Crushed Page 7

She lets out an exaggerated gasping sound and reaches to adjust the controls, but I bat her hand away. “One more minute. Let’s get to five minutes of steady heart pumping.”

“Heart failure is more like it,” she says.

I hide a smile at her melodrama. If I thought she was really struggling, I’d give her a break. But before getting the job here at Cambridge Club, I spent six months shadowing a trainer at one of the behemoth Dallas gyms: long enough to know when someone was overexerted versus what I like to call anti-movement.

Chloe is definitely in the latter category.

Although I guess I should just be relieved that she showed up wearing actual workout gear.

Brand-new, from the looks of it.

Most girls I know pull their hair back from their faces while exercising, and that’s girls who don’t have Chloe’s cloud of crazy curls. But Chloe’s hair is bouncing free in all its wild glory.

I’d started to suggest she might want to do something with it, but I don’t bother because (a) she won’t listen; (b) it’s hair. I don’t give a fuck.

But by the time Chloe punches the treadmill to a stop at the end of her five minutes, I realize I do care.

That damn hair is going to be a major hindrance.

“Water break?” she asks hopefully.

I gesture at her head. “Ponytail.”

She tilts her head. “Huh?”

“Your hair. Put it in a tail.”

Chloe snorts and gives me an incredulous look. “You know, yesterday I thought you had the whole alpha thing down pat. The glower, the big ol’ biceps, the lack of small-talk skills, but you’d better watch it … Throw around the word ponytail in public and these housewives will be moving on to less metro pastures.”

I grit my teeth.

She wants alpha?

No problem.

Without a word, I turn my back on her, walking past the line of treadmills, elliptical machines, and weights until I reach the front desk.

Demi, the cute receptionist, jumps in surprise as I move behind her, opening her desk drawer and rummaging through the office supplies until I find what I’m looking for.

“You’re welcome!” she calls after me.

I return to the treadmills, fully expecting Chloe to be looking around nervously for me, but, of course, she’s not. This girl is just … I don’t even know that I can come up with a word beyond different.

Chloe Bellamy is different.

And I mean that in an I could strangle her way, not I’m intrigued.

Chloe’s found her way over to one of the cable machines and is talking to a blond dude who barely looks old enough to shave, but is definitely old enough to appreciate the compliments of an older girl.

Even if said older girl is red in the face from her warm-up and all crazy-haired.

She lets out a long gusty laugh, and I watch as he flexes, likely at her request. By the time I make it over to them, she’s honest to God squeezing the kid’s biceps.

“What the hell are you doing?” I ask.

She doesn’t seem the least bit fazed by my growl, and she turns to grin up at me. “This is Caleb. Can you believe he’s only a junior in high school? I mean look at his—”

Wrapping my fingers firmly around her arm, I tug her away.

“What’s your deal?” she mutters, turning around to give Caleb a wave and exaggerated wink.

“What’s my deal? You should be thanking me. That kid is sixteen. I’m saving you from statutory rape charges.”

“Oh, come on. I was just feeling his muscles.”

With a grunt, I put my hands on her shoulders and push her into a sitting position on one of the benches.

“What are you—hey!” she yelps.

I ignore her as I wrestle with her mane.

This is a first for me.

The only other time I’ve even really noticed a girl’s hair was when I was nineteen. There was this hot summer night in a pool house when I finally got into Melissa Gilani’s pants after a fancy party her parents had thrown. Melissa’s hair had been up in this messy bun-type thing, and she had definitely liked it when I slowly pulled the pins out and released her long blond hair, letting it fall around her shoulders.

Of course, I’d been kissing her neck at the time. That probably helped.

But I am most definitely not kissing Chloe Bellamy’s neck, and putting her hair up in a ponytail is a hell of a lot harder than taking Melissa’s hair down was that night.

Chloe howls like a banshee as I try to wrap my big hands around the mass of it and pull it through the rubber band I’d stolen from the front desk.

I manage to get the mess through the rubber band only twice before she squirms away, although there’s so much damn hair, I don’t think I could have done another loop even if she’d been still and docile: two words I don’t think will ever apply to Chloe Bellamy.

She turns around to give me a dirty look, and I glare back. “Alpha enough for you?” I ask.

Her eyes narrow. “I know what this is about.”

“No time for pop psychology,” I say. “Time for some resistance training.”

She responds anyway. “You’re mad because I squeezed that cute boy’s muscles and not yours.”


“I would have squeezed your muscles,” she rambles on, “but I didn’t want to disrupt that big old bunch of gauze on your right arm. I’m thinking either knife fight or a tattoo that you have to cover up. Club employee rules.”

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