FROM POPULAR AUTHOR OF GAY ROMANCE, LILY MICHAELS
Book two in the Improbable Bonds series
Almost two decades of boxing couldn't prepare Clayton for the biggest fight of his life—one that put love on the line.
Boxing had been Clayton James' life for nearly twenty years, but the threat of a serious injury if he continued to fight forced him into retirement. Refusing to be down for the count, he carried his love of the sport into a new career as the owner of a gym. But low membership and a tightly stretched bank account mean he's faced with closing his doors—or taking one more match to save his business.
The bullying that Tyler Kirk thought he'd left behind in high school not only managed to carry over into college but also seemed worse. Being older than the average student because of the years he'd taken off to rehabilitate his sister after the accident that robbed them of their parents didn't lessen the attacks he faced. His chance to find peace was in the meaty hands of the finely chiseled and sexy-as-hell owner of the gym he hoped could give him self-defense training.
Neither man expected the adversarial start of their relationship to melt into something that quenched Clayton's long-neglected need and one that Tyler wasn't even aware he had. Nor could they prepare for the intense sexual chemistry that flowed between them to quickly morph their training schedule into a hot and heavy hookup routine.
But the risks of Clayton's final match are amplified when it's no longer simply his health and well-being on the line but also the love of a good man and the promise of family.
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Copyright © Lily Michaels 2020. All Rights Reserved, Totally Entwined Group Limited, T/A Pride Publishing.
Sweat rolled down my body and landed on the floor around me. With every switch kick I made to the heavy bag, the familiar thrumming of pleasure ran through me. The steady drop in membership, the red ‘past due’ stamps on my bills and my slow fade into obscurity all disappeared as endorphins sang through my veins. This would always be my life’s blood, even if I was retired.
I snorted to myself as I alternated between kicks and jabs that made the vinyl cylinder swing from the ceiling with each assault. Retired. I was thirty-five years old and I carried such a ridiculous fucking title as ‘retired.’
Thirty-five years on the earth, but the proud owner of a broken body that is much, much older, my stupid, logical brain reminded me.
With one final roundhouse to the bag, I peeled the Velcro on my grappling gloves and tossed them into the bin. Water. I needed water and a towel.
On my way to my office, I noticed a skinny kid with glasses standing at the front desk looking awkward, uncomfortable—and directly at my bare chest, his mouth hanging wide.
Water, a towel and a shirt, I amended the list of needs in my head. “Hey, Joey!” I called for my gym manager and best friend as I tugged open the office door so inconveniently located right behind the reception area. “Help out the guy at the front counter, will ya?”
I spun at the single, snarled word and drew my brows together. “Excuse me?”
He folded his wiry arms across his chest. “You told your little lackey to come help ‘the guy’ at the counter.”
Did he seriously just make air quotes?
“But I have a name—and it’s Tyler.”
That was the exact moment Joey chose to reappear from whatever hole he had been hiding in, no doubt sexting his latest conquest—or doing anything other than manning the front desk like he was supposed to. If the asshole wasn’t my best friend and hadn’t managed to inadvertently open the door to the career I loved…
“Joey, this is Tyler. Tyler, this is Joey. He is the manager and can get you whatever you need,” I offered with forced politeness.
I knew I was being a dick, exaggerating the introductions like that—and if I wasn’t fully aware of it, Joey’s amused grin confirmed it—but the kid annoyed me. All I wanted was water. Was it too much to fucking ask to get that?
“Sure thing, boss.” Joey leaned his dark forearms on the thick wooden slab separating him from the kid. “What can I help you with, Tyler?”
The boy rolled his almost indecipherable eyes—which were hidden by the thick, plastic frames—heavenward. “I’m a newbie at a gym? What the hell do you think you can help me with?”
I shut my door just as Joey began to employ his ‘placate the customer’ tone. It was why he handled the public and I simply created training plans. I scrubbed the navy terry cloth against my skin as I attempted to mop up the rivers of sweat running down my body, criss-crossing through the valleys between my muscles. In that respect, I was in perfect physical condition. Each contour was toned and defined to damn near perfection.
But my head…
My head and my neck were vulnerable, and no hardcore exercises or interval training would strengthen those. Neither could be fixed.
So I’d been left with one of two choices—risk the next opponent’s blow turning my brain to mush and potentially making me a paraplegic or retire. After a length of time deciding that had made my doctors question my sanity and my agent need about two additional blood pressure medications added to his regimen, I’d taken the shittiest fucking option and exited the ring, which meant I’d had to relinquish my title as I left.
After pulling open the door, I grabbed a bottle of water from the compact refrigerator beneath my desk and chugged it. The frustration-fueled workout had been invigorating, but I knew I’d pushed a little too far without hydrating. I drained a second bottle before my tongue no longer stuck to the roof of my mouth.
I tugged the fitted gray shirt, emblazoned with my logo—CJ Gym&Boxing Club—over my head. The initial success of my brand had lulled me into a false sense of security. The novelty of being trained by a former world boxing champ must have worn off and my membership list was showing it.
My gym was floundering and I fucking missed fighting.