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Fist cracked against jaw with bone-crunching accuracy. Noah Samuels ducked as his next assailant tried to knock his head from his shoulders. Breathing calmly, he brought his knee up. Noah made contact with a muscled midriff, heard the "oomph" as his opponent doubled over and kneed the man in the face. Raising his arm to block a blow from the side, Noah twisted his shoulders and jabbed the second assailant in the chest, then coiled his fist and punched the face. Adrenaline coursed through his veins. He relaxed his muscles, controlled his breathing, waiting for the next attack. He knew a fleeting moment of anticipation before he realized his opponents weren't getting up.
"C'mon, Ryker, you can do better than that," he growled. Noah had a whole lot of pent-up energy and aggression, and he was only just getting started.
Mal Ryker held up a hand in surrender as he shook his head. "I'm out, man. Go hurt someone else." Mal rolled over to his knees, groaning.
"Are you beating up my newbies, Noah?" A sardonic drawl echoed across the gym, and Noah bit back his frustration as he turned to greet his boss and friend, Reese McCormack.
"Are you hiring sissies, now, Reese?" he shot back. He unclenched his fists. He fought the frustration gripping his body. Taking it out on his boss wouldn't do him a lick of good. He'd learned that lesson the hard way, hence the training assignment. Sweat dripped off his chin and down his neck. The air conditioning hummed, creating cool drafts across his heated body. The groans of the McCormack Security Agency trainees in the background didn't cover Reese's snort.
"They were fine in the interviews." Reese glanced at his new staff with pity. Four men were sprawled about on the edges of the mat in various stages of consciousness, and Mal Ryker crawled over to join them before collapsing again.
Noah waited for Reese to join him on the middle of the sparring mat. His boss made regular visits to the gym, but he rarely interrupted a training session. Noah's jaw tightened. He should know. He'd been on the training roster for four months now. Training? More like babysitting, with these rookies. He chafed at his enforced recuperation. He wanted to get back in the field, be of some use, somewhere. He waited.
"So, how's your arm?" Reese asked, lifting his chin to indicate the scar on Noah's left biceps.
"Fine," Noah lied. It throbbed. He'd have to rub in some liniment after the training session. A massage wouldn't go astray, but it would also be a display of weakness for the other staff at the McCormack Security Agency. The massage would have to wait. He wanted to give the impression of being fighting fit. He shot a derisive glance at his trainees. Shouldn't be too hard.
Reese cocked an eyebrow. "No twinges? No pain? How's your range of movement?"
"Fine," Noah lied again, and waited.
Reese didn't disappoint. He let fly with a flurry of kicks and punches, trying to exploit the weakness. Noah blocked each one, a smile tweaking his lips as he finally found a worthy sparring partner.
For the next few minutes only the sound of flesh hitting flesh was heard in the gym, interrupted by the occasional grunt. Noah deftly dodged and blocked most of Reese's blows as they moved across the mat. He even landed a couple of hits on his boss. That felt good. Neither of them pulled their punches.