Vanessa stood at the entrance to the Neal S. Blaisdell Center in Honolulu where Jackson was fighting Danny Akana shortly at UFC 165. The jerk had switched camps after she emasculated him by breaking his nose with her fist and then made a career of publicly smearing Jax’s name and challenging him in the media. Akana only had a few fights under his belt and in no way deserved to fight a seasoned and former champion like Jax, but even the UFC wasn’t immune to the politics of ratings and the bigger the rivalry, the bigger the ratings.
Jax, of course, couldn’t have been happier when UFC president, Dana White, proposed the fight. Now he can finish what Danny started all those months ago when he sucker punched Jax after a sparring session in the gym followed by a crass threat of what he’d like to do to Vanessa. Although she would never condone Jax going after the guy outside of the octagon, inside the cage was another story entirely.
At last the towncar with her guests arrived and she greeted Becca and Christine at the curb with a warm smile and big hugs. They’d interviewed her and Jackson the day before and now they were here to continue their exposé on the couple. Christine would be writing an article on the fight and Becca would be taking pictures and clips of video to accompany it.
Vanessa handed them their press passes to wear around their necks.
“Okay, girls, are you ready?”
Becca adjusted the camera strap over her shoulder. “Absolutely. I’m hoping to get so close to the action I get sprayed with sweat.”
Christine added, “You never know, Bec, it might end up being blood.”
Becca momentarily paled as her friend laughed at her expense, then recovered with a shrug. “I don’t care, as long as it’s followed by Jackson kicking Akana’s sorry a—”
“Ladies,” said a deep voice from behind them, “if you’ll follow me I’ll escort you inside.”
All three women turned to see a member of the arena’s security team. The guy was massive and could have easily gotten a job as Duane “The Rock” Johnson’s stunt double. Vanessa thanked him then followed as he directed them through the throng of MMA fans to a door labeled as restricted access. After navigating several hallways they finally arrived at a room with Jackson’s name beside it.
Vanessa looked back at the girls. “Becca, you’re fine to take pictures. Christine, Jax is going to be in pre-fight mode, so don’t feel bad if he totally ignores you. Depending on what he’s doing in there he might be fine with talking or he might not. Just follow his lead, okay?”
Becca nodded and Christine added, “Got it.” Big Man knocked and waited for someone to call out that it was okay to come in before opening the door and waving them in.
It looked like a typical green room where celebrities might wait before appearing on a show or where a band hung out before their concert. A couple of couches lined the back and left walls and a large flat screen TV hung in the opposite corner showing the fights as they happened.
“There she is.” Corey, one of Jackson’s good friends and teammates crossed the room to greet her with a hug and kiss on the cheek. Vanessa introduced him to the girls and explained why they were there. He bestowed them with his signature boy-next-door smile and warm handshake. Then, jerking his thumb in the direction of Jax shadow boxing in the middle of the room, he said, “Have you finally come to dump this poor schmo and ask me for my hand in marriage?”
She laughed at the tall and lanky fighter with his All-American good looks and charm by the mile. “Isn’t it the man’s job to do the asking?”
“I’m all for the feminist movement. I support your right to pursue happiness, and in this case, I think you’d be happier with me,” he said with a wink.
“Now, Corey, what did I tell you about thinking? It only gets you into trouble.” She patted his cheek a couple of times. “Stick with fighting.”
“Can’t say I haven’t given it the old college try. Why don’t you have a seat on the couch over there while your golden boy does his thing.”
All three women sat and watched the pre-fight routine. Corey and a couple of the other fighters who would be “cornering” for Jackson talked amongst themselves and watched the current fight on TV. Jax was now throwing combinations at the hand pads his coach was wearing. Vanessa loved watching him move. He wore a black pair of shorts that looked just like his dozens of pairs of board shorts he owned, only these had his sponsors’ logos all over them.
On top he wore a matching sponsor loaded hoodie, hood pulled up to block out his peripheral vision, and ear buds blasting his favorite “get psyched” music straight into his brain.
He was focused. He was ready. He was damn sexy.
Becca took the occasional picture and Christine watched and took down notes on her writing pad. Vanessa was eager to see what the article would say. Hopefully it ended with Jackson’s hand being raised in the end.
Fifteen minutes later Coach shed the pads and Jax removed the ear buds and his hood to listen to the plan one last time before the older man cuffed him on the side of the head as his own twisted way of showing affection. Apparently it was everyone’s way. Vanessa’s eyes grew wide as every man in the room proceeded to hit Jax on the sides of the head—hard!—as they yelled words of encouragement at him.
Glancing over Vanessa found Christine’s mouth hanging open and Becca giggling as she took shot after shot of the barbaric scenario.
“That explains so much about the male psyche,” Vanessa muttered. “Come on, girls, let’s leave them to their caveman rituals and find our seats. It’s almost time.”
The girls both made pouty faces at having to leave the testosterone filled room and Vanessa tried not to laugh as she ushered them toward the door.
She knew that deep voice as intimately as her own. Turning, she watched as Jackson strode toward her. Normally her fiancé had a ready smile that showed his dimples and warm topaz eyes that reminded her of gooey caramel. He was a charmer by nature and no one was immune to his powers. But right at this moment all of that was replaced with a feral intensity he only ever unleashed during two things: fighting…and sex.
He stopped in front of her, so close she swore she could hear his heart beating a rapid tattoo against his chest. Or maybe that was hers. “You didn’t think I’d actually let you leave without saying anything, did you?” “I didn’t think you knew I was here. I mean, I didn’t think you saw me.”
He challenged her statement with an arch of his scarred eyebrow. “I don’t have to see you to know when you’ve stepped into the room, V. You should know that by now.” A shudder ran through her as he lifted his taped up hands and framed her face. “Tonight, this win’s for you.”
“You know I don’t like the idea of you fighting for me.”
“Yeah, I know. But just this once, I’m doing it all the same. You can yell at me for it later.”
She rolled her eyes and released an exasperated sigh. “Fine. Now go on, get in the zone or whatever. I’ll see you after.”
Jax kissed her firmly on the lips and dropped his hands. He acknowledged Becca and Christine with a nod of his head before bouncing from side to side back to the center of the room. Becca opened the door and they started to shuffle into the hallway, but at the last minute Vanessa looked over her shoulder and called out to the man she loved. He stopped jumping around to turn and face her again.
Then she said the words she’d been secretly wanting to tell him since that first time he’d been in a cage with Akana. “Kick his ass.”
A shit-eating grin split his face just before Corey shoved a guard into his mouth. The glint in his eyes shone brightly as he started jumping again with renewed energy. As Vanessa finally joined the girls in the hallway, encouraging shouts from the men of Team Titan echoed as the door swung shut behind her.
Rules of Entanglement
by Gina L. MaxwellSeven days. And seven rules to break...District Attorney Vanessa McGregor firmly believes that structure and order are the stuff that dreams are made of. Happiness can be planned - and it starts with seven rules she's laid out for her future. But as she's organizing her best friend's wedding in Hawaii, all of Vanessa's best-laid plans are about to meet their match in a wickedly hot MMA fighter...Jackson "Jax" Maris is focused on surfing, training and fighting. That is, until he opens up his big mouth, and finds himself having to pretend he's engaged to his little sister's best friend, Vanessa. When they're force to share a romantic bungalow, however, their little charade suddenly takes a turn for the seriously sexy. And while Jax is definitely not part of Vanessa's long-term plan, he has seven days - and seven naughty nights - to turn her seven-rule plan upside down.
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