Big Boxer by Cassie Mint
Isqueeze into the second row of seats, dodging past flailing elbows and a handful of tossed popcorn. The crowd is wild tonight, already amped up before anyone’s even stepped into the ring, and the air is hazy with smoke and stage lights.
It’s humid in here. So loud, it makes my eardrums buzz. This room is a writhing mass of vicious, bloodthirsty spectators and thumping bass, and I’m the only woman I can see for rows and rows.
I love it.
Not being the only woman. I don’t love that. But the energy, the crackling promise that fills the room, the way everyone’s hovering half off their seats with anticipation… I love that. It zips through my blood; lights me up from the inside.
Boxing has always been my favorite, ever since I was growing up and my dad brought me to matches. We’d hang back at the edges of the room where it was safer, a little calmer, and I’d watch the fights with my eyes bugging straight out of my head.
Maybe I should have been freaked out. Scared by the violence in the ring—the rawness of those men.
But I wasn’t scared. I was electrified.
And even when I grew up and moved away from my parents, even when I stopped coming to matches in person and started watching highlights online, boxing kept a special place in my heart.
What can I say? I love the drama.
“Sorry. Can I just—sorry.”
It’s a battle to my seat, without absolutely no one shifting their legs or moving their crap out of the way. Maybe they’re pissed that there’s a woman in their row, or maybe they’re just shocked to see a curvy, freckled young redhead wearing a sports press pass—either way, it’s annoying as hell. I slide into my seat, fighting the urge to roll my eyes, and dump my backpack between my feet.
My sour mood doesn’t last long.
Because he’s fighting tonight. Lucas Scott.
The man whose poster used to hang on my bedroom wall.
When my work asked for someone to write a piece on Lucas, I couldn’t shove my arm in the air fast enough. I twinged my shoulder, I wanted to come and see him so badly. I’ve written about a lot of different athletes for the Home Run sports blog, but I’ve never covered Lucas Scott.
It’s kind of funny. The second they said his name, this little surge ran through me. I got all twisted up, all territorial. Like a snarling lioness.
So it’s just as well they picked me to come and watch him. Anyone else, and I might have roared at the ceiling.
There are other bouts first. Fights to warm up the crowd, to settle old grudges, to give the sponsors bang for their buck. I half watch them, scribbling notes on the notepad in my lap, but it’s Lucas Scott I’m thinking of. He’s been on a run lately, undefeated for a long while, but there’s something not right there. I’m surprised no one else can see it.
Watching Lucas in his latest matches online, I got the weirdest feeling. Like he was going through the motions. Like he was tired. Not physically—never that—but somewhere deep in his soul.
It sounds ridiculous, considering his winning streak, but there it is. Guess tonight I’ll see for myself, up close.
It’s obvious when the headliners come out. The crowd roars louder, the spotlights pulse brighter, and the music thumps in a manic heartbeat. I push out of my seat, caught up in the spell, and crane my neck to spot him. The air is laced with blood, sweat and smoke, and I suck in big lungfuls as I scan the walkways.
Once I spot him, I don’t blink. I stand frozen, heart thumping, as the man I hero-worshipped as a teenager strides to the ring. He stands head and shoulders above everyone else, his bulk filling the walkway, and his chin is ducked. His dark hair is ruffled, and dusted with silver at the temples.
He’s so huge, it’s like I can hear his footsteps, even over the screams of the crowd. Like I can feel them vibrating through my sneakers.
Lucas pushes onto the apron and ducks through the ropes. He may be massive, but he’s graceful too. Quick and deadly. And when he shrugs off the robe covering his shoulders, I bite my lip hard.
He’s massive. Like he’s carved from stone rather than flesh and blood, with biceps as thick as my thighs. Lucas is rough-hewn and packed with muscle—but not those fussy muscles men get at the gym.
He’s solid. Smooth. With a barrel chest, dusted with dark hair, and a big, strong belly.
I tuck a strand of hair behind my ear, fighting the urge to fan my cheeks.
So many boxers are showmen. They play up to the crowd, they talk shit and try to psyche each other out, but not Lucas. He frowns straight ahead, quiet and focused, as his challenger peacocks on the other side of the ring. He’s fighting an Irishman called O’Roarke, a younger man who made headlines with his shocking wins the last few months, but I’m not worried.
O’Roarke may be a brawler.
But Lucas Scott is a boxing god.
As Lucas waits for the bell, he raises his head. Scans the crowd. And I inhale sharply as pale blue eyes land on me.
He pauses. There’s a moment where his eyebrows twitch up slightly, like he’s surprised to see someone like me here. Then his gaze drops from mine, and rakes down my body, over every dip and curve.
Goosebumps ripple under my clothes, erupting everywhere he looks at me—beneath my faded jeans, my press pass, my white button down shirt—and I flush hotter than this jungle of a room.
Finished with his inspection, Lucas Scott looks at me again. Such shocking pale eyes, narrowing with his smirk.
The bell rings.
The fight begins.* * *
I climb the endless steps up to my apartment in a daze. The noise of the crowd is still buzzing in my ears; the thrill of the fight still surges through my veins. God, I forgot how alive boxing makes me feel. I need to see more. I need to watch that every freaking week.
My shoulder aches from lugging my backpack around, my work laptop and notepad crammed alongside an old sweater. When I slide my key into the lock, jiggling it in the specific way it needs to open, my fingers cramp from writing so many notes.
Lucas Scott was incredible. A master at work, dominating the ring. He was poetry in motion, his sweat-slicked muscles bulging and his movements graceful, every punch he delivered so brutal, and yet…
There was something missing. I was right. He wasn’t fully there.
When I first joined Home Run, I dreamed of writing about Lucas Scott. He was always in the back of my mind, my maybe-one-day athlete I’d love to cover. And now that I’ve watched him fight, I feel… torn. Like calling him out would be disloyal somehow.
But that’s crazy. I shake myself as I push inside my apartment, nudging the door closed behind me. The bulb flickers overhead when I hit the wall switch, and my tiny living room lights up: the squashy sofa. The coffee table I bought for twenty bucks in the flea market. The stack of sports magazines that old Mrs Valenka collects for me downstairs, and the yoga mat, half-unfurled on the carpet.
I’m a professional sports writer. I’m doing the job I always dreamed of. I can’t—can’t lie when I write about Lucas Scott. Can’t pull my punches, just because he’s my teenage hero.
It’s hard enough getting everyone to take me seriously as a woman in my job. If I let a silly crush stop me from writing what I really think…
I’ll be proving the doubters right.
My fingers still shake when I tug my laptop from my bag, setting it on the coffee table and peeling it open. Every time I blink, it’s like I can feel them: a pair of shocking blue eyes, boring into my soul.
That freaking smirk.
I pluck my shirt away from my heated skin, glad no one can see me. He must have been looking at someone else. There’s no other explanation—none that my flushed, trembling body can accept. I clear my throat loudly, yank my notepad from my bag and flip to tonight’s notes.
The sofa springs wail in chorus when I throw myself down.
Alright, Lucas Scott. Let’s do this.