I SHOULD have known the discussion wasn’t over. Fielding was tenacious as hell once he got his mind set on something. So on Friday, when I got the text, I knew exactly what Fielding was referring to.
You’re working 2 jobs. You need money. I’ll pay a tutoring fee. $35/hour.
I was working at the Grain Basket at the time. I glanced at the text message, put my phone back in my pocket, and kept making the turkey and avocado on whole grain. I ground my teeth.
The text message alert sounded again. I finished the order and put it up before I allowed myself to look at it.
I texted back. No.
Fielding’s response came fast and furious.
I’ll do the dishes for a month.
And take out the trash.
And pay the tutoring fee.
It’s just a KISS. It is totally worth all that.
I turned off my phone. For the rest of my shift, my hands were shaking.
Friday nights, I worked at the Cornell Fitness Center from seven ’til midnight. The gym closed at eleven thirty and I had to make sure everything was cleaned up and put away before I left. Like everyplace else on campus, the fitness center was decked out in red bows, fake greenery, twinkle lights, and silver tinsel. Holiday songs like “Santa Baby” played over the loudspeakers in the weight room instead of the usual pop-rock mix.
I was showing an old football buddy of mine how to use the elliptical machine when Fielding walked in. He was dressed in gray sweat pants and a white, short-sleeved T-shirt. He saw me and waved.
My stomach immediately clenched up like a pill bug rolling into a ball. God, if Fielding started talking about kissing here, in this testosterone bastion, in front of the guys—like seriously guy guys—I was going to kill him.
I got through my spiel on the elliptical. That was a miracle in itself with about two brain cells focused on the task. When I was done, I went over to Fielding. He was running his hand over the free weights against the mirrored wall as if he were trying to choose a bowling ball.
“Hello,” Fielding said, smiling at me in the mirror.
“What are you doing here?” I asked. It came out pretty cold.
Fielding’s smile vanished. “You’ve been lecturing me about lifting weights for months,” he said stiffly.
True enough. Any other time, I’d be thrilled that Fielding had actually shown up. I licked my lips, and nodded. “So you’re here to work out?”
“No, I thought I’d practice my Brahms. That’s why I came to the gym.”
I rolled my eyes. “Okay. Fine. Great. Let’s start with biceps.”
There were a dozen people in the weight room, but I knew them all, and they were comfortable with their routines. So I had the time to pace Fielding, taking him through a beginner workout for arms, back, and chest. It quickly became clear Fielding was really focused on the workout and wasn’t going to talk about the kiss. I started to relax.
“So what actually causes muscle tissue to grow?” Fielding asked. He watched his bicep plump and flex while he curled a dumbbell. There was a frown of concentration on his face. He actually had more muscle tone than you’d expect, though working out a few times a week would do wonders for him. My eyes roamed over him. With his lean build, it wouldn’t take long for the results to show.
I put my palm on his bicep to feel it work, motioned for him to keep going. “It’s, um, called hypertrophy. When you work out, you break down some of the muscle fibers, then afterward your body repairs the tears, building the fibers bigger and thicker. It’s sort of like scar tissue.”
“That sounds attractive.” Fielding arched a brow ironically, but he didn’t stop pumping the weight. Under my hand, his warm muscle flexed and contracted.
I let go and took the dumbbell from him. “That weight’s too light for you. You want to lift enough so that eight to ten reps is challenging. If it’s too light, you won’t break down the muscle fiber.”
I handed him a twenty pound dumbbell. “Do the other arm now. Nice and slow.”
He switched. I wrapped my palm around his other bicep, just to see if I could feel it working harder with the heavier weight.
“What happens on a chemical level?” he asked, rolling the weight up and down.
I smiled. Fielding was the first person to ever ask me shit like that in the gym. Normally, people just wanted to be shown what to do. They could care less how or why it worked. It was nice to actually use my education for once. “The stress on your body causes hormones to be released—testosterone and growth hormone, some insulin. They increase the amount of nutrients going to your muscles so they can rebuild.”
Fielding gasped out a ninth rep. “I see. The body’s equivalent of FEMA,” he joked, putting down the weight.
I laughed. “Loosely, yeah. Only it actually works.”
“And this is good for you?” He sounded dubious.
My hand was still on his bicep. I frowned and pulled away. “It’s brilliant for you. Having more muscle mass makes you stronger, of course. But weight training also strengthens your bones and tendons, and it’s good for your metabolism and even your mental health. Let’s do your triceps now.”
I showed him an overhead pull.
“Ouch,” he said, trying it. “This isn’t nearly as much fun as running.”
“Hence the term working out.”
He snorted. “You like it, though. You get anxious if you don’t get your work out in.”
I rested my fingertips on his triceps on both sides to encourage him to keep going as he lifted. I shrugged. “The hormone and adrenaline buzz gets to be addictive.”
“How addictive?” he asked with interest.
I knew what he was asking. So I told him about clinical studies, blood tests for serotonin, about people so addicted to working out they got body dysmorphia and ended up ridiculously huge. He soaked it all up avidly, and not because he had a particular interest in fitness the way I did, but because he was simply curious about everything.
We made it through triceps and biceps and went on to butterfly chest presses while we chatted. And I couldn’t help thinking—all this recent drama aside, this is why I loved spending time with Fielding. The guy was funny and razor sharp, and when he decided to give his attention to something, he did it wholeheartedly. He had to dissect it and understand it completely, to master it. Within one month of coming to the gym, he’d know more about body-building than anyone else here, including me. He’d be able to teach classes on it if he wanted to.
Fuck, I admired that. It fascinated me to watch Fielding, gave me this weird thrill. I admired him and envied him too, in equal doses. There’s a saying—talent recognizes genius, and I guess that was me and Fielding. I was smart enough to get into Cornell, and I was smart enough to graduate in my chosen discipline. But it was never without struggle. Fielding, he was so far above me intellectually, so gifted, it just made me drop my jaw in awe and do a mental kowtow.
He was special. You don’t meet many people in life who are that special. Maybe that’s why it was so much fun to show Fielding the things his upbringing hadn’t exposed him to.
Like kissing, a voice in my head said.
I felt a spike of dread. No, not like kissing.
Fielding was lying flat on his back, doing bench presses. I stood at his shoulders, spotting him in case the weight got the best of him and giving him some tips on form.
But at the thought of the kiss, the words dried up in my throat. Fielding didn’t seem to notice. He kept doing reps.
Would kissing be like the weights? Like running? Like the snowman? Would he bring the same focus and enthusiasm to sex that he brought to everything else? What would it be like to be with someone like that?
Fielding’s white T-shirt was tight across his pecs and damp with sweat right in the middle of his chest. His legs were folded over the end of the bench instead of off to the side like most people—damn, his thighs were long. His dark hair was damp around his face, and his blue-gray eyes were locked on the ceiling as he pushed the barbell up and lowered it slowly. His full lips were slightly parted as he breathed through the reps.
I realized I was staring. I felt a burn deep in my gut, as if I’d just done a few hundred sit-ups. Heat flushed my skin. My cock swelled rapidly, and there was a painful ache in my balls, an intense physical longing so sharp it was like a knife jab. Fuck.
There was no way to avoid the truth this time—the hard-on was mine.
I got pissed. I took the barbell out of Fielding’s hands. “That’s enough.”
Fielding sat up. I couldn’t look at him. “Listen, um, I’ve got to go help some other people. Do two more sets like that and then call it a night.”
“But I thought I’d hang out and walk home with you.”
I lost it. “What the—I don’t want to walk home with you, okay? Just… leave me alone! For God’s sake.”
I said it loudly, and a half-dozen people turned to look at us.
Fielding dropped his eyes to the floor, and his face went from pale to scarlet in what seemed to be painfully slow-mo, but had to be no more than a matter of seconds. Guilt punched into my gut, killing my embarrassment and my arousal both in a wave of black ice.
“Look, Fielding—I… I didn’t mean that.”
Fielding shook his head in a harsh jolt, not raising his eyes, and walked quickly out the door.
Author Bio for Eli Easton
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, an organic farmer and a profound sleeper, Eli is happily embarking on yet another incarnation as a m/m romance author.
As an avid reader of such, she is tinkled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, three bulldogs, three cows and six chickens. All of them (except for the husband) are female, hence explaining the naked men that have taken up residence in her latest fiction writing.
Her website in www.elieaston.com
You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org