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By Robyn Amos
BETCopyright © 2007 Robyn Amos
All right reserved.
"Control is the most important thing," Cara Williams in-structed her sixteen-year-old client. "You need to control paying attention?"
Though the plump, redheaded girl nodded in agreement, Cara's gaze followed Wendy's across the trendy health club to a man pumping iron in a tank top that covered little more than suspenders would have.
Cara shook her head in amusement. "Okay, this exercise will strengthen your triceps." Tossing the black rope of her French braid over her shoulder, she selected two five-pound free-weights from the rack in front of her. Cara demonstrated the exercise by bending her knees and elbows, then extend-ing her arms behind her. "Now you try it."
Wendy awkwardly took the weights, but her attention clearly centered on a golden Adonis doing chin-ups a few feet away. "Concentrate, Wendy." Since their training session had begun, Cara hadn't received more than half of the girl's at-tention. The other half, Wendy gave generously to any well-muscled man in her field of vision. But Cara wasn't upset. This was only their first session, and she knew the novelty of being around so many men would soon wear off. Not even the most impressively muscled physique could turn Cara's head anymore.
Wendy slightly bent her knees and flung her arms out from in the stomach.
"Wendy! Watch out!" Cara called too late.
Wendy released her grip on the weights, dropping one on the man's foot.
Cara rushed to help the tallmahogany-skinned man to one of the benches lining the mirrored walls. She knelt at his feet. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm okay. Just feels like I stubbed my toe, on a freight train," he said, trying to smile through his wince when she touched his foot.
"Let me have a look at it." Cara rested his injured foot on her thigh and gently removed his shoe and sock, as Wendy stood silently behind her.
Cara swallowed a gasp. A dark patch had already begun to form under his big toenail. She raised her gaze to his face and awareness crumbled her composure like a wrecking ball crumbles a building. Dark eyes watched her intently as she took in his strong features and well-groomed mustache, which was complimented by a sexy five-o'clock shadow.
Cara lowered her head, trying to refocus on his injury. The soft hair covering his muscular leg teased her fingertips as she cradled his foot. Her cheeks burned. Suddenly, the contact seemed far too intimate. "Ya need some help?" Her brawny coworker, Matt, knelt beside her. "It's okay. I'll take over, now."
In her haste to move aside, Cara dropped the injured man's foot roughly to the floor. Wincing, she apologized as Matt escorted him to the club's first aid center.
Cara had no time to brood over her uncharacteristic loss of composure. When she turned around, she saw Wendy clamp down on her lower lip and blink rapidly, trying to avert her face.
Cara reached for her arm. "Wendy? Are you okay?"
The girl simply stared back, trembling as tears silently trickled down her hot, pink cheeks. She raked her fingers through her frizzy red hair, becoming more agitated by the minute. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, I was--"
"It's okay. He'll be fine. It was just an accident." Wendy continued to fret, and Cara folded the younger girl into her arms, surprised by how tightly Wendy gripped her in return--like a five-year-old who'd fallen on the playground. Sabrina, Tower Vista's manager, had warned her that Wendy was a bit immature for sixteen, but considering what Cara knew of the girl's parents, Wendy's fragile state wasn't surprising.
Earlier, Sabrina had told Cara to work on a fitness plan for Wendy Townsend at the request of the girl's influential parents. Apparently, the Townsends were high-society types whose overweight daughter didn't fit their image of all-American perfection. Cara had grimaced. The parents told Sabrina that Wendy had been placed on a strict diet. They expected her personal trainer to monitor Wendy's eating habits so she couldn't sneak any junk food while at the club.
Cara hugged Wendy closer. Personal trainers and nutrition courses were ridiculous for a teenage girl. Wendy was only slightly overweight, and a light workout routine would melt away those few extra pounds in no time. Thanks to the Townsend's tyrannical behavior, Wendy was so insecure that a little accident turned her into a basket case. They should have helped her become comfortable with who she was, instead of trying to mold her into their idea of perfection.
"It's okay, Wendy. Everything is going to be fine," Cara murmured. "Why don't you go to the bathroom and wash your face?"
Wendy nodded and started toward the locker room.
Cara sat on a bench to wait. Finally, I can take a breath. Then a face flashed in her mind. An attractive face with a sexy five-o'clock shadow. Cara frowned. Wendy's bad habits must be rubbing off on me.
Anthony-James Gray had chosen Tower Vista Health Club specifically for its modern conveniences. It was located on the top three floors of Bethesda, Maryland's lakefront Tower Building, and specialized in comfort. It was the largest facility of its kind in Maryland, D.C., or northern Virginia, and the club's wealthy patrons wanted for nothing. In addition to state-of-the-art equipment, private gyms, and two heated swimming pools, the club had its own sportswear shop, exotic juice bar, cafeteria, and first aid facility. But he'd never expected to need it.
"So, how did this happen?" asked the sports director who examined his foot.
A.J. grinned at the top of the older man's head. He hated to admit he'd been laid out by a teenybopper. "Uh, someone dropped a free weight on my foot." He winced as the man prodded his toe. "So what's the verdict, doc? Will I live?"
The tow-headed man faced him with a smile. "Fortunately, your toe is only bruised, but it'll be tender for a while."
"Will this affect my workout?"
"I'd go easy on it for a week or two, but you can still do stationary exercises. No jogging or aerobics."
A.J. grinned in relief. He didn't know what he would have done if the doc had said he couldn't work out at all. He needed to blow off steam when the pressures of his computer con-sulting company got to him--like now.
For weeks, pursuing the Ross, Locke & Malloy account had kept tension high at Capital Consulting. Now that they had the account, tension was even higher. Never before had Capital secured a contract as big as the international law firm. If everything went well in the D.C. offices, the firm would contract Capital to work on their systems all over the country. That kind of business could convert Capital from a growing consulting firm to a multimillion-dollar corporation.
The business was doing well, but A.J. had his hands full trying to keep everything together. It wasn't the business itself that made things difficult. As Capital Consulting's president, he welcomed responsibility. He never shirked a duty, and he never let anyone down. He knew how to handle pressure. It was his partners, Whittaker and Parker, who tested his limits.
Today, after giving presentations to three different depart-ments of the law firm, A.J. had had to cater to Whittaker's ob-session for detail. Did he review the budget changes? Did he enunciate his words? Was his breath fresh? A.J. rolled his eyes. He wished the old man would lighten up. But that was nothing compared to what Parker had put him through.
That afternoon, A.J. had driven all the way to southeast D.C. to have Parker sign some papers that were three days overdue. A.J. had sent the man three different sets, each of which Parker claimed to have misplaced. When Parker saw the forms that A.J. hand-delivered, he'd had the nerve to say "Oh, those papers!" as he pulled down a wrinkled set from a bulletin board on his wall.
A.J. clenched his fists and narrowed his eyes. He'd never know how he'd managed to get out of there without strangling--"Whoa, what are you thinking about? You look like you're about to kill someone," the doctor said, placing a final piece of tape on A.J.'s toe bandage.
A.J. blinked back to attention. "Just thinking about what a rotten day I've had."
The doctor smiled at him. "I guess this free-weight business didn't help any."
"Believe it or not, by comparison, this is a picnic." He re-membered the stricken expression on the face of the little redhead who'd clobbered him. Maybe he would have been more upset if the poor kid hadn't looked so stunned, and her trainer so sexy.
A.J. grinned. Having the lady trainer examine his injury had been the high point of his day. He could still feel her soft, cool hands gliding over his leg, and he could still see the concern in her large, almond-shaped, brown eyes. He was never in too much pain to appreciate an attractive woman. She had a narrow, oval face with a smooth, honey-brown complex-Unlike some of the overworked bodies he often saw at the gym, the trainer's figure, well toned and defined, was still feminine and curvaceous. He'd seen many women wearing the same blue-and-green Tower Club tracksuit, but he'd never seen her before. He would have remembered her.
He shifted uncomfortably. His thoughts were getting out of hand. He looked up at the doctor. "Am I all set?"
When the doctor nodded, A.J. left the first aid center and headed for the auxiliary gym where he used to teach tae kwon do class. It had been a while since he'd stopped in to visit the kids. His workout had been shot to hell anyway.
A.J. caught a glimpse of blue and green from the corner of his eye, and his head snapped around to follow it. He had to laugh when he realized what he'd done. Why was he thinking about her? He wasn't usually attracted to athletic women. Glamorous cosmopolitans were more his type. A.J. paused in the doorway of the martial arts room, remembering the trainer's elegant features and the sassy braid she'd kept tossing over her shoulder. It was time to get a new type.
Excerpted from Promise Me by Robyn Amos Copyright © 2007 by Robyn Amos. Excerpted by permission.
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