The Best Thing - Page 53

“Hold on a second,” I told Jonah while focusing in on the man-child, who had apparently immediately spotted me too based on the way his feet seemed to stutter as he walked in. “One sec,” I said again, before turning to head a few feet closer to the door. I was already shaking my head at him. “No, man.”

Shawn’s nostrils flared. “Listen, Lenny—”

“Nope,” I cut him off. “Turn around and walk back out. It’s not happening. You’ve got another three and a half months before you can come back.” I had specifically told him the exact date he could rejoin the gym when I’d had to suspend him for repeatedly elbowing another fighter in the spine while they’d been sparring, even after Peter had told him to stop.

The guy, who hadn’t even been a member of Maio House for that long in the first place, dropped his head back, and I watched his hand tighten around the strap of the bag he had over his shoulder. “Come on—”

I wasn’t going to waste either of our times by letting him spout off some bullshit he thought would let him get away with being here. Even if it was really good bullshit, it wasn’t going to happen. “No.”

“It’s been almost three months, Lenny. Give me a break.”

I shrugged. “It’s been two months and sixteen days. You should have thought about that before you broke the rules.” I knew better than to say I was sorry. I was sorry he was missing out on valuable training, but no one had told him to do something stupid over and over again.

Actions had consequences. Everyone knew that, and if they didn’t, they should.

“I regret what I did.”

So did I.

When I didn’t respond, he managed to get out, “Can I please come back?”


He dropped his head back again. “I said please.”

I couldn’t even feel that much remorse in me as I replied, “And I said not yet. You’ve got three months and fourteen days to go.”

“Oh, come on!”

Was he raising his voice at me? My silence was his response, and it wasn’t what he was looking for. I could wait him out.

He definitely did raise his voice then. “Are you fucking serious? I’ve got a fight in three weeks. This is bullshit!”

I raised my eyebrows at him because I knew he wasn’t fucking talking to me like that. “I get that you’re pissed off,” I told him calmly, keeping my voice just level just barely, “but don’t talk to me like that.” Not if he wanted to keep all his teeth in his mouth.

“This is bullshit!”

Was it? Just as I opened my mouth to tell him to calm down, a big figure stepped right next to me and said in a voice I had never heard out of him before, “Mate, you keep raising your voice, and we’re going to have a problem.”

It was like he hadn’t seen him behind me or something, because the moment Shawn’s eyes flicked behind me to find who was speaking, he took a step backward. And that was the last thing I noticed then because I was too busy looking over my shoulder as well.

Jonah was staring straight through this moron with these intense eyes that I had only seen once or twice in my life, which said a lot because of who I had grown up around. What I had grown up around.

But Jonah’s expression was something else completely. Maybe because he was usually so easygoing and self-contained. I had seen him, from a distance, stare down opposing players during their games—matches, tests, whatever they called it—but this one….

I had to look away from him. I didn’t miss the way Shawn shuffled back another step before flushing red and basically mumbling, “Please, Lenny. I said I was sorry. I won’t use my elbows on anyone again.”

I didn’t need to look over to feel the intensity radiating from the man at my side, and it took a whole lot of self-control not to glance at Jonah but instead focus on this other imbecile. “Three and a half months and don’t ever step up to me like that again or use that tone of voice. You were warned, Shawn. You were told to stop, and you didn’t. So it’s three months and fourteen days. Are we clear?”

A big forearm brushed my arm, and I could hear Jonah breathing steadily.

Shawn gritted his teeth together, shook his head, and then he turned around and walked back out the way he’d come.

I glanced back at the Not Really a Fucker without trying to move my head so I wouldn’t get caught. I didn’t trust my facial muscles then. I didn’t trust myself, period, honestly.

Jonah was too busy watching Shawn leave to notice what I was doing. Those crazy focused eyes followed him until the door slammed shut. Only then did he speak again. “Is there anyone else here who talks to you like that?”

I was too busy taking in his mean-ass expression to reply with more than, “No.”

Jonah lowered his gaze, eyebrows still knit together; that mouth of his hard, eyes slightly narrowed, and I really hoped more than anything that my own eyes didn’t widen at the sight of his pissed-off face. But when his mean face immediately fell off—and I didn’t feel disappointed by it, not a lot anyway—those features turned into the ones I was familiar with. Normal, good Jonah. The one who had turned pink a few days ago when I called penises sad bananas.

Normal Jonah looked at me with only a hint of tightness at his jaw. “I didn’t mean to use that tone around you.”

I blinked up at him, still hearing the voice he’d used in my head. “Where did that come from?” I asked slowly, hoping that didn’t sound anything close to dreamy. Because I wasn’t… feeling that way. I wasn’t feeling any kind of way. Surprised. Impressed a little. That was it.

Okay, maybe even a little pleased he had stepped up beside me. Maybe. A little.

I couldn’t remember the last time anyone had done that. Now that I thought about it, I wasn’t sure anyone ever had. If I needed someone or something, I knew they were there. And I could sure as hell defend myself.


The puff of a laugh out of him almost erased the memory of Mr. Deep-Voice a moment ago. “From footy.” His right dimple popped. “I didn’t like the look or the sound of him. He had no right to talk to you like that. You sure you don’t deal with arseholes like that regularly?”

I wished he didn’t suddenly sound so concerned, especially when that tone he’d used and that face he’d made were still so fresh in my head. “Not often. Every once in a while.”

He didn’t exactly look like he believed me.

But I still couldn’t help but eye him as my bitch-ass ovaries decided to stretch out right then and remind me they were there. Awake. Listening. Paying way too much attention.

Ah, fuck it.

“I don’t know how to tell you this without it coming out wrong….”

“All right….” He trailed off too, beginning to give me a smile that seemed nervous and wary and curious at the same time. “Should I be worried?”

I shook my head, still fucking eyeballing his face, seeing the cheeks slowly, slowly turning pink on their own. “Here I’d been thinking this whole time that you were so nice and sweet and too good to be true, and now you just used that I’m-gonna-kill-you voice, and you were looking at him like you might hurt him, and….” Honest to God, I sighed as his eyebrows went up and that mouth tipped up a little higher in reaction. “You’ve got a little bit of an alpha thing going on in that polite-ass body, buster.”

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