A PART OF ME WANTED TO TAKE off now, not even wait for tonight and the results. And it felt like a part of me did, just tore away and bailed.
But the part of me that was left didn’t care about his warning. I wasn’t asking what was going to happen to me.
“But what about you? What will happen to you?” My voice came out in a whisper, unable to get enough air.
He glanced at me a few times, but I was beginning to think he wasn’t going to answer. Then he ran his hand through my hair, brushing it back from my face.
“I don’t want you to worry about that. I’ll handle whatever happens.”
I grabbed his hand and trapped it between both of mine as I brought it to my lap. “You worry about me, so I can worry about you.” But I knew worrying was pointless. I had worried about Nan, but she needed action.
He squeezed my hand as we drove through the tunnel into New York City. “Neither of us has to worry because I am going to win. Let’s leave it at that.”
I dropped the questions. He didn’t need them right now. He needed sleep, focus, and confidence. Instead I said, “You will,” and then brought his hand up to my lips, sealing the wish.
Gage turned to me in the elevator and said, “When we get to the suite, go straight to our room. I don’t want you to get pulled into the drama that might be waiting. You’re exhausted and need sleep. I’ll be right behind you.”
He stretched his neck to either side. “Silas will be pissed that I’m cutting it so close. Dexter, I don’t know what to expect from him, but it doesn’t matter. Just go straight to the room, alright?” He grabbed my hand as the doors opened and we walked two doors down to the suite.
I scanned the room as I entered. Dexter wasn’t around, but Silas was waiting. He jumped up from the couch and stomped over to Gage.
“God Dammit boy, you have to be ready for press at noon. Get your head in this and focus on what’s important.” I’d never seen Silas so flustered; he was angry but nervousness was clearly running under his words, evident in the way he shifted from foot to foot.
Gage dropped my hand and nudged me in the direction of our room. I walked away, but slow enough so I could hear the conversation.
“Don’t fuckin’ think you can lecture me anymore. I know what’s important and I’ll be ready. Where’s Dexter?” Gage’s voice was low and controlled.
“He’s in the room, hasn’t come out since his girl left yesterday.”
I paused in front of the door to the bedroom and turned to look back at them. Leona left? Dexter and her seemed to be doing fine when I last saw them.
Gage met my eyes and nodded to the door in a clear command, then strode towards Dexter’s room, disappearing inside.
“Where did Leona go?” I asked Silas.
He turned towards me, his eyes narrowing as he thought. “She went home. Gage scared her off when he blew up at Dexter yesterday. I’m surprised you came back; does that mean you’re still willing to fight? That I’m still your manager?”
I stiffened my spine, standing up tall. “No, you’re not my manager.” I finally listened to Gage and went into the bedroom, shutting the door on Silas.
I didn’t even bother changing, just took off my pants and slid into bed. The cool sheets and soft mattress felt like respite to my drained body.
But my thoughts weren’t given the same break. They continued to run over the last twenty-four hours, and Nan was screaming in my head. I tried to stop myself, but I couldn’t. I played out different scenarios, but kept coming back to one. Nan on the floor, on her stomach, clawing to get away from Damien as he cut into her, stabbing her repeatedly in the back. Seven times.
I curled into myself, under the blankets, fighting the tears that were already streaming down my face, wanting sleep to block out these thoughts. I had always been able to sleep, even in the worst of conditions, even under stress.
Nan had questioned that before. Ever since I knew her, she relied on medicine to sleep, said she had too many nightmares and wondered how I didn’t. I had always thought of sleep as an escape; my nightmares occurred when I was awake.
The bed dipped beside me and the covers shifted. I struggled to breathe without letting Gage hear my tears. He needed to sleep, and I didn’t want him wasting any more time worrying about me.
A gentle touch brushed the hair from my face, his warmth radiated into my back as he shifted closer, and his soft lips kissed the corner of my closed eye.
I’m sure he meant to make me feel better, but it only made me feel worse and a sob shook me as I squeezed tighter into myself. I had to get control so he could sleep.
His arms scooped me up, turning me to face him, and he wrapped me in tightly. My tears flowed onto his bare chest as his lips brushed the top of my head.
Unfolding myself, I brought a hand up to his chest and pushed away slightly. “It’s okay. I’m okay. Really. You need to sleep.”
His only response was to trail feathery kisses over my forehead and cheeks.
“Please. You don’t have to do this. It’ll make me feel worse. You need your sleep for the fight tonight.” But my hands glided over his chest and around to his back, pulling myself in tighter, letting him surround me.
He kept one arm wrapped around my lower back and the other cupped my face, moving me to look at him. His eyes searched my face, and I searched his. So many emotions seemed to fill his gaze, but mostly I saw concern and uncertainty. It was the nervous uncertainty that had me pulling him closer, practically melting into him. I wanted to fill him with confidence.
I pressed my cheek to his chest, hearing his strong steady heartbeat.
His hand left my face, trailing down my arm and over my hip. His fingertips glided back up to my stomach, running under the hem of my shirt.
“I told myself I wouldn’t do this, till after the fight. But…” His voice was breathless, and he gulped in air, “I want you so bad. I don’t think I can sleep with you next to me.” His hand gripped my hips as I attempted to pull away. “But I don’t want you anywhere else. You belong here with me. I want to kiss you. Can I do that?”
I leaned away, confused. Of course he could, but then I realized he hadn’t kissed me since that night everything went down. I nodded and wiped my cheeks, trying to clean up my face for him.
He brought his lips to mine tentatively; they barely grazed. The kiss was shallow but still lit a fire that I desperately needed, pushing away the cold that ached in my bones. His tongue lightly licked at my lips until I captured it in-between them and sucked him in. The next moment, he rolled me on my back, deepening the kiss, and the fire erupted, burning all other thoughts.
His hands moved all over me, memorizing all my curves as I did the same to him. I ran my fingers under the elastic of his boxers and felt him shudder under my touch.
He broke the kiss, raising himself up with his arms braced on either side of me. His head dropped and blocked his face from view as he spoke. “I can’t do this. It’s not fair to you.” He brought his forehead to mine and whispered, “I love you, but I can’t make you mine till after my fight. It’s not right.”
Another piece of me was just ripped away. I had lost too many pieces and was scattered, unable to even pretend to pull myself back together.
I cupped his face in my hands and kissed his lips softly. “I’m already yours. That’s why I’m here. But whatever you need, I’m here.” And at the moment, it was true; all that was left of me were the parts that belonged to him, the parts that he had saved from drowning.
He moved towards me and hesitated slightly. His lips brushed my ear and his warm breath sent chills through me as he breathed, “I need you.”
As his hands roamed over me and he trailed hot kisses down my neck, I gave up fighting and let him take over. He pulled my shirt over my head, but left on my bra, not pressing the issue.
Our movements were smooth and in sync, with an easy flow. He made me forget anything but this moment. Even time became a non-issue. This is what we both needed.
His naked body rose over mine as he removed his fingers from between my legs and inserted the tip of himself. He slid in, filling me, completing me. And we both held tight as our bodies joined as deep as possible. But we couldn’t stay still for long.
He rocked in and out and soon pressure began mounting for us, and his attempts at control were gone and replaced with raw emotion.
He slammed into me, over and over, covering my cries with his lips. I drank in his grunts. Our bodies were slick with exertion as my core tightened and snapped, a shattering release that racked my body in uncontrollable spasms.
He slumped over me, his own body quivering as his hot release filled me. He held himself still inside me, breathing raggedly into my neck. His breathing calmed, falling back under his control, but he didn’t move and neither did I. I felt him soften in me, but he only wrapped his arms around me, keeping me still. And within moments, I submitted to my exhaustion and fell asleep surrounded by his warmth.