If I would have known then what I know now.
If I would have known that having my heart broken at thirteen by my one and only friend, Garrett Rhodes, would never compare to the empty feeling at sixteen when I buried my mother.
If I would have known that changing schools in my senior year would throw all that back in my face.
If someone would have told me that when you drink a fifth a night and get in bar fights at twenty one, I’d end up in jail … again.
Maybe … just maybe … I wouldn’t be in the hell storm I’m living in these days. Letting my past dictate my future, allowing the best of the best male MMA fighters bully me day in and day out and knowing no matter what I do, Garrett will always be the only man that understands me. I didn’t have to live this way. One day changed the course of my life forever.
Through all this mess, the one thing that I’ve found that keeps me centered … martial arts. And I’m damn good. If only someone would give me a chance to prove my worth.
All I can do now is make the best of it and try to not let the fight consume me.
"Ravens are known for being alone, having no problem flying solo."
Raven by Ashley Suzanne is 4.5 knockout stars and a must read for all of those who love a book about the struggle to find your place in the world that has left you virtually alone, searching for acceptance and love.
Rian, or Raven as she latter goes by when she enters the MMA world is a junior in high-school, cheerleader, popular, a typical teenager when she comes home to find her step-father, Tom, threatening her mother. Instinct takes over, and she gets into a physical altercation with Tom while trying to keep her mother from being beaten. Believing that she did the right thing, when she is released from the police station following being question, she never expects her mother to ask her to leave her home and go to live with her aunt, in the hope that once the situation cools down, Rian and Tom will be able to once again reside in the same house. Rian is angry that her mother is not standing by her side and supporting her. Following a verbal fight with her mother, Rian says things out of anger that she later regrets for a long time, because she ends up discovering her mother's body dead, by her own hand.
After the funeral, Rian goes to live with her Aunt in another town and starts a new school mid-year. She keeps her head down and hopes to finish her final year and a half of high-school without any issues so that she can go to college and truly start over. It isn't until she hears her name called in the hallway that every plan she has changes. She cannot believe that he is there, Her Garrett, the boy that was her best friend, her everything, the boy that she had to forget because his military family relocated before she entered high-school. Rian and Garrett picked up right where they left off, as best friends, even though deep down Rian has loved him since she was a little girl.
"You know you're exactly in the right place in life when your reality is better than your dreams"
Rian and Garrett finally admit that they have feelings for each other that are more than mere friendship and they become a couple. The happiness that Rian feels, at finally finding a place where she belongs is quickly deflated when she discovers that in 3 months when Garrett graduates he will be shipping off to Army Boot Camp. After much debate and weighing what life without him would be verses a long distance relationship, they decide that they will stay together. Garrett tells Rian that one day they will be married and have a family. Garrett ships out and the unthinkable happens, Rian's aunt has a heart attack and dies. Now that the last member of her family is gone, the only person she wants to comfort her is Garrett, but he is away at boot camp for several more weeks and then moves on to special training for 6 months. The separation on top of everything else that Rian has gone through has her packing up her stuff and leaving without a word to Garrett or his family.
Rian struggles daily with just existing. Through a series of unfortunate incidents, she is face to face with Garrett once again, bringing everything she feels for him right to the surface. Unavailable to be with him, she struggles to rebuild a friendship with him and his mother, who she was very close to at one time. It is the situations of her life that bring her into the MMA ring as Raven, and those same situations that force her to never enter it after winning her one and only fight.
"He taught me how to fight. For myself, for him and for our life together. This is one fight I'll let consume me over and over again."
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, you’re gonna wanna get in our next contender’s pants … show some love for our hometown legend, The Switch Hitter!” I snort at the name, expecting to walk out and see a fighter carrying a baseball bat. What do ya know? No bat in sight. Extra reinforcements might not have been a bad idea since I’m on fire and ready to bust the bricks off this clown.
Waiting for the emcee to call my name, I think of all the crazy things in my life that have led me to this point. I’ve experienced more than any one person should by the age of barely twenty-two—few happy moments surrounded by almost constant anguish. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
“Being escorted to the cage by the most badass entourage I’ve seen tonight, all the way from Corbin, Kentucky … the newest fighter this side of the Mississippi … The Raven!” At least my name makes sense. Ravens are known for being alone, having no problem flying solo. That’s what I’ve done for the past four years anyway.
After my announcement, the crowd erupts into cheers that I can hear loud and clear, even over the song streaming out of my iPod through my ear buds. Bouncing back and forth on the balls of my feet, I crane my neck side to side, examining the mass of people. It’s a good sized crowd for this venue. I sometimes wonder if these guys come to watch the fights for the love of the sport or because they like to see the ring girls walking around, barely dressed, carrying signs to designate what round we’re in. Oh well, they paid their cover and that money, if all goes according to plan, will be in my pocket later tonight.
With my coaches leading the way, I follow, bobbing my head to Down with the Sickness by Disturbed, mentally preparing myself. I run over everything I’ve been taught over the last year—how to get out of a submission hold, finding opportunities to take my opponent down, remembering not to be a cocky asshole.
It took a lot of convincing for Zan to let me fight tonight. He’s not the kind father figure he portrays himself to be. He says he loves and supports his “children”, but deep down he’d rather me not get in that cage. I know damn well if I blow my first match, it’s going to be a long time, if ever, until he puts me on another card.
“You ready for this?” Zan asks, pulling out one of my ear buds.
Smirking, I eye up my competition that’s already inside the cage—a small, tiny thing that doesn’t look to have much muscle mass. I got this. Standing on the opposite side of the mat surrounded by coaches, glancing in my direction, the slightest tinge of fear flashes across those brown eyes, similar to mine. Physically, I’m not very intimidating—weighing in at average weight for my class with an average stature to match, but the menace written across my face is an entirely different situation.
Since my first introduction into the world of mixed martial arts, it’s all I can think about. It may be cliché, but I live, breathe and sleep MMA. It’s the one place I have any control. Nobody can take a match from me unless I allow them to, and my opponent isn’t going to walk away with anything … maybe disappointment, but I’m taking the purse. I already know I want it more; I can taste the victory and it’s going to be as sweet as I imagine it to be.
Stepping into the steel cage, I shrug my midnight blue robe off, right into the hands of my coach. Wearing standard MMA gear and my hair pulled back tight, I walk straight to the official who checks my taped hands. Once cleared, I step back to Zan who pops my mouth guard in for me, pats me on the shoulder and whispers in my ear, “It’s only you two. If you want it, make it happen. If not, we can leave right now.”
“Don’t worry, Z. I wouldn’t bring you all the way here to disappoint you.”
Zan and the other coaches walk out of the cage and the door slams shut, leaving only me, my opponent and the official inside. Meeting them in the middle, the ref goes over the standard rules for the fight. Both of us nod, bump fists and the bell dings, indicating round one is under way.
Pacing myself and testing Switch Hitter’s skills, I toss a few jabs in the air, needing to know if we’re on compatible levels. Weight class isn’t everything in the MMA world. Sometimes the smallest contender can be the best fighter. Without even flinching, my advances are shut down and every punch is dodged while some are tossed in my direction as well. None land. I may have to reevaluate my plan. This isn’t going to be as clean as I thought.
It doesn’t take long before hands are wrapped around my legs. I try my hardest to center myself and stay on my feet, but I’ve been hit in just the right spot. I position my body to flip and mount, like I’ve been taught, but I’m not quick enough.
Before I know it, a strong forearm, stronger than I assumed, is wrapping around my neck, pulling back to cut off my air supply. Rear naked choke, shit. Taking a few deep breaths, I try to calm my overheated and exhausted body and find a way to maneuver out of this situation. From the corner of my eye, I see Zan signaling me to tap. Not yet. If I’m going to go down, the officials are gonna have to call a medic in here—quitting isn’t an option. Dangerous or not, it’s how I’ve been taught.
The phrase that’s been drilled into me for months dances around in my head. Don’t let the fight consume you.
Well, I’m consumed and I’m not giving up. I’ll figure a way out. I always have, I always will.
Ashley Suzanne is a married mother of three little boys as well as a daughter, aunt, sister, best friend, birth mother, blogger, book whore and author. Ashley is a native to the suburbs of Detroit, with most of her family living in Kentucky and New York.
You can usually find Ashley sitting in bed, with her laptop, playing on Facebook, pretending to write, entering giveaways (she’s also a swag whore) or on a football field with her oldest son, Tyler. Yep, not only is she a football fan, she’s a football mom!
When she’s reading, it’s typically something to do with romance, contemporary being her favorite genre. She’s a total fan-girl over a few authors; Pamela Ann, SE Hall, Madeline Sheehan, Jasinda Wilder, Maya Banks, CM Stunich, Nicole Jacquelyn and Riley Rhea to name a few.
Ashley has no pets, unless you count her children and she is a little OCD. Her favorite color is pink. Her favorite drink is cherry vodka and coke and double chocolate brownies are a must.
Other Works by Ashley Suzanne (all available on Amazon, BN, iTunes, Kobo and Smashwords)