Chapter 1-1

2060 Words
CHAPTER ONE MASON THREE YEARS BEFORE THE FIGHT As sweat drips down my forehead and into my eyes, I punch the bag with as much force as I can, knocking it harshly from left to right. The burn in my knuckles is a welcome pain, especially after the s**t day I’ve had. I didn’t bust my ass for four years and graduate from college two months ago just to fetch coffee, dig important docs out of the trash, or be someone’s personal secretary. I knew I’d be starting at the bottom and have to prove myself, but it’s a little difficult to do that when I’m the b***h boy. Once I finish my reps, I grab a towel and wipe off my face. Working out is the only thing that keeps me sane these days. Between the demons from my past and the guilt I continue to live with, I need this outlet. Since I joined the real world of adulting, and college football is no longer an option, boxing has saved me. “Not bad, Holt,” Max says, patting my shoulder. “A little aggressive today.” A couple of months ago, I started working out with a boxing trainer, but he’s already taught me so much. “Session’s over.” I could go for another thirty minutes, but I know I shouldn’t overdo it again. The last time I insisted I was fine to continue, I nearly passed out from losing my own breath. My heart pounded so fast and hard, it couldn’t keep up, nearly causing an anxiety attack. Though it wouldn’t be the first one I’ve had. And I doubt it’ll be the last. “So how’s the internship treatin’ ya?” he asks as I remove my gloves. Keeping my gaze focused on my hands, I grunt out my response. “I do what I’m told, day or night.” “That brutal, huh?” Chuckling, he hands me a bottle of water, then grabs one for himself. Considering he’s been watching me for the past hour, I laugh. “I want to do more,” I explain. “Get my hands dirty, use the s**t I learned in school, and work on cases, but I know that’s not how it works.” “You’ll be back at school in the fall, right?” Putting the cap back on the bottle, I nod. “Yeah, grad school plus taking on internships and gaining as much work experience as I can will be intense as hell.” Just the thought of the insane schedule I’ll have makes my chest tighten even more, but it’s what I want to do more than anything. “Wow, man. That’s quite impressive.” He grins. “Don’t say that yet. I’ll probably flunk out before I even finish the first semester.” I snort, seriously wondering how I’ll manage it all. Thankfully, these are paid internships, though it’s not much. Unfortunately, that’s where my father steps in and plays the proud dad who’s footing the bill for my tuition. Outsiders say I should be thankful for his help, but I know I’m just a pawn in his career to make him look good. It gives him bragging rights that I went to a good university, had good grades, and landed an internship. However, he’s disappointed I didn’t follow in his footsteps and become an attorney too. He treats me as if his legacy will live through me even though I don’t want that. “Doubt it,” he says. “See you next week?” “You got it.” We bump fists, and then I take off for the showers. Once I’m cleaned and dressed, I check my phone and see a group text from the guys. I’ve known them all since freshman year when we rushed a fraternity together. Brandon, Hunter, and Liam are my ride or dies, and I’m grateful to have them help balance the personal shitstorm that constantly f***s with my life. Brandon: Drinks tonight? Meet at 8. Hunter: I’ll try, I’m working late tonight. Liam: I’ll see if I can fit it into my very busy schedule. Mason: Don’t be a douche, Evans. We all know you’re sitting on the couch with your hand down your pants. In fact, I’m on my way home, so I better not walk in on you again. Brandon: Again? Liam: That was one time... Mason: One time too many! Brandon: I’m bringing Lennon, so could you both keep your hands out of your pants? Liam: And for your information, I’m not even home. Currently preoccupied by a lady friend. Mason: Then why are you on your phone if you’re sooo busy? Liam: f**k off. I have one free hand. Brandon: Dude. Lennon read that. Liam: Grow some balls, Locke. Going to be doing a couples massages next? Brandon: Don’t be jealous, Evans. Open your heart to love, and you could get a couples massage too. I snort at the thought of Liam being with any girl longer than a weekend. Liam: Hard pass. Mason: Just leaving the gym. Meet you guys there. Liam: Come pick me up before this chick ties me up and does some weird, freaky s**t to me. Mason: HARD PASS. Brandon: Thought you liked that? Liam: Fuckers. Hate you both. I chuckle, shaking my head as I stuff my phone in my pocket. Liam’s been my roommate since we moved out the summer after freshman year. We didn’t want to live on campus anymore and found a three-bedroom house close enough to walk if we wanted. The following summer, we added a third roommate, but she’s busier than both of us, and we hardly ever see her anymore. Once I’m home, I shower, eat, get dressed, then hang out for a bit before I get too bored and leave for the bar early. It’s Friday night, and after the week I’ve had, I could use the alcohol. I walk into the Coliseum and see the guys haven’t arrived yet. Not that I should be too surprised. Liam’s always late, and Brandon probably got lost in his bed with Lennon. They’ve only been dating for a few months, but I can tell he’s head over heels in love with her already. It’s sickeningly cute, but I’d never admit that aloud. Lennon’s a year younger than us, and now that she’s on summer break, she and Brandon are attached at the hip. When he suggested a time to meet up, I should’ve known that actually meant an hour later. Instead of calling them out for their tardiness, I decide to order a beer. We’ve been coming here since before we could legally drink, so the bartender knows us all by name. “Riding solo tonight, Holt?” Dan asks as he grabs me a beer. “Nah, just waiting on everyone.” He hands over a bottle, and I tell him to start a tab. Ten minutes pass, and I check my phone and see Hunter got caught up at work and will be late. We graduated two months ago, and the asshole already has a full-time job in construction management. Not that he didn’t work his ass off for it; I’m just bitter I still have to finish graduate school, complete internships, and gain more work experience before I can even consider applying for my dream job as a forensic investigator. Three more years and then I’ll hopefully be doing what I truly want with my life. I send him a snarky text and tell him to hurry. However, knowing Hunter, he’s probably just making excuses so he can skip. He’s been doing that a lot lately, mostly since Brandon started dating Lennon, and I’m convinced it’s not a coincidence. In fact, I think he’s avoiding her like the plague, which means one of two things: he thinks she’s annoying to be around and can’t stand their PDA, or he secretly wants to f**k her. My money’s on the latter. Though he’d never admit it since his loyalty to Brandon is solid. He’s a smart guy for staying away as much as possible, which will be a lot easier once she’s back at school in the fall. Just as I’m finishing my first beer, a brunette bombshell comes to the bar, and it takes me only seconds to decide I need to buy her a drink. Dan asks what she wants, and I watch as she sucks in her plump lower lip and hesitates for a second. “Jack and Coke, please,” she finally orders, setting down her clutch. I take the opportunity to run my gaze down her body and notice how amazing she looks. She has a section of her hair in a braid that wraps around the top of her head like a headband. It looks so damn good on her. “Put hers on my tab, Dan, and bring me another, please,” I speak up, and she turns and locks her gaze on mine. “And who might you be?” She raises a brow, and I study her features as if I’ll be tested on them later. Her sun-kissed skin looks so damn smooth that I’m tempted to reach out and touch her just to see if I’m right. “Mason,” I respond, smirking at the way she’s looking me up and down. Leaning toward her, I whisper, “And what’s your name?” “Well, I guess since you bought me a drink, you’ve earned the right to know,” she taunts as Dan places the glass on a napkin in front of her and scoots another beer toward me. “Thank you, by the way.” “You’re welcome…” I linger, waiting as she takes her first sip. “Sophie,” she finally responds with a sweet smile. “That’s a beautiful name,” I tell her. “Sophie.” “Thank you.” She grabs her clutch and drink, stepping back. Where the hell is she going? “Wait.” I reach out and gently grab her arm. “Aren’t you gonna stay?” Sophie’s gaze lands on my hand and then moves back to my eyes, her expression unreadable. “It takes more than one drink to seduce me,” she says, her voice filled with temptation and fire. “But since I’m waiting for my sister, I guess it won’t hurt to sit here.” She flashes a playful grin, then takes a seat next to me. “Wow, thanks for making me feel like an obligation,” I tease. “I wasn’t trying to seduce you, by the way.” “Really? I think that’s exactly why you bought me a drink,” she accuses, the corner of her lips tilting up. “But if it makes you feel any better, it’s not much of a hardship, considering the view.” Her eyes drift down my body, then back up again. I c**k my head, taking the small victory. “Good. Cheers then.” Clinking my bottle with her glass, we both take long sips. “So how many drinks would it take?” I wink, and when she blushes and laughs, I know she’s as interested as I am. We talk for a few minutes before I ask Dan to get us another round, and he delivers, shooting me a s**t-eating grin. When I narrow my eyes at him, he keeps quiet, knowing he doesn’t need to say whatever he’s thinking. “So you’re meeting your sister here? Is she late, or are you early?” I inquire, my body turned all the way toward her now. “Actually, I’m a little early. I didn’t feel like going all the way home and then coming back, so I came straight from rehearsal,” she explains, then plays with her straw, drawing her tongue in and out between her luscious lips. Fuck me. It’s hard to concentrate when all I can imagine is that mouth around my c**k. I swallow, blinking and bringing my eyes back to hers. Sophie smirks, obviously aware of the way my body reacts to her. “What kind of rehearsal?” I ask, then take a long swig. “I play the violin for the Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera.” She looks down for a moment almost as if she’s embarrassed by it. Then when her deep brown eyes meet mine again, I notice a faint blush on her cheeks. “That’s quite an accomplishment,” I tell her honestly. “Very impressive.” “Don’t be just yet. I only got hired a couple of months ago after graduation, and they could still kick me out on my ass if I suck.” “I doubt they would’ve hired you if you weren’t good,” I say seriously. “Getting paid to do your passion is pretty badass, though. I’m sure you’re amazing.” Sophie bobs her head back and forth as if contemplating that, which makes me laugh. “Yeah, you know you are.” I smirk. “And what’s your passion, Mason?” she asks over the rim of her glass, her drink nearly gone. Taking a sip of my beer, I keep my attention on her, too afraid if I blink, she’ll disappear right before my eyes. “If you must know…” I pause, finishing the last drops of my beer. “Helping people.”
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