Worth Fighting For Read online
The first thank-you goes to Lorella Belli, my amazing agent. You floor me with your dedication. x
To the fabulous team at Forever: the cover designers, editors, proofreaders, formatters, and everyone else who works so hard to make this book what it is, thank you!
To Leah, thanks for joining me on this roller-coaster journey and for encouraging me to push myself and make Jamie and Ellie’s story the best it could be. x
To my girls Kerry Duke and Chloe Meyer, thank you for your endless support and incredible cheerleader-like encouragement when I so desperately needed it. Love you girls.
To my family, you guys are amazing and I’m lucky to have you all.
To you, dear reader, first I must apologize for the raging cliffhanger in Fighting to Be Free...oops...my bad. #SorryNotSorry. Second, thank you for taking this journey with me. I really hope you enjoy the conclusion of Jamie and Ellie’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
As always, a massive shout-out to all the fabulous, hard-working, and dedicated bloggers across the world who give up hours of their time, all for the love of books. I can’t say thanks enough. You guys are my rock stars. x
And last but certainly not least, to Terrie Arasin, my “superstar” PA. You came along at a time when I was drowning in social media and barely had time left in the day to actually write. I don’t know what I’d do without you (and your hot Texas accent that brightens my messenger!). I’d most certainly still be a disorganized mess who bumbles her way through, trying fruitlessly to manage everything on my own. As I said in the dedication, simply put, without you this book wouldn’t exist. Love ya, darlin’ (said in my best imitation of a Texas accent). Doughnuts on me. xx
’TIS BETTER TO have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Alfred, Lord Tennyson, said that in some poem in the 1800s. In my opinion, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, was full of shit.
Maybe Lord Tennyson had never truly loved someone; maybe he’d never cared for someone else more than he cared for himself, because if he had, if he’d loved someone so deeply he’d been willing to die for them, how could he have written such a horseshit line? I’m merely speculating, of course. I’m no academic, so I know nothing about the guy other than that one quote. So how then, you may ask, does my opinion so vehemently disagree with his?
Because I was in love once.
And I lost her.
And I would give any fucking thing in the world to have never loved her at all. No, it most definitely is not better to have loved and lost.
Fuck love. And fuck Lord Tennyson.
HIS FIST CONNECTED with the side of my jaw. Hard. Pain instantly exploded, stretching across my face and neck. My head whipped to the side, my eyes seeming to rattle in their sockets at the sheer force of the blow. He obviously wanted this over with quickly.
I took a step backward, my hand going to my chin, touching the site of the blow as a slow, lazy smile stretched across my face. A low chuckle escaped my lips as I wiped my mouth, ignoring the blood that smeared across the back of my hand.
“That was good. More,” I encouraged him, beckoning him closer. I didn’t bother to put my hands up to defend myself; that would defeat the purpose of me coming here tonight.
The guy looked around, clearly disturbed by my apparent lack of interest or pain. Around us in the large abandoned warehouse, the venue for tonight’s fight club, the crowd was screaming and cheering—some of them yelling at me to get my act together and crush this guy, some of them encouraging him to knock me the fuck out. They wanted this over quickly—but I wanted to string it out as long as possible. The pain was a welcome distraction from the turbulence churning inside me. I was just happy to be thinking of something else, anything other than...her.
“Come on, dude, you gotta have more than that,” I taunted, spitting a mouthful of tangy blood at the floor. I held my arms out wide at my sides, granting him clear access. “Give me your best shot.”
His eyes narrowed and his lip curled into a sneer as he stepped forward, quickly throwing a punch at my stomach. Air rushed out of my lungs as I bent forward, struggling to draw breath. His knee slammed into my face. I fell backward, hitting the cold concrete with a harsh thud that seemed to echo through my bones.
The eruption from the crowd was almost deafening as they screamed at me. I closed my eyes and laid my head back, chuckling quietly to myself. The copious amount of alcohol I’d consumed tonight before the fights began was still sloshing around my system, making me disoriented and detached, even from the pain that I was sure to feel in the morning once the effects wore off.
“Kid, what the hell are you doing? I knew I shouldn’t have let you talk me into this! I’m stopping the fight!”
With colossal effort, I opened my eyes and turned my heavy head to see Jensen standing on the side of the makeshift fighting arena. He shook his head, his expression a mixture of horror, worry, and disbelief. His eyes narrowed, his jaw set tight. As owner and organizer of the illegal club, he’d stand to lose a lot of money if I lost this fight. Jensen clearly didn’t like me toying with him and putting his not-so-hard-earned cash at risk like this.
“Don’t you dare. I got this. Just calm down and feel inside your pants for some balls. You seem to have lost them,” I joked. Even I could hear the drunken slur to my words. Awkwardly rolling to my side, I eased my arms under me and slowly pushed myself up to my unsteady feet.
From the corner of my eye, I saw Jensen pulling out his cell phone, speaking into it quickly, his eyes still locked on me. “Are you almost here? This is getting out of hand. Okay, well, hurry the fuck up!”
I frowned. “Oh yeah, go on, tell on me, call someone down here to babysit me,” I huffed. “Dirty fucking snitch,” I added, laughing moronically again.
Because I wasn’t paying attention, or simply because he was a coward who liked to attack from behind, the guy I was fighting slammed into my back, lifting me clean off my feet, and we both flew forward. The crowd, not wanting to be crushed or covered in blood, parted, so we smashed into the side of the truck parked at the edge of the fight ring. The ragged breath of my opponent came out thick and fast as he threw punch after punch into my lower back and side.
As pain radiated across every part of my body, I knew that I’d made the right choice coming here tonight. This was definitely my idea of a good distraction.
He grabbed my shoulder, jerking me backward, and then I was on the ground again, breathing heavily.
“Kid!” Of course Jensen would have called Ray. He was one of my best friends and Jensen’s cousin. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.
Ray shoved through the crowd, dropping to all fours at the side of the ring. I turned to look at him, seeing the concern in his brown eyes.
“What’s up, buddy?” I muttered, trying to grin, but I was sure what I accomplished was more of a grimace.
“What the fuck are you doing? Jensen says you’ve been drinking! What the hell is this?” he ground out, shaking his head. I noticed with some satisfaction that he hadn’t broken the fight circle or attempted to touch me—that would be against the rules and would result in the match being forfeited.
Before I could answer, my opponent grabbed two fistfuls of my shirt and hauled me to my feet. I flinched, preparing for another blow, welcoming it like an old friend. As his fist connected with my cheekbone, I heard Ray speak, his voice firm and full of fury.
“Jensen, stop this damn fight or I will!”
“Okay, okay,” Jensen replied quickly.
Anger boiled inside me. If they stopped the fight, I’d lose. “No!” I roared, sha