It’s time to start giving you a little look into Mason! Less than a week until the release!
Mason Fierce looked around at the sterile white walls of the clinic taking inventory of every ache and pain in his body.
This was so embarrassing. Frustrating. Demoralizing.
This never happened back home, at least to this extent. Pushes, shoves, and petty words… those were easily hidden from others. But here at college, it was much worse.
He knew the answer why. He’d known all along, but just never wanted to consider that possibility.
It was because of his brothers.
No one messed with Brody or Cade. Even with Aiden. They may all look alike, all be around the same size, with the exception of Brody, who’d always been an inch taller at six foot two and covered with more muscles.
Mason was actually the same height as Brody, but he always hunched just a little bit. Always been the quiet one of the group. The smart one. The one that stayed in the shadows. He’d leave his brothers to all the action, thank you very much.
Even Ella walked with more confidence than him. The lone girl of the Fierce Five. Everyone was fierce. Everyone but him, it seemed.
Without his brothers in the picture at college, people weren’t so afraid to do more than push.
“Looks like you’ve got one hell of a shiner there.”
He turned his head and watched his mother walk into the room. What the hell was she doing here? Just what he needed. No one messed with her.
Pathetic, his mother was more confident than him, it seemed, when she strode in like she was ready to knock the biggest person out of her way with the flick of her fingertip.
“You didn’t think the clinic would call me when you ended up in here?” she asked, smirking at him. He’d only been in here for three hours. They must have called his mother the moment he entered, or she broke some records on the drive over.
He was in pain and there she was sending him that damn Fierce smirk that they all inherited. Only he hardly ever used it. Why bother? It wasn’t as if he felt he could back it up, nor had he ever wanted to.
He happened to be the peaceful one of the group. Or as he’d been called one too many times by others when his brothers weren’t around: “a pussy.”
“What did they tell you?”
“That you’d been in a fight. Since I know you, I know you didn’t start it. You can’t stand to fight or fight back. I figured I’d better come in and see how much damage you incurred. Though you’re used to wrestling with your brothers, we know they took it easy on you when maybe they should have roughed you up a bit. One of you four had to be my gentle one and it happened to be you, Mason.”
He narrowed his eyes. So much for thinking he’d get sympathy; instead she was insulting him. He’d heard it enough in life about being the soft one, the kind one, the gentle one. It made him look more like a wuss than anything else.
He could be thankful his siblings never really used extremely insulting words to him. Oftentimes, he thought they were trying to toughen him up. He just didn’t want any part of being that way.
“Did you tell anyone?”
“Of course not, but you know they can feel when something is wrong. Aiden and Cade are probably busy right now partying in the dorms. Brody was working and stopped, then asked me if I’d heard from you. My guess is he felt something was off.”
Mason was the closest to Aiden and fully expected to hear from him. Not from Brody. But like his mother said, they were all probably doing something else. Brody was the only one that didn’t go to college, deciding to run the bar at the family business.
“What did you tell him?”
“I told Brody and your father that the school called and said you didn’t feel good. That it could be a nasty cold, but I was just going to come down and check. Since everyone knows how much of a helicopter mother I am, it wasn’t questioned. If Brody thought it was something else, he would have been here with me taking care of it.”
He wanted to snort at the nickname he’d given her so many years ago for always hovering over them all. “Thanks, Mom. I don’t need my brothers fighting my battles for me.”
She walked over and sat on the bed next to him, the jarring motion causing his aching ribs to intensify. That guy had one nasty club of a fist and he didn’t hesitate to lay it into Mason’s sides a few times.
“Mason, you four have always stuck together. It’s what family does. But I understand that it causes more problems than if you kept it all to yourself. Like with the dickhead Chuck all through school.”
“What are you talking about?” he asked nervously.
“Please, Mason. Every mother knows when their child has something going on in their life. Chuck bullied you for years. You took it and never said a word. I’m guessing because you knew Brody and Cade would be all over him like tape on lint.”
“Yeah,” he said. Then instead of being bullied for being the smart, quiet one, he’d be labeled the one that needed his brothers to take care of him.
“So what caused this today?” she asked.
“Nothing,” he said, glad she was moving out of the past and into the present.
“Your swollen eye says differently.” She reached her hand over and put it on his. “You didn’t want to do someone’s work for them?”
“No. It’s not that.” He’d had others hint that it would benefit him to do their work, but he’d walked away. Most left him alone and moved to another target. He might not have liked to fight, but he knew if he ignored it and didn’t give the satisfaction of being bothered, he’d usually be left alone.
He turned his head and looked away from her, but she took ahold of his hand and held it. Something she hadn’t done in years. It was enough for him to say, “I’ve been tutoring someone. Guess her boyfriend took exception to the amount of time we’ve been spending together, even though it was only for schoolwork.”
“Maybe that girl didn’t think so?”
He snorted. “I’ve given her no reason to think otherwise. Her boyfriend is on the football team with a full scholarship. She likes having him on her arm. It’s all she ever talks about. Annoyingly so.” He was thinking back to all the times he’d have to tell her to just focus on the work, not her boyfriend, until they were done.
“Then maybe she likes to make him jealous or get a little extra loving from him? Some more attention that you’re saying she seems to crave.”
“Could be,” he said, shrugging. “You didn’t need to come here. I’ll be fine. I don’t want to press charges or anything. I’m not filing reports, whatever they told you.”
“I figured you wouldn’t. He’d lose his scholarship, probably be expelled too.”
“He’d just get all his buddies to say I started it, that it was self-defense. It’d only get worse, or I’d be the one expelled.”
She laughed. “You have so much to learn, Mason. Starting with this.”
She dropped a brochure on his lap. He picked it up and looked at it. “You want me to join a gym?”
“Nope,” she said, taking it out of his hand and turning it over. “I think you need to do this. If you aren’t going to fight back, then at least give the illusion that you can. Or make sure you can if you ever need to again. You’ve got the size; you just need to work on your confidence. This will help.”
“Boxing? You want me to learn to box?” Was she nuts? She’d just admitted he didn’t like to fight and she was dropping a brochure of the sport that epitomized fighting in his lap.
“Kickboxing too. Both of them. I just paid for a year’s membership. Once you’re healed, get your butt there.” She leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. “Trust me, Mason. No one will mess with you again.”