Undefeated (Unexpected Book 5), page 1
Copyright ©2016 by Claudia Y. Burgoa
Cover Design by Hang Le
Edited by Holly Malgieri
Interior Design & Formatting by Christine Borgford, Perfectly Publishable
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, brands, media, places, story lines and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, or any events or occurrences, is purely coincidental.
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Unlike Any Other Excerpt
Also By Claudia Burgoa
About the Author
For those who fight their demons, because everyone deserves a second chance in life.
Thank you to the heroes, who rescued Undefeated after a couple of incidents.
Paulina, who has been part of this family since day one. She helped me with the developmental part. There aren’t enough words to explain what you did for this book. Thank you!
Melissa Taegel Parnell, thank you for helping me shape this story, for all your support and for loving Porter since the beginning.
Kristi Falteisek. Where do I start? Thank you so much for being our advocate, for spreading the word about the Deckers. And for coming to my rescue when I need you. Including shaping Undefeated into this wonderful book. #TeamILovePorter. Love you much.
Thank you to Holly, Hang, Gloria, and Christine; thanks to you ladies the manuscript became the book.
My beta readers: Suzanne, Christine, Becca, Kaila, and Pam. Thank you ladies for going through the manuscript during the different stages of the process. For your love and support to the Deckers and to me. You’re part of the Decker family, and part of me. Hugs, and much love to you.
A huge thank you to my babes, who help a little with the content, and are such a lovely group. To all my readers and Decker supporters. Thank you so much for all your love.
Last, but not least. My family. The hubs who encourages, and cheers this crazy journey I decided to take. And of course my children who are the three most amazing people I’ve met.
The series began with an idea, and became a entire series about a family. They are the beginning of my journey. Because I not only want to write love stories, I want to write contemporary romance books that deal with real love with all its forms. But with Undefeated, the fifth book, it’s time to let the Deckers step away from the spotlight.
Wow, I can’t believe this is the last book of the Unexpected series—for now. When I wrote the last scene I couldn’t contain the tears. These characters have been with me for almost two years. They’re my babies. And they’ll forever be in part of me—of my heart.
Of course this isn’t the last you hear from them. I plan to write a spinoff or two about Chris and Gabe’s grandchildren. Can you imagine them as grandparents? Plus, you’ll see the Deckers crossing over some of the upcoming series.
I hope you enjoy Porter’s journey. It’s not only about love, but second chances and … family ties.
After you finish the book, and if you enjoyed it. Please, do me a big favor and leave a review. Let other readers know about it and spread the word.
Thank you much,
The sound of the blades cutting through the wind deafens me as my immobilized body is wheeled out of the helicopter. Voices are muffled by the thwap-thwap-thwap-thwap sound and the squeaking of the wheels are the only sound I can make out until the squealing doors opening and closing isolate the outside noise.
“Move it people, let’s take him in to clean those wounds and start a series of X-rays,” a male voice interrupts over the chatter. “Call the orthopedic surgeon. Looks like his wrist will require more than adjusting. I want him on standby in case we have to operate soon.”
My eyelids are heavy. My mouth is in no great shape either. Every cell of my body hurts. I made it out of that hellhole where they tortured me, but I’m not sure if I’m going to make it. Knowing that these may be my last moments, my mind drifts back to her. My girl. I see those bright emerald eyes that have captivated me since the day I met her. The same eyes that have kept me going since I was kidnapped.
She became my lifeline the moment I first laid eyes on her. There wasn’t a day where I wouldn’t go above and beyond to be the boy, and eventually, the man she needed me to be. Except when I was weak and couldn’t keep my promises. Those times when I fucked up and forgot she was my reason to exist. Fuck, I’m jolted out of my memory as someone takes my wrist and I feel a pinch. A needle slides in, followed by a cold liquid rushing through my system.
“He should be out soon,” I hear a female voice drift in and then I’m gone.
I hear a constant beep-beep-beep in the back of my head. This time, when I fight to open my eyes, I’m able to see the light through the narrow slits. The pain is gone, but so is my mobility. A collar traps my neck; my arms are covered with plaster along with my legs. Plastic tubes snake around my arms, attached by needles on my left hand. As I move my eyes, I find him. Mason Bradley is in the corner of my room speaking with one of his men. I recognize the man’s face, but can’t remember his name.
Mason’s hands gesture animatedly as he speaks, “The doctor explained that he has some broken bones, several bruises, burns, and cuts all over his body. He was in surgery for a few hours, something about internal bleeding and screws to set the bones back together.” That explains the white plaster and the grogginess. “He’ll need a few more surgeries to reconstruct part of his face. The doctor plans on keeping him for a while.”
A while? This sounds fucked up, but I don’t have a penny to my name
“I never thought I’d feel bad for the fucker. That’s a lot of shit for one person.” I hear Mason tell the stranger. “Even for him.”
The other man scratches the back of his head and shakes it before he speaks, “Well, let me know if you need anything. I’ll be at home for the next couple of days.”
“Yeah, take care of yourself, Kowalski.”
My eyes are heavy, but the curiosity makes me fight to keep them open. Why is Mason Bradley here?
Out of all the people I know, he’s the last person I’d expect to see here.
“Kendrick?” His eyes land on me. “Are you awake?”
Though I try to say yes, my voice sounds like a mumble.
“Good, I called the Deckers. They should be arriving soon; we don’t have much time to talk.” He takes a few steps closer and his hateful gaze doesn’t change. “This is your last warning—stay away from Ainsley Janine. She’s off limits. Next time you get close to her, I’ll be the one pulling the trigger. You put her and the entire Decker family in danger, Kendrick. The people you’re mixed up with shoot before asking questions. I’ve got to be honest, I expected to find your dead body. Celebrate your miraculous recovery by keeping your distance from all of them. Because if I ever see you again, it’ll be your funeral. Got it?”
He pivots and heads back to the corner not waiting for an answer. I refrain from asking him about my condition, or thanking him for saving my life. That can be said later when I’m better, or . . . my thoughts stop, as AJ rushes through the door. She comes to a halt when she spots me, her soft gasp filling the room. The moment her eyes find mine, she halts and the worry in her eyes disappears. She turns her head slightly and immediately her body relaxes, her lips stretch into a smile and her eyes brighten the way they usually do when she’s happy. She sees him. They shine for him, as if he’s the only man in the room—in the world. A burning sensation ignites in my chest and every part of me is aware of one thing.
She’s no longer mine.
“You idiot.” She walks toward him and they stare at each other. Mason’s head tilts down and his eyes soften. The smile he gives her is unbelievable for a badass like him. The man who usually punches your face before asking questions gives her a look full of love. She throws her arms around him and their conversation becomes private—intimate.
Bradley clears his throat and his voice interrupts the exchange they had, which just fucking killed my soul. “Bruised, broken, but he’ll live. You guys planning on caring for him?”
“Not sure. I heard my parents talking about sending him to some hospital to help him with his rehabilitation.” There’s no anger in her voice, no resentment. “After everything he has put us through, we can’t do much for him. There’s no way for us to put all that shit aside and try to deal with who he’s become.”
Mason’s words come back and this might be the last chance I have to talk to her. Unless I can convince her that I’ve changed, that I’m a different person.
You can do it; she’s always had a soft spot for you. Make her listen to you. You can’t lose her, fucker.
“AJ?” I call her.
She rises on her tiptoes, kisses him, and walks to me. “How are you, Porter? I hope much better than you look.” As her eyes travel over my body, she flinches a couple of times.
“All hurts,” I struggle to breathe, but I won’t let that stop me from trying to talk her into taking me back. “This time, I thought I wouldn’t make it.”
“The doctors will make it better.” She pats my hand with that nurturing care she’s shown me since the first time we met. Fuck, I need that to recover. Her love. Her care. All of her, but that soft-loving look she used to give me is all gone. Her eyes are neutral. There’s no hate, no love, no nothing left inside her for me. “By the time you’re out, there won’t be any pain.”
A loud laugh goes off inside my head. There’s an unbearable pain inside my heart, my chest. Every inch of my body hurts because not only has she stopped loving me—somebody else took my place.
“There’s one that will remain deep in my chest,” I confess. “The excruciating ache of knowing that I not only lost the love of my life, but that the love of my life is now in love with someone else will never fade away. Baby, I lost you. You were the only person in this world who ever loved me, AJ.”
Her gaze drops as she bites her lip. For a few seconds we connect at the level we used to. The brief connection is a final goodbye. What happened to being soul mates? I want to ask her, remind her that we were supposed to have an endless love. Something that no one will touch.
Soul mates are forever. Aren’t they?
“Goodbye, Port,” AJ whispers. “I wish you the best.”
No, no. Don’t leave me I want to scream, but my lips remain closed tight.
She turns around, walking to him. Mason Bradley. The man who has always been there for her through thick and thin. One call and the fucker would appear. They’ve always had that fucking connection that I could never break. No matter what I did, no matter how many times I tried to keep them apart or forbid her to talk to him, she ignored me. Understanding dawns—he’s her soulmate. Maybe she never belonged to me the way I thought.
Fuck, this can’t be happening. I need her. Don’t take her away from me; I want to beg Mason.
Instead, I call out to him as they leave, “Mason. Thank you for rescuing me. I guess the best man won. Be smart and don’t throw away the best thing that can ever happen in your life: being loved by Ainse.”
He doesn’t acknowledge me, his jaw tightening as they leave. My lungs burn. I’m about to close my eyes to avoid shedding any tears when MJ and JC Decker enter the room.
Two cold stares are directed at me. “We’re fucking done with you,” Jacob growls. “No matter what the parental units say, you stay away from us. In fact, we’ve decided that Porter Kendrick has retired.”
My gaze switches to MJ, who is easier to talk to. The guy always looks after others. Hell, he saved my life once. Maybe he can change Jacob’s mind. Music is the only shit I know how to do. I never finished college because . . . why would I? I had my career and I made it big. I’m Porter Fucking Kendrick. The public loves me. As long as there’s a studio willing to take me, I should be fine.
“Retired.” Matthew, the mellow one of the three, repeats. “Our connections know that you’re out of the business. Sorry, dude, but after what you did to AJ and the shit you put our parents through, well, it’s time to take care of you our way.”
“Matthew!” Chris’ severe voice comes from the door. “He’s family.”
“Dude, he’s the kid that you picked up from the streets and repaid you by fucking the entire family all over,” Matthew responds.
“Matthew, I’m your father!”
“Pops, sorry but it’s done,” Jacob’s voice is neutral. No disrespect to his father but he’s not backing down. “We Deckers protect each other, not destroy each other. He’s not a Decker.”
His words stab through my heart.
I’m not a Decker.
Both brothers leave the room. Gabe and Chris remain in the room, staring down at me and then at each other. “Gabe, talk to him. Jacob listens to you better than he does me.”
“That’s a lie, babe. And no, I won’t talk to him.”
My breath hitches; they can’t abandon me. Can’t they see how I look? I’m in the freaking hole. If they do this, I’m fucking done forever.
“Porter, you have to help yourself, son.” Chris pats my hand just the same way AJ did earlier. “Pull yourself together.”
“We’re taking care of the hospital bills and paying for the rehabilitation center, Porter,” Gabe informs me with his cool, business-like voice. “The place we chose will help you physically and mentally.”
“My music, Gabe. Please, talk to them,” I beg because MJ and JC have a lot of connections. They’re not only great musicians, but they’re the sons of Chris Decker, a rock legend. If they say shit about me, I’m fucked for life. “That’s the only way I know how to survive.”
“Twelve years ago, when I found you, I saw possibilities,” Gabe says, running a hand through his hair. “A child that had escaped and tried to survive. This was my chance to save someone like my husband. Back then I thought, if only he had a chance to find a family that loved him . . . That’s why we opened our house and our family to you. I won’t talk to anyone, Porter. But do you know why?” His eyes soften and he gives me a sad smile. “Because we love you like a son, Porter. You can’t handle fame. It’s your downfall. College, kid. Finish school and find another way.”
“We love you, but the doors to our home are closed to you, Porter,” Chris tells me holding his husband’s hand. “Take care of yourself, kid.”
The last time I shed tears was when I woke up in the hospital and a nurse told me that my mommy had gone to heaven and she wouldn’t come back for me. I had no idea where that heaven was, but I understood that I was alone. Mom never returned and today I lost the only people who had cared about me.
It’s in your smile,
The way they see me
With you I’m invincible
Because it’s only me and you
Me and you, no matter where you are
I own your heart and you own mine
You gave me the strength to be who I am
I abruptly tap the guitar strings, stopping the music. My fingers can’t move from one string to the next fast enough. The strength is almost back. But the only songs I come up with are the first ones I composed to my girl. Fuck. This shit isn’t helping. My counselor insists that I have to move on. I need to forget AJ Colthurst-Decker. It is so fucking hard because my physical therapist encourages me to play the guitar to strengthen my fingers. These days, I listen to the PT guy, because music keeps her alive. Her memory is what keeps me going. I remember everything about her, including the first day I saw her, as if it was yesterday.