The Fighter

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Chapter 12: R. A. F. T.

2 weeks later

I slapped my pencil down on the desk as I finished my final written exam to pass FBI requirements. I raised my hand to alert the exam proctor of my completion, even though it was pointless because it was just the two of us in the room. They were treating this as if I were in a room full of recruits.

After a moment, the proctor sauntered over and picked up my exam and pencil. She trained her beady little eyes on me. “Did you double check your answers, miss?”

I nodded. “Yes, ma’am. It’s completed.”

She nodded once. “Excellent. I will deliver this to Quantico personally and then inform Richard of your score,” she told me before turning on her heel and rigidly walking away.

I puffed out my cheeks as I exhaled, then lay my head down on the desk. I relished the coolness of the surface against my warm cheeks. I really felt the pressure of this exam and felt flustered the entire time.

After the week I had essentially missed, we had to go back and make sure I still had the skills, then they decided to throw in a bomb diffuser training course and a tactical communications course, all of which were not my strong suits but I eventually got down.

Now I was utterly drained.

I forced myself to my feet and stumbled to the door, ready to drop at any moment to take a nap. Now I had to drive back to the field office to join everyone in a debriefing regarding Darryl.

An update on that: they were able to pull footage from the gym of him attacking me, and added it to the file. They had local authorities alerted and he was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Richard had sent out a nationwide APB on any cases that may have been related to similar sex trafficking crimes as mine in the last sixteen years, and the number of cases were overwhelming. We had mainly been combing through the files to familiarize ourselves with them as well as weed any out that didn’t seem to line up.

It was hard to tell, though. We had very little information on the headquarters, and since it was international, we had no idea who was in charge or where the line was that separated this particular sex ring to the next.

Overwhelming was putting it lightly. Crushing was more like it.

I zoned out the entire drive back to the field office. It was only noon, and I wasn’t supposed to get my results until tomorrow. When I parked, I shut off the ignition and sat there alone for a few minutes. The summer heat quickly filled my car, and it felt like a warm, all-consuming blanket and made me never wanted to leave.

I groaned and climbed out of the car. Drew was waiting for me by the door, grinning at me like an idiot. I gave him a small smile as I approached him. He looked good — really good. He wore a black polo that fit snugly against his fit body, and grey slacks. His hair wasn’t style but lay nicely.

We were doing really good. Drew was respectful of my physical boundaries and never once tried to cross them. He continued to surprise me at every turn with how kind and generous he was. We still hadn’t had the talk — you know, the one about his past. Each passing day there was another excuse, and it was both of our faults.

“Hey, beautiful. How did it go?” He asked when I was within speaking range.

I shrugged. “I think it went alright, but we’ll see tomorrow,” I replied, nearly emotionless since I had little energy left in me.

He opened the door for me and flashed me a dazzling smile. “I’m sure you did great,” he reassured as we headed up the stairs together. There was a brief silence when we arrived at the second floor landing. I stood there, not quite ready to go inside, and fidgeted with my hands.

“Hey, you alright?” He wondered, his grey-blue eyes filled with concern.

“Yeah, I think so,” I murmured. “Actually, I don’t know. I’m not really in the mood to sit in on this briefing.”

Drew grabbed one of my hands in his, his callouses rubbing against my fingers. My eyes fluttered closed at the gentle touch, and I realized I was craving more physical intimacy from him. It came as a surprise, especially since I hadn’t seen the hormone goddess since she left me that note.

“You know, we don’t have to go in there. Richard will understand,” he stated. “We can go down to the training rooms if you’d like.” He winked at me, and I couldn’t tell if it was suggestive, or just related to the possibility of us playing hooky.

I grinned at him. “Sure, that sounds great. We haven’t gotten to spend a lot of time together the last couple weeks.”

He sighed as we walked toward the elevators. “I know, but I’m really glad we’ve done things at this pace. You’ve been able to focus on your training and on this case. I’m really proud of you.”

My heart swelled. “See, I told you I’d do my best to make you proud.”

We stepped onto the elevator, and as soon as the doors closed, chemistry seemed to fill the space. I remembered my little daydream about Drew pressing me against the wall and had the sudden urge to throw myself at him, but I knew it would be too fleeting.

I couldn’t resist the blood that crept up my neck into my face and the warmth that seemed to spread at the apex of my thighs. I looked up at Drew, who smirked at me, as if to say, I feel it too.

And just like that, the hormone goddess clumsily wandered back into the spotlight, blinking in the sudden light. She looked like she just woke up from a long slumber, and fell onto the chaise that sat in the middle of her throne room. She wore satin pajama shorts and a matching camisole, and a fur lined robe draped over her elegantly.

At last, the doors opened and I felt like I could breathe again. I turned to face Drew once we had stepped off. “I’ll go change real quick and meet you in there?”

“Sure, see you in a couple minutes,” he told me with a devilish smile as he walked into the men’s locker room.

I checked him out from behind and sucked in a breath. I fanned myself and went to go change. I found my behavior despicable considering I put a hard stop on anything physical between us and given how I was still working through what the team put me through — including him.

As I pulled my jeans off, I noticed a small wet spot in the crotch area. I frowned and checked my panties only to find the same thing there. It dawned on me that my wayward hormones were causing a noticeable arousal. I only hoped it wasn’t too noticeable.

Once I’d changed, I met Drew in the training room. He looked like a snack in his black joggers and navy tank top.

Good Lord, Carver, calm down.

Maybe it was the relief of completing the written exam, or maybe it was feeling like I’d done well for Drew. Either way, I felt ready to open myself back up to him, and my inner hormone goddess agreed.

He glanced up when he heard the door open, his eyes wide and innocent when I knew he was far from. “I think you’ve got the physical training down,” he declared. “I’m not sure you need to get yourself sore before the other recruits get here.”

“I’ve still got a couple hours before I meet them. It wouldn’t hurt to do it for just a little bit,” I remarked, trying to be casual.

Drew beamed at me, his dimples appearing and making desire unfurl deep inside me. “Come at me then, Carver,” he teased.

I charged at him, and after a few minutes of struggling, we were on the ground fighting for the upper hand. While I was doing quite well against him, I didn’t have it in me to put my best effort forward. I managed to roll on top of him and straddle his waist, and I think we both felt the impulse to give up.

I distributed my weight onto my legs, winded as I caught my breath. Drew was careful not to put his hands anywhere on me that would be sexual, so he just tucked them under his head. The sight of his biceps bulging made me feel weak.

Like I’d mentioned earlier, we hadn’t spent a lot of alone time together. I needed to work through everything that happened between us, and that time brought more forgiveness and built a good foundation for us, but now my body was yearning for him in a more… penetrating way, if you catch my drift. Inner hormone goddess winked at me.

“I guess I’m too tired,” I cooed, meeting his eyes.

Drew propped himself up on his elbows. “That’s okay. We don’t have to do this if you don’t want to,” he replied, his voice husky and low, as if he could sense the mood shifting in the room.

I swallowed nervously as I leaned closer to him. Kissing him right now felt so easy and natural, but was I actually ready or was it just my hormones? I needed to take my time emotionally to move past the lies he’d told me. Could I trust him again?

I sucked in a breath and decided to pull back. Now was as good a time as ever to tell him what was on my mind. “Drew…” I started, letting my voice recede as I searched for the right words. “I’m still… I still…” I stammered. “I want you. I really do. I’m just afraid of getting hurt again.”

He reached up with one hand to take my short hair behind my ear, and I leaned into his touch. His stormy eyes churned with remorse. “I understand,” he murmured. “I fucked up. I’ll wait as long as you need me to.” We gazed into each other’s eyes for a few moments. I was still weary, and I think he sensed it, because he continued speaking after taking a deep breath. “I know what I did was wrong, and I hate myself knowing that I hurt you. That was the last thing I’d ever want. And I really, really like you, Madelyn. Flaws and fucked up past and scars and trauma included. I don’t care what your emotional baggage is, all I care about is you. And somehow,” he blurted, sitting up straighter with each sentence. His eyes were filled with desperation. “Somehow in the last couple of months, you’ve… grounded me. I stopped dating around. I focused more on my job. I’m working on letting my guard down around you because I want you to know me. Really know me. You know as well as anyone how hard it is to trust people.”

I gaped at him, suddenly at a loss of words as I processed what he had said to me. Mine and Drew’s faces were so close, it wouldn’t take much for our lips to brush. I gently sat back on my heels. “But you hardly know me,” was all I could manage. Inner hormone goddess face palmed herself before shaking her head in disappointment.

“Don’t I, though?” He asked with a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, then tilted his head to the side. “In the short time it’s been since I met you, I probably know more about you than almost anyone else in your life.”

I scoffed. “That’s ridiculous, Drew. What—,” I started to ask before he interrupted me.

“I’m serious!” He exclaimed. His eyes flared with passion and reflected a stormy sky that would threaten even Zeus. “Who else knows that your favorite kind of pizza is just plain cheese? Or that it’s probably partially because yellow is your favorite color? And that you prefer your sandwiches without the crust? That you take approximately twelve minutes in the shower every morning? How you have to take your vitamins with your morning coffee and you like a lot of honey in your coffee? And how you always make sure to pick up your apartment before bed because you hate waking up to a messy place? Who else knows that you have nightmares that scare you half to death because of your gruesome past? Or that you don’t drink out of fear of being just impaired enough to lose control of your decisions?” When he finished, his chest was heaving and his hands hung in the air from talking animatedly.

His words had rendered me speechless, but the romantic in me melted. Inner hormone goddess clasped her hands over her heart, sighed in bliss, and batted her eyelashes. I groaned and realized he was right — and that those words were exactly what I needed to hear. I cupped his face in my hands and pressed my lips to his. I immediately felt my insides blossom with desire. Raw, intimate desire. Drew’s hand gripped a handful of my short hair, tugging just enough to tilt my head back so he could kiss me harder.

Drew moaned against my mouth, and I gently pushed my tongue into his mouth to play with his. He reciprocated the gesture and slowly began to lay me down on my back, him mounted on top of me. Our groins were pressed together, and that friction felt hot and oh so good against my very sensitive parts. I pushed my hips up into him and twisted my fingers through his soft tresses.

One hand supported my neck, and the other moved down to rest on the exposed skin from my shirt that had ridden up. I inhaled sharply as goosebumps followed his touch. Everywhere his body touched mine came the feeling of sizzling desire, causing me to writhe under him for the pleasure of friction.

Drew’s hand traveled further up my shirt, his fingers stroking the skin under my breasts. I ran my hands over his muscular arms, then moved to his back. I could feel his erection pressing against me, and for a few moments we were all heavy breathing, gentle groping, hot kisses, and soft moans.

The inner hormone goddess was sweating and fanning herself. She was clad in lingerie and thigh-highs, and she was willing and ready for the taking.

The sound of the door handle turning at the other end of the room resounded loudly, causing Drew to push off of me and me to scramble away from him as if he had cooties. The door swung open and in walked Richard with two other people trailing behind him. They were talking animatedly as they strolled toward us with a purpose.

Drew ran a hand over his curls and sat criss-cross to conceal what we’d been up to. I straightened my shirt and sat up on my knees. Richard finally turned to us.

“Madelyn, I thought I’d find you down here. The other recruits got here early so I thought I’d bring them down here to introduce you now,” he told us.

I cleared my throat and rose to my feet, keeping my thighs as tight together as possible. “Sure, yeah. Hi, I’m Madelyn Carver,” I introduced, extending my hand. There was a burly man and a freakishly tall woman standing before me. I felt completely towered over, but tried to not let an attitude rise to the surface just because I felt inferior.

Neither of them shook my hand, but the man scoffed. “This is who you’ve trained in a crash course experiment? You think she can take us?”

“Well, you haven’t seen her in action,” Richard responded proudly. I kept a straight face but deep down I was pissed off. What a rude thing to say in front of me.

“Right, well, we’ll see how it goes tomorrow,” the woman sneered before turning and stamping out of the room, the man following her.

I gawked after them before glowering at Richard. “What the hell was that all about?” I demanded.

He sighed and shook his head. “I have no idea. I heard this group of recruits have been tough nuts to crack and that they’ve been particularly difficult. I didn’t understand what that meant until just now. But hey, don’t listen to them.”

I simpered. “Thanks Richard. I’ll do my best tomorrow and hopefully I’ll prove myself enough to continue working here.”

“You will,” Drew ensured, putting his hand on my shoulder fondly. I didn’t miss Richard’s brief glance at the gesture, but I steered the topic away before anyone could bring it up.

“So, should we call it so I can rest up for tomorrow?” I wondered, feeling awkward and uncomfortable since my body was still wired from my steamy session with Drew.

Richard allowed it and I brusquely walked to the locker room to throw myself back together. I thanked God that I was going home so I could wallow in my humiliation.

I sat on my couch eating a bowl of grapes and watching How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days when there was a knock on my door. I paused my snacking to peer my head around the corner, surprised that someone would come to my apartment at eight in the evening.

I opened the door and felt elated surprise wash over me. “Drew, what are you doing here?” I wondered, and clenched my thighs together. I wore only a mid-thigh length silk robe, and nothing underneath.

His eyes quickly swept over me before he met my gaze. “I just wanted to wish you luck,” he said in a raspy voice. The harshness of his voice sent shivers down my spine, and the slippery fabric on my shoulders caused it shift some, revealing more of my collarbone.

“For tomorrow?” I said incredulously, raising my eyebrows. He nodded, and I rolled my eyes. “Drew, I’m smarter than that. Why are you really here?”

He gulped, stepped into my doorway, cupped my face, and pressed his lips to mine. It was hard and yet gentle, lingering yet urgent. My muscles contracted in the depths of my belly, and I audibly moaned. My body was aching for him, and he fucking knew it. He was teasing me, taunting me, exploiting my desires, and he communicated it all in one kiss.

My robe slipped completely off my shoulder, revealing my entire breast. My nipples were erect and sensitive when they brushed against him. My internal temperature skyrocketed, and inner hormone goddess sat leisurely on a beach towel soaking up the heat.

Our tongues intertwined, and he was careful to not touch me anywhere besides my neck. I leaned into him to have some sort of physical touch, and he promptly pulled away. I cried out in disappoint and took a deep breath after. I realized I’d barely breathed.

“What… why… what?” I stammered, my brain scrambled since all the blood had rushed to every other part of my body.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he sing-songed before winking one of his steely eyes at me and bounding away.

I stood in the doorway trying to wrap my head around what had just happened. I pulled my robe back over my shoulder so I wasn’t exposing myself to the neighborhood.

I mean, did I imagine that? Was I so horny that I made up some fantasy? Failing miserably to understand, I shut and locked the door and headed to my bedroom. I needed to sleep before my body combusted.

I faced five people, all varying in sizes, all who were here to take me down to the best of their abilities. The entire team was here supporting me, but I refused to look at Drew. I feared I’d get too distracted if I did. All I knew right then was that I needed to focus on proving myself to the FBI in order to stay part of the team.

“Recruits!” Richard shouted, stepping between me and the other five as if we were two teams about to face off. “We are here today to test Madelyn Carver’s skill on behalf of the Bureau. She was part of the operation we call R. A. F. T: Recruited Agent Fast Tracked. Our goal is to see if we are able to bypass the five-month training if we were in desperate need to do so, and if we could cram those five months in five weeks. Madelyn Carver is Test Subject One. Madelyn, you will take on all five of these individuals from the class that is about to graduate Quantico. They all vary in ranking in their class and have differing strengths. If you succeed, and your written exam passes, then you will graduate with the rest of this class. Understand?”

I swallowed thickly and nodded. “Yes, sir!” I announced, standing up straight with my hands clasped behind my back and my feet planted shoulder-width apart.

Richard nodded once in my direction. “Atta girl. First up, let’s get started!” He declared before stepping back.

The man from yesterday stepped forward first. He was a very large man, and I was hoping his muscle mass would slow him down enough for me to throw him off his game. I watched as he tilted his neck to both sides to crack it before assuming a fighting stance and dancing around me. I zeroed in on his fists, tracking his every moment closely. I feared the pads on our gloves wouldn’t be enough to prevent me from getting the shit beat out of me.

I exhaled slowly, feeling time slow down as I concentrated on the fight. I just needed to win three out of the five to pass. I felt like my odds were pretty good; in the last two weeks, I’d gotten to practice with everyone on the team, and I’d beat them all at least once.

He swung at me, and I ducked, but his other arm came up before I could rebound. It collided with the side of my head, causing me stumble backwards and lose my footing on the mat underneath our feet. He took another swing at me, and while I was able to dodge it, his leg swept my feet out from under me. I fell flat on my back, the wind getting knocked out of my lungs. I gasped for air as he kneeled down and pressed his forearm into my throat.

Fuck it. I have four more people.

I tapped out, not wanting to waste any more of my energy on a lost fight.

The man willingly bounded to his feet and grinned maliciously at me. I pulled myself to my feet. Madelyn two months ago would’ve been furious for losing a fight, but Madelyn now realized her worth and her true capabilities. I’m not going to win every fight, and accepting that fact made it easier for me to recover from this loss to move onto the next person.

The tall woman from yesterday stepped forward next. I wasted no time in lunging at her waist. I quickly took her down, pinned her, and trapped her arms so she couldn’t fight back. Within a minute, she had tapped out. I didn’t wait for her to climb to her feet before I signaled for the next person to approach me.

A gangly young man came toward me, and he and I struggled a bit for several minutes before I was able to get him on his back and pull his arm into an arm bar. He cried out in pain before tapping out. I released him and helped pull him to his feet. He gave me a bashful smile, rubbed his arms, and wished me luck.

The next fight I lost. It was a close call, and at the end of it we were both sweating profusely. Half of my face felt tender and bruised, and my body was beginning to feel sore. These recruits weren’t messing around. At the end of it, I lay on my back trying to catch my breath, not even tapping. The man knew he beat me.

As I clambered to my feet for the last fight, I felt beads of sweat trickle down my spine. This is it. This was the fight that determined my future with the FBI. What was going to happen?

I took a few deep breaths before charging at the woman with full force. I tackled her to the ground, and she promptly threw me off her. I landed roughly on my back, and before she could crawl toward me, I rolled onto my knees. We wrestled for what felt like hours before I was able to get her in a light chokehold. She tapped my arm, and I let her go victoriously.

I had to contain myself. Previously it was temper that I needed to keep in check. Now I felt like it was all of my emotions since my moods seemed to be erratic.

But… I did it! I wanted to jump up and down and hug everyone, but that was too out of character for me, so I quashed that thought and patiently waited for Richard.

“Nice work, recruits. All of you. You five are free to go,” he dismissed before turning toward me with pride twinkling in his eyes. “Madelyn, you did it.”

I grinned and immediately felt humiliated at the tears that pricked my eyes. “So now just waiting on test results?”

Richard nodded. “Yes, and as soon as we do, you are cleared to graduate this weekend with the other recruits.”

Drew stepped forward then. “Actually, I just spoke to the proctor. Maddie passed with flying colors.”

I paled. My heart fluttered and my stomach flipped, my world swung and my breath caught. “What?” I demanded breathlessly. “I passed?”

Drew smiled at me, those steel-blue eyes glittering. “You did it. You’re part of the FBI.”

I gasped and threw my arms around him. Again, this was out of character of me, and everyone knew it. Even Drew hesitated before returning the hug.

I pulled away and squealed, then hugged Richard, Josh, and Emma, who were all taken aback. “I don’t know what to say. I haven’t been this happy in…” I paused and frowned. “Well, ever, I don’t think.”

Everyone got quiet then. I didn’t even realize there was chatter until that very moment when everything stilled. I cleared my throat. “Anyway, just tell me when and where and I’ll be there.”

“You should let me drive you,” Drew offered.

I shrugged. “Sure,” I accepted, then did a happy dance.

“As long as you promise to not do that dance on stage,” Josh teased.

I shot him a half-serious dirty look. “No one will know about this except those of you in the room right now,” I deadpanned.

He chuckled. “Yeah, I don’t doubt you’d hurt me if I told anyone,” he said.

I giggled. “Okay, I’m starving, and I need food. What time is it? Time to leave for the evening?” I wondered, looking around the room.

Drew glanced at his watch. “It’s four. I guess you could take off for the day. I’d say it’s well-deserved,” he stated, flashing a grin with those panty-dropping dimples.

The inner hormone goddess licked a popsicle and winked, indicating she was ready to come out of retirement. I simply returned the smile coolly before flouncing off toward the locker room. Maybe some alone time would be good… for now.

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