Totally Tormented
Author:Lucy Covington

At the same time, people had tried to dress up a little bit, because this was in a swanky part of town and Quarry probably demanded that sort of respect from his guests.

 

There were two floors, but definitely less people on the first floor. The second floor was where the music was coming from, a thumping pulse of hard rock that started to slowly envelope us as we got closer to the living room.

 

It wasn’t just a bunch of guys, either. There were plenty of women, and many of them had what I thought of as the “fight groupie” look to them. Dressed in short skirts and low cut tops, they showed off their goods unabashedly. They gave you a look as you walked by that indicated they were up for anything, as long as you were in the MMA world—they were interested.

 

I wanted to pull Lindsay close to me, wanted people to see that she was with me.

 

I didn’t have any desire to hang with these boring skanks who liked to run through fighters like we were baseball cards that they could collect and then sell someday for cash.

 

Soon, it seemed as though we were getting to the heart of the party, the center of it all. Quarry was holding court in the living room, and he was surrounded by his team—

 

my team. I recognized many of the same guys that had been in the cage with me yesterday. As they noticed me, the room started to quiet down.

 

Finally, someone whispered in Quarry’s ear and he turned and saw me. His normally intense expression grew instantaneously more so. And then he grinned. “Look at his guy. The legend has graced us with his presence, boys. Justin The Barbarian Brown has arrived!” He came towards me, laughing. “Somebody get this man a drink,”

 

Quarry called out.

 

I glanced at Lindsay to see how she was doing. She whispered to me under her breath. “Did he just refer to you as The Barbarian?”

 

“It’s the first I’ve heard of it.”

 

Quarry came and wrapped his strong arm across my shoulder, ignoring Lindsay.

 

“Do you realize what you did last night?” he asked me, almost confidentially.

 

“I barely remember last night.”

 

“Well let me refresh your memory, JB. You put on a first-class display of guts and heart and even more importantly, talent and technique. It gives me the fucking chills when I think about it.”

 

“I just did what I had to do.”

 

“That’s what I like about you. No fuss, no ego. You just go out there and do what comes naturally, and you’re a damn killer. We are going to make you even better.”

 

The other guys from the team seemed to be watching us interact with a mix of wariness, respect, and perhaps envy as well. I wasn’t sure I liked all the attention I was receiving. It would have been one thing if I’d won a big fight or gotten a belt in the UFF.

 

But all I’d really done was had a “moment” during practice, essentially. It didn’t matter in the scheme of things, and I didn’t want to be celebrated for something that didn’t count.

 

Still, it was better to have earned my respect early. Now, hopefully the other guys would back off a little bit and allow me to have my place in the gym. It could be a rough atmosphere if the other team members were constantly testing you during practice, and I’d made a big enough statement to keep that from happening.

 

Jimbo, the short guy with the goatee who I’d fought first, handed me an open beer. “Glad to have you on the team,” he said as he gave it to me. “You hit like a Mack truck, by the way.”

 

“Thanks,” I said, sniffing the beer. “Should I trust this isn’t poisoned?”

 

Jimbo laughed. “I don’t poison drinks, bro. Maybe I would piss in it, but I’m not drunk enough to pull that kind of stunt tonight. Besides, you hit too hard.” He winked.

 

“What about one for his friend?” Quarry asked.

 

“Yeah, of course.” Jimbo handed Lindsay the beer he’d been holding in his other hand. “I was going to drink it, but ladies first.”

 

I glanced at Lindsay. She looked like she’d been handed Drain-o. She smiled like a good sport, though. “Thanks.”

 

“Well, you two just enjoy the party,” Quarry said. “Socialize. Drink. There’s some food in the kitchen, as long as these vultures haven’t picked it all over.”

 

“I think there’s some pizza left,” Jimbo said.

 

“We’ll talk more later,” Quarry told me, giving my shoulder a squeeze for good measure, then moving out of the room. A small coterie of fighters followed after him, including the three professionals that fought in the UFF. All of whom I’d fought and embarrassed last night—and one of whom I’d even knocked unconscious. They didn’t appear as friendly to me as everyone else had been so far. Not a smile in the bunch, but some baleful looks as they left the room.

 

Jimbo noticed the tension. When they were gone, he raised his eyebrows in silent acknowledgment. “Like I said, I’m glad to have you on the team.”

 

“Not everyone feels the way you do, apparently.” I sipped my beer and noticed it didn’t even taste remotely like piss, which was comforting.

 

Jimbo shrugged. “You know how it is, JB. There’s always a pecking order, a hierarchy if you will.”

 

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