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They needed the money, so he needed to fight. She got that. They’d been on the road for a week and their supplies were gone. So Charlie stood next to Bass as the previous bout finished up. Other women looked at her enviously, and she was disgusted with herself for feeling smug.

Seeing him ready to fight was just like in New Vegas, but worse. After a week, she knew him now. Not only was he a bronze god in the light of the torches, she knew he could be funny. Knew he didn’t take himself too seriously. Like now, he had a half smirk on his face as he prepared to step into the ring.

“Enjoy the show,” he said, in her ear, just to her. Damn him.

She knew what the fight would do to her, but she couldn’t help but watch, rapt. She’d been amazed when she saw him the first time, like this. So physical, so present. The name Monroe was a cold, distant nightmare. The man Monroe was very hot and very close. Throughout the match, his eyes kept meeting hers. A split second there, a longer moment there, blue on blue fire as he seemed to be performing just for her. This was not like New Vegas when she was hidden in the crowd. He saw her this time. All of her.

As the fight ended, as he emerged victorious, Charlie practically ran out of the tent and into the night, then stopped just outside. She refused to admit she wanted him to follow her. But she was certain he would.

Sure enough, soon, she felt strong hands on her waist, pulling her back into the hardness of his body. She could feel his heart thumping still with the exertion of the fight. She pulled away, she had to. He didn’t let go.

“Tell me to stop. I’ll go back inside,” he rasped, the added “and find someone else” unsaid. Charlie bristled, offended he would think she would care. Offended that she did. His hands were on her and now his lips too, on her neck, her jaw. She turned her head far to the side to offer him her mouth, which he took with a groan. She turned in his arms and it was over. No more pretending. She pressed herself into him, kissing him, touching him at last. God, he still had his stupid shirt off, arrogant, irresistible man.

She hated him still, of course, but this wasn’t about that. Besides, she’d fucked guys she hated before. None as beautiful as him, not even close. Her breath caught as he palmed her ass, his hand slipping between her legs. She gasped.

“Want you so bad,” he growled in reply. “From the moment I saw you.”

Me too, she would never say. Instead, she kissed him again, silencing him. Because the next words out of his mouth might be the ones that lost her to him forever. She already cared too damn much.