Xavier Cold

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“I don’t think I ever loved Jorge—at least, not in the way you should love the person you’re going to marry. Being with Xavier has opened up my eyes to a lot of things.”
Quinn giggles and then suggestively wiggles her eyebrows. “I bet. That man is sex on a stick. I can only imagine what he’s like in the bedroom. He’s probably all primal and demanding.”
I nudge her arm. “Quinn! Oh my God, I can’t believe you just said that.”
“What? It’s true, isn’t it?”
Heat creeps up my neck and then spreads into my cheeks. I know I’m blushing something fierce.
Quinn flicks her eyes in my direction before she squeals. “I knew it. I knew having sex with a known bad boy would change everything for you.”
“It’s changed everything,” I say. “Being with him, I feel things I didn’t know was possible. He’s so intense and a bit scary sometimes, but I find comfort in him. I feel like he could protect me from the world.”
Visions of what happened last night flash through my head. I want to tell Quinn about Kai and the whole situation, but she’s already worried. If I tell her, knowing her, she wouldn’t take me back to Xavier. She’d demand I stay with her and Aunt Dee, which wouldn’t be a possibility for me because Xavier wouldn’t stay there, and I couldn’t be without him. So, I keep it to myself.
I need a change of subject, so I don’t rattle on too much and let things slip. “So, this wedding . . . do you have your colors picked out?”
Quinn instantly begins firing out all the things she’s planning to do. It’s nice to see her so excited and, above all else, happy.
Chapter 12
I park my bike on the sidewalk outside of Tough’s Gym. The three-story brick building towers over me, and aside from appearing even more run-down than the last time I saw it, it looks exactly the same—rough.
No one would ever figure a world-class wrestling training facility rested behind these walls. Some of the finest athletes who have ever trained to be in the ring came from this gym, including me. This place taught me that hard work and discipline combined with strength could get you far in this business. I owe Cole’s father a world of thanks for allowing me to train here practically for free.
I swing my leg off my bike and adjust the waistband of my sweatpants. I stand outside the front door, staring up at the place where I used to spend every waking hour when I was a kid, wondering what it’s going to be like inside.
I take a deep breath and push open the door.
The stairwell is dark, dingy, and covered in tattered posters of wrestlers who went pro. I smile when I get to the top landing and spot a fairly new poster of me hanging beside the door.
“You know that ugly motherfucker?”
I turn and find Cole sitting just down the hall in a single chair with a cell phone in his hands. He pops up from the chair and walks in my direction, wearing a huge smile.
I clasp my hand in his and then nod to the poster. “Yeah, I might’ve seen this guy a time or two.”
He laughs. “It’s good to see you, X.”
“You, too. I see you’ve cleaned up a bit.” I nod to the fade on the top of his head that’s replaced the braids he used to wear.
“Can’t say the same for you. What’s up with all this long hair? I thought you weren’t going to do that.”
I push my hair back from my face. “I know, but once I started growing it, I liked it.”
Cole smiles. “I can hear Dad now, saying, I told you to grow your hair out.”
We both laugh, remembering all the times his dad would get on my case about my nearly bald scalp.
“He was right. It does add dramatics to the ring and exaggerates movements,” I admit.
“He was known to be right from time to time. Come on in. Check out what I’ve done to the place.”
Cole opens the door, and I follow him through.
Fresh gray paint covers the walls and the old wooden floor, causing the red on the ring ropes and punching bags to pop. A few guys are here training, but none of them notice me because they are so fixated on what they’re doing.
“Wow,” I say as I throw my hands on my hips and continue to look around. “You’ve cleaned this place up.”
“It’s amazing what a little paint and scrubbing will do. Dad never had time for all that. He was too focused on training.”
I turn to my friend, and I see pride in his eyes. “You did good. Frank would’ve been real proud.”
Cole claps his hands together, and I know it’s his way of getting off the topic of his dad. From what I’ve gathered from Nettie, his father’s passing is still pretty fresh, seeing as how it just happened.
“You here to train or just look pretty?”
“Do you have the time?”
“For you, there’s always time, as long as we’re done by three. I work second shift.”
I drag my shirt over my head and toss it over a weight bench before I begin stretching. “This isn’t your full-time gig?”
“Not yet, but I’m hoping to get there one day. I’ve got a wife and a little girl to support, so I can’t be living here like Dad did. I had to go out and get a real job.”
I grab a jump rope off the wall and begin jumping in a slow rhythm. “Makes sense. So, what do you do?”
“I’m a cop,” he says simply.
My eyes widen. “A cop? Are you fucking with me right now?”
He crosses his arms over his chest. “I never joke about my job.”
“What about Kai and Bishop?”
“We have an understanding. They keep their shit away from me, and I won’t bother them.”
I lift my eyebrows. “I never saw that coming from you. A cop . . . wow.”
“Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have either, but when I figured out that running with the crew was the wrong thing to do, I wised up. What they were doing wasn’t right, and I didn’t want any part of it. So, to protect myself, I changed everything about me. Being a cop is the most opposite of those guys that I can get. Plus,” he adds, “they know they can’t fuck with me or my business and get away with it. I won’t pay them their fucking protection fee, like they demand from the rest of the local businesses around here.”
“It’s good that you stand up to them. More people need to do that.”