“You’ve got this, Jonah.”

Jonah Davenport looked at his girlfriend while she helped to tape up his ankles in the locker room. Her red hair hanging over her shoulder in big loose curls, her makeup artfully applied, the skintight black dress she was wearing putting her on display for anyone to notice.

Molly Webster was one hot chick that he’d been lucky to land when he met her in the gym over a year ago.

She’d been the one to push him toward MMA fighting when he’d only been training like one, not actually willing to get in the ring to fight. It was more of a hobby to him.

He’d spent years learning various martial arts as a kid and had a few black belts. He’d competed when he was younger and loved it.

As he got older though, he started to develop an interest in boxing. Bodybuilding. All sorts of physical activity.

Though he was a big guy—a really big guy—he’d never been one to get in a ring and pound on a person for the joy of it.

“It’s going to be a rough one,” he said.

He’d been in several matches now in the past nine months, winning all but one, normally by a knockout or tap out. He’d had one loss that went the full rounds and he lost by the judge’s decision. He still felt like a winner to last that long though.

This wasn’t going to be his career, though, no matter how much Molly was pushing for that to happen.

“Jonah, you’re bigger than him,” Molly said, running her hands on his biceps. “You’ve got a longer reach. You’re taller. You can take him and you know it.”

“Rodney is undefeated. I’m not sure I’m ready for this.” 

Rodney Mastermind had been fighting for three years now moving his way up the ranks. He hadn’t lost once and, as good and as fast as Jonah was catching on, he still had his doubts he should have signed on for this match.

But Molly wanted to be his agent and promoter and he’d let her do it because she loved him and said she saw his potential.

“You ready for this, Jonah?”

He looked over at Mike, his trainer. He’d confided in Mike that he was having second thoughts, but like Molly, Mike told him it’d be a hard match but he’d be fine. He had the upper hand.

“As ready as I’m going to be,” he said.

Mike taped up his hands for him and he turned when his mother and father walked into the locker room. At twenty-five, Jonah wasn’t embarrassed they were here. He knew his mother wasn’t happy about this, but they were at every match in his corner, his mother covering her eyes for most of it and then helping nurse his bruises when Molly wasn’t around.

 He knew his mother didn’t care for Molly all that much, but she never said so either.

“John, Jami,” Molly said to his parents. “We’ve got this. You can go get your seats.”

“They are fine,” Jonah said. 

Secretly he wanted to see them anyway. Something about this fight wasn’t sitting well with him.

“It’s not too late to back out,” his father said quietly. As if he knew Jonah was nervous when he never was before. “You’ve got a job and a career. No reason to stress us out over this.”

There was a smile on his father’s face that didn’t reach his eyes. Jonah hated the job he had as a guard at the correctional facility in Durham his father worked at, but his two years of college didn’t give him too many options.

His problem was, he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. He was starting to think it wasn’t this, and when this fight was done, he’d figure it out more, but he’d never been a quitter and wouldn’t be one tonight.

“It’s all good,” he said. “Come give me a kiss for good luck, Mom.”

His mother moved over and kissed his cheek and whispered in his ear, “Go get ’em.”

It was a forced bravado, he knew. 

His parents left, Mike and Molly giving him his normal pep talk, telling him how wonderful he was and how he was going to wipe the floor with Rodney’s spit. 

Ten minutes later he was in the ring, the bell went off and the fighting started. It was a free-for-all of kicks and punches. Dodges and twists, catching of feet and throwing them down. 

He’d landed as many as he’d taken at this point and after the first round he knew this was going to be a brutal match. 

But the more he landed, the better he felt. Until Rodney got him in the jaw and he saw stars. Then before he could get his balance, Rodney’s left foot came up and connected with the side of his head and all Jonah saw was blackness before he hit the mat. 

He should have gone with his gut and backed out of this fight was all he thought the second he saw that foot coming toward his head. 

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