I look around the gym and shake my head impressed. Unlike those gyms one sees in the movies where the hard-working boxer trains to be the champion - a little bit dark, a little bit shady - a real gym needs to be spacious, well-lit, clean. My father’s gym is and it has all the high-end gear needed along with the old-school equipment he likes to use. Some are the same ones I used growing up, trained by him, my father.
My father. I flinch and bite my lip as I dive into my thoughts. I barely know the man and I wish I was back to see him for any other reason than him being in the hospital with a severe heart condition. And I wished that he hadn’t asked me to fill in his shoes while he was away. What he wants me to do is too risky, too uncertain, and too…
“Lynn?” I turn and look upon the man calling my name.
And too hot…
All the haze the past has clouded me with just vanishes and I can’t help but gawk. Hello, my instinct flings her hair around and I barely stop myself before actually doing so.
Before me stands the single most striking man I have ever seen, impressive enough to cast away all thoughts of my childhood and the memories the place brought to me. He emanates strength, hard, raw, undeniable strength, and the confidence to go with it. He is tall and unimaginably well-built, downright impressive and, given the fact I grew up in a gym and now have one of my own, that says a lot.
He is evidently bi-racial and his skin has a delicious, light chocolate shade of pure velvet. I can’t help but travel my eyes all over his strong body before going back to his face. His eyes are the deepest green I have ever seen on man or nature and seem like an endless pit of eternal grass beckoning at me. And he has freckles! Freaking freckles! Little dots on his delightful face that make up for all the strong corners he has.
All and all it takes a herculean effort to snap out of my trance and come back to my good senses. I remind myself that I have seen the man on TV countless times. Of course, I never thought he would look so breathtaking up close.
“I am Lynn,” I say in my ever-husky voice.
The other man measures me. He is a boxer and he acts as such, never managing to shed that aspect of his personality even outside a ring. He is weighing me instinctively as all fighters do when facing someone they don’t know.
There is something more in his eyes. Something that tingles my instincts and sends my senses in a frenzied race. Jarek “Rage” Higgins is the former heavyweight world champion, he has claimed it all and right now he is looking at me as if he is ready to claim me.
He is wearing loose, grey sweatpants and a matching cardigan that lets the black wife-beater underneath show. But even those plain, dull clothes can’t tone down the striking spectacle this man provides. And that is never a good thing.
Hello again, my libido picked the wrong day to declare its independence. I will suppress all revolts bloody.
“Lynn Reavers?” He asks turning his piercing eyes in mine.
“Ben Reavers is my father.” I choose not to go into name specifics.
“I am Jarek Higgins.”
I frown and look down, puckering my lips. I know who he is, anyone remotely interesting in boxing knows who he is. He knows I know and that makes me pissed enough.
“Pleased to meet you.” I turn to the man again. “My father asked…”
“Listen,” he pulls closer and drops his bag on a bench, “I mean no disrespect.”
He looks down, shakes his head and licks his lips. I feel actual, physical pain surge through my body when I see that pink tongue licking that pair of thick, fleshy lips. But I manage to keep my poker face.
A boxer can go through a hell lot of pain and still look cool. Acting is part of the job so I can take this. I focus on what he is saying instead. After all “I mean no disrespect” is code for “I am going to insult the hell out of you”.
“I mean, I don’t know you and all,” Jarek shrugs, “and I appreciate what your father has done for me but…”
“You don’t want me to train you.” I finish his thoughts.
“Like I said, I mean no…”
“Is it because I am a girl?”
My voice is even, not giving off any emotion. I am used to being underestimated. “Punching like a girl” became my motto throughout my life. I wanted to change what that meant and I aspired to be the one to prove that punching like a girl meant fighting well. And, boy, I can punch. There aren’t many things I am good at but I can fight.
“Look…” Jarek twines his strong arms over his chest.
He is obviously feeling awkward mostly because I am dead on. He doesn’t want to be trained by me simply because I am a woman.
My glance travels to the dark boxing ring over Jarek’s shoulder. It is my turn to measure him up. In fact, that would be the first thing I would do if that man looked any less striking than he is. My eyes narrow as I play out all the scenarios. I tilt my head taking my time thinking it through.
With his height well above 6’’3 he is towering over my 5’’5. He is a heavyweight boxer and I am a lightweight which means he has over 70 pounds on me. I look at his arms and shoulders. That man can punch, too. One good cross and I will spend a few days in the hospital. But he is heavy, really heavy. I can see from the way he bears his body that he is strong. Strong and slow. I give him a crooked smile.
“I know you, Jarek.” I completely disregard his comment about his reluctance to be trained by a woman. “I have seen you fight and I know your type.”
Ι pull closer. I keep my eyes a calm, dark lake, my face the perfect mask of serenity. At the same time Jarek is looking down at me perplexed, agitated, the veins on his throat pulsating unevenly. He doesn’t know what to make of me. What to expect and anticipate. And that is halfway into taking your opponent down.
“You are strong.” I extend my arm and I boldly caress his strong, thick, silky arm.
Bad idea! Even if my look remains cool, I am on fire. My thighs react to that touch without my command, clenching as the vision of his skin touching mine all over my body brings steamy, hot fantasies. His warmth travels to me and nests at the back of my throat. Good thing my voice is naturally rough.
But even if my face was to melt into a silly, drooling expression, Jarek wouldn’t have noticed for he jolts as if an electric current has hit him and he almost loses his balance. Seeing a man like him so shaken by my touch gives me such a boost of confidence that I have to talk myself down to keep myself from taking this too far. Way too far.
“Really, really strong,” I say as I bend my right leg a bit back.
And then I lean back, form a fist and drive a right cross to his face only to stop it an inch away from his jaw. Jarek inhales sharply but he hasn’t even untwined his arms by the time I relax my body.
“Strong but slow.” I shake my head disappointed.
I am truly disillusioned and that is a good thing. Had he reacted quickly I might not have been able to stop myself from doing something stupid. Hot, sexy but stupid nonetheless. Jarek towers over me. His initial surprise has melted away and he is looking back at me deeply insulted and irritated. He is frowning and his perfectly thick eyebrows shadow his emerald eyes. His nostrils are flaring and his jaw is twitching.
“If only I weren’t a woman, right?” I am amused to see him so pissed.
I know I am dead on when I see him relax a bit and calm himself down. I had been around in my father’s gym for a while when I was young and I know well that there are a lot of reasons that brought men to boxing.
It is a primal thing, a primordial instinct to protect yourself. Most people from the outside think that it takes a really violent man to take up boxing, to wanting to hurt others. I know better. Most of those going into the sport are in need to protect themselves. Hurting somebody, deliberately wanting to hurt somebody takes no skill, has no rules and needs no training. Protecting oneself is a completely different story.
And this man before me has his own demons to fight. I am not there to judge him. I am there to make him better in this fight. I made a promise after all.