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5 Rounds: Epilogue


Three years later

I’m sitting cross-legged on the hotel bed, my computer in front of me and several loose-leaf sheets from my notebook scattered around me. I also have about several pens tucked into the messy bun on top of my head.

When Tristan walks into the room and sees me, he grins. ‘That frazzled, huh? Usually you only have four pens lost in your hair.’

I blush and pull the pens out. Even after publishing two bestsellers, I’m still just as chaotic with my writing process as I was in the beginning. Each pen is a sign that I’m so lost in my thoughts, I’ve forgotten I already have one available to me in my hair.

Once it’s free of all writing tools, I shake my hair free of its tie and smile at my husband. ‘Well, you look a little better than you did twelve hours ago.’

He snorts and rolls his eyes. ‘Just a little.’ He throws his bag on the ground and launches himself on the bed, ignoring my squeak when he crushes all my notes.

Twelve hours ago, he was leaving our hotel room to cut the last few pounds before weigh-ins. He’s never been a big fan of huge weight cuts before fights but cutting even ten pounds in twenty-four hours will make a man grumpy.

‘Everything go okay?’ I ask as he settles his head in my lap. I lean back against the headboard and start to run my fingers through his hair.

‘Yup. Got the last few pounds off this morning and weighed in right at 185 at weigh-ins. I feel great. I’m glad I didn’t do a huge cut this time.’ He reaches up to twirl a strand of my still-blonde hair around his finger. ‘I hung out with the guys for a while so I could rehydrate and snack, and then we went out for a late lunch. Found a great steakhouse not far from here. I’ll probably pass out early tonight but at least I’m in the eye of the storm for the rest of the day today. Nothing to do but relax and enjoy my wife. Then tomorrow the stress starts back up again.’

I smile down at him. ‘You’re going to do great. My fight gut is telling me we’re coming home with that belt tomorrow.’

He grins and tugs on my hair. ‘Your fight gut, huh? Well God knows that thing has never been wrong.’ He sobers and looks around the hotel room. ‘Are you hungry? Did you order anything today?’

I shake my head. ‘I haven’t been hungry lately. I think I’m so wrapped up in this new book that I forget to eat sometimes. I’ll order some room service tonight.’

He nods at my answer, then stands up to grab his bottle of Pedialyte to rehydrate with. He takes a few swallows before leaning against the hotel dresser and facing me.

‘Did you talk to my parents today?’ he asks.

I smile at the knowledge that his parents are no longer a stressor for him. He wouldn’t have brought them up on a day like this if he were anything other than comfortable talking about it. God knows it was a long road, but his parents have finally accepted the fact that Tristan chose his own path in life. They might not understand it—even now—but they do respect it. And they’ve stopped trying to convince him to quit fighting and take a corporate job.

‘I talked to your mom a little bit ago,’ I tell him. ‘There’s two tickets for them at Will Call tomorrow night so they’ll be sitting with me. Your mom is nervous, obviously, but I think your dad might actually be a little curious about the fight.’

At that, a surprised smile appears on Tristan’s face. I decide not to tell him that his idiot brother is still blowing up my phone, begging for tickets for him and his golf buddies. Scott is still the same spoiled prick he always was, and the only reason he wants tickets now is because he likes bragging that his brother is fighting for the UFC Middleweight Title of the world.

Some things might never charge. We just need to focus on the things that have.

I watch Tristan cross his arms and stare across the room. I can practically feel him zoning out, distancing himself from any thoughts of the fight. He likes to distract himself the night before his fights, so we talk about everything and nothing. It gives his brain a chance to relax before everything changes when he wakes up the next morning. I smile and wait for whatever random topic is springing to his mind right now.

‘I think I want to change my schedule at the gym,’ he starts. He’s still staring out the window with a dazed look in his eyes. ‘It was hard balancing my training with teaching during this fight camp but it’s going to be ten times worse after I win this belt. Coach suggested I pick between teaching classes and offering privates.’

I nod my agreement. Tristan was always a hard worker, but his training camp got insane before this title fight. And they say that winning the title is actually easier than keeping it so he’s not wrong about things getting harder after tomorrow. He spreads himself too thin by teaching so much. I make a mental note to thank Coach for somehow talking some sense into Tristan.

‘Privates are the smarter financial decision, though it would probably be good for gym appearances if I kept teaching at least one class a week.’ Tristan cocks his head in thought, mulling something over. I lean my head against the headboard and close my eyes, relaxing into the sound of his stream of consciousness. I will never get tired of listening to him talk. ‘I could keep Mondays on my schedule. I’ll use it as my rest day and teach the MMA class at night. Maybe I’ll even teach the kids class at 5:00. They’re actually easier than the adults to teach.’

‘God knows you’re going to need the practice,’ I mumble.

But then my brain catches up to my mouth and my eyes snap open when I realize what I just blurted out. My eyes dart to where Tristan is still leaning against the dresser.

He’s no longer unfocused or staring into the distance. His normal, piercing gaze is back, and it’s fully directed at me. I don’t see confusion or shock in his eyes—I just see him studying me, trying to dissect the words that just left my mouth.

I press trembling fingers to my lips, as if I can keep any more secrets from spilling. ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t want to tell you before the fight,’ I whisper. ‘I didn’t want to distract you.’

At that, his eyes go wide. His gaze immediately drops down to my stomach. After a moment, he meets my wide-eyed stare with a shocked look of his own. ‘You’re… you’re pregnant?’ he asks.

Fingers still pressed to my lips, I nod.

After he proposed, it was like a switch had flipped in his brain. I watched him realize he no longer needed to be the perpetual bachelor, and instead could have the life that he never knew he wanted. That he now felt he wouldn’t be happy without. He wanted the wife, the kids, the house in the suburbs. He would get so happy when he’d talk about being a dad someday. And it practically ruined my ovaries to hear him talk about what he wanted to teach them, and what kind of parent he wanted to be. He was already so excited.

So, although this is sooner than we planned, I know the joy that’s about to erupt out of Tristan the second he gets over his shock.

I drop my hands into my lap and tell him with a broken sob, ‘You’re going to be a dad. We’re going to have a baby.’

My tears seem to snap him out of his daze. He strides quickly over to the bed and pulls me over to the side of it so he can kneel on the floor between my legs.

‘Why are you crying?’ he asks softly as he thumbs away my tears, his look of shock being replaced by one of awe.

At that, a wet laugh breaks out of me. I reach forward to run a hand through Tristan’s hair, wanting more contact between us in this moment. ‘Because I’m pregnant and emotional. Get used to it.’

He turns his awed look down to my stomach. Slowly, tentatively, he places his hand on me. My tears threaten to overflow again so I try to distract myself by pressing my hands over his. ‘You’re going to be a dad,’ I whisper again.

Finally, finally, a smile appears on his face. Then it stretches into an ear-to-ear grin. And suddenly the whole room fills with his happiness and I think I might drown from the feeling of it.

‘You’re going to be a mom,’ he says simply. And just hearing those words makes the reality of everything crash down on me. Another broken, happy sob tears from my throat as I throw my arms around his neck.

He stokes my back and murmurs soothing words in my ear, comfortable with the silence that allows us both to deal with the news in our own way.

I can sense when something occurs to him because his fingers freeze in their path along my spine. Sniffling, I pull back to look at him questioningly.

‘When did you find out?’ he finally asks. ‘Were you really going to wait until after the fight?’

I laugh at the absurdity of it—at the fact that I thought I could keep this from him. ‘I only took the test two days ago. You probably didn’t notice but I’ve been an annoying grump the past week and I haven’t really had an appetite. That’s why I took the test.’

Tristan winces and buries his face in my neck. ‘Fuck, baby, I’m sorry. I should’ve noticed. You shouldn’t have to do anything alone.’

I wrap my arms around my husband and turn to smile against his hair. The fact that he’s upset he missed the signs is such a pure sign of his love for me that I feel like I fall for him all over again in this moment.

‘Tristan, you’re about to walk into the fight that you’ve spent your entire adult life training for. I didn’t want you to notice me. I wanted you to focus on yourself.’ He breathes a ragged exhale against my skin but nods as he pulls back to look at me again.

I start running my fingers through his hair again. ‘I definitely wasn’t going to tell you while you were worrying about cutting weight, but I thought I could at least make it until after the fight, so I wouldn’t distract you. So much for that plan.’

Tristan smiles and shakes his head. ‘It probably would’ve been a little jarring if you told me right before I walked out to the cage, but you could’ve told me any other time. You didn’t have to hide it from me.’ He wraps his arms around my waist and pulls me tight against his chest. ‘I love you. And I love our baby. This could only make me happy.’

Warmth blossoms in my chest at his words. I smile and lean forward to press my lips against his. He tightens his grip on me, intensifying the kiss and letting me feel every ounce of his happiness.

Just like it still does even three years later, it doesn’t take long for our kiss to carry us away. He coaxes my lips open and slides his tongue against mine, drawing a heady whimper out of me. I try to press closer to him, but I just end up rocking my hips against him.

Tristan pulls away with a strangled curse. He leans his forehead against mine, both of us panting from the heated kiss. ‘I am going to fuck you so hard after this fight is over,’ he growls. ‘We’re not leaving the bed next week. It’ll be like our honeymoon all over again.’

I shiver at the memory of our trip to the Maldives. Our hunger for each other never died down so we really did give the honeymoon suite a run for its money. We came back from that trip more exhausted than when we left.

A thought makes Tristan frown. He turns to me with suspicion and asks, ‘Do I need to fuck you differently now that you’re pregnant? Do I need to be gentle now?’

The idea of Tristan doing anything other than fucking me into whatever surface he has me on is laughable. I actually giggle at the thought, which makes him even more suspicious.

I smile at the loving, protective man in front of me. ‘No, you do not need to be gentler. The only thing that’s going to change in our lives is my lack of coffee and the possibility of constant tears.’

He stares at me with wide eyes, as if he’s hearing the news all over again. He shakes his head to clear himself from his daze. ‘Fuck, this is so surreal,’ he mumbles. ‘I’m not really sure what to do now.’

I wrap my arms around his neck and force him to look me in the eyes. ‘Now, you go win that belt,’ I tell him firmly. ‘That’s the only thing you focus on for the next twenty-four hours. Everything else we can figure out later. You’ve been waiting for this moment your whole life and you are going to show everyone exactly why you’re the best goddamn middleweight fighter in the entire world. You and I both know that belt is coming home with us tomorrow. So that’s what you focus on. Sex and food and baby talk can wait a few days. We’re not going anywhere.’

Riveted by my words while I’m talking, by the time I finish Tristan lets out a ragged breath and nods once. I can practically see his resolve hardening as he mentally vows to focus on the fight for the next twenty-four hours.

But not before burying his face in my hair and tightening his arms around me again. Not before he whispers, ‘I love you so goddamn much. Sometimes it actually hurts.’

My tears threaten to overflow again. But this time it’s from the amount of happiness filling my lungs that I never knew was possible—as opposed to just pregnancy hormones.

So, I let the tears fall. I let them fall, and I hug my husband as I think about how happy I am and how thankful I am for this life that we’ve created.

Now, we just need a championship belt.


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