Welcome to another day of the A-Z Challenge! This year I'm bringing you my new-adult, contemporary-romance ALL IT TAKES!
Each day I'll post a new chapter of the story - but please be aware, this is a mature story, with swearing and scenes of a sexual nature. If that's not your thing, please skip this blog on your A-Z Challenge travellings!
For those of your visiting my blog for the first time, you might want to start with A is for All It Takes.
Thanks to everyone who commented on L is for [I Hadn’t] Lost Everything. I'm glad people are continuing to enjoy the story, and look forward to hearing your thoughts on M is for Matthews Fight...
Me and Stacey arrived at the Ferrum arena about six the evening of Kian’s fight. The doors opened at half-past, and by quarter-to we were seated. Surrounded by beautiful, model-like women, we sat about seven rows from the front.
“This must be where they stick all the girlfriends,” Stacey said, her eyes shining in the dimmed arena. “You sure you and the nipper don’t want any food? I could grab us a hot dog if you want?”
“I’m fine, Stace. I don’t think I could hold it down anyway.”
Stacey reached out a hand and placed it on top of mine. “Girl, the first time I saw Josh fight I thought I was gonna puke. Then when I saw him get punched in the face I wanted to jump in the cage and claw the bastard’s eyes out. But that’d make him look like a sissy, so I didn’t.”
“So not helping.”
“My point is, the first time’s always the worst because you think it’s gonna be like a street fight or something, but it’s not. There’s medical people and stuff. Referees. Trainers. And it’s a sport, so whatever you’re visualising, it’s not like that.”
I swallowed hard and let out a sigh. “You’re right, I know you’re right, but you know, the idea of watching the father of my baby get smacked about is…”
I stopped mid-sentence when my eyes fell on the skybox. Inside were women in expensive dresses and men in designer suits, all sipping from Champagne glasses. Sat at the front of the skybox, with her eyes glued on the empty cage, was Emilia.
Stacey followed my eyeline. “I’m guessing she’s here for Davi?”
With a few minutes to go before the first fight, Josh’s match, I quickly texted Emilia.
>>I can see you!<<
>>About 7 rows back. With the hot girls. LOL!<<
>>Oh! I can see you! Tell Stacey I said hi!<<
I turned back to Stacey. “Emilia said ‘Hi!’”
“Tell her I said ‘Hi!’ back.”
“Can’t you just wave?” I said, sliding my phone’s lock screen on.
“No, tell her, then I’ll wave.”
“But my credit.”
“Fine!” Stacey said with a pouty face before standing and waving in Emilia’s direction like a mad women.
Josh’s fight, which he won by submission in the second round, helped to alleviate some of my worries. I’d watched some MMA bouts online, but seeing one in person, with the referee stepping in whenever he thought something wasn’t right, made the whole thing seem more controlled, more like a sport. It was exactly how Kian described it: two guys fighting over who was better.
By quarter-to-nine, it was time for the main event.
Matthews came out to a deafening reception, with me and Stacey the only people booing.
“Why does everyone like Matthews but hate Kian?” I said, as Matthews entered the cage.
“Well, Meg, Kian plays the role of an arse in public. People watch his fights because they want to see him get beat up, but he never does, which makes them angry, so they tune into his next fight in the hopes he’ll get his butt kicked.”
I let out a laugh and sat back in my chair. “Is that you speaking or Josh?”
“Hey! I’m a total MMA veteran now. I know most things,” Stacey said with a smile.
The lights dimmed once again, and a heavy rock song played out the sound system. As Kian stepped through the curtain, and into the arena, the crowd erupted in a sea of boos and cat-calling. Kian, dressed in a t-shirt with his sponsors’ logos on, his ‘fight shorts’, and a pair of pink flip-flops, smiled and winked at the crowd.
He stopped a few metres away from the cage so a man in surgical gloves could poke his face and grab his ears.
“What is that guy doing to him? Why is that guy doing that to him?”
“Oh Meg, you great big noob. He’s checking to make sure Kian’s not concealing anything.”
“I dunno, a knife?”
“How could you hide a knife behind your ears?”
“Who know? But rules is rules.”
Kian moved into the cage and side-stepped around the perimeter as though he was getting a feel for the space he was in. His face had changed. The smile, along with his usual bravado ebbed away, and all that was left was an almost blank, somewhat calm expression.
Both fighters took off their T-shirts and seemed to have a last minute chat with their coaches.
I couldn’t take my eyes off Kian, and I stared transfixed, as I studied the way his muscles rippled, and his tattoos glimmered in the light.
“Drooling much,” Stacey whispered in my ear, then grinned.
I decided there was no point denying it. “Have you seen him, Stace? Who wouldn’t drool?”
“The next fight is five, five-minute rounds, and is for the Ferrum Welterweight Championship,” the announcer shouted into a mic. “Hailing first, the challenger, from Newcastle upon Tyne. Weighing in at 168 pounds, Benjamin ‘Brawler’ Matthews.”
“And next, fighting out of County Wicklow, Ireland. Weighing in at 165 pounds, he is your Ferrum Welterweight Champion, ‘Killer.’ Kiaaaaan Muuuuurphyyyyyyyy.”
Both fighters stalked to the centre of the cage where the referee spoke with them. As the ref stopped speaking Matthews raised his right glove in the air, to which Kian answered by doing a 180-degree turn and stomped back to his corner. The crowd booed once more.
As the first bell rung out, my stomach filled with butterflies. I grabbed Stacey’s hand. It was like a car-crash; I wanted to look away, but something inside me compelled me to watch.
Both men circled one another, each throwing the occasional jab that couldn’t find its mark. At around four-minutes in Kian dropped to one knee and thrust himself into Matthew’s midsection. Matthews cocked both his legs straight and pushed down hard on Kian’s head, forcing Kian to the canvas. Matthews then dived on top of Kian and swivelled round, trying to hook his arms around Kian’s head and neck.
“I can’t watch this, Stace,” I said, putting my hands over my face.
“Don’t worry, Meg, he’s only got a few seconds to go, all Kian’s got to do is hold off until…”
The bell rung a second time, signalling the end of the first round.
“…See? Only four more rounds to go now.”
The fighters went back to their respective corners, and had a drink and a pep talk. What felt like only a few seconds later, both men were on their feet and the bell rang again.
This time Kian charged at Matthews like a ravenous beast, throwing punches – hard ones – at Matthews’ head.
I jumped up from my seat “Fuck him up, Kian!” I screamed, before sitting back down as if nothing had happened.
“We’ll make an MMA fan out of you yet.”
Matthews was reeling, and wobbled backwards, crashing against the cage’s grate fence. Kian kept throwing punch after punch. Then, in the space of a blink, Matthews gored Kian’s mid-section, spearing him to the ground.
Kian’s head cracked off the mat, and once again Matthews clamoured on top of him.
“No, no, no. Get up Kian!”
Matthews was trying to get his full weight on top of Kian, but Kian somehow managed to hook Matthew’s leg so he couldn’t move as easily. The downside to Kian’s defensive position meant Matthews was free to elbow Kian in the face.
“Is that legal?”
“What, elbows? Yeah, sadly.”
I couldn’t see properly, but it looked as though Kian had a gash above his left eye.
After not moving for a time, the ref stood the two fighters up.
At this point, Kian was panting for breath, as blood trickled down the left side of his face.
Both men started circling each other again, as they had in the first round. Every time Matthews got close, Kian threw a jab.
With only a few seconds left on the clock, Kian went for another takedown, which Matthews blocked and backed away from.
Matthews’ cornerman shouted something, and as he did, Matthews wound his right arm behind his back.
As the bell rung, and Kian dropped his guard, Matthews let fly a huge right hook which hit Kian in the side of the head.
“What the fuck?!” I shouted as loud as possible.
Kian fell to the ground, and the ref jumped in the middle. Matthews started making apologies, as though it was an ill-fated accident.
Kian stumbled to his feet and collapsed onto his corner’s stool.
“What the hell was that, Stace? You can’t do that can you?”
“That’s bullshit. He’s gonna claim it was an accident, too. That was planned, I bet you.”
I looked over at Kian and my heart sank. Not only was the cut above his eye getting worse, but now he had an lump on the side of his head where Matthews had taken a cheap shot.
The bell rang again. Round three.
Matthews put his glove up again, only to be met by Kian giving him the finger.
Kian seemed wobbly. Every third step or so was off balance.
Matthews charged at Kian, much like how Kian had in the round before. Punch after punch passed Kian’s guard. Matthews was deliberately aiming for where the cheap shot had landed.
As Kian stumbled backwards, and as the ref stepped forwards, Kian dived at Matthews’ mid-section again, this time wrapping both arms around Matthews’ waist.
Matthews, with one arm under Kian’s shoulder, started popping Kian in the side of the head with his free arm. Kian pushed Matthews backwards in an attempt to put some space between the two. As he did, Matthews caught Kian with a thunderous knee to the side of head.
As the knee connected, Kian’s whole body went limp, and the ref dived on top of him. I bolted to my feet, my hands over my mouth, as Matthews danced around the cage with his arms in the air.
“Why did they stop? What’s going on, Stace?”
Stacey went quiet, watching the scene intently. Then she joined me standing and put an arm round my shoulder. “He lost, Meg.”
Davi and Kian’s trainers dived into the cage and began fanning Kian. He still hadn’t moved.
“Why isn’t he getting up? They normally get up after the match ends, don’t they?”
“What do you mean? Why isn’t he getting up?”
“I’m … I’m not sure. I don’t know, Meg.”
“He should be getting up though, right?”
Kian’s body wasn’t moving. Medical people in green gloves entered the cage and sat around him. Matthews and his team, who had been celebrating moments before, stopped and all stared blankly at Kian’s body.
The tears building in my eyes leaked down my cheek.
“Why isn’t he moving, Stace? He should be getting up.”
Everyone in the arena stilled, as the medics brought in a stretcher. A neck brace was fitted, and then Kian was carefully rolled onto the stretcher. Moving slowly, the medics carried Kian’s body out of the cage, and lowered him onto a gurney.
Surrounded by Davi, and the rest of the coaching team, Kian was wheeled out of the arena. Once out of sight, the noise picked up a little, and the announcer from the beginning of the match took to the microphone.
“The winner of this contest, with a third round knockout, and new Ferrum Welterweight Champion … Benjamin ‘Brawler” Matthews.”
The arena erupted in cheers, seemingly forgetting that Kian had just been wheeled out by medics.
“This is bull shit. Matthews hit him with a cheap shot,” I said, climbing to my feet, and pushing past people, as I hurried to get out.
Stacey tailed behind me. “Meg, slow down. Where are you going?”
“To see if Kian’s okay.”
“They won’t let you back there.”
I span to face her, throwing my arms into the air and clenching my hands into fists. “They bloody well will.”
“Megan,” Emilia called out, as she came racing down a flight of stairs towards us. “Come with me.”
Me and Stacey followed Emilia to the concessions area, where Emilia sat me down on a bench.
“I’ve spoken to Davi. The medical team are checking Kian over. Let the medics have a chance to give him the all clear, and then I’ll call Davi again.”
Emilia bought me a warm sugary tea, and we sat together on the bench. I sipped my tea, and tapped my foot impatiently, waiting. I hated this limbo. I just wanted to know Kian was okay.
I’d almost reached the bottom of my cup when Emilia’s phone beeped. She scanned the message then tapped out a reply, and slipped her phone back into her bag.
“Was it Davi? Is Kian okay?”
“They’re taking him to hospital.”
“Hospital? It’s that bad?” Emilia looked away, and a lump formed in my throat. “What? What is it?”
Emilia laid her hands over mine, then said, “He still hasn’t regained consciousness.”
“What?” I leaped up, dropping my cup and spilling the last few dregs of tea on the floor.
Stacey grabbed my hands, and tried to stop me running to the arena doors. “Meg, calm down. He’ll be okay.”
“He obviously won’t, if they’re taking him to the hospital. We need to get there and find out what’s going on.”
Stacey steered me back to the bench, and Emilia soothingly rubbed my shoulder.
“And we will, soon, but you need to calm down first. You’ve got to look after you and the baby. You won’t be any use to Kian if you’ve passed out.”
I let out a long breath. Emilia was right, of course. “All right.”
The arena slowly started to empty, as people bought post fight snacks and merchandise, then headed home. Soon only me, Stacey and Emilia, along with a few other stragglers remained, and the cleaning staff showed up.
Stacey and Emilia chatted quietly, about … I don’t know what, I zoned out. I kept replaying the moment Matthews’ knee connected with Kian’s head, and his body went limp. He’d fallen to the canvas like a rag doll. My chest ached as I pictured the medics wheeling him out.
What if the assault to his head sent him into a coma? What if he had brain damage and never woke up? What if he woke up, but couldn’t function properly?
The sting in my chest became sharper, and tears filled my eyes.
The baby moved as though they were concerned for their dad, too.
“Shuuush, it’ll be okay, little one,” I whispered, rubbing my stomach.
Emilia’s phone rang, and she quickly pulled it out of her bag then answered it.
“Hey … Yes, she’s with me now … Yeah, she’s all right. Just worried … How is he? … Okay, we’ll be straight there. … You too.”
Emilia returned her phone to her bag, and turned to me.
“Kian’s been admitted to intensive care. Davi is with him, and his parents are on their way.”
“Can I see him?”
“Yes, Davi has told them who you are, so you’ll be allowed into ICU.”
I let out a breath I hadn’t realised I’d been holding. “Thank you.”
We headed to the car park, where Emilia got into her car and Stacey and me got into mine, then made our way across the city to the hospital. After parking, we headed inside to find out which floor intensive care was on. A nurse pointed us in the right direction, then me, Stacey, and Emilia climbed into the lift.
My heart hammered as we moved up to the first floor where ICU was located. The not knowing what I’d find was almost worse than the actual reality. I couldn’t stop picturing a number of horrific scenes in my head. Aside from antenatal visits, this was the only time I’d been in a hospital, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.
We got out of the lift, and walked along the corridor to the intensive care department, to find Davi waiting for us outside security barred doors.
“Only family members and friends with clearance are allowed in,” he said.
“Thanks for adding me to the list.”
“Not a problem. Do you want me to come in with you? It’s a little full on in there.”
I fell silent as my heart rate sped up. If Davi was offering to come in with me, how bad was it? But I had to face Kian alone. There were things I wanted to say to him that I couldn’t with others around.
“Thanks, but I’ll be okay.”
“All right. Just buzz the intercom and tell them your name,” Davi said.
Stacey took my hand. “You can do this. We’ll meet you in the canteen afterwards, okay?”
“Thanks. I’ll see you soon.”
Stacey, Emilia and Davi headed back to the lift, and I turned to the security doors, and pressed the intercom.
“Can I help you?”
“Yes, Megan Green here to see Kian Murphy, please?”
There was a momentary pause, and I heard the nurse checking a list, before saying “Come through.” Then the security door opened, and I walked into the ICU.
“He’s in room eleven,” the nurse at reception said. “If you could just wash your hands with the sanitizer outside, before entering, please?”
I headed over to room eleven, and pumped some of the sanitizing foam on my hands, then pushed open the heavy doors that lead to where Kian was.
Taking a deep breath, I walked across the room, until I reached to the foot of his bed.
I looked down at Kian’s unconscious body laid out on the hospital bed and my chest tightened. His skin was pale, and a mass of wires were coming from him; various monitors and a drip.
He’d never looked so small.
I choked back tears.
His face was almost unrecognizable. One eye was purple and completely swollen shut, and the other had a large gash across the corner, which had since been stitched up. His lips were bruised and twice their normal size, and the rest of his face was mottled with bruises in various shades of blue, purple and yellow.
Even I knew this wasn’t normal post-fight stuff, and the fact he was hooked up to a ventilator and monitoring equipment spoke volumes.
I stood for God knows how long, just staring at him, watching the steady rise and fall of his chest as the machine pumped oxygen into him. And as I stood the burring in my chest increased. The walls around me began closing in, and the tension spread down to my stomach. The air in the room felt thin and I took a deep breath, but I couldn’t get enough in my lungs. I gulped again, but it didn’t help. My breaths became quick and shallow, as my body started to shake, and my stomach spasmed.
I ran from the room to the nearest bathroom, and promptly threw up in the first toilet I reached. When I was done puking, I sank down onto the floor, pressing my cheek against the cold tile, and stopped holding back the tears. Gut-wrenching sobs wracked my body.
“Hello? Are you okay?” Someone called out.
“No,” I managed to choke out.
A second later, the door swung open, and I looked up at the woman standing before me.
The resemblance to Kian was unmistakeable. Her black hair was pulled back into a ponytail, and her eyes were a light, sparkling blue.
Her eyes widened and she nodded her head. “Yeah, and you must be Megan?”
I nodded mutely, still catching my breath.
“Here, let me get you a drink,” she said, stepping away and returning moments later with a paper cup filled with ice cold water.
She handed it to me and I gulped it down greedily. When I dropped the cup to the floor, the pain in my chest had eased, though my skin was clammy. I shivered.
“Come on, I’ll take you to the staff room and get you a sugary tea.”
I tried to stand, but my legs had turned to jelly. After a few futile attempts at climbing to my feet, Marie bent down and offered me her hand.
She was surprisingly strong for a woman so lean, and managed to pull me up and support my weight against her with ease. With me leaning heavily on her arm, Marie helped me to the staff room, where I fell into a seat at the table, while she made drinks.
By the time she’d returned, the sharpness in my chest had eased, and I was almost back to normal. Apart from the overwhelming embarrassment. This was so not how I’d planned on meeting Kian’s family for the first time.
“What happened?” Marie said, taking the seat opposite me and handing me a cup of tea.
“I don’t know. I went in there to visit him, and freaked out. The next thing I know I’m sobbing on the bathroom floor.”
“How are you feeling now?”
“Yeah, fine. Thank you, by the way.”
“Any time. We’re practically family now.”
My cheeks flushed and I looked away.
“How’s the nipper?”
The word caused tears to prickle behind my eyes.
“They’re fine, I think. At least, I can still feel them moving around.”
I rubbed my hand over my rounded stomach, where it felt like I had a bowl of goldfish swishing around inside me.
“That’s good. I’d still like you to pop down to obstetrics and have the once over though.”
“Yeah, better to be safe than sorry. Can I see Kian first though?”
Marie’s eyes softened and she smiled. “Of course. Do you want me to come with you?”
“I’d actually prefer a few moments alone with him, if that’s okay.”
“Yeah. How about I walk you over, and wait outside, then I can take you down to obstetrics?”
“Aren’t you working?”
As soon as the words left my mouth, I realised how stupid the question was. First of all, she wasn’t in hospital clothes, and secondly, her brother was in intensive care. Why the hell would she be working?
“No, it’s my day off, and surprise surprise, I’m here.” Her mouth quirked up in a smile, but it didn’t reach her eyes.
We finished our drinks in silence, then walked back to ICU, where we came to a halt outside Kian’s room. I hadn’t even opened the doors when my legs started shaking.
“You sure you don’t want me to come in with you?” Marie said.
I silently commanded my legs to stop twitching and shook my head. “No, I can do this.”
Before I had the chance to freak out and change my mind, I pushed open the hospital door, and strode into Kian’s room.
The sight of him, unmoving and exactly the same as he had been before, took my breath away, and the band around my chest strained.
You need to do this.
I took a tentative step forward, staring at the ground. I couldn’t look at Kian, or I’d lose my resolve.
One, two, three, four …
I counted the paces to his bed, until I was standing by his side. Then I finally allowed myself to look at him.
Up close, Kian’s injuries seemed worse. It wasn’t just his eye that was swollen, but the whole right side of his face, and the cut that’d been stitched closed was crusted in dried blood. I was no doctor, but I could tell it was going to scar.
My lip quivered and I rubbed away the moisture in my eyes.
I reached out a tentative hand, and closed it around his fingers, my eyes fixed on the rise and fall of his chest.
“Please wake up, Kian. There’s … there’s something I wanted to tell you when I came over the other night. I knew I should have said it then, but with everything you told me, it didn’t feel like the right time. And if I don’t say it now, well … I’m not taking any chances. I don’t know if you can hear me or not, but I have to say it anyway.
“You have to wake up. You have to wake up because the baby needs you … I need you … I need you to wake up so I can ask you if there’s any chance there might be something more between us.
“I know the night we slept together you said you weren’t after a relationship. I wasn’t either. But then the baby happened, things changed. And I didn’t realise it at first, but when I saw the picture of you and Ruby together, I couldn’t deny it. I was jealous. I was jealous because I want to be the one kissing you.
“But it’s more than that, and what happened at the fight only made it clearer for me. I don’t just want to be the one kissing you, I want to be the one you turn to when things are rough. I want to be the one to support you through everything. I want to be the one to help you realise you’re so much more than you give yourself credit for.
“All you see is the Kian you show to the media, the one you think always fucks up. But I see through that. I see the Kian who loves his family, and is going to be an excellent father to our little one. I see the Kian who is smart, ambitious and fights for what he wants.
“I see the Kian I think I’m falling for.”
Kian’s fingers flexed in my palm, and I looked up to see his eyes opening.