Zel:Markovic MMA

By: Roxie Rivera

Chapter One

Bored beyond belief, Zel Tesla dragged his gaze away from the gyrating, whip-cracking dancer entertaining the room. Heady cigar smoke melded with the faint aromas of aged rums and cognacs in the VIP room of Las Vegas’ hottest gentleman’s club. An invitation-only crowd of promoters, agents, fighters and hangers-on packed the darkened space.

A flash of movement off to the left caught his waning attention. He glanced that way just in time to see Erin Markovic slide out of her chair and right onto her husband’s lap. From the surprised expression on Ivan’s hard face, he hadn’t expected his wife to behave so brazenly. Judging by her flushed smile, Erin had had a little too much champagne tonight and didn’t really care who saw her cozying up to her husband.

But Ivan didn’t seem to mind his wife perching on his lap like a naughty little kitten. He wound his muscular arms around the willowy beauty and kissed the side of her neck. Laughing, Erin leaned into her husband’s embrace. He nuzzled her neck and dotted a line of kisses along the curve of her throat. She captured his heavily tattooed hand in her thinner, elegant one and threaded their fingers together.

They were an oddly mismatched couple, like Beauty and her Beast, but they were the happiest pair Zel had ever known. Tonight, they seemed particularly pleased with one another. Watching the erotic show unfold onstage appeared to be quite the aphrodisiac for the couple.

Ivan’s massive hand spanned Erin’s slim waist and he pulled her back against him. He whispered something in her ear, and she bit her lower lip before turning to nod enthusiastically at her husband. Ivan reached into his jacket and retrieved a money clip. He peeled off a thick stack of cash and dropped it next to his barely touched drink.

Giving Erin’s hip a pat, he said something to her that made her blush. In the next instant, she stood up and tugging on his hand, dragging him out of his chair. When he was on his feet, Ivan grasped her hand and took charge, leading her out of the shadowy VIP area with purposeful strides.

Not wanting to get caught watching his coach seduce his wife, Zel returned to his attention to the stage, but his gaze didn’t linger there long. Still not entertained by the show, he turned his gaze to the right side of the room. A little farther down, Mace McCoy, his soon-to-be opponent, relaxed in his chair and sipped a glass of ice water. This close to a fight every calorie counted. It was about fuel and stamina at this point. A sip of alcohol could throw their bodies off-balance and leave them struggling in the cage.

Stocky and heavily muscled, Mace had always reminded Zel of a bulldog. He even had the pronounced lower jaw and under-bite. Their eyes met briefly across the darkness. Even in the friendly atmosphere of the arranged get-together, the spark of aggressiveness and competition reared its head. For the first time in quite a while, Zel was actually looking forward to a fight. Worthy opponents were few and far between in his weight class.

Zel’s gaze returned to the performer on the low dais at the front of the room. Dressed like a Gothic pixie, the young woman in shiny black latex panties and side-lacing red stiletto thigh-high boots danced seductively and swung her whip. Brittle streaks of red wax clung to her perky breasts. Dark angelic tattoos curled around her thin arms and wrapped around both sides of her neck. She brought visions of flogging and boot-licking to his mind, neither of which he found particularly sexy.

While her show appeared to enthrall the rest of the room, it did very little for Zel. These days little seemed to interest him. The other single fathers in the grief support group he secretly attended had all reported similar experiences. The married men or those with long-term partners seemed to have better luck when it came to love after losing a child.

But, then again, he’d never had much luck with love.

Since becoming a single father just days after his son was born until the day he had lost his boy, Zel had had no successful relationships with women. There had been two or three women in those eight years who had managed to hold his interest for a few weeks, but he hadn’t been in any kind of position to offer a woman a meaningful commitment.

He had been wholly focused on his son to the detriment of everything else in his life. He had been alone for so long he wasn’t even sure he knew how to be part of a relationship. Now, when he most needed a connection to another human being to keep him grounded in life, he utterly lacked the skills for even a first date. He didn’t have a chance in hell of ever making something like Ivan and Erin’s marriage work.

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