Authors: Scott Hildreth
Family. Not an easy thing to embrace at all times. But, in the end, there’s no replacement.
Whether you’re bound by blood or by bond, this one is for you.
THIS BOOK IS A WORK OF FICTION.
All names, incidents, and occurrences in this book are a figment of the author’s imagination, and are depicted in a work of fiction. Any likeness to fact is pure coincidence.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual events, locales, or persons living or dead, are coincidental.
BRAWLER 1st Edition Copyright © 2016 by Scott Hildreth
All rights reserved. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the author or publisher constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like to use the material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the author at
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Cover design by Jessica
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Cheerios. Ten or so of them floating in a bowl of milk. That’s my earliest memory. I don’t know how old I was at the time, but I was younger than two years old. I’m sure of it, because the next vivid recollection I have is of my second birthday. I don’t recall the gifts I received, but I’m sure I was two. Either that, or my father could only afford two candles. There was frosting. Lots of frosting. And wrapping paper.
Following my second birthday was loud music. Kisses. Fizzy drinks. The blue car with multi-color cloth interior. The smell of sweat. A mustache. Band-Aids. The house with no trees. Rain that lasted forever. A boxing ring. The house with nothing but trees. A bicycle. Macaroni and cheese. And bunkbeds. I never understood the bunkbeds, but then again, I never asked.
And then, nothing until I was seven. Second grade with Emily Barton. We got in a fight in the hallway over something so unimportant I couldn’t recall it a week later, and damned sure can’t remember now. I’ll never forget how much it hurt to have my hair pulled, though.
Elementary and middle school must have been uneventful, because I really don’t remember much between Emily pulling my hair and the first day of high school.
High school brought with it football, house parties, and boys. Bobby Breyton talked me into giving him head in the back of Toby Wilson’s truck when I was a freshman. He later told everyone what a slut I was. At first, I denied it. In time I learned admitting to it made me much more marketable, so I proudly laid claim to the house party truck bed blowjob. An overabundance of sexual opportunities soon followed. Hoping to find love, I took advantage of most of them.
Love, however, remained elusive.
My sophomore year, my life was disrupted. From that point through my senior year, life was a blur of boys, beer, blowjobs, and being backhanded by my father.
I left home the day after I graduated high school.
I was eighteen. Eighteen and angry.
It was 1,057 miles from my home in Omaha, Nebraska to Corpus Christi, Texas, and Corpus Christi was my final destination. I wanted to see the beach. I made it as far as Austin, Texas. It was a far cry from the Gulf of Mexico, but at the time I saw it as the beginning to what I was certain would end up being a perfect life.
I was getting coffee. He was leaving when I was going in. We collided. At that moment, I was 18 and he was 31. I was certain we were placed on the earth for one another. We both liked coffee.
And wild sex.
Preston was handsome, rich, treated me well, and fucked me hard. At least at first. Time passed quickly. Every day it seemed things got better. Not that they were ever bad. In fact, they were great.
From there things got better than great.
Yes. My life changed from a fairly miserable existence to being spectacular.
And then things went to shit. Not over a period of time, or after a sequence of events, but immediately. One day he simply decided he’d had enough. And just like that…
My life with him was over.
He kicked me to the curb. Not a metaphorical curb kicking. He actually kicked me to the curb. Love, I learned, was something glorified in story books and fairy tales.
In real life, it simply didn’t exist.
With a backpack filled with my personal items and a little money he gave me to
get on my feet
, I went from the comfort of his million-dollar home to living alone in a one-bedroom apartment.
I didn’t live there for long. In a short period of time, I had the world by the balls.
I beat the shit out of a guy for trying to steal my backpack at Starbucks. Before he had a chance to wipe the blood from his lips, I met a man who volunteered to train me as a professional fighter. And, through him, I met another man. The man who proved to me that love was real.
The trainer who noticed my raw talent?
His name’s Mike.
It’s short for Michael.
But no one ever calls him by his name.
They call him Ripp.
My name’s Beth, but no one ever calls me by my name, either.
They call me Jaz.
It’s short for Jasmine.
This is my story. It’s about fighting, fucking, and falling in love.
In that order.
Spring in Austin was a perfect time to sit at the coffee shop and people watch. It was one of the few social events I enjoyed doing, but the tattooed asshole holding my backpack had me wondering if I had chosen the wrong place to do it. I’d made the mistake of leaving it in the outside seating area while I went inside to pee. When I came out, it appeared he was preparing to leave with my stuff.
Dressed in a sleeveless black tee shirt, jeans, and biker boots, he was covered from his neck to his fingertips with tattoos. The stocking cap pulled down low on his head was well out of season, and told me he was either a dip-shit or a thug.
I snatched my backpack from his grasp. “You shouldn’t mess with other people’s shit.”
“I thought someone left it.”
Bullshit, you were going to steal it.
“Someone did leave it,” I said, my tone angry and bitter. “Me. I walked inside and went to the bathroom. It doesn’t make it public fucking property.”
I tossed it onto the table beside me and shot him a glare.
He shrugged. “You shouldn’t leave your shit laying around.”
I had zero interest in listening to his reasoning. “If something’s not yours, don’t fuck with it.”
A fire engine red old-school muscle car pulled into the lot. With exhaust so loud it shook the ground and music blaring from the open windows, it caused both of us to shift our attention toward the sound.
The car came to a stop. An over-sized gym rat with a shaved head and tattoos got out of the driver’s door. Another man – who looked like he belonged on the cover of a men’s fitness magazine – got out the other side.
I reluctantly tore my eyes from the handsome passenger and focused on the idiot I was arguing with. “Are we done?”
“If you’re done being a bitch.”
I cocked my hip. “Excuse me?”
“You heard me.”
“I wasn’t being a bitch. It’s my stuff, and you were fucking with it.”
Still deep in my personal space, and only a few feet from the table where my pack was lying, he chuckled a shitty little laugh. “You’re a mouthy little bitch.”
Regardless of what his tattoo artist might have told him, having the tattoos didn’t make him any tougher. When a douchebag gets tattoos, he becomes a tattooed douchebag, and as far as I was concerned, that’s all he was.
I dropped my gaze to his feet and slowly took every inch of his lanky frame into view. As my eyes met his, I let him know how much I respected his opinion. “Fuck you,” I hissed.
His eyes shot to the bag and his hand quickly followed. My instinct was right. He was nothing more than a common thief, and he was trying to take my shit. As he turned to run with the pack, I balled my fists, clenched my jaw, and did what seemed natural.
I fought for what was mine.
I swung a fading left jab just to see how he reacted, and followed it up with a right uppercut. The second punch connected perfectly with his chin, and stopped him from taking even one more step. His eyes went glassy, his hands dropped, and my backpack fell to the ground.
As easy as it would have been to leave it at that, I didn’t. While he stumbled and tried to regain his footing, I planted my feet and looked for an opening. He didn’t make me wait long. His right hand raised instinctively to try and protect himself.
As soon as his elbow cleared his ribcage, I swung another hard punch.
What do you think of this, motherfucker?
The breath shot from his lungs in one loud burst. Now teetering with his head at the height of my chest and his eyes glassy and unfocused, I knew one more punch would end it for him. I had every intention of doing just that – ending it. I swung a ferocious right hook. The punch connected perfectly with his left eye, knocking him into a stumbling series of steps.
Rocked hard by the barrage of quick punches, his brain was no longer able to control his muscular functions. He and his tattoos fell in a pile on the sidewalk.
I shook my aching hands and glared down at the wad of human waste. “Got your ass kicked by a fucking girl, didn’t you?”
“What the fuck happened?” someone from behind me asked.
The voice was thick with a Texas accent, something I didn’t have – or want. I picked up my backpack and spun around. Baldy stood a few feet away, shaking his head. He was massive, but now that he was close enough to touch, he seemed like a big teddy bear.
I raised my pack. “He was trying to take my stuff.”
He rested his hands on his hips and stared down at the tattooed idiot. “Tryin’ is about right. Jesus, you kicked that poor dude’s ass six ways from fuckin’ Sunday.”
Wearing cargo shorts and a wife beater, he looked like a typical meathead – shaved head, goatee, tattoos, and muscles on top of muscles. The only thing about him I liked was that he was wearing a pair of Ed Hardy Chuck’s. I admired them for a moment, glanced down at my worn out shoes and wished I could afford a new pair.
“Your hands are quick as a motherfucker, girl,” he said, the tone of his voice matching the excitement in his eyes. “Where the fuck’d you learn to fight like that?” he asked.
“In a boxing ring.”
The human tattoo managed to stand up. He spoke his mind, but only after he stepped well beyond my reach. “Fucking bitch.”
Baldy folded his arms in front of his massive chest and stepped between us. “Kick rocks, motherfucker. Or I’ll start beatin’ on ya.”
Dip-shit picked up his stocking cap, pulled it down low on his head, and mumbled to himself as he turned away.
I tossed my backpack over my shoulders and glanced toward where I expected my coffee to be. Overturned on the sidewalk, the cup was empty.
It may not have seemed like much, but to someone on an extremely fixed budget, the cup of coffee was pretty big deal. A luxury.
“What’s your name?” Baldy asked.
“I’m Ripp,” he said excitedly. “Don’t go anywhere.”
I stood filled with wonder while he ran to his car. He quickly returned with a business card. “I train boxers. You ever fight pro?”
I chuckled. “Nope. Just when people piss me off.”
“Wanna consider it?”
I glanced at the card. Fighting pro seemed like something the professionals should be doing, not me. I acted interested nonetheless. “Does it pay?”
“Depends on how good you are.”
I clenched my fists and raised them. “How good am I?”
He grinned a cheesy grin. “Good enough you’ve got my interest, that’s for fuckin’ sure.”
His free use of the f-word and the excitement in his voice made me feel comfortable. At least he wasn’t trying to sugar coat who he was. I bent down and picked up my empty coffee cup. “Buy me a cup of coffee, and I’ll listen to what you have to say.”
He tossed his head toward the entrance. “Come on.”
Dressed in sweat pants and a
tee shirt, his handsome friend stood quietly by the door. I snuck a quick look. He had an early summer tan, dark hair and the muscular structure of a boxer. He was so perfectly good-looking that his mere existence was sure to intimidate women, me included.
Ripp slapped him on the shoulder. “Ethan, this is Jaz.”
I glanced at Ethan. It was the biggest mistake I’d made in a year. He met my gaze. His blue eyes sucked me in like a vacuum. I stood there, frozen. Lust leeched from my pores.
I tried to look away, but didn’t totally succeed. “Nice to meet you,” I murmured.
He grinned and pulled the door open. “Nice hands.”
You’ve got nice eyes.
And a terrific ass.
I walked past him, but my eyes stayed locked on his. I broke his gaze immediately before I walked into the edge of the cashier’s counter. I felt like a love drunk teen. I probably looked like one, too. I realized I had yet to acknowledge his comment about my quick hands, so I did.
Feeling slightly self-conscious about my chipped fingernail polish, and wishing I had taken time to fix them before I went out, I shoved my hands into the pockets of my shorts. “Thanks.”
If being trained by Ripp included anything to do with Ethan, I was all for it. We got our drinks, went back outside, and sat in the sun. I tried to focus on what Ripp was saying and not gawk at Ethan. Not looking at him entirely was impossible, so I took an awkward glance each chance I got.
“So what do you think?” Ripp asked.
Ethan was gazing into the street, obviously in deep thought. I was making note of how his shirt clung to his chest, in deeper thought. I tore my eyes away and met Ripp’s gaze. “About?”
He took a drink of his coffee and winced in disgust. “Were you listenin’ to what I was sayin?”
“I think I faded off for a second,” I said. “Lack of sleep.”
“I said we ain’t got enough girls in the sport, and if you come to the gym and let me see you spar with one, I’ll let you know what I think.”
“And then what?”
Ethan shifted his focus to the conversation. I did my best to act like I didn’t care. For some reason, though, I did.
“If you’re as good as I think you might be I’ll train ya.”
“I don’t have any money,” I said.
It sounded like I was destitute. I was pretty close, but I didn’t want them to know it. Before he responded, I corrected myself. “I meant I don’t have any money that I want to spend on lessons or whatever.”
He tossed his cup of coffee high into the air and pointed toward the trash can twenty feet away.
“Five bucks,” Ethan shouted as soon as the cup left his grasp.
Ripp grinned. “Bet.”
The cup fell directly into the trash can. A one in a million shot.
Ripp slapped his hand down on the table. “Pay up.”
While Ethan dug for his wallet, Ripp grinned his cheesy grin. “Won’t cost you a cent. If you’re as good as I’m hopin’, I’ll train ya for free. I’ll get some fights set up, and who knows? Maybe you’ll fight for the title one day.”
“And if I’m good, it’ll pay?”
He nodded. “If you’re good enough.”
For a long moment, I sat and struggled with the thought of going back to a gym and wondered how I’d feel once I was inside the ring. I stole another glance at Ethan and decided all that mattered was that I got another chance to see him – hopefully one with his shirt off, covered in sweat, and in a fight with someone.
I had an excuse to take another glance. So I did. “Do you train there?”
He didn’t talk much, but when he did, he didn’t have the Texas thing going on with his voice. I wondered where he was from. I decided Los Angeles. An actor turned boxer. The more I studied his handsome face, the more I was sure of it. A displaced actor.
I’d made my decision. I glanced at Ripp. “When do we start?”
He shrugged. “Be there tomorrow at noon?”
The thought of seeing Ethan again caused me to smile. I let Ripp believe it was him training me that caused my expression of delight.
“Sounds good,” I said.
And it did.
It sounded really good.