That’s what the letter says.
She says she knows. She knows about the kind of man I am. And she cannot be with someone like me. She doesn’t feel safe with me.
I swear my heart stops beating.
She ends the letter asking me not to contact her.
Not going after her will forever be my biggest regret.
Present Day - Keira
THE LOCKER-ROOM ECHOESwith the chants of the crowd beyond the closed doors. It’s fight night in the underground world. Bets will be placed and blood will be spilled. My body thrums with excitement. The adrenaline. The pain. Both as familiar as breathing.
Killian, my friend, mentor, and fiancé, kneels in front of me. Wrapping my knuckles as he has done countless times before. He doesn’t like that I fight. Doesn’t like that he can’t protect me while I’m in the ring. Still, every time we come, he is the one taping my hands, wiping away my blood, and icing the bruises.
I stare down at his handsome face. He means the world to me. He is my world. The only thing I have left.
I’m broken. He knows it, I know it, though we rarely talk about it. Six years ago I was in the right place at the right time. He had been beaten, shot, and left to die on the side of the road. I found him, brought him home, cleaned him up and tended to his injuries. He gave me his card, told me to call if I ever needed anything. Said he owed me a blood debt.
Two weeks later I reached out to him and cashed it in.
The door opens. Without looking, I know it’s just Grady. He’s Killian’s best friend and business partner. He’s also the only man ballsy enough to enter this room without knocking.
“Crowd is double what it was last Saturday. You ready for this Cahira?” He asks as he strolls closer.
I don’t even need to think about it. “Always.” I didn’t fight last Saturday. Crowds are always larger on nights I fight. While female fighters are becoming more common, female fighters that willingly fight the men are rare. Female fighters that beat those men were unheard of. At least until I entered the ring sixteen months ago. Forty-eight fights and I am still undefeated.
Killian stands. I follow suit. He leans his forehead against mine. “Forty-nine. He’s got a hundred pounds on you. All his strength is in his arms. Bring him to his knees and you’ve got him.”
I knock my knuckles against his. “That’s why you don’t skip leg day.”
Both men give a snort. I like surprising them with jokes. They used to tell me I was too serious. I agree. I wasn’t always. There was a time when I smiled without thought, laughed freely, joked, teased, and flirted. Fighting has brought my confidence back. It’s given me physical as well as mental strength. It also gives me something to focus on when the noise in my head becomes too much. When the fear and doubt threaten to overwhelm me.
I step away from Killian so I can do a few bounces on my toes and shake my head to get the blood pumping. There’s no room for negative thoughts tonight. Focus.
Killian leads the way out of the room. I follow closely behind, with Grady at my back. Stepping into the ring, I take a moment to assess my opponent. The man is huge. A smile creeps onto my face. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. My smile hides the hint of fear that creeps in. I’m not psychotic. I don’t have a death wish. I know this man could kill me with one well placed punch.
I don’t want to die. I don’t go seeking it out. It’s the pain I chase. My body feels lost without it. It’s like I no longer notice it as it ravages my body. I only notice its absence.
Speaking of pain, I hear the loud crunch of bone moments before a sharp, searing, agony washes over my ribs. Fuck that hurt.
I was so lost in my head, I hadn’t realized the fight had begun. Ducking under the next jab, I quickly get out of the corner and across the mat. It only takes a moment for my opponent to follow. Each breath brings a wave of fresh pain. It’s exactly what I needed. My body releases a flow of adrenalin. I instantly feel it’s effects working through every cell of my body. Strumming it to life.
We attack and counter through two rounds. We are in our last. I can see his arms tiring. It’s time to end this.
Jab. Jab. Cross. Uppercut. Drop to the floor and sweep the legs. The giant falls to his knees. He’s nearly as tall as me in this position. Good. I do another few jabs, then roundhouse kick him.
Eyes roll back in his head as he crashes to the mat. He’s out cold.
The warehouse goes silent. It’s never silent. I swear you can hear a pin drop. In the silence one voice shouts “fuck yeah”. It’s the voice of Grady. A moment later, him and Killian are lifting me up into their arms. Their actions break the spell on the crowd. The cheering returns ten-fold. The audience chants the name Cahira. A gift from Killian after I won my first fight. Means warrior.