Crossroads Excerpt

“We’ve still got some time before curfew,” Nik tells me, checking his watch. “You up for a little hand-to-hand?”

“Why not? I could stand to burn off a little more energy.” Better to stay here and maybe get my butt kicked by Nik than to go back to my room where I’ll be alone with my dreams.

We clean up the range and hit the mat. The place is pretty well deserted now, but it doesn’t matter. The awkwardness between us has passed. We square up and face off. I’m determined not to yield to him tonight. I don’t care if he rips my arms from the sockets. I am not giving up.

I attack first, a battle cry erupting from my throat. I catch Nik with a side kick and follow it up with a spinning back fist. For my trouble I get chop to the midsection. I double over in agony. Nik drops to the ground and swings his leg wide, sweeping my feet out from under me. I slam into the mat landing on my side, a vicious reminder that there is no time to rest or recover. In one fluid motion he’s back on his feet in a defensive position. I roll over quickly, crouching on my hands and feet. I spring forward, once again on the attack. Nik is able to block my punch easily. I retreat a few feet, again crouching low and making myself as small as possible. I hope Nik will find a smaller target more difficult to strike.

This strategy works to my advantage. Nik misjudges his next kick, and I’m able to intercept his leg, flipping him backward onto the mat. Nik’s no slouch though, and he returns the favor, throwing me over his head and rolling on top of me. He pins my body to the mat with his own, the hard muscles of his body pressing into mine. I struggle unsuccessfully to free myself but his powerful hands bind my wrists over my head. He presses them hard into the mat as he stares into my eyes.

And there it is. The awkwardness between us comes roaring back with a vengeance. In the span of a heartbeat the entire mood of the gym has shifted. Our friendly rivalry is gone and in its place emerges a lustful tension that won’t be ignored. Hell’s bells! Apparently Nik was just waiting for the right time to make another move.

The heat of his gaze burns through me like wildfire and it’s a wonder I don’t melt right there on the floor beneath him. There’s nothing cold about the crystalline blue eyes locked on my lips and I feel myself getting pulled into the delicate planes of his face. I want nothing more at this moment than to run my hands through the dark, sexy curls spilling over his forehead as the all too familiar scent of lavender and spice overwhelm my senses.

Nik releases my left hand first, his own hand slowly gliding down the soft flesh of my arm and up onto my cheek, caressing it gently. My body trembles at his touch, but if he notices, he gives no indication. Nik’s every move is seductive. By the time his lips brush mine I’m desperate for his kiss, my body charged like a live wire.

His lips devour me. The kiss is rough. There is no sign of the gentleness that was there on New Year’s Eve as he forces my mouth open, his tongue slipping past my lips. My body responds to him, hungry for more. His kiss awakens a passion that’s lain dormant too long. As his body shifts forcing my knees apart, I realize that I want this moment to last. The feel of his body against mine, the closeness, is comforting and empowering at the same time. His desire excites me. And angers me. Who does he think he is? And what the hell am I doing? I jerk my right hand free and shove him off of my body. We both sit up, and, before he can utter a single word, I slap him across the face as hard as I can. He doesn’t say anything at first, just stares at me dumbfounded.

He doesn’t look angry. Just hurt. Maybe confused. Good! Now he knows how I feel. I climb to my feet, and he starts to laugh. I whirl around and glare at him for all I’m worth.

“That’s what I love about you, Katia!” He’s still laughing. I don’t see what’s so funny. “You’re full of surprises!”

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