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Flawless: Chapter 9

Rhett

Summer: Want to come to the gym with me? It will be good for you. You can’t just lie around all week.

Rhett: Are you my new personal trainer now too?

Summer: Will that make you feel better about me being here?

Rhett: Maybe.

Summer: Well, then, I’m whatever you want me to be.

Rhett: That’s a dangerous thing to say.


“I’ve been doing a bit of reading on good exercises for bull riders.” Summer is waiting right outside the men’s changing room, talking at me the second I clear the door.

“Uh huh,” I say as I step ahead of her toward the cardio area, pulling my hair back with an elastic. Treadmills, bikes, and elliptical trainers face out the windows onto Rosewood Street.

“Do you usually work out much?” She peers up at me curiously as I opt for a bike, thinking it will help stretch out my hip, and shove my water bottle into the holder as I climb up.

“Usually. Lots of balance stuff. But not lately. It’s harder on the road sometimes.”

She hops up on the bike beside me. “I can also help you with exercises to accommodate whatever injuries you might have.” And then she makes this adorable squeaking noise and falls forward onto the handles of her bike. “Shit.”

I look down and stop one side of my mouth from hitching up. She was so busy talking to me that she failed to notice the seat on the bike she chose was way too high for someone as short as her and tipped forward when she reached for the pedal.

Her cheeks are all pink like she’s embarrassed. I try to focus on the fact that she appears to be hilariously off balance rather than gawking at how insanely good she looks in gym clothes. The way they hug her curves could almost make a guy jealous.

“Should I ask if they have any child-sized bikes you can ride?”

“Very funny.” She hops off and eyes the bike like it’s personally offended her somehow. “I hate cardio.”

“Is it because the machinery is too complicated for you?” I wink at her, and she scowls as I step off my bike and point at the too-high seat. “Stand next to it.”

Her arms cross. “I’m perfectly capable of adjusting the seat on my own bike.”

“Could have fooled me,” I mumble as I rotate the knob to loosen the post and drop it down. I raise an eyebrow at her to see if she plans on stepping closer so I can measure the seat for her, but she just continues to mean-mug me. So, I eyeball the height, shrug when it looks good enough, and then hop back onto my bike and start the warmup program.

Eventually, she reaches out and readjusts the seat. Up. Down. And then settles on the exact same spot I had it in the first place.

Stubborn.

“Ah, yes. That looks so much better,” I huff out while keeping my eyes trained on the road out front. I don’t need to turn my gaze on her to know she’s scowling at me.

“Like I said, I’m perfectly capable of doing it myself. Especially if you’re going to be a snarky prick about helping me. What if I’d been injured?”

I shake my head and bite back a smile. “Are you injured, Princess?”

“No,” she grumbles as she hops back on and pedals. “But you are.”

“I’m not. I’m fine.”

“You’re a terrible liar.” Now it’s her turn to shake her head at me, but she doesn’t push it any further. Instead, she pops her buds into her ears and blocks me out as she drops her head and gets to work.

And she works hard. Harder than me. Because I’m too busy stealing glances at her and trying not to get caught. There are enough locals in here already who’ll be talking about the fact I was here with some girl. I don’t need to give them more gossip fodder than that.

But the way sweat shimmers on her skin is fucking distracting. The way her chest heaves and the pulse point in her neck flutters.

It’s almost annoying. That I can’t stop stealing glances. That I’m so painfully aware of her right next to me.

But the most annoying thing of all is that she doesn’t pay me any attention at all. And after twenty minutes, she hops off her bike, wipes it down, and walks away—giving me the most glorious view of her pert ass—without saying a goddamn word to me.

I’m fairly certain Shirley at the front desk sees me staring at Summer’s ass while she walks across the gym toward a squat rack. She raises her eyebrows at me and smiles knowingly, erasing any questions about whether she saw me.

I drop my head back down and try to focus on my own workout, my own body. Taking physical inventory of every ache and pain. The more I move, the better my hip feels. I knew a few days of rest would help that. But my shoulder still isn’t right, and it isn’t getting better very quickly either.

Deep down, I suspect there’s something more going on than a simple strain that will take a few days off to heal. You beat your body up for this many years, and you know the difference.

But I don’t want to admit it. Because if I let myself accept it, I’ll just feel worse. I’ll start second-guessing myself. And I can’t afford to do that.

I peek over at Summer again. She’s seated on the ground with her back pressed against a bench and a long barbell resting across her waist. When my gaze traces down to the end of it, my eyes bulge. The number of plates she has stacked there seems, well, almost impossible for a woman her size.

But then her hips thrust up, and she lifts the bar with the strength of her . . . I don’t even know. Her ass? The way it’s clenching, the way her lips part on a heavy breath.

It’s all just confirmation that I’m a fucking pervert.

Just perverted enough to ditch my bike and wander over for a closer look. I don’t have to like Summer to be impressed by her, right?

“What’s this one called?” I ask as I approach.

“Hip thrust. Want to try?”

Do I ever.

The way she’s staring up at me right now makes my dick twitch.

She points down at the bar, though, and my hip spasms just looking at it. “No, thanks.”

“Is it because you’re injured?” She gives me a flat, snarky little smile. I don’t think I’m fooling her at all.

“I’m not injured,” I reply, feeling her gaze coast over me, mimicking the sweat trailing down my spine.

She just sighs. “Okay. You’re not injured. But . . .” She rolls the bar off herself and pushes to stand before me. I watch a bead of perspiration roll down her chest, through the valley between her breasts, and straight into her hot pink sports bra. “Pretend a bull rider was injured.”

Summer flips a palm in my direction and widens her eyes slightly. “What would be a common injury for him to deal with?”

I regard her, seeing what she’s doing here and trying to decide if I want to trust her enough to go with it.

“Hands and shoulders,” I blurt. She nods as my eyes drop to the bar she was hip thrusting. “And sometimes hips.”

Her finger taps against her lips, and she hums thoughtfully. “So, this pretend bull rider would probably benefit from a specialized workout that includes core exercises? And maybe some stretching?”

I feel some of my tension seep out. I feel relief that this hasn’t turned into a scolding or a conversation about how reckless I am. And with my hands propped on my hips, I offer her a stiff nod.

One she returns before putting me to work until my abs burn.

Twenty minutes later, I wheeze, “I’m tapping out.” I flop back on the mat, absolutely brutalized by the petite powerhouse who just tried to murder me with her “specialized workout.”

Specialized to kill me.

“Okay, let’s stretch,” is how she responds as she tosses a mat down and kneels beside me. When I glance up at her, a faint smile touches her lips, and her eyes dart around my face.

“Why do you look so pleased with yourself? I can see that evil little smile,” I pant out, still trying and failing to catch my breath.

She just laughs, reaching for some long piece of foam that she brought over earlier. “It’s a satisfied smile. That was fun.”

“You like to torture men for kicks. Got it.”

She pats me on the shoulder. “Only the ones who deserve it.”

I huff out a laugh. Because I probably do deserve it.

“Okay, sit up. I’m going to slide this under your back and let you lie on it for a bit. Open up the shoulders, stretch out the chest.”

I’m pushed up to sitting before she even finishes her sentence and find myself face-to-face with her. Closer than I should be, eyes glued to the way her lips move and the flashes of white teeth behind them as she chatters away.

She has no idea how distracting she is.

When she reaches around me with the foam roller, I catch a whiff of cherries and the salty tang of sweat.

“ . . . and then you’ll let your shoulders drop to the floor.”

I missed most of what she was saying, but she’s oblivious. Her small palm lands carelessly in the middle of my chest and presses me back down to the floor.

I think about how bad a chicken farm smells to keep from getting hard. And once I’m lying flat, spine propped over the rounded foam piece, I force myself to focus on the banks of lights above me and the clanking of machinery around me rather than the way she looks hovering over me and the quiet way she murmurs, “Good job.”

She counts under her breath, and I let my eyes close, trying to relax onto the roller, letting myself soften into the stretch across my back and chest. The pain slowly easing when her touch moves to the front of my shoulder, gently pressing down, deepening the stretch.

“How does that feel?” Summer’s voice is curious.

I peer up at her, taking in the earnest expression on her face. The damp hairs at the base of her neck just below her ear. She really is fucking lovely.

And all her attention is on me.

“Really good,” I reply, my voice all gravel. Then I risk looking her in the eye as I husk a deep, “Thank you.”

She brightens, a soft, satisfied smile gracing her features. “You’re welcome. Any time.”

And just like that, I think I have my first gym crush.


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