Uncaged Love The Boxed Set #1-5(6)

By: JJ Knight

He ducks under the plastic and holds it up for me. Two acts of chivalry in ten minutes. Boys here are nice, not threatening. It’s like I’m in another world.

The new room is a disaster. Plaster falls from the walls. The floor is covered in dust and scattered lumber. Two men in overalls are talking to a bald guy in a shirt that reads “Buster’s Gym” on the back. I’m assuming that’s Buster himself.

I stand beside Golden Boy, still holding the sign. I’d shove it in my pocket, but now I think they will need it again. Plus he knows I have it.

“Doesn’t look like much, does it?” Golden Boy says.

“What are they doing?”

“Building a practice ring.”

“For boxing?”

“Technically it’ll be an MMA cage.”

I don’t know what that is. I’m pretty sure I am too ignorant for the job. But if it’s just cleaning floors, I can do that. I’m not proud. Pride got me in all the trouble before.

I try not to stare at his chest. His eyes are up there. But he’s looking out over the mess. He can’t see my wandering gaze, so I linger.

His words start to penetrate as I tear myself away from his pectorals. “Wait,” I say. “How is this your fault?”

Golden Boy huffs, like it’s an annoyance. “I’m here by order of my father. He’s like a king to these people. They are expanding to accommodate me.”

“Should I know your father?”

He looks down at me, amused. “I guess we were never really introduced.” He smacks his fist against his chest in an imitation of Tarzan. “I’m Colt McClure. My dad is —”

“The Cure McClure,” I finish. I watch enough television to know that. “Boxing champion.”

“That’s him.”

I don’t remember anything about a son. “So, you box too, then?”

He looks amused. “I’m UFC. Big disappointment to Pops.” He glances over, sees my confusion. “UFC is the big promotion company for MMA.” He smiles, finally realizing I know nothing. “Mixed martial arts. It’s a fighting style.”

“But not boxing. He wanted you to box.”

“Dads always want their sons to take over the family business.”

I picture a glove smashing into Colt’s perfect face and wince.

“That’s how I feel about it too.”

“How are you a disappointment?”

He laughs. “I keep losing.”

The men turn around and notice us standing there.

“Buster, I’ve got someone for you,” Colt says.

Buster spreads his arms wide like he’s reuniting with an old friend. “Colt ‘Gunner’ McClure! You’re darkening my door finally.”

The two men embrace, Buster’s shiny head barely grazing Colt’s chin. “We’re getting your ring built. Your dad was very precise.”

“I bet.” Colt gestures to me. “I know you’re having to hire on some help. This here is —” We both realize that I haven’t told him my name.

“Jo Jones,” I cut in.

Buster finally takes a good look at me. “What you got in mind for this girl?”

Colt shrugs. “I’m sure you’ll figure out something.” He turns back to me. “I leave you in very competent hands.”

I realize he’s taking off and panic shoots through my chest.

“Your trainer here?” Buster asks him.

“He arrives in a few days. I just wanted to get the lay of the land.”

Buster claps him on the back. “We’re glad to have you, boy. I remember when your dad would work out here.”

“Yeah, well, glad we could circle back around.” Colt’s about to turn back to the plastic, then he stops. “Give her something to strengthen her up.”

Buster crosses his arms over his chest. “You think she’s got something?”

Colt’s hazel eyes gloss over me, and I shiver.

“Yeah, I do.” Then he disappears through the doorway.

Buster stares me up and down. He runs a roughed-up hand along his shiny head. “You look like a ten-pound kettle bell will knock you over.”

I bite my lip. I don’t know what a kettle bell is. I picture a teapot with a clapper. I am so out of my element. “I can clean stuff.” I glance around. “I can help in here.”

He sniffs, and I’m reminded of the pawn shop owner from that morning. That already feels like a lifetime ago.

“Pay’s ten an hour since the minimum is going up anyway. I guess since you’re one of Colt’s, I’ll give you as many hours as you want. It’s about to get real busy once the world gets wind that he’s training here.”