Two men and a fight they can’t win. One romance and a love they can’t lose.
On the South Side of Chicago sits an old gym called The Brick Yard.
Ten years ago, on a bitterly cold day, Lucky Gunn wandered into The Brick Yard dressed in a threadbare jacket, looking for refuge.
Dray was a gay man living in a world of straight fighters.
When his secret was exposed to the media, he dropped out, giving Lucky a piece of advice—if you want to make it as a MMA fighter, bury the part of yourself that won’t be accepted.
For Lucky Gunn, the hardest fight of his life happens outside the cage.
Lucky discovers the cage is the perfect place to keep his demons at bay, but when he learns his trainer and mentor, Brick, is suffering from end-stage cancer, he begins to spiral out of control.
Will Dray stand by him and fight for their love or walk away once more?
|Publisher:||Totally Bound Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)|
About the Author
As founder and President of GRL Retreat, Inc., Carol helps organize the annual GayRomLit Retreat. Now in its sixth year, GayRomLit is an annual retreat that brings together the people who create and celebrate LGBT romance for a one-of-a-kind, must-attend gathering of dynamic, informal, and diverse fun.
Read an Excerpt
The Brick Yard
By Carol Lynne, Sue Meadows
Pride PublishingCopyright © 2017 Carol Lynne
All rights reserved.
Lucky knocked on his boss's door before sticking his head into the messy office. "Hey, Brick? Okay if I crash in the back room again tonight?"
Tony Brick glanced up from a dog-eared UFC magazine. "Sure, kid."
"Thanks." Lucky didn't need to explain why he needed a place to crash. His mother, Alana, loved men and meth a hell of a lot more than she loved him. It wasn't something he hated her for, although he should. Instead, he blamed his father, the bastard who had sold her the shit in the first place. Yeah, Lucky was the product of a whore and a drug dealer. Queue the tiny violin that would bleed out a tune for him.
Lucky snorted and shook the thought away. His home life sucked, but the tiny apartment he shared with his mom was a world away from the gym where he'd practically grown up. Thanks to Brick, the sixty-something ex-fighter who'd taken him on as a charity case years earlier, Lucky had managed to never take drugs while making enough money to pay the rent and keep the lights on. Not bad for a teenager, he reckoned.
He was halfway across the gym when Brick called after him.
"Lucky? You get that book report finished?"
"Not yet," Lucky said over his shoulder. "But I'm workin' on it."
Truth was, reading didn't come easy and writing his thoughts on The Great Gatsby had proven even harder.
"Take your work to the laundry room while you wash the towels," Brick ordered. "That report's due in two days, and if you don't get a decent grade, you'll flunk that damn class of yours."
"Sure thing." Lucky groaned to himself. Laundry was his least favorite chore outside of cleaning the locker room, but he'd jump into a steaming pile of shit if Brick asked him to.
He thought about the book while he walked around the weight room, gathering the dirty towels people were too fucking lazy to drop into the bin. Jay Gatsby had started his life as a poor kid from North Dakota who'd wanted more. He'd climbed his way to wealth and power by doing anything and everything he had to. Lucky knew he was supposed to write a report on how the money Gatsby had worked so hard to obtain had shriveled his soul, and that was the problem. Lucky didn't see it that way. He knew what it was to yearn for more — to dream of a day when he didn't have to turn on the kitchen lights and wait for the roaches to scatter before fixing a sandwich that was more bread than meat. In his opinion, Gatsby's actions had been justified, and someone who didn't understand that hadn't been forced to dumpster-dive as a kid to find something for dinner.
A deep laugh caught his attention and he glanced up just in time to see Dray walk into the gym with that asshole friend of his. Dray was cool, but his buddy Vince was a piece of work. The fucker always made a point of talking down to Lucky.
"Hey," Dray said, acknowledging Lucky.
"Your face is healing nicely." Lucky winced. Why the hell did he say shit like that to Dray? It was bad enough he was obsessed with the fighter to the point of distraction, but did he need to turn into a chick every time Dray was around?
Dray touched a finger to the bandaged cut on his coal-black eyebrow. "Gettin' there. Although, I have another fight next weekend, so it won't last long."
Lucky couldn't help but stare at the tattoos covering both of Dray's arms below the stretched T-shirt sleeves. The designs were incredibly intricate and inked in nothing but black. Lucky had been fascinated to discover Dray had drawn the artwork and had asked some old dude down the street who was a UFC fanatic to ink it into his skin. The guy had been so impressed with Dray's designs that he'd been teaching him how to tattoo. Lucky had never fully understood why drawing on someone else's skin was fun, but Dray seemed to really enjoy the hours he spent at the shop.
"Are you getting a boner?" Vince asked.
Before he could think better of it, Lucky peered down at his fly. "No," he mumbled, although he'd been close before the asshole had called him on it. "I was checking out Dray's tats."
"Really?" Dray asked. "You thinking of getting one?"
Lucky nodded. He didn't have the money for anything half as nice as what Dray had. "Something simple. Irish. Maybe a four-leaf clover."
"Like a fuckin' leprechaun?" Vince laughed. "Yeah, that sounds about right."
Once again, Lucky cursed his red hair. It didn't matter that the shade was more mahogany than fire engine. It was still red, thanks to his mother, who was one hundred percent Irish.
"Lay off," Dray warned Vince before returning his attention to Lucky. "When you decide what you want, come by the shop and make an appointment. I'll give you a discount."
Lucky warmed. He wanted to ask how much a small tat would cost, but no way would he do it in front of Vince. "Thanks. I'll have to save up, but I'll let you know."
Dray grabbed a fresh towel off the stack and draped it over his shoulder. "You are eighteen, right?" Lucky felt like a giant weight had settled on his chest as he shook his head. Although he'd taken care of himself for years, he still had nearly sixteen months before he'd turn eighteen. "Not quite."
"Oh, shit, man, sorry, but it's against the law in Illinois to tattoo anyone under the age of eighteen," Dray explained. "But find me on your eighteenth birthday, and I'll give you something you can be proud of."
Lucky wished Dray was the kind of man who would bend the rules, but he supposed no artist, who was any good, would jeopardize his career over a tattoo. Unfortunately, Dray was moving up in the UFC ranks, so Lucky doubted he'd still be tattooing by the time Lucky reached his eighteenth birthday. "Thanks. I'll do that."
Dray pointed at Lucky, a stern expression on his handsome face. "Promise me that you won't let some asswipe do it just because he's willing to ignore the law?"
Dray gestured to the raised ring. "If you see Brick, tell him I'm going to pull one of his fighters to spar with."
"He's in his office. You want me to get him?" Lucky knew how much Brick hated it when Dray trained without him.
Dray blew out a frustrated breath. "Sure. No sense in getting my ass chewed over it. But tell him I'm going to take it easy, so if he has something else to do, it's not a problem."
"Okay." Lucky leaned the towel bin back on its two wheels and pulled it toward Brick's office. He wished he could forget the laundry and watch Dray train instead, but he still had his report to write up, and Dray usually trained for hours. Maybe, just maybe, he'd be able to get Dray off his mind long enough to finish his homework and still have time to watch the training session.
* * *
"Grab that tape for me," Dray said, pointing to a roll next to Vince's hip.
"That kid gives me the creeps." Vince tossed the white tape to Dray. "He's always watching you."
Dray ground his teeth together. He and Vince had been together for nearly six years and in that time, he couldn't believe the changes in Vince. In the beginning, Vince had been content to stay in and watch television or take a walk around the city, but lately, all Vince wanted to do was go out and be seen. It was like his sweet young boyfriend had transformed into a fame whore.
"Leave Lucky alone," Dray ordered. Vince didn't have a clue what it was like to grow up without enough food on the table. He came from a typical middle class family in a typical middle class suburb of Chicago. Vince talked like his childhood had been boring, but Dray, Lucky and quite a few others would trade everything they owned to have known that kind of boring.
Vince picked at a split in the vinyl that covered the weight bench. "I'll be glad when you finally dump this place and start training at a real gym. You've made it to the big time for fuck's sake. I doubt any other fighters in the UFC still train in the dumpy gyms they started out in."
"Never going to happen, so get that right out of your head," Dray said. "Brick's been like a father to me."
"Brick's held you back," Vince said. "You should be training in a gym with all the latest equipment with a swimming pool and sauna."
Dray stared at his boyfriend. There were days when he wished he'd never started up with Vince. In the beginning, Vince had still been in college so Dray hadn't minded picking up the tab when they'd gone out or ate in. However, Vince had graduated four years ago, and he'd yet to look for a serious job in his field. Even with a Masters of Business Administration degree, Vince seemed perfectly content to work three days a week at one of the local public libraries.
"Brick's made me who I am," Dray argued.
Vince sighed. "You don't get it. You could be huge if you really tried. Think of all the endorsement deals you could get your hands on. Think of all the money you'd make."
Dray studied Vince for several moments. "Aren't you always the one on my ass about coming out of the closet? How can you care so much about money and still want me to acknowledge you as my partner?"
"Because I think you're full of shit. Your fans love you. They wouldn't turn their back if you told the truth."
"Yes, they would." Dray narrowed his eyes as something finally hit him. "You don't give a shit about me or what I want. All you're after is the limelight that would come your way if the city found out about the two of us."
"It's not just the city, Dray. This thing could be huge. We would probably make the front page of every newspaper in the country." Vince slid off the weight bench to kneel in front of Dray. "Seriously, just think about it. I know it's a risk, but I believe it's a risk worth taking." He started to reach for Dray but pulled back before connecting. "I love you. You know that. It's time to tell the world how you feel about me."
Dray got to his feet. "You need to figure out which you want more, me or your face in the paper, because you can't have both. I'm not sure why I can't get this through your head, but I'm going to try one more time. If it gets out that I'm gay, I might as well kiss my career goodbye." He flexed his hands to make sure he'd applied the tape to his knuckles correctly.
"Just think about it," Vince said before Dray threw his first punch at the heavy bag.
* * *
Lucky shot up, blinking at the sound of knuckles rapping against the table he'd fallen asleep on. "What?"
Brick chuckled. "I'm calling it a day. Dray's in the shower, so do me a favor and lock up when he leaves." He eyed the spiral notebook Lucky had used for a pillow. "How's it coming?"
Lucky shrugged. "I'll get it done." He still had more than half the report to write, but at least he'd started the damn thing.
Brick laid his hand on top of Lucky's head and mussed his hair. "I'm proud of ya, kid."
Uncomfortable with the tender gesture, Lucky swiped at Brick's hand. "I haven't been a kid in a long time, old man."
"And for that, I'm truly sorry," Brick said, slapping Lucky on the back. "Don't stay up too late."
Lucky got to his feet and stretched his arms over his head. "Can we train this weekend?" It wasn't often Brick had spare time to work with him, so he tried to train on his own, but he knew how important it was to learn from the best.
"Yeah. You been keeping up with the routine I wrote down for you?" Brick asked from the doorway.
"Every day." There were times when Lucky's days had been so busy he'd had to do the circuit training at night after the gym had closed, but he was starting to see the difference in his body when he looked in the mirror. He'd never been big and would probably never bulk up enough to compete in anything beyond the welterweight class compared to Dray's light heavyweight status, but he was proud of his muscle definition.
"Keep it up, and you'll go far. You're quick and hungry and those are two things you have in your favor."
"Thanks." Lucky acknowledged the compliment. Brick didn't give them out easily when it came to fighting, so to hear his mentor's praise meant everything.
"Get some sleep." Brick gave Lucky a surveying glance before turning to walk away.
Lucky opened the dryer and began to fold the towels. They were cold, which meant the dryer had finished its cycle while he'd been sleeping.
Towels folded, he lifted the stack and left the laundry room, secretly hoping he'd catch Dray in some sort of undress in the locker room. He'd done just that several weeks earlier. Dray had walked out of the shower while Lucky had been mopping the locker room floor. Instead of waiting for Lucky to finish the job, Dray had dropped his towel and started rifling through his gym bag before pulling on his clothes. It had been one of the best and worst moments of Lucky's life. He'd been struggling for a while with his attraction to men. The girls he went to school with were okay for a blow job behind the equipment shed, but he didn't dream of putting his hands all over them like he did with Dray. He hadn't said anything to anyone — and he'd definitely never acted on his desire — but it was always there in the back of his mind.
Hoping to catch a peek of Dray, Lucky entered the locker room and was assaulted by steam and the sounds of fucking. Holy hell. He quietly loaded the shelf with the clean towels before sinking onto one of the benches. It wasn't Dray's grunts that surprised him as much as the echoing moans of an equally deep voice that shocked him. Fuck, was that Vince? He shook his head, trying to wrap his brain around the fact that Dray was with another man.
"Fuck," Dray drew out, his voice lower than Lucky had ever heard it. "You're always so fuckin' tight."
"Yeah," Vince answered. "You love it."
Lucky pressed the heel of his hand against the growing bulge in his jeans. If he'd had doubts of his true sexual preference before, he didn't anymore — he wished he was Vince. He couldn't think of anything he'd ever wanted more than to be bent over while Dray drove inside him.
After unzipping his jeans, he felt a moment of guilt, but shoved his hand down the front of his underwear anyway. He wrapped it around his aching dick and squeezed as Dray groaned again. Fuck. He'd had a few sexual experiences in his life, but he'd never made noises like Vince and Dray were making. He wondered if it had something to do with his partners.
The steady slapping sound of skin on skin drove Lucky to pump faster. There, among the smells of Clorox, sweat and clean towels, he closed his eyes and listened to Dray fucking. What would it be like to have access to Dray's muscular, tattooed body? Would he sink to his knees and worship Dray's erection with his mouth or just bend over and offer himself fully?
"Tell me I'm the best," Vince begged between moans. His voice echoed in the tiled locker room, and Lucky suddenly hated the asshole more than he ever had.
"You know you are," Dray said, sounding out of breath.
"I'm tired of being your secret," Vince continued. "At least acknowledge me to your friends."
Lucky heard a loud slap followed by a cry of pain. Shit! Had Dray slapped Vince's face or had it been his ass?
"You don't give a shit about my friends. All you're after is attention, and that kind of attention will end us," Dray growled.
Lucky's balls drew tight, seconds before he shot a volley of cum into his hand. "Fuck!" he ground out, trying to keep as quiet as possible. He continued to squeeze his shaft, milking his dick for every drop of seed.
The shower shut off. "Did you hear something?" Dray asked.
"What the hell, man? You can't just pull out like that. I was close," Vince complained.
With one hand still down the front of his jeans, Lucky jumped up and raced out. He didn't stop running until he reached the storage room he'd called home more nights than he cared to think about. There were only three people in the entire building, so if Dray'd heard him cry out, he'd know exactly who'd been listening.
Lucky stripped out of his soiled jeans and underwear, and reached for his jock and the only pair of workout shorts he owned. Once dressed, he hurried to the laundry room and began to transfer another load from the washer to the dryer.
"Hey," Dray said from the doorway.
Lucky glanced over his shoulder. "Hey." He returned his attention to the job. He silently prayed Dray wouldn't mention the most embarrassing situation of his life.
"I know you heard me and Vince."
Lucky cringed. He shut the dryer and switched it on. Turning to face Dray, he hoped his pallor had returned to its normal Irish pale instead of the embarrassed crimson it had been when he'd caught a glimpse of himself in the storage room mirror. "Don't worry about it. I won't say anything."
Dray held Lucky's gaze for several seconds. "I'd appreciate that. Things could get messy if word got out."
"Yeah," Lucky acknowledged. There had never been an openly gay UFC fighter, and he doubted there ever would be. It was a brutal sport, both inside the cage and out. "I get it."
Excerpted from Fighter by Carol Lynne, Sue Meadows. Copyright © 2017 Carol Lynne. Excerpted by permission of Pride Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have read a lot of this authors stories and I always enjoy them. She has a way of writing characters that you invest in and care for. And I love that her stories don’t always rush right to the steamy parts, even though I enjoy those a lot! It’s nice to read a story that is exactly that as well.
Awesome read. Characters are well written and wrap you in their world. Couldn't put the book down.
This is a bit of a “sports epic” in that the story arc stretches over the MMA fighting careers of two men and ten-ish years. Dray is an up-and-coming MMA fighter, the pride of The Brick Yard training facility on Chicago’s mean streets. He’s all set to get a title bout when his secret–that he’s gay–gets splashed out. Dray runs, unwilling to see how the fans hate him for his sexuality, heaving behind his mentor and pseudo-father Tony Brick, the man who raised him and saved his life in that broken down gym. Flash-forward eight years: Lucky Gunn, who’d been a wide-eyed teen spending most of his nights in The Brick Yard’s laundry room, and watched Dray’s rise and fall is now out on the MMA circuit, only Tony’s too sick to be a good coach. He’s dying of cancer and it’s a huge mess. He reaches out to Dray to come back to Chicago and coach Lucky to a championship, and Dray resists. First, because he doesn’t want to taint Lucky’s career and later, because he’s really attracted to Lucky, and the feeling is mutual. The thing is, Lucky’s not willing to hide his love for Dray, and he’s also doesn’t really care if his career suffers. He’s got a good life, now, and he wants a family like he’s built with The Brick Yard people, taking in runaways like Tony did with him. But, he can’t imagine doing it on his own, and he’s struggling watching Tony waste away. So, for me, the book was less about coming out than it is about finding one’s tribe. Tony is a remarkable man whose history of saving young men from the mean streets dates back decades. The boys he saved number legion, but they all felt he was a father figure to only them. As Dray and Lucky comfort and care for Tony on his journey to peace, they learn how very much he cared for all of them, and their new passion, besides each other, becomes how to preserve Tony Brick’s legacy. They get some help from unlikely sources, but it only makes this whole story sweeter. Lucky’s still collecting kids, just the way Tony had, but now on a larger scale as they keep The Brick Yard open and include the special services help that these runaways need. Dray and Lucky are saving one kid at a time. Also, it’s good that both men are young, fit and fighters, because sometimes a bit of “Convincing” must be done to save kids from abusive parents who just won’t let go. It’s a tender and compassionate story, and the stage is set for Dray and Lucky to make a real difference for the castaway gay youth on Chicago, it seems. Expect sweaty sexytimes and some grieving, too.