Combative - Jay McLean

Prologue

I FLEX MY fingers, watching the dried blood shift around my knuckles. I should be at home icing the shit out of them. But I’m not. Instead, I’m in a tiny room with nothing but a table and two chairs. I don’t know how the fuck I got into this mess. Actually, I do, but the asshole was talking shit and I had no choice.

That’s a lie.

There was a choice.

I made mine and I ended up here.

The door swings open, and a suit walks in; his back to me—talking heatedly with someone on the other side of the door. “I’ll handle it, Pulver,” he says, before shutting the door and then...nothing. He just stands there staring at the closed door. His shoulders heave once, his head moving from side to side. And then slowly, he turns.

The corners of my lips lift, but drop when I see him jerk his head. The action’s so slight that if I weren’t focused on him, I would’ve missed it. His gaze shifts to the camera in the corner of the room. It’s a split second movement, but one I understand. He rolls up the sleeves on his crisp, white shirt and takes the only seat available on the other side of the table. Resting on his forearms, he leans forward. “Parker.”

I smirk. “Officer.”

“Detective,” he corrects.

“Who’d have thought,” I mumble.

His features falter for a second, but only a second before his mask is back in place. He looks down at the open folder in front of him, his eyes scanning the page from side to side, and then he lifts his gaze. “Kyler Parker?” he asks, but he already knows who I am.

I nod once.

His eyes fix on the cuffs digging into my wrists. Letting out a breath with a huff, he leans to one side and shoves his hand in his pocket, revealing a set of keys.

The second he removes the cuffs; there’s a banging on the door.

His eye roll makes me chuckle.

Another suit, a fatter one, stands at the door with his eyes narrowed. “Davis,” is all he says.

“I said I’d handle it!” He stands up and walks to the door, then proceeds to forcefully shut it in fat-suit’s face.

Once he’s settled back in his seat, he resumes his stance from earlier. “You’re in a bit of a mess,” he states.

I nod again.

He pulls a picture from the folder, now settled in the middle of the table, and pushes it under my nose. “You recognize him?”

Another nod.

“You broke his jaw, his nose, busted a rib, and punctured his lung. You also did some heavy damage to his right eye. They don’t know if it will have full functionality again.” He raises an eyebrow. “Was it worth it?”

I clear my throat and lean forward, matching his position.

Amusement fills his eyes. Then, just like that, it’s wiped. “Are you mute?”

I bite my lip to stop from smiling. The taste of my blood hits my tongue.

He hides his smile. “Does it taste like victory?”

I drop my chin to my chest and do my best to keep it together.

The scraping of his chair grabs my attention. He’s on his feet now, working his way over. Stopping next to me, he takes a seat on the edge of the table.

“Ky,” he starts, then pauses for what I assume is dramatic effect. “I can call you Ky, right?” He doesn’t give me a chance to answer before adding, “Here’s the thing. Witnesses say that you had to be pulled off of him, and even then you kept throwing blow after blow. The damage you did—there’s too much of it. Obviously he’s pressing charges, so is the owner of the bar you just trashed because you couldn’t control your temper.”

“Fuck you.”

He raises his eyebrows. Then, clearing his throat, he slowly crosses his arms.

“I could just leave you here. You could go to court—do the whole trial thing. I bet you think your chances of being let off are high—ex-combat vet suffering PTSD...all that shit. But the truth? The truth is it might have worked if we were talking assault, but we’re not. We’re talking attempted murder, Parker.”

I lean back in my chair and look up at him.

“I’m here to make a deal—one that you should take.” He sighs and drops his head, then pushes off the table. Reaching into his back pocket, he pulls out a pair of handcuffs, the same ones I was wearing when he walked in. He circles them around my wrists—looser than they were before. “You have