Uncaged Love The Boxed Set #1-5(5)

By: JJ Knight


But I do know my hair is what Zero called “athletically fabulous.” He’s devised some loose, low ponytail with tendrils around my face.

I’m about to open the door when it pushes wide. I jump back, and the biggest man who’s ever been two feet from me stops dead.

“Sorry, miss,” he says. His voice is so teddy-bear soft that my panic slips away.

He’s monstrous, filling the whole doorframe. His shoulders are wide enough that I could fit my apartment between them.

He holds the door open for me like I’m a princess rather than a pauper. I nod my thanks and scoot inside.

It’s dim, but the smell is so familiar that it’s like stepping into my past. It’s lemony, like the spray polish my grandma would use on the furniture in her house when I was a kid. The floors are shiny, and everything seems freshly scrubbed.

It’s like Grandma’s been here. Like she prepared it just for me.

I glance at the ceiling, as though she might be watching. Then I steady myself with a deep breath. To the right is a small counter. Nobody’s behind it. I’m in a front room, but it opens into a bigger one filled with benches and weights. The clang of metal filters through the doorway.

There’s a hallway behind the counter with a couple small doors. Could be offices. Could be a locker room. I can’t imagine walking in on a bunch of half-naked men. I’d probably collapse into a puddle of mortified shock.

It’s why I live alone. I’m private. I want everyone else to be private too. Guys who work out here are probably a bunch of strutters.

This is suddenly very obviously a super-bad idea.

I whip around to leave when I crash into a solid mass of naked chest. My legs are already melting into that puddle I predicted when a pair of seriously tricked-out arms catch me. I look up.

It’s Golden Boy.

I realize I haven’t breathed for a few seconds too long and suck in a great gulp of air. I’m crushed against the heat of his skin, and he doesn’t smell anything like Grandma’s house. Woodsy. Like pine needles and sunshine.

“We meet again.” His words rumble through me. I think I hear him more with my body than my ears.

I try to find my voice, but it’s buried somewhere beneath the air I’m sucking in. The moment’s about to end. I can feel him pulling away. It’s like peeling a Band-Aid off too slow.

He lets go. “Did you need me for something?”

I step back and the Help Wanted sign flutters to the floor. He bends over to pick it up. I see down his naked back. Wide shoulders taper to the waist of his blue workout shorts. An intricate tattoo curls across his skin. I can’t breathe.

He straightens and hands the paper back. “You going to take a job here?”

I’m willing my voice to work. “Maybe,” I manage to say.

“Let me call Buster over.”

“Buster?”

He grins at me. “It’s Buster’s Gym.”

“You know him?”

He sighs. “Apparently I’m his new project.”

I don’t know what he means. I hang on to the paper like a lifeline while he steps up to the doorway of the weight room. When his arms are down, the tattoo on his back matches up seamlessly with one encircling his bicep.

His legs are tan and hairy and lean. His calf muscle bulges as he pivots, looking around. I’ve never inspected a man as closely as this. I’ve never wanted to.

“He must be in the addition,” he says. “Come on, I’ll take you back.”

“Are — are you sure?”

“Yeah.” He waves me forward. “Buster is hiring several new people with the expansion. It’s my fault.”

Again I have no idea what he’s talking about, but I follow him. Inside the weight room, a half-dozen men and a couple girls are grunting and straining with barbells and stretchy bands. I keep my eyes on the concrete floor, cracked but shiny. The place is clean at least. I wonder if it will be my job to keep it that way. Maybe I can work after-hours, when nobody’s around.

In the far corner, a man punches at a big red bag while a tiny older guy holds it. “Give it more, give it more,” the guy says, an unlit cigar hanging from his mouth. “What sort of pussy are you?”

One of the girls slams a gigantic weight to the ground. “Stop with the pussy bullshit.”

The old guy waves her off. “Right, fine, sorry.”

The girl is placated and rolls another giant wheel from a rack.

I’ve never been any place like this before.

A sheet of plastic covers a gaping hole in the back wall. Golden Boy lifts a corner and peers through. “Buster back here?” he calls out.

He turns back to me. I kinda wish he’d put on a shirt, and kinda don’t. I’m all off balance. This isn’t how I pictured this going at all.

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