Matthew Hennessey is intrigued by his shy new client at the gym. But before he gets the chance to ask her out, he discovers she's the one crafting the flirty texts sent to him by a woman who wouldn't know Lord Byron from Lady Gaga. To get to know her better, he allows Lexie to play her role. She may have given up on the idea of romance, but Matthew's bound and determined to show her love is alive and well in New York City.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)|
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Text Me, Maybe
A Single in the City Story
By Jolyse Barnett, Candace Havens
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Jolyse Barnett
All rights reserved.
Alexandra Bloom tugged her XL sweatshirt down over curvy hips and whistled under her breath. Wow. Her new firm's fitness center was unlike any gym she'd ever seen, with its high ceilings, gleaming oak floors, and killer view of the East Side. She should've known. This was Park Avenue in Manhattan, not Broad Street in Philly. For some reason, when her coworkers had mentioned this place, she'd pictured a gray, musty space with cement block walls.
Nope. Definitely nothing like Rocky or anything she'd ever seen back in rural Pennsylvania. And the music? The frenetic techno beat that vibrated the soles of her new cross-trainers was nothing like Top 40 or the twang of Country.
Everything here was so different.
Stop. No homesickness allowed. New York's where I need to be.
Taking a deep breath, she scanned the row of occupied cardio machines for any sign of Isabella, her coworker and friend of three weeks, or one of those friendly personal trainers Jacob & Carnes's Human Resources Department had promised were part of the package.
"Hey!" Isabella waved from across the room, running top speed on a treadmill as if it were a walk in Central Park. The woman could be the kind easy to hate — tall and slender, with shimmering black hair and a smooth, olive complexion — if she weren't so damned sweet and full of positive energy.
Lexie jogged over to the treadmill. "Sooo ... this is where everyone goes after work on a Friday night?"
"Gotta work off all those mocha lattes and Auntie Annie's pretzels." Isabella laughed, glancing at the treadmill's readout. "I'll be finished in thirty. You want this if nothing else opens up?"
"I'd hoped one of those guys in the powder blue polo shirts would be available, but looks like I'm out of luck." Lexie stared dreamily at all the trainers working with other clients.
"Gotta schedule them in advance." Her friend hooked a manicured thumb in the direction of a small, glass-partitioned room behind them. "You want to stretch for a bit and do some weights while you wait, chica?"
"Uh, sure." Lexie eyed the empty weight room. "Good idea," she added, trying her best to be upbeat and confident. "See you in a few." Well, at least there wouldn't be anyone to see her screw up, right?
But doubt crept in when she reached the doorway and was greeted by a rack of dumbbells, medicine balls, two padded benches, and bar weights. Eek. Talk about intimidating. Just because she knew their names didn't mean she had a clue how to use them. Pushing out thoughts of catching the subway back to her Lower East Side apartment, she made a beeline for the poster taped to the back wall.
Lexie stared at the stick figures holding barbells in a variety of positions. The barbell went ... Okay, but if it went there, how did it stay ...
She tilted her head to try to decipher the images from another angle.
Nope. No use.
Shifting her weight, she stared down at her freshly manicured nails, one of the unspoken expectations at her new firm — like wearing heels and not flats. Or participating in J&C events. Yeah, that. If she wanted to survive the company's 5K in five weeks, she'd better get her butt in gear. Duffel tossed aside, she stepped onto a nearby mat and began to stretch.
Fifteen minutes later, she'd completed her impromptu warm-up but there still weren't any open cardio spots, and nine long minutes remained until Isabella's was available. She shrugged. Might as well give the weights a try. The straight bar on the floor near the mirrored back wall was already loaded. Walking over to take a closer look, she read the weights. 25 lbs.? Packed suitcases weighed more.
She rubbed her hands together, crouched next to the bar and reached out. Taking a deep breath, she wrapped her fingers over the cold metal and slid her hands shoulder width apart. Easy peasy. Now what?
"Want a spotter?"
Lexie rocked back on her heels and peeked through the strands of brown hair that had escaped her ponytail.
Black bike shorts stared back at her, molding muscular thighs and —
"Oh ..." Cheeks burning, she tore her gaze away.
The owner of the impressive bulge cleared his throat.
She scrambled to her feet, and powder blue filled her world, the shirt hugging six-pack abs, a massive sculpted chest, and large, well-defined shoulders.
Well, well, well. I'd wanted a trainer.
Thor with a haircut held out a large, utterly capable looking hand. "Let me help."
Lexie waved him off. "No need. I've got it." Where had that breathless voice come from? And why couldn't she stop staring? Was it the strong jaw or the killer smile or the warm, hazel eyes? She glanced at the name embroidered on the polo. Not Thor, Matthew.
He threaded long fingers through his thick, brown hair.
Her hands itched to join his. What was wrong with her tonight? First the sexy kitten voice, now the temptation to touch. Stepping back, she caught a glimpse of his backside in one of the mirrors. Yup, as fine as the front, every inch sheer, chiseled perfection. She licked her lips, mouth suddenly dry.
Matthew tilted his head. "First time?"
Lexie nodded, unable to get her brain to coordinate with her mouth, and all her mouth wanted to do was latch onto that delicious skin where his neck met his shoulder. "I ..." What was the question?
His gaze fixed on her sweatshirt logo. "Lehigh University?"
Get a grip. It's just bone and muscle in a really nice arrangement. Right?
"Graduated four years ago." There was that silky, sexy voice coming out of her again. Oh God ... "You?"
"NYU. Ten years." The trainer stepped closer, stance wide and hands on hips. "Noticed you've got a good grip. Want to give it a shot?"
She gazed through the glass partition. Isabella and the others seemed so far away. They might as well be in another world. Why not take advantage of the trainer's, um, expertise? "That's why I'm here." She rubbed her sweaty palms on the front of her yoga pants before moving around the bar to crouch into position.
He stepped behind her. "Let's try a simple set of squats, then."
Lexie's mind went blank as he leaned over her and she was enveloped by male scent and heat. The tingling warmth between her legs spread to her stomach and thighs. She felt restless. Wanton. Womanly. If she leaned back —
"Whoa." Strong fingers gripped her waist and slid beneath the college sweatshirt as she teetered backward. She gasped, her cotton T-shirt offering little protection from Matthew's searing touch and compounding her inability to think. And, apparently, to balance ...
His voice rasped in her ear, the scent of mint tickling her nose. "See why I need to be so close? Don't want you falling over."
Lexie exhaled in a dazed whoosh, nerve endings on high alert, and focused on the twin points of contact that had settled on either side of her waist. Did he feel it, too?
"Point your toes forward. That'll help keep you steady." His tone was matter-of-fact.
On autopilot, she shifted.
"That's it. Now I'll rest the bar on your shoulders at the base of your neck. You hold on to it around those smooth rings. Got it?"
Lexie gripped the bar tight, her palms slick. She was a guest at the fitness center. Matthew was just doing his job. She needed to remain professional, too. No matter how much his perfection sparked her imagination.
Not to mention her libido.
If only she could stop imagining his rock hard thighs and strong, capable hands assisting her with far more intimate, satisfying exercises than squats. Lexie whipped her head around — away from his deep voice and delicious lips — and sucked in a horrified gasp at the sight of their reflections.
Talk about a reality check.
Where Matthew was the epitome of self-control and beauty, she, well ... wasn't. Not even close. She liked food and was more of a cerebral girl than an athlete — and her generous muffin top and junk in the trunk were the tangible proof.
But in the presence of such a gorgeous man, Lexie began to consider bettering herself for reasons other than her original goal of networking with a coworker.
Prurient, hedonistic reasons.
Because there was no way she'd bare skin with a man so physically perfect unless she was confident in hers, too.
"Got it?" he asked, voice patient as he crouched behind her.
Matthew's question pulled her out of the uncharacteristic, shallow-end-of-the-pool musings. "Yup," she muttered. It wasn't so bad just standing with the weight on her back.
"I'm right here. Don't worry. Need lighter weights?"
She lifted her chin. His tone, a dare, combined with her sudden desire to succeed at all costs, spurred her on. "I'm good."
"Okay, now for the hard part." A smile entered his husky voice. "The actual squat. Don't forget to breathe. When you're ready, take a deep breath, brace your body, and pretend like you're sitting down. Don't let go of that breath until you're finishing standing back up. One smooth movement. Use the power in your core and legs, not your back."
"But ... how do I know when to sit back up?" she squeaked.
Matthew put his hand on her hip, and his very touch left fire in its wake. "You feel this? The crease in your hip? Once this goes past your knees — we call that breaking parallel — stand up."
She turned, her long ponytail swishing across his broad chest. "I don't know if I can do that." He was too close, and she was too uncoordinated and out-of-condition.
Not to mention awestruck.
"You want to get in shape?" he coaxed.
Lexie scrunched her nose. I want to be bold. "Maybe if you back up, I'll have enough room. I don't want to bump into you."
He laughed. "Don't worry about me, darlin'. It's my job to protect bottoms from the hard floor. You can't hurt me."
She sensed his gaze on her backside. My bottom? "Well, since you put it that way ..." Refusing to consider how ridiculous she looked as she bent into the butt-sticking-out-position, Lexie focused on the movement and the count, ignoring the warm breath teasing her neck. This was just exercise. Nothing personal going on here. No siree, Bob.
Although it felt pretty damned personal when the backs of her thighs brushed against the warm, sculpted tops of his, and her bottom nestled against his groin. Oh, my. She stifled a gasp.
He does notice me.
Lexie lurched forward and he grasped her waist, regaining a respectable inch or so of air between their private parts. "You've got it." His voice was strained. "Nice. Plenty deep enough to call it a real squat."
"I almost fell forward," she breathed, unable to fathom that her Plain Janeness had turned on a mighty real-life Thor.
"Just focus on keeping the bar centered and your balance will take care of itself."
Trapped somewhere between confused and exhilarated, Lexie repeated the sequence while he coached her step by step. And holy crap, he was right. Balancing the weight on her back was all about aligning the bar with her body. By the third rep, she was no longer in danger of falling forward. "There." She exhaled, waiting until he took the bar before turning to face him as he deftly set it on the mat.
"Yes." Matthew's eyes glimmered. "You did it. Good job."
"Thanks." She ducked her head, unsure how to react to the pleasant warmth that swept through her at his simple compliment. Maybe she could ask him to be her trainer?
"We still on for tonight?"
She spun around at the sound of another woman's voice to find a fit, petite blonde sporting teal spandex poised in the doorway. Kelly something, from HR.
Lexie pressed her lips together and glanced down at her hands as a less enjoyable heat crept up her neck. Her imagination must've been playing tricks on her. The Plain Janes of the world might get a hunky trainer's fleeting attention, but women like Kelly were the ones that captured it. And from the earnest expression on the woman's face, Matthew had captured hers, too. A heavy, sinking sensation settled in her chest.
"Give me fifteen," he responded gruffly.
"Excellent," Kelly chirped, her voice full of promise. "I'll be at the bench press."
Resisting a sudden, irrational urge to run over and slam the door behind the other woman, Lexie tore free of the trainer's force field and escaped to the corner for her water bottle. She tipped her head back and drank, emptying her mind of ridiculous thoughts like he's mine and you can't have him. Slowly, sanity returned as the refreshing liquid quenched her parched throat. All her bodily systems returned to normal.
Or as normal as possible under the circumstance.
Lexie turned to meet the trainer's hooded gaze, and her breath hitched, the tingling anticipation much like when she'd sat dead center in Orchestra Row J with the curtain about to open.
"Sorry." He shrugged. "I've another appointment."
Trying not to read disappointment in his casual gesture, she tapped the water bottle closed as an odd melancholy washed over her. "I understand."
Matthew took a step toward her, his voice upbeat. "But hey, you did well for a first-timer."
Lexie adjusted her sweatshirt and stood a little taller as she met his eyes. "I did. Thanks." She brushed off the sadness and felt a smile tug at the corner of her lips, a seed of satisfaction growing inside her from having completed the sets. Maybe she could be bold.
He pushed a hand into his shirt's tech pocket and pulled a card out from behind his iPod. "I'm here weekday evenings five to nine — if you're interested."
Silence stretched between them. It wasn't just the words, it was how he said them, as if he wondered whether she liked him as a man. If I'm interested? Have you looked in one of the hundred mirrors in this place, guy? She accepted the business card. "Matthew Hennessey, Manager." She traced the rectangular perimeter with her index finger.
"That's me." He placed his hands on his hips, a man secure in his surroundings. "What are your goals?" he asked.
She bit her bottom lip and allowed herself to enjoy the view. Bold might be fun. "I hear J&C has an annual fundraiser."
He nodded. "May seventh. Great event."
Lexie fiddled with the strap of her bag. "I'm concerned about the fun run." She snorted. "Quite the oxymoron, if you ask me."
"The 5K?" His eyes crinkled. "That's my baby."
She blinked and took a half-step back. Uh oh. Damage control time. "It's not that I don't want to participate, or that the fundraiser isn't for a wonderful cause. I do." She stared at his incredible chest. "And it is." Damn, he was flawless. She looked at her nails. "My goal's simple. I want to avoid fainting or crossing the finish line last." She risked another glance in his direction. "Middle of the pack would be optimal."
He folded his arms and nodded. "Reasonable."
Lexie hesitated, another worry weighing on her mind. "And, well, I just started at the firm a few weeks ago, so I'm hoping I'm eligible for the free instruction. Otherwise, I doubt that as an executive assistant I could afford your, er, services." Oh, God. Why did her face have to blister hot when she said that, and why did he grin?
Matthew locked eyes with her. "Good thing you're covered, then." He indicated a door she hadn't noticed earlier. "Enough time to get you in condition. If this slot works for you, I'd suggest grabbing it before it's taken."
Are you taken? Her eyes fell to his hands. No rings.
"... we can set up your personal fitness regimen."
"Sounds good," she responded, her mind racing to catch up with the conversation. She'd better not have just agreed to extra fees or illicit acts ... as much as the guy inspired decadent images of the latter.
"Want to sit?"
Lexie glanced up to find him pointing at a small chair beside a desk inside the cramped office. She nodded, holding her breath and determined to keep her lust on a leash while she squeezed past him.
The muscles rippled in his forearms as Matthew pulled a binder from the top of a tall filing cabinet and set it on the desk between them.
He was so close. So big. So primal and male. She shifted on the cold metal seat and fought the impulse to flee. I will be brave. "I can feel the strength in my legs already," she blurted out, a sudden need to fill the silence.
Excerpted from Text Me, Maybe by Jolyse Barnett, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2016 Jolyse Barnett. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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