“T?” I called out. “You know what this means, right?”
She turned in the doorway with a furrowed brow.
“Batman, baby. I win.” I flashed her a grin and left her sputtering a stifled laugh as I took off toward Walt and whatever abandoned ball he’d found in the grass.
I may have set out to prove that she was capable of that kind of passion, but all I’d done was proven to myself that we would be explosive together.
I’d just never get to experience it.
“You want to stay in this stance because it communicates an expression of awareness as well as a warning with your body language.” The instructor—Drew Teller—circled Savannah and me, nodding at our poses—our feet in a ready-to-run position, our palms facing him, our elbows pointed toward the mat we stood on.
“Now, if I’m an attacker,” he continued, stopping before me. “I know that you’re ready to defend yourself. This could be enough to deescalate the situation. The attacker may realize you’re not easy pickings and move on.”
Sweat beaded at the base of my neck and rolled down my back. Roman had helped encourage me the last few weeks to try out this private Krav Maga class with Savannah, who’d been taking it for over a year now.
“This is your fourth session, Teagan,” Drew said. “Are you ready to try some one-on-one moves?”
I sucked in a sharp breath, apprehension blooming in my chest. Drew was easily the size of an NFL player, his muscles carved and honed every day, his dark hair, goatee, and eyes making him look even more menacing. And despite knowing he was kind and perceptive, a sliver of panic tightened my lungs.
I spared a glance at Savannah—the girl looked capable of rendering five men useless with a simple flick of her wrist. She wore tight, snakeskin active-wear pants, a black sports bra, and her hair was pulled back in a perfect wonder woman braid. Her muscles were toned and looked more than ready to kick some ass.
I’d always loved Savannah, but I’d never wanted to be like her as badly as I did at that moment.
She smiled and nodded with a silent you’ve-got-this look.
“Okay,” I said, my voice cracking despite my efforts to sound strong.
“All right,” Drew said, motioning for Savannah to move off the mat. She quickly did, retrieving her water bottle on the other side of the room. “Let’s feel the power behind your palm strikes first.”
I nodded, shifting my position to have one raised palm tucked back slightly, my left remaining in front of my chest. Drew raised his hands before him, motioning for me to strike.
I snapped my right palm toward his hands, rotating my entire body just like he’d taught us. I used my core, my thighs, my calves, everything to push power behind the strike. The loud smacking sound was a satisfied crack after connection.
“Good,” he said. “Again.”
I lashed out again.
“Good.” He motioned for me to continue.
So I did.
Over and over until the breath in my lungs rushed past my lips, and my chest heaved.
“Perfect,” he said. “Now, show me how much you’ve been paying attention.” He quickly shifted his stance.
I tracked his movements, noting the way he subtly shifted into my personal space. Awareness prickled on the back of my neck, an old familiar instinct boiling to the surface and coating my mind with an icy panic. Before I could blink, he’d slipped around me, a thick arm securing me from behind.
Adrenaline surged in my blood, choking off my airways, and trembling my muscles.
“You knew how much I hated that color, and you wore it anyway.” Rick’s voice was cold, sharp where he spoke directly into my ear. I’d frozen against his hold—too tight to be a loving embrace. “And you paid for it with my money.”
“I didn’t,” I argued, my fingers tugging at that forearm that kept my spine locked against his chest. “I used the money from the last painting I sold.”
“You’re arguing with me?” His hold tightened.
My lungs ached from the pressure, and I shook my head.
“Good,” he said, jerking me against him. “Because you know you don’t have the grounds to argue with me. Not when you made a fool of yourself tonight in that dress. Listening to that dumb girl of Nixon’s? You think she knows you as well as I do?”
Tears welled in my eyes, the air harder and harder to get into my lungs the longer he kept me pressed against him.
“No one knows you like I do. I know what you like. I know what you look best in. I know what you should eat. I know how to make you smile. Me. No one else. You understand?”
I trembled against him, my entire body shaking at the fear of what would happen if he didn’t let go soon.
He smoothed his free hand over my hair. “Now, I’m going to fuck you,” he said. “I’m going to remind you how good I can make you feel. Remind you how great we are together. How I’m the one who makes you come. Me, I have that power. And maybe, this time your body will listen. And we’ll have the family you’ve always wanted.”