That wasn’t going to help me concentrate at all.
“Chris is the best student fighter in the school, but he’ll go slow with you.” I made sure to keep contact with his eyes as he talked. It was much harder than it should’ve been. “I’m assuming you’ve never taken any kind of class like this?”
“Does a Tae Bo video count?” I said.
“No,” they said together.
That’s what I thought. “Then, no.”
“Okay, Chris. Start with basic stretches, then stances. Make sure she doesn’t break anything when she tries to throw a punch,” Dastien said. “If she gets hurt, I’ll make you hurt.”
Yikes. Poor Chris. Chances were I’d probably hurt myself, but it wouldn’t be his fault.
“I’ll take good care of her.” Chris winked at me as soon as Dastien walked away.
I looked Chris up and down. He’d put back on his shirt, which I was glad for. Dastien could possibly classify as the jealous type. But something struck me as off. “I thought you said you were artsy.”
“Artsy people don’t fight like that.”
“Maybe, but I’m a werewolf.” He grinned with all his teeth.
I stared at the ceiling. “Mad. That’s what everyone is here.”
Chris put an arm around my shoulders and pulled me toward the mats. A growl echoed through the suddenly quiet gym. Dastien was watching us, as promised.
Chris started moving his arm, but I reached up and held it in place. “Where we headed, sensei?” I asked Chris.
Chris and Dastien were in some sort of a staring contest. Chris’s blue eyes flared bright. Neither of them noticed me. Chris dropped his gaze to the ground and stepped away from me. “Let’s go over there. Don’t want to be too close to anyone else.” His hands were balled into tight fists, knuckles white.
“What was that about?”
“Nothing.” The smile he gave me was a shadow of his usual one.
“He’s…what was the word you used…more alpha than you. Right?”
“He’s more alpha than everyone. Except maybe Mr. Dawson. But no one knows for sure.”
Interesting. I tucked that piece of info away for future reference. “What does that mean?”
“Alpha rules the pack.”
He didn’t add anything else to that little gem. I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by “rules the pack.” In what way? And to what extent? I’d save those questions for Meredith. She’d give me some real answers.
Chris stopped when we were at the opposite corner from everyone else. We spent the next ten minutes stretching every muscle—hamstrings, calves, shoulders—which gave me plenty of time to work up my fair share of nerves. Trying something new with an audience was not something I ever aspired to do.
“Feeling loose?” Chris said as he stood on one foot, stretching his quad.
I dropped my foot to the ground. “I guess?”
Sounds of light sparring filled the gym. I scanned the room, and caught a few pairs of eyes watching me, but thankfully not everyone was staring. I tried to avoid glancing at Dastien, but was drawn to the jerk. He was walking through the sparring pairs, giving notes and encouragement. When he reached Imogene, I turned away. That was one train wreck I wouldn’t watch. The whole jealousy feeling was new to me, and I didn’t care for it at all.
“This is a basic fighting stance.” Chris’ voice dragged my attention to the problem at hand.
I copied him, placing my feet shoulder width apart and raising my hands. Chris circled around me, moving my feet into the “correct” stance. He twisted my shoulders a bit. “When you punch with your right hand, you want your right shoulder to be pulled back a bit. Then, as you punch, follow through with it.”
I nodded like that made sense, but I had no idea what he was talking about. The weird part was that he wasn’t joking or winking or smiling. That thing with Dastien had really gotten to him. He circled around me one more time then pointed to my gloves. “You might have some strange fashion thing going on, but the gloves have to go. You can’t fight in them.”
“Sure I can. What harm are they really doing?”
“I can’t quite tell how you’re holding your fingers. We’re going to start punching and I don’t want you to break anything.”
Against my better judgment, I pulled them off and tucked them into my waistband.
Chris grabbed two hand targets from the other side of the gym. His shoulders were still hunched over.