Real

By: Katy Evans


Come away with me



We’re flying to Denver now.

Pete and Riley ride up front with Diane and Lupe, and I’m in the back of the plane with Remington. He’s with his beats on, but I’m not, and instead I try to listen to Pete and Riley’s heated conversation. Remy hasn’t trained in four days, even when Riley woke us up that morning. I went to change and waited downstairs, but Remy never appeared. He didn’t come out of his room any of the following days either.

Except for me.

There’s something going on between us, and I’m afraid to give it a name. For the past four evenings, he’s come get me from my room and carry me back to his, and on this last one, I even stayed the full day.

We kiss each other like it’s all we’ve been waiting for during the day, which in my case is the complete truth. Melanie has texted after my drunken message about having sex with Remy. She wants to know if I’ll be popping out little Remys soon. And I just don’t know what we’re doing, but the way he kisses me feels like I’m his crack and he gets high on me. As soon as we hit the bed, his mouth fuses with mine and doesn’t let go. His arms hold me pinned to his body as if I ground him. I feel like his anchor, and he feels as powerful and exciting as a free fall.

“His points can’t keep him in first place forever,” Riley mutters now, and there’s no mistaking the impending doom in his voice. “He’s already down to second, verging on third. He can’t lose a single night and he can’t miss a fight anymore.”

Unlatching my seatbelt, I make my way to them with a frown. “What’s wrong?” I remain standing on the aisle and prop a shoulder on the back of Diane’s seat.

“Remy can’t miss any more fights. It’s all about points in this championship, so if we’re going for first, then he can’t miss any more fights and he certainly can’t afford to lose.”

“He’s not eating,” Diane says ruefully.

“He’s not training,” Coach adds bitterly.

“And his eyes are still black.”

I scowl at that last from Pete, and realize, that yes … for the past days, Remy’s eyes look really dark. But we also haven’t slept. We’re just kissing like maniacs all night and our bodies are haywire, and we’ve been ordering room service because I can’t seem to get him to agree for anyone from his team to come into the suite. I stare at their bleak faces, and Riley shakes his head.

“If he goes out with those devil black eyes to fight, one little part of him disagrees with what the referee says, and he might take the fucking asshole out.”

I scowl. “Don’t be ridiculous. He knows the rules. And he’s not a machine to train 24/7. Let him recover. He trains even Sundays, he’s dangerously close to being overtrained. Every athlete needs downtime.”

“Rem is not every athlete, if he doesn’t train he gets speedy,” Pete tells me.

I roll my eyes, sick of the term already. “Anything doesn’t drive him speedy?”

“Actually, yes. Peace and quiet. But he’s not turning into a monk anytime soon, is he?”

Seriously I don’t see what’s so wrong about him taking time out. Some of my athlete friends get completely depressed and crash after competition. What comes up so high has to come down, and neurotransmitters sometimes get a little wacky. “Look, your body can only be pushed so far, especially the way he pushes. So he missed a fight? Big deal. His strength will likely improve with a couple days’ rest and he’ll kick ass in Denver.”

They fail to respond and study me in silence, and I know they’re wondering what the hell is going on between us since Remington is acting really possessive of me, glaring at Pete when he talks to me, even Riley when he offered to help with my suitcase only hours ago. Remy just grabbed it instead and asked him if he had nothing else to do other than stare at me?

Yes, they seem desperate to know what’s going on between Remington and I. But since even I don’t know, I guess we’ll all have to remain wondering.

Sighing at the silence, I turn to go back, and when I do, awareness shoots through me when I spot him watching me.

There’s something very male in his eyes as he watches me return. It’s a dark, possessive look, and it triggers a little ripple to slide along my nerve endings. I’m flashed back to the four nights we spent in the presidential suite, where we locked out the world. I feel like Beauty and the Beast, except I willingly locked myself in with my beast so he could kiss me senseless, and he’s the beautiful creature who tortures me with wanting him.

I almost moan as I remember. Remy’s hand sliding up my throat. His eyes half-mast as he looks down at me. Our ragged breathing. His mouth hot and damp and shamelessly kissing me. He only kisses my mouth, my throat, and my ears. He licks and tastes, and triggers all kinds of sensations in my body.

I remember moaning. Remember the way he smiles against my lips at the drawn-out sound, and the way he turns very serious and intense as he comes back to taste me and sucks my lower lip and then bites and suckles the skin at my throat. I remember his body pressing against mine and my pussy throbbing with the nearness of his erection. Our tongues. Hot and desperate, flicking and probing. I want him so much it’s all I can think about. I think I begged him last night, “Please…” but I was so drugged with lust I’m not even sure. What I do know is that he stops sometimes, when his breath is crazy fast, and takes a cold shower.

But he comes back, wearing drawstring pants or tight sexy boxers, and once again envelops my body with the sheer size and protective shield of his, only to bend that dark head to mine and continue torturing me. He fucks my ear with slow, deep flicks of his tongue. He does the same to my mouth. Laps and tastes my throat. My collarbone. He gets me so hot, my teeth chatter from the way the air feels so cold on my flesh. Arousal drips down my thighs. My nipples become hard as diamonds. He works me to a lather, to the point where a mere sip of his mouth makes me moan from deep inside, like I’ve just been penetrated.

He’s taking it so slowly with me I feel like a teenager and a virgin, though I certainly am neither. But I feel claimed, and bonded to him like animals do. I feel like I’ve been already caught and trapped and he’s merely priming me, leaving me to simmer in my juices, anxiously waiting for the moment when he takes his first bite of me.

I seriously can’t stand it and am wet even now.

We don’t talk much when we “bond” in his bedroom. I sense he’s been in his man-cave these days, and I understand it. Yesterday, he didn’t even let me come out, and kept me pinned down in his bed, a helpless slave to his kisses.

When we need to stop, sometimes we hear music, turn on the TV, or eat, but most of all, we kiss. I sometimes hear nothing but the slick sounds of him kissing me, and our fast breaths, tearing one after the other. The night before the last, I was so primed by the time he came to fetch me from my room, I almost jumped into his arms. By the time we sank into his bed, my hands were already in his hair, my tongue desperately pushing into his warm, delicious mouth, and when he responded with an animal growl and a powerful kiss that sucked my tongue feverishly, I felt each of his pulls on my tongue ping little bolts of pleasure to my sensitized little clit. It swells and throbs when we kiss, and I get delirious remembering. Now just the tiniest look from him swells me up. When he glances at my lips. When he tucks a loose strand of hair behind my ear. I know we’re just sending our adrenals to hell, doing this. Keeping the output of this lust is just not healthy, but I can’t stop him. In fact I want more. I want him to stop because we’re suffering and I want him to go on until I lie dead in his arms, burnt to ashes from my want of him.

I want him. Every hour, minute, and second.

I wanted him that first night, when I tried to brainwash myself and pretend I didn’t. And now I want him like I want to breathe, to eat, to live a happy life, to see my sister again, to be satisfied in my job. I want him like I want to live my present without any fear whatsoever of what may, or may not, happen tomorrow.

I’m not even afraid that he will hurt me. I know this will hurt.

When I go back home, when this has to stop, it’s going to hurt. Nothing lasts forever and I know it better than anyone.

But fear has never been a friend of mine.

When I decided to compete in track, it wasn’t with a fear that I would lose, or that I would break my knee and have wasted a decade of my life training for nothing. You go after something because you want it bad enough to expend every one of your efforts to get it and will even risk some losses as you chase after it. Now, all the efforts in my body seem to hone in on the soul-consuming physical need for closeness to this man. It’s so overwhelming sometimes when I stretch him, the need to feel him embedded deep inside me where he makes it hurt is so overwhelming that I just don’t even know what to do with it and I need to stop.

Even now, I realize I’ve settled down next to him as close as I can without sitting on top of him, all the length of my pink jean-clad thigh pressing against his jean-clad thigh, and he smiles the dimpled smile that curls my toes, because I think he likes me to be close to him too. He takes off his headphones, and then ducks his head to me, as if silently asking me to tell him what’s going on.

“They’re worried about you.”

He turns to hold my gaze. “Me or my money?”

His quiet question feels as intimate to me as the whispers he told me when he kissed me in his room last night, when he whispered kiss me back and called me pretty and kept telling me I smell so good.

“You. And your money,” I tell him.

Those dimples come again but only briefly, appearing as if two angels just squeezed his lean cheeks. “I’m going to win. I always do.”

I smile, and when his gaze drops to my smile, an awareness of my mouth seizes me.

My lips feel swollen and red today, raw from his. His eyes darken even more as he studies them, and a shiver rushes through me. I try to stifle it at the same time I fight not to stare back at his beautiful mouth as well, which does look deliciously, gut-wrenchingly pinker and thicker from my kisses today.

“Do you want to run today? To get ready for tomorrow?” I ask him, and it’s taking all my effort to focus on anything but the fire raging inside me.

He shakes his head.

“You’re tired?” I prod.

He nods with sad eyes, his voice low, but not apologetic. “So fucking tired I can barely pull myself out of bed.”

I nod in understanding, because I feel a little of that too. I don’t want to get up. Especially with this enormous muscled man in the same bed, where I just want to torture myself all over again with my wanting him.

I lean back, feel his shoulder against mine resting on the backrest, and I want to curl up like I did last night when we just couldn’t keep up the kissing and caught a couple of hours of sleep. I think he senses I’m tired too, and he shifts slightly so I can rest my head on him.

He passes me a song.

I’m too lazy to pass him any of mine, so I just listen. Norah Jones’s smoky, beautiful “Come Away With Me” begins playing, sensually proposing that I do exactly as the title suggests.

The tone is so sexy and reminds me so badly of our nights together, our stolen moments kissing, that it gives me a fever. Suddenly he leans over to try to listen through my earphones, and when I get a closer whiff of his clean male scent near me, my muscles throb painfully tight. I instantly grab my music, and select a modern song that’s been playing in the radio lately about a boxer who’s strong and fights incredibly hard. I wanted to play “Iris” for him. I wanted to play something to beg him to make love to me. But his team is worried, and I know that whatever we’re doing at night isn’t conducive to good athletic performance. No matter how much I crave those moments and crave what they’re leading to, I can’t sabotage him like this. He’s too important.

I watch his profile as he listens. His expression is unreadable at first. When he finally raises his head, his gaze is dark and troubled. “You play me a song about a fighter?”

I nod.

He tosses my iPod aside with a scowl. Then, he reaches around and grabs my hips. He drags me onto his lap, and my breath goes when I feel how much, how unmistakably, he wants me. “Give me another one,” he demands.

The primal look in his eyes makes me shudder.

I shake my head. “We can’t keep doing what we’re doing, Remy. You need your sleep,” I whisper.

“Give me another song, Brooke.”

He sounds so stubborn that I want to scowl, but it actually … excites me. He wants my songs as badly as he wants my kisses, and it makes me high. All right then. If he wants it, then we need to go all the way tonight and make love, not just jack ourselves up. So I find “Iris” and hand him the song. I straighten and watch his profile when he hears it. He is unreadable once more, but when he raises his head this time, his eyes are torpedoes of heat. His erection is fierce under my lap, and I feel his heart pulsing rhythmically there. In his hardness.

“Ditto,” he says.

“To what?”

His eyes flick up to the other passengers before grabbing my hair and drawing my head down so he can lick my lips side to side with his tongue. “To every lyric.”

I shudder and pull back. “Remy … I’ve never had an affair before. I just won’t share you. You can’t be with anyone else while you’re with me.”

He strokes a thumb across my damp lower lip, his gaze intense. “We won’t be having an affair.”

I stare dumbly, certain I just heard an organ in my body crack in my chest.

His hands clamp around me, and he crushes me to his body as he slides his nose along the shell of my ear. “When I take you, you’ll be mine,” he says, a soft promise in my ear. He slides his thumb along my jaw, then gently kisses my earlobe. “You need to be certain.” His eyes are so hot that I’m on fire with the lust in them, and the word “mine” makes the empty place between my legs swell with longing. “I want you to know me first, and then, I want you to let me know if you still want me to take you.”

The word “take” is also having an effect. I’m just a big mass of quaking need. “But I already know I want you,” I protest.

He looks at my lips with fierce intensity, then into my eyes, his stare so pained and tormented I’m stunned with the darkness I see. He strokes a hand down my bare arm, waking up all the little hairs there. “Brooke, I need you to know who I am. What I am.”

“You’ve had tons of women without this requisite,” I plead.

His big hands engulf my bottom as he hauls me closer again, his eyes brimming with need, gobbling up my features, and drowning me in their depths.

“This is my requisite with you.”

A flash of wild need rips through me as I realize what he’s telling me.

He won’t take me yet.

Even when it’s all I think about. All I want.

Today, it’s daylight, and I’m still living in the last bed I was in, with him, with his mouth devouring mine.

He wants me to know him, and I want to know him, but if I know him and like him just a little bit more than I already do, our emotional connection will be too strong for me to ever go back to the way I was before him.

He’s powerful, physically, but emotionally, he demolishes me.

I can’t take much more of this. And neither should he.

Feeling an odd heaviness in my chest, I lean into his ear and whisper, “We still can’t keep this up, Remy. Not when your championship is on the line. So you either come get me tonight to make love to me, or you leave me alone so we can both rest.”

I expect this threat to have more of a reaction. He’s a man. This is an open invitation to uncomplicated sex, just what men want. I’m making it easy for him, basically accepting him “as is,” no more questions asked. He will either work it out in bed with me and be able to train tomorrow, or he’ll have a restful night of sleep without me. And I hate that he doesn’t seem budged to the make-love option which was honestly the one I was praying he’d go for. Instead he studies my face with eyes that I notice are definitely, definitely, not blue today.

“All right,” he says, with a smile I’m not quite sure reaches his eyes. He sets me down on my side, grabs his iPod, clicks his own music, and doesn’t give me another song.

So now I guess I won’t be sleeping with him either.

Wow.

I think I just broke my own heart.
We’re in Los Angeles now, and the weather here is so blessed by the gods, I just want to be outside all day. Diane and I are roommates again, and we love having breakfast in our little balcony.

In fact, ever since we arrived at chilly Denver almost a week ago, we were back to sharing quarters after my idiotic make-love-to-me-or-die ultimatum to Remy. Although I was totally forlorn to realize I was no longer his roommate to be deliciously taken at night, Diane was so excited when we got to our room, she actually leapt over and hugged me. “You should room with me more often, you!”

Turns out Remington booked us a presidential suite like his, and we each had our own room, with a shared living room and dining area. I still didn’t know if I wanted to sigh, or laugh, or cry, that’s how wound up he’s got me.

That evening we arrived, I remember his body in my hands, his sweaty bare skin under my fingers, and it was all I could do to keep my pulse under control as I rolled and rubbed the firm, lean nape of his neck. I edged closer to whisper in the back of his ear, “Mind telling me why Diane and I are in a suite, Remy?”

He let me turn his neck one side, then the other, my fingers lightly resting on his scratchy jaw with a sexy day’s of whiskers, and he never answered. “You can’t do this, Remington,” I added.

But he turned his head slowly, and he touched my lips so that every part of my body remembered having his lips on them. “Stop me. I dare you,” he said, then grabbed his towel and walked away.

I just don’t understand him.

I miss Melanie to talk to.

I wish I could talk to Nora too. She was always my little sister in crush, in lust, or in love with a boy, and I’m sure she would know why in the world an insanely sexy man who’s single and healthy and clearly physically responds to you does not seize the opportunity to have sex with you.

If I were a little less confident, I’d be experiencing all kinds of complexes right now.

I’m even wondering if my body is no longer attractive with the little fat I’ve gained the past years. Maybe my hair needs a new cut other than the plain length I wear it. I might wear bangs. Or add some highlights?

“Stop staring at yourself, you look amazing in anything you wear,” Diane tells me this morning when she catches me checking out my butt in the full-length mirror at the entry of our room.

I laugh, but it’s not funny.

Remy booked Diane and I in a presidential suite again in LA.

I don’t want a suite. But what I want, he won’t give to me.

I’d never let anyone get to me like this.

I used to feel pretty and whether or not a man agreed with me was beside the point. I liked myself and that was enough.

Now I find myself feeling a little sad during the day, when Diane seems to find me staring at a stupid wall, helplessly wondering what Remington thinks of me.

This is our third night in LA, and he’s still in second place point-wise, but he’s been fighting like a champion. He’s worked out the best I’ve ever seen him, and all this ever since his eyes became electric blue again in Denver.

He trains like an animal. Hours and hours with Coach, and then he still seems as fresh as sunshine when he comes ask me to run with him the evenings. The energy in his muscles explodes like dynamite with every move he makes, and I can almost see his ATP source—the adenosine triphosphate in charge of transporting chemical energy throughout our cells—recycling so fast in his body, it’s like it doesn’t even take him usual eight seconds for turnover. I have never seen him so focused. So strong. Or so magnificent.

Every part of me notices.

Every.

To my despair.

Pete and Riley are stoked. “Brooke!” Pete calls as I enter the Underground in the afternoon. Here in LA, the fighting ring is situated in the basement floor of one of the city’s most frequented nightclubs, and they’re expecting a full house of over a thousand. “Get over here, we need you.” Pete waves me into the locker room.

The whole sexy package of Remington Tate is seated in a bench at the far end while Coach wraps his right hand with tape.

I’ll never get used to the feeling I get when I look at him.

Nor the one I get when he’s about to fight.

I feel wound up like a spring and tighter than a triple knot.

He’s got his Dr. Dre beats on, and I think he does this to get in the fighting mode and zone everything out.

“Come on over, Brooke, loosen up the man.”

Riley and Coach greet me with twin nods, and I notice the instant that Remington spots me, he hooks his thumbs into his earphone chords and yanks them down to drape around his neck. The look we exchange is, in fact, so intent, we don’t smile at each other. The answering smile I’d given to Riley and Coach vanishes from my face as the heavy metal song Remy had been listening to trails into the room.

Quietly, I lean over to pause his iPod, then I go behind him and seize his shoulders, methodically working my thumbs into his muscles.

There are a couple of knots I worked off his posterior deltoids and trapezius back muscles yesterday. They’ve been stubborn and keep returning, so once again, I work on both. He groans the instant my bare skin touches his. God. The low, purr-like sound is like foreplay to me. It steals into every feminine part in my body, especially those that have been run ragged with need. My cheeks start burning as Coach, Pete, and Riley watch us.

I drop my face so they can’t see my blush and resist the urge to draw my hands back. “Deeper.” Remington’s rough command reaches me, and my womb clenches helplessly as I go deeper. A large knot bites into my thumb, so I bring my other thumb to press with both. Remy lets his head hang forward and draws in a deep breath, and when the knot disintegrates under the pressure, his groan vibrates deep inside my core.

“Good luck,” I whisper into his ear, drawing back, my fingers tingling from the contact we’d just made.

He looks at me when he stands, unsmiling as his stare holds mine in a grip so intense, my mind goes blank from everything but the blue in his eyes and the black in his pupils and the length of his dark lashes.

He extends out his arms as Riley slips on his black boxing gloves, a requisite for today, and then he taps them together. An alert from the door tells them “Riptide” is up soon, and he nods.

He rams his arms into his red satin coat and then trots out toward the wide hall that leads to the ring, and an entire farm full of animals awaken in my stomach, not just the butterflies. Dragging in a deep breath, I wait a moment to recover before I slowly wind outside to take my seat with the spectators.

The noise is deafening. Pete told me this morning that his fans are freaking out because Remy’s not leading the championship, and there seems to have been some serious demand for tickets tonight. As the last sixteen contenders unite, this is the first night Remington will fight Scorpion, up to the final. Scorpion is in first place now, and my nerves are killing me.

“Hey,” Pete says, nudging me gently forward as he walks up behind me. “Get the hell up there. The man will be looking for you.”

Somehow I manage the impossible and both laugh and scowl. “He will not!”

His eyebrows shoot upward in apparent disbelief. “He fights his best when you watch him, and even Coach agrees. His testosterone jacks up like crazy in his lab work when he’s in contact with you. Come on.”

Hating the thrill that shoots like lightning through my veins, I quickly scuffle toward the ring and for my seat as I hear Scorpion introduced.

“Benny the Black Scoooooorpion!”

That’s the odious man that goaded Remington at the club, and I loathe him with such force, I instantly glare at everyone who cheers for him. I’m a couple of steps from reaching my seat, where I’m completely prepared to hold on to my pants—for this night is going to be brutal—when I see, across the ring and through Remy’s powerfully built legs, a face among the crowd.

The face is oval shaped, and creamy skinned, and it carries a pair of hazel eyes. Eyes similar, in color, to mine. Eyes that, last I knew, belonged to Nora.

My twenty-one-year-old sister.

Nora.

Nora who only recently sent a postcard from Australia. Nora whose hair has been painted blood red, instead of its normal soft brown. Nora who has a big, black, ugly tattoo of a scorpion on her left cheekbone. Nora who looks lost and sick and the complete opposite of the lively girl I knew. For a moment, I’m standing in the middle of this wide hall, staring at her while telling myself, over and over, that this cannot possibly be Nora.

She looks bad.

She looks really, really bad.

Like the life has been sucked out of her, and all that remains are fake red hair, skin and bones.

She spots me, and my stomach sinks to my toes when I know, without the shadow of a doubt, that it’s her. Recognition flares in her eyes, and her hand flies up to her mouth to cover it. “Nora,” I gasp, and without thinking twice, I charge after her, shoving people aside as the bell for the fight chimes.

The multitude in the room erupts in cheers and screams, and my heart trots frantically inside my chest when Nora twists around and shoves through a throng of people in a sudden startling effort to get away from me. She’s blending through the crowd, into the darkness, and I’m frantic as I scream, “Nora? Wait. Nora!”

I can’t believe she’s running away. From me. I can’t believe that all the traces of youth vanished from her once vibrant face.

My sister.

Whom I shared bedrooms with, until I got my own place.

Who used to watch every version of Pride and Prejudice with me.

Suddenly the big, beefy man who’d been standing to her right grabs me and yanks me aside as I try to pass. “Stay the fuck away from her,” he snarls.

Paralyzed in a mix of surprise and fear, I forget all my self-defense moves except the groin one. I shift my weight and land my knee up. “Let go of me.”

He doubles over, but doesn’t release me. Instead his hands clench convulsively on my arms. “You little bitch, you leave Scorpion’s property alone,” he hisses, and I think the wet splatter that just hit my cheek was his spit.

“She’s not his property!” Fiercely, I struggle to pry free as I simultaneously rub my cheek on the sleeve of my blouse.

A fresh wave of booing and shouting erupts full force across the room as the announcer yells through the speakers, “The victor, Scorpion! Scooooooorpiooooooon! Remington Tate has been disqualified from this round! Dis-qualified!”

All hell breaks loose, and suddenly something grabs the manacles on my arms and with an easy thrust, sets me free. Then I’m yanked back and a pair of tanned, muscled arms crush me against a familiarly large bare chest. Every inch of my body recognizes him, and I sag in relief.

Until I remember Nora.

Gasping, I struggle with renewed force. “No. No! Remy, let me go, I need to follow her.” Fighting futilely to be released, I try twisting in his grip. “Let go, Remy, let go, please.”

But as the angry crowd flocks around us, he clenches me tighter to him and ducks to my ear. “Not now, little firecracker.” His voice is low and calm, but the warning instantly makes me stop squirming. Using one arm, he tucks me into his side and shoves us through the throng, his big body bulldozing us through the multitude.

A multitude that for the first time in my life, shouts insults in my face.

They claw me as we pass. “Bitch. It’s your fault, you stupid bitch!”

My eyes widen in horror as I absorb the murderous faces of Remington’s fans, and I’m so startled I curl myself into his arms and let him usher me out without a single complaint. Pete, Riley, and Coach wait for us in the car.

“Fucking shit!” Coach starts as soon as the door slams shut behind us and the limo pulls into traffic.

“You're down to third. Third. Possibly fourth,” Pete glumly informs him, handing him a t-shirt and sweatpants he usually wears after a match.

“You had this one down, Rem. You were training so fucking well you would have had his ass on a stick, man.”

“I've got it, Coach, just relax.” Remington briskly shoves himself into his casual clothes without removing his boxing shorts, then he immediately pins me down to his side as if he thinks I’m going to fling myself out of the car.

He rubs his hand down my scratched arm as he calmly faces the three angry men before us, but I’m so agitated I squirm free and slide to the window, where I stare at all the faces spilling out of the club in search of Nora.

Added to my disappointment of having completely ruined Remy’s fight is an incredible sense of guilt for my sister. How could I not see my sister was in trouble? How could I have bought the bullshit she’s been feeding us, through postcards, for an entire year?

“You’re in the worst placement you’ve been in years, man, your concentration is shit!”

“Pete, I’ve fucking got it. I’m not screwing this up.”

“I think Brooke should stay in the hotel next fight,” Riley mutters.

Remington’s laugh drips pure sarcasm. “Brooke comes with me,” he snaps back.

“Rem…” Pete tries to reason.

When we reach the hotel, we’re all in the same elevator, and I’m agitated as I watch the numbers climb slower than ever. I don’t know what I’ll do about Nora, but I know I have to do something. The doors roll open on my floor, and I hear Pete address Remington while I get out, and Remy’s annoyed voice snapping close behind me, “Pete, we’re talking about this later, just cool off your nuts, all three of you.”

“Get back here, Rem, we need to talk to you!”

“Talk to the wall!”

Desperate to get away, I storm into my suite but hear him immediately behind me. “You all right?”

He shuts the door, and the sudden visual of him in that sexy attire that he wears after a match, a pair of low-hanging sweatpants and a soft t-shirt that hugs all his muscles, and that beautiful tan face full of concern and messed-up spiky black hair, makes my heart lurch and my legs want to run to him so I can feel the strength of his arms around me again.

I desperately want those arms to hold me right now, when my mind spins in all directions, reeling from what just happened. But I know I don’t deserve these arms to hold me in the first place. It’s obvious that he fucked up because of me, as if it’s not enough that I’ve been lately feeling woefully inadequate and unworthy of him, I now have to live with the fact that he’s dropped to third or fourth on my account. God.

He looks so strong and powerful as he stands before me, all sweaty and chorded arm veins pumped with his strong, healthy blood, I desperately wish he could tell me that my sister is going to be all right. But he doesn’t even know my sister, and after getting him disqualified, he’s the last man in the world I should be begging support from.

Dragging in a breath, my hand shakes as I signal at the door past his shoulders. “Go talk to them, Remy.”

I’ve noticed that his voice sometimes sounds terser when he speaks to me more than with anyone else, but this time it’s even more thick and textured than usual. “I want to talk to you first.”

He stays, but neither us says anything. I’m busily trying to formulate an apology for fucking up his fight, and at the same time, am reluctant to accept the blame when I didn’t ask him to come after me!

He paces restlessly from the door, dragging all five fingers of his hand across his hair, down to his nape. He drops it with a sigh. “Brooke, I can't fight and keep an eye out for you.”

“Remy, I had it covered,” I insist.

“My fucking ass, you had it covered!”

His tone makes me jerk in surprise, and I can’t help but notice the fists he’s just formed at his sides and the sudden width of his alarmingly challenging stance. The cloud of fury hovering above his head only serves to bring mine out with a vengeance, and I jump into defense mode. “Why is everyone looking at me like it’s my fault? You’re supposed to be fighting Scorpion!”

His eyebrows snap over his eyes. “And you’re supposed to be in your goddamned seat on the front fucking row to my left!”

“What difference does it make? You’ve been fighting for years without having me in the audience! What does it even matter where I’m at?” Suddenly this is so not about Nora that I don’t even know where this is coming from, but it’s ripping off my chest like an open wound. “I’m not even a fling, Remington! I’m your employee. And in less than two months, I won’t even be that, I’ll be nothing to you. Nothing.”

Suddenly he looks completely vexed and aggravated, and he clenches his hands until his knuckles go white. “Who is that girl you were chasing?” he demands, his face a mask of distress.

“My sister.” I drop my voice to a whisper, suddenly loathing my own weakness and my emotional outburst.

“What’s your sister doing with Scorpion’s goonie?”

“Maybe she's wondering the same about me,” I say with a bitter laugh.

He joins in, but I have to say, his laugh is infinitely more bitter than mine. “Don't mistake me for a fuck up like him. I may be fucked up but that guy eats virgins and spits them out like snake vomit.”

Unsettled even more at that, I start pacing, remembering her face, so sad and lifeless. My stomach roils at the prospect of her being god knows what to a sick man like that. “Oh, god. She looked awful. Awful.”

There’s a silence, and then I hear the doorknob click open. Remy’s voice contains a new timbre, low and troubled, as if some powerful emotion had touched him. “You’re not nothing. To me.”

The door shuts after him, and I feel an instant squeezing hurt as his words register. I’m in so much turmoil, suddenly I want to beg him to come back and hold me. No. I want to beg him to come back and make love to me.

But I don’t, and only stare at the spot he’d just occupied in the living room of this luxurious suite he rented for the two female members of his team. I’m so shaken it takes me a moment to register his words, and their meaning, and link them to the very real possibility of him going out in search of the very man he believes has my sister, instead of going out to talk with Pete and Riley.

Spurred to action by the thought, I storm out of my room and knock rapidly on his. “Where is he?” I ask the first figure at the door.

“We were about to come ask you the same question,” Riley says, grim-eyed.

“Is he going to get in a fight?” I ask in alarm.

“Seriously, Brooke, we personally think you’re a great girl, but you’ve got the guy more wound up than—”

“Save it, Riley! I think he may have gone to look for Scorpion. Where can I find him?”

“Son of a bitch. We’re barely out of one and he’s heading directly for another. Goddammit!”

There’s no time to wait for them to formulate a plan. Instead, I run to the elevators and after him, realizing how stupid it was for me to bring Remy into this thing with my sister in the first place.

Scorpion and Remington obviously have been at each other’s throats for a while, and the last thing I need is to give cause for Remy to go fight him off ring. I'm going to have to find a way to rescue Nora from that awful insect myself.

Outside, the hotel is littered with an immense crowd of people, including photographers. Flashes burst all around me as I exit through the revolving glass doors.

“That’s her. Her fault he was disqualified tonight!”

I see something flying toward me and duck, but it’s too late. There’s a hard impact on my head, followed by another loud crack as something slaps into my stomach. A sulfur-like smell reaches me. Eggs? Great.

Just wonderful.

Ducking when another egg flies in my direction, I cover my head and give the crowd my back as I hurry to the valet. “The strong guy I just came into the hotel with! Where did he go?”

The valet is a youngish boy whose widened eyes seem to eat up his face when he looks past my head at something. “He’s about ten steps away from being right behind you.”

Another egg crashes into my shoulder as I pivot around, and Remy looks like an avenging angel storming toward me. His eyes blaze in anger as I realize that his fans are calling me a bitch and a whore, and he swiftly turns and blocks another egg which I hear crack against his back.

He grabs me and scoops me up like I weigh nothing, then he raises his voice as he swings around, angry and commanding. “It’s because of this woman I’m still fighting!”

A sudden silence falls across the crowd, and Remington’s hard, enraged voice continues telling them, “Next time I'm on the ring, I'm going to fucking win for her, and I want all of you who hurt her tonight to bring her a red rose and tell her it’s from me!”

The silence doesn’t last a second longer.

Screams erupt. Cheers. Claps. And I think what’s doing most of the commotion is my heart: a winged thing fluttering against my ribcage in complete confusion and disbelief of what he just said.

He takes me back into the hotel and carries me across the lobby, his square shoulders and arms hunched into my body, somehow guarding me. Suddenly, I’m so stunned by this evening I start to laugh. It’s a nervous kind of laughter, but it’s laughter all the same, as he presses the elevator button repeatedly.

“And they say Justin Bieber’s fans are crazy,” I say, gasping for air from the shock.

His voice is asperous as he brushes away the egg shells from my top. “I apologize on their behalf. I disappointed them today.”

My laughter fades when I realize that his rapid, angry breath trembles the loose hair at the top of my head. It’s warm and scented of him, and it does me in. Like everything else about him.

Forcing myself not to tremble in his arms, I clutch my hands around his firm, wide neck, grateful when the couple watching us like we’re horny, drunk, young adults decide not to board with us. I just don’t want him to let me go yet. I’m selfish and needy like that. And I think what finally closed the deal was Remy’s murderous expression when he snapped at them, like they were the ones who threw eggs at us, as he held the door open with one arm and cradled me to his chest with the other, “You coming?”

And they both instantly stepped back and said, “No.”

Now we’re riding alone, and I can’t stop myself from pressing my nose to his neck. “Thank you.”

He clutches me tighter and I feel so safe here, I think I want this to be my new home. I think if I’d known this man the day I broke my knee, and he’d held me like this, my knee wouldn’t have even mattered. Only the fact that his arms were around me would.

Pete and Riley are still in his penthouse when he slides the key into the slot and carries me inside. “What the fuck is going on, Rem?” Pete demands.

“Just get the hell out, guys.” Rem holds the door open for them, and me still aloft in the other. “I do what I want, you hear me?” he snaps at them.

Both men stare at me for a moment, and they both look as startled as I feel. “We hear you, Rem,” Riley meekly answers as he shuffles out after Pete.

“Then don’t fucking forget it.”

He slams the door and bolts it after them so that nobody, not even those with a key, can come into the suite, and he carries me into the bath of the master bedroom. I admit I’m not ready to let go, and when I wind my fingers tighter at his nape, he gets the message and keeps an arm around me as he maneuvers to turn the shower knob.

The water starts falling, and he kicks off his shoes, takes off mine, and then steps into the stall with me in his arms.

“Let’s get this shit off you.” He runs his big hands over my wet hair, and I end up sliding down the length of him, to my feet. The water feels incredible on my skin, and when he peels off my dress and lifts it over my head, I feel his soapy hands rubbing everywhere, even over my underwear. I bite my lip and try to block off his touch, but it filters inside me. It’s all I can feel, or know, or think of.

I no longer worry that Pete and Riley hate me, that I’m fucking up Remy’s fight. That his fans hate me. That my sister doesn’t want to see me. That I miss Mel. That I can’t sprint anymore. That I will soon be out of a job.

It’s all about this man, my body standing utterly still as I find myself waiting in breathless anticipation just to see what he will do. Where his hands will slide to next. What part of my body will feel his wet fingers on my hot flesh.

Methodically he touches me, and though I’m breathless over his touch, he’s not in the least bit affected. He spreads my arms up and slides soap into my armpits, between my legs, my neck, then he whips his t-shirt off, and scrapes himself quickly. His powerful shoulders bulge, and the sight of his nipples excites me.

“I can’t believe your groupies called me a whore,” I say, trying not to think that I’m almost naked in the shower. And he’s in only the drawstring sweatpants and is now fully shirtless, every muscle of his torso glistening wet.

He quickly lathers his hair. “You’re going to survive.”

“Do I have to?”

“Yeah, you do.”

He comes to lather my hair with new shampoo, and his attention, so wanted, is now solely on me and my hair. “They hate me,” I say up at him. “I won’t be able to go to your fights now without fear of getting lynched.”

He grabs the shower head and angles it directly above me. I close my eyes and let the soap bubbles drip down my face, and when I open my eyes, he’s looking straight at me. Rivulets of water slide down his square jaw and cling to his eyelashes as he brushes a strand of wet hair away from my forehead, and I become aware of the fast gait of my pulse.

His eyes are brilliant blue, and as they remain resting on mine, they feel a thousand times more brilliant than usual. He’s just as wet as I am, and suddenly he holds my face between his hands and stares deeply into me. He’s breathing hard. His eyes slide down the length of my nose, to my mouth. He strokes my lips with a fingertip that is thick, blunt, and callused. And I can feel that stroke in every cell of my being. “That’s never going to happen,” he says in an odd, hot whisper.

Weakness travels up my legs and it is taking over every ounce of my willpower. I’ve never craved anyone’s gaze like I crave his. Need anyone’s touch like I need his. Or want anything as painfully fiercely as I want him.

My throat feels achy as I speak. “You shouldn’t have … said that about me, Remy. They’re going to think you and I … that you and I…” I shake my head, aware now of how my fingers tingle in the water with the urge to touch his wet spiky hair.

“That you’re mine?”

The word “mine” on his lips, spoken as those intent blue eyes look into me, makes my stomach constrict with painful unrequited lust. I laugh.

“What’s so funny?” He shoves open the glass door and wraps a towel around his hips, easily letting his wet drawstring pants slap to the floor, then his t-shirt follows. He comes back and covers me in a large towel and hauls me to the bed. He sets me down in the center, his voice with a hint of laughter, but his face frowning. “Is the thought of being mine funny?”

He reaches under my towel and pulls off my panties, and then my bra, then he works the towel through my hair and then my body, his blue eyes not glinting anymore. “Is the idea of being mine funny?” He covers both my breasts with the towel and dries me, still watching me. “Is it funny, Brooke?” he insists, peering intently into my eyes.

“No!” The word is just a gasp as desire shoots through my nerve endings. My hips tilt up when he starts drying me between my legs, and I can’t help but be totally turned on.

He runs the towel through the length of my legs, and I lick my lips as he bends his head at last, and my bones become liquid with pure red-hot want. He seems especially obsessed in drying my bad knee. The towel almost feels loving as he rubs it over my scar. A burning fever follows the path of the towel as I helplessly watch him.

A drop of water clings to one of the small, brown tips of his nipples, and it takes all my willpower to fight against a deep, soul-shattering need to lean over and suck it into my mouth. Not the drop of water. His nipple.

My heart pounds when I reach out, my hand quaking as I touch the top of his head. “Have you ever been anyone’s?” I ask, a feathery whisper in the quiet bedroom.

He lifts his head to mine, and I want him so bad I feel consumed inside, like he’s already possessed my soul, and now my soul aches for him to possess my body.

A powerful emotion tightens his features as he reaches out to cradle my cheek in his big hand, and there’s an unexpected fierceness in his eyes, in his touch, as he cups me. “No. And you?”

The calluses in his palm rasp on my skin, and I find myself tucking my cheek deeper into them. “I’ve never wanted to.”

“Neither have I.”

The moment is intimate. Heavy with things unsaid. Charged with something without a name, leaping between us. From him to me. Me to him.

He drags his thumb along my jaw like he’s memorizing it.

Ripples shoot across my body, shooting from his thumb straight to my core as he continues caressing my face, all the time watching me with those breathtaking, heartbreaking, beautiful blue eyes as though engrossed. His voice is velvet on my skin. “Until I saw this lovely girl in Seattle, with big gold eyes, and pink, full lips … and I wondered if she could understand me…”

My chest heaves at his unexpected words, and when he bends his head closer, his gaze almost asking permission, I border on sensory overload as his scent of soap and shampoo and water cling to my nostrils.

The ache for his touch throbs through me, but instead of reaching for me, he spreads the towel and draws it over my body and gently covers me. His voice is rough with emotion.

“I want to say so many things, Brooke, and I just can’t find the words to tell them to you.”

He sets his forehead on mine and inhales deeply. Slowly, still breathing me in, he drags his nose along the length of mine.

“You tie me up in knots.” He presses my mouth with his. Briefly. Then he withdraws, breathing hard, and looks at me with heavy-lidded eyes. “I want to play you a thousand different songs so you get a clue of what … I feel inside me…”

Raw need streaks through my bloodstream, my nerves, my very bones, as he strokes his thumb up my jaw and around the shell of my ear. Shivers run through my body as he slides his index finger across my top lip. He strokes liberally across my bottom one too, and I whimper. There’s an ache in my beaded nipples, my wet sex, my heart.

He holds my face between his palms and angles his head, fitting my lips softly to his as he draws my tongue into his mouth, sucking strongly on me.

I moan and grip his shoulders with my nails, locking him to me. “Why won’t you take me, Remington?”

He groans and pulls me closer. “Because I want you too much.”

His tongue dips hard against mine, and sensations spark up in my nerve endings as he leans his body into mine, his skin damp and hot, the towel falling to my waist and my breasts getting flattened by his diaphragm.

I gasp into his mouth as he pulls me closer and continues his sensual assault with his lips.

“But I want you so much, and I’m protected,” I pleadingly cajole. “I know you’re clean. You get tested all the time and I…” I shudder at the feel of his chest muscles against the sensitive tips of nipples, hard and bulged. My hips tilt up by pure instinct, and I’m just a female. Seeking my male. His hardness. His touch. I can’t breathe, can’t think, want him want him want him.

An orgasm is not what I want and I know it. What I want, need, is so much more than that. It’s the connection. The exhilarating contact with this human being, a being that compels me like no other. I miss his touch, his kiss. I don’t care if he gives me just a little kernel of what he can give; I’m just starving to be fed, and my body has never been this hungry.

“I want you in my bed again. I want to kiss you, hold you,” he groans.

“I can’t do this anymore, please just make love with me…” I beg.

Pressing into him as he hungrily takes my mouth, I shift my body until one of his legs is wedged between my thighs.

He nibbles and bites my lips, his hands fisting my hair. I’m so desperate I rake my nails down his arms as I rub my sex against his hard thigh. Sensations shoot off. I whimper, feeling the coiled tension in his shoulders, the smooth velvet of his chest as he devours me, and at the first scrape of my nubbin against the rock-hard quad muscle of his thigh, I explode.

Shuddering uncontrollably, I feel him stiffen in surprise of my startlingly powerful convulsions. His hands quickly spread on my back and flatten me to him as he lifts his leg higher between my thighs and grinds his muscle into my clit, his ravenous mouth taking all my moans inside him.

When I’m done, he brushes my hair back and looks positively intimate. His voice. Intimate. Mild with tenderness. “Did that feel even half as good as it looked?” His fingers trail along my cheek in a whisper touch, and there is still not enough air in my lungs to scream at him.

I Hate. Him.

I feel like I just gave him everything, and got nothing back, even though I was the one who was pleasured. Angrily securing the towel around myself, I glance around the room, at anything but his odious beautiful sexy face.

“I assure you that’s not happening again,” I whisper in my complete and total embarrassment.

He kisses my ear, his voice husky. “I’m going to make sure that it does.”

“Don’t count on it. If I wanted to have an orgasm all alone I could have taken care of myself without giving anyone a show.” With the towel clutched to my chest, I sit up and ask, “Can I borrow a damn shirt?”

Slowly, his lips curl into a dimpled, kind of cocky smile that makes me suspect he likes the idea of me wearing his man stuff, and he heads into his closet while I wait for him to come back, feeling all kinds of slutty and wanton.

His beautiful torso is still a little damp, and I can’t stop admiring the way the towel hugs his narrow hips. His body is perfection. His butt defies gravity, it is so perfectly tight, round and muscular. Every time I see it in any kind of clothes, I drool about a small ocean.

I want to see him naked and touch him, and once again tonight, I loathe that I won’t be able to sleep from the torment of wanting to feel him inside me. Can I even stay here to sleep? Wanting what he’s not ready to give me?

No, I’m not going to sleep with him tonight, only to kiss like teenagers, making out in first base and second and third, without going for it all…

No.

Hell no.

I want him to make love to me. I. Need. Him to. Damn him. I hate that he can control himself and hold back while I am completely undone for him.

He hands me a black t-shirt I’d seen him wearing before, in our very first flight to Atlanta. “This okay?” he asks, blue eyes all-knowing and deep.

I slip it on, feeling the fabric slide along my skin and feeling it awaken tingles all over my body. He remains standing at the foot of the bed, and his eyes probe into me. They’re intimate eyes, eyes that have seen me naked and make my pussy ache so deep I feel like squirming. “Come eat something with me,” he says, and I follow him out into the suite, not one whit relaxed even after the amazing orgasm he gave me.

“Let’s see what Diane left you,” I tell him as we study the contents in the hot drawer of the presidential suite kitchen. He uncovers the plate and I shoot him a smile. “Eggs. They must’ve been on sale tonight.”

Those dimples again, boyish and sexy as he glances at my mouth and stays there. I don’t even think he realizes he’s staring so hotly at me. In silence, he extracts two forks from a drawer and comes over. “Come share.”

“Oh no. No more eggs for me tonight. You enjoy.”

He sets the forks down and follows me to the door, grabbing my wrist to halt me. “Stay.”

The abrupt request shoots a ripple of heat through me, but it’s the intensity in his blue eyes that nearly rent me open.

“I’ll stay,” I say, my voice smooth but firm, “when you make love to me.”

We stare, then he sighs and holds the door open for me, putting his body in such a way that I have to brush past him to leave. The contact burns me. His eyes watch me all the way to my room. They burn me.

At night, I lay awake, in another master bedroom of another presidential suite, with Diane resting in the other bedroom, and I’m still in flames. I’m in bed with the door open, my ears alert for any noise, in case Remy has an extra key to this suite, and he might come get me.

His t-shirt large and wonderful on my much smaller frame, and it smells of him. It feels soft against my skin, and here I am, shivering with need, wishing he’d break down and come get me and tell me he’s ready for me. I am so ready for him. Just come make love to me, I think helplessly.

At 2 a.m. he still hasn’t, and I’m still awake.

I can’t see how a man who really wants a woman can hold back like this. Remy is disciplined and the strongest man I’ve known, but I watch the door and remember his touch, the way I came for him, and don’t think it’s even possible that he could hold back if he wanted me the way I do. My sex aches like never before. It is so swollen remembering the powerful strokes of his tongue and the way his thigh grazed me. My hunger has not only not been appeased, it has done the impossible and tripled until I feel rabid. He just opened up an unquenchable thirst and I don’t feel satisfied, but feel empty and anxious. My entire existence tonight is focused in watching that door.

Does he feel anything for me even remotely as strong as I do?

There’s this mean little part of me, the girl who broke her ACL and who failed to accomplish her dream, the girl who doesn’t believe I can really have anything wonderful, makes me wonder if he really wants me at all.

Or he just wants to play with me.

Then I wonder if this is the sort of feeling that got my sister Nora in trouble in the first place.

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