Fighting to be free, p.10
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       Fighting to Be Free, p.10

         Part #1 of Fighting to Be Free series by Kirsty Moseley

  definitely take a piece of that; my money’s firmly on the kid.” He slapped me on the back, grinning.

  My fight wasn’t for another half hour, since I was third, so Ray and I went to stand on the sidelines and watch the first two fights. Ray was right, they were brutal, and nothing like what I’d seen here before. This really was going to hurt. I didn’t care, though—in a way I welcomed the pain; it gave me something else to think about. I’d learned to think of it that way, and it had helped me out of many a situation.

  From the corner of my eye, I watched Kurt. He was incredibly focused while warming up and stretching. The only thing I would have to my advantage was his overconfidence. He thought this would be an easy win. I wouldn’t make it easy for him, though; I needed the money too damn badly.

  Finally my fight was called. I smiled confidently at Ray, who looked like he was chewing off his already short nails. The fighting area wasn’t cordoned off or anything, but there was a clear space where the action took place—marked out by the crowd standing in a large circle waiting to spend their money. Essentially, you could bet on anything, but I was only interested in betting on the outcome, not how fucked up I was going to get in the process.

  The crowd parted as I walked forward. People blatantly sized me up, whispering to one another as they moved aside and let me enter the “ring.” Suddenly the shouting began; people were screaming their bets at Jensen, waving cash in the air while he took their money and scribbled in his pad, giving them odds seemingly off the top of his head. I smiled as I heard one guy bet that I would be tapping out within a minute, and another bet that my nose would be the first thing to bleed.

  Kurt smirked at me as he walked into the ring too, his green eyes shining with confidence. “I’m going to fuck you up so bad you’re gonna wish you’d never woke up this morning,” he growled, his voice low and threatening.

  I shrugged off his threat. “Dude, look, we’re both here for the money, we don’t need to talk trash to each other,” I replied, amused by how into it he was getting. He really did think he was Tyler Durden from Fight Club, judging by the look on his face.

  “I’m going to tear you a new asshole,” he spat.

  I rolled my eyes. “Honestly? Can we stop with the small talk? Damn, you talk like a bitch.”

  “I’m going to hurt you so bad your grandkids are going to feel it!” he hissed angrily.

  I burst out laughing at that. “Oh shit, stop making me laugh, this is a serious fight!”

  I was still laughing when Jensen blew the whistle to start.

  Kurt immediately came at me with a right jab. I jumped to the side. He rounded and came at me again. He looked like he wanted to kill me, and my body slipped into autopilot. As he brought his foot up to kick me, I dropped down onto one knee and punched him hard in the groin.

  As soon as I did it, he let out a guttural groan and staggered back a couple of steps, his eyes watering.

  “Shit, man, ouch! That hurt, right? I’m really sorry,” I said, hissing through my teeth. I could see Ray and Jensen laughing wickedly in the corner.

  “Motherfucker!” Kurt growled, righting himself and coming at me again. He was seriously pissed now, and I immediately regretted using the hitting-in-the-balls card too early.

  He was actually a pretty good fighter and managed to land a few punches that would definitely hurt when the adrenaline wore off in a little while, but he wasn’t too strong on defense. The next time he left his face unprotected, I elbowed him in the nose and then kicked him hard in the top of his thigh, making his leg give out. As he fell to his knees, I smashed my foot into his face, knocking him out cold.

  I watched as he collapsed face-first onto the cold concrete floor. When he didn’t move, I stared at his limp body in shock. Had I seriously just won? Relief washed over my body in waves. I now had money to pay my rent with.

  Jensen strutted over and grabbed my arm, holding it in the air victoriously. “Let’s hear it for Kid Cole!” he shouted enthusiastically. Some people clapped or cheered, but most of them were too busy scowling at Kurt’s unconscious body on the floor. They had obviously bet against me. “Good job,” Jensen congratulated me, grinning from ear to ear.

  “Thanks.” As I spoke, my jaw throbbed. While medics came over to look at Kurt, who was now coming around, I walked over to where Ray was standing. He pulled up a chair for me, and I gratefully plopped into it. I moved my joints carefully, checking for damage. My stomach was hurting a little, but nothing I couldn’t cope with. Everything else was fine as far as I could see, no permanent damage done … yet.

  Ray grinned down at me, holding out a bottle of water. “Kid, that was too funny, I couldn’t stop laughing when you apologized to him for hitting him in the balls,” he said, laughing his ass off again, making me laugh, too.

  Jensen came over a couple of minutes later. “Right, you’re fighting the winner of the next round.” He nodded toward two muscled guys as they walked into the middle.

  “Oh, great. Well, I hope the smallest one wins,” I joked. Jensen handed me my $125 winnings. “So, what are my odds for the next fight?”

  He grinned. “After that little spectacle with Kurt, I’d say the odds are certainly more in your favor now, so two to one.” He shrugged.

  “Put that on me then,” I requested, offering him the money.

  He grinned and nodded, scribbling my bet in his notebook. “I’d better go start the next fight. Good luck,” he said, nodding at me. I didn’t need good luck; even if I lost the next fight I had already earned $100 for getting to that round, which would pay my rent. If I won then I’d have $200 for getting to the final plus $375 from betting on myself, too.

  Ray winced as we watched the two guys fighting; they were both pretty strong and well built. “How much money do you actually need? Why don’t you call it a night on what you’ve got?” he suggested almost pleadingly.

  “I need as much as I can get.” I didn’t want to have to do anything like this again. Even though it was ten times better than working for Brett, this wasn’t exactly my idea of going straight. The more I earned tonight, the more pressure it took away, and the less chance there was of me getting caught in this situation again.

  My phone beeped, so I pulled it open to see a text from Ellie:

  Thanks for marking me Stud. You just got me in trouble! x

  Marking her? Oh, the hickey! She’d finally seen it. I laughed unashamedly; I didn’t feel guilty, I loved that mark on her skin. My next fight was due to start any minute, so I texted her back quickly:

  Oops. I’ll make it up to you. I promise x

  “Who’s that?” Ray asked.

  “A friend.” I smirked.

  “Yeah? The redhead from the club?” he probed, his eyes wide.

  “Yep,” I stated proudly as he grinned and patted me on the shoulder in congratulations.

  * * *

  By the end of the three fights, I was exhausted. My entire body was sore and tender—but I’d won. I sat down in a spare chair cautiously, trying not to move too fast. I had undoubtedly broken a couple of ribs.

  Jensen came over almost immediately. “That was awesome! Want a regular slot here? We could use someone like you to draw in the crowds. People are going to be talking about you now,” he said, grinning. “Thanks for bringing him to me, Ray.” He gripped Ray’s shoulder, looking at him gratefully.

  I shook my head, ignoring the pain that burned in my shoulder. “No thanks, Jensen. Tonight was a one-off.”

  He sighed sadly. “Yeah, okay. If you ever want to come back, you let me know; there’s no waiting list for you.” From his pocket he produced a folded stack of cash with an elastic band holding it together. “Right then, so all together, including your bet, I owe you … $1,625,” he said, carefully counting it out before handing it to me.

  Score! I shoved the money into my pocket and hissed through my teeth as my fingers brushed against the material. Damn it, maybe I’ve broken a finger or two as well.

p; “Right then, hospital, Kid?” Ray asked, looking me over slowly.

  “Nah, it’s not too bad, I’ve had worse. There’s nothing serious.” I shrugged and pushed myself out of the chair. Ray sighed before walking over to his car and opening the door for me. Smiling gratefully, I sank into the leather seat and closed my eyes as he drove me back to my apartment building.

  “Please don’t do this again. I don’t want to see you hurt,” Ray pleaded when we pulled up.

  “I won’t. Thanks for setting this up for me tonight, and driving me and stuff.” I gave him a man hug, clenching my jaw tightly when he patted my back, making pain zip through my ribs.

  I climbed out of the car and walked to my building, wearily climbing up the stairs and fumbling with my keys with my damaged fingers. As soon as I was inside, I leaned against the door and squeezed my eyes shut. My ribs were killing me; every time I took a breath they hurt. My hands were burning; I looked down at my swollen red knuckles and clenched them into fists, hissing as the pain worsened. I headed into the bathroom and ran the cold water, putting both of my hands under there, trying to cool them.

  There was nothing seriously wrong with me, just plenty of bruising and a couple of broken ribs and fingers, but they’d heal on their own. After swallowing a couple of painkillers and washing my face with cold water, I headed back to my bedroom and stripped out of my clothes, trying to look in the broken mirror, but I couldn’t see much. I had a split lip, and a wicked bruise was forming on the side of my jaw; I’d probably also have a black eye by the time I woke up tomorrow.

  Despite the agony I was in, I smiled as I climbed into my bed. I’d done it, and without going to Brett.

  I reached out to grab the photo of Sophie from the side table, but it wasn’t there. It must have fallen on the floor, but I was just too exhausted to get up and find it. By the time the painkillers kicked in enough to let me fall asleep, it was almost two in the morning.


  PAIN. IT WAS everywhere at once. I groaned before even opening my eyes. My fingers were stiff; my chest and sides were throbbing. It felt as if I’d been hit by a freight train. I pushed myself up, hissing through my teeth as a white-hot pain shot up my back from where someone had kneed me in the kidneys last night. I’d have to keep an eye on it and make sure I didn’t start passing blood when I peed.

  I grabbed my cell phone to check the time; it was just past eight in the morning. There was nothing I needed to do today; the car I’d fixed at the junkyard was going to auction tomorrow night, so I wouldn’t know until Thursday whether Connor and his dad were going to hire me to fix up their others.

  I decided to call Ellie and see if she was still talking to me after I’d gotten her in trouble with the hickey on her neck.

  The phone rang for a while on her end and when she answered she was laughing. “Hey, stud,” she choked out around her giggles.

  I smiled. “What’s so funny?” I asked, licking my split lip gently.

  “Stacey put a ringtone on my cell for you, I didn’t realize. It made me laugh, that’s all,” she admitted, still chuckling.

  “Yeah? What is it?” I settled myself back on the bed, loving the sound of her sexy voice.

  “It’s nothing, I’ll take it off. It’s embarrassing.”

  “It’s embarrassing? Oh, now I definitely need to know what it is,” I teased, imagining her pink cheeks.

  “Nope, no way. I’m taking it off as soon as I get off the phone.” She laughed.

  I sighed, giving in. “Fine, don’t tell me then. I was just calling to check in and make sure you’re not pissed at me over the hickey thing.”

  “I’m not pissed, though it’s going to take freaking ages to go away. You’re a pain in the ass,” she replied playfully. Thankfully, she didn’t sound too mad at me over it, and it had the effect I’d desired—it had her thinking about me!

  “Your parents give you shit over it?”

  “It wasn’t my parents. Miles, my ex-boyfriend, saw it and went off,” she grumbled.

  I frowned. “Went off? What does that mean? He didn’t hurt you or anything, did he?” If he’d hurt her, then I’d have to hurt him back.

  “No, nothing like that. He just got angry about it. He demanded I tell him who did it. Whatever, it’s okay, it’s none of his business anymore,” she said dismissively.

  I relaxed again. “Okay, well I said I’d make it up to you, so how about I take you out this weekend?” I mentally crossed my fingers for a yes.

  “Actually, I was wondering if you wanted to meet me today. I have something for you.”

  I frowned. I couldn’t see her today because I needed to give the bruises on my face a couple of days to settle down. “Uh … Actually, Ellie, I’m not feeling too well today. It’s probably best that we don’t see each other for a few days, just in case I pass you my germs or something,” I lied, praying she’d believe me.

  “You’re sick? What’s wrong?” Concern colored her voice, and I smiled because of how adorable she was.

  “I think I might have the flu or something coming on. My head is pounding,” I lied. Well, actually, not a complete lie, my head was killing me.

  “Oh, okay. Well, yeah, this weekend then. Listen, I’d better go get ready for school.” Her voice sounded hurt, and immediately I was annoyed at myself for rejecting her offer.

  “I’ll call you later in the week. Have a good day, Ellie.” I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that I would have to wait all week to see her again; it certainly felt like a long time.

  “Yeah, hope you feel better.”

  She disconnected the call, so I pushed myself up out of the bed and went for a long and fairly painful shower. Even the water hurt when it touched my skin.

  Afterward, I proudly paid my rent, ignoring the sneer from the guy as he looked at me. I couldn’t blame him, really; I mean, I was a crappy ex-con with a banged-up face. I didn’t deserve much respect for that.

  More cautious after the break-in, I rented a safe to keep my valuables in so I wouldn’t get caught in this situation again. Ray called to make sure I was all right, trying again to convince me to go to the hospital, but I didn’t want to spend all of my hard-earned cash on hospital bills for stuff that would heal itself anyway.

  I didn’t have the energy to go out all day, so I just stayed around my room, reading yesterday’s newspaper. I decided that tomorrow, if I was okay to venture out, I’d buy myself a book to pass the time with.

  At just after three o’clock there was a knock on my door. I pushed myself up and answered it. My eyes immediately fell on Ellie, who stood there looking toward the stairs, her whole body tense.

  Panic washed over me because she could have been hurt coming here on her own. Those guys who sat at the front of my building would probably kill to get their hands on a girl like her. “What the hell are you doing here?” I scolded, grabbing her and pulling her into the room quickly. Did this girl have no sense of self-preservation at all?

  She turned to look at me and gasped as her eyes filled with tears. “What the …? What happened? Are you okay?”

  “I’m fine. Why are you crying?” I asked, moving her away from the door so I could go out after whoever had upset or hurt her.

  “Your face! Christ, Jamie,” she whispered, hesitantly reaching out to touch my lip.

  She was crying because I was hurt? That realization made my heart ache a little. I caught her hand and interlaced our fingers. “I’m fine, honestly. It probably looks worse than it is,” I assured her, shrugging and ignoring the blast of pain that roared through my shoulder.

  “What happened?” Her lip trembled as she spoke.

  I stepped forward and wiped her tears with my free hand. “Ellie, seriously, you don’t come here again, you understand me? You shouldn’t be here.”

  I was stupid and selfish for being in this girl’s life. I tried desperately not to think of all the things the scumbags in this building would do to a beautiful thing like her.

“I just wanted to come and see if you were okay. I brought you some medicine and food, in case you couldn’t go out to get it.” She held out a brown bag as evidence.

  My breathing faltered. “You did? That’s really nice of you. Thank you. But you shouldn’t ever come here on your own; hell, I don’t even want you here when I’m with you. This isn’t a nice place,” I said, softening my voice.

  “What happened?” she asked again. She turned my hand over, looking at my sore and swollen knuckles.

  “I was fighting,” I admitted, not wanting to lie to her. Maybe I needed to scare this girl away from me, maybe I needed to show her who I was so that she wouldn’t want to hang out with me again.

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