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Grappling

Volume 1

CJ Prince


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Weigh in

 

Nobody warned me about how cold it would be back here. I mean, I knew I’d be barefoot. And shirtless. Well, clothes-less altogether save for the towel wrapped around my waist. But I wasn’t expecting it to be so damn cold.

 

Glancing around at the room — a dim and empty space beyond the two backless wooden benches set against opposite walls that each held a half-dozen boys sitting in identical towels — no one else seemed to mind the chill in the air.

 

It might have to do with the fact that almost everyone else on these benches had about twenty pounds in muscle mass on me. I’d been “bulking” all summer, but I was thin-framed to begin with so everyone was always surprised when I told them I’d planned on joining the wrestling team.

 

More accurately, I’d been eating-whatever-I-want all summer. I’d certainly gotten heavier, but any muscle gains were… dubious.

 

Either way, I hoped I’d make minimum weight for my class today. I needed 7 pounds to move up from the lightest class eligible to compete. It would be a small victory, but one that came with a slightly larger grain of respect from collegiate wrestlers, and I was in short supply of that.

 

A middle-aged woman with a black bob cut poked her head into the room and read off of a clipboard, “Anderson, Greg. Please come to the stage.”

 

A short, wide boy with red hair and pale skin dotted with freckles stood up and walked towards the opening leading out of our waiting area and onto the weighing stage. When he was a few feet from the door, he paused and looked back over his shoulder at the boys that had been sitting next to him. He opened his towel to flash his white, bare ass to the room, and made an exaggerated farting noise with his tongue. A few of the boys hollered after him while others snickered like it was the funniest thing they’d ever seen.

 

Wrestling guys were dumb like that. Maybe I was one of them, too. I’d had to stifle a laugh myself, as juvenile as the scene was.

 

Greg looked satisfied with himself as he wrapped the towel back around his waist and continued out onto the stage, beyond which family, friends, and a few local sports reporters sat to watch the tournament weigh-ins.

 

It was such a bizarre affair. To strip us all down, parade us out under spotlights, and have us step onto a scale that would spit out a number to be jotted down by officials and reported in a tiny corner on the 3rd page of the university paper.

 

Our towels folded in the back so that we could open them outward on stage and block the audience from seeing us immodestly. Of course, the two towel bearers that held your towel up had no choice but to take in the full view. And all of us offstage had a perfect shot of every competitor’s backside, though most boys were careful not to stare for risk of being teased.

 

I glanced over, as casually as I could muster, to get another glimpse of Greg. For a posterior that was probably used primarily to accompany flatulence comedy, it wasn’t bad. In fact, I had to tear my eyes away and try to stifle something very different from laughter stirring in my body. I folded my hands in my lap, trying to apply pressure to the stiffening that was building just under my towel.

 

Luckily, no one was paying much attention to me. I really hoped I would make that new weight class, because I needed to gain the respect of my team. It was hard enough being small – I couldn't imagine what things would be like if they were to find out that I’m gay.

 

Black bob cut poked her head into the room again, "Gretzky, Adam. Please come to the stage."

 

That was me. In an already chilly room, I could feel my hands get cold.

 

It was a good thing that the woman wasn't looking up from her clipboard, and that no one else had bothered to look up at my name, because I had to shift my towel uncomfortably as I stood. The tightness of it was keeping things contained for the moment, but I was about to walk out on stage and open my towel to the bearers, the admins, my teammates and competitors offstage, and if things really went south – friends, family, and the local news.

 

I took a deep breath of freezing air, walked across the room, and stepped out onto the stage.


Deus ex machina


A warm, rough hand clasped down on my shoulder. It held me back just at the edge of the stage’s shadows. One more step and I’d have been in the full light of the stage, and full view of the audience.

 

“Robin,” a masculine voice called out from behind me.

 

That must be the name of the woman with the black bob and the clipboard.

 

“I think you might have skipped me?” the voice was calm, and deep, and full of rich, warm tones. His hand still held my shoulder firmly.

 

I glanced behind me, trying to seem cool and unfazed by the fact that he’d abruptly stopped me. And that he’d touched me — was still touching me — and that I could almost feel a tingling in the space where our skin was touching.

 

The first thing I noticed about him was how tall he stood. A square jaw under a short blonde buzz, he towered a full head and shoulders above me. And those shoulders were thick and broad, with muscles like coils of rope wrapped around a sea mast.

 

He was looking out on stage, towards Robin, who I could hear clicking her heels back in our direction with frustration in each step.

 

“Greydon, Michael” he called out, “I think you skipped it. It should have come before Gretzky, no?”

 

Robin stopped a couple feet from us, and furiously flipped through the pages in her clipboard.

 

“Greydon? I have that with an ‘e’ – Is that a spelling error?” She asked confused.

 

“No, that’s right,” he replied calmly.

 

I had meant to only glance at him for a moment, but I had trouble pulling my gaze away now. He didn’t meet my eyes, but I think I spotted something like acknowledgement flicker in the corner of his mouth. That warm tingling feeling spread from his hand and rushed down my spine. I could feel my face getting flush. I wonder if he felt this same sensation.

 

“Well, Mr. Greydon,” Robin cut back with venom in her voice, “‘-et’ does come before ‘-ey’, or can’t you spell your own name?”

 

He let out a sigh of realization, and released my shoulder.

 

“I must have suffered one too many sleeper-holds last season. Thank you, Robin.”

 

He turned on his heels and walked back to the waiting area. His back was as strong and defined as his shoulders, tapering down just slightly to a square waist that was supporting — I had to blink a few times to double check — the roundest bubble of a butt I’d ever seen. The folds of his towel were nearly pulling apart in the back, as if his cheeks were getting ready to part curtains and step into a spotlight.

 

I heard a loud snap a few inches from my head. I turned to find Robin tapping her wrist vehemently. She wasn’t wearing a watch, but I got the picture.

 

As soon as she turned around, I shot a hand down to my groin to check on 'the situation'.

 

Somehow, despite the warmth of Michael’s hand, and seeing the absurd shape of his backside, any stiffening had disappeared.

 

Could he have noticed? Had he stopped me on purpose?

 

Robin stomped a foot down on the ground out in center stage. It was loud enough to snap me out of my thoughts, and I hurried over to her.

 

“Gretzky, Adam,” she called out to the audience and the administrators by the scale. It was a tall, simple machine with an LED screen at about my height.

 

Robin moved away and I stepped in front of the scale. The two towel bearers — both lithe, balding older men — looked at me expectantly.

 

Thank you for not being half-naked Adonises, I thought to myself.

 

I opened my towel into their hands, letting them hold it up like a banner in front of me. They kept their eyes modestly pointed past my head towards the back of the stage.

 

Nothing for them to see, nothing for me to fear.

 

I stepped onto the scale. It beeped on, and a digital display started counting up rapidly.

 

Well, nothing beyond the shame of not making weight.

 

The scale paused, and then blinked once to indicate it had finalized my weight.

 

I stared at the number.

 

Well, shit.


Swerve


One-forty-nine, an admin reads off the scale.

 

One hundred and forty nine pounds.

 

That’s… that’s a full twenty three pounds from where I started. That’s not just one weight class up, it’s three.

 

I did not prepare for this.

 

I must have not properly zeroed out my scale at home. I was expecting some fluctuation, I mean, making the minimum weight for the class two below this was still up in the air.

 

But this?

 

The guys in this weight class are going to murder me. They might have up to twenty five more pounds of muscle than I was planning for! That opens up a whole new book of slams and submissions, most of which I’ve never been put through before.

 

Standing on this scale and staring at that number, buck naked and freezing my cheeks off, is the first moment that I understand what people mean when they describe time slowing down before a car crash.

 

I can almost count the seconds between my heart beats. I think I’m going to be sick.

 

A shrill voice cuts through the fog in my brain.

 

“Gretzky’s gonna dominate!”

 

It’s Jason, my best friend, making a fool of himself in the audience. He drags the last syllable out so it becomes more of a cheer than a statement. Like he wants to believe it, and hopes I will too, but what he’s really thinking is Gretzky’s gonna die.

 

I shoot the most confident smirk I can muster out in the direction of his voice. A few cameras flash from the local news. Then the towel bearers are handing me back my towel, and I’m shuffling off stage in a daze.

 

I slump down onto the first open spot I can find on a bench. I try to control my breathing, but I feel like I just can’t get enough air in my lungs.

 

I’m startled by warm skin brushing against my shoulder. The person on my right is leaning in close. I can feel his breath on the back of my neck.

 

“You’re heavier than you look.”

 

I turn to see Michael Greydon, the towering blonde from earlier, beaming at me.

 

He winks.

 

My lungs suddenly feel full again, and I let out a light sigh. I really hope he can’t see my face getting flush.

 

“Heavier than I was expecting,” I reply.

 

He raises an eyebrow, “Oh yeah?”

 

I shake my head lightly, I’m still processing myself.

 

“I was expecting to pull in at one-thirty-three at best. Just enough to start the year off in a higher weight class.”

 

He laughs, “You jumped three! What have you been eating, small children?”

 

My face slumps into my hands. I have no idea how I’m going to make it through this season.

 

I feel warm skin glide across my back. His arm is around my shoulders. How is he still so warm in this freezing room?

 

I can feel my heart doing backflips. I hope he never moves.

 

“Well, that should be my weight class, actually. I can help you, you know — this is your first year, isn’t it?”

 

He’s being so friendly and generous. I can hardly understand why.

 

“Uh, y-yeah,” I stammer out. “I started in the boot camp at Briar College this summer. Just some featherweight scrimmages.”

 

He’s still hanging on to me. I wonder if he can feel the speed of my pulse, or the fluttering in my chest. I try to distract myself from the feeling of his skin against mine, and the sight of his naked thigh in my periphery — just inches away from me.

 

“What about you? How long have you been competing?” I ask.

 

His thigh moves restlessly. As hard as I try to stare straight ahead, I’m acutely aware of the bottom opening of his towel folding and stretching as he moves. For “modesty towels” it wouldn’t take very much to expose yourself sitting on these benches.

 

I have to fold my hands in my lap again.

 

“Three years! But I started out more or less like you. Briar can feel pretty competitive, but at the end of the day we’re happy to welcome newcomers.”

 

Oh. He goes to Briar… with me. We’re on the same team. That explains the friendliness.

 

“Sorry, I didn’t realize you went to Briar. I never saw you at boot camp.”

 

He sighs. His arm still hasn’t left me.

 

“Yeah, summer work and all that. Bills, bills, bills. But if I’d met you over the summer I’d have told you not to worry about jumping weight so much. It’s way more important that we get your strength up first.”

 

He gives my shoulders a light squeeze.

 

“But don’t worry, we’ll get you there.”

 

Robin’s heels clack back into the room.

 

“Greydon? It’s actually your turn now,” She hisses and exits.

 

Michael stands, taking his warm, friendly arm with him. I look up as he starts to step away.

 

“Thanks, uh, Michael. I appreciate the confidence boost.”

 

He turns his face towards me and flashes a grin.

 

“Well, that’s what team captains are for.”

 

He winks and walk out towards the stage. I lean forward in my seat as he goes, watching his impossibly large backside moving with him.

 

The room has gone from freezing, to stuffily warm — or at least that what it feels like to me as I watch him out on center stage, holding my breathe and waiting for his towel to come off.


Cause of death: butt


Have you ever watched something happen so silently that your brain filled in the void with its own sounds?

 

Imagine seeing a pin drop across a busy room and feeling the tiniest ding! in your mind — one that you couldn’t possibly have actually heard.

 

Well, Michael unfurling his towel and handing it off sang like a choir of angels in my mind.

 

It was as if the lights on stage brightened, my eyes focused in like a hawk’s, and tiny cherubs began a heavenly harmony as his towel unwrapped in slow motion.

 

A sliver of pale pink flesh slowly widened until the full view of his impossibly smooth, marble-like skin appeared, shaped in the roundest of orbs.

 

Staring at his plump, naked cheeks — I couldn’t help but think about the sweetness and softness of butter.

 

I don’t think that mental image of Michael standing on the scale in all his glory will ever leave my mind… which could make wrestling with him a bit challenging.

 

Don’t worry, we’ll get you there.

 

That was what Michael had said. I hoped, and feared, that he’d keep that promise. There’s nothing I’d like more than to get on the mat with him — but I worry about what would happen with his body wrapped so tightly around mine.

 

His weight is announced. It’s a few classes above mine. I realize — with a sigh of relief and disappointment — that it wouldn’t make much sense for him to wrestle me himself for training. No, he and the coach will probably pit me against someone closer to my weight.

 

I can only hope they look nothing like Michael.

 

The bearers hand him back his towel and he wraps it around his waist as he turns to head towards the back room.

 

I’m sad to see the moment come to an end, but I have to peel my eyes away before can catch me staring. I stare at the ground instead, trying to appear as unremarkable as possible as he re-enters the room.

 

Within a few seconds, my view of the ground is replaced with that of a white towel and two naked legs poking out beneath it.

 

“Chin up, Gretz!”

 

I look up, and Michael winks at me. He actually winks.

 

He holds a hand out and flashes a bright smile.

 

“There’s no time to train like the present.”

 

I scrunch my brows in confusion. “Train? Now? The tournament starts in an hour.”

 

His hand doesn’t waver, nor does his goofy grin.

 

“Well, that’s an hour to prep you for a whole new, unexpected weight class,” he points a thumb back at the stage, “or an hour of staring at the ground to avoid the butt parade out there.”

 

By the way his eyes glint, and the corner of his mouth moves just slightly into a smirk, I think he might be teasing me. He probably did catch me staring. And yet, here he is offering me his hand and a one-on-one crash course just before the official bouts begin.

 

I can’t help but return the smirk. I grab his hand and he pulls me up off of the bench. Releasing me, he turns and heads towards the door that leads to the locker rooms. Without turning around, he waves a hand for me to follow.

“Time to slip into something a little less comfortable!”

 

A few of the boys in the room chuckle as he exits. I force out a small laugh too as I scramble after him.

 

There’s no way I’m ready for what’s coming next.


Locker room


The locker room is steamier than I was expecting for the hour before bouts have even started.

 

It might be that some guys are washing off the grime from early morning practice, or maybe some are just looking to wake themselves up with a hot shower.

 

Either way, the warm, hazy mist that wrapped around me like a blanket as I walked in was a welcome greeting coming from the freezing waiting room.

 

Color started to return to the surface of my skin, which hopefully helped mask how flush my face felt. Michael was walking in front of me, his butt still pushing at the back fold of his towel. I needed to get my pulse under control before he turned around.

 

I try to take a few slow breaths, but the air in here hangs thick and heavy on my lungs. It’s like trying to suck oxygen out of a pool of water.

 

Michael glances over his shoulder to make sure I’m still following. I nod at him to keep going.

 

He turns a corner into a square block of lockers. Immediately facing us is a mirrored wall, with two rows of stacked lockers jutting out on either side.

 

Between the lockers are half a dozen wrestlers chatting and milling about. They’re all completely naked.

 

Michael crouches down to a bottom locker and starts fussing with a combination lock. I whip around, my heart slamming, and rush away.

 

“Bathroom!” I call back. I hope Michael didn’t catch my reaction.

 

The bathroom — just a few stalls and urinals placed across from the showers — is around the corner. I step into a stall shut the door behind me.

 

I put the toilet seat down and sit in my towel, trying to just calm my pulse.

 

Two bare feet step into view beneath the stall door.

 

“Dude, you should have shit before the weigh-in! You could have dropped into a lighter class.”

 

It’s Michael. I can see through the tiny gaps on either side of the door that he’s not wearing a towel — but I can’t see much else. Nonetheless, my heart picks up even faster.

 

“Ha, yeah. I think it’s just… uh, gas.”

 

Shit, that was probably the least cool excuse I could have possibly used.

 

Michael chuckles, “Well, every ounce counts. Next time, loosen up and let it out.”

 

He slaps a black wrestling singlet over the door.

 

“Put this on when you’re done, and meet me out on the mats. I’m gonna go get dressed.”

 

I see his feet turn and step away. The further he gets the better I can see him through the slits of the stall — another glimpse of his stupidly perfect butt.

 

He pauses. Can he feel me staring at him?

 

Without turning his head, he brings his right hand back and lightly slaps his own ass. At the same time, he lets out a terribly fake fart noise from his mouth.

 

I laugh, probably too loud.

 

This guy is ridiculous.

 

Once he’s completely out of sight, my heart calms down. Despite the humidity of the locker room, I can feel my lungs fill with air again.

 

I stare up at the singlet hanging over the top of the stall door. It’s not mine, which should be stuffed in my gym bag and locked up in its own locker.

 

It’s the right colors for our school — black with gold detail — but it must be from one of the past seasons. I wonder why Michael has been carrying an extra singlet.

 

It can’t possibly be his own. We wouldn’t be the same size even if I grew three inches and gained fifteen more pounds.

 

And why is he giving it to me? Weird.

 

He is team captain. Apparently. I guess he must carry a few extra in case someone on the team has one… rip? That would be embarrassing.

 

I stand up and throw my towel over the side of the stall. Grabbing the singlet, I take a cautious test sniff — smells like detergent. Thank god.

 

I pull it on and, surprisingly, it fits pretty well. It feels odd being in someone else’s spandex, but at least I got to change behind closed doors.

 

I keep my eyes on the ground as I walk through the locker room, headed out towards the gym where the wrestling mats are set up. The last thing I need before grappling with Michael is a boner.

 

In fact, I better not think about it too much.

 

I walk around the corner from the lockers and push through the door that opens into the gym.

 

The stands are empty for the time being, since doors are closed until closer to the start of the bouts. A few guys are stretching or pumping free weights that their team has carted in. In the center of the gym, seated on the ground with his legs spread out in front of him, is Michael.

 

His uniform is different. The colors are inverted so that the singlet is predominantly gold with black detailing. As I get closer, I realize how thankful I should be for the color of my own uniform — the lighter color on Michael means you can make out every detail of his body. And with the way he’s seated, legs spread out facing me, I really do mean every detail.

 

Shit.

 

There’s nowhere to run and hide at this point. Why did I ever think this was a good sport to join?

 

I keep a steady pace as I approach, and only stare above the shoulders.

 

He grins when I’m a few feet away and tosses me black headgear to strap on. He stands up as I’m fussing with the straps, and clasps a hand on my arm.

 

“Let’s see how well you can throw your new weight around.”

 

I step back, take a deep breath, and get into position.

 

Damn, he looks good in that singlet though.

 

This is going to be rough on so many levels.


Underneath him


We're standing a few feet away from each other – three, per competition rules, to be precise – but my heart is racing as if Michael is already on top of me. He will be soon. I don't think my body is ready for that.

 

We're both in grappling stance, slightly hunched over with our arms hung in front like a boxer's. Michael has a sly, mischievous grin played across his mouth and it's not making me any less nervous.

 

Usually, a referee would blow a whistle to start the match, and the two of us would begin circling the mat while looking for an opening to charge the other. I'm actually not sure when we'll star–

 

SLAM!

 

And like that I'm already on my back, pressed against the mat, with Michael's knees pinning my shoulders down. The cheat bum-rushed me. And it hurt.

 

"Are you trying to take me out of competition? What gives, man?" I try shifting under his weight, but it feels like there are spears pierced through both my shoulders. All I can do is squirm around like an idiot.

 

Michael is still wearing that stupid grin.

 

"You've got to be ready for anything. And you've got to be able to get out of this pin," Michael replies, crossing his arms over his chest nonchalantly despite the wriggling worm beneath his knees.

 

He's barely trying at all, and I'm completely failing. In collegiate wrestling, you only need to hold an opponent's shoulders to the ground for one full second to win by pin – and I've been stuck here for longer than that.

 

Well, this is humiliating.

 

I stop squirming. "Come on, Michael. You're not even in my weight class. You're too frickin' heavy."

 

Michael sighs. It's a real sigh, the kind that only comes from genuine disappointment. He moves back, taking his knees off of my shoulders, but shifting his weight to rest on my lower abdomen. He's just… sitting on me.

 

I push out a groan of discomfort.

 

There may be nearly two-hundred pounds of weight pressing down on me, but all I can think about is Michael's body – his plump, full ass against my groin.

 

He rests his chin on a hand and looks down at me.

 

“You give up too easy, friend.”

 

I roll my eyes and squirm again, but all I end up achieving is rubbing my hips against the bottom of his thighs.

 

A few more people have trickled into the gymnasium, and they’re watching us on the mat. We must look completely bizarre in this position.

 

Michael still staring down at me, waiting for me to try something unexpected.

 

I push myself up onto my elbows. My lower half is still stuck, but my torso is free enough to lean up closer to him.

 

I think for a moment.

 

Then I grab his wrists and pull him forward with all my strength, throwing myself back against the mat. Michael’s caught off-guard enough that it works — he’s plunged forward and comes slamming down on my chest. Before he can recover, or get leverage again, I grab his shoulders and twist our bodies as fast as I can.

 

Michael fumbles over to his side, and then his back. I’m turning with him, using the momentum to pull myself up and onto his torso. My knees press into his shoulders and the full weight of my body pins down his chest.

 

His eyes are wide with surprise, and his mouth hangs open with disbelief.

 

I raise a wrist and feign looking at a watch, “I think that’s a pin, no?”

 

He closes his lips to a grin.

 

More people have wandered into the gym, and a few of them clap at the spectacle.

 

Michael opens his mouth to say something but stops. His brow furrows in confusion. His eyes have drifted downward, and I follow his gaze—

 

Oh, fuck. Fuck, fuck, fu—

 

This black singlet is doing nothing to conceal a rigid tent pointed straight out from my groin and stopping just inches from his face. I spring up off of him, face burning hot and my mind a messy scramble. I stumble out something, maybe an apology. I’m not sure, I just know that I’m running away with my hands pressed down between my legs.

 

I hear a few whistles and hollers as I push through a door out of the gym. My breath is caught in my throat, and I can feel my pulse pounding in my ears. I take the first corner I can find and duck out of sight, hoping that no one followed me out of the gym.

 

I slump down against a wall and bury my head between my knees. To my annoyance – and relief – I notice that my boner is gone.

 

Add that to the evolutionary benefits of the fight or flight response, I guess.

 

My pulse is still banging hard enough to make my whole body shake. I hug my knees tightly to stifle the shivers and hope that maybe the Earth will just decide to open up a fissure right beneath me and swallow me whole.

 

That doesn't happen, of course. Instead, I hear a pair of cautious footsteps coming around the corner.

 

I don't want to look up from my knees, but I figure whoever it is will just stand and stare until they get to see the humiliation on my face, so I might as well get it over with.

 

I raise my head and see Michael standing over me.

 

He's smirking and shaking his head. He came out here to laugh at me.

 

I wait for him to say something, but instead, he slides his back down the wall and sits next to me on the floor.

 

He turns to me and chuckles, "I've heard of victory laps, but I don't think darting out of the gym and getting into the fetal position is the best way to celebrate a win."

 

He's… making a joke. And not a mean one. No, just the opposite. I have no idea what to say.

 

He nudges his shoulder into mine.

 

"Come on, I thought it was kind of flattering."

 

I shake my head and bury it in my knees again. I choke out a muffled response.

 

"What's that? You're, uh, talking to your knees."

 

I raise my head, "It's not fucking funny!"

 

I'm shouting, which surprises us both. He recovers first and just shrugs.

 

"It can be, if you want it to be. It can be that funny, awkward thing that we both look back at and laugh about, or it can be…"

 

He looks me up and down, then squints his eyes in mock consideration. "Would you call this 'devastating'?"

 

I roll my eyes and find a chuckle rising to the surface. I nudge my shoulder back into his.

 

"I call this victory."

 

He rolls his eyes back at me and stands up.

 

"Well, don't let it go to your head. We're one-one. I'd offer a tie-breaker but I think we ought to go get ready for the bouts."

 

He holds a hand out to help me up. I take it, and he pulls me to my feet.

 

"Just, try not to flatter anyone else until you've won the match."

 

I punch his shoulder lightly and walk past him, back towards the gym. My pulse is still pounding, but this time it feels like it's powering me rather than overpowering me. I can feel it pushing my legs forward with each step, and pulling the corners of my mouth up into a bashful smile.

 

Michael is following behind me, and I can't help but wonder if he's wearing the same grin.

 

My worst nightmare came to pass, and he turned it into something warm and harmless.

 

If I can live through that, well, maybe I can make it through this tournament after all.

 


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