she was 19 when she met him, and within minutes, she hated his guts. he was cocky in a way that wasn't just a man being confident in himself and his capabilities, he was bragadocious in a sickly manner. isla found that tasteless and unattractive in people, so immediately she felt as if he wasn't worth her time.
he clearly felt the same way.
ted wilde, owner of wildecat, happened to think otherwise. this kid had machismo seeping from his pores, which meant he was a fountain of untapped potential. it was an immediate connection for them, which of course made isla hate him all the more. he was now encroaching on her stomping grounds and on her relationship with her uncle and trainer. no one was going to take ted from her after all these years, so she had to put her nose to the mat and grind in a way she was never able to before. no one walked in off the street and got that kind of attention, especially not this kid.
she was told to go easy on him, to give him a break because he needed a place like wildecat. she would offer passive aggressive comments on how wildecat didn't need a fighter like him, but eventually her uncle got sick of it. her attitude would soon get her benched from fighting when ted realized what a snotty little bitch she was being. isla raged inside day in and day out before she was able to finally take it into her own hands.
as she was training that day, she heard a voice come from just outside the ring and when she looked over, she saw him. immediately she flushed and felt her blood boil under the surface, which only made him happier. how was it that he was so unflappable and she was so quick to anger? she had never been like this, always the picture of patience and joy and never of hatred and ire. she had a temper, but not like this. this was something new and different.
that was their first, and last time in the ring together.
isla was 31 or 32 when he came back around, this time looking for a job. ted hires him on the spot, but isla lurks on the outskirts of the gym and eyes him suspiciously. his reputation preceeds him and she wants to ask him about the years he spent away from the city and what he was doing. that same boiling rage bubbles inside of her, but what was stronger than the rage was a strange feeling of need.
she needs him to respect her. she needs him to know who she's become. she needs him to accept her. she needs him.
they go out and wager a bet on a game of pool which comes to an abrupt end when one of them gets roofied at a dive bar. they joke about how she won by default when he has to be escorted from the bar after drinking something meant for her. their relationship is different now, warmer and friendlier than it had been years ago. her feelings are conflicting because she still doesn't like him, but she's drawn to him in a way she doesn't understand. at this point, she assumes it's friendly flirting and she has that respect.
the friendly flirting turns to more. they start fooling around and playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse with one another at work and outside of it. there's a feeling of self loathing for what they're doing and she doesn't understand why. maybe it's because her divorce isn't finalized, or maybe it's because she feels like she's being played and she'll wake up one dy and he'll be gone. things get intense quickly and they decide to run off with one another, try to make something of the crazy relationship they found themselves tied up in.
that night he's asleep while she sits up and thinks about her decisions. she doesn't know if he's capable of love, but she isn't willing to take the gamble. isla knew that at any moment she could wake up and he would be gone without as much as a goodbye. she doesn't give him the chance to leave. she won't let her heart be broken twice in one year, so she goes home.
her feelings were complicated at best during that time. isla wasn't sure if she was developing feelings for him, or merely infatuated in the whirlwind relationship they got caught up in. meanwhile, she's falling for her best friend.
they don't talk for months. neither of them reach out to one another and it's better that way. she's not sure if he felt anything about her being the one to leave, but she never bothered to find out. she has someone who dependable and cares about her and that's all she really wanted.
it isn't easy to tell someone you wanted to run off with that you're in love with someone else, but she does it. there's heated words and those same feelings of rage return. isla doesn't understand how she could ever care for someone like him when he's capable of saying awful things, but somehow he gets under her skin. she lays awake for days wondering if she made the right choice, or if she should have been more patient with him. not one to have many regrets, isla knows the decision she made was ultimately the best. she couldn't picture a life with mike, but he would always be the biggest what-if she'd ever know.