Sparring Partners

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Summary

Daisy Thompson is your typical University student; she has no sleep schedule, barely survives on her minimum wage job, is constantly falling behind in her assignments, and the state of her mental health is certainly questionable. When she’s not studying or working, she’s down at the local gym learning self-defence; but when her shifts at the café change, her gym sessions are forced to change with them. Used to the sparse lunch time numbers, the new, rougher crowd is a shock - especially when she lays eyes on a recent one night stand.

Genre:
Romance / Erotica
Author:
Elise Watson
Status:
Ongoing
Chapters:
22
Rating:
4.9 14 reviews
Age Rating:
18+

Chapter 1: Making New Friends

“Hey, what do you say we get out of this dump and head back to mine?”

I edged away from the pungent stench of the drunken stranger’s breath, my upper lip curling. Sat in the grimy leather booth of the pub, my dark blonde hair fell out from behind my ear as I quickly turned to shoot the guy a disbelieving look, my hand clenching around my empty glass.

“You’ve got to be joking,” I scoffed under my breath. I had barely known him for five minutes. I gave him a quick once over under the dim lighting, glowering at his dishevelled hair and lipstick stained cheek. Just the sight of him had my stomach turning.

I was sitting stiffly on the outside of the booth, listening in on the nonsensical ramblings of my roommate’s classmates, somehow drinking far less than anyone else, as I avoided involving myself in the conversation. Sarah, my roommate, was already drunk and busy sucking face with a guy named Callum, or maybe it was Carson, leaving me to fend off the advances of his wingman. I knew she was drunk, purely because she had never been so confident sober. She’d done this enough, though, for me to know I didn’t have to intervene. She hadn’t drunk too much yet, she never went home with anyone, and either her course mates or I always made sure no one walked home alone.

“Come on, babe,” the idiot beside me purred, his words slurred as his hand raised limply to tuck the stray hair out of my face. He took the chance to stroke his fingers, a little too roughly, against my cheek and I had to restrain the ever-growing urge to strike him in the nose. I bet he’d look far better, dripping blood and teary-eyed.

Pushing down any violent urges, I knocked his hand away lightly and shoved on his chest to create some distance between us. It didn’t work.

I wanted to scream. I knew I shouldn’t have caved under Sarah’s insistent pleas for a night out. It was both a waste of my time and money and now, as the night dragged well into the early hours of the morning, it was also wasting my few precious hours of sleep. But Sarah had been eager to meet her course mates by herself.

I could have been working or studying right now, but I was stuck in a local pub filled with poor students and dodgy looking men instead. This wasn’t the pub we usually frequented - that one was closed for refurbishments - though it wasn’t like this one was all that different. In a small city like this, and in our area, all the pubs seemed to be the same run-down establishments frequented only by locals or poor students looking for a cheap and quiet night out.

Sighing heavily, I glanced forlornly down at my glass, wishing it would instantly refill just by the power of thought. I needed another drink to get me through this torture. If I wanted another drink though, then it would be at the expense of my already suffering bank account - and also at the risk of my safety if Mr ‘I Don’t Understand No’ stuck around. I wouldn’t put it past him to wait until I was drunk to make his next move.

A sharp jab to the throat would cut that idea off immediately. But unfortunately, people these days were just so extraordinarily idiotic that he’d probably try it, anyway.

As the guy leaned back in to try his luck once more, I had just about given up any hope of having a peaceful evening. My heart was already hammering away in my chest, but I didn’t let my nerves show. Instead, my gaze shifted away from the guy’s leering stare and I glanced around the cheap, tightly packed bar in supposed boredom, praying he would get the message. All the while, my body tensed, awaiting his next move. Perhaps his ego would bruise enough that he would move onto someone else, or give up entirely.

It was just as a clammy hand grasped the back of my neck and a pair of dry lips pressed against my throat that I first saw him. His dark eyes caught mine from across the room, capturing my full attention. I froze just as my hand shot up to grip the oblivious drunk guy’s shaggy hair. My shock stemmed both from the drunk guy’s shockingly misplaced confidence and from the startling intensity of the dark eyes watching from across the crowd.

A broad-shouldered man was sitting at a table in the secluded, far corner, surrounded by equally burly looking men laughing boisterously. The black t-shirt he wore stretched around his gigantic frame, and from beneath the neckline I could see the black edges of a tattoo staining his skin. I found I could barely breathe as he continued to observe me heatedly.

Despite his large build, the tattoos and the rough company of men he seemed to keep, there was no other way to describe his face, but pretty. So strikingly pretty were his features that it almost hurt to look at him. High cheek bones, a sharp yet crooked nose, a square chin, angular jaw, and full lips that were twisted into a smirk. When he noticed he had my attention, said smirk deepened, and I swore I could see the colour of his eyes darken even from across the room. Almost instinctively, my hand tightly clenched in the drunk guy’s hair.

The mysterious man from across the room seemed amused, his eyes flicking briefly down at my companion, but soon turned away to join in with his friends’ jokes and the moment between him and me was lost.

Instantly, I ripped the drunk guy’s mouth away from my now grossly damp skin and shot to my feet. My heart was still pounding furiously as I glared down, feeling all too disturbed by the disgusting stranger grinning up at me in triumph. My hand shook as I wiped at my neck with my palm.

If my glass wasn’t empty, I would have thrown it in his face. Except then I’d be wasting a drink, so maybe not.

I caught the eye of one of Sarah’s friends. She looked concerned as she mouthed a silent, ‘Are you okay?’

I offered her a tight-lipped smile, but said nothing as I turned my attention back to my assailant.

Don’t follow me,” I hissed. With a sneer, I stalked off towards the bar with no intention of returning to the table. It wasn’t as if I would be missed. I shoved my hands deep into the pockets of my jacket to hide the way they were shaking.

I caught the bartender’s attention as soon as I slipped onto one of the high standing stools. Within seconds, they placed a fresh drink in front of me and I was gulping it down as if it were water. When my glass slammed back down on the wooden bar top once again, a deep chuckle caught my attention.

It was him. The tattooed man.

He was standing by my side, far too close for me not to feel dwarfed by his presence. Up close, he seemed even more daunting. His mere height and broadened shoulders were far more intimidating than my earlier company, but I couldn’t seem to keep my eyes away despite knowing I should. My history with men similar to him; tattooed, muscular, and rough around the edges was more than enough reason for me to stay far, far away.

He was clean shaven, his hair cut short, and the faint evidence of a bruise dusted his sharp jawline. I tried to look away, God knows I did, but my eyes remained glued to his imposing figure.

“Another round,” he uttered to the bartender before glancing at me from the corner of his eye. “Grown bored already?” His voice was gruff and deep as he turned towards me, nodding to the table where the drunken guy was still lingering, seeming rather dejected. I scoffed and pushed my empty glass away for the bartender to collect.

“I was never interested.” He seemed to contemplate my words briefly before a dangerously promising smirk stretched across his full lips, lips that seemed far more tantalising up close, and he ducked closer towards me as he leant his arm against the worn down, wooden bar.

“Can I buy you a drink?” He uttered the words quietly, his deep voice vibrating across my skin like the stroke of a feather, causing goose bumps to rise across the golden skin of my arms. I kept my eyes focused on his mouth, barely able to hear him over the boisterous conversations that filled the pub.

“Uh...” I was momentarily distracted by the movement of his lips so close to mine, but forced myself to lean back slightly and clear my head. I couldn’t decide if it was attraction or intimidation that had me stumbling over my words; especially when my heart was still racing from my earlier interaction. “If your plan is to hit on me, I’m going to have to decline; I’m not really in the mood.”

He grinned, clearly amused by my words. “Wouldn’t say I had a plan, per se, but I wanted to make sure he didn’t follow you over here,” he said, gesturing to the guy who a minute ago had been making out with my neck. Indeed, as I looked back over, I caught him glaring in our direction, clearly unhappy with the presence of the hulking man beside me. “He looks stupid enough to try.”

“Oh...” I breathed, not sure what else to say as a small smile crept onto my face. “Thank you.”

His grin widened, and he kept his eyes on me as he called out to the bartender. “Another drink for my friend here, Tom.”

Gone was my empty glass and soon came another one, along with a pint for my new ‘friend’ as well as a tray of drinks that I presumed was for the rest of his group.

“You friends with the bartender?” My eyebrow cocked up, and I could not keep my smile from growing. I knew my cheeks were glowing from the close attention the tattooed man was paying me, but I was going to blame that more on the alcohol than anything else. It didn’t seem like the guy needed an ego boost. From his good looks, I reckoned he got more than enough attention daily. “How often do you come here?”

“Often enough lately that I’m questioning why I haven’t seen you here before. I’d definitely remember someone like you.” When he shifted to rest his hips against the bar, I caught the scent of his aftershave and almost wept with desire.

Someone who smelled good was always my weakness. In freshers week there was a girl on my course who I had been mildly infatuated with, all because she was pretty and smelled exactly like fresh flowers. I couldn’t speak to her without stuttering like a damn idiot and blushing like crazy. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you looked at it, she had switched courses from Illustration to Fine Art after the first three weeks, and I had finally concentrated on my lectures. I had always regretted not getting her number, though.

Maybe I had drank a little too much tonight, or maybe the stress of my second year of University was finally getting to me, but the scent of this man’s aftershave seemed to have that same effect on me. I knew he was just feeding me flirty lines, and it was obvious he was just looking for another woman to please, and yet I didn’t really care. All I knew was that I was enjoying his company and, for as long as he kept talking to me, I was happy to stay.

That and it had been such a long time since I’d entertained the attention of a man I was actually attracted to. I was tipsy, horny, and it was clear he was also interested.

“I tend to stay away from the run down bars with seedy guys praying on young women,” I teased bluntly, the words escaping before I could think them through.

To my surprise, the man broke out into a loud guffaw, and I felt a satisfied grin creeping across my face. I ducked away from his amused gaze and gulped down my beer in order to stop myself from making any inappropriate remarks about how hot he looked with his eyes crinkling at the corners like that.

Fuck me, his laugh was attractive.

My thighs clenched together on instinct, doing nothing to ease the sudden heat pulsing within me. I knew I was a horny drunk, but this was frankly ridiculous. The man had barely said two words to me and I was practically salivating over him. Get a grip Daisy, before you come across as fucking desperate.

“I’m Markus,” he introduced gruffly. He too downed the rest of his drink, blinking down at me heavily. At least I wasn’t the only one feeling the effects of the alcohol.

“Daisy.”

“You not going back to your friends?” He asked, nodding once again back to the table where Sarah, her course mates, and the rejected guy still sat.

“I doubt they’ve even realised I’m gone.”

“He’s realised. He looks upset,” Markus mused. “Understandable though, I’d be gutted if I were rejected by you. He deserves it, forcing himself on you like that.”

My standards were clearly far too low, if basic consent was what I looked for in a person, but I’d certainly be lying if I said that it wasn’t attractive.

“Something tells me you wouldn’t be that bothered if I rejected you,” I said, making no effort to hide the way my eyes scanned him from head to toe, fighting back a grin as I did so.

“Why’d you say that?”

“You’re too confident for this to be your first time hitting on a woman at a bar.” If I rejected you, you’d be right onto the next woman for sure.

“Maybe it is. Maybe you’re just so gorgeous I couldn’t resist,” he said, voice dropping to an indistinct murmur as he stepped closer. “Would you reject me? If I were hitting on you?”

“If?” If I asked coyly, arching my neck to look up at him.

“You aren’t in the mood, remember?” His voice was still a low, sultry purr, and I fought back a shiver at the sound of it.

“And if I’d changed my mind?”

Markus shifted closer and my legs parted instinctively, allowing him to stand between them, until we were so close that I pressed my palms flat against his chest. I could feel the unsteady hammering of his heart through his shirt that mirrored the erratic beating of my own. At first, with my hands pressed flat against the defined, sturdy muscles of his chest, I couldn’t move, and could barely breathe. But as my eyes came to settle on his lips hovering dangerously close to mine, I couldn’t resist the urge to push forward and claim his mouth.

Fuck, I really was drunk. Sober me would never be so brazen.

Instantly, a drawn out quiet whimper escaped me as our lips slowly brushed against each other before becoming more demanding and more bruising. I had utterly forgotten where we were. I was so consumed in the heat of the moment, I probably would have fallen to pieces right there in his arms in the middle of the crowded bar with his tongue in my mouth. Fortunately for me, Markus had some sense and pulled back, chest heaving, lips plump and eyes glistening.

“Let’s go somewhere quieter.”

I nodded my agreement with wide, eager eyes.

“How much have you had to drink?”

“About four pints. I’m still coherent.” I jumped down from the tall bar stool, leaning into Markus to stop myself from falling over at the sudden movement.

“Good.” His hand rested against my back as we stumbled hastily towards the exit.

“What about your friends’ drinks?” I asked with a giddy laugh, realising he had left the entire tray at the bar.

Markus shrugged his shoulders, grinning down at me. “They can get them themselves. You want to tell your friends you’re leaving?”

I shook my head. “I’ll text them.”

[this is my new romance book, it is 18+ so expect some explicit chapters. I actually first wrote this chapter in 2015 and I’m only just getting around to working on the rest of the story now. I’ll be posting once a week every Friday (no set time as the shifts I work on a Friday vary each week)]

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