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Just One Regret

By:Stacey Lynn

One

Kennedy

I stare up at the marquee. It is large and bright and I find myself squinting, trying to read it clearly.

It might be because of the alcohol I’ve been forced to consume by my now most-hated friend Sarah. Except I’ve only had two drinks, because neither Sarah nor I are big drinkers—each for our own reasons.

Which means my blurred vision is more from the rage flowing through my veins that she would surprise me like this.

Gripping my hand tighter, she pulls me toward the entrance of an arena. The sights and sounds of the Las Vegas strip become a haze in the background that quickly disappears.

“I hate you,” I hiss, stumbling in my platform peep-toed heels. If I scuff them, Sarah’s paying to replace them.

“You love me.” She looks back at me, her blond hair flying over her shoulder and smacking her on the cheek.

Serves her right. I want to smack her on the cheek, too. Both of them.

“I can’t believe you’d do this to me.”

She flashes me a wink and pulls me into the throng of people making their way into the fights. “You need it. Men. Sex. Fighting. If this doesn’t cure you from your man-hating sensibilities, nothing will.”

She’s dead wrong, but that’s because she doesn’t know the full story.

Sarah only knows of my incredible obsession with MMA fighting. She doesn’t know why I watch it so much. No, that humiliation is better served up when I’m alone, being a complete loser and remembering every single moment I spent with him.

The Legend. The man whose name shines bright and large on the marquee outside the stadium we’re about to enter.

Otherwise known as Grayson Legend.

Also known as the man who filled me with promises he had no intention of fulfilling. The guy who broke my heart, and then punched me in the gut on the way out the door.

Not literally—he may be a fighter, but he never raised his fist at me.

No, it was his complete aloofness that stung like a bitch as he walked out the door, immediately after I told him I loved him for the first time. Like…really loved him. Not the kind of love we’d shared as best friends all through high school. No, the love I felt for Grayson when I saw him during summer break after my sophomore year of college was completely different.

He’d stared at me, mouth gaping wide open, and then turned on his heels, put his back to me, and walked out my front door.

Six years later, he’s become one of the best MMA fighters in the country.

I watch every single one of his fights—cheering for the other guy. Unfortunately, just like his opponents, I lose every time.

I lose every time I have to watch the way his muscles ripple when he throws a punch or lands a kick. I lose every time sweat rolls down the valley separating his abs and disappears beneath the waistband of his shorts.

I lose every single time I fall asleep and dream of him.

Yeah…Grayson “The Legend” is a complete prick. He’s heartless. The world sees him as the strongest, toughest man, but I know him as the man who runs when shit gets real.

I recognized it then, but there was nothing I could do. Some demons you had to fight for yourself to conquer—and he was never willing to put the effort into fighting for anything if it was outside a cage, apparently.

And dammit, it’s been years. I should be over him.

However, every time I’ve dated anyone, taken a man home in a desperate one-night stand simply to forget the way Grayson touched me, no one has compared.

Which is why I think we’re here.

The very fact I admitted to Sarah that I’m destined to become a crazy, isolated cat lady has her worried about me. It’s in her nature to fix things, and I know, even though she doesn’t know about Grayson, that she assumes me being surrounded by testosterone and sweat and beer and all that is sexy about men will restart something in my lady parts.

They’ll be restarted all right.

Just seeing his name in lights makes me want to throw my arms around his shoulders, wrap my legs around his waist, and congratulate him for making something of himself.

Which I might do…

If I didn’t hate him so much.











“Aren’t these seats amazing?” Sarah’s knee bounces like she’s inhaled too much sugar. With her right hand, she grips my left one and squeezes. Hard.

I yank it back, shaking out the pain of cracked knuckles. “They’re fine.” Second row seats, behind the defender’s corner.

Shoot me now.

Or Sarah.

Or Grayson.

Any of the choices will work at the moment. Unfortunately, I can’t tell her I feel like vomiting all over my feet. I can’t tell Sarah why I want to strangle her to death, just for doing something she thinks I’d love to do.

My twenty-sixth birthday and I’m getting ready to watch the only guy I’ve ever loved pound the ever-loving shit out of another man.

It shouldn’t turn me on so much.

Sarah doesn’t even like fighting. She calls it barbaric and unconscionable. But she knows I watch every fight I can, hoping that the guy who always wins finally gets his ass kicked.

Apparently she’s taken my hatred of the Legend and twisted it in her mind into something completely different.

“I want to go back to the hotel,” I say.

I don’t even know if she can hear me over the roar of the crowd. We’re watching a bantamweight fight. The guy hopeful for the belt has blood dripping down the left side of his face and his entire right side is bruised. He protects that side from every kick, giving the defender a chance to land a punch on his face. With one minute left in the third round, I’m surprised the guy is still standing.

It’s disgusting.

It’s messy.

It’s a total aphrodisiac.

I can feel my blood pulsing in places that are inappropriate for a public venue. Squeezing my thighs together to stop the ache that’s beginning, I reach out and grab Sarah’s hand.

“We have to get out of here,” I shout over the noise.

Sarah turns to me, her jaw dropping in shock. “You love MMA! I mean, come on, even I’m getting into it and it took me months to get these tickets.”

I should feel bad. A good friend would. However, there are still too many secrets for me to do so. Which makes me even more horrible. I know all of Sarah’s deep dark secrets. I know her demons. I’m one of the few who know of her life in Minnesota before she came to Illinois for college. Her upbringing as the governor’s daughter. The fact that when she was a teenager, she was responsible for the death of a woman’s husband and son. The fact that that woman is now Nicole Walters, wife to rock star Zack Walters.

She doesn’t hide anything from me. She never has.

And still I have never told her the full truth of my past, regardless of the fact that she was my roommate when I had just been decimated by it.

“Sarah—”

“No, you listen, Kennedy,” she says, frustrated. “You love this stuff. You watch it every week, and I’ve fallen asleep to your curses while some guy gets the shit pounded out of him. I love you, but you need to start living. I want you to find a guy, throw your sexy little body all over him, and kiss the hell out of him.”

Instantly my eyes begin roaming the stands. Behind us are four men, gold bands on their fingers and beer guts stretching their faded, college-logoed T-shirts.

I cringe and turn back to the cage. “This isn’t necessary. I’m happy, really.”

Her bright green eyes narrow. “You threatened to buy a cat.”

“So I like animals.” I shrug.

She leans in and hisses, “Ten of them.”

As if that’s deplorable. I’m being a good citizen, saving those who can’t save themselves.

“So maybe that was a little over the top.”

“You don’t date.” Her green eyes flash in that sad, knowing way of hers, and I look away.

“You know why,” I mumble, my voice thick with sadness.

She may not know everything, but she knows more than anyone else. She’s also right, but what she doesn’t know is that the guy I need to move on from is about to enter the fighting arena.

“Can’t I get a pass on my birthday?”

“Yes.” She nods, edges of her lips kicking into a grin. “But only if you kiss someone. I swear to you, Kennedy, I’m not leaving this building tonight until someone’s hand is on your ass and their tongue is down your throat.”

“Charming,” I say drily.

Our attention is pulled to the cage when the bell rings over more deafening cheers from the crowd.

The bloodied challenger is lying on the mat. He’s rock still, and his legs and arms are splayed flat out to his sides.

The defender and clear winner stands in the middle of the cage, both arms raised high above his head in celebration.

Sweat drips from his chin—or it might be some drool as he spits his mouth guard into one open fist.

He’s about five-ten, with cropped black hair and a maniacal grin as he shouts and whoops into the air.

The crowd around us is on their feet, stomping and shouting along with him.

I know the winner. His name is Victor Montiguez. He’s held the bantamweight belt for the Ultimate Fighting Association, or UFA, for the last three years. He’s unbeatable, and today’s fight proves it further.

My eyes scan him and find him lacking.

As incredible as his rippled body is, he’s nothing compared to The Legend.

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