He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. A man who has gotten his hands dirty in the past is never going to shy away from doing what needs to be done in the future, especially when it comes to defending and protecting his lady.
No one tries to take advantage of him. He’s made it clear that he’s willing to cross the line, so other guys tend to take that as a sign not to mess with him—or those he considers under his protection.
He has a unique perspective. He can see issues from both sides, and is able to weigh the options and odds with knowledge of how his old self would have handled it.
He’s never going to lose that dangerous edge. Once a bad boy, always a bad boy. The redeemed villain is never going to be a tamed man, he’ll just act like it in polite company. (Serious win for his lady!)
His appreciation for what he has earned. The redeemed villain has lived on the other side of the line and been judged. Once he has found redemption, he has a solid appreciation for the good in his life, and a definite devotion to the woman who brought color to his black-and-white, villain-y world.
I’m the guy you love to hate.
In every story in my life, I seem to end up playing the villain—and I’ve got the scars to prove it.
That role works fine for me, because I’m sure as hell not anyone’s hero.
I run my life and my empire with an iron fist—until she knocks my tightly controlled world off its axis.
She’s nobody’s damsel in distress, but I can’t help but want to save her anyway.
I guess we’re about to find out if there’s a hero buried … beneath these scars.
SWEAT DRIPPED INTO MY EYES as I bounced on the balls of my feet. Someone had to be calling out how much time was left in this round soon. My pride was on the line, and there was no way I would hand it over to Con Leahy. He’d already gotten the girl, and I wasn’t about to let him humiliate me in the ring in this piece-of-shit New Orleans gym too.
My muscles burned, but that was nothing compared to the heat of victory—or the sting of defeat. What had started out as a boxing lesson had quickly transformed into an all-out brawl for dominance and respect.
Only you would pay a million dollars to get your ass kicked, Titan. The voice in my head mocked me as I bobbed and weaved. But I hadn’t paid a million to get my ass kicked. I’d done it because that night at the charity auction I’d been drunk, pissed off, and determined to prove a point—he might’ve gotten the girl, but I was still the one with the power. I got a sick sense of satisfaction that every time Con bought something for his gym and these kids, he had to think of me.
I swung with another right hook. The blow connected with Con’s jaw and snapped his head to the side.
Yeah. That’s right. But my mental cheer came a moment too soon, and pain exploded in my left side.
Shit, that’s going to hurt tomorrow.
I stumbled back but threw myself forward again, shooting out my fist with an uppercut that knocked Con back a step. This was how it had gone for the last several minutes—trading punches and circling each other.
There was no love lost in this ring, that was for damn sure, and I was ready for this to be over. I would walk out of here with every bit of the respect I was owed. Fuck anyone who thought otherwise.
Con moved toward me and the circling started again. The cheers and chants from the crowd surrounding the ring in the old warehouse gym seemed to grow every time I glanced beyond the ropes. A flash of blond hair caught my eye as I stepped left and Con shifted to the right.
She threw her head back and laughed at something said by her redheaded friend, Elle. I turned my attention back to the man in front of me, but my focus wandered again when a huskier, sexier laugh echoed through the room.
My eyes strayed from Con for a second too long as I tried to track down the source of the laughter. Pain burst through my jaw, catching me by surprise, and I stumbled back into the ropes. Using their momentum, I shoved off to the side, my pride stinging from my momentary lapse in concentration. Embarrassed and now thoroughly pissed off, I surged forward and attacked.
One punch. That was all I landed before the bell rang, signaling the end of the round and my very expensive “lesson.”
I pushed off Con, and my knee might have slipped as I stepped back . . . and caught him directly in the balls. It was probably an accident. I huffed out a chuckle, but Con didn’t share my humor.
“Goddamn it!” he roared. “Are you fucking serious?”
It was like stabbing a bull with a matador’s sword, but I was ready for him. I jumped out of the way as Con charged, and shifted into a defensive stance when he swung.
“Should’ve expected a cheap shot from you, motherfucker.” Unrestrained anger flashed over his face as every shred of coaching mentality fled, along with that smug superiority he’d been giving me.
Good. You aren’t better than me, Leahy. I could buy and sell you a hundred times over.
He might’ve gotten the girl, but I wasn’t going to let him get away with her clean. I wanted blood.
“Should’ve expected you to strut around this ring like a fucking cock of the walk,” I shot back.
Con feinted and swung again, but I’d been studying his movements. I bobbed and weaved, and got the hell out of the way.
I threw my own punch as soon as I had a clean shot. It landed just below Con’s left eye, splitting the skin over his cheekbone and sending blood spattering everywhere.
The taste of victory was sweet. “First blood,” I said under my breath.
Apparently my words weren’t quiet enough because Con’s head snapped up and he glared at me with disgust, as if I needed to be put down like a rabid animal. “This ain’t a fuckin’ duel, you piece of shit.”
“It sure isn’t a friendly competition either.”
“Paid a million to get that cheap shot in, didn’t you?”
My lips twisted into a mocking smile. “I sure didn’t pay a million to have you show me up.”
Con dropped his hands and shook his head. “Just when I thought you weren’t a complete fucking asshole.”
“You were wrong,” I replied, turning for the ropes.
Con’s fists lifted and before I could react, one connected with my cheekbone. The instantaneous gush of blood told me I’d have a scar to match his, but it didn’t matter. One more scar wouldn’t hurt my banged-up face.
I roared as I charged, but I didn’t get the chance to retaliate. Shouts filled the room, and beefy arms wrapped around my body, holding me back.
“You’re not half bad when you’re not being a shady rich prick,” Lord’s voice said in my ear.
I lunged toward Con, but Lord’s grip only tightened. “Get your goddamn hands off me,” I growled at him.
Leaning closer to my ear, he lowered his voice. “When you calm the hell down and realize you’re making an ass of yourself in front of a bunch of kids and women.”
I glanced out to the crowd and read disgust on so many faces, including Vanessa’s. Like it mattered what a single goddamn person in this gym thought of me. I could buy and sell them all.
Lord was still holding me back when Con came toward us. He yanked his gloves off and wiped at the blood still dripping from the gash on his face.
“You’re also not half bad when you’re paying attention—and when you’re not throwing a knee into my nuts. But I think you’ve overstayed your welcome.”
I jerked at the arms trapping me. “Call off your dog, and I’m gone.”
“You ever want another round, it’s gonna cost you two million next time,” Con said.
“For another chance to make you bleed? I’d pay even more.”
Con nodded to his brother, and Lord let me go. The crowd had already started to disperse. The only person in the building who probably didn’t want to run me down in the parking lot was my COO, and arguably my friend, Ryder Colson. And he was nowhere to be seen.
Instead of Colson, I saw a group of women moving toward the door—Vanessa Frost in her white cotton dress, Elle Snyder in her yellow retro number, and two others I didn’t know. One looked familiar with tanned skin the color of honey, her hair in dark waves, and a curvy body displayed by a funky teal dress with hot-pink polka dots. She hooked her hands on her hips, and that husky laugh echoed through the room again. Apparently she was the one who had distracted me in the ring. My eyes didn’t move from her to take in the fourth woman.
Colson came up beside me. “Who knew there’d be so many hot pieces of ass in this shit warehouse?”
I turned toward him. “Give any of them a shot, and you’ll probably find yourself bleeding on the floor.”
Ryder shrugged off my comment. “Go get your shit. I’ll wait.”
He was gone before I could tell him he didn’t need to wait around for me. But then again, he was my only ally in a building full of people who undoubtedly would have preferred to see me KO’d on the floor of the ring. Just one more place I’d never be welcome.
Good thing I didn’t give a fuck.
I’d showed up, gone toe-to-toe with Con, and had taken back a piece of my pride. That was enough.
I was already thinking of hiring a trainer as I went for my bag.
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