Hannah Daniels has always been a little bit bigger than other women, but it’s never been anything she’s cared about. She’s happy in her own skin—most of the time, anyway. But then her doctor recommends she start seeing a fitness trainer. In fact, she even has the perfect guy in mind: Jordan Mathis, who’s determined to make Hannah sweat…in more ways than one.
Age Rating: 18+
Feelin The Burn by El Koslo is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.
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“Looking at these test results, we need to start talking about lifestyle changes.” Dr. Isaacs sat down across from me and sighed as she scanned the contents of my file before looking up at me.
“I already go to the gym.” Most people assumed I didn’t, based purely on my size, but I frequently walked on the treadmills or used the light weight machines. It never seemed to make a difference, but I still went.
“I know you do, and it’s been a blessing that you’ve tried to stay active. But we need to start looking at a whole-body approach.” The older woman peered over the bridge of her glasses with a calculating look.
“Dr. Isaacs, I get it. I’m a big girl. I’ve always been a big girl. I’ve tried dieting before, and it doesn’t work.”
My weight had been an ongoing conversation with every medical professional and family member for as long as I could remember.
Han is carrying a little extra weight… It was always the same.
I wasn’t huge, but I definitely wasn’t skinny and I never had been.
“I think we need to talk to a nutritionist and get you into something a little more strenuous than just walking on the treadmill a few times a week.”
The word strenuous made me cringe, but I knew that to make a difference, I’d need to try something new.
“It’s not going to make a difference. It never does. I’m okay with that.” Saying I was resigned to my fate was a little dramatic—I was just over trying to please everyone.
“You may be okay with that but having a heart attack or a stroke before you’re forty will be a lot harder to come back from,” Dr. Isaacs said with a frown.
She wasn’t pulling any punches today, but I thought she was being a tad dramatic.
“I’m not gonna have a heart attack.” My voice was a little shaky as if I were trying to convince myself that health problems weren’t inevitable.
“Your cholesterol is elevated, your stress tests indicate you may already be developing a blockage, and your body fat percentage is in the morbidly obese range.”
Okay, maybe I was skating a little too close to the unhealthy line.
“I’m not telling you to go be a supermodel. I’m telling you that you need to take your health more seriously.” Dr. Isaacs sounded genuinely concerned, but in my late twenties, I had a hard time taking this information seriously.
“Fine. What do I need to do?” I asked as she smirked at my response.
“I’ve got a list of personal trainers who I think have some programs that could be tailored to your abilities,” she said as she typed something into the computer on the desk.
“No. I don’t want a personal trainer. They always start lecturing me on keto this and Atkins that.”
I was not getting myself into another situation where a “fitness professional” lectured me on my lifestyle choices.
“A few of them teach group instruction. We could start with that and see how comfortable you are.” The arched eyebrow she aimed in my direction indicated that she was not planning to let this go.
“Please don’t let them single me out. I hate being the lone fat girl in those classes and having everyone stare at me.” My voice wavered as I took a deep breath.
“I’m going to recommend some high-intensity interval training classes to start. You can go at your own pace, ease your way in.”
She made it sound easy, but I knew it was anything but. It just seemed like torture. High-intensity anything sounded like torture.
“Is this really necessary?” I asked, knowing she probably wouldn’t budge.
“I’m gonna be honest, Hannah. I’m concerned about your overall body fat percentage creating major health problems for you down the line.”
Well, that was ominous. Dr. Isaacs pretty much nailed the coffin shut on me protesting this.
“I’ll have my nurse give you the contact information for the fitness studio I think you should check out.”
“Thank you.” I sighed. The woman really was just trying to do her job. I knew that…but I didn’t have to like it.
A crinkling sound filled the small room as I shifted on the uncomfortable white paper under my bare butt cheeks. My apparently too large bare butt cheeks.
“I want you to make a follow-up appointment for three months from now. I’d like to monitor your progress. Our goal is to keep you off medications if we can.”
She stood and nodded before disappearing out of the exam room door and closing it behind her.
I pulled back on my leggings and flowy top—it hid a multitude of sins, and I didn’t feel the need to dress up to go to the doctor’s office.
“Knock, knock.” A chipper voice sounded from the other side of the closed door.
“I’m good.” I sighed as my fingers toyed with the sheet over my lap.
“Hannah?” A tall, slender brunette peeked her head around the corner with a tablet in her hand.
“That’s me,” I responded, hoping my voice didn’t sound too bitter. Of course, the nurse looked like a supermodel.
“Okay…so I’m gonna give you the contact information for a few of the coaches at the fitness studio that I think would work for you. Personally, I’d try to get into a consultation with Jordan.”
She winked as she thrust a packet of information at me.
“Uh…are there any female coaches on that list?” I asked as I bit my lip. Male fitness trainers intimidated me.
Who was I kidding…all fitness trainers intimidated me, but a six-pack-laden, sweaty god telling me how out of shape I was did not sound like my idea of a good time.
Nurse Kellie nodded as she pointed at a name midway down the list.
“There are. But Jordan is probably the best. He helped my husband once he got out of the rehab center after shoulder surgery,” she told me, a little inflection of awe in her voice.
Even more of a reason to stay away from this Jordan.
“He understands that people have real lives and tries to help them develop a fitness plan that makes it easy to stay committed.”
“But I could go see this…uh…” I scanned down the list to the first female that I saw. “Mallory?”
The nurse made a face and nodded. “You could…but I doubt she’s eaten a carb in the last ten years, so she might not be your style.”
“Since all I’ve eaten has been carbs.”
She gave me an admonishing look followed up by her usual easygoing smile. “Hey…everyone has to start somewhere. I’m proud of you for being open-minded about this.”
I didn’t feel that way, but I knew I needed to try.
Being a little chubby as a teen had morphed into being a lot chubby as an adult. It’d happened so slowly I didn’t recognize that it was a problem until it was apparently a big problem.
A problem that Dr. Isaacs was now expecting me to take control of.
“I’m willing to try. But the first one of those ‘coaches’ who makes fun of my thighs for being best friends will get an earful.”
I tried to sound intimidating, but I wasn’t even fooling myself much less Nurse Kellie. The first time one of these coaches said something mean, I knew it’d be the last time I walked into a stupid fitness studio.
“I promise Jordan won’t. He may work you hard and make you do exercises you really don’t want to, but he’d never fat shame you,” Kellie responded as she patted my hand gently.
“Here…this is a four-class free pass. Just go and try a few classes first. Then you can worry about talking to Jordan later,” she advised as she dropped a paper pass into my hand.
I could do that. I was good at being anonymous.
“I look forward to seeing how far you’ve come when you come back in a few months,” she said with an encouraging smile.
“No pressure, huh?” I smiled back as she stood up and moved toward the door.
“You’ll do great.”
I wasn’t convinced her words were true, but I was trying.
“Thanks,” I answered quietly. I think. I still wasn’t sure about this whole thing. But I needed to make something happen if I wanted to avoid filling my medicine cabinet with prescription bottles.
After paying my co-pay, I made my way down the elevator to my car. I’d taken the afternoon off work, so I had a few hours to kill until I needed to cook dinner.
My fridge was fairly bare; I’d been bad about ordering takeout lately and knew that I needed to stop relying on others to cook my food.
“Ugh. Here I come, grocery store.” I was obviously feeling enthusiastic about this whole process.
I wasn’t in the mood for all the granola fit moms and the buff guys shopping at the “healthy” grocery store, so I pulled into the one closest to my apartment and said a little prayer for myself.
“You can do this. It’s just food.” I grabbed a reusable bag out of the back seat and made my way inside.
Fresh produce always made me anxious, so I made my way to the freezer section and grabbed a green beans package, which was a good start.
Then I backtracked to the meat counter and picked up a package of pre-seasoned chicken breasts. I could eat the extra ones for lunch.
Next was eggs. Then yogurt—I passed by the ones I knew were mostly sugar in favor of the Greek yogurt with lower sugar. I could do this. This wasn’t so bad.
If I just avoided the aisles that had the things I really wanted to eat, then I would be fine. I grabbed some milk, added in a package of cheese sticks, and made my way toward the checkout lines.
“Ugh, seriously?” Of course they were having a sale on candy bars. Because the checkout aisle was where the grocery store put all the things to tempt people.
I know my mom had hated taking us to the grocery store when we were little because of the dreaded checkout line.
What better place for a small child to lose their shit than a small, confined aisle lined with candy and small toys.
Maybe there was a line that didn’t have anyone waiting. It’d make it easier to stay away from the dreaded candy bar sale.
“Fuck,” I mumbled under my breath as I looked at the people aimlessly staring around while they waited for their turn in every single freaking lane.
The self-checkouts weren’t any better, and I found myself cursing all the people who normally would have been at work at 3 p.m. on a Wednesday.
Why were all these people here? Didn’t they have jobs?
I joined the queue and tried to avoid making eye contact with the Snickers. They’d only lure me in with their chocolaty goodness.
My phone became my distraction after I unloaded my groceries. I could do this, I was fine.
“Crap. I’m sorry.” My head popped up at the voice of the frazzled woman in front of me. She had a toddler in the front of her cart who seemed quite proud of himself for grabbing two fistfuls of candy.
“Oh…that’s okay. Here…hand them to me, and I’ll put them away for you,” I told her as I extended my hand out toward her, trying not to make eye contact with the dreaded chocolate temptation.
“Thanks so much. He’s a bit of a terror and loves chocolate.” Her voice was strained, and I knew that she was having a harder time in the aisle of temptation than I was.
“Don’t we all?” I laughed as I watched the little boy narrow his eyes at me taking away his ill-gotten goods.
“So true. Thank you. I’ll try to keep his naughty little hands up here.” She frowned as she shot her child a look meant to intimidate.
The little boy giggled as his mom pushed him out of the danger zone and past the cashier toward the end of the belt.
I stepped back and tried to find the spaces where the candy had been grabbed from, gently placing the evil candy bars back in their homes.
I was trying not to look too closely at the labels or imagine what they’d taste like as I quickly stowed them away.
“Shit…” I mumbled as I bent down and tried to pick up the package of peanut butter cups that’d dropped to the floor.
A pair of large, well-worn, gray tennis shoes appeared in my periphery, and I wanted to avoid encroaching on the personal space of the person behind me as I reached for the package.
“Here…let me help.” A deep voice sounded close to my ear as the man bent down and snatched the package that I was having a hard time reaching and gently placed it in my fingers. “I believe these belong to you.”
“Uh…” I straightened up and felt my face flush as the package crinkled in my fingers. Fuck. Of course this gorgeous man would be the one to pick up the bag of peanut butter cups that I’d been trying to resist.
He was tall with a trim waist, massive biceps peeking out the sleeves of his fitted, navy-blue compression shirt, dark athletic shorts that led to sparsely-haired, defined calves, and of course the gray tennis shoes from earlier.
His reddish-brown hair was a little matted; he looked like he’d just come from the gym or running outside. He probably enjoyed running.
Clusters of freckles covered the bridge of his nose and his cheeks; he also had some on his attractively muscled forearms.
“Thanks.” My body was hyper-aware of the perfect specimen of a man who had placed a canister of protein powder, a bundle of spinach, and a package of steaks onto the belt behind me.
Entrancing green eyes glanced up from his phone and made contact with mine, and he smiled softly at me before he resumed texting.
My face was on fire as I turned around and willed the cashier to go faster. I was not too fond of situations like this.
This guy would never give me a second glance if I met him anywhere else. Nobody noticed the chubby girl as being attractive.
“Did you want those?” The young cashier gestured to the package of peanut butter cups in my hand, and I threw them down on the belt as if they were on fire.
“No…” One glance at the small smile on the face of the handsome man behind me cemented it.
Let project peanut butter cup commence.
I was going all in.
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“You want me to go where?”
“Please!” I begged.
“Okay…walk it back and explain this to me slowly.”
I sighed as I leaned against the counter, trying to avoid eye contact with my best friend.
Parker lived down the hallway, but we ended up in each other’s apartments most of the time. Unless he had a boyfriend, then I only saw him when he came up for air.
“My doctor said I’m fat.”
“Girl, you gotta stop letting other people’s opinions make you feel bad. You’re gorgeous.” He rolled his eyes at me.
“You have to say that.”
I mean, I knew I wasn’t ugly, but I always felt like I was being judged for not meeting modern beauty standards.
“Um, no…I don’t. I’d tap that if I was into the whole lady business thing.” He waved a hand in the general direction of my boobs and “lady business.”
“Okay, so she told you what she told you last year.”
“No. Not exactly.” I sighed as I took a deep breath and prepared to unload on him.
“Explain.” He arched an eyebrow and leaned his elbows on the breakfast bar where he was seated.
“She said if I don’t get my shit together, I’m gonna have a stroke or a heart attack before I’m forty.”
I could still feel tears prick in my eyes as I told him, at knowing that being complacent with my health may have put me in danger.
“Shit.” The color drained from his face as he looked at me with concern.
“So she wants you to go to these classes to help?” he asked as he sat up straighter on his barstool.
“Yes. Or a personal trainer, but I don’t want to do that again.”
He rolled his eyes as we both recalled the last disaster. “Don’t let one pig scare you off. Not all trainers are giant douchebags.”
I raised my eyebrow and crossed my arms on my chest. That was something I wasn’t wholly convinced of. I’d met quite a few trainers in the last ten years, and they all treated me differently because I was a big girl.
“I think it’s a great idea,” he enthused as his grin expanded across his face. “It’s gonna suck, but I think it’ll be good for you.”
“So you’ll go with me?” I implored as I tried to channel my best pitiful look.
“Ha!” He laughed hysterically, wiping his eyes before he settled down. I tried to resist reaching across the counter to smack him.
“I wasn’t joking.” His face fell as he took in how serious I was. I needed him.
“Seriously? Why me? I already go to the gym.” The tables turned, and I smirked at the panicked tone in his voice.
“Exactly, you’re in shape…ish. You can help keep me motivated.”
He frowned and sat up, his hands smoothing down his front, his palms lingering over his flat stomach. “Oh, thanks, it’s nice to know I’m in shape…‘ish.’ Way to make me feel good about myself.”
“Um…I’m 45 percent peanut butter cup, so you’re practically Adonis.”
We both laughed as I motioned toward my less than flat stomach and referred to my biggest vice. Some people self-medicate with alcohol; I did it with chocolate and peanut butter.
“When are you supposed to start?” Parker still didn’t look convinced, but he seemed open to the idea.
“Tomorrow?” My voice dropped as I saw the look on his face sour. I’d dropped this on him with little notice, but I knew if I didn’t start soon, I wouldn’t go.
“Please?” I pulled out the pouty lips and looked up at him from beneath my lashes. There was no way I was braving this place by myself. I needed someone to keep me from hiding in the locker room.
“You’re gonna owe me.”
My whole body relaxed at his acceptance.
“Oh my God…thank you!” I bounced my way around the counter and hugged his side.
“Just remember this when I need someone to run interference with a hookup,” Parker laughed as I made a face. He already used me for that when I didn’t owe him things.
“You’re not going to make me pretend to be your wife again, are you?” He laughed as he turned and kissed me on the forehead.
“That one was effective, but probably not. Don’t want it getting out to people that I like the jay.”
He shuddered, and I rolled my eyes.
“’Cause vaginas are terrifying.”
He pursed his lips and nodded, causing us to both erupt in laughter again.
“Well…they kinda are. Male equipment is much easier to work with.” He made a crude motion with his hand, and I shook my head.
“Yup…you guys are easy to please.” He was right; the male anatomy was pretty straightforward.
“And we don’t need to take an advanced course in sign language for someone to make us cum.”
“Oh my God, you’re horrible.” I laughed even harder as Parker started making vague hand motions and faces.
“It’s true, though.” The smug look on his face was too much for me. We’d often had conversations about how dating men was much easier than dealing with women.
Although, Parker’s tumultuous love life had caused him quite a bit of drama in the not-so-distant past. Gay men could be just as much drama as women.
“Whatever…so you’re in?” He rolled his eyes at the question, but I knew that I had him.
“Yeah…” Parker sighed and laid his head against mine. “I’ll go. I won’t like it. But I’ll go with you. Maybe you’ll end up with a hot instructor.”
“One can only hope.”
Parker was late…and I was going to kill him. I didn’t want to go inside by myself, but my appointment was in five minutes.
My fingers flew across the screen of my phone as I sent him a panicked text.
I turned off my car and sat there for a few minutes before I grabbed my gym bag from the passenger seat. My workout gear was already on, but I knew most places didn’t like you to wear street shoes on their treadmills.
My body was literally trembling as I walked across the parking lot toward the front entrance. Places like this made me nervous.
This wasn’t one of the big gyms I typically attended. You could be anonymous there. You could hide on a machine in a corner, and no one noticed you.
The personal trainers who floated the floor had long since left me alone, knowing my speed never went past five, and my incline was the same. I knew what I was capable of, and I was just there to get in my steps and go home.
“Can I help you?” The gorgeous, lithe blonde in form-fitting black fitness gear and a high ponytail, inquired from behind the desk.
“Uh…” There was an insanely fit supermodel talking to me. I shouldn’t be here.
“Do you have an appointment?” She was giving me an expectant look and tapping her overly manicured fingers on the counter.
“Hello?” She waved her hand in front of my face, and I blinked slowly as I tried to snap out of it.
“Mal, give her a break.” Another insanely hot trainer.
Was I being punked? Surely a concentration of people this attractive in one place wasn’t normal. Where were the butter-face trainers? The ones with the fit bodies and the okay faces. I wanted to go there.
“Can I help you, sweetheart?” he asked as he leaned forward against the desk and shot a killer smile in my direction. He had wavy, sandy blond hair and extremely white teeth.
His voice was deep and alluring with a faint southern accent; this man knew exactly how attractive he was. Strong shoulders stretched against a black compression-fit shirt with the gym’s logo splashed across the front.
“I…uh…I’m Hannah?” My teeth clenched in embarrassment after I stuttered out a semi-coherent response.
“Are you sure? That seemed like a question, darlin’.” His amused smile grew as I felt the heat build in my cheeks.
“Yeah…yes. I mean yes. My name is Hannah…Daniels.”
“Scootch, Mal. I got this,” he told the supermodel as he shouldered her out of the way at the computer. “Go get ready for your class.”
“Fine. Whatever.” Her tone was bored as she arched an eyebrow in my direction and gave me a once over. She strutted toward an open office door and disappeared.
I felt like I could finally take a breath without her staring at me.
“I’m Tyson, but everyone calls me Ty.” He smirked as he started pulling out some paperwork and putting it on a clipboard. “So…Hannah Daniels. What can I do for you?”
My mind was blank.
I was thinking of him doing things, but not fitness-related things…well…there would be sweatiness involved, but…oh my God, Hannah… the attractive man is talking. Pay attention.
“How does that sound?” he asked as he finished saying whatever I’d missed.
“Hannah, just relax.” I nodded, and my eyes drifted to the way his compression shirt clung to his pecs and biceps. “My eyes are up here, sweetheart.”
Shit. Busted. Get your head in the game, Han.
“Sorry. I’m just…nervous?” The pitch in my voice hit a new high as I tried to tamp down some of my mortification.
“That’s perfectly all right. We all have to come for the first time.”
What? No. Bad Hannah.
My mind had taken his statement to the wrong place. I really needed to get my head out of the gutter, but his laid-back demeanor was as insanely attractive as the sharp jawline and muscular physique.
“I’m assuming this is your first time?” He asked as he grabbed something from the printer underneath the desk.
Was it my first time doing what?
“No…” My voice drew the O out longer than I intended and he smiled again. He must have thought I was the biggest moron on the planet.
“So you’ve attended a class before? What’s your phone number?” He asked as he pulled the hidden keyboard tray out and poised his fingers over the keys. “We can look you up in the system.”
“Uh…no. I won’t be in there.”
“Okay?” He looked just as confused as I felt with this whole exchange.
“This is my first time here.” My voice sounded rushed as I tried to explain. “Not working out, just here.”
“Okay. We’ll come back to that later. Why don’t you take this clipboard and fill out the intake paperwork.” He thrust the clipboard into my hands and nodded to some benches lined up along the wall.
“I’ll come to check on you in a few minutes, beautiful. Just have a seat and fill these out.”
“All right…” I took a seat off to the side, next to the wall, and started filling in the sheet. It was all the usual stuff. Name, address, phone number, email, referral name…
Then came the hard stuff—the stuff no one wanted to be tracked on a piece of paper outside of locked medical records.
“Weight, shit…” I mumbled as my pen sat motionless next to the little unassuming black line.
“Did you have a question?” Ty was leaning against the counter, a pen in his hand, just casually watching me fill out the paperwork.
For most people, this was probably the easy part. They just filled in their info like it didn’t define them.
“No…I’m good. Thanks.” I took a deep breath and scrawled the three-digit number into the paper. It’d never bothered me that my number started with a two instead of a one, but this time it burned a little.
Being in this place put me on edge and drained me of all the confidence I had had about my body before coming in and seeing Mr. & Ms. perfect.
The rest of the sheet was reasonably easy to fill out, but I wasn’t sure what to put on the line for medical conditions.
Did I list high cholesterol and sluggish thyroid? Did it matter? Surely they were looking for things that affected your workout. This is why I hated places like these. They wanted all your secrets.
“You ready for me, Hannah?” I hadn’t even noticed him sit down next to me. I reflexively held the clipboard against my chest.
“Yeah…these things are the worst. But we need to know everything so we can set realistic goals for each session. We don’t want people burning themselves out or getting injured because we don’t know something.”
I relaxed a little, and he went to take it, but I pulled it back against my chest.
“Don’t worry…this’ll stay between the staff and the computer. We will never share anything on here without your permission.”
“All the staff?” My eyes drifted to where the supermodel had escaped into the office. She seemed like the type to judge.
“We’re all discreet. Our job is to support you; we want to encourage you. Your success is our success.” He was sincere as he gently pried the information sheet from my grip.
“It’s not like people can’t already tell I’m out of shape.” My head dropped, and I mumbled under my breath.
He placed his finger underneath my chin and pushed my face up. His disarming blue eyes were looking at me with a little bit of fire in them.
“None of that bullshit in here, honey. You’re beautiful, and I think you’re pretty damn brave to come in here all by yourself.”
My heart raced at the amount of passion in his voice. I wasn’t expecting someone who looked like him to be this supportive.
“You’ll do just fine.”
I nodded and turned to face him as he went into detail about what services the studio provided and what equipment they used.
“You have any questions for me, Hannah?”
“No…I think I’m good. I’ll come to ask if I think of anything.”
“Great,” he nodded with a smile on his face. “Are you ready to get your heart rate monitor on and try out your first class?”
He nodded with a smile on his face.
“That’s why you’re here, right?” he asked as his smile grew. “Come on, it’ll be fun. Mal is brutal, but she’s a good coach.”
My heart started pounding as I followed him to the desk, and he placed a heart rate monitor on my forearm. It pinched my skin a little, but I guess they needed this to track my progress.
“You ready to kill this?”
No, no I wasn’t. I was pretty sure it was gonna kill me.
Then I was gonna come back to life and murder Parker for making me do this by myself.
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