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Authors: Olivia Lancaster

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BOOK: TKO (A Bad Boy MMA Romance)
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CHAPTER 8 - GEMMA
 

              Ever since the ass-grabbing incident during our third physiotherapy session, I had been more than a little worried about how the rest of my work with Marc Montoya was going to go. After talking to Trina at the cafe, I felt slightly better about the whole situation, but I was still concerned about the way Marc would act during the fourth session. I guess my concern must have showed in my face, because Alice came right out and asked me what was going on.

 

              “Gemma, you’ve been really jumpy and weird for the past few days. What happened? Are you sick? Did I do something wrong?” she asked one night over dinner. She’d set down her fork after picking at her pasta for ten minutes, then propped herself up on her elbows. I knew when she gave me this look, there was no way of avoiding her. It was the same look my dad used to shoot me when he could tell I was lying about something. Alice was basically his carbon copy, except female and tiny. With much more attitude.

 

              “No, no. Everything is totally fine,” I lied, shaking my head and swirling some veggie fettuccine around my fork before popping it into my mouth. She couldn’t interrogate me while I had my mouth full, could she?

 

              Turned out, she definitely could.

 

              “Don’t lie, Gem. I can always tell when you’re lying. You do this weird eye-twitchy thing, every single time,” Alice scolded me, rolling her eyes.

 

              I shrugged, pointing to my chewing mouth.

 

              “Well, swallow your damn fettuccine and then answer my question,” she said. There she went again with the potty-mouthing. She knew exactly how to push my buttons. And it worked.

 

              I swallowed hard and set down my fork with a clink.

 

              “Alice Knight, you know I don’t like when you talk like that,” I began sternly. But she merely raised her eyebrows and looked at me expectantly. Damn it. She always knew exactly how to get me wired. It must have been genetic.

 

              “Just something weird happened at work, but it’s none of your business, okay? Don’t worry about it. Eat your pasta. And eat the actual vegetables in there, too!” I added.

 

              “How about I eat one veggie for every question you actually answer properly,” she bargained, a smile pulling at her lips. She was infuriating, but god, she was fun. Sometimes I wished I could be half as silly and clever as she was. Dad always said that I got the book-smarts and Alice got the street-smarts. I was a straight-A, straight-laced girl with single-minded ambition, while Alice was more of a free spirit who used her wit to make jokes and play games rather than to write essays and slay the debate team.

 

              And here I was, about to get gamed by a high school sophomore. Unreal.

 

              “Okay. Fine. But this is not gonna be a regular occurrence, alright? This is a one-time thing. No more trading interrogations for nutrition at the dinner table from now on,” I said, laying down the rules. Alice giggled.

 

              “What happened at work?” she asked, spearing a piece of squash with her fork and holding it poised in front of her mouth.

 

              Reluctantly, I replied, “A patient I’ve been working with crossed a line during a session.”

 

              She popped the squash into her mouth, chewed, and swallowed. “See? That wasn’t so bad. On to the next question: what exactly did he do?”

 

              I frowned. “How do you know it’s a he?”

 

              Alice clucked her tongue and shook her head. “Nope, I’m the one asking the questions. Now spill, or I will never eat another zucchini again!” she threatened, grinning. That was a flat-out lie, a totally empty threat. Zucchini was one of her favorite foods.

 

              Sighing, I answered, “Okay, okay. He got a little handsy with me and now I’m worried that things are going to be weird tomorrow at our next session.”

 

              Her blue eyes went round with interest. “Handsy? Oh my god, Gem! What the hell did he do? Are you okay? I am more than willing to kick his ass for you.”

 

              “Language, Alice!” I laughed, but I felt rather pleased to have a little sister ready to stick up for me, even if she did only weigh a hundred pounds soaking wet. Though, I assumed that once she realized the guy she wanted to fight was a tournament-winning MMA fighter, she just might back down.

 

              She seemed to drop the question-for-a-vegetable act in light of my revelation, looking truly worried about me. “Seriously, is everything okay? I can tell this has you really freaked out, Gem. I don’t like the idea of some skeevy guy making you uncomfortable at work.”

 

              I went on to explain to her the situation-- without mentioning the presence of Marc’s erection, nor his full name. Alice and I spent the rest of the evening just chatting about how things were going, confiding in each other like we used to. I loved my sister and how much she cared about me. Our lives were so busy and we didn’t get to spend as much time together as I would have liked, but when we did manage to squeeze in quality time, it was awesome.

 

* * *

 

              The next day, when I woke up for work, I felt considerably more relaxed.

 

              And thank god, because I needed all the strength and calmness I could muster to face a session with Marc. I walked into the building with my head raised high, looking totally killer in my tight black Lycra leggings with a flowy, purple tank top. I’d braided my hair into twin fishtails and put on just the slightest hint of makeup. It wasn’t so much about impressing or intimidating Marc-- he spent a lot of time surrounded by beautiful woman fawning over him. It was about helping me feel powerful. And it worked.

 

              I don’t know if it was because of some little extra kick on my part, or if the events of our third session merely changed Marc’s perspective, but the session went surprisingly well. He didn’t make any rude remarks, kept his hands to himself, and most importantly-- he was nicer to me overall. His demeanour had shifted ever so slightly, but it was a noticeable change. It was like he’d gotten a rude awakening from someone. I doubted it was because of anything I did, but whatever it was, I appreciated it.

 

              As I was gently stretching his arm and teaching him how to carefully rotate his shoulder to rebuild strength and test its elasticity, he winced in silence. Not a single rude, snappy comment. Not a single name-call. He was a dutiful patient for the first time ever.

 

              “You’re quiet today,” I remarked cautiously, still nervous about provoking him.

 

              He tried to shrug, only to flinch at the movement in his left shoulder. “Look, I wanted to apologize for what happened last time,” he grunted. I could tell it took all his self-discipline to manage those words. He was not a man who apologized often - or ever. My heart swelled a little bit at this, even though I knew it was absurd. Of course he should apologize. But still, coming from him…

 

              “I don’t know what got into me. I mean, you’re a beautiful girl, obviously. But it’s…” his voice trailed off as I stood there blinking at him, taken aback. There was a very tense, long moment as we sized each other up. Marc’s honey-brown eyes looked me up and down, then settled on locking with mine. His undivided attention made my skin prickle, a shiver traveling down my spine.

 

              God, he was attractive.

 

              But he was also a douchebag. I had to remind myself of that, especially since he was trying on this brand new nice-guy act.
Remember when he grabbed your ass like some creepo at a bar? Yeah, focus on that, Gemma.

 

              “I just wanted to ask if maybe we could, I don’t know, start over? I’m not used to being the victim and I’m kind of at your mercy here, and it sucks. Sorry for being an asshole. I just want to get better,” he concluded, clearly pained by this show of humility. Something told me he wasn’t just talking about improving the movement and strength of his body. He wanted to be better in other ways, too. I knew it probably took a lot out of him to admit his wrongdoing. He was accustomed to talking with his fists, not his words.

 

              I couldn’t help but smile. “I understand. Let’s just pretend it didn’t happen, okay? We got work to do.”

 

              Marc nodded and the softest twinge of a smile pulled at his mouth. He looked so charming and shockingly boyish. It was remarkable how such a subtle change in expression could alter his whole demeanour. It was like watching the beast transform into a prince.

 

             
Careful, Gemma,
I told myself.
Keep it professional.

 

              The rest of that session passed by uneventfully, the two of us working together in quiet cooperation. When it was over, I was almost sorry to see him go. But as soon as he left the room a wave of relief washed over me. I couldn’t comprehend how conflicted he made me feel-- both exhilarated and on edge at the same time. I wondered if this was what it felt like for lion tamers.

 

              After all, that’s what he was: a wild animal used to roaming free and presiding over a kingdom of weaker, inferior prey. Marc Montoya was an alpha male predator, and he was a stranger to feeling weak. And now he was injured, a limping lion with his mane dragging along the ground. For probably the first time in his life, he required the help of someone he would never have thought twice about before: me.

 

I remembered a story my mom read to me when I was very young-- something about a little mouse who had to help pull a thorn from the paw of a lion. I was that mouse. Any other day, Marc would have scooped me up in his gnashing jaws, chewed me up, and spat me back out like I was nothing.

 

But here, in the physiotherapy room at The Fighting Chance, he had to rely on me.

 

And it was hard for him, learning to be patient, to come to terms with his own inevitable weaknesses and to accept help even though it felt totally foreign to him. Marc Montoya, like most MMA guys, was composed of ninety-percent raw bravado. Once that was stripped away, I think he struggled to figure out what else was left of him.

 

I almost started to feel sorry for him. But I know that would’ve only pissed him off.

 

I spent the rest of that day quietly doing paperwork and researching more methods for helping him improve his reach and mobility. I was determined to prove myself to not only Danny and Trina and everyone else at the gym. I needed Marc to respect me, for real.

 

So when he came in a couple days later for the next session, I was all ready to start him on some new exercises I read about. I knew there was a chance they’d be exceptionally painful for him at first, but since he was used to pain and unwilling to admit it when it got to be too much, I figured he would probably handle it okay.

 

He walked in looking like a fitness model, his enormous height and his broad shoulders taking my breath away for the millionth time. No matter how often I saw him, I never seemed quite able to get past how incredibly hot he was. Part of me longed to touch his strong arms and run my fingers down his sculpted abdominal muscles, in a way that did not suggest a totally-professional patient-therapist relationship.

 

Every time I laid my hands on his hip or his shoulder to massage the muscles and relieve joint tension, I wondered if he would pick up on the desire in my touch. Could he tell? Could he read my mind?

 

I hoped not.

 

“We’re going to try some new exercises today,” I announced as he walked into the physiotherapy room. He raised an eyebrow and cocked his head dubiously.

 

“Uh oh. Painful ones?” he asked, catching on.

 

“Possibly, yes. But I’ll talk you through it,” I offered. It was something I did with former patients all the time, distracting them from the pain by asking personal questions, shooting the breeze. It helped keep their minds off the stress of the moment.

 

He sat down on a bench I’d dragged into the middle of the room and we got started. I gave him the stretching equipment and told him to start squeezing. I rolled his wrist open and closed while moving his arm up and down, then rotated his arm in a circular motion. He only winced at first, but then after a few reps he had to close his eyes tightly and clench his jaw to hold back the pain. Pity made my heart ache for him.

BOOK: TKO (A Bad Boy MMA Romance)
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