What would you do if your childhood best friend, your soul mate, and the one person that means more than anyone else in the world was suddenly in front of you after disappearing from your life ten years ago?
Would you risk your stable life, to allow them back in to your heart, even after they had left you without any explanation?
Katy Lou Reynolds needs to make a choice. She can either ignore the fact that Elijah Trent is standing in the middle of the cage about to fight, or she can face him and demand answers as to why he left her.
Is it worth risking her heart for her one true love even though she knows it may get broken again, or is it better to let him walk away?
When Katy Lou tags along with her boyfriend to an Underground Cage fight, the last thing she expects to find in the ring is her childhood best friend, Elijah. Seeing him again brings back distant memories – a drunken mother, an absent father and relentless school bullies. Most of all, it re-awakens the feelings she had for him. Elijah has always held her heart; but after he left her when they were fourteen, without a word, can she risk everything to let him back in to her life again?
Elijah is a great fighter. He channels all the aggression he suffered at the hands of an abusive father in to every fight, every time. His success feeds his lifestyle of new cities and endless women, eager to spend time with him. His one regret has always been leaving behind his best friend, Katy Lou. There’s nothing he wouldn’t give to see her again, but if he does, would she forgive him for leaving her and risk her heart?
The shrill beeping of the alarm wakes me at seven on the dot like it does every other morning. I rub my eyes to rid them of sleep and run a hand over my face recalling the fact that I have dreamt about Elijah for the fifth night in a row, which is never a good sign. I have dreamt of him; of that day on and off for the nine years since he walked out of my life without so much as a goodbye. No words, no letter, no conversation, just nothing. No life, no Elijah and nothing. That was the day I felt like my world imploded and crashed around me, so I guess I should call this recurring dream a nightmare, because every time I wake from it I feel the absolute dread in my stomach with the realization that he is gone.
He. Is. Gone.
I look to my right and see Jacob’s dark head buried in to the pillow beside me. Jacob, my boyfriend. We’ve been together on and off for two years. I love him but I am not in love with him. I was once, but not now. He is convenient, comfortable and nice to me, so we stay together. I know he feels the same way as me. I see how his eyes flare when tall, shapely women pass by. I see how he lusts after them with dark eyes. Dark eyes that used to look at me like that, but no more. He rolls to the side and places a heavy arm across my stomach. “Morning babe,” he says with a deep gravelly voice.
I place my hand over his on my stomach because the contact feels good and I roll closer to him, burying my face in to his neck to catch his scent and to snuggle close. I have always been a tactile person, I like touching and I like the feel of Jacob’s arms around me. I attribute that to Elijah. He was the first person to wrap me up in his strong arms, squeeze me and make me feel safe.
My Elijah, only he’s not mine anymore.
You’d think I’d be over it by now. The dreams always bring it all back. I don’t have them very often, but when they come back they come back with a vengeance. I rub my hand roughly over my head as if it will help to rid my mind of my thoughts.
It’s hard to forgive and forget when you had your soul mate and you lost him. I know I was only fourteen and what would I have known about soul mates at that age.
I knew with every fiber of my being that he was it for me. It was a bone deep, gut wrenching feeling that I fear I will never have again for the remainder of this life.
I give Jacob a squeeze and then pull back the covers to make my way to the bathroom.
“Where are you going?” Jacob groans from the bed, rolling on to his side before scooting up against the headboard.
“I have to write today. I told you yesterday. I have a deadline in a week and I have to meet it.”
“Damn,” he says, “I was hoping I could get some action this morning.” He raises his eye brows as he reclines on his elbows, revealing his tanned chest and abs as the cotton sheet pools around his waist. He gives me that smile that snagged me in the beginning and his left dimple makes an appearance.
I laugh as I disappear through the bathroom door, “Sorry babe, no can do this morning.”
I hear him groan as I reach in to the shower cubicle and turn the water on hot. I want to wash away my dream, and my thoughts and this life. I would if it was possible, but I know it’s not.
This is my life.
This is where I have ended up and I have to grab it by the horns and live it because I can’t have a different life no matter how much I may want it.
I am a writer.
It’s the one thing about my life that I like.
Hell, I love!
I think my writing is a way for me to escape the reality of what I live. I pour every emotion, every wish, every dream and every hope in to every book that I write. It’s made my novels very popular and I have a great fan base. My third novel was the one that got me a traditional publishing deal and now my books grace the shelves of book stores and the screens of e-readers all over the world. My genre is romance and every hero I have in every book I write is based on Elijah. He’s the only one I can even think about using as a muse, and the women who read my books adore it.
Like me, they adore him.
I dig deep each time I write a new leading man and stretch my mind back to my childhood best friend who loved and protected me from the age of three when he moved next door to me until he disappeared from my life at fourteen.
My childhood best friend who protected me from bullies at school who would chase me home. The same bullies that would tease me about my alcoholic mother.
My childhood best friend who lived his own nightmare with an abusive father.
Hell, I need to shake these dreams.
I settle down at my laptop, open up the file that I have been working on and continue to edit my current masterpiece. I have to hand it over to my editor next week and I still have ten chapters to review. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so this can be a long and laborious task for me.
Jacob appears in the doorway, freshly showered and looking yummy in his sweats and a tight grey t-shirt that shows off every plane of his magnificent chest. “I’m out of here Katy.” He saunters over and places a wet kiss on my cheek. “You remember that we have the fight tonight right?” he asks.
Shit! I forgot about that. Jacob loves going to underground cage fights, the type where they use mixed martial arts to just about kill one another. I hate it, but I go with him because he enjoys it and I guess that in some dark recess of my mind, I like to use some of what I see in my novels. I admit that a few of my leading men have been fashioned on the occasional ripped body of some of the fighters that have graced the ring. That said, there is so much I would rather be doing than watching guys throw punches and kick one another to the point that one or both are covered in blood, but I put up with it for Jacob.
“I haven’t forgotten,” I lie.
“Great, I’ll pick you up at seven then. Be ready.” He places another kiss, this time a soft, dry one to my lips, before he grabs his car keys from the buffet by the door and heads out. “Later,” he calls back.
I hear the front door close with a soft click as I lean back in my chair and rub my hands across my face again. These dreams are disrupting my sleep and that in turn disrupts my ability to think clearly and concentrate on my writing. I head to the kitchen for coffee. I make it strong and black and return to my computer with it in hand, hoping that it will somehow contain the magic brew that will wipe all the thoughts, dreams and memories from my jumbled mind so I can get back in to the job at hand.
The afternoon passes in a blur of words and typing and before I know it I need to drag my sorry self out of the chair and get ready before Jacob comes to get me. The venues for these fights are usually old, barren and very cold so I always dress warm. I pull on a sweater over my faded skinny jeans and grab a bright scarf that I twist artfully around my neck so that it both warms me and adds a fashion statement. I pull my hair back in to a messy bun and add some small silver dangling earrings with little stars hanging from the ends to my ear lobes to complete the look. A brush of mascara and a swipe of gloss and I’m done.
I run to my room to grab a clutch and fill it with just the essentials, my money, ID, gloss and phone. Just as I am fastening the clasp, the doorbell rings. I move to grab it and snag my foot on the stool by the door of my bedroom. The heel of my ankle boot catches and I fall, hard. “Ouch!” I yell. I grab my ankle that feels like it is twisted and try to get my boot off to rub it.
“Katy!” I hear Jacob say from the other side of the front door, “Are you okay?”
“Use your key Jacob and come in here,” I call back, “I tripped.”
Jacob appears in a blur at my bedroom door and lifts me effortlessly from the floor, moving both of us to the end of my bed and helping me to remove my shoe. “What did you do?” he asks as he places his long fingers around my foot and starts to rub it.
I feel like a total idiot. “Don’t ask.” I groan back.
“Should we just stay in?” he asks, but I see the disappointment in the crease between his eyes. He lives for these damn fights.
“No, we should still go,” I respond. “Can you go grab me some anti-inflammation cream from the cabinet under the sink in the bathroom? I’ll put that on it and I’ll be good to go.”
He places me gently on the edge of the bed and moves towards the bathroom door. “You sure?” he asks.
I nod, “Yep, I need to get out, I’ve been indoors typing all day. I want to go.”
Jacob returns and softly applies the cream to my ankle and foot. The entire room fills with the methyl salicylate smell that comes with these balms. I don’t mind it; it smells like a locker room after a really good football game. Jacob replaces my sock and helps me to carefully put my boot back on. “Maybe you should wear flats tonight Katy?” he presses.
If there is one thing he should know about me, it is that I do not compromise my footwear for anyone. Shoes make the outfit. They also happen to be my weakness. One look in my walk-in robe and anyone could see that. I have a lot of shoes. Close to a hundred in fact, not that I would ever admit that to anyone.
“I’m not wearing flats,” I scoff. “These boots make my legs look long and skinny.”
Jacob runs his hands up the outside of my thighs, “Katy, your legs don’t need shoes to make them look great.” He can be such a sweetie sometimes, and in those moments I feel guilty that he is not with some girl that worships at his feet.
“Let’s go,” he says. I take his proffered hand and he helps me to stand. I grimace as my foot takes my weight but once I take a few steps I’m fine. It hurts, but not badly, it’s bearable. We settle in to Jacob’s jeep – which is midnight black, unlike my matching red one – and he pulls out in to the traffic, weaving our way across town to the underground.
The place is full tonight. There are a lot more people here than previous fights I have been to. We are all squished in to rows of temporary seating that have been brought in to surround the cage-like structure in the middle of the room. Some people hold banners and signs and chant as they wait for their heroes to take to the canvas stage that graces the room. Jacob is excited, he gets all touchy-feely and giggly before the fights start and he is that way now. He keeps nuzzling the side of my neck just under my ear. It was cute the first few times, and now it is starting to annoy me.
The announcer’s voice comes across the speakers, bellowing in to the room. “Ladies and Gentleman, welcome. WELCOME!” The cheers and chants ramp up to a deafening level and I am tempted to stuff my fingers in to my ears to block it out. Jacob is on his feet beside me clapping and cheering through the hands he has cupped around his mouth.
The voice booms back through the speakers, “Tonight we have the undefeated champion up first. He’s all yours; welcome your man, Johnny, the Jaws Jackson!”
Lose Yourself by Eminem is pounding through the large speakers and filling the room.
The crowd goes ballistic. I’ve seen this guy fight before. He is lethal. He doesn’t hold back once that bell goes and I have never seen an opponent of his win against him. He makes his way in to the room amongst blaring music, followed by his entourage that includes a number of scantily clad women with hairdos that are too big and breasts that spill from their too-small tops. They hang on to his arms as he skates through the crowd making his way to the cage. He jumps on to the canvas and removes his long black silk robe, throwing it to one of his team that waits in the corner of the ring before jumping around the middle of the stage throwing mock punches in the air. The crowd cheers and this only serves to rev him up more. He cups his ear with his hand egging them on to scream louder, and they do.
“Now for his opponent,” the announcer bellows, “we have a new fighter gracing the cage tonight ladies and gentlemen. That’s right, a virgin for Jaws to sink his teeth in to.” The crowd cheers even louder at the thought of the bloodbath that is about to take place here.
“Let’s welcome to the cage, Eli the Terminator Trent.”
Every nerve in my body suddenly fires up. Blood is rushing through my veins and pooling in my ears like a waterfall. All I can hear is the gushing sound as I rise to stand next to Jacob to try and get a glimpse of this guy. Standing on my tip-toes, I crane my neck to try and get a view over the heads in front of us.
What are the chances?
Shut Up, by the Black Eyed Peas is screaming through the speakers as the crowd roars. I hate that song. It evokes bad memories for me.
He rounds the corner coming from the same direction as Johnny just did. He wears a dark blue silk robe with a hood that currently covers his face. The Terminator is embroidered on the back of it in silver lettering. Just like Johnny, three barely-dressed girls hang from his arms as he makes his way through the crowd, which is still yelling and screaming with anticipation. He climbs up in to the cage with strength and grace and turns his back to me to remove his silk robe and hands it to his trainer. He starts to jump about to stay warm and punches the air in front of him to show his form. The muscles in his back are ripped and you can see them working under his tanned skin with every punch he throws.
He bumps hands with his trainer and turns around.
That’s when I see his face.
Nine years older, but I know it’s him. I can tell by his eyes and those arms and that hair and those lips.
There is no mistaking it, none.
It’s. My. Elijah.
Hi, I’m Wendy Louise. I’m a wife and mum living in Melbourne, Australia. I love to read and write, and I somehow managed to fit writing this book in between my regular day time duties, which include a full-time job and life in general with two busy children.
Two years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After many surgeries and treatments, I learnt that life is short and you need to grab it while you can. I always wanted to write, and I realised that it was now or never.
You can usually find me with a few books on the go at once – whether that be reading them, or writing them. I love chocolate and trashy reality TV. It’s not unusual for me to combine all these and attempt to write, while watching an episode of the Kardashians or The Bachelor, and devouring a block of Cadbury Dairy Milk…..
I am so excited to bring ‘Side by Side’ to you all. It has been such a labour of love for me. I presently have four other novels nearing completion, so I am excited to follow this up with many more.
I hope you enjoy reading Elijah and Katy’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it.