Home > Caged (Defiant Kings #1)

Caged (Defiant Kings #1)
Author: Bella Matthews

 


DEDICATION

 

 

To the little girl with big dreams.

Never stop going after them.

You’re never too old.

It’s never too late.

 

 

“Thinking of you keeps me awake.

Dreaming of you keeps me asleep.

Being with you keeps me alive.”

UNKNOWN

 

 

MADDIE

 

 

“Come on, Maddie . . . Ditch your class tonight. Grab a drink with me.”

I look up from the floor, stretched out on my mat at the MMA gym where I teach yoga three nights a week, and smile at Hudson Kingston. The reigning world light heavyweight champion is the biggest flirt I’ve ever met, and he knows it. For the past two years, he’s asked me out at least once a week. Of course, that number varies, depending on how many times he finds me stretched out on a mat.

Let’s just say I’ve heard a lot of bad Downward Dog jokes since I started teaching here.

And since our mutual friends got married and moved in next to him, he’s also managed to become a friend of mine too. But deep down, he’ll always be a flirt at heart and refuses to let me forget it.

“You’re in training, King. No alcohol for you.” I stretch my legs out in a V and lay my chest flat against the mat, then raise my eyes to the man standing in front of my toes.

A slow, sexy grin extends across his chiseled face, and warmth spreads through me. “Oh, I can think of a few other things we could do.”

My friend’s husband, Cooper, smacks the back of Hudson’s gorgeous blond head.

Why do the gorgeous ones always have to be so cocky?

Because this man . . . this man is beyond gorgeous. He’s six feet, five inches of rock-solid, golden muscles and beautiful black ink that’s on display every single time he trains. They’ve just finished for the night, so he’s changed into gray sweatpants and a dark-green Crucible hoodie that look almost as good on him as the low-slung shorts and bare chest do when he trains. But . . . but, but, but . . .

A deep chuckle rumbles from Cooper’s chest. “You wouldn’t even know what to do with a woman like Maddie, asshole. Can your dates even spell their own names?”

Hudson shoulders his gym bag and smiles his megawatt smile. Perfectly straight, white teeth that probably cost his parents a small fortune. “I don’t give them an IQ test, Sinclair.”

And there it is . . . there’s the but.

Hudson Kingston is also a manwhore.

I have no doubt he could make my body sing. But as much as I’d give anything to let this man take the v-card I’d love to ditch if I could, I also have absolutely no doubt I’d get my heart crushed in the process. Which leaves me to settle for friendship with a side of the fun banter we’ve got going on instead. “You couldn’t handle me, King.”

This man was dubbed Hudson “The King” Kingston by the fighting world years ago.

On someone else, it might seem like an arrogant or self-indulgent name.

But it fits him like a golden glove.

“One night with me, and I bet I could have you loving how I handle all sorts of things, sunshine.”

Our eyes lock for a single charged moment, but it’s broken when the chimes above the gym door ring, and my students start shuffling in. Saved by the bells. I stand to greet a few of the girls from the local university and overhear Cooper telling Hud to get better lines.

But maybe he should just try using them on someone who’s not broken.

 

 

“Thanks for coming.” I hold the front door open as my students spill out into the parking lot. I honestly don’t need to teach yoga anymore. I do it because I love it. And maybe because I’ll always be a little paranoid about not having enough money in my savings account. My social-media management business has taken off over the past few years, but I still haven’t entertained the idea of giving up teaching at Crucible . . . yet.

Waiting for everyone to filter through the door, I wave. “See you again next week.”

Once the doors click shut, I lock them, then lean my head back against the glass and close my eyes for a hot minute. My soothing playlist for my favorite yoga class shuts off abruptly, and the gym’s manager, Imogen, pops her head up from behind the front desk.

“Mads, can you close up tonight? I promised the band we could run through our new set, and I’m already late.” She throws her crossbody bag on and grabs her keys from the desk. “Please, please, please,” she pleads, and I shake my head no.

Sensing she’s losing me, she adds, “I’ll clean the mats for you for a week.”

“Sold.” I hold out my hand. “You should have started with that offer.” I hate cleaning the mats after class, and a week of not doing them sounds pretty good.

Imogen passes me the spray cleaner and spins her keys. “Thanks, Mads. I owe you one.”

“Nope. You owe me a week.” I take the bottle and singsong my response. “Have fun. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

Imogen moves toward the door before swinging her red hair back around. “We’re all doing things you wouldn’t do, Mads. One of these days, you’re gonna see what you’re missing out on,” she says on a laugh just before she disappears through the front doors.

My friends love to tease me about my lack of a love life. Like I’m single by my own choosing. Dating sucks in general. And when your brother is a pro football player who’s more protective of you than anything in the world, it can get kinda . . . sticky. That, compounded with my own personal demons, and it’s just not worth it sometimes. I go through phases where I try to put myself out there, but most of the time, I’d rather just be surrounded by my friends.

Life is easier that way. Less complicated.

A noise from the back of the building stops me as I spray down the mats. “Hello . . . ?” I call out, wondering if someone may still be in the bathroom.

Although, my students were all accounted for.

The gym should be empty.

Maybe something fell over.

An uneasy feeling washes over me as I look around the empty gym, then jump when the chimes over the front door sound.

It swings open a moment later, and Hudson walks through. “Mads . . . you still here? I forgot my phone.” He scans the room, looking for me.

I raise my shaking hand to cover my pounding heart. “Oh my goodness, Hudson. You scared the heck out of me.”

“Maddie,” he hollers, his eyes growing wide as he spots me across the gym. Then he roars, “Move!”

I’m not sure what scares me more . . . the way his voice booms through the entire building or the look on his face as he charges me.

Instinctively, I move toward him. “Hudson—”

Out of the corner of my eye, I see movement behind me a split second too late.

Like the world has switched into slow motion and quicksand is holding my limbs hostage, I try to move, but fear freezes me in place.

Until Hudson knocks me out of the way with a rough shove backward.

I fall to the floor while my scream reverberates from the rafters.

There’s a man in a black ski mask running from Hudson.

Oh my God.

Hudson catches up to the attacker easily.

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