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Read Claiming The Prize Online. Drago resettled his wife and son in the bedroom, lighting the second heater to ensure the room was warm enough. Once he had taken care to fill the other and checked the house, he returned to them.

Facing one another, their son swaddled between them, Drago and Grace gazed lovingly at him, and at one another. After our fathers, Grace. His voice broke at speaking his son's name aloud, at speaking the name of his long deceased father, and he and his wife shed bittersweet tears knowing that Mihovil and Sarai Zadrovec would not meet their grandson in this life.

By mid-morning the next day, the blizzard had lost its biting force, and the process of digging out began in earnest. Guy and Drago plowed the Antolini drive, buried beneath twenty-seven inches of snow and added inches of ice. Grace telephoned Dr. Haviland from her father's phone, and he promised to get there as soon as he was able. The roads were not yet cleared, and Grace informed him that the baby was doing fine and that they would go to the hospital as soon as the roads were passable.

For now, she relished the peace of the cocoon of home about her and her son, thankful that he had arrived healthy and safe amid the tumultuous circumstances of his birth. Antoline Zadrovec was introduced to the world of family and friends on Orthodox Christmas. After worshiping together, the Zadrovecs, Khalers, and Guy returned to the brick colonial in high spirits. One by one, the First Strike members drifted in, arms piled with presents for the little ones. Clair interrogated Drago as soon as introductions were made and coats had been hung.

Clair introduced his date. I'm Grace, and this Clair gently gathered the bundle into his arms. Don't go on too much. I'd like my husband to be able to fit his head through the doorways. Grace laughed amiably, inviting the couple to sit down. Grace couldn't remember a happier time in her life, and she committed the day, its emotions and images, to her memory to recall them during the days ahead. Her husband would be training at a consuming pace in preparation for his rematch with Elian Souva, and the countdown to the fight also marked the countdown to their return to Slovakia.

Grace decided not to think of that now. She wanted to live each moment where she was. After dinner, the conversation slipped into familiar territory around the dining room table. Clair agreed. Clair reminded. Five rounds, baby! I was going to bring it up at Tuesday's meeting, but since we're all here, I'll lay it out now. He's contacted Souva's camp as well. Sleep on it. We can talk numbers on Tuesday if we decide we're in. Guy Antolini leaned back in his chair at the head of the table.

We have, after speaking at length with my son-in-law, decided to officially merge Anto-Engage with Spar-Slava. We've all been in this game for many years together, and I'd appreciate your support before I go public. It's a strategic move to gain ground in the WOMA. Right now, the AMMAO is on top, but it's good business sense to establish ourselves firmly in both organizations, gentlemen.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring? He had known of the men's plan and had endorsed the decision wholeheartedly. For you will continue with Yves for sparring work, but you're the new cardio trainer at First Strike. Clair has too many irons in the fire, and I need him to work full time teaching boxing. You're ready for this position. The group chatted on, sharing stories of the gym and prospecting on the future.

Goodbyes were long and many before the couple could depart for the peace of home. Grace settled the baby in his crib, then stole away to soak in a hot bath before bed. Adjusting to motherhood hadn't been too difficult in the month since little Anto's birth, but she valued the hours of her sleep like precious jewels. She leaned back in the tub, but curiosity and excitement won out quickly, urging her to abandon the bathwater and seek her husband. She found him relaxing in their bed.

Grace opened the velvety, black case to find a silver charm bracelet with two shining circles dangling from its dainty chain. Each disk bore an inscription on either side. The simple words, their marriage date and the day of their son's birth, together on the beautiful bracelet moved Grace to tears. Her eyes shone brightly, her tears of happiness sparkling in the dim lamplight of the room. He affixed it around her slender wrist, and encircled her with his arms.

Grace molded to his body, savoring his love and strength about her for precious moments before she moved. But my gift isn't nearly as good as yours. You've bested me, love. Reaching under the bed, Grace drew out a medium sized box wrapped in golden foil paper.

They are the first piece of gear I designed with the new Anto-Engage-Global logo. It wasn't terribly difficult. The flags were split, half American, half Slovakian on the right, front hip. The left rear bore a globe covered with the national flags of all the team's fighters.

A white band around the waist had the name Anto-Engage-Global printed around it, front and back, and on the right rear the new slogan — Engage The Globe — rested above a newly designed icon.

Dimming the lamp, Grace curled next to Drago, slipping into sleep before her prayers had finished. Crocus and tulip blades emerged from winter's slumber, eager to unfurl their leaves and display their blooms. Drago sat in the early morning rays of spring sunshine that penetrated the kitchen, sharing pleasant conversation with Grace over a simple breakfast. Her presence grounded him, her gentle advice steering him when he reached a plateau in his training and frustration or discouragement threatened.

He had come to rely upon her in a way he could not explain, even to himself. It was as if she had become a part of him, and he was no longer whole but within the meshing of their lives. He wouldn't change it if he could. The statement caused a pause in their interaction, and his wife allowed him the moment to collect his thoughts fully without pushing him. Drago settled into silent reflection again before he continued. It is my dream, and I've given everything, and so have you, milovany, in pursuit of it.

What if my everything isn't enough? What if I've hinged our lives around this moment only to discover that I'm second best? Did your dream stop calling you after defeat, or did it only grow stronger?

There are no regrets there. God, but he loved her. She was his rock, offering her strength freely to him, unmoving in her belief in him. Picking her up in his arms, he carried her into the bedroom and loved her with all the passion for life her words had stirred.

No one at First Strike had seen a more motivated fighter in the weeks leading up to the title fight. Camera crews milled about with no choice but to wait for the interviews for the AMMAO pre-bout build up. Guy permitted only basic workouts to be filmed, and his fighter was less than generous with his time or words. An ongoing dispute with Derek Sloba strained Guy's relationship with the president of that organization. In an effort to gain a larger audience base, Sloba wanted segments done of the two fighters at home with their families.

Both Drago and Elian had flat out refused, prompting breach of contract threats from the AMMAO, and the two mixed martial artists had spoken numerous times over the phone to consider a compromise to this situation. In the end, Drago and Souva stood firm.

They may be under contract, but their wives and children were not, and neither would parade their families in front of the camera. They, however, had to submit enough material to fill a full hour of programming, and it remained a point of contention with Drago even after filming was underway. Both Ike and St. Clair harassed him about the film footage they themselves had participated in, but it gave the men a fun diversion from the repetitive routines of the gym. I was a handsome devil, I tell you.

Drago snorted, and a wide grin crept across his face, his reply muffled from the mouth guard he wore. Slapping Ike's broad back, Drago ducked and climbed between the ropes. An hour later, a soaking wet Drago emerged from the ring, having bruted his way through two grappling partners and leaving a third exhausted in his wake.

Ike came alongside him, feeling the pulse in his neck while staring at the second hand of his stopwatch. Clair will be pleased as a stuffed pig! The salty taste of sweat mingled with the cool water he downed, sitting ringside, and he wiped his head with his shirt.


Claiming The Prize

I've read Claiming the Prize, and I must admit: I was left wanting more- a sequel that is. While I am not a reader of romance, this was realistic and believable. It was mixed in with the MMA action and all the in between to give it good flow and a realism that seems to be lacking of late, what with all the paranormal and vampire hype. While those are entertaining in their own right, there is a lot of it. Claiming the Prize adds a new spice, a new flavor to a monotone entertainment media. Thank you so much, Mina, for the wonderful review! Writing the brutality of MMA into a romance novel was


Claiming The Prize (31 page)

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Read Claiming The Prize Online. Grey light announced the late winter day's approaching rains as Guy Antolini unlocked the glass doors of his exclusive gym and held one open for his daughter, Grace. His body ached in anticipation of the cold, wet weather to come, a gift from his years of punishment in the ring. He flicked on the lights and found his way to his office to look over the morning's schedule. Glancing at the battered clipboard, Guy made a mental note to call Danny McGovern, a promoter he didn't loathe, to begin hashing out terms for a young fighter, Carson Khaler. Mac could work miracles in the promotion of a fighter, and Guy was confident of a split for the kid in his next bout. Khaler held an impressive record of ten wins in his short career as a professional fighter and carried only one loss.

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