Home > Not Even Close (A New Generation Series)

Not Even Close (A New Generation Series)
Author: Elizabeth Reyes

 


Prologue

The splatter of blood to Byron’s face jerked him out of the trance he’d entered. Barbara’s cries and the tugs at his arms from the frantic frat boys telling him that the guy he’d just beat to a pulp was out cold, barely registered. He got off his knee and stood as his previously blurred surroundings came back into view. For a moment, he considered calling Barbara a whore, considered telling her he never wanted to see or hear from her lying, cheating ass again. But despite his still breathless and enraged mien, he didn’t care about her even half as much as he knew the stunned crowd surrounding them now were thinking. This hadn’t even been about driving up and seeing Barbara making out with another dude. If the guy hadn’t gotten out of the car and called Byron out like an obnoxious asshole, Byron might’ve just driven away.

Without uttering a word, and before the cops rolled up and threw his dumb ass in the backseat of a squad car, Byron had the presence of mind to just walk away as he should’ve to begin with. He drove slowly, his eyes going from the road before him to the bloodied knuckles clenching his steering wheel. Breathing in deeply, he tried in vain to forget what his rage tonight had really been about. He did not want to sink back into that darkness.

His rage today stemmed back to the last time he’d had to nurse his bloodied knuckles. His mother’s untimely death had been the impetus for a few fists through walls and even a window. She was the reason he’d given a relationship with Barbara a shot to begin with. It’d been nine years since he’d considered doing more than just bagging random girls. His mother was the one who’d pulled him out of the darkness he’d sunk into the first time. Then she waited years to point something out that he’d never even contemplated.

When he’d slunk in one morning earlier that year from a night out with yet another might-as-well-be-nameless girl, his mother had asked, as she’d begun to do more often, about the girls he’d spent the night with. As usual, Byron couldn’t tell her much since he always made it a point not to get to know them. She’d shaken her head disapprovingly, but mostly she seemed concerned.

“I know Lizette was your first and only girlfriend, Byron.” She’d spoken with obvious caution. “I know losing her was an unexpected and tragic shock. But you two were just fifteen, and you two hadn’t even known each other that long. How profound could your connection have been?”

When he’d begun to protest that she’d been his first love, his first everything, she countered that it was because she’d been his first everything that he’d put her up on a pedestal that no other girl could ever reach now. “Honey, I don’t doubt that you loved her but only as much as a fifteen-year-old is capable of loving. At that young and impressionable age, everything feels that much more frantic. You can’t go the rest of your life hoping to replicate exactly what you felt for her because you’ll never be fifteen again. Your heart and soul are older now. While a new relationship might not be the same, trust me, it’ll still feel frenzied. Just in a different way.”

After his mother’s sudden and unexpected death just weeks after that conversation, he’d vowed for her sake to be more open to finding love again. So, when he met Barbara a few months after his mother’s death, and she showed interest in trying for more than just his usual, he decided to give it a shot.

Because of his indecision about his future after high school, he’d gotten a late start and, at twenty-four, was older than your typical college senior. But at least he was almost done. Against his better judgment, he’d decided to get a little more serious with Barbara, despite her being a nineteen-year-old sophomore. Byron knew firsthand that so many girls that age, just starting adulthood, were free spirits. It’s why it’d been so easy for so long to do the nameless bedhopping without any drama. Now he felt like an idiot about not going with his gut.

In hindsight, he knew the rage he’d felt today was more of the pent-up sorrow he’d been holding in since the loss of his mother. Not since Lizette had he allowed himself to cry. It served no purpose other than to sink him further into that dark place.

But seeing Barbara blatantly making out with another guy, when Byron had just been with her two nights ago, had been a blow to his ego. With his temperament, it hadn’t taken much to get him to react as if he really cared about her. Lesson learned. He could only imagine how much that might’ve hurt had he felt more for her.

He flexed his aching bloodied knuckles with a frown. “Well, shit.”

As if trying to keep his vow to stay open to love hadn’t already felt like an impossibility, on top of all the emotional baggage he was carrying, trust would now be a huge issue to add to his already broody attitude.

 

 

One

Jailbait

A Year Later:

Byron

Once again, the annoyingly cute and now contagious laughter distracted Byron from his crowd control duties. As usual the crowds were huge whenever 5th Street held one of these signings. In the last several years they’d only gotten bigger and bigger for good reason. The big-name athletes participating in the signings weren’t just boxers anymore. They’d since added a multitude of super star athletes from the other sports to their list of signing athletes at these events. It’s why Byron volunteered to come in and help out if they were ever understaffed. He never knew what new big name he’d get to meet in person.

Having a brother who was one of the athletes doing the signing came with its perks. His brother Leo, aka Beast was a former heavyweight champ, but his signature was still high in demand. So, Byron never had to stand in any lines and oftentimes got to hang out with said athletes in private when they lounged around after or warmed up before the events in one of the training rooms.

Byron was currently monitoring the line near his brother’s table. The first time he’d heard the sweet laughter was when the group of girls standing in line made it inside the gym from the line that went all around it. He’d been around enough of his brother’s fights and these types of events to know the difference between groupies and actual female fans. These girls were way too young and innocent looking to be groupies. In fact, they were way too young for Byron to even be looking their way. But it couldn’t be helped. Never had something like this been so damn distracting. For the most part, girls giggling and laughing in and around the gym where Byron had spent a lot of time for years wasn’t anything new. It wasn’t unheard of for people to come to the gym and try to hook up.

Usually, it was pretty obvious if that’s what chicks were up to. It’s exactly why normally Byron wouldn’t give something like this a second thought. But in this case, there was something so genuinely pleasant about the laughter that he was pretty sure there was no underlying motive for it. Sure, there were plenty of guys around and Byron was certain he wasn’t the only one distracted by the laughter, but it just didn’t feel like it was being done for the sake of attention.

Byron couldn’t even pinpoint what it was, but it sounded so sincere. Particularly one of the girl’s contagious laughter. It’s the one he heard most often and each time she laughed so whole heartedly, it had Byron smiling despite not having an iota of idea what that hell was so funny. It’s why it was so distracting. For over a year Byron hadn’t had much to smile about especially not this often.

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