“Are you upset your ninja training secret has been revealed and used for entertainment?”
Yasuji offered her a contemplative look. “Everything becomes entertainment in this day and age. We use the exercise differently—not just to showcase strength but to condition the mental response. We don’t see it as an obstacle to overcome once but one to master.”
“So just because someone can climb to the top of the salmon ladder doesn’t mean they’ve mastered that skill.”
“Precisely. But watch Ronin-san. He’s not allowed just to climb it. Daichi will tell him how he wants him to climb it.”
Ronin held the steel bar out and jumped. The bar connected with the fourth set of grooves. He hung there, waiting for instruction.
Master Daichi barked an order and Ronin pulled the bar out of the slots and threw it—and himself—up to the next level.
Oh. My. Fucking. God. She had to clamp her hand over her mouth to keep from gasping. That had to be the sexiest thing she’d ever seen. The power of his body as he worked his way to the top of the structure. Then he dangled there, waiting.
Daichi said, “Daun.”
Wait. Did he say . . . down?
Sure enough, Ronin reversed the action and dropped down the ladder.
At a time.
Amery had seen Master Black do some very impressive things. She’d watched him fight and teach and bind and fuck. But this?
This was pure power. Pure beauty. Pure skill.
Pure sex holding on to a metal stick.
His body shook and she heard his labored breathing as he reached the bottom rung. But he paused. That, too, was sexy—Master Black’s deferment to Master Daichi. In a lesser man that obedience might’ve put him in a different light. But witnessing a powerful man such as Ronin relinquishing his role as teacher and becoming a rapt student sent goose bumps cascading throughout her body.
Daichi said, “Nugu.”
What did that mean?
Ronin let go of the bar with his right hand and his gi top slid off his left shoulder and arm. He wiped his free hand on his gi pants and then switched arms, shrugging out of his gi entirely. After wiping his right palm on his pants, both hands returned to the bar.
If nugu meant get undressed she wondered why she hadn’t heard Ronin say it to her.
The muscles in his back rippled, each sharp cut of flesh accentuating the sinew beneath his skin. His arms, those arms that held her every night, were corded and gleaming with sweat. Even with as many times as she’d seen her husband’s body, from this angle with this exercise, she had a whole new appreciation for his spectacular form.
That man is mine.
Then Master Daichi snapped, “Mata.”
Mata. That wasn’t stop—yamete meant “stop.” Amery looked at Yasuji with confusion and whispered, “What does mata mean?”
Ronin threw the metal bar up.
Holy fucking shit. Seeing him do this whole routine again with his shirt off? She almost came on the spot. Her body clenched—teeth, hands, stomach, pussy, and thighs. She couldn’t breathe. All she could do was stare. And lust after the beautiful man she’d married.
When Ronin reached the bottom rung again, he still didn’t dismount. Master Daichi circled him. Then she heard three sharp whacks and realized Sensei had hit Ronin on the front side of his body with his belt. He leisurely strolled around behind Ronin and grabbed a long pole that was out of Ronin’s line of vision. Before she could figure out what the sadistic bastard intended, the man smacked Ronin’s knuckles. Hard. Twice on each hand.
She expected to see Ronin hit the floor.
It wasn’t that she didn’t have faith in him, but he was exhausted and hanging on by a thread. It’d be a natural reaction to let go.
But not Master Black. He didn’t even flinch. Not even after four more hard raps on his knuckles.
Finally Master Daichi poked Ronin between the shoulder blades with the bamboo pole.
Ronin dismounted and stood very still, head bowed, arms behind his back military-style. But he couldn’t stop his shoulders from heaving as he struggled to find his balance and his breath.
It took every ounce of willpower Amery owned not to go to him. Not to snag the towel from the floor, drop to her knees, and tend to her man.
Yasuji cleared his throat.
Ronin didn’t move but his sensei peered over Ronin’s shoulder at his brother. His mouth snapped shut when he saw Amery.
That’s when Ronin turned. His eyes locked on to hers. He said nothing. Daichi said nothing. Tension thickened the air.
Then Amery gave him a little finger wave.
Yasuji laughed. “Excuse me, Ronin-san. I need to speak with my brother and we’ll give you a few moments with your wife.”
Master Daichi and Ronin bowed to each other and then Yasuji flanked the older man as they disappeared down a corridor.
Amery picked up the towel and stood close enough to dab the sweat from Ronin’s chest. “I hope you don’t mind that I showed up here. The suspense of where you’d been every day and what you’ve been doing was killing me.” She swept the towel across his shoulders, unable to keep her eyes from tracking the bulked-up state of his traps. “After I dropped off the muffins I’d baked, Yasuji insisted we visit the training center, even when I figured the ‘no observation’ rule was always in effect here.” She patted down his biceps and forearms. “So we stayed in the back and watched and . . .”