Sacrifice (The Gryphon Series Book 3)(4)

By: Stacey Rourke

Just as he opened his mouth to unleash what was sure to be a nasty verbal bashing, Caleb intervened, “I’ll spar with her.”

Bernard’s beady eyes narrowed. “I don’t know … ”

“I think it’s a heck of a lot more effective than me fighting a bag.” I matched Bernard’s arm fold and raised him a challenging sneer.

Bernard took a deep breath in through his nose, and let it out through pursed lips. “Fine. Do not hold back,” he barked at Caleb, then pointedly turned his glare to me, “at all.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Caleb shot me a wink.

Gabe unchained the punching bag and leaned it against Grandpa’s dusty old work bench, then took a seat on the floor with Alaina and Kendall. Caleb and I faced off in the center of the garage. He yanked off his hooded sweatshirt and tossed it to his sister (That would be Alaina, by the way. Long story. He was abducted by a demonic army as a child and she joined the good guys as a Spirit Guide. Huh, look at that. I made a long story surprisingly short.)

He brought his hands up and struck a defensive pose. The thin material of his white t-shirt tightened across the sculpted muscles of his torso. That visual stimuli caused a wandering gaze that couldn’t be helped. With his knees slightly bent, his jeans hugged his thighs in a way that proved very distracting.

“Ahem … I’m up here, lovey. Not that I don’t appreciate a good oglin’.”

I hurriedly assumed a fighting stance, my cheeks and ears burning bright red. “Sorry. I’m good. Let’s do it. This! Let’s do this!” Gabe, Alaina, and Kendall all snickered from the sidelines. “Crap. Let’s just get this over with.”

Caleb’s handsome face folded in mock hurt. “Ya say it like that and I’m inclined tah think ya won’t enjoy it at all.”

“I think we both know that’s not true.” I grinned.

“Well then…” He jerked his head to the side to crack his neck and blinked hard. When his eyes opened the green was gone. In its place blazed brilliant red irises. Visible red flames danced beneath the surface of his skin. “Give us a kiss.”

I leapt forward and spun. My fist raised on a collision course with his throat. He caught my wrist and pinned it behind my back. I winced as my skin sizzled and blistered under his touch.

His breath tickled my ear. “Ya’r gonna have tah do better than that, lovey.”

He released me, and I backed away rubbing my charred wrist. That little move had awakened my inner warrior … and she was ticked. I brought my hands up and beckoned him to advance. “Again.”

He came at me fast. A mad flurry of blows and punches. Not one landed. I blocked every swing, countered every jab. We matched blow for blow until the sweat flowed and our damp clothing clung to us like a second skin. I answered an effective uppercut with a downward block and then utilized the split second it took Caleb to regroup to spin into a roundhouse kick. My foot connected with enough force to send him flying backward. He slammed into the metal garage door that twanged and rattled its disapproval. Our audience—except for Bernard—golf-clapped at my victory.

“Well done, well done.” Bernard nodded and crammed another handful of berries into his mouth. He eyes had turned glassy. It wouldn’t be long before he’d be confessing his undying love to one of Kendall’s old Barbie dolls that Grams kept boxed up out here … again. “Now why couldn’t you do that earlier? When I asked you to?”

I shrugged one shoulder and wiped the sweat from my brow with the back of my hand. “’Cause he’s hot.”

Bernard stamped his cane against the ground, “Of all the vain, juvenile excuses! His physical attractiveness should have nothing … ”

I held up my hands to calm the angry little man who was, quite literally, spitting mad. “Whoa, whoa, whoa! He’s got Titan blood in him, remember? He can control the elements, and he called fire to him. His hands were scalding hot. That was great motivation to not get hit!”

Bernard paused his rant to consider Caleb, who had pulled himself up off the ground and was straightening his jeans that had gotten twisted around his work-boots. For the first time ever, a glimmer of genuine appreciation broke through Bernard’s icy façade toward my demonic fella.

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