Doctor Ella Watts wants her old life back. Desperately. But the past has returned for its rematch, and going back home—even telling anyone her real name—isn’t an option until she’s confident in her MMA abilities. Personal trainer Lance Black is the man to help her reach her goals. Not only is he toned, muscular, and gorgeous, he’s patient, a great teacher, and willing to treat her like a worthy opponent. Except his size makes her freeze whenever he gets too close. If Ella can’t learn how to overcome her fear of being attacked, she’ll never be able to move on with her life.Underground fighter Lance Black knows there’s more to the mysterious blonde ninja than a beautiful woman determined to improve her fighting skills. She can best anyone close to her size – man or woman – but insists on working out with him, even though he’s got a good 70 pounds and several inches on her. Despite her reticence, he’s determined to get her to open up so he can help her get over her mental block. And if that means he can get to know her outside the gym, all the better.As long as she never learns his secrets.
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Lance came at her in a burst of energy, his arms slapping down to meet the punches she frantically threw. She had no game plan, just swung. A light pop bopped her on the side of the head and paralyzed her into place. He instantly backed off. The second there was space between them, her ability to breathe returned and she ripped off the gloves, throwing them down. “Damn it.”
Without a word, she climbed between the second and third rope, hopped to the floor, and slumped on a nearby bench, hanging her head. Why couldn’t she get past this mind block?
“Hey,” Lance said in a soothing tone that only annoyed her as he sat down beside her, but when he pressed his thigh against hers, she found the gesture oddly comforting. She wanted to lean into him, take his support, but she forced herself to stay where she was.
“I just need a few minutes alone.”
He laced his fingers together and let them hang between his knees. “A few months ago, I had a huge fight slotted. Any spare moment I had, I was training my fucking ass off.” He inhaled deep. “The pressure of it got the best of me and I just froze. Biggest night of my fighting career over by knockout in less than a minute.” He turned a sympathetic smile on her. “Sometimes our mind just gets the best of us. I don’t know what’s cluttering yours, but you’re not alone. It happens to everyone.”
His confession, that he would open up to her like that, meant more to her than he would ever know. Made her feel less alone. And she hadn’t felt like that in a long time.
“Thank you,” she whispered and leaned toward him. A simple kiss on his cheek to show her appreciation was her intent. But the moment her lips touched the stubbled skin, a floodgate of need crashed open. Instantly, her nipples puckered and the lower part of her body tingled in a very thrilling way. She wanted nothing more than for him to turn his head so she could feel the softness of his lips next. Stunned, she pulled back.
Their gazes locked, and the air seemed to still between them. His gray eyes held her captive. She couldn’t look away. She couldn’t break this magnetic hold Lance had had on her since that moment in the alley. And damn it—she didn’t want to. It’d been a long time—too long—since she’d been attracted to a man like him. Maybe she never had been. Lance was different.
Abby Niles is the author of the contemporary MMA series, Love to the Extreme, and the paranormal series, The Awakening. She is also the author to the geeky romantic comedy, Defying Convention, where Live Action Role Players (LARPers) set out to teach their favorite author a lesson, but end up playing matchmaker instead.
Abby lives in North Carolina with the love of her life and their combined gaggle of kids. When she’s not writing, she’s trying to catch up on an endless pile of laundry and find time to get some much needed reading in.
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