Mine Games

Saraya Osborn is a nurse, with no money, in the middle of a divorce. When someone kills her estranged husband and then tries to murder her at work, she has no idea who or why anyone would want to. With nowhere to turn, she seeks out the help of Trace Conner, a Ninjutsu teacher turned reluctant bodyguard. They are forced on the run where Conner must enlist the aid of an old friend as he struggles to learn who wants to kill Saraya, and more importantly, why. He has no idea that he is in a convoluted game where he has mistakenly bet his own life.

Exclusive Excerpt from Mine Games

The mixed martial arts gym was in the opposite direction from his boxing gym. This one had a lot of questionable characters in it. More than a few spent all of their time on the wrong side of the law but that was what Sal liked about it. He knew that these guys and girls only cared about what they could do, not trophies or belt colors. ‘Toxic masculinity’ took on a whole new level at this sweaty, smelly, rough club. He knew exactly who he would call out today if he was here. A Russian leg breaker who had climbed the mafia ladder and had his fingers in just about everything, especially tech-related businesses.

“Is Anton here today?” Sal asked as he walked through the door.

“Yeah, but he’s in a bad mood. Nobody wanted to spar with him, so he was getting ready to go home,” the purple-haired girl behind the counter answered.

“I will. Locker room?” Sal asked.

“Think so,” she said turning away from him and ending the question-and-answer session.

Entering the locker room, he saw Anton. The blonde Russian was about seven inches taller than Sal and at least sixty pounds heavier. They had sparred before and he had allowed Anton to win but this time, Sal knew that he would.

“Anton, do you want to spar with me?”

“No, you are too easy to beat,” Anton replied with a heavy accent.

“I will bet you ten thousand dollars that I win.”

Anton’s big mouth turned up at one end.

“Ten thousand dollars, why you want to give that much money away?”

Moving closer and lowering his voice so that nobody else could hear, Sal said, “Because, if I win, I need information on a man.”

The Russian was instantly on guard, wary of informants.

“Don’t worry, it isn’t anyone you know. A man out in Arizona. I need your…technical expertise. Besides, how can you lose, right?”

Anton began to smile again; he was much larger and stronger. It would be a short fight.

“Deal,” the Russian said, turning to his locker to change back into his workout clothes.

Inside the cage, Sal moved to keep the Russian just out of reach. The trick would be to give the bigger man a good fight and make him feel like he just barely lost. To that end, Sal would need to take at least a dozen decent hits, but not so many that he was badly injured and lost.

“At least two, maybe even three rounds. He has to think that I got lucky and just barely beat him,” Sal thought.

When the fight started, Anton came at him like a freight train. The smaller man always seemed to move at just the right instant and in the perfect direction to avoid receiving any blow at full power. Time after time, Anton would initiate a hold or takedown, only to have Sal slip it. At the start of the third round, both men were sweating heavily and breathing hard. Anton from the effort and Sal because he wanted it to appear that he was trying hard to survive.

“That should be long enough now, take the knee but don’t permanently injure it,” the Philadelphian mentally counseled.

Anton was much slower now, his tank almost empty. Normally in his fights, he got his hands or fists on his opponent and let his strength do the work. That hadn’t worked as well here, and his techniques were not nearly as good as they should have been. Anton saw his opening when Sal reached for his wrist.

“Any time today,” the smaller man thought, feeling like an idiot, letting his hand hang out in front of the Russian.

Anton grabbed the wrist with his opposite hand, pulling Sal in and slightly sideways, hoping to deliver a hard punch to the ribs and end the fight.

“Finally, time to end this,” Sal could feel what was coming.

Feigning a loss of balance, he stumbled forward and inside of the rib blow. His left knee struck the teardrop muscle on the big man’s left leg and as it began to fold, Sal rolled his knee back, catching the inside of the other man’s right knee and folding it completely, he drove it to the mat. Sal’s left hand rolled over Anton’s grip and pulled the arm out straight.

“You’re making it look too easy,” he chided himself.

He pretended to struggle more with the big arm and pulled it straight. Sal’s legs came up and wrapped around the Russian’s shoulder, his right foot under the big man’s chin. Anton tried to muscle his way out, only to realize that it was too late. The big man tapped out. Acting exhausted, Sal released the arm bar.

“Oh man, I can’t believe I managed to do that,” Sal lied, breathing hard.

“Yes, very lucky. Very lucky,” Anton agreed, trying to salvage his pride.

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