“Get out of my lane, motherfucker!”
Those words, combined with the sound of screeching tires, force my eyes wide open, sending my heartrate from zero to sixty in two seconds flat.
A car swerves in front of us before veering off into another lane as my driver, Jairo, starts shouting expletives in Spanish.
“Sorry ‘bout that, boss,” he says before continuing to curse under his breath. The tone of his voice mixed with the slight curl in his lip would send chills down anyone’s spine. “These drivers are out to test my patience today.”
“S’all good,” I grunt.
Up until a few months ago, I had spent my entire career playing for Chicago. We had built a team we thought would take us all the way to the championship. Things changed after we were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.
I was disappointed when I learned one of those changes was trading me to Miami to play for the Blaze. I had begun to put down roots and had high hopes of spending the rest of my career playing for Chicago, eventually planning on raising a family there, too.
Miami is now my home, though. If there was any team I’d want to be traded to, it would be the Miami Blaze.
The Blaze organization set me up with a company to help oversee my move, which took a tremendous weight off my back while I spent time with my family in Denver. Although, here I am, arriving in town with no idea what I could be walking into. My only reassurance came from my new assistant’s text letting me know the move went smoothly and according to plan.
“We should be there in about fifteen minutes,” Jairo says through the cloud of exhaustion settling over me.
I gaze out at the blue skies mixed with the skyscrapers with the clear water in the distance as a backdrop. The Florida sun blows a warm breeze through the window. The temperature is high, reminding me of the stifling humidity back in Chicago.
I sigh, tilting my head back against the headrest, shutting my eyes, taking a moment to unwind as the city streets pass us by.
A few minutes later, the GPS signals our destination is on the right. When I finally break my eyes open, I’m met with the city streets of downtown Miami. Palm trees line the sidewalks surrounding the building which boasts impressive floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s what drew me to the apartment in the first place, and the stunning view overlooking the ocean. A few people walk along the sidewalk, bags in their hands from the shops lining the strip.
Hitting the unlock button, I slip out and round the back of the SUV to collect my luggage when a shriek pierces my ears.
“Get off me,” a woman grunts. “Help me! Please, help! He’s trying to steal my purse.”
Commotion breaks out; women around her start to scream as a man yells at her to let go of her bag and he won’t hurt her, but she refuses to give in. Every time he pulls on the handle, she tugs back even harder.
He may have her on a size aspect in height, but she’s feisty, holding her own. The fire inside her matches her red hair, and she refuses to give in.
My heart beats wildly in my chest, sending my adrenaline pumping. Where I come from, you don’t put your hands on a woman. I imagine her as my mom growing up, struggling to provide for us, and someone trying to steal from her.
All I can see is red.
“Get the fuck off her, man!” I roar, rushing toward him, pushing him back. “What the fuck you thinkin’ putting your hands on a woman?”
He raises his fist at me, still not letting go of the bag. I move my arm, attempting to shield my face when he clocks me in the jaw.
“Motherfucker,” I grunt, spitting out blood on the ground. “You wanna come at me?”
I charge toward him, pressing his back against the brick wall, pulling her along with us. Shoving my forearm under his chin, I hook a right fist landing a direct hit to his eye. Blood gushes from his brow, dripping down his face.
I don’t slow down and my fist scores a hit to his gut. I shove my forearm against his chest and warn him to drop the purse. His hold loosens, sending the woman falling to the ground, tripping over her heels.
Her shrill, pain-stricken cry rings from behind me, but I don’t take my eyes off him. There’s no telling what he’ll do now. Pain thrums through my hand, and a small voice pushes through my mind, realizing how bad it could be if I managed to injure my hand. I don’t allow myself a chance to think about it, not right now.
“All right,” he sighs, holding his hands up in surrender. “All right, man.”
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