Authors: Ava McKnight
Part of the Playing With the Boys series.
Claire is a writer for
magazine, covering the new fitness hotspot in town. From her first meeting with the club’s sexy and charismatic owner, Jack, she’s intensely attracted to him.
Jack has made millions training professional athletes and has devoted plenty of time to keeping his own sculpted physique in excellent shape. But there’s more to Jack than his awesome bod and radiant smile. He’s a visionary and, Claire discovers, a kindred spirit whose sensual lovemaking and tender words are just what she needs.
But can Claire shed the fear of abandonment she’s felt most of her life, because of her estranged parents, and accept what Jack ultimately has to offer—his love as well as his sexual need?
Stepping through the double doors of the prestigious Scottsdale-based ProAth Fitness Club, I anticipated sweat, testosterone and male grunts and groans to permeate the air. Instead, a fragrant citrusy scent wafted under my nose and instrumental music with an energetic, hard-driving beat filled the open atrium. To my right was an upscale sports shop, and to the left, a juice bar. The hardwood floor was polished to a glossy sheen and the reception desk was a spectacular creation of wood and glass. The two-story frosted windows lining the walls, along with the glass ceiling overhead, lent a bright, airy feeling to the lobby, which was decorated with lush foliage and an eight-foot-tall-and-just-as-wide waterfall behind the reception desk.
The premier athletic club catered to all manner of professional sports heroes, in addition to aspiring athletes whose stars were vibrantly on the rise. I instantly recognized several of Phoenix’s notable football, baseball and basketball players coming to and from the various arteries that flowed from the inner depths of the club to the lobby, or hanging out at the elaborate juice bar. Apparently, they supplemented their regimens with their affiliated trainers via trips to ProAth. As did other sports giants from around the country.
With pen and paper in hand, and my assigned staff photographer, Pete, trailing along behind me, I stepped up to the enormous desk.
“Welcome to ProAth,” the superhunk behind the glass-top counter greeted me. “Can I help you?”
“Claire Williams and Pete Russell to see Jack Reed,” I said in my practiced tone, forcing my gaze to remain on his face, rather than allowing my eyes to wander the path of sinewy neck muscles that led to ginormous trapezii and biceps the size of tree trunks. He had dark hair that stood on end, resembling a patch of well-manicured grass. Very twenty-something hip. I felt every year of my three-decade existence in the presence of such a trendy and youthful-looking stud.
“We’ve been expecting you,” he said with a flash of pearly white teeth.
He consulted the digital clock on the east wall at the same time I said, “We’re a bit early. Do you mind if Pete takes some photographs of the lobby and the grounds while we wait for Mr. Re—”
I lost my train of thought and my voice in the span of a heartbeat as a tall, amazingly good-looking man suddenly appeared at my side. I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but he put the superhunk to shame with his perfectly sculpted body. He wore a sleeveless black shirt, gym shorts and a thousand-watt smile that took my breath away.
“Claire Williams, right?” he asked in a casual tone, the rich timbre of his voice resonating deep within me. “I saw you when you walked in. I recognize you from your picture in
magazine.” His smile was an engaging one. “I’m Jack Reed. Give me just a sec, will you? Then I’ll show you around.”
I was the one who needed a moment—or ten—to catch my breath.
. I’d also seen photos of Jack Reed, and an infomercial or two, truth be told. Neither stills nor TV did the man justice. Yes, I’d known he’d be solid muscle from head to toe, and not in the massive bodybuilder way. He was sturdy and surfer-boy handsome, but not ripped in that manner that sometimes looked uncomfortable—like the superhunk with his bulging traps that seemed to swallow up his neck.
Jack Reed’s neck was just the right size, just the right length. It led to broad shoulders that gave way to rock-hard biceps and sinewy forearms. His chest was wide and his shirt pulled tight against the hard ledge of his well-defined pectoral muscles. I could see the ripple of cut abs against the material as well, and his proportioned hips complemented his powerful thighs. He was six feet two inches of tanned and toned perfection and one seriously beautiful male specimen, what with his tousled sun-kissed blond hair and radiant green eyes. The emerald irises sparkled under the rays filtering in from the glass ceiling, and his white teeth gleamed brilliantly with his inviting grin.
But as I watched him strip off his weightlifting gloves—completely mesmerized by the fluidity of his movements—I realized it wasn’t just the awesome bod I was instantly attracted to. It was the man’s captivating aura. He oozed sex appeal, no doubt about it. But he also exuded a vibrant energy I found electrifying, particularly with that easy yet oh so stunning smile of his. His natural charisma was tangible. I felt it to the tips of my toes.
So it was no wonder my gaze followed him as he wiped his hands with a fluffy white towel and then rubbed a bit of sanitizer on them from the dispenser on the wall. During this time, I still hadn’t found my voice.
All cleaned up—though there was a bead of perspiration in the indentation at the base of his throat that caught my attention and, had it been a drop of water, I would have had a hell of a time resisting the urge to whisk it away with my tongue—he held his hand out to me. His very large, strong-looking hand. It was covered with bronze skin that appeared to be smooth and supple. He had hands meant for pleasuring women, and I was damn sure he didn’t disappoint.
With a hint of amusement in his deep tone, because I was clearly gawking, he said, “It’s nice to meet you, Miss Williams.”
“Claire,” I was quick to say, finally getting my raging hormones under control. Enough so that I could speak, at any rate.
It was imperative he called me Claire, because I didn’t want an ounce of formality between us. He was too sinfully delicious for an arm’s-length association. In fact, I took a small step toward him as I slid my palm against his. Though sparks of excitement ignited deep in my pussy from a simple touch that felt unbelievably intimate, I managed to ask, “Do you mind if I call you Jack?”
His grin widened and the exuberant smile lit his dazzling eyes with more vibrancy than the sun. “Not at all.”
That was it?
? The best I could muster by way of intelligent conversation? I had a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s in communications, for Christ’s sake!
Mentally shaking my head, I tried pulling myself together.
I added, “Thanks for taking the time to meet with me.”
Oh yeah. That was
I fought the urge to roll my eyes at my own stupidity. Luckily, Jack didn’t seem to mind my sudden lack of communicative skills. He said, “I’m the one who owes
thanks for writing an article on the club. I’m really trying to snag the female demographic—their athleticism should be supported and respected as much as male athletes, don’t you think?”
“Um, yes.” The brain just kept blipping out.
God, I was a moron of epic proportions.
But did I mention Jack Reed was the sexiest man to ever walk the face of the earth, all crazy-wicked dreaminess wrapped in a shell of scorching-hot male flesh and muscle that made him one seriously gorgeous powerhouse of a man?
Okay, there. My stance on Jack Reed was duly noted.
Next to me, an indiscreet huff from my photographer, Pete, told me he found my lack of concentration annoying. He wasn’t used to me being such a puffball, but I couldn’t seem to help it.
He introduced himself to Jack, since I was still having trouble composing my derailed thoughts. “I’m Pete Russell, one of the magazine’s photographers. I’m going to snap some photos, if no one objects.”
Jack nodded as Pete laid a small stack of papers on the reception desk—the signed waivers and nondisclosure forms Jack had required we execute before we even set foot on the premises with a camera. We were under strict orders not to photograph any of the professional athletes, but the lobby and grounds were fair game. As long as we didn’t get any humans in the shot or invade anyone’s privacy.
Pete wandered off while my hand remained in Jack’s, his long, tapered fingers and smooth palm creating a warm and cozy cocoon I had no desire to escape. So, while I should have pulled my hand from his, I didn’t.
Instead, I let him guide me forward as he said, “I’m interested in hearing your take on the club. We have a number of female athletes who train here, don’t get me wrong. But I’d like to see more of them. My fear is,” he told me in an earnest tone, “they’re intimidated by the male clientele. All that testosterone, you know?”
Precisely what I’d first thought when I’d walked in. “I see your point.”
He led me through the lobby, past the juice bar and down a long corridor. He walked along at an angle so he could look at me as we talked. My hand was still nestled in his, though that angle had become an accommodating one too. I felt as though I was a delicate debutant on her first courtyard stroll with a dashing suitor.
Jack’s grin never wavered as he chatted me up. He said, “Along this wing are the racquetball courts.”
Six of them lined the hallway, elegantly designed with a glass viewing wall that revealed each court was booked with players, even though it was the middle of the afternoon on a weekday. We took a flight of curving stairs up to the mezzanine, where the free weights and machines were neatly organized and in high demand.
“Oh wow,” I whispered, blown away by all the famous faces.
My low voice caused Jack to move in close to hear me. I got a whiff of male heat mixed with the lingering scent of whatever expensive-smelling cologne he wore. My nipples instantly tightened as that spark I’d felt earlier turned into full-blown fireworks deep in my cunt. My body practically vibrated with sexual awareness and it was damn difficult to concentrate on anything other than the pyrotechnics happening
To Jack, I said, “I can’t believe the astounding who’s who in this place. There’s more money walking around here than there’s gold at Ft. Knox.”
He chuckled, low and deep. An addictive sound. “It wasn’t easy building the reputation I needed to reel them all in. But I always dreamed of opening a club with state-of-the-art equipment and some of the best trainers in the world.”
“You had a phenomenal foundation to build upon,” I commented. “Ten years after the first version hit the market, the ProAth Bodybuilder is still the number one, bestselling at-home exercise machine.”
He laughed a little heartier this time at my infomercial-type recital. “You’ve done your homework.”
“Of course.” I also knew he was twenty-eight and single. Never married, never even engaged.
Jack, I’d discovered through my research, had designed the ProAth Bodybuilder in his parents’ garage when he was just seventeen, with the guidance of his father, who was a mechanic. I’d read in an interview he’d given
magazine the year the workout machine launched that he knew exactly what he wanted from an all-in-one system and had spent every spare minute he had perfecting his so users would get the desired physical results in less time than with popular machines already on the market.
It’d been a cocky claim and one of those “yeah right” marketing strategies, according to the writer who’d interviewed Jack. But the clever young entrepreneur had offered the writer a ProAth machine of his own, and a follow-up article had proclaimed Jack Reed a genius personal trainer and fitness innovator three months later. The rave review of the equipment, along with several other notable mentions around the same time, had helped to blow the lid off Jack’s sales projections, and he’d made his first million the year he unveiled the exercise machine.
He’d continued to improve upon the design, and his substantial profit margin confirmed he knew what he was doing when it came to fitness.
I was certainly impressed with his ingenuity
the outcome of his dedication to staying in shape.
Sparing a glance downward at my own body, I figured I could use a little exercise myself. I was a bit on the too-frail side, what with being five feet nine inches without my shoes and having a lightning-quick metabolism that meant I merely rented food. I was Teflon against fat and calories, despite the fact that I ate
the time. My high school and college friends had always envied that about me. I, conversely, had been jealous of their more feminine curves. No big surprise. You always wanted what you didn’t have, right?
Jack had instructed I dress casually for the tour of his facility, so I wouldn’t feel out of place in heels and a suit, which was my normal attire when interviewing someone for a story. I was secretly thrilled he’d made the request, since skirts tended to draw attention to my chicken legs. In jeans, however, I looked a bit more substantial. A bit heartier. My heather-gray sweater was tight fitting and long enough to reach my hips. The neckline sat slightly off the shoulders and the material along my arms and down my torso bunched strategically. The sleeves were a bit long and covered a quarter of my hands. I realized I’d subconsciously concealed most of my body so I wouldn’t feel awkward in the presence of the fit females in the club. Though there were only a handful of them, they were all in stellar shape and wore miniscule workout attire.
Jack had hit the nail on the head with the intimidation factor in more ways than one. Not only would I feel monumentally uncomfortable working out here in front of all the ripped male athletes, I’d be a bundle of neurotic nerves around the women too.
He had his work cut out for him if he wanted to increase his female clientele. Though I had to admit, if I ever joined an athletic club, this would be my top choice. The facility was modern and pristine. As Jack showed me the glass-enclosed aerobics room, which he said he hoped to fill with yoga and Pilates classes too, I could honestly say this was
professional and state-of-the-art environment for die-hard fitness fanatics.