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Chapter 1


Xavier


A buzzer goes off, and the sound of the steel bars locking me inside a ten-by-ten concrete cell echoes around the room. I hang my head, my hair falling down, cloaking the sides of my face, as I close my eyes and wish I could rewind the last few hours of my life.

Anna was right. I shouldn’t have gone out there. I lost my fucking head, and now, there’s no going back.

“Cold,” the guard barks my name. “Let me know when you’re ready for that phone call.”

I scrub my hand down my face but don’t make a move to answer the guard. Who the fuck am I going to call? I have no family, and I sure as hell don’t want Anna to see me this way. It fucking guts me to know she had to witness my self-destruction in the ring and then the police carting me off in cuffs. I’d wanted to be a better man for her, but I failed fucking miserably.

I roll out the mattress assigned to me by the county jail and then busy myself with making my bed.

There’s a clang on the bars behind me, and I find the same pudgy guard who escorted me into the cell, standing there with a pair of handcuffs.

“Inmate Cold, roll up. Looks like you’re out of here. I need to cuff you and get you to discharge.” He motions me over.

My mind rushes with the possibility of who came here to get me.

I turn around and stick my hands through the rectangular space between the bars. The metal clicks around my wrists.

“Arms back through,” he orders after securing my arms together. Then he yells an order out to someone, “Open cell three two five.”

When I turn around, the door to my cell opens. The man grabs the upper part of my right arm and then escorts me through the corridor. Snores come from the other prisoners as we pass by their cells, and I’m thankful that I don’t have to spend even one night here. I’ll forever be in Anna’s debt for getting me out of here so quickly.

We head through a series of doors until we come to ones with the word Discharge clearly labeled across them. The guard leads me to a desk where a tall man with a Tom Selleck mustache is busy with filling out forms. He doesn’t even bother glancing up at me. “Are you Xavier Cold, number seven, one, five, two, seven, three, seven, one?”

I clear my throat. “Yes, sir.”

“Do you have any dress outs?” the attending officer asks while still working on the paperwork in front of him.

How the hell am I supposed to know if I have street clothes here or not?

“I’m not sure. I’ve only been here for a few hours,” I answer honestly, remembering I was wearing my wrestling gear when I was booked.

“We’ll check that,” he tells me. Then, he picks up the phone on his desk, and asks whoever is on the other line to check on my street clothes for release. He hangs up the phone and then makes eye contact with me. “Do you have a ride?”

I nod. “I assume my girlfriend who posted my bail is still here.”

He makes another note on his paperwork and a new officer comes into the room with a stack of neatly folded clothes that I immediately recognize from ones I packed in my suitcase. Relief floods me as it’s confirmation that Anna is the one here for me. No one else had access to get into my hotel room.

The guard that led me in from the cell unlocks the cuffs from around my wrists and then stuffs them back into a black pouch on his tool belt. “Good luck, Cold. I’m sure we’ll see you again soon. The hot-headed ones always come back.”

My fingers curl, and I resist the urge to knock that smirk off his face. Even I know better than to do that here.

“I need you to sign here and here, and then you can change into your street clothes.” I quickly scrawl my name where he indicated and then grab my clothes.

“There’s a restroom behind you. Go in there and change.”

I hate taking orders like this, but I’m willing to do anything to get the hell out of here.

After I change, I come back out and the officer pushes himself up from his seat. “I’ll escort you out.”

We go through a few more doors, and then once a large gray steel door opens, I spot Anna standing in a very sterile-looking waiting room. The expression on her face can only be described as anxious as she bites her lower lip and strains her neck to get a look at me through the opening door.

Relief floods her face as our eyes lock. “Xavier!”

The door no sooner opens than I rush through it and wrap my arms around Anna, pulling her against my chest. I inhale deeply and close my eyes. Her fruity shampoo and perfume comfort me as I hold her tight.

“I’m so sorry. I’m so fucking sorry,” I say over and over again.

I take in a shaky breath. “I fucked up. I know I did.”

“Shhh . . .” she says, trying to soothe me as she tangles her fingers into my hair. “We’ll get this figured out.”

The way she says we warms my heart. So many times in my life I’ve been tossed away, like I meant nothing. People don’t stick with me, which is what makes me cherish Anna even more.

When I pull back, I see tears glistening in her eyes. One drop slides down her cheek, and I swipe it away with my thumb. “Please don’t cry because of me. You know how it fucking kills me to see a frown on your face.”

She sniffs. “I thought I lost you.”

I cradle her face in my hands and whisper, “I’ll always find my way back to you.”

“Promise?”

I gaze into her eyes and answer with absolute certainty. “Yes.”

Nothing is ever going to stand between us again. I’ll do everything within my power to see to that.

I give her one more kiss. “Come on, beautiful. Let’s get out of here before they change their minds and try to make me stay in this shithole.”

“Okay.”

I throw my arm around her, thankful for having her by my side, and I lead her outside through the heavy glass doors. Anna clings to me as we walk in step toward the parking lot, and I welcome her warmth. For a while in there, I wondered how long it would be before I could feel her pressed up against me like this. Good thing I’d put all that money into her bank account.

“Thank you for bailing me out,” I say before kissing the top of her head. “I was fully prepared to spend the night there. I was surprised they let me out so fast.”

Anna stares up at me. “That’s the thing. I didn’t pay to get you out.”

 
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