When two unlikely paths cross . . . compatibility seems improbable.
Adrift in a foul-mouthed world of ass kicking to survive life on the tough streets of Boyle Heights, Lila is anything but a refined girlie girl. Fighting tooth and nail for those she loves has left her with a chip on her shoulder as big as the gloves on her fists.
After years of being surrounded by glamorous glitzy women, Sonny didn’t even realize how much he’s yearned for someone of real substance. So, when he meets the unapologetic, sexy-as-hell Lila, her in-your-face candor awakens something in him he’s never felt before.
Despite Lila’s suspicions about Sonny’s intentions, the two begin a seemingly innocent, yet deliciously dangerous, online flirtation as his business keeps him away a lot.
The more their rapidly growing connection intensifies, the more Lila feels Sonny is too perfect to be true. But when she’s blindsided by the truth about who Sonny really is . . .
Compatibility suddenly feels impossible.
Lila scanned the lunchroom full of loud rowdy kids, the one she rarely stepped foot in, choosing instead to spend her lunch time by herself on the bleachers.
“It was only the one time, Lila,” Ali said nervously, already tugging on her arm.
“One time too many.” Lila stared out into the crowd, hoping it was someone in the group of Barbie dolls she hated so much. “You let her get away with it one time, and she’ll do it even more. Which one?”
“You’re gonna get suspended,” Ali urged. “Can’t you at least wait until after school when we can do this off school grounds?”
“No, I want every one of her fucking little friends to know what they’re in for if they ever do that to you again.” Lila turned to her anxious sister. “Now tell me,” she said as her fingers fisted at her side. “Which. One?”
Ali’s shoulder slumped and she exhaled loudly. “Missy,” she finally blurted. “She’s on the left with that big group doing all the laughing.”
Lila started walking toward them immediately. “Are the assholes that were with her when she pushed you here too?”
“I think so. Most of them anyway.”
“Good. Which one’s Missy?”
She wasn’t the Barbie dolls as Lila had hoped. But knowing this group had been bullying her sister for weeks and Ali hadn’t said anything until they actually hurt her, made Lila hate them just as much. More.
“She’s the tall one with the backwards baseball hat.”
“The big bitch?”
Lila scoffed under her breath. Typical big girl who used her size to intimidate others. She was pretend tough. This broad and all her stupid friends were about to see just how tough their big friend wasn’t.
As soon as they were close enough to Missy’s crowd, some turned and snickered when they saw Ali. No doubt still amused by the scrape on her sister’s cheek from where she hit the asphalt when Missy shoved her from behind. The instant Lila reached them and stalked right through their crowd to get to Missy, the snickering ceased.
Missy smirked when she saw Lila coming toward her. It was a nervous smirk. One Lila knew all too well. Any time one of these wannabe fake-ass tough girls ever got called out on their shit, they had no choice but to pretend not be scared. Lila could already smell her fear.
She turned around, thinking Ali would be right behind her. But she’d fallen behind as the crowd apparently closed in around Lila and Missy. Lila knew she had to move fast; the growing crowd around them would only get the attention of the dean or someone to break this up too soon, and she wanted to make sure she showed them all what would happen if any of them ever messed with her sister again.
This wouldn’t be the first time she’d be suspended, possibly expelled, from school, but it already felt like it’d be the most satisfying.
“C’mere,” she said, holding out her hand to Ali.
A few of the girls blocking Ali from getting through, moved out of the way when they realized who she was talking to. One was still in the way, so Lila shoved her. “Move!”
As soon as Ali was close enough, Lila took her arm and turned to Missy. “You’ve been bullying my sister and then did this to her.”
She pointed at the scrape on Ali’s face, which only got her insides nice and lit like it had when Ali finally admitted how she’d gotten it yesterday.
Missy shrugged. “I don’t remember.”
“Well, let me help you remember, you fucking bitch!”
Lila’s fist nailed Missy right on the nose, getting a thunderous response from the crowd: mostly loud gasps and guys yelling “damn!” then cheering. Before Missy could even bring her hand up to her already bleeding nose, Lila landed another blow, making blood splatter onto the nosy onlookers standing too close, and Missy fell back onto the lunch bench. The moment she was no longer taller than Lila, Lila went in for her move She grabbed a handful of Missy’s hair to hold her firmly in place then proceeded to pound on her face over and over.
She’d been right. Hearing and feeling the crush of Missy’s nose and then the crackle and slush of her bloodied face with every punch that followed was beyond satisfying. How dare this bitch put her hands on Lila’s baby sister!
As expected, the big tough bully never laid a hand on Lila, except to try and block some of her punches. Her attempts at even that were laughable. If Lila had to guess, Missy had never been in a fight her life.
By the time the narks and other school officials pulled Lila off Missy, the girl was a bloody blubbering mess. Even seeing the damage she’d done when they were able to contain her flying fists, Lila still threw a few kicks while she was close enough.
She stopped fighting the narks once she was too far to do anymore to Missy and turned to the stunned group of Missy’s friends instead. “You see that?” she barked.
They all stared at her, wide-eyed. Some held their hands over their mouths. One of them was even crying. She knew what she looked like to them at that moment. One of her foster parents had once called her a raving animal because she felt like one anytime her temper crossed the boiling point.
“Remember that the next time any of you even think of looking at my sister the wrong way.” As the narks began walking her away, her arms twisted and held tightly behind her back, she turned to Missy, who was still crying as a few teachers and cafeteria workers tried cleaning her bloodied face. “Shake it off, bitch! Isn’t that what you said to my sister yesterday when you shoved her to the ground?”
The very thought made Lila want to pound her some more, and she tried in vain to break free of the narks’ hold. That only made them twist her arm further up. “Enough, Rico!” the dean said. “You’re already in enough trouble. Don’t force me to expel you too.”
It was a slight relief to hear this wouldn’t be an automatic expulsion, not that she gave a shit about the school. She and Ali had only been attending this one for a little over a semester, and unlike Ali, who made friends almost immediately, Lila always preferred to keep to herself. Now she knew why they’d lasted this long in one place. Ali had been keeping the bullying from her. It burned her up to know this had been going on for weeks, maybe longer, but it was all her sister had to admit to because even that had Lila on fire the moment she told her.
The whole way to the dean’s office she tried her hardest to stay on her best behavior, which was hard given the adrenaline still pummeling through her veins. Her biggest incentive by far to not getting expelled again was Ali. The last time her fists had gotten Lila in trouble at school, she’d been warned Ali wouldn’t be coming with her if she had to go to a new school. She hadn’t wanted to chance being separated from her sister, so for months, she’d kept to herself and steered clear of any trouble. This time it just couldn’t be helped.
For nearly an hour, she’d sat just outside the dean’s office, waiting on him. First, he checked on Missy’s condition and talked with her parents in another office, and then he made phone calls in his office, to Lila’s foster parents and therapist, no doubt. The last time she’d been in trouble with her foster parents was when she nearly strangled a middle-school punk from up her street. For weeks, he’d been a dick to the poor young pit bull dog he dragged around on a leash. He wanted to show off the dog, but he didn’t know the first thing about training it, so he’d drag the pup, who’d often sit like a stubborn mule and refuse to move. The punk made the mistake of deciding to kick the dog in the head to get him to move right in front of Lila’s house as she sat on the porch. It was all she could take. She jumped her own fence to grab the leash and wrapped it around the idiot’s neck.
That probably would’ve been enough to teach the kid a lesson. Unfortunately, once in a rage like that, it was hard to come down from it and stop. Luckily for the stupid kid, her foster dad and the neighbor had been able to pull her off him before she did too much damage. And fortunately for her, the boy had been too embarrassed to want to call the cops or report to anyone that a girl had kicked his ass.
But her foster parents had insisted she get back into therapy. After many hours of talking to her therapist, it had since been established she was “very angry.” What a joke and waste of tax payers’ money! She could’ve told them that from day one and saved them all a ton of money and time.
Finally, the door to the dean’s office opened, and he motioned for her to come in. Dean Martinez was a tall muscular man with a wicked glare. He had a penchant for making examples out of smartasses who were stupid enough to talk back to him. But for the most part, the loud hallways literally quieted when they saw him coming, and everyone was on their best behavior. Lila could see herself being a dean someday, putting the fear of God into all the smartass troublemakers. If she was any good at school, that is. She wasn’t bad actually. She just hated all the boring shit, and she didn’t think she could handle another four years of it once she finally graduated from high school.
“Close the door behind you and have a seat,” he said as he walked around his desk and sat down. “Why are you trying to get kicked out of school, Rico? You have less than a semester to go.”
“I’m not,” she said; though she was aware her indifference was anything but convincing.
“You know we have zero tolerance for fighting here.”
“And you’re supposed to have zero tolerance for bullying. That bitch—”
“Language!” His deep voice bellowed.
Lila took a deep breath. “She and her friends have been bullying my sister for weeks. Probably longer. That scrape on Ali’s cheek is from that—” She paused to take another deep breath as her therapist had taught her to do to calm herself. “That Missy chick and her friends did that to her. You don’t do that to my sister and get away with it.”
Lila looked him straight in the eye, matching his wicked glare. Zero tolerance or not, this man had to understand that, unless he could promise her those girls or anyone for that matter would not be messing with Ali, then she couldn’t make any promises about her behavior either.
“You’re very angry,” he said.
For the first time that day, she chuckled, sitting back in her chair. “My therapist tell you that?”
“He didn’t have to. I saw what you did to that girl.”
“And I’d do it again,” she said, sitting up. “I’m all my sister has, and I’ll be damned if—”
“I get it,” Martinez said, holding up his hand. “And trust me. I understand. But doing what you did to that girl is not the answer—”
“Bullshit! If she’s gonna fuck with my—”
“Rico! I warned you about the language. I don’t care how angry you are. You will watch that mouth when you’re in my office.”
Lila stared at him, aware that already she was breathing hard and worked up, but she nodded, remembering she did not want to get expelled.
“Tell me something,” he said, sitting back in his seat. “What are you gonna do if one day you beat someone so bad you get thrown in jail? Who’s gonna look after your sister then?”
Lila stared at him, swallowing hard. This wasn’t the first time she’d been asked this since most of the times she’d lost it so bad were because someone had messed with her sister. The foster care system had been brutal, and she and her sister had found out real fast the only people they could rely on were each other. Ali had been born with numerous medical issues. She was better now, but those issues had done some permanent damage. Her growth was stunted, and poor eyesight forced her to wear thick glasses. Being the smallest and weakest of her group or class made her a target for bullying. Through their entire life, even when they were very young, Lila had made sure she made it clear to the bullies what they were in for if they chose to pick on her sister. But her therapist and her foster parents were always quick to point out she’d be no help to anyone if she was locked up.
Her raging was only getting worse. She felt it today. The reality was she could’ve killed Missy, and that was the real reason why she’d chosen to give her the beating in school. As incensed as she’d felt yesterday when little Ali got home with a swollen and scraped cheek, she hadn’t trusted herself to kick whosoever ass was responsible somewhere where she might have too much time to inflict her punishment on him. Even if it’d been a guy, she’d been ready to take a bat to his fucking head.
“I’m working on it,” she muttered.
“Really?” This time Martinez chuckled. “How’s that working out for you?”
Lila rolled her eyes, looking out the window. “I’ll double up on my therapy.”
“No, I don’t think that’s gonna work.” He sat up, moving his mouse around his desk then typing in something on his keyboard. “I hear your mother was a fighter. Boxing.”
Lila shrugged, glancing back out the window, refusing to show any emotion. This wasn’t something she wanted to talk about, and she didn’t want to lose her patience. All she wanted was for him to tell her how long she’d be suspended for and how else she’d be paying for today. Detention? Saturday school? Whatever it was, it’d been totally worth it.
“Ever think about fighting? Like in the ring?” He peered at her curiously. “Like your mom did?”
“Nope,” she said, looking down at her already swelling knuckles.
“Because it’s stupid.”
“Oh, that’s stupid.” He chuckled again. “Fighting in a controlled environment with a ref and rules to abide by is stupid. But fighting in the streets or school isn’t?”
Lila didn’t respond to that. She just continued staring at the knuckles she needed to get home to ice. They were starting to hurt. Only she knew the pain would just make her smile once she was out of this damn office. It’d remind her of how much more pain Missy was in.
“Why’s it stupid?” He raised his brows, confused. “You’re good at it. I saw what you did today against that big tough girl and—”
Lila scoffed, finally looking up at him. “Tough? She’s not tough. She’s nothing but a big bitch who likes bullying weaker and smaller kids because that’s what makes her feel tough. And that wasn’t fighting.” Lila pointed to the door. “That was me kicking her ass because she deserved it, not me against some trained fighter who might actually have a shot at hitting me. Fighting out of necessity isn’t stupid. Fighting for the sport of it is.”
“Is that why you’re so angry at your mom?”
Lila glanced away. She was not going there today. “Am I suspended?”
“Yes,” he said, looking away from his screen and at her now. “And technically, I can expel you. Missy’s parents are pissed that the cops weren’t called. They were talking about pressing charges.”
“What about what she did to Ali?”
Martinez nodded, holding up a hand again. “I explained all that and that Ali is not the first one she’s bullied. They know this. Based on our zero tolerance for bullying, I could have Missy expelled too.”
“Then why don’t you? She shouldn’t be allowed—”
“Because I made a deal with them,” he said before Lila could go on with her rant. “Technically, Ali could press charges against Missy too. She still has the marks from the injuries Missy caused. There are dozens of witnesses who saw Missy do it and others who’d come forward with complaints about their daughter. The damage you did to her today is pretty bad, Lila, and while I think it was excessive, this will probably end her days of bullying. She’ll be wearing those scars for a long, long time. But I was able to convince her parents that it may be for the good of everyone involved if nobody presses charges and we all let bygones be bygones if we can all agree to no more violence.”
Hearing the words “press charges” and the possibility of ending up in jail like she was beginning to feel might happen sooner than later, scared the hell out of Lila. She gulped, staring at her knuckles. “As long as she stays away from my sister, you have my word I won’t touch her again.”
“Another part of this agreement and my decision to not expel you is that I’d personally see to it that you deal with all that anger in a positive way. So all of this comes with one more condition.”
“Anything,” she said, lowering her voice.
“I want you to go down to 5th Street, the boxing gym around the corner—”
“Expel me,” she said, standing up.
“Sit down,” he said as she stood there glaring at him. “Do you want me to pull you out of this school and put you into a military-type school like your foster parents are suggesting we do? One where you’ll be on lock down and away from your sister until you turn eighteen?”
The hot tears from both anger and fear filled her eyes. “No.”
“Then sit down.” She did and the dean continued in a much calmer soothing tone. “You won’t have to fight anyone. But I really think hitting a punching bag and speed bag, working off some of that anger, would be good for you. It’s actually very therapeutic. It’s what I used to do.”
She stared at her knuckles again, feeling the emotion subside, suffocating emotion she’d begun to feel about being locked away at some military school—away from and unable to protect Ali—until she was eighteen. The thought of even putting on boxing gloves, something she’d sworn she’d never do, was still unbearable even though she wouldn’t be fighting anyone. But the thought of not being there to look after her sister, who still had three more full years of living in foster care, was worse.
“I’ll do it,” she whispered.
© 2016 Elizabeth Reyes
*Unedited and subject to changes.
I give you Lila’s love interests first encounter. Set up:
This takes place YEARS after the prologue where she beats the girl at school. She’s old enough to go to a twenty-one and over club and is in line to get in but has to throw away her Big Gulp cup out before going in. She’s also managed to gain a little control over her violent temper. Well. . . at least in this scene she does. Don’t get me started on what happens in the club later. But then that’s a whole other teaser you won’t get just yet! 😉
*Subject to changes
“I’ll be back.” She started toward the trashcan still sucking away at her soda.
Just as she stepped across the alley a car skidded loudly making her jump back and nearly out of her skin. Even as her heart pounded Lila cussed under her breath about the soda she spilled on her blouse. When she looked up at the car that had come inches from hitting her the guy behind the wheel mouthed the word sorry.
Another guy popped his head out of the moon roof. “You okay, sweetness? Need a little help cleaning up? I got two extra hands here.”
It was only then that she realized it was a limo. Lila took a deep breath and refrained from throwing her cup at him like she wanted to. Ignoring him, she walked around the front end of the car to the trashcan. The limo pulled out of the alley and stopped as the back window of the limo reached the sidewalk.
A guy in the back seat—not the douche in the moon roof—held out napkins to her. “I apologize for my driver and I’m not even sure what to say about the guy up there.” Their eyes met just long enough for her to notice the odd color of his. Then her own eyes were on that perfect yet familiar smile. “Seriously though, are you okay?”
If it weren’t for the fact that she had a major wet spot on her T-shirt she might not have accepted the napkins. “Thanks. I’m fine.” She took the napkins then walked around the limo from behind.
If you were a member of the team you’d also know since WAY back in August the name of her love interest is . . . Santino aka Sonny. and this is my inspiration for him.
And now that you’ve read their first encounter, read the next excerpt also shared WEEKS ago exclusively for my team only. here!!