Home > Easy (Contours of the Heart #1)(33)

Easy (Contours of the Heart #1)(33)
Author: Tammara Webber

I shook my head, wondering if I needed to undo the straps completely or just loosen them.

“Never been on a bike before?”

From the corner of my eye, I saw Rona and Olivia exit the building behind a group of boys. Both girls stopped and stared at Lucas, and then me, while I pretended not to notice them. “Um. No…”

“Let me help you with that, then.”

After I put my bag’s strap over my head and settled it crosswise over my chest, he took the helmet and placed it on my head, securing the straps under my chin.

I felt like a bobblehead figurine.

Once we were both helmeted and on the bike, I reached my arms around him and clasped my hands over his abdomen, marveling at how firm it was.

“Hold on,” he said, shoving the kickstand back. His suggestion was unnecessary as the engine roared to life—I had a death grip on his torso, my entire front pressed securely against his back, my chin tucked and my eyes squeezed shut. I tried to imagine I was on a roller coaster—perfectly safe and attached to a track instead of hurtling through the streets on a flimsy five hundred pounds or so of metal and rubber, hoping some drunk in an SUV wouldn’t run a red light and flatten us.

The ride to his place—an apartment over a detached garage—took less than ten minutes. My hands were numb from the combination of the grasp each had on the other and the chilled November air rushing over them. As I stood rubbing them together, he parked the bike on a paved section between the garage and the open steps before turning and taking my hands in his, one at a time, and massaging warmth into them. “I should have reminded you to wear gloves.”

I pulled my hand from his and pointed to the house not more than fifty feet away. “Do your parents live there?”

“No.” He turned to walk up the wooden stairway and I followed. “I rent the apartment.”

He unlocked the door to a huge studio with a wall, but no door, defining what I assumed was the bedroom in the far right corner. A small open kitchen was on the left; a bathroom between the two. On the sofa, a huge orange tabby cat regarded me with characteristic feline apathy before hopping down and stalking to the door.

“This is Francis.” Lucas opened the door and the tom wandered lazily outside, stopping on the landing to clean a paw.

I laughed, moving to the center of the room. “Francis? He looks more like a… Max. Or maybe a King.”

He shut and locked the door, his ghost smile turning his mouth up on one side. “Trust me, he’s superior enough without a macho name to back it up.”

He shrugged his jacket off as he crossed the room to me, and I stared up at him, starting to unbutton my coat. “Names are important,” I said.

He nodded, dropping his eyes to my fingers. “Yes.” I pushed the oversized buttons through the slits slowly, top to bottom, as though there was nothing beneath. Sliding his thumbs inside the lapels, he dragged the coat from my shoulders, his thumbs brushing down the arms of my sweater. “Soft.”

“It’s cashmere.” My voice was nearly breathless, and though I wanted to follow up on my statement about names, wanted to press him to tell me why he was misleading me, I couldn’t jar the words from my throat.

The coat fell past my fingertips and he turned aside, tossed it on top of his jacket. “I had an ulterior motive for bringing you here.”

I blinked. “You did?”

Grimacing, he took my hands. “I want to show you something, but I don’t want to freak you out.” He breathed a sigh. “This morning—that last thing—the ground defense…” He watched me closely, and I tried to look away, anywhere but his eyes, because my face was burning, humiliated, but I couldn’t tear my eyes from his. “I know you don’t believe it would work. I want to show you it will.”

“What do you mean, show me?”

His hands tightened on mine. “I want to teach you exactly how to execute it. Here. With no one else watching.”

It was the replication of the position itself, but also the thought of him watching that had been so unnerving this morning, but he couldn’t know that.

“Trust me, Jacqueline. It works. Will you let me show you?”

I nodded.

He led me to the center of the floor space, pulled me down to my knees next to him. “Lie flat. On your stomach.” Heart pounding, I obeyed. “The majority of men have no martial arts training whatsoever, so they won’t be able to counter the moves correctly. And even those who do won’t be expecting what you’re going to do. Remember what Ralph said—the key is to get away.”

I nodded, my cheek on the carpet, my heart slamming against the floor.

“Do you remember the moves?”

I shook my head, shutting my eyes.

“It’s okay. I could tell you were freaking out in class. Your friend did the right thing, not forcing you. I don’t want to force you, either. I just want to help you feel more in control.”

I took a deep breath. “Okay.”

“If you find yourself in this position, you want to do these moves automatically, without wasting time or energy trying to buck him off.”

I stiffened as his inadvertent use of Buck’s name.


“That’s his name. Buck.”

I heard him inhale through his nose, like he was trying to maintain control. “I will remember that.” He was silent for a moment. “The first move seems counterproductive because it provides no leverage. But that’s the thing—you’re taking his leverage away. Choose the side you want to roll onto, and put that arm straight up and out, like you’re standing and reaching for the ceiling.”

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