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But I guess I’m wrong about that, because Chloe Bellamy’s cheeky, off-the-cuff question feels like a knife in my chest. Even worse, I can tell by the way her too-big smile falls from her face that she knows it.
“Hey.” Her voice is gentle, and I hate that. “I didn’t mean—”
“Can we not?” I ask. The question comes out as an order, and I hope she doesn’t hear it for what it really is: a plea to drop it.
And although it probably pains her—anything involving silence probably pains Chloe Bellamy—she simply gives a little nod. “You got it, Beefcake. No prying. But only because we have better things to discuss, like exactly how many millions of miles I am going to have to run to get rid of the calories from this dinner.”
My shoulders relax.
I’ve got to give her credit. She’s got a way of putting me at ease. When she’s not drilling into my past with a power drill, of course.
“Remember, it’s not about what the scale says; it’s how you feel,” I say out of habit.
Chloe snorts. “Please. Quit that skinny-person babble. You said you wanted me to have confidence, right? Well, how about we make that a little more tangible? How about you get me to the point that I’m confident enough to trade in these man shorts for a flippy little tennis skirt?”
I’m silent, waiting for the rest of it, but she just stares at me.
“What?” she asks finally. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Well, the way you said that makes it sound like I’m going to accomplish this goal in exchange for something.”
“Beefcake. You’re my personal trainer. It’s your job. Are they not paying you well? Because I know this guy with a finance degree he’s not putting to use; maybe—”
“Okay, fine,” I mutter. “I’ll get you into a tennis skirt, but promise me one thing: that you’re not doing it for Devon Patterson.”
Chloe runs a tongue along the front of her teeth. “Okay. I promise.”
She’s lying. We both know it.
Hell of it is, I also get it. It wasn’t so long ago that I’d have done anything to impress the girl I loved.
Here’s hoping Chloe’s story has a happier ending than mine.
TWO WEEKS LATER
“You have to come to our Fourth of July party.”
Michael moves around to the other side of the bench and switches out the weight.
“Okay, let’s try this,” he says, moving into spotting position. “I think you’re ready to press a bit more weight.”
I make no movement to grab the bar. Instead I stare up at him.
“Get on it, Chloe. We only have twenty minutes before my next client gets here.”
“Ugh, Mrs. Rubio?” I ask, reluctantly wrapping my fingers around the metal bar. “She’s totally looking for a fling, you know.”
“Chloe, most of my clients are looking for a fling.”
“Thank God for that. Okay, you ready?”
I glance dubiously at the weights, which are way bigger than anything I’ve tried so far. “If this falls on my chest, can it, like, smash my heart?”
He moves his hands under the bar, legs braced. “Well, don’t drop it, then. But I’m here if you do.”
“You know, if you wanted to kill me, this would be a brilliant way to do it,” I say as I move the bar off the rests.
I’m already sweating, and I haven’t even lowered it yet.
“If I wanted to kill you, I would have done it the second you started calling me Beefcake,” he says. “No more talking. Focus.”
So I do. I get through only seven reps, but Beefcake looks pleased.
“What now?” I ask, wiping the sweat from my face with the towel he hands me and readjusting my ponytail.
But Michael’s not looking to me. All of his attention’s on the other side of the gym, and I know before turning my head who he’s looking at. There’s only one person that makes Michael go all soft and quiet like that.
I glance over my shoulder, and immediately I’m on my feet. I figured Kristin had come to flirt and make sure everyone noticed her new honey highlights that she’s been claiming are from the sun, cough cough, bullshit, but one look at her tearstained face tells me that something major is up.
Kristin would never be so gauche as to be an ugly crier, but she doesn’t exactly look her best with tearstained cheeks.
She’d show her blotchy face in public only if she was really, really upset.
My heart is in my stomach as I dash over to her, my mind already sorting through the worst possibilities.
She sniffs. “I hate when you call me that.”
I drag her into the hallway. “What’s going on?”
Her chin wobbles just a little and my heart breaks, but then her face freezes for a second, and she looks me up and down. “Have you lost weight?”
Okay, so we’re probably not talking about a cancer diagnosis of a family member then if she’s worrying about my weight.
“Um, I don’t know,” I say in response.
“What do you mean you don’t know? What does the scale say?”