iii. boot camp

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At 6 AM you should be doing one of two great things: either sleeping or eating a snack.

But Ace and the experienced criminals, on the other hand, wanted to exercise at 6 AM. Exercising on its own was hard enough. Why would you make it more difficult by doing it at 6AM?

Everyone was already at the training facility by the time I got there. Chase was lifting weights, Skye was running on the treadmill, and Xavier was throwing knives that never missed.

I hate these athletic people.

Ace took out his earbuds once he saw me. "You're five minutes late."

"Seriously?" I scowl. "It's 6AM and I should be sleeping."

"It's actually 6:05. Now give me fifteen push-ups."

I groan loud enough to get the attention of all the other team members. On my sixth push-up, I felt like I couldn't get back up.

"Just leave me here," I say while laying on the mat. "I've accepted my fate."

Ace stubbornly pulls me to my feet. A pair of gloves are handed (thrown) at me. "Put these on and try to punch the punching bag."

The bag barely moves when I punch it. When Ace demonstrates, the chains make a rattling sound loud enough to be heard throughout the entire gym.

"Adjust your footing," he says. Ace places his hands on my waist and adjusts my position slightly.

After thirty minutes of guided punching, Ace takes me into the boxing ring to teach me the basics of hand to hand combat.

"Alright, now I want you to come at me with all you've got," Ace says.

"A chance to hit you? Sign me right up."

"You really put the 'lady' in 'ladylike'."

"You really put the 'ass' in 'asshole'."

All our banter has attracted a crowd. Chase, Skye, and Xavier all look at us with amusement.

"I didn't realize there would be in-house entertainment," Skye teases.

"Hold on," I say. "Did someone make...popcorn?"

Chase grins. He's holding a giant bowl of buttery obesity-in-a-dish. "We wanna see some action."

These people were ready to be entertained when I got beat up.

"Don't worry Octavia," Ace smiles. "I won't hurt you too badly. I don't want PETA to call."

"That's it. You're going to regret this."

Facts fly through my mind as my eyes narrow in his direction. Ace Blackwell, 6'2, trained CIA field agent, kidnapper, asshole. My stance shifts as we circle one another. He was experienced enough that it was unlikely I could even land one hit. Guess I'm going into this blind.

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