"And next up! The wonderful Epsilon Combat class in a knockout contest to prove who the best warrior is!" Karter announced, his big voice booming all across the Arena.

"Good luck," D.C. whispered, reaching out to squeeze Alex's hand as she got up to leave.

Alex walked nervously up to the stage, hands fidgeting as Karter explained the rules she already knew so well. She tuned out until he announced, "And so we will be pairing up, the winners of each round will go on to face the other winner, and so on and so forth. So first up we have Brandon and Nick, followed by Sebastian and Declan, then Kaiden and Alex!"

Mentally swearing to get Karter back for this, Alex groaned as Kaiden winked at her. Turning away, she watched the fight with interest; the first two were evenly matched until Nick, in a final burst of speed, dashed the sword from Brandon's hands. After them went Sebastian and Declan- their sparring was quicker than Brandon and Nick's, mainly because of Declan's mad defence. Swallowing nervously, she donned her armour as Karter called up, "Finally, we have Alexandra Jennings and Kaiden James!"

While she was glad to be fighting the tall boy and not another of her classmates, she still felt apprehensive. No matter how nice he was to her in real life, the Combat Kaiden was focused and rarely let anything past his guard.

So Alex had to find another way to beat him.

Taking a deep breath to centre herself, Alex expanded her senses outward, feeling acutely aware of all around her. When she was finally ready, she looked up in time to hear Karter shout, "Go!"

Kaiden immediately swung his sword in an uppercut, but Alex's Meyarin senses allowed her to see the move coming, and so she simply sidestepped, trusting his momentum to carry him down. While he was still (partially) disabled, she, without warning, launched into an attack of her own. Side-cuts, straight thrusts, swings. She tried everything, but it was nearly impossible to get past his guard. That was, until, she realised something.

Kaiden's momentum would work against him.

Finally understanding what to do, Alex feinted a lower-cut at Kaiden, then as he parried in response, swung to the side allowing his blow to pass harmlessly to her right. While he was off balance, she swept past his normally impeccable guard and pointed her sword at his throat.

The crowd went silent, finally noticing what Alex had done. She had beaten the Kaiden James. THE Kaiden James. The best warrior at Akarnae.

Alex grinned cockily at Kaiden, noticing that, for a warrior in the 'yield' position, he looked pretty smug. Then she realised why.

She was awfully close to him.

Close enough that, even with her sword pointing at his throat, he could lean forward and close the gap between them.

Alex shivered slightly when he moved a fraction closer to her. She was dimly aware of Karter closing the 'public viewing' curtain and exiting the back way. She only barely noticed the other Combat boys, sweaty and exhausted, file out quietly, Declan grinning to himself as he noticed them. She would have to get him back later for that.

But right now, all she could focus on was him. His stunning blue eyes, his gorgeous tanned skin. His absolutely captivating…..lips.

Kaiden was watching her as she slowly lowered her sword, careful to maintain the same distance between them. Then he smiled, reaching forward to cup her face.

"Now that you no longer have a sword pointing at my throat," he teased gently. "I can finally do this."

"Do what?" Alex breathed, although deep down she already knew the answer.

Kaiden didn't respond verbally. No, instead he just closed the already small gap between them.

Alex could still feel his lips later that night.