I do a squat to demonstrate. Generally I do squats with weight—lots of it—but since the most physical exercise Chloe seems accustomed to is running her mouth, I figure I’d better start at the beginning. The very beginning.
“Okay?” I say, doing another since she didn’t mimic my motion the second time.
She watches my movement in the mirror. “One more time,” she says.
I comply, and then mutter a string of curses because Chloe Bellamy has just reached out in the middle of a busy gym and patted my ass.
“Very nice,” she says, sounding surprised.
She shrugs. “You just got so upset when I was ogling that other guy instead of you, so I wanted to make you feel good.”
For a second I want to laugh, and because of that I’m tempted to tell her that this arrangement is over. That she can go back to being her chocolate-munching lazy self, because I don’t laugh.
Chloe’s different, and I hate different.
She’s not like the women who eye me like a piece of meat, nor like the love-struck girls at the bar who act like I’ll settle down once I find the right girl.
And she’s definitely not like her sister Kristin, who knows exactly how gorgeous she is and knows that all she has to do is wait for the guys to come to her.
Chloe is . . .
I don’t even know.
She gives a long sigh. “I’m sorry I fondled you.”
She does a quick half squat. “Okay?”
I hold her wide blue gaze in the mirror, startled to realize that without all that hair distracting from her features, she’s actually quite . . .well, I don’t know what.
I don’t know if pretty’s the word.
“No, not okay,” I snap, annoyed by the train of my thoughts. “You need to go down farther.”
“That’s what she said.” Chloe tries again for another squat, and I keep my hand on her shoulder, gently forcing her to go just a little bit lower.
“But that’s hard,” she protests.
I give a grim laugh. “Yeah. That’s kind of the point.”
Chloe turns her head to face me then, meeting my eyes for real instead of in the mirror.
Awareness flashes across her face, and I jerk my hand away, feeling a little unnerved, because I have the strangest feeling that Chloe Bellamy knows that when I say it’s hard, I’m not talking about the squats.
I’m talking about life.