Fighting the Fire (Warrior Fight Club #3) by Laura Kaye

Coach Mack blew a whistle and clapped his hands. “Take your places and let’s get started everyone.”

They spread out on the floor. As restless and unsettled as Dani felt, WFC was exactly what she needed. She breathed through the stretches and yoga positions they did at the start of every club meeting. Because WFC was as much about training the mind as it was about training the body.

Problem was, this time of year her mind fought tooth and nail to pull her in directions she didn’t want to go. She never did well come July.

Dani might not have been in the army anymore, but with nursing she still did similar work—work filled with its own losses and stress, and work that so often reminded her of people she’d lost years ago. Back when her patients were frequently people she’d been stationed or trained with at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Back when she’d loved little more than her work as a nurse doing combat medical evacuations on Black Hawks.

Until her army husband had died while she’d been on one of her flight shifts. And it’d been hours before she’d found out Anthony was gone.

She and Anthony had met as ROTC members in college. From the very start, they’d accepted and even prized that they were both planning military careers. But as supportive as Anthony had been, her training to become certified to do aeromedical critical care evacuation and transport had been one of their biggest fights. He’d thought it too dangerous. Too unnecessarily risky when everything they did on deployment was already risky enough. But she’d been stubborn. She could still hear her granny encouraging her to look for the helpers when bad things happened, so Dani had always wanted to be a helper. And, more than that, she wanted to be forward deployed. On the front lines. Being one of the people who made a difference between life and death in the moment when it mattered most. Anthony had finally come around to supporting her, and then she hadn’t been there for him when it was his time.

“Okay,” Coach Mack said. “Pair up. Puncher versus kicker drills. Five-minute rounds.”

Back at the bleachers, Dani pulled on her padded black fingerless gloves and shin guards. She returned to the floor to find Tara and Jayne pairing up, then turned again to find Sean grinning and holding out his hands in invitation. She almost groaned. But fine, whatever. She could handle Sean. Maybe his annoyingly hot…everything would even fuel the fire in her belly.

The fire of loss. Of grief. Of anger.

Not that it ever really went out. Because, in the end, her love of her work had kept her from being there when her husband had needed her most.

Kept her from even saying good-bye. And they’d thought deploying through the married army couple program would give them more time together…

“Punch or kick?” Sean asked. “Lady’s choice.”

She rolled her eyes. “I’m no fucking lady.”

He smirked and looked like he had so many things he wanted to say. But, for once, he kept his sarcasm to himself.

“I’ll take punching,” Dani said, ready as hell to land her first hit. Ready for fighting to focus her to the point where it was all she could think about.

And she didn’t have to wonder why she needed that so much. The sixth anniversary of Anthony’s death was less than two weeks away. July 3rd. And she couldn’t avoid thinking about Anthony, and about how she’d failed him.

Or about her father, and how he’d died in a construction accident when she was eight.

Or about the mama she’d never known, who’d gotten an infection during labor that killed her when Dani had only been two weeks old.

Or about her granny, her mother’s mother, who’d struggled all her life with diabetes and died when Dani was fifteen.

Or about her nana and pap, her dad’s parents who’d raised her after he died, and how they were gone now, too.

In the end, everyone always left her. Without always understanding why, she’d survived each and every loss. And the anniversary of Anthony’s death was the strongest reminder that being alone was apparently her lot in life.

Hopefully, the next two hours would at least help take her mind off of it.

“Bring it,” Sean said, giving her a wink.

Ignoring his head games, Dani got into position. Fists up, elbows close to her ribs, lead leg forward. In this drill, Sean as the kicker could only make offensive moves with his legs. While, as the puncher, she couldn’t use her legs at all. Which meant she had to get in close while defending against his kicks.