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Brutal (A Real Man #11)
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He’s loved her his entire life.
She’s my best friend, my everything.
She’s been the girl I’ve loved since I knew what that meant.
I box—fight bloody—for a living, and at every fight she’s there, cheering me on, being mine whether she knows it or not.
I’ve never been with a woman because for me she’s it. Roxie is the only one I’ll ever want.
Enough time has passed. It’s time I told Roxie how I feel, because there’s no way I can hold in my feelings any longer.
I want to think the looks, the possessiveness that comes from him means he wants me the same way I want him. He’s been in my life for longer than I can remember, and I never want that to change.
I’ll be with him until the end. My love for him runs so deep, so strong I can’t breathe at times.
I watch as he pushes other girls away, his gaze locked on mine as if he’s trying to tell me there isn’t anyone else for him.
But I’m afraid to turn our relationship from friends to lovers. I’m afraid of crossing that line that could ruin what we have.
Warning: This is a super sweet friends-to-lovers story. Don’t worry; it still has that OTT alpha hero who’s head over heels in love with his woman and caveman to a fault. Grab some ice, because it’s going to get hot in here!
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Having Roxie here made me feel stronger, had my blood rushing through my veins, my heart pumping harder, faster. I glanced at the girl I loved—secretly—and saw that she was worried. This was only practice, me boxing with one of the guys at the gym, one of my friends, but she worried for me.
“Dude, pay attention,” Lenny said, his words muffled by the mouth guard. He glanced at Roxie, and I saw the smirk that covered his face. I swung out, knocking him back with the force.
One of these days I was going to grow some balls, pull Roxie in close, and kiss her senseless. One of these fucking days I’d tell Roxie I loved her, damned if the friendship was ruined or not. Being around her and not kissing her, holding her, letting the world see she was mine was so fucking painful I’d risk anything for the chance to claim her.
I just needed to grow those balls first.
I always hated watching Axel fight, even though I knew he’d win. The fact he was getting violent with someone else scared the shit out of me.
Axel ducked, dodged the punch, swung out, and drew blood. He was vicious in the ring, his blue boxing gloves standing out against the red of his opponent’s. Over and over he did this, hitting, blocking, his focus on the other guy, his moves precise. I glanced at the clock, the time seeming to speed up, then slow to a halt. I had to leave for work soon, but not before I saw him win.
This was only practice, but I had to make sure he was okay.
I saw the other boxer say something to Axel, although it was too low for me to hear. And then the other guy glanced at me, grinning around his mouth guard, making me feel pissed for Axel. The guy did this to piss Axel off. I knew that, knew he was trying to get under Axel’s skin.
But he should have known better, should have known taunting Axel would only lead to him on his ass.
And sure enough, Axel delivered a punch to the face that had the guy on his back, out cold.
I retreated a few steps as the trainer went closer and motioned Axel over. They started talking. I turned my back to the ring, grabbed the rest of my stuff, and felt someone behind me. I smiled and looked over my shoulder.
Axel stood there, all six-foot-three inches of him, his body glossy with sweat, his massive chest rising and falling. I noticed he had a small cut above his eyebrow, one of the many times he’d gotten hurt boxing.
He grinned down at me, gestured to my bag, and because I knew he’d keep bugging me until I gave in, I handed it over.
“You have time for me to shower and clean this up?”
I glanced at the clock. “Only if you can do it in ten minutes.”
“Done.” He turned, but I called him back.
But to be honest I’d be late for him if it meant spending more time together. “Text me when you’re done showering and I’ll come in and clean the wound up.” He smiled, and my heart raced.
“Um, my bag.” I chuckled when he handed it over. “You can be all manly and carry it when you’re done.”
He winked and I felt my heart start to race. I watched him walk away, not knowing if I’d ever have the nerve to tell the boy I loved—the man he’d grown into—that I cared for him. For years, ever since I knew what the word meant, what it would feel like, I knew what I felt for Axel was more than friends.
I wanted to be his, needed to show him that we were meant for each other. I could pretend that I “saw” the way he looked at me, that maybe he felt the same way. But at twenty-two, the years passing, and nothing being said, I pushed any notion about what I could have with him.
I chalked it up to my own fantasies.
I stared at the other boxers training. Some were back in the ring; others were working out or hitting the red punching bag violently.
Five minutes later I got a text from Axel. I took my bag with me into the locker-room, saw him sitting on a bench, shirtless, water dripping from his hair, and tried to control my emotions.
I’d patched him up before, so finding the first aid kit, and doing this less than appealing job, wasn’t a hardship.
I grabbed some peroxide, ointment, and a butterfly bandage. For the next few minutes we were silent as I tended to his wound, cleaning it, smearing the thick cream on it, then finally applying the small dressing.
When I glanced down I noticed he was focused on me, his gaze intense, his pupils dilated. I let my hand fall to my side, but he caught it and placed it over his heart.