Except for those who can control it…Worst. Birthday. Ever.
My first boyfriend dumped me – happy birthday, Josie!- my dad is who knows where, I have some weird virus that makes me want to hurl, and now my ex is licking another girl’s tonsils. Oh, and I’m officially the same age as my brother was when he died. Yeah, today is about as fun-filled as the swamps of Dagobah. But then weird things start happening…
When hot badass Reid Wentworth shows up on a motorcycle, everything changes. Like, everything. Who I am. My family. What really happened to my brother. Existence. I am Oculi, and I have the ability to change reality with my thoughts. Now Reid, in all his hotness, is charged with guiding and protecting me as I begin learning how to bend reality. And he’s the only thing standing between me and the secret organization that wants me dead…
I approached the mat. I’d never done any extensive sparring, but I wasn’t a total new when it came to self-defense. The tae kwon do I’d practiced for years with Eli had to count for something. I hoped.
A heavy footfall pulled my attention back to Reid.
An arm came at me from the side. Without thinking, I ducked, punched under the incoming arm, and swung my shin at the ankles in my sights. Reid’s legs swept out from under him, and his hands shot out to catch himself. He landed on all fours.
I gasped for a breath of air, my chest heaving. Evidently I held my breath whenever I was attacked. Reid’s eyes locked on mine. Finally some eye contact. And then he gave me a shitty smile.
“What the hell?” I snapped. Reid stood and didn’t stop moving until he was in my face. I didn’t let myself flinch. “Just because you’re pissed at me, did you really need to try and take me out? I know you think insta-immersion works best, but maybe it doesn’t for me. Maybe, just maybe—”
“Will you shut up?”
I hitched my hands on my hips. “So rude.”
“Five days, Josie.”
That shut me up in a heartbeat. What the hell was wrong with me? I hadn’t lost sight of the goal. The awards ceremony was—I glanced at the wall clock in the living room—125 hours and fourteen minutes away. Reid shouldn’t take it easy on me. He couldn’t afford to.
“I’m sorry,” I began.
“Stop.” Reid didn’t budge, but he crossed his arms, too. “I was going to give you a compliment, but you won’t stop thinking or talking long enough for me to get a word in edgewise.”
Oh, oops. “Proceed.”
He shook his head, closing his clear eyes for a moment. “You are a piece of work.”
“That doesn’t sound like a compliment.”
Reid barked a short laugh. “Because it wasn’t. I was going to tell you that you did a good job earlier, you know, with the whole Pushing Pictionary thing. And this?” He pointed behind him, where I’d taken him down. “How did you know what to do?”
“My parents made us take tae kwon do. Like, for years and years. I guess it just kind of comes naturally.” A hint of pride fluttered through my muscles. And with that pride, just a smidgen of hope. Like maybe I could do this. Maybe I could actually pull this off.
Reid stood so close that I had to angle my head up to him. My shirt was already sticking to my sweaty stomach. And he still didn’t have a shirt on. I had to make a conscious effort not to look at his body. I could barely focus on what he’d said.
In no way, shape, or form had I lost sight—no pun intended—of the big picture. I remained focused on the end goal. Reid was just, well, a wee bit distracting, that’s all. And perhaps that was a good thing. Yes. If I could focus around Reid, then that would only better serve me in a real-world environment, when I faced other distractions.
Yep, that was my story. And I was sticking to it.
“Let’s work more on hand-to-hand combat. See what comes not-so-naturally, natural.”
Giving him a nod, I pivoted toward the mats. Feeling his presence behind me and hearing the swish of his jeans as he moved, I stopped short. I twisted, throwing a punch toward his lower jaw. He shifted out of the way, grabbed my wrist in midair, and twisted it around my back. Thank the moon of Endor I was pretty flexible.
He yanked my arm farther up my back. His opposite arm wrapped around my waist and tugged me into him, his bare chest pressing into my back.
Pain and exhilaration shot into my nervous system. I was stuck. My heart beat wildly, but I wasn’t scared. It had to be the rush of adrenaline into my bloodstream and the fact that a half-naked guy held me in a death grip.
Reid’s exhale tickled the back of my neck as he steadied his breath. “Nice try.” His voice came out in a rough whisper. His arm tightened around my waist again, his fingertips singeing my skin through my tank as they dug through the material, drawing me in to his body.
“What’s the matter, Josie? Can’t move?”
A chill danced down my spine when he pulled in a deep breath and his chest expanded against my back. I should’ve been shrugging out of his hold, but I didn’t. My body had locked up in response to his presence. And it pissed me off, because even though he could be an underwear model, I would’ve rather made out with a Romulan. Similar personalities.