Real

By: Katy Evans

“I’m Remington.”

Brooke

Melanie has been shouting in my ear for the past half hour and my nerves are so frazzled by what we’re witnessing, I can barely even hear anything. Only my heart. Beating like crazy in my head as the two fighters in the underground boxing ring lunge at each other, both men equal in height and weight, both extremely muscled as they pound each other’s faces in.

Every time one of them lands a punch, cheers and claps burst across the room, which is crowded with at least three hundred spectators, all of them thirsting for blood. The worst part of it all is that I can hear the god-awful sound of bone cracking against flesh, and the hairs on my arms are pricked in utter fear. Any minute now I expect one of them to fall and never, ever, get up again.

“Brooke!” Melanie, my best friend, squeals and hugs me. “You look ready to puke, you are so not cut out for this!”

I’m seriously going to kill her.

As soon as I take my eyes off these men and make sure they’re both breathing when they finish this round, I’m going to murder my best friend without mercy. And then myself for agreeing to come here in the first place.

But my poor, dear Melanie has a new man-crush, and as soon as she found out the object of her nightly fantasies was in the city participating in these “private” and very “dangerous” underground club fighting games, she begged me to come with her and watch him. It’s just hard to say no to Melanie. She’s effusive and insistent, and now she’s jumping in glee.

“He’s next,” she hisses, uncaring of who won this last round, or if they even survived. Which apparently, thank god, they both did. “Get ready for some serious piece of eye candy, Brookey!”

The public falls silent, and the announcer calls, “Ladies and gentlemen, and noooww … the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the man you’re all here to see. The baddest of the bad, I give you, the one, the only, Remington ‘Riptide’ Tate!”

A shiver runs along my spine as the crowd goes crazy over the name alone, especially the women, and their eager shouts tumble one atop the other.

“Remy! I love you, Remy!”

“I’ll suck your cock for you, Remy!”

“REMY, POUND ME, REMY!”

“Remington I want your Riptide!”

All heads turn as a figure in a hooded red cape trots toward the ring. The fighters tonight apparently don’t wear boxing gloves, and I see his fingers flex and fist at his sides, his hands enormous and tanned, his fingers long.

Across the ring from me, a woman waves a poster reading “REMY’S #1 BITCH” proudly in the air, and she’s screaming at the top of her lungs in his direction—I guess in case he doesn’t know how to read or misses the neon pink letters or the glitter.

I’m so astounded, only now realizing my crazy best friend isn’t the only female in Seattle who’s apparently lost her head for this guy, when I feel her squeezing my arm. “I dare you to look at him and tell me you wouldn’t do anything for that man.”

“I wouldn’t do anything for that man,” I instantly repeat, just to win.

“You’re not looking!” she squeals. “Look at him. Look.”

She grabs my face and swings my gaze in the direction of the ring, but I start laughing instead. Melanie loves men. Loves to sleep with them, stalk them, drool about them, and yet when she catches them, she can never really hold onto them. I, on the other hand, am not interested in getting involved with anyone.

Not when my romantic little sister, Nora, has had enough boyfriends, and drama, for both of us.

I stare up at the stage as the guy whips off the satin red robe with the word RIPTIDE on the back, and the spectators stand screaming and cheering as he slowly turns to acknowledge them all. His face is suddenly before me, illuminated by the lights, and I just stare like an idiot from my place. My god.

My.

God.

Dimples.

Dark scruffy jaw.

Boyish smile. Man’s body.

Killer tan.

A shiver shoots down my spine as I helplessly drink in the entire package everyone else seems to be gaping at.

He has black hair, standing up sexily as if women have just had their fingers there. Cheekbones as strong as his jaw and forehead. Lips that are red-kissed and swollen, and as a souvenir from his walk to the ring, there’s lipstick on his jaw. I look down his long, lean body and something hot and wild settles in my core.

He’s mesmerizingly perfect and incredibly hard. Everything, from his beautifully slim hips and narrow waist to his broad shoulders, is solid. And that six-pack. No. It’s an eight-pack. The sexy V of his obliques dips into his satin, navy blue shorts, which gently hug his powerful legs, thick with muscle. I can see his quads, traps, pecs, and biceps, all gloriously tight and cut. Celtic tattoos circle both of his arms, exactly where his bulging biceps and the rigid square deltoids of his shoulders meet.

“Remy! Remy!” Mel shouts hysterically at my side, hands cupped to her mouth. “You’re so fucking hot, Remy!”

His head angles to the sound, one dimple showing with a sexy smile as he faces us. A frisson of nervous energy passes through me, not because he’s extremely gorgeous from this perfect view—because he is, he definitely is, goodness, he really is—but mostly because he’s looking straight at me.

One eyebrow cocks, and there’s a glimmer of amusement in his entrancing blue eyes. Also something … warm in his gaze. Like he thinks I’m the one who shouted. Oh, shit.

He winks at me, and I’m stunned as his smile slowly fades, morphing into one that’s unbearably intimate.

My blood simmers.

My sex clenches tight, and I hate that he seems to know it.

I can see he thinks he’s the ultimate creation, and he seems to believe every woman here is his Eve, created from his ribcage for him to enjoy. I’m both aroused and infuriated, and this is the most confusing feeling I’ve ever felt in my life.

His lips curl, and he turns when his opponent is announced with the words, “Kirk Dirkwood, The Hammer, here for all of you tonight!”

“You little slut, Mel!” I cry when I recover, shoving her playfully. “Why did you have to scream like that? He thinks I’m the nutcase now.”

“Omigod! He did not just wink at you,” Melanie says, visibly stunned.

Oh my god, he had. Hadn’t he? He did.

I’m just as astounded as I relive the wink in my head, and I’m totally going to torture Melanie because she deserves it, the little tramp.

“He did,” I finally admit, scowling at her. “We telepathically communicated, and he says he wants to take me home to be the mother of his sexy babies.”

“Like you would have sex with someone like him. You and your OCD!” she says, laughing her head off as Remington’s opponent takes off his robe. The man is all beefy muscle, but not an ounce of him can visually compete with the pure male deliciousness of that “Riptide.”

Remington flexes his arms at his sides, stretches his fingers out and forms fists, then bounces on his calves. He’s a large, muscular man but surprisingly light on his feet, which I know—because I used to compete in track—means he’s incredibly strong to be able to keep his body aloft in the air with such a minor tap of his feet.

Hammer throws the first punch. Remington evades it with a smart duck, and he comes back up with a full swing that connects and knocks Hammer’s face to the side. I inwardly flinch at the power in his punch; my body clenches at the sight of his muscles contracting and tensing, working and releasing, with each punch he delivers.

The crowd watches, enraptured, as the fight continues, those awful cracking sounds filling me with goose bumps. But there’s something else bothering me. The fact that beads of perspiration pop on my brow, in my cleavage. As the fight progresses, my nipples strain, even more puckered and tighter, against my top, pushing anxiously against the silk of the fabric. Somehow watching Remington Tate pound a man they call “Hammer” makes me squirm in my skirt in a way I don’t like, much less ever expected.

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