Worth Forgiving Page 2

He gives me an update on who’s pulled their business from us this week. Brady’s more concerned than I am. Frankly, I wouldn’t give a shit if the whole damn company folded, if I didn’t have people that depended on me for their livelihood. I do my best to assure him everything will settle, but it’s difficult since I’m not sure I even believe my own words.

New York makes it easy to blend in. So many people, a frantic flow of pedestrians maneuver to their destination, most even avoiding eye contact. Perfect after the chaos I’ve been putting up with in D.C. Walking everywhere is so much more appealing than the usual darkly tinted glass town car I’ve grown accustomed to being shuttled in from place to place.

Opening the door to the gym, I’m greeted by a muscle head standing behind the desk. He looks up anxiously as I enter, catches sight of me, and practically snarls. Clearly I’m not who he was expecting.

Walking to the desk, I expect him to look back up, but he pretends I’m not standing right in front of him, even though I’m less than two feet from his face. So much for the customer service in this damn place.

“Think you can direct me to a trainer named Marco? I’m supposed to meet him here.”

Muscle head points to the back, but never looks up again. Welcome to New York.


Marco is the cousin of my trainer in D.C. Although I’ve never met him before, I would’ve recognized him anywhere. He’s the spitting image of his cousin Mario, only some silver has started to gleam through his thick, shoe polish black mane. It’s slicked back in that Soprano-ish way that few young guys can pull off without looking like they’re wearing a costume. This guy wouldn’t look right with anything else. We train for close to three hours, yet a hair isn’t out of place when we’re done.

“How long you in town for? Mario said maybe I could look into some local fights for you.” Marco stops me as I walk out of the locker room, my hair still damp from the long shower.

I laugh to myself, but Marco doesn’t get the joke. His cousin Mario’s been trying to get me in the ring for some real fights for years. Not a day has gone by in eight years where we didn’t end a session with him asking, “Want me to book you a fight? You’re ready, you know.”

I’ve been fighting since I was a kid. The trainers tell me I’m good enough to make a go of it in the ring, but I’ve never really given it any serious consideration. I was always expected to do something more appropriate for a living. “After all, you are a Knight,” My father would always say.

“I’m not sure how long I’m staying yet.” I pause, allowing myself for the first time since I was a kid with dreams of my own to seriously think about getting in the ring for a real fight. Getting in the ring for a pro fight wasn’t part of my plan, but that’s the beauty of having your own plan and not living up to anyone else’s expectations. My plans can change…because they’re mine. “You know what, I’ll think about it, Marco.” And for the first time, I really might.

Marco nods. “Stop at the front desk. Get on my schedule for the rest of the week, either way.”

Slinging the strap to my gym bag diagonally over my chest, I wave goodbye to one of the guys I sparred with and head toward the door with a chin lift back to Marco. I expect to find Mr. Friendly from this morning at the reception desk, but instead, the scenery is much better. A beautiful woman sits behind the long counter. She’s completely engrossed in what she’s doing. Unlike the ass**le from this morning who intentionally ignored me, she has no idea I’m even standing in front of her. I can’t help but smile as I watch her thick gray pencil move feverishly over the sketch paper, her petite hands half covered in charcoal. A slight smile on her face tells me she’s in another place…a good one. One that must be her escape. I can’t take my eyes off her as she studies the drawing, her smile growing even bigger when she lifts her head to take in the full sight of her page. She likes what she sees on the paper, almost as much as I like what I see in front of me.

Long blond wavy hair, half of it tied on top of her head haphazardly in some sort of a twist, the other half hangs loosely framing her porcelain skinned face. Big, bright, blue-green eyes, I get the urge to move closer so I can study them close up to debate the actual color. Her smooth skin is devoid of the makeup that woman as beautiful as her seem to think makes them look better, only it usually doesn’t. Thick black eyelashes frame her almond shaped eyes. Full pink lips, half the bottom one sucked in, gripped between her teeth as she concentrates, studying her drawing. Beautiful. It almost seems a shame to interrupt her.

“Hi.” Eventually beginning to feel guilty for my staring, I finally speak. Her head comes up, eyes traveling slowly up to my face before finally reaching mine. For a few seconds, she still doesn’t see me, even though she’s looking right at me. Until she comes back from wherever her head has been and our eyes lock, her full lips part, and the jolt from finding me standing there knocks her right off her chair.

Chapter 2


I knew what being late to work meant. Caden was going to go apeshit, only it had nothing to do with him having to cover for me at the front desk for less than an hour. In his twisted mind, the only reason I could possibly be fifty minutes late to work on a Friday morning was that I was sleeping with someone. It didn’t matter who. The waiter from dinner, the guy that politely and innocently opened the door for me at the coffee shop, or perhaps even the teller at the bank where I took too long to make a deposit the other day.

I don’t remember the exact moment the jealousy and possessiveness started. Maybe it was always there, only I was too desperate to see it. But by the time I opened my eyes, accusations were part of our daily routine. I guess it doesn’t help that I own a gym. A place filled with hulking men ramped up with too much testosterone. The place Caden also happens to spend most days training for his upcoming fight at the MMA Open.

Ralley’s Gyms were started by my Dad and his partner, Caden’s Uncle, Joe Ralley. The two men were best friends since they were kids. Both dedicated to the sport of fighting, my Dad made his name as a fighter and Joe as a professional trainer. Fifteen years ago my Dad, known to everyone in the fighting world only as “The Saint”, retired as Middleweight Champion of the US Boxing Conference. Capitalizing on his fame, and Joe’s talent as a trainer, the two best friends decided to open a gym dedicated to Mixed Martial Arts Training. At the time, the sport was just gaining national popularity and there were few gyms devoted to training fighters who wanted to go into MMA professionally. The dynamic duo’s gym took off as the sport grew rapidly. One gym turned into two, then four, then eighteen after only three years. Today, the Ralley name has the east coast fighter market locked up, operating sixty-two locations.

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