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Copyright ©2013 Ana Raine
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Kai Masami's fist burned, ached with the pounding he had delivered moments earlier. The culprit: an unsuspecting wall beside a hanging mirror in his rented dressing room. He liked the pain he felt in his fist -- it reminded him that he was alive. He could hear the screaming roars of fans awaiting the hopefully gory fight between two men competing for a championship title.
Not that tonight's fight in particular would be enough to gain him a title shot. But it was one fight that would up his chances and move him forward. Being a fighter for the Ultimate Fighting Championship organization created that feeling of always wanting to be better. There were plenty of other fighters in the UFC circuit, in all different weight classes. If he was to stand out enough for a certain man to notice him, then he could never be satisfied with what he had.
Truth be told, Kai had once wanted this dream with a passion that made him itch with anticipation. He had wished, almost prayed for, the chance to be where he was now, in one of the lightest weight class, bantamweight, with only a few fights left before he could go to Japan and fight for the UFC's division in Japan: Pride. Years had gone by quickly, and standing in front of the mirror now, Kai realized it wasn't his twenty-three year old body that discouraged him, so much as the fact that the image looking back at him was male.
Dark hair fitting of his Japanese heritage, kept only long enough so he could tuck the longest strands behind his ear. Freckles under dark eyes, highlighting his golden skin, and muscles that were carved, although not bulky. Standing only five feet six, he didn't think he was half bad. For a guy...
His collarbone was high and protruded from his skin, his nipples sticking out only slightly from well-defined pecs overlooking a toned stomach. If only his nipples were part of breasts and his abs sat above something other than a hard member, then maybe the reason he continued to fight would notice him.
A door shutting behind him forced him away from thoughts he probably shouldn't reflect on.
"Ready yet?" Jaden, a small man with dark hair and dark eyes, panted. "Jesus, you aren't, are you?"
Kai shrugged. "Almost. Just thinking."
"I've known you for five years," Jaden said, thumbing through his iPhone. It had been a present from Kai last Christmas, a thank you for being his manager for so long. "You can beat the shit out of this guy."
"What's his name again?"
"Kyle something or another. Does it matter?"
"Kind of." How could he fight someone without respecting him, and how could that happen if he didn't even know his name?
"Oh yeah, you like to be all noble and stuff." Jaden sighed. "I think his last name is Kitjer."
"Kyle Kitjer. That's a strange combination."
"Yeah, so..." Jaden pocketed his phone and moved toward Kai. Touching him was normal, so was the warm massage gel he put over Kai's shoulders to keep him from tensing. Kai found his thoughts drifting. "Hey, did Liam come to watch?"
Jaden came to stand in front of Kai, eyeing him suspiciously. "He always comes with his dad."
Liam Evans was a rich young man, the son of Kai's main sponsor. Hitting on him had been an accident at a gathering party a few years ago, a mistake he wouldn't be making again. If Kai wanted to keep his future title spot secure, offending Evans Enterprise by seducing the only son of Bradley Evans was probably a bad idea.
"Here." Kai fished through his pocket until he found his omamori, a soft pouch with the Japanese kanji for strength and protection painted over it. "Keep it safe."
"I always do." Jaden sighed in exasperation. "Although I don't know why you bother carrying this good luck charm around. You haven't lived in Japan since you were what, sixteen?"
"You're supposed to return it after a year, but I haven't gone back yet." Kai's goal was to get to Pride, just to show off what his family had disowned.
"Fight hard and you'll get there," Jaden clapped Kai on the back. A couple of taller men Kai knew from around the training center came to be his escorts for the night.
A scantily clad, dyed-blonde flirted with him on his walk through his fans, which might or might not have been part of her job. Kai smiled and pretended to look at her ass when really he was just wondering if Liam was looking at her too.
Liam would be wearing a dark suit, probably blue or purple, similar to the one he'd worn just before Kai's twenty-first birthday.
* * *
"Why don't you just wear black?" Kai asked, sipping his virgin drink.
"Black is boring," Liam said softly, adding a tone that made Kai feel like he should've understood.
Liam had stared at Kai for a moment before gulping his vodka. "I heard the Japanese like blondes."
In truth, they really did. When Kai was growing up, before he'd told his friends he was gay, they would pass around American magazines with girls who were wearing next to nothing. The favorites were always the blondes. "It's just because almost everyone has dark hair."
"Except for bishounen boys. A lot of them dye it."
Kai was surprised Liam knew about that aspect of his culture. "Well, some boys are really beautiful I guess." Liam licked his lips. "Maybe that's why your fighter name is Pretty Boy, huh?"
Kai wasn't sure if he should allow himself to feel the intense pleasure he wanted to feel. Liam could've just been making conversation, even though Kai had hoped desperately that Liam was calling him beautiful...