Authors: Ava McKnight
He also pointed out the room for spinning classes and showed me the cardio equipment. As we wandered back toward the middle of the mezzanine, which looked down onto the lobby, he said, “The locker rooms are downstairs. Both the men’s and the women’s have whirlpools, saunas and massage therapy facilities. Memberships come with two free sports massages a month.”
“Now there’s a great selling point,” I quipped.
Laughing, he said, “You’d think.” Then his expression turned serious. “Really, Claire, the reason I’m so gung ho about making women feel comfortable here—and I’m talking about all women who are serious about enhancing their athletic ability and fitness levels through exercise, not just professional athletes—is because I know how it feels to be intimidated when it comes to working out.”
I eyed him curiously. “I find that hard to believe.”
“It’s true. It’s the reason I designed the first ProAth system. Before that…” He shrugged his shoulders, looking modest and maybe even a bit embarrassed about the admission he was making. His humility was as sexy as his earlier confidence. “I was a classic nerd in school. Smart enough, yes. And scrawny, unsure of myself, timid…you name it. Yet, I really wanted to play football. I had the inner drive and the determination, but not the body. I was just a geek in a uniform for years, sitting on the bench. Good enough to make the team, mind you, but not good enough to make it into a game.”
“Wow, I never would have guessed.”
He looked contrite as he said, “I could have played earlier on, I’m sure of it. If I’d just had the nerve to work out with the team. But every time I got close to the gym, I turned around and walked away. I thought they’d make fun of my wimpy arms and skinny legs, you know?”
He wasn’t directing that question at me for a specific reason, I could tell. He wasn’t pointing out
wimpy arms and skinny legs. He was being honest about his own shortcomings and he seemed genuinely remorseful he’d been too insecure to do anything about his physical challenges.
I said, “I think I know how you feel.” I didn’t have to say any more. It wasn’t like I could hide the fact I could use some toning here and there.
“It’s not an easy thing for anyone—male or female—to own up to,” he continued. “Physical fitness is a touchy subject. So much so, I’d only work out in the privacy of my parents’ garage. I didn’t want anyone to see me. But I wasn’t getting the desired results just lifting twenty-pound weights. I needed more—from head to toe. That’s when the design concept for the ProAth Bodybuilder came to mind. I studied the products on the market and read about workout habits of professional athletes. I figured out a way to incorporate exercises that toned all the major muscle groups and provided a great cardio workout at the same time.”
“Lots of competition out there. You could have used your own testimonial—your before and after photos—to boost sales.”
He shook his head. “I thought it was better to let my customers speak for the product—including the coach of the football team. There’s more proof in that pudding.”
“So you’re a savvy businessman, to boot,” I said, an unmistakable note of admiration in my tone.
How on earth this guy was still single was beyond me. Then again…considering his drop-dead gorgeous looks and sexy smile, I imagined he was quite the player.
But that angle didn’t really sit right with me either. Jack Reed did not strike me as the type who’d shine on women just to get what he wanted from them. He didn’t seem to be the type to treat sex and dating causally. His intensity for his noble plight, and the philanthropic efforts I’d learned of when researching him, suggested he wanted to help people fulfill their fitness goals and reach their peak athletic potential—not just collect more money from his prestigious and expensive memberships, or have more women wandering around the club with next to nothing on.
No, he obviously had a very clear vision of what he wanted from life. Maybe he just hadn’t found the right woman yet…
I found that to be a more appealing notion.
“Well,” he said, perking up again, “if I can get this campaign headed in the right direction, I might be able to convince women that ProAth is the club for them. It’s about getting and staying fit. I don’t want anyone obsessing over what other members will think about their clothes or their fitness level. If you’re dedicated, you’re welcomed here.”
“A short and sweet sentiment. You’re giving me a lot to work with, Jack.”
He grinned at me and I felt a flash of heat deep in my cunt again. My innate reaction to Jack Reed was surprising and a bit alarming. I wasn’t used to such blatant, erotic effects on my body, given my lack of interest in pursuing a relationship myself. I’d battled abandonment issues since my mother had left my father and me when I was just seven years old. She hadn’t been the least bit tactful about it either, or considerate of our feelings. No, she’d declared in a rather harsh tone that marriage and motherhood were not for her, and she’d grown tired of monogamy and pretending to have maternal instincts.
My response to this had been to stuff my nose in books with dark connotations and endings because those characters suffered more than I did, and that was somehow therapeutic for me. My father, however… Well, he’d only exacerbated the problem by expanding his business interests and spending as little time at home as possible, not wanting the constant reminder of his failed marriage and broken heart. Even a seven-year-old daughter with her own broken heart hadn’t been enough to keep him at the house for long, which only added to my internal strife. Thank God I’d had a very caring live-in nanny and a slew of housekeeping staff to keep me company and raise me, or I probably would’ve ended up with more serious emotional scars. Well, more so than I had, that was.
“So, I have a female perspective on the club for your article,” Jack said, interrupting my thoughts. Taking my hand again, he led me down the stairs and to the juice bar. We bellied up and he ordered us both a protein shake he swore by. As the “bartender” whipped up our healthy drink, Jack continued. “Do you know who Gwen Rutherford is?”
My brows shot up. “From the Mercury? She’s only the highest-touted women’s professional basketball player in the country!”
He grinned again. “She works out here when she’s not with her own trainer. I told her about my mission and the article, and she volunteered to speak with you. Give you her thoughts on the club and also offer some advice or words of wisdom and encouragement to any of your female readers who are interested in a membership here. Particularly those serious about yoga and Pilates. We have renowned instructors who never have full classes.”
“I think adding her perspective would certainly lend more credibility to the piece—and to your plight.”
“Great, ’cause she’s headed this way.”
I tore my gaze from his hypnotic green eyes, difficult though it was, and found Gwen bounding down the three steps that led to the slightly sunken bar area.
“Hey, Jack,” she said as they high-fived. She slid onto a barstool and turned to me. “You must be Claire Williams. I read your articles in
“Thanks,” I told her, flattered.
“Well, I’ll let you two talk woman to woman,” Jack said as he lifted his shake from the granite counter and stood. “If you have any questions or want to talk more, Claire, give me a call.”
He stared at me with a meaningful look in his beautiful emerald irises that suggested he hoped I came up with a lengthy list of questions that’d require me to contact him. I hoped so too.
“Thanks so much for the tour, Jack,” I told him. “And for the shake.” I’d yet to try it, but I was adventurous enough to give it a go.
Jack left us alone and I got a great interview and some invaluable insight from Gwen, along with her acquiescence to do a separate article on her.
Pleased as could be, I headed back to the office and dived right into my first draft on ProAth. About an hour into the writing, my phone rang.
“This is Claire Williams,” I said into the receiver perched on the corner of my desk.
“Hey, it’s Jack Reed.”
My pulse jumped off the charts. I bit back a smile—not that he could see how ridiculously happy I was he’d called—as I strove for an even tone, rather than the excited one that bubbled up in my throat. “Think of something else for the article?”
“No. There was something I wanted to ask you, but I didn’t get a chance to because Gwen showed up.”
“Oh?” My heart picked up an erratic beat that had me tapping my fingers against my desk in a fidgety way. “What can I do for you?”
“See me on Friday night.”
The words he’d blurted out lingered between us as my breath caught in my throat. A jolt of excitement down my spine made me squirm in my seat. I could honestly say I’d never been struck by lightning, proverbially of course, when it came to men. Yet I definitely felt a zap of electricity against all my previously hibernating erogenous zones.
“Still there?” he asked as I processed all of these new and titillating sensations while fighting for a full breath of air. “Claire?”
Forcing myself to speak, I said, “Yes, still here. You just…took me by surprise.” Suddenly, it occurred to me I might have misinterpreted his request. He hadn’t actually asked me out on a date, had he? Perhaps that wasn’t the reason for his call at all. Maybe he wanted to get together to review the draft I was working on.
To clarify, I said, “You did say you hadn’t come up with anything additional for the article, right?”
His very sexy chuckle sent another tingle along my spine. Actually, that enticing tickle skated over my entire body, making me shiver.
He said, “That’s right. I’m inviting you to a party. It can be on a professional basis, if you’d prefer. I’m hosting a get-together for club members at my house in Troon North. You can meet some athletes who work with me, get their point of view on the gym if they’re willing to be interviewed. Or…” He was quiet a moment, and I could swear he was working up the nerve to say his next words. Indeed, his voice was a bit more tentative as he added, “You could come as my date.”
Jack Reed, multimillionaire and genius entrepreneur—not to mention sinfully delicious hunk of a man—was asking
out on a date.
“Claire?” he prompted again because I’d completely stalled out. His tone, this time, held a hint of amusement. Clearly, he knew the effect he had on me.
“Yes,” I breathed as my excitement escalated. “Friday night would be great.”
“Would you mind verifying which role you’ll be playing?” he asked, the amusement turning into a gentle teasing. “Just so I don’t make any wrong assumptions.”
“Date,” I told him. But as the word slipped from my parted lips, my head jerked up and I quickly scanned the newsroom to see if anyone was listening in on my conversation.
I didn’t go out with men. Everyone I worked with knew that. Hell, I didn’t even go out with my colleagues for happy hour. When I wasn’t writing for the magazine, I was studying photography and wandering the desert landscape surrounding the city, taking shots of Saguaro cactus in full bloom, or other flora and wildlife. I loved the outdoors, but I wasn’t nearly as skilled at capturing its full beauty as was someone like Pete, the photographer typically assigned to me.
Luckily, no one was paying the least bit of attention to me as they all pounded out their own stories on their laptops. The magazine had been hit hard by the economy and we were all worried it’d fold in the near future. The very reason we were scrambling to come up with different article topics in hopes of reaching a broader audience than Scottsdale socialites. Hence my agreement to do the feature on ProAth.
With Jack still on the line, I asked, “Where and what time Friday?”
“I’ll send a car. That way you won’t have to drive. You can have some champagne and enjoy the view.”
I knew the one of which he spoke. Although, the view
had in mind was of his brilliant smile and ripped body, not the famed vista of the valley sprawled at Troon North’s feet.
“So you didn’t tell me what time,” I reminded him as a prickle of desire danced along my clit at the reminder of Jack’s cut body and sexy grin.
“Eight. Email me your address and cell number, and I’ll see you Friday night.”
I had his business card sitting right in front of me and opened my email program while he was still on the line. Hell, I was already planning my outfit for the evening.
“Sending it now. I’ll see you Friday.” I disconnected the call before I said anything stupid that would make him change his mind about wanting to see me. About wanting to
The urge to shout that particular word for all to hear rose within me, but I tamped it down. I didn’t share my personal life with the other three staff writers or the photographers. Not even Pete, who I spent most of my time with when I was on assignment. The other journalists were women and though I liked them and we had congenial relationships, I didn’t quite fit their mold. For one thing, I had more money than them, because of my father’s global success. Although I was only slightly older than all three at thirty, my interests did not run the way of designer shoes and trendy restaurants and “see and be seen” scenes. I didn’t name drop, nor did I speculate over what plastic surgery might do to enhance my chances of snagging a rich husband.