At this point of my story, I need to beg my reader’s forgiveness. You see, at this point of my life I met two men, two men whose presence in it was the catalyst that changed me from a terrified, abused woman who truly, deeply believed no one needed her, that her life was completely worthless into the person I am today. I can’t tell this story without them being a part of it because they aren’t supporting roles. They’re main characters I owe my life to.
So what’s the problem you ask?
The problem is that years ago I promised I would never put them in a book. They knew who they were dealing with. They covered their tracks well.
So bear with me as I try to keep my promise to them.
Kickboxing practice at Hard Drive was my therapy. I loved every second I was there and I loved my ever growing band of teammates. However, I only talked to them during class. When class was over I packed my bag and went home.
New people and crowds frightened me to the point of anxiety attacks. I never knew who knew my ex. I never knew when he would show up. I spent years thinking my feelings were lost love. It took two decades to realize it was pure terror. He had control on me still and I couldn’t shake it. I was in prison and I figured death was the only way to freedom.
Keoni suggested several times to our class to take advantage of the open gyms Hard Drive offered. It took awhile for me to catch on but finally I started going. It was alone time for me to gather my thoughts. The gym was my peaceful sanctuary. When I was there I kept to myself reviewing drills I had learned that week.
One Friday night I wasn’t alone. There were two guys with me doing jiu jitsu together. I struck the bag for several moments then took a step back to catch my breath.
Suddenly one man busted out laughing and shouted, “she heard you!”
I frowned, looked at them and asked “heard what?”
Supposedly one had told the other to “mount him”, a perfectly innocent request for jiu jitsu but something that could be wildly misunderstood outside gym doors.
And a friendship was born.
I’ve been lost in edits of my new book. It’s kept me from this. I’m home and not feeling great so it’s a great time to add more.
On May Eighth, the same day I self-published my first children’s book, Black Irish was released. I had no idea what I was doing. I went to my first conference with nothing to sell. I promoted my name instead. It worked out better than I hoped but I was still lost in the great world of publishing.
One of the ways I was encouraged to promote my books at the time was through a blog. I did as I was told and set one up. I read other people’s blogs. They visited mine. Some were adventurers, some artists, some authors. We shared pieces of what we loved with them as they shared what they loved.
One particular blogger put up a picture of a bridge over a river. I stared at it for at least a half an hour. I knew that bridge. It ran over the Mississippi not too far from where I lived. I finally got the courage to message the blogger and ask if I was right about the location of the bridge.
I was wrong. The bridge was, in fact, about twenty miles from where I thought. Same river. Same state. But the blogger lived where I assumed the photo had been taken.
I’m pretty sure I creeped her out with my question. When she asked why I wanted to know, I told her to look at my profile picture. It was in front of the Drake University stadium with my family. We all (but my daughter) wore t-shirts from the track club we belonged to. The name of the city I lived in was there spelled out in big letters.
The blogger, whose name was Heidi, lived an hour from me. We started to talk every day. We chatted about our books, our families, just about everything. We became the best of friends. I told her she needed to submit her books to Secret Cravings. After a bunch of debating she agreed. They were accepted. When I was offered to host my own Blog Talk Radio show, I begged her to be my cohost. After some convincing she relented. It was easy to see I was the bad influence in our friendship.
As the summer ended, the kickboxing enrollment at Hard Drive increased. There were only a handful of us but it was nice to have others to train with. It was still difficult to open up past just standard pleasantries. I wasn’t sure I ever would.
September rolled around. I finally finished my book. I named it Breaking the Cycle. With the time I spent at Hard Drive and all the people I talked to both in and out of the gym about it, it was already a labor of love. I made friends over this project, some who would become my second family. I wrote the blurb and the synopsis, packaged it up and sent it by e-mail to Secret Cravings.
I instantly regretted it.
This was my baby. I invested my soul into it. It was hard enough to have been rejected by multiple publishers and agents when I pitched Black Irish. But this? I’d be devastated. After panicking over it for an entire day I decided to e-mail the Submissions Editor and ask her to disregard my submission.
It was too late. Before I could get the message out, the acceptance letter and contract were sitting in my account. They wanted my book. Breaking the Cycle would be published in January 2014.
I didn’t expect to write this right away, but as soon as I posted it popped into my head.
I haven’t told many people about this part of my life. So…yeah.
I’ve mentioned that when I joined Hard Drive that I was struggling – with myself, with the world around me, with nearly aspect of my life. I had a loving family, supportive parents, great friends. What could possibly be my problem?
When I was eighteen I started seeing the boy next door. Literally he lived next door. He was best buds with my little brother (who is eight years younger than me) but he was my age. At first it was just fooling around. I didn’t want a relationship because all mine ended badly. It seemed every guy wanted one thing – sex. When I wouldn’t put out, he dumped me.
As the months moved on, I fell for him. It wasn’t much longer that I became pregnant. I was so head over heels that I missed the warning signs.
He did everything to keep me from my parents and my friends.
He accused me violently if another guy just looked at me.
He hit me and blamed me for it.
He raped me. At the time I shoved it aside. I was just being a good girlfriend, right? It took years for me to see what he really had done. I said stop. I said no more. He held me down and kept going.
He told me I was worthless. Stupid. Ugly. No one could love me. He told me that over and over until I believed him. I believed him for years, decades, no matter what anyone would say.
Some days I still believe him to this day.
He threatened to kill any guy who came near me. Months later, a couple guys would assault my fiancé outside his place of employment.
When I went to a store I would search the aisles for him. At first I thought it was out of anticipation. Later I realized it was out of fear. I couldn’t handle crowds. What if he was there? Would hurt my now husband? Would he hurt me? Would he take the child that he had pretty much thrown away?
I contemplated killing myself. Seriously I thought about it. I devised ways to go through with it. The pain I felt, the dead feeling inside was just so hard to take. I didn’t feel like I was living. But every time I plotted, I thought of my children. I couldn’t leave them motherless. So I kept on. I lashed out at my husband. I made his life miserable.
The first step out of my hell was a book. I’m a huge Karen Marie Moning fan and I was in the middle of the Fever series. The heroine talked about the walls she built between her and the hero. It made me think. I built walls between my husband and me. I wanted to tear them down. But I had no idea how.
Then I started training at Hard Drive. Slowly I gained confidence. I saw my self worth. I started to recognize the people around me who loved me. I saw the man who had rescued me from the bastard who destroyed me, who loved me despite of the pain I put him through. I saw my proud parents and brother who had always been by my side. I saw my children who loved me so much. I saw the new family who had adopted me as one of their own. Up to this point I thought their words and actions were just for show. No one could love me. That’s what I believed. That’s what was rammed into my brain.
I saw through the lies. I was getting my life back. For the first time in so many years I stepped outside of my shell and took a breath.
It was glorious.
Now, it wasn’t an overnight experience. There were many days, nearly four years of them, that got me there. There were many souls that touched mine and ignited it. This isn’t just my story. It’s our story. It’s time to tell it.
It’s been a while since I posted. I’m juggling three books at once. But here is a little more of my non-fiction.
Please forgive me if I’m rambling. This is literally my first draft. If it ever makes it to publication I’ll clean it up.
I opened the black painted Hard Drive doors to find a long room separated by a wood wall covered in pads. Like I expected, there were punching bags hanging from the ceiling. The only one there was a guy about my height. He was blond, tattooed, and very muscular.
Now, before I go on, let me introduce this man. From the moment I met him, Keoni was someone who I respected. It wasn’t because of his skill as a martial artist even though it should be. He started his gym in 1999 when MMA was something done in secret. States outlawed it. According to them and most of society, it was dangerous.
No, he commands respect because he has lived many lives in the short amount of years he’s been on this planet. He is easily one of the most intelligent people I know. He will sit down and talk to you on pretty much any subject and his insight with blow you away. I love sitting down and conversing with him.
On that day, he took a obese woman and made her start believing in herself. It had been years since I believed in myself. I even thought I wasn’t a very good writer. He patiently instructed me in what to do. He set me up to do “wall drills” – a slow, deliberate exercise of a jab, cross, hook, cross and knee. I did them over and over. I did them at home. Things slowly fell into place.
As I said before, I dabbled in several different sports. Dragon boating, rugby, you name it. Now, I was trying to fight. This was definitely not supposed to be the fit. But I felt like I belonged there. Keoni encouraged me. He didn’t make me feel like I didn’t belong like I had before in other sports. As I was about to leave, he informed me that I would feel fine at first but the pain would slowly set in. It did. I could barely move twenty-four hours later. But I loved it. I was hooked.
During kickboxing practice over the next few months it was usually just Keoni and me. No one else had signed up to be a regular part of the class at that time. One day another guy showed up to work the bag. At first glance, I have to admit he scared me a little. He was bald, also tattooed with piercings in his ears and nose. Keoni asked him to work with me. He agreed and came over to introduce himself. His name was Shannon.
Shannon is my pure definition of never judging a book by the cover. He joked with me to get me to loosen up. He was patient with me. And to this day his is a close friend and one of the sweetest, kindest, most genuine people I know. By the end of that practice I had gotten a little better at what I was doing and felt more and more like I belonged.
So, you all know that I’m a romance writer. If you scroll down on this blog you’ll find my stories.
Sometimes something in a person’s life demands a change. Things are turned upside down, rearranged and left in disarray.
This happened just recently to me. It dictated a bit of a change. I’m not going to stop writing fiction. And if you’re looking for it, I now host Tuesday Tales on my website.
I’m going to use this blog to compose my first non-fiction. It’s the story of my writing career, the demons who formed me, and ultimately about a group of people whose love, acceptance and friendship helped me out of the hell I was living in. It’s the story of that family.
I have no idea when I’ll be done with it. I may never be done with it. I appreciate you taking a look. Here is the beginning.
All good authors do their research before they write. Or at least they try. And all I was looking for was research. Instead I found my soul. I lost it nearly two decades before and was pretty much living in an empty shell.
It all started about Christmas 2012. I had finished Black Irish and, due to quite a bit of encouragement, I submitted it to publishers. No one bit until Christmas Eve when Secret Cravings told me they wanted it and the sequels. The day after Christmas the contracts were in my e-mail.
I was elated. All I wanted was to have someone read what I wrote and now I was going to be an author with a publishing house. My first reaction, other than to celebrate with a bottle of my favorite wine, was to use my new found success to do something good.
But what? There were so many options. At that time we were struggling with my daughter’s disorder, Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome. Suddenly it was clear to me. I would write a romance novel with a heroine who had CVS. I was certain no one would read a book with a barfing heroine. But to be honest, I didn’t believe anyone who read what I wrote. So I dug into it and started writing.
I wasn’t far into the book when I hit a hurdle. My hero, Max, need a conflict with his job so he could make the heart rending sacrifice for the woman he loved. He was a personal trainer. He needed to take a job doing something others would snub him for. I thought long and hard about it. Pro Wrestling? Nope. Boxing? Nope.
Then it hit me.
Mixed Martial Arts. Otherwise known by it’s acronym, MMA.
I wasn’t a big fan. Actually at the time I detested it. I had a former employer who only gave us a raise (the only one I ever got) when he bought an MMA gym. I held a grudge against the sport. However, for my book it was a perfect fit.
It was time to do some research and there was so much to choose from. After carefully considering just a basic study of literature or watching videos, a picked a more challenging method of attack. I Googled MMA gyms in my area. One popped up on top of the list.
Hard Drive MMA.
I clicked on the website and found an e-mail address to contact. I sent a brief e-mail asking if anyone would answer my questions. The owner, Keoni Koch, responded back rather quickly and agreed. I came up with ten questions and sent them. They were ten questions that today proved just how clueless I was at the time.
While I waited for an answer, I checked the website more closely. Hard Drive offered kickboxing classes. I always wanted to try kickboxing. At the time I weighed over three hundred pounds. I didn’t stick to things for very long. My self esteem and my will power were non-existent. But I figured one month wouldn’t hurt. Right?
I pleaded with my husband to let me give one month a shot. He relented and agreed to pay the class fee for a month. When Keoni sent the answers to my questions to me, I told him I wanted to join his kickboxing class. He gave me the days and times of the classes and said he’d see me there.
I got lost the first day of my class and never arrived. The second time I made certain I had plenty of time. I climbed the staircase of the old warehouse and followed the signs. I was met by a set of black doors with the red Hard Drive logo painted across both of them. Here I was. My first kickboxing class. I was so excited.
I had no idea how much it would change me.
Dani’s flip flops slapped each of the light blue painted cement stairs with each step she took. She heaved a sigh as she shrugged her shoulder in a hopeless attempt to nudge her duffle to a more comfortable spot. The sounds of grunts, groans and vinyl being struck greeted her. Usually it was a sound that made her so happy. Today nothing could break her out of her funk.
Fitz disappeared while she was in the bathroom. He punctuated his departure with the slam of the door. His breakfast laid untouched on the coffee table. She reminded herself over and over it was just a one night stand. She couldn’t be with him. What would her team say? These men and women were closer to her than her own family. Her dating a member of Diamondhead? It was inconceivable.
It didn’t stop the tears though. She slumped on her bed and cried. Finally she pulled herself together enough to get dressed and head to practice.
As she hit the top step her eyes met with Ryan’s. She huffed. Great, of all the people to meet me this morning…
He cocked his head at her. “What’s up, buttercup?”
Dani averted her gaze to the gold champion belts that hung on the wall. There sure were a lot of them. Her’s now hung near the top, the newest to a prestigious collection. She hoped he didn’t notice her swollen eyes. “Nothing.”
“Right. You’ve been crying.”
“I have not.”
“Bullshit. What’s wrong, Dani?”
“I said nothing. Why can’t you take my word for it?”
“Because I know you, Dani. Remember?”
“Maybe you don’t know me as well as you think.”
“Whatever. Go get ready. We start in five minutes.”
“Fine.” She toed off her flip flops and stormed across the mats to the women’s locker room.
“Yum. That would be a breakfast I would never forget.”Fitz parted her lips with his. Dani wrapped her arms around his neck while still clutching the spatula. She needed to get herself together. Fitz was too smooth to be real. And she was sinking fast under his spell. Sleeping tonight was going to be lonely. He let her go and crossed the living room like a panther on the hunt. He stopped and winked at her just before his plopped on the couch. She inhaled sharply as she scooped eggs onto two plates and followed him.
Fitz took his plate from her and set it beside him on the cushion. Taking her wrist, he drew her to him and tugged the tie on her robe. The folds opened revealing her nakedness.
Fitz groaned in response as he pulled her down to him to straddle his lap. She squirmed as she landed. The only thing stopping them from having sex again was the thin cloth of his boxers.
“I have an idea,” he murmured.
“What’s that?” she asked as she fought to keep her composure.
“It’s Saturday. Let’s just stay here today. Let’s not get dressed. Let’s just be together.” He kissed her again. The way his lips grazed hers sent shivers down her spine.
“I have to get to the gym.”
He cocked an eyebrow at her. “You would pick the gym over me?”
“Ryan is trying to get me a fight. I need to be ready at any time.”
Fitz’s voice sound strangely astounded. “You take this really seriously.”
“It seems you don’t take this seriously enough. How long is it until your fight?”
“Four weeks. I have plenty of time. This isn’t my first fight, Dani. I’m a pro. Remember?”
“What’s your record?”
“Eight and six.”
“Those numbers would be much further apart if you put a little more work into it.”
“I don’t need a lecture. I’m fine.”
“I’m sure you are.”
Dani stared into Fitz’s deep brown eyes. The raging lust she saw earlier was gone. She could only surmise what she now saw was irritation. She knew she ruined the moment. But could she really be with someone who didn’t take what she loved to do seriously or at least support her dedication to it?
Unfortunately she was pretty sure the answer was no.
With a heavy sigh she scooted off his lap and stood. She fastened her robe closed then strode to her room. She had someplace to be. Her team counted on her. It was just too bad Fitz didn’t understand.
Welcome back to Tuesday Tales! This week’s word prompt is “call”. We’re back with Fitz and Dani in Enemy Linez. And I’ve jumped ahead just a bit once again. It seems like I have another couple I can’t keep out of bed!
Dani tied the sash of her bathrobe closed as the sound of running water met her ears. She smiled as she imagined Fitz stepping into the shower, lathering his naked skin up with her lavender scented soap. She laughed to herself. The guys at Diamondhead are going to get a kick out of that. It’ll be pretty hard to miss when they start rolling.
She opened a cabinet door and pulled out a frypan. Then she gathered eggs, peppers, spinach, chopped tomatoes and onion from the refrigerator. She cracked the eggs into a bowl, being extremely careful to deprecate the yolks from the whites. The yolks found their demise down the sink. The whites were dumped into the bowl.
She sprayed the pan with no-stick then dumped half the contents of the bowl inside. She felt her stomach twist a little. It’d been awhile since she cooked breakfast for a guy. And it sure wasn’t bacon and eggs. One of them had to look out for him. She rearranged the other ingredients again the heaved a sigh. She just hoped he didn’t hate what she was making.
As Dani carefully scraped at the cooking eggs to loosen them she felt a pair of warm arms wrap around her tight. The water droplets clinging to Fitz’s arms from his shower soaked through Dani’s bathrobe to her flesh. She shivered then chuckled. Yep. He smelled like flowers.
“Whatcha’ making me for breakfast?” Fitz asked just before he left a trail of kisses along Dani’s neck.
Dani bit back a sigh. “An egg whites omelette. All natural ingredients. Don’t bother bitching. You’re eating it.”
“I’d eat anything you’d cook for me.”
Dani scooped up a handful of each ingredient and tossed it on top of the eggs. She carefully folded the concoction together then patted it down with the spatula. “What if I laced it with rat poison?”
She couldn’t she his reaction but she could feel him shrug his shoulders. “I’d still eat it.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“I’m completely and totally serious, Dani. You’re perfect. I can’t imagine you could do anything wrong.”
Dani’s heart fluttered. Was she feeding her a line of bullshit? He was so smooth she couldn’t tell.
Fitz nuzzled her neck again. “So can I call you?”
“You already have once. I suppose I can’t stop you.”
“You could just not answer.”
“I’m pretty certain I will. I’m sure of it. Now go sit on the couch. I’ll bring your breakfast to you.”
The warm morning breeze wafted through the paper thin curtain. Dani felt her senses waken just before she was aware of the warm, muscular chest that served as her pillow. Instinct demanded that she sit up and get away from the naked man in her bed. Instead she snuggled a little closer.
She felt strong, powerful fingers brush the strands of hair from her face. A steady heartbeat drummed in her ear. She felt her eyes grown heavy again. A voice startled her awake.
“Good morning, beautiful.” Fitz’s voice was a deep purr, like a panther just before he took a bite of his victim. By her aching body, it was abundantly clear he had his feast of her all night.
“Good morning.” Dani lifted herself to gaze into his deep brown eyes. She still shuddered. How did such a crazy gorgeous guy end up in her bed? She was still trying to wrap her head around it.
“How’d you sleep?”
Fitz chuckled. “True. Very true.”
Dani cocked a grin at him as she lifted herself high, scraping her breasts against his chest. He let out a low, dangerous growl in response.
“I should probably ask you how you slept. It’s my bed.”
“Like sleeping on a cloud.” He looked up at the tropical photo on the wall. “Nice poster.”
“Don’t dis my poster.”
“I’m not. I’d just expect it on the wall of a teenage girl’s room.”
“It’s where I want to go. Someday I’ll be sipping rum on a beach just like that. Life goals.”
Fitz wrapped his hands around her arms and skimmed her naked body across his. He was hard. This time she was the one to moan. “I see. It’s good to have goals.”
Dani could barely answer as he tangled his tongue with hers. “Uh. Huh.”