The best part of interning for the Braun-Evans Racing Team wasn’t that I got to spend my summer in England. Nope. It was the gym. And while, yes, I was in fact having a great time being abroad, adventuring through the country and slipping down to Oxford to get my geek on, it paled in comparison to the Braun-Evans fitness center.
I can explain this reasoning to you in four words: Hot. Sweaty. Male. Bodies.
Usually in some state of nakedness. To be specific, these were very fit, mostly naked bodies. And these guys weren’t even the rich and famous drivers. They were the pit crews and engineers (sometimes), the software engineers, management, and public relations (usually.) And they all had one thing in common: a company-wide directive to be in peak physical shape.
It was like I’d died and gone to heaven.
I generally enjoyed working out. I liked a nice endorphin high as much as the next gym rat, but really I simply had a mild fixation on being strong and healthy. Meaning, it was not a hardship to agree to the physical part of my contract. I considered it a nice bonus.
I had no idea.
Optics were a big deal in Formula One. So in addition to the cutting edge gym equipment there was also a company stylist that scheduled everyone’s hair cuts, waxings, and uniform fittings. Everyone—interns included—were expected to fit the perfect Braun-Evans image.
It was like working for a certain Mouse. Trust me on this. My first summer internship took place in a theme park that shall remain nameless. When your job is to look like a specific character it comes with all kinds of crazy requirements like not going out in the sun (because your skin color might change), keeping your weight within a specific zone, and not being allowed to change your hair style.
I hated that job.
But I loved this one.
Case in point: my current view from the elliptical machine allowed me unencumbered ogling access to the weight lifting area where three members of Kingston Reynolds’ pit crew were currently doing back squats.
I really can’t emphasize this enough. Shirtless.
My phone buzzed and lit up on the cradle in front of me with a text message from my friend and fellow intern, Jessica Crosley.
Jess: You’ve been staring thirty seconds too long.
We had a system to keep us from being fired. Namely, we worked out together and when one of us got caught in the trance of rippling muscles and perfectly groomed beards, we made sure to put a stop to it before we got reported.
I tore my eyes away from the glistening forearms—because one of the finest body parts of a man who lifts wheels and heavy equipment for a living is his perfectly defined forearms—and tapped out a reply.
Isa: Thank you . . .
Jess: No problem. Let’s hit the bench after they clear out.
I gave her a thumbs up since she was watching me from her treadmill. Jess was a runner. She jogged a minimum of five miles a day while I hated running and found new and creative ways to improve my cardiovascular fitness.
Like watching the pit crew do leg presses. Talk about getting your heart rate up.
The other great part of the fitness facility was that I never had to worry about any of the guys hitting on me. There was a strict no-fraternization policy for the interns at Braun-Evans. Also, they were so focused on completing their workouts they didn’t spend a lot of time talking to me. It wasn’t that they ignored me or acted like I was invisible. It was more like I was insignificant.
Which was fine by me. It gave me plenty of space to enjoy the gun show. And by gun show I obviously mean muscles.
I was just starting my cool down—something I’m not terribly graceful at is reducing my speed—when everything changed. The entire room suddenly took on an electric feel. The hair on my arm rose up. I glanced around the room to determine what strange phenomenon might have caused this reaction when I noticed everyone had turned toward the doorway. They were all smiling. Excited. Vibrating.
And that could only mean . . .
Oh damn. Why did I look? Even more importantly, why didn’t my legs seem to work? I stumbled mid-stride, just barely catching myself on the stupid handgrips as the elliptical steps zoomed past my balance point.
It’s not an exaggeration to describe the man as a god. He’s the kind of unattainable perfect reserved for underwear models, action movie stars, and Greek gods. Sandy, Thor-like hair—new, short-haired Thor, not old, long-haired Thor—he had piercing eyes, and a strong jaw that looked great clean-shaven or with a little stubble, like he was sporting today. And then there was his body. Drivers weren’t tall or bulky. They couldn’t be if they wanted to win. Thor—I mean King—was one of the tallest in racing at five-foot-eleven. He was also one of the heavier drivers because he was basically pure, lean muscle. The man’s arms were just . . . I shook my head to clear the brain fog created by staring at his muscular forearms and that vein that ran from his wrist to his bicep like some sort of hypnotic snake charmer.
In short, Kingston Reynolds had the sexiest forearms I’d ever seen.
And right now I couldn’t stop staring at them as I tried and failed to catch my balance. To my complete horror his focus zeroed in on me just as I gave up and leapt backward off the machine, crashing into the mirrors behind me.
To add to my horror, I tripped and fell sideways. This drew the attention of pretty much everyone in the room. And to top it off for old times sake, it was King who rushed to my rescue.
My heart may or may not have completely stopped when he put those strong hands of his on my hips—my hips!—and helped right me.
“Whoa there,” he drawled in his sexy, sexy British accent. “You all right? Is that machine trying to eat you for breakfast?”
I died. I’m pretty sure that’s what happened. Between the mortification and the hands on my hips I had to be dead, right? That would explain why there seemed to be no beat coming from inside my chest, no air in my lungs. I couldn’t bring myself to meet his gaze. Mostly because my eyes were stuck on his forearms. They were my favorite part of him. They were also attached to his hands. That were still on my hips!
“Hey now, you good?” And. Then. He. Squeezed.
The pressure of his touch sent a zing straight to my core. I stumbled again because the world had suddenly gone a bit sideways.
“Hey, hey, hey,” King cooed, and pulled me against his chest. “Careful now. Is your blood sugar low? Let’s get you a juice.”
Then he turned me, tucking me firmly against his side, and led me all the way into the break room next door. I could feel every sculpted muscle. His body heat was several degrees cooler than my own and yet was still somehow scorching. I could smell him. Mostly because I had a good workout stink going on while he had the remnants of a smooth musky cologne clinging to his skin.
He was basically heaven and I never wanted him to let me go.
But he did. He eased me down onto the couch and retrieved an orange juice from the giant drink cooler. Then he squatted in front of me as he opened it and pressed it into my hand. “Take a few sips. It’ll help.”
I wanted to correct him. The only thing that would help would be a time machine. One that would stop me before I fell off the elliptical. That way King would have started his workout without ever noticing me. I’d watch him surreptitiously from the corner like I always did. He’d never know I existed.
It was the way it was supposed to be.
“You’re one of the public relations interns, yeah?”
Oh god . . . he knew who I was? “Um, yeah. That’s me.”
He smiled as he stroked my knee with his thumb. It was the first time I’d seen him smile (he was scowler) and I was struck a little bit dumb by how completely gorgeous it was. It made his eyes light up. “How are you liking things? They treating you well?”
I blinked. Mostly because I never thought I’d have a one-on-one conversation with King, but also because the management was kind of nasty at the factory. “Well, I mean, I’m an intern. I’m basically their grunt. But I love the gym and the cafeteria and the stylist.” I clamped my mouth shut because that was way too much information.
He laughed lightly. My insides did a double back flip. “Those are my three favorite parts too.”
“Yeah,” he nodded, then his eyes roamed over me as if he were really and truly getting to know me. “I like clothes but hate thinking about them, so it’s nice to have someone take care of it all for me. I love food. Love. It. And I wouldn’t be a professional athlete if I didn’t have a morbid love of working out. You?”
I needed to keep him from speaking in long sentences. The longer I listened to his lyrical cadence the deeper into a trance I fell. “Um, yeah. Same.”
He cocked his head to the side. “Really? You’re always dressed so nicely. Even on your first day. I assumed you probably hated being told what to wear and how to style your hair.” And then his eyes ran over my sweaty hair.
Wait . . . wait one stinking minute. Did he just say what I think he just said? “You remember my first day?”
His eyes widened and he swallowed hard. He also froze his thumb. But, I noted, he didn’t take away his hand. Curious. Then he slowly nodded, choosing his words slowly and carefully. “Uh, yeah. I do. I try my best to know everyone on the team, even interns.” Except his eyes didn’t agree with his words. They still wandered my face like he was memorizing me. I might have a massive crush on him and I might have been under the impression he had no idea who I was, but I wasn’t oblivious. King liked what he saw.
Was King . . . attracted to me?
And did it really matter? It wasn’t like we were going to have some torrid secret office affair. He was allowed to enjoy the opposite sex—visually—as much as I was. I’d be a hypocrite after my eye-ogling sessions at the gym. So I decided that’s what all this was. King liked looking at me. King was a decent guy who knew everyone. It was as simple as that.
“Better now?” he asked.
I nodded, took another sip. “Yeah. I think so. Must have overdone it today.”
He stood and took two large steps across the room, putting as much distance between us as possible. He seemed . . . nervous. Interesting. “Please be careful. Exercise is healthy, overdoing it is not.” He grabbed a bottled water and chugged half of it in two swallows.
“I appreciate your help. It was very kind.” Too kind. Out of this world kind. Greek gods didn’t come down to earth to fraternize with the humans. I conveniently blocked out the lessons from my minor in Classics that taught me when Greek gods did come down from Mount Olympus it was usually to fall in lust with a woman.
His eyes flashed and then a wall went up. “I should get back to my workout.”
Of course he should. He was literally paid to be in the gym, not in a break room with a clumsy intern. But that didn’t mean I wanted him to go. “How long are you at the factory?”
“I leave for Austria on Wednesday,” he said quietly. Then he glanced back at me and I could have sworn there was a softness to his gaze.
That was two business days from now. Two days of King working in the same building before he vanished back into the heavens. “Thanks again.” I held up my juice and tried to smile even though I was finding it rather hard to breathe.
He nodded, looking very uncomfortable, searched for a place to toss his bottle, then made for the door. He stopped with his hand on the knob and glanced back. “I’ll see you around Isabel.”
Then he left just as Jess came rushing in with a smirk. “How are you?” She turned back to make sure the door was shut. “Oh my god, did you do that just so you could flirt with King?”
“What? No. I’m mortified!” And strangely turned on by his parting statement. He knows my name.
She gave me look. “You just had Kingston Reynolds pick you up and walk you out. Then you spent five minutes alone in a room with him. I think your mortification can wait.”
She was right. My mortification had all but dissolved, leaving behind a crush I could barely contain. King knew my name and hearing him say it was quite possibly the sexiest sound in the world.