Book: Outside The Ropes

Previous: 18: Not Breathing
Next: 20: Stop Me

THE DETAILS OF THEIR KISS WAS A ball of barbed wire in my stomach, and every time she talked, it banged around, inflicting little cuts. And I couldn’t escape the details since we were stuck together in a car for two hours.

The boys left in the morning to AC. But since I had work and Leona had class we didn't leave till that night.

According to Aliya, Gage had come over to help move her new dresser, her way of getting him into her bedroom. When they finished, he went to the kitchen for a drink, that’s when I saw him, and when I left, they kissed.

I had to hear about how soft his lips were, how he pushed her against a wall, dominating the kiss. How she thought he was going to take her there on the kitchen counter.

“What happened with Anthony?” Aliya looked in the visor mirror to see me in the backseat. “Gage was hot about that, I know. I could feel it, even his kiss was angry.” She sunk back in the seat. “Whatever it was, thank you.”

I stared out the window as we passed cars on the turnpike. “They got in each other’s face.” I shrugged, not wanting to share details.

Zoe flipped her magazine close and sat up next to me. “Aliya, you do realize that they were probably fighting over Rea, right?”

Aliya turned around and counted on her fingers. “One, Rea is with Anthony. And two, she said she didn’t mind if I tried with Gage. So three, I don’t care what his motivation is, I’ll take the kiss and more if I’m lucky.” She bounced back on her seat, smiling bright. “This weekend should be fun.”

I hadn’t told them about Anthony, yet. I didn’t want to change the dynamics, especially with Leona.

Leona met my eyes in the rearview mirror and smirked. “Smile Rea, we're supposed to be having fun.”

***

The soft hum of silence enveloped me like a warm blanket. I was alone in our suite. Our large group had three suites side by side, and everyone from mine was still downstairs at the bars.

I walked onto the balcony, drawn by the ocean view. I had never been to the beach before. Leaning on the iron railing, I watched as the moonlight shimmered over the swells and curls of the waves, the faint sound of rolling water barely audible under the cacophony of sounds of the city at night.

The air had a touch of cold in it, but wasn’t bad for February. I grabbed a blanket and curled up in a chair to watch the water from the safety of a lit up hotel.

After a while, the slider from the suite to the right opened, music and laughter spilling out before Gage stepped through.

He slid the door closed and stood scanning the ocean. Then his head turned, and he saw me.

The corner of his mouth tugged up, and he walked to the rail that separated our balconies. “Everyone back already?”

I pulled my blanket tight around me and sunk into my chair. “No. I came back on my own.”

He looked towards his room. “I’m about to tell my crew they have to shut the hell up and go to bed. I can’t think with them around.” He looked back to me. “But, maybe it can wait. Can I sit with you?”

I took a sip of my tea and nodded before I could talk myself out of it.

He took a step back, still facing me, and put his finger up. “Give me a minute. I’ll be right over.”

He went back into the room, voices escaping as the sliding door opened and closed. I hadn’t seen Gage since we arrived. I knew his room was next to ours, but I also knew he had his own friends with him.

When he came over, he set up a fire in the marble fire table our chairs circled. He moved easily in his casual jeans, t-shirt and unzipped gray hoody, the hood slung on the back of his head. And like a moth to the flame, I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

I stayed quiet, pretending to watch the fire flames as he sat on the lounge chair next to mine.

He braced his forearms on his knees, hands pressed together. Then he looked sideways at me. “Your cop mad about yesterday? About you being here?”

His casual attitude made my gut twist with anger.

“Don’t pretend to care. He’s none of your business.” I shifted further back in my chair, distancing myself from him.

His knee bounced under his arm as he watched me for a moment. Then he stilled and looked back to the fire. “Fine. But where does that leave us?”

I couldn’t stop my response. Appalled, I leaned forward to grab his attention, my eyes wide. “You kissed Aliya, where do you think that leaves us?”

He sat back with disdain. “You’re with someone else. What the hell do you want me to do? Wait for you?”

The way he sneered with the last question sealed it, confirming what I knew. He wanted me, but that was all it was. Attraction. Nothing more. And I could deal with that.

I raised an eyebrow. “I’m not with him anymore.” When he looked at me and stilled, amazement clear on his face, I continued, “We ended it after I left yesterday, for good.”

His eyes travelled up and down me, not much to see though with the blanket still wrapped around me.

“I only kissed Aliya because I wanted to kiss you,” he confessed in a sigh.

If he didn’t look so damn hot, I would have been gone with that. I should've walked away, but I had already made my decision. I needed him out of my system.

For some reason I was holding back. My body wouldn’t let me move. His eyes locked me where I was.

“You ended it or he ended it?”

I shrugged, annoyed. I didn’t want to talk about Anthony. “What does it matter? It’s over.”

“He wasn’t good enough for you.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. He was a good guy, too good for me. He had his shit together and I only brought him down.” I pressed my lips shut, regretting speaking my thoughts out loud, but I didn’t want Gage talking bad about him.

He shook his head, watching me with disbelief. “He may have had a good job, but that doesn’t make him a good man.”

“Just shut up.”

“I’m only trying to figure out where your heads at, how you’re feeling.” He picked up the lounger and moved it a couple of feet closer to me, our knees almost touching when he sat. He took my hands in his. “If it was my fault he broke up with you--”

I pulled away. “It isn’t your fault. I just finally accepted the truth."

Even in the fires glow his eyes still sent shivers through me.

His icy blues were locked on me. “What’s the truth?”

I hesitated, wanting to make my move, but still frozen under his gaze. Instead, I talked, maybe to cover my nerves or maybe to make him understand. What I had planned was not about feelings, but something else. Something I was only beginning to realize about myself, although it had been there all along.

“I always ruin good things. I choose the path to destruction. Every. Time.” I looked away, past the fire to the ocean and still barely saw that. Now that I started, I wanted to get it all out, put a voice to the thoughts I never admitted before. And maybe this man with a broken past could understand a bit.

My laugh was bitter. “I had a therapist who told me that. That I purposefully push people away and set fires to anything good. My way of taking control and avoiding the risk of becoming attached.” I swallowed hard. Unsure if I could continue. My muscles were already vibrating with nerves.

“What happened to the therapist? You still see him?”

“I quit after that. Thought what she said was bullshit and never went back.” The irony hit me like a truck; I had proved her right by quitting.

Gage got it, I could tell by the look that crossed his face. “Why do you believe it now?”

My heart was jack hammering in my stomach. But I had already gone this far, and the words kept spilling out of my mouth. I needed to get my body to move.

“I had two choices yesterday. One that could have led to a life I should want, but I didn’t choose it. Instead, I’m here, with you. And even now…” I sat up in the chair letting go of the blanket surrounding me. “I could make a different choice, but I’m not.”

Gage stiffened, face unreadable but eyes full of desire as they trailed over me like a caress. “What choice are you making?” he whispered, slow and thick.

I stood up, moving my hands to his shoulders. He placed his hands on top of mine and slid them up my arms, a trail of heat lingered where he touched. His eyes captured mine, pulling me in.

I moved like a dream, placing one knee at a time on either side of him, gradually straddling him. He sucked in a sharp breath as our body’s touched, and the sizzle of electricity enveloped every part of me.

When our lips met, I imploded; everything inside me went up in flames.

His full lips moved against mine, soft but hard in all the right ways. Then he moved suddenly, flipping our position so I was below him, his hands gripping my upper arms.

I gripped his shirt, attempting to pull him back on the lounger with me. Only then did I realize he wasn’t kissing me back anymore.

He jerked me away from him, letting go of my shoulders as he stood. A look of betrayal twisted his face.

I was in complete shock. Everything in me clenched.

He leaned over me, yelling in my face, “I’m not a fucking path to destruction. You’re wrong. Go back to your therapist, you need it.”

He kicked the chair next to us with the bottom of his boot, sending it flipping across the balcony till it banged into the rail. Then he jumped over the railing connecting our balconies and threw open his slider.

“Party’s over," he commanded before the door closed, blocking out any other sounds.

I sat back, stunned. That had not gone as expected. But the end result was still the same.

***

Our seats were third row in a packed venue. The lit up arena buzzed with conversations as people waited for the next fight.

My nerves were snapping with anticipation. Gage would be coming out soon. I hadn’t seen him since he stomped off last night, but I hadn’t stopped thinking of him since.

I had spent the morning working out with Silas and the day on a chilly beach, mostly alone while the others recuperated from their night out.

But Dexter told me Gage came by the room looking for me.

My lips tingled recalling our kiss, and my heart dropped remembering his reaction.

Aliya grabbed my hand, looking to the aisle. “Oh no,” she groaned. “His stupid friends had to bring stupid girls.”

I followed her gaze to see a line of people coming up the aisle. Three men, who were probably early-twenties, and six girls, like an assortment of candy. They wore bright, tight dresses that showed off shiny skin and cleavage. Perfectly groomed Barbie’s.

Aliya huffed next to me, crossing her arms. “If one of them end up in his bed, I’m ripping out her extensions and strangling him with them.”

I sat back, feeling sick.

From the other side of Aliya, Leona said, “You look better than them Ally Cat. Don’t stress. There are plenty of other guys.”

Zoe leaned over from the end to add. “You knew this was the way it worked. It’s always some random.”

The new group filed in next to us; a blonde guy starting the line sat next to me, and the rest of the party took up the seats till the end of the row.

Looking down the line of girls, I was taken aback with how different the bodycon style could look. They wore it like a skin, whereas Leona and Zoe’s dresses were more fashion. Aliya went with a circle lace skirt and crop top with a jacket. I was fine with being the odd one in my dark denim jeans, but I appeased the girls by dressing it up with heeled booties and a sleeveless chiffon top.

The blonde smiled at me and nodded to our group; he pointed to Leona. “You’re Dexter’s girl right?”

“Leona,” she smiled tight with a nod.

“We just saw him and Gage in the backroom. Who are your friends?”

Zoe rolled her eyes. “We’ve met before at other fights.”

The blonde laughed, taking his seat. “Oh right, I forgot.” Then he looked over at me, starting from the legs up. “I haven’t seen you before. I’m Ian.”

“Regan.” I turned my attention away from him, back to my roommates.

Aliya grabbed my hand with a giggle and whispered, “Gage’s friends are hot right?”

I laughed slightly, unsurprised, she thought most guys were.

An announcer started introductions, pulling our attention to the center of the ring.

Gage was introduced first. We all stood as the music started and turned towards the doors above us to see him enter with Silas, Dexter, and one other guy. He made his way down the aisle, scanning our section.

Ian leaned over to me. “Dude’s crazy. Never seen anyone as calm as him before a fight. Have you seen him fight?”

I couldn’t respond because Gage’s gaze landed on me, and didn’t move as he continued his path. Even with a stone blank face, the intensity left little room for anything else. Everything around me blurred and dropped away, leaving only him. When he passed our seats, I was no longer in his sight, but my eyes were still glued to him as he climbed into the ring.

He stood in the corner stretching his neck and turned around, eyes landing on me again. And once again the air vacuumed from my lungs and my lips throbbed with memory.

Leona grabbed my hand, bouncing next to me. “He keeps looking over here.”

Something darkened his face, making the lines stand out, and his eyebrows dropped along with my stomach.

Ian leaned in to say something, but I didn’t pay attention, too absorbed watching Gage. He was my gravity, pulling me like the tide, and I was unable to fight it.

Thankfully, he released me by turning around, facing the opposite way to watch his opponent come in. A tall, rock star looking guy with a full shirt of tattoo’s, and long dark hair pulled back into a ponytail.

The bell rung and Gage moved, landing a lightning fast uppercut that jerked the guy’s chin up. He followed it with a left hook, and then a right that slammed the rock star to the ground.

The room exploded in cheers and everyone that wasn’t already standing rose to their feet as the Referee counted.

When the Ref declared Gage the winner Dexter jumped into the ring, but Gage sidestepped him. He moved with such fierce purpose that everyone cleared out of his way. He climbed between the ropes and started up the aisle, then down our row.

I was trembling the closer he got, my feet stuck to the ground.

He stopped in front of me, and then all at once he hooked his arm around my waist and his lips smashed into mine. My body dissolved, relying on his to keep me up. His tongue slipped in to my mouth, sending shocks of lust down me. Hormones went berserk in my veins.

When my body could finally move, I wrapped my arms around him, feeling his smooth skin over hard muscle. He pulled me in tighter with his arm, and the searing heat of him pressed against the length of me. He kept his still gloved hands off me, but I craved his touch, my skin screamed for it.

He slid his perfect lips to my ear, his ragged breathing only fanning the flames, and I quivered in his arms.

“Wait here,” he said between breaths; his face pressed to my hair.

He must have kissed the sense out of me, because in that moment I would have done whatever he wanted. I nodded, my head pressed to his chest, trying to regain control over my own breathing and muscles.

His arm slowly released me while he lowered me to the seat. Then he walked backwards out of the row, everyone moving out of his way.

If I wasn’t already sitting the smile he sent me would have dropped me. It was a wide genuine smile that lit up his face. I had never seen him smile like that, but it was possibly the sexiest thing I ever saw. I placed it as the euphoria I felt after winning a fight; he had to be full of it after such an impressive win. He hadn’t even broke a sweat.

He jogged back to the ring, Silas and Dexter crowding him before they walked off for an interview.

It took a moment for me to float back into my body.

Aliya was waiting, staring wide-eyed, mouth agape. When I looked her way, she grinned.

“Oh Chick, that was...” She sat back fanning herself. “Lucky Bitch.” She nudged my shoulder, teasing.

I didn’t need her permission, but seeing that she wasn’t angry was a relief. To be sure I asked, “You’re not mad?”

She shook her head, excitement lighting her face. “Oh hell no. I knew he was digging on you, I just didn’t know it was that bad. Or that good. And I’m glad it’s not one of those randoms. You can give me details later.” She winked.

Leona leaned over. “What about Anthony?”

“Who cares about him?” Aliya shrieked.

“We’re over,” I answered. The more I talked the colder I felt. The rush was receding fast, and I wasn’t sure I should wait. The intensity of my reaction scared me.

The boy on the other side of me was gone, as well as a few others from that line. People were up, walking around before the next fight.

Dexter popped into the seat next to me. “Damn Rea, what did you do to my brother?” Even his half smile was contagious, but when it dropped so did the rest of the heat in me. He looked past me to where Gage was approaching, quickly adding, “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. We’re staying here to see the last fight if you want to stay too.”

It sounded like a warning, and probably one I should listen to, but when Gage was there and extended his now gloveless hand to me, I took it. He pulled me into the warmth of his shirtless body and walked us out.

“Wait. Silas wanted to talk to you,” Dexter called after us.

“Later,” Gage responded without slowing our path to the exit.

And I must’ve still been drunk off his kiss because my earlier hesitation faded in his presence. This is what I had started, what I had been thinking about all day, and now it seemed he had let go of whatever stopped him last night.

Previous: 18: Not Breathing
Next: 20: Stop Me