12 Rounds (Knockout 1) - Page 74

At first I’m mad, right? No not just mad, furious that she eavesdropped on my conversation, but then again after some time thinking about it, I know I should have expected it. I’m always slipping out bed at odd hours, taking phone calls and leaving her to take them. I guess I should have suspected that she’d grow suspicious. I brush past her and she follows me down the hall. “Well, Sean. Who is she?”

I don’t mean to laugh but I do. “She?” I reach into my closet and pull out a pair of sweat pants.

“Yes, she,” Hadlee snaps, gripping onto my arm and spinning me to face her. “What…What….” she stammers. She’s flustered and there’s a hint of red in her cheeks. “What am I not good enough for you? Are you the type of guy who likes to have his cake and eat it too?”

I freeze. It’s like all the noise has been sucked out of the room with a giant vacuum. Time stands still. The only thing I can hear is my heart. I hear it throbbing. Hammering. Richoceting against the walls of my ribcage. Hadlee drops her hand from my arm. I take her face in both of my hands and study her features. “Is that what you think?” I slip my hand around the back of her head and tangle my fingers in her hair. “Hadlee, never. Maybe some guys are like that, but I am not one of them.” I graze my fingertips against her cheek. “You’re all I’ll ever want. You’re all I’ll ever need. You have to know that.”

She pulls away from me, her eyes cast downward, her voice soft. It’s on the precipice of breaking. She’s struggling to keep a straight face. I have a feeling that flood gates are going to open at any second. “I don’t know what to think,” she says slowly. “There are times where I feel like you’re distracted. Where you aren’t listening to me. Then there are times like this. Where you sneak off in the middle of the night, and do God only knows what.”

I feel guilty for making her worry. But I’m not sure if she’ll understand about my other life. My life with guns, drugs, and glances over the shoulder. My life where the brotherhood comes first, everything else second.

Hadlee starts walking to the door, and I lace my fingers through hers. “A-lainn, wait.” She loves when I call her beautiful in Gaelic. She faces me now, eyes watering, brow creased. I blanket her, covering her with my arms, and holding her close. I bury my nose in her hair, smelling her vanilla scented shampoo. “Hadlee, baby, Connie is a man. A very, very bad man. He’s someone I got mixed up in with some things because I made a poor decision when I was a boy-o. I haven’t told you about the things I’m mixed up in because I don’t want you involved in any way. I don’t even want them to know we’re together.” For Christ sake I haven’t even told Murph yet. And I don’t keep anything from him. “It’s very important that you understand that.” If Connie ever tried to hurt me by using Hadlee, I’m not sure what I’d do, but I am one hundred percent certain that it would involve jail time. And I wouldn’t put it past the old fucker. He has a knack for trying to manipulate the dudes in the brotherhood by using their loved ones.

Hadlee lifts her chin, narrowing her eyes. “What sort of things?”

Gee, I don’t know. The mob. One of the most notorious drug cartels in the state. I could go on forever with this list. “It’s complicated.”

She walks across the room and plops down on my couch. She pats the empty spot next to her, giving me a stern look. “I have time. I can listen. I’d like you to elaborate. I’d like you to tell me about,” she makes quotation marks with her finger, “these things you’re mixed up in.” She exhales sharply. “And I don’t want to hear it’s complicated again. You can’t friggin shut me out, Sean. You have to tell me what’s going on. That’s what you do in a relationship. You communicate. You talk things out. Even when things are bad trust and communication is important. I can’t lie in bed alone every night worrying about you or having jealous feelings. I’ve just now built myself back up to being an almost stable person. Almost. And I don’t want that stability to slip away again. I don’t want to go back to the beginning and have to try and find all the pieces of me to put myself back together again.”

I eye the clock. I’ve got ten minutes to make it downtown. Even though I’d love nothing more than to tell her everything, I know that right now, my time is limited. “Hadlee, I can’t right now but I—”

She cuts me off with a hand gesture and stands, “Forget it.” She storms to my door and grips the knob. I grab her by the wrist, but she wrenches her arm away. “If being honest with me is too much for you then I can’t do this.”

The pain twisted on her features is what stabs my heart. I swallow hard, wanting to scream at her, but I don’t. I want to tell her how much she means to me and how I’d die for her, but I can’t. I want to tell her that she’s brought more into my life in the last three months than anyone has in the last seven years. She’s given me something I thought I’d never have. She’s given me hope. “Hadlee, you wouldn’t understand if I told you.”

Her fingers slip from the doorknob and her voice lowers to a rasp, “Try me.”

“I don’t have time!” I yell in frustration. “Connie hates it when I’m late!”

She glances at me, a glint of anger in her eyes. “Does this Connie guy run your life? Doesn’t he understand that he just called you out of bed at two in the morning? It’s awfully selfish of him to treat you like a dog and expect you to come running whenever he whistles for you.” Her fingers slide up my cheekbones and her eyes flit over my face. She studying me, willing me to look into her eyes, but I don’t.

I won’t.

I can’t.

“Sean, you don’t have to go. You can stay here. You can talk to me. I promise you, I’ll do the best I can to understand.”

I let out a chuckle laced with a chill of madness. “I have to go.” There’s so much I want to say right now, but I can’t. Not only can I not find words, but there’s pressure building in chest. I feel like I can’t breathe. I know what’s coming. I know that the only person I’ve ever cared about, or maybe even loved is about to walk out of my door.

And there’s nothing I can do to stop her.

Chapter Thirty Three


I’m doing my best to keep myself together, but every now and then I feel a piece of me fall apart.

At first my eyes water.

My lips quiver.

The pain in my heart is overwhelming and I have to fight the urge to clutch my chest.

With every passing second I feel like I’m melting and soon I’m going to be a puddle of emotion on Sean’s hardwood floor.

Sean backs away from me, his eyes on the face of the grandfather clock in his living room, and when he starts to brush past that’s when I lose it. “I know you think you’ve done some bad things,” I tell him, tears dripping down my cheeks. “But I refuse to believe that you’re that guy.” I wipe my eyes as heat rises to my cheeks. “Everyone makes mistakes, Sean. You can start fresh. Build a new life. You can redeem yourself.”

“I’m not that guy.” His voice has taken on a hard edge. Then he shakes his head. “That’s what you don’t get, Hadlee. I made a pledge to Connie. I made a pledge of my loyalty in exchange for the well being of Teagan. And when you pledge your loyalty to this organization the only way out is death.”

Tags: Lauren Hammond Knockout Romance
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