Having flings that were mutually beneficial to both me and the ladies I had them with used to make me feel great. I never had much luck with long-term relationships. Things never lasted long and it just became easier to have flings.

Besides, it was fun to date around. I liked meeting new women and felt good each time one took interest in me. But dating became exhausting and it just wasn’t exciting the way it used to be. Dates became less and less frequent until it was practically non-existent. Many of the dates I did have, I canceled at the last minute, simply too exhausted to do more than go home and veg in front of the TV.

Dating wasn’t the only thing I’ve let fall by the wayside. I used to love to go running. Jackson and I would go running together at least once a week, if not more. Now I was lucky to run once or twice a week. I had to force myself to get to the gym, something I once loved. Lifting weights made me feel alive, like I was working my way toward becoming the best version of myself.

And then there was my first love, mixed martial arts. As a young kid, I was a huge fan of MMA and couldn’t wait until I could start training for it too. I begged my parents for nearly two years before they finally relented and found a program for kids for me.

At first, I figured my interests were just changing because I’d reached my mid-thirties, but nothing interested me. I tried reading, video games, restoring furniture. Hell, I even signed up for a sculpting class and only made it to the first class before I gave up.

The club was the one thing in my life I was still able to lose myself. The one thing that still made me feel good about myself. I’d work for hours in the office pouring over reports and researching ways to keep up the club’s prominent growth. Then I’d treat myself by walking around the first floor, immersing myself in the crowd and all the people enjoying themselves, before I went downstairs.

But now even work, my solace, drained me of the little energy I had. It killed me.

I couldn’t help but wonder if it was because I’m damaged. Defective. Nightmares plague me each night, images of explosions and blood and death.

I found myself wanting something real in my life, someone who loved me and accepted me for the way I am. But why should I bother putting the energy into something that could never happen? I’d feel too much guilt foisting all my problems on a girlfriend. Why should they have to suffer through my PTSD episodes and the OCD that tormented my life? It wouldn’t be fair to them, or to myself when they finally had enough and left me.

I could never force someone to tie themselves to me. Sometimes I still had trouble believing Jackson willingly wanted to be in my life. For whatever reasons he stayed, I was grateful for it. I don’t think I’d make it if it wasn’t for him.

After I visited Jackson at his house the other day, it took him two nights before he was able to drag me into the club. He put up with me so much.

I sighed, leaning forward and burying my face in my hands. Why couldn’t I just keep it together? Why did I find it so hard?

I hadn’t even been down to the Dungeon yet, the place I normally looked forward to visiting most. Maybe I’d force myself down there before I took off for the night. I hoped the atmosphere would infect me, calm me down.

The office door banged open, startling me from my thoughts. Jackson walked in holding the hand of the most gorgeous woman I’d ever seen.

God, even with a mask obscuring her face, I could see she was a true beauty. The woman was tall and slender, wearing a black dress that hit her a mid-thigh. It showed off her shapely thighs. A flash of those thighs wrapping around my waist filled my mind.

I could see lean muscles in her arms and legs and instantly knew she was a fighter of some sort. I’d seen that body type on other women at the MMA gym I was a member of. That intrigued me.

She played with her blonde hair while she looked around the office, a gesture that was typically seen as nervous, but I saw suspicion in this woman’s eyes. I appreciated her shrewdness, admired it.

Jackson looked over her head at me and cocked his head as if to ask what do you think? I nodded and stood from my desk. Perhaps this night was destined to be better than recent ones.

Jackson let go of the woman’s hand and shrugged out of his jacket. He laid it on the back of his chair and took his mask off.

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