Fight for You
A Warrior for Her #1
By Ayden K. Morgen
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: October 15, 2019
Some men deserve redemption. Some men are worthy of salvation. I'm not one of them. My name is Michael Kincaid, and I've got so much blood on my hands, I'll never wash clean.
For ten years, I've tried to outrun my gangbanger past by burying myself in my work with the DEA. I've tried like hell to forget the day I damned my soul and lost everything…my family, my home, and the only girl I've ever loved.
I still can't outrun it.
No matter how far I go, January James haunts me. Being without her is killing me, but what other choice do I have? We were still kids the first time I vowed to protect her. Instead, I destroyed her.
Now one of my enemies—a local gang member—has it out for her. He isn't going to stop until she gives him the territory I left her all those years ago. I swore I'd never set foot in Los Angeles again, but January needs my protection, and I'm not nearly strong enough to say no.
She deserves better than me, but she's mine anyway. It's time to stop running and fight for her.
She's an angel. I'm the devil on her shoulder. And this is my swan song.
When it's over, I'll either be the monster at the end of this book…or I'll be the man she deserves.
Fight for You is an angsty friends-to-lovers, second chance romance, and is not suitable for all readers. It is the first book in a series of interconnected full-length novels featuring law enforcement officers willing to do whatever it takes to protect the women who need them most. Each book can be read as a standalone, has no cheating, and a guaranteed HEA.
(This book deals with gun and gang violence, and touches briefly on sexual assault, sex trafficking, and suicidal ideation.)
"You shouldn't be out here by yourself," Cade says.
I cry out, alarmed as he pops up on the other side of the porch railing. I never even heard him coming. My hand flies to my chest, trying to calm the way my pulse pounds with fear.
"You scared me," I mutter and then I get a good glimpse at him.
He looks like shit. Even with all those tattoos and that hardness—the dangerous vibe that radiates from him despite the fact that he's standing completely still—he's too handsome for words. But his eyes are troubled and rimmed with dark shadows. His jaw is scruffy where he hasn't shaved. His hair is a mess and his jeans and black t-shirt are wrinkled. The gauges in his ears and the piercing in his nose make him look dangerous in a way I find far too appealing. The bandage on his arm is gone, revealing a cut about four inches long. There are still a couple of stitches holding the edges of his puffy skin together.
"I'm not the monster in the dark you should be afraid of, ba–January," he says, crossing his tattooed arms over his broad chest. His gaze roves across my face, but he never meets my eyes. Even then, I feel exposed in a way I never have before, vulnerable…like he can see all the ugly scars and jagged wounds inside me.
"I'm not afraid of Kaleo," I tell him, pulling my legs up into the chair and wrapping my arms around my knees as if that will keep him from seeing the painful, ugly things inside that still hurt.
"You should be." He climbs up the steps, his footfalls heavy on the old wood. His boots and the bottoms of his jeans are splattered with mud. He stops at the top and props his shoulder up on the post, still watching me. "He's after the park. He won't stop until he gets it or someone stops him."
"He can't have it. It's mine."
Cade eyes me for a minute and then sighs.
"I didn't think you were still here," I say when he doesn't speak. "Your car is gone."
"I left it with a friend," he says.
An awkward silence stretches between us. I hate it. Things have never been awkward or tense between us before. They weren't always easy, but they were always natural. Being with him was like breathing. It was effortless. I didn't have to think about it or worry about it. He never made me feel out of place or like I didn't fit. He made me feel like I mattered. Like I had a place and a purpose.
My entire life, I felt like an outsider. I've always been significantly smaller than my peers and a little bit timid because of it. Standing up for myself isn't something I've ever been particularly good at doing. Mean girls like Mandy Wright went out of their way to make me feel like I wasn't good enough. She hated that Cade didn't want her and made my life miserable because of it. But Cade always took care of me and made sure I wasn't excluded. People accepted me because of him and Titan. All these years later, people still accept me because of them.
"I'm sorry about last night," I whisper, my heart pounding. Now that the moment's here, I'm not even sure where to begin unburdening myself. There's so much between us…so much I never got to tell him. So many things I've regretted for a long damn time.
"There is no other woman," he says. He fidgets, rocking on his heels and then running a hand through his hair. He looks out into the yard and then down at his feet. "Little Mama is like a sister to me. Her husband, Tristan, is probably the only real friend I've had since…well, in a long time. I had to come back. The guy who took her wanted to do some seriously fucked up shit. Letting that happen wasn't an option."
"Oh." I swallow and then lick my lips, feeling guilty for being jealous. It's such a petty, destructive emotion, one I promised myself I would never give into. But I did yesterday. When I imagined him racing back here to rescue another woman, I was jealous as hell. That shames me. "Is…is she okay?"
"Not really, but she will be. She's got Tristan. He'll make sure she's straight."
"That's good then."
We drift off, both peering everywhere but at each other. I stare out into the yard. The flowerbeds will need to be weeded soon. Dandelions keep popping up all over the place.
"Are you staying for long?" I ask to fill the silence and then peek up at him.
He's watching me this time, a furrow between his brows.
"Didn't plan on it, but who knows?" He shrugs, that furrow growing deeper. His face is so much more severe than it used to be. There's a darkness there, a wildness that I only ever saw once—the day he got into a fight with Cody Love in the park because Cody was talking shit about me. There was murder in his eyes that day, and I see it there again now.
He's not the same boy he used to be. He's all man now, with ten years' worth of history I know nothing about. It weighs heavily on him. The haunted weariness in his eyes leaves me with the distinct impression that he carries the weight of the whole world on his broad shoulders and has for a long time.
"I never hated you," I whisper to him, my heart hurting at the evidence that life hasn't been easy for him. It kills me a little to know I put some of that weight there. That he carries it because of me…because I was a selfish little girl who lashed out just so I didn't have to hurt alone. "I was hurt and angry, and I wanted you to hurt too. But I never hated you, Cade. I never wanted you to leave."
"You should have hated me," he whispers back, his expression so solemn and serious it sends tears slipping down my cheeks. "You should still hate me. I took everything from you."
"It wasn't your fault," I argue, shaking my head. "I never blamed you. You shouldn't blame yourself either."
He gives me a sad smile. "You always saw more in me than was there. I never deserved you." The self-loathing in his voice breaks me.
"You're wrong. I was the one who didn't deserve you." I dash away the tears blurring my vision and give him a watery smile. "You were always larger than life to me, my own personal hero. And now look at you. You're an honest to God hero."
Cade chuckles, the deep sound hitting me low in my stomach. Heat floods through me in a warm rush.
"I'm no one's hero, sweetheart."
"I bet your friend's girl would tell you different," I argue, though I'm not sure why. Clearly, he doesn't see himself the way I always have. Back then, I never would have envisioned him as a cop, but it fits him. He was born to save lives and take down criminals. I'm proud of him.
"T saved his girl, January. I was just there to keep him from destroying himself to do it." His expression twists and he holds his hands up, palms facing me. He hits me with a look of such intense self-hatred it pins me to my chair and steals my breath. "I'm not the hero of this story or any other. I've got so much blood on my hands I'll never wash clean."
I flinch, taken aback by how easily those words roll off his tongue. The powerful emotion in his eyes reflects in his voice, running so deep it's overwhelming.
"You should get out of here for a few days," he says, pushing away from the post. "Kaleo isn't fucking around. He wants the park and you're only going to get yourself hurt trying to fight him on it."
"I'm not going anywhere, Cade."
"Why not?" he asks, clearly exasperated with me. He throws his hands up again, flinging his arms wide this time. "Open your eyes, baby girl. This place is falling the fuck apart. It was a shithole when we were growing up and it's a shithole now. The only thing here worth saving is you."
Anger courses through me at his words. I jump to my feet and glare at him. "It may be a shithole, but it matters to me. I'm not going to run and hide while Kaleo strolls in and takes it from me. Everything else I love is gone. He doesn't get to take what's left. I won't let him."
"Dammit, January," he groans and I can't tell if he's pissed at me for refusing or if he's just annoyed at being back here in general. It doesn't matter either way. Once upon a time, I would have given him anything he asked for, no questions asked. But that was then and this is now. He might not be willing to fight for this block any longer, but I am. It's the only thing I have left to fight for.
"Maybe you can turn your back on your home," I growl at him, desperately wanting to stomp my foot and throw a tantrum like I did when I was little. "But I can't. I won't. I will fight to keep that bastard off this block until I can't fight anymore."
"You're going to get yourself killed."
"Then at least I'll die having stood for something."
Sometimes, I think maybe dying wouldn't be so bad. How fucked up is that? I'm so miserable I think dying would be a relief. That's not normal. It's not healthy. But sometimes I think it anyway.
"Goddammit," he swears. "I don't have time for this shit right now."
That hurts. I flinch before I can stop myself. "I never asked you to stay," I snap, slamming my hands down on my hips to scowl at him. "Go back to Seattle, Cade. I don't need your help."
He grabs me before I can storm inside the house. Sparks of electric fire dance up my arm, shooting off in all directions from where his fingers wrap around my upper arm. He's so much bigger than me…his fingers touch easily. His steely blue-gray eyes meet mine, so dark gray they're almost black. His nostrils flare as his expression turns feral, predatory…hungry.
The stark need shining in his eyes has me licking my lips. My nipples harden, my traitorous body blooming for him.
A guttural groan breaks from his lips and then, somehow, he has me pinned to the front door with my hands in his hair and my legs wrapped around his waist.
"Fuck," he curses, then his lips are on mine. He kisses me like a man possessed. There's nothing sweet or gentle about the way he takes my mouth. It's possessive, predatory, and so damn right.
This is what's been missing for the last decade. Him and the intense feelings he sends hurtling through me like a comet. With his lips on mine, I feel alive, like I'm finally, finally living instead of just going through the motions.
His body is hard everywhere. He grinds me down on the obvious bulge in his jeans as he attacks my mouth, claiming it like he owns it…owns me. I cry out against his lips, pleasure hitting me hard and fast. My fingers dance through his hair, tugging and pulling.
An inferno rages between us. Years of overwhelming need tears me apart as he kisses me so hard I know I'll remember the feel of his lips on mine for the rest of my life. This kiss is like none he's ever given me before. It's powerful, potent…and perfect.
I can't give this up. With his lips on mine, I know I'll never be over him. I'll never be ready to move on. And I don't want to be.
"Cade," I whisper, wiggling in his arms, desperate for friction where I need it most. Desperate for him. He's the only man who has ever touched me. I ache for him. God, I ache so badly. "Cade, please. I need you so much."
His body goes taut at my desperate confession. His hands tighten on my ass for a split second and then he pulls away. I cry out, hating the way it feels when his big body no longer pins me to the door. When his lips break from mine. When he's no longer in my personal space, possessing it.
He slides me down his body until my feet touch the worn wood, then he releases me entirely.
He's breathing hard, his chest rising and falling like he just ran five miles. His eyes meet mine, his expression so severe that it steals my breath all over again. He's definitely all man now, grown up and so powerful. It's honestly a little breathtaking to see him like this. With his hair all messed up, his cheeks flushed, and his eyes on fire, he's the sexiest thing I've ever seen in my life.
"Go inside, January," he rumbles when I lick my lips, savoring the taste of him on them.
"Now!" he barks.
I jump at the loud crack of sound. Tears fill my eyes, rejection burning through me hot and fast.
His thunderous expression softens. He reaches out and tugs gently on a strand of my hair, exactly like he always did when we were kids and he wanted to comfort me. The corner of his lip turns up in a sardonic half smile. "I'm the last thing you need. I'll just fuck up your life all over again," he whispers and then he turns and jogs down the steps.
"You were the only thing I ever needed," I whisper to his back.
He hesitates for a split second, pausing mid-step, then he shakes his head. "Maybe one day I'll be the kind of man you deserve, but I'm not him now, January. I'm still the monster at the end of this book. I always have been."
His heavy sigh speaks volumes, and each one of them shatters another little piece of my heart.
"Every goddamn day without you was wrong, baby girl," he whispers, his voice rough with pain. "That doesn't make this right. I already destroyed you once. I won't do it again now."
Ayden K. Morgen is the Amazon Bestselling author of the Ragnarök Prophesies series. She lives in the heart of Arkansas with her childhood sweetheart/husband of fifteen years, and their furry minions. When not writing, she spends her time hiking, reading, volunteering, causing mischief, and building a Spork army.
She graduated summa cum laude with her Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and Forensic Psychology in 2009 before going on to complete her graduate degree in CJ and Law.
She puts her education to use as a 911 Dispatch Supervisor, where she's responsible for leading a team of dispatchers as they watch over police, EMS, and firefighters for her county. Her books feature law enforcement officers, the women who love them, and the difficult cases that drive them.
Fun Facts about Fight for You Guest Post by Ayden K. Morgen
Fight for You is probably my most favorite book that I've ever written. I've been waiting a really long time to write it…nine years to be exact! In order to write this one, I had to finish several others so the timelines played out correctly.
Despite thinking up this story nine years ago, Michael and January still surprised me many, many times during the course of writing! Their story is sweet, steamy, and full of action and drama.
Here are some other fun facts about the story.
Characters from three different book series (the All Falls Down duo, The Teplo Trilogy, & Her Best Friend's Father series) converge in this book, which starts a brand new series about secondary characters from all those other books. I had to finish all those other stories to get to this point, which took a lot longer than anticipated!
2. Michael Kincaid first appears in Ravished, where he helps Tristan and Lillian with their own story, and he's kind of an enigma. It's obvious that there's more to him than meets the eye, but no one is sure just what's lurking behind that gangbanger persona of his.
3. There are over 450 active gangs in Los Angeles. While writing this book, I discovered that there is actually a Google Map layer that shows what gang holds what territory in the city. You can access it here. The various colors represent different gangs and their territory. The layer also includes some information on the gangs themselves (below). It's pretty cool!
4.Michael and January's block is an actual block in Los Angeles. It sits on the west edge of Compton, close to West Rancho Dominquez. I circled it and drew an arrow on the map below. In reality, the gang who claims that territory is the West Side Pirus.
5. The Monster at the End of This Book, a Sesame Street book about Grover, plays a big role in this story. The graffiti background on the cover of Fight for You is a nod to the brick wall on the cover of that book. If you've never read the children's book, you can find an animated version on Youtube here. It's adorable.
6. It only took me about six weeks to write the first draft of this story…and about twice that to rewrite parts and edit it all into something that made sense. I cried my way through certain scenes every single time!
7. Editing largely consisted of doing a search of every curse word known to man and deleting some of them. Michael curses a LOT. I'm honestly impressed by his commitment to cursing. He takes it very seriously.
8. I got the names January, Jana, and Titan from mythology, which I love. Jana was the wife/sister of Janus in Roman mythology, and was a goddess of new beginnings, mysteries, and secrets. She presided over the month of January, which is a time of new beginnings. The Titans were the twelve children of Gaia and Uranus who came before the Greek pantheon we're most familiar with.
9. Fight for You consists of two different timelines: the past and the present. Scenes from the past show how Michael and January's relationship unfolded and progressed from the time they were little kids, and how the very bad thing that tore them apart happened when they were eighteen and twenty-one. I LOVED getting to write this coming-of-age part of the story. It's all hopeful and full of young love and it's so dang sweet. In the present, Michael and January reunite when a gang leader from the past begins to threaten her. Naturally Michael swoops in to save her, setting off a string of events that neither could have anticipated.
10. You're going to want to bring tissues along with you when you read this one. It's sweet and steamy in parts, funny in others, and then really sad and kind of dark in places! I hope you love it as much as I do.
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