“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.