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.
“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)
Brittany's Review of Raven
Rian Fields has had a lot of bad things happen to her. She lost her mother when she was a teenager, being sent to live with her aunt. Her best friend when she was in middle school moved away, leaving her with nobody. Rian Fields believes that she is meant to always be alone.
That is until she finds her childhood best friend once again at her new school. Finally admitting their feelings for each other, they try a relationship, only for Garrett Rhodes to join the army three months later.
Skip ahead four years. Rian is once again alone. She sleeps with random men to try and fill the hole inside her. Finally, she finds something that will allow her to relieve her frustration. Everyday she is able to let go for a few hours, taking her mind off of the things she so desperately craves: love, sex, and just someone to be there for her.
I love Ashley Suzanne. So much. Her Destined series was fantastic! But, I honestly think this is the best book she’s written. I simply have no words for it. I screamed at it, I almost cried… almost, it’s hard to get me to cry at a book. This novel is filled with twists and turns that will make your head spin. In a good way, I promise.
What I’ve realized, after reading her Destined series, is to always expect the unexpected. I knew that something was going to happen, something I wasn’t going to expect. But I had no clue what it would be. And it happened! And I messaged her right then and I said “You did it again.” That’s the thing with Ashley Suzanne. You will never see what’s coming.
I loved the relationship between Rian and Garrett. I think they were perfect for each other. They had this love that you could feel coming out of the book, dragging you in. It was sweet, really. Perfect for this book.
Ashley Suzanne gets five stars from me! This book is absolutely mindblowigly amazing. You have to read it!
Brittany Interviews Ashley Suzanne
Brittany: Okay, Ms. Ashley Suzanne. Or is it Mrs?
Ashley: It is MRS. I am a married woman. He’s a pretty lucky dude if I do say so myself.
Brittany: Are you ready to begin this interview? I shall tell you now, it’s gonna be intense, and maybe even a bit personal. I might get all up in your grill, but you know the deal.
Ashley: Girl, please. Bring it!
Brittany: Okay, great. So, first real question. Tell me about you. I know you as some really crazy, loud, and in your face chick. But you also know when to settle down and be real. I’ve experienced that once or twice. You’re also a fantastic writer. But anyways, tell everyone about you. Ashley: The most important thing people need to know about me is I’m real. Whether you like it or not, I’m always going to be 100% honest … even if that means hurt feelings. I’m a momma of some pretty awesome little men in training. They have smelly feet, fart all the time and talk about video games, but they’re mine and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I’ve recently become obsessed with The Walking Dead and playing Bingo online. I’m a hot ass mess.
Brittany: Your Destined series was quite a hit. I still have yet to read Epiphany, but I have it on my Kindle. I would die a happy death if had a signed set of that series. *wink wink nudge nudge* I mean I cherish the signed bookmark I have from you. Anyways that’s not the point of this question. I understand if you don’t want to tell the story behind that series. I know some of it, but if you can, please tell everyone.
Ashley: Okay … so … The Destined Series starts with Mirage, which was initially planned on being a stand alone (hence there would be no series), but because my husband is just as twisted as I am, we came up with the perfect ending. I started writing it to help my husband cope with the death of his best friend and it ended up opening the door to a passion I had forgotten long ago. I’ve always been a writer, but had lost my way for a bit. It’s not easy becoming a mom at 17, dropping out of high school to get a job and supporting a family. I’m blessed I was able to find my way again. The Destined Series is for Danny (yes, that was his name in real life) and my husband.
Brittany: In pretty much every book you’ve written, you’ve surprised the readers. How do you come up with these things? How does your mind work?
Ashley: When I write, I think about the books I’d like to read. I get really annoyed when I can call a plot twist from a mile away or how the book is going to end. I want surprise. I want excitement. I want to be on the edge of my seat anticipating what the author is going to do next. So, when I write these stories, that’s what I’m doing. Or at least trying to do anyway. I want the readers to experience the high I feel when something like this pops in my head. And I’m pretty twisted.
Brittany: Have you had any angry feedback because of the “surprises” in your novels?
Ashley: Have you looked at Goodreads lately?!?! My twists go one of two ways … love em or hate em. I’m okay with both!
Brittany: So, let’s talk about Raven. I believe it is the best book you’ve ever written. In a few words, tell these lovely readers why they should read it.
Ashley: Because it’s fucking amazing?!?! I mean, really, because I went outside the box yet again. These weak females drive me insane sometimes. I want to read about a strong woman. A woman who knows what she wants and goes after it. I want a man who’s going to be alpha where it counts, but still let the woman be who she is. Raven is just that. Oh, and it’s fucking hot.
Brittany: I know you have MANY people that inspire you. You have a personality that draws people to you. You wanna give a shoutout to some of those people?
Ashley: *calls radio station* … aye yo, this is Ashley Suzanne from Detroit and I wanna request a song, but first … let me give a shout out to my people … What’s up Madeline Sheehan, SE Hall, BP, Manda MuhFawkin Gammons, My Butches, them girls up in Destined Rehab, Pamela Ann and all those bad butches who support me on a daily basis .. HOLLA!!!
Brittany: I saw on your most recent status, the one dedicated to an old friend, that you and her planned to move to North Carolina one day. I live in that state, and I have never once heard someone say, “I wanna go to North Carolina.” Why would you move there? It sucks here.
Ashley: Okay … you’re bringing up a very sore subject … it’s pretty fresh … but I’ll tell you the story. Back in 2001, I met my husband over 4th of July weekend. We immediately hit it off and started dating almost soon after. He had this neighbor that was pretty rough around the edges but still cool as hell. She was me. We got really close. Back then, I was obsessed with Fayetteville. I wanted to live there. I was also obsessed with Peety Pablo and he has this song called Raise Up. Me and Mandy thought it was a sign that we were supposed to go live there. We made plans and even saved money. I got pregnant soon after this plan was hatched and had to do what was right for my life. Mandy died this morning. That was our dream.
Brittany: You have a long plane ride ahead of you, but you only have room for one paperback in your carry-on luggage. What do you bring? Ashley: First, brat, I’m bringing a kindle LOL. But if I had to bring only ONE paperback with me, it would be my UnDeniable by Madeline Sheehan paperback. Brittany: I really hope to meet you one day. You and SE Hall. You should come to North Carolina and visit me. *grins* Ashley: Or maybe you should bring you little ass to meet us?!?! Works both ways baby cakes … I’ll be in West Virginia in November. I hear it’s not that far away from NC!!
Brittany: Well, I had some really funny and deep questions for you, but I’ve totally forgotten them. So, I guess I’ll end this here. Is there anything else you’d like to say? Anything at all. Really, there is nothing off limits here.
Ashley: Work hard, play harder. Life is what you make of it. Cherish those who cherish you. Don’t take life too serious, you’ll never get out alive. The only things in this world that matter is your family—do right by them before anything else. Buy my books. Don’t watch The Walking Dead, it’s like crack for bitches. (I love you Shane). Do what you’re passionate about. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t. Live to prove the world wrong. Know that everything happens for a reason. Buy my books. Prepare for the zombie apocalypse. Buy my books. It’s okay to put two spaces after a period. I’d like to know the name of this (…) <--- what’s that called? Buy my books. It’s better to live for something than to die for nothing. Please understand the difference between you’re and your (that’s really fucking important). Buy my books. Eat chocolate whenever you can. Sweet Revenge is the best red wine in the entire world. Buy my books. BYE FELICIA!!!