ONE WELCOME BACK, RIPTIDE!
IT’S BEEN TWO months, exactly sixty-two days, since I returned to him. A thousand four hundred eighty-eight hours of wanting, longing, and needing him. It has been even longer than that since thousands of women, men, and fans across the world watched him fall.
This is it. The first fight of the new Underground season.
He’s been training like mad. He’s put on more muscle. He’s more ripped than ever, and I know this season he’s ready to take what’s his.
The audience in the Washington, D.C., fighting arena consists of about a thousand people, and when the winner of the current match is announced, the crowd grows restless.
We all know it’s his time to be called. His assistant, Pete, sits tense and alert to my right. He’d told me he’s the “draw”—that most everyone in the arena is here for him.
I know I certainly am.
The air is charged with excitement and scented with perfume, beer, and sweat. The two previous fighters are exiting the ring now,
one of them assisted by his team, and my heart pounds as I sit motionless in my seat, in the first row, at the very center, just where my man wants me. So here I am, waiting, my body hyperaware and my heart pounding his name. Remington, Remington, Remington . . .
The speakers crackle as the announcer turns on the microphone, and I almost jump out of my skin.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we all remember our crushed souls—our crushed spirits!—when the crowd favorite lost the championship final last year.”
The crowd boos in memory, and my throat clogs thinking about how Remy’s broken body had been carried out of the ring.
“Have no fear, people. Have no fear!”
“REMY!!!!!!!!!” someone screams.
“Bring him out already!” another yells.
“Oh, we will. Have no doubt about it; we will,” the announcer somberly says, painfully drawing it out for the crowd. “After much speculation and many rumors, it’s completely official. The man is fighting this season, and he’s taking no prisoners, people! Here he is, ladies and gentlemen. Here. He. Is! You all know who I’m talking about?”
The crowd roars, “RIP-TIIIIIIIDE!”
“One more time, ’cause I can’t hear you!”
“That’s right, ladies and gentlemen! Here’s our favorite bad boy with that infamous smile and those deadly fists, ready to carve R.I.P. into anyone who stands in his way this year. The one, the only, Remingtoooon Tate, your RIPTIIIIIIIIIDE!!”
Wild excitement rushes through me as the crowd stands and roars like never before.
“My god, the fans are thirsty for him,” Pete breathes.
And so am I. My god. So am I.
Across the ring from me, women are waving panties in the air. Panties! Another lifts a sign that reads PULL ME UNDER, RIPTIDE!
My mouth is dry, and a thousand and one winged things flutter in my stomach when I see a flash of red.
And then, he’s closer.
Trotting out of the walkway and to the ring.
To his ring.
My body enlivens with sensations as he breaks through the crowd.
Some fans have escaped their seats and make a grab for him, but he easily shoves his way through the throng, his face shadowed by the hood of his red satin robe. Remy. My Remy. The man I love with every ounce of me.
“Riptide, you put the sex in SEXY!”
“Remy, I want you to fucking impregnate me!”
He climbs into the ring with a fluid jump, and then he removes his RIPTIDE robe, slowly, without hurrying. Hundreds of female screams ring in my ears as he goes to his corner to hand the robe to Riley, his coach’s second.
Riley pats his muscled back with a smile and tells him something. Remington throws his head back as if he’s laughing and then takes the center of the ring, spreads his long, ripped arms out, and starts doing his slow and cocky I-know-you-all-want-to-fuck-me turn.
I will never, ever, get used to the sight of him in that ring. My heart whams excitedly into my rib cage while all my insides pulse with need, and my chest feels like a balloon about to burst in excitement. Hard, lean, and perfect, he is all dangerous, all beautiful, and all mine.
My eyes absorb every inch of what every other woman here is drooling for, and I helplessly let my gaze run up and down his
perfect athletic form. My eyes lovingly caress his tan and kiss the inky Celtic bands over his biceps. I admire his torso and his long, strong legs, his sculptured arms, his narrow waist and broad shoulders. Every muscle in his perfect body is so defined that you would know exactly where one structure ends and the next begins if you trailed your fingers along his magnificent form.
And as he turns even more, I see the washboard abs with eight squares—eight! Yes, it is impossible, but he’s got them . . . and his face.
Oh god, I can’t even take it.
The scruffy jaw. The brilliant blue eyes. The sexy smirk. The dimples. He’s got a smile on his face; his expression, one that tells you he’s got a whole lot of trouble planned for the evening and you don’t want to miss it, is playful and boyish.
A collective gasp spreads out in the rows behind me as he moves to face us.
The butterflies in my stomach burst awake when those dancing blue eyes start scanning the crowd, silently laughing at all of us. He’s clearly amused by our obsession over everything Remington Tate!
Beside me, a middle-aged blonde with too much Botox jumps up and down and screams like a lunatic, “Remy! Give me a taste of that Riptide!”
The impulse to drag the woman down by her hair seizes me, but at the same time, I know you can’t look at him without dissolving into a pool of lust.
He is a stud. He was made to mate. To procreate.
And I want him like my next breath.
I want him more than any one of these screaming women wants him.
I want every fragmented part of him. I want his body. His mind. His heart. His beautiful soul.
He says he’s mine, but I know that there’s a part of Remington Tate nobody will ever have.
I am his, but he is untamable and unconquerable.
The only one who can defeat Remington Tate is himself.
He’s up there, ever elusive and mysterious, a black box of mystery without end. And I want to get lost in him, even if I never come out the same.
Pete elbows my ribs and whispers in my ear, “My god, it’s unfair he gets all the attention and this”—he signals at his skinny self—“gets nothing.”
I smile. With his curly hair and brown eyes, Pete’s always dressed in a black suit and tie. He’s not only Remy’s personal assistant, he’s also like his older brother and one of my closest friends.
“Nora likes you just as you are,” I taunt him about my younger sister.
He smiles at that and wiggles his eyebrows as he nods pointedly back toward the ring, where Remington finishes his turn and almost completely faces me.
My nerve endings stir and tingle in excitement as his twinkling blue eyes glide down the length of my row, where he knows I will be. I swear every part of me quivers in anticipation, waiting for those eyes to find me.
He electrifies me. Invisible currents leap between us. His smile blazes through me, and suddenly, the inside of my chest, where my heart beats, feels like a burning torch he’s just lit.
His eyes hold me clasped in the loving heat of his, and I can see his quiet joy tonight, his possessiveness, the territorial stare that tells everyone in this room that I. Am. His.
Then he points at me.
My heart stops.
It seems that everyone’s eyes follow the finger pointing in my
direction, aimed straight at my chest, where my heart races for him, his red-hot blue gaze clearly saying, “This one’s for her.”
A delighted roar from the crowd explodes around me. It hits me like adrenaline, like a shot of tequila that flies straight to your head, the way his fans love him. The way he loves them back. The way he loves me.
I’m amazed by the way the public reacts to him and by the way he stands there, with his dimples flashing, sucking in all the energy in the room and channeling it into “Riptide.”
God, I love him, and I never want him to forget it!
Overcome with the impulse, I blow him a kiss.
He catches it and smashes it to his mouth.
The crowd grows even louder. Remy points at me, laughing, and I’m laughing too. My eyes burn a little because I’m so happy that I just can’t fit inside my skin. I’m happy that he’s happy, and he’s where he belongs.
This is his season. This year, nothing will stop Remington Tate from being the Underground League champion. Nothing.
He will do whatever it takes, because he’s a driven, powerful, passionate man, and whether I am afraid, worried, excited, or all of the above, I will support him.
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, may we have a round of applause to welcome a newbie to the Underground, from the Fighter’s Club, the famed, feared, and deadly Grant Gonzalez, “Goooodzillaaaa!”
As his opponent is announced, Remington circles the ring restlessly like a panther until a huge lump of silver comes out from a second walkway. Remy flexes his fingers at his sides as he watches the man take the ring. Tonight, they all wear their hands taped with bare knuckles exposed, much like men used to fight in older times.
The new fighter is barely out of his robe when the public starts shunning him. “Booooooo! Booooo!”
“That guy has killed a couple people fighting,” Pete tells me under his breath. “He’s a dirty and mean motherfucker.”
“Don’t tell me people have died in these events?” I ask in horror, feeling a disturbing quake inside my stomach. Pete rolls his eyes.
“Brooke, these are uncensored fights. Of course shit happens.”
The thought of Remy fighting with killers catapults my usual pre-fight fears to a whole new level. Fears I had repressed as my man drank up the audience’s adoration. Fears that now grip me by the tummy and squeeze me like a fist.
“Pete, death is more than ‘shit’ happening.”
Remington taps his fists to his opponent’s and the crowd falls quiet. My insides go utterly still. I’m wildly, almost anxiously, measuring the new guy, as if I can get any knowledge from his looks alone. The young man’s white skin is slicked with something that looks like grease. Are they allowed to be slippery when fighting? He has long hair tied in a ponytail and beefy muscles like most every other fighter I’ve seen. Nobody is as lean and beautiful as Remy. I’ll bet no one takes care of their body and trains with the same dedication that he does.
When the bell rings, I don’t think I’m breathing.
They approach each other. Remington waits for the other man to move, his guard perfectly up, every one of his powerful muscles relaxed so they can quickly engage. Finally, Godzilla swings. Remy ducks and rams the side of his body and—unbelievably—knocks that enormous monster down with a crashing noise.
I gasp in complete disbelief when the referee’s counting begins.
A private smile curves Remy’s lips as he looks down at the motionless figure and practically dares him to move.
A roar rips through the crowd.
Pete jumps to his feet and pumps his fist in the air. “Yeah! That’s right! Who’s the man! Who. Is. The MAN!”
“ONE PUNCH, ladies and gentlemen!” the voice yells through the speakers. “One fucking punch! He’s back! HE’S BACK!!! Men and women, girls and fucking boys, I give you tonight, your one and only Riiiptide!!! RIPtiiiiide!!”
The ringmaster yanks up Remy’s arm in victory.
And although the entire arena screams his name, his dancing blue eyes immediately come to me, and my whole body starts to ache in every single place.
He’s a fucking sex god. And he freaking turns me on.
“Riptide, please, oh, please let me touch you!” A screaming woman runs to the edge of the ring, stretching her hand through the ring ropes toward him.
Remington seems to take pity on her and seizes her hand. He buzzes his lips across her knuckles, and she begins to scream hysterically. I laugh, but then a snake of jealousy curls around my gut. He looks up at me as he releases her, and then, in that lithe way he moves that reminds me of large deadly cats, he swings down from the ring.
Complete stillness settles over the arena until all I can hear is my heartbeat.
Remington . . . Remington . . . Remington . . .
He walks up to me, the smile on his face telling me he thinks he’s all that.
“You’re jealous,” he says in that deep, toe-curling voice of his.
“A little,” I say, laughing at myself.
He doesn’t laugh, but he smiles a smile that sparkles in his blue eyes as he slides his fingers up the side of my throat, then I feel the pad of his thumb gently stroke across the flesh of my bottom lip. The butterflies in my tummy awaken. His eyes are at half-mast as he surveys my mouth. He does it slowly, from corner to corner, and then, because he seems to think he owns this mouth, he swoops down and takes it.
His lips fire me up. My stomach spins as he forces my lips apart, and when his tongue flashes, hot, damp, and powerful, to take a quick and heady taste of me, I trap back my moan.
“Don’t be,” he roughly tells me as he looks down at my kissed mouth and appreciates his handiwork for a moment. He presses his lips to my forehead for a fraction of a second, and then he heads back to the ring in that graceful way he walks, relaxed and almost ambling.
Behind me, I hear breathless voices.
“Holy shit, I want to do that ten ways till Sunday.”
“Ohmifucking god he was right here!”
I lick my lips, and I can still taste the sexy fucker, which only makes my nipples bead and my sex swell with complete possessiveness of him.
As his next opponent is called up to fight, Remington flexes the muscles of his arms, down to the tips of his fingers. His smile flashes at me from the ring, and very clearly, his two dimples tell me how much he enjoys leaving me in a puddle of love and longing. The devil.
A fighter I remember from last year, Parker Drake, “the Terror,” gets up in the ring to face him. And the bell rings.
The crowd quiets as the fight begins, and both men start swinging and hitting. Remy’s punches are powerful, and you can hear the sound of his fists landing, deep, strong, and fast as lightning. Poom poom poom! Squirming in my seat, I watch and listen, alternating between thrill and worry, when Parker crashes to the ground. I shoot to my feet and scream “Riptide!” in chorus with all the other people, knowing that this is the first of many times I will be here watching Remington reclaim everything, every single thing, that he gave up for me.