Against the Ropes

Page 6


“It’s every man for himself,” Rampage answers. “Torment always takes the seriously injured guys to the hospital, but other than that, it’s the luck of the draw if we’ve got a medical professional at a match.”
I glance over at the ring. Torment is watching Flash and frowning. He calls out and Flash spins around then crumples and falls limp through the ropes. He lands on the concrete floor with a thud.
I jump up, knocking over my barf bucket. Protein bars spill across the floor. “Do you have a first aid kit?”
“Down by the ring. I’ll get it for you.” Rampage bulldozes a path through the crowd, and I race over to Flash.
Torment and the referee are already with him. His cornermen hover uselessly in the background.
“Makayla, you shouldn’t be here,” Torment snaps when I kneel beside Flash. I ignore him. He broke his promise. Someone got hurt after all.
Flash is conscious but moaning. He rubs his head and lets loose a string of swear words that would put a fifth grader to shame.
“Flash, I’m an EMT. Can I examine you?”
Flash’s eyes focus on me and his lascivious smile makes my skin crawl. “Yeah, FCUK. I knew you’d come lookin’ for Daddy Flash. You’re wanting what I promised you. Don’t worry, baby. A little injury isn’t gonna stop me from putting my—”
A low growl startles us both. I look up. Torment’s jaw is clenched and his eyes have narrowed to slits.
“Calm.” I place my hand over his. “Although rude and obnoxious, he is my patient. I won’t be very happy if you hurt him…yet.”
Other than a bump on the head and the telltale signs of drug abuse around his nostrils, Flash seems fine. His cut man—the cornerman responsible for tending injuries—helps him to a folding chair near the training area. While the next fight gets underway, I check his vitals and ice his head. Torment hovers beside me. Although I don’t look at him, I feel his presence like a protective cloak over my body.
I warn Flash about the possibility of a concussion. I tell him I think he blacked out because of the combination of restricted blood flow to his brain and drug abuse. His lips tighten and I know I’ve hit the mark.
After ten minutes, Flash starts to come down from his high. He apologizes for his behavior. He moans about his defeat and his humiliating fall from the ring. A tear trickles down his cheek. I try to console him as best I can. I pat his back and tell him he was brave to challenge one of the best fighters in the league and he isn’t the first person to fall through the ropes.
I glance up at Torment. He is watching me, his brown eyes darkened by intense emotion. For the briefest second, he lets me in, and the need and longing I see behind his mask take my breath away. Suddenly his eyes shutter and the moment is gone. Maybe I imagined it.
Flash’s friends arrive to take him home. Torment helps me tidy up. He tells me Flash will be banned from the club for life. Drugs are prohibited even on the underground circuit. He bends down to pick up the last ice pack and winces.
“What’s wrong with your shoulder?”
He gives a manly I-could-be-bleeding-to-death-but-I’ll-never-complain shrug. “It’s fine.”
“That’s the shoulder you landed on when he threw you. It could be injured. Let me take a look.”
“I’ll deal with it later.”
“Torment.” I grip his elbow and turn him to face me. “I have my Intermediate EMT certificate, and I volunteered for the last four years with the ambulance service. If it’s not serious, I can treat it.”
He studies me for a long moment and then his gaze drifts to my hand on his arm. When he looks up again, I catch a mischievous sparkle in his eyes. “Not here. The next fight is about to begin. We have a first aid room out by the front office. You can examine me there to your heart’s content.”
“My heart isn’t so easy to please.”
He laughs, a chuckle as deep and warm as a vat of melted chocolate.
“I’ll consider it a challenge.”
I make a quick detour to let Amanda know where I’ll be. She is in a lip-lock with Jake and gives me a nod. When I catch up with Torment, he is in the training area shaking hands and chatting with his fighters. He has a personal comment or a piece of advice for everyone who comes to congratulate him. Through the frenzy of fighters clamoring for his attention, I catch his gaze. He gives me a wink that sends a sizzle of delicious heat darting through me, and I cannot help but smile.
“Everyone gets nervous before a fight,” he explains when he returns to my side a few minutes later. “Even the most seasoned fighters. Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement to ease that tension.”
So considerate. He can ease my tension any time.
With his hand on my lower back, he escorts me through the rest of the club. I could definitely get used to this kind of courtesy. Maybe after I’ve found a real job, paid down my student loan, and figured out what to do with my life, I’ll move to the Southern States.
We cross the red line and enter the only part of the building benefitting from proper interior construction. Shower rooms, bathrooms, and changing rooms for both men and women are on the right, as well as a kitchen and a small lounge area. The walls are covered with floor-to-ceiling chalkboards setting out the daily class schedules and work out regimes. I catch the words “Boot Camp,” “Kick and Lick,” and “Punch Fest.” Definitely not the gym for me.
Torment leads me to the left and past a few offices with closed doors. Our shadows blend together, his magnificent body beside my small, curvy one. Even his shadow is sexy, dominating my other self as we weave our way through the loitering crowds to a door marked with a red cross.