Authors: Elise Holland
Copyright © 2015 by Elise Holland
This book is a fiction production. All characters, businesses or organizations appearing in this work are fictitious, of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any mechanical or electronic means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher or author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages within the boundaries of fair use, in a review.
First Printing - June 2015
Special Thanks To Danie Newcomb, Alex and Lisa Moss and all my readers. Without your valuable input and support, this series would have never have become a reality.
The incessant buzzing from my alarm rouses me from my half-slumber. Groggily, I sit up, lazily wiping my face with my bare hands, trying my best to force myself fully awake. The past two weeks have been killer on my sleeping routine. Anytime my eyes close, all I see is Luke’s face. The fact that he has called and messaged nearly every day hasn’t helped matters. I have to hand it to him. The muscle-bound hunk is persistent.
I reach to retrieve my cell phone from the bedside table to shut off the annoying alarm. Getting out of bed is the last thing I want to do on a Saturday, but I know the newspaper needs me today. Flu season has been running rampant across campus, leaving myself and a handful of other writers the only ones left to keep the school’s paper surviving while everyone else recovers.
Glancing down at my phone, I groan when I notice that I already have three text messages waiting for me.
Hastily, I punch in the buttons to shut off the noise from the phone and look over my messages. One is from Cameron,
. There isn’t a day that the English-advisor, my best friend doesn’t message me about anything from the latest party she’s gone to, or about how she had to shatter another students dreams of an easy Pulitzer prize with her harsh but honest grading of their sophomoric submissions.
The next message is from my mother. After the lunch she and I had shared together in which I revealed that I wasn’t going to try to work things out with Luke, she has been checking on me nearly every day, making sure that I’m doing okay and still going to work and class.
Scrolling down, I stare at the name labeled for the final text.
My resolve betrays me, and I’m unable to help but feel a little giddy when I see that he’s messaged me. I didn’t hear from him at all yesterday and ended up feeling depressed all day because of it. Even though I told him I needed some time to myself, I’ve actually found myself looking forward to each and every message Luke sends me. On top of several apologies, the texts haven’t been anything extreme; just him telling me that he cares for me and that he’s around if I want to talk. As I select the message, I suck in a deep breath, bracing myself for whatever he might have had to say.
“Hi Tasha. I just wanted to let you know this will be the last message I send. I’ve finally gotten the hint. I’m sorry if I’ve bothered you. I hope that you’ll forgive me and that you have a good life.”
My heart sinks.
I crumple back into bed, what little desire I had to get up and get my day going now totally washed away. I don’t know what I was expecting. It should have been obvious that he would eventually give up. I suppose I had hoped that he would hang on long enough for me to not only forgive him, but to also forgive myself.
It wasn’t right for him to lie to me. After all, telling me that he was going to help his sister, when he was actually going out to have a secret meeting with his ex-girlfriend wasn’t exactly admirable, but snooping through his phone wasn’t the best thing I could have done in the situation, either. Hell… it was probably just as bad or worse really. I’m still pissed at him, for sure, but as the days have slowly tumbled by, I’ve found myself growing angrier at what I did and how I handled everything.
Not a day has gone by that I haven’t kicked myself for not immediately telling Luke that I knew who had actually called. If I had done that, maybe things would have gone down differently between he and I. Perhaps we would have still broken up, but at least then I would have possibly known why he lied to me.
Before the sting of hot tears have a chance to well up in my eyes, like they have done so often in the past couple of weeks, my phone rings. It’s my editor. I frown and check the time on my phone. It’s still over an hour before I’m supposed to be in at work today, so there shouldn’t be any reason he’s calling me.
“Natasha? Hi. You’re supposed to be working today, right?”
His unexpected question helps break my downward emotional state and I try to stifle a chuckle. The newspaper’s editor is amazing at what he does, but he’s horrible at keeping track of schedules. Usually Liz handles all of that, but she’s been bedridden for nearly a week thanks to the flu.
“Yes sir,” I try to do my best to not sound hoarse, “Getting ready to head in right now.”
“Actually, don’t come in today. I need you on assignment.”
My eyes widen, “Oh? Where to?”
“I need you to pick up your MMA articles again. They’ve really been a huge hit. Don’t let it go to your head, but we’ve sold more papers since you started writing those than in the paper’s entire history of production.”
“Um,” I mutter. Instead of feeling pride from the praise of my work, my stomach tightened. I had hoped that my recent coverage of Luke’s successful fight against Donahue would be enough to close that chapter and get me out of MMA writing.
“Is there a problem?” His stern voice is unnerving. Jack isn’t somebody that I like to cross.
“No sir. I had hoped that I could switch back to local basketball, though. I put in my request with Liz before she went out sick.”
“Oh… Liz never gave it to me. Besides Tasha, you’re the only one that can cover these fights so well. I can get just about anyone else to cover local basketball. Is there a reason why you don’t want to cover fights?”
Just the fact that I have two ex-boyfriends who are MMA fighters and I run the risk of running into either one of them anytime I have to cover one of the fights. Other than that… no real reason.
“No sir. Was just feeling a little burn out on the subject matter. But I haven’t covered MMA in a few weeks, so it’s ok. I’m good now.”
“Fine. Thanks Natasha. Work your magic and find a good match. I’ve heard there's a couple happening tonight in Philly and Baltimore, so check with your contacts and get in. Deadline’s in 3 days.”
The line goes silent before I can say anything else. Jack has never been one for pleasantries. Tossing my phone down onto the bed, I collapse against my pillows. My auburn hair tumbles around me and along my bare shoulders as I let out the breath I’ve been holding in. The last thing I want to do today is run the risk of running into Luke or Derrick, but Jack is leaving me with no choice.
I’ve done my absolute best to avoid Luke at Biology class. Come to think of it, it hasn’t been that hard. I haven’t even seen him from a distance in the last eleven days, not that I’ve been counting… Hopefully he hasn’t been skipping out to avoid me, but I seriously doubt someone as devoted to getting his degree as Luke is would do that over some girl.
Closing my eyes, the desire to lie in bed all day feeling sorry for myself is almost too tempting to resist. Sleep begins to slowly cajole me, encouraging me to drift off into a deep and blissful slumber. The phone rings, jarring me rudely from my descent.
“Son of a bitch,” I mutter under my breath as I sit up.
I lean across the bed, fumbling for my phone that’s now buried within the folds of my comforter. As the haze drifts away from my eyes, I look down at the brightly lit screen to see who’s calling.
“Hi Cameron,” I groan into the phone.
“Well don’t you sound bright and chipper today?”
I roll my eyes, “Not in the mood, Cam. What’s up?”
Cameron sighs, “Brace yourself. I ran into Derrick last night on campus.”
“Oh?” I arch an eyebrow, suddenly alert, “And?”
“The fucker had the gall to hit on me! Kept insisting I go home with him, and laughed at me when I walked away. It was kind of unsettling.”
Cameron unsettled? That’s a first.
“Wow… I’m really sorry, Cam.”
All I want to do is bash my head into the headboard. This day is seriously not starting off the greatest.
“Don’t sweat it, Girl. It's good you're rid of the bastard. He has that 'cheating prick' vibe about him. Sorry… but I used to think that when you two were dating.”
“You’re probably right,” I groan, "Next time feel free to share these thoughts at the time rather than weeks later."
As much as I hate to admit it, the little signs Derrick had cheated on me were all there. Late nights home… vague excuses… contradicting timelines… I had simply chosen to ignore them. My desire to make he and I work had overridden my logical doubts at the time. Then again, as was evidenced by my own actions, going through Luke’s phone, some trust issues had obviously remained.
“Well, you know Tash,” Cameron smirked down the line, “Maybe you should try women for a little while. You might have better luck.”
“You don’t just wake up and decide to be a lesbian, Cameron,” I mumble, “Besides, I think I’d be better of becoming a nun. I seem to have a knack for picking shitty bed partners. Abstinence and a life of prayer may save me from myself.”
“We’ll both join a nunnery once you graduate, how about that?”
I chortle, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but no nunnery will let you get away with sneaking men into your room, Cameron. They tend to frown on that type of behavior.”
“Meh. I’m sure I could figure something out.”
I can almost hear her winking on the other end.
“You really are incorrigible.”
“I know, I know, but what can you do? Anyway, time to head to my next class. Love ya, girl.”
“Love you, too. Don’t break too many budding writers’ hearts today.”
“But it’s the only thing that truly brings me pleasure in life,” Cameron bemoans.
“Whatever,” I giggle, “Laters.”
Sighing, I search through my phone for Big Mike’s number. Going to a fight is the last thing I had planned to do with my Saturday, but hopefully Big Mike will be able to find a fight for me that doesn’t have Luke or Derrick competing in it.
My mind trails off as I listen to my phone ringing for Mike. All I can think about is Luke’s last text and how I’ll probably never hear from the one guy I was truly beginning to fall for, ever again.
“Are you serious?”
“Yes ma’am,” Big Mike replies.
“The only fight this entire weekend is
today at noon
?” I ask sceptically, “Since when did they only schedule one weekend fight?”
I glance over at the clock and cringe when I see that it’s already 9am. It’s going to take me at least 2 hours to get to the arena, so I’ve got to get a move on, fast.
“Don’t ask me Tash. I’m just the muscle,” His deep voice bellows cheerfully from the other end of the line, “But this fight is gonna be a good one. A rookie’s fightin’ today and he’s only 19. Everybody is sayin’ he’s goin’ to be something big. He should be a good one for you to write about.”
“I see,” I reply, with an arched brow, “And Mike? Who else? Will Baptiste or Richards be there?”
“Do you really think either those boys would be fightin’ a rookie?”
“True,” I shrug, “Okay, well save me a seat. I’m on my way.”
“Will do, Tash. See ya in a few!”
I smile as I hang up the phone.
Of course my Saturday morning
be spent rushing off to a random fight two hours drive away with only three until it starts. Jack is
going to hear about this the next time I’m at the office.
Okay, okay… I admit… probably not. That ex-Marine is damn too scary for me to confront him like that. But still, I’ll go off on him, silently, in my head. Fuck it, better yet I’ll just call Cameron and complain about the whole thing later.