12 Rounds (Knockout 1) - Page 24

She obviously looks upset about something and there’s a part of me that’s curious to what it is. But I push that thought aside because something else makes me feel like her and the feds showing up at the same time is anything but a coincidence.

Chapter Ten


The gym is quiet.

A few people are still using some of the machines, but other than that it appears the crowd that was in here 45 minutes ago has dispersed. My eyes wander over to the empty boxing ring and a flood of relief washes through me. After the moment I had in class just now the last thing I want is to see Sean Reilly's beautiful, yet menacing eyes full of hatred.

Swallowing, my throat feels raw and irritated from my incessant screaming so I make my way over to a vending machine in the corner of the waiting area and pull out a dollar from the pocket of my sweatpants. I've calmed down since being out of the class and all I can think about is ice cold wate

r sliding down the back of my throat.

At the vending machine, I insert my dollar and press the bottled water button. The bottle is released from its claw and drops into the bottom of the vending machine and at the same time the sound of something thudding against the floor rings out behind me and I spin around, clutching my chest. My heart starts pounding. Hard. So hard, that I swear I can almost feel it blasting through my skin.

Sean Reilly is standing there.

In front of me.

He's staring.

His full, pouty lips turned down into a frown, his angular jaw-line clenched, just staring.

I can't move or speak. My insides are like birds threatening to take flight and fly south for the spring, almost flapping out of my skin. At least he isn't looking at me the way he was earlier. His gaze is still dark, menacing, but I can't see the full-blown hatred in his eyes.

He strolls toward me, his eyes never leaving mine and when he's only a few inches away, I bend my knees, dip down, and snatch my bottle of water from the vending machine. I grip it tightly, hugging it to my chest as Sean's eyes sweep over me in one fluid movement. I'm fascinated yet terrified at the same time, and as he hovers over me, propping an arm on top of the vending machine. I close my eyes and inhale deeply. He smells musky, a mixture of sweat and whatever cologne he wore this morning. When I open my eyes I focus on his lips and his profound, chiseled jaw that isn't clenched anymore, but now relaxed. Then I look up into his eyes. They are the lightest blue-green eyes I've ever seen, reminding me of leaves on tropical trees in a rainforest. But it doesn’t matter how light and how gorgeous they are because they still have a hard edge to them.

It's like I can see his life in his eyes and somehow I know it was a difficult one. He leans in lower, his lips a breath away from mine, and my breath hitches. I'm excited, scared, yet captivated at the same time. And just when I think he might do something crazy like kiss me he says, “Why are you here?”

I bite my bottom lip and my eyebrows bunch together. I'm confused by his question. “Excuse me?”

He backs away from me and folds his tatted up arms across his chest. “I said why are you here?”

“Um...What?” I don't know this guy. Though, the soft yet deep, comforting register of his voice is achingly familiar. “Um. My therapist thought it would be a good idea if I took self-defense classes, only that didn't work out so well.”

He raises both of his perfectly arched eyebrows. “Your therapist?” Then he slants his eyes, plants his forefinger against his lips like he’s thinking hard about something. Now he points it at me. “Weren’t you a blonde?”

“Yes.” How does he know that? I pick up a lock of my chesnut hair and examine it thoroughly, wondering if maybe Lara missed a few strands when she helped me color it. “I dyed it brown.”

He looks thoughtful for a moment, but then the hard edge to his features return. “You shouldn't be here.” He sounds stern and authoritative.

He uncrosses his arms and moves toward me, but I back up into the vending machine, creating a loud thump with my back. “And why is that?” I find a bit of boldness somewhere deep inside of me, a bit of boldness I haven't seen resurface in a year.

“Because I said so.” He lowers his voice. “You should leave.”

I stare up at him incredulously, with my mouth hanging open. Who in the hell does this guy think he is? “Maybe you should leave,” I snap at him. He scowls at me and I throw my hands over my mouth, as surprised as he seems to be at my outburst. “I'm sorry,” I mutter. “That was rude.” Then again he was being rude by telling me to leave in the first place. At least I'm the one with manners. “Anyway, I can't leave. My roommate is my ride and she's still in the class.”

I wait for him to say something, but he says nothing. Instead, he picks up the gym bag he threw on the floor, slings it over his shoulder, and storms out the door while I slump down in a chair wondering how in the world someone I've never even met could hate me so much.

~ ~ ~

Thirty minutes later Lara emerges from the class while I sit in my chair, sipping on my water thinking about Sean Reilly. I'm trying to place the sound of his voice. I'm trying to grasp why it sounds so familiar to me.

Is it the slight Irish brogue?

The deep rasp in it?

Lara interrupts my thoughts when she snatches the bottle of water from my hand and takes a sip. I peer up at her. Lara is almost six feet tall almost a full foot taller than I am, and sometimes she appears to be intimidating, but she's not.

Tags: Lauren Hammond Knockout Romance
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