“Having you living with me wasn’t the only reason I stopped fighting, Kensey,” he said. “I made the decision to stop on the day you confronted me about the pictures that Smith sent you. I saw how hurt you were that I’d lied to you. I fucking hated it. I didn’t want to have to lie to you again, so I stayed away from the rings and the cages.”
My brow furrowed. “But you said you need the pain.”
“I need you more.” His thumb drew a circle on my knee. “I knew that if I wanted you in my life, I had to give it up. Completely. When I want something badly, I do what it takes to get it. I knew this was what it would take to keep you. I’d already started to need it less since you came along. You give me a different kind of peace. One that’s real, not brought on by endorphins. I got to learn the difference. Like I’ve said before, you’re my good thing. Don’t ask me to watch you walk away. I can’t do that. I won’t.” His jaw set, telling me he meant it. “It makes me a selfish bastard, I know, but I won’t.”
I didn’t want to walk away. I knew that if I did, he’d go back to the way things were before me, and the thought of that made my throat thicken. It wasn’t the fights that bothered me; it was the reasons behind him having them. No matter what he thought, it wasn’t as simple as liking to give and receive pain. It wasn’t as simple as finding the endorphins somewhat addictive. Whether he saw it or not, he was punishing himself each time he let someone hurt him. Whenever he stood in a ring or cage, battering his opponent, he was striking out at those who’d hurt him. And I’d bet that one of the people he was angry with was Levi, and that only made him feel guiltier—which just fed his subconscious urge to punish himself.
It was a vicious cycle, and I didn’t want him to be part of it anymore. I didn’t want that for him.
“If anyone deserves ‘normal,’ Kensey, it’s you. And I don’t just mean because you have Bale as a stepfather. I know the weight of your mother’s fragility sits heavily on your shoulders. I know that being living proof of another person’s infidelity has left its mark on you. These are my marks, and they’re ugly. But I need you to say you can deal with them.”
I blew out a breath. His marks were more than just ugly. But Blake didn’t need my baggage any more than I needed his, did he? Still, he was here. He accepted it. Accepted me. And I truly didn’t know how to walk away from him. It would rip me apart because … because … well, I loved the bastard, didn’t I?
Still, I needed to be sure of something. “You mean it when you say that you’re done with the fights? There are a lot of things I can accept and deal with, Blake—you hurting yourself isn’t one of them. Be honest, you wouldn’t like me climbing into a ring, week after week, getting all banged up—especially when it’s in search of some kind of artificial peace.”
He brought my hand to his mouth and kissed my palm. “You’re right, I wouldn’t want that. I’d fucking hate it, and I’d do what it took to make you stop. I won’t lie to you, baby, the pull to get in one of those rings or cages hasn’t gone. It might be a while before it does. It’s been my quick fix for a long time. But I made the decision to stop, and I’ll stick with it. Never again will I do it, Kensey. Never again.”
His voice rung with a solemn sincerity. I studied his face, seeing that same earnestness there. It was impossible to doubt him. And I wanted to believe him. Badly. Maybe he’d stick by his promise; maybe he wouldn’t. But he deserved a chance, didn’t he? And he’d already been hurt so much … What kind of person would I be if, after baring his soul that way and trusting me with his secrets, I walked out on him? I was better than that, and he deserved better.
I took a deep, cleansing breath, letting the tension in my muscles ebb. “Okay. But if you break that promise, I’ll join you in that ring and kick your epic ass myself.”
Closing his eyes, Blake drew in a long breath through his nose. I could almost feel his relief, it was so profound. When his eyes opened again, they were blazing with an emotion that was undefinable yet made my pulse quicken. “Come here, Kensey.” I pushed myself off the sofa and moved to him. He caught my wrist and pulled me onto his lap. “There’s my girl. So much tougher than she gives herself credit for.”
He palmed my face with his hands and stared at me in a way that made my throat grow thick. The tight feeling in my chest loosened, and the chill that had invaded my body eased away. I felt warm. Safe. Cared for.
“My good thing,” he whispered. Then his mouth took mine, soft yet insistent. The kiss was lazy and wet and intoxicating. There was so much emotion there—Blake poured himself into the kiss and savored what I gave back to him.
He snaked his hand up my thigh, under my skirt, and cupped my ass. And then … Jesus, it was like someone switched the intensity dial as high as it would go, because the kiss turned wild and desperate. My blood raced, and my nerve endings sprang to life.
I had no idea how the hell we ended up on the floor, but suddenly we were there—my skirt hiked around my waist, his fly undone, his cock hard and ready. And then he yanked my panties aside and rammed into me. No foreplay, no preamble, no warning. But I didn’t have a moment to feel any pain from the rough possession, because he pounded into my pussy like he’d been put on the Earth to fuck me.
I held on, nails and heels digging into his back. I felt his guilt and anger in every thrust, but I also felt the force of his relief and possessiveness. When his thumb rubbed my clit and he ordered me to “fucking come,” I flew apart. He buried his face in the crook of my neck and exploded inside me with a muffled curse.
The seconds ticked by as we lay there, shaking and breathing hard. Then he lifted his head and frowned. “How did we end up on the floor?”
“I honestly don’t know.”
He looked down at me, breezing his fingers down the side of my face. “Fucking beautiful,” he whispered. “Love looking at you. Love waking up and seeing you next to me. Love knowing you’re mine. I need you to stay mine, Kensey. You deserve better. More. Normal. But I need you to stay mine.”
It wasn’t a plea. Wasn’t a question. Wasn’t an appeal. It was more of an apology. He didn’t think it was fair to keep me, but he intended to do it anyway.
He kissed me as he withdrew his softening cock. “I was rough. Did I hurt you?”
“Not in a way I didn’t like.”
Rising to his feet, he helped me stand and fix my skirt. He’d just finished cleaning me up in the bathroom—he’d insisted on doing it himself—when his cell began to ring. As he pulled it out of his pocket, I glimpsed the screen just long enough to see ‘Rossi’ flashing there.
Blake swiped his thumb over the screen and answered, “What?” He exhaled heavily. “She’s fine … Yes … Everything … No, she didn’t … I knew you’d gloat. Fuck off, asshole.” Blake ended the call and pocketed his cell. “That was Rossi. He was worried about you.”
“And gloating? What about?”
Blake cupped my hips. “When I took him aside in the parking lot outside the bar, he encouraged me to tell you everything. He said you’d handle it just fine. I thought it might take hours before you could even look at me, let alone talk to me or let me touch you.”