Thanks to Hubby for the edit.
My phone rang for the eighth time that morning. I switched it to silent, threw it across the room, and carried on shoving clothes into my gym bag.
The disastrous interview with Elliot ‘the cock’ Johnson had aired, and even though the TV station had made a big deal out of it, running the story that I’d blown up on TV, on their website and all over social media, the rest of the world weren’t so pleased.
Sponsors, Davi, Taylor, Brownie, my parents; everyone wanted to speak to me. The only person who hadn’t called was Megan. I didn’t know if I should be relived or worried, but figured as she didn’t watch sports, she wouldn’t have heard … yet. It was only a matter of time before the interview made it to the mainstream news, and I should have called her before it did, but I just had to get away.
I didn’t wanna think about any of this shit. I just wanted to beat the crap out of something.
Leaving my phone at home, I jumped in the car, and headed for the gym – not Silva’s. There was no way I was risking running into Davi or the guys. Instead, I drove to a little place on the other side of the city.
I got out my MP3 player and headphones, and put some workout music on. Blocking out the rest of the world, I pounded the punch bag until the whirl of thoughts in my head stopped.
This is where I belonged. Nothing else mattered.
An hour later the sweat was pouring off me, but I’d worked the tension out of my body. Knowing I couldn’t avoid the world any longer, I headed home to shower and grab some food, before I started dealing with the mess I’d created.
I pulled into the car park and instantly recognized Davi’s Merc’ parked in the spot next to my usual place. I should have known.
When I reached my flat, I found him waiting on the doorstep with a takeout bag in his hand.
“You know me too well,” I said, opening the front door, slightly disturbed he’d predicted what time I’d be back for lunch, and that I was in the mood for Pad Thai.
“You’re a man of habit,” Davi said, serving up the stir-fry noodles, then pulling two bottles of water from my fridge. “What happened with Johnson?”
I unscrewed the lid off my water and shrugged. “The guy’s a dick. He goaded me until I lost it.”
Davi raised an eyebrow.
“What? I’m telling the truth. He knew I had a short fuse, so he kept pushing my buttons. Don’t believe me, call the director Nicholas Bennett and ask him.”
Davi took a deep swallow of water, then let out a long breath. “All right, I believe you. Have you spoken to Taylor?”
“Yeah, I went to see him when I got back from London, so he wouldn’t find out from the telly.”
“You didn’t think about showing the rest of us the same curtesy? The interview’s not something I wanted the gym associated with.”
I was about to argue, but Davi silenced me with a look.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m sorry.”
“What did Taylor say?”
“He wants me to relinquish the title after my fight with Matthews.”
“Well, I can’t say I blame him. It’s not what I’d do, but he has to protect his promotion.”
The conversation was putting me right off my food, and I threw the half eaten noodles in the bin.
“Whatever. I’m done with Ferrum. I quit.”
“What? You can’t just quit. You’ve got contractual obligations to fulfil.”
“Fuck contractual obligations, I’m done with his bullshit. He can’t just take my title off me.”
Davi finished eating, threw his rubbish away, and turned on me with one of his no-nonsense glares. “It’s his promotion, and you’re damaging its reputation.”
“Screw Taylor and his reputation. I’m too good for Ferrum, anyway. I’ll fight Matthews, because I ain’t letting anyone think I pussied out, but after that I’m done. When I wipe the floor with that tosser, everyone will be clamouring to sign me.”
“Will they? Have you spoken to your sponsors or seen what the Internet is saying about you?”
I clenched my jaw and rubbed the back of my neck. “How bad is it?”
“Everyone is saying you’re unstable.”
I let out a sardonic laugh. “Oh yeah, here we go. Kian Murphy’s unstable. Kian Murphy shouldn’t be allowed to fight. Kian Murphy should be locked up. Well the paps can get screwed too.”
“Kian, you can’t go around pissing people off, and not expecting them to react. You need to speak to Taylor and your sponsors.”
“Why? So I can get another lecture? I’ve just about had it with people telling me how to live my life.”
Davi raked his hands through his hair. “We’re only telling you what to do because we’re worried. I watched you fall down this path before. You’re going to end up in hospital, or worse.”
“I’m dealing with it, alright?”
“Are you? When was the last time you saw your therapist?”
I crossed my arms over my chest and turned away from Davi. “I dunno. A few months, I guess.”
“And you’re still taking your medication?”
“Augh. So here comes the questions, yeah? You’re never normally this concerned, Davi.”
“You never normally have a baby on the way and blow up on national TV.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose and bowed my head, before meeting his gaze straight on. “You know, Marie said almost the exact same thing to me the other night.”
“Yeah? Maybe she’s got a point.”
I let out a long breath, leaned back in my chair, and rubbed the back of my neck. “This isn’t like before. I told you, Johnson just pushed my buttons. I’m okay.”
“And quitting Ferrum is you being okay?”
“I’m not having Taylor treating me like shit. He wants someone with a good image representing the company? Fine he can have it, and I’ll go somewhere else.”
Davi shook his head. “All right, it’s your career, you do what you think’s best.”
“Yeah. I will. Is that everything? ‘Cos I got people to see.”
I crossed the kitchen, heading for the bathroom to shower.
“Is Megan on your list? She saw the interview, and she’s worried too. You really need to speak to her about this.”
I stopped dead in my tracks, a burning sensation in the back of my throat. Narrowing my eyes, I span to face him. “You’ve spoken to her about what’s going on?”
“No, but she called Emilia asking for some advice. You need to tell her about the anger management issues.”
My throat itched, like I’d swallowed a cup of sand or something, and I grabbed my water bottle off the breakfast bar. “Do I?”
“Jesus Christ. You’re having a child together. This is something she needs to know.”
“But I’d never hurt her or the baby.”
“Then tell her that, because at the moment she doesn’t have a clue what’s going on. All she knows is what she saw on TV. Talk to her, reassure her that she didn’t make a mistake by telling you about the baby.”
“She said to Emilia she regrets telling me about the baby?”
“No. Of course not, but given what she’s seen and how you acted over the paternity test, she might be thinking it.”
I blew out a long breath, and rolled the tension from my shoulders.
“Alright, I’ll go see her after I’ve spoken to Taylor.”
“Great. Call me later if you need to.”
“Yeah. I will … and thanks. You know, for lunch and stuff.”
“Anytime. Just sort this mess out, Kian.”
When Davi left, I jumped in the shower and changed, then headed to Taylor’s office. I was sick of the sight of the place, and actually glad I’d made the decision to quit. After my fight with Matthews, if I ever set foot in the Ferrum building again, it’d be too soon.
I knocked on Taylor’s door, and waited for him to say I could enter. When I did, he stood up from the desk upon seeing me.
“What do you want?”
“I want to formally resign.”
Taylor’s eyebrows pulled together. “You can’t resign, I already fired you.”
“Whatever. I just came to tell you, I’ll fight Matthews, then I’m done.”
“No, you’ll fight Matthews, and be interviewed by Elliot Johnson afterward. Then you’re done.”
“No way. Not going to happen.”
“Your contract states you’re to fulfil all media appearances after a fight. If you’re in breach of contract, I’ll fine you.”
I folded my arms across my chest and groaned. Once again, Taylor had me by the balls, and if I didn’t do what he wanted, he’d screw me out of more money. He was already getting my fight money, I wasn’t letting him have another penny.
Plus, I couldn’t wait to see the look on Johnson’s face when I rubbed it in that I’d beaten Matthews.
“Fine. One interview. Then I’m done.”
Without another word, I left Taylor’s office, and headed to my car. I’d assumed after telling Taylor I was resigning, a weight would be lifted from my shoulders, but as I started up the engine, I felt pressure in my chest, like something was pushing down on it.
Had I really done the right thing?
Davi said everyone was calling me unstable. What if that extended to my sponsors and other promotions? Would the sponsors drop me when they found out I’d left Ferrum? And given my reputation, would another promotion take me on, even if I did beat Matthews?
Only one way to find out.
When I got home, the first thing I did was called my sponsors.
“What the hell happened with Johnson?” said Joseph Clarke, PR guy for my sponsors.
I was getting sick of answering this question. I huffed out a breath, and told Clarke what I’d told Davi, then explained how I’d resigned from Ferrum.
“Who are you signing with when you’ve fought Matthews?”
“Well, I haven’t actually gotten that far. But I’m sure plenty of promotions will be interested.”
There was a long pause, then Clarke cleared his throat. “Yes, I’m sure there will be. Listen, Kian, there’s only a few months left on your current contract. Why don’t you come down to the offices when you’re available, and we’ll discuss renegotiating?”
That didn’t sound good. ‘Renegotiating’ was PR talk for they were going to drop me. I had to sign on with a new promotion pronto.
“Yeah, sure. I’ll do that. How does Tuesday work for you?”
“That’s fine. We have an available appointment at two-thirty.”
I rubbed a hand across the stubble on my jaw. “Great, I’ll see you then.”
Tuesday’s appointment gave me four days to find a new promotion.
Even without the heat the Johnson interview had caused, it’d be a struggle, especially as I hadn’t beaten Matthews, yet. Whoever took me on would want to know they were signing a champion.
It was time to do some sucking up.
I scrolled through my phone, making note of every promotion I had a contact with. The best bet was Laoch, in Dublin. They’d been interested in me a few years ago, when I’d first won the Welterweight Championship, and given my heritage, it seemed like a decent fit. Travelling would be a bitch, but luckily Dad had family in Ennis, which was only 150 miles from Dublin. I was sure I could work something out.
The big problem was going to be Megan and the baby.
I hadn’t even spoken to her about the interview with Johnson, let alone that’d I’d quit Ferrum, and was thinking of contacting an Irish promotion.
I needed to talk to her about this.
She’d always been one of few people to see me as more than just a fighter, or The Kian Murphy, who always fucked up and had to be bailed out of his messes by someone else.
Maybe she’d have some insight into the situation I hadn’t considered. At the very least, she deserved to know what I was thinking, and considering.
I left a message with Laoch, asking if we could arrange a meeting soon, then headed over to Megan’s.
It was early evening when I knocked on her door, and she answered wearing pyjamas and fluffy slippers. I felt like a dick. I’d been so wrapped up in my own shit I hadn’t considered she’d been tired after a day at uni. “Hey. If now’s a bad time, I can go.”
“No, come in. Want a coffee?”
“Sure.” I headed through to the living room, as Megan went to the kitchen, which was a relief, as I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to say to her, and the extra time gave me a chance to think.
She knew about the interview, so that was a start, but I needed to make sure we were on the same page about everything. Davi had hinted she was pissed off, and I should tell her about my anger issues.
I hoped she’d understand.
I couldn’t keep still as I waited for Megan to bring the coffees in, and tried to distract myself by looking around. The DVD from Marie that I’d sent her was out on the coffee table, and the sight of it made me smile. Maybe we could watch it together when we were done talking.
But first I had to open up about everything that was going on.
I pressed my lips together, and looked down at my hands.
She would understand, wouldn’t she?
I thought back to a few months ago, when we’d fought about the paternity test, and how both of us were so wrapped up in our own drama that we couldn’t see the other’s point of view.
My stupidity, and inability to talk to her properly had almost lost me being part in my baby’s life. I didn’t want to risk that happening again.
My chest tightened at the thought, imagining Megan saying I was too unstable to be a father.
Everyone else was already thinking it, why wouldn’t she?
Megan drew me from my thoughts when she bought the drinks in and put them on the coffee table, and then settled down on the sofa.
I perched on the edge of the armchair, waiting for her to say something. To tell me she’d seen the interview, but that it was okay. But would she? She’d already gone to Emilia, so obviously something was wrong.
“Everything okay?” she asked.
“I don’t know. You tell me. Or do you need to speak to Emilia first?” I didn’t mean for it to come out so harshly, but it bothered me she hadn’t come to me about this.
“Oh, so Davi’s spoken to you, then?”
“Oh yeah, Davi’s spoken to me. Sounds like you and his wife had a lovely little chat about me behind my back.”
“It wasn’t behind your back. I saw the interview, and didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to confront you without the full story, so I went to someone who knows you for advice.”
My body felt weighed down by lead. “You could have just asked me directly.”
“You’re not exactly the easiest person to talk to.”
My brows knitted together and I swallowed hard. “Right, so because of that I don’t even get to tell you my side of things? I don’t get to explain what happened with that interviewer?”
“You can explain now.”
Sure. It’ll be the same shit everyone else thinks about me. Kian’s unstable. Kian always fuck’s up. Kian’s no good.
“What’s the point? Emilia’s already told you about my anger issues. You’ve made up your mind.”
“That’s not true. I-”
“Don’t lie. You can’t say you’re not worried I’m a danger to you and the baby.” I’d made it easy for her, said what she was thinking, so she didn’t have to.
“I … I never said that.”
The hesitation told me everything. “You don’t need to. It’s written all over your face.”
“Kian, you’re being ridiculous. Can’t we just talk about this?”
Yeah, talk. ‘Cos that’s gonna help. Christ, I could murder a beer…
“Why, so you can have more things to add to your list of reasons why I’m not good enough to be a dad?” I needed to move. I felt cadged in sitting there, like the walls were closing in on me.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and my heartrate increased as I paced Megan’s living room. “I thought you were different. I thought you saw me as more than some angry guy who fights for a living.”
“What is going on? Where has all this come from? I’ve never said you weren’t good enough.”
“How about when you said you and the baby didn’t need me?”
“I was angry, you know that. I thought we’d worked all this out?”
I had to end this now. Nothing good could come from us continuing to talk. I’d been wrong, Megan didn’t see me differently. “So did I, but then you went behind my back to speak to Emilia.”
“I was scared. What else could I do?”
Heat flashed through my body, and I gritted my teeth. “Too scared to come to me? Too scared to hear the truth?”
I turned back to the wall. I couldn’t look at her. She couldn’t see me like this.
A few seconds later, I felt Megan’s presence behind me, and she gently said, “What is the truth?”
The truth wasn’t worth repeating. She already knew, why did she need me to say it? Would admitting what I was make it any easier? I could feel the darkness inside me – like a flickering flame that roars to life when blown, engulfing me, consuming me. A demon begging to be free. I had to shut it down; extinguish the fire building inside the monster. I had to chain it up, lock it away, before it burnt everything I cared about to the ground.
“Everyone is right about me. I’m nothing but a fuck up. I do have anger issues, anger issues I’m not dealing with. I haven’t hurt you or the baby yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Anything good I have, I ruin. You were right, Meg, you and the baby are better off without me.”
I headed for the door. I needed to be away from her; from the reminder of everything I could never have.
“Kian, wait.” Her touch was light on my arm as she tried to stop me, and for one fleeting second I almost let her. I moved away from the softness I didn’t deserve.
“I shouldn’t have come here. This was a mistake. Thinking it’d be any different was a mistake.”
Before she had a chance to say anything else, or touch me again, I was out the door. It was unfair using the fact she was pregnant and in pyjamas against her, but I did, taking advantage of my speed to rush to my car and start the engine before she could follow.
I caught a fleeting glimpse of her on the doorstep before I sped away.
I drove in a blind haze, having no destination in mind, and let the demon inside guide me. Of course, it led me to a bar.
Alcohol, the one solace I could always count on.
I ordered a pint and a whisky chaser, then found a quiet corner to myself.
I knew the fallout from the interview airing was going to be bad, I just never imagined it’d be this bad. In the space of a day I’d lost almost everything important to me. My MMA career with Ferrum, having sponsors, Megan and the baby … everything good in my life was slipping through my fingers like grains of sand I couldn’t hold onto.
Didn’t deserve to hold onto.
I could pretend like this was all someone else’s fault, but deep down I knew I only had myself to blame. Davi was right, I was falling back down a dangerous path, and I was powerless to stop it.
Things had been tough since finding out I was going to be a dad. I know everyone says it, but I really felt like my world had been turned upside down. I was just starting to think it was coming together again, when the interview with Johnson happened.
But the anger problems, they’d never really gone away, had they? It just took something like that interview to bring them roaring to the surface. The darkness inside me was never truly hidden. It waited, lurking in the depths, ready to pounce at the slightest provocation.
I should have told Megan about it sooner, instead of her finding out second hand, but I’d been too weak. Too weak to control the demon.
Weak. Unstable. Not good enough.
I couldn’t hack it as a fighter, I was a rubbish son, and no doubt I’d make a crap dad.
The Kian Murphy, good for only one thing. Fucking up.
I headed back to the bar and ordered another drink. There was no point resisting now. I’d ruined everything in my life already. Why fight the darkness?
“What a coincidence seeing you here,” a familiar voice said.
I turned to see Ruby, the receptionist from Davi’s gym, batting her eye lashes at me.
Coincidence my arse. She knew damn well this is where I drank, and had come here looking for me.
“Get lost, Ruby. I’m not in the mood for your games.”
“What’s up honey?” She trailed a manicured nail up my bicep, following the pattern of my tattoos.
The demon inside me sprang to life, responding to her touch, and I tried to fight it back.
“I said I’m not in the mood.”
“I bet I could change your mind.” She inched closer, pressing her tits against me, so they almost fell out of the top she was wearing. “Let me get you a drink and we’ll talk.”
Fuck it. One drink couldn’t hurt.
She ordered one of those ridiculous cocktails she drank and another beer for me, and we made our way back over to the table.
“What’s on your mind?” she asked, as she sipped her drink through a straw, causing her painted lips to pucker up. My body twitched, remembering those lips on me.
“Nothing I wanna talk about.”
“How about a distraction?” She leaned in closer, and squeezed my thigh.
The darkness inside was drawn to her like a magnet. I let my hands trail up her body, stopping to cup her tits.
If there was one thing better than alcohol at blocking out the voices in my head, it was sex. Hot, rough, dirty sex and Ruby was the perfect partner. She knew who and what I was. She embraced the darkness.
I crushed my lips against hers. “Let’s go to your place,” I whispered in her ear.