All He Wants:Billy & Maxi

By: Melanie Shawn
(Crossroads #9)


Chapter 1


“Hey, gorgeous! Do you have a mirror in your pocket, ’cause I can see myself in your pants!”

Seriously?! In the history of mankind, have catcalls ever worked?

Maxine Rizzo kept her gaze straight ahead as her feet pounded in a punishing rhythm on the asphalt beneath her. Sweat dripped down the back of her neck and the muscles in her thighs screamed in protest as she ran past the dozen or so workers that were congregating to begin their day on one of the largest infrastructures she’d ever seen. It ran the entire length of the city block. She purposefully kept her facial expression blank so that they would see no acknowledgement of the shouts and whistles.

“Let me get that number, sexy!” Loud kissing noises followed the request from another Casanova-in-the-making.

Note to self: Adjust run to start fifteen minutes earlier.

The real trick to perfecting her timing was to leave when it was light enough to be reasonably safe, but still finish her five miles before the workers started arriving at the construction site on her route.

She’d be so happy when she could return to her gym and ditch these early morning outdoor runs! Unfortunately, she had no idea when that would be happening. Her world felt like it was slowly unraveling and, no matter how hard she tried to keep the fabric of her life together, it continued shredding into pieces. Every time she thought she had things under control, something would happen to chip away at the carefully constructed walls she’d built around her safe, predictable life.

“You want a workout, I’ll give you a workout, baby!” Out of the corner of her eye, Maxi saw that the man who’d so graciously offered to help with her fitness routine was now thrusting his hips towards her.

Classy.

Her face remained neutral. From experience she’d learned that if her actions were read as intentionally ignoring these advances, or—gasp—being irritated by them, things could easily escalate, far too quickly, into aggressive and scary territory. Words like “baby” suddenly turned into “bitch.” Compliments turned to insults. That’s why she wore both earbuds in her ears even though only the right one worked. They were a great prop to sell the idea that she was oblivious to the unwanted attention. With the left speaker silent, she got to listen to music in her right ear to motivate her, but she was still able to hear things around her. All her life she’d been acutely aware of her surroundings, but over the past six weeks, her caution-sensors had been upgraded to maximum-security levels.

“Lookin’ good, girl!”

“Keepin’ it nice and tight for me!”

As more voices joined in on the “fun,” an all too familiar fear began to spread through her. Just like the men on the scaffolding, she paid zero attention to it. Holding her head high, she kept moving, putting one foot in front of the other, looking straight ahead.

“Look at that ass! I want to wear it as a hat!” That inspired comment garnered cheers and chuckles from the peanut gallery.

Trying to distract herself from the panic that was rising up in her, she shook her head slightly and focused on the fact that these guys really needed to get some fresh material. Over the past two weeks, since she’d been forced to get her cardio in the great outdoors, she’d heard the same come-ons repeatedly. You would think spending hours every day engaged in this behavior would inspire a little originality. It didn’t.

“Dayyyumm, mama! I want to put a baby in you!”

In what world?

Maxi would love someone to give her even one example where coming on to a female by screaming obscene “compliments” her direction had resulted in her responding with anything other than disgust, anger, or fear. Did that behavior breed any happily-ever-after tales? Had true love bloomed from derogatory and demeaning heckling?

A clear picture of an elderly woman holding the wrinkled hand of her husband, as they sat on a porch swing, materialized in Maxi’s head. The couple was surrounded by children eagerly looking up at their grandparents as the grandma leaned down and spoke in a wobbly voice. “I met your granddaddy while I was walking down the street. He yelled to me that he wanted to find out if I looked just as good coming as I did going and I knew he was the one.”

She turned the corner onto the block where she lived and, about halfway down the street, she slowed her pace to a jog to begin her cool down.

At that comical scene, all the terror that had started to swell in her chest evaporated like dry ice hitting air and a smile tugged at her mouth. Thank God for her vivid imagination. That gift had been her surrogate therapist. Whenever life felt like things were closing in on her, she’d escape into her own world. And growing up, it had been her constant companion and entertainment.

At the young age of four, her mom walked out on her and her dad. Being an only child raised by a single father, who worked sixty hours a week, meant her imagination was her source of entertainment.

Not that her dad was absent or that she’d been alone. He wasn’t and she hadn’t. She’d spent her formative years surrounded by people. Men, to be exact. In a gym. A boxing gym. Her dad, the great four-time World Heavyweight Champion Charlie Rizzo, retired from fighting when she was born and transitioned to training fighters. Title-holding, world-championship-winning fighters. And she’d had a front row seat to all the grit and glory. Which had been about as entertaining as watching paint dry to a girl who was more interested in dolls, make-up, and nail polish than uppercuts, knock-outs, and weight classes.

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