RealBy: Katy Evans
The private jet is enormous, and Pete signals for me to board before he does. He picked me up at my place less than an hour ago, and he looks sharp in a Men in Black suit. I head up the stairs and realize you can actually fit standing inside the plane, like in a large airliner. However, no commercial jet I’ve ever been in has had a fraction of the luxury inside this one. Suede, leather, mahogany woods, gold trimmings, and state-of-the-art screens adorn the interior. It’s all a collection of extravagance in this big, amazing, rich man’s toy.
The seats are arranged in sections that resemble small living rooms, and in this first section there are four plush ivory leather seats, bigger than a first-class seat. They contain a smiling Riley, who stands to greet me, as well as the other two members of Remington’s staff—his personal trainer, Lupe, a fortyish, bald man who looks like Daddy Warbucks from the movie Annie, and his chef and nutritionist, Diane, who I recognize as the woman who delivered the tickets to me.
“Nice to meet you, Miss Dumas,” Coach Lupe says, with a kind of scowl on his face I somehow figure is his natural expression.
I shake his hand. “Likewise, sir.”
“Oh, bah. Call me Coach. Everyone else does.”
“Well, hello again,” Diane says, her grip smooth and gentle. “I’m Diane Werner, the chef, slash nutritionist, slash ticket delivery girl.”
I laugh. “It’s so nice to meet you, Diane.”
The air around them is actually very open and real, and a twinge of excitement flits through me at the thought of belonging to a team again. Truly, what would make me enormously happy and satisfied as a professional is that from now on, when Remington Tate fights in a ring, he will flow like a ribbon with the strength of a dozen oxen, and I just love knowing I’m working with other specialized people whose goals are on par.
“Brooke.” Pete signals to the back of the plane, and down the long carpeted aisle, passing another section of four other seats and past a large TV screen and an enormous wood-paneled bar, is a leather bench that looks remarkably like a sofa. And there, in the middle of it, with his dark hair bent as he listens to his headphones, is Remington Tate. Six-foot-plus tower of testosterone.
An unexpected heat shoots directly into my bloodstream at the first sight of him in daylight. He wears a black t-shirt which clings to his muscles, and low-slung worn denim, and his ridiculously ripped body wears it all with centerfold perfection as he lounges on the spacious taupe leather bench at the far end.
My heart gives a wild kick, because he looks just as impossibly sexy as ever, and I really wish I didn’t automatically notice. I guess you just can’t hide something as blatantly sexual as him.
“He wants you back there,” Pete tells me. And I can’t help noticing he almost sounds apologetic.
Swallowing the moisture in my mouth, I make my way uneasily down the plane aisle when he looks up, his eyes catching mine. I think I see them flare, but fail to read anything in his expression as he intently watches me approach.
His stare makes me so nervous I feel the tingle once again, right in my center.
He’s the strongest man I’ve ever seen, in my entire life, and I’m familiar enough with the subject to know that wired into my genes and DNA is a natural desire for healthy offspring, and with it comes a desperate urge to just full out mate with whoever I deem is the prime male of my species. I have never in my life met a man before who sparks up my crazy mating instincts like him. My sexuality burns with his nearness. It’s unreal. This reaction. This attraction. I’d never believe it if Melanie was explaining it to me and I wasn’t feeling it like a bubbling cauldron under my skin.
How am I going to get rid of this?
Lips curling slightly, as though amused at himself over a private joke, he pulls off his headphones as I stop an arm’s length from him. The rock music trails into the silence, and he abruptly clicks off the iPod. He signals to his right, and I take a seat, fiercely trying to block his effect on me.
Bigger than life, like seeing a movie star in person, his charisma is staggering. He has an aura of pure raw strength, every inch of him lean and muscled, which gives off the impression of being a man, but with a charming playfulness in his expression that makes him look young and vibrant.
It strikes me that we’re the youngest people in the plane, and I feel even younger than I am as I sit next to him, like I’ve just become a teenager again. His lips curl, and honestly I have never, ever, met a more self-assured man, lounging back almost sensually in his seat, his eyes missing nothing. “You’ve met the rest of the staff?” he inquires.
“Yes.” I smile.
He stares at me, his dimples showing, his eyes assessing. The sunlight hits his face in just the right angle to illuminate the flecks in his eyes, his lashes so black and thick, framing those blue pools that just suck me right in.
I want to start off professionally, since that is the only way I can see it working, so I loosely fasten the seatbelt around my waist and get to business.
“Did you hire me for a particular sports injury or more as prevention?” I query.
“Prevention.” His voice is rough and invites a surge of goose bumps on my arms, and I notice, by the skewed way his big body is turned toward me, that he doesn’t deem it necessary to wear a seatbelt on his plane.
Nodding, I let my eyes drift to his powerful chest and arms, then I realize I might be staring too blatantly.
“How are your shoulders? Your elbows? Do you want me to work on anything for Atlanta? Pete tells me it’s a several hour flight.”
Without answering me, he merely stretches out his hand to me, and it’s enormous, with recent scars on each of his knuckles. I stare at it until I realize he’s offering it to me, so I take it in both of mine. A frisson of awareness feathers from his hand and deeply into me. His eyes darken when I start rubbing his palm with both my thumbs, searching for knots and tightness. The skin to skin contact is staggeringly powerful, and I rush to fill in the silence that suddenly feels like deadweight around us.
“I’m not used to such big hands. My student’s hands are usually easier to rub down.”
His dimples are nowhere in sight. Somehow I’m not sure he hears me. He seems especially engrossed in watching my fingers on him. “You’re doing fine,” he says, his voice low.
I become entranced in the planes and dips of his palms, every one of his dozens of calluses. “How many hours do you condition a day?” I ask, softly, as the jet takes off so smoothly I barely realize we’re airborne.
He’s still watching my fingers, his eyes at half-mast. “We do eight. Four and four.”
“I’d love to stretch you when you’re done training. Is that what your specialists also do for you?” I ask.
He nods, still not looking at me. Then his eyes flick upward.
“And you? Who pats your injury down?” He signals to my knee brace, visible through my knee length skirt, which rose slightly when I sat.
“No one anymore. I’m done with rehab.” The idea of this man seeing my embarrassing video makes me queasy. “You Googled me too? Or did your guys tell you?”
He pulls his hand free from mine and signals down. “Let’s have a look at it.”
“There’s nothing to see.” But when he continues staring at my leg through those dark lashes, I still bend and lift my leg a couple of inches to show him my knee brace. He seizes it with one hand and opens the Velcro with the other to peer down at my skin, then he strokes his thumbs across the scar in my kneecap.
There’s something wholly different about him touching me.
His bare hand is on my knee, and I can feel his calluses on my skin. I. Can’t. Breathe. He probes a little, and I bite my lower lip and exhale what little air remains in my lungs.
“It still hurts?”
I nod, but still can only really think about his large, dry hand. Touching my knee. “I’ve been running without a brace, and I know I shouldn’t yet. I just don’t think I’ve ever really recovered.”
“How long ago was this?”
“Six years ago.” I hesitate, then add, “And two…the second time it happened.”
“Ahh, a double injury. So it’s sensitive?”
“Very.” I shrug. “I guess I’m glad that by my second, I’d already started my masters for rehab. Otherwise I don’t know what I would have done.”
“It hurts not to compete anymore?”
He looks at me with complete openness and interest, and I don’t know why I’m even answering. I haven’t talked about this openly with anyone. It hurts in every part of me. My heart, my pride, my very soul. “Yes. It does. You’d understand, right?” I ask, quietly, as he lowers my leg back down.
He holds my gaze as his thumb lightly strokes across my knee, then we both glance at his touch, as though equally stunned to realize how easy it was for him to leave it there while we had an entire conversation—and for me to allow it. He lets go and we say nothing.
I put back my Velcro but underneath the brace, I feel like he’s just doused my skin with gasoline, and it will burst up in flames any second he touches me again.
This is so not good, I don’t even know what to do myself. My relationships with my clients have always been informal. They call me by my name, and I call them by theirs. We do a lot of work and have a lot of contact, but they never touch me. Only I do.
“Do this one.”
He puts his farthest hand out to me in a fist as he speaks, and I’m kind of grateful for the opportunity to get seriously accustomed to touching this man for work purposes.
Shifting to my side, I take his hand in both of mine and spread it open with my fingers. He leans back on the seat and stretches his free arm, the one closest to me, all along the seat behind me. Hyperawareness of that outstretched arm sizzles through me even if he isn’t touching me, and once again, I’m awed and strangely compelled by his palm, how rough, firm, and callused it is.
I don’t know why he seats himself in a bench instead of a single seat, but suddenly his thigh is too close, his knees folded, his legs spread wide, taking up two seats and leaving me with one, and I can feel and smell every inch of him.
Our other four flight companions laugh up front and his eyes flick up there, then back to me. I’m entirely aware of his gaze as I press into his palm with my thumbs, pushing hard into the tissue until I feel the little knot I found fade away. I keep probing and searching for more but can’t find any, so I move to his wrist.
He has the broadest, sturdiest wrist I’ve ever seen, and his forearm is powerfully built and corded with thick veins that run up his arm. I hold his hand as I twirl his wrist , and I’m lost in the movement of his joint, perfectly mobile. I probe into his forearm then his bicep, which hardens and clenches for me. I close my eyes and work deep within the muscle. All of a sudden, the arm behind me folds, and his hand curls around the nape of my neck. He leans in and whispers, “Look at me.”
I open my eyes to see his eyes are sparkling, and he looks perfectly amused. I think he knows I’m getting a little worked up. I want to drop his arm and squirm, but I don’t want it to be too obvious, so I lower it carefully and smile back. “What?”
“Nothing,” he replies, revealing his dimples. “I’m very impressed. You’re very thorough, Brooke.”
“I am. And wait until I get to your shoulders and back. I might have to stand on you.”
He cocks one dark eyebrow and looks supremely entertained. “How much can you possibly weigh?”
I wink. “I look slim, but I’m still a little muscular.”
He scoffs then tilts his head curiously as he reaches out to my arm and grasps my small bicep between two fingers. Thankfully, it stays firm when he clenches. “Hmm,” he says, his eyes dancing with mirth.
“What? What does ‘hmm’ mean?” I prod.
He brazenly grabs my hand and wraps my fingers around his gut-wrenchingly sexy bicep muscle. He doesn’t even flex, but his smooth, taut skin and total firmness under my fingers leave me breathless. He’s such a … boy. Showing me his bicep. I notice he’s watching me, and his blue eyes shine with playful intensity. I bite my lower lip in response.
Since my job requires I touch him, a lot, it would feel a little odd for me to withdraw my hand. So instead, I give a little squeeze with my fingers. It’s like palpating an enormous rock with absolutely no give to it. At all.
“Hmm,” I say with my best poker face, trying to mask the emotions inside. I’m undone. Completely undone. Every sexual organ in me is awake and aching. My genetically induced mating instincts are at full attention, roaring inside me.
He laughs and runs his hand up the length of my bare arm again. He dips his fingertips under the sleeve of my button shirt and slides them right over my triceps muscle at the back of my arm. His eyes glint devilishly because he knows he’s totally got me. This is one of the worst parts for a woman, a place where body fat can be measured with a mere pinch.
There’s not a single place on his body I could get even a pinch of fat from. He probably consumes twelve thousand calories a day to maintain his lean muscle mass, which is around what famous Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps consumes when actively training. His caloric intake is easily over five times what I eat to maintain my weight, but I can’t really do the math right now. His fingers are still there, under my sleeve, touching my skin. He’s got this playful smile on his face, his eyes dancing in mischief, and yet the atmosphere has shifted until I feel like not only we are incredibly aware of our bodies, but the other people on the plane are, as well.
“Hmm,” he says, softly, and finally gives a little pinch. We both laugh.
I clear my throat and straighten, unable to stand anymore touching. I feel dangerously giddy and am definitely not happy about it. So I extract my iPod and headphones from a small travel bag I’m carrying and set them on my lap. He stares down at them, then he snatches my iPod and connects his headphones and starts going through my music, handing me over his. I search through his selection, and absolutely loathe all his songs. He’s into PURE rock, and I drop my headphones and grab my iPod back.
“Who can relax to that?”
“Who wants to relax?”
“Here.” He hands me his iPod back. “I’ve got to have some easy listening for you. Listen to one of mine and I will listen to one of yours.”
He’s selecting a song for me from his own apparatus, so I look for one I like in mine, and I settle on a girl power song called “Love Song,” by Sara Bareilles, which is basically this girl telling the guy that he’s not getting one. I play it for him.
My love for girl power songs is almost legendary. Old and new. It’s all my friends and I hear. Even Kyle sings them.
So then I put on my headphones to see which one he selected for me, and something happens to my body when I hear the first words of the song, And I’d give up forever to touch you … from the Goo Goo Dolls “Iris” song.
And I’d give up forever to touch you …
Cause I know that you feel me somehow…
You’re the closest to heaven that I’ve ever been and I don’t want to go home right now…
I duck my head to keep him from noticing that I’m blushing and almost have to force myself not to pause it because it feels unbearably intimate.
To listen to this song.
That he strangely selected for me to listen to.
But I don’t dare pause it. Even when he leans forward to catch my expression. His knee brushes mine, and the point of contact blazes through me as the song keeps spilling into my ear. And I don’t want the world to see me, it says, but I want you to know who I am…
I think I’m not even breathing, I don’t even know if I can.
He’s also listening to my song, and his eyes are so close to mine when I peer up at him, I can count each one of his spiky dark lashes. I swear his irises are bluer than the Caribbean Sea.
His lips twitch with humor, and he shakes his head with what I think is a chuckle. A chuckle I obviously can’t hear because I’m listening to the end of “Iris,” which I first heard in the movie City of Angels and which also made me cry, like, for days. A guy gives up, literally, forever to be with the girl he falls in love with, and then something tragic happens—like in a Nicolas Sparks’ movie.
When silence follows the end, I slowly take my headphones off and return his iPod. “I didn’t even know you had slow songs in there,” I murmur, fully engaged in a new conversation with my own iPod, as he returns it.
His voice is low and intimate. “I have twenty thousand songs, everything is here.”
“No!” I say in automatic disbelief as I turn and verify, and it’s true. Mel thinks she’s the shit because she has ten thousand, and I’m going to have to tell her she is certainly not.
And now, what I just can’t get over is that, from twenty thousand songs, he played that one to me?
“Did you like it?” His eyes pierce me, and I know he can see my blush, I can’t help that.
My iPod feels warmer than usual as I nervously start to play with it, and I refuse to think it’s from his hand. But it’s from his big, scarred, tanned, beautiful manly hand. Cheeks flaring even hotter, I try to sink into my own musical world.
Occasionally, during the flight, he passes me his headphones and iPod, and makes me listen to a song, and I look for one for him. I don’t know what’s up with me, but when he smiles at me with that lazy smile that shows both dimples, listening to all the girl power songs I hand him over, like “I Will Survive” from Gloria Gaynor, I want to melt, especially when at the same time, the devil grins in mischief and seems to decide to pick on me as he plays “Love Bites” by Def Leppard for me.
I die as the powerful sound of his Dr. Dre beats spill into my ears, pushing the low, masculine vocals so deep inside my body, every sexy word seems to pulse shamelessly in my sex. The words are so raw and carnal, they make me think about him, and me, touching and kissing and loving….and I hate that for a fraction of an instant, I even believe that’s exactly what he wanted me to think.
I’m rooming with Diane in Atlanta, and I love that she keeps her toothbrush toothpaste, and all her girly necessities as neatly tucked away as I do. She’s a great roommate, sunny and positive every moment of the day, and I love that we get to talk about healthy cooking during the evenings, when we each hit our own queen-sized bed.
I’ve learned that she shops for the best local, freshest ingredients every morning, and she feeds Remington only top organic food, every single day, on schedule every three to four hours—which is why his workouts seem to be spaced in sections of either 3-2-3, or 4-4 with heavier meals in the case of the latter. The man eats for three fully grown, hungry lions. A lot of protein. A lot of vegetables. And in the half-hour window after his workouts, so many carbs that even I get carb-high just thinking about those delicious sweet potatoes and pastas he wolfs down.
She spices all his meals with natural herbs like thyme, basil, rosemary, a little dash of garlic or cayenne pepper, and some kick-ass combinations that I’ve been jotting down for when I get back home. She’s divorced at thirty-nine, and she also told me that we’re finishing the last fight in New York at the end of this tour, a city I’ve always wanted to visit.
Tomorrow Remington has his first fight out of two in Atlanta, and this afternoon I find myself hanging out at the sidelines of his privately rented gym, waiting to stretch him once he’s finished. It’s our third evening here, and I’ve already realized that Remington Tate trains like a madman.
Today in particular, he seems unstoppable.
“Any reason why he’s still going strong at this hour today?” Pete asks Coach Lupe.
“Hey, Tate! Stop showing off in front of Brooke!” Coach yells, and we hear a laugh from across the gym, where Remington is killing—heartlessly murdering—a speed bag.
“I can’t wear him out,” Lupe says as he turns back to us. He drags a hand down his bald head as he checks some sort of timer he has draped around his neck. His usual scowl deepens in intensity. “We’re going on nine hours today and he’s still got juice. But don’t even look at me, Pete. We both knew this was going to happen since he…”
Both their heads swing toward me, as if they can’t speak until I make myself scarce, and I raise my eyebrows. “What? Do you want me to leave?”
Lupe shakes his head and goes back to Remington, who’s still on the speedball, and it is flying in the wind like a bat flapping everywhere. His arms swing with perfect precision, each thrust hitting the ball dead center as it swings back. The sound it makes is rhythmic and faster than a second, thadumthadumthadumpthadump…
“Nine hours a day really is excessive, don’t you think? Even seven a day is crazy,” I tell Pete from the sidelines. Today we’ve gone way past his 4-4 training times, and I’m stunned that the man still keeps going.
Even when I trained for the Olympics, I didn’t hit it quite that hard, and frankly, Remington’s training schedule leaves me agog. Today he’s done hanging abs, where he hangs from his feet and swings his body up to his knees, as fast as he can, perfectly working those washboard abs like he’s doing nothing. He does pull-ups, push-ups, mountain climbers, planks. He jumps rope with only one foot, then switches to the other, then he crosses the rope, swings, twists, and turns, all while I barely even get to see the rope, he makes it fly so fast as it rhythmically slaps the ground. After that, he shadow boxes or hits the ring with a sparring partner, and if his sparring partner wears out before he does, like he did today, Remy goes back to the heavy bags or the speedball, and ends up soaked.
“He likes wearing himself out,” Pete explains to me as we keep watching him. “If he can still give a punch late in the day, he bites Coach’s head off that he didn’t ride him hard enough.”
It takes one more hour for him to slow down, and by the time Coach whistles for me, I’m the one who’s dead tired from the visual stimulation of watching Remington Tate work out. Every move he makes is so aggressively primal it feels sexual to me.
Even in sweatpants and an easy t-shirt, there’s no way you can miss the clench of the muscles of his upper body through the damp cotton fabric, and the way his sweatpants hang low on his narrow hips make my breasts feel so heavy and painful I swear to god I can’t imagine how it will feel when I’m lactating one day.
Stifling a hot little shiver, I make my legs move and head over to the floor mats, where Remington is standing, waiting for me, already shirtless. Rivulets of sweat cling to his torso, and I know he’s perfectly warm and that his muscles have been trained to exhaustion. There’s no more muscle glycogen in storage, his glucose will be low, and he’ll be so hot he’ll be like a warmed pretzel when I maneuver him. The mere prospect of it makes me equally hot. It’s a dream of mine, to dedicate my life to this, but it’s such a tactile job that with this man, it’s a big challenge. Not only because his muscles are so strong compared to my own, but because I can barely make contact with his bronzed skin without feeling buzzed. Every pore in my body jumps to attention and hones in on whichever part of my body is touching his. I really hate this loss of control in me.
Now I watch his muscles bulge as he towels himself off and haphazardly drags the towel across his damp hair, leaving it even more sexy and spiky. I’m also wearing tennis shoes and a tight running gear outfit to make myself move easily over him, and those striking blue eyes sweep over me as I approach.
He's panting, unsmiling, then he drops on a bench while I go around and come up to him from behind.
He groans when I wrap my fingers around his shoulders and start digging deep. Sparks of excitement strike me low in my tummy when I make contact, but I try quelling all my reactions and focus on loosening his neck, his triceps, his biceps. I push into his pectorals, his core, trying not to respond like a woman to every clench of his muscles under my fingers, the amazing tautness of his skin beneath my touch.
We work on every joint, pulling everything loose, my moves occasionally making him make a low, purring sound. My sex muscles clench and I try to relax them, but every time he groans, they grip and clench tighter.
I hate it when they do that too.
It seems that the art of relaxing this man seems to wind me up to the tenth power.
But at least I’m not jobless anymore.
Breathing slow and deep, I spend extra time as I rub his deltoids, the roundest, squarest part of the shoulder. I stretch and roll them, and then I follow to the supraspinatus, a small muscle of the rotator cuff, and also the most injured of the four muscles surrounding that cuff.
He’s still panting when I’m done, except now, so am I.
Coach whistles. “All right, hit the showers. See you at six a.m. tomorrow and ready to fight. Now go eat. A whole goddamned cow.”
Remington pulls me up from where we’d worked on his back on the floor, his blue eyes sparkling as he clenches my fingers a second longer than I expected. “No standing on me yet?”
It takes me a moment to remember our conversation from the plane, and I smirk. “Not yet. But don’t worry. If you keep working out like this, we’ll get there before you know it.”
He laughs, and drapes a towel around his neck as he heads to the showers, and hours later I’ve figured that he must have fallen dead asleep after the exertion he put himself through. I, on the other hand, lay awake, sleepless. I’ve already squeezed my triceps three times since our arrival and have determined I’m not fat, and even then, I still wonder what hmm means.
I think about the plane and his hands on my triceps and his blue eyes on my face and the way his gaze rakes me when I walk over to stretch him. I think of the way he’s teased me and amused himself with me these past three days, and I just don’t understand why all that makes me squirm inside and feel hot little chills all around me.
My adrenals are going to be shot if this keeps up.
I try to think of something else, but my legs are restless under the sheets, and the need to go out and run eats at me. I wish I could sprint my heart out, feel those endorphins instead of these odd little pings in my nerves that gnaw me raw, this strange need that blooms up inside me when I see Remington Tate. Even when I denied it to Melanie, I was so sure he’d wanted me that first night in Seattle, I just don’t know what happened that I got hired instead.
But it’s what I wanted, wasn’t it? A job.
Except that the price to pay for my new job is a little bit of sexual torture. Big deal. I’ll just block him out better tomorrow. With that new resolution, I grab my iPod from the nightstand and turn on my music and force myself to listen to any songs except the ones he’s played to me.