For Lucky Gunn, the hardest fight of his life happens outside the cage.
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. He hadn’t expected the owner, Tony Brick, to welcome him with a job and a place to sleep when Lucky’s abusive and drug-addicted mother made it too dangerous to return home.
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.
Lucky discovered the cage was 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. After eight years, Dray returns to help Lucky and Brick deal with the devastating news.
With Dray so close, Lucky’s old desires return, and Dray teaches him more than how to fight. Torn between his career and the passion he feels for Dray, Lucky’s past demons resurface in full force, threatening his sanity and his budding relationship with Dray.
Despite leaving the cage years earlier, Dray finds himself in the battle of his life with the only man he’s ever loved. Will he stand and fight or walk away like he did years earlier?
About the Author
An avid reader for years, one day Carol Lynne decided to write her own brand of erotic romance. While writing her first novel, Branded by Gold, Carol fell in love with the M/M genre. Carol juggles between being a full-time mother and a full-time writer. With well over one hundred releases, one thing is certain, Carol loves to keep busy writing sexy cowboys, shifters, bodyguards, vampires and everything in between. Although series books are her passion, Carol enjoys penning the occasional stand-alone title.
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
Copyright © Carol Lynne 2017. All Rights Reserved, Totally Entwined Group Limited, T/A Pride Publishing.
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.
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.