Working out is a daily routine for Dan, who meets his friend Lonnie at the gym to lift weights. But breaking a sweat takes on a whole new meaning when Dan sees Gene, a professional bodybuilder, in the mirror. Dan knows it's a lost cause: he's forty and nursing a broken heart, nowhere in the same league as gorgeous Gene.Then at the gym the next day, Gene asks Dan if he can work out with him. A bet wins Dan a smoothie and conversation, which surprisingly leads to a date. Now Dan is faced with a dilemma: does he allow Gene to elbow his way into his life, or will he give up on the idea of a new relationship before it even starts?
Purchase from Dreamspinner Press
His phone vibrated on the desk next to his keyboard. “Chest @ 4.” Dan hit reply and texted back, “K.” This was a normal exchange that happened almost every day, and Dan smiled to himself. The familiar message meant that in an hour he’d be leaving work and heading to the gym.
“You were vibrating again,” Dan’s co-worker Michelle called out from over the cubicle wall.
“I know, but at least I remembered to turn off the ringer.” He snickered, glad she couldn’t see his face. Michelle was the phone Nazi, picking on co-workers who forgot to silence their cell phones. “Just an hour and I get to leave.”
He heard a snide, “Yeah, yeah.” float over the wall as he got back to work on the report he was finishing for the director.
At quitting time, Dan made sure everything was saved, shut off his computer, and grabbed his stuff before stopping on his way out of the building to fill his water bottle with ice from the machine. Like many things in Dan’s life, this was part of his daily ritual.
Leaving the building, he walked to his car and dumped his bag in the back seat. He slid the water bottle into his gym bag before climbing into the driver’s seat and starting the engine. The drive to the gym was the usual quick and painless five minutes, though it seemed like a world away. The daily pressure of work slipped away as he pushed open the glass doors and walked into the huge, new, gleaming temple of exercise. This was one of the few things Dan did for himself, and he relished it.
“Hey, Dan.” The woman behind the counter greeted him as she scanned his card.
“Hi, Denise.” He didn’t stop to talk; it wasn’t expected. Instead, he hefted his bag and walked to the locker room, choosing one of the polished wood lockers and pulling off his clothes to change.
“Big Pimpin’!” Dan grinned and shook his head, not bothering to look up.
“Hi, Lon.” The man pulled off his shirt and toed off his shoes before slipping his pants down his legs. Smack. “Geez, Lon.” Dan rubbed his butt where Lonnie’s smacked him. “You wait!” Dan pulled on his shorts and slid on a string tank, and then he sat down to put on his shoes.
“Nice panties.” Dan ignored the old and familiar comment. Dan hated the baggie shorts most guys wore; they felt funny on his legs.
“Big ass.” Dan reached out and swatted Lonnie’s butt as he teased, “Do these pants make my butt look big?”
Lonnie twisted around, trying to get a look at his own butt. “Do they?”
Dan rolled his eyes as he got up and locked the locker before grabbing his gloves and water bottle. “No, your ass makes your pants look big.” Dan ducked under Lonnie’s swipe and laughed as they left the locker room together. “You are the most ass-obsessed straight man I’ve ever met,” Dan chided as they walked to the weight area. “Am I fat? Does my ass look big? God, Lon, sometimes I think you’re the gay one—either that or a woman.”
“Would that make Corey a lesbian?” Lonnie said it with such a straight face that Dan couldn’t keep himself from laughing.
“Come on, let’s get started. Bench press or dumbbells?”
“We’ve been using barbells for a while; let’s use dumbbells.” Dan nodded in agreement and grabbed a bench. After setting down his things, he grabbed the sixty pounders for a warm-up, set with Lonnie completing his own set when Dan was done.
They’d just completed their third set and Dan was grabbing the eight-five pounders when he looked up into the mirrors and faltered for a second before picking up the weights. “Lon, who’s the guy on the incline press?” Lonnie knew everyone either because they were his clients or because he was the most outgoing person on Earth. Dan picked up the weights for his set while Lonnie turned around. As Dan lifted the weights and checked his form in the mirror, Lonnie wandered away, returning just as Dan was finishing up his last reps before dropping the weights.
Lonnie scoffed, “That’s Gene Harper.”
The name meant nothing to Dan, and he shrugged slowly, looking in the mirror again as the man finished his set, watching those muscles work as they pushed up almost three hundred pounds.
“He’s a professional,” Lonnie added.
“Do you know him?”
Lonnie shook his head, “Not personally, but he’s been on the cover of just about every muscle and bodybuilding magazine at some point.”
Lonnie took his place on the bench, and Dan helped him hoist the hundred pounders onto his legs before he began his set. Lonnie was more than capable of handling the weight, so Dan found his attention and his eyes shifting to the mirrors and the absolute vision working out at the bench behind them. He watched as the bodybuilder finished his set and clanked the weight into the bench rack. Dan returned his attention to Lonnie and then glanced back in the mirror and right into the bodybuilder’s reflected eyes.
The intensity of his gaze made Dan shiver slightly, and he quickly turned his eyes away as Lonnie’s weights thudded onto the floor. Dan took a sip from his bottle and got the weights for his own set, doing his best not to check in the mirror again, but he couldn’t help it.
“Quit making goo-goo eyes and do your set,” Lonnie scolded.
“Look who’s talking.” Dan watched as Lonnie’s fiancée approached and his expression went all mushy.
“Hey, Chicken.” Dan couldn’t help snorting softly. Lonnie was the only man on Earth who’d nickname his vegan fiancée “Chicken.” Pulling his eyes jealously away from their cooing and light kisses, he reclined on the bench, and pushed his weights into position. He got five reps with the ninety-fives and then dropped the weights and sat back up, his eyes checking the mirror again, but the bench behind them was empty.
Dan’s attention turned back to Lonnie and Chicken—Corey—and smiled as he watched them. “Lonnie, don’t you two do enough of that at home?”
Corey walked over and gave Dan a brief kiss on the cheek. “How are you?”
“I’m good, Gorgeous, how are you?”
Corey swiped at Dan’s arm and looked away. “Stop it.” Lonnie’s fiancée was a beautiful, fit, bright woman who refused to believe how attractive she was. Lonnie gave her another quick kiss.
Lonnie waved toward the benches as he took a swig from Dan’s water bottle. “Let’s grab an incline bench.”
Dan nodded and picked up his things, moving to the only free bench and grabbing the weights. He’d just gotten them in place when he saw the bodybuilder walk alongside him and pick up one of the weights from the rack. Dan almost dropped the weights on his chest when he saw the man bend over, his pants drawing tight over a butt to die for. Jesus, Dan, pay attention! He returned his focus to the weights and completed his set, just barely, before dropping the weight. He and Lonnie continued with their sets, with Dan peeking in the mirror and watching the bodybuilder as he went about his routine, and they finished theirs.
“Sauna?” Lonnie picked up his weight belt and took another swig of water.
“Yeah, I need it.” Dan’s muscles were tight, and the heat would help loosen them up so they wouldn’t be sore the next day. He filled the water bottle from the drinking fountain and headed into the locker room. Lon pulled off his shirt and headed into the shower and sauna area while Dan changed into a bathing suit and followed behind him.
When he got in the sauna, Lonnie was already regaling the others with some of his stories of past debauchery. “Nice suit, Princess,” he teased.
Dan turned around and wiggled his butt at him. “Thanks, Tinkerbell.” Most of the guys had heard this type of exchange before, and it didn’t faze them at all; they knew Lonnie. The conversation turned to workout routines, as it usually did.
“I need to lose weight.” This was another of Lonnie’s refrains.
Dan couldn’t restrain himself. “It won’t do you any good, and you know it. Dieting is not going to shrink your J. Lo ass.” Lonnie was indeed unfortunate in the butt department. “You just have to face it: you’re seven percent body fat with your middle-aged mother’s ass.” They guys all laughed, mainly because it was true.
In response, Lonnie grabbed Dan’s water bottle and blew a fountain of water at him.
“That’s two I owe you Lonnie,” Dan quipped as he snatched back the bottle.
After relaxing nicely, Dan left the sauna to get cleaned up. Walking into the shower area, he took one of the stalls and started the water. Dan heard Lonnie wander in a few minutes later. Now was the time. Reaching outside the shower, Dan grabbed the water bottle and filled it, the ice still clinking. Slowly he opened his curtain and saw Lonnie’s head of black hair. With a quick move, he dumped the water into the other shower.
A scream of surprise from the shower made Dan smile. The shower curtain opened, and Dan found himself face-to-face, naked body to naked body, with… the bodybuilder.