Fighting Solitude (On the Ropes #3)(7) by Aly Martinez

My eyes had adjusted enough for me to see the large frame of a man rushing toward me. It wasn’t large enough to be my dad, but it was menacing nonetheless.

“Daddy!” I shrieked, flailing my arms and legs, frantically trying to escape whatever or whoever was restraining me in my own personal version of hell. “Stop! Don’t touch me!” I screamed at the shadow of a man when he lifted me off the ground.

“It’s just me, Liv. I’ve got you.”

“Quarry?” I squeaked, relief flooding my system.

“You’re okay. I won’t let anything hurt you. I swear.”

I immediately burst into tears, and he wrapped me tight in his arms. Front to front, he hugged me as if he were the one losing his shit—not me.

Just then, the door swung open and a flashlight illuminated the room as a symphony of children’s cries filtered in. The welcome chaos was music to my ears.

“Jesus Christ, what the hell is going on? You two woke up all the kids,” Flint growled.

“Hey, shut the fuck up, dickhead. She was scared.”

“Oh,” he replied in understanding. “You okay, Liv?”

My body shook as I dangled in Quarry’s arms. I couldn’t even form a coherent thought, much less an answer.

“What the fuck happened to the TV?” Quarry barked, holding me even tighter.

“The power went out,” Flint replied. “I’m gonna call Slate. You two good?”

“She’s fine. I’ve got her. You go take care of the kids.”

The lights suddenly flickered on only long enough to taunt me before plunging us back into darkness. Another round of sobs overtook me. I wasn’t scared of the dark. Well, not exactly. It was just that silence tended to linger in the darkness.

“I…I…n-n-n-need my headphones,” I cried into Quarry’s chest.


“Yeah. Give me a second. I need to grab Riley first,” Flint answered before disappearing along with the flashlight.

Darkness once again cloaked the room, and I scooted impossibly closer to Quarry’s chest, finding the immediate relief I desperately needed.

I’m safe with him. Always.

The power flashed one last time before staying on for good.

“Holy shit,” Quarry breathed as we both took in the room.

The DVD player, the Xbox, and the cable box were all knocked to the floor, and the entertainment center that had once housed them lay on its side with one door completely broken off.

“Are you hurt?” He quickly stepped away and raked his eyes over my body, searching for any sign of injury.

I wasn’t, but it was then that I realized what a mess I probably looked like.

“Don’t look at me.” I quickly ducked behind him and buried my tear-stained face in his back.

He chuckled and pulled my arms around his waist, resting his hands on top of mine. “She’s okay,” he said to himself.

“I’m not okay. I look like one of those girls at your school right now.” I sniffled.

“Nah. They aren’t cool enough to be like my Rocky.”

Suddenly, my Rocky didn’t sound so bad.

I rubbed my face in the cotton of his tee to dry my eyes. “Thanks. Ya…know. For that,” I told his back.

He didn’t even have a chance to reply before I heard Flint’s voice heading in our direction.

“Yeah. Everyone’s fine, Slate. The kids are back in bed, and I’m just about to give Liv her iPad. We’re all good.” He paused, “I’m not sure I can say the same about your entertainment center, but all of the homo sapiens under the roof are alive and well. Okay, I’ll ask. Hang on. Hey, Liv? You want your parents to come back?”

“Um.” I seriously considered it until Quarry’s hand folded securely over mine, allowing me to answer honestly. “No. I’m good.”

“She says she’s good. Okay. See you later.” He must have hung up the phone, because he let out a loud huff. “Christ, that was pandemonium.”

“Sorry,” I squeaked.

Quarry’s body stiffened before he corrected, “She’s not sorry. You’re not sorry. There’s nothing to be sorry about.”

“Right. Well, whatever. Here’s your iPad, Liv. I’m going back downstairs. I’ll leave the flashlight up here in case the lights go out again.”

“Thanks,” Quarry replied.

Flint’s voice grew distant as he shouted, “And clean up that crap before Slate gets back? Yeah?”

Quarry didn’t reply. Nor did he attempt to step out of my grasp. He actually didn’t move at all as I clung to his back, still trying to get myself under control. My pulse slowly returned to a non-marathon pace, but my mind wasn’t nearly as fast to recover.

“You gonna let me go any time soon?” he asked.

“Not if I don’t have to,” I retorted.

“Then you don’t have to. You want to at least put on your headphones. Just in case?” He lifted the earbuds attached to my iPad over his shoulder.

I removed a hand from his waist only long enough to shove them in my ears. Quarry pressed play on my music and my whole body slacked as the familiar sounds washed through me.

We must have stood there for fifteen minutes before he slowly led us back toward the couch. He was amazing and handled me with absolute caution. Not prying my hands away, he patiently waited for me to take the cue and lie down. Once I’d settled, he climbed on the couch in front of me. His large body teetered on the edge, but he turned and gave me his back again. Then he snagged my arm and draped it over his waist. I could only assume it was the teenage-boy version of holding me tenderly.

But it was Quarry doing it, so it didn’t take but a second for me to realize that it was the best version of all.

And it absolutely ruined me at only twelve years old.

But, then again, Quarry had ruined me long before that.

Even if I hadn’t known it yet.

It should have been difficult to find sleep with as scared as I’d been when I’d woken up. But, with my headphones blaring in my ears and Quarry guarding my front, there was little to fear. He’d rescued me from the deepest, darkest demon hiding in the shadows of my mind.

With him, I was invincible.

We slept tangled together until my father yanked him off the couch, pissed as hell to have found us sleeping together. Quarry didn’t cower or offer any excuses as to what we had been doing. He looked my father squarely in eyes and told him, “She was afraid. I laid down with her and she wasn’t anymore. Sorry. Not sorry.”

It was one hundred percent Quarry Page. Breathtakingly unapologetic.

Emphasis on the breathtaking part.

As he sauntered out the door that night, I called out, “Later, Q.”

And, for the very first time, his response changed.

I only caught the side of his face as he glanced over his shoulder, but that was more than enough to make my cheeks heat. The corner of his mouth lifted in a heart-stopping smile.

“Later, Rocky.”

SOMEHOW, OVER THE NEXT SIX months, I magically found myself in the world’s good graces again.

Till had worked his way up the ladder in the professional boxing world, earning his very first title shot. Win or lose, it was a dream come true.

Eliza was pregnant and expecting their first child—a girl. Thank God! We didn’t need any more Page boys.

Flint had recently graduated high school and was gearing up for college. He was ridiculously smart and could have gone anywhere he wanted. He bitched out, though, and decided to go to the local university in order to stay close to the family. Eliza was ecstatic. I guessed that’d had a big role in his decision. He was weird about her in those days.

I was kicking ass on the amateur boxing circuit, well on my way to following in Till’s footsteps like I’d always dreamed since I’d first climbed through the ropes.

The Page family was happy, and life was simple again.

I should have known it would be short-lived.

We were all in Vegas for two full weeks for Till’s big title shot—and the best part was that we included Liv.

Little did I know that the trip would end up being the biggest nightmare of my entire life…at that point.

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