“Look, kid, I have a business dinner after work tonight.” Scott set his briefcase on the table long enough to drop an apple and a banana into the open flap, and then fill a travel mug with coffee. “If there’s something you want to do later in the week, let me know and I’ll schedule it in, but otherwise...”
“It’s fine, Dad. I’m here for some sun and relaxation.”
Scott didn’t reply immediately, and Tyler resisted the urge to fill the dead space with further explanations. He hadn’t told his father about his desire to fumble through getting healthy and buff alone, nor did he intend to. Just as Tyler couldn’t stand the awkward silence any longer, Scott nodded, clearly satisfied, and said, “All right; you let me know if you need anything.”
“Really, I’m fine.” Tyler forced a smile. “Don’t work too hard.”
Scott laughed. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t,” he said. He grabbed his keys and briefcase and rushed out the door.
“That won’t be hard,” Tyler mumbled to the closed door.
He pushed aside his cereal bowl and gazed out a sliding glass door guarding the way to a small balcony facing the ocean. The beach called to him, but he hesitated to reveal his pale flesh and gangly form to a whole beach full of people who didn’t know him yet. This summer, he’d turn over a new leaf. He’d been waiting for his teenage body to fill out, yet he still felt sixteen, thin and bony, all sharp angles with little muscle to smooth it all together. Back then, at sixteen, his dad had told him to be patient, and Tyler had tried, but waiting was overrated. Now he would muddle through exercising for the summer and return to campus a different -- and hopefully sexy -- guy.
“But how to start?” He sighed and pushed away from the table. After rinsing his bowl in the sink, Tyler changed into shorts, sneakers, and a T-shirt, grabbed his iPod, and then took the elevator down to the fitness center.
Keeping his head down as he entered the spacious gym, Tyler avoided three men gathered around a bench cheering and jeering each other over how much each could lift in a single round. One straddled the bench and waved his friends forward to add another set of large black weights to the bar.
Tyler sat down at a machine near the door. He studied the design for a moment before putting his arms against the gunmetal gray pads. When he pushed, they didn’t move. He glanced at stack to his right. The pin held eighty pounds. If he’d been alone, he would’ve laughed to blow off the stupid feeling creeping up his spine. Instead, with a quick glance at the men to make sure they still ignored him, Tyler fought past the flush rising up his neck and moved the pin up to thirty. He pressed the pads together. Come on, come on, come on.
They wiggled; the black stack shifted upward an inch and then dropped with a solid thwack
. The little black blocks with their numbers etched in multiples of ten mocked his weak muscles.
The trio of weight lifters glanced in his direction, their voices quieter and indecipherable as they exchanged a few words. Two laughed, and then the third punched them both, refocusing their attention on their workout. Tyler’s cheeks warmed, and he gritted his teeth. Tyler considered changing the pin again, but thanks to the muscle heads in the corner, he felt plenty self-conscious already.
Across the room a treadmill stopped. Tyler had been so intimidated by the lifters casually tossing around metal weighing as much as he did, he hadn’t noticed the noise of the treadmill’s motor until it fell silent. Tyler glanced up. His mouth fell open when he recognized the runner he’d been drooling over in the elevator yesterday. He made sweatpants and a T-shirt look damn sexy. Sun-speckled auburn hair trimmed military short did little to keep sweat from dripping down the sides of his face. His tee clung to cut muscles along broad chest and shoulders but stopped short of his narrow waist. He threw his head back, drinking deeply from a plastic sports bottle. Tyler watched his throat bob with each swallow until the man lowered his drink and looked straight at him.
Snapping his mouth shut and swallowing the lust in his throat, Tyler looked away. He licked his lips. Eyes glued to his sneakers, Tyler squeezed the pads together. The stack climbed a shaky half inch and then slipped from his control, slamming down to its mates.
“Can I help?”
Tyler flinched at the voice. Not at the sound -- he could listen to that rich, friendly voice caress his ears all afternoon -- but the proximity startled him. He glanced up into soft brown eyes, suddenly so much closer and looking right at him, and then quickly dropped his gaze, stuttering as his mind raced faster than his tongue could spit out the words.
“If you raise your seat a couple of notches,” the runner said, “you’ll have better leverage.”
Tyler lifted his gaze upward, inch by inch, crawling up the powerful, muscular legs of a long-distance runner; narrow hips and a waist that didn’t see much junk food; chest muscles under a sticky, wet shirt looking like a plastic toy in their hardened perfection; large hands drying themselves on a white towel; and that jaw, square and stubbled enough to tickle the stomach or thighs when at play.
Oh God, you can leverage me anytime you want.
“W-what?” Tyler pictured the man as he’d seen him in the elevator yesterday -- shirtless. He stole Tyler’s voice in just the same way today.
“Let me show you.” The man waved Tyler away from the machine. Tyler dutifully bowed to the authoritative air of the handsome stranger, waiting patiently to one side as he tugged on the seat, lifting it upward until it clicked into the next position. “Try that.”
Tyler sat as directed. When he pressed against the pads, the weights moved upward. His chest and arms objected, but under the close study of the eye candy smiling down at him, Tyler pushed through, bringing the pads together and then releasing them slowly, determined to keep the stack from slamming down to finish.
“Yeah, thanks,” Tyler said. Then, after a deep breath, he steadied his voice and met the man’s bold stare. “But I want to make sure I’m lifting enough to build muscle.” Like yours.
“That’s why most people come here.” The eye candy grinned, and -- was that a wink?
“You’ll do better with the right form. Hey, I’m just about done. You want me to show you some of my favorites?”
Tyler swallowed hard and took a deep breath. “Sure,” he said with an exhale. “I mean, if you’re not busy.”
When the man threw out his hand and introduced himself, Tyler corralled the dirty thoughts. “I’m Cody Dawson,” the man said. Cody laughed and then dried his hands on his towel. “Sorry, I get into my run. I forget I sweat up a storm by the time I’m done.”
“N-no. No, it’s fine. I’m...” Not used to sexy men talking to me? Yeah, sure, freak him out before you can feel out his intentions.
“You’re new here?”
“Yes. For the summer.”
Tyler shook his head. “Break from school. Senior. In college,” he added quickly. He hated looking younger than his years, and then hated himself more for feeling like he had to clarify that he wasn’t a kid. “I’m Tyler. I live on the third floor.” My name is Luka. I live on the... Oh suave, Tyler.
They shook. Tyler pictured Cody’s hand on his body, squeezing, caressing. When Cody pulled his hand away, Tyler dismissed the fantasy and spoke up. “You look like you’re here a lot.”
“Three times a week. More if the weather is crap.” Cody gestured at the machine to Tyler’s right. “Try this one. It’s great for the back and shoulders.”
Cody walked Tyler through several exercises, working in his sets with additional weight. Cody seemed to understand when Tyler had enough, even as Tyler wondered if he’d have to surrender before Cody finished.
Cody stretched his arms over his head and then bent for his toes. “Stretch it out,” Cody said when he caught Tyler watching. Tyler glanced around at the other machines feigning interest in anything to avoid getting busted staring at the handsome hunk with sweaty muscles and an easy smile.
“I could do a few more.” Tyler sneaked a glance at Cody’s ass when he dropped into a lunge.
“You’ll be sore in the morning as it is.” Cody’s eyes sparkled with his smile.
Tyler mimicked the stretching routine, his mind drifting to Cody’s last words. He could’ve been flirting, though Tyler knew sore muscles were an inevitable result. Just a harmless daydream. Nothing wrong with pretending Cody could be interested.
“Since you’re new here,” Cody said, breaking into the fantasy, “I could show you some of the good places to eat. There are at least three fried-food shacks and one ice-cream stand you need to completely avoid unless you like to risk food poisoning.”
“Really? Yeah, sure. I could use some company.” Even a friend, hopefully more, he thought, damping down his grin.
“Great! I’m in 8-13 when you’re done with your cardio.”
“Cardio? Oh, yes, I suppose I should do that.” Tyler eyed the line of treadmills. He could picture being flung off of one in an attempt to feel like he belonged there.
“Don’t let me stop you,” Cody said. “I’ll show you how they work. They’re a bit different than most places. Every new person in the building swears at them the first week.”
Torn between following through with his plan to get in shape and wanting to hit fast forward on the morning to have lunch with Cody, Tyler reluctantly followed him to an elliptical machine.
“It’s a touch screen, but it’s not very sensitive,” Cody said. “Once you start a program here.” He tapped the screen. “You can use these levers to increase and decrease resistance and incline.” Cody fingered the controls and then turned to face Tyler. “Your call, though. However you want.”
I want you. Just don’t back out on lunch.
“Tyler?” Cody asked.
Tyler nodded. “Sorry, spacing out. I’m still, uh, developing my workout ideas. I hadn’t given much thought to these things.” He gingerly stepped up onto the machine Cody had chosen. It looked more dangerous than the treadmill with its moving hand bars swinging back and forth as he put weight on the treads.
“You’re in luck. I’m a certified trainer.”
“Oh.” Tyler licked his lips. He studied the machine to avoid looking at what he really wanted to. “I don’t... I mean, I haven’t...”
Cody laughed. “I’m not going to charge you. I offered to help, remember?”
Exhaling tension with his breath, Tyler broke a small smile. “Yeah, that.”
“Try this for about twenty minutes.” He patted the console.
Tyler shifted his feet on the oversize platforms, swaying as they moved. He kept his balance by clinging to the heart rate bars. Cody tapped on the screen until it flashed READY.
“Watch the display. It’ll tell you if you need to go faster or slower and when you’re done.”
“Okay,” Tyler said, though his tone said it was anything but okay. He pushed with his feet and pulled with his arms. Slowly the machine started, and the display mocked his speed.
PEDAL QUICKER FOR OPTIMUM HEART RATE.
“Yeah.” Tyler tore his eyes off of the display to look at Cody. “I got it.”
“Great. Drop by after you’re done, and we’ll grab some lunch.”
Tyler stared after him as Cody walked out. He nearly fell off of the machine when he lost sight of his tight, round ass as the door swung shut behind him.