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  • The Devil You Know

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    Rorye's Loft above The Book of Kells


    March 8th, 2022





    Braedyn snorted a breath at her, the older of her two brothers outside the ring in the corner, arms draped over the ropes. Frayed bleach white towel over his shoulder had blood on it, hers.


    *npc* “C’mon Barra, you should’ve finished this git by now!”


    Term of endearment for her didn't hide he was impatient, and disappointed. Rorye pulled herself up for the umpteenth time from the mat and tried to find her footing. The strong, lithe form wobbled a bit but came to a resilient stance as her arms came back up. Gloves returned to their guard. Puffy eye hurt, the glance up toward the mirrored glass on the second floor overhang bringing another shake of Braedyn’s head. He ran his fingers through longer dark curls to pull them from his forehead while scanning the other rings and bustle in the gym. Though busy, the gym inhabitants were trying their damnest not to watch the "sparring" match. It was all the buzz, he could feel it.


    She felt the disappointment, knowing her father was watching from behind the office glass. Finding someone that trained at the gym ballsy enough to go toe-to-toe with the boss’ daughter was rare enough. Actually squaring one that would be willing to kick her ass in front of her father and Rottweiler brothers was a lucky shot. She’d begged him to find someone because she was ready and now when he finally agreed to it, she was getting her ass handed to her.


    Braedyn called time and waved her over to the corner. Chest heaving, footsteps were stable, expression a bit like a wounded puppy as she moved toward him. He took her mouthguard and gave her water, wiping her eye. She’d have a helluva shiner.


    *npc* “What the fuck is wrong with you? My sis is having an existential crisis about not kicking a man’s ass because wuh?”


    Her expression was sullen.


    *npc* “Is it him?”


    Braedyn’s dark eyes glanced incredulously at a young man her age near the lockers that was talking to a rather gorgeous blonde. Her brother Brae was born on the Isle, and New York had done nothing to stave the brogue her brothers had; especially the more annoyed they got. Right now it was thick as molasses, the sibling ten years her senior having none of the young man she was obviously crushing on and the girl she was obvious jealous of. School mates for sure, though the man he’d seen here often watching his sister. Brothers bristled at someone chaffing their baby sister’s pride. Braedyn grabbed her chin and turned her face to him.


    *npc* “Look’a me… iffin’ a man is intimidated by you, he don’t deserve to have you at his side.”


    She nodded, spitting out the water. He brushed the towel over her brow one more time and nodded back.


    *npc* “When we go back home to get things in order with mum, we need to know you’re good ‘till we come back. You gonna swoon on a Yankee he better be worthy.”


    Her eyes had wandered back to the young man, Michael. He’d taken notice, so had the blonde… Genna. Genna not so much of Rorye in the ring, but the fact Michael was no longer paying attention to her flirting. Rorye nodded to her brother and he gave her back her mouthguard. She hated that catty bitch. Useless trophy wife material interested in only his money. She'd made that abundantly clear in high school bathroom "girl meeting" bragging sessions.


    Returning to the center, squared off and stance together, the fight resumed. Several hard hits were taken, ribs hurt. Whether it was a lucky shot or skill was up for debate; the opening she took advantage of allowing for a brutal assault on her opponent. It wasn’t the ultimate perfect high school movie ending. It was bloody and hard won. Her opponent hit the ropes, lingering there for a moment before he fell and didn’t get up.


    Chest heaved, gloves felt too heavy to raise so the ref did it for her.


    Braedyn had come into the ring afterward, wet towel wiping her features. Her father had come down sometime during the end and taken perch in Braedyn’s former spot, as did her brother Callum. Both brothers had the same dark curls in varying lengths. Callum’s was pulled back into a short ponytail, Braedyn’s shorter. She had the look of her father, the expressive eyes and thick mahogany hair that hinted of red in the light. His now twinkled with silver at the temples and was almost always shorn in a high and tight. Intimidating just in stature, his muscled appearance demanded pure respect before he ever spoke a word. The man was a mountain with the heart of a lion. He rarely smiled, self-conscious perhaps about the scar his dimples would accentuate. Half of a Glasgow smile marred his face, able to have broken the men’s necks before they had finished the job. An old scar, it still bothered him. It was a testament to how strong he actually was. He didn’t see it that way.


    He rarely saw anything the way she did, but she still adored him anyway as daughters did.




    Lashes fluttered a moment, remaining closed as her body woke up to join her consciousness. Warm, incredibly comfortable. Middle of the night. Living room was dim, fire still flickering in the hearth. Lamp behind her gave off a soft glow, enough to read by. She’d fallen asleep on the couch in her favorite t-shirt and boxers, drifting off with the picture being used as a bookmark in her hand; spurning the dream. Having gone back to the gym to view again what had been disturbed a week prior, the picture was the one thing she’d brought back. Leaning down slightly from her soft couch and blanket she picked up the picture and book that had fallen from her fingers in sleep. Book placed softly on the coffee table, she kept the picture. Expression thoughtful, though a bit melancholy, thumb slid over the faces captured in time. The four of them. She still had the shiner when it was taken. It was the last picture they took before the three of them left to settle her mother’s affairs. It was the last time they were all together.


    Fingertips wiped at the moisture on her lashes, stinging silent tears. Rorye didn’t cry, but a daughter did. She missed them. More now than ever. Vivid dreams could do that. Voices and faces that felt so real they could be touched, crushed sharply against the reality she could no longer just pick up the phone in the middle of the night when she was missing them. It would be early morning for them. They would be up. They always were.


    Looking at the back, she had written all their names and the date. Sighing, she dropped it on the coffee table and pulled the fluffy white comforter around her and settled back in to try and sleep. Contemplating seeing if anyone was home she could climb into bed next to, she finally decided against it. Tears brought concern. Concern brought explanations. Explanations sometimes just churned up more hurt.


    Eyes closed, long exhale to try and let it all go... hoping sleep that could wipe away the crushing loss felt in her chest wouldn't be fleeting.

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