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eBook by Leora Stark
eBook Category: Gay Fiction/Romance
eBook Description: Tyler Morris did not have a happy childhood. He suffered abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father, then bounced around a series of foster homes. He became unable to express his emotions or deal with his past. Then, at fifteen, at a charity boxing camp hosted by heavyweight champ Jamie Lewis, Tyler found a purpose and an outlet for his anger. Seven years later, Tyler arrives at the The Gold Arena, Jamie's Los Angeles gym. He's desperate to train under the man who helped him turn his life around. With some difficulty, Tyler convinces Jamie to take him on, but their working relationship is complicated by a mutual attraction they both attempt to deny. Jamie fears their relationship will ruin Tyler's chance at a career in pro boxing. Tyler's scars run deep, and he knows he could be hurt if he opens up. But how can he expect to win in the ring if he won't let Jamie win his heart?
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, Published: 2012, 2012
Fictionwise Release Date: August 2012
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Tyler Morris stepped off the Greyhound bus into the bright California sun and shifted his baseball cap lower on his head to shade his blue-green eyes. As he collected his duffel from the bus's undercarriage, he had a moment of hesitation--he'd been so focused on making it to Los Angeles that he hadn't fully planned the next step. True, he knew where his ultimate destination lay--the Gold Arena Boxing Gym owned by Jamie Lewis, ex-heavyweight champion and currently one of the most sought-after trainers in the country.
The last time he'd seen Jamie had been seven years ago at a charity boxing camp back in New York. Tyler had been fifteen and Jamie was one of the trainers who had generously donated his time to work with a group of ten so-called "at risk" youth. The organizers of the camp had hoped that by teaching these kids--angry, troubled young men--to channel some of their destructive energy into something disciplined and rigorous like boxing, they could help to avert their slow slide from petty crime into something far more serious.
At the time Tyler had been no stranger to fighting. Far from it. Fighting had always been a natural instinct for Tyler, just as it had been for his dad, who would routinely come home drunk and take out all of his frustration with the world on him and his older brother, Sam. Sam had run away when Tyler was nine, and although that meant he'd left his little brother to deal with his dad alone, Tyler never blamed Sam. At first it had just been the occasional shove, but it gradually escalated, and by the time Tyler was twelve, his back was covered with a series of scars from the belt his father used to beat him with.
It wasn't long after that someone noticed the scars and the increasing number of bruises, and Tyler was picked up by Child Services and deposited into the first of many foster homes.
At that point he'd been angry all the time, and his recent growth spurt meant he could do some serious damage when he wanted to. As a result, he'd been shuffled from home to home with the claim that his "anger issues" made him impossible to house.
Then he'd turned fifteen and been offered a chance to attend the boxing camp. He'd resisted at first, as he did any attempts people made to help him, but the idea of spending a few weeks brawling (which was how he imagined boxing) appealed to him at the time.
That first day at the camp changed his life. The discipline, the rigorous training, the bone-weary feeling at the end of a day spent pushing himself to his limits physically and mentally--it left no room in his head for anything else. And that was a blessing.
After a few days of training, the boys were allowed to start sparring with each other and, occasionally, with the trainers. It wasn't long after his first amateur bout that Tyler knew boxing was the only way he was going to stay sane. He finally had a channel to pour out all the years of anger and hurt. And boxing left him free of the remorse and guilt he had always felt after losing control of himself in the past.
He was placed with three other guys under Jamie's direct supervision, and the older man taught him the basics of boxing--running him through series after series of rigorous drills, ensuring he had a solid stance, teaching him to jab, cross, and hook, and how to properly wrap his hands to protect them from injury in a fight. Tyler soaked it up like a sponge, exhibiting a natural ability for the sport. Jamie increasingly took extra time to work with him, and his patience, calm demeanor, and zero-bullshit tolerance brought out the best in Tyler. The two developed a close camaraderie.
Being with Jamie made Tyler realize that he could be strong without being rough. That real strength came from control, from discipline. At first, he found it hard to understand why someone as successful as Jamie would donate so much time and effort to training a group of young hoods who, more often than not, didn't make it easy for him. He slowly started to understand that Jamie genuinely liked helping people, and he learned that people could be kind and generous for no reason, which was a revelation for him.
By the end of the three-week camp, Tyler had been hooked. He felt he'd found his calling, the only thing that might keep him sane and centered enough to fend off his self-destructive impulses, his tides of anger. Unfortunately, getting more training required money. That was when he discovered that people would pay to watch two guys fight. This kind of fighting wasn't boxing--it was dirty, rough, and there were no rules. The winner emerged with a fat take of the profits, and the loser came out with a broken jaw and a broken hand--or worse. Luckily, Tyler had usually been the winner.
Over the last few years he'd used those winnings to finance his time in the gym and had refined the basics Jamie had taught him during their short interval together. He'd been told by several trainers that he had a natural ability; he was light on his feet with a good range helped by his lanky but solidly muscled six-feet-two-inch frame. But he knew that if he wanted to make a career out of the sport he was slowly growing to love, he needed to be trained by the best, which was what brought him to LA.
He hoped that Jamie might remember the short time they spent together all those years ago. In fact, he was depending on that to get his foot in the door. After that he was trusting in the skills he'd picked up since then to persuade the popular trainer to take a chance and train him formally. He had a lot riding on both these hopes. He'd sold his bike and anything else he'd had of value and used all of his savings from the amateur fighting circuit back in New York to finance his move here. But even that wasn't going to last him long if he didn't get some income.
He hadn't really felt that sad leaving New York, though the city had been his home since he could remember. He didn't have any family to keep him there--his dad had died two years before, and he hadn't seen Sam in years. His friends and gym buddies had been sad to see him go, but in all honesty, he hadn't been that close to any of them. He was too reserved and suspicious to trust people well enough to really get to know them.
True, there were a couple of girls who had been sad to see him go, short-term hookups really. He had never felt enough of a connection to make anything real with any of them. He'd always treated them well, respectfully, made sure he returned the favors they gave him at least as fully--and he'd developed a bit of a (mostly deserved) reputation for cycling through women.
For a while sex had offered the same immediate physical gratification and feeling of calmness that boxing did, so he'd pursued it with the same intensity and passion he brought to the ring. He'd even varied his options a little, experimenting with threesomes at first, then one-on-one with a few guys. He'd enjoyed it--more than he'd expected to--but increasingly it just felt empty, like something was missing. That was when he'd begun to focus all his attention seriously on moving to LA and making his dream come true. In fact, he hadn't fucked anyone in months.
After the boxing camp, he'd kept up with Jamie's career, watching his fights and trying to imitate his fighting style--the seemingly effortless way he moved his body around the ring, always out of reach of the other guys' punches but able to land solid head/body combos that left his opponents dazed. He was the golden boy of boxing for a time--literally, with his chin-length blond hair and lightly tanned skin--but also because he fought hard but classy. Now that Jamie had retired his gloves, he was sought after as a trainer. Having mentored the last two heavyweight champions, he was referred to as the Kingmaker. If Tyler had his way, he'd be the next.
The only problem was how to convince Jamie that he was worth the time and effort. Would he even remember him?