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Outlaw’s Promise

By:Helena Newbury

ook their heads. Aedan was gone.

We eventually got the story from a guy called Connor at the gym Aedan used to train at. Maybe he took pity on me because I was a fellow Irishman. He said Aedan had gotten into trouble with a shady fight promoter. There’d been a woman, too, a blonde named Sylvie and her brother, Alec. And when it was all over, Aedan had left town for good. No one knew where he’d gone.

I turned to the punch bag that was hanging next to me and slammed my fist into it. I wasn’t there for him. I’d been off on the other side of the country when he needed me most.

Annabelle thanked Connor for me and towed me away. At the diner across the street, she bought me coffee and got me calmed down.

I glanced moodily around. The place was some sort of haven for boxers: there were photos of guys in gloves all over the walls, some of them black and white. It was the sort of place Aedan had probably come, when he was here. Fighters, just like bikers, are predictable.

I stared into my coffee, seeing my reflection in the surface. Aedan had skipped town because he was in trouble. But wherever he wound up, he’d still be a fighter and he’d still join the local circuit. I could find him, if I prowled places like this for long enough. But only if I knew which city to look in.

That’s when Annabelle squeezed my hand. “You came here because, the last thing you heard, he was in New York...right?”

I nodded.

“So...doesn’t it make sense that he might go where he thinks you are?”

I thought on that for a while. I hadn’t talked to Aedan since I left Chicago. As far as he knew, I was still there. Would he have fled to Chicago in the hopes of finding me? It seemed like a long shot. But it was all we had.

“Okay,” I told Annabelle. “Chicago.”

Four days later, we were at a tiny little boxing place in the heart of the city. It had less than a hundred seats around the ring: the equivalent of playing in a dive bar. But it was a legitimate fight, not an underground one. There were even posters.

And the posters showed my brother.

I drew in my breath as I watched Aedan step into the ring. When he turned to put in his gum shield, I saw the tiny shamrock tattoo between his shoulder blades. He’d picked up a few new scars since I last saw him but if anything he was bigger and more muscled than I remembered. He’d been training hard.

And something else had changed, too. I saw a woman hug him just before he stepped into the ring: a tiny, blonde thing. Sylvie?

For the next three rounds, I watched him stalk his prey, learning the other guy’s weaknesses. His opponent was good: fast and strong. He even got a few good hits in.

But he didn’t stand a chance. Aedan waited until the third round...and then he annihilated him. It was like watching a town be swept away by a tidal wave: the guy was driven back, back, and then lifted right off his feet by the final punch. The crowd cheered so loud that we couldn’t even hear the ref count the guy out.

We pushed our way backstage: when security tried to stop us, I growled in their faces. And in the dressing room I found Aedan.

He was sitting on a table and the blonde was between his muscled thighs, kissing him, her hands running up and down his sweat-slick back. Neither of them saw us and Annabelle and I were left standing in the doorway, unsure whether to interrupt. I’ll just wait until they’re done, I decided.

Then Aedan’s hands slipped under the blonde’s top.

Annabelle coughed to announce our presence and the blonde spun around. Aedan looked at us over her shoulder...and his jaw dropped.

It’s funny how you can be planning a moment in your head for weeks—maybe years—and yet, when it finally arrives, you have no idea what to say.

The blonde glanced at Aedan and something in his expression must have told her what was going on. She nodded and stepped aside. She knows who I am, I realized. He’s talked about me.

Aedan slid down from the table and walked towards me. He was still fresh from the fight, sweat rolling down him, muscles pumped and hard. I wasn’t sure if he was going to slug me for abandoning the family, or for being out of touch for so many years. But I was ready to take it, whatever he had for me.

He stepped closer...and suddenly grabbed me and pulled me into a bear hug to rival any of Ox’s. I could hear his breath shuddering as he held me. I realized I was doing the same thing. I wasn’t ready for the sudden upwelling of emotion.

I had my family back: the first member, at least. And as soon as I thought that, I knew what I had to do.

We had to find the other two: Kian and Sean. And then, together, we had to find out what happened to Bradan. If he was dead, we needed to bury him. If he was alive somewhere, maybe still with the cult...then we had to get him back.

It was time to put our family back together.