Break Me (Caged Hearts Book 2) (7 page)

BOOK: Break Me (Caged Hearts Book 2)
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Chapter 20


“So, are you feeling ready?” Carl asked, his voice fringed with concern. Jasper leaned forward, resting his elbows upon his knees. They were in the changing room at the venue for his next fight, and he could already hear the distant chanting of the eager crowd.


Jasper tensed the muscles in his arms. He certainly hoped he was ready. But despite all the hours he’d put in at the gym, each time he walked, he felt sharp stabbing pains in his one knee. Back at his apartment he’d topped himself up with pain medication, but he doubted it would be enough to numb himself for the duration of the fight.


“You have to win this,” Carl warned, growing pale when Jasper failed to respond to him. “I made it very clear how important this fight is.”


“Yes,” Jasper looked up at his agent, annoyed. “You’ve made it clear, Carl. I get it. Trust me.”


“Let’s just hope all these extra hours you’ve put in at the gym have been worth it.”


“Tell me about it,” Jasper agreed. He felt like he was constantly on the verge of exhaustion. He didn’t spring out of bed after a day of excessive training the way he used to when he was younger. What if he was just too old to fight? He couldn’t think like that. With a brisk shake of his head, he banished the negative thought to the back of his mind.


“Just go out there and give this guy hell,” Carl offered encouragingly.


“I intend to.”


Jasper remained sat rigidly on the sofa of his changing room. This was the time when he needed to focus, to descend down a black hole of thought focusing only on the pin prick of light at the end. He had to visualize winning, convince himself that he’d already won. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, expecting to hear the thunder of applause in his ears, but instead he heard Kait gasp in pleasure. He was thinking about her again. He clenched his hands tightly together as they had started to shake. Why was he thinking about her now? His mind needed to be clear. He needed to be focused.


Carl had already left, aware of Jasper’s pre-fight ritual and needed for solitude before he entered the ring. Only Jasper wasn’t currently alone; Kait was in his mind polluting his every thought. When he tried to imagine throwing a crucial punch, he thought of the way she smelt, of how soft her hair was when he ran it through his fingertips like spun gold.


“Focus,” he snarled angrily at himself. But it did no good. Kait was all he could think about. Getting to his feet, he started to anxiously pace about, thinking that some movement might help banish Kait from his mind, but it didn’t. With each tense step he took, fresh images of her popped up in his mind’s eye.


“No, no, no,” Jasper was shaking his head as he walked back and forth. “Focus.”


A brisk knock on the door caused him to cease pacing. The door opened, and Carl was standing there, his expression unreadable.


“It’s time,” he told Jasper.


“Right, yes, let’s go,” Jasper clapped his hands together and bounced up and down on the spot, trying to fire himself up.


“You’ve got this,” Carl told him as he patted him on the shoulder as the pair of them walked down a corridor towards the arena. The chanting of the crowd made the walls around them eerily tremble. They sounded louder than usual, more riled up. The noise made Jasper even more apprehensive about the fight. Usually he played off the energy of the crowd, but now it was subduing him. He wasn’t ready for this.


Already, his knee was causing him to grind his teeth together, and he was merely walking. What would happen when he was maneuvering around the ring or trying to execute a round kick?


“Come on, it’s go time!” Carl had to shout to be heard over the roar of the crowd. Jasper could just make out the distant boom of the announcer calling his name. The crowd grew even louder.


Bunching his hands into fists by his side, Jasper took a deep, steading breath, pushed open the double doors before him, and entered the arena.


Chapter 21


The crowd was on their feet when Jasper entered the arena. People were eagerly waving homemade banners at him and screaming his name. Kait also stood up and felt her heart quicken when she saw him striding confidently towards the ring. His head was held high, and his shoulders were pushed back. He looked so handsome yet fierce. She pitied whoever was coming up against him as his opponent. At least she did until they came out.


For a few seconds, the crowd died down so that the announcer could welcome to the ring “Timmy the Terror from Tamworth.”


With a name like Timmy, Kait wasn’t expecting much, but she was wrong. His name didn’t do him justice. He was equal to Jasper in both height and build with a shock of fire red hair atop his head and pale skin adorned with numerous dark tattoos sleeved up both arms.


Timmy baited the crowd, revealing his bright red gum shield which already made it look like he was bleeding profusely at his teeth. Perhaps he soon would be. Kait felt a knot form in her stomach. Timmy darted around the ring like a ping pong ball, raising his hands to the crowd encouraging them to scream even louder, whilst Jasper remained in his corner, stoic and ominous.


The crowd reached fever pitch as Timmy was told to go to his respective corner. And bell rung, and the fight commenced.


Chapter 22


Jasper had heard of Timmy. He was a hard and fast fighter. He was more accustomed to bare knuckle fighting than gloved. He was a fierce opponent and not someone to underestimate.


After the bell had rung, both men approached the center of the ring, bouncing on their feet, ready to dart out of the way of a punch. Jasper swiped first and missed, his hand connecting with empty air. He silently cursed himself as he drew his fist back in. Timmy narrowed his eyes menacingly at him. Jasper threw another punch, and Timmy expertly leaned away from it. Before Jasper had drawn his arm back in, Timmy came at him throwing quick, powerful punches. His fists connected with Jasper’s chest first, knocking the air out of him and then travelled up to his jaw and his nose. With a sickening crack, Jasper heard it break before he felt the rush of warm blood which followed.


Chapter 23


Kait clamped a hand to her mouth and tried not to cry. Despite her seat being some way from ringside, she could clearly make out the torrent of blood now gushing from Jasper’s nose. But all he did was wipe at it with his wrapped knuckles and advance back towards the center of the ring. He was taking a brutal beating, and Kait wasn’t sure that she could watch.


“Duboix’s going down!” Some of the crowd fearfully prophesied. Kait willed them not to be true. Jasper could come back from this. But his shirt was now soaked with his old blood. Surely it was over for him.


Chapter 24


Timmy threw several more punches. They connected with Jasper’s chest, and he could barely breathe. But somehow he remained standing; he had to. If he went down now, it would be all over. The shouts of the crowd became a distant droning, and he forced himself to focus only on Timmy. The red head was gearing up for another punch. Jasper wasn’t about to go down like this. He could feel his knee aching, burning in protest as he forced his entire weight upon it. It was now or never. He needed to floor Timmy and quickly as his body couldn’t last for any more rounds.


As Timmy came at him, Jasper moved with such fast fluidity that no one could have seen his maneuver coming. He moved on to his back leg and kicked repeatedly at Timmy. Three, perfectly timed kicks which landed in his chest and then his jaw.


Panting, Jasper dropped his legs to the ground just as his bad knee gave way. He toppled to his knees breathing hard and clutching at his bad leg, but thankfully Timmy had fallen first. He fell backwards, coughing out blood from where Jasper had dislodged a tooth when he’d kicked his jaw. With the air so sharply knocked out of him when Timmy hit the mat, he was unable to get back up.


Jasper remained on his knees as the referee counted to ten. It seemed to take forever. Jasper was wincing in pain, trying not to let the crowd see the agony he was in. But his knee was ruined. His decision to end with some kicks hadn’t been the best one he’d ever made. Hopefully it had been enough to grant him victory.


The referee tapped the mat beside Timmy who still couldn’t get up. Jasper had won. The crowd went wild, and some even started to boo, probably because they had hoped it would last a few more rounds so that they could get their money’s worth. Jasper knew that he needed to stand up, to address his fans, but he couldn’t. His knee was too damaged to take his weight. He shot Carl, who was nervously poised by the ring a pained look. Seconds later, Carl was climbing in to the ring and kneeling down beside him.


“Is everything alright?” He asked the question straight into Jasper’s ear.


“No. I’ve blown my knee and can’t get up.” Jasper hung his head. He knew that this wasn’t what Carl wanted. Jasper was supposed to be doing a victory lap at present, relishing in his glory. Instead, he was about to be stretched out of the ring like the broken fighter he really was.


“Okay, stay there,” Carl nodded solemnly at him before standing up and gesturing for a medic. The waiting paramedics hurried up in to the ring. One of them went to tend to Timmy whilst two focused on Jasper.


“I can’t get up,” he explained to them, “it’s my knee.”


“Okay, we’ll get a gurney,” the paramedic nearest to him decided. Jasper groaned both in pain and in humiliation. He could just imagine what people on Twitter would say about him leaving the fight like this. People would speculate that he was done, that his days of competitively fighting were over.

Chapter 25


“Come on, get up,” Kait urged Jasper as he continued to remain on his knees in the ring. He had won, the announcer had told the crowd as much, so why wasn’t he celebrating? He should be jeering at the crowd and smiling in triumph. Instead, his blood stained face was contorted in pain.


Panic tightened Kait’s chest as she saw the paramedics go over to him. Clearly something was seriously wrong. Blinking back tears, she told herself that at least he was getting medical help. But how badly was he hurt?


Moments later, he was being stretchered out of the ring. He kept his gaze away from the crowd, and Kait let a solitary tear fall down her cheek. Was he ashamed of his exit or just in an insane amount of pain? Either way, Kait knew that she needed to get to him. He surely needed her now more than ever. She started to weave her way out of her seating aisle. She could hear people gossiping about Jasper throwing around terms like ‘past it’ and ‘worn out.’ It was all she could do not to turn around and remind them that Jasper was a true champion. She thought of all that she’d learned about him online. He’d overcome so much adversity to get to where he was, and his fans were already turning on him. How fickle people could be. But not Kait. She would be there for him no matter what. It wasn’t even the fighter she cared about; it was Jasper Duboix the man who she had fallen for – the guy who would risk his own safety to protect a stranger in distress.


Kait was hurrying towards the backstage area of the venue. People were already filtering out towards the car park in their hundreds, and she had to move against them like a salmon struggling to get up steam. She had to get to Jasper. She had to know that he was alright.


Chapter 26


Jasper was perched on the end of the sofa in his dressing room, his bad leg raised up on a nearby foot stool.


“Hospital!” Carl said the word as though it were venomous. “The paramedics want to take you to hospital. The press would have a field day with that.”


“I’ll be fine,” Jasper insisted with a grimace. He knew what a visit to hospital would mean – X rays and numerous tests and perhaps doctor’s orders to stay off his knee for a few weeks. Carl would hate that.


“Do you know how it looked out there?” Carl gestured madly towards the closed door of the changing room. “You’re going to be a laughing stock, Jasper!”


“I won,” Jasper said behind clenched teeth. “That was what you wanted, right? A win?”


“But a winner walks off the stage like a champion!” Carl insisted, his cheeks bright red. “You were stretchered off as if you were the one who had lost! It doesn’t look good, Jasper. It doesn’t look good at all.”


Closing his eyes, Jasper tried to distance himself from Carl’s anger. The pain medication the paramedics had given him had started to work, and he was beginning to feel blissfully numb, the pain in his leg now just a dull ache.


“If your leg is bad, you throw some well-placed punches,” Carl was prattling on even though Jasper had ceased listening. “You don’t leave yourself vulnerable like you did. You were reckless, Jasper, and it’s going to cost you.”


“Can you please leave?” Jasper parted his eyes to glare at his agent. He’d had enough. He wanted to just be alone with his thoughts for a while.


“So now you’re pushing me away?” Carl poked a finger at his own chest. “I’m the only person on your side!”


“I’m tired, and I have a headache.”


This seemed to appease Carl who shrugged and shoved his hands in to his trouser pockets. “Okay, well rest up in here for a while. Best to let the crowds disperse before they get another chance to see you hobbling about like an invalid.”


Jasper clenched his jaw. Everything was about maintaining an image; what about his well-being?


“I’ll go and arrange some discreet travel to get you back to your place,” Carl nodded at Jasper before leaving.


BOOK: Break Me (Caged Hearts Book 2)
2.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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