Meet Till & Eliza in Aly Martinez’s newest fighter series!
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PLEASE CHOOSE ONE EXCERPT FOR YOUR SCHEDULED DAY
"That wasn't yours to take away," he exploded into the otherwise silent night. His words echoed off the surrounding buildings, each wave slicing me to the quick all over again. "That was our place. Not yours." His voice cracked right alongside my heart.
"Yeah, well, there was a lot of stuff that wasn't yours to take either." I held his gaze, desperately trying to be strong, but as his eyes grew wide, I whimpered.
His long legs strode forward, stopping only inches away from me. He was crowding me, but he still leaned in closer to my face. "There is nothing in this world that was ever more mine than you," he stated. Though it was the absolute truth, I wished with all my heart that it were a lie.
"Till," I cried, swiping the tears from my eyes.
"Why!" he shouted, causing his muscles to tense under the force. "Goddamn it! I needed that place."
Porch lights flashed on from the surrounding apartments, illuminating not only the dark but also my rage.
I shoved my hands into his chest. "What about what I needed? You left! I waited in that fucking apartment for weeks."
He didn't budge, but my bare feet slipped, sending me toward the ground. Impossibly fast, Till's hand snaked out and caught my arm. I didn't let his chivalrous gesture douse my fire. I had six months’ worth of words to say to the man I was irrevocably in love with.
"You took what you wanted. Then you left me."
"Doodle," he whispered.
I had been perilously close to the edge of insanity, and with one single word, he’d pushed me over.
I lost it completely.
Pounding my fists against his chest, I screamed at the top of my lungs, "It's Eliza! My name is fucking Eliza! Not Doodle!" I spun to march away, but Till's arms folded around me, lifting me off my feet to restrain me.
I was miniscule compared to him. There was no use in fighting, but I still kicked my legs, irrationally desperate to get away from him—but only because I knew I couldn't keep him for forever.
"Stop it!" he growled into my ear. "I know your Goddamn name—probably better than I know my own."
“Hi.” I stood up off the bed as he started climbing through the window.
His eyes went wide when he saw me, causing him to momentarily lose his balance on the windowsill and go crashing to the floor. “God. Damn,” he cursed as he rose to his feet while taking in my new wardrobe. “You… I…um…” His hand went to his lip.
He was rooted in place only a few steps away, but his eyes traveled over every inch of my body and back again.
Till was speechless. I had never felt so empowered in my life.
“Are you okay?” I feigned concern as I slowly approached.
“Not even close,” he told my breasts, making me giggle.
After sliding a hand under the edge of his T-shirt, I raked a fingernail over each of his abs before dipping it into the waistband of his jeans.
“I’m sore today,” I announced, closing the distance between us. My breasts were pressed against him, but he still hadn’t even attempted to touch me yet. I had plans to remedy that. I smirked then stood up on my tiptoes, kissing the base of his neck. “Make me sore for tomorrow too.” At the last second, I darted my tongue out to the hollow dip at the base of his neck. It was meant to tease him, but as the taste of his skin hit my tongue, I was flooded with memories of taking more of him in my mouth. The moan escaped before I’d even felt it coming.
A loud rumble shook his chest, but that was the only warning I received. Suddenly, I was off my feet and sailing through the air. Just as I landed on the bed, Till crashed on top of me. His mouth roughly landed on mine.
“Tell me we can’t do this again,” he demanded as his hands found my breasts.
“We’re definitely doing this again.” I arched into him.
“It’s gonna get so messy, Eliza. Please.” He groaned as I reached into the front of his jeans.
“I’m okay with messy,” I breathed, guiding his hand from my breast and into my panties.
“Fuuuuuck” he cursed when he discovered just how thorough I’d been with the razor earlier. His finger pressed inside me as his body traveled down the bed and settled between my legs, stripping my panties off during his descent.
He added another finger in a less than gentle but overwhelmingly intoxicating, rhythm.
“Tell me to stop, Eliza. We can’t do this again.” He grazed his teeth on the inside of my thigh.
“We’re already doing it.”
“Tell me to stop.”
“It’s going to ruin us.”
“If you don’t stop talking, you’re going to ruin this.”
“I’m serious.” He kissed the inside of my other thigh, his fingers never faltering in their steady pace.
“So am I. Stop trying to talk yourself out of this while your fingers are buried inside me.” I threaded a hand into his hair and gave it a gentle tug.
“Goddammit. Tell me to stop!” he demanded one last time, but his fingers sped before twisting in the most delicious way.
I decided to give him what he wanted, but only because I knew he wouldn’t follow through.
“Stop.” I rolled my hips forcing him even deeper.
“Well, it’s too fucking late now.”
I would have laughed, but his mouth sealed over my clit and stole my breath, words, thoughts, and orgasm. My body shook as he pushed me higher even while I was falling. It shouldn’t have worked like that, but whatever voodoo magic Till Page was working with that night was all right with me. He didn’t stop swirling his tongue until I used his hair to pry his mouth away.
“Too much!” I cried.
He looked up with a wickedly proud grin. His hand disappeared, and seconds later, his cock replaced it.
“I swear to fucking God,” I snarled as I stomped a pattern around Eliza’s hospital room. She had just been wheeled out, but my anger and anxiety filled the room in her absence.
“Calm. Down,” Slate said from the doorway. “It’s no big deal. I’ll get it back.”
“You’re welcome. Now, get your shit together and remember who the hell you are talking to.”
Eliza didn’t have insurance, and she had freaked when the doctor told her that he wanted to run a CAT scan because of the trauma to her face and head. She’d flat-out refused, spouting off some crap about not going into debt by racking up a huge hospital bill she’d eventually have to pay. She’d sworn she was okay, but I’d absolutely not been anything even resembling okay.
So I’d lost it. I’d snapped at her like a fucking asshole. Then I’d shouted at the doctor for reasons that didn’t even make sense. In turn, he threatened to call security, which only pissed me off more. It was a clusterfuck in that room until Slate came in and physically pinned me against the wall. While I was trying to get my shit under control, Erica was apparently informing administration that she and Slate would be financially responsible for Eliza’s hospital visit. While I was relieved as they wheeled her out of the room, I was sick and fucking tired of feeling like a broke-ass, worthless dick all the time. As it often was, my anger was aimed in the wrong place, and Slate was the only man in the room.
“Get my shit together?” My heart pounded in my chest, and every muscle in my body strained under the mounting stress. “I’d like to see how the hell you’d react if Erica looked like that and there wasn’t a fucking thing in the world you could do to help her.”
Slate’s eyes turned dark as his jaw clenched. “It was different. But I’ve been there,” he stated matter-of-factly. “It was the worst day of my life. I wasn’t even the one who got to make the piece of shit pay either. But honestly, Till, sometimes you have to accept that it’s not the way things get done or who does them. As long as, in the end, they are done. She’s getting that CAT scan right now, and you can sleep easy tonight knowing that she’s okay. It doesn’t matter one bit who signs the check that pays for that kind of peace of mind.”
“It matters to me. You have no fucking idea how it feels to be so goddamn helpless all the time. I can’t do this anymore. I’ve only truly had her for less then twenty-four hours and I’ve already failed to fucking protecting her and provide for her. My boxing trainer had to pay for her medical bills. It’s embarrassing!”
“It’s only embarrassing if you let it be.” He shrugged and settled into the chair next to the door.
I continued to pace. I couldn’t get over the heavy weight of failure compressing my chest. “Why the fuck would she want to settle for someone like me? I failed out of high school. I work sixty-three hours a week for minimum wage so that I can barely pay the bills on a shithole apartment. For fuck’s sake, I have two brothers I want to give the world, but last week, she had to buy us groceries. Oh, and there is always that fun fact that I’m going deaf. One day, she really will have to take care of me! I can’t handle knowing that she has to settle for a future filled with struggles just to be with me. I love her. I really fucking do. But at what point do I let her go because I know she’d have a better life with someone else?” I finished my rant on a yell.
“Wow. You have a really gone off the deep end. She’s not some puppy you can find a better home for.” He stretched his legs out and crossed them at his ankles.
If possible, it managed to piss me off more. I was in emotional upheaval and he was getting comfortable.
“Just leave me alone. I can’t deal with your shit right now.”
“You want to go pro?” he asked randomly.
“What I want is for you to leave.”
“Is that a no?” He crossed his arms over his chest.
“What the fuck are you talking about? Nothing has changed. I still don’t have the time. Honestly, I think I need to give up boxing altogether. Maybe try to find another job or something.”
“I’ll bankroll eight hundred a week. Quit your jobs and come work for me in the ring. It comes with health insurance for you and the boys too.”
I stared at him, awestruck. That was double what I was bringing home each week.
I’d always heard that you couldn’t judge a man’s character by the balance in his bank account. Thank fuck for that because character might be the only place I wasn’t overdrawn. And right then, Slate’s offer sounded a whole lot like pity. No matter how appealing it sounded, I wanted to make it without having to rely on anyone else. I couldn’t afford to sacrifice character.
“Why are you doing this right now? What part of that conversation confused you? I don’t want your charity.”
“It’s not charity. I’m gonna make a shit-ton of money off your ass. This isn’t a free ride. I’ll get all of your winnings until you’ve paid me back. Then anything you make over that, I get thirty-three percent. Erica’s been eyeing this condo on the beach in Florida. I’m hoping you can help me out and buy that for her.”
Outstanding. Slate wants to buy a condo on the beach and I just want to keep the electricity on.
“It has to be hard being you.” My voice dripped with sarcasm, but it only made Slate smile.
“I guess you won’t know until you try. I made every single penny I have from boxing. If you think money will solve all your problems, then put whatever preconceived notions you have about my motives aside and take my offer. But if you decide to refuse, you should know I won’t make it again.”
“Why now? Less than a month ago, you told me I wasn’t ready. Where was your offer to bankroll me then?”
“I’m not going to lie to you. You’re not ready. Not if you want to be great. But with enough time, I can get you there. You’re raw right now, and despite whatever you think, you’re driven by something greater than the almighty dollar or dreams of stardom.” He stood up and walked over to me. “To answer your question about why now, I was wrong. You’re not hungry for more in life. You’re fucking starving. I can work with that.
“Did you even listen to yourself while you were talking? Not one single thing you said was because Till Page wanted more money or a nicer car. You were concerned about Eliza and the boys…but never Till.” He poked my chest right over my heart. “I’m making an investment in you, Till. It’s no handout. I believe you’re going to set the boxing world on fire, because every time you put on those gloves, you’re doing it for them. Say yes. Accept the offer. Quit your jobs. Take a week off to take care of her. Then get your ass in my ring.”
I had no words. If I spoke, I was going to look like a sniffling little bitch. So I nodded instead.
“Good. I’m going to find Erica and get some coffee. I’ll send over the contracts and your first paycheck in the morning.” He turned and headed for the door.
I stood in the middle of an empty hospital room where my fantasy and reality had collided. Finally, I had the break I had dreamed of, but it had taken almost losing Eliza to get it. I would forever remember the way I felt in that moment. Cracking my neck and shaking out my arms, I decided I was done letting the world run over me.
Slate had just handed me my one chance to make a better life, and I was going in with gloves blazing. For the first time in my fucking life, I was climbing through the ropes.
Sound is an abstract concept for most people. We spend our lives blocking out the static in order to focus on what we believe is important. But what if, when the clarity fades into silence, it's the obscure background noise that you would give anything to hold on to?
I've always been a fighter. With parents who barely managed to stay out of jail and two little brothers who narrowly avoided foster care, I became skilled at dodging the punches life threw at me. Growing up, I didn’t have anything I could call my own, but from the moment I met Eliza Reynolds, she was always mine. I became utterly addicted to her and the escape from reality we provided each other. Throughout the years, she had boyfriends and I had girlfriends, but there wasn't a single night that I didn’t hear her voice.
You see, meeting the love of my life at age thirteen was never part of my plan. However, neither was gradually going deaf at the age of twenty-one.
They both happened anyway.
Now, I'm on the ropes during the toughest battles of my life.
Fighting for my career.
Fighting the impending silence.
Fighting for her.
Every night, just before falling asleep, she sighs as a final conscious breath leaves her.
I think that's the sound I'll miss the most.
About the Author:
Born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, Aly Martinez is a stay-at-home mom to four crazy kids under the age of five, including a set of twins. Currently living in South Carolina, she passes what little free time she has reading anything and everything she can get her hands on, preferably with a glass of wine at her side.
After some encouragement from her friends, Aly decided to add “Author” to her ever-growing list of job titles. Five books later, she shows no signs of slowing. So grab a glass of Chardonnay, or a bottle if you’re hanging out with Aly, and join her aboard the crazy train she calls life.
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