Twisted Love (Twisted 1) - Page 9



I slammedmy fist into the mannequin’s face, reveling in the sharp burst of pain that jolted up my arm at the impact. My muscles burned and sweat dripped down my forehead into my eyes, blurring my vision, but I didn’t stop. I’d done this so many times I didn’t have to see to land my hits.

The smell of sweat and violence stained the air. This was the one place I allowed myself to unleash the anger I kept under careful wraps in all other areas of my life. I’d started Krav Maga training a decade ago for self-defense, but it had since become my catharsis, my sanctuary.

By the time I finished pummeling the mannequin, my body was a mess of aches and sweat. I toweled the perspiration off my face and took a swig of water. Work had been a bitch, and I’d needed this release to reset.

“Hope you worked off your frustration,” Ralph, the owner of the training center and my personal instructor since I’d moved to D.C., said dryly. Short and stocky, he had the powerful build of a fighter and a mean mug, but deep down, he was a teddy bear. He’d knock my lights out if I ever told him or anyone else that though. “You looked like you had a personal vendetta against Harper.”

Ralph named all the training dummies after TV characters or real-life people he didn’t like.

“Shitty week.” We were alone in the private training studio, so I spoke more freely than I would have otherwise. Besides Josh, Ralph was the only person I considered a true friend. “I could go for the real thing right now.”

Dummies were good for practice, but Krav Maga was a hand-to-hand combat method for a reason. It was all about the interaction between yourself and your opponent and responding quickly. Couldn’t do that if your opponent was an inanimate object.

“Yeah, let’s do it. Gotta end right at seven, though—no overtime. There’s a new class coming in.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Class?”

The KM Academy catered toward intermediate to advanced practitioners and specialized in one-on-one or small group sessions. It didn’t host large classes the way most other centers did.

Ralph shrugged. “Yeah. We’re opening the center up to beginners. Just one class for now, see how it goes. Missy bugged me about it until I agreed—said people would be interested in learning it for self-defense and that we have the best instructors in the city.” He barked out a laugh. “Thirty years of marriage. She knows how to stroke the ol’ ego. So here we are.”

“Not to mention, it’s a good business decision.” KMA had little competition in the area, and there was likely pent-up demand for lessons, not to mention loads of yuppies who could afford the prices.

Ralph’s eyes twinkled. “That, too.”

I took another swig of water, my mind spinning. Beginner lessons…

Might be a good idea for Ava. For anyone, really, man or woman. Self-defense is a skill you never want to use, but which could mean the difference between life and death when you do have to use it. Pepper spray only gets you so far.

I fired off a quick text to her before Ralph and I started our session.

I still wasn’t happy playing babysitter, but Ava and I had settled into a wary “truce”—her word, not mine—since her olive branch the week before. Plus, when I commit to something, I commit to it one hundred percent. No half-assery or phoning it in.

I promised Josh I’d look after his sister, and that was what I’d do. Sign her up for self-defense lessons, upgrade her house’s shitty alarm system—she’d thrown a fit when the security company woke her up at seven in the morning to install the new system, but she got over it—whatever it took. The more she stayed out of trouble, the less I had to worry about her and the more I could focus on my business and plan for revenge.

I wouldn’t mind more of those red velvet cookies though. They were good.

I especially wouldn’t mind if she delivered them wearing the tiny shorts and tank top she’d worn to my house. An unbidden image of a bead of sweat trailing down her bronzed skin into her cleavage flashed through my mind.

I grunted when Ralph landed a punch in my gut. Fuck. That was what I got for allowing my thoughts to stray.

I set my jaw and refocused on the training session, pushing all thoughts of Ava Chen and her cleavage out of my head.

An hour later, my limbs felt like jelly, and I had several blossoming bruises on my body.

I grimaced, stretching out my limbs while the low hum of voices filtered through the closed door to the private studio.

“That’s my cue.” Ralph clapped me on the shoulder. “Good session. You might even beat me one day—if you’re lucky.”

I smirked. “Fuck you. I can already beat you if I want.”

I’d come close to doing it once, but part of me liked the fact I wasn’t the best—yet. It gave me a goal to strive toward. But I would win. I always did.

Ralph’s laugh rolled through the sweat-dampened space like thunder. “Keep telling yourself that, kid. See you Tuesday.”

After he exited the room, I checked my phone for new messages.


A tiny furrow creased my brow. I’d texted Ava almost an hour ago, and she was a compulsively fast replier unless she had a photoshoot. She didn’t have one today. I knew because I made her promise to tell me every time she did, along with the location and clients’ names and contact info. I always ran background checks on the clients beforehand. There were crazy people out there.

I sent a follow-up text. Waited.


I called. No answer.

Either she’d turned off her phone—something I told her never to do—or she could be in trouble.

Blood. Everywhere.

On my hands. On my clothes.

My heart rate ticked up. The familiar noose around my neck tightened.

I squeezed my eyes shut, focusing on a different day, a different memory—that of me attending my first Krav Maga lesson at sixteen—until the red stains of my past retreated.

When I opened them again, anger and worry coalesced into a block in my stomach, and I didn’t bother changing out of my training clothes before I exited the center and took off for Ava’s house.

“You better be there,” I muttered. I blocked and flipped off a Mercedes who tried to cut in front of me at Dupont Circle. The driver, an overgroomed lawyer type, glared at me, but I didn’t give a shit.

If you can’t drive, get off the road.

By the time I arrived at Ava’s place, I still hadn’t received a reply, and a muscle pulsed dangerously in my temple.

If she was ignoring me, she was in deep shit.

And if she was hurt, I would bury the person responsible six feet beneath the ground. In pieces.

“Where is she?” I dispensed of the usual greetings when Jules swung open the door.

“Who?” she asked, all doe-eyed innocence. I wasn’t fooled. Jules Ambrose was one of the most dangerous women I’d ever met, and anyone who thought otherwise because of the way she looked and flirted was an idiot.

“Ava,” I growled. “She’s not answering her phone.”

“Maybe she’s busy.”

“Don’t fuck with me, Jules. She could be in trouble, and I know your boss. Wouldn’t take much more than a word from me to derail your internship.”

I’d done my research on all of Ava’s closest friends. Jules was pre-law, and the internship between a student’s junior and senior years was critical for admittance into a competitive law school.

All traces of flirty coquettishness melted. Jules narrowed her eyes. “Don’t threaten me.”

“Don’t play games.”

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