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KAGE (KAGE Trilogy #1), page 1

 

KAGE (KAGE Trilogy #1)
 


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KAGE (KAGE Trilogy #1)


  Contents

  Title

  Copyright Notice

  Dedication

  Also by Maris Black

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Also by Maris Black

  A

  Novel

  By

  MARIS BLACK

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

  Copyright 2015 by Maris Black. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Author:

  Maris Black

  [email protected]

  This novel is dedicated

  To all of the MMA fighters

  Who risk their lives and health in the Octagon

  & to all of the fans

  Who love them.

  Also by Maris Black:

  Owning Corey

  SSU BOYS NOVELS:

  PINNED (SSU Boys Book #1)

  SMITTEN (SSU Boys Book #2)

  UNDECLARED (SSU Boys Book #3)

  Sign up for new release notifications at MarisBlack.com

  Connect with me at facebook.com/marisblackbooks

  facebook.com/maris.black.7

  twitter.com/marisblackbooks

  1

  IRONICALLY, the thing that changed my life was the sound of the radio playing in the background while I was plowing my girlfriend on a Friday afternoon. By all rights, I shouldn’t have even noticed the voice on the radio— because I was balls deep, her head was thrown back, and the headboard was tapping out a cadence of love on the dorm room wall. But I did hear it, and a series of events was set in motion that, like dominoes lined up just so on a gymnasium floor, would not be stopped.

  I had swung by Layla’s room after my last class, partly because I wanted to see how she had done on the essay I helped her with, and partly because it had been almost a week since we’d had sex. Okay, I didn’t actually give a damn about the essay. With our busy schedules— Layla’s cheer practice and club meetings, and my heavy class load— it wasn’t easy to carve out time to take care of business. To put it in the simplest of guy terms, I was backed up. So when I knocked on her door that day, I had exactly one thing on my mind: getting laid.

  Layla answered the door in a filmy bathrobe, which surprised me because it was the middle of the day. I could see her nipples pushing against the sheer floral fabric, and the shadowy strip of pubic hair at the junction of her thighs— cheerleader thighs that had been perfectly sculpted by years of squats and lunges.

  “What if it hadn’t been me at the door?” I asked sternly, giving her revealing attire a suspicious once-over. She just smiled and stepped aside to let me come in, and I pushed past her, catching a whiff of her signature mix of hair products, shower gel and perfume.

  Layla was easily one of the most beautiful girls I’d ever seen— a blond-haired, blue-eyed China doll with delicately arched brows, a plush little mouth, and a body that looked diminutive next to just about anybody. I was nearly her polar opposite in looks. Five-eleven, muscular, dark-haired. I wasn’t extremely tall, especially for a basketball player, but standing next to her I felt enormous. She tweaked my protective instincts like no one ever had.

  That is, until she opened her mouth.

  You see, Layla’s mother had married a Mexican man when Layla was very young, and she’d grown up on the Latin side of town. Her tough barrio accent opposed her delicate Aryan appearance to a comical extent. She looked like she needed protecting, but she sounded like she might cut you if you rubbed her the wrong way.

  We had met at the beginning of the semester when she took the seat in front of me in Western Civ II. About halfway into the first day of class, she turned around, fastened her crystal eyes on me and said in that incongruous barrio accent, “You wanna quit kicking the back of my seat, chulo? I can’t pay attention to the fucking lecture.”

  I think my mouth hung open for the rest of class. I just couldn’t believe that hard-boiled voice had come out of the pale waif in front of me. Before I could forget, I had typed the word chulo into my cell phone browser and looked it up, thoroughly expecting it to be the Spanish equivalent to fag or asshole. Instead, I had been pleasantly surprised to discover that what she’d actually called me was… cute.

  Our relationship began as a tentative friendship consisting of sharing Western Civ notes and talking after class on our way out of the building. I liked the fact that she was a cheerleader, and she seemed fascinated with my ability to be both good-looking and smart. Within a couple of weeks I’d asked her out on an official date. Our budding romance garnered a lot of dirty looks from the other guys in class, and I ate it up.

  Now, after four months, she and I had fallen into a comfortable rhythm. Conversation was easy, sex was easy… just like today. After she let me into her room, we barely spoke to each other. I loosened the tie on her robe and let it fall to the floor, pushed her down onto the bed, and she opened her legs to me.

  I always tried to make sure she got hers first, because there was no telling how long I might be in the mood to go. I went down on her until she was a trembling wreck, then climbed on top and pounded her tiny body with long, hard strokes, dragging out the pleasure as much as I could.

  Several minutes later, we were interrupted by fate.

  “Too hard, Jamie! Owww. ” Layla’s cries punctuated the ends of my thrusts, the breathy little sounds popping out of her throat more like hiccups than actual words. “Slow down, you’re hurting me.”

  But my mind was already somewhere else.

  “Shhh,” I hissed, stopping suddenly and leaning over to turn the radio up. A male announcer was yelling in that overly-excited style reserved for car dealership commercials, gun sales, and sporting events of questionable merit.

  “…the Phillips Arena tonight at eight!” the announcer crowed. “Brutality Sports MMA Extravaganza! Tickets on sale at the box office!”

  The voice continued, but that’s all I heard. My mind was spinning with possibilities. I looked at the clock.

  Four-fifty in the afternoon. Shit!

  “I’m really sorry, babe, but I’ve gotta go,” I said, snatching unceremoniously out of Layla’s sweet body and discarding the empty condom into the wastebasket. I grabbed my shorts off the floor, pulled them on, and stepped into my sneakers.

  “You’re leaving right in the middle of sex?” Layla leaned up onto her elbows and stared at me, bending her knees and laying them over to one side in a demure pose pulled straight from a lingerie catalog. Her perfect tits were partially obscured by the blond hair spilling over them in waves. “What could possibly be more important than sex, papi?”

  “My future,” I told her, pulling my t-shirt on and slinging my messenger bag over my shoulder. “I just figured out what I’m doing for my final project, but I’ve got to get over to the Journalism building before Dr. Washburn leaves. I don’t know what time his last class is. He’s probably on his way out to his car by now. I’ll make it up to you, okay?”

 
And to myself.

  “What is your project?” she asked, but I was already out the door, wondering why in the world she thought I had time to chit-chat if I didn’t even have time to get a nut.

  I ran all the way from Layla’s dorm to the Journalism building, ignoring the occasional cries of protest as I pushed roughly past the people standing in the halls. Dr. Washburn was just locking his office door as I rushed up behind him, trying to catch my breath.

  “Caught you!” I said too loudly, and he jumped.

  “Dammit, Jamie. You nearly gave me a heart attack.” Dr. Washburn pushed his wire-framed glasses up higher on his nose and narrowed his watery blue eyes at me. “What can I do for you? My last class is about to begin.”

  “I have an idea for my final project. I want to cover tonight’s MMA event down at Phillips Arena, but I need you to call and get me a press pass. Can you do that?”

  Dr. Washburn squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed his short, reddish beard, his agitation clear. “That is a great idea, Jamie, but why did you wait till the last minute? I’m about to be late for class.”

  “I didn’t know about it until today. My stupid roommate… He’s always driving us crazy with that MMA stuff, so I don’t even know how he hasn’t said something about this. Please, I’m begging you. I know it’s short notice, but I don’t have any other options. You don’t want me to fail, do you, Doc?” I dropped melodramatically to my knees, poking my bottom lip out and giving him my best puppy dog eyes. “You know you’re my favorite professor, right?”

  It was almost cheating, really, dropping to my knees in front of poor Dr. Washburn. The way I cut my eyes up at him from beneath my bangs as I begged could probably be classified as flirting, and I had always suspected he found me attractive. The uncomfortable heat in his eyes as he looked down at me told me I had guessed right.

  Being the object of that kind of attention, even from men, was nothing new to me, and I wasn’t above using it to my advantage on occasion. Flirting came naturally for me. I knew I was good-looking. Everyone had always told me so.

  I had brown hair that I kept cut short in back, but with long bangs that swept over one eye. Warm brown puppy dog eyes framed by long lashes gave me an innocent look, as did my plump, pouty lips. My mother had the stereotypical red hair and lightly freckled skin she got from her full-blooded Irish mother, but somehow I’d gotten a good dose of my grandfather’s half-Spanish looks. Add to that the fact that I’d pretty much mastered the art of boy-next-door charm, and I could be pretty persuasive when I wanted to be.

  Like now.

  Dr. Washburn cleared his throat nervously and extended a hand down to me. “You’re laying it on a bit thick, aren’t you Mr. Atwood? Stand up.” He helped me to my feet with a grunt and nudged his glasses up again. “I’ll do my best to get you a pass, but I can’t promise anything. It’s up to the event promoters, really.”

  I grinned. “Thanks, Doc. You won’t regret it. I’m gonna rock this project.”

  “You’d better,” he warned. “I want to see you graduate with honors next year, Jamie. You’re too good, too smart, to just skate by. And you’ve certainly got the charm to make things happen.” He gave me a pointed look that let me know my efforts to flirt my way into a press pass had not gone unnoticed, and that perhaps I wasn’t as smooth as I thought I was.

  I smiled and bowed to him, which earned a hearty laugh. Then, without asking, I grabbed the Sharpie out of the top of his notebook and scribbled my name and number on the cover. “Call or text me and let me know something, okay? You gotta come through on this.”

  “I’ll try, but like I said, I can’t promise anything.” He frowned as a tone sounded over the hallway speaker, signifying the beginning of class. “God, look what you’ve done. You know how much I despise tardiness. You’ve made me guilty of the thing I rail about the most.” He hurried away down the hall without another word, and I wandered out of the building.

  I considered going back to Layla’s dorm room and finishing what we’d started, but instead headed out to the parking lot to my car— a thirteen-year-old white BMW with a sluggish engine and a fraying convertible top. A piece of waterproof tape held the back window in. My roommate Braden had informed me that a new top would cost more than the car was worth, and I’d told him he was full of shit. No way a new top could cost that much. But I researched it online, and as much as it pained me to admit it, Braden was right.

  So I was stuck with a car that would probably be held together by bubble gum and fishing line by the time graduation rolled around. Meanwhile, Braden— who was much more of an asshole than I was, and therefore less deserving, right?— tooled around in a sleek black Audi that probably rang up to about forty grand. Hell, that was close to my mom’s yearly salary as a nurse.

  At least I had it over Braden in the looks department. He may have been rich, but his appearance was as plain as it got. His mix of brown hair, brown eyes, and medium skin tone was perfect for blending in, like human camouflage. He also had an aversion to working out.

  As I drove the mile and a half from campus to our condo, my brain was swirling with excitement about my upcoming evening. It didn’t get much cooler than having a press pass to a big sporting event, even if it was a pseudo-sport like MMA.

  My roommates were certainly impressed. Braden, our resident MMA expert, had already bought tickets for him and his girlfriend, Miranda. I still didn’t understand why he hadn’t mentioned it. I mean this guy was so crazy for the sport, he’d probably been having wet dreams about the upcoming fight for weeks.

  “I thought you hated MMA.” Braden glared suspiciously at me, like he thought I must be hatching some diabolical scheme. “What ever happened to it not being a legit sport? You said it was barely a step above pro wrestling. You said—”

  “I know what I said,” I interrupted. “Look, I’m still not a big fan of MMA, okay? But it’s a pretty big sports event, and it’s here in town, and it’s just a few weeks until my project is due. It’s like fate, you know? Like the deus ex machina swooping in to save my ass at the last minute.”

  “Deus ex— whatever that means. Can’t you speak English? We’re not all in the Mensa club, dude.”

  “I’m not in Mensa, either. That’s even less legit than MMA. And I pretty much defined the term in the sentence for you. Ever heard of context clues? You don’t have to be a genius to listen, Braden.”

  “Boys, boys,” Miranda interrupted. “Are you going to fight all night? Because I don’t want to hear it. I’d rather stay home.”

  “Well, anyway,” Braden said irritably, fluttering his hand in the air like a bird having a seizure. “I think you’re secretly a fan of the sport, but you think it’s beneath you. That’s what I think. I think you have this idea that fighting is a bunch of brainless cavemen, and you want people to think you’re too smart to enjoy it.”

  “Oh, is that right?” I laughed and looked to my other roommate, Trey, for backup. He ignored me and kept playing his video game, looking like a little turtle, with his cap of curly brown hair, freckled nose, and roundish glasses.

  “You wanna ride with us?” Miranda interrupted in her no-nonsense way, running her fingers through the blunt ends of her straight, dark hair. “We’ve got plenty of room. Is Layla going with you? She and I can get ready together.”

  “Nah, if I even get to go, it’s just going to be me. This is business, not pleasure.”

  I didn’t say it, but I doubted that sitting through a bloody massacre with Layla could be classified as pleasure. She could barely stand being in the same room when I was watching sports, which was baffling, because she was a college cheerleader. She was present at every football and basketball game the school played, yet she had only a rudimentary understanding of the rules of those sports. I had a sneaking suspicion she wouldn’t even have known when to get excited during the games if it wasn’t for the cues from the cheer captain.

  But that wasn’t why I dated Layla. Sports was the last thing on my mind when
it came to her. She was gorgeous, popular, and willing to suck my dick. Plus, she was incredibly lovable once you got past her jarring first impression, and my family had gone nuts over her the one time I’d taken her home for the weekend.

  “I’m glad you finally decided to bring someone home,” my mom had said. “She’s such a sweet girl.”

  “And not bad to look at either,” my dad had added with a laugh. “Can she cook?”

  His unapologetically sexist comments earned him a sharp elbow to the side by my mom. But he’d winked at me, and mom had smiled and crinkled her freckled nose, and I knew I had their blessings to take things to the next level.

  Only that next level had never materialized. Layla did her thing, I did mine, and we met up once or twice a week for sex. Most nights, we talked on the phone for a few minutes before bed, but we had never actually spent the night together in the same bed.

  She had invited me over a few times, but I’d always declined, and she hadn’t pushed the issue. She seemed to respect my need to keep some space between us, even if she didn’t understand it. Truthfully, I didn’t understand it, either. While I considered her my girlfriend, loved her as a friend, and enjoyed having sex with her, anything that suggested true intimacy or the commingling our separate lives still made me uneasy.

  I knew she wouldn’t expect to be invited to the MMA event. We both knew that wasn’t us.

  As I trotted down the hall to my room to grab a towel for a quick shower before the fight, I heard Braden trying to explain my relationship to Miranda. “Jamie and Layla aren’t like us, babe,” he said. “She actually gives him a little breathing room, unlike some people I know.”

  “Is that supposed to be a hint?” Miranda laughed out loud. “Okay, big boy. You want breathing room? I’ll just go out drinking with Kaylee and Lisa tomorrow night instead of hanging here with you like I always do. They’ve been begging me all week.”

  “Um, I don’t think so,” Braden said irritably.

 
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