Take Me On (Page 50)

Take Me On (Pushing the Limits #4)(50)
Author: Katie McGarry

Chapter 37

Haley

I’m late walking out the door of the pizzeria and West will be more than happy to throw it in my face after I gave him a hard time a few weeks back. The cold wind slaps my cheeks and there’s a sense of comfort when West backs his SUV out of his spot and eases his car next to me.

I open the door, slide in and smile. The heater is on full force and every single vent is pointed in my direction. Sitting in the driver’s side like he’s done nothing amazing, West sure does make it difficult to not fall.

“How was work?” he asks.

“Slow.” Which means that I didn’t make the tips I was hoping for.

West reaches to the backseat and I quickly lift my freezing hands to the heater. Yeah, they’re cold again and, yes, I’m trying to hide it from West.

“Hey, Haley,” he says.

I drop my hands. “Yeah?”

A handful of pink roses appear in front of me. Air catches in my throat and I lose the ability to speak.

The roses shake in front of me and I snap out of my shock long enough to take them. “Thank you.”

West presses on the gas and turns onto the main road. “This is what I was thinking. We work out, you process this and then later we’ll discuss how we’ll handle moving things from simple to complicated.”

“A little full of yourself, aren’t you?” Yet I say it as I inhale the sweet scent of the largest rose.

“You like guys that show with flowers, remember?”

I laugh and West smiles at the sound. How on earth did he remember?

“Okay,” I say. “We’ll work out first and then maybe we’ll discuss complicated.”

“Not maybe.”

“Maybe. And, West?”

He glances over at me.

“There’s no way I’m going easy on you because of this.”

Chapter 38

West

“Keep your guard up!” Haley shouts. We’ve been at it for two hours and my arms move as if they’ve got hundred-pound weights attached to them. “You’ve got to step into me when you go for the punch and stop stepping back. This isn’t self-defense class, which means there are no points for running.”

We’re in the ring and Haley raises the pads she wears on her arms to her face as we continue the combination. I inhale deeply and throw a double jab, a cross, and my shin meets the pads down by her thigh as she instantly lowers them. With each punch, a breath exhales out of my mouth and Haley marks each hit with a grunt in order to keep me in tempo.

On beat with the music pounding out from the speakers, Haley’s feet switch—a crazy crisscross she’s yet to teach me. She rounds on me and she expects me to match her pace. “Come on—you’ve got to move. Keep it parallel otherwise I’ll crack you in your head or slam you onto the floor.”

She makes those types of remarks often, but since we’ve been training, Haley’s never taken a swing. I believe she could toss me to the floor, and I wonder why she hasn’t.

I wipe the sweat from my forehead, but another wave floods from my scalp onto my face. My hands are hot in my gloves and my biceps beg for a rest.

“One more time all the way through,” she demands. I shoot her a glare and swear the sadist smiles. “You’ve got it in you. Dig deep and find it. Same combo.”

Same combo meaning she wants me to put it all together. Jesus Christ, I can barely catch my breath never mind remember the entire combination.

Her legs switch again, but this time I move with her and I like the exotic slant of her mouth. “Good boy, now, if you’d keep those guards up, you might still be standing in the ring.”

Fuck. My gloves slam to my temples and Haley holds the pads up. I throw a jab and Haley ducks out of the way. “Who are you fighting, your grandma? Come on! Throw it like you mean it. Throw it like you’re actually trying to hit. What the hell, West. I’m not playing here.”

As if she injected anger into my veins through a sharp needle, energy rushes to my muscles and the double jab strikes, followed by a cross, a left hook to the head, another cross, a reload and then a low kick to the legs.

Haley drops the pads. “You need to step toward me and punch at the same time. Stepping first is going to tip your hand. He’ll back out of the way or worse, read the punch and take advantage of your dropped guard and plug you upside the head.”

I rest an arm against the cage for support. I lost the shirt an hour ago and my shorts stick tight, becoming an additional layer of skin. “Why so many damn jabs? My cross is more powerful.”

“Your jab is your most important hit. It’s your closest punch and it’s not going to throw you off balance.”

Maybe because I’m too damn tired to think, I shake my head to let her know I’m not getting it. She gestures with her head for me to straighten and when I do, she wiggles her fingers at my cross. I rub my arm against my forehead. “What about the pads?”

I’ve never thrown a punch straight at Haley before and the thought twists my stomach.

“You’re not going to hit me,” she says. “If you want, mock throw it and you’ll still get the point.”

My pretend girlfriend is cocky. “All right.” I widen my stance and “throw” a cross. Haley’s arm snaps out and deflects the hit and in a second her cross is frozen at my chin.

“You’re leaning,” she says.

I am. My body tilted with her deflection. Damn.

“If my cross struck you, you would have been off balance and I’d have the upper hand. All hits are good, West, especially if they connect, but a jab is your bread and butter.”

Haley picks up my wrists and shifts them near my temples. “You need to keep your guard up at all times. Drop it for a second and you’ll get the hell pounded out of you.”

“I know.” I start to lower it, but she keeps a firm grip on my wrist.

“No.” Haley becomes the only thing I see in the small gap between my gloves. “I need it to be ingrained, not a useless tidbit of information to be discarded as trash.”

With her delicate fingers holding on to me, we stay that way, silent, as the music continues to play. After a second, she says, “What are you scared of?”

Failing her like I’ve failed Rachel. Getting my ass handed to me in the cage. Being kicked out for good after graduation. I go to drop my wrists, but Haley keeps them in place.

“Tell me,” she says.

“Nothing.”

“No, you keep messing with your guard. If you do hold it up, you’re not keeping it tight near your temples. You move it out— Why?”