the last thing I had time for right now was a girl, no matter how hot, or how tempted I was to take a quick peek.

Just one more look for old times’ sake. Never mind that we didn’t have old times. Better resist, it’s not worth it. Liam’s already ready to bury me, and knowing him, he’s probably watching to make sure I’m not slacking on my cardio.

Right then and there, I gave myself a good talking to. Blondie was a Roth, and that meant she was completely off-limits. From now on, I wouldn’t so much as check her out.





Chapter Three

Brooklyn

My day was off to a stellar start. If stellar meant that everything had gone wrong from the minute I woke up. I’d poured the last cup of milk over my cereal, only to find it chunky and expired. Finn then let me know he’d switched to almond milk “forever ago” and I should, too, because of fill-in-the-blank health reasons—I tuned him out because I was groggy and still mourning my cereal, healthy bland kind or not. After his spiel, I gave one of my own about how I’d rather not drink nut milk, and then we’d both broken into laughter because we were super mature.

The laughter died pretty quickly when he told me he didn’t have a caffeinated substance of any kind in the place.

Deciding I’d have to rely on a shower to wake me up, I’d zombie shuffled to the bathroom. In the light of day, the room was…well, I’d forgotten how vastly different my definition of clean was compared to what I used to refer to as “guy clean.” Trey was a neat freak, thus the “used to” but suffice it to say that Finn’s version of clean had me wishing for dimmer lighting. Or, like, hazard gear.

When I’d decided to stay with Finn to save money, I’d been thinking of all the fun and laughing, not the fact that there’d be pee on the toilet seat that was forever left up, and that I’d have to settle for a chalky protein shake instead of my usual bowl of Froot Loops. I’m going to have to hit the grocery during all my non-existent free time today.

Sure, it was first-world-problems stuff, but memories from the past had also kept me up half the night, and thinking of everything I needed to do today didn’t improve my mood. Unfortunately, time away didn’t magically make it easy to be around Dad, either.

I pulled my car into a parking spot behind the gym. Okay, I committed to doing this, so I need to just suck it up and deal.