Mike raised his hands palms out. “Don’t let me get in the way,” he said. “So are you done with rounds already? Or can we continue?”
“I’m done.” Crandall turned his glower on Ash. “How do you practice without these show offs?”
Ash frowned at Mike who shrugged in response. As Mike and Dragon faced off along one wall, Crandall ignored the soft grunts and solid thumps of their sparring and stared at Ash expectantly.
“Show me,” Crandall said.
“Show you what?”
“How you fucking practice.” Crandall’s tightened his fists again, and his gaze drifted to one side, away from Ash, and away from Mike and Dragon.
Ash nodded, his gaze as direct as Crandall’s had been. “Did you actually watch the Karate Kid?”
“What’s that have to do with anything?”
“Did you? The original, not the crappy remake?” Ash crossed his arms and waited.
Crandall frowned and dragged his gaze closer, looking over Ash’s right shoulder. “Yeah, Mike and I saw it.” They’d been smoking weed, drinking beer, and laughing their asses off at old movies all night. Karate Kid had been only one of four that night. To battle the smile, Crandall scowled, and said, “I’m not fucking painting your house.”
With a soft laugh, Ash shook his head and dropped his arms to his sides. “No painting. No waxing. I promise.”
Instantly suspicious and further annoyed, Crandall asked, “Then what? Why won’t you get to the point?”
Mike landed on his back at their feet. Ash reached down and pulled him up.
“Slacker,” Crandall said.
“Says the pot to the kettle,” Mike replied.
Mike’s lips fell open momentarily, but whatever he’d thought he kept to himself. He turned toward Dragon, raised his fists, and nodded once. As the two of them met in combat once more, Crandall stepped back a pace and made a “bring it on” gesture for Ash.
“Okay,” Ash said. “But try not to argue with me on this. I know what I’m doing.”
“Fine, just don’t be a fucking ass about it.”
Ash chuckled. “Deal. We’ll start tonight.”
“No, now.” Crandall moved forward and swung at Ash. Ash caught the punch and twisted Crandall’s arm throwing him off balance and dropping him to the mat.
“I have a class soon. We’ll have more time if you come back at eight.”
Crandall scrambled to his feet and raised his fists. Ash held up a hand, palm out. “Don’t,” he said, “or I’ll dump you on your back end again.”
With a snort of derision, Crandall lowered his hands. “Fine, eight,” he said.
At quarter of eight, Crandall stood outside the studio watching Ash lead a dozen men and women through abdominal exercises on individual floor mats. He’d tried to walk in half way through the class, but Dragon caught him.
“You’ll get plenty of work when he’s done,” Dragon had said, and then disappeared into the gym to clean. Crandall wondered if Dragon left him alone to see if he’d listen or not. He seemed the type to test people like that.
While Mike and Dragon watched, and discussed whether or not to notify their church contact, Ash taught Crandall how to punch from the curl of his fingers to the position of his feet, shoulders, and hips.
“Try it,” Ash said.
Crandall punched at him, and Ash blocked with his forearm.
“Ow, fucker!” Crandall clenched his fists at his sides.
“You’ll get used to that.”
“If I didn’t know you were fucking with me, I’d fucking deck you.”
Dragon and Mike stilled, but said nothing.
“Again,” Ash said.
“You want to hit me. Here’s your chance.”
Crandall swung wildly. Ash caught his fist and spun him around, shoving him to his knees. “Do it right,” he said before releasing him.
Stumbling to his feet, Crandall cursed.
“Again,” Ash said. “And do it right this time.”
“You’re not my type. Again.”
“Do you want to learn to beat me or not?”
“Like you’d teach me to do that.” Crandall glared at the floor between them.
“Actually, I would.” Ash’s gentle, neutral tone drew Crandall’s gaze up to meet his eyes. Ash said, “Your instincts are stronger than mine. If you control your anger, and focus on technique, you have the potential to be very good at this.”
“Bull-fucking-shit. You’re just using some kind of psychology to trick me into cooperating.”
“Actually, Crank.” Mike stepped forward, but kept several paces between them. “You have a good sense of things at Blood Moon too. I couldn’t have told you how many vampires were in that building, but you knew it as easily as you can hear me talking right now.”
“Stop it. I don’t want to do this and I don’t want to be any fucking Godsend. If I could ignore it all I would, and I’m sure as fucking hell not going to kill some goddamn Fang because he said he wants it.”
Crandall spun around and jogged to the gate. He left it open as he ran to the door separating the pit from the rest of the facility. He pulled the door open and, with his gaze still on the floor, ran into six feet and two hundred pounds of vampire flesh dressed in blond curls, faded denim, a black Henley, and cowboy boots from a couple of decades earlier. He stumbled back a step and looked up into Caribbean blue eyes.
“Stay a moment, Mr. Jacobsen,” Maximian Lucanus said. His wicked fangs flashed behind his lips with his words. Crandall stared at the white enamel, torn between thoughts of staking the beast and giving in to the anxiety flooding his veins.
Up Next: Denial