Read Body Shot (Tapped Out) Online

Authors: Cari Quinn

Tags: #Romance, #Anthologies, #Romantic Suspense, #Sports, #90 Minutes (44-64 Pages), #Collections & Anthologies, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense

Body Shot (Tapped Out)

BOOK: Body Shot (Tapped Out)
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Body Shot
Tapped Out: Novella
Cari Quinn
Also by Cari Quinn

EBooks are not transferable.

They cannot be sold, shared or given away as it is an infringement on the copyright of this work.

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.

BODY SHOT

© 2015 Cari Quinn

Cover Design: The Killion Group

All Rights Are Reserved.

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

First e-book edition: April 2015

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Body Shot

She wouldn’t take no for an answer. Until he said yes.

Carly Anderson is tired of playing it safe, and a big, brooding MMA fighter seems like the perfect cure for her tendency to stay on the straight and narrow. But Giovanni Costas is battling demons she’ll never understand and has needs she’s never been confronted with before. Maybe just one night will be enough to change her life—change her—for good.

Unless he gives her no choice but to run right back to the security she’s always known…

1
Carly

H
e was everything
I wasn’t supposed to have.

Tattooed and muscular, with eyes that said he wanted to fuck me. And I wanted to let him.

No, I wanted to
make
him.

Watching Giovanni Costas strut into the octagon at some random abandoned warehouse in Brooklyn didn’t deter me either. Finding out the location of tonight’s super secret fight hadn’t been easy, but I’d taken to hanging out at The Cage, the gym where Giovanni trained, and that allowed me to overhear stuff. Especially when I flirted with the right guys and wormed my way into the right conversations.

Tonight Giovanni was fighting a guy named X. Just X. The smoke machines were pumping, the rap music was blaring, and the crowd was cheering and stomping their feet even before the two men in the ring tapped gloves as a show of respect before the match.

Then it was on.

I didn’t claim to understand what drove people to fight. I was the kind of girl who waged domestic wars in the kitchen. My battleground was trying to perfectly julienne vegetables or attempting to get my gravy to be the correct thickness. My life’s ambition was to prepare food for appreciative guests.

Apparently Giovanni’s was to disfigure faces and maim bodies.

As was his style, Giovanni struck first. He didn’t waste time in dancing around his opponent, just started in on him straightaway. I didn’t know all the technical terms for the jabs and kicks and combinations—my older sister, Mia, and her boyfriend, Fox, were the former fighters and current trainers at The Cage, not me—but even an untrained eye couldn’t miss how dangerous Giovanni seemed.

Deadly.

Hot as hell.

Normally these matches went for a couple rounds, but considering Giovanni was systematically battering X’s face, I didn’t think the other guy would last that long. The sooner he was put out of his misery, the better. For both him
and
me, because I was more than a little squeamish about blood.

In no time, Giovanni had X on the mat, shoulders pinned. He punched him mercilessly around the torso, his muscles rippling and his golden Italian skin gleaming with sweat with every movement. Shouts erupted around me as the ref counted it off and announced Giovanni the victor for this round. He stood and grinned at his entourage of chicks on the opposite side of the ring before retreating to his corner to guzzle water and confer with his trainer.

Meanwhile, the ring card girl sashayed into the octagon to purr that the next round would be starting soon, so make your bets now.

I shook my head in disgust and tugged hard on the hoodie I wore with a T-shirt and short denim skirt. I wouldn’t be winning any fashion awards, but I’d wanted to watch Giovanni without being spotted by anyone. If he saw me at one of his fights, he’d surely try to shoo me away. Because that’s what everyone thought they had to do with me. Protect me like some doll meant to be tucked on a shelf. God forbid my sister or her boyfriend show up either. Luckily they’d stopped attending bouts when they’d ceased fighting or else I’d never be able to indulge my Giovanni spying in peace. It was bad enough that Giovanni himself was more discouraging than encouraging my interest lately.

I’d just turned eighteen a couple of months before, and we’d been dancing around each other since the day we met. Granted, that meeting hadn’t occurred under the best of circumstances. Mia had gone to meet with Giovanni to set up a fight. She’d been scheduled to fight her now-boyfriend, Fox Knox, but Giovanni had fought Fox and put him in the hospital with a fractured eye socket. Naturally Mia had wanted revenge, though at the time I doubted she would’ve classified it as such. She wasn’t real accepting of her unexpected feelings toward Fox at first. Her overriding ambition at that time had been fighting a dude so everyone would see she had the biggest balls in all of Brooklyn, and so she’d get paid accordingly once she won, but that was a separate issue.

Issues were like assholes, and my sister and I had gotten more than the standard allotment of the former.

By some magical luck of the draw, I ended up accompanying my sister when she attempted to convince Giovanni to fight her. Okay, there was no magic. I offered to help by employing the weapons I’d used since getting my first training bra at eleven.

Yeah, my tits. So sue me.

He’d looked at them. Oh, he’d looked. But that wasn’t what drew me to him. He looked elsewhere too. Like right into my eyes while he spoke my name. He called me
tesoro
—treasure in Italian. Even during his conversation with my sister, he focused all of his attention on me. It was as if we were already communicating on a deeper level, one where our clothes came off mentally no matter where we were. Standing in front of him, I felt naked.

I liked it. Hell,
loved
it.

He eventually agreed to fight my sister, though he did so with a smirk that made me think he never truly intended to follow-through. But he set a high price—a date with me, one I offered willingly. My sister did not approve. But she wanted that fight, so she said yes.

Little did she know nothing she could have said would’ve stopped us. Stopped
me
anyway.

The fight—and therefore the date—never happened. My sister wised up and realized that going up against a hotshot fighter like Giovanni was a quick way to get herself seriously injured, and she was doing it for all the wrong reasons. Fox didn’t need her protection. The dude could’ve killed Giovanni all on his own if he so chose, and he didn’t.

Eventually everything calmed down again. The Capulets and the Montagues settled their asses down and all went back to normal. At least as normal as it was for me to be hanging around at an illegal MMA fight in a not-so-great section of Brooklyn.

New York was the last state that hadn’t legalized MMA. I could say that the illegality of the fight taking place before me dimmed my interest in Giovanni, but that would be a lie. Because a doll on a shelf lives to get to play with the real dolls. And to do things no one would ever approve of, if only just to say that she got the chance once.

Giovanni was just a few years older than me chronologically, but in life experience, he had decades on me. The tattoos that covered him from head-to-toe spoke of some of those experiences, and I ached to peel back his clothes to discover the rest. To listen to his rich, melodic voice tell me all the reasons I should stay away from him while his eyes demanded I stay.

The problem was, he didn’t seem to respond to usual flirtation. I wasn’t a pro at it or anything, having only been practicing my craft seriously for a couple of years, but I had some native skill. I had the aforementioned boobs, which usually acted as a pretty good icebreaker. Plus I had long hair and blue eyes and an ass that made me lament low-rise jeans on a daily basis, all things that in theory should’ve added weight to my case. Yet he barely seemed to notice.

Well, beyond the eyefucking. That never stopped. So naturally I attempted to be in Giovanni’s sphere as much as possible to make it happen oh, twenty-four/seven.

Hanging out at The Cage was both a thrill and a buzzkill. It offered both glimpses of a sweaty Giovanni post-workout and the chance of being detected by my beady-eyed, sex-destroying sibling. Mia was no joke. I kept waiting for the day she hid my birth control pills to try to force me to be good.

She didn’t mind me dating or having fun with boys. She just didn’t want me anywhere near Giovanni for some reason. Her explanations didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Yeah, he was a fighter. She and Fox had been too. So he was intense. No one could call
her
sweetness and light. But there was something she saw in him that immediately made her itch to enroll me in the nearest convent. Which only made me want him more.

And which made me sneak out from under the watchful eye of my sister to attend Giovanni’s fights. Like a bloodhound, I dug around until I discovered their location and made sure I was in the audience. That he never took notice of me wasn’t the point. I knew I wasn’t the kind of girl he usually ran with. Or even looked at twice.

I startled as Giovanni jumped down from the ring to speak to one of the girls in his harem before climbing back up into the octagon. He lifted his head and I swore he glanced my way. His gaze pierced me straight down to my toes but he didn’t so much as smile. He just stared at me—
into
me—then swaggered back over to his corner to talk to his trainer. The second round was starting soon, and he obviously didn’t have time to bother with little girls with crushes.

Screw that.

Hell, lately I barely had time to make my case for more with him. I’d been visiting culinary schools in the tristate area, trying to figure out which one suited me best, while working almost full time at Salad Hut. Preparing fancy salads all day for unappreciative teenagers and Jenny Craig escapees wasn’t exactly getting me ready for my future career as a chef, but it was a job and I needed one with school coming up.
Expensive
school. Grants and loans would only take me so far, and my sister wasn’t able to contribute much. That was part of why she’d come up with that crazy plan to fight a guy—to make more cash. She felt like she needed to look out for me, and that included pretending she was my mom because ours was dead.

As much as I loved her for it, I yearned to break free and do something wild. Something my sweet, overbearing sister would never, ever agree with.

Yeah, so I never said I was smart.

I also never said I knew what I was doing. How could I? At eighteen, no one really does, at least not someone like me who had lived in the shadow of a girl who’d been on a milk carton. Not really. But Mia had lived through something no one should, and as the one who’d been left behind for those three months she was missing, I’d been sheltered to the point of insanity.

Tonight, however, I was shedding the chains of overprotection. Mia and Tray had the night off and were catching a movie, which meant it was safe for me to be out later than usual.

So far I was off to a rip-roaring start.

I didn’t get it. He wanted me; I would’ve staked my measly savings account on it. But he wouldn’t take that step. So I would have to. I just didn’t know how.

The second round started and Giovanni stalked across the mat to the now more visibly unsure X. Giovanni punched and kicked and spun until his opponent was left in a quivering mass, barely able to defend himself. I couldn’t help staring. The man’s muscles were a masterpiece, and I saw a good amount of them parading through my apartment on a daily basis. Mia’s boyfriend was no slouch in that area either, and fighters apparently liked to be close to naked a lot.

I liked them to be close to naked a lot too.

Round two ended much like the first, and Giovanni was declared the victor. X shuffled out of the ring, his spirit broken but his body still mostly intact. They’d drawn some blood tonight, but I’d definitely seen way worse.

Eventually Giovanni finished up parading in front of his female admirers and headed to the showers. I debated waiting around to talk to him, then decided to take another tack. Talking had gotten me nowhere so far. He’d seen me, I was almost sure of it, and he still hadn’t come over to speak to me. Even a “hello” would’ve been nice.

Just the same, I didn’t want to flirt with the guy. Or not only flirt. I wanted to be the woman he saw me as. I knew he did. Why he kept denying us both, I didn’t know.

But I would.

By the time he came out of the back exit of the gym, I was biting my lip and trying to convince myself not to go any further. I could still go home and catch a couple of episodes of
Girls
. I hadn’t turned into a full-fledged stalker yet.

Then he climbed behind the wheel of a black Escalade with tinted windows, and I knew I wouldn’t be curling up on my sister’s dented sofa anytime soon.

Somehow I managed to get behind the wheel of my fifthhand Honda stealthily enough for him not to spot me—or he didn’t stop if he did. Later, I would wonder if maybe he had seen me. If that was why he’d chosen to lead me through the maze of Brooklyn streets into the city at that crawling speed that almost assured I could tail him, even though my vehicle was no match power-wise for his.

If maybe he wanted me to see. To know.

Our worlds were very different. Mine was filled with culinary school applications, and Food Network marathons, and shifts at the salad joint. The bulk of the worst of my past was Mia’s burden to carry, not mine. I was a bystander in my own life.

Until that night.

He swung into an underground lot and I hurried to follow, swearing under my breath and taking the turn too fast. I nearly sped past the place to pay in my haste. I paid as swiftly as possible and sailed down the aisle I’d seen Giovanni head down last, unsurprised that his SUV had disappeared.

Where had he gone?

I tried two more aisles, dejected. About to give up, I checked out the last, then saw him idling in a spot in a far corner. His lights flicked off just as I backed into the closest free spot. Heart racing, I watched him get out and stop beside the hood to glance down at something in his hand. His phone. He lifted it to his ear and strode out, giving me no choice but to follow.

I’d gone this far. Why not add stalking on foot to what I’d already done by car?

He crossed the typically busy Manhattan street, dodging speeding cabs and crazy bicyclists with the ease of a longtime New Yorker. I, however, was not a longtime New Yorker, having only lived there for a few months, but I chased after him, praying loudly enough to garner more than a few stares. Not from him though. He was far enough ahead of me that I almost lost him half a dozen times. We were in the Hell’s Kitchen area, bordering Central Park, and I knew Mia wouldn’t appreciate me hanging out there this late at night.

But what my older sister didn’t know didn’t hurt
me
.

Full of purpose, Giovanni headed up the street and stopped in front of a club with a sign that consisted of the outline of a curvy nude girl. I hung back, more than a little shocked. Dumb. I was so frigging dumb. He was a guy in his early twenties. Why shouldn’t he throw dollars at a hot piece of ass? Mine was too much trouble, even if it was free. I officially had baggage, even if most of it wasn’t mine, and no guy looking for a good time wanted any part of that.

BOOK: Body Shot (Tapped Out)
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