A Father's Fight: Blake and Layla #2 (Fighting #5)

 
 
 

A Father’s Fight

J.B. Salsbury

 
 
 
 

A Father’s Fight

J.B. Salsbury

Copyright © 2015 J.B. Salsbury

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and
incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used
fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business
establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. This e-book is licensed for your
personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other
people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please
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hard work of this author.

Edited by
Theresa
Wegand

Cover by Amanda Simpson of
Pixel Mischief Design

 
 
 
 

To my Fighting Girls

Fight on, and if you must go down, go down swinging.

 
 
 
 

Prologue

Eighteen years ago . . .

I can’t believe I’m going to do this. This isn’t my
first high school party, but damn, it might as well be.

I suck back a lungful of crisp evening air that swirls with the
stench of cigarettes and pot then try to shake feeling back into my hands. It’s
cold, or maybe it’s my nerves, but either way, I can’t feel my fingers.

“Come on,” I whisper-yell to myself.
 
“Don’t be such a wuss!”

Giggles filter to me from a group of passing girls. With a hip to
my ’78 Trans-Am, I stare boldly at the cluster of hot pink and skin as they
scoff and point at my ride. It may not be the first choice of most
sixteen-year-olds, but it’s been my dream car since seventh grade. Those chicks
can have their Mustangs and their Jettas. My car has a personality and an
attitude.

“White trash,” the head fluff-bunny says through a cough.

These girls couldn’t be more opposite of me. They’re the bright
to my plain, the color to my black, the Spice Girls to my Metallica. Dressed in
the same color pattern as a candy shop, with big billowing curls, bright lips,
and about half the amount of clothes on that I do, they don’t seem the least
bit cold.

I glare at their retreating asses, hardly covered by their
school-girl-stripper skirts. I guess now’s as good a time as any. No more
stalling.

I head to the open gate that leads into the backyard of a middle-class
home in the Seattle ’burbs. Pushing through a crowd of teenagers that huddle
around the entrance, I search for a familiar face and find nothing but drones.
Carbon copies of whatever’s hot on MTV. Zero individuality, every single one of
them, except one. The only person I came here to see. My stomach flips on
itself, and I run my sweaty—yet cold—palms along my skinny jeans.

I’m finally going to approach my crush, the guy I’ve been loving
from afar since the first day of freshman year.

Trip Miller.

While casually stalking him last week, I overheard him mention
this party to his friends. I contemplated coming for all of zero seconds. This
is what I’ve been waiting for, the chance I’ve needed. If he shows up, I’ll be
here waiting, and for the first time, I refuse to let my nerves get the better
of me.

I’m going to talk to him.

A flutter of excitement tumbles in my chest. My fingers go numb
again, and I straighten my cut-up Whitesnake tee that I’d shredded in the back
to show off my blue bra. It’s not the thigh-high socks and mini-skirts that all
the other girls are wearing, but I refuse to conform.

My toe taps inside my monkey boot as I wait in line to get in, and
my fingers sift through and twirl the ends of my hair. The weather this time of
year isn’t as humid, and I’ve managed to flat iron my hair so it hangs in sleek
panels down past my boobs.

“Five bucks, midget,” a big guy manning the door wearing a letterman
jacket barks down at me, taking me in with a scowl.

How original.
I dip my
chin to roll my eyes without him seeing and pull a wadded up five-dollar bill
from my back pocket. He’s a senior and a football player, according to his jacket.
He’s big, with a shaved head, and looks like all the other popular guys, a
member of the crew that earns friends by intimidation and bullying those who are
weaker.

He stamps my hand and shoves a red Solo cup at me.

“Thanks.” I move into the backyard and toward the sound of Snoop
Dogg’s “Murder was the Case.” I bet the rapper would lock himself in the Dog
Pound if he knew how many jocks were dressing like him and adding “izzles” to
almost every word they spoke.

I head on back to a couple staggered lines that lead to kegs and
take my place in one of them. I’ll grab a beer, mingle a bit. There are enough
kids here from other schools that it shouldn’t be too hard to fall into a
conversation with someone. Then I can sit back and watch, waiting for the one
guy who’s ever gotten my heart to thunder in my chest.

As if the thought of him alone triggered my inner stalker, I scan
the crowd, searching. A bright smile catches my eye, not so much because it’s
attractive but because it’s so blatantly obvious. I know that guy; he’s in one
my classes.
Why is he smiling at me?
Maybe it’s someone else he’s scoping. I turn to glance over my shoulder. Nope,
it’s me.

I toss him what I’m sure is an awkward smile-wave combo. He tilts
his head, and his expression goes soft. Dammit, maybe that was a mistake. I
should wait in my car. I could spy from the street until—Oh God, he’s
coming this way.

Kids scurry to clear a path as he struts toward me. He’s as big
as the others and hot shit on campus. His striking blond hair is spiked, and
his clean-shaven face and cologne scream of a man who spent more time getting
ready for tonight than I did.

“Hey.” He starts talking with still a few feet between us. “Layla
. . . right?” And now he’s right up in my space.

I rock back to try to gain a few inches between us. “Yeah, um . .
.” I squint one eye. “I’m sorry, but I don’t remember your name.”

He smiles in way that feels patronizing, as if it’s absurd that I
wouldn’t know who he is. “Stewart.”

I snap my fingers. “That’s right.” I don’t really remember, but
it does sound a little familiar now. I think.

“Wow, you look”—he drops his gaze to my feet then makes his
way back up to my eyes—“really interesting.”

“Thanks?”—I shake my head and desperately need something to
do with my hands, so I fumble with my cup—“I think.”

Where do we go after the non-compliment? My cheeks flame as his
gaze burns against my skin. An awkward silence builds between us, and it’s
almost as if he’s finding enjoyment in watching me squirm.

“It’s um . . . colder than I thought it’d be.” It’s lame, but I’m
desperate for a diversion, something that will get his eyes off me.

He blinks, jerked from whatever he was thinking about. “Oh yeah,
you cold?” He starts to shrug off his letterman jacket.

“No!” I hold up my hand.

He freezes and his eyes narrow.

I clear my throat. “I’m sorry. I mean no thanks. I’m good. I
think I just need a beer. That’ll help.” A stupid girlie laugh falls from my
lips, and I internally growl at how easily this guy can unnerve me.

“Suit yourself.” He adjusts the collar of his jacket and slides
his gaze down the line of people waiting for the keg, me being at the end of
the line. “You’re going to be waiting here all night.”

The line moves up one tiny step, punctuating his statement.

More silence.

“Yeah, well . . .” Well what?
This
is freakin’ painful.
Maybe if I turn my back on him, he’ll leave.

“How ’bout this?” He moves in closer to me, leaning to say
something in my ear. “See that?” He nods toward a fire pit, his hot breath
blowing against my skin.

“Yeah?” I swallow hard, nervous about how close he is. Why has
this guy never made an effort to talk to me before, and now he won’t freakin’
leave me alone? Or give me room to breathe?

“Why don’t you come over there with me? We’ve got a small ice
chest with some beers, shots, and mixed drinks.” He leans back, his blue eyes
flashing with . . . what is it? Humor? Excitement?

I avoid whatever it is and turn back toward the crowd clustered
around the fire. The heat of the flames is enticing, but the company is
absolutely not. It’s them, the popular kids: a group of guys in various forms
of preppy flannel shirts and khakis, and girls in half-shirts more appropriate
for a weekend in Florida than Seattle.

“That’s okay, but thanks.” I motion to the line with my empty
cup. “I’ll take my chances here.”

He tilts his head again, giving me a look as if he’s trying to
read my soul but then flashes a smile that’s friendly and even kind. “We don’t
bite, Layla.”

“Ha!”
That’s it? Ha!

“Come on. You’re practically shivering.” His logic can’t be
argued. I am shivering, although it has little to do with the temperature. “At
least come grab a beer with us and warm up until the line dies down.” He lifts
one eyebrow.

Pushing up on tiptoes, I lean around the people in front of me to
see how much further I have to go. The sound of cheering comes from the keg.
What the—?

“Keg stands.” He shrugs one shoulder and takes a sip of his beer.
“They’ll probably go on most of the night.”

I worry my lip with my teeth. Crap! I was hoping for a tiny bit
of liquid courage before I faced Trip. The fire does look nice. Maybe one beer
and a warm up? Surely I can avoid conversation for one beer, not that any of
them will want to talk to me. And from that side of the yard, I’d have a better
vantage point for seeking out Trip.

“Okay, sure.” I throw my shoulders back and nod. “One beer.”

His face lights up in a wide smile, teeth too white and a little
too straight. Are they fake? “Great.” He grabs my hand—grabs my fucking
hand
—and leads me to his friends.

Flashes of every teen-nerd movie I’ve ever seen flicker through
my mind. I’ll end up the butt of one of their pranks, something I’ve seen many
times over the last two years of high school, the very reason I keep my head
down around them.

I tug my hand, ready to make the excuse that I have to run out to
my car and get something. I see a hint of black leather and a gasp falls from
my lips.

He’s here. My heart kicks double-time, breath speeds up, and
goose bumps skate down my arms.

Trip.

He’s leaning against the wall, red cup in hand with a cigarette
pinched between two fingers. He’s nothing like the other guys in school, and
even the other rocker dudes he hangs with have more of a grungy,
in-need-of-a-shower, Kurt Cobain thing going on. But not Trip.

Shaggy hair the color of milk chocolate hangs down over his ears
and what I know to be icy-blue eyes. I dig his style: black jeans, Doc Martens,
and a black concert tee that I can’t quite make out under his leather biker
jacket, complete with zippers and buckles.

Has God ever made a more beautiful boy?

The spice of his cologne mixed with cigarette smoke and the
buttery scent of leather gets me every time I pass by him in school. And even
now, even though I can’t smell him, my stomach dips at the thought.

He must feel my ogling because, as I’m being dragged across the
yard, his eyes meet mine. I suck in a quick breath and stare in fascination as
he narrows his glare and takes a long drag off his cigarette. As the cherry on
the end glows bright orange, the heat in my body expands.

“What the hell are you doin’, Stewart?” A female voice sounds pissed
off and I’m jerked to a halt.

I’m forced to rip my eyes away from Trip and realize I’m a foot
away from the fire and engulfed in the popular crowd.

“Chill out, Daphne,” Stewart says, sounding bored, bends over,
and reaches into a large ice chest, still keeping hold of my hand.

It’s the girl from out front. I try to wriggle my hand free, but
he only holds it tighter. Maybe because this Daphne girl is giving me the evil
eye he’s keeping me close?

She rolls her over-made-up eyes as if Stewart brought home a
stupid toy to play with. “What’s up with the goth chick?”

I hate dumb girls.
“I’m
not goth.” Not that it matters. I’m actually kind of hoping they kick me out so
I can go talk to Trip who . . . I slide my gaze over to him, and he’s now
leaning with his shoulder against the wall, his back toward me. Dammit.

“Goth, Hessian, whatever.” She crosses her arms over her chest
and kicks out a hip. “Go hang with your people. You’re not wanted here.”

“Easy, Daph.” Stewart stands in front of me, and I finally pull
free my hand. “She’s with me.”

I cringe. “No, I’m no—”

“Stew,” Daphne says in that overly affected whiney way girls do
when they’re trying to get what they want.

“Leave it alone.” Stewart’s words carry a threat, but he turns
his back on her, and his bright eyes and smile are fixed on me with kindness.

She huffs out a breath but turns without another complaint and
stalks away.

“Sorry about that.” His eyes are intense, and his expression is
genuinely apologetic. “Here.” He hands me a water bottle filled with red juice.
“Peace offering.”

I grab it, give it a quick onceover, but can’t help my eyes from
searching out Trip. “What is it?”

“Jungle juice.” He throws an arm over my shoulder and guides me
to a seat close to the fire. “Two parts fruit punch, two parts vodka, and a
healthy shot of lime juice.”

The urgency to find Trip rides me hard. If I don’t talk to him
before he leaves, this entire night is nothing but a fat waste of time. I
unscrew the lid, give it a sniff, and recoil slightly.

Stewart laughs. “Oh come on. It doesn’t smell that bad.” He lifts
one eyebrow. “Does it?”

A grin pulls at my lips. This guy is kind of funny. “No, it’s
fruity, but . . .” I take a sip and shiver as the liquid fire rolls down my
throat. “Whoa.”

“It’s strong. Just have a couple shots. You’ll warm up in no
time.” He winks and takes a long pull off his beer.

I take another swig of jungle juice, hoping to hide behind the
bottle. I dart my gaze over to Trip, who is talking but stops for a split
second to study me, his eyes moving between me and Stewart.

Freshman and sophomore year Trip didn’t know I existed, but so far,
even only a month into our junior year, I’ve caught him watching me. Never for
more than a second, and he’s never attempted to talk to me, but there’s
something there.

Right?

Just as quickly as the thought runs through my head, he turns his
back on me. I came here on a singular mission. I will brave a conversation with
Trip before this night is over.

I smile and take another swig, contemplating my plan of action. I
just need to confront him, introduce myself, and see where the conversation
leads. I take another long pull from the juice. Huh . . . it actually doesn’t
taste too bad.

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