Dangerously Damaged (Addicted To You, Book One)
Author:Covington, Lucy

“Oh, yeah. I forgot. Well, that’s lucky for whoever you would have been taking this bad mood out on.”


“True.” I nodded, waiting for the truck to slow down, then hopped out and ran into Dunkin’ Donuts. The line was short, so I grabbed a couple of iced coffees and then hopped back in the truck.


By the time Edwin dropped me off in Kenmore, I was feeling better. The caffeine had started to hit my bloodstream, and I’d decided that Lindsay from Cambridge was the least of my worries. She was just some girl. There were going to be lots more girls when I signed for the UFF, and those girls would appreciate that I was a fighter. I wouldn’t have to explain that my job was more than simply “beating people up.”


Walking into the gym, coffee in hand, I smelled the familiar scent of sweat and blood and bleach. Uriah was working the speed bag in the corner and there were a couple of guys rolling on the mat at half speed, drilling some kind of jiu-jitsu sweep. Other than that, the gym was nearly empty, which was pretty normal at mid-day on a weekday.


Uriah glanced at me as he pummeled the speed bag with practiced ease. “Coach is waiting for you in the office.”


“Yeah, I’m heading right in.”


“He said you’re late,” Uriah replied.


“Just a couple of minutes.”


“He said you’re never on time.”


“I have a job.”


Uriah almost seemed to shrug, but never stopped hitting the tiny black bag with his fists, a blur of perfectly timed speed and power. Uriah was my size, and a couple of years older than me. He was an African American kid, originally from California, who’d moved here recently and quickly become a top name in our gym. He seemed to think that the only reason I was getting my shot was that I was white and favored because I was a local boy.


We didn’t like each other very much, but I had to respect his skills. Uriah was a tough out for anybody, including me.


“Brown, what the hell are you doing?” the loud voice rang out, accusingly.


Startled, I looked up and saw Coach Jansen with the door to his office open. He was staring at me with his usual look of annoyance. “You’re late, get in here.”


I gave Uriah one last glance before heading into Coach’s office.


“Sorry, my last job ran late today.”


Jansen grunted, closing the door behind me as I walked past him and took a seat.


“I think we already had the discussion where I said I didn’t want to hear any of your excuses.” He came around the other side of the desk and sat down across from me. He wasn’t what you’d have expected from a trainer who taught thugs like me how to fight.


Coach Jansen was kind of small, not particularly muscular, with a goatee and mostly bald. He looked like he should have been teaching history somewhere, or maybe doing someone’s taxes.


But in reality, he was one of the best-known coaches in the Northeast and guys came from all over the country to learn from him. He’d already taken a handful of fighters and trained them to where they were fighting in multiple organizations around the world, making a living at this game.


For that reason alone, I couldn’t mouth off to him, as much as I might have wanted to.


“Sorry about being late,” I said, finally.


He looked at me for a while, and then sighed, tapping the desk with his knuckle.


“You give me a damn headache, Brown. So much talent and drive, but you’re head isn’t on straight.”


“It is, though. I’m completely one hundred percent committed.”


Coach raised his eyebrows. “You sure about that?”


For some reason, Lindsay flashed through my mind, making me hesitate for the slightest moment. “Of course I’m sure,” I said, but now my mind was racing. Why did she come into my head at a moment like this?


“There’s something off about you, Brown. And we better get a handle on it, because in this business, opportunities to make it to the big show are few and far between.”


“I know that. Believe me, I’m ready for my shot.”


His eyes narrowed, and he seemed to analyze me like a bug under a microscope.


“I just got off the phone with Drew Ellis, from the UFF.”


For the first time, I was truly speechless. Drew Ellis was the CEO of the United Fighting Federation, the biggest mixed martial arts organization in the world. He was like Donald Trump and Mark Cuban rolled into one. He could make or break careers with a thumbs up or a thumbs down. It was that simple. Finally, I regained my voice.


“Did my name come up?”


“Yours was the only name that came up,” Jansen said. “Well, that’s not completely true. He wanted to talk about you, but I brought up Uriah’s name.”


I felt the blood rush to my face. “Why would you bring him up?”


“Because, I need to be fair to my fighters. You’re the guy that’s got the biggest potential, and you’re the one Drew is interested in signing. But I’m not sure you can handle the pressure. I don’t know if you’re ready to go pro yet.”