Hailey’s eyes narrowed. “What do you want?”
“Answers. Unofficially,” Shane added before she could spout off anything else about her lawyer. “But mostly to help you.”
Those blue eyes of hers searched his face, and he could practically see the wheels turning in her mind. Along with a great big dose of I-don’t-think-so.
“You want answers?” she said. “Unofficial?”
He nodded slowly, thinking she was capitulating way too quickly, but thankful he wasn’t going to have to pry it out of her.
“Fine. I’ll answer whatever question you’ve got. But you’ve got to take me down first. I take you down, I get to ask the questions.”
She wanted to spar? With him? Here? Now? He glanced around the mats, back at her, slicked with sweat, bruises not yet healed from her last run-in and juiced up on endorphins. Yeah, he wanted answers, but he wouldn’t hurt her to get them. “I don’t think that’s such a good—”
The look of utter confidence across her face stopped him. “No, I just—”
She took a step back and held out her hands. “How bad do you want your answers, Maxwell? Gimme your best shot.”
He wasn’t going to actually do this, was he?
The smug spark in her eye answered his question. Before he thought better of it, he was toeing off his shoes and sliding out of his jacket.
“The gun, too,” she said as he tossed his coat on the counter along the far wall. “I don’t want you to get shot again.”
He glanced back at her as he removed his shoulder harness and set his firearm on the counter as well, refusing to rub the scar on his shoulder where he’d been shot three months before when he’d gone looking for his sister in Florida. Hailey had been there then as well. In fact, if it weren’t for Hailey, he might not have survived.
He remembered the panic in her voice when she’d found him left for dead, and the way she’d said his name—the only time he ever remembered hearing her say his first name—how sweet and sexy it had sounded on her lips. How he’d wanted to hear her say it again. But she hadn’t. Not when she’d sat with him at the hospital telling him stupid jokes when he’d been getting stitched up or when she’d kept him company on the way back to Florida. Even after they’d hung out and danced most of the night at Lisa and Rafe’s wedding, weeks later, she hadn’t once called him by his first name again.
Which, in retrospect, was probably a good thing. What would he have done if she had? Just because she was the first person who’d made him feel something in almost a year, didn’t mean shit.
Except…he suddenly wanted to hear her say it. Needed to for reasons he couldn’t understand.
He walked back out on the mat, dressed in his jeans and T-shirt, watching as her eyes ran over him from head to toe. His blood warmed under that heated look, and he told himself if she wanted to play this game, he’d go along, but he wouldn’t hurt her. No answers were worth adding to her bruises.
“You’re looking a little overconfident there, Maxwell.”
“Only because I know you’ve got to be tired after your workout.”
Her eyes sparked. “I was only warming up. Show me what you’ve got.”
Neither of them moved. Just stared at each other. He felt like an idiot because he wasn’t about to flip her to her back and pin her to the mat. When it was clear they were at a standoff, he stepped toward her. “Look, Hailey—”
She had her hand around his wrist before he even saw her move. She was quick, and her pressure-point technique worked like a charm. As his wrist numbed and pain shot up his arm, she hooked her arm under his elbow, twisted his wrist around his back and slammed him into the mat, face first.
“That’s one for me,” she said, pressing his wrist into his back until his teeth knocked together from the pain. “Why did you walk away from me in Puerto Rico?”
“Nice try.” She twisted his wrist up until he slapped his free hand against the mat to keep from screaming like a little girl.
“Alright! Goddammit. It was a crappy thing to do, okay?”
She let go of his wrist and stood quickly. “I know it was.”
He rolled to his back, wiggled his wrist to get the blood flowing again. Then sat up slowly and studied her across the mat.
Okay, this was a surprise. He’d known she was attracted to him, but he’d figured walking away from her after the wedding instead of after he slept with her would spare her some angst. Obviously he’d thought wrong. “I saved you from getting involved with me then. You should be thanking me instead of being pissed about it.”
“I am. Get up and let’s go again.”
That good ol’ instinct of his said he should do what he’d done back then and walk away from her now. But that irritating voice screaming, coward, forced him to his feet. And as he studied her carefully, he realized she’d led with her left. Come to think of it, when she’s been pounding the crap out of that bag, she’d been using her left hand as well. “Hailey, I really just want to talk to you about what happened at your cousin’s—”
“No talking. Give me your best move.”
He still wasn’t willing to fight her over this. He took a step forward to try to get her attention, and again she moved so fast he barely tracked it. One minute she was facing him, the next she was up close, her left arm sliding around his back, her torso twisting around and lowering so her hip hit him just beneath his center of gravity. Then all he felt was air as she threw him over her hip and he hit the mat with a resounding thud.
He groaned and rolled to his back. Okay, that one she hadn’t learned at the academy. And damn, she was stronger than she looked.
“That’s two for me, Maxwell.” She braced her hands on her knees and leaned down toward him with a self-satisfied expression. “Is that a habit of yours, going around leading women on, or are you just a prick?”
“Leading women on? Is that what you think I did?”
“Two for two. I’d say that’s exactly what you do. I think you like the power of it. I think you like seeing a woman get all worked up so you can drop her on her ass. Good fun, huh?”
Shit. “Hailey, I—”
“In case you forgot, I’m the one asking the questions. You’re the one getting your butt kicked.” She stepped back. “Go again.”
His blood pulsed as he pushed to his feet. Okay, he’d been wrong. She was ticked about what had happened in Puerto Rico and even more pissed about last night than he’d thought. Which meant only one thing—he’d gotten under her skin. Maybe as much as she’d gotten under his. That thought cooled him out a little. But his adrenaline surged when she charged out of nowhere, grabbed him by the shoulders, slid to the ground and kicked both legs out from under him.
He landed hard on his back, and this time saw stars. And oh, shit, there was something seriously wrong with him because he liked this. Liked having her hands on his body and loved being hurt by her.
She was on her feet before he could even catch his breath. But she was breathing hard. And she wasn’t quite as solid as she tried to appear. “Go home, Maxwell. I’ve got better things to do than toss you to the ground all night long. And as fun as this has been, I’m not interested anymore.”
She turned and got one step away before he kicked out, knocking her off balance. Her hands flew out in surprise, but before she hit the mat he was up, twisting around so he was at her front, going down with her so he took the brunt of the fall and she landed hard against his chest.
She immediately pushed off, but he rolled, pinning her beneath him. Her hands darted out, but he easily grabbed them and shackled them over her head. Then he hooked his feet around her legs so she couldn’t break free and kick him in the nuts as he stared down at her enraged face.
“Let me go,” she growled.
Each time she wiggled, it brought their hips into closer contact and sent more blood rushing to his groin. “Not a chance. I think a pin counts for three.”
“Go to hell.”
“I will. But not today. Question one. Are you sleeping with Billy Sullivan?”
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