harry styles boxer

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Favorite Harry Gifs #13 

Special Edition - T O N G U E 

The eating ones get me like the way he sticks his tongue out before taking a bite of food no please put that back in your mouth fuck you thank you

Fists & Knives - Chapter 23

“GOOD MORNING, YOU TWO!  GOOD MORNING GOOD MORNING GOOD MORNING GOOD MORNING COME ON TIME TO GET UP I HAVE NEWS!  Big news!  Good news!  Well, I guess good news… COME ON.  TIME TO OPEN YOUR EYES.”

Not ideally how I would have liked to be woken up the night after passionate make-up sex with Harry.  Before I fell asleep last night with Harry in my arms, I imagined my eyes fluttering open the next morning to see Harry staring at me like I was a sky full of blazing stars and stroking my hair gently, his lips parted just slightly with amazement.  Did I think that highly of myself?  Well, no.  But I hoped Harry did.  Instead of all of that, I was woken up by Arnold slapping our feet, which were unveiled by the covers at the foot of my bed.

Harry and I both wriggled around for a moment.  He opened one eye and looked at me, just as I was doing to him, and grinned slowly.  Not exactly the sky-full-of-stars look of amazement that I imagined, but it still gave me butterflies.  He scowled when Arnold patted his foot again.

“Wake up!”

“We’re awake, god dammit!” Harry grumbled, throwing a pillow at Arnold and sitting up quickly.  While Arnold ducked, Harry glanced down at me and remembered that, while it was acceptable for him to be shirtless in a room with Arnold, it was not the same for me.  He grabbed the comforter, which had fallen off of my bare chest when Harry shot up, and yanked it over my body, hugging it to me before Arnold saw.  Then he growled again.  “What the hell is going on?  What are you doing down here?”

Arnold’s eyes scanned the room.  “Well I’ve never been down here before, actually.  Quite nice.  I thought you might be happy to see me, though.  Good news.  You’re going on a date.”

“With who?” Harry spat immediately, his eyes nearly popping out of his head.  He held the comforter around my body as I shot up too.

Arnold laughed and held his hand out to me.  “With Kennedy, you idiot.  Who did you think?”

Both Harry and I let out a breath of air that neither of us knew we were holding in.  Our exhales turned to small chuckles of relief and Harry tackled me, forcing my head onto the pillow and attacking my cheek with kisses.
Arnold shook his head and rolled his eyes. “Liam will come get you in two hours.  He’ll take you where you need to be.”

I squealed as Harry kissed my eye.

“GOT IT?” Arnold shouted over us.

“Yeah, mate! Got it!” Harry called over his shoulder.  He seemed irritated, but lost all irritation once he turned back to me and Arnold disappeared up the stairs.

“Let’s go back to beeeeed,” I dragged out, unwrapping my body from the covers just enough for Harry to join me in a bundle. 

“Okay baby, okaaaaay.”  Harry kissed my nose gently and then moved his lips to my forehead as he wrapped his arms around me and pulled me closer so we could pull the covers around us like a cocoon.

“Is this date for publicity?” I asked aloud quietly, the thought suddenly entering my mind and falling out of my mouth before going through any filter.  Harry moved his lips from my forehead to my mouth, placing them gently against my own lips before shaking his head.

“It means publicity to Arnold.  To me, it means I get a day out with you.  Another date.  Well, if you want to go.”

I giggled. “I have a choice?”

“Well, no,” Harry chuckled.  “Would you have declined the offer anyway?”

“I might have.”

Harry pouted.  I pulled at his bottom lip with my fingers until he smiled and then reluctantly crawled out of the warm bundle of our bodies and the covers. “I guess I should get pretty for the cameras then.”

Harry sat up immediately. “You already are pretty.  You’re more pretty than pretty.  You’re gorgeous.”

I raised an eyebrow slowly and crossed my hands over my bare chest. “Mhmm.”

“I’m so serious,” Harry stated. 

“Sooo serious,” I mimicked him.  Harry didn’t seem to notice.

“Your hair is so brown and waves in all the right places and those eyes… ugh I could swim in them.”

“My eyes are brown,” I giggled.

“I would still swim in them.  Stop interrupting me.”

I gasped playfully but kept my mouth shut as Harry prepared to continue.  I knew exactly which feature he was choosing to compliment next because of where his eyes were looking. “Those.  Breasts.”  He bundled all of the fingers on one of his hands and kissed the tips of him like he was enjoying a fine meal. “Perfection.  Those hips… those legs…  They make me crazy,” Harry concluded, flopping his body forward onto the bed. 

I laughed as I watched him and ran my fingers through his hair, pushing it all to one side.  “You’re bullshitting me at this point.”

Harry turned his head sideways on the mattress so he could see me and took my hand in his own. “I’m not.  You’re like a work of art, baby.”  He kissed just below my thumb on the palm of my hand.  I retracted my hand and reached for my phone on the floor.

“What are you doing?” Harry asked, starting to sit up.

“No!!  Stay there, Bear.  You look to handsome right now for me not to take a picture,” I explained, lifting my phone.  Harry rolled his eyes and finally looked at me, grinning like an idiot.  The picture was perfect.  I felt a little silly, but it immediately became my phone background.

Liam picked us up two hours later, like Arnold promised.  Harry helped me pick out a pair of black jeans and a red flannel shirt.  As I fixed my hair and makeup, Harry ran to his room and came back down into mine wearing black jeans and a red flannel shirt.  My mouth fell open, my eyes widened, and I shook my head frantically. “No.  No, no, no, no.  We are not matching.”

“I was going to wear this today anyways…” Harry laughed, grabbing me another shirt: a plain, sheer white one with three-quarter length sleeves and a more relaxed fit.  “If you refuse to match me, you’ll be the one changing then.  I rock the red flannel better than you do,” he smirked.

I sneered playfully and changed shirts. “You’re probably right.”

As we drove into the city, Liam told us about his week with his father.  I felt bad, but I was hardly listening to him as Harry held my hand tightly in his own and drew little hearts and stars along the skin of my forearm.  If I was ever staring out the window, he would watch me and I pretended not to notice.  It was only when I blushed that Harry would grin and give my hand a squeeze.

“Liam,” Harry interrupted our driver as we neared the city.  “Where did you say you were taking us?”

“Arnold said you needed to walk around the city a bit and you have lunch reservations at-“

“Turn left here.”

Liam and I both glanced at Harry with the same confused expression.

“Turn left here!  You’re going to miss it,” Harry urged Liam.  Reluctantly, Liam obliged.  Harry continued to give Liam instructions until we had pretty much done a complete 180 and were going the opposite direction out of the city.

“Where are we going, Bear?”

“Just wait, babe.  I think you’ll like it.”

I could hear it before I could see it – the low rumble of tiny engines and the screeching of tires on the cheap pavement.  Harry beamed as we pulled up to an older-looking carnival space with four or five race tracks around a ferris wheel, but the only thing that seemed to be running was the go-karts.  The little cars zipped around the cracked pavement of the track and drivers steered out of the way of one another as they rounded corners quickly.  The smell of cheap gas stung my nostrils and I was tempted to cover my ears, but I laughed.

“Liam, join us?” Harry asked once we were out of the car, taking my hand and leading me toward the track.  Knowing that Liam lived for speed (not that the go-karts were very fast), I waited for him to sprint for the tracks.  Instead, he looked worried.  Harry laughed. “Liam, you’re not going to get in trouble.  K and I are.  Well, maybe.  Please, just come enjoy this time with us before we get screamed at for not eating an over-priced salad in the city.”

Liam shook his head but shrugged and grinned. “Fine by me.”

I tugged on Harry’s hand as Liam ran ahead of us to get to buy tickets for the tracks.  Harry laughed and cupped my face in his hands. “Oh, Love.  Don’t be worried.  We won’t get in too much trouble.”

I giggled.  “I don’t care about getting in trouble with Arnold…”

“What is it then?”

I swallowed and watched as the cars raced past the fence nearby again, the multicolored bodies of each vehicle whizzing by in a blur. “I’ve never driven a go-kart before.”

Harry’s face fell into a look of upset disbelief.  “What?”  I looked down at the ground sheepishly.  “You’re serious?”  I nodded.  Harry laughed.  “It’s like driving a car!”

“Except your body is all hanging out and people are bumping into you…”

Harry laughed again and pulled my chin up to look into my eyes.  “Scared, K?”

I scowled and pushed past him.  “No.  As a matter of fact, I’m going to kick your ass.”

Unfortunately, I was wrong.  I half-expected Harry to be that stereotypical boyfriend who lets his girlfriend win at something she’s new to… but he completely smoked me.  Thankfully, Liam smoked Harry by a mile, so Harry didn’t have TOO much room to brag.  Any time Harry would say something about beating me, Liam would come back with something about beating Harry, and Harry would scowl.  Liam was going so fast at one point that he caught up to me and bumped my kart from behind.  I got nervous and nearly swerved off of the track, but not before Harry came up behind Liam and bumped him away from me.  

Both boys kept me laughing as we sat at one of the picnic tables and ate some melting soft-serve ice cream, talking about our races.  Occasionally, someone would come up to Harry and ask for a picture, which he happily agreed to.  He would talk to them, recommend restaurants to tourists that were good and not overpriced, talk to little kids about what they wanted to be when they grew up.  I could tell from his facial expressions that his favorite answer came from a tiny brunette boy who answered, “I want to be a boxer just like you!”  It was completely different from being surrounded by pushy paparazzi and it showed me a completely different compassionate side of Harry.  Part of me couldn’t help but wonder if he had always been like this with fans in a setting like this or if it was a recent character development.  I was completely caught off-guard when a younger girl asked for a picture with both Harry and myself after telling me how lucky I was to be dating Harry.  Liam had gone to the bathroom, so I balanced my half-finished ice cream cone on the table and stood beside Harry with the girl in front of us.  She looked like she might have been in high school.

“I don’t believe the rumors about you being a slut,” she whispered as her mother snapped the picture.  Harry snorted and I tried not to laugh myself. “I think Haria was all a bunch of shit anyway,” she continued.

Harry grinned. “I couldn’t agree with you more.”

The girl raised her eyebrows like she knew it all along. “Even if Haria was real, Hennedy is more real.  I want a guy to look at me with the same look Harry has when he stares at Kennedy and she doesn’t know it.”

Hennedy.  We had a ship name.  My heart nearly exploded in my chest.  I opened my mouth to ask the girl what “look” she was talking about, but when I glanced Harry’s direction, I saw it.  The way his wide eyes just seemed to lose focus as he scanned my face, the way his smile was just slightly agape, the way he looked like he was trying to memorize everything about my stance, my hair, my facial features, all in that moment.  He looked like he was absorbing it all to remember in his dreams when he couldn’t be awake to see me.

As the girl and her mother walked off with their picture, Harry and I gravitated toward one another.  He brushed a strand of hair off of my lips and stared straight down into my eyes.  “I think I’m in love with you and it might terrify me.”

I blinked up at him.  “I think I’m in love with you and it terrifies me too.”

Without a second of hesitation, he pressed his lips to mine.  Harry spoke better with actions than words; while there was a good bit of uncertainty in his words, there was no denying the love in his kiss.  My head was spinning as he held onto my face and wouldn’t allow me to pull away – not that I wanted to.  Every second I spent around Harry had me falling more and more and more in love with him.  I had fallen harder than I ever had before in my life, and what terrified me was the thought that one day, I might have to get back up.  How could anyone ever recover from a feeling like this?  Harry admitted it himself – we were terrified of what we could do to each other.  At this point, he had my heart in his hand and his was in mine.  In a world like ours, that seemed like a difficult position to be in.

On the ride home, Harry held my hand tightly again, rubbing circles and swirls into my skin, but the air between us was thick.  Both of our minds were racing.  Is this how it usually was after admitting your love to someone?  It had been so long since I said it to anyone and meant it that I had forgotten.  I wondered if Harry had ever said it to anyone… and instantly I felt the pressure on my shoulders.  What if I was the first person he said it to?  What if I ended up breaking his heart?  It’s not like I would mean to…  I didn’t plan to… right now we had an amazing thing going and it was getting even better… why was I being completely pessimistic after such an uplifting moment with him?

“Niall is here.”

“Hmm?  What?” I asked, snapping out of my thoughts.  We arrived home quickly, and I couldn’t tell if it was because Liam still had a heavy foot from go-karting or if I had just been so wound up in thoughts that I wasn’t paying attention.

“Niall.  His car,” Harry said, helping me out of Liam’s chauffer car and spinning me to see Niall’s in the driveway.  Harry kissed me on the top of my head and rubbed my shoulders.  “Wanna go say hi?”

Not like I had any other choice.  How would this play out?  I loved Niall dearly, but last time I saw him, he was kissing me… on our date… in front of Harry… whose hand I was currently squeezing the circulation out of. 

Harry opened the door and led me into the living room where Niall, Louis, and a strange girl were sitting.  Niall leapt up immediately and ran to me, engulfing me in a tight hug and kissing me on the cheek.

“I have got so much explaining to do, and I am so sorry.  So sorry, Kennedy.”

I laughed. “It’s really okay.  Is your family okay?  What happened?”

Niall returned to his seat on the couch beside the girl and took a deep breath.  As he spoke, I admired the girl and her natural look, with brown eyes like mine and brown waves, more full than my own, but not nearly as long.  She had dimples in her cheeks that remained even when she wasn’t smiling and bounced her knees up and down almost nervously as she looked at Harry, Louis, and myself sprawled on the couch.

“My brother Greg was in a horrible car accident.  That day on the phone, my mum made it sound like he was going t’ be paralyzed for the rest of his life.  He’s okay though, just a pretty broken-up leg, had t’ have surgery,” Niall explained.

“I’m sorry, mate,” Harry said, putting his arm around me on the couch.  Unsure of whether or not all of the news between Harry, Maria, and myself had reached Ireland in the last week, I straightened up to try and not look too cozy with Harry.  I would feel weird breaking the news to Niall that we could no longer be an item in front of everyone and the girl I didn’t know.

“This is Jenna, by the way,” Niall said, almost as if he had read my mind.  He placed his hand on her thigh and squeezed lightly, smiling at her reassuringly as he introduced her.  “Or Jen.  She’ll respond to both.”

I smiled politely. “I’m Kennedy.  Harry here.  I’m sure you met Louis.”

Jenna nodded.  “Thanks for having me.”

Niall’s hand seemed to move up her thigh just a little bit more. “Jenna moved to Ireland with ‘er family when we were just little kids.  I’ve known ‘er my whole life.”

“Are you here to visit?” I asked.

Jenna nodded again.  “Ni here convinced me to come back here with him for a little bit.  I’m a therapist over at a school back in Ireland, working mainly with troubled kids in the elementary schools, but I have a bit of a break at the moment.  I thought it would be nice to go somewhere different with someone I’m close to,” she explained, her eyes flickering flirtatiously away from Niall’s any time they made eye contact.  Her voice was smooth and slow.

Harry squeezed my shoulder, and when I looked up at him, he was smirking. “You’ve been replaced,” Harry whispered into my hair.

 Almost relieved, I grinned and watched Niall as he admired Jenna a moment more before turning to me. “Kennedy, any chance we can talk in private?”

“Of course!” I said too eagerly, leaping up from the couch.  Harry pinched the back of my knee and I swatted at his hand as I followed Niall to the kitchen.  Once there, Niall spun around and faced me, a slightly panicked look in his blue eyes.

“Kennedy, you have to understand.  I didn’t think this would happen.  I never thought I would see ‘er again and even then, I didn’t think I would fall in love with ‘er-“

“Woah, woah, woah,” I said slowly, holding up my hands for Niall to stop.  “Slow your roll, baby.  It’s okay.”

Niall’s entire demeanor changed with those two words.  He let out a breath of relief. “I’m so sorry.”

I laughed. “Don’t apologize.  I’m jealous and incredibly happy for you.  It’s not every day you fall in love with your childhood buddy.  Don’t you worry about me.”

Niall ran his fingers through his hair.  “Jenna just ran into me on th’ street and hit it off like BAM, do yeh know?  God, she’s amazing.”  He peered over the bar and into the living room where Jenna was being interrogated by Louis.  Niall looked a bit worried until Jenna threw her head back and let out a smooth laugh.  Then a warm smile spread across his face.  That was his “look.“  It was like the “look” Harry gave me when I didn’t know he was watching me.  I wondered if Jenna had seen her own “look” before from Niall.  Probably not.  I was lucky to even have seen mine.

“Have you told her how you feel?”

Niall shook his head. “I’m a bit terrified, yeh know? What if I got ‘er to come all this way and she says she doesn’t like me?  When should I even do it?  She leaves in a week.”

I giggled at Niall’s panicked state and hugged him shortly.  “She likes you.  She likes you a lot.”

Niall glanced down at me and frowned. “How do yeh know?”

I scowled. “Niall, she took time off of work to come to NYC with you.”

A sudden realization made it’s way across Niall’s face.  He seemed to start glowing. “She does love me.”

It made me laugh to think about all of these tough boys and how naïve they were sometimes.  They could read someone’s body before a punch but could barely read the signs of a basic relationship.   I was happy to help Niall out and beyond stoked that he was madly in love.  I peered over the bar at Harry and watched as he laughed at something Louis asked Jenna.  His smile was so handsome.  Maybe it was time that I got excited for my love life too.  Negative thoughts?  Gone.  No way in hell that I could ever hurt Harry, right? 

Fists & Knives - Chapter 18

“I want her to be there,” Harry said quietly, but he had a harsh edge to his voice.

“I’ve told you, Harry.  She cannot be seen there.  Paps are going to lose their shit and all of this stuff that I’ve built up between you and Maria is going to be shot to hell,” Arnold was doing the same with his voice, almost growling at Harry.  I was crouched on the top of the staircase that led to my room listening to their conversation.  Arnold had come in that morning to talk to Harry about his fight with Mateo later that night.  I had forgotten all about it and the fact that I wasn’t technically supposed to go.  I assured Harry that Louis could just FaceTime me or something but he was insistent about me coming.  It made me unusually happy, though I didn’t and couldn’t show it.

I want her there,” Harry repeated for the millionth time.

“Harry, what the hell?  I told you how hesitant I was about hiring her because of how young and pretty she was.  You’ve fallen for her.  I can see it in your face,” Arnold sighed angrily.  In my mind, I imagined Arnold shaking his head with disapproval.  Why was it so hard for Harry and I to have a normal relationship?   “I told you not to fall for her.”

“I don’t see why I can’t just break up with Maria and get in a relationship, a real relationship, with someone else.  Either way, it’s positive publicity.”

“No, Harry.  It’s not at this point.  If you ‘break up’ with Maria and immediately start dating Kennedy, all of those cheating rumors are going to look a little more true,” Arnold snapped quickly.  “You want that on your resume?  Do you?”

When Harry remained silent, Arnold snatched his briefcase off of the bar. “You’re an ungrateful son of a bitch, you know that?  I’ve done so much for you in the last few weeks and haven’t gotten so much as a ‘thank you’ from you.”

“Yeah, okay.  The money you make off of me isn’t enough for you?” Harry growled.  I imagined him with his fists clenched and his jaw taut.

Arnold chuckled but didn’t respond.  Instead, I heard his black dress shoes clicking across the living room tile and the front door open.  “She can’t come.  It’s for your own good.  That’s final.”  And with that, the door closed.  I scurried back down the steps to my room before Harry could come to the steps and see that I was listening the whole time.  To my dismay, it took him about ten minutes to come down and see me, but when he did come down the steps, he was holding his black hoodie and black frames with the missing lenses.

“I know you heard Arnold,” he said quickly.

I started to lie and say I didn’t know what he was talking about, but Harry lowered his gaze at me and grinned.   I giggled guiltily and shrugged.  “It’s okay.”

“No, I want you to be there,” Harry said sternly, staring me straight in the eye.  How could I say no to that?   I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to go.  “K, I really…”

I held my breath.  It seemed like any chance we got to this point, we were interrupted.  I waited for Maria to call for me… I waited for Louis to come running downstairs… I waited for a phone to ring…

“I really like you.”

Praise God, he finally got it out.

“I was going to tell you in the car after the Suasso fight. I was a little bit heartbroken because I thought you were probably right when you said that both of us were just caught up in Clark cheating and all of the little touches here and there… But I actually just really freakin’ like you.  You’ve taken over my mind,” Harry laughed, handing me the hoodie and glasses.  “I really want you to come see me fight.  It would mean a lot.”

I grinned and slipped the black zip-up around my body.  It was huge and hung off of my shoulders like a blanket, definitely “hiding” me in a clump of cloth.  When I slipped the glasses on, Harry chuckled and took my face in his hands before kissing me on the lips. “You look gorgeous.  But, you might have to take this off for tonight…” he grinned, pulling my bandana off of my head and handing it to me. 

I reached up and tied the bandana around his head, laughing at the little ringlets that hung about his face.  “There.  Now those ladies in the crowd will be more crazy for you.”

Harry smirked. “You like the bandana?”

“I like the bandana,” I said, winking and kissing him on the cheek.

Harry planned for me to stay at the house until he, Arnold, Louis, and Maria all left.  I was dressed in my pajamas and had completely convinced Arnold that I was spending a night in.  The moment they were out of the driveway, I changed clothes and ran to wait outside for Liam.  He drove his own little blue car instead of the usual black and dressed down in jeans and a tee. 

“I’m so excited,” He said as we entered the city.  “I’ve never been to one of these.  I saw this kid get punched when I was in high school but I can’t imagine that’s the same thing…”

I laughed. “No, I’d imagine it’s a bit different.”

As we entered the arena parking lot, I was beginning to wonder why Harry had sent two inexperienced boxing spectators to a fight by ourselves.  I mean, I guess everyone has to learn at some point, but he could have helped us out a little more direction-wise.  We parked what felt like ten miles away.  I put up the hood on the black zip-up and stuck my hands in my pockets, looking left and right for anyone who might even have the camera of their phone pointed at me.  The last thing I needed the next morning would be more headlines about Harry and I… or The Wrath of Arnold.

“Is that Kennedy Davenport?”

Shit, I’ve been spotted.  I hooked my arm around Liam’s and held onto him tightly while I picked up my speed toward the arena. 

“Aww, don’t run away!”

After a moment, I caught the accent and dared to gaze over my shoulder.  Zayn was trying to catch up to us, running awkwardly with his hands in his pockets and grinning.

“Shhhh…” I hushed him, putting a finger to my lips.  He hooked his arm around my free arm and walked with Liam and I into the arena.

“Not supposed to be here?” Zayn asked.

I shook my head. “How do you know?”

He laughed. “Harry texted me.  Told me to help you and Liam out.”

“Good,” Liam grunted.  “I don’t think either of us had an idea of where to go.”

Thanks to Zayn, we were seated in no time.  “Harry picked out these seats,” he explained as people filled in around us.  We were at the top of the arena directly beside the isle so that we could make a quick get-away, but Zayn and Liam stood on either side of me, their larger physiques helping shield me just enough.  “I guess Harry wanted to be sure he knew where you were so he could see you.”

I grinned at the thought as someone squeezed past us.  “He better be watching Mateo rather than up here at me.”

And thankfully, he was.  He ran out into the ring after Mateo, definitely not earning as enthusiastic of his usual stomp-greeting from the crowd, but still a decent cheer.  The man on the other side of Liam was explaining to his friend the unfairness of the Styles/Suasso fight.  I wished people would just get over it at this point.  As soon as the crowd started to die down and get ready for the two to approach each other in the ring, Harry’s eyes went to Maria, Louis, and Arnold in the front row, but then flashed up to me.  A smirk appeared across his face as he spotted me.  I tried not to grin too obviously.

Mateo looked, almost like Sammie and Niall, smaller.  Maybe it was just that Harry was tall and broad while everyone else was average.  They just looked small standing in front of him.  Mateo’s black hair glistened in the lights that shone down onto the square ring.  Harry beat his black gloves together and glanced up at me again before turning back to Mateo right as he took the first punch.  Harry grunted and blocked the punch with his own gloves, and instantly, I could see him focus.

Harry and Mateo bounced on their toes back and forth, someone occasionally taking a swing or punching straight forward into their opponent’s gloves.  It seemed like the fight was going nowhere until Harry finally knocked Mateo in the stomach a few times.  When Harry was focusing his hits on Mateo’s stomach, Mateo took a quick swing at Harry’s face, hitting him in the jaw.  I gasped and slapped my hands over my own mouth as I saw Harry spit blood onto the ground, the red of the blood matching the red of my bandana which he still had around his head.

Since I still had yet to see Harry REALLY fight, I was struggling to figure out if he was moving as quickly as he usually did.  For some reason, it looked to me like he was being slow.  He managed to get Mateo backed into a corner and got a few solid blows on his sides before the first round was over.  Both guys grabbed some water and went back to the middle of the ring. 

Harry was definitely moving more slowly this time.  He didn’t look focused at all and I could hear Arnold screaming at him from just below the floor where he was sitting with Louis and Maria.   Harry paid no attention to Arnold.  Mateo rushed toward Harry and punched him over and over in the sides.  Harry reacted by lowering his gloves, giving Mateo the chance to punch Harry across the face again.  Harry fell sideways onto the floor.

“What the hell??” I blurted.  “This guy isn’t even that good.  I’ve seen Harry punch the bag at home harder than he’s punching Mateo.”  I looked to Liam for an explanation, but he simply adjusted the black hat on his head and shrugged.  Then I turned to Zayn.

“He’s trying to avoid another Suasso fight…  If you get what I’m saying…” Zayn told me, not taking his eyes off of the ring.  When I glanced back down there, Harry was back on his feet but taking more hits from Mateo.  “He can’t just knock Mateo out or people will really not like him.  Just wait.  He’ll probably step up his game next round.”

I found myself praying that Zayn was right as I watched the rest of the round.  Harry only allowed himself to hit Mateo a few times in the stomach and avoided hitting in the face anymore.  It amazed me that, even in what Louis called a “fair fight” and even when it looked like Harry was losing, Harry still had all the control in the world.  He was completely directing this fight, whether anyone knew about it or not. 

Before the third round, Harry looked back up at me and nodded subtly.  I almost blew him a kiss, but the bell rung and Harry spun to face Mateo again.  From the way Harry’s muscles all seemed to tighten and from the intensity in his eyes, I sensed that he was about to dominate this round.  Harry backed Mateo into a corner again – it must have been Harry’s usual tactic, almost in the same way Niall ran around and tired his opponents out – and punched him straight in the stomach.  As Mateo’s guard was down, Harry threw his glove into Mateo’s face and knocked him to the ground.  It looked like Mateo was unconscious for a few seconds of the crowd’s counting, but he got back to his feet.  Harry allowed Mateo to get three or four attempts at striking him and then leapt on him again, jabbing straight into Mateo’s jaw.  I grimaced as I could see, even from forty seats up, Mateo’s jaw go completely sideways.  He collapsed on the floor.

“YEAAAAH Harry that’s the way to DO IT!” Liam shouted beside me.  It was a much more enjoyable fight when Harry wasn’t the one being punched, but it was still difficult for me to watch.  I wasn’t used to it yet.  Raw chicken, I could handle.  Human blood… not so much.

Mateo dared to stand back up and stumbled like he was drunk.  He caught himself on the ropes of the ring and took a second to stabilize himself, but the second he turned around to face Harry again, Harry beat him across the face again and knocked him to the floor.  Mateo didn’t move.  Unconscious.

Zayn laughed and clapped along with the rest of the crowd.  It was a much better ending to a fight than the last one, and the results of the fight were better received by the crowd this time.  I didn’t have much time to take it in before Zayn had grabbed my arm and was dragging me away from the fight. “Harry told me to leave right after.  You have to beat them home.  They’ll leave as soon as Harry is out of the ring.  They try to avoid getting stuck taking fan pictures or signing autographs that way.  Liam, get the car.”

Liam took off in a sprint out of the arena and through the parking lot.  Zayn and I took quick steps across the concrete until we saw Liam’s car zipping down the rows of cars to us.  He skidded to a halt, Zayn opened my door for me and kissed me on the cheek before grinning and closing my door.

“Let’s do it again sometime!” He said, winking and waving us away.  I nodded and gave him a thumbs-up before Liam floored it out of the parking lot.

Unluckily for us, exiting traffic had already begun to build.  I bounced in my seat as we became held up at a red light between multiple other cars.

“Come on, come on come on,” I whispered, urging the light like it would hear me and magically change.  Finally, it switched from red to green, but not before a familiar black car wheeled up beside us.

“SHIT, Liam, that’s them!” I shouted, ducking my head beneath the seat.
He swore loudly and floored it. “Are you sure?”

I nodded. “Drive!  Drive!  Drive!!”

It amazed me how quickly and, at the same time, carefully Liam could zip through the traffic of the city.  We lost the black car with Arnold, Louis, Maria, and Harry in the mass of cars, but I couldn’t help but turn around every three seconds as we sped into the residential houses.  I laughed as we approached the gate to the driveway. “Liam, if I ever need to make a getaway from robbing a bank, I’m calling you.”

Liam chuckled and scanned his card. “Hopefully, you’ll never have a reason to rob a bank.  But thank you, I’m flattered.”

As I stood in the doorway of the house and waved to him, I heard the black car rolling up the gravel driveway.  I sprinted through the house and nearly fell down the stairs into my room.  As I slipped back into my pajamas, I heard Maria’s heels on the floor above me and quickly made my way up the steps.

“Oh, hey guys,” I said nonchalantly, resting my body on the counter and yawning.  I tried to calm my body down to keep anyone from seeing I was a bit winded from sprinting.

“Ugh, great.  Sorry you missed it,” Louis said sarcastically.  He walked into the kitchen and took his beanie off before wrapping his arms around my neck.  “So, so, so, so, so, SO sorry you missed it.  She can come next time though, right Arnold?”

Arnold wasn’t catching onto any of the sarcasm, thankfully. “Sorry Kennedy, but no fights for a while.”  He looked at me and furrowed his brow. “Are those Harry’s glasses?”

SHIT. Louis snatched the frames off of my face. “What glasses?”

Arnold glanced from Louis to me suspiciously, but didn’t say anything more about the frames.  “I was just saying… no fights for a while.”

I nodded quickly. “Don’t worry, I understand.”

Arnold eyed me apprehensively.

Finally, Harry walked into the house with his bags. The right side of his face was already beginning to look a little purple and his lip was split open, but no longer bleeding.  I frowned when he grinned at me and shrugged. 

“Gotta lose some to win some,” he whispered to me as he walked his bag to the gym and put it down.  When he returned to the kitchen, Arnold spoke briefly to Louis and Harry about getting another fight set up before turning and walking to the door.

“Harry, I don’t appreciate that close of a fight without a warning…” He mumbled as he opened the front door.

Harry scowled.  “I had it under control.  I still won, didn’t I?”

Arnold frowned.  “Warn me next time.  I thought you were high or something.”

Louis disappeared into his room, giving me a chance to hug Harry tightly and observe his face. 

“Ouch, K, don’t touch it,” Harry whined as I ran my finger over his cheek.

“Bear, you need ice on that.”

Harry grinned.

“What?” I asked, reaching for a bag of frozen peas in the freezer and handing it to him.

“Nothing,” he shrugged.

I grabbed a paper towel and wet it before walking to Harry and dabbing his lip gently.

“K, I’ll be alright,” he grumbled, swatting my hand and running his tongue over the cut.

I gawked at him. “Just let me help you!”

“I’m okay!”

I rolled my eyes.  “I’m impressed you allowed Mateo to get so many hits on you.” 

Harry smirked and adjusted the peas on his cheek. “I still had control.”

I giggled and crossed my arms. “I know.  That’s the impressive part.”

He watched me for a moment as I leaned against the counter beside him and then signaled me toward him with a flick of his head.  He snaked an arm around my waist and pulled me to him, pressing his lips to mine (dried blood and all - gross).  When I pulled away and blushed, Harry chuckled. “I like this whole ‘I’ll kiss you when I want to’ thing.  It’s a lot better than that ‘I can’t tell if she likes me’ thing we’ve been doing the last few weeks.”

I shook my head. “You can kiss me when you want to ONLY when no one is around.  And I personally think I made it pretty obvious that I liked you.”

Before Harry could make a comeback, Maria stepped into the kitchen, clad in her skimpy, pink silk tank top and shorts pajamas.  “Well I think you two need to be a little more careful when making sure no one is around.  I saw that kiss.”

“You think I give a fuck what you saw?” Harry snapped at her.  I had almost forgotten about his horrible side.

“I’m just saying, wouldn’t want Arnold to know about you two being a thing,” she muttered, grabbing a glass from the cabinet and handing it to me. “Milk,” she ordered.  I was surprised she even did so much as to get the glass from the cabinet.  What a huge step for her.

Harry glared at her all while I poured her milk and sent her on her way back to her room.  Harry shifted his gaze to meet mine and we both rolled our eyes.  Harry laughed.

“She’s so mean,” I sighed, slapping my sides and leaning back into Harry’s chest.  He rubbed my back.

“Don’t worry about her, she’s no threat.”

I shook my head.  “I never thought so.” 

When I looked at Harry again, he looked like he had something on his mind, but I couldn’t tell exactly what. “You okay, Bear?” 

Harry swallowed and nodded. “Can I be honest?” 

I hesitated.  ”I think that would be ideal…” 

Harry chuckled. “Okay.  Well… I’m just struggling because I don’t want you to think I’m some kind of super sexual person rushing into our relationship… but I really just wanted to ask if you would - or, I guess if you wanted to sleep with me…?”

I couldn’t help the smile that spread across my face. “I can do that.” 

Harry tried not to look too relieved. “I mean, if you don’t want to, maybe we can get those baby monitors and put one in your room and one in my room and if you hear me having a dream, you can come wake me.” 

I threw my head back and laughed at the idea of having baby monitors for the big, bad, boxer Harry Styles.  ”I’ll come up with you.  Come on, Bear.”

I took his hand and lead him to his room.  He stripped down and jumped into his shower quickly, barely taking time to dry off before he slipped into his boxers and jumped into the bed beside me.  He wrapped his arms around my stomach and led my hands to his hair after turning the light off. 

“Don’t you have a teddy bear to cuddle with instead?” I joked through the dark.  

Harry’s chuckle vibrated the bed.  ”That teddy doesn’t keep the monsters away quite as well as you do.” 

Fists & Knives - Chapter 20

It was later in the afternoon that same day.  Maria was actually gone.  This wasn’t some kind of trick to see how we would react… this was real.  I was sitting on the couch and staring at the front door.  Arnold was late for his usual afternoon visit, which I couldn’t tell was a good thing or a bad thing just yet.  Either way, my stomach was in knots.

My eyes would occasionally flicker to the hallway where Louis’ room was and then up to the balcony.  I couldn’t hear either Harry or Louis doing anything in their rooms and neither one had come out to get anything to eat or even just talk it out.  I forced myself off of the couch and walked to the gym where the mirror to Harry’s room was already open.  Not wanting to startle him or make it seem like I was sneaking up to spy on him, I stomped my feet on the stairs a little bit and knocked on the wall before I could see into his room. “Bear?”

“What?” He growled.  Taking that as an okay to enter, I walked into the room and sat beside Harry on the bed.  His long body was sprawled out on his stomach with his face in the pillow, his usual outfit of jersey shorts around his waist.  I started to drag my nails along the skin on his back gently until he shifted his head and looked at me.

“I just wanted Maria to leave.  It shouldn’t have been this hard.  This is so much more of a mess than I thought it would be,” he said quietly, his voice deep and raspy. 

I laid my head down on the pillow beside him. “It’ll all be okay.”

“This is all my fault.  I should have gotten Maria to stay.  I should have thought about you and Louis before I was a dick to her.”

I shrugged. “It’s okay, Bear.  Well what’s done is done.  You can’t help it anymore.”

I smiled softly at Harry, but his brow furrowed.  “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

I struggled to find words to say. “Well… yes? I didn’t mean it in a bad way…”

“Well this is bad, K.  Can’t you see that?” Harry snapped, swinging his feet over the edge of the mattress and turning his back to me as he sat up.  He put his head in his hands and pulled at his hair.

I gritted my teeth but took a deep breath and scooted over to kiss Harry’s back and try to calm him down.  He stood up quickly from the bed and paced across the room.

“Harry, what the hell?”

“I’m trying to think about how to fix this and you keep kissing me and touching me-“ he yelled.

“I’m trying to be here for you and help you calm down.  I kissed you and am rubbing your back because I love y- I lov…” I choked on the words as they came out of my mouth.  I frowned and felt my own jaw drop as I realized what I was about to say.  Harry widened his eyes at me before shaking his head and pacing back and forth again.

“All of that touchy-feely shit is not doing anything but distracting me and pissing me off.”

I laughed sarcastically.  “Obviously.”

Harry sent a piercing look my way.

I scowled.  Was this really happening?  “Well Christ, Harry.  Sorry for trying to help.”

Harry glared at me.  “Help?  How the fuck does that help?”

Each time he raised his voice, I raised mine.  I couldn’t help it.  It was hard to keep my cool when I was arguing with someone who could be as volatile, if not worse, than I was.  “It’s something couples do!  It’s something that I thought might help you calm down and think a little more clearly!”

“Oh,” Harry laughed.  “So you think we’re a couple now?  Just because we fucked a few times and you think you keep my bad dreams away makes us a couple?”

That stung.  I knew Harry was just losing it like he did when he was really furious, but he had no reason to be mad at me or saying things like that.  I tried to think of something other than the current situation to calm myself down, but I couldn’t.  My mind was only focused on Harry fuming in front of me and waiting for a reaction.  “Seriously, Harry.  Fuck you,” I said sternly, but softly.

Harry squeezed his eyes shut and growled through clenched teeth.  “You don’t understand what I have to go through-“

I had stood from the bed and started to leave the room, my own fists clenched, but I stopped when I heard Harry speaking.  “Stop trying to tell me I don’t understand all of this publicity shit!  I get it!  I fucking get it!  I’m not some little naïve, happy-go-lucky random person off the street who has no idea how all of this works!”

“Actually, you were some random person right off the street,” Harry laughed, crossing his arms across this chest.  "I would have preferred some happy-go-lucky attitude though as opposed to the bitchy moods I get from you!“ He spat, tapping his foot and waiting for a reaction.  I was tired of his insults and even more tired of my help being refused. 

I sighed heavily. “Do you think I’m not worried about what’s going to happen to me since Maria left?  Do you think I’m not freaking out about getting fired?”

Harry stepped toward me quickly, forcing me to subconsciously back away from him.  “Let me help you get a little clarity then, Kennedy.  I’ll help you and stop your worrying,” Harry seethed. “You’re fired.  Get out.”

Before the words had time to sink in, Harry slammed the door in my face and locked it.  Holy.  Shit.

I had officially come to the conclusion that I was stupid.  I never felt like that a day in my life before now.  How could I think that I could change someone like Harry Styles in a few weeks?  I was furious with myself for getting caught up in the idea of a real relationship and possibly true love, especially with a guy who had the temper of a wild boar and would turn his extreme moods on a dime.  Garf drove me down the streets around the city until I found a cheap, run-down motel and unloaded my things into a musty room.  Garf coughed as he tossed one of my bags onto the bed and dust clouded around it.

“Kennedy, you don’t have to stay here.  Come stay at my house with me and Liam. Seriously…” He offered, staring at a dark stain on the faded carpet and grimacing. 

While I considered his offer, I took a peek into the bathroom and shuddered at the mysterious goop in the middle of the bathtub.  “If I knew how long I was going to be homeless, I would take your offer.  Thank you, but I can’t.  Tell Liam where I am though, I’d love to hang out with someone from time to time.”

As soon as Garfield left, I had to leave the room too.  The smell was already making me gag and the dust was clouding my lungs.  There was no way I could stay there for longer than a week, but there was no way I was paying for anything more expensive.  As I sat on the bench outside of my room and snacked on a crappy pizza I got from the Papa John’s across the street, I debated going back to my old apartment, but the thought of seeing Clark again made my heart cringe.  I thought about calling Harry constantly, but the thought of him made my heart cringe too.  How is it that I almost told him I loved him??  What the hell had gotten into me?

On day two of my life in the motel, I took a taxi into the city and looked around at restaurants that might be hiring.  It felt all too familiar – looking through newspapers for ads and searching the internet for any kind of offer.  When I was about to give up for the day, I spotted a small sign in the window of a tiny, independent café on the opposite end of the street where the motel was.  I bailed out of the taxi and sprinted to the door, which was locked.  They were closed.  I found an old receipt in my purse and scribbled onto it: Please call me, be back tomorrow to try again, interested in job.

I wrote down my phone number and squished the paper into the crack in the door.  As I walked back to the motel from there, I prayed to God that the café would at least call me for some kind of help.  Any kind of help, at this point.

On day three living in the motel, I got a call from the café.  Early in the morning, they gave me a tour of the kitchen and let me look over the menu before agreeing to come and work there.  The owner was a tiny, old woman – Nadia -  and the only other employee was a young guy attending some community college around the city that I had never heard of, but he couldn’t cook to save his life.  Majority of the dishes didn’t even require cooking; they were just sandwiches with chips.  The guy’s name was Sam.  He was scrawny and young, and I could tell that he cared for Nadia dearly.  They had a relationship that I sensed started when Sam was just a kid.  He looked at Nadia and listened to her like she was his mother.

After all of the paperwork was filled out, I decided to go on a run.  It had been a while since I used the treadmill at Harry’s, but I also just used to run through the city on my own anyways before the Harry days.  I slipped on my tennis shoes, red shorts, and a white tee.  Throwing my hair up into a ponytail, I tried to look around for my red bandana until I remembered that Harry had it.  I heaved a noisy sigh and punched the side of the crappy bed I had been struggling to sleep on for the last few nights. 

Needless to say, I was pissed off the entire run.  Without anything holding it back, my hair kept getting into my face and I kept accidentally bumping into people and things like trashcans.  Every time I tried to cross the street, it seemed like I was about to by hit by a car.  Had I been out of the city for so long that I forgot what it was like?  On one corner, I stopped and took a breath while I waited for the streetlight to change and stop the cars.  I glanced beside me at a stand covered in magazines and something immediately caught my eye.

Single Styles? 

Harry was on the front of a magazine, walking by himself with his hands jammed in his pockets.  He looked pissed.  That wasn’t exactly what caught my eye, though.  It was the small, circular picture of me that was beside his head.

Who is Kennedy?  Maria speaks out. 

I snatched the magazine up and peeled back page after page until I found the story.  It was all a load of bullshit… made-up stories about how Maria found nude pictures of me on Harry’s phone and walked in on us having sex and all kinds of things.  It made me furious.  The hair on the back of my neck stood up.  Beside the main two-page spread of Maria’s side of things was a panel with pictures of Harry and myself, along with the title A Relationship All Along!  There was a picture zoomed in on our hands, an unclear picture of us from the day Harry took Clark and myself out to lunch (but Clark was conveniently blocked by a fake plant), and lastly, a picture of Harry wearing my bandana at his last fight.  Beneath the picture of him boxing with the red cloth around his head was a picture of me with the same cloth around my head.  An arrow pointed to the two pictures with the caption How Cute!

“Are you gonna buy it or what?” The stand owner snapped at me, pulling my eyes from the pages.  I closed the magazine and put it back on the stand, earning me a hateful glance from the stand owner. 

As I turned away from the stand and started to run again, I noticed someone taking a picture of me across the street in the direction that I was about to run.  Never in my life had I thought that I would really be involved with paparazzi like this, especially not after I was done with Harry.  Shit, I thought, turning and running the other way.  I didn’t get far before slamming into a body.

“Holy frick…” The man said.  My heart sunk in my chest.

“Clark?”

His eyes widened. “Kennedy?”

He started to go for a hug, but I growled, still aware of the single paparazzi across the street with his camera on me. “Touch me and I will cut your balls off.”

Clark frowned. “Kennedy, I wanted to talk to you-“

“Not here.”

“Yeah, okay.  Not here.  Maybe-“

I glanced across the street.  The man was still there. “I’ve got to go.  Do you know the small café on Bower Street?”

Clark furrowed his brow as he thought. “No, but I can look it up.”

“It’s down the street from an 8 Motel.  Meet me there in an hour.” Before the camera man could take any more pictures, I sprinted down the street.

In reality, I didn’t want to talk to Clark.  In that moment with the camera only on me for once, I panicked and just wanted to get out of the limelight.  Reluctantly, I made my way down the street an hour later with a hood over my head and my face looking down.  As I entered the café, I spotted Clark sitting at a small table in the middle of the café already.

He stood abruptly and marched toward me, dragging me into a hug and retracting almost instantly. “I’m sorr-“

“Sit.”

Clark obeyed like the dog he was.

“I’ve just got a job here,” I said after a moment of looking over the menu. 

Clark lifted his eyes to meet mine. “What about that job with Harry Styles?”

“It didn’t work out.”

Clark watched me closely, his eyes scanning my face and waiting for me to say something more about the situation.

“Why aren’t you at work?” I finally asked. “It’s lunchtime on a Wednesday.”

Clark shifted in his seat and looked away from me uncomfortably. “I… got involved… I guess, with the principal’s daughter.  He fired me.”

I nodded slowly. “She was the one-“

“Yeah-“

“Straddling…”

“Yeah, her.”

“The blonde?”

“Yeah, Kennedy.  She was the blonde straddling me…”

I gritted my teeth and folded my arms on the table. Serves you right, you lying, cheating son of a bitch.  “So what are you going to do?” I asked, trying not to seem too emotional about anything.

 Clark shrugged and grinned.  “Maybe I can come here and work with you.  Be a dishwasher or something.”

I sent Clark a piercing look, silencing him almost immediately. “Do that, and I will chop your balls off.”

Clark swallowed hard and tried to laugh off his discomfort with the conversation. “You work for a boxer for a month and suddenly you want to chop everyone’s balls off, huh?”

“Only people who I hate.”

Clark sighed and gulped. “Look, Kennedy, you know I love-“

I raised my eyebrows as high as they could go.  I know he was not about to tell me how much he loved me. 

Clark stopped and considered his wording. “I care about you.  I’ve seen the magazines and the stories on TV and I just want to be sure you’re not getting into more trouble than you can handle.”

I scowled. “What?  You have no idea what’s been going on with me for the last few weeks.  Those stories on the TV are a bunch of lies.”

Clark cocked his head at me like he didn’t believe me. “Kennedy, I just want to be sure you’re okay.”

“Well I’m fucking fine.  Thanks for checking on me after you fucked that blonde bimbo.”

I stood and walked through the small tables and chairs to the front door, nodding at Nadia as I did.

“See you tomorrow morning?” She asked, a frail smile crossing her lips.  I grinned and nodded before walking out the door.  To my dismay, Clark followed me.

“Kennedy, please.  I don’t want to fight.  I’m sorry, okay?  We were growing apart and I didn’t know how to talk to you about it,” Clark admitted as he followed me down the sidewalk.

"Well fucking the principal’s daughter got the message across loud and clear, Clark." 

"Kennedy, please just look at me-” He pleaded, grabbing my arm and pulling me to a halt. 

I sighed and turned to face him.  He looked tired and much more rugged than the last time I had seen him.  I couldn’t help but wonder how much money he had before he couldn’t afford the apartment anymore.  We were never really financially stable, and now he was unemployed.  A part of me started to feel bad for him, especially as he nearly began to cry right in front of me. 

“Jesus, let’s just forget about it all, okay?” I said, looking up at Clark.  He avoided my eyes but nodded. “That doesn’t make what you did okay and that doesn’t mean I forgive you,” I clarified sternly.  Clark nodded again.

My arms made their way to Clark’s waist and I pulled him to me.  He hesitated to put his arms around me, but once he did, he held me close.  “I miss you, Kennedy.”

I gave Clark a reassuring squeeze, but didn’t say anything that he might take as a confirmation of my still having feelings for him.  As we pulled away from each other, I tried to lighten the mood – both for his and my sake – by tickling his side.  He leapt back from me but frowned. “What was that?  You know I’m not ticklish.”

“Oh…” I breathed, looking awkwardly at the ground. “I’m sorry, I don’t know why I did that…”

But I did.  I knew exactly why.  I was thinking about Harry.  I thought about him all afternoon and all night and he was even in my dreams.  I thought about him all morning as I got ready for my first day at my cruddy job and especially when I went to the store to quickly buy a new bandana.  Unfortunately, I had accepted that I would never get my old, red one back.  As I approached the café, I tied my new, black bandana around my head and took a deep breath before walking in with the most pleasant smile I could manage.

The morning shift was slow, a few people coming in for a bagel or a pastry of some sort, but the café didn’t have many options.  As the lunch shift came around, I watched and listened to Sam as he told me about which sandwiches had what ingredients on them and which ones were toasted.  Sam was constantly messing with his hat, taking it on and off, something that would usually drive me absolutely crazy for sanitary reasons.  If I were running this joint, I would make him at least pull his hair back, if not put it in some kind of net.  I was worried people would find hair in their sandwiches, but no one complained so I tried not to either.  Sam laughed at the speed at which I moved to get around the kitchen or cut up tomatoes, and I had to explain that I was used to working in more fast-paced environments.

“Well relax,” he said, patting me on the shoulder.  “Seriously, you don’t have to rush here.  Quality food takes time.”

I contorted my face but tried to force a polite smile so Sam would get his hand off my shoulder.  Thankfully, it worked. 

“Speaking of relaxing, it’s time for your break,” Nadia said, her small, old body appearing from the front of the café.  She waitressed while Sam and I worked in the back.  I thanked her with a nod and finished up the sandwich I was making.

“Oh, and Kennedy?  There is a man out front who said you made his sandwich.  He doesn’t like it,“ Nadia added.

“What?” I scoffed.  “Who? Which sandwich??”

Nadia tapped her chin like she was thinking, but I could see in her face that this was some kind of trick.  A first-day-on-the-job kind of trick? “I think it was that kid’s PB&J that you slapped together a few minutes ago.  The guy said he wanted to talk to you personally,” she said, nudging her head toward the front of the restaurant. 

I pulled my apron off of my waist and tossed it down onto the floor with irritation.  I sighed and straightened up my shirt and jeans before leaving the kitchen and entering the front of the café.  I glanced around at the dishes on the tables, each plate color-coded for what sandwich people had.  I knew that the PB&J plates were blue, so I glanced around for the blue plate until I spotted the only one on the table furthest away.  I watched the tables around me as I squeezed past other seated customers to get to the back table.

“Something wrong with your food?”

The man had a hood over his head, covering most of his face.  He looked up at me and pulled the sunglasses off of his nose, revealing a pair of dazzling green eyes that I couldn’t forget to save my life.

“Too much peanut butter,” he said. “I would think you’d know how I like my PB&J sandwiches by now, K.” 

Fists & Knives - Chapter 28

Unfortunately for me, Harry had to leave early for the fight the next day.  He needed a little extra warm-up time and I stayed back with Louis as to not distract him like I knew I probably would.  When Louis and I got to the arena, all eyes were on me.  Everyone whispered as I walked by, talking about how surprised they were that I was actually there supporting my “cheater boyfriend” and even showing the video to people who might not have seen it the day before.  I tried my best to keep my head held high and my eyes straight forward.

“Maybe she’s just fucking stupid. A gold-digger,” someone said loudly as I passed.  As I started to turn around and open my mouth, Louis grabbed my shoulders and forced me forward.

“Don’t listen.  Keep walking, Kennedy.”

When the two of us got past the black double doors to the boxer’s locker room hallway, I punched Louis in the arm. “Why didn’t you let me defend myself?”

Louis rubbed his arm but rolled his eyes and started down the hall.  “Sometimes it’s best not to say anything.”

“Thanks for that, Ghandi,” I mimicked him from the day before. Louis shook his head and laughed.

The closer we got to Harry’s room, the closer we got to where a group of ring girls was standing.  “Oh. My. God.  She actually came.”   The stupid brunette ring girl was standing in the middle of her band of glittery bimbos and adjusting her skimpy leotard.  Three of the other four girls sighed and pulled bills of money out of their bras, each girl, including the brunette, handing their money to the fourth.

“We all bet you wouldn’t show except Macy.  She said you would come,” the brunette explained. 

“Why wouldn’t I come to support my boyfriend?” I asked smugly, studying Macy as she counted her money. 

“Well,” the brunette said, her high-heels clicking against the floor as she stepped out of her circle toward me. “Usually when a guy cheats on you, it’s his way of telling you he’s finished with you. When he releases a video of him fucking someone else to the entire world… that’s your signal to leave.”

I pursed my lips and nodded. “Well, that wasn’t Harry in the video, so…”

“God,” the brunette laughed.  “You really are stupid, aren’t you?”

Punching her in the stomach felt much different than punching the bag like I had been doing at home, especially since she had sequins all over that cut into my fingers as I hit her.  She doubled over and clutched her stomach as I retracted my fist and prepared for another swing.  Louis tried to grab my arm, but not fast enough to keep me from throwing my fist straight into her eye.  When I pulled my arm back for another hit, two, strong arms wrapped around my waist and dragged me away from the group of screaming ring girls.  

“What the hell are you doing??” Harry shouted, dropping me onto the couch once we got into his room and Louis shut the door.  Louis threw my purse onto the couch beside me, having had picked it up for me when I dropped it to throw a punch.

“She called me stupid,” I growled, leaping up and stepping toward Harry threateningly.  Why would he pull me away from a fight when he told me just days ago that I should have punched her for giving me the stink eye?

“Why did she call you that?”

“She told me I was stupid for not taking a hint that the tape meant you were through with me and all this shit-“

Harry’s face turned to a scowl and he returned to the door instantly.  He yanked it open, allowing the brunette’s wailing to enter the room, and nodded his head toward the hall.  “Get back out there and punch her again for me.”

Louis sprinted to the door and slammed it shut with his whole body.  “You two are fucking insane.  You could get in serious trouble for that, Kennedy.”

Harry laughed and pulled me into his sweaty chest.  He had to have heard the fight and interrupted his warm-up to come retrieve me.  I hadn’t even gotten to his locker room yet and I was still a distraction.  “Take a chill pill,” Harry said to Louis as he kissed the top of my head.  “She’ll be fine.”

“You just like that she’s applying what you’ve been teaching her,” Louis grumbled as he fell onto the couch and pulled out his phone.

Harry grinned and lifted my chin with his finger to look into my eyes. “Maybe.”  He pecked me on the lips before returning to his punching bag.

“Four minutes,” Louis said.

Something felt odd about the entire night.  It was probably the way everyone kept staring.  It was really starting to get to me.   Louis and I made our way to the seats we usually sat in, but when we got there, the seats were already occupied by two lunkheads.

“Excuse me, these are our seats,” Louis said harshly.

“We got tickets for these seats yesterday,” the taller of the two men said, crossing his arms defensively.

“We always sit here,” Louis snapped.

“Does it look like I give a fuck where you sit every week?  Look pal,” the second guy started. “You know how this shitty ticket system works.  You should have bought the tickets for these seats four times over if you wanted to secure them that badly.”

Louis lowered his glare. “Look, mate-“

“Come sit with me.”

Louis and I snapped our necks to see a man just passing behind us.  He was tall and had some dark, shaggy hair all wind-blown around his face.  He was warmly dressed in a black zip-up and some dark jeans.  “I have three seats down toward the front, but my to friends decided they would rather watch the fight from home.”

While that was an unlikely story, I didn’t want to give up a shot at two seats anywhere.  Louis and I followed the individual to about four rows up from the front, me seated in the second seat right between Louis and the stranger.  

“Thanks, mate,” Louis said to the guy when we were situated.  He shook the stranger’s hand across me. “I’m Louis.  This is Miss Davenport.”

I scrunched my face up at Louis but extended my hand to the stranger still.

“Does Miss Davenport have a first name?” The stranger laughed. 

“Apparently not,” I laughed too.

“I’m Oliver,” he said, sitting back in his seat and looking at the ring. “Ever been to one of these before?”

I nodded slowly.  This guy had no idea who I was.  I don’t think he even knew who Louis was… or at least he acted like he didn’t.  While it was slightly refreshing for him not to be staring me down and judging me for showing up to the fight to support Harry, it was odd that he had no idea at all who I was.  “I’ve been to a few fights.  Have you?”

He shook his head, the mop of dark hair swishing back and forth along the sides of his head as he did. “Saw one on TV once.”

The lights began to flash and the crowd jumped to their feet.  Oliver stood with us and grinned at the spectacle.  The ring girls all paraded around the ring, including that stupid brunette who now had a black eye.  Many people probably didn’t notice, but I could see the extra shine of her caked-on makeup just beneath her eye.  I smiled proudly to myself.

“Do I need to even introduce them???” The emcee bellowed into the microphone.  “You know them.  You love them.  They’ve fought hard this week just to get here… tonight… to the finals… Marcus Lattimus and Harry Styles!!”

Both guys climbed up opposite sides of the ring and glared at each other before turning and raising their fists to the crowd, getting the people pumped up for the fight.  I saw Harry scanning the crowd for me, a hint of panic flashing through his face as he didn’t spot me in my usual seat.

“BEAR!”

Harry’s eyes went straight to me.  I waved at him and laughed, mainly because it was insane (and amazing all the same) how he could single my voice out in a massive crowd of cheering people.  I loved it.  I loved him.

When Harry ducked into his corner of the ring to get a last sip of water and retie his bandana, my eyes flickered over to Marcus.  He looked calm, and yet vicious all at the same time.  It made me nervous.  As he slipped on his gloves, he scanned the crowd with his lifeless eyes and raised an eyebrow slowly, smirking when a group of girls in front of me squealed at him.  For some reason, I felt like sinking down into my seat and hiding away from him, especially as his eyes met mine and he raised both of his eyebrows as if he was surprised.

“I see Marcus eyeing you,” Oliver said tauntingly, nudging me with his elbow playfully.  “Are you cheering for him?”

I pursed my lips.  “Harry, actually.  You?”

“I suppose I’m cheering for Marcus,” Oliver laughed.  “He is my cousin, after all.”

There wasn’t enough resemblance between Marcus and Oliver for me to have come to that conclusion on my own, aside from the dark hair and tanned skin, so this new information took me by surprise.

My heart stopped as the bell rang and Harry approached Marcus.  In some of his other fights, Harry would wait a moment to strike, giving his opponent a small chance, but tonight he dove straight into the fight.  I shuddered as his glove slapped against Marcus’ gloves as Marcus held them up in front of him.  Harry backed off, his jaw taut and sweat forming already.

“He’s going to wear himself out in the first round,” I whispered to Louis. 

Louis shook his head. “He’s going to be fine.  Trust me.  The fights between him and Lattimus are always the bloodiest in this league.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?  Why?  I mean wha-“

Louis laughed loudly and put his arm around me.  “Kennedy, you have to accept that your boyfriend is a boxer for a living.  You can’t protect him in the ring and he knows that.  No one can.  These are the two toughest boxers in the league.  You must be high if you thought there wasn’t going to be some blood tonight.”

My hands slapped over my mouth as Marcus rushed toward Harry and punched into his side six or seven times.  Finally, Harry managed to get away and turned immediately to punch Marcus in the chest and ribs.  Marcus struggled to get free, but once he did, he nailed Harry right in the face.  Blood dripped from his nose.  I prayed quickly that that was the only blood we would be seeing tonight from Harry.

“COME ON HARRY!” I screamed, panicking as he bounced on his toes and approached Marcus again. “GET HIM IN THE CORNER!”

To my right, Oliver laughed at me.  I tried to take a deep breath and calm down as I continued to watch.  This fight was much more quickly paced than others that I had been to.  Thankfully, as if Harry had heard me, he gradually was able to get Marcus in the corner.  Seemingly aware of Harry’s boxing strategies, Marcus tried to leap past Harry and punch him out of the way so that he wouldn’t be cornered, but it was too late.  Harry slammed him back into the corner and went to town pounding his glove into Marcus’ gut and face.  I bounced up and down, tugging on Louis’ shirt as I screamed for Harry.  Finally, the bell rang.  Harry won the first round.

“Quite into this, aren’t you?” Oliver asked.

I fixed my hair and pushed my bangs from my face, taking another deep breath to regain my composure. “And you’re not?”

Oliver shrugged.  “I’m getting there, I suppose.  This is my first fight, remember?  Plus, my cousin just got walloped by that guy.”

I laughed. “I suppose you’re right.  Why did you choose this as your first fight?”

Oliver glanced away from me and down at his feet. “I, uh.  I did a little favor for Marcus.  In return he paid me a good bit of money yesterday.  I figured I could at least come see one of his fights.”

Louis leaned across me and laughed.  “You’re making it seem like you killed someone, mate.”

Oliver laughed too and seemed to relax a bit.  “Christ, no.  It wasn’t THAT kind of favor.  It’s… well I guess it’s actually kind of funny, but you can’t tell anyone.  I’m not supposed to tell anyone but you guys seem nice enough.  I-“

The bell rang for the second round.  While Harry’s nose was still red, it wasn’t bleeding, but I couldn’t say the same for Marcus.  If I could guess, I would say that he probably broke Marcus’ nose in that last round.  Marcus dove after Harry, punching around his head multiple times.  Harry dodged all of the hits and a tiny, triumphant smirk spread across his lips, but not for long.  He growled and lunged for Marcus, punching into his gut and sides.  Marcus managed to get one solid jab in, unfortunately hitting Harry square in the face and knocking him to the ground.

“GET UP!  GET UP HARRY!” Louis and I screamed simultaneously.  Harry glared over at us (as if to tell us to hush) and jumped up, not sparing a moment before he went for Marcus again.  The last hit must have shaken up his vision because it appeared like he just ran into Marcus’ glove again.  Harry struggled to maintain his balance and spit out a mouthful of blood before going for Marcus once more.  He popped Marcus in the side of the head causing him to stumble, but Marcus stabilized himself quickly and punched Harry directly in the chest, knocking him back onto his butt just as the bell rang.

“FUCK-“ Louis shouted, tangling his fingers into his hair under his black beanie and groaning.

“What’s happened?” Oliver asked.

“Marcus won that round,” I mumbled, crossing my arms.   I ran my hand under my hair and lifted it off of my neck.  Was I sweating?  “Is it hot in here to you?”

Louis fanned himself with his beanie and nodded.  Oliver unzipped his black hoodie and began to shrug it off.  His arms were so long that he was having a difficult time stripping off the jacket without hitting anyone around him.  I grabbed the hood and tried to help him.  “Thanks,” he laughed, taking the jacket back from me once it was off.  That’s when I noticed it.

“Can I see your wrist?” I asked. 

Oliver hesitantly extended his arm to reveal an anchor on the top of his wrist. 

“This is like the one Harry has,” I said, looking up at him.  The skin around the tattoo was still glowing a tiny bit and it was sticky.  “Is this new?” I asked.

Oliver bit his lip and leaned down to me.  On my other side, Louis leaned in too.  “That’s what I was going to tell you.  I didn’t kill anyone,” Oliver laughed.  “Marcus paid me to get tattooed just like Harry Styles.  All of the big tattoos anyway.”  He lifted up the left sleeve of his shirt to reveal the bottom half of a ship, the shaking hands, and the “silver spoon” tattoo. 

My mouth was dry.  My stomach was in knots.  While I felt I knew the answer, I asked Oliver, “Why would you do that?”

“I don’t care much.  I mean, I don’t understand half of the tattoos but oh well.  He paid me so much money-“

“So much money, we got that.  But why did you do it?  Marcus just paid you to get the tattoos?” Louis asked, but I could tell he knew the answer too.  Had I not been so focused on holding back vomit, I would have noticed that Louis was holding my hand and squeezing it.

Oliver grinned even more.  “He paid me to get the tattoos and then have sex – you’ll appreciate this,” he said, winking at Louis. “Sex with the Brazilian model Maria Rodrigues.  I think it was for some porn site.  They said I looked a bit like Harry Styles everywhere but the face, so they just took shots that weren’t of my face.”

“Why would Marcus do that?”  I breathed, mainly asking Louis, but Oliver answered.

“I don’t know.  You know people and their weird fantasies.  I guess they just wanted a Harry Styles porn video.  Marcus got a lot of money from selling the video too.”

Louis shook his head.  Something still wasn’t adding up.  “Marcus came up with this plan on his own?”

Oliver frowned. “No, I think it was his manager who told him he should do it.”

“Marcus doesn’t have a manager,” Louis said quickly.  I trusted him since he would usually be coordinating fights with the managers anyway.

Oliver frowned again and looked like he was lost in thought.   Then he turned to scan the crowd, standing on his toes and squinting as he across the ring into the crowd. “Oh, him!  There is the manager.  The one in the suit at the top.  Shorter guy.  I only met him once.”

The blood drained from my face.  When I turned to Louis, his eyes were narrowed and his lips were squeezed together. “Arnold.”

The third round started, but I wasn’t paying much attention to that anymore. “Why would Arnold do that?”  I whispered to Louis.  If anyone understood, it might be Louis.  Maybe it had something to do with publicity or money or something that I just wasn’t clicking in my mind yet.
Louis chewed his lip and thought as he stared at the fight.  “Maybe trying to ensure a win?  Maybe he was trying to get you to leave and piss Harry off so he could come crawling back to us after the fight and still get his money?  That’s one hell of a way to go about it I suppose…”

I shook my head.  “But why would he need Marcus for that?  Why does he need to pretend to be his manager?”

“Jesus, Kennedy, I don’t know,” Louis sighed heavily.  “I don’t fucking know.”

The bell snapped both of us out of our thoughts and drew our attention to the ring as people flooded to get as close as they could.  Red and black streamers fell from the ceiling and Harry jumped up and down and up and down, pumping his fist victoriously and shouting at the top of his lungs as Marcus lay in a ball at his feet.  There was more blood on Harry’s face than I remember there being after the second round, but I was too busy trying to figure everything else out to worry about it.  Harry leaned over the ropes and high-fived a few fans before looking up at Louis and myself, his face falling and his excitement diminishing as he studied our expressions.  The emcee was shouting into the microphone, but I didn’t hear any of it.  The ring girls were back on the stage, grabbing Harry and taking pictures with him and his giant check for $50,000 dollars, but Harry was too focused on Louis and myself to smile for any of them.

Louis grabbed my wrist and pulled me up the steps of the arena.  Behind me, I heard Oliver shouting a goodbye, but I didn’t return the farewell.  How could he be so oblivious?  He seemed like a big, dumb oaf.  That’s probably why Arnold and Marcus got him to agree to do what he did.  A sex tape posed as Harry Styles.  He went as far as getting the real tattoos and everything.  Fucking ignorant idiot.

Louis dragged me through the doors to the locker rooms and kept marching straight for Harry’s room.  “Harry will be out there a few more minutes while they celebrate and then-“

Harry burst through the boxer’s entrance a few paces behind us. “Guys!”  I guess he didn’t want to finish the celebration.

I sprinted for him and clung to his body.  He winced as I squeezed his side but I didn’t loosen my grip. “I’m so sorry,” I sobbed.  “I’m so sorry I didn’t trust you at first and I love you.  I love you so much-“

“What’s going on?” Harry asked, wrapping his arm around me and looking up at Louis for some explanation.

 “Mr. Styles?” A man called from behind us.  Harry spun around with me still latched onto his body.  The old man was wearing a bowtie and a black suit. “Your check,” he grinned, extending the real money to Harry gracefully and extending his other hand for Harry to shake. “Congratulat-“

“Yes, okay thank you,” Harry blurted, snatching the check and shaking the man’s hand quickly.  He pushed me off of his body but kept his arm around me and lead us toward his room. “What the hell is-“

“The guy in the tape is Marcus’ cousin Oliver,” I revealed quickly and quietly, wiping a tear from my cheek. 

Harry’s steps faltered, but he continued walking. “What?”

“Arnold is working for Marcus.  They planned the tape,” Louis said, lowering his voice and looking around for whoever might be nearby.

Harry did stop walking.  “What?  Wait, why?  How-”

“We don’t know, Harry,” Louis said.  “We’ve pretty much told you what we know.”

Harry’s eyebrows were so wrinkled that it looked like he was giving himself a headache just thinking about the situation.  I wanted to wipe all of the blood from the cuts on his face and chest, but I decided to wait until we got to the room. Louis unlocked and held the door for the both of us, entering and flipping on the light after Harry and I were in.  None of us where expecting to see four, large bodyguards standing in the room waiting for us.  I immediately recognized them as the men who chased Harry and me down at The Cave.  Marcus’ men.

Harry shoved me behind him and tensed up.  Louis stood behind me, but his fingers were curled into fists.  My purse was still on the couch just three steps from us, and in there was my knife. 

“You’re not allowed in here,” Harry growled.

The men all laughed and started to spread out around us.  Harry grabbed my arm and squeezed it tightly.

“We just need to take you for a little bit, Mr. Styles - just for a short ride,” one of the taller guards said.  He was at least four inches taller than Harry - the same guard who followed me into the kitchen when we hid in the chinese restaurant.  “We can do this the easy way or the hard way.”

“You must not know Harry very well,” Louis laughed darkly behind me.  He stepped slowly around me and stood to the left of Harry.  “Harry tends to like the hard way.”

Harry shoved me backwards into the corner of the room and lunged for the guard closest to him on the right.  Louis had taken off to the left for the smaller guard and was slamming his face into one of the lockers.   The two other guards were approaching Harry.  Feeling helpless, I scampered to the side of the couch and snatched my purse up, pulling my knife out of it and standing up.  While Louis was still fighting his own man and Harry was now fighting two, the fourth man grinned and walked toward me slowly.  “A fighter, huh?”

“KENNedy,” Harry grunted, trying to watch me and fight his own men at the same time. “LOUIS GET KENNEDY-“

Louis had finally knocked his guard to the ground and sprinted at the guard cornering me.  The guard grabbed my hair and yanked me to the ground, giving me a reason to slice his hand.  He wailed in pain, especially as Louis kicked him in the head and into the wall.  He sprinted to aid Harry, but Harry had already knocked one man down and was now just fighting the last and largest guard.  Louis grabbed Harry and dragged him backwards, whipping a small handgun out of the back of his jeans and clicking it off safety as he aimed at the guard.  The guard froze.

“Everyone is going to stop right this minute or so help me God I will kill you all right now,” Louis said breathlessly.

Behind Louis, Harry brushed my hair from my face. “Are you okay?” He panted.

“I’m… I’m fine I just-“

“It’ll be okay, I promise,” he said, kissing my forehead quickly and standing up straight beside Louis.

The three guards struggled to get up from the floor without making too sudden of a movement.  I was stunned.  Louis could fight?  And he had a gun?  Did he always carry a gun?  Did Harry have a gun?  Did these kinds of fights usually happen?  Were these the four guys who had beat Harry up when I first met him?  What did they want now?  It was impossible for me not to think so much as I watched the men slowly clamber to their feet.  The one that I cut was sucking on his hand, trying to make the pain subside.

“Fucking slut-“ he muttered. 

Harry started to leap for the man, but I grabbed his wrist and yanked him back with all my strength.  “Stop, Harry, it’s okay.”

“It’s not fucking okay,” he spat, not taking his eyes off of the men. “What do you want?”

“We told you, just a little chat,” the big one said.  “Just a quick ride.  Your girl and this tough guy can wait here.  We’ll bring you right back.”

“Bullshit,” Harry growled. “You can talk to me right here.”

“Marcus doesn’t want to talk here,” the big one said quickly, his annoyance with Harry becoming apparent.

“What does Marcus want to talk about?” Louis asked.

“None of your business,” the guard snapped.

What does Marcus want to talk about?” Harry repeated. 

The guard growled and stared to take a step forward, but stopped when Louis raised the gun again.

“If I fucking knew what he wanted to talk about, I would tell you,” he said through his teeth. 

“I’m not coming with you.  Marcus can meet me tomorrow in Central Park,” Harry said.

“Why such a public place, Harry?” The guard asked. “Afraid you might get hurt anywhere else?”

I shrieked as someone grabbed my hair and yanked it hard.  I had no other choice but to fall back into the chest of whoever it was.  I didn’t dare try and turn to see who it was, especially not as he placed cold, hard steel to my head.  A gun.  A loaded gun.  I felt like I might actually pee in my pants.  What a horrible, horrible feeling.  How could we be stupid enough to have our backs to the open door?

“Drop the gun or she’s gone,” Marcus said to Louis.  His voice made me shiver, a movement that Marcus chuckled darkly at.  Harry’s body was twitching, almost like he couldn’t make up his mind to leap at Marcus or stay where he was.  My breathing was shallow and I bit hard into my lip as I waited for Louis to do something.  Harry finally reached over and removed the gun from Louis’ fingers, tossing it onto the couch and standing up straight once it was out of his hands.

“Get on your knees,” Marcus said.

Harry gritted his teeth.

I could feel the barrel of the gun pressing harder into my head.  I whimpered.

“On.  Your.  Knees,” Marcus ordered again.  No sooner had Harry and Louis dropped to the floor did the bodyguards behind them grab them and throw a black cloth bag over their heads.  Harry shouted and struggled around as they tied his hands behind him.  I felt tears streaming down my face as I tried to do anything but move. 

“Kennedy!” Harry yelled.  “Kennedy!”

Marcus laughed. “Is she going to save you if you call her name enough?” He pulled my hair a little more tightly.  I groaned in pain.   “She is gorgeous, though, Harry.  Really.  Would be a shame if something happened to her.”

“LEAVE HER ALONE.  You put a fucking hand on her and I swear on my life-“

“You’ll kill me?  Good luck doing that with your hands tied behind your back,” Marcus sneered. 

Harry and Louis were hoisted to their feet and shoved past us.  They started to be led down the hallway, both boys with bags over their heads, but Marcus stopped them, his grip on my hair tightening once more.  He shoved me toward the largest guard, who shoved me into the guard whose hand I had cut.  

“Harry.  Did you want to say goodbye to your girl?” Marcus asked.

“Kennedy, I-“

Marcus laughed. “I didn’t say you could.  I just asked if you wanted to.”

I wished I could see Harry’s face.  I wished I had the strength a thousand lions to take on this bunch of bodyguards AND Marcus, but I couldn’t.  For as much as I wanted to believe in my strength, I couldn’t do it.  The guard with the cut hand spun me around to look at me and pulled his fist back. 

“No.  No, please,” I whimpered, trying to hold my hands up in front of my face.

“It’ll only hurt for a second,” Marcus said.

“What will hurt?” Harry blurted, his struggling becoming much worse. “Don’t you fucking hurt her!  What are you doing!?”

“Goodbye Kennedy,” Marcus said.

The last thing I saw was the guard’s fist coming at me.  The last thing I heard was a gunshot. 

Fists & Knives - Chapter 15

No one mentioned the fight the next morning.  I made omelets for Harry, Maria, Louis, and myself, and we all stood against the counter or sat at the bar in the kitchen, just listening to each other chew and swallow.  Arnold came into the house and I immediately made him an omelet, despite him not having asked.  He ate the omelet and then reached into his briefcase to retrieve a few of the magazines and papers that had already been published with pictures from the night before.  Harry’s face was plastered all over them with bold letters across the top of each picture, either more about why he’s been missing for the last few weeks or how horrible his fight was last night. 

I tilted my head to get a better look at one particular picture that caught my eye.  Louis was looking at the same picture. “I didn’t realize you were holding hands when you left,” he said to me and Harry, pointing at the picture.  It was funny to see myself like that in a magazine.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that I actually didn’t look horrific.  The picture was obviously chosen for the way it showed Harry’s and my interlocked fingers. But what about Maria??? the bold letters across the top of the picture read.

“Well yeah, we held hands,” Harry snapped. “Look at that fucking crowd.”  He pointed to the people all around us, pulling at our clothes and shouting at us.  They looked malicious.

“Stop,” Arnold said as Louis opened his mouth again. “What’s done is done and we just need to look forward.  Harry, you and Maria have a date today.  You’re going to tell the paps that your chef came to the fight, you helped her get home.  Just tell the truth.”

Harry chuckled once. “That’s something new.”

“Hey!” Arnold barked.  “I tell you to say what I do to protect you, do you get that?”

Harry scooped his last bite of egg off his plate and glared across the room at Arnold.

Arnold glanced from Harry to me. “I don’t know what’s going on between you two but it’s not something that can happen in public.  Really, it’s not something that should be happening at all.”

Harry choked on his food and dropped his plate into the sink as he tried to recover.  “Nothing is going on between us,” He finally breathed. “She’s got a date with Niall this afternoon anyway.”

Arnold raised his eyebrows for a moment as he processed the new information.  Finally, he smiled.  “Horan… good.  Yes… very good.  It’ll be good publicity for you, showing Harry’s and Niall’s friendship and stuff…”

For as much as I tried not to let it, my face began to harden and I shook my head. “My relationships aren’t going to be publicity for Harry.”

Arnold rolled his eyes.  “You don’t have much of a choice anymore.”

I scowled.  “I’m not going to let you throw my relationships out there for the paparazzi to dissect.  Niall and I have nothing to do with Harry.”

“K…” Harry muttered warningly.

Arnold raised his eyebrows even more.  “Miss Davenport, I was not the one who threw your relationship into the world for everyone to see.  You did that to yourself the minute you grabbed Harry’s hand last night and decided to go on a public date with a different famous boxer today.”

“Hey,” Harry growled at him.  “I grabbed her hand to help her through the crowd.  She didn’t do-“

“Shut up, Harold.”

Harry’s mouth snapped shut, but his body tensed like he was about to attack.

Arnold returned his attention to me.  “Miss Davenport, you’re in this for the long haul whether you like it or not.  If you think that quitting us at this point is going to save you, it’s not.”

“This is bullshit,” I spat through clenched teeth as Arnold began to walk to the front door with his briefcase.  “Had I known this would be the situation when I was offered the job, I wouldn’t have fucking come here.”

Kennedy…” Harry growled at me again.  For all that I told him yesterday about being able to control my anger, I certainly wasn’t demonstrating it very well right then. 

I put my hands on my hips and looked at Harry. “You damn well could have warned me about this too.”

Harry’s face fell and he gritted his teeth.  “You’re pretty famous yourself.  I assumed you knew how all of this worked.”

I widened my eyes.  “You said it yourself a week ago! Something about ‘Whatever publicity you get in the culinary world isn’t the same as the publicity in the boxing world,’ right?  Tell me I’m wrong.  People in my world don’t give a fuck about anything except for what I cook.”

Harry narrowed his eyes at me.

“Kennedy-“ Louis started.

I whipped around to face him at the bar. “Now you hush too.  You’ve probably been the one person here who has been honest with me about everything but you failed to tell me that this would happen.”

Louis remained silent.

Maria chuckled.  That was the last thing I needed to hear.

“What the hell are you laughing at?”

Maria straightened up in her seat at the bar beside Louis and cocked her head at me like she was all too amused.  “Little servant girl can’t handle being in a magazine.”

Before I could react – scream, punch, tackle, throw a knife – anything, Harry wrapped his arms around my shoulders from behind and picked me up.  He carried me down the steps to my room, successfully staying on his feet as I kicked all around and struggled to hit his sides with the little bit of room that I had to move.  He finally let me go when we got into my room, and immediately I whipped around and slapped him.

I expected Harry to do something – grab my wrist, shout at me – at least something, but he merely gritted his teeth and stared down at me. “Get ready for your fucking date.  Make sure you don’t have a bra strap or panty line showing because the paparazzi WILL be taking pictures of you.”

After Harry ascended the stairs and slammed my door, I threw myself onto my bed and cried.  I hardly ever cried.  I hated to show any emotion other than anger, and I didn’t know how to show any emotions like sincere happiness.  I let the comforter on my bed absorb my tears for half an hour and thought about how my life used to be.  I almost missed it.  I missed coming home and sitting on that old, crappy couch watching TV or just being on my laptop.  I missed not caring about Harry Styles and whether or not he went out with a Maria Rrrrrr-something.  How was it possible that my life could have changed so much in only a month?

Niall came to the house just before Harry and Maria were supposed to leave.  I had taken an hour to do my hair and makeup, being sure to apply a decent amount of black and gray eyeliner and eyeshadow around my eyes to hide the puffiness that came from my earlier pity-party.  I wore dark blue-jeans, one of my black leather jackets, a plain white shirt, and the black heels that I had worn the day Harry took Clark and I to lunch.  I tried to dress like I thought Maria might when she went out with Harry – not that she and I were anything alike.  I just thought I could probably learn a lesson from someone who was used to all of this.  The way Maria’s eyes scanned me with a hint of astonishment when I walked to the front door to greet Niall helped me confirm that I was dressed appropriately.  Harry wasn’t downstairs yet.

“You look beautiful,” Niall laughed, kissing my cheek and extending a hand for me to take.   He, too, was wearing a leather jacket and jeans.  “Too bad I didn’t drive my motorcycle today.  We could have pulled off the biker look easily.”

I grinned and tried not to sigh too obviously as I forced myself to relax.  Just have a little bit of fun.  Forget the paps.  It’s just a date.  Don’t think about anything else - or anyone else.

“I’m sad you didn’t bring the motorcycle because I’ve actually never ridden on one,” I giggled, squeezing Niall’s hand a little bit. 

His eyes widened.  “What?? Never???”

I shook my head.  “Nope.”

“Aww, K, we’re going to have to change that,” Niall said, raising his eyebrows twice.

“Don’t call her-“ I heard behind me.  Harry was walking through the living room with Maria, both of them looking like they were about to leave too.  Harry stopped mid-sentence, pursed his lips, and rolled his eyes. “Can you two move?  We’re trying to leave too.”

Niall and I walked outside into the driveway with Maria and Harry.  When I spotted Garf at his car, I rushed to give him a hug. 

“Call me soon for a drive around the city,” he laughed. “I haven’t seen you in quite some time, Miss Kennedy.”

I grinned. “Will do.”

Niall held the door for me as Garf held the other car’s door for Maria.  Harry stood with his hands in his pockets and absent-mindedly (and a bit jealously, if you ask me) watched Niall kiss my hand and close my door for me.  Harry gazed at me and chewed his lip, his brow furrowed, until Garf called him and snapped him out of his stare.  Harry looked back to me, nodded once, and climbed into his car with Maria.  He couldn’t be jealous.  Not possible.  Remember?  He didn’t like me like that.

Niall took me to the Union Square Café, ordering Roasted Rohan Duck for me and a Grilled Swordfish for himself.  He laughed at me as I eagerly took bites of different ingredients from his plate as well as my own, rubbing the flavors between the roof of my mouth and my tongue to truly analyze the flavor and texture.  I couldn’t help it.  Become a chef.  You’ll understand.

It became my turn to laugh when Niall started to mimic me and jab at some of the food on my plate with his fork.  He hummed with delight as the duck slid down his throat.  "I’m getting that next time for sure.“ 

I giggled and cut another bite of duck for him to eat. 

“Was this okay?” He finally asked me, and it took me a moment to realize he was talking about the overall date.

“It’s been perfect,” I grinned.  “Thank you.  I really haven’t been out on a date like this in… well, forever." 

Niall swung his foot back and forth under his chair and looked pleased with himself. 

"I’ve told you a good bit about my life,” I started. “So you have to tell me a bit about yours now.  Do you have a family?”

Niall closed his eyes and nodded, his grin widening as he imagined his family in his head.  “I-“ He stopped.  He pulled his phone out of his pocket and frowned.  He punched the ignore button and shook his head.  “Sorry.  I-“

His phone vibrated again.  He furrowed his brow as the same name popped up on the screen.  He hit ignore.

"I told no one to call me today,” he explained.  A deep wrinkle formed in his forehead as his phone began to ring once more with the same name on the screen.  “I’m so sorry, I guess I should take this-“

I smiled and waved my hand. “It’s okay!  Go for it.”

Niall stood up from the table and answered.  “Hello?”

I took a moment to glance around the restaurant while Niall was gone, taking in the fairly simple décor, small lights, and white table cloths.  The bar seemed like it was the place to be, actually packed with tourists and causing the most amount of noise in the place.  I studied the faces of the people, and, toward the far end of the bar, spotted a face that I knew.  I rolled my eyes and actually began to laugh as his eyes met mine.

He immediately made his way to our table and sat down.

“You followed us, you creep.”

Harry held up a menu so that no one could see him and shrugged.  “Actually, Arnold planned this for Maria and I.”

I eyed him suspiciously.

“Honestly!  Cross my heart,” He swore, marking his chest with his finger. 

I glanced back around the restaurant. “Where is Maria then?”

“Got food poisoning,” he whispered, looking down at my plate.  I gulped.  Harry laughed. “Yeah, I don’t know if you should finish that duck.”

“It’s so good though,” I pouted. 

Harry snarled and peered over the menu into the tables around us.  “I hate duck.”

I frowned.  “You hate everything except biscuits and PB&J.”

Niall returned to the table quickly.  His face was pale and misted with sweat and his hair was a mess from him having run his fingers through it so many times. “Harry,” he acknowledged breathlessly.  “Kennedy,” he sat in his seat and took my hand in his.  “I’m so sorry, but my brother has been in a terrible accident at home.  I have to go back to Ireland today.  I’ve paid the bill for lunch already and everything and-”

I raised my eyebrows.  “Today?? Niall, are you okay?”

He shook his head.  “I just really have to go.  I’m so sorry.  I’m so, so sorry, Kennedy.”

I touched his cheek gently with my hand and forced him to look into my eyes. “It’s okay.  Go.  Please go.”

I was taken aback when Niall suddenly cupped my face in his hands and pressed his lips to my own.  Holy shit, I have duck breath, was the only thing I could think.  I stayed in a daze as he pulled away, shook Harry’s hand, and disappeared out the front doors of the restaurant.  The paparazzi that had followed us from Niall’s car to the restaurant earlier instantly began to snap pictures of him, and I could only imagine being absolutely furious if I was torn up about something at home and someone was getting in my face with a camera.  Still a little caught off-guard from the interrupted date and unexpected kiss, I glanced at Harry.  He was staring at the menu in front of his face but not actually looking at anything on it.  He was lost in thought, chewing his lip.

“Harry.”

He hummed.

“Harry,” I repeated.  He shifted his dark eyes to meet mine.

“What are you thinking about?” I asked.

He scowled. “Nothing.”

“It’s something,” I said, lowering my voice.  “You’ve been making that face a lot lately like something is bothering you-“

“IT’S NOTHing, K,” Harry snapped, raising his voice and then remembering where we were and lowering it again.  He looked at the tables surrounding us. “I just… am wondering how we’ll get home without the paps swarming.”

Fuck.  If there were more pictures of us in the magazines tomorrow, Arnold would surely have both Harry’s and my heads on a platter.

Harry eventually texted Garf and sighed. “Come on,” he said, standing up and adjusting his jeans.  He wore just a black tee today, which fit him nicely across his chest and through his biceps.  I couldn’t help but stare.  God, what was wrong with me?  I couldn’t like Harry.  He didn’t like me.  And I just went on a date with Niall?  And now I’m daydreaming about Harry again?  Get it together, Kennedy. 

“I’m not holding your hand this time,” Harry stated quietly as we approached the door.  “That’s the least we can do.  Just follow close behind me and get in the car as soon as Garf opens the door.  Let’s not cause a scene.”

I nodded and stayed on Harry’s heels as he opened the door.  The group of paparazzi started their snapping immediately and fans pushed their way toward Harry as much as they could.

“Who is this with you, Harry?”

“Have you planned another fight yet?”

“Got time for an autograph?  My brother is your biggest fan!”

 “What do you have to say about your fight against Suasso?”

“Harry! Take a picture with me!”

A certain comment caught my attention.  I assumed it was a female fan saying it, but I wasn’t sure. “God, that girl is so ugly.  Don’t you think he could pick someone more attractive to cheat on Maria with?  That poor girl.”

Harry heard it too.  I bumped into his back as he came to a dead halt in the middle of the crowd and faced the direction that the voice came from. “Hey, back off,” he growled at the voice.

“Harry, I love you!” The voice called again.  It was a distinct voice with a somewhat southern accent, something you don’t hear very often in New York.  Harry’s eyes searched the crowd for the voice again.  Finally, the two of us spotted the girl waving her hands around wildly. “Harry! Harry, I love you!”

“Well I don’t love you,” he barked.  “How could you say something like that about someone, you bitch??” He was shouting at her over the paparazzi snapping pictures in front of us.  I hadn’t noticed that he had slipped his hand into mine and was grasping my hand tightly.

The girl’s face paled.  Behind her, a slightly taller man frowned. “Don’t call my girlfriend a bitch.  She’s right.  Your little side chick there is ugly as hell.”

I lunged their direction and reached for the girl, but I was stopped by Harry’s arm around my waist.  He dragged me to the car where Garf was standing with the door open and threw me in.

………………………………………………………………………………………

“FIERY COUPLE GETS INTO FIGHT WITH FANS?? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW??”

Fast forward to the next morning.  I’m on the couch.  Harry’s beside me.  Both of us have our arms crossed.  Both of us have our legs crossed.  Both of us just having been dragged from our beds by a fuming Arnold.  I didn’t even have a bra on yet.  Harry and I returned to the house yesterday after the incident and locked ourselves in our rooms.  Both of us pissed.  I wasn’t upset by that girl’s comments.  One thing I loved about myself was that I actually thought I was pretty.  I liked my body.  For the most part, I liked my hair.  I wasn’t sad or offended by what she or that douche said, just angry.   Side chick?  Me?  Definitely not.  Until this morning, I hadn’t even thought about the fact that Harry risked his publicity to defend me.  So much for escaping the restaurant without causing a scene.  So much for Harry not liking me.

“FIERY COUPLE,” Arnold read again, pointing his fingers at the bold letters on the magazine above the picture of Harry and I both leaning tensely toward the crowd.  The rude couple wasn’t in the shot. “GETS INTO A FIGHT… WITH.  FANS.  WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU TWO THINKING???  I thought you were on a date with Horan!  You were supposed to be on a date with Maria!!”

“She came home sick!”

“WHY DIDN’T YOU FUCKING COME WITH HER??” Arnold bellowed at Harry, whipping the paper across the room.  I hadn’t thought to ask Harry that question yesterday.  Why was he there when Maria wasn’t?  Arnold stomped his foot like a child. “I told you two to stay away from each other in public!  I know he doesn’t usually listen to me, but what the hell were you thinking, Kennedy??”

I shrugged. “Niall had to leave to go to Ireland! Harry showed up.  How else was I supposed to get home??”

“WALK! Take a damn taxi!! Do something other than be seen with HIM!” Arnold shouted at me and pointed at Harry.  I was surprised the glass had never shattered in this house.  Everyone yelled so much that you would have thought at least ONE window would burst into a million pieces. 

Arnold sighed and pulled at the corners of his wrinkled face.  It looked to me like his hair had grayed more in the last few weeks just from all of the stress.  I almost felt bad.  But then again, I didn’t.

“If I see you two on the front page of anything in the next few weeks, I might lose my mind.  Third time is the charm.  These people are going to be all over the both of you if you don’t lay low,” he said exasperatedly.  I nodded and so did Harry, both of us chewing on our lips as we thought about the situation more.  When Arnold could tell both of us were lost in thought, he grabbed his bags and left.

“Hungry?” I asked after a few moments of silence. 

He nodded. “Biscuits?”

“With honey?” I laughed, but not as cheerfully as I would have liked for it to be.  I was to distracted with thinking about how I would stay away from Harry outside of these walls.  Maybe I just wouldn’t leave the house.  I could watch his fights on the TV.  Maybe get Louis to FaceTime me during the fights.  Only go on dates here at the house.  Picnic in the backyard, anyone? 

Harry slid into the stool at the bar and watched me as I pulled out the flour and butter. 

“Do you know why I like biscuits and honey?” Harry suddenly blurted.

I giggled and started to mix ingredients into a bowl.  “Why?”  I asked, expecting a short and humorous answer.

“My mum used to make them.  She made them every morning for me when I was young.”

I hesitated.  Harry had never shared anything about his family with me and I didn’t want to push him too hard to tell me more.  He was finally opening up to me and the last thing I wanted to do was say something to shut him up and decide never to tell me anything again.

“Does she live in England?” I asked, figuring that was a safe question.

Harry shrugged and picked at his fingers. “I don’t know where she is.  She left when I was ten.  Never wrote, never sent me presents, never called, never came to visit.”

I didn’t realize that I had stopped stirring and my jaw had nearly dropped.  Harry watched me and waited for some sort of verbal reaction.  The story made my heart ache for him.  It was different for me – at least I never knew my parents.  It was like his mom gave him a chance to get to know her and then left. 

“I’m so sorry,” I found myself saying. 

Harry smiled softly at me, silently thanking me for my sympathy.  Eventually, his soft smile turned into a playful grin.  “I think that’s maybe why I have such a hard time talking to girls…” Harry admitted.  “I never really had to ever talk to a female until like, two years ago.”

I giggled as I dolloped the dough onto a pan.  “Well sometimes you’re not terrible at talking to me.  Other times, you’re a complete monster.”

Harry’s grin faded. 

I noticed and honestly felt like I might have hurt his feelings.  “I’m just being honest with you because I want to help you.  I hope you know that,” I said quickly. 

Harry’s eyes met mine.  For the first time in a while, he stared at me without blinking, but it wasn’t in a menacing way like it used to be.  His eyes seemed to shake like he was about to cry. “I’m sorry for yesterday morning… I shouldn’t have been such a rat to you before your date with Niall.  You were right about everything, we should have prepared you for what you were walking into.  It wasn’t good of me to bring you into this without letting you know how everything worked.”

I giggled. “It’s okay Harry.”

He buried his fingers in his hair and stared down at the counter. “I just… I think one of my character flaws is that I like to be in control.  I didn’t have a lot of control in my life as a kid and now, I just can’t stand to not have some sort of control.”

I was a little bit caught off-guard that Harry and I were suddenly discussing his character flaws and his childhood.  I was wondering what was going through his mind for him to suddenly be able to confide in me.  Did he finally trust me?  Did he finally like me??  Even if it was just a little tiny bit?  My heart fluttered when I caught him watching me.  Did he expect me to say something?

I was relieved when he continued talking. “I think that’s why I fired so many chefs before.  Just because it made me feel like I was in control.  Probably why I picked Sammie as a first fight.  I mean, I knew I would be able to control the fight.  That’s probably why I sent back all of your dishes before…” Harry’s voice became softer.  “I’m so sorry, K.  I feel like I have so much to apologize to you for.”

I shook my head and reached across the counter to grab his hand. “Jesus Christ, Harry, it’s okay.  It’s all okay.  You don’t have to keep apologizing.”

He stood abruptly from his chair and gazed at me. “Can…? Well, nevermind.” He sat back down.

“Can you what?” I pushed him.

“Nothing, it was stupid.”

Harry…”

He stood again and took a deep breath like he was about to reveal something huge. “I just wanted to see if I could hug you.  It’s stupid though, I got a little caught up in the moment and-“

“Harry,” I interrupted.

He dared to glance my direction.  I extended my arms to him.  “Come here,” I said, grinning and nodding my head.  He waited a moment, unsure of whether or not I was kidding with him.  I flicked my fingers toward me. “Bring it in, big guy!”

He laughed, walked into the kitchen, and put his arms around me for our first real hug.  Gosh, he was so warm and felt like he was a thousand times stronger when his arms were holding me tightly.  "I really enjoy having you around, K.  I mean it,“ he mumbled into my hair.  I pushed my nose into his chest to hide my blushing cheeks.  It was only after we had held each other for a few seconds more that I remembered I wasn’t wearing a bra.  I laughed at the thought, eliciting a laugh from Harry too.  “What?” He asked.

“Nothing,” I giggled. “You just feel nice…  I guess…”

Harry’s whole body vibrated in my arms as he laughed again. “Trust me, you feel nice too.”

I rolled my eyes and poked his side, sending him shooting backward with a disheveled look on his face. “Don’t touch me there,” he warned. 

The grin on my face spread.  “You.  Are.  Ticklish.”

“No,” Harry stated, pointing a finger at me to stay away.  “No.  K, I’m serious.”

I lowered my eyes at him and looked darkly at his bare sides. “Come heeere,” I purred, taking a step toward him.  “I just want another hug…”

“No!” Harry laughed, backing into the counter and sticking his hands out to grab mine. “Stop it, K!”

“Just another hug, Harry, really!  I know you want to feel my boobs against your chest again,” I winked, slapping his hands away and continuing to reach for his sides. 

A wave of red went through Harry’s face. “Yes, that would be amazing but you’re going to tickle me so no-“ he said quickly, sticking his foot up and pushing my hip with his foot.

“Is something burning?” Louis suddenly asked, appearing by the bar.  His hair was it’s usual morning mess.  He must have just rolled out of bed.

“Oh shit,” I blurted, leaving Harry to grab the biscuits from the oven.  They were burnt just the tiniest bit, but not enough to have to make them over.  Both Harry and Louis shoved a few of the biscuits into their mouths and let their eyes roll back into their heads as they enjoyed the steaming treats.

“Just for the record, these are a million times better than my mums,” Harry told me, not trying to hide from Louis the fact that he had revealed some of his past to me.  I grinned and took a bite of my own breakfast.  I loved this Harry already.  I was almost afraid that I was in love with this Harry already… and it was going to be hard for me to listen to Arnold and keep away from someone I was falling so quickly for.

Fists & Knives - Chapter 13

“I HATE YOU!”

“Well I hate you too!”

“I’ve only known you a day and you already make me want to hurl myself off a cliff!”

“Go for it!”

“You are the rudest man I have ever met in my whole life! MY WHOLE LIFE.”

“Well maybe if you weren’t such a bitch then-“

As soon as I heard a crash, I leapt out of my bed, tossing my hair up into a ponytail as I skipped up the stairs two at a time.  When I slid into the kitchen, Harry was crouched on the ground covering his head beside one of my frying pans laying on the ground beside him.  Maria was standing on the other side of the kitchen, her fists clenched and her knees locked like she was about to pounce on Harry.

Not having noticed me, Harry stood up slowly, clutching the dented pan in his hand, ready to sling it back at her.  I shrieked.

“STOP fucking throwing my pans! Who the fuck do you think you two are!?”

Harry jumped at the sound of my voice and dropped the pan on the ground again, making all three of us leap back and cover our ears.  I growled, scooped the pan off of the ground, observed the new dents and scratches, and glared from Harry to Maria and back again. 

Maria almost looked worried for a second, but Harry glared right back at me. “You didn’t have to come in here and scare the shit out of me-“

“I didn’t exactly sneak in here.  You were too busy about to throw a fucking pan at this girl-“

Maria gasped. “I am a woman.  Not a girl.”

My eyes widened as I cocked my head at Maria.  I guess I’m never going to try and defend her again.  Her lack of gratitude made my body tense and I nearly threw the pan at her myself.  I knew Harry could sense it too, because he started laughing.

“Relax, Kennedy, she’s harmless,” Harry muttered.

“She could have knocked you out,“ I said, holding up the pan in his face.

“But she didn’t.”

“She threw my pan.”

Harry laughed. “It’s just a pan.”

I gritted my teeth. “Do you know how expensive this pan is?”

Harry shrugged and walked to the fridge, pulled out some milk, and drank straight from the jug. “I’ll replace it,” he said nonchalantly, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand.  Maria grimaced.  Harry noticed.  “Or maybe Maria here can replace it, since she threw the pan first!” He shouted in her face.  She punched him in the chest and he laughed.  I was about to tell her that Harry was immune to punches, but she didn’t seem to want my help.  Then I almost laughed myself.  She reminded me of myself the day I met Harry, so irritated with Harry’s overall presence in the room.  At least she knew who she was getting involved with before she agreed to come into this hell-hole, unlike me.

I turned and started to go back to my room, tired of watching Maria and Harry have a glaring contest, when suddenly, Maria called to me.  “Servant, I want breakfast.”

“WOOOAHH,” I laughed darkly.  “Come again?  Did you call me servant?”

“Kennedy, just ignore it,” Harry said, turning away from Maria to face me.

Ignore it??  “I’m not making breakfast for that snobby girl,” I told Harry, emphasizing the last word.  Maria over-exaggerated a gasp.

Harry growled. “Just make her breakfast.”

I crossed my arms. “No.”

“How do you let your servant talk to you like that??” Maria asked, surprised.

Harry laughed. “You think that’s bad? Yesterday, she called me a ‘fuckface sack of shit.’  Isn’t that right, K?”

I rolled my eyes at the both of them.  This was ridiculous.  “I’m not a servant.  I’m not making you breakfast.  It’s Sunday anyway.  I don’t work on Sundays.”

As I was leaving the kitchen, I heard a swift smack as Harry was slapped across the face. 

“The hell was that for??” Harry shouted, curling his hands into fists and stepping dangerously close to Maria.

“Can’t you control your servants?? Make that bitch cook me breakfast!” Maria screamed.

Fed up, I lunged at her.  “I am not a servant!!”

I struggled to get past Harry and reach Maria, but Harry caught my waist mid-lunge and carried me to the other side of the kitchen.  Maria continued to swat the air anyways.  I screamed at Harry and beat his arm with my fist as Maria started to spit rapid Portuguese at me.  Finally, Louis appeared in the living room, his hair a complete mess from having just woken up.

“What the hell is going on in here??” He bellowed, his voice echoing around the house.  Immediately, the three of us froze.

“Harry told me to fuck off when I told him to wake this servant girl to make me breakfast,” Maria said in one breath.  “He told me that I shouldn’t dress like such a slut, too,” she continued, pinching her extra-short, pink pajama shorts between two long fingernails.  I could see the corner of Louis’ lip twitch as he tried not to laugh.  He and I knew that this was typical Harry.  I wondered if Louis ever laughed at me when I was just starting here and getting flustered with Harry too.

“Then he tried to throw a pan at me, Louis,” Maria continued, her lip beginning to quiver.  Harry and I groaned simultaneously.  Tears?  Seriously?  “He could have hurt me.  And this servant was so mean to me, she called me snobby and Harry wouldn’t even get her under control and I just-“ She covered her face with her hands and sobbed once. 

Louis sighed and glowered at the two of us as Harry still restrained me with his arm.  “Really?” Louis mouthed. 

Harry shrugged and let me go.  “Maria threw the pan at me first, mate.”

Louis shook his head.  “Jesus, Harry, you can’t just throw it back-“ 

“I am done.  I am out of here.  Forget your publicity, I want out,” Maria interrupted Louis.  She shoved her way between Harry and myself, sending us both in different directions and causing me to bump my back on the counter.  I groaned in pain.

“No, no, no, no, no, Maria-“ Louis became frantic as he jumped in front of Maria.  She was about two inches taller than he was, so it looked funny as she gazed down at him with her hands on her hips. “Maria, please listen.  Don’t do this.  We need you.  Right guys?” Louis asked, shooting a nasty glare at the two of us.  I shook my head, but Harry nodded reluctantly. 

“Harry is rude,” she stated matter-of-factly.

Louis nodded quickly.  “He really is.  Harry, stop being a little shit to your girlfriend.”

Harry grumbled just loud enough for me to hear before saying, “I’m sorry, Maria.  I just had a rough sleep last night.”

Satisfied with his apology, Maria eyed me. “That girl is atrocious.”

“She is,” Louis agreed. “She really is.  Why are you so atrocious, servant girl?”

I glared at Louis and started to snap back at him, but Harry grabbed the back of my arm and pinched hard.  I remained silent.  There was no way in hell I was apologizing.

“Why is it that Louis can control the servant girl but Harry cannot?” Maria asked slowly, watching me for a reaction.  I lowered my glare at her and, again, started to respond, but Harry pulled me by my arm backwards.

“I’ll go address her attitude with her and then she’ll come fix you breakfast,” he promised, dragging me from the kitchen and pulling me downstairs into my room.

“Harry, what the-“

He threw me into the wall and slapped his hand over my mouth.  “Listen to me,” he started quietly.  His movements were rough and malicious, but his voice was calm and almost pleading.  “We need her.  We do.  I mean, I need her.  This publicity is important.  You don’t understand.”

I rolled my eyes and slumped against the wall.

Harry shook his head. “I’m serious, K.  Whatever publicity you get in the culinary world isn’t the same as the publicity in the boxing world.”

I squirmed until Harry uncovered my mouth. “Harry, that woman is a monster.  I don’t do well with demanding bitches.”

Harry chuckled. “I don’t either, K.  Which is why we have to work together.”

“Oh, God,” I said under my breath, shaking my head.

“I’m serious,” Harry said, tilting his head to catch my eyes.  “If I start to mouth off to her, stop me.  If you start to mouth off, I’m going to stop you.”

I laughed sarcastically.  “That probably mean’s I’m going to start mouthing off to you more.”

Harry grinned. “I can handle it.  Maria can’t.” Harry stopped and watched me. “Louis is here to keep the peace.  If Maria leaves, Louis is fired too.  Consider that, will you?”

I glanced up the stairs.  I felt Harry tug on a piece of my hair as I studied each step and thought about the situation.  “Please, K?  Just work with me.  This is important,” Harry breathed. 

God, he knew how to manipulate me.  Each day left me confused, wondering if he liked me or hated me or wanted to kiss me or throw a pan at me… Now that Maria was here too with her attitude, I was stuck in a world of drama that I had never experienced before.  I rolled my head against the wall to meet Harry’s green eyes, silently begging for me to work with him. 

“I better be getting a raise for this,” I mumbled, cocking an eyebrow.

Harry’s dimples showed as he grinned at me. “I would want one too if I had to work with someone like that,” he said, motioning up the stairs toward Maria. “How much do you want?”

“Fifty million,” I said without hesitation.

“Done,” Harry joked, shaking my hand.

“Perfect.  Just toss the check down the stairs this afternoon and I’ll do anything Maria commands.  No sassing back.”

Harry shook his head. “Oh no, no check.  You get fifty million dollars in dimes.”

I laughed. “Why dimes?”

“You never specified that you wanted a check when we shook on it.”

I shoved Harry’s chest and chuckled. “You ass…”

“HarRY!! WHERE IS THE SERVANT GIRL?”  Maria called from the top of the steps.  The warm feeling from all of the joking Harry and I were doing left me immediately and my face fell.

“Yeah, I’m definitely serious about that fifty mil,” I whispered. 

Harry laughed and walked to my suitcase.  He picked up my red bandana, which was laying on top of the bag, and handed it to me.  “We’ll talk about it.”

For the next few days, I cooked for Louis, Harry, and Maria.  Louis ate meals with me and, occasionally, Harry would as well (when he wasn’t being a pain in the ass), but Maria would demand that the food be brought to her at the poolside, where she spent most of her days by herself on her phone.  She would tell me what she wanted to eat, I would make it, and she would eat it.   She never complained about the food and actually left me a tip of about twenty dollars after every meal, but I still didn’t like her. 

It was so interesting to watch Harry and Maria.  They barely interacted at home.  I figured it was mainly because Harry just knew he would snap at her, so he remained completely silent instead.  The two of them would be picked up by Garfield at certain times on certain days to go out in public.  Harry explained to me that they would go out, walk down a few streets that Arnold routed out for them, and the disappear into a café or some restaurant.  They would sit for an hour or two, both of them usually just staring at their phones, walk back the same route, and then come home.  Arnold called the paparazzi each time Harry and Maria went out and would get paid to tell where Harry and Maria would be.  It was astonishing to watch the television, especially channels like E!, and hear what they had to say about "Haria”, but for the most part, I tried not to watch.  I won’t hesitate to admit that I was as jealous as ever.

On Thursday afternoon when Maria and Harry were out, Niall came to the house.  I heard his voice from my room as he talked to Louis in the kitchen.

“She’s here?”

“She’s always here during the week.”

“Oh, can I talk to her?”

Louis laughed. “Got a crush, Horan?”

Niall chuckled.  “I just want to talk to her, Tommo.”

“You better be careful.  Harry is oddly protective of her.”

When I came upstairs, Niall pulled me into a hug and kissed me gently on the cheek.  “How about that PB&J?”

I giggled and pulled away from him.  I could feel the blood rising in my cheeks.  It had been so long since I flirted or actually even felt wanted by any guy that even a simple kiss on the cheek made me giddy.  Niall was cute.  His blue eyes were so gorgeous.  I didn’t understand what it was about all these rich people around me having amazing eyes.  I guess if you had money, you had a better outlook on life so your eyes sparkled a little more.  “You don’t want something a little more special than PB&J?”  I asked.

Louis nodded at Niall. “Trust me, mate.  You’ll want something more special.”

Niall grinned at me. “Hit me with your best shot.”

Louis sat with Niall on the kitchen bar as I baked some salmon with lemon and basil.  Louis mainly stayed on his phone as Niall and I talked about where I had worked before and why I got fired.  Niall seemed amused that I would throw knives at people when I didn’t like what they were doing or when they wouldn’t listen.  “Ever thrown a knife at Harry?” He joked.

“Yes.”

Both Louis and Niall’s faces fell. “Wait, you have?”  Louis asked, chuckling slightly.

I nodded. 

Niall’s eyes were wide. “Didja hit ‘em?”

I giggled. “Does it look like it?  I wasn’t really aiming for him… just near him… near his head…”

Both of the boys burst into laughter.  “Maybe that’s why he keeps you around.  You make his heart race with excitement,” Louis said.  My stomach flipped.

We continued to talk about restaurants as I sautéed peppers, mushrooms, and onions.  Niall knew all of the places I had ever worked and all of the places I wanted to work, plus more.  He could even name specific dishes from each restaurant that were his favorites.

“You like food, don’t you?” I asked, adorning each plate with cilantro and some of the bell-pepper mix.  I had to admit, talking to someone who had just as much appreciation for food as I did was a little bit of a turn-on.

Niall licked his lips as I slid the steaming plate of food to him. “Damn right, I love food.  I’ll have to take you to a restaurant you’ve never been to one of these days.”

“Like a date?” Louis pushed, his eyes beginning to twinkle.  I got the sudden feeling that he was one of those people who liked to play matchmaker.

Niall laughed and blushed, looking back down at his food and shoving a large bite of salmon into his mouth.  “Well-“

The front door flung open as Harry and Maria entered the house, bickering and interrupting Niall. “I told you, she only wanted my picture.  She probably didn’t even know who you were.”

Maria gasped. “There are a lot of people who know exactly who I am!”

“Well that woman on the street wasn’t one of them!”

Maria huffed and stomped to her room, slamming the door behind her.  I could already hear her shouting in Portuguese to someone on her phone.  Harry rolled his eyes and walked to where we were.

“What was that about?” Louis asked.

Harry nodded at Niall, silently acknowledging him before explaining, “She and I were in the city, this woman approached us, asked for a picture with me, started to leave, and Maria went into hysterics about how the woman should have asked for her picture too.  This woman didn’t even know who Maria was and next thing you know, the chick is cursing out this woman in Spanish.”

“Portuguese,” I corrected.  Harry snarled.

“What are you eating?” He asked Niall and Lou, ignoring me.

“K made us food.”

Harry narrowed his eyes at Niall. “She doesn’t like to be called K.”

“Harry, it doesn’t matter-“ I started.

“But you told me-“

“It doesn’t matter!” I blurted.  It didn’t make sense to me that he would snap at people for shortening my name, yet he called me K all the time.  It was about to drive me insane.  Harry glared at me and looked at Niall and Louis before starting to strip off his jacket and shirt, a sign I had come to recognize that meant he was about to go to the gym and take all of his unnecessary anger out on the punching bag.  Little fights like these were constant between the two of us, but I had learned to just get over it like Harry did.  Tomorrow, we would probably be fine.  Back to being friends.  Lustful, flirty friends.

The next day, Harry burst into the house after another “date” with Maria and rushed to find Louis and I in the backyard.  I tore out of the pool when I saw him and threw my jeans and tee-shirt over my wet bathing suit just before Maria rounded the corner of the glass wall and looked at me. “I hope you weren’t in the pool,” she said to me.

I shook my head. “I wasn’t,” I lied.  The water from my bathing suit started to seep into my tee and jeans. 

Maria raised an eyebrow.  “The pool is for us, not you, servant girl.”

As she turned and walked to her room, I rolled my eyes and flicked her off.

Louis laughed from the side of the pool, resting his head on his arms.

“Don’t laugh,” I said, shoving him back into the water with my foot.  “This is hard for me.”

“It’s hard for all of us,” Harry groaned. “But guys, listen.  Arnold said I can fight again!”

Louis pushed himself up onto the wall and high-fived Harry. “YES, lad.  I’ll get on setting you up a fight.  Anyone in particular you want to punch?”

Harry dragged two of the white wicker chairs to the poolside for him and myself and sat down in one while he thought.  “What about Sammie?”  He asked as I got comfortable.

“Sammie Suasso?” Louis confirmed.

“Yeah.”

“He’s good for a first fight back.”

“Well get him then.”

“You know he hates fighting you.”

“Because he always loses.”

“True.”

I listened to Harry and Louis discuss the fight.  Finally, Harry looked over at me. “You’ll come, yeah?”

I shrugged. “Not like I have other plans.”

Harry tried not to look too excited as he leaned back in his chair.

“She can’t come,” Maria stated, walking back into the yard from the house.  She had changed into her gold, stringy bathing-suit and proceeded to lay her towel out right in the middle of the three of us.  “You can’t be seen with me and her at the same time,” she told Harry as she sprawled her tan body out on the ground.

Harry’s face fell. “The paps did get a few pictures of you from when we went to lunch last Saturday,” he explained to me.  “If they were to see me with you again while I’m ‘dating’ Maria, shit might hit the fan.”

I frowned, partially in confusion but mainly with disappointment.  “You can’t just explain to them that-“  I was about to say I’m your friend, but Maria narrowed her eyes at me.  “-I’m your… servant?”

“God, no,” Louis blurted.  “That wouldn’t be any better.”

“She can’t come at all then,” Maria smirked, shifting her body all around so that she was comfortable. 

We all sat in silence for a moment listening to the breeze roll through the hedges and trees until Louis kicked his feet in the water excitedly.

“She’ll come as my guest!  Or we could surely get Niall to take her,” Louis suggested, winking at me. “Easy fix.”

Maria snarled and rolled onto her back, basically sticking her butt in Louis’ face.  He laughed triumphantly and dove backward into the pool.  Harry cocked his head at me and smiled.  However, the earlier excitement that showed in his face was gone, and I was wondering if it wasn’t because of the thought of me going to a fight with Niall, even if it was to watch Harry.  I tried to read his expression, but he didn’t give me much of an opportunity to before he stood up and disappeared into the house.

I had known Harry for almost a month.  I think it was about time I got to see him beat the shit out of someone. 

Fists & Knives - Chapter 26

I woke up the next morning by getting slapped in the face. The skin on my cheek tingled.  Not ideally how I would have liked to be woken up, but then again, it seemed like I couldn’t wake up beside Harry without something strange or horrible happening the minute I opened my eyes or soon after.  I was almost offended, unsure of who might have struck me across the face, until I opened my eyes and saw no one.  No one was in the room except for myself and Harry.

Harry growled loudly and seconds later, his fist came hurling toward my face.  Hurriedly, I threw my body sideways and off of the bed.  Harry growled again. “I hate you.”

My heart sank.  “What?”

“I SAID I HATE YOU-”

Harry punched the bed over and over.  I dodged the pillow he threw my way.  Again, I was almost offended until I realized he was dreaming.  It had been so long since the last nightmare that I forgot how he acted them out.  It was upsetting watching him.  I thought we had gotten past these.

“Harry,” I called, standing up and taking a daring step toward the bed.

“Get the fuck away from me,” he mumbled, clenching his fists in the sheets.

“Harry, it’s me.  It’s Kennedy… wake up, Harry.” I reached for the his shoulder and tapped it gently.  Instantly, he grabbed my wrist and yanked me down onto the bed beneath his body.  He pulled back his fist and was ready to strike again.

“HARRY!” I screamed, trying to wake him once more.  I could see why Louis wouldn’t come to try and wake Harry up anymore.   I had been lucky the first time with just calling his name once, but this time was much harder.  As his fist raised higher and higher, I closed my eyes and cringed. “I’m so sorry, baby,” I whispered before jamming my knee upward.  My knee hit Harry in his gut just above his male parts and he instantly moaned and collapsed onto me. 

“Harry?” I asked.  He moaned again and rolled around on top of me. 

“For fucks sake…”

“I’m so sorry, Harry.”

“What the hell was that for?” He croaked, finally opening his eyes and lifting his head off my chest to squint up at me.  When he saw me, his eyes widened and face paled. “Did I do that?”  He reached up and ran his thumb gently over my red cheek. 

“Your dream,” I said.

“It was like the old nightmares I had with my dad, but instead of my dad it was Arnold this time,” he explained, not taking his eyes off of my cheek.  “I’m so sorry, Kennedy.”

“It’s okay, Bear.  I’m sorry for kneeing your stomach.”

Harry chuckled, but I could tell he was still in a little pain. “It was a little lower than the stomach, babe.”

“Well you were about to punch my face in,” I laughed, but Harry wasn’t laughing.  He rolled backed away from me, off the bed and to his feet.  He looked down at his hands, horrified. 

“Harry, please don’t beat yourself up over this-“ I sputtered, mentally slapping myself for my poor wording choice.  Harry still looked completely miserable with himself. “Harry, really.”  I stood up and rushed to him, taking  his hands in my own.  It was terrifying to think about him hitting me, but I hardly blamed him.  Really, I should have gotten more upset about the incident, but I couldn’t.  Honestly, I was surprised I wasn’t more upset about it, but how could I blame him for something he didn’t even know he was doing?

I pressed my lips to the back of Harry’s hand gently and grinned up at him.  “It’s not like I haven’t knowingly thrown a knife at your head before.”

He stared down at me with a look in his eyes that I couldn’t read.  Unsure of what else to do, I stood on my toes and puckered my lips to kiss him, but Harry backed away.  “We’re a violent mess,” he half-chuckled, half-breathed.  His brow furrowed as he studied my cheek again.  It wasn’t tingling anymore but I could tell by the way his eyes followed the print that it was still red.  “I’m going out.”

“Where?” I asked, sounding a little more whiny than I intended to.

Harry walked to his closet and grabbed jeans and a plain tee and began to put them on.  “I just want to go for a drive.”

“I’ll come with you.”

Harry smiled softly, but almost looked a little sad as he ran his hand through some of my hair. “I’ll be back later.  I want to go by myself for a bit.”  He kissed my forehead shortly, ran his thumb once more over my cheek, and hurried out of the house.

I walked slowly down the stairs with my eyes closed and into the kitchen where I made coffee and breakfast for myself.  It wasn’t long before Louis showed up and seated himself at the bar.

“Ahh, I’m surprised you didn’t run away this morning too,” I said smugly, sipping my hot coffee.  Louis ignored me and motioned toward the coffee maker with his hand.

“May I?”

I grabbed him a mug and poured some of the black drink into the mug, sliding him sugar and cream as well.

“I heard yelling this morning,” Louis said, eyeing me closely as he stirred his coffee.

“Well thanks for coming and making sure we weren’t murdered,” I grumbled.  Louis ignored me.  “Bad dream,” I finally explained.

“He hit you.”

“No,” I lied quickly.

Louis rolled his eyes.  “I wasn’t asking.  I can see the handprint.”  He pointed to my cheek.

“Accident,” I defended.

Louis chuckled. “Trust me, I’ve been there.  I know how those damn nightmares work.  Where is he now?”

“Took a drive.  Had to get out of the house.  He hates us all, no thanks to you.”

“I apologized for what happened.”

“Sometimes actions speak louder than words.”

“Thanks for that, Ghandi.”

“Okay, I may not have gone to college but I know that was not a Ghandi quote.”

Louis ignored me.  He was pretty good at ignoring the things he didn’t want to discuss further.

“Harry’s fighting Niall tonight.  If he makes it past this semi-final round, he may be fighting Lattimus tomorrow night for the finals,” Louis explained.

Visions of last night’s fight splashed across my mind - visions of Harry hitting the blood out of his opponent’s face.  I didn’t want him to fight Niall.  Niall was a friend. I also just didn’t want him to fight Marcus Lattimus.  His name just struck a nerve in me that didn’t feel right.  I didn’t know if it was simply because of the run-in we had with his bodyguards when Harry was still dealing with the bribery issue or just because Marcus actually looked somewhat evil.  He was probably a nice guy.  I had never talked to him, so who was I to judge?

I waited patiently for Harry to come back to the house all afternoon, but he didn’t.  My fingers kept typing out text messages to him, but before sending, I would delete the text and turn my phone off.  He obviously wanted space and I needed to give it to him… but I didn’t want to.  This was a weird feeling.  I never felt this way with Clark or anyone.  Ever.

Finally, at the time we were ready to leave to get to the arena, Harry sent a text.

I’ll meet you at the arena.  Go ahead and get a seat, I’ll see you at the house after the fight.

My heart sank in my chest but I didn’t have much of an option.  Liam came to pick up Louis and I and drove us to the arena.  The three of us made our way to the usual seats at the top of the stands and got situated. I picked Zayn out of the crowd on the other side of the stands, but he was on the phone speaking seriously to someone and didn’t see me. We had ten minutes to wait and I was completely impatient.  Why was Harry being so distant?  Was it still because of yesterday?  Or was it because of his dream this morning?

“Kennedy?” A small voice called from behind me.  It was a female voice, but I still whipped around like I thought it might be Harry.

“Jenna,” I smiled, standing up to hug her around Liam.  In my head, I laughed at her choice of attire - a bright blue sweater and some nice-looking jeans.  She seemed to notice my silent critique of her clothes and grinned bashfully.

“I didn’t know what to wear.  I’m a little overdressed.  Niall said ‘competition’ and I just-“

“Come here,” I laughed, shoving Louis over a seat so she could sit beside me.  “Do you have a tank top on underneath your sweater?”

She nodded, the dimples in her cheeks deepening. 

“Take off your sweater,” I said, taking the black bandana from my hair and letting my bangs fall into my face.

“What?”

“It’s okay,” I giggled. “Take it off.”

She obliged.   She was one of those people you look at and describe as precious.  I liked Jenna and I was definitely thankful for the distraction at the moment.  I tucked her sweater into her purse and pulled her dark hair out of her ponytail, letting the waves fall over her shoulders.  Finally, I helped tie the bandana around her hair like I usually did for myself.  Not exactly a “boxing match” outfit, but at least she didn’t stand out too much anymore.

“There you go,” I said, sitting back and looking at her.  Jenna blushed and played with a strand of her hair. 

“Thank you, Kennedy.”

“How has your week with Niall been?” I asked.

Jenna blushed again and pulled some of the hair over her face. 

“That good, huh?” Liam laughed.

Jenna jumped in her seat when she realized Liam was listening and watching us as well. “It’s been pretty amazing.  Niall told me he loved me…” She finally said.

For some reason, I started blushing with her, probably because I was thinking of go-karting and Harry admitting his love to me… I snatched my phone from my pocket and texted him quickly.

I love you.

“Did he take you anywhere special in New York?” Liam asked Jenna.

“Oh yes,” she laughed.  “The Empire State building and a few other places I’d never been.  I’ll spare you the sappy details. Kennedy how are you and Harry?”

I hesitated. “We’re…”

I got a text.

I love you, K.

“…good,” I grinned, looking back up at her and Liam.  On the other side of me, Louis snorted.

The main lights flickered in the arena.  Colored lights flashed around the ring.  I guess they were getting more showy for the semi-finals and final rounds.  The announcer came out with some flashy showgirls and introduced both Niall and Harry, both boys receiving an even amount of cheering from the crowds.  As they drank their last little bits of water and got their gloves set, they talked and laughed across the ring like good friends.

“Aww shit, I don’t want them to fight,” I said, squeezing the back of Jenna’s elbow. 

“Harry was over at Niall’s today.  They talked about the fight.  Both of them are going to duke it out and agreed to pay the medical bills for the other if one got really hurt,” She explained, half-chuckling as she did.  While I agree it was a little funny, it also made me nervous.

Too soon for me, the bell rang and the boys bounced in the middle of the ring.  Niall saluted Harry with his glove and grinned.  Harry smiled back, but I could tell his head was not in the match.  He looked too preoccupied and I knew it wasn’t just because he was fighting a friend.  His absent-mindedness became apparent to everyone when Niall struck him straight across the face without Harry dodging the hit or anything.  Jenna clapped quietly and bounced beside me, but said, “I hope Harry is okay.”

“Me too,” I muttered, watching Harry regain his balance slowly.

When he got back on his feet, he took a few swings at Niall, but like I had seen before, Niall was using his speed to escape the hits.  As Harry spun around, Niall punched him again in the chest.

“CORNER HIM!” I found myself shouting at Harry.  I slapped my hands over my mouth after the words came out.  Louis laughed.  Niall took a few more swings at Harry and got some solid hits in before the round ended.  I shook my head but grinned at Jenna.  “Niall won that round.”

Jenna clapped.  “Good! I mean- I’m sorry!”

I laughed.  “It’s not your fault! I’m not the one he’s fighting!”

As the second round started, Harry still looked like he was being slow and just not mentally in the fight at all.  It was killing me.  I didn’t realize I was about to leap out of the stands until Louis put a hand on my arm.  When I looked at him, he was laughing. “You almost just punched the guy in front of you in the back of his head,” he said.  “Take it easy?”

Oh god, I was turning into one of those boxing fanatics.  The first fight I ever went to with Harry, I swore I would never get to this point, and yet here I was, all because of Harry.

Niall hit Harry and Harry fell over the ropes. His arms dangled limply and he looked defeated.  Before anyone could stop me, I tore out of the row and nearly slid down the steps of the arena toward the ring.  I could hear Liam and Louis shouting my name, but I didn’t stop.  I ran as close to the ring as I could before getting stopped by a bodyguard and screamed Harry’s name.  After a second call, his eyes scanned the floor for me.

“What are you doing down here?” He shouted at me.

“What the hell are you doing dangled over the ropes???” I bellowed.

Harry shrugged. “Not feeling like fighting tonight.”

It was insane that we were having this discussion right now.  In the middle of a fucking fight.  HE DIDN’T FEEL LIKE IT?

“Well feel like it!” I screamed, struggling against the bodyguard.  He was trying to force me back up the steps.

Harry grinned at my enthusiasm.  I wanted him to win.  Not for the money, not for me, not for anything.  I just wanted him to fucking win.  I couldn’t stand seeing him lose.

“Go fucking punch Niall!! I want to see you in a fight tomorrow and that’s not going to happen if you don’t step up your fucking game in these last few seconds, Bear!”

“Miss, you have to go,” the bodyguard said.  I shoved him away from me and snarled.  He raised his eyebrows at me as I walked casually back up the stands to my seat.  I heard waves of cheering from the crowd as I passed, but didn’t dare look at the ring just yet.  When I got to my seat, I finally turned and saw Niall flat on his back just as the bell for the round dinged.  Louis was cracking up.

“What did you fucking tell him?? He just did a complete 180, beat the shit out of Niall.”

I grinned smugly and shrugged. “Just to step up his game, is all.”

“They’re tied!” Liam said, jumping up and down. “I don’t even know who I want to win anymore.”

“I want Harry to win,” Jenna said.  I frowned at her.

“What?”

She laughed at my expression.  “It means Niall won’t fight tomorrow, right?  I’ll get a night with him all to myself,“ she explained, winking at me.

A grin spread across my face.  If Jenna didn’t live in Ireland normally, I know we would be best friends.  The bell for the third round sounded.  Harry beat his gloves together and saluted Niall just as Niall had done in the beginning.  Niall laughed.

The third round was pretty even all the way to the end, but it was Harry who had the final hit that knocked Niall to the ground.  My voice was hoarse from shouting so loudly at Harry.  Harry helped Niall to his feet and raised his arms above his head victoriously for the crowd, but his eyes stayed locked on mine.  I tore out of the stands again but ran up the steps to the hallway.  I managed to catch the doors to the back hallway before they closed and locked.  Once through them, I sprinted down the hall as fast as I could and straight into Harry’s sweaty and tired arms.  He kissed me all over the face and my neck as I held myself up with my legs around his waist.

“Hi Harry,” one of the ring girls cooed as she passed. 

I snarled at her. “Keep walking, skanky bitch, he’s mine.  Can’t you see we’re trying to have a moment here??”

Harry laughed so purely that I thought he was going to turn into the sun right in my arms.  He leaned me up against the wall and kissed me hard on my lips. “I love you,” he said, lowering his voice.  “I’m so sorry for hitting you this morning. You know I would never ever intentionally-”

I pressed a finger to his lips and looked him straight in the eyes.  “I’m sorry for kneeing you almost in the balls,” I pouted playfully.  Harry laughed again and kissed me once more, a little more slowly this time.  I could hear more and more people passing us and reluctantly pulled away from the kiss. “You’re going to the finals…” I smiled at him as he let me down. “Look at you, my big boxing Bear.”

Harry grinned but put his lips by my ear. “I told you never to call me that in front of anyone.”

I glanced around. “No one heard me.”

Harry shook his head, his sweaty curls hanging out from under the bandana. “You shouted it right in front of everyone when you were screaming at me during the match.”

I blushed and swatted his chest. “Oh, relax.  At least it wasn’t something like Pookie or Teddy.”

Harry leaned his head down and kissed me just below my ear.  I squealed and stole one of his boxing gloves from him, running down the hall toward his room as he chased me.

“I’ve just had a tiring fight, don’t make me chase you now!” He complained. 

"Don’t make me chase you! I’m so, so, sooooo tired!” I mocked him with a low voice and an accent.  Harry nearly fell over laughing.  

“I don’t sound like that!” He yelled after me.  I spun into his room and accidentally ran into Louis, who was, of course, staring at his phone.  He looked disgusted or horrified, or just a mix of both.  Harry ran into my back as he came into the room and grunted. “What’s wrong?” He asked breathlessly.

Louis gazed slowly up at the two of us, his eyes wide and yet his expression still unreadable. “You are going to want to see this.”

Fists & Knives - Chapter 32

Oh shit two chapters in two days whatttt? - haha I really just felt bad for leaving you guys hanging the last few days so here’s me making up for it! <3 I don’t tell you enough how much I love you all and hope you’re still loving this story! :) Love you Love you Love you!

“BABY!” Harry shouted, tapping on the window of the car repeatedly.  To say I jumped out of my skin would be an understatement.  The positive pregnancy test slipped through my fingers and onto the floor by my feet.  It took me more than a few seconds to realize that he was calling me “baby” and not saying baby because there was one in my stomach.  That one being his… and mine… and ours… 

“Bootylicious, beautiful, baby,” Harry sang as he pulled open my passenger door and scooped me out of it.  Before my feet left the car floor, I kicked the pregnancy test across to Jenna who understandingly scooped it up and jammed it into her purse. 

Harry swung me around in the driveway, forcing me to clutch his neck more tightly and try my hardest to hold back another round of vomit.  It was becoming apparent to me that “morning” sickness wasn’t just restricted to the morning.  That, and I was nervous as all hell to tell him I was pregnant. “They got Marcus!”  He exclaimed excitedly. 

“Already??” I half-burped, making Harry laugh and drop me to my feet.  He leaned down for a kiss, but knowing I had just thrown up, I dodged the kiss by wrapping my arms around his neck and burying my face in his neck.  "I missed you.“

Harry’s chest rumbled as he chuckled and pulled me closer.  "You were only gone for three hours.” He kissed my neck.

“Well, I missed you nonetheless.  Now what about Marcus?”

Harry kissed my cheek and pushed some of the hair back out of my face.  "When Zayn called, the League was already on their way to Marcus’ house.  Apparently, he paid off one of the referees in order to win the fight against me.  The ref took the money and went to Australia which is why he wasn’t there for the fight.“ 

I giggled.  "Smart guy." 

"I’ll say,” Harry grinned, taking my hand and squeezing it. “But, Marcus didn’t know the League was showing up, so he didn’t have time to hide the steroids.  On top of that, he was blazed when they got there.  He claimed the marijuana was medicinal.  It was to help the pain in his foot." 

My eyes widened.  "Wait, did he have to tell them what happened to his foot?  Did he rat me out?”

Harry laughed at my panicked state and shook his head.  "No, baby.  Rat you out for what?  Protecting yourself?  He couldn’t tell them it was you who put a knife through his foot without explaining what you were doing at his house in the first place.  That would just be more trouble for him.  It’s kinda like when he bribed me a few months ago and I couldn’t say anything about it either.  Marcus and probably about four of his guards are gonna be in jail for a solid amount of time and he can never fight again in this league, but once anyone else sees his past of taking steroids and being in jail, they’re not gonna want him either.“ 

I let go of a breath I was holding and leaned my head into Harry’s chest.  He rubbed my back. "Don’t worry, my love.  We’re gonna have a party with the boys this afternoon to celebrate.  Just the seven of us.”  He laughed and reached his fingers up into my hair, frowning after a moment and pulling my head back to look at me. “You’re a little warm, baby.  Are you feeling okay?" 

"We stopped somewhere in the city for a bite to eat and she got sick,” Jenna said, jumping into our conversation.  I had almost forgotten that she was still outside with us.  She smiled softly at me and I nodded subtly to show my appreciation for her confidentiality.  There was a time and place for everything and now was definitely not the time for me to tell Harry that he was going to be a father. 

Harry’s eyes seemed to darken with concern as he reached for my face and ever-so-gently rubbed his thumbs along my jaw and over my cheeks.  If you had asked me a few months ago whether I thought Harry Styles was capable of feeling anything other than anger and self-righteousness, I would have said no without hesitation.  It made my heart hurt to remember the boy who used to drop notes to me through a wall about how shitty my food was.  The boy who would force me against the oven while I was trying to do my job and push me to lick honey off of his finger for his pleasure - not that I didn’t enjoy it too.  The boy who would sleep with a teddy bear to chase the bad dreams away.  That was not the same boy who was in front of me.   The man in front of me was perfectly capable of loving and caring for someone thirty times more than he cared about himself.  It was no longer about the publicity or the sex.  To him, it was all about me.  It was all about us.  I could see it in his the way he looked at me and could feel it in his adoring touch. 

“Are you sure you’re okay?” He asked, tilting his head to get a better look at my face. 

“I’m feeling much better now,” I lied, a tear coming to my eye as I looked back at him.  The tear just made the situation worse.  

Harry’s eyes widened and he shook his head at me as he wiped the tear away.  "Kennedy, what is it?“

"I just love you,” I sobbed, not trying to hold the tears back any longer.  Why I was being so emotional, I didn’t know.  In my mind, I blamed the pregnancy.  Not just the chemical imbalance in my body, but also the mental weight of the fact that I was pregnant.  I couldn’t stop repeating it in my head.  "I just love you and I want to kiss you but I barfed a few minutes ago and that’s gross.“ 

Harry threw back his head and laughed so hard that I couldn’t help but join him.  He surprised me by grabbing my face and pressing his lips to mine gently but with just the right amount of force to make my heart leap in my chest.  When Harry pulled away from me, he looked worried again and wiped my tears for me.  "I told the boys you could make us party dishes.  I said it before I knew you were sick.  Maybe we can just order a pizza inste-" 

I sniffled, held up a finger, and looked at Harry with the most serious expression I could manage.  "We could what?" 

"Order… pizza…?” Harry muttered, smiling at me with the corners of his mouth pulled to the sides of his face.  I bit my lip and laughed at his expression before shaking my head. 

“No.  No, no, no, no, and no.  I do not order pizza." 

Harry grinned and kissed me shortly again.  "That’s my tough girl.  If you start to feel sick again we can stop cooking.  I’ll help you with everything,” he offered, wrapping his arm around my waist and leading me to the door.  "But first…“ he grimaced.  "I have to go brush my teeth… ugh, you have such bad puke breath, babe…" 

I gasped and shoved him through the door ahead of me.   As I went for another hit, Harry scurried away from me and laughed loudly before disappearing into the kitchen.  What an ass.  I loved him.

After taking party snack orders, Harry and I started to make food.  Guacamole, macaroni and cheese, burgers, pizzas, cookies, cake, salad (requested by Liam), chicken fingers, and the two of us even ran to the store to get chips and candy.  The boys and Jenna spent all afternoon playing games on the Wii and the xbox, including MarioKart and Super Smash Bros.  Surprisingly, Jenna ended up kicking all of the guys asses most of the time, earning her proud kisses from Niall.  Harry and I spent most of the afternoon in the kitchen, mashing guacamole and mixing flour and sugar for cookies or flinging macaroni noodles at one another.  To anyone else, standing in the kitchen all day would be boring, but it was something I did for a living.  I loved it, especially when my other half was beside me getting frustrated when his tomato sauce for the pizza wasn’t tasting like normal pizza sauce.

Toward the end of the afternoon, the booze came out and the clothes came off.  I didn’t mean completely off… I just meant everyone stripped down into their underwear and bras to jump in the pool.  "Want something to drink, baby?” Harry asked me from the bar as I hung over the edge of the pool. I shook my head quickly and noticed Jenna shaking her head too.  The two of us laughed as the boys all exchanged looks of uncertainty.  They were missing out on an inside joke, only it wasn’t a joke.  This pregnancy thing was growing on me, and the more I thought about it throughout the day, the more I loved the idea of a baby with Harry.  The thing that scared me was that I didn’t know how he would react… I wanted him to be just as excited as I was becoming, though I’m sure it would be a shock at first.  

Harry and I stayed in the pool with everyone else for a while until I heard the timer for the pizza.  As I scampered out of the pool, Harry followed me and helped me start baking the cake as the pizza cooled.  He turned on the radio and we danced around the kitchen, him still in his boxers and me in his tee with my wet bra seeping through the thin material.  It was funny to me that the seven of us were close enough to be swimming and hanging out in our underwear.  Honestly, I loved it.  Harry showed me some of his most ridiculous dance moves for the faster songs, but finally, the music slowed.  I squealed with delight as the opening notes of Ed Sheeran’s “Tenerife Sea” began to play.  Harry, figuring I loved the song, grabbed the sugar from my hands and placed it on the counter before grabbing my body and pulling it to his.  He swayed back and forth to the beat, humming along and twirling me occasionally before pulling me back into his chest. With each time he spun me out and pulled me back to him, he would kiss me on a different part of my face, leaving my lips for last and lingering there a little longer than he had everywhere else.  

Unfortunately, the song had to come to and end, but I was perfectly content watching Harry dance like a madman again to the more techno-sounding songs.  As I slid in front of Harry at one point, my bum grazed his crotch and he grabbed my hips, holding them against him. 

“Grind,” he commanded.  I laughed and waved around the spoon covered in cake batter. 

“I’m busy here,” I giggled, trying to get loose from his grip, but Harry wouldn’t let me.   It was funny that we could go from slow dancing to grinding in thirty seconds and it was still considered the same love.

He chuckled darkly and spun me around to face him, his hot breath fanning over my face.  It had been a while since our last hard-and-fast fuck, but I felt weird with the rest of the group just outside by the pool. Harry wasn’t having it, though.  He dragged his finger up the spoon and held it to my mouth as he pushed me into the counter and pressured his body into mine.  "Open,“ he grinned sexily. 

Okay, so referring to my earlier comment…. maybe he hadn’t COMPLETELY changed, but that was good, right?  Finally giving in, I pushed my hips against his and rolled my body in his hand as my tongue ran up his finger.  Harry’s grin spread before he crashed his lips into mine and hoisted me up onto the counter.  

"Right here??” I asked against his lips, laughing as he pulled at my shirt.  We were barely hidden from the backyard by a small panel of wall behind me that distinguished the bar from the hallway. 

Harry grabbed the top of my underwear and dragged it down my legs. “Your room is too far away,” he murmured against my lips.  I shoved my tongue into his mouth and laced my fingers into his hair as he pulled the top of his boxers down and leaned into me.  He wrapped his hands under my butt and slid me forward on the counter and on to him. 

“This is unsanitary,” I choked out between his quick thrusts.

Harry laughed into the crook of my neck.  "We’re not near the food,“ he said. 

"Oh my god,” I breathed as he pushed me against the cupboard to thrust harder.  

“Feel good, baby?” Harry growled against my ear.  

Instead of answering, I pulled his hair so that he would kiss me again and then dug my nails into his back.  He groaned. 

“They’re gonna come in here any minute,” he said, sticking his hand between us and rubbing my clit with his thumb.  I yelped at the sudden sensation and Harry slapped his free hand over my mouth, forcing me to hold myself up with my legs as he continued to pound into me. “Come on baby.  Show me how I make you feel,” he breathed down my neck.

I started to screw my eyes shut, but Harry growled.  "Look at me,“ he said lowly.   It felt weird to watch him and have him watch me as we both hit our highs, but it was amazing at the same time.  Harry’s concentrated and completely pleasure-filled expression fell into one that was overjoyed and completely satisfied at the same time.  He kissed my nose.  "I love you." 

He let me down to my feet and walked to the sink with a paper towel, wetting it before cleaning me off.  I thought it was funny how he felt it necessary to do that, but I didn’t mind.  

I snatched my underwear from the floor and slipped it on before joining him at the sink to wash my hands.  While I wanted to admit that I always wanted to have sex in a kitchen, the chef side of me kept popping up in the back of my thoughts.  "If we were in a real restaurant we would be screwed." 

"Oh, calm down,” Harry laughed.  "We’re in our kitchen and we weren’t anywhere near the food.“ 

"Have a towel I can borrow?" 

We were interrupted by a dripping Niall coming in from the back yard.   Louis emerged with Jenna and nodded toward the hallway.  "I’ve got towels here." 

"I’ve got new clothes from shopping today that I might change into,” Jenna told Niall.  "They’re in your car.“

"I’ll get them for ye’," Niall offered, tip-toeing across the tile floor.  "Where are my keys?”

“Oh!” Jenna said.  "My purse.  Side pocket.“ 

Louis returned from the hall with towels in his hand for everyone coming in from the backyard. 

"Okay,” I said loudly, getting everyone's attention.  "Food is all ready and we can eat and watch a movie if you want!“ 

Liam nodded.  "What about Now You See Me?”

“Oh, I haven’t seen that," Zayn said.

"Oh shit, the ending man.  It’s so fucking crazy…” Louis laughed, shaking the water out of his hair and stepping into the kitchen.  He grabbed a plate and started to scoop macaroni and cheese onto the Styrofoam. 

“Or how about something funny?  Neighbors!”  Harry suggested.  

I nodded in agreement.  "I love that movie.“

"Zac Efron,” Jenna sang, grabbing a plate too and pretending to swoon.  I laughed and looked at Harry who was now frowning. 

“Okay, I changed my mind,” he said. 

Everyone laughed. 

“You’re expecting?”  Niall asked.

“Do you mean What to Expect When You’re Expecting?” Jenna corrected him. 

“No," Niall shook his head.  "YOU are expecting???" 

We all turned to see what Niall was talking about.  My stomach plummeted when I saw that he was holding Jenna’s purse in one hand and my pregnancy test in the other. 

"Babe, I said the side pocket!” Jenna nearly screamed, dropping her plate and rushing over to Niall. 

“There are a billion fuckin’ pockets, Jen!” Niall huffed.

“That’s great, Jenna!" Liam said excitedly, referring to the baby. 

Louis laughed.  "Look at Niall’s face…" 

Niall’s face was red but he hadn’t smiled or frowned just yet.  "You’re pregnant??” He asked once more. 

Jenna sighed heavily and gulped.  When she glanced to me, I peered up at Harry who was laughing a little bit too.  He smiled down at me and motioned toward Niall and Jenna.  "Exciting, huh?“ 

My heart stopped.  "It’s not Jenna’s,” I barely whispered, but no one heard me.  

Zayn walked to Niall and Jenna and pulled them into a hug.  "Congrats, you two.“

"It’s not Jenna’s,” I said a little more loudly. 

Finally, Louis heard me.  How he was the first to hear me with Harry directly beside me, I didn’t know.  His smile faded for a short second.  "Oh no…“ 

I turned my back to the living room and pulled Harry in front of me.  "I need to talk to you.  Alone." 

"Right now?” He asked, running his hands through my hair and kissing my cheek. 

“Right now,” I said hurriedly, looking back to Jenna.  Her face relaxed as she realized I was trying to explain the situation to Harry.  Niall still looked like he was going to have a heart attack.  I didn’t know why I couldn’t find the courage to spit out the words.  Everyone was congratulating them!  They would surely congratulate me and Harry as well!  This was a good thing.  It was all going to be okay - but I still couldn’t say the words again.

“Jenna and Niall, sittin’ in a tree," Liam started.  Harry laughed and joined in along with Zayn. "K-I-S-S-I-N-G!”   We had been children all afternoon.  Now it was time for us to be adults.  

“It’s not Jenna’s!!” I blurted, pulling on Harry’s arm.  He laughed uneasily and glanced down at me again.  Everyone stopped and looked our way.  "The baby is not Jenna’s,“ I repeated, articulating every word carefully.  Harry’s face began to twitch and it seemed like his body tensed.  

"Whose is it…?”

“It’s my test,” I said, dropping my head and speaking to my feet.  When I shifted my gaze back up to Harry’s face, his eyes were wide and his mouth was hanging open. 

I bit my lip and looked straight into his eyes.  "It’s my baby… and yours.“

Fists & Knives - Chapter 19

For the first time in my life, I felt amazing.  I felt loved.  Seriously, loved.  I don’t know if it was just the excitement of a new relationship or the fact that Harry and I spent nights in the same bed – which Clark and I never did – but something was making my smile a little bigger and each day a little shorter.  That’s how it always is, isn’t it?  The best days go by the quickest.  I didn’t mind though because it just meant getting into bed with Harry again.  We were inseparable at the house.  Louis just smirked the first time he saw Harry pinch my butt in the kitchen and then applauded us the first time he saw us kiss, but Maria on the other hand wasn’t so excited. 

It killed me any time she and Harry had to go out on a “date.”  I found myself becoming more and more interested in magazines with their pictures or in entertainment news on the TV.  It also looked to me like Maria was being a little more flirty in the pictures… a little more hand-holdy and cheek-kissy and giggly… and I hated it.   For a while, I thought maybe I was just getting jealous, but Louis confirmed my observation of her behavior when he said something himself.

“She seems so miserable here in the house, but she sure looks bright and happy outside with Harry.  She’s getting a lot better at acting like they’re in a relationship too,” Louis said, squinting at the TV as a shot of her and Harry flashed on the screen.  When he noticed my tense composure, he chuckled and changed the channel. 

“So, I’ve been listening…” Louis said slowly.

I gazed over at him. “To a new band?”

He laughed and scratched his hair under his beanie. “No.  I’ve been listening for Harry in the middle of the night.”

I raised an eyebrow.

“I haven’t heard him having too many bad dreams recently… but I did happen to hear some moaning… I mean like, sexual moaning…”

The blood rushed to my face so quickly that I thought I might pass out.  I immediately threw one of the pillows beside me on the couch at Louis across the room. “Well if you weren’t being a creep, you wouldn’t hear such things.”

Louis threw the pillow back and laughed. “I’m just used to checking on him in the night!! All I was trying to say is that I’m glad you’re here.  I’m sure Harry is glad you’re here too.”

“Damn right, I am,” Harry blurted from the front door, interrupting our conversation.  He dropped his jacket on the floor in front of Maria and tackled me on the couch, showering me in kisses all over my face and lips. “I missed you.  Oh, baby, I missed you so much,” Harry sang, squeezing me between his arms.

Maria rolled her eyes and stepped over Harry’s jacket.  Her heels clicked across the floor quickly as she nearly ran to her room and slammed the door shut harder than she ever had before. Harry immediately stopped his kissing and looked up as the slam echoed around the room.

“What the hell?” Louis asked.

Harry shrugged while still on top of me.  “She was fine for lunch.  Lots of kisses and hand-holding.”

I grunted.  Harry looked down at me.  “It was all for show, my love, I promise,” He pouted, pushing his lips against mine sloppily.  “I promise,” he repeated, kissing me again.  “Believe me, baby, believe me,” he began to sing. 

I giggled and turned my head to get away from his lips, but to no avail.  He continued to suck his lips together noisily until I was finally able to grab his side and squeeze.  Harry’s laugh echoed through the house but turned into a playful growl as he leapt off of me.

“Don’t tickle me,” Harry warned, leaning over and kissing me on the cheek once more. 

Louis’ eyes widened. “You’re ticklish, mate?”

I nodded and grinned mischievously. “In more places than you’ll ever know.”

“Aww, gross-“ Louis laughed, shaking his head and trying to focus on the TV again. “Should someone check on Maria?”

Harry scowled. “Why?”

Louis cocked an eyebrow at his friend. “She’s clearly unhappy.  She may be a bitch, but we’re trying to at least keep her pacified while she’s staying here.”

“I’m not doing it,” Harry stated, taking his belt off and dropping it on the floor before getting comfortable on the couch beside me. “Make the servant go,” he smirked, pinching the top of my knee.  I slapped his hand away and glanced at Louis.

Louis eyed me.

I shook my head quickly. “No.”

“What if it’s a girl thing, though?” He asked, a whiny pitch to his voice.

I frowned.  “You mean what if she’s PMSing?”

Louis nodded.

I shook my head again. “It was your idea. You go.”

“Kennedy…” Louis wailed, leaning his head back on the chair.

“Look at you, ya big baby,” I gawked.

Louis tried to look at me with large, pouty, puppy-dog eyes. 

I sighed and stood up from the couch. “I don’t know why I stick around with you fuckers anymore.”

Harry stood quickly and cradled me in his arms as he threw me into a dip and kissed me lightly without closing his eyes.  “Because you love us,” he breathed against my lips.

I puckered my lips just enough for ours to touch again and grinned. “Maybe a little.”

When I got to Maria’s door, I was expecting to hear her sputtering angrily into her phone like she usually did after a date with Harry – or really at any time during the day – but I didn’t.  Instead, I heard a lot of slamming and zipping.  I knocked lightly on the door. “Maria?”

She didn’t answer.

I knocked again a little harder this time. “Maria?  You okay?”

When she didn’t answer again, I pushed on the door slightly until it opened and peered in.  I stepped into the room and walked toward the bathroom where Maria was throwing her makeup, shampoo, hairdryer, and brushes all into a bag.  On her bed, her pink suitcase was packed with an assortment of shoes and unfolded clothes.

She came stomping out of the bathroom but leapt backwards and dropped her unzipped bathroom bag.  Makeup and toiletries went everywhere.

“Servant, don’t you know how to fucking knock?”

I frowned and stooped down to pick up what she had dropped. “I did twice…”

Maria bent down and snatched the makeup I had picked up out of my hands.  I watched as she threw the bag into her larger suitcase and sat on top of it all while simultaneously trying to zip the bag shut.

“Want help?” I asked slowly as I watched her start to break a sweat trying to zip the bag. 

“No!  I don’t need anyone’s help.”

I cocked my head and crossed my arms as I watched her continue to struggle.

“I – don’t – need – help,” she articulated again, bouncing on the bag like her clothes would magically shrink from the force.  “Why is it that you never want to help me but the day I’m leaving, you finally ask to help?? Huh??  Aren’t you getting paid to be here, servant??  But you’re no help at all.”

I started to snap back, but choked on my words when I realized what she said. “You’re leaving?  Where?  I mean like, where are you going?”

“Home.  Maybe Japan.  Maybe Antarctica.  Maybe Jupiter.  I don’t care.  Anywhere but here!”  She screamed, yanking the zipper shut.  Before I could tell her that she had gotten one of her silk shirts stuck in the zipper, she was dragging her suitcase out the door of her room.

“Woah, woah, woah,” Louis met us in the hallway before we reached the living room.  I’m sure he heard her screaming.  “Maria, my girl, where are you going?”

“Don’t you ‘my girl’ me.  I’m leaving this shithole.”

Panic flashed across Louis’ face as she shoved him out of the way and continued to drag her bag to the door.  I was about to tell her that flipping the bag onto it’s wheels would get her to the door faster, but I don’t think Louis would have appreciated my attempts to get her out sooner at the moment.  It took me a second to remember that it was essentially Louis’ job to appease Maria and keep her in this publicity deal.  He had done well for a few weeks.  It was only a matter of time until she cracked.

“Please, Maria, let’s sit and talk about this by the pool.  Want to get a little sun?” Louis asked, jumping in front of her at the door.

“Am I looking pale?  Is that what you’re saying??”

Louis shook his head. “No, no, no, I just know how much you love tanning and-“

Maria raised a bony finger to Louis’ lips and glared at him with fire in her eyes. “Louis Tomlinson, if you do not move your ass out of my way right this moment, I will have the servant stab you in the stomach.”

I furrowed my brow and glanced at Harry where he sat on the couch.  He sighed, stood reluctantly, and walked toward us lazily.  “Come on, Maria, go back to your room and unpack.”  He grabbed her bag and easily pulled it from her grasp.  She shrieked and rushed toward Harry, grabbing the bag and pulling it the opposite direction. “Give it to me, Harry.  I’m leaving.”

“Why?” Harry grunted, yanking the bag back toward himself and pulling Maria in the process.

“No on here appreciates me, no one here listens to me, you guys barely even talk to me and I – cant – take – it – anymore!” She yanked four times until Harry eventually gave up and let go of the bag.  Maria stumbled backward into Louis and would have knocked both of them onto their butts, had the front door not been behind them.  Maria stood up and brushed herself off before glaring at me and Harry.  “I’ve tried so hard to have as real of a relationship with you as I can and you won’t help me at all.  It’s like dating some kind of furious, hate-filled THING.  AND It’s hard to have a relationship with someone who just wants to get home from each date and fuck the servant.”

“I am not a servant,” I said through gritted teeth.  Harry put an arm in front of my body to keep me from leaping at Maria’s throat.

“Back off, Maria.  This fake relationship isn’t for you, it’s for me.”

Maria widened her eyes and put her hand on her hip. “It was for BOTH OF US, and I’m getting nothing out of it.”

“Money.  You’re getting a shit ton of money,” Harry reminded her curtly.

“It’s not worth it to me anymore.  Keep your stupid money.”

“Fine,” Harry shrugged. “Leave.”

Louis started to protest, but Maria interrupted him. “I think you’re forgetting that if I leave, you’re fucked.  Fucked, Harry Styles.  Not only by the negative publicity we’ll get from a split, but by Arnold too.  You think I haven’t been hearing him tell you and Kennedy to stay away from each other?  When he asks me why I left, I’m going to reveal your whole secret relationship and you’re going to be in more trouble with your manager.”

Harry laughed.  “You think threatening me with Arnold is going to make me be nicer to you or beg you to stay?  I’m all for you leaving.  I want you to get the hell out of here more than YOU want to get the hell out of here.”

Maria screamed and grabbed her bags.  “Fuck you guys.  I’m leaving.”

She turned to face Louis.  Louis had his back to the door and was standing on his toes to try and be taller and maybe a bit more intimidating.

“Maria, pleas-“

“LOUIS TOMLINSON, GET OUT OF MY WAY!”

Maria threw the door open and stepped out into the driveway with her bag.  A taxi was already waiting for her.  She loaded her bag, climbed into the vehicle, and drove away.

“HARRY WHAT THE HELL, MATE?” Louis shouted louder than I had ever heard him before.  He stomped up to his best friend and shoved him backwards. I leapt out of the way and stood back as I waited for a fight to erupt.

“What?” Harry growled, shoving his friend back.

“Can’t you fucking think of someone other than yourself for once?  Maria is gone.  It was my job to keep her here and since you provoked her, she’s gone! I’m fucked! If your relationship with Kennedy gets to Arnold, Kennedy is gone! She’s fired!” Louis shoved Harry again.  I could tell Harry wanted to be mad, but Louis was making valid points. 

Harry’s eyes flickered to me. “That’s not what I meant to do-“

“Well you fucking did it!” Louis shoved Harry again.  Harry gritted his teeth and clenched his fists.  “You did it and now we’re all FUCKED, DON’T YOU GET IT??”

Harry shoved Louis back so hard that Louis fell onto his butt.  “YES, LOU, I GET IT.  SHUT UP!”

My head started to spin as I held my breath.  I didn’t know what to say or think or do.  I wanted to comfort Harry, but at the same time, I wanted to help Louis off of his butt.  I wanted to rejoice because Maria was gone, but I was also sick to my stomach with the thought of getting fired for her leaving.  Where would I go?  Back to the apartment with Clark?  Would I have to use my money to buy a new place?  How would I explain the fact that I got fired to other possible jobs? 

The worry must have begun to show in my face because Harry watched me for a moment, growled, and stormed past the kitchen.  As he stomped past the bar, he punched a glass of water off of the bar table and didn’t even flinch as the glass fell to the floor and shattered. 

Louis also got off his butt and hurried to his room, fuming. 

He was right.

We were all fucked. 

Fists & Knives - Chapter 21

sorry it’s a little shorter, my imagination has been lacking for the last few days, but i didn’t want to leave you without a chapter!

“You ordered a child’s peanut butter and jelly?  How old are you again?”

“Sit,” he commanded softly, ignoring me.  He reminded me of myself.

“Go fuck yourself.”

Harry raised his eyebrows and smirked.  “Please?”

I frowned. “Please go fuck yourself?”

Harry laughed loudly, earning us attention from the few people around us.  “No, K.  Please sit down.”  

“I’m not allowed to be seen with you in public, remember?” I replied shrewdly, making a face as I did.

Harry laughed and patted the seat across from him. “This place in hardly public.  There are like three people in here.  Come on.”

I crossed my arms. “No.”

“Christ, K-“ Harry growled as quietly as he could. “Just fucking take a seat please?”

Knowing that if I didn’t sit, Harry might cause a scene, I fell into the seat and crossed my arms.  Harry grinned, clearly pleased with himself.

“Fuck off,” I breathed, rolling my eyes and reaching up to pick at some peeling paint on the wall beside me.

Harry grinned a little bigger.  “I’m happy to see you, K.”

“How did you find me here?”

“Garf told me where you were.”

“Ugh… traitor…” I grumbled.  Harry grinned at me again.“Harry, what do you want?” I snapped. God, I was happy to see him too, but I could never admit it.

“Oh, wait-” Harry said, reaching into his hoodie pocket and pulling out notecards.  He flipped through a few until he found the one he needed and read aloud: “I have come to apologize.”

I scoffed. “You had to read that from a damn card?” I asked, reaching for the stack in his hands.  He pulled them away from me quickly.

“Wait, I have one for that too.”

I sat back and watched as he flipped through four more cards and nodded. “Yes, because I am stupid and have a hard time formulating my own sentences when a pretty girl is in front of me.”After reading the card, Harry frowned. “Wait…”

I finally giggled and shook my head. “Did Louis write these for you?”

Harry nodded slowly and flipped through more of the cards. “I should have looked over them before I came here…”

“Grace me with another answer.  What did Arnold do or say when he found everything out?” I asked hesitantly. Different scenarios and reactions had played in my mind for the last few days, but none that I thought might actually happen.

Harry flipped through the cards. “Arnold said, and I quote ‘You fucked up.  You owe me.  Kennedy fucked up.  She owes me.  Louis fucked up.  He owes me. But having seen this coming, I have a plan.  Get Kennedy back here.’”

As I listened, I chewed my lip.  “So you came to get me because Arnold told you to.”

Harry sucked his bottom lip into his mouth and flipped through the cards once more.  Surprisingly, he found the reply to my statement, since it wasn’t technically a question.  Dammit, Louis was good.  “I came because I wanted to,” Harry started to read, but stopped and put the cards down on the table and looked at me. “I didn’t know how to react that morning when you were so gentle and calm… rubbing my back and kissing me even though I fucked up… No one has ever done that to me before so it just kinda shook me up…”

It was impossible to hide the blush in my cheeks.  Harry even turned red and looked away from me.

“I would have stopped kissing you if you had asked me to nicely,“ I said softly.

Harry’s eyes twinkled as he met my gaze again. “I didn’t want you to stop.”

Our chests began to rise and fall together as we stared into each other’s faces.  I blinked away from him looked around the restaurant.  The way his black tee stretched across his chest was making it hard for me to stay mad at him.  “So what is Arnold’s plan?”

Harry actually picked up his sandwich and handed me a half while taking his own half and biting off a third of it.  “He said maybe we could pull this off like a Jennifer/Brad/Angelina thing.  I don’t know exactly what happened, but Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt were dating, Brad and Angelina Jolie get involved or something and now Brad is with Angelina… I don’t really know.  Arnold was trying to explain it to me earlier today but I wasn’t listening.”

“Oh, great,” I said sarcastically.

Harry shrugged. “Well I figured if I said the three names, you’d know what I was talking about.”

I nodded. “I got it.”

“Arnold said maybe we could convince Maria to stop trash-talking and just pretend like it’s all good,” he said, taking another bite of his sandwich.  So I guess it must have tasted pretty good to him after all.

“You mean pay Maria?” I asked.

“Well, yeah.”

I picked at my nails and thought. “Wait, pretend like what’s all good?”

Harry’s face fell and he picked up the cards from the table.  He faked searching for a card to tell him the answer, but dropped the cards and ran his fingers through his hair while he thought of his own answer.  “K, I really, really like you and I want us to work this out.”

Don’t be stupid, Kennedy, I thought.  There was no way I could possibly just go back to him and be wound up in a life of picky eating and paparazzi and bad moods.  Not again, at least.  I had convinced myself to do it once and I wasn’t about to do it again.

“Are you okay?”  Harry asked quietly, taking one of my hands in his own and rubbing it.  My hands had begun to shake as I thought about what I would do, but I hadn’t noticed until Harry said something. 

“I’m fine,” I said, pulling my hand back from him and placing it in my lap.  “Harry, I can’t come back with you.”

Harry’s face seemed to lose all of it’s color.  “Well why not?”

Finding the right words to say at that moment was difficult.  The longer I looked into Harry’s handsome face, the more I started to miss the crazy, stupid life that I had lived for the last few weeks. “You were right about me.  I had no idea what I was getting into and I just can’t do it anymore.”

“Bullshit,” Harry said a little too loudly, earning us a disapproving look from the table beside us.  I smiled apologetically to the older couple and then glared at Harry.

“I’m serious, K.  You picked up on this whole paparazzi thing and fame life so much faster than anyone I’ve ever met.  And you snuck into that fight without being seen?  That was pretty amazing.  And when that girl called you ugly you didn’t cry… you’re stronger than you realize.”

I rolled my eyes and grinned.  “Who said I didn’t realize it?”

Harry grinned and took my hand again. “Please K, come back.  Please.”

I sighed and looked around the restaurant.  Both Nadia and Sam were watching us from the kitchen and grinning.  “I can’t leave on my first day.  I literally just got a job here.”

Harry winked at Nadia. “I saw you come here yesterday before your run.  I talked to Nadia and told her you were a psycho who escaped a mental institution and would only be able to last a week here before killing someone.  I explained that you usually came to work at small restaurants after your escapes and that we would pay for her next shipment of ingredients if she played along until I came to capture you and take you back to the institution.  She declined my offer to pay but played along anyway,” he said, shrugging.

I slapped Harry’s arm.  “You creepy, stalking prick, you didn’t tell her that!”

Harry laughed and stood up. “Actually, I did, but I don’t think she believed me.”

“Well she probably should have,” I whispered jokingly as I took Harry’s hand and allowed him to help me up.  He chuckled.

I hugged both Nadia and Sam and apologized for my alleged mental instability before taking off with Harry.  As we walked down the relatively empty street to the motel, Harry continuously tried to grab my hand and intertwine our fingers, but I wasn’t giving in that easily.

“What have you been doing the last few days?” I asked.

Harry raised his eyebrows as he stared down at the sidewalk. “Trying to cook for myself, boxing, laying in bed really.”

“How are your dreams?”

Harry’s face fell. “I’ve had a nightmare here and there…”

“I’ve been gone four days… ‘here and there’ like every other night?”

Harry shook his head and ran his fingers through the top of his hair, making it stand up a bit. “Here and there like… every night, maybe?  I can’t remember.”

A pang of guilt shot through me as Harry spoke.  The last thing I wanted was to feel completely responsible for the dreams coming back, but I couldn’t help it.  Trying to make light of the situation for both mine and Harry’s sakes, I giggled. “So you just want me to come back to be your human teddy bear.”

Harry attempted a frown, but his smile shone through on his face instead. “No… that’s not it…”

Harry texted Garf to meet us at the motel right as we arrived.  He loaded my bags into the trunk while Harry walked around the motel room, completely appalled at the damp, dark atmosphere and horrid stench.  The worst part was that it was actually cleaner than it had been, thanks to me cleaning in my free time.  Harry looked at me, disgust etched into his face. “You’ve been living here.”

Unable to tell if it was a question for me or Harry just confirming it in his head, I merely nodded.

“Do you feel healthy?  Are you breathing okay?  Is your vision blurry or anything?” He asked, his voice full of serious concern.

I pursed my lips and shrugged.  “I’m contaminated.  You should just leave me here to die.”

Harry frowned and moved to stand in front of me. “I’m serious.  Are you okay?” He asked, peering down into my eyes.  Deja vu was all I could think of.  Like when we first met, I was trying to stay angry and keep my distance, but all I found myself thinking of was Harry’s lips against mine, his fingertips brushing up my bare back like he had done so many mornings before…

“I’m fine.”

Harry raised his fingers to brush a piece of hair from my cheek.  His gentle touch made me shiver and I immediately turned away, but not before Harry could grab my face and plant his lips firmly against mine.  I could feel my body starting to go weak in his arms, but I stopped myself and pushed him off of me. “Harry, I’m trying to be mad at you for goodness sake-“

“Let me make you un-mad,” He grinned, grabbing my shoulders and pulling me to his lips again. 

“Un-mad isn’t a word,” I mumbled against his lips.  I squealed when he pressed his mouth to mine harder to try and get me to be quiet.

“Just kiss me, K,” he managed to say with his lips still on mine.  His attempt to force me to kiss him was beginning to make me laugh.  We probably looked hilarious, trying to talk to each other with our mouths pressed together and me now giggling like an idiot.  Harry finally gave up attacking my mouth with his lips and just changed to kissing me all over my face and down my neck, eliciting playful shrieks from me.  When I could, I reached up and pinched Harry’s side a few times until he laughed and struggled to get away from me. “NOT FAIR.”

I grinned. “You fired me and then came crawling back to me so I think the least I can do is tickle you for a whole 30 seconds.”

“THIRTY?”

I nodded.

Harry shook his head.  “At least not in here,” he said, grimacing once more at his surroundings.

“When we get home,” I demanded.

Harry cocked his head at me and bit his lip. “Home?”

I rolled my eyes and pushed Harry’s chest away from me. “Don’t read into it.”  There was another thing that I wouldn’t admit to Harry… that his house had become more of a home to me than anywhere I had ever stayed… even including the apartment that I lived in with Clark for two years.

Harry caught my hand once again and pulled me to him, staring straight at my mouth. “Just kiss me once and we can go home.  You have every right to be mad at me, but that doesn’t mean you can’t kiss me.”

God, he was handsome.  His vibrant eyes flickered up to meet mine and even they seemed to smile as he watched me struggle so hard to decide whether or not to kiss his soft, pink lips.  I don’t know why I was still struggling, because I really had given in the moment I let Garfield load my bags into the car.  Harry’s smile spread as I took his face in my hands and pulled him down to me, puckering my lips and placing them against his in a real kiss.  Harry slid his hands around the small of my back and pulled my body into his, a feeling that I had definitely missed for the last four days.

Something in Harry’s jeans vibrated against my leg.  His phone.  He growled at the interruption and pulled away from me, placing a kiss on my nose before pulling the phone from his pocket and glancing at the text.  He chuckled. “It’s Garf.  He wants to know if we’ve got everything.”

I glanced around the room once more for anything I might have forgotten to pack. “We’ve got it all.  Let’s go home, Bear.”  

Fists & Knives - Chapter 14

Crowds.  I actually hate crowds.  I can handle being surrounded by boiling liquids and fires and sharp knives… but not humans.  At least not like this, anyways.  When Louis suggested we leave early to get to the fight, I didn’t understand why, but once we arrived at the arena and saw the loads of people already waiting for Harry’s fight outside, it was understandable.  We had saved seats, courtesy of Arnold, but our early arrival allowed us to get in without having to push through a mob.  Having only been to one other fight in my life, the one with Harry, I was expecting a relatively small arena like The Cave.  This arena was NOT small. 

I slunk down in my chair in the front row as more and more guys and girls flooded in from the top of the arena down the stairs and into the stands.  It appeared to be more of a first-come-first-serve system as the silver seats filled in closer to the front and gradually filled up to the top.  I wondered if all boxing arenas were shaped like a bowl.  I guess it made sense, so everyone could see the fight, but I almost hated sitting right in the front.  I felt like my view was being cut off by the way the floor of the ring was directly at my nose, but the audience members walking down the stairs eyed Louis, Maria, and myself with quite a bit of jealousy, so I assumed we had the best seats. 

As it came close to 9 o’clock, Arnold finally arrived and plopped down in the seat beside me.  He breathed heavily like he had rushed to get there and typed down an email to someone rapidly on his Blackberry.  I chuckled.  Who even has a Blackberry anymore?  Louis was facing the crowd and waving and talking to people who kept calling his name, people who knew him, I suppose.  Wouldn’t it be fun to have a famous best friend like that?  When I glanced at Maria on the other side of Louis, she looked completely out of place and almost disgusted with the dirty floors and grungy people around her.  She was wearing a pink, floral summer dress and stood out more than blood on snow.  At least I could dress like I MIGHT have belonged there.  I chose to keep my red bandana around my head with my brown waves up, threw on some black jeans and a tee with a very contemporary tiger design on it.  Louis insisted that I wear all-black Vans to match him. 

Niall came flying down the steps to us, skipping three stairs at a time.  His leather jacket, jeans, and white tee combination was plain, but he looked good.  He leaned down and pecked me on the cheek before asking us to scoot down.

“We saved a seat for you on the other side of Maria,” Louis told him, motioning toward the seat with his thumb and smirking.

Niall’s eyes widened. “Oh, hell no.  Scoot.”

Maria grumbled as Louis forced her over a seat and Niall squeezed his way between myself and Arnold.

Before the announcer came up into the ring with one of the scantily clad ring girls, I connected eyes with Zayn across the stands.  He was sitting by himself, but looked perfectly content doing so.  He waved at me and grinned.  I returned the gesture. 

“Are you ready to see some blooooood????” The announcer’s voice asked from the ceiling.  The stands erupted with enthusiastic cheers and everyone leapt up, including Niall and Louis.  Maria and I both groaned and stood slowly.  I chuckled in my head.  Maybe in another life, she and I would be friends… or not.

“Making his way up the ranks since he was 19 years old, give it up for Sammie Suasso!!!”

A short guy bounced up into the ring, tossing off his black silk robe and tossing into the corner of the ring.  He brought his blue gloves together in front of his body and flexed his small biceps for the crowd.  People cheered.  His blonde hair was secured back out of his face by small braids all around his head.  Louis and Harry’s words from the other day popped into my head:

You know he hates fighting you.

Because he always loses.

Now looking at small-framed Sammie, he had a good reason to be scared.

The cheering died down after a minute and the announcer continued.  “He’s been M.I.A. for a few weeks so let’s hope he hasn’t lost those unnaturally powerful punches… give it up foooor…”

I was stunned when the crowd went silent.  Completely silent.  You couldn’t even get a church congregation to be as quiet at the crowd in the arena was.  I could hear Louis and Niall’s heartbeats on either side of me.  I nearly leapt out of my skin when someone behind me stomped once.  Then more people stomped together.  Then more.  And more.  The stomping became louder and faster, picking up speed and volume until there was no distinct pattern anymore.

“HARRY STYLES!!!!”

The noise level from before multiplied by one thousand times.  I covered my ears and laughed loudly as Harry walked casually up into the ring and smirked at the crowd.  He slowly shrugged off his black silk robe and tossed it into the crowd where a group of girls were losing their minds.  He took a very casual-looking drink of water from his bottle but allowed a few drops to run down his already-glistening torso.  I could see him flexing his bicep a little as he held the bottle over his lips.  What a crowd-pleaser.  He reminded me of a show horse. 

As the roaring continued, I glanced at Niall and laughed with him.

“This is crazy!” I screamed to him.

“I KNOW!” He shouted back excitedly.

I thought the screaming might die down, but it didn’t as Harry and Sammie approached each other in the ring.  Harry beat his black gloves together and lowered his gaze as he stared at Sammie and waited for him to rush or swing.  Louis was already twitching beside me and I worried that he might try and jump up into the ring with Harry. “Get ‘em.  Get ‘em Harry.”

Sammie ran toward Harry and used all of his body weight to swing, but Harry stepped out of the way and strutted across the ring as Sammie fell on his face.  People in the crowd laughed and booed. 

“Aww, Sammie, whatcha do that for??” Niall shouted, clearly disapproving of Sammie’s poor form.  Sammie punched the ground and pushed himself back up onto his feet before stepping cautiously toward Harry again.  He swung, and Harry dodged the hit.  He swung again, and Harry leapt backwards.  When Sammie swung the third time, he carelessly used all of his weight again and ended up falling to the floor.  I could tell that he hadn’t been in the boxing world for very long.

“HARRY!” Arnold bellowed from beside Niall.  Harry glanced over to us.  I was surprised he could hear over all of the other screaming happening.  “THIS ISN’T A BALLET, STOP DANCING WITH HIM.  YOU DON’T MAKE MONEY WHEN YOU LET YOUR OPPONENT BEAT HIMSELF UP!”

Sammie ran at Harry and tried to tackle him, but Harry stayed on his feet and punched Sammie in the stomach once, sending him collapsing to the right.  Harry walked across the ring to us.  He was so casual and so slow that I was beginning to wonder if we were still watching a fight.  Niall and Louis were laughing at his apathetic nature.  Harry leaned over the rope and spoke to Arnold.  “If I let loose, it’s going to be a two-second fight.”  I could barely hear him over the shrieking girls a few rows above us.

“THEN MAKE IT A DAMN TWO-SECOND FIGHT.  AT LEAST EARN THE MONEY INSTEAD OF HAVING IT HANDED TO YOU,” Arnold fussed.  I giggled as Harry scowled and turned back around as Sammie crawled back up onto his feet.  He was sweating profusely.  Maybe if you didn’t swing with your whole body, I started to think, but stopped.  Who was I to give boxing advice to a boxer?

For the first time that night, Harry’s face hardened and he raised his gloves.  He bounced on his toes, gradually inching his way toward Sammie until he had Sammie in a corner.  Sammie threw a weak punch, hitting Harry in his gloves, and Harry punched back with a swift hit to the face.  Sammie immediately dropped to his knees and fell forward onto the floor of the ring.

“That a boy, Harry,” Arnold clapped.

“ONE!  TWO! THREE!” The crowd started counting.  Sammie rolled around.  A pool of blood was forming under his face and I couldn’t tell if it was coming from his mouth or his nose.

“FOUR!  FIVE!  SIX!”

He got to his feet.  Honestly, I would have stayed down.  The crimson stain on his face made me cringe. “Yee-he-heah, get back up, noobie,” Louis urged Sammie from beside me.

“Get him Harry!” Niall shouted, clapping.

Sammie spit blood onto the floor to try and look tough.  A certain confidence flashed across his eyes but disappeared as Harry’s fist came at him again.  This time, Harry swung upward, knocking Sammie’s head back and causing him to collapse into the ropes along the ring.  He dangled with his arms over the ropes and allowed his head to hang on his chest. 

“ONE!  TWO!  THREE!  FOUR!!”

The counting started up again.  I silently prayed that Sammie wouldn’t get back up.  This wasn’t much of a fight at all.

“FIVE! Six…” 

The crowd’s counting became less and less enthusiastic as they approached seven and Sammie was still not on his feet.  It suddenly dawned on me that they counted for fun.  They didn’t count because they actually wanted Sammie to stay down.  I could see it in Harry’s face that this was not what he had planned for his first fight back.  He gritted his teeth and scanned the crowd as they gave him looks of disapproval and whispered to the spectators beside them.

“Why would they put Styles against Suasso?  That guy never stood a chance,” The guy behind me mumbled. 

Louis whipped around. “Shut the fuck up, yeah?  Suasso should be better than that after all these years.  Shit performance on his end.”

Finally, the noise returned as Sammie stood back up.  He wiggled his shoulders and blinked a few times until his vision was straight again before he slowly put his gloves up in front of his face.  The crowd cheered, and where most of them had initially been cheering for Harry, most of them were now chanting Sammie’s name.  A bead of sweat dribbled down Harry’s taught jaw from his hair.  He beat his gloves together and narrowed his eyes at his opponent.  He was pissed.

“Come on, Harry,” Arnold said, looking at his phone.  It was like he didn’t even care about watching anymore.  Sammie sprung at Harry once more with his fist extended in front of him – more of a leap of faith than any actual attempt to hit Harry – but was immediately knocked down again by a harsh blow to the face from Harry.  Sammie didn’t even twitch as he hit the ground of the ring.  He was knocked out cold.  Instantly, the crowd began to boo. 

I was so stunned that I couldn’t move.  I was too busy watching a distressed and simultaneously fuming Harry to realize that my posse had gone.  Niall, Louis, and Maria all disappeared with Arnold, I suppose to get away from the shame of supporting Harry Styles at the moment.  How am I supposed to get home?  Where do I even go from here?  I don’t even know what part of the city we’re in.  My heart began to race.  I tried not to look too panicked as the crowd’s booing became louder and people started pushing down the stands.

“I paid money for this shitty fight!”

“That was unfair!" 

"Pick on someone your own size!" 

People spat at Harry.  They threw things.  Harry watched them with his teeth grinding and his eyebrows furrowed.  Finally, Harry’s eyes met mine.  He dared to lean over the ropes of the ring toward the crowd, but kept his eyes locked on mine.  “Run up the stairs and to the left.  Keep going until you hit black double doors.  They’ll be locked.  Just wait there.”

Without a second thought, Harry and I ran opposite directions, me up the stairs of the arena and Harry down into where I assume the locker rooms and warm-up areas were.  I shoved past people, colliding with a few as they tried to push down to the ring (why, I don’t know).  My head was on a swivel as I looked for Niall, Louis, Zayn, Arnold, or even Maria at this point, but I couldn’t spot any of them.  I debated texting Garf and asking him or Liam to pick me up, but instead, I just kept pushing through people until I got to the hallways surrounding the arena.  I sprinted left like Harry commanded until I spotted the black doors.  Forgetting that Harry mentioned they would be locked, I yanked on them anyway and leaned against them in defeat when they didn’t open.  I sighed heavily but was forced to leap forward as they suddenly burst open.  Harry didn’t even have a shirt on yet, but his bag and gloves were slung over his shoulder.

“Come on,” He said, grabbing my hand and intertwining our fingers.  He pulled me to the nearest door and started to open it, but stopped.  He glanced at me for a moment, giving us a chance to catch our breaths, and pushed a stray strand of hair into my bandana.  “Are you okay?” He asked relatively calmly, given the situation.  No one was in the hallway near us just yet, but people were beginning to exit out the doors of the arena.

I nodded.  “Are you?”

Harry shook his head and growled. “Just keep your head down, okay?  Don’t stop.  Don’t let go of me.”

I frowned.  “Wha-?”

Before I could ask why, Harry pulled me out into the night.  As we ran down the steps that lead up to the building, all kinds of paparazzi and fans swarmed us with flashes of light and papers for autographs.  I could tell that once the paparazzi recognized that I was certainly NOT Maria, they snapped more and more pictures.  I felt my face flush.  The back of my neck was hot.  Harry’s hand was sweaty already, and the sweat starting to form from my hand was making it hard for us to stay together.  Harry gripped my hand more tightly and dragged me to the road where a black car was parked.  Liam bailed out of the front seat when he saw us and opened the back door.  Harry slung my body forward and I dove into the car.  Harry threw his heavy bag into the floor of the car and dove into the seat beside me, landing halfway on me and halfway off of the seat.  Liam slammed the door behind us and hurried to get in front of the wheel.

Harry didn’t move his head from my lap as we started to drive away.  Both of us were breathing hard, him from the physical stress of pushing through that mass of people in front of me and me from having a mental break down all within the last five minutes.  I laid my head back against the seat and subconsciously reached for Harry’s head on my lap.  I tugged lightly on some of his sweaty curls and massaged his scalp.

“Why didn’t they like me?  They usually love me,” he finally mumbled into my thigh.  I began to push my fingers into the back of his neck, sending goose bumps down his arms, but I could tell he liked it.

“It wasn’t a fair fight,” I explained quietly, unsure of whether or not we were including Liam in this discussion.  The small privacy window between ours and Liam’s seats was up, but I was sure he could probably still hear us anyways.

“I was supposed to win though.  I wouldn’t have picked someone I was going to lose to for my first fight back,” Harry said, tensing his body. 

I massaged a little deeper.  “I mean, I understand that.  But you literally knocked him out in three hits.  That’s horrible.”

Harry whipped up and glared at me through the dark car.  I could see his eyes were a dangerous shade of green as the passing city lights flickered against his body.  “You weren’t impressed?” He asked through gritted teeth.

I tried to restrain my own anger as I looked at him.  “That’s not what I said.”

“You implied it.”

“I was trying to explain why the fight was unfair, Harry.”

“Then explain.”

“I.  Just.  Did.”

“Again.”

“Please?”

Harry huffed. “Please.”

I sighed.  “You knocked him out in three hits.  That’s impressive, but you couldn’t have let him get a little hit on you or something?  You knew he was easy to beat.  You could have at least made it look fair by letting him get you a few times and maybe not taking him out after a single round.”

“Arnold told me to.”

“Yeah, well Arnold was watching his Blackberry more than he was watching you.  He didn’t know what he was talking about.”

Harry eyed me closely.  “The crowd started cheering for Sammie after I hit him only like, two times.”

“Yeah,” I chuckled darkly.  “And you got hella pissed, didn’t you? Punched the consciousness right out of that little dude.”

“I just get a little angry sometimes,” Harry admitted shamefully after a moment, laying his head back on my lap and extending as much of his body out along the seat as he could.  He grabbed my hand and placed it on his hair again.

I glanced out the window to hide my grin and started to massage Harry’s head again.  “Tell me something I don’t know,” I giggled.

A deep purr came from his throat.  

As I gazed down at him, he looked so content.  Seriously, he was one of the most bipolar people I had ever stumbled across in my entire life. 

“I’m a pretty angry person too, if you haven’t noticed,” I suddenly said, chuckling to myself.  It wasn’t that I was laughing at my confession, but rather that I was actually relating to the one person I never thought I would.

“Well you control it pretty well.  Except that one time you threw a knife at me,” Harry said, the muscles in his abs tightening as he laughed.

“Sorry about that, by the way,” I giggled.

“Were you aiming for me?”

I shook my head. “I’ve got good aim.  I was just trying to scare you,” I admitted.

Harry laughed. “It worked.”

I chuckled as the realization of what Harry just confessed hit him.  He turned red with embarrassment.  After another moment of silence, he spoke again. “How?”

I frowned down at him on my lap. “How what?”

“How do you control your anger?”

I almost hoped he hadn’t asked.  I gulped and glanced out of the car window, listening to the honking from a taxi as it passed us. “I just think of old memories when I know I’m about to lose it.”

“Something happy?” Harry asked, shifting his head on my lap.

I pushed my back forward in the seat until it cracked.  “Well, I suppose.  It has to be something special to you.  A memory or something to distract you.  A lot of people do this, I don’t understand why you’re acting like you’ve never thought to do it yourself.” 

Harry bit his lip.  I could tell he felt like he was irritating me, and suddenly I realized that he probably hadn’t ever thought to think of a special memory to calm him.  Our eyes met for a second and I smiled as politely as I could, giving Harry the silent “okay” to ask me more questions.  He studied his fingernails and asked, “What do you usually think about?” 

“That’s personal,” I snapped, crossing my arms and looking out the window again.  Harry didn’t move his head, but rather turned his face away from me to stare at the back of the leather seat.  That was the one question that I wanted to avoid.  I could sense his body slump against my thigh and instantly I felt bad again.  He was looking for my help and I was being a pain in the ass about it.

I sighed. “I don’t think about something happy… I actually think about the lowest point in my life.”

Harry frowned and cocked his head at me, waiting for an explanation that I knew was inevitable at this point. 

I gulped and reached for his hair again, avoiding his gaze as I spoke.  “I was a foster kid,” I started.  Harry’s face fell.  I laughed and shook my head. “That’s not the bad part.  It doesn’t bother me anymore.  When I was about 10, I had this mom and dad come to ‘interview’ me and see if they wanted to adopt me.  I thought the interview was going so well and kept getting more and more excited with how they reacted to the things I would tell them like what I wanted to be when I grew up.  At the time, I wanted to own my own orphanage, actually.  I loved my brothers and sisters and thought that what my ‘mother,’ Andrea, was doing for us was amazing and I wanted to do it too.  But the mom and dad left without me.  Before they left, I heard them telling Andrea that I had no drive.  No motivation.  Not a good enough dream.  I wasn’t going to go far in life.  For me, that seems like more of a reason to adopt someone, right?  Take them home.  Give them love.  Show them other options.  Change their life.  But they left without me.  I never had another family come to see me after that.  Even if they had, no one would have taken me in.   I was too angry at that point.  I hated everything.”

Harry had his eyes closed and his brow furrowed as he listened.  When I finished, his eyebrow twitched and he looked up at me.  “THAT helps you control your anger?” He asked, still struggling to wrap his head around the story.

I smiled to myself and shrugged.  “That man and woman who said I had no future?  I proved them wrong.  Whenever someone like Robert Fley tells me I’m not good enough, I just remember how far I’ve come and what I’ve accomplished already.   When Maria calls me a servant, I just try and think about where I could have been at this point had I not mustered up some sort of drive with myself.  When someone criticizes a dish or insists that I make them something like peanut butter and jelly instead of some damn good shrimp-and-grits,” I tugged on Harry’s hair a little harder.  He finally cracked a grin.  I continued, “I just think about how fortunate I am to be here.  I remember where I started and how far I’ve come already, even if it’s not as far as I would like to be.”

“That’s what you always think about when you’re angry?” Harry confirmed.

I nodded. “For the most part.”

“That’s what you were thinking about when you walked in on Clark and that girl?”

A sick feeling rushed through my body as I thought of that day.  I didn’t exactly try to control my anger, but I wasn’t exactly as ferocious as I could have been with Clark. “Well, no.  I guess I was thinking about…” I laughed.  “Nevermind.”

“Aww, don’t do that!” Harry laughed too, reaching up and poking my cheek with his finger.  “Tell me,” he urged, biting his bottom lip and grinning.  He poked me a few more times in the chin and around my cheeks.  “Tell me, tell me, tell me,” he started to chant. 

I giggled and shoved his hand away from me only to have him grab my free hand and hold it against his bare chest, a motion that made my heart flutter.  “Okay! Okay, shut up.  I mean, I don’t totally remember what I was thinking about…”

“That’s a lieee,” Harry stated, sticking his bottom lip out in a pouty way.  For the first time, he actually looked younger than his age.  He was undeniably adorable, his hair sticking all around from my massaging and his face dotted with little unshaved hairs.  I scratched under my bandana with the hand he wasn’t holding and looked away from him.

“I…”

“Youuuu…” he squeezed my hand.

I couldn’t help but grin.  “Stop! I was thinking…”

“Thinking…”

“Harry!!”

“THINKING ABOUT WHO!?”

“THINKING ABOUT YOU! I was thinking about you, okay???  I don’t know why, I don’t know… I just think that I thought that we had a little – I mean, you kept touching my leg at lunch and – we kissed.  You kissed me and - I just don’t – I don’t know,” I sputtered.  Harry’s breathing slowed and finally, he sat up and faced forward in his seat.  Kennedy, you stupid, stupid girl, you said too much.  You’ve ruined everything.  I stared forward.  I could fell LIam was listening from the way his ear was turned slightly toward us.  I shook my head and spoke to Harry again, trying to fix what I had just ruined. “It was just because of the day though.  I think my mind was in a billion places and I was just latching onto you because you were giving me attention that Clark wasn’t.”

Harry’s fingers around my hand loosened their grip and he allowed my hand to slip out of his lap.  I chewed my lip as he crossed his arms over his chest and stared forward. “Kennedy, I-“

“KENNEDY!”

The door beside me flew open and Niall scooped me out, pulling my entire body tightly into his chest.  I hadn’t even realized that we were back to the house already.  “I’m so sorry,” Niall stammered. “We thought you were behind us and all of a sudden you weren’t, but then we started to get swarmed and we had to leave-“

I shook my head. “It’s okay, it’s really okay.  Harry found me.”

“WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?” Arnold bellowed, and it took me a moment to realize he was talking to Harry.  I could only see Arnold’s silhouette against the light from the house as he stormed toward the car where Harry was climbing out of his side.

“What do you mean?” Harry asked, gritting his teeth.

“You have ruined all of the fucking good publicity I’ve been getting for you this week.  Ruined it.  Shot it to hell.  All because you wouldn’t take a single damn hit from Suasso-“

Harry tensed.  “You told me to take him out.”

Arnold shook his head back and forth quickly.  “I told you to quit dancing with him-“

“You said to ‘MAKE IT A TWO SECOND FIGHT,’ Arnold,” Harry spat.  “Remember that??”

“I DIDN’T THINK YOU WERE STUPID ENOUGH TO BE LITERAL ABOUT IT.”

“I’M NOT STUPID-“ Harry bellowed, making me wince.  Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed my slight movement and inhaled so deeply that I could almost feel the air thin out around me.  Arnold looked too afraid to say anything more, and Louis stood in the doorway of the house, looking like he had already had his neck rung for setting Harry up with Sammie in the first place.  Liam’s body was only halfway out of the car, and I could tell he was struggling to figure out whether he should just leave or not.  Niall kept a protective arm around me, which I hardly noticed as I watched Harry slowly crack his neck and sigh.  “I’m sorry…” He said stiffly.  “Please, set me up another fight with someone who can actually punch me back without me having to let them.”

Arnold ground his teeth together, but turned and nodded to Louis.  Louis pulled out his phone and started to make a few calls as he disappeared into the house.  Arnold shook his head and walked to his car, disappearing down the driveway before anyone could say anything more.

“Where is Maria?” Harry asked Niall.

“She came home with us.  In her room.”

Harry nodded slowly.  “Arnold is going to have a shit-fit when those pictures of me and K show up tomorrow,” Harry said aloud to no one in particular.  Liam frowned.

“Just explain later she’s your chef, mate.  Came along to watch the fight,” Niall said.

Harry’s eyes met mine. “Just my chef,” he repeated, chewing his lip.  “Right.”

He picked up his bag and gloves from the back seat and thanked Liam with a handshake before Liam nodded to me and drove away.  Harry passed Niall and myself as he walked to the front door, but stopped before he went inside.

“Coming, Kennedy?”

I pulled myself away from Niall’s body and smiled at him.  “Thank you, Niall.”

“Fer what?” He asked, sticking his hands in his pockets and rocking on his heels.

I laughed quietly. “You care about me too much.”

Niall grinned and cocked his head at me.  “Well, you deserve to be cared about.”

“Kennedy? Coming?” Harry asked again from the door.  He seemed impatient.  I waved to Niall and started to walk toward the door.

“Hey, Kennedy?” Niall stopped me.  I faced him once more.  He seemed to shove his hands even deeper in his pockets and rock harder on his heels.  “Want to go out to lunch tomorrow?  I mean, if Harry and Maria go out?  Maybe dinner? Or just whenever you aren’t cooking for them?  Whenever you’re free?” He chuckled nervously.

I raised my eyebrows as I heard Harry inhale sharply behind me.  I was torn in so many different directions at the moment that I almost said no.  I needed to take a break and really think about my life.  Think about the people.  Think about Clark.  Niall.  Harry…

But then Harry’s words flashed through my mind.

You can go after someone who deserves you now.

I didn’t know who deserved me.  Why did anyone have to deserve me?  Who the hell was I to decided who deserved me and who didn’t?  Frankly, I just wanted to know who actually wanted me.  Frankly… I wanted Harry to want me.  But he didn’t. 

“Yeah, that would be nice, Ni.”

Niall’s grin spread nearly all the way across his face.  His feet crunched on the gravel as he stepped toward me and planted a kiss on my cheek.  He hadn’t stopped grinning by the time he got to his car and wheeled out of the driveway.

When I finally had the courage to turn around and walk to the front door where Harry was, I saw that he was scowling at the ground.  I waited for him to go inside, but he continued to stare at the pavement of the step and chew on his lip intensely.

“Harry?” I said quietly. 

He jumped and shook himself out of his trance. “What?” He growled, shifting his eyes up to meet mine. 

I waited for a moment.  “Are… are we going to go inside?”

Harry chewed his lip more and glanced into the house before nodding and stepping out of the way so that I could enter first.  He seemed completely lost in thought as he dropped his bag and gloves into the middle of the floor in the foyer and started down the hallway that lead to the hidden staircase to his room.

A little disappointed in his lack of conversation, especially after all I shared with him in the car, I began to descend the stairs to my room.

“K?” He called as I was halfway into my room.

I turned quickly and tripped as I started to leap up the stairs, and then almost fell down them when I realized Harry was standing at the top of the staircase.  His eyes were glowing green like I had never seen before.
He hesitated.  Why was everything so awkward between us when we weren’t screaming in each other’s faces?  I blamed myself.   Harry took a breath.  “Thanks for sharing what you did with me, Kennedy.  You didn’t have to do that.”

I forced the most sincere smile I could. “Anything for a friend.” 

Fists & Knives - Chapter 16

“Noooo, not like that.  Up.  Swing literally like you’re making a backwards “J” or a hook with the glove.”  Harry did the motion himself.  All I could see were his muscles and bare torso.  He held the pad on his hand up just above my head and nodded at me.  Today, Harry thought it would be funny to take one of my bandanas (not the red one, he knew it was my favorite) and tie it around his head like I always did.  The horrible thing about it was that he looked incredibly sexy and I was having a hard time not staring.

I swung upward and hit the mitt, stopped, and grinned, definitely pleased with myself.  Harry didn’t allow me to be proud for too long before lowering his mitt in front of his chest. “Jab!”

I threw my fist forward, a loud slap emitting from the collision of my (well, Harry’s) glove and his mitt.

“Up again!” He yelled, raising the mitt above my head.  “Now side!”  He held out the mitt to his side.   I could feel myself beginning to sweat and breathe more heavily as I threw punches.  Who knew boxing could be such a workout?  Harry spent all afternoon in the gym with me, teaching me the basics and insisting that I try out a few moves on him.  He let me use his gloves, which were entirely too large for my hands.  I was struggling more to keep them on than to actually punch wherever he was holding the mitts.  “Jab!” He yelled again, holding the mitt in front of his chest.  I tiredly threw my fist at him, accidentally missing the mitt and hitting upward at his face.  He stumbled backward and leaned against one of the mirrors, laughed, and slid down the mirror to his butt. 

“Are you okay??” I asked worriedly as he covered his face.

“I’ve just been bopped in the nose,” He laughed through his hands. “Where were you punching? I thought you said your aim was good.”

I frowned and rushed over to him. “With knives, Harry.  My aim is good with knives.  Are you okay?  Did I hurt you?” I asked, placing my hand on his and trying to move it from his face so I could see the injury.  He groaned and rolled his head away from me, but I could see a small grin on his face that let me know he wasn’t hurt at all.

He chuckled when he saw my un-amused expression and leapt to his feet, extending his hand down to me to help me up too.  “Let’s just switch to the bag for a minute.”  He pulled me to my feet directly in front of him and gazed down at me for a moment.  I would be lying if I told you that the air between us wasn’t tense, especially taking into account what happened the last time Harry and I were in the gym together.  I could see memories of it flashing through Harry’s mind as he watched my body in the mirrors while I punched at the bag hanging from the ceiling.

“Remember to keep this tight,” he said, interrupting my punches to place his hand on my abdomen and the sides of my hips.  “Don’t twist so much,” he said a little more closely to my ear.  Goosebumps went down my spine and covered my arms.

“Are you cold?” Harry asked.

I spun to face him and shook my head quickly. “I just- I need water.”

Harry smiled and reached for my arms.  He helped me undo the gloves and gently slid them off of my hands, dropping them on the floor once my hands were free. “Let’s go,” he said, putting an arm around my shoulders and leading me back to the kitchen.  Once there, we both got a drink and stood across the kitchen from each other, guzzling down the water but also peering at each other through the bottom of our clear glasses. 

“Dinner?” Harry suggested.

“Whatcha want?”

Harry shrugged. “The um… well…”

I raised my eyebrow and smirked.  I knew exactly what was coming.  While I waited for Harry to spit it out, I crossed my arms, popped my hip, and tapped my foot.

Harry laughed.  “Look, K.  Don’t get mad.”

“Just tell me,” I sighed, lowering my gaze at him.

Harry rubbed the back of his neck. “That shrimp and grits…”

I sighed. “I knew you liked it.  I knew it all along.”

Harry beat on the counter with his hands. “I promise, I won’t send any dishes back again.  All of your food is pretty amazing.”

I nearly dropped the shrimp I was getting from the fridge.  I knew Harry liked some of my food, but not all of it.  The back of my neck got hot as the compliment swirled through my brain.

“You know,” Harry started once he had drunk all of his water. “I’ve never taught a girl to fight.  I mean, I’ve actually never taught anyone to fight.”

I blushed and tossed the shelled shrimp into a pan, dousing them with lemon.  “Well I’m honored.  You’re a good teacher, Mr. Styles.”

Harry grinned. “You’re a good student, Miss Davenport.”

“And I-“ Louis interrupted, appearing by the bar and slapping his phone onto it. “-have found you a good fight.  Harry, what the hell is on your head?”

Harry frowned.  “A bandana.”

Louis glanced to me.  I shrugged.

“Is the fight a fair fight?” I asked.

Louis raised an eyebrow. “Yes, a fair one. To be honest, I was about to go for Niall but he’s out of the country, so instead I got Mateo Wallis.”

“Oh, good!” Harry nodded. “I haven’t fought him in a long while.  I like him.”

I giggled. “I still don’t understand how you can be friends with the people you fight.  ‘Oh sorry, Mate, didn’t mean to break your nose.  Let’s catch a movie later this week.’ Like what the hell?”

My imitation of Harry’s deep British accent had both Louis and Harry rolling with laughter.  Maria appeared by the bar and sat down beside Louis.  “Dinner?” She asked, looking at the pan.

“Shrimp and grits,” I told her. “Want some?”

She nodded.  So did Louis.

It seemed like everyone was in a surprisingly pleasant mood as the night went on.  We ate together and actually talked about the fight against Mateo and how Harry thought it would go.  Maria told us about her brother and how he used to fight, but tore some ligament in his arm and can’t fight anymore.  We sat on the couch and watched America’s Next Top Model reruns, laughing at the comments that Harry and Louis would make about outfits and hairstyles.  Maria asked to do my hair at one point and braided it into something she called a “fishtail braid,” which I had seen before but never thought to try doing on my own.  It looked nice.  Harry even told me himself.  Maria seemed unusually relaxed and I couldn’t help but wonder if she had taken some sort of drugs.  If there was ever a place to do drugs, I was convinced it was in this house.  No one came here.  There were so many hidden nooks and crannies around the house that you could hide your biggest secrets and no one would ever find them.

It was ten o’clock by the time I convinced myself to get off of the couch and go to sleep.  Louis gave me a kiss on the cheek and a hug.  Harry walked me to the stairs by my room and gave me a hug.  I felt like he started to lean down and give me a peck on the cheek, but stopped and simply nodded at me instead.  That was disappointing to say the least, but what did I expect him to do?  Sweep me off my feet and carry me down into my room where we can have sex all night?  Actually, yes.  That is what I expected.

At about 3 in the morning, I woke up with a pressure on my bladder.  I forced myself out of bed and into the bathroom with my eyes closed managed to make it to the toilet to pee without the lights on.  As I sat and waited, I heard a groan.  Am I dreaming?  I waited a moment.  I heard another groan.  It wasn’t coming from my room though.  Was it from the floor above me?  I pulled up my underwear and pulled at the bottom of my oversized tee as I crept up the stairs.  The groaning was becoming louder and more frequent as I reached the top of the stairs.  What if someone was in the house?  I scurried back down the stairs to my room and grabbed the knife that I usually keep in my purse.  With that and Harry’s training today, I felt like I could take on anyone or anything that came at me… however, I was a little sore already.  My legs began to shake as I tip-toed up the stairs again toward the moaning and crept into the kitchen.  I flipped on a light and shrieked when I spotted Louis at the bar.

He raised a finger to his lips and shushed me.  A louder, more fierce moan echoed around the kitchen and living room space… but it wasn’t Louis.  It was Harry. “Turn off the light,” Louis breathed, flicking his hand down as if he was turning off the light himself.  I obliged.

“Is he okay?” I whispered, looking up at the dark balcony above us.  Louis shook his head and patted the seat beside him at the bar.  His body shook as he chuckled noiselessly when I put my knife on the table in front of me.

“Were you going to stab someone?” He whispered.

I shrugged.  “I didn’t know what the hell was going on.”

“Did that wake you?” Louis asked when Harry moaned again. Now, closer to him, I could hear Harry tossing and turning in his bed.

“I got up to pee, heard him moaning.”

Louis nodded slowly and took a sip of whatever he was drinking.

“Is he having a bad dream?” I whispered impatiently.  I just wanted Louis to spit it out at this point.

Louis nodded. “It happens almost every night.”

“What?”

Harry growled and mumbled something that I couldn’t make out.  He pounded the bed with his fist of kicked it with his foot.

Louis sighed. “Look, I don’t know what all Harry revealed of his family to you.”

“He just told me about his mom.  How she left.”

Louis sighed again and ran his fingers through his hair.  “But did he tell you why?”

I hesitated. “No.”

I sat back in my seat and waited for the explanation.  Louis sighed, yet again.  “Harry’s mum left because of his dad.  Harry’s father was pretty abusive.  Got kicked out of his own boxing league when he was young because of something to do with an illegal fight or something – Harry never really explained it.  His father just would beat the absolute shit out of Harry to make sure he became the best, if that makes sense.  His mom would just watch.  Never did anything to try and stop Harry’s dad.  One day, she just left.  Couldn’t handle it anymore.  Harry kept training to box because that’s all he knew to do.  The bigger he got, the harder it became for Harry’s father to beat him, but by that point, Harry was already mentally fucked.”

“Holy shit, Louis,” I breathed.  I couldn’t imagine anyone ever beating Harry.  I remembered that I slapped him the other day and my heart shriveled in my chest. 

“That’s why he and I left and came here.  I mean, my mum knows where I am.  We talk often.  She’s like Harry’s mum, but he doesn’t talk to her much,” Louis whispered. 

A deep growl came from Harry’s room and he pounded the bed again.  I winced as I listened and almost felt my eyes water. “He’s dreaming of his dad?”

Louis nodded.

“Can’t you help him?” I asked, my voice wavering as I spoke and tried to hold back my tears.  I don’t know why it hurt me as much as it did to hear a thing like that.  Honestly, I always felt a bit bad for myself, but Harry had a much worse situation than I ever did.

Louis shook his head almost violently and turned to look at me, his eyes glowing in the darkness. “I’ve tried to wake him up a hundred times before.   He’s nearly killed me a few of the times, and others, he’s just so deep into the dream that you can’t wake him up at all.  He just suffers through it.”

Harry’s growls were becoming angry shouts and I was wondering how in the hell I hadn’t heard him before. “Louis, there has got to be a way to help him!”

“Well there isn’t.  If you try to help him, you’re going to die.”

I leapt off of the stool and ran down the hallway where the secret staircase or elevator or whatever was.  At this point, I still didn’t even know how Harry got to his room.  He could climb up a ladder for all I know.   Past the staircase that led down to my room was another bedroom, but with empty walls and a bed without sheets or pillows.  I searched all four of the walls with my hands and felt around for something – a hidden hinge or an invisible doorknob.  I even looked into the closet, but it was too tiny to have anything like a staircase in it.

I sprinted into the hall. “Louis, where is the door to Harry’s room??”

“K, I’m trying to save your life,” he called to me from the kitchen. 

When I heard another one of Harry’s growls, I pounded my fist into the wall and continued to the next room.  For a moment I thought the door was locked, having always been closed, but after a few more jiggles of the handle, the door flew open.  A library.  A small one, not many books and just one couch, but a library nonetheless.  The door had to be in there.  Hidden doors always had to do with bookcases.  I flipped on the light and started to scan the nearly bare bookcases, pulling at upright books that weren’t dusty and pushing on others.  I felt around the bottom of the shelves with my bare foot for some kind of pedal or anything, but found nothing.  I even did so much as to move an entire bookcase, but nothing was behind it.  I snarled and rushed into the hallway again. “LOUIS, where is the fucking door??”

When he failed to respond, I sprinted to the next room: the gym.  I had been in here a hundred times before, working out and fighting with Harry.  No way would I have missed A DOOR to a completely different floor of the house.  I flipped on the lights and glanced slowly around the room.  I could hear Harry groaning.  Slowly, I stepped along the walls, gazing at each of the mirrors closely and checking the distance between each of them.  Just to the right of the treadmill, I came to a mirror that was about two inches farther apart from the rest.  When I looked closely, I could see fingerprints right on the edge of the glass. 

Suddenly I felt sick, knowing that this would be a major invasion of privacy, but after hearing another angry and almost in-pain shout, I pushed on the mirror.  It clicked and bounced back toward me, revealing a staircase.  My feet carried me upward and I soon found myself on the right side of the balcony, overlooking the kitchen and living room.  I could see out into the dark backyard and was stunned to see that I had enough height to see through the glass wall and over the hedges in the backyard.  The view of the city lights was stunning, but not something I ever would have imagined you would see from the house or even the yard. 

Harry’s shout reminded me why I was there and snapped me out of my star struck gaze.  I turned from the balcony banister and stared at the part of the balcony that I had never been able to see from the kitchen below.  The area was almost like a half-circle with a door in the middle of the rounded wall.  Through the door, I could see a bed, but that was all.  As I walked into the room, I came to see that was the only thing in the room.  With the help of the moonlight coming from the large window on one side of the room, I could make out handles to a closet.

“Stop it, stop it now,” Harry breathed through his teeth.  He was laying on his front, kicking and punching the mattress.  Shit, I thought.  How am I going to do this?  Harry thrashed and tore at the sheets, grunting and gritting his teeth as he fought off his father in his dream.

“What do you want??” He seethed. For a moment, I was frozen in place thinking he was talking to me, but I realized I hadn’t said anything.  He wasn’t looking at me either.  He was still asleep.  “I hate you!” He screamed, pain laced through his raspy voice.  “I hate you!!!” he said more angrily this time, throwing a pillow across the room. 

I could feel more tears rising to my eyes.  This was heartbreaking to watch, but I was still too afraid to approach the bed.  My mouth was dry and I couldn’t find the words to say.  Shout his name?  I’m sure Louis had done that before.  I remembered learning in school about how things happening outside of our dreams can affect the dreams.  The last thing I wanted to happen was for my shouting his name to be twisted into his dream and just make it worse.  What about throwing something at him?  Or poking him?  What if he grabbed me?  Shit, shit, shit I swore, starting to panic as Harry thrashed again.  I couldn’t stand to watch any longer.  Slowly, I walked to the side of the bed, prepared to run the other way if I needed to, and barely whispered, “Harry?”

He stopped.  Everything in the room seemed to stop.  The air was sucked out of the room by some invisible force of nature.  Harry flipped onto his back and sat up, but seconds later collapsed back onto his front.  I wasn’t prepared for what I heard next.  Crying.

Harry’s back rose and fell as he tried to control his breathing, but the sobbing wasn’t helping him at all.  Hoping (more like praying) that he was okay at this point, I crept to the bed and lifted the sheets to climb in beside him.  Harry turned and scooped me into my arms, buried his face into my neck, and sobbed.  My fingers twisted into his hair and scratched the back of his sweaty head as he shook and continued to try and calm himself down.  I could tell he was tense and probably angry for not being in control even with himself. 

“I’m so sor-“

“Don’t, Harry.  Don’t.  You’re fine.  You’re okay.  You’re safe.”

I reassured him that he was safe every ten minutes until he fell asleep in my arms.  Even when he was calmly asleep, I was kept awake with thoughts of his life and how much he had been through.  I wondered how many people knew about his past.  I wondered if Arnold did.  I was supposed to be staying away from Harry, but with each hour of the day – and of the night – I was getting more and more involved.  

Fists & Knives - Chapter 29

Water.  Water would be added to my list of Strange Things that Have Woken Me Up.  The freezing water splashed down onto me, ripping me out of whatever unconscious funk I was in.   My hands extended all around as I blinked the water from my eyes and tried to get a grip on something that would help me stand up.  I was in a bathtub.

Every part of my body ached, my back and face more than other areas.   My back, probably because I had been laying in a bathtub.  What time was it?  How long had I been in the tub?  Whose tub was I even in?  My face was sore but also stung.  Once I got my feet under me, I reached up and lightly brushed my fingers just below my eye, the skin beneath my eye tingling at my own touch.

“Wouldn’t touch, if I were you.”

I squinted at the door, and despite my vision being blurred, I quickly recognized the large frame of the biggest guard.  He was still wearing his suit pants and shirt with his black tie, but his sleeves were rolled up around his forearms.  He was holding an empty bucket which I was sure contained water just a moment ago.

“How bad does it look?” I asked about my eye, my tired voice cracking.

“Just regain consciousness and that’s the first question you want to ask?” He laughed. 

My foot started to slip on the slick bathtub floor so I stepped out of the tub and sat on the side instead, my body shivering.  The bathroom we were in was dimly lit and had no color or decoration in it at all.  The floor was dirty and the toilet looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in a few good months.  I dared not look back into the bathtub where I had been sleeping for fear that I was laying on some kind of mold or stains.

“Where is Harry?” I sounded so small, so powerless, so defeated… I hardly recognized my own voice.

The guard laughed.  “That’s more like it.  I’m not allowed to tell you.”

I sighed with relief. “So he’s alive.”

The guard laughed again.  “That’s not necessarily true.  I could tell you he’s as Disney Land but that doesn’t mean he’s alive.”

Mentally, I scolded myself.  My brain was fuzzy and I was feeling horribly groggy. “What about Louis?”

“I can’t tell you that either.”

“Well what can you tell me?  Maybe where my shoes are?  Or how about your name, for starters?  I feel like you and I have had enough run-ins at this point for you to at least give me that much.”

The guard leaned against the door and cross his arms. “We’ve met before?”

I put my head in my hands and nodded slowly.  “You chased me into that Chinese restaurant with Harry a few weeks ago.”

“Ahh!” The guard exclaimed.  “That was you!  I see.  I’m Doug.”  He extended his hand for me to shake.  I lifted my head and contorted my face,  glaring at him until he retracted his hand and laughed.  We were enemies, not friends.  “Right then, Marcus wants you.”

“For what?”

“I can’t tell you.”

I groaned and shook my head. “Can you tell me anything?”

“I can tell you that Marcus wants to see you.” Doug reached for my elbow to pull me along but I yanked it from him.

“I’m drenched,” I stated, peeling my black tee off of my skin and running my hands over the inside of my thigh where I could already feel my jeans beginning to chafe.  That was one of the worst feelings in the world to me.

“Well we didn’t get a chance to stop by your house and pick up all of your clothes, Sweetie,” Doug said sarcastically, grabbing my elbow again and dragging me behind him. 

He started to pull me into a hallway, a pretty long hallway with just concrete walls and floors.  The lights were all dim and didn’t shine much into the rooms we passed, so I couldn’t see who or what might be in them.  There were no windows and it was a little bit chilly.  We had to have been somewhere underground.  A basement, maybe.  My suspicions were confirmed when Doug and I reached a set of stairs.  As Doug lifted his foot to step up the first step, I yanked my arm from him and put my foot on his back to push him forward. 

He yelped and collapsed onto the stairs, trying to push himself up and turn around to get me, but I didn’t let him.  I drove my fist into his back and tried to kick him between the legs, but it was hard with him not facing me. I ended up kicking him in the butt instead, but it still wasn’t a pleasant feeling.  He growled and stood up, but not quick enough to avoid me kicking him forward back onto the stairs.  As he rolled around, I climbed over his body, stepping on his hand and pushing his face into one of the steps.  Just when I thought I was free of Doug, he grabbed my ankle, causing me to collapse on the stairs.

I spun around and kicked downward with my free foot, nailing him in the nose.  He yelped once more and let go of me to clutch his face.  My feet couldn’t seem to move fast enough as I turned and sprinted up the stairs again, out the basement door and straight into someone’s open arms…

Harry? I thought.

Marcus.

“Going somewhere?” He grinned down at me, holding me tightly in his grip.  I squirmed and punched his sides until he threw me backward into a wall and backhanded me across the face.  Instantly, I stopped fighting and clutched my burning cheek.  Doug emerged at the top of the stairs, his nose and forehead bleeding and his chest heaving.

Have you been here the whole time? Just fucking watching?” He asked Marcus angrily. 

Marcus laughed and nodded. “I wanted to see the little fighter in action,” he said, looking over to me. “I might have come to help you, had I known you couldn’t handle a little 135 pound girl.”

Doug snarled and glared my way, but said nothing more as he pinched the bridge of his nose.

Marcus took a deep breath and walked over to where I was cowering against the wall.  He looked me up and down and pulled at my wet shirt before I slapped his hand away.  He raised an eyebrow.  “Most people take their clothes off before they take a shower.”

I lowered my gaze at Doug.  “Your pet rat here threw water on me to wake me.”

Marcus frowned.  “Well he’ll strip you of your clothes beforehand next time, I promise.”

Before I could react, Marcus walked into a room to my left with a massive TV and a large leather couch in front of it.  Behind the couch was a full-length bar with stools and all.  Unsure of whether or not I was supposed to automatically follow him, I hesitated, but a hard shove from Doug let me know to get into the room.  When I turned and glared at Doug, his steps faltered as if he was afraid, but he recovered with another hard shove, almost sending me to my knees. 

“What do you want?” I asked Marcus, watching him as he walked behind the bar.  He grabbed a glass for himself and poured some bourbon into it. 

“Care for any?” He asked.

I shook my head.  “What time is it?”  Since the house was still lacking windows, I couldn’t see daylight.  Maybe there was none.  It could still very well be 3 in the morning.

“Doesn’t matter,” Marcus answered, walking back around the bar to me.  He stood directly in front of me and sipped his glass again, studying my face – more specifically my eye – as he drank. “You cut Andy’s hand pretty severely, you know.  I’d say you deserved that black eye.”

“Andy pulled my hair,” I said lowly. “I’d say he deserved that cut.”

Marcus’ eyes narrowed, but more because he was intrigued than angry.  “I’m hungry, Kennedy.  Make me breakfast.  It has to be some pretty stellar food you make if Harry has kept you around this long.  Or does he just keep you around for the sex, I wonder?”

I scowled. “Eat shit.”

Definitely harder than the first time, the back of Marcus’ hand met my cheek in a swift slap again.  I gasped and tried to stay on my feet in front of him.  Tears pooled on my bottom eyelids but I refused to let them fall.  “So when you can’t beat a boxer you just steal his helpless girlfriend and beat the shit out of her instead?” I spat at him.  "You’re weak.“

Once again, Marcus backhanded me.  I whimpered and covered my cheek with my hand.  My damp hair was hanging in my face, thankfully keeping anyone from seeing the single tear that streamed down my burning skin. “Kennedy, I would hardly consider you ‘helpless.’  Give yourself a little more credit, Baby,” Marcus chuckled, looking up at Doug’s face where the blood had begun to dry.  I shuddered at his pet name for me.  Marcus set his glass down at the bar.  “Now about that breakfast…  Then maybe I’ll give you some answers.”

Answers.  I needed answers.  Doug led me to a tiny kitchen with only select few ingredients… eggs, some bread, some salt and pepper… once Doug was gone, I broke down.  Where was Harry?  Where was Louis?  Where was my phone?  Where were my shoes?  Where was I?  The kitchen had a single window, but I couldn’t see a thing out of it.  My lips stayed pursed together as I tried to suppress sobs and just focus on making the breakfast.  The sooner I got done cooking, the faster I would get answers.  Once I was done preparing everything and getting the food on plates (one for Doug, one for Marcus), I started to leave the kitchen, but stopped and grabbed a knife.  I hid the blade in my back pocket and under my jeans, walking carefully and calmly as to not have the blade scratch my back.  Marcus and Doug were whispering and waiting for me at the bar, as well as a third and fourth person.  I was not surprised to see one of them – Arnold – but the fourth person made me stumble.

Zayn.

His eyes flickered from me to the floor.  As I placed the two plates in front of Marcus and Doug, Zayn spun on his bar stool to look at the TV where boxing reruns from this week’s tournament were playing.

“I would have made a third or fourth plate if I had known…”

Marcus shook his head. “Don’t worry about Zayn.  Arnold ate beforehand.”  He messily shoved some eggs into his mouth and took no time enjoying the taste, cramming a chunk of toast into his mouth as well.  I grimaced.  He laughed.  “So ask me something.”

“How do you know the food isn’t poisoned?”

Both Marcus and Doug stopped chewing for a second, looking at each other before starting to chuckle and chew again.

“A fighter and she’s got a sense of humor.  Come on, baby.  Ask me what you really want to know.”

I breathed slowly and thought about what I wanted to ask the most.  Something inside me was telling me this was going to be a trick or he wasn’t actually going to tell me what I wanted to know.  Arnold was watching me like he was in a trance.  His silence for once was stunning me.

“Who did you shoot?” I started.

“The ceiling.”

“Why?”

Marcus rolled his eyes like there was an obvious answer.  “Harry thinks you’re dead.  After you were knocked out, I shot, and Harry squealed and cried like a little girl until we knocked him out too.  You weren’t responding to his cries and we even let your body hit the floor.  All he could hear was you collapsing.”

Oh my God.  My poor Bear.  I couldn’t tell if I was relieved because he was alive or sick to my stomach at the thought of him thinking and believing I was dead.

“Where is he?”

Marcus grinned.  “He’s upstairs.  Charles knocked him out pretty good yesterday though so he probably didn’t hear your wrestling match with Doug earlier.”

I took a deep breath and looked at Zayn who was watching me out of the corner of his eye.  When I met his gaze, he looked away quickly.  “Why are you doing this?” I asked. “The sex tape, kidnapping, making Harry think I’m dead… if it’s for the money he’ll pay you back.  He’ll give you all he won yesterday and even pay back the bribe from weeks ago.  Just let me talk to him.”

Marcus threw back his head and laughed, some egg flying out of his mouth as he did.  I grimaced and dodged the flying food.  “You think I want the money?  That single sex tape made me richer than four Harry Styles’ combined.  I don’t want the money anymore.  None of us do.”

Then what do you want???”  I asked, raising my voice.  

Marcus furrowed his brow and stood up slowly, leaning over the bar slightly to look me right in the face. “I just wanna have a little fun to be honest.  He’s beat me a ton in fights.  That’s no fun.  He also stole my sister’s virginity and then left her,” he said casually.  Marcus’ sister???  Of all the girls he could have fucked, it was his enemy’s sister???  Marcus continued, “Naturally, as an older brother, it’s my duty to torture him.  I was hoping the sex tape would fuck up your relationship with him but you were just too smart… too trusting… and my plan didn’t work in that aspect.”

Beside him, Arnold grunted.

Marcus rolled his eyes. “Okay, Arnold’s plan.”

I glared at Arnold.  Without me having to ask, he started to explain.  “I did so much for Harry.  I loved him like a son.  I have my own 5-year-old son, do you know that?”

I shook my head.  “I didn’t.”

“I don’t talk about him much.  Know why?  I spent more time with Harry than I did with my own son.  My son doesn’t even know me.  But Harry didn’t appreciate that.  No one appreciated that.  The only thing Harry appreciated was you, especially after you slipped into bed with him and started giving him the only thing he really wanted.  AND THEN, his performance started to get worse.  He was losing everything because of you.”

“That’s not true-“

“It IS TRUE!” Arnold shouted, leaping up and slamming his fist into the bar.  Marcus laughed at his reaction, catching Arnold off-guard, but Arnold didn’t do anything other that sit back down.

I waited for anyone to say something else but no one did.  Arnold crossed his arms and bit the inside of his mouth as he stared at the counter of the bar.  

“So you each hate him and, therefore, want to kill him…”

“Not kill.  He’s tortured me for years so I’m going to torture him for a while.  Starting with ‘killing’ you.  That was fun,” Marcus said casually. “I’d say he’s pretty mentally fucked up right now.”

“This whole situation is completely fucked up,” I spat, sickened by Marcus’ thought process.  "Where is Louis?”

Marcus walked around the room, stopping at the end of the bar as he made it look like he was thinking. “We don’t know what to do with him just yet.  He didn’t really do anything wrong… but he didn’t really do anything right either…  We might kill him, might not.  I haven’t decided yet.”

I scowled and glanced at Zayn once more.  He was still looking at the TV, ignoring everything going on around him.  “So you two fuckheads are ruining our lives because you couldn’t handle losing a fight and you felt underappreciated?” I asked, pointing from Marcus to Arnold.

Marcus’ eyes rolled slowly upward to meet mine.  He looked fierce and I would be lying if I said he didn’t scare me.  He moved behind the bar with me, stepping slowly my direction. “I can handle losing…”

“You can’t,” I challenged. “You’re a sore fucking loser and you know it.”

Marcus brought his hand up to strike me, but I was ready this time.  My fingers reached for the knife in my pocket and I flung it down into his foot.  Marcus screamed and doubled over, struggling with the decision of pulling the knife out or not.  I shoved him sideways into the bar and sprinted past him, struggling to make my way around the house that I wasn’t familiar with.  “HARRY!” I screeched.  My feet carried me to another room.  “LOUIS! HARRY!”

Finally, I found the stairs.  I tripped going up them.  When I reached the top step, I scurried on my knees to the first room.  It was completely empty.  So was the second room.  It seemed like the only part of the house that was decorated at all was the “mancave” downstairs.  There was hardly any food in the kitchen.  Marcus couldn’t have lived here.  No one could have lived here.  The third and last room was locked. 

“HARRY!”  I threw my shoulder into the door and groaned in pain.  They always made it look so easy in the movies.  I wasn’t giving up though.  My foot pounded into the side of the handle over and over until the cheap metal broke and came off.  Once more, I shoved my entire body into the door and fell into the room.

Empty.

Completely empty.

The hand that came down on my shoulder squeezed, eliciting a scream from me.  Tears streamed down my face as I collapsed and pushed myself away from Zayn and into the corner of the room.

“It’s okay.  It’s okay, Kennedy, I’m not going to hurt you I swear-“ He sputtered softly, holding his hands up.

My back was against the wall but I was still trying to push myself away from him.  He approached me slowly, stopping as I sobbed and covered my face.

“Kennedy,” he said quietly.  “I’m not going to hurt you.  I promise.”

I didn’t know who to believe anymore.  Definitely not Arnold.  But Zayn?  Quiet, loner Zayn?  Just because he sat with me once at a fight didn’t mean that he was a good guy.  He could have been with Marcus this entire time.

“Why are you with them?” I whispered, wiping my face.

“I know this is the last thing you want to hear, but I can’t tell you anything about me right now,” he said gently, glancing over his shoulder at the door.  Marcus’ screams reached us from the bar room, and I imagined him with Doug and Arnold trying to get the knife out of his foot.  I shuddered as it suddenly hit me – what exactly I had done.  I put a knife through his bare foot.  Guilt almost overtook me until I reached up and brushed my fingers along my tingling cheek.

“Harry isn’t here,” Zayn told me, walking to me and helping me stand.  He brushed my hair out of my face. “Marcus lied.  I wouldn’t trust anything he says from her on out.  You’re in a small neighborhood not too far from your own.  I mean where Harry lives.”

“He’s at home??”

“No,” Zayn sighed.  “I don’t know where he is.  I’m going to find out and tell you later tonight.”  His eyes were soft and had no hint of malice in them, but I just couldn’t tell.  Stabbing Marcus in the foot would have me in serious trouble no doubt, and I couldn’t risk trusting Zayn and getting in more trouble later.

“Why are you helping me?” I asked before we reached the bedroom door.

Zayn glanced out into the hallway. “I was hanging out with Marcus before all this went down.  I hang out with a lot of the boxers.  He started talking about what he was going to do to you and to Harry a few weeks ago and I stuck around.  I figured it might be good to have a man on the inside when all this went down.”

“They trust you?”

“Right now, yes.  It’s fucked up, what they’re doing.  I understand being mad at someone for stealing your sister’s virginity or underappreciating you or whatever but… I dunno.  Marcus is mentally just missing something.  Sanity, I guess.  You don’t deserve this.  No one deserves this,” Zayn said, his eyebrows scrunching together as he studied my black eye and red cheek.  “You have to pretend like I was rough with you when we go downstairs.  Understand?  Be patient.  Hang in there.  I’m going to try to help you as much as I can but you have to play it off like I’m not helping you at all.  Don’t even act like you know me.”

I nodded slowly and bit my lip.  Zayn motioned his head toward the hallway and I cautiously stepped out before him. 

“Run down the stairs to the front door.  Play with it a bit.  It’s locked.  I’ll come stop you,“ he explained over my shoulder.

I nodded at Zayn once more before scampering (and nearly accidentally falling) down the stairs.

“COME BACK, BITCH!”  Zayn shouted.  Knowing that we were pretending (or at least I hoped we were), the words actually almost made me laugh, so I stubbed my toe purposefully to keep from letting the laughter out.  Instead, I groaned in pain and fell into the front door, fumbling with the lock and twisting the handle to try and get it open. 

“HEY!” Zayn caught up to me, grabbed my face, and slapped.  I winced… but then realized he hadn’t actually slapped me… he slapped his hand right beside my face.  He widened his eyes and motioned for me to fall to the floor, which I did just in the nick of time.  Doug came sprinting around the corner of the foyer and laughed at me on the floor, whimpering.

“You and Marcus have both gotten to slap her.  I want a turn.”

Zayn shook his head and stepped in front of me. “Slap her and she might kick you down the stairs again, mate.”

Doug scowled.  “Marcus wants the bitch back downstairs.  We’ll get her when he wants lunch and dinner.”

What?  I was just going to sit downstairs in a nasty bathroom while I waited for them to get hungry?  This was ridiculous.  The plus side was that Marcus didn’t want me at that moment… so I wasn’t going to be punished immediately for my actions.  That didn’t mean they wouldn’t come for me later.  As Doug marched me to the basement door, I prayed Zayn would have me out of here by then.  I started to turn and look at him once more, but decided against it.  Could I trust him?  I trusted Harry and that worked out well.   But Zayn wasn’t Harry… he was dark and mysterious.  I wished I knew him better before now.

For lunch, I had barely anything to make food with.  Marcus still wouldn’t show his face and I was beginning to wonder if he was in so much pain that he didn’t want me to see.  I injured him and he didn’t want me to see any kind of weakness from him.  Never had I actually pierced anyone like I pierced him… and it made me sick to my stomach to think about it, but then I would remember his slaps and his mind games and I could help but feel like he deserved it… right?  This was all close to insanity… and I knew I just had to get out of here soon.

Before dinner, Doug came downstairs.  Since I had nothing else to do but sleep (with one eye open,) he nearly threw another bucket of icy water on me, but I leapt up and away from the splash before it hit me.

“Dinner?” I asked, almost hopeful that I would get out of this god-forsaken basement.  My clothes were still a bit damp since it was so cold down here.  My sinuses were already starting to act up like I had pneumonia or something.

“No.  We’re going to meet some other guys somewhere.”

“So specific.  Sounds intimidating,” I rolled my eyes.

Doug inhaled sharply and snarled.  “All of the windows and doors have alarms on them.  Try to leave and we will know.  We will find you.  We will kill you.”

“Like you ‘killed me’ last night?”

Doug inhaled again, clearly annoyed with me.  “For real this time.  Don’t push me.”

“Already did.  Right down the stairs,” I tested him, crossing my arms over my chest.  He raised his hand for a slap but-

“Doug, ready to go, Mate?” Zayn called from the stairs.

Doug growled and glared down at me.  “That mouth is gonna get you in trouble one day, bitch.”

Zayn had come all the way down the stairs. “DOUG.  Marcus is in the car already.  Let’s go!”

“I’m fucking coming!” Doug yelled, spinning on his heel and disappearing up the stairs in front of Zayn.  Zayn glanced at me and nodded once before following the large man and disappearing out of the house.

The moment they were gone, I tore upstairs and to the kitchen.  Despite having made them lunch, I was too dumb to think to grab food for myself before I was locked back in the dungeon like a prisoner.  To my dismay, all of the food was gone.  I could see crumbs in the sink from where they probably threw the remaining bread down the drain.  Psychotic assholes.  My stomach grumbled at the same time I groaned.  In the bar room, all I could find was alcohol.  Vodka, bourbon, scotch, beer, a few wine bottles… nothing that would suppress my hunger but a lot of things that would make me forget about it.  Not wanting to get completely wasted, I grabbed a bottle of red wine and began to pour.  I turned on the TV and fell onto the couch, the best feeling in the world after having been sleeping in a bathtub all day. Tears immediately streamed from the corners of my eyes as Harry’s face flashed across the TV.  It was from last night.  The fight.  He was beaming, his handsome smile plastered across his face and his eyes shining with excitement.  Oh god, I missed him.  I just wanted to know he was okay.  To know where he was.  I wanted to hear his voice.  It crushed me that he won such a big fight and I didn’t even congratulate him once. 

After what seemed like just a few hours and half a bottle of wine later, I heard keys in the front door.  I sprinted across the floor, back to the basement, and into the bathtub.  I waited for an hour for someone to come down… and finally, Doug came down and threw water at me.  A water bottle, that is. 

“Hungry?” He asked. 

“Yes,” I admitted, holding my  stomach as it growled again.

“Sucks to suck,” he cackled as he returned upstairs.

For another three hours, I sat by myself.  Nothing to do.  This was torture in itself, sitting and staring at the blank bathroom wall.  Honestly, I tried to fill the bathtub with warm water so I could sit in it and soak, but the water wouldn’t even turn on.  The other basement rooms were just as small, just as cold, and just as bare at the bathroom.  I knew I was beginning to lose it when I actually started singing to myself.  My songs ranged from Katy Perry to old hymns I remembered from when we had church in my orphanage to Jesse McCartney to Eminem to Michael Buble.   Right in the middle of rapping some Nicki Minaj, someone came thumping down the stairs.

“Would you shut the fuck up???”  It was Zayn.  He continued to stomp until he got to the bathroom where I was.  As he got closer, he whispered, “Scream in three, two, one…” He slapped his hands together.  I screamed.

He grinned and held up his hand for a high-five. “Nice.”

I returned the smile and the high-five.  Zayn was still not totally trustworthy in my mind, but I was completely brain-dead at the moment and to be able to smile at someone today was nice.  “What time is it?” I asked.

“2:30 in the morning.  We have to move.”

“Move where?”

Zayn grabbed my hand and pulled me quietly down the hallway.  “Wait here,” he whispered as we got to the bottom of the stairs.  He tip-toed up them and peered around the door, into the bar room where I could hear the soft buzz of the TV, but nothing else.  He motioned toward me with his hand and put a single finger to his lips.  Gradually, I made my way up the steps too.  When I got to Zayn, he took my hand in his.  “I’m taking you to Louis.”

Fists & Knives - Chapter 33

“Baby?" 

This time, Harry wasn’t calling my name.  

"MY baby?" 

I gulped and blinked slowly up at him.  For the first time in weeks, there was a shade of gray in his eyes and a certain emotion that I could not for the life of me read.   As his brow furrowed, so did mine.

"That’s really great, Kennedy,” Liam said sincerely from the living room behind us.  Not being able to look at Harry anymore, I turned and smiled faintly Liam’s way.  Louis was scowling over my shoulder at his best friend.  Niall exhaled a little too obviously and hugged Jenna to his body while Zayn walked to me and pulled me into his own embrace.  Liam joined us and smiled so wide that I thought I was going to burst.  Zayn smiled at me.  Jenna smiled at me from under Niall’s arm.  I’m sure Louis would have smiled at me was he not glaring at Harry.  

“You gonna say something, mate?” Louis asked abruptly.

It was the most difficult thing for me to do - turn and look at Harry again.   We all did.   In my mind, I couldn’t help but think that if I had been the one to tell him and there weren’t five other people around, he would have taken the news much better. 

“You’re pregnant?”

“That’s what the test said,” I replied, trying to hold back the sudden anger that was rising up in me.  Why was he reacting like this?  Not minutes ago, he was talking about how exciting a baby was for Jenna and Niall. 

“But how?”  He asked, more wrinkles forming in the skin of his forehead.

I felt my face harden more too.  "We had sex, what do you mean ‘how’?“

"I…” Harry began to shake his head. 

“Harry…” Louis started.  Liam and Zayn’s grips around my shoulders both tightened.  A tear streamed down my face.  

When Harry saw the tear, his frown became even more apparent.  He was looking at me the same way he looked at Marcus before his tournament match.  It tore me appart that suddenly, I was an enemy, and I had absolutely no idea why.  

“How could you let this happen?” Harry breathed, looking down at his feet.  Whether he was talking to me or himself, I couldn’t tell. 

Louis’ eyes looked as if they might pop out of his head.  I covered my face with my hands and sobbed into them, not hesitating to lean into Liam and Zayn as they comforted me.  We all jumped when Louis started yelling. “What the hell is wrong with you?" 

"I-” Harry ran his hand through his hair, still refusing to look at me. “I- I-”

“YOU WHAT?”

“I didn’t know this was going to fucking happen!  I wasn’t prepared!” Harry bellowed.  Liam seemed to push me behind him protectively and I could even see Niall shielding Jenna across the room.  

Louis grabbed Harry by the shoulders and slammed him into the wall by the kitchen.  "Do you think Kennedy was prepared?  Does she look like she was fucking planning on this?“ Louis growled at Harry.  He grabbed Harry’s face and forced Harry to look my way.  An angry tear escaped from the corner of Harry’s eye as he took in my brokenhearted stance and puffy eyes.  He threw Louis off of him and started to leave the room.  Louis grabbed his arm.

"Aren’t you going to say anything to Kennedy?  The woman who is carrying your fucking child?”

Harry halted his steps but didn’t turn around immediately.  I took my lip between my teeth and bit it so hard that I could nearly taste blood as I watched his back heave up and down and up and down.  On his shoulders, I could see small red scratch marks forming from where I had just dug my fingers into his skin as he was making rough love to me on the counter.  How was that only ten minutes ago?  After what felt like an eternity, Harry spun and marched toward me.  Zayn and Liam instantly stepped out of his way and stood behind me a few feet. 

Harry reached out to me - for my shoulder first, and then my hand, and then he allowed his hand to hover over my not-yet-existent baby bump before dropping his hand to his side.  His eyes scanned my body before hesitantly meeting my own eyes, in which he quickly glanced away again.  "I lov… I- Kennedy… I’m sor…“  The corner of his mouth twitched as he struggled to form words.  A part of me wanted to reach up and touch his face, pull him to me, kiss his lips, massage out the wrinkles in his forehead, push his hair back with my fingers, hold his head to my chest, whisper that everything was going to be all right… but from the strange way Harry was acting now, I wasn’t sure it was going to be. 

Harry gave up trying to tell me anything and turned on his heel to leave again. 

Harry,“ Louis spat through his teeth as I began to cry again.  He grabbed Harry’s wrist as Harry passed, but no sooner had Louis’ fingers brushed Harry’s skin did he spin and nail Louis in the face with his fist. 

"HARRY!” I screamed as Louis collapsed to the floor and covered his nose, already beginning to bleed.   Harry didn’t stop.  He didn’t even glance over his shoulder at me.  He walked down the hallway into the gym and slammed the door.  Even through the door, I could hear his fists slapping against the punching bag. 

No one around me was breathing.  They were each waiting for a reaction that I wasn’t going to have.  My mind was dead.  I was physically incapable of thinking or feeling anything at that moment.  I couldn’t stop the tears from leaking out of my eyes though.  It was the strangest thing.  "I’m going out,“ I said quietly after a moment of listening to Harry’s angry punches. 

"I can drive you-" 

"No,” I interrupted Liam, putting a hand on his chest and looking into his face.  He looked hurt for me.  So did Zayn.  Louis was actually physically hurt for me - a bloody nose.  Jenna’s eyes were watery as I passed her, tucked up in Niall’s arms.   All of these people… all of the emotion… I just wasn’t used to it.  I wanted to let them in and allow them to help me through this, but I was so used to being independent that I just couldn’t yet.  It was overwhelming me completely.

I called for a taxi and sat on the front step until it came.  I instructed the driver to take the long way through the city to the Starbucks that I used to sit in every morning when I was looking for a job.  With all of the quick-paced drama and danger that I had found myself in the middle of in the last few weeks, I needed a little bit of familiarity and time to myself.  Time to think.  Maybe a little celebration coffee?  I was going to be a mother.  I giggled to myself thinking about a mini-me running around with an apron on or oversized boxing gloves.  The baby had Harry’s eyes and my hair.  Harry’s chin and my nose.   Harry’s charm and my drive.  Hopefully, neither Harry’s or my anger. 

That was one thing that frightened me.  Anger.  There was no way in hell that I could allow myself to raise a child who hated parts of the world as much as I did.  How could I convince a child not to be angry when the smallest things set me off?  When the smallest things set his or her father off?  I couldn’t begin to imagine how this child would see me or Harry if we got into a fight in front of him or her.  Throwing knives and punching walls… that is, if Harry is still with me.  

Speaking of anger, my sadness with Harry’s reaction had turned to anger.  Why did he react like that?  I didn’t understand it at all.  I expected him to be surprised, of course.  Who wouldn’t be surprised by a baby?  But angry?  Punching things and crying?  What the hell?  

I walked down the streets with my coffee a few blocks to get some fresh air.  The sun was beginning to set in the city and the lights were coming on.  Anyone who was touring the city wouldn’t have wanted to be on the streets I was on, but I grew up around these areas.  There was really not too terribly much to be scared of or worried about.   It was almost relaxing, being in the part of the city I was living in not even two full months ago.  I walked until I was lost and called a cab.  As I thought of Harry still, I felt the urge to go to the arena.  

When the cab dropped me off, the arena was lit up like someone was there but there were no cars in the parking lot.  I took my time getting up the multiple stairs to the front doors, which were open.  The arena seemed much colder now that there wasn’t a rowdy crowd of spectators swarming around the stands.  I stood at the top of the stands and stared down at the empty ring, imagining Harry and the multiple matches I had seen him fight within the ropes.  Eventually, I made my way down the steps and hoisted myself onto the floor of the ring.  Was I allowed to be here?  I didn’t know.  But no one had stopped me yet. 

“Miss?" 

Shit. 

I spun and looked up at the top of the stands where a man was waving his hand. 

"Yes?”

“Do you work here?" 

I shook my head. 

"Oh." 

I hesitated.  My first impression was that the man was going to tell me to leave, but he seemed more like me, but lost.  "Can I try and help you with something?” I asked, trying to make out the man’s face as he stood on the darker part of the stairs.  He began down the steps toward the ring, his hands in the pockets of his jeans as he approached.  He was wearing a gray v-neck sweater, and for a moment, I thought it was Harry.  I had to do a double-take just to be sure it wasn’t him.  The curly hair on this man was graying, his eyes were just as green and fierce as Harry’s, and his sharp jawline could carve ice.  He was tall and lean, but not as built as Harry.

“I’m looking for a boxer named Harry Styles?”

My stomach plummeted as I realized who was standing on the floor in front of me.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. 

“Do you happen to know him?”

The more the stranger spoke, the more I could hear his accent.  English.  Like Harry.

I nodded slowly. “I’m his girlfriend,” I breathed.  Typically, I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing this information with people I didn’t know, but this was Harry’s father.  Harry’s fucking father was standing in front of me.  The resemblance was so strong that I didn’t have to ask.  Maybe I was seeing things.  Maybe I was imagining it.  I could not take my eyes off of him. 

The gentle-looking man raised his eyebrows slowly and looked me up and down before smiling ever so softly.  "Girlfriend?“ 

I nodded. 

He sighed.  "You’re beautiful, my dear.  Now that I think about it, I remember seeing you in magazines with him.  He looks so happy in those pictures.  I mean, as happy as I’ve ever seen him.”

I probably looked funny standing in the middle of the ring, not saying anything, but I was at a complete and utter loss for words.

“Is Harry here?”

I shook my head.

“Have you been dating him a while?”

I nodded.  Not really a while, but I wasn’t really into sharing too many of the specific details of our relationship just yet.

Harry’s father spoke again. “Does he…. well.”  He glanced down at his feet and ran his hands through his hair nervously.  Exactly like Harry.  Internally, I was screaming.

“Beat me?” The words fell out of my mouth before I could stop them.

The man lifted his eyes to meet mine.  I shook my head.  He let out a sigh of relief.  "I beat his mother once.  I beat her right in front of him and I watched him just sit there and cry.  When I finally got sobered up a few years back, I reflected on those times and just prayed to God that Harry wouldn’t end up like me.“ 

I gulped at the thought.  I was beginning to to convince myself that maybe this wasn’t Harry’s father.  This couldn’t be him.  That drunken man that tortured Harry in his sleep?  The purely evil man that I had been saving Harry from in the dark of the night?  The man standing before me was soft-spoken and almost seemed remorseful.  "What are you doing here?” I asked.

He swallowed hard and shifted on his feet.  "I’ve been here a few months.  I heard about Harry’s fights and tracked him down.  I wanted to see what my boy made of himself.“ 

"You made him this way, not him.”

“I know.”  Harry’s father nodded slowly and looked at his feet again.  "I’ve been waiting for the right time to come and see him.  I couldn’t bring myself to come to any of the fights.  Not even the finals.“ 

"Why would you want to see him?" 

Harry’s father chuckled. "I want to apologize." 

I lowered my gaze.  "Why now?”

He sighed.  "I’ve finally gotten my life together.  I’ve been sober five years, got right with God, found myself a good family, a solid job.“

Your first family wasn’t good?I began to ask, but remained silent instead.  While I did feel a certain hatred for this man, I didn’t want to seem like a little shit the first time we ever spoke. 

 "I feel like I need to be honest with you,” I said slowly, leaning down on one of the ropes and peering into Harry’s father’s eyes.  I hated to do what I was about to do, but I literally didn’t know what else to say.  There was no way in hell that I was taking Harry’s father to him.  "When I first met Harry, your memory was haunting him.  I mean, traumatic kind of stuff,“ I said softly, trying hard not to look away from the man.  "He’s made so much progress over the last few weeks to forget about you and taking you to him would just-”

The man raised his hand and squeezed his eyes shut.  "I know.  I know…  I just figured it was worth a shot…“ 

I pursed my lips and looked around the arena, allowing him to process what he needed to.  I felt horrible for saying what I did, but it needed to be done.  The last thing I would want for Harry would be to finally move past all of this mess and then have his father show up and blow all of his progress to pieces.  For as much as I would love to witness some kind of prodigal son movie ending with forgiveness and luke-I-am-your-father business, that wasn’t going to happen.  It couldn’t.

"Has he met your parents?” Harry’s father asked, pulling me from my thoughts. 

I shook my head.  "I don’t know my parents.“ 

Harry’s father chuckled lightly.  "You two are going to be the best parents then.  You know what it’s like to be abused and left all by yourself and you’re not going to want that for your child.  You know all the ways NOT to raise your child.”

I frowned and held my hand over my stomach.  "How did you know…?“

Harry’s father widened his eyes and looked at my stomach.  "I just meant for the future… I didn’t know that you were…” He sighed.  "You are?  From Harry?“

I smiled softly and nodded.  

"Does Harry know?" 

My smiled faded and I nodded again.  "He doesn’t seem very happy about it.  He’s… furious… actually.”

“Not with you, though.”

I frowned.  "I think so.“ 

"He’s not mad at you.  He’s mad at himself.  He’s probably terrified that he’s going to turn out like me.  He’s terrified that he’s going to ruin his kid’s life like I ruined his." 

Was Harry’s father right?  He hadn’t seen Harry in years, so how could he know what his son was thinking?  The more I considered what he said, the more it made sense.  There was no other explaination, really. 

"I’ve got to go,” I said, ducking under the ropes and sitting on the edge of the ring.  Harry’s father reached out a hand to help me down, so I graciously took it.  Standing in front of him, I could tell he wasn’t as tall as Harry but the resemblance was even stronger this close.  It was honestly amazing. 

“I’m sorry,” I found myself saying as I stared at the floor.

“Don’t apologize, my dear girl.  I was pushing my luck by coming here.  I’m just glad to know he’s okay… he’s got a family,” he chuckled.  "My son has a family.“ 

God dammit.  I had to leave.  If I stayed another minute, I might have started to reconsider and taking Harry’s father to him.  From what I had seen, he truly did get his shit together.  Unfortunately, it was a little too late. 

The man stood with me on the steps of the arena until my cab came.  As I approached the yellow car, he gripped my shoulder. "Hey-”

“Kennedy,” I said, feeling bad that I didn’t tell him my name sooner. 

“Kennedy.  Hold on to this for me.  If you ever feel like there is a right time or place for it, give it to Harry?”  He stuck a piece of paper between my fingers and smiled gently at me, his eyes pleading with me. 

My fingers unfolded the paper and I glanced down at it.  "Mitch Styles" it said.  Beneath his name was a phone number.  I glanced back up at Harry’s father - Mitch - and nodded.  

“My mailing address is on the back.  Maybe if Harry felt like he could write me a letter… or if you wanted to send me pictures of the baby…" 

Mitch sounded so hopeful that it was breaking my heart.  "I don’t know,” I said, looking at the back of the paper. 

Mitch covered the paper with his hand, being sure that I had a good grip on it.  "Just keep it.  Please.“ 

I sighed and nodded once more.  It was the least I could do.  Mitch held the door open for me and watched me closely as I clutched the paper in my hands and sat in my seat.  He leaned into the front passenger window and passed the driver a bill.  "Take her home safely, please." 

The driver tipped an imaginary hat to Mitch who patted the car door and backed away from the cab.  Before I had time to thank him or say goodbye, we pulled out of the arena parking lot and started the drive back to Harry.

…………………………………………………………….

okay I know this chapter might not be the most exciting but i hope it was still good! do you think mitch was right about harry? or was he mad for other reasonnnns perhapsssss?

Fists & Knives - Chapter 25

It was a perfect day.  The weather seemed perfect, the wind was blowing perfectly, and the city didn’t seem too busy for once.  I sat at a round table just outside of a tiny café in the middle of the city.  Already, I spotted paparazzi across the street, snapping pictures of me as they could.  A taxi screeched to a halt on the street beside my table and Clark bailed out of the back seat after paying the driver.  He was wearing a gray suit that actually fit him and a tie that didn’t look 10 years old.  He plopped down at the table across from me and grinned.  “I’m really glad to see you again,” Clark said, reaching across the table and grabbing my hand.  

I pursed my lips into something like a small smile and nodded once.  “Thanks for agreeing to meet.”

“How have you been?”

“Fine.  Yourself?”

“Fine.  Still cooking for Styles?”

“Of course.”

“And you’re being treated well?”

“Definitely,” I confirmed.

Clark nodded slowly. “Good.”

“Yeah.”

I glanced across the street at the group of paparazzi snapping pictures.  I could see the headlines for tomorrow. Something about me being a cheater and a liar and a bad girlfriend.  Clark followed my gaze and shifted in his seat when he saw the paps.  “What did you need to see me for?”

“I need to piss Harry off.”

What?  Why was I saying that out loud?  Why would I tell Clark that?

“So he can win his fight?”  Clark asked.  How did he know?

“Yes…” I admitted.

“Well, I know what will really piss him off,” Clark said smugly, leaning forward across the table and grabbing my face.  He planted his lips firmly on mine and held the back of my head so I couldn’t pull away.  I could almost hear the cameras snapping photos faster.  When Clark finally let go of me, I fell back into my seat at a complete loss for words.  Over Clark’s shoulder, I spotted a tall, dark figure approaching us from down the street and immediately began to explain.

“Harry… Harry, please, it’s not what it looked like,” I stuttered, trying to stand up from my seat, but I couldn’t.  It was as if my body was holding me down.

Harry ignored me, stormed straight up to Clark, and ripped him from his chair by the collar of his shirt.  Harry held Clark close to him with his one hand and repeatedly punched over and over and over, into Clark’s face and gut.  Blood started to run down Clark’s face and splattered on Harry’s plain, white shirt too.  No one around us reacted.  No one at the tables inside or beside us on the street even seemed to notice the fight.  I screamed louder.  “Harry!! Stop it!!”

Harry dropped Clark onto the concrete and turned to me, his nostrils flaring and his teeth grinding.  “I trusted you.  How could you do this to me???”

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry-“ I pleaded, still attempting to get out of my chair.  I couldn’t. 

Harry stomped toward me and bent down to wrap his arms around my chest, squeezing me tightly. “How could you do this to me?” He repeated.  “How could you do this to me, Kennedy?”

I snapped open my eyes.

It was a dream.

Harry’s arms were around me.  He was holding me tightly.  We were laying in his bed. “How could you do this to me?” He asked playfully, kissing my cheek.  I sat up and looked at what he was talking about.  In the middle of the night, I had taken all of the sheets for myself. “Sheet hog,” Harry laughed, snaking his arms around my waist and pulling me to him again so he could kiss my cheek.

“Sorry,” I said quietly, kicking some of the sheets over to him with my feet.

Harry stopped kissing my cheek and looked at me. “You okay?”

“Fine,” I said, sitting up. 

“You’re sweating.”

I wiped the back of my hand across my forehead.  Harry was right.  “Just a bad dream.”

Harry frowned. “About what?”

“It was just…”

I was really supposed to meet with Clark today.  Last night, Louis told me that he would  take care of getting in contact with Clark.  Arnold said he would call the paparazzi and tell them where we would be so that they could take some awful pictures of the two of us together.  When Harry returned to the house, I helped him clean up his cuts and bruised eye but then pretended to be tired so that I wouldn’t have to talk to him anymore.  I was worried he would ask me what was wrong or what my plans were for tomorrow and I was scared I was going to give our plans away.  What kind of person was I?

I glanced back at Harry.  He had his eyebrows ruffled together and was waiting for me to answer.  I could see in his eyes that he was genuinely worried about me and my little bad dream. 

“A bad dream about you.”

“About me?” Harry sat up quickly and wrapped his arm around my shoulder, pulling me into his chest again. “What happened?”

“You just got in a fight-“

“Against who?”

“…Clark.”

Harry laughed. “Hopefully I won.”

“I think it’s safe to say that.”

“Why were we fighting?”

I swallowed hard. “I went out to meet him for lunch.”

“Why on earth would you do that?” Harry chuckled again.

Before I could stop it, I felt a tear trickle down my cheek.  Harry sensed my tense body and pushed me away from him so he could see my face. “Kennedy?  Are you crying?”

“I’m sorry, I-“

“Did you meet with Clark?  In real life?” Harry asked, his voice becoming less concerned for me and more angry.

I shook my head frantically. “No, no, I didn’t.”

Harry ran a thumb over my cheek but kept his distance still on the bed. “Why are you crying then?  What’s wrong, baby?”

I couldn’t do this.  I didn’t know why the hell I agreed to it the night before.  I was not going to be used as a weapon against Harry to simply help him win a fight.  Fuck that.  “Arnold and Louis-“ I sobbed.  I know that I was upset with myself, but I wished I could just stop fucking crying.  I never cried.  Trying to calm myself, I took a huge breath.  “Arnold and Louis thought you looked weak last night and said it was because I was distracting you.  They said you fight best when you’re angry and I was supposed to meet with Clark to make you mad but I can’t and I won’t and I refuse to be any part of their greedy little plots-“

Harry stood from the bed quickly and crossed his arms, putting a knuckle in between his teeth and pacing back and forth across the room.  He breathed slowly, all of the muscles in his body twitching as he stepped back and forth.

“Harry?  Harry you have to know-“ I slid to the edge of the bed on my knees and tried to wipe the tears from my face, but I couldn’t seem to stop them. “You have to know that I love you.  I agreed to meet with Clark-“

“WHAT?” Harry bellowed.

“I AGREED BECAUSE I wanted to help!  Arnold convinced me that it would be helping you win the tournament and I just didn’t think it through.  Please believe me, I’m so sorr-“

“Just shut the fuck up, Kennedy,” Harry snapped, swatting the air in front of my face.  I obeyed.

Harry paced across the room again and again and again.  I didn’t know what to say or do to calm him down.  I didn’t think it would be possible for ME to calm him down.  I was 33.333% of the reason that he was completely pissed.  Arnold and Louis had gotten their way without me even having to meet Clark.  Harry surprised me when he ripped open his bedroom door and stomped down the stairs to the main floor. “LOUIS!” He growled.  He flew through the kitchen, throwing a glass to the floor and shattering it as he did.  I rushed to the balcony and listened as Harry pounded on Louis’ door and shouted his name over and over.

“LOUIS! Open this fucking door right now!  I’m going to break it down if you don’t fucking open it!” Harry beat on the door for a minute more and then actually broke it down.  I cringed as I heard the wood break into little splinters and come off of it’s hinges.  My ears stayed perked for some kind of confrontation… some kind of screaming match… some kind of scream from a tortured Louis… but none came.  Louis wasn’t home.  Harry stomped back across the living room and soon enough, I heard his heavy footsteps on the stairs to the balcony again.  I spun around and waited for him to emerge in the doorway.  When he did, he started to walk past me to his room, but stopped and faced me.

“You were trying to help me.”

I couldn’t tell if it was a question or a statement, so I nodded once.

“That’s one hell of a fucked up way to go about it, Kennedy,” Harry said harshly, running his fingers through his messy hair. 

“I know,” I croaked, a lump forming in my throat again. “I’m sorry-“

“Stop saying that!” Harry interrupted bitterly, taking a few heavy steps toward me. “I forgive you but I’m still pissed as hell at you.  I’m more furious with Arnold and Louis, but I just can’t wrap my head around you agreeing to help them-“ Harry growled and started to pace back and forth again.  “You know I’ve been trying to control my anger.  Why would you WANT TO PISS ME OFF? After everything you’ve done to try and help me?? What the fuck, Kennedy?”

Tears ran down my cheeks again.  If he didn’t want me to apologize again, what was I supposed to say?  “I-“ I breath hitched in my throat as I tried to control my tears again.  “I love you,” I managed. 

Harry stopped pacing and stared across the balcony at me, his eyes dull and gray. “Do you?  Really?”

I nodded and heaved as I tried to steady my breath.  “I really love you, Bear.”

Harry walked to me and grabbed the back of my neck like he used to when we were angry at each other.  “If you truly love me, you try and stay away from Arnold and Louis.  Louis is my friend but he’s a shitty person sometimes.  Arnold is a greedy bastard and will ruin anyone’s life just to get a little money.  Don’t do anything he tells you to outside of being a chef here, understand me?”

I looked at my feet and nodded.

“Kennedy, do you understand?” Harry asked, gripping my neck a little more tightly. 

I looked into his eyes and nodded again.  “I understand.  I promise.  I’ll stay away,“ I sniffled.

Harry’s eyes were still dark and his body was still tensed for a fight, but he reached up and wiped another tear from my cheek.  He let go of my neck and walked to his room, glancing at me once more and saying, “I’ll come down and get you when it’s time to leave for the fight.”

Then he closed the door.

In the time I had to myself all day, I decided it was better for Harry to be mad this way that it was for him to be mad about me going on a secret date with Clark.  Was I happy that backed out and told him our plans to piss him off?  No.  But he had forgiven me already for this – probably a little too easily, I’ll admit – and I’m sure it would have taken months for him to forgive me for going out with Clark.  He had every right to be furious with me for the rest of the day, though I wished he wasn’t.  Never in my life had someone been so mad at me and I didn’t know how to react.  How to make the anger go away.

As we walked down the hall to his room on the outside of the arena, he held my hand tightly, but not in a loving way.  He was tugging me along.  He didn’t have time to wait on me.  When we got to the room, he slung me onto the couch, changed, and started to warm up on his punching bag.  I was a little furious that neither Arnold nor Louis had tried to contact me or Harry today.  They must have figured I went through with the plan and decided to steer clear of the menacing Harry Styles until after he destroyed his opponent in the ring.

“Time,” Harry commanded of me.

“You’ve got two minutes,” I answered quietly, looking at my phone.

Harry sighed and took a swig of water from his bottle.  He reached into his bag and pulled out my bandana.  He handed it to me as I stood on the couch and tied it around his hair.  When I was done, he held out a hand to help me down from the couch and pulled me to the door.  We walked down the hall silently until we reached Harry’s entrance to the ring. “Meet me at my room afterwards.  I’ll take you home since Louis and Arnold have both run for the hills,” Harry said, dropping my hand.

“Good luck,” I said softly, standing on my toes to kiss his cheek.  He surprised me by leaning down and kissing my cheek too.

“I love you,” I said, sounding a little too desperate for him to say it back. 

Harry didn’t grin, but his gaze seemed to soften. “I love you.”

As I was about to leave, my phone buzzed in my pocket.  I pulled it out and looked at the text from Arnold.

Hope you had a good date today and that tonight won’t be a disappointment for me.

Harry read the text over my shoulder.  His breathing got heavier and heavier until he started to bounce on his toes and beat his gloves together in front of the doors.  Without looking at me, he growled, “Get to your seat.”

During the introductions, I scanned the crowds for Arnold and Louis.  I had the same seats as last time, but the seat beside me was empty.  I couldn’t spot either of them anywhere but knew they wouldn’t miss this fight.  I was hardly paying attention when the bell rang for the match to begin – Harry against a tall, slender individual named Robb Gordon.  He was a lot like Harry in the way he fought and the way he was physically built, but he didn’t stand a chance.  Harry was pissed.  Fuming.  Seething with anger.  I could see fire in his eyes from 30 seats up in the stands.  I just prayed that he wouldn’t kill this poor guy.  Harry didn’t look my way a single time during the fight which broke my heart, but I had to keep reminding myself that I completely deserved it. 

Despite his reckless anger, Harry was still good about letting Robb get an occasional hit on him to make the match look even throughout the three rounds.  However, when Harry was hitting Robb, his swings were stronger than ever and his gloves almost appeared like they were made of cement.  Blood splattered across the crowd with every hit Harry got on Robb but they loved it.  It was difficult to watch, mainly because I was the only one who knew that Harry wasn’t just fighting, but he was releasing his anger.  He was taking out the anger that I caused on someone who had no idea why Harry was furious. The anger was like steroids for Harry.  Never again.  Never ever again would I agree to do anything to make him anything but happy.

As the third round came to a close and it was apparent that Harry was going to win, I started my walk back to his locker room.  I took my time, hoping maybe he would meet me along the way and I wouldn’t have anymore time to myself.  I had been left alone all day to think about what I did and I didn’t think I could stand anymore of it.  Thankfully, just as I walked past Harry’s door to the ring, he walked back through it.

I smiled softly at him. “Nice fight, Bear.”

Harry nodded and walked beside me as I helped him untie his gloves.  He seemed calmer than he had been all day.  While I hated to admit it, Harry’s angry fighting was stronger.  Maybe I could help him learn to fight just as strongly when he wasn’t losing his mind.

Harry pushed through his locker room door and stopped immediately.  I ran into his back, not expecting the abrupt halt. “You okay, Bear?”  I peered around his body and stared into the eyes of the three people that needed to be on the opposite side of the earth at the moment – Arnold, Louis, and Clark.

“What the hell are you doing here?” I snapped, stepping in front of Harry.  Who I was addressing, I wasn’t sure.  I guess I was talking to all of them. 

Clark stood up off of the couch.  “I waited for you in the city today for our date, but you never showed.  I figured you would be here, so I came and ran into Arnold.”

“You didn’t go on your date?” Arnold asked.

“No,” I said through gritted teeth. 

Arnold frowned but shrugged. “And you still managed to piss him off.  You’ll have to tell me what you did later. And Harry?  Good fight.  That’s more like it.  Tonight was much better than your fight last round,” Arnold said, clapping.  Louis was too busy on his phone to be paying attention to anything going on.

“You three fuckers-“ Harry started, stepping around me and throwing his gloves across the room. Everyone winced except for Arnold, who simply raised his eyebrows.

“What’s the problem, Harry?” He asked.

“You’re my problem, you self-indulging bastard.  You know I’ve been working on my anger for YEARS and now that I’m finally just a little bit happy, you want me to be angry again?  Just to make you rich?  Are you trying to mentally fuck me over for the rest of my life?”  I hadn’t realized that I grabbed Harry’s hand and was holding him back.  I was worried that I was going to see more blood tonight than I had planned to see.

“Harry, we were trying to help you win,” Arnold said, his gaze lowered and his voice laced with annoyance.  Arnold’s expression was one of hatred, probably because of Harry’s lack of gratitude.

“Fuck your help.  I don’t need your help.”

“Well SHE sure as hell isn’t helping you!  What are you going to do?  Help yourself?  That’s never worked in the past,” Arnold said, raising his hands in an awkward shrug.

Clark shifted on his feet and stuck his hands deep into the pockets of his jeans. “I think I wandered into something I shouldn’t be a part of…” He said, inching past me toward the door.

Harry whipped around and snarled.  He lunged around me for Clark’s collar, like I saw in my dream.  I shut my eyes and waited for a punch.

“You certainly did,” Harry growled. “Get the hell out of here and never come back.”  He threw Clark into the door.  Clark groaned in pain and was trying his best to stand up and get out.  “If I ever see you around again – if I ever see you near Kennedy, I will end you.  Do you understand?” Harry spat.  Clark didn’t respond, but merely scampered out the door like the coward he was. 

“Harry…” Arnold started, but before he could say anything else, Harry walked to Arnold and struck him hard across the face.  Arnold collapsed onto the floor and whimpered.

“Never been hit before, I take it?” Harry asked as he stood over him. “Get the fuck out, you’re fired.”

Arnold struggled to get to his feet. “But- but- but Harry, I’ve got a contract to manage you for another five years-“

“Yeah, a contract with me,” Harry snapped. “I’m releasing you from that contract.  Get the fuck out.”

“Harry, you can’t do this to me.  I’m like a father to you,” Arnold said.

Harry’s eyes widened.  “You’re just as shitty of a father as my real one was.  Get the fuck out.”

“But-“

“GET THE FUCK OUT!”  Harry grabbed Arnold by his suit jacket and threw him across the room to the door.  Arnold looked just as Clark did, cowering by the floor and trying not to cry as his knees shook beneath his body and his sweaty hand struggled to grip and open the door.  No sooner had Arnold left did Harry grab Louis by the collar of his shirt too, but Louis put his hands up in surrender immediately.

“Were you ‘just trying tot help’ too???” Harry seethed though his teeth. 

Louis shook his head. “I’ve been around Arnold for so long that I just got used to going along with all of his plans.  He used to be a good guy, you know that.”

I was surprised at how calm Louis sounded even though he was about to get his face beat in.

Harry threw Louis back onto the couch and paced across the room.  “That’s a shit excuse.”

“That’s the most honest one I have.  I was caught up in the moment.  I want you to win, so I was trying to think of a way to, well, help you,”  Louis explained.

Harry glared at Louis. “Unfortunately, I’ve already fired my manager tonight so firing my assistant manager wouldn’t do me any good.”  Harry shook his head. “If everyone in this situation was trying to ‘help’ me, why did everything turn to shit?”

“I mean, you did have a strong fight…” I said softly, though I immediately regretted saying it.     

Harry looked defeated.  He knew that his strongest fights were the ones where he was angry.  “I’ve got round three tomorrow.  I’m going to fight and I’m not going to be mad.  If I win, I win.  If I lose, I lose.”

He glanced over to me and smiled gently.  Having been the first time he actually smiled at me all day, I took it as an “okay” to approach him and wrap my arms around his waist.  His arms slid around my back, a feeling I had been missing like crazy since this morning, and his lips pressed to the top of my head.

“Sure you’ll be okay with losing?” Louis asked, raising an eyebrow. 

Harry shrugged and kissed my hair once more. “I guess we’ll find out.” 

Fists & Knives - Chapter 24

“Louis and I have finally figured out how you are going to pay me back for not being where you were supposed to be yesterday.”

Harry glared at Louis for helping Arnold, but Louis merely shrugged as I placed his sandwich in front of him.  Arnold hadn’t yelled as us nearly as much as I thought he might have for ditching our designated path yesterday and going go-karting instead.  He actually hadn’t even really acknowledged me at all, which I didn’t necessarily have a problem with.  He was perched beside Louis at the bar, seemingly relaxed.  For once, he wasn’t wearing his black suit.

Harry was leaning on the counter behind me with his own sandwich in his hand.  “Well spit it out already, how much do you want?”

Arnold chuckled.  “Well, I don’t want you to just pay me.  I thought I would make this fun for all of us.  Louis found a tournament starting in two weeks.”

“Niall actually told me about it.  He’s competing,” Louis added with a mouth full of bread.

“Prize is somewhere upward of $50,000 dollars.  We’ve entered you into it.  I expect you to win,” Arnold concluded.

Harry scowled.  “Well who the fuck else is competing?”

“Same people as always.  Suasso, Wallis, Horan, Lattimus-”

“Lattimus is in?” Harry asked quickly.  I couldn’t tell if he asked because he was worried or excited about it.  The last time I heard anything about Marcus was when Harry was telling me about the bribe after our get-away from his bodyguards at The Cave.

“Lattimus is in,” Arnold confirmed.

“There are a few new guys too but I did some research and it’s no one you can’t take out in a few rounds,” Louis added, stuffing his mouth with another bite of his sandwich as he did.  I decided to make my own chicken salad today and put it in a sandwich and so far, all three of the guys were barely taking time to even breathe between bites.  I took that as a good sign.

“You know I hate these damn tournaments,” Harry grumbled.  “I don’t see why we have to be put on a pedestal and labeled ‘the best.’  It’s stupid.”

I giggled.  “Sounds like someone is scared…”

A low growl came from Harry and he rolled his eyes.  “I am not.  I just think it’s stupid.”

Arnold finished off his sandwich and stood up, running his hand over his mouth to get the crumbs off. “Well it doesn’t matter what you think about it because you’re doing it.  This is your punishment.  I’ve set up a training schedule for you for the next two weeks and you’re going to stick to it, understand?”

Harry rolled his eyes again. “I HAVE been training.  Every day.”

Arnold’s eyes flickered to me. “I’m talking about training with no distractions…”

Harry gawked at Arnold and crossed his arms across his bare chest.  As his body moved, I spotted a small mark on his collarbone from where I had been kissing and sucking last night.  I hoped no one else noticed.  “K is not a distraction.”

I started to laugh but suppressed the sound quickly when Harry’s eyes met mine.  He and I both knew that I was totally a distraction.  If he was training, I was on the treadmill watching.  He would start to get cocky and show off and then end up getting “hurt” somehow and complaining until I gave him a kiss to make it better.  I loved it, but he definitely hadn’t been training his hardest with me around.  Once Arnold left the house, Harry rolled his eyes once more. “Fucking tournament…”

“Keep rolling your eyes like that and they’re going to get stuck…” I mimicked him from one of the first times we met.  Harry chuckled softly and slapped my bum.

Arnold also had a new schedule for me.  It revolved around going to the store and getting food for the fridge, which I thought was funny because we really didn’t ever run out of ingredients enough for me to go grocery shopping every day.  My grocery time was right at Harry’s training time, so I figured it was just Arnold’s way of keeping me away so Harry could train.  In all honesty, he probably could have just asked me not to be in the gym while Harry trained.  It’s not like I wanted Harry to lose this tournament.  I had mixed feelings about the fights… there were so many in one week.  What if Harry got hurt?  It bothered me to think about any amount of blood running out of his nose or maybe from a cut across his face.  I was such a sappy, overprotective girlfriend.  I usually loved blood. 

Liam drove me to and from the grocery store every day and almost acted as a bodyguard for me.  I thought it was funny that a bodyguard was necessary.  Outside of the culinary world, I was known as “Harry Styles’ girlfriend” and people always wanted to take a picture with me or get me to sign something.  Why?  Why was I important? One day, the crowd in front of the grocery store got so bad that I ended up having to walk with my back against Liam’s chest as he used his hands and pushed through people in front and beside us.  I was beginning to get used to seeing my picture in the magazines (not like they talked about anything except my style… all I was doing was shopping for bread…), but it still struck me as odd.  Why did I matter so much just for dating Harry Styles?

Harry and I would hang out when we could, only really staying inside to ourselves and avoiding paparazzi.  When we felt adventurous, we would sneak out in the middle of the night and just drive around the city, looking at the lights and talking about anything and everything.  One night, Harry stopped at a gas station to grab us coffee, but all turned to hell when someone started taking pictures and shouting Harry’s name.  Despite it being 3 in the morning, the sleepy strangers in the gas station swarmed him and his picture was in the paper the next day. Needless to say, Arnold was pissed.  After that, we were officially on lockdown until the tournament.

Harry wasn’t to compete until late into the night of the first day of the tournament.  He and I sat at the very back of the stands and watched other guys compete almost all afternoon.  Boxers who weren’t as good, like Suasso, were finished off almost immediately and kicked out of the rest of the tournament.  I mentally gave them props for trying.  It must take a decent amount of mental strength to get into the ring with someone stronger than you. Probably a bit of delusion, too.

“Harry, you’ve got 30 minutes,” Louis said, looking at his phone in his hands and standing up.  Harry watched Marcus Lattimus get a few more good hits on someone named Kerry Carmondy and then stood up.  He laced his fingers into mine as we walked out of the arena and to the big, black doors that I had met Harry at the night of his match against Sammie Suasso.  We pushed through them and walked into a long hallway with closed doors on all sides, occasionally passing a scantily clad group of ring girls or a bruised-up boxer being supported by a medic and getting fussed at by a coach.  As we passed the girls, they all popped their hips and puckered their lips. “Hi Harry,” most of them hummed seductively as he passed, half of them ignoring me completely.  The other half would glance at me and glare or look me up and down and smirk.  One even made a disgusted look as she looked over my outfit - plain black jeans and one of Harry’s oversized flannel shirts - and without Harry seeing, I mimicked her actions overdramatically, making a face disgusted face back at her before we disappeared into a door with the name “Styles” on it.

The room had dark red walls and three lockers along the wall in one of the corners.  There was a TV in another corner and a black mini-fridge beside it.  Across from the TV was a leather couch, and in the third corner was a worn punching bag.  Louis immediately dropped down onto the couch and was absorbed in his phone in seconds.  Harry kissed me lightly on the cheek and directed my hand toward the couch before letting go of it and walking to the lockers.  I sat next to Louis and watched Harry as he stripped down and pulled out some black shorts from his bag.  He slipped them on and wiggled his butt at me as the waistband slipped over it.  I giggled.

“If you think I can’t see that butt wiggle just because I’m looking at my phone, you’re wrong,” Louis said, raising an eyebrow and looking up at his friend.

Harry shrugged and approached his warm-up punching bag in the corner of the room. “I would have done it even if you were staring straight at me.”

Louis shook his head. “You’ve gone from Harry Styles - Ass Kicker to Harry Styles - Ass Wiggler.“

“Heeey,” Harry grumbled as both Louis and I laughed. He punched the bag harder.  “I’m still going to kick ass today.

“Speaking of, you’ve got ten minutes,” Louis informed him, standing up and walking to the door. “I’m going to go chat-up that brunette ring girl.”

“That brunette made a face at me when I walked by,” I told Harry after Louis left.

“Why?”

“Because I was with you,” I said matter-of-factly.  “Probably jealous.”

Harry chuckled. “She has a lot to be jealous about, but you dating me isn’t one of those things.  Maybe she liked your hair or your shirt or your beautiful face.”

“Doubt it,” I snorted.  “She made this face at me like she smelled bad eggs.”

Harry kept punching the bag. “Did you hit her?”

“No, I was holding your hand.”

“I would have let go so you could hit her. Or throw a knife at her.  Whichever you do so prefer.”

I grinned. Harry glanced at me for a second in between punches and then stopped to look at me again.  He smirked and walked to his equipment bag.

“What?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he said casually, digging through his bag.

“Bear, tell me.”

“Nothing!” He repeated, pulling my red bandana from his bag. “I just think you’re gorgeously gorgeous.” He walked to me and dropped onto his knees in front of me, handing me the bandana as he did.

I smirked. “You can’t put it on yourself?”

Harry pouted.  “I have to rest my arms for my match.”

“Oh, bullshit…” I mumbled playfully, wrapping the cloth around his curls and tying it behind his head.  He put his hands on my knees and used them to push himself up and kiss me as I finished the knot in the bandana.  His hands ran over my hips and up my thighs to my stomach as he turned his head and I forced my tongue into his mouth.  He sucked on my tongue lightly and groped my chest in his large hands, squeezing harshly and pushing me back onto the couch.  He pulled his lips from mine and started to kiss down my neck and my chest, lifting my shirt and kissing my stomach as he pushed me down further.  He fumbled with the button and zipper of my jeans and pulled them down around my thighs despite my breathless protests.

“You’ve got like three minutes, Harry.”

“I can finish you off in two,” he breathed over my thighs.  I could feel the goose bumps spread all over my skin.  He pulled at the fabric of my underwear with his teeth and hooked the sides of my underwear with two fingers, starting to pull the fabric down. 

“Bear…” I warned, glancing nervously over at the door.  His hot breath became heavier and heavier as he neared the area between my legs and finally ran his tongue right between my lips, putting pressure on my clit when he reached it.  I held my breath and clenched my eyes shut, trying not to reach for his hair and mess up the bandana I had just tied.  My mind was counting down the seconds until he had to leave, but the numbers became jumbled as Harry flicked his tongue back and forth and even dared to stick two fingers inside of me.  I arched my back and gripped the leather couch the best I could to steady myself, glancing over at the door once more to be sure no one would suddenly barge in.  I lost sight of the door seconds later when my eyes watered and a rush of warmth spread throughout my body, but mainly in my lower region.  The look on my face made Harry laugh.

“I told you all I needed was two minutes,” he said smugly, grabbing one of his towels out of his equipment bag and surprising me by cleaning me off.  He then threw the dirty towel into the floor by his lockers.  As I stood, he pulled up my underwear and jeans, buttoned and zipped them, fixed my shirt, and kissed me on the top of my head. 

I was still in a little bit of a shock as I watched him gather up his gloves and slink on his black silk robe.  “Okay, that might have been incredible but was that necessary now?? You couldn’t have saved that for later?? I probably look so hot and bothered right now,” I whispered quickly, running my hands through my hair to fix it. 

Harry laughed.  “I like seeing you hot and bothered.  Plus, making you moan like that gives me a little confidence boost.  Maybe I’ll fight better now.”

I widened my eyes. “I moaned???

Harry looked at me like I was crazy and kissed my head again. “You don’t remember?  You couldn’t stop for that whole two minutes.”  He intertwined our fingers and pulled me into the hallway.  Unlike before when I was making faces at the bitchy ring girls, I was trying as hard as I could to hide my red face now.  Did I want them to know that Harry Styles just ate me out?  Of course I did…… not…… I just didn’t want them to see how worked up he got me.  That was for Harry and Harry only.

I was too busy thinking about trying not to look flustered that I didn’t realize when Louis grabbed my hand.  Harry spun around and grabbed my face, planting a sloppy kiss on my mouth before looking me in the eyes and grinning excitedly.  His own eyes were filled with a kind of ecstasy that made the green glow a little brighter.

“Cheer loud?”  He asked, kissing my free hand.

“Of course,” I replied.

“I’ll meet you at home after the fight.”

I nodded.  “Good luck, Bear.”

“I love you,” he whispered, his eyes not leaving mine.

I puckered my lips. “I love you.”

He kissed me quickly once more.  “I love you more.”

“Oh, jesus,” I laughed.  Even the man guarding Harry’s door to the ring was laughing. 

“Something funny, mate??” Harry blurted angrily, glaring at the large man. 

The guard shook his head but continued to laugh. “Nothing at all, Styles.  Calm down.  Just different to see you… well… like this…”

Harry gritted his teeth but shook off the comment, bouncing on his toes to try and keep his blood pumping.  I stuck my tongue out at him as Louis pulled me away from him and back through the black doors.  We had three minutes until the fight started and the crowds were growing by the second.  I knew we had reserved seats but I didn’t know where or how much pushing we might have had to do to get thereI didn’t want to miss a single second of this fight.

I was pleased when our seats were up at the top of the arena – the same seats that Liam, Zayn, and I had for the fight against Mateo.  “Harry said you liked the high seats better,” Louis told me as we got comfortable.

I frowned. “When?”

“I don’t know.  You guys went to sleep one night and he said you told him that you didn’t like being close to the ring.  You can see better from here or something.”

Did I talk to Harry in my sleep?  Or maybe just being around him put a trance on me that made me unaware of what I was saying or doing… like moaning when he was eating me out.  I would have to look into that.

The arena was so full that people who were trying to stand on the stairs were ushered out.  “They oversell tickets sometimes if they know it’s going to be a bigger fight,” Louis explained as we watched two guys a few rows in front of us start to yell at each other about how they both had the same seat.  “When people ask for their money back, they only get half of what they paid.”

“That’s stupid,” I said, watching an arena worker grab one of the arguing guys and pulling him up the stairs to the ticket booth.  My attention snapped to the ring when I heard cheering and saw four, sparkly ring girls strut up into the ring with the emcee following close behind.

“Whoooooo’s ready for a fight???” He asked melodically into the microphone.  “In this corner of the ring, we have the man… the animal… Carson “The Bull” Bulaney!” 

The Bull?  I laughed to myself as a wide man sauntered up into the ring.  He was stocky but his shoulders were broad and his arms were almost too long for his body.  He beat his gloves together and “pawed” at the floor of the ring with his foot, snorting and snarling like a bull as he did.  Like a bull.  He was actually pretending to be a bull. 

“And in the other corner…”

The announcer didn’t have to say anything else before everyone was quiet.  The stomping started somewhere across the arena and picked up quickly.  I didn’t hesitate to join in and stomp, gradually picking up my speed and pounding harder into the stands beneath my feet.  Louis laughed as he watched my face light up but didn’t stomp.  I guess he had seen Harry’s entrance so many times that the excitement was gone for him. 

“HARRRRRY STYLES!”

Harry pulled himself under the ropes onto the ring and his eyes immediately searched for me, a fierce grin spreading across his lips when he saw my face.  He beat his gloves together and shrugged off his robe.  A pang of jealousy shot through me as some girls in the front row shrieked and waved their arms around for Harry to notice them.  The jealousy dissipated when Harry winked at me and puckered his lips quickly as if to blow a kiss, completely ignoring the rest of the crowd.

The first round of the fight seemed to go by quickly, Harry getting in a lot of hard shots on Bulaney and allowing Bulaney to take a few decent shots at him.  Ultimately, Harry won the first round.  Midway through the second round, there was no doubt in my mind that Harry was going to win this entire match for sure.  I could tell he knew it too, his hits beginning to look a little more showy and his face lighting up like he was play-fighting an old friend for the fun of it.  With seconds left in the round and Bulaney looking weak, Harry spun around and bounced to my side of the ring.  He grinned up at me and waved, and then faced more of the crowd and beat his gloves together triumphantly.  Everyone seemed to have their eyes on Harry as he over-confidently strutted around the ring, so no one was prepared for him to turn around and take a heavy hit in the face from Bulaney. 

Louis and I nearly leapt out of our row as Harry stumbled backward and fell onto his back.   He rolled onto his stomach and clutched his face.  “The Bull” snorted and scratched his toes into the ring.  The bell rang for the round.  Louis shouted at the top of his lungs. “GOD DAMMIT HARRY GET THE FUCK UP!”

“Is he okay??” I asked, watching as Harry pushed himself upward.

“He’s fucking fine, but he just lost that damn round because he was a cocky shit and was laying down when the bell rang.” Louis ran his fingers through his hair and shouted again.

Harry refused to look at anyone as he grabbed some water and wiped the blood from his nose.  I could tell from his stance that he was furious, but I couldn’t tell if he was furious with himself or with Bulaney.  When he stepped back into the middle of the ring for the third round, he bounced on his toes and glared at Bulaney with a fire in his eyes.  Bulaney seemed to take a step back and shudder at Harry’s new vicious demeanor.

As soon as the bell rang, Harry swung.  He missed, but it took me a moment to realize he wasn’t swinging to hit just yet.  His black gloves skimmed Bulaney’s skin, forcing Bulaney to step backwards and eventually into the corner of the ring.  When Harry had him where he wanted, he punched for real, jabbing his gloves into Bulaney’s stomach and face for a good minute.  He let Bulaney recover for a few seconds, but immediately cornered him again and punched him until he was unconscious. 

I was worried for a moment that the crowd might boo Harry like his last unfair fight, but I guess this one wasn’t as bad because everyone was still cheering as Harry stood over Bulaney.  Louis pushed me out of the stands and hurried me out of the arena to the black car that was waiting for us.  A few paparazzi snapped pictures of me as I passed by.  Arnold showed up moments later, climbed into the front seat, and immediately, we were off. 

“Dammit, he could have lost that,” Arnold growled, slapping the median and rubbing his forehead.

“He was just cocky,” Louis said.

“He was distracted,” Arnold corrected, turning his head to look at me in the back seat.  I glanced away from him and out the window.  “Kennedy, I don’t know how else to say this.  I know you care for Harry and I know he cares for you. But… I just…”

“If it helps him win, I can stop coming to the fights,” I said quickly, but I didn’t know why.  I didn’t want to stop coming.  I wanted to be there to support my boyfriend.  That aside, I was actually beginning to enjoy the fights.

“No, it’s more than just not coming to the fights,” Arnold said, looking at the road ahead.

I frowned.  “I’m not following…”

Arnold sighed as if he was irritated.  “Harry grew up fighting because he was angry.  He got good because fighting was a way for him to release that anger.  Now that you’re around, he’s not angry.  He’s not fighting as well as he used to because he has nothing to be angry about.  That’s not really a good thing because the angrier he is, the better he fights.”

I glanced at Louis and waited for him to say something.  I don’t know what I wanted to say, but something.  It was becoming obvious to me that these people who were technically Harry’s family were just using him for money.  They didn’t care about his mental health or his happiness.  They just wanted him to fight well and make them rich.  Arnold especially.  Louis wasn’t as bad about it, but he still kept his mouth shut a lot of times when I thought he could stand up for his friend. 

“I don’t understand what you want me to do…” I said slowly.  “Do you want me to leave?  Like, leave the house?  Get a different job?”

“Well…” Arnold started. 

Louis finally spoke up. “Oh for fucks sake, we’re trying to piss him off, not break his heart into a billion pieces.”  So maybe he did care for Harry occasionally.

“So what do you think we should do then?” Arnold snapped at Louis.

Louis thought for a moment of ways to piss Harry off.  Okay, maybe he didn’t care about Harry.  I couldn’t tell.  “What if you got together with your ex?  What’s that guy’s name?  Harry hates him.”

“Clark?” I asked.

“Yeah, that douche.  For lunch or something?  Don’t tell Harry.  Let him find out about it in the papers.”

I gasped. “No!!  That’s going to break our freaking trust!  That’s going to paint me up to look like a horrible person!  What the hell???”

“Do you want Harry to win this tournament or not??” Arnold bellowed. 

I didn’t want him to win if it meant making him mad.  He made a ton of progress with his anger.  He finally fell in love with someone – with me.  But boxing was his life.  How could I hold him back from that?  I wanted to help him because I loved him, but I loved him enough to only want happiness for him.  How could I intentionally make him angry at me?  How could I ruin all that we had become? 

“Do you understand what we’re saying?  Do you understand what you have to do, Kennedy?  To help Harry?” Arnold asked, snapping me out of my thoughts.

I nodded slowly and stared out the window. “To help Harry.  I’ll meet with Clark.” 

Fists & Knives - Chapter 10

“I really just wish you would tell me who we were meeting or where we were going or maybe where the hell you were this morning?”  Clark was complaining.  As usual.

“I told you,” I called from my room. “I was working this morning.  And we’re going to meet my boss for lunch.” 

“It’s Saturday,” Clark said, poking his head into my room.  “You aren’t supposed to work Saturdays.”  He was tying his tie around his neck, this horrible-looking blue and yellow stripped thing.  He was wearing khakis and a blue blazer that just didn’t fit him correctly.  It all looked baggy and unkempt.  I knew Clark was a pretty fit, but his clothing almost made him look fat.  That aside, I told him to dress nicely and he got dressed like he was going to work as a school teacher.  Awesome.  Clark’s appearance had never bothered me before, but now that he was about to meet someone like Harry, every little detail was bothering me. 

“I know I’m not supposed to work Saturdays, but my boss wanted me to make him breakfast this morning.”

“Are you still not going to tell me who ‘he’ is?”

I shook my head.  I was proud of myself for being able to keep the secret from Clark for so long. 

Or maybe that was something I shouldn’t be proud of.  Clark and I used to tell each other everything… 

Clark grumbled to himself.  “You never make me breakfast at 6 in the morning.  You’re supposed to be mine on Saturdays and Sundays.”

I rolled my eyes. “Not like that means much.”

Clark made a tsk noise with his tongue and walked to me as I fixed my hair in the mirror.  I decided to leave it down for once, feeling a strange need to impress Harry with my looks too. “What is with you?” Clark asked, pushing me sideways gently so that he could see himself in the mirror.

I sighed. “Nothing, Clark.”

“Kennedy, please tell me.”

I turned to face him.  The black heels I was wearing raised me up a solid four inches, putting me nearly at Clark’s height.  “I’m just a little pissed that you ‘fell asleep’ at work and then ‘fell asleep’ again after I called you and woke you up,” I said, using my fingers to make air quotes.  “Why couldn’t you come home last night when I called?  Why did you have to stay there until this morning?  Was someone holding you up?”

Clark pouted, but more in an irritated way as he marched out of my room. “I told you, Kennedy.  I had more work to do and I accidentally fell asleep again… geez, it’s like you don’t listen…” He looked back into my room. “You’re being such a witch today.”

My jaw tightened.  I knew Clark called me a “witch” when he really meant “bitch.”  Why did I have to bring him on this date?  Why couldn’t I go on a date with Harry by myself?  I felt as good as ever, wearing a pair of black skinny jeans that I had bought that morning and a new light-blue silk shirt that I never really had the chance to wear.  My heels made my legs look like they went on for days and my silver jewelry gave me just the sparkle I needed to stand out.

Clark asked me thirty times who we were going to meet for lunch in the five minutes we waited outside for the black car to arrive.  He almost sounded like one of his childish students, standing with his arms crossed and repeating, “Who is it? Who is it? Who is it? Who is it?” When Garf pulled up in front of the apartment, Clark seemed hesitant to get into the car.  Despite the fact that he had met Garf once before, he backed away from Garf’s outstretched hand.  I shot Clark a piercing look and jerked my head toward Garf, urging Clark to shake hands and introduce himself again.  Why was he being so rude?

As we drove into the city, Clark remained silent.  I thanked God for Garf’s presence because I knew if we weren’t being escorted by him, I would have had issues even getting Clark to leave the apartment.  If you can’t tell at this point, he hates “surprises." 

The black car came to a quick halt before the restaurant - Gramercy Tavern - and drool practically started dribbling down my chin.  I had only ever eaten here once because, Heaven knows, one plate was all I could afford.  If I could ever become good enough to work in a place like this…

Clark’s eyes widened as he read the name of the restaurant.  “Kennedy, is this a joke?  I can’t afford this,” he whispered. 

“It’s my boss’ treat,” I explained.  “He said he would pay.”

Clark shook his head .  “I can’t let him do that.”

I rolled my eyes. “Would you just freaking relax and accept his gift?”

Paparazzi were scattered all over the front steps of the restaurant, pointing their cameras into the windows and doors of the building.  As Garf walked around the car to open my door for me, Clark stared in awe at the crowd. "What’s happening?”

Normally, I wouldn’t know.  "It must be some celebrity or something,“ I said, taking Garf’s hand and winking at him as he helped me out of the car.  Garf grinned.  Once he was out of the car too, I took Clark’s hand and allowed Garf to lead us through the crowd.  He acted almost as a bodyguard and pushed cameramen and women out of the way so that we could get into the restaurant.  Since no one know we were with Harry yet, no one snapped pictures of us, which was probably a good thing.  I don’t think Clark would have reacted very positively to someone snapping a picture of his face.

Garfield lead us to the back of the restaurant instead of a waiter, but left once Clark and I knew where to go.  As we approached the table, Harry spotted me and stood up slowly from his seat, running his hands over his black suit to smooth out any wrinkles.  Holy crap, did he look good.  I had never in my life seen such a perfectly fitting suit like that.  His skin was glowing and he looked about a thousand times healthier than he had in the last two weeks, or even than he had that morning when I left the house.

"Holy jabalama, Kennedy, that’s Harry Styles.  Remember?  The boxer from the TV?”  Clark was whispering quickly over my shoulder to me.  

I turned my head and nodded at him.  "I think I remember.“

Harry reached out his hand to me and grinned mischievously.  He didn’t try and hide just how his eyes looked my body up and down.  If his eyes were law enforcement, I was just seized and searched.  As I grasped his hand, he pulled it to his mouth and kissed the back of it.

"You look a lot sexier when you don’t have flour or some other ingredient smudged across your face or clothes.”

I felt my checks flush so hard that it almost hurt.  No one had ever called me sexy, especially not DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF MY BOYFRIEND.  I glanced back at Clark and could tell he was having a hard time contemplating all that was going on.  I could see in his eyes that he was complaining to himself too: Kennedy didn’t tell me it would be Harry Styles… Frick her… Kennedy just let him kiss her hand… what a promiscuous girl…

“I’m Harry,” Harry introduced himself, sticking his hand out to Clark.

Clark would have been more starstruck had Harry not just kissed the back of my hand.  It took too long for a polite grin to spread across Clark’s face, but I sighed with relief when it finally did.  He shook Harry’s hand hard, his knuckles turning white as their hands interlocked.  I couldn’t tell if it was because Clark was trying to show Harry how tough he was or because Harry was doing the same.  Either way, they were both squeezing hard.  “I’m Clark.”

Before anyone else could do it, Harry walked behind me and held my seat out for me.  Again, something Clark had never thought to do for me.  When I sat down, Harry placed a kiss on my cheek, startling me and earning him a disheveled look from Clark.  Clark didn’t dare open his mouth, however.  How could you tell Harry Styles to back off of your girlfriend without running the risk of getting your face beat in?  Either that, or Clark just didn’t care anymore.  I mean, he did cheat on me… Right?

“I trust the paps didn’t rough you up too much on the way in, did they?”  Harry asked, taking a drink from his glass of wine.  

I picked my own up and smelled it as I shook my head.  "Garf helped us through.“

"Are all of those people here for you?”  Clark asked Harry.  

Harry nodded and grinned.  "Isn’t it great?  I mean, I get tired of it sometimes, but other times, I just sit back and enjoy it.  How many other people in the world can say they have attention like this?“  Harry motioned toward the door across the restaurant where the group of gossipy photographers were trying to peer in at us.  Other people in the restaurant would study the photographers and then search around the restaurant for whatever celebrity they thought they might see.  It seemed like many of the other diners were much older, so not many of them knew Harry.  That, and they also looked like they didn’t want to bother or be bothered. 

Clark and I watched the door for a moment.  This was really the first time I was seeing Harry and how much commotion he caused when he left the house.  It was insane.  When I glanced back at him, he was staring at me as always, intently, with a hint of amusement in his bright, green eyes and his head cocked.  "Really, you do look incredible,” he said quietly, reaching over and running his hand up and down my thigh.  I was glad Clark didn’t see, but I was also screaming inside my head.  Harry’s touch sent some electric shock through my body, and every hair stood up.  

“Tell me about yourself, Clark,” Harry commanded after we started to eat.  

Clark opened his mouth, but Harry quickly held up his hand and looked at me.  “I know you’re probably a picky eater, being a fabulous chef yourself, so if anything doesn’t taste good, I’ll have them take it back.”

I swallowed the bite of broccoli I had been chewing on and laughed, completely flattered.  I was still struggling to figure out if this was all just a show or if Harry actually thought I was “fabulous.”  If he did, he never told me before today.  He waited patiently for my critique of my dish.  “Well, the vegetables-”

“WAITER,” Harry bellowed, calling our young and jumpy waiter over to our table.  He looked like he could be no older than 18.  People at surrounding tables glanced our direction as Harry fussed at the waiter.  "These vegetables are shit. Take them back and fix them-“

"Oh no no!”  I blurted as the nervous boy grabbed my plate.  "I just need some salt, is all.  They taste amazing.  Thank you though,“ I told the waiter.  He gulped and set my plate back down.  "And thank you, Harry.  I’ll let you know if I need anything else,” I added, chuckling.  Harry watched me closely and sipped his wine as I giggled.

Dear God, he had me melting in his hands and he knew it.

"So tell me Clark-” Harry started, finally taking the attention off of me and addressing Clark again.  

“Ah yes, I’m - well, I’m a teacher,” Clark said proudly, sitting forward and adjusting his worn-out blue blazer.  His clothes looked even worse when he was sitting next to Harry in that handsome suit, but Harry’s attire didn’t seem to phase Clark.  I knew he was just eager to blab about himself, though there was nothing particularly exciting about what he did.

Harry raised his eyebrows.  "That’s good. We need good teachers in this world.  What subject?“

"History,” Clark beamed, taking a bite of his steak smugly.  "I just think it’s important to know where we come from and how things happened to shape the world we live in now.“

Harry’s eyes seemed to twinkle as he sat back and crossed one leg over the other.  I noticed he wasn’t wearing his boot, but I didn’t say anything about it.  "That’s smart… Very smart…” Harry acknowledged slowly, nodding as he stared Clark down.

Clark grinned, probably ecstatic that Harry Styles was “appreciating his complexity” because I “never did.”  We had that argument all the time.  Clark reached over and placed his hand on my knee, which took me by surprise.  He never did that.  I suppose he was just trying to show a little bit of dominance.  

Harry eyed Clark’s hand closely and raised an eyebrow.  "History.  So there are probably a lot of papers and tests in there, yes?“

Clark nodded.  "I make my kids write a paper a week.”

“Good, good,” Harry was still nodding.  For some reason I felt like his questions weren’t genuine.  I knew he didn’t care what Clark did.  I was bracing myself for the real Harry.  I knew he didn’t ask me to bring Clark to lunch just so they could talk about history.

“Have you ever had a kid cheat before?”

There it was.

“Cheat?”  Clark asked.  "You mean plagiarize a paper?“

"Well yeah,” Harry said.  "Cheating… Plagiarism… All the same.“

Clark frowned as he thought.  “I mean, not on a paper.  I teach 6th grade, and I don’t think the kids really plagiarize, or at least not on purpose.  They’re still learning to write.”

Harry nodded.  “What about on a test?  Ever had anyone cheat on a test?”

Clark chuckled. “Yeah.  I had this one guy cheating off of the girl next to him and then when I caught him, he lied right to my face.  I mean, I caught him red-handed and he still lied.”

Harry’s eyes widened along with his smile. “You don’t say.”

“Stupid,” Clark laughed.  “I hate cheaters and liars.”

“You don’t say…” Harry repeated, more slowly this time.  Clark sat back uncomfortably in his seat and his lip twitched as his eyes shifted to meet mine.  I looked down at his hand on my thigh.

Harry cleared his throat and glanced up at the ceiling. “I was fighting this guy once… do you know who Charles Paisley is?”

Clark nodded. “That guy was a great fighter.”

Was-” Harry emphasized. “-until he had to fight me.  When he knew he was going to lose, he bit my ear. Nearly took it off-“ Harry laughed, pulling back some of his curls to show his ears.  They both looked normal, but I could tell that one was just a tad bit shorter than the other.  It must have been horrifying having someone sink their teeth into his flesh.  I grimaced.  That’s probably why Harry always had his hair over his ears.  My grimace turned to a giggle with that thought.  Tough, lopsided Harry Styles.

“Technically,” Harry continued, locking his eyes on Clark.  He was looking at him the same way he looked at me when we first met, not blinking… it was terrifying.  I got the goosebumps and I wasn’t even the one he was staring down, for once.  “What Charles did was considered cheating in our boxing league.  I hate cheaters.  But Charles had even paid off the referee not to call it when he bit me, so Charles and I just kept fighting.  Wanna know what I did to him for cheating?”

Clark nodded, but I could tell he didn’t want to know.

Harry smirked. “I beat the absolute shit out of him.  He walks with a permanent limp now.”

Clark tensed and withdrew his hand from my knee.  I officially refused to look at either guy when Harry placed his hand on my other knee, earning him a short, yet hateful, red-faced glare from Clark. “I hate cheaters, Clark.”

Clark swallowed hard.  He couldn’t look Harry in the eyes either anymore.  He took a sip of his wine, the glass shaking in his hand as he raised it and let the red liquid stain his lips.  Harry sat forward and narrowed his eyes.  His fingers dug gently into my leg.  He lowered his voice. “Did you cheat on Kennedy, Clark?”

"Excuse me?” Clark asked. 

“Last night? You were fucking another woman." 

Clark stood abruptly and dropped his napkin on the table. “That is an absurd accusation for you to make.  You don’t know me and you hardly know Kennedy and that is our business.  Kennedy, I think it’s time to go.”

Harry’s grip on my thigh tightened and I knew I wasn’t going anywhere. “You may leave if you feel like you need to,” Harry said. “But Kennedy will need to come with me for now.  I need her to make dinner for me tonight.”

"She’s not supposed to work on the weekend,” Clark said quickly.

“That was never official,” Harry said calmly.

Clark’s chest rose and fell with each deep breath he took.  He was trying hard to control his anger.  As he looked at me, he narrowed his eyes and gritted his teeth, but eventually turned and left.  After his blue blazer disappeared from my sight, I slapped Harry’s hand off of my leg and glared at him.

“You weren’t going to warn me-“

“I don’t think now is a good time to discuss this,” Harry said, still as calm as ever as he finished off the wine in his glass and placed the glass back on the table.  I was surprised at his reaction until he looked at me – that was when I saw the fire in his eyes.  He was furious.  “I just want to finish my food and then we can go,” he said softly, picking up his fork and taking a bite of his steak.

I huffed and pursed my lips.

Harry glanced up at me as he chewed. “Eat.”

I shook my head. “I’m not hungry.”

Harry cocked an eyebrow. “Suit yourself.”

I waited patiently as Harry took his time to finish eating.  We were probably a strange sight for anyone who walked by.  I hoped the paparazzi couldn’t see us all the way back here from the door, even with their super-zooming cameras.  I could see the headlines now – Harry Styles Takes Mystery Girl on Expensive Date… and She Looks Miserable! I probably looked like this rich guy’s pet, just watching him eat and waiting for him to finish and take me to an expensive store where he could buy me expensive things.  It was funny though, because in a way, that was our relationship.  The only difference was that he wasn’t buying me expensive things.  He was just giving me the money directly.

Harry paid for all three meals, mine, Clark’s, and his own, before standing up and buttoning the front of his suit.  He held out my chair for me and grabbed my hand as I stood up.  He folded my fingers around his bicep for me and led me through the restaurant to the front.  His head lowered as we got closer and closer to the door, and almost instinctively, I did too.  I let some of my hair fall around my face so that the cameras couldn’t see me as well.  As soon as the door opened, flashes started and so did all of the questions.

“Harry, where have you been?”

“Is it true you were beat up in an alley?”

“Who is this with you?”

“Harry has a new girlfriend?”

“Can we set up an interview with you?”

“What’s your name, girl?”

“When is your next fight, Harry?”

“Are you done fighting for good?”

“What are your thoughts on the Lattimus v. Horan fight?”

Harry nearly dragged me to the black car waiting on the street for us.  He opened the door and placed his hand on my lower back, pushing me gently, yet hurriedly into the car.  I fell into the seat and slid over as quickly as I could before Harry collapsed onto the seat beside me and slammed the door shut.  Cameras continued to flash into the tinted window as we buckled up and took off out of the city.