Atlas (Billionaire Titans)(10)

By: Alison Ryan

“Can we switch the channel?” I asked.

Atlas looked up and noticed why I was eager to watch something else.

“Sorry, Piper,” he said and switched it to ESPN. “I wasn’t even paying attention.”

“Its fine,” I said, my heart rate slowing now that she was gone.

“Things not going well with you two?” he asked, his eyes on me. Goosebumps rose on my arms.

“They’re never really well with us,” I said. “But lately, we’ve entered the estrangement phase of our dysfunctional relationship.”

He looked up from his phone, actual concern marking his face.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said, genuinely.

I shrugged. It was what it was.

He sat up now, his gaze on me yet again.

“I need to go meet a friend to discuss some business,” he stretched his arms above his head. “I won’t be gone long.”

“You’re leaving me here?” I asked. “By myself?”

Atlas looked at me for a long moment.

“Actually,” he said. “You should come with me. It’ll be good for you to see this.”

“Okay. Can I get my sandwich first?”

He smiled, “Sure. I’m going to check and see if my dad’s people brought over my SUV. I think it’s best if I drive you to this particular meeting place myself.”

Atlas steered his Navigator into a part of D.C. I’d never visited, an area that would have terrified me if I wasn’t in his company.

We pulled up in front of what looked like something out of a magazine article about Afghanistan, a building that looked as if a bomb had been dropped on it. A nondescript door remained intact with a small sign hanging above it that read “Mullins.”

Atlas parked and reached into the backseat for his gym bag. I waited for him to come around and let me out, as I was a little nervous to get out of the SUV without him right next to me. I was jumpy as hell.

We crossed the street and he must have sensed my apprehension regarding the neighborhood, “Relax. You’re safer here even than at the Four Seasons. SWAT won’t even come into this neighborhood. None of Spencer’s people would even make it to this door, let alone through it.”

I had my doubts, even with Superman escorting me.

Atlas opened the door, revealing a narrow flight of stairs heading straight down.

“Ladies first,” Atlas insisted, and I descended into where I could hear a cacophony of male voices. As we reached the bottom, the sound was displaced in my brain by the smell. An aroma of what could well have been distilled testosterone filled the air. We were in a sprawling subterranean gym which seemed completely devoid of ventilation.

Men lifted weights and pounded on heavy bags. Two boxing rings sat in a far corner and a martial arts cage filled the center of the room. Activity was everywhere. Heads turned and the room buzzed, I figured due to the presence of a woman, but I quickly realized the pointing fingers were aimed toward Atlas rather than me. An older man in gray sweats strolled over to greet Atlas with a fist bump and a nod.

“Atlas Titan,” the man said. “It’s been a while. Good to have you back.”

“Thanks. Lester, this is Piper. She needs a stool.”

Lester put two fingers in his mouth and did that whistle that all coaches instinctively seem able to do, and one of the younger men near the boxing ring ambled over to us.

“Elijah, this is Miss Piper. Set her up with a stool and a bottle of water over by the cage. She’s going to watch Atlas work out.” Lester spoke to the fighter he’d summoned over and then turned to Atlas. “Start you off with five? In the cage? Standard rotation?”

Atlas nodded.

“Try not to put anybody in the hospital this time, big fella.” Lester slapped Atlas on the back and I followed Elijah over towards the cage while Atlas and his gym bag disappeared through a door marked as the locker room.

I looked around the room, my nose never quite adjusting to the unmistakably male smell surrounding me. The man introduced to me as Lester had gathered, and was busy instructing, a group of five large and menacing-looking men near the entrance to the cage. A wiry man in a black t-shirt paced inside the octagonal structure.

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