Fighting's all he ever wanted...until her.
Autumn Chamberlain has everything: a rich family, connections, and a perfect GPA. Autumn’s satisfied being the perfect daughter until she engages in a game of dare and loses.
Her punishment for destroying school property? Tell her parents and face the consequences or tutor bad boy, Mickey Costello. The problem? He’s the principal’s nephew and has more demons than Autumn could’ve ever imagined.
Living life on the edge, Mickey’s everything she isn’t. Once tutoring begins, he shows her a world where everything that glitters isn’t gold. As their attraction grows, long buried secrets resurface. Inside the ring Mickey’s never lost a fight, but when tragedies come back to haunt him, he’ll have to conquer past sins, guilt, and a hate crime that pushes them both to the edge. Can Mickey fight his way through his troubled past to have a future with Autumn or will the truth shatter them both forever?
14+ due to sexuality and adult situations
Again they danced. I thought of Mickey’s training, his rhythmic sliding in and out of the maze of ropes as though the lines where projected onto the ring from my mind’s eye. As I watched Devin and Leo, I tried to assess where their skill stacked up against Mickey’s.
Devin was large, but he was predictable. Leo, on the other hand, was unassuming. He watched Devin as a predator would its prey, waiting patiently for the right opportunity to present itself. What worried me about the facts I was gathering, was Leo’s techniques reminded me of Mickey’s. His stealth, his patience, making every hit count, those were Mickey’s trademarks. The problem—Leo was five years older than Mickey. He had age and experience on his side. All Mickey had was the weight of his family’s financial burdens.
The fight lasted five rounds. In the end I realized that Leo was only entertaining the audience and toying with Devin. He knocked him out in one hard uppercut that split Devin’s left temple above his eye. The blood spattered across the beige mat reminded me of a Pollock painting.
The sight made me sick. Watching Leo, I could swear for a brief moment that he caught my gaze. There was something cold and unfeeling in his eyes that unnerved me. All I could think of was Mickey laying where Devin did. I felt hot, like I couldn’t breathe, as though the room was closing in on me.
“I want to leave,” I said to Mickey.
He looked down at me, and I could see him, but he was blurry. The room was fading, the noise diminishing even though I knew it was going on around me. I had to get out of there.
I didn’t wait for Daniel or Mickey. I jetted from there and waited until I felt the gravel of the parking lot underneath my feet, before I started dry heaving. I had nothing in my stomach but cramps and nausea. I wiped my mouth off, trying to let the frigid winter air cool me down. I walked to Daniel’s truck, but before I got there, Mickey caught up to me.
“Hey. Are you okay?” Mickey asked as he gently grabbed my elbow.
“No, Mickey. I am definitely not okay. Did you see what happened in there?”
“Of course I did.”
I gave him an incredulous look.
“Please tell me, after that, you are not seriously contemplating fighting that guy,” I said, knots reforming in my stomach.
“Autumn, I’ve been doing this for a couple of years. I came tonight to see what I was up against. I have to fight him,” Mickey said. “And now I know how to.”
“Maybe you’re punch-drunk, Mickey. Did you not see the same fight I just did? Devin is twice Leo’s size. By all logic, he should’ve won and Leo knocked him out. Do you understand what that means? Knockouts lead to—”
“Loss of brain tissue, can potentially lead to traumatic brain injuries, mood changes. Yes, Autumn, I am aware of the consequences.” Mickey pulled me into his arms.
I was trying not to hyperventilate. I was only beginning to digest how serious boxing was, especially shady underground illegal matches where the same rules didn’t apply. And I didn’t want Mickey to be part of it.
“You’re so smart, Mickey. Too smart to be doing this. You have no formal training, no coach, nothing. You have nobody to protect you from someone like Leo. Don’t fight him. Please don’t let fighting take away what makes you you,” I said, hot tears pooling in my eyes.
He stroked my hair as he listened to all my fears, like holding me would somehow erase all the awful images I’d just been subjected to. I vented about how smart he was. That he could use his head in college, not the ring. He listened patiently but ultimately said, “I have to do this.”
I knew his secret, his desire to take care of his family regardless of the suffering he’d have to go through in order to obtain it. But it didn’t change the future I wanted more for him than he did himself. I knew his resolve was still set when he took his thumb and wiped away the last of my tears. I was tired, my eyes swollen from crying. That fear gnawing at me for Mickey gave way to the dawning realization that what I felt for Mickey was more than a passing feeling.
I was falling in love with him.
I wasn’t going to get anywhere with him. I sighed, exhausted. “Why fight? Why boxing?”
He tucked his finger under my jawline. Tilting my chin up, he softly kissed me and said against my lips, “Because it’s the only fight in this life that’s fair.”