Please enjoy the following excerpt of Her Secret Desire, copyright 2023, Jo Rees
The high roundhouse kick smashed into the side of his head with a satisfying smack. Hell, yeah, Jess thought, as her leg came lightly back down to the padded gym floor.
There was no time to gloat, though. Not yet. Not with an opponent as unpredictable as Kai. She watched him stagger backwards, but she stayed where she was, then jumped back on her toes, her fists raised to her chin, shrugging her shoulders to rearrange her heavy white robe. Come on, sucker. Show me what you got. She was aware of her taut muscles screaming, her chest heaving, but she wouldn’t finish yet. Not until he was down for good.
Kai continued backwards, his hand clamped to his ear, but Jess knew damn well that he could be bluffing. She jumped lightly towards him and back, and he took the signal. She saw him straightening up, steel in his eyes, his tall frame towering over her, all bets off now. Finally, he was taking her seriously.
She pounced towards him, her fists punching. One, two, one, two. And another roundhouse.
‘OK, break it up.’ Tony, their kick-boxing master, strode quickly across the mats, his tattooed arms stretched between Jess and her opponent. ‘I said, break it up!’
In respect, Jess slunk backwards, but her eyes didn’t leave Kai’s.
‘Take it easy, Jess. Save some juice in the tank,’ Tony told her, catching her arm and breaking her stare.
As always, she came to her senses when she saw Tony’s familiar wrinkled face, his thick neck cushioned with one of the white gym towels.
‘Just giving it everything I got,’ Jess said, wiping sweat from her top lip with the cuff of her robe, trying to make light of the fight, but they all knew she’d been waiting to kick Kai’s butt for a year. ‘Like you always taught me,’ she added pointedly.
‘Yeah, well, fifty sit-ups on the mat. Go,’ Tony said. ‘Burn off some of that aggression.’
She noticed now that Tony had tired lines round his eyes, but even so, he’d always been the same – ever since she’d started coming here as a teenager. Not having known her own father, Tony was the only older man Jess had ever had in her life and she respected him. It was Tony who’d set her straight and given her a path. Tony who’d shown her how to channel her anger and stop directing it at the teachers. And most recently, it had been Tony who’d encouraged her to apply for her dream job as cabin crew. He’d even given her a reference.
Yes, he was one of life’s good guys. And Jess knew there weren’t that many of them around, which is why she exhaled loudly now and smiled, before giving Kai an exhausted high- five. At twenty-two, he was three years younger than her, and taller. His black face was shiny with sweat, but there was respect in his eyes now as he nodded to her.
‘You trained her too good,’ Kai grumbled to Tony as she spun on her heel and left the mats, and she grinned with private satisfaction. ‘So, Jess,’ Kai called out, and she turned, ‘you put in a word for me with Angel, right?’
Jess sighed and shrugged sadly, needing to dispel the hope in Kai’s eyes. If only it were that simple. If only she could tempt Angel into going out with someone like Kai. She had to admit that he was kind of cute. But then, blonde Angel with her teas- ing ways had always been attractive to men.
Unfortunately, always the wrong sort.
(end of excerpt)