Authors: Shelly Davis
Turning around, I met his gaze and instantly the walls started to crumble.
Finally convincing her to come into the gym with me, I dragged her toward the locker rooms. She needed to exercise and relax. She hadn’t been in for more than a week, she had to have been craving the release from a good workout.
“Go ahead. I ain’t goin’ anywhere. If you wanna talk, we can talk later, no pressure.”
I ached to touch her. I wanted to feel her melt in my arms again and taste her mouth on mine. I wanted to feel her curves in my hands and pressed against my body. My hands smoothing up her perfect silky skin and through her soft, curly hair.
But I wasn’t gonna touch her. If anything was gonna happen between us, if she was ever gonna be mine, she had to make that decision. I wanted to make it for her, but I knew that would never work. I didn’t fight for her once, but she didn’t fight for herself either. Maybe we were both finally in a place where we could be what the other truly needed.
The dressing room door closed between us, keeping us apart. But signaling one incredibly important thing – she wasn’t trying to run away from me again. She was staying.
“What’re you doin’?” Toni asked, walking up to me. “Stalkin’ the ladies locker room for a reason?”
“I ain’t stalkin’ the damn locker room, smart ass. I just walked Mia into the building. Grant followed her here. He tried cornerin’ her by boxin’ her in between two cars. She called for help, so we met her in the parkin’ lot.”
“Is she okay?” Toni’s face instantly turned worried.
“She’s fine. He didn’t get near her, but I had to make a point. I may’ve scared her.” I hadn’t thought about it before, but seeing me punch her ex might have upset her.
“I’m goin’ in to get changed. I’ll let you know if she’s upset. Just relax and back off, I’ll let you know if she’s wantin’ to talk or not.”
I nodded and started for my office. I had a private training session coming in soon anyway.
After my training session, I was tired and wanted to talk to Mia. I had no idea what she was thinking, but I sure as hell was ready to stop worrying about the past. Can’t move forward if you’re too busy living in the past. “She okay?” Cade asked when I walked into the office. “She seemed a little freaked out earlier.”
“I don’t know,” I said, shrugging. It had been more than an hour since Toni disappeared into the locker room. She said she’d let me know, but I’d only seen glimpses of them since. Mia was like the energizer bunny on most of the equipment, where Toni was more about the speed and agility. “I haven’t actually spoken to her yet. Toni was supposed to let me know if she was okay, but I’ve barely seen them.”
“They’re in the private gym area,” Gage said entering the room. “Jules and Kyle came in with one of the pit crew members.”
“Shit, that’s right,” Cade complained. “I’m supposed to be meetin’ them tonight. I can’t wait for this damn semester to be done so I can be finished with this shit. It’ll be worth it, but I don’t like bein’ so busy that I can’t keep shit straight.”
“Don’t worry about it, brother,” I said. “Gage and I keep most of it straight. Just worry about what you need.”
“I know,” Cade sighed but then smiled. “Besides, I heard from a little birdy that everything is goin’ well with that building we looked at with Monique. We may need more time to get that up and runnin’. We’re gonna be regular business men.”
“I don’t know about that,” I complained. Monique told me the same thing. She’d been calling regularly to give me updates on the building. The family was extremely interested in making the sale go smoothly. They were also interested in the fact that I was a local who was invested in the town, just like their uncle was.
“I’m bringin’ in a couple more guys from class to take some more of the personal trainin’ sessions, and Faith is gonna take on more responsibility. I’m teachin’ her how to do the books this week. I figure one of us will still take care of payroll. But with me trainin’ Julius’ pit crew and Gage’s baby comin’ any day, we need more help.”
“Yeah. More help would be good.” I paused then said, “We better get in there, if you’re supposed to meet them, they’re probably wonderin’ where you are.”
Cade turned to Gage. “What were they doin’ in there?”
“Last I saw, Toni, Jules, and Kyle were discussing something privately while Mia and some guy were talking.” Gage looked at me with a smirk on his face.
Sonofabitch. Who the hell did they bring in with them? If it was Kevin, it was no big deal, he was my dad’s age and a happy bachelor for life. But there were lots of uninvolved, younger guys on that team.
“I’m gonna see what’s up,” I announced, walking toward the door.
“Don’t beat the shit outta anyone in the gym, please,” Cade laughed. “We don’t wanna scare away Julius’ team. We’re tryin’ to get them all here for trainin’, remember? Tell them I’ll be there in a minute.”
I didn’t say a word. I just wanted to know who the hell was in there with her.
I burst through the doors to find some asshole helping her with the butterfly machine. Her form was always perfect, she didn’t need help. She had a smile on her face, explaining that she didn’t need help, but he still didn’t take his hands off her.
Toni turned her head and looked at me, then she looked toward Mia. “Oh, shit,” she said before calling out to the asshole. “Jeff, how about comin’ over here and helpin’ Ky figure out when we can get y’all in to start trainin’.” She turned to Jules and smiled. “Let’s go get Cade, he’s supposed to start settin’ up a trainin’ schedule for the off season.” Jules nodded and the two of them walked away as the Jeff prick went to Kyle, grumbling.
I walked over to Mia who was still on the butterfly machine. “You need help?” I asked, nodding toward the prick across the room.
“God no,” she grumbled. “He just wasn’t gettin’ the hint. I told him I was fine, but he insisted I wasn’t doin’ it right. I was just ready to flip because he put his hand on me.” I nodded and started to walk away, ready to keep to my promise of not pushing her until she wanted to talk to me. But then she spoke up, stopping me in my tracks. “Would … Would you mind just watchin’ and checkin’ to make sure I’m doin’ this right? Hearin’ him tell me my form was bad has me all screwed up now.”
Turning toward her, I nodded and smiled. “Yeah, sure.” I moved in behind her so I could see her posture and movement. “Go ahead when you’re ready.”
She adjusted herself and started her reps. My fingers hummed with the urge to touch her. I slammed my fists into my pockets to try to stop myself from doing anything stupid.
The muscles in her shoulders and arms moved fluidly. Her slim, smooth back was beautiful, the sinew in her arms and shoulders perfectly defined. I allowed myself the moment to enjoy the view of her gorgeous body. The tight, long, lean muscles, flexed with each movement. Her golden brown skin glistened with her exertion. But she leaned forward too far and slouched her posture slightly. I’d never seen her slump before. I glanced toward the asshole talking to Kyle, did he mess up her posture? Unable to stop myself, I placed one hand on her shoulder and the other on the silky skin between her shoulder blades. She hesitated for a moment, but I felt her pull in a deep breath just before she sat up and continued. Her movements were smooth and methodical, but I knew she felt me just as much as I felt her. For several moments, I refused break contact.
“You’re slouchin’ a little,” I said quietly, smoothing my hands across her shoulders. Back and forth, I moved my hands across her skin, feeling goosebumps erupt under my touch.
I almost forgot about the others who were in the room. When Toni, Jules, and Cade came through the door talking, I was finally forced to back away. Before leaving completely, I bent in behind her and breathed in the raspberry scent of her shampoo and the sweetness of her sweaty skin. She smelled amazing. “I’ll be around if you wanna talk,” I promised, whispering in her ear.
Breaking contact completely, I moved across the room to where the group stood.
With the season over and Cade’s graduation looming, they were working out ways to make the pit crew faster. I gathered there was a specific problem with this Jeff asshole. He apparently thought he knew everything and I could see Toni was having a hard time dealing with him.
Instead of sticking around for whatever confrontation they were going to have, I decided to go back to the office. Whatever they had Cade working on was going to be great for the gym and for their team, if they could pull it off. But I had enough going on, I wanted to focus on the possibility of my restaurant. What Monique didn’t know, and what I tried to hide from everyone, was when she showed me that building, she ignited an inferno inside me. Now more than ever, I wanted to strike out on my own.
Back in the office, I tried to focus on billing and paperwork for the gym. But I smelled Mia all over my hands. Her scent filled me with happy memories. I remembered us as kids, going to the lake in the woods behind our house. It was like our own private little piece of heaven. Racing bikes around Mike’s parking lot at the garage and going to bonfires after football games through tenth grade. Of course there were bonfires all though high school, but by then we were no longer talking. Although we weren’t talking, I always watched her. I was always there.
“Jake,” Mia’s sweet voice startled me out of my memories. “Can I come in?” she asked, peeking her head around the door.
“Sure,” I said, standing. I gestured to the couch, and waited for her to sit before sitting back at the desk. She still had on her tiny tank top and the tight yoga pants that hugged every curve perfectly. I imagined running my hands over her tight little body and kissing her sweet mouth. I could go to her; close the distance between us, take her in my arms, and feel her pressed against me. But this had to be about what she wanted, not me.
She looked down, fiddling with her fingers – seeming nervous and unsure. Instead of talking, she picked up the newspaper from the coffee table, but I knew she wasn’t reading anything. “Toni’s front page news. Did you see that the car chief’s supposed to step down and they’re expectin’ the owner to name Toni as the first female car chief?”
I knew all this and I knew she did too. Mia was just filling empty air with small talk. She kept her face buried in the newspaper, as if she was invested in what it had to say.
“Yeah, I heard. It’s a good article.” Giving into my desire to be near her, I moved to the couch. All those years I believed she never loved me, only to find out she did care. Even after she told me what happened, I still asked Toni. I had to know she was being honest. When Toni verified the story, I was sick. Why hadn’t she told me before? Why hadn’t Toni? Of course I never once stopped to ask.
She was the most beautiful woman I’d ever known. A naïve beauty, full of self-doubt and unease. The calligraphy on her collarbone was more visible, but I couldn’t focus on the scrawling letters. I needed to focus on her. Her worried eyes and unsure smile drew me.
A series of misunderstandings, broken hearts, and lost opportunities spanned the time between us. I wanted it back.
Reaching my hand to her cheek, I whispered, “Mia, look at me.” The feeling that came over me every time I touched her was unexplainable. No woman had ever had that kind of effect on me. Even in my mind it sounded ridiculous, but it was true. Whatever the hell it was, it made me want to touch her more. To put my hands all over her and feel her skin pressed against mine. It was addictive and she was my drug.
I gently turned her face to look at me, but her eyes were still downcast. There was so much to say. So much time and distance between us. “Dammit, Mia. Why didn’t you come to me?”
Her eyes met mine, and I willed her to open up to me again.
“I should’ve,” she whispered. “I should’ve trusted you to stand by me when I needed you. But I didn’t know how.”
Her breathing grew shallow, and she held my eyes, searching for something.
Placing my other hand on her cheek, I never broke contact. Eyes wide, she watched me slowly move in.
I moved my lips closer, never taking my gaze from hers while waited for her to make a choice. When she didn’t push me away, I finally took what I wanted.
Kissing her was like going home. I held my hands on her face, tasting her sweet, full lips. I felt like I could never get enough. Like she was the air I needed to breathe.
She was hesitant, almost like she was afraid to touch me. She slid her fingers across my shoulders and then they snaked around my neck and pulled at the short hairs at the nape. Only our lips touched, but the beautifully feminine sound that vibrated through her made me crazy. She was perfect, I wanted so much more of her. I wanted everything. Mia had a power over me that no other woman ever had. She always had it and she probably always would.