Author: Kirsty Moseley
“You think she could beat me?” Peter asked, clearly shocked.
Ashton shook his head in response. “I’ve seen her fight, she could definitely beat you, no thinking involved,” he replied rather proudly, smiling over at me.
Peter just burst out laughing and slapped Dean on the shoulder with the back of his hand. “Can you believe this? As if she’d stand a chance.”
Dean’s smile was tight as he raised one eyebrow. “I’ve seen and felt her right hook. I wouldn’t recommend you fight her.”
I grinned happily and walked over to the treadmill. “I’m going to warm up for a while and then if you want, we can spar or something?” I offered, stepping on and turning it onto a slow walk.
Peter nodded in agreement. “Five minutes and then I’ll wipe that smile off of your face.”
Ashton didn’t look too pleased as he walked over to the treadmill next to mine. His gaze was firmly locked on the speed control dial on my machine as I cranked it up a little faster. I would imagine he was waiting for me to go full pelt again – that wouldn’t happen though, not if I was going to be sparring.
After a few minutes Peter called over to me from the weight bench he was at with Dean. “You ready to get your ass kicked, Anna?” he challenged, smirking at me confidently.
Trying to hide my smugness, I turned off my machine as I nodded over to the mats. “Sure, best of three?” I suggested.
“Anna, take it easy, okay? No broken bones,” Ashton warned, following me over to the mats too with an apprehensive look on his face.
“I won’t hurt her!” Peter protested sternly.
Ashton chuckled wickedly. “I wasn’t talking about her bones.”
Peter waved a dismissive hand. “Whatever. Best of three. No hitting in the balls, that’s the only rule on my end. Other than that, you can do what you want.”
I nodded in acknowledgment. “Okay. No taking it easy on me because I’m a girl, that’s my only rule,” I teased. He looked so overconfident; clearly he thought I was some little, delicate doll that couldn’t look after herself. He was in for a shock; this was going to be fun.
“Right then, first down to the mat,” Ashton said, blowing out a big breath. “No pinning down,” he added seemingly as an afterthought.
I nodded and waited for Peter to come at me, standing with my hands down at my sides, not even bothering to defend myself. He wasn’t even going to try and hit me, I could tell. He grinned and came towards me, moving to grab me. Casually, I knocked his hand away and moved to the side, smiling. His eyes widened a fraction before he came for me again. This time I ducked out of his way and kicked him in the leg – not too hard, but just hard enough so that he knew I wasn’t playing around.
“Shit! You actually know how to fight?” he asked, his mouth popping open in shock.
I nodded, grinning. “Kickboxing or karate?” I changed my stance to show him I knew both.
His eyes narrowed as his shoulders tensed. “Er, I don’t know that shit, I know how to street fight,” he stated, coming for me again with his fists up to hit me this time. Effortlessly, I moved to the side, hitting him in the stomach and arm, spinning around low on the floor and sweeping his legs out from under him so he landed flat on his back. I smiled triumphantly as I offered my hand down to help him up. “Ouch, damn it! What was that?” he whined, rubbing his stomach.
“Karate. Want to go for kickboxing now?” I asked hopefully. If he really wanted to fight, that was undoubtedly my favourite.
“Er, I guess,” he answered, looking a little uncomfortable as he glanced at Dean, who was just watching with a grin on his face.
I nodded and stood waiting for him to come at me. He seriously tried this time and managed to get a couple of hits in that would have been good if I hadn’t gotten my guard up, but again, I easily put him down on his back.
“Enough, enough, I believe you. Jeez, you’re a really good fighter,” he admitted, shaking his head and rubbing his leg and arm where I’d hit him.
“Thanks, want to go again?” I asked hopefully. He shook his head quickly, so I looked at Ashton hopefully. “What about you, Pretty Boy?”
“You know you can’t beat me,” he replied, grinning cockily at me.
“I know, but I managed to split your lip last time. You never know, I might be able to get you on your back,” I said shrugging.
He walked up close to me, encroaching in my personal space. “You could get me on my back anytime, Anna. You only need to ask… Oh, and be sober, of course,” he whispered.
Blushing immediately, I laughed and pushed him away. A boyish grin broke out on his face as he kicked his shoes off and stepped onto the mats. He was watching me like a tiger stalking its prey. My insides seemed to squirm as I realised that watching him watch me like that was actually a turn-on. Plus, every time he looked at me, all I could see was the little girl from my dream and the way he’d looked at me when he’d walked up the path, and it was making it difficult to concentrate.
He shifted his weight to his other leg, ready to come for me, so I quickly ducked to the left and tried to hit him in the side, but he blocked it easily. I shifted to kick him, and he brought his leg up so I kicked his leg instead of his side. I smiled in awe; he was an incredible fighter. It was actually sexy to watch him in action.
He came at me again, and I threw a couple of punches and kicks that he deflected. He didn’t once try to hit me, just defended and tried to grab me. As I raised my leg for a well-timed kick, his arm looped around my thigh. The air rushed out of my lungs as he swept my other leg from under me and we both fell to the mats in a heap.
He chuckled. “You’re getting better. You nearly caught me a few times there,” he said, looking at me proudly, still hovering above me. Every inch of his body was pressed against mine. My body started to react to how close he was, my heart was thumping, and my skin was starting to tingle.
“Are you gonna get off me or not?” I asked breathlessly, actually hoping for the second. He groaned before pushing himself off me, pulling me up off the floor as he stood up. His eyes were tight with frustration, and I couldn’t help but smile. At least I’m not the only one that feels this attraction! “Wanna go again?” I asked, grinning.
“Yeah, if you want,” he answered, instantly shifting into his sexy stance.
After an hour in the gym, everyone was all exercised out, so we went back to our respective apartments. I flopped down on the sofa, instantly grabbing the TV remote to see if anything good was on. Ashton took the seat next to mine, scooting down into the seat and watching as I channel surfed until we settled on a movie.
Watching him from the corner of my eye, I realised that I was actually getting used to how relaxed he was and how easy he was to be around. Since Carter, I’d never felt safe or normal in my own skin, but with Ashton it was like I didn’t feel the need to be afraid or ashamed of who I was or what I felt inside.
He laughed at something, running a hand through his hair, making it stick up at the front. Perfectly at ease, I twisted to the side and raised my legs, stretching them out across Ashton’s lap. Without taking his eyes from the movie, he placed an absentminded hand on top of my shin, holding my legs in place as his thumb drew a small circle around my kneecap. I sighed contentedly because it was extremely comfortable. I suddenly wondered why everything with Ashton seemed so effortless. It was weird because even with Jack there had been some awkwardness at times. Maybe it was because we were young; maybe things like comfort came with age. I could quite happily sit with Ashton, not saying a word, but with Jack, sometimes it had felt strained and uncomfortable. Sometimes we’d run out of things to say to each other – that would usually have been about the time that he would go home, or we’d just make out, or watch TV.
Discreetly watching Ashton instead of the movie, I thought about him having a girl of his own and sitting with her like this. He was going to make some girl incredibly lucky when he finally settled out of his player ways that he so vehemently denied. Well, he’ll make her incredibly happy until he’s killed on some stupid SWAT mission, and then he’ll destroy her soul and shatter her heart, I thought. Everyone important left sooner or later. Nothing lasted forever. I’d had first-hand experience at that heartbreak and wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
He looked over at me and smiled when he caught me watching him. “You okay?”
I nodded quickly, hoping he’d brush off my looking at him as a coincidence that we’d looked up at the same time. To help that excuse, I said the first thing that came to my mind. “Why did you make Dean and Peter come to the gym with us today? I would have been fine with just you.” Suddenly I was slightly annoyed at his overprotectiveness. The three of them were going to drive me crazy.
He took a deep breath before answering as if expecting a scolding about it. “It’s standard practice and what your father wants.”
I frowned at that. My father wanted a lot of things, not all of them were possible. “Yeah, well I think you’re all taking this too far. It’s ridiculous. And that new codename you were all using for me last night… stupid.” I folded my arms across my chest.
A small smile crept onto his face. “You would have preferred Rocky?” he inquired. I scoffed, trying not to smile.
“I would have preferred to be called by my given name, actually,” I retorted.
He sighed and resumed drawing the little circle on my knee. “Look, one of us needs to be watching you at all times. In order for me to be able to look like your boyfriend and not some pervert stalker that follows his girl everywhere, we made up a code word so I could call if I needed one of them to watch you for a few minutes. It’s not a big deal.”
I did understand that. I’d had codenames before, but I still didn’t really like them. With my father being who he was though, I should probably just accept it as part of the norm now. “Jewel is just pathetic. Who came up with that anyway?”