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Caleb made a come-and-get-me gesture with his hands. “I'm ready if you are.”
Rachel strolled over to the mat, and waited for him to follow. “Oh, I'm ready, all right.”
She eyed him as they circled in the ring, as each tried to detect the first hint of weakness in the other. In hand-to-hand warfare she had to use her weaknesses, as well as her strengths. If the opponent outsized her, she would have the advantage of speed. Against superior strength, she would still have agility. The only rule of combat was to never, ever fight battles she couldn't' win.
She was determined to win this one.
He moved in with a right jab aimed for her stomach. She ducked under his arm and spun, delivering a kick to his kidneys. She didn't temper the force and knew it stung, even without the reproachful look he fixed her with as he rubbed the spot. “That hurt.”
This time it was she who smirked. “It was meant to.”
There wasn't a smile on his lips, but his eyes gleamed. “Something tells me that you think you're pretty hot stuff on the mat.”
“Something tells me that you've spent your share of time stretched out on top of it.”
He shook his head, a flicker of humor crossing his face. “Baby, I'm going to make you pay for that one.”
With a mask of renewed resolve on his face he kept moving, blocking her feint and right cross, jabbing out, catching her firmly on the shoulder. “Ready to stop yet? I'd hate to really hurt you.”
She bared her teeth. They continued to circle each other warily, waiting for an opening, searching for a vulnerability. She landed one more kick to his belly, and was almost downed when his foot shot out behind hers and he gave her a push that should have toppled her. She held on to his arm to regain her balance, then wrested it behind him. It was a trap. She knew it as soon as she moved; she didn't need his husky laugh to tell her so. She should never have gotten that close to him. Nearness dissipated her advantage. Her mobility was threatened. She released him, clasped both hands, and drove her elbows into his ribcage.
Although his breath released with a satisfying whoosh, he had the presence of mind to grab her before she could spin away, and used his superior strength to wrestle her to the mat. Where he landed smack on top of her.
His chuckle seemed to roll up from the pit of his belly. She imagined that she could feel every roll and pitch of it as it worked through his body. Every inch of his long length was pressed close to hers. Angles against curves, heat to heat. The pounding of her pulse no longer had anything to do with her exertion, and everything to do with their position. It was time to fight dirty.
She let her eyelashes flutter, and parted her lips. Her body softened against his. She didn't have to feign her breathy gasps for air. She saw the instant the laughter faded from his eyes, to be replaced with primitive masculine intent. His knee pressed between hers, and his mouth descended slowly, his gaze fixed on hers.
And a moment later he stilled, his lips a fraction away, male discomfort evident on his face. "Ah...you know that your knee is in a very tender spot...you do know."
She smiled sweetly.
"My mother is expecting grandchildren."
"Then I'd advise you to get up. Slowly."
With exaggerated care he rose, moving back cautiously while she stood, as well. He watched the self-satisfied look settle across her face and it brought an answering smile. Damn, if she wasn't something. Unexpected, alluring, intriguing. And sexy enough to melt a glacier.
He stepped forward, stuck out a hand. "Truce?"
She eyed it suspiciously, before putting her hand in his. The moment their fingers clasped he yanked her against him, and wrapped his arms securely around her waist to keep her there. "Remember," he whispered, his lips close to hers, "never trust an opponent. Especially one promising peace."
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