Home > Easy (Contours of the Heart #1)(47)

Easy (Contours of the Heart #1)(47)
Author: Tammara Webber

When it was my turn, my self-conscious hesitation disappeared with my group’s vocal encouragement and Don’s “Again!” between each strike. Exhilarated, I walked back to Erin wide-eyed and shaking with adrenaline. She laughed and said, “I know, right?”

We progressed to kicks, and every time I landed one and heard Don’s gratifying grunt, my fear that I could never replicate these in real life lessened. Vickie—the white-haired woman who’d unknowingly given me the courage to remain in the class two weeks ago—asked how, even if we hit the right place with enough force, we could win against a man his size.

Don reminded us that we didn’t have to win a fight—we just had to get away. “Every second buys you time to run.”

When Ralph announced a short break, I stole a look at Lucas. Over the heads of two girls, one of whom was talking to him, his eyes were on me, their icy gray-blue almost colorless from across the bright room. After the physical activity of the morning, my response was overwhelming. My breath went shallow and quick, neither of us turning away until Erin hooked her arm through mine and tugged.

“C’mon, lovergirl,” she murmured, inaudible to anyone but me.

I flushed as I let her lead me into the hallway, toward the locker room. Leaning over the sink, I splashed water on my face and stared into the mirror, wondering what Lucas saw when he looked at me. What Kennedy saw. What Buck saw.

“Got it bad, don’tcha?” Erin handed me a paper towel and pursed her lips, angling her head as she examined my face in the mirror, too. Her dark eyes met mine. “I should have known that hookup therapy wouldn’t work for you. If it makes you feel any better, he doesn’t look any less strung out than you do.”

I rolled my eyes, patting the water from my cheeks. “Believe it or not, that doesn’t make me feel better.”

She arched a brow, her gaze moving to her own reflection as she smoothed an imaginary imperfection on her lip and adjusted her wild ponytail. “Mmm-hmm.”


“We’re ready to learn the last few moves over the next hour or so—defense against holds and chokes. Next week, we’ll integrate everything you’ve learned into potential scenarios.” Clapping his hands together, Ralph added, “Divide up and let’s get started.”

After the twelve of us had automatically separated into our previous groups, Ralph addressed the men, who were partially padded up, including headgear. “Don, Lucas, let’s have you two switch off for this part. Mix up the attacker tactics a bit.”

Oh, God. So much for avoiding each other.

Though I knew there was no avoiding this, my brain cast about for any way out of having Lucas’s arms locked around me in front of everyone. The first attack was called the bear hug, and the intrepid, white-haired Vickie volunteered to help demonstrate the slow-motion defense against it. I watched with Erin and the other three ladies in my group, my breathing erratic and my heart thudding like it was trying to break out of my ribcage. He’d not even touched me yet.

The need for headgear became obvious when he explained the use of head-butts—the back of the victim’s head smashing into the mouth or nose of the assailant. There was also instep-stomping (everyone laughed when Lucas requested that we refrain from actual stomping of his unpadded foot—he would gladly react as though we’d done it forcefully), elbow to the midsection, and a move termed the lawnmower by Ralph, who came over to check on our progress.

Moving to stand in front of Lucas, he said, “This’ll be another move that we’d prefer no one tries in earnest on our brave instructors.” He turned and clapped Lucas’s shoulder. “We don’t wanna render our boys incapable of fatherhood.” As the ladies chuckled, Lucas flushed slightly pink and stared at the floor, his lips screwed into a discomfited smirk. “In a real life attack, if you have a hand free and low, you will reach back and grab the goods, twisting and pulling straight out like you’re startin’ a lawnmower.”

He demonstrated, complete with a lawnmower-starting sound-effect, and even Don’s group was watching and laughing. Lucas bit his lip and shook his head.

One by one, the six of us went to stand in front of him, facing the group, waiting for him to grab them so they could practice the techniques. The lawnmower was a favorite of the older ladies, and they all used it, along with the sound effect. Eyes sparkling, Erin used every single defense we’d just learned, one after the other—head-butt, foot-stomp, shin-scrape, elbow to the abdomen with one arm and lawnmower-starting with the other. The ladies in our group cheered and Lucas said, “Good job. He’ll be on the ground begging you to run away at this point.”

“Should I kick him first?” she asked, completely serious.

“Uh… if he’s not making a move toward you, then run. You don’t want him to grab your foot and pull you down.” Erin nodded and walked back to me, squeezing my hand when she reached my side.

He looked into my eyes as I approached. I stared back, turning my back to him as I reached him, trying to concentrate on what I was supposed to do next.

Suddenly, his arms were around me like bands, but gentler than any assailant would ever be. His muscled arms were solid and unyielding. Unnerved, I forgot every defense I’d just learned and struggled ineffectively against his strength.

“Hit me, Jacqueline,” he said in my ear. “Elbow.”

I elbowed his pad-covered abdomen and he grunted.

“Good. Foot stomp.”

I acted it out, carefully.

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