HEAT

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Challenge

Hycinth

All of the surrounding matches halted. Every Wolf’s attention riveted to Sydney and Luca. I couldn’t believe my brother. I didn’t like Sydney, but Sydney had submitted to the mated pair’s punishment without question, and she’d acted with the utmost respect around both Leander and I since, eyes lowered, obedient.

Pack law wasn’t about holding grudges. We were supposed to be better than that. Correction and punishment were for purpose of bringing a Wolf back into accord with the pack. Which was why, I couldn’t understand Luca’s continued insistence on goading her and publicly rubbing her nose in Leander’s rejection. Every confrontation I’d witnessed—and there had been many over the last 3 ½ weeks—had been unprovoked by Sydney so what point was he trying to make?

I’d also been surprised to see the extended stare between Sydney and Leander. That suspended look spoke volumes regarding their history. Leander may have broken it off three years ago, but it was clear, they’d been more than just physically intimate.

Jealousy and pain ricocheted through me. I shoved it back. I had no right to stake a claim on him when I was leaving. Chaotic thoughts rattled inside my brain. How long would it take Leander to move on after me? Probably, not long. Maybe Lucky was wrong. Maybe Sydney would get the prize after all. The knot in my chest tightened, threatening to crush my heart and suffocate me.

Leander’s eyes were on me now.

Did my face give me away? Did he suspect my thoughts? The look of pain mirrored in his violet and cerulean eyes made me believe he did. Making his way back to me, Leander engulfed me in a hug, his thick arms wrapping around me tightly. I pressed my cheek against his bare chest. The bond flared around us, calming, soothing.

Luca’s voice broke the bubble surrounding Leander and I. “Do you really think you can handle me, sweetheart? It makes no difference to me that you’re a girl. Challenge me…and I won’t go easy on you.”

I swiveled my head around to see Lucky. What the hell was he trying to prove? Leander turned me in his arms so I could watch the two, but he didn’t release me, which, for the moment, I was perfectly happy with.

Sydney’s blue-eyed stare held Lucky’s equally intense absinthe one as she slowly pulled her T-shirt over her head, leaving her in just a sports bra. Lucky blinked.

“Save your breath, Wolf,” Sydney smiled sweetly, “You’ll need it later to blow up your date.”

Again, the wolves found their interaction amusing, several guffawing and cat-calling. Even Leander chuckled at Sydney’s razor-sharp verbal jabs. Electricity seemed to crackle in the air. The wolves almost salivated with anticipation to see what would happen next.

Sydney wasn’t done maximizing her assets. She tugged her yoga pants down with a little hip wiggle, and let them fall at her feet, revealing tight boy shorts that barely covered her ass underneath.

Lucky cleared his throat.

Sydney’s lip twitched.

Already shirtless, Lucky crouched and removed his boots. Damn, so he planned to include kicks as well? No, holding back, definitely, wasn’t on his agenda.

Returning to a standing position, he asked, “Sure you want to do this?”

Sydney ignored his question and quirked her head to the side. “If I throw a stick, will you go away?”

Another round of twittering from the crowd.

Without waiting for his response, Sydney’s stance lowered. She took a step to the side, assessing Luca, looking for any weakness.

Grin turning feral, Luca slunk lower. He wasn’t going anywhere, all too eager to match his skills against hers. Reaching out, he motioned Sydney forward with two fingers. “Bring it on, sweetheart.”

Sydney did just that. Shockingly fast, she darted forward, throwing a right punch followed by a left-handed jab and then a right uppercut, seeking the soft, fleshy area of Lucky’s throat. She didn’t make contact.

Lips curled into a smug grin, Lucky blocked every strike—until Sydney spun in an incredibly powerful roundhouse kick straight to his jaw.

“Fuck!” Lucky hissed as his head snapped to the side. He stumbled but didn’t lose his footing. He spat blood from his mouth and prowled toward her. “All right, sweetheart, I let you have your fun. Now it’s my turn.”

I held my breath. I’d seen my brother fight. I knew what he was capable of and it wasn’t pretty, not when our father trained him.

Sydney’s face remained impassive. She wasn’t intimidated by a male Wolf who was more than a foot taller and had a significant weight advantage over her.

Nor was she patiently waiting for him to strike. I guessed taking turns wasn’t really her thing. Instead, her right fist shot out, but Lucky was ready for her.

Grabbing her wrist, he used her momentum to turn her body away from him. At the same time, he spanked her ass with his free hand. Hard.

A loud snarl left Sydney’s throat.

Fingers wrapped tightly around her wrist, Lucky jerked her to him. “I told you what would happen if you ever challenged me.”

What was he talking about? Had he previously threatened to spank her? Why the hell would he do that? On second thought, given the lascivious look on his face, maybe I didn’t want to know.

Blonde hair flying, Sydney twisted her arm, forcing him to release his grip. Completing her body’s rotation, she came at him again.

But her momentary lack of eye contact gave Luca the advantage. His right fist only made contact with air when Sydney ducked to avoid the blow, but she wasn’t fast enough to avoid his follow-up left jab to the middle of her chest.

Flying back several feet, Sydney landed on her butt, her hands trying to take a portion of the impact. Luca surged forward, intent on keeping her down. But Sydney’s leg shot out, and hooked around the back of his knee. She jerked hard, causing Lucky to crash to the ground as well.

Sydney scrambled to get to her feet.

But they were too close.

Sydney’s expression revealed she knew how vulnerable her current positioning was. Unfortunately, Luca knew it as well. Coming up out of a crouch, Lucky struck with his right fist, an uppercut under her jaw.

The impact was fierce. So much so, Sydney’s feet left the ground, the angle of his assault propelling her up in the air. But rather than fall on her butt, she arched in a tight backflip, and landed with her left knee and right hand planted on the ground.

Lucky’s eyebrows rose at her deftly-executed acrobatic maneuver.

Sydney’s chest heaved, the result of the adrenaline pushing through her veins like a drug. It was her turn to spit blood from her mouth as she stood to her feet a little unsteadily. She opened and closed her mouth, testing her jaw. Shockingly, it didn’t appear broken. She glared at Luca.

Once again, she came at him, her assault relentless.

What Sydney lacked in brute force, she more than made up with agility and speed.

Minutes ticked by.

On and on they went…

Striking

Defending

Evading

Sydney held her own, seeming to learn Luca’s offensive techniques quickly and altered her strategy to defend against them. He never got the same hit in twice.

Shockingly, about fifteen minutes into their confrontation, I noticed a moment when Lucky’s confidence faltered. I saw it in his eyes. He’d landed plenty of strikes, but so had she, far more than he’d expected from the expression on his face. She was wearing him down. No longer, was he hundred percent convinced he was going to win.

With fresh intensity, Lucky pivoted, grabbing for her arms, and managed to wrap both hands around her biceps . He jerked hard, spinning her off balance. Sydney cried out as she crashed to the ground with Luca right on top of her.

Writhing and cursing profanities, Sydney tried to dislodge him, but his massive bulk made it impossible. Luca wrestled her arms over her head, holding them tight.

“Stop fighting me!” he commanded. There was something different in his tone, a deep vibration I’d never heard before, sultry and seductive.

Sydney froze, chest heaving, blue eyes wide as she stared up at him.

Without another word, Lucky crashed his lips down on hers.

I gasped.

But there was no denying the heat that sizzled between them.

No longer struggling to get away, Sydney made a sound in the back of her throat between a breathy plea and an aggressive growl as she met him back with equal ferocity.

Luca released her hands and Sydney’s fingers twined into his hair, pulling him closer.

But then, almost as if a light switch had gone off, or she’d come back to her senses, Sydney released his head and pushed against his shoulders.

Lucky jerked back and growled, “Fuck! What was that for?” Blood trickled down his chin from where her canines had sliced through his lip.

Fire brewing in her eyes, she shoved her palms into his chest. “Get. Off. Me!”

Luca’s brow furrowed. He studied her expression intently. And then his jaw locked as he lifted off of her. Scrambling to her feet, Sydney keened forward, one fist clenched, and slapped Luca across the face with her free hand. “Don’t you ever do that again!”

She didn’t wait for Luca’s response. Instead, she spun on her heel and stormed out the door.

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