Read Sparring Partners Online

Authors: Leigh Morgan

Sparring Partners (6 page)

"How old are you?" She changed the subject
to a safer one.

"How old are you?" He countered.

"Does it matter?"

"Not to me. Do you really care how old I
am?" Jordon said.

"If you're asking if I'll change my mind
about wanting to see you naked because of the date on your driver's
license, the answer is no." Reed took a deep breath. Planning on
sleeping with someone wasn't something that came easily to her,
talking about it on the way there was even harder.

"Then why bring it up?"

Reed shrugged, heat radiated from her toes
to her nose. She cracked the window open before answering.

"It's just that you seem different tonight
than at the museum. Younger, more open, than the tightly controlled
man in a suit I encountered this morning. Then I'd have put you at
about forty. Now, I'm not so sure. Thirty-five maybe. I'm just
curious, that's all. Usually I can tell, with you it's not so

Dressed as he was now, in expertly tailored,
perfectly pleated summer weight wool pants, that hinted at the
perfect control he exercised over his life if only subconsciously,
he looked young and vital. The long sleeved light weight crew neck
sweater he wore pushed up to his elbows exposed strong tanned arms.
It hugged his muscled shoulders and the powerful but lithe muscles
of his torso. Dressed like this, Jordon looked more touchable.

Tonight, he wore his thick mahogany hair
unbound, long and loose, curling in waves that brushed his
shoulders instead of clubbed severely at his nape, as it had been
the first time she saw him. He was still G.Q. perfect, just dialed
down a notch. More rugged. More approachable. More, more, more, of
everything that made her palms sweat and mouth go dry.

"I'm a few years older than you are." He

"How do you know how old I am."

Jordon seemed to startle, his hands clenched
on the steering wheel briefly before his grip eased again.

"I'd put you between thirty-five and
thirty-six. I'm a little older than that." He said, before changing
the subject so completely she forgot about age entirely, not that
it mattered unless he wanted to marry her and father her babies.
Reed smiled, laughing internally at the thought.

Jordon glanced at her. "Thoughts of me naked
got you smiling already?"

"Thoughts of you naked have had me wandering
around the house all day singing like a fool, hoping you'd actually
show up at my door."

He seemed to think about that for a moment
before he clicked a button on the steering wheel and began talking
into an ear bud Reed hadn't seen before under all that hair.

"Ready the jet, I'll be there in ten. Return
flight a.m." His eyes flashed to hers. "I'll give you the details
later. Yes, Henry, I know what I'm doing, just get it done.
Thanks." He flicked the button again and the puzzling one sided
conversation was over.

"Have dinner with me."

"We tried that." Reed said, smiling at him.
"I thought we'd eat our carry out at your place."

"We can eat on the plane."

"Where would this plane be taking us?" Reed
asked, heart pumping so quickly the rushing in her ears was more
than traffic noise through her cracked window.

Jordon glanced at the clock on the dash.
"It's too late now to take you to Paris and get you home by
tomorrow. How does Las Vegas sound?"

Crazy. Totally insane. Take your

"Can we have a drink at the top of the
Eiffel Tower in the Paris casino?" Was that really her voice coming
out of her mouth?

Jordon seemed to visibly relax, shoulders
lowering, grip easing on the wheel, slow smile transforming him
from handsome to breath-stealing-gorgeous.


What did she just get herself into? Before
Reed could weigh the pros and cons of going cross country on a
first date, they were pulling into a hangar in an area of the
airport she'd never seen. Jordon was holding her car door open
gesturing, as he bowed deeply like a prince to his princess, toward
a private plane.

"Milady, your carriage awaits."

She could have stayed in the car and asked
Jordon to take her home. She could have walked away and called a
taxi. She could have called Finn, or Charlie or even Jesse to come
and get her.

She stepped out of the car and took Jordon's
hand instead, not realizing that this small act would change her
life forever.






"Ouch. Lighten up, Reed. That hurt."

Reed looked down at her sparring partner who
was taking up residence on the dojo floor, where she dropped him.
She hadn't meant to take him down so hard, but Shannon O'Shay was
nothing if not resilient. That was just one of the things Reed
loved about Shay, he was great to work out with. More than that, he
was Reed's best friend. She could tell him anything. Shay didn't
judge her, he just took it all in and told her when she was being a
complete idiot.

Unfortunately, 'idiot' didn't cover what
she'd been the last twenty-four hours. 'Complete idiot' didn't
quite get there either. Blind-ass-dumb was probably closer, but
that didn't precisely describe the enormity of her stupidity which
was as profound as it was unprecedented. She'd thrown caution to
the wind over a man for the first time since she was fifteen, on
such a grand scale that she wasn't sure the English language had
words to describe it.

Bouncing up from the dojo floor, Shay shook
off the hit and threw a jab at her jaw, bringing Reed back
forcefully to the here and now. She envied the way the Shay moved.
He was medium sized, laden with muscle and so light on his feet he
was a joy to watch. Like a world class dancer, Shay routinely made
the improbable look easy. Any other day, she'd compliment him on
his grace and the way he was able to transfer that efficiency of
movement into raw power. Today, his dancing around her was making
her dizzy. Her head still hurt from all the champagne she consumed
last night, correction, this morning. And, she hadn't gotten any
decent sleep in two days. Oh, and there was that little trip to Las
Vegas. No wonder she was cranky.

"What's eating you, Red? You seem

Reed fired a back-fist, reverse punch
combination at Shay's jaw which he easily countered by landing a
lead punch to her solar plexus followed by an elbow to her floating
ribs. It was a solid shot, knocking the wind out of her. She bit
down hard on her mouth guard and went after him, managing to land a
hit of her own. The 'oomph' sound he made when she connected with
two rapid hits to Shay's solar plexus was particularly

"Not too distracted to knock you on your

"You wanna talk trash girl, you better be
able to back it up. You're looking a little peaked today. What were
you up to last night?"

Reed ignored the question. She didn't want
to think about last night or why her body was sore in places that
hadn't received that kind of prolonged, intimate, attention in
years. That was why she was here early, sweating like a pig,
sparring with him. After an hour with Shay, and an hour of class,
she ought to be able to actually get some sleep when she went home.
Alone. That thought had her smashing her padded fists together as
she danced and dived around Shay.

"I'm not the one dusting off my gi pants big
guy." She said, dodging an upper cut to her jaw. It came a little
too close for comfort so Reed growled at him.

"It's a good thing it's self defense class
tonight. I don't think sparring is helping soothe your savage
soul." Shay feigned left and landed a right shuto strike, other
styles of karate call it a chop, to the side of her neck. It was a
good clean shot and he exercised it with perfect control. Reed
barely felt it. The concern in his eyes as she allowed herself to
be hit let Reed know she wasn't hiding her emotions well

"You want to talk about it?" He asked.

"Not really. I'd rather beat something."

"Probably a good idea, since you aren't
blocking worth a shit."

Reed didn't bother to deny it. She was off
tonight, and Shay was too good a partner not to call her on it.

Shay stopped and took off his hand pads. His
head gear followed. Neither of them had bothered with foot pads,
since it was just the two of them, and class hadn't started yet.
Reed spat out her mouth guard and took off the rest of her gear
too. Shay was right. Sparring wasn't soothing anything for her
tonight, least of all her soul.

"Have a crack at Bob." Shay said looking at
the clock on the wall. "You've got a few minutes before Sensei
takes the floor. Sometimes it helps to beat the crap out of someone
who can't fight back."

"Good plan. Will you pull him out for

"With pleasure. Better Bob the brainless
manikin than me."

Reed smiled. As soon as Shay stopped asking
her out, they'd become good friends. There wasn't much she wouldn't
talk to him about, with the small exception of last night. Not even
Shay, who made love-em-and-leave-em a fine art, would

"You're a good guy Shannon O'Shay. Your
mother would be proud of her fine little Irish-man." Reed tried for
the lilt Mrs. O'Shay's son was famous for when he poured on the
charm, but she couldn't come close.

Shay grinned at her as he struggled to move
Bob, the water filled 'torso only' manikin students use as a
target, away from the dojo wall. When Bob was hit he had a tendency
to bounce back, and Sensei didn't like it when the dojo walls were

Shay struggled with Bob the brainless who
was taller and heavier than Shay, until he got it far enough away
from the mirrored walls that Reed couldn't hurt anything when she
whacked the hell out of him.

Shay patted Bob's rubbery, but surprisingly
life-like cheek and said, "Go easy on him, Red. Poor guy can't hit
back. And watch who you're calling 'little' or you'll be the one
dusting off your skinny derriere in that child's sized gi." He
narrowed his eyes at her giving Reed his best Drill Sargent

"Now get to work."

"Yes sir." Reed snapped off a salute and
smacked Bob in the middle of his armless torso, hitting his
lifeless solar plexus so hard the recoil smacked her hand when she
didn't retrieve it fast enough.

It was a good start.

She followed with a series of strikes to
Bob's temples, both sides of his neck and collar bones. Had Bob
been alive, he'd be singing with the angels by now, or at least on
a respirator waiting for that bright light to take him away.

Reed didn't bother with her feet. Bob ended
just below the belly button and Reed preferred to kick lower than
that. Instead of using her feet she threw another series of strikes
with her hands, wrists and elbows until she was so winded Bob
barely recoiled any longer. Then, just for fun, she threw a
spinning crescent kick to Bob's temple. It was a stretch for her,
but the satisfying smack it made had Reed smiling.

The sleigh bells on the front door rang with
people coming in for class. The sound registered in Reed's brain,
but she ignored it. No one bothered anyone else when they were
working on Bob. It was one of many unwritten dojo rules of

With what was left of her adrenalin Reed
threw a punishing upper-cut elbow combination to Bob's jaw,
bouncing him back with a thump that rocked the dojo floor. Since
Bob weighed twice what Reed did plus twenty pounds, she was pleased
with herself. She could almost put last night out of her mind. But
almost didn't cut it with hand-grenades, horse shoes or soul
touching men who swept a woman off her feet and landed her in the
middle of Sin City.

"Wouldn't you rather have your hands all
over me?"

Reed spun around, still panting with
exertion, and there he stood, in the octagon shaped entrance framed
by afternoon sunlight, like some dark haired Norse god preparing to
pillage and plunder.

Reed stood winded and spent, sweat stinging
her eyes as it ran freely from every pore, watching him as his eyes
lit with something like possession. He wasn't even trying to hide
his intention as his gaze ran the length of her before settling on
her face. How dare he show up here looking like ten tons of trouble
and good enough to eat?

This was her sacred place, her refuge from
the world. Who the hell did he think he was invading the inner most
recesses of her universe? This was a place of serious training, a
space she shared with her dojo-mates. It wasn't a place for
wannabe-viking-marauders bent on destruction. As of yesterday, he
wasn't a member of the dojo, and as for the mate part, well, she
preferred not to dwell on that.

He took a step forward, out of the light,
and Reed could see him more clearly. She took her time assessing
every detail. He must have found time for a nap because he didn't
look anywhere near as tired as she felt.


He wore his hair loose again and it gleamed
with red flashes in the setting sun. Stubble dotted his chin and
lower jaw giving him a piratical appearance that did nothing to
detract from his physical beauty. His tight t-shirt showed the
definition of his muscular shoulders and chest that she knew from
experience was remarkably hairless. Not so with his lower abdomen,
where a line of dark silky hair ran into a closely cropped patch of
hair that led to...

Shay leaned over and hissed in her ear,
"Stop staring at that guy's crotch. It's embarrassing. Want me to
take him out for you?"

Reed's eyes shot to Jordon's. He wasn't
smiling, then again neither was she. His jaw was tense and his left
hand was clenched at his side. His right held a duffle bag that was
well worn and bulging with gear, just like his jeans. If Reed
didn't know any better she'd think he was just a regular guy on his
way to work-out.

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