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The Hurricane Bonus Chapter #2

The Hurricane Bonus Chapter #2

Cormac

I tapped my fingers restlessly against the bench as I watched the door with anticipation. I probably should’ve worked at keeping the shit-eating grin off my face, but tonight I was un-fucking touchable. I couldn’t lose, not with my girl watching, and any minute now she was gonna walk through that door.

“Jesus O’Connell, you’re like a feckin’ kid at Christmas. It ain’t been more than a day since you saw her,” Danny teased.

“Feck off,” I replied with a grin. He knew how I felt about Em. Shit, the whole gym knew how I felt about her. If I had my way, the whole world would too.

“Your head in the game, son?” he asked, seriously.

I nodded in reply. “I’ve got this in the bag, Danny, honest,” I reassured him, and he knew me well enough to know that I meant it. I’d worked harder in the last few months than I’d worked my entire life, and tonight was the first pay-off. My body was a machine in perfect working order. None of that mattered though if your head wasn’t in the right place, but for the first time in my entire life, everything was crystal-fucking clear. I had a girl I’d fallen head over heels in love with; I had goals and a purpose. I wasn’t drifting anymore; I was going somewhere.

“I’m gonna start taping you up then I want you on the pads for a bit. You know the drill. Keep it loose but keep those muscles warm. No fucking about when Em gets here. There’ll be plenty of time for that after the fight. Keep your focus on what needs doing, nothin’ else. You get in that ring and everything else stays out of it, you hear.”

I nodded curtly, taking on board everything he was saying, but I wasn’t gonna fuck this up. My bright and shining future was right in front of me. If I had to put Robert “the Hammer” Carmello on his arse to get to it, then so be it. He was a good fighter but I was better, and in six or seven rounds, he’d know it too.

The door opened, and there she was. Man, she looked good. “Hey Sunshine,” I said, unable to keep the smile off my face.

“Hi, O’Connell,” she replied, and sat down next to me. I clenched and unclenched my fists as I inhaled her. That subtle vanilla scent was fucking addictive. What I would have given to nuzzle her neck and just breathe her in.

As soon as Danny was done taping, I jumped up and started shadow boxing. When he brought the pads out, I fell into a rhythm. Hitting pads was as natural and as effortless as breathing. Danny called out combinations, and I delivered so fast that I didn’t even process what he’d said until it was done, that’s how ingrained my training was.

Having Em there didn’t distract me, it calmed me. That was until she stood up and skirted her way over to the bathroom. I kept my focus on the pads until I heard the first retch, then all our concentration, Danny’s included, was on the door. I didn’t know if she had food poisoning or if she was coming down with something, but I wasn’t waiting around to find out.

Before I’d taken my first step towards her, Danny had his arm out holding me back. “Give us a minute son, I’ve got this. She’s just nervous that’s all.”

“Two minutes, Danny. Then I’m coming in.” I didn’t like it, but Em and Danny were friends. I had to trust that he knew what he was doing.

“How did she seem when you picked her up?” I asked Kier as soon as Danny had gone in.

“She was fine, Con. Excited even. Like Danny said, she’s probably just nervous. Don’t read anything into it.”

I paced as I tried fucking hard not to. Shit! What if she didn’t like me fighting? Without this, what else was there for me? I’d give it up for her in a heartbeat if I needed to, but without the fighting, a part of me would die inside.

I lasted maybe five minutes before I followed them, with Kieran right behind me. “Is this a private party or can anyone come in?” I asked. I was worried and seeing that Em hadbeen crying didn’t help.

“Jesus! Can’t you boys give me five minutes of peace, even in the feckin’ loo? What’s wrong with knocking? For all you know, Em could have been helping me with my colostomy bag,” Danny complained.

We all knew that he was trying to lighten the mood, and I appreciated it.“Ohh,” I replied just as Kier muttered, “gross.”

“Go on, you fat article, get out of the way,” Danny said as he pushed Kieran out of the room and closed the door behind him.

“You okay, baby?” I asked Em, still concerned that she couldn’t handle this part of my life up close and personal.

“I’m okay,” she said. “I was worrying about you a little bit but Danny’s given me the pep talk so I’m fine.”

“Yep, he’s pretty good at those. I had mine when he was doing my wraps. I’ve got this, you know love,” I told her with conviction. I hated the idea of her worrying about anything, but I’m not gonna lie, a part of me rejoiced in the fact that she cared.

“I know”, she said.“Just try not to get too battered. I’d hate to have to put some guy on his skinny arse in the car park later because you let him knock you around.”

“Skinny arse? He’s six-foot-three and two hundred twenty nine pounds,” I said.

“In my head he’s five-foot-eight and one hundred and fifty pounds soaking wet. That’s how I know you’re not getting hurt,” she replied. I grabbed her to me as I felt the grin spread across my face. Nobody had ever worried about me like this before. Sure I was plenty protective of Em but knowing that she felt the same way made my heart sing.

“Come and give your man a good luck kiss,” I ordered, silently praying that she agreed. One kiss would see me through twelve rounds. Shit, for one kiss from her, I’d fight an army.

“Friends don’t kiss each other good luck,” she teased. Playing along, I opened the door with one hand, keeping the other firmly on my girl.

“Kier, do friends kiss each other good luck?” I hollered through the door.

“Hell, yes,” he replied, playing along. “I gave Con a good bit of lip-loving this afternoon to cheer him on.”

Kier fucked around with Tommy a bit, making us laugh. I smiled as I closed the door on them both because I knew from the look on Em’s face that she was going to give me what I wanted. Before she could over-think it, I pressed my lips against hers and kissed her long and hard. The gentle touch of her tongue against mine went straight to my groin, and I fought to bite back a groan. Knowing I was trying my luck, I reached beneath her sweater to stroke the soft skin of her midriff. She was so fucking beautiful, and so far out of my fucking league that my thumb trembled as I stroked, narrowly missing the underside of her breast every time.

She pressed herself harder against my touch, and I was seconds away from lifting her to wrap those legs around my waist when three bangs sounded loudly on the door. Worst fucking timing ever, but I pulled back from the kiss and rested my forehead against hers. Her lips were pink and swollen from our kiss, and her chest rose and fell like she was trying to catch her breath.

I closed my eyes briefly, hoping that wouldn’t be the last kiss I’d get that night. “So does that promise from last night still stand? Do I get my reward tonight if I win?” I asked.

“Winning is its own reward,” she replied.

Fuck! That would be a “no” then. But when she smiled, I knew that she was teasing.

“If you still have any energy left, then yes, I will make good on my offer last night, but I’ve never done it before so you need to show me what to do.”

For months, the thought of making love with sunshine was all I could think about. The idea that it would finally happen tonight consumed me.

“Ah baby,” I said, groaning, “how am I supposed to fight now that I’m hard?”

“Just imagine what Danny will do to you if you go out there to face him like that.”

“Alright,” I said, my cock literally shrivelling in my shorts as soon as she said Danny’s name. Sneaking one more quick kiss, we walked out the door to face the others.

I watched Emwalk over towards the guys, and as soon as I was satisfied that she was settled, I turned to Danny. He nodded his head discretely as he held out my glove, and I knew it was time. I zoned out until the only words in my head were the ones Danny whispered into my ear. “Now’s the time, O’Connell boy. Every bit of work, every bit of preparation, every bit of blood ,sweat and tears, it’s all meant for this one moment. This guy’s got fuck all on you. He’s got nothin’ on you, and he knows it.

“You want to get the girl? You want a shot at the title, well they’re yours! All you gotta do is knock him out. You don’t fuck-about stringing this thing out. You stick to the plan, and he’ll be done by round six. You show this crowd what you got, and by the end of this fight, they’ll be screaming your name.”

We shadow boxed for a bit to warm-up as he kept talking. Everything felt familiar, like coming home. The ring was the only place I’d ever felt like that. The bounce of the canvas beneath my feet, the weight of the gloves on my hands, these were things that anchored me. Inside those four ropes I knew exactly who I was. As I slipped on my robe,I knew, with absolute clarity, that I owned this fight, and as I bent my head towards Em, I knew with the same clarity that she was the reason why.

She undid my chain with shaking hands and fastened it around her own neck.

“Keep that safe for me, sunshine. I’ll need it as soon as the fight’s over,” I said, and she nodded in agreement. The urge to bend down and capture her bottom lip between my own was almost a craving. I resisted because Em was gentleness, love, and warmth, and right then I needed to be the exact opposite.

The door to the changing room opened, and I stood in front of it rolling my head around to loosen up my shoulders. My knuckles flexed inside my gloves as the bass of my entrance music thumped around me. The crowd exploded as I hit the spotlight, and their screams followed me into the ring.

Kieran slipped off my robe as the MC made the introductions, but I was barely listening. I scanned the crowd until I found Em approaching her seat and locked eyes with her. Fuck bravado. I grinned and winked before blowing her a kiss from my glove. I wanted her eyes on me, and only me, when I showed her why I was the only man for her. I might not be the smart choice but tonight I’d show her that nobody could protect her and take care of her like I could.

Carmello came out cautiously at the bell, and despite his cocky smirk, I could practically smell his fear. We danced around each other for a while as he sized me up, but after two rounds, I hadn’t made my move, and I could see his cockiness creeping in. By round three, he was ready to test the waters, and I was waiting. I was younger, fitter, and faster, and he didn’t have a single combination that I couldn’t dodge.

Maybe I should have let him get one or two in to give him the confidence to let me closer, but truthfully I was showing off. This fucker couldn’t touch me, and I wasn’t feeling generous enough to throw him a bone.

By round five, I was bored, and he was exhausted. He was fucked, and he knew it. He dropped his guard briefly but it was all the opening I needed. A hook to his mid-section winded him but I kept going even after I heard his rib crack. I jabbed twice to the right to bring his guard down then hit him square in the jaw with a left hook. His arms dropped to his sides, and I knew he was out cold.

My back was turned and I was walking back to my corner before he even hit the canvas. The ref finally called it, and the fight was mine, but I held my breath when I realized that Carmello was still out. When he came around, I sighed with relief. Pushing my way to his corner, I shook hands with him and his trainer but the poor fucker looked dead on his feet.

We were jostled to the centre of the ring where the ref caught hold of our wrists. “Ladies and gentlemen. May I introduce your winner by knockout in the fifth round, Cormac ‘the Hurricane’ O’Connell.”

I searched for Em over the crowd, wanting desperately to see the pride in her eyes. Every fucker wanted a piece of me, but there was only one person I wanted to get to.

“Fuckin’ eager to get some,ain’tcha,” Kier said to me with a smirk, but he helped me push back the crowd as I climbed out of the ring.

“Fuck off,” I told him with a grin, and the cheeky fecker laughed at me. I let him have his moment. I was going home with a win and the best-looking, smartest girl in here. I was headed Em’s way when the last person I ever expected to show up at one of my fights stood in front of me. “What are you doing here?” I asked Ma curtly.

“I wouldn’t miss your big fight, love. Makes me proud seeing you up there, it does. Now how about coming for a quick drink with your Ma?” she asked.

Kieran had gone on ahead, and I was itching to catch up with him. I wanted to see Em, and I didn’t have time for Ma’s bullshit.“Look Ma, I’m meeting my girl. Maybe we could do this some other time?” Although her plastic smile remained fixed, her eyes narrowed. I knew that look. She was pissed. Having a girl meant that my world would no longer revolve around taking care of her shit.

“Come on, I’m here now. You might as well introduce us!” she replied brightly, following me towards the changing rooms.

“Fine, but five minutes, Ma. Em and I have plans tonight.” I didn’t bother listening for her reply. Walking toward our reserved section, I searched through the guys until I found my girl.“Hey, baby, did you see it?” I asked, and without thinking, pressed my lips against hers. Fuck, I was so pumped,and her kiss was like a shot of adrenaline to my system.

“I saw it all,” she said, smiling. My guts tightened in the same way they always did at her touch, and it took everything in me not to haul her close and kiss her senseless.

Ma tapped her foot impatiently, and I rolled my eyes, figuring that it was better to get this over and done with quick. Wrapping my arm around Em’s shoulders, I pulled her into my side.“Sunshine, this is me Ma, Silvia. Ma, this is my girl, Em.”

Em looked nervous,andwhen I glanced at Ma, her smile was so bitter that it looked like she’d been sucking on lemons.

“I’m pleased to meet you,” Em offered sweetly, as she shook hands.

“Likewise, dear,” Mareplied, and the animosity rolled off her in waves.

“Did you enjoy the fight?” Em asked. She was trying to make conversation, but had we been alone I would’ve warned her that it was a pointless exercise.

“Of course. I love to see my son win. What about you, did you enjoy it? Cormac tells me that this is your first fight.”

I snorted with disbelief. You could count on one hand the number of my fights Ma had come to, and I’d told her fuck all about Em. She was guessing, and the only reason I didn’t call her on it was that I didn’t want Em to feel uncomfortable, like she was caught in the middle of our bullshit.

“I was proud of him, and I’m glad that he didn’t get hurt,” Em said.

“Well, we’re all glad about that, of course,” Ma replied.

“Hello, Sylvia. It’s a pleasant surprise to see you sober and upright.” I could have fucking kissed Kieran for bursting in. There was no love lost between him and Ma, and I knew he’d take care of Em while I got rid of Ma.

“Kieran, I see that age hasn’t improved your manners at all. Shouldn’t you be out scouting for tonight’s STD-infested whore?” Ma bit back. Watching them pick at each other was usually amusing, but with Em here, it was just embarrassing. I was trying to convince her to be mine, and they were doing their best to drive her away.

Dropping my arm down, I reached for her hand. Her tiny fingers slipped between mine and grounded me. It let me know that she was fine. When her thumb stroked the skin at the edge of my wraps, I squeezed her hand harder. She was mine, even if she didn’t want to admit it yet. Not even Ma was taking her away from me.

“So, are you and my son seeing each other, or are you just tonight’s prize?”What. The. Fuck.

“Ma,” I snapped, pissed beyond belief that she was treating Em like this.

“Don’t be testy, son,” she replied. “It’s not like you’ve ever talked about her before, is it?”

I ground my jaw so tightly it would ache later. If this was how she was going to play it, this would be the last contact Ma ever had with Em. “I talk about her all the time. You don’t know that because I moved out over a month ago.”

“Maybe you should move back in, lovely. You’d have your own room and then perhaps I could get to hear about what’s important in your life.”

Bullshit. A walking bank and someone to pick her up out of her own puke was what she wanted.

“Thanks Ma, but I’m fine at Kieran’s,” I said.

“In answer to your question Mrs O’Connell, yes, Con and I are seeing each other, and I’m sure that we’ll get to know each other better now that we’ve been introduced.”

I’d take six rounds all over again with Carmello just to hear Emsay those words. Kieran caught my eye, and his grin was as big as mine. Ma had wanted to split us up, but she’d only brought us closer. Now that she was officially mine, I wanted to possess Em in the most primal way. I wanted her under me, over me, in my bed. The smell of her all over my sheets so I could breathe her in whenever I wanted to. Tonight was the best night of my life, and Ma was determined to fuck it up.

“Perhaps we should see how long this lasts before we invest in getting to know each other. After all, my son tends to go through girls like they’re disposable.”

“Ma!” I shouted, on the verge of telling Kieran to kick her arse out.

“I’m sure that was true once, but I’m betting that he’s never introduced a girl to you before,” Em replied, quietly.

My instinct was to protect her from Ma, but damn, it felt good to hear her defend me. Defend us. Her hand trembles slightly in mine, but that was okay. I had her.

Ma looked down at our joint hands and got the message. Despite all the shit over the years, she was still my mother. But I had made it pretty fucking clear that Em came first now, and that was never changing.

“Come on, sunshine. We need to leave your boy to talk business,” Kieran said. I’d forgotten about the sponsors. I didn’t want to leave Em but making the most of this win was important. Kier caught my eye and nodded discretely to let me know he’d keep an eye on her.

I’d deal with Ma later. Reaching up, Em kissed me gently on the cheek, blushing as she did. My chest tightened at her innocent touch, and I wanted to do things that wouldmake that pretty pink glow spread over her whole body.

“It was nice to meet you, Sylvia. I’m sure that we’ll see each other again soon,” Em said to Ma.

“I’m sure we will,” she replied in a bitchy voice. I couldn’t wait to get her alone so I could tear strips off her for talking to Em that way. I wouldn’t make Em feel uncomfortable by doing it in front of her, but I was putting an end to that shit straight away.

The minute KierwalkedEm towards the changing rooms, Ma backed away. “Don’t look at me like that!” she protested. “It’s a mother’s right to look out for her boy.” I’d lost count of the number of times that I’d seen that look. The one that promised me everything was going to be fine. That she’d take a turn being the parent for the change. As I got older, I recognized it as the look that warned meshe wanted something. Where Ma was all selfishness and twisted manipulation, Em was innocence and caring. If Em did something for me, it’s because she wanted to, not because there’d be any pay-off for doing it.

I gave Ma the steel eyed, take-no-shit gaze I’d perfected in the ring and put her right.“You don’t get any parental rights with me. As far as I’m concerned, being a good mother ain’t ever been high on your list of priorities. Em’s it for me, and I’m not letting you fuck that up. So stay away from her Ma. I’m not gonna tell you again.”

“Alright, Con. If you like this girl, then I’ll be nice to her. I’m just looking out for you that’s all,” she scoffed condescendingly.

“Are you okay getting home or do’you want one of the guys to call you a taxi?” I asked. No fucking way was she going anywhere other than a bar, and we both knew it, but paying for a taxi was the easiest way to get rid of her without her causing a scene.

“I’m fine. You talk to your sponsors, and we’ll catch up later.”

Danny was waving to get my attention, and I knew I had to go.

“I’ll come by tomorrow and we’ll talk. But I mean it, from now on you so much as look at Em the wrong way and we’re done.”

***

I wasn’t good with words but it didn’t seem to matter to the sponsors. I jogged back to the changing rooms as soon as Danny was done with me, eager to get showered and party with my girl. It felt good being able to call her mine. She made me feel so fucking possessive but instinct told me that she still needed me to take it slow. I’d be whatever she needed and more.

The instant I walked through the door, I knew something was wrong. Kier was talking to Nikki, and neither of them looked happy.

“Where is she?” I asked them both.

“Look just keep your shit together, okay Con?” Kieran warned me.

“What the fuck do’you mean? Where’s Em, Kier?”

“I don’t know why you’re both getting so upset. She wasn’t feeling well so she went home to lay down,” Nikki told me, seeming surprised that I was so pissed.

“And you just let her go alone at night, knowing she wasn’t well, did you?” I asked. Maybe I laid into her a little hard, but Nikkihad the good sense to look guilty.

“You want my bike?” Kier asked.

“Thanks, mate,” I said as I took the key from him.

“Seriously!” Nikki said. “I’m sure she’s fine, and she’d hate the idea of ruining your night. Why don’t you party with the boys? Let her sleep off her headache, and you can meet up in the morning.”

I grabbed my towel and bag off the bench and stopped in front of Nikki.

“Today has been the best night of my life and, sick or not, the only person I want to spend the rest of it with is Em.” I left her to grab the quickest shower in history before thanking the guys for coming to the fight.

“Hey Con, since when did your Ma start hanging around for you in locker rooms?” Liam asked, and I froze in my tracks.

“What d’you mean?” I asked him.

“Your Ma was here a little while back chatting to Em. I didn’t get a chance to speak to her ‘cause they both left pretty quickly.”

Fuck! I knew it wasn’t like Em to leave without telling me herself, no matter how unwell she felt. She wouldn’t want me worrying. I was fucking kicking myself for not making sure Ma left the building.

“Listen, thanks for coming to the fight. I’m going to check Em’s okay,” I hollered to everyoneas I ran out of the room.

I broke some serious speed limits getting back to Em’s. Not even bothering to buzz, I pushed through the main entrance as some guy was coming out. When I got to her door, I knocked three times and waited a few seconds. Either she was asleep or ignoring me, and neither reason was going to keep me away. Using skills Kier and I had learned as kids, I picked her locks and let myself in. The light was off, the place was freezing cold, and the center of my fucking universe was nowhere to be seen.

Closing the door behind me, I sat down on her bed feeling completely devastated. Now she knew. There was no hiding what I was. The fuck-up with the shitty alcoholic mother who bled people dry.

I racked my brain trying to work out where she could be, worrying if she was safe. Finally I realized the most logical place she’d be was Nikki’s. I had no idea where she lived, but I could wait. Em had to come home eventually. Absolutely exhausted, I lay down for a minute. Her pillow smelled like vanilla, and the scent eased the ache in my chest that would only go when she was safely back with me.

I could only imagine what Ma had said and the kind of damage control I’d have to do, but I wasn’t letting her walk away from me. I knew, with everything in me, that I loved her. I wasn’t the man I was six months ago. Em had changed me forever, and what we had, what we could have together, was worth fighting for. Now I had to find a way of convincing her of that.

I didn’t sleep at all, though I took some comfort in being surrounded by all of Em’sthings. When dawn came, I dragged my arse out of bed to attack the heating, hating the idea of her ever being cold. When I finally heard the key turn in her lock, I breathed a deep sigh of relief.

Em looked pale and tired, and her puffy eyes told me that she’d spent most of the night crying. She looked like the most fucking-beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

“Hello Emily,” I said, making her jump. When the shock faded, the expression on her face was completely heartbreaking. I’m sure she’d convinced herself that we were over before we started. Now I had to explain to her why that just wasn’t happening. I’d fight as hard for her now as I had in the ring last night.Because when all was said and done, this girl was my forever.