Control (Everyday Heroes #3.5)(4)

By: K. Bromberg

“Rent-a-cops?” he asks through a part-cough, part chuckle.

“Yeah, those. Either that or they’re the guys who couldn’t pass the psych test and are a little wacky.”

He purses his lips as if he’s measuring my words and when he shakes his head with a laugh, that grin of his widens to epic proportions. “Definitely the psych test.”

“Right? I mean, I get they’re here trying to help women protect themselves, but you’d think they might have a tiny part of them who gets off on the power play aspect of it.” Stop talking, Desi. Your best friend-in-law is a police officer. You know differently. And yet my mouth still runs because he’s cute. “You know…pushing women around. Taking their abuse. It’s probably a turn-on for some of them.”

He nods slowly and surveys the room with a lift of his eyebrows. “That’s what you seriously think?”

A round of applause erupts and echoes throughout the entire room before I get a chance to answer him. I’m forced to step backward when the slew of women who just finished with their session heads to where we are standing near the door.

When the influx of chatty women seemingly excited and high on adrenaline—despite their sweat-dampened hair and flushed cheeks—finally clears the doorway he’s nowhere to be found.

It’s a blanket reminder that he definitely was here to pick up his significant other. Add to that, I just acted like a complete idiot trying to impress a man who I’ll undoubtedly see around town again and cringe when I do.

Since when do I try to impress people?

“The seven o’clock group can head on in,” a man says as he motions to all of us standing against the wall.

All it takes are those words to make my mind shift gears—because if I’m one thing, it’s hard on myself before I move on to the next thing—and coming here is a major step in admitting that what happened scared the shit out of me.

With a roll of my shoulders and a huff of a breath, I step forward with the women beside me. We find seats on the mat as directed and wait for everyone to settle.

The gentleman who summoned us stands with his hands on his hips. His bald head is shinier than Mr. Clean’s, and he has tree trunks for arms. With a clap of his hands in front of him, he begins. “Congratulations, ladies, on taking the first step in taking back your fear. People call me Bear. Yes, it’s odd, but just go with it.” He smiles wide and takes a step forward as three men in SSDC shirts file in behind him. “Some of you are here because you’ve had a scare and need a way to erase that helplessness you were made to feel. Others are here because you saw a movie, a news story—something that made you not want to ever be in the position to be made a victim. So let’s get one thing straight: no one here is a victim. Every single one of you here is strong. And we’re here to show you just how strong you are.”

I glance at the women and wonder who fits what profile. Who’s been victimized? Women from all walks of life and sizes and ethnicities surround me—some I know, most I don’t—and it calms me some knowing I’m not alone in this. That I’m not ridiculous in being scared.

“Let me introduce to you our four instructors so you know who you’ll be giving hell today.” A round of chuckles filters through the air. “First up I have Teddy. He’s a Krav Maga instructor by day and a self-defense teacher at night. He’s been doing this for fifteen years and loves nothing more than for you to beat up on him.” Teddy, with the light hair and slender build, lifts his hand in greeting.

“Hello, Teddy,” a woman near me says with a whistle and fans her hand in front of her face.

“He’s happily married, as well.”

“Damn,” she murmurs and gets a round of chuckles, nerves tingeing the edges of most of them.

“Next up is Eric. He’s a newly minted instructor, and so I told him you’d be easy on him,” Bear says, all the while shaking his head to tell us not to. “He might be new, but the kid somehow has endless requests from women to be placed with him.”

Eric steps forward and lifts his hand. He’s tall with the looks of a model—chiseled, scruff, blinding smile—but too clean-cut for my liking. “That’s only because I give out free candy at the end of class,” he says, as the women sit taller and pat down their hair.