12 Rounds (Knockout 1) - Page 14

No street rat can box, he said.

Well asshole, I’m pretty sure this street rat knocked your shit talkin’ ass out in the third round.

I’ll never forget the look on his face.

The knock out always plays in slow motion in my mind.

Mullins big brown eyes bulged out, his lips pulled back. Droplets of sweat watered me like a sprinkler as my glove connected with his cheek, and I swear I heard his jaw crack when his head snapped to the side.

His knees found the ring floor.

He toppled over, his face planted into the floor with a grunt.

You see, I don’t need to shit talk the guy I’m fighting.

On television, in papers or magazines, or even to the public.


To shit talk is to bluff.

I don’t bluff.

I stroll into the ring and provide proof.

I stare off in daze at the booth across from me. The red plastic covering is worn and faded in spots, and there are even chucks of plastic missing revealing white fluffs of cotton stuffing. My eyes break away from the booth and wander up to the ceiling.

There are brown water spots decorating the used-to-be-white and now yellowed ceiling. Remnants of leaks and the bad winter storms we have in this part of Ohio. The plastic on the bench across from me crinkles and my att

ention shifts as I watch Murph, who is shaking his head, as he tries to stuff himself into the seat across from me. I frown then decide to bust his chops. Payback for him ratting me out to Joe. “Well, well,” I sing. “If it isn’t Murphy Ashley O’fallon.”

Murph’s mom is one of those die-hard romance nuts. Right before she had him she went through some Gone With The Wind craze and well, a few weeks later, Murphy Ashley O’fallon was born.

His round face reddens and he clenches his jaw, reaching across the table, trying to grab me by the shirt. “You dick.”

I lean into the corner away from his grabby fingers and howl with laughter. I know he hates his middle name. At graduation he refused to put it in the program. “Maybe next time you won’t rat me out to my manager slash trainer.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Murph scoffs in his deep, heavy voice. “You know I only said something cause I’m worried about you. You’re on a path of destruction.”

“You sound like a fucking woman.” And Joe.

“I’m serious, man.” Murph grips my shoulder and squeezes. “You’ve got something none of us have. A way out.”

I wrench my shoulder away and drop my voice down to a hissing whisper, “You fucking crazy, man? Talking like that? I don’t know how many times it’s going to take me telling you this; There is no way out. It’s the brotherhood until you die.” I lower my head and look him in the eye. “You can’t talk about this shit in public places, Murph.” The big lug has a huge heart, but he hasn’t always been the brightest icicle light on the garage. “You know Connie has eyes and ears all over the place.”

He does too. Sometimes it amazes me all the shit Connie knows. But that just goes to show you that a lot of the small businesses around here are dipping into his wallet. Meaning that he pays them a hefty amount of money for info. Once some young punk everyone called Sneaky Sammy talked about ratting out Connie to the feds and making a break for it. Two days later, Sneaky Sammy wasn’t so sneaky anymore.

Sneaky Sammy was six feet under.

He was a year younger than me.

“Sean, first off. Connie doesn’t even know we come to this place,” he says. “Second, I know that Marty is Italian.” The Italians and the Irish don’t exactly run in the same circles.

“Still,” I hiss. “You can never be too careful.”

Murph eyes the half-empty glass of Cuervo in my right hand. “I see you didn’t listen to Joe anyway.”

“Ease up, man.” I lean back into the corner of the booth and stretch out my arm, the drink in my hand. “This is my last hurrah.” Murph raises an eyebrow. He doesn’t believe me. “I’m serious,” I assure him. “After tonight, no more of the three b’s until after the fight.”

Tags: Lauren Hammond Knockout Romance
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