Control (Everyday Heroes #3.5)(6)

By: K. Bromberg


He begins with some basic information—how to hold your fist when you punch, the most sensitive parts on a male body to hit, etcetera—and then asks us to remove our shoes so we can begin.

“Okay, I need a volunteer to help with the demonstration.”

Hands shoot up all around me. Smart women. Who wouldn’t want his undivided attention? I’d normally be elbowing through the women with both arms raised to make sure I’m seen and maybe give a crass one-liner to guarantee my selection.

But that was before I made an ass of myself with him. I refuse to lower my head and hide, but hell if I’m going to be his “body” to demonstrate with.

And just as the thought crosses my mind, Reznor, with his bright eyes and sarcasm-laced smile, steps directly into my field of vision.

“Thank you for volunteering,” he says, and I shake my head in protest.

“No, I’m fine. I’ll watch.”

Did I really say he probably failed his psych evaluation?

The smile that’s toying on his lips tells me yes. Yes, I did.

Crap.

“I don’t take no for an answer when it comes to making sure you’re prepared.” This time he puts on the brightest smile so everyone sees the charming man trying to get me to participate, while I see the gleam in his eye that says he can’t wait to challenge me and prove me wrong.

He reaches his hand out to me and rather than take it, out of principle, I look at it and then step past him onto the mat and face the ladies standing there with envious eyes.

Reznor moves toward me. “What’s your name?”

“Desi,” I say begrudgingly, wondering why I feel so hostile toward him when I was the ass in our conversation.

“Desi. Nice to meet you.” He holds out his hand for me to shake, and I know more than anything he is seeing if I’ll acquiesce in this silent battle of wills we have going on.

And of course I do. I tell myself it’s only because people are watching, but I grab his hand, squeeze strongly, and shake, all the while trying to ignore the warmth of his skin and the size of his hands.

“Now, let’s imagine that Desi here is walking through a parking garage late one night,” he says as he walks from one side of the mat, passes behind me, and then to the other side. “She’s busy checking her text messages on her cell and not paying attention to her surroundings. And out of the blue—”

Suddenly his hand is over my mouth, and his other arm has grabbed my midsection and yanked me back against him. I yelp. Fuck.

No.

He’s too close.

I know where I am. I know who he is. But regardless, panic flickers through me. The kind that makes your mind blank and your heart lurch into your throat.

The kind I felt when I woke up to find the dark shadow standing at the foot of my bed a few weeks ago.

“Deep breath,” Reznor murmurs in my ear when he feels my body tense and hears my startled gasp. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

It’s stupid, but his simple words put me at ease, and I hate that I need to be given that feeling.

“Desi is now in a parking garage without a soul in sight and a man who is going to what? I don’t know what each of you has been through, why you’re here, so I’m not going to spell out potential scenarios. But right now, she’s going to become a victim.” My heart thunders in my throat as his arms tense around me. “Show me what you would do.”

For a woman who typically loves being the center of attention, I absolutely hate the feeling of it right now. Everyone’s eyes are on me, and all I can think is how the last thing I want is to do the wrong thing and show them how in fact I would be dead.

Stupid? Yes. The truth? Definitely.

“Desi?” he murmurs and for the life of me, I don’t know why I do it—why instead of stomping on his instep or throwing my elbow backward, or even trying to twist miraculously away from him so I can knee him in the nuts—I force my tongue out of my covered mouth and lick the palm of his hand.

I feel him startle, and he loosens his grip in surprise. Just when I begin to wiggle out of his grasp, he’s on me again, but this time, I end up on my back on the mat with a thud. He looms over me with a disbelieving look on his face while I catch the breath that has just whooshed out of me with his move.