BRAWL | BLACK HEARTS MMA , BOOK I

When a black heart meets a broken heart, fists will fly!

Gabriella Mitchell. A girl devoid of hope.
With all her energy spent trying to keep a roof above her brother and sister’s head, Gabbi doesn’t get time to play much anymore. Her parent’s divorce has forced her to grow up too fast, leaving her to assume responsibilities well beyond those of a normal seventeen-year-old.

“Hooligan” Harvie. Burnt-out MMA fighter who’s lost it all.
He had the fairy-tale life—the perfect woman and a son he adored. Until the day it was ripped away from him in the most violent of ways. Hooligan is content to live with his rage … until an angry girl breaches a chink in the armour that protects his black heart.

She’s broken-hearted. His heart is dead and decayed inside his chest. She’s lost the ability to trust while he doesn’t think life has anything left to offer. When neither believes in fairy tales, can the vicious world of MMA show them that they’re wrong?

Three follow-on, interconnected, standalones in the Black Hearts MMA series are coming in October 2018. 

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PROLOGUE

Hatred. It’s the strongest of emotions—stronger than even love. To have hatred for someone means that you once loved them. To now hate them, well, that means that they’ve hurt you to an extent that forgiveness is impossible … and we all know that being hurt by someone you love is the biggest betrayal of them all.

I’m filled with hatred. It pulses through me; visceral and visible for everyone to see. It’s branded on my soul, polluting any happiness that might sneak up on me, forcing me to shut out anyone who dares to pry back my protective armour.

He’s as fucked-up as I am. Angry at the world, a snarling, savage beast, who wreaks destruction with his fists and annihilates with his nasty tongue. I should run a mile like the rest of them, yet I can’t. What’s left of his humanity calls to mine, desperately seeking someone who understands; someone who can withstand the carnage he creates.

He says he doesn’t want me. Then why can’t he keep his hands off me?

I refuse to let anyone get close to me ever again. So why can’t I make myself walk away?

 

CHAPTER ONE

GABBI

“Come on Cooper. It’s nearly eight … get out of bed or you’re gonna be late for school.” I yell at my youngest brother. Ignoring my head that’s pounding from lack of sleep as I stumble into his bedroom, I nudge his bed with my foot to rouse him and he grumbles his annoyance.

As usual, I’m on morning duty while our mother sleeps off the excesses of her late night. I use the term mother loosely. She hasn’t filled that position for the past three years, and I don’t expect a miraculous return to form from her any time soon. It was well past three when I heard her stumble through the front door this morning.

It wouldn’t bother me so much but it’s my first day of freedom since I finished my final high school exam yesterday. In a normal reality, I should be the one with the hangover and no intention of getting up until well after noon. Not dragging my tired brother out of bed, and dealing with my own matching fatigue from our late night last night.

“If you don’t move right now, you’re going to have to walk to school. Zali didn’t come home last night, so I’m it and I have shit to do today. Get a move on, bucko.”

“All right, Gabbi,” my eight-year-old brother groans, acting as if I’ve asked him to single-handedly arrange world peace. I feel guilty when I see his red rimmed eyes, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I had to take him to work with me last night since neither our mother or sister were home to watch him. “I’m coming. Jeez.”

After quickly ironing Cooper’s uniform while he showers, and making some toast for both of us to eat in the car, we make it out of the door on time. Even with the noisiness of our departure, our mother hasn’t stirred from her prone position on the couch. I slam the front door shut behind us, grinning when I hear her whining about the racket. Clenching my fists, I resist the urge to tell her to shut the fuck up.

After dropping Cooper off at school, I give our sixteen-year-old sister, Zali, a quick call while I’m still parked to make sure she’s made it to her school. I’m assuming that she slept at her dumbass boyfriend’s house last night because her bedroom was still empty when I looked in this morning. A normal state-of-affairs in our home lately. Our mother wouldn’t know where the fuck any of us are, and with less than a year between us, it’s hard for me to tell her what to do, like I can Cooper.

“Only one more exam to go and then you’ve got eight weeks off before grade twelve starts.” I tell her, in an attempt to cheer her up. She sounds pissed. About what, I wouldn’t have a fucking clue. All I know is I need to calm her down so I can hit her with the favour I need tonight.

“Oh, wow eight weeks of looking after Coop while Mum gets trashed every night and Dad continues his disappearing act. You’re so lucky to be heading off to art school, away from all this shit.” The vehemence in her tone makes it clear that I haven’t a hope in hell of getting her to agree. I table my begging for later.

“You know, I’m still around until March, so chill the fuck out. Concentrate on your exam, not Mum’s crap.”

“Whatever,” she mumbles. “Are you still going to pick me up after my exam? I want to look for a job today.”

Pulling my phone from my ear, I check the time. I’ve got grocery shopping to do and bills to pay. If I hurry, I’ll just have time before I need to head to her school and pick her up. “I’ll be there at half past twelve. We’ll head to the gym first and speak to my boss. He’s looking for a trainee.”  I laugh, wishing I could see the look that’s going to cover her face at my next comment. “But, ya know, if all else fails, there’s always Macca’s or KFC.”

“Shut up, Gab,” she bites back in shrill voice. “Pick me up at twelve thirty. Don’t be late.”

A wide grin curls my lips when my phone beeps in my ear, indicating that she ended the call in a huff. I shouldn’t antagonize her, but I can’t help it. Fucking with Zali seems to be the only thing worth smiling about in my life most of the time.

***

Posting my completed acceptance package back to the art school that I’ve been accepted into next year, I mentally tick that job off my to-do list before heading to the supermarket to grab some groceries. Past experience tells me that our mother won’t get off the couch in time to buy anything before we get home, and God forbid, she actually cooks something for dinner. Most of the household duties have fallen to me since our parents divorced three years ago, and as much as it pisses me off, I just get on with it.

Someone has to because we’d starve if we waited for her to give a shit.

Stupid bitch couldn’t give two fucks about us—as long as we stay out of her hair so she can sleep off her latest hangover, she’s happy. We’re basically housemates that she tolerates. And that’s only because dear old Dad’s new wife doesn’t want us near his brand new family and she’d be fucked without his generous child support.  

“Ouch. Fucking hell, watch where you’re going,” I grit my teeth when tears well in my eyes from the stinging pain. Lips pressed together so I don’t explode and rip into this dickhead with my lethal tongue, I look down and check out the back of my ankle that he’s just driven his shopping cart into. Sure enough, the skin’s broken and blood is forming.

“Look what you’ve done. Moron.”

I’m about to walk away before I punch him, my shoulders shaking and my ankle throbbing, when he speaks up. “I’m sorry. I didn’t see you there. Let me have a look.”

Before I can stop him, he’s knelt down and is fussing over my ankle. I look at the top of his dark brown head and then run my eyes down the rest of him. He’s fucking hot—that much I can tell—and my anger subsides a little, deciding to let my overactive libido take centre stage. I haven’t been laid for two weeks. Final exams, babysitting Cooper, and work all getting in the way, so my pussy is more-than-happy to see an attractive male kneeling in front of me.

Settle down, girl, I mentally chastise my pulsing clit. Play it cool. The supermarket isn’t my usual hunting ground. I prefer to do my picking up at my favourite club since it’s much easier to get a no-strings-attached fuck in a place where everyone is there with the sole intention of getting laid.

“I’m okay,” I proclaim when his warm fingers wrap around my ankle so he can lift it for closer inspection. Sparks shoot up my leg in a direct line for my pussy, making me halt my protest. When he looks up at me with warm, green eyes that ooze interest, I pull out my I’m-down-to-fuck smile. Widening my amber eyes, I rake my gaze over his face. I’m instantly rewarded when a flush of desire colours his cheeks and his thumb strokes my ankle. He looks to be a couple years older than me, and he’s oozing that “bad boy” appeal that I like. Wearing distressed jeans with a chain hanging from the pocket, and a tight Harley-Davidson T-shirt, he’s muscled, tattooed, and sporting a closely shaven head that leaves a thin layer of dark, brown hair covering his scalp. In other words, he’s pure fucking perfection, and his expression lets me know that he’s up for anything I might offer.  

“I don’t think it’ll bleed too much,” I shrug, previous anger forgotten. He chuckles, one of those lazy, masculine laughs that dampens your panties, and he straightens to his full height. Eyes staring into mine, he drawls in a low sexy voice, “I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m not. Your pain’s turned out to be my gain.”

Score. I inwardly smile, but make sure I keep it cool on the outside. Lifting one eyebrow, and cocking my head to one side, I ask, “How so?”

Smiling a cheeky, half-grin, he moves his gaze over my frame with insolent slowness.  Starting at my long dark hair before inching his way down my body, he lingers on my plump lips, my ample chest, and the toned legs that I inherited from my mother before coming to rest on the huge tattoo covering my exposed right thigh. I’m dressed in my usual denim booty shorts, tight tank, and Doc’s so there’s a lot of skin for him to feast on.

“If I hadn’t hurt you, then you wouldn’t have cussed me out, and I wouldn’t be taking you out tonight.” He grins. “I’m Nate, by the way.”

Extending his hand, he waits for me to close the distance and accept his offer. I don’t, leaving him hanging. “You’re very cocky, aren’t you, Nate?”

His grin widens, delight lighting up his face. “You have no idea.”

“Too bad, I already have plans for tonight,” I lift my eyebrows at him, mocking him, and giving him a taste of his own medicine. “But, you have a good day now.”

Turning my back to him, I smile to myself as I grip the handle on my cart and take a step away from him. If, and that’s a big if, I can sweet talk Zali into watching Cooper for me, I was planning on heading to my favourite night club. It’s the only one I can get into, no-questions-asked, with my obviously fake ID. I don’t turn eighteen for another two months so my options are limited until then.

Although, I will admit, that my plans are open to last minute rescheduling if Nate decides to take my bait.

Abandoning his shopping, Nate moves after me. Grabbing the handle, he forces my cart to a stop. I turn to look at him, feigning surprise. “I’ll bet I can show you a better time than anything else you’ve got planned.”

Shaking my head at his blatant line, I yank the handle out of his hold. “I’ll think about it. Maybe, we can meet up later tonight? Discuss our options further?”

Nate understands what I’m offering straightaway. His eyes become hooded with unconcealed desire and he basically licks his lips. “Sounds like a plan to me. Where? And how will I get hold of ya?

“I’ll be at Nitro’s from about ten til it closes. Find me there.”

After naming the club I frequent, I leave the ball in his court. If he doesn’t show, it’s no skin off my nose. There’ll be plenty of other willing participants to choose from. I don’t wait for his answer, nor do I care what he thinks of me and my veiled proposition so shortly after meeting him. Nodding my farewell, I push my shopping cart away.

I’ve been around. There’s no denying that fact, and to be quite frank, I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks about it. It’s my pussy, and I chose who I let touch it.

Sex and lots of it. That’s my “thing”; well, that and the fights I regularly get into. After the shitty hand I’ve been dealt—alcoholic mother, absentee dad, useless sister, and a little brother to raise because the adults have all checked out—I’m entitled to a couple of vices. Sex with different men, the occasional girl who takes my fancy, and venting my frustrations on the face of anyone who steps on my toes; I consider them acceptable methods of stress relief. Shit, I haven’t given into my daily daydreams of homicide yet so I must be doing something right.

“I’ll see you tonight,” he yells after me. The two little old ladies who are dithering over their shopping lists in our aisle, turn and tut at him for making so much noise. Rolling my eyes directly at them as I walk past, I’m met with looks of disgust as they take in my tattooed arms and legs, pierced bellybutton, and the shaved side of my head. I curl my top lip in response and they clutch their purses to their chests as if I’m going to rob them.

Yeah, yeah, get in line. You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last, to judge me by my in-your-face appearance. And, it’ll be a cold day in hell before I give a fuck.

“Hey, what’s your name?” Nate yells again, unperturbed by the old lady’s censure.

“I only wanna fuck, not friendship.” I smirk at the little old ladies when I say the word “fuck”, and they give me what I was looking for—matching gasps and the one closest to me crosses herself like I’m the devil incarnate. “Names aren’t necessary.”

Throwing his head back, Nate breaks into bellows of laughter. Shaking my head at his over-the-top reaction, I slide my phone out of my bag and check the time. I’m going to be late to pick up Zali if I don’t get a move on. Leaving him to it, I make my way to the nearest checkout and pay for my groceries.

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