“Different how?” America asked, sounding irritated.

“She doesn’t put up with my bullshit, it’s refreshing. You said it yourself, Mare. I’m not her type. It’s just not . . . like that with us.” Even if it was, it shouldn’t be.


“You’re closer to her type than you know,” America said.

I looked into America’s eyes. She was completely serious. America was like a sister to Abby, and protective like a mother bear. They would never encourage anything for each other that could be hurtful. For the first time, I felt a glimmer of hope.

The wooden boards creaked in the hall, and we all froze. My bedroom door shut, and then Abby’s footsteps sounded in the hall.

“Hey, Abby,” America said with a grin. “How was your nap?”

“I was out for five hours. That’s closer to a coma than a nap.”

Her mascara was smeared under her eyes, and her hair was matted against her head. She was stunning. She smiled at me, and I stood, took her hand, and led her straight to the bedroom. Abby looked confused and apprehensive, making me even more desperate to make amends.

“I’m so sorry, Pidge. I was an asshole to you earlier.”

Her shoulders fell. “I didn’t know you were mad at me.”

“I wasn’t mad at you. I just have a bad habit of lashing out at those I care about. It’s a piss-poor excuse, I know, but I am sorry,” I said, enveloping her in my arms.

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“What were you mad about?” she asked, nestling her cheek into my chest. Damn, that felt so good. If I wasn’t a dick, I would have explained to her that I knew the boilers had been fixed, and the thought of her leaving here and spending more time with Parker scared the shit out of me, but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to ruin the moment.

“It’s not important. The only thing I’m worried about is you.”

She looked up at me and smiled. “I can handle your temper tantrums.”

I scanned her face for several moments before a small smile spread across my lips. “I don’t know why you put up with me, and I don’t know what I’d do if you didn’t.”

Her eyes slowly fell from my eyes to my lips, and her breath caught. Every hair on my skin stood on end, and I wasn’t sure if I was breathing or not. I leaned in less than a centimeter, waiting to see if she would protest, but then my fucking phone rang. We both jumped.

“Yeah,” I said impatiently.

“Mad Dog. Brady will be at Jefferson in ninety.”

“Hoffman? Jesus . . . all right. That’ll be an easy grand. Jefferson?”

“Jefferson,” Adam said. “You in?”

I looked at Abby and winked. “We’ll be there.” I hung up, stuck my phone in my pocket, and grabbed Abby’s hand. “Come with me.”

I led her to the living room. “That was Adam,” I said to Shepley. “Brady Hoffman will be at Jefferson in ninety minutes.”



SHEPLEY’S EXPRESSION CHANGED. HE WAS ALL BUSINESS when Adam called with a fight time. His fingers tapped against his phone, clicking away, texting to the people on his list. When Shepley disappeared behind his door, America’s eyes widened over her smile.

“Here we go! We’d better freshen up!”

Before I could say anything, America pulled Abby down the hall. The fuss was unnecessary. I’d kick the guy’s ass, make the next few months’ worth of rent and bills, and life would return to normal. Well, sort of normal. Abby would move back to Morgan Hall, and I would imprison myself to keep from killing Parker.

America was barking at Abby to change, and Shepley was now off the phone, Charger keys in hand. He bent backward to peek down the hall, and then rolled his eyes.

“Let’s go!” he yelled.

America ran down the hall, but instead of joining us, she ducked into Shepley’s room. He rolled his eyes again but was also smiling.

A few moments later, America burst out of Shepley’s room in a short, green dress, and Abby rounded the hall corner in tight jeans and a yellow top, her tits bouncing every time she moved.

“Oh, hell, no. Are you trying to get me killed? You’ve gotta change, Pidge.”

“What?” She looked down at her jeans. The jeans weren’t the problem.

“She looks cute, Trav, leave her alone!” America snapped.

I led Abby down the hall. “Get a T-shirt on, and some sneakers. Something comfortable.”

“What?” she asked, confusion distorting her face. “Why?”

I stopped at my door. “Because I’ll be more worried about who’s looking at your tits in that shirt instead of Hoffman,” I said. Call it sexist, but it was true. I wouldn’t be able to concentrate, and I wasn’t going to lose a fight over Abby’s rack.

“I thought you said you didn’t give a damn about what anyone else thought?” she said, steaming.

She really didn’t get it. “That’s a different scenario, Pigeon.” I looked down at her breasts, proudly pushed up in a white, lacy bra. Canceling the fight suddenly became a tempting idea, if only to spend the rest of the night trying to find a way to get them naked and against my chest.

I snapped out of it, making eye contact again. “You can’t wear this to the fight, so please . . . just . . . please just change,” I said, shoving her into the room and shutting myself out before I said fuck it and kissed her.

“Travis!” she yelled from the other side of the door. Sounds of scurrying could be heard on the other side of the door, and then what was probably shoes flying across the room. Finally, the door opened. She was in a T-shirt and a pair of Converse. Still hot, but at least I wouldn’t be too worried about who was hitting on her to win my damn fight.

“Better?” she puffed.

“Yes! Let’s go!”

Shepley and America were already in the Charger, ripping out of the parking lot. I slipped on my shades and waited until Abby was secure before taking off on the Harley into the dark street.

Once we reached campus, I drove down the sidewalk with my lights off, pulling up slowly behind Jefferson.

As I led Abby to the back entrance, her eyes widened, and she laughed once.

“You’re joking.”

“This is the VIP entrance. You should see how everyone else gets in.” I hopped down through the open window into the basement, and then waited in the dark.

“Travis!” she half yelled, half whispered.

“Down here, Pidge. Just come in feetfirst, I’ll catch you.”

“You’re out of your damn mind if you think I’m jumping into the dark!”

“I’ll catch you! I promise! Now get your ass in here!”

“This is insane!” she hissed.

In the dim light, I saw her legs wiggle through the small rectangular opening. Even after all her careful maneuvering, she managed to fall instead of jump. A tiny squeal echoed down the concrete walls, and then she landed in my arms. Easiest catch ever.

“You fall like a girl,” I said, setting her on her feet.

We walked through the dark maze of the basement until we arrived in the room adjacent to the main room where the fight would be held. Adam was yelling over the noise with his bullhorn, and arms were sticking straight up from the sea of heads, waving cash in the air.

“What are we doing?” she asked, her small hands wrapped tight around my bicep.

“Waiting. Adam has to run through his spiel before I go in.”

“Should I wait here, or should I go in? Where do I go when the fight starts? Where’s Shep and Mare?”

She looked extremely unsettled. I felt a little bad for leaving her here alone. “They went in the other way. Just follow me out, I’m not sending you into that shark pit without me. Stay by Adam; he’ll keep you from getting crushed. I can’t look out for you and throw punches at the same time.”


“There’s going to be more people here tonight. Brady Hoffman is from State. They have their own Circle there. It will be our crowd and their crowd, so the room’s gonna get crazy.”

“Are you nervous?”

I smiled at her. She was particularly beautiful when she was worried about me. “No. You look a little nervous, though.”

“Maybe,” she said.

I wanted to lean down and kiss her. Something to ease that frightened-lamb expression on her face. I wondered if she worried about me the first night we met, or if it was just because she knew me now—because she cared about me.

“If it’ll make you feel better, I won’t let him touch me. I won’t even let him get one in for his fans.”

“How are you going to manage that?”

I shrugged. “I usually let them get one in—to make it look fair.”

“You . . . ? You let people hit you?”

“How much fun would it be if I just massacred someone and they never got a punch in? It’s not good for business, no one would bet against me.”

“What a load of crap,” she said, crossing my arms.

I raised an eyebrow. “You think I’m yankin’ your chain?”

“I find it hard to believe that you only get hit when you let them hit you.”

“Would you like to make a wager on that, Abby Abernathy?” I smiled. When I first said the words, it wasn’t my intention to use them to my advantage, but when she flashed back an equally wicked smile, the most brilliant fucking idea I’d ever had slipped into my mind.

She smiled. “I’ll take that bet. I think he’ll get one in on you.”

“And if he doesn’t? What do I win?” I asked. She shrugged just as the roar of the crowd surrounded us. Adam went over the rules in his usual asshole way.

I stopped a ridiculous grin erupting across my face. “If you win, I’ll go without sex for a month.” She raised an eyebrow. “But if I win, you have to stay with me for a month.”

“What? I’m staying with you, anyway! What kind of bet is that?” she shrieked over the noise. She didn’t know. No one had told her.

“They fixed the boilers at Morgan today,” I said with a smile and a wink.

One side of her mouth turned up. It didn’t faze her. “Anything is worth watching you try abstinence for a change.”

Her reply sent a rush of adrenaline through my veins that I’d only ever felt during a fight. I kissed her cheek, letting my lips linger against her skin for just a moment longer before walking out into the room. I felt like a king. No way was this fucker going to touch me.

Just as I had anticipated, there was standing room only, and the shoving and shouting amplified once we entered the room. I nodded to Adam in Abby’s direction, to signal for him to watch out for her. He immediately understood. Adam was a greedy bastard, but he was once the undefeated monster in the Circle. I had nothing to worry about as long as he watched over her. He would do it so I wouldn’t be distracted. Adam would do anything as long as it meant making a shit ton of money.

A path cleared as I walked to the Circle, and then the human gate closed behind me. Brady stood toe to toe with me, breathing hard and shaking like he’d just shot up with Red Bull and Mountain Dew.

Usually I didn’t take this shit seriously and made a game of psyching my opponents out, but tonight’s fight was important, so I put on my game face.

Adam sounded the horn. I balanced my core, took a few steps back, and waited for Brady to make his first mistake. I dodged his first swing, and then another. Adam popped something off from the back. He was unhappy, but I had anticipated that. Adam liked for fights to entertain. It was the best way to get more heads in the basements. More people meant more money.

I bent my elbow and sent my fist flying into Brady’s nose, hard and fast. On a normal fight night, I would hold back, but I wanted to get this over with and spend the rest of the night celebrating with Abby.

I hit Hoffman over and over, and then dodged a few more from him, careful not to get so excited that I would let him hit me and fuck everything up. Brady got a second wind, and came back at me again, but it didn’t take long for him to wear himself out throwing punches he couldn’t land. I’d dodged punches from Trenton way faster than this bitch could throw.

My patience had run out, and I lured Hoffman to the cement pillar in the center of the room. I stood in front of it, hesitating just long enough for my opponent to think he had a window to nail my face with a devastating blow. I sidestepped as he put everything into his last throw, and slammed his fist straight into the pillar. Surprise registered in Hoffman’s eyes just before he doubled over.

That was my cue. I immediately attacked. A loud thud signaled that Hoffman had finally hit the ground, and after a short silence, the room erupted. Adam threw a red flag on Hoffman’s face, and then I was surrounded by people.

Most of the time I enjoyed the attention and hell yeahs of those that bet on me, but this time they were just in the way. I tried looking over the sea of people to find Abby, but when I finally got a glimpse of where she was supposed to be, my stomach sank. She was gone.

Smiles turned to shock when I shoved people out of my way. “Get! The fuck! Back!” I yelled, pushing harder as panic came over me.

I finally reached the lantern room, desperately searching for Abby in the darkness. “Pigeon!”

“I’m here!” Her body crashed into mine, and I flung my arms around her. One second I was relieved, the next I was irritated.

“You scared the shit out of me! I almost had to start another fight just to get to you! I finally get here and you’re gone!”

“I’m glad you’re back. I wasn’t looking forward to trying to find my way in the dark.”

Her sweet smile made me forget everything else, and I remembered that she was mine. At least for another month. “I believe you lost the bet.”

Adam stomped in, looked at Abby, and then glowered at me. “We need to talk.”

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