“Here,” Tom said, passing one of the Swiss balls. “Squats next.”
His client gave a weary sigh as he spun the large exercise ball over in his hands. “I hate squats,” Luke Adams complained.
“How does your leg feel?” Tom stepped back and examined how Luke was standing.
Luke shrugged. “It’s okay.” He rested his chin against the ball, his dark hair pasted to his damp brow. “The rest of me though. I can’t believe how out of shape I feel after just a few months.”
“A broken leg, sitting around, and no exercise will do that to you,” Tom said with a nod. Luke had booked the hour to work out a program to ease him back into regular exercise and Tom was on hand to help. He picked up the other Swiss ball and tilted his head as he checked out all six-four of Luke. “All those firm bits start getting squishy.”
Luke arched one of his neat eyebrows. “Are you checking out my squishy bits?”
“No,” Tom protested and folded his arms. He tensed his arms but totally wasn’t flexing his muscles right now. Tom ducked his head, grinning when he noticed Luke had settled his gaze on his chest. He glanced around the Valen-Tone studio. It was six in the evening and the usual post-work patrons had filled up the treadmills, bikes, and weights. He looked back at Luke who wore a goofy grin.
Pursing his mouth, Luke looked beyond Tom and to the other side of the gym. “Is the boss watching? Is that it?”
This is my job. This is me being professional. Tom looked over his shoulder and at his boss. The man met his eyes, smiled, then waved him over. Tom raised a finger, indicating he just needed a minute. Turning around, he straightened when without warning Luke dropped the ball.
“Woops. Silly me,” Luke teased as he bent over, pointing his ass in Tom’s direction as he retrieved the ball.
Clearing his throat, Tom looked away in an effort to keep his rising erection in check. He’d seen plenty of guys in short shorts and tight Speedos, sweaty, muscular men with arms bigger than his head.
“So, squats?” Luke sounded disappointed by Tom’s lack of interest.
Tom turned back and was met with an encouraging smile. “Erm, yeah. Two reps of fifteen to start.” He ran his hand back through his shaggy blond hair and watched Luke position the exercise ball between him and the mirrored wall. He waited, allowing Luke to complete a couple of squats before interrupting.
“Here.” He crouched beside Luke and rested one hand on Luke’s waist, his other on Luke’s thigh above the material of his shorts. “Feet a little farther apart. Breathe in as you go down.” He daren’t look up, sure his words would have elicited doe eyes and a smirk from Luke. He pressed against Luke’s leg as he rolled with the ball, trying to ignore how the heat radiating from Luke’s skin felt against his hand. “Down so your leg’s at ninety degrees then push up. Breathe out.” He pushed at the back of Luke’s thigh, his fingers making contact with skin just below the cut of Luke’s shorts. “Again.” He guided Luke’s descent one more time, before getting to his feet and stepping back. “Ten more. Rest. Fifteen. Another fifteen if you think you can.”
Luke nodded before looking curiously at the space Tom had put between them. “Are you leaving me?” He pouted as he playfully rocked on the ball. There was a spark of mischief in his eyes.
“You’ll do fine.” He turned on his heal and headed to where his manager stood at the reception desk. “Everything okay?” he asked.
Tom’s boss leaned on the desk, pushing himself up as he looked beyond Tom to where Luke was busy with his squats. “You know there are other members who could use a hand, right?”
Tom sighed and folded his arms against the edge of the counter. He leaned in and met the man’s gaze. He looked into his blue eyes, a shade greyer than his own, as he said calmly. “He’s paid for the hour and a trainer to run him through a new program. So that’s what I’m doing.”
“So, you’re not, you know, flirting on company time?”
“Seriously?” Tom couldn’t help but laugh as he looked at his big brother, Tony Valentine. Tony had opened Valen-Tone’s Gym nine years ago and Tom had made the decision to come work for him. Tom had a degree in Sports Science and though he had taken a job at the local leisure centre only a few months before, the opportunity to work with his brother and have a bit more say in how things were done and what they’d offer was too tempting to pass up. Hell, he still couldn’t believe Tony had run with his suggestion of naming the place Valen-Tone’s, a play on their surname.
“You always did have a thing for the tall, dark, and handsome ones.” Tony tapped a pen against the top of a pile of completed membership forms he had with him.
“And you for blondes and boobs,” Tom said with a smile.
Tony smirked. “A little young for you isn’t he?” He narrowed his eyes and watched with Tom as Luke rolled up and down on the next rep of squats.
“Dickhead.” Tom wasn’t about to discuss men with his big brother. He was thirty-six and the idea of his brother taking an interest in who he flirted with, slept with, or dated just didn’t make for a comfortable conversation. “And how old was that girl yesterday? Was she even out of her training bra?”
“Okay. Point taken.” Tony dropped the pen and leaned back. “When you’re finished with him take your break.” He lingered, chewing on his lip as he looked from Luke to Tom.
“That everything?” Tom asked. His brother looked like he had more to say. Tom was getting a weird vibe from him and considered pressing him further.
“Nah. I mean, yeah. Go finish up.”
“Okay,” Tom said and waited as Tony picked up the forms and disappeared into his office. Shaking his head, he rejoined Luke. “Done?”
Luke stretched his arms above his head and shook each leg. “I’m done. Done in.”
Tom laughed. “Go stretch it out with a few lengths in the pool.”
“Ah yes, the important cool down.” Luke folded his arms across his chest, checked around, and leaned in. “Don’t suppose you’re due a break and fancy joining me in the sauna?”
Tom shyly lowered his head and rubbed at the back of his neck. “I only get fifteen minutes.”
“Can do a lot in fifteen minutes,” Luke pressed. He must have sensed how awkward Tom felt standing in the middle of the gym being propositioned when he pulled away and smiled. “Just messing. Thank you for the session. It’s been fun, I think. That’s probably not the word for it, is it?”
“Well, I had fun,” Tom shared. “So…” He smiled. “I get off at nine.”
A large smile lit Luke’s face. “Okay,” he said, his tone reflecting his interest. “What were you thinking?”
“Drinks? I can shower and change here and meet you somewhere.” He checked over his shoulder. Tony was in his office filing the latest memberships. “Echoes?”
“The club in town?”
“Yeah. Fancy it? I mean, if you want.”
Luke nodded. “Okay. Yeah. Why not?”
“Shall we say there at ten?”
“Sounds great.” Luke picked up his towel and water bottle. “Later.”
Tom followed Luke with his eyes, admiring the man’s figure and the movement of his backside beneath the material of his shorts. He smiled to himself and rolled the balls to the corner of the studio area. He could do with a night out.
Tom slid his key in the lock and did his best to open the door with as little noise as possible. Slipping inside, he lowered his bag to the floor and then pushed the door shut behind him. He stopped and took a deep breath. He felt slightly tipsy. He should have eaten more than just the Mars bar he’d grabbed on his break. The three pints had gone to his head more than he’d realised in the pub.
Turning around, he leaned against the door for a moment before pulling off his jacket and hanging it on the coat hook. He rubbed a hand through his hair and looked at his watch. Shit. It was after midnight. Quietly, he made his way down the hall and to the bedroom. The door was open and he glanced inside. Empty. He stopped and listened. There was the faint sound of music from behind the closed door on the other side of the hall. He stood beside the door until he was confident the house had stopped spinning and he could string together an adequate sentence as way of an apology. He felt guilty enough without accidentally causing an argument.
Slowly, he pushed down the door handle and opened the door. He was greeted with the warming scent of chocolate from a lit candle and he breathed in the smell. He loved that candle. Stepping inside, he looked around. An iPod sat in the dock of the stereo playing some instrumental movie theme he recognised but couldn’t place, a used dinner plate was on the table, a half-drunk glass of wine on the coaster beside an empty wine bottle. Despite the signs of life, there didn’t seem to be anyone around.
Tom blew out the candle and turned down the music, smiling as he heard a soft sound from the couch. Leaning over the back of the couch, he stared down at his partner. He admired the man for a moment, his dark hair and the long lashes of his closed eyes. He looked at the man’s mouth and grinned as he listened to the small puffs of air blown from between his full lips. The man looked adorable and despite the strange angle he was lying at, he seemed comfortable and had certainly managed to nod off.
“Hey,” Tom whispered. “You sleepin’?” He leaned over the couch and gently brushed back his lover’s dark hair from off his forehead. “Love you,” he continued. “Time for bed.”
Luke breathed in sharply and opened his eyes. He jumped as he looked up at Tom and then blinked as he settled back against the cushion he was lying on.
“Hey,” Tom said in his normal speaking voice. “You left the candle burning.”
Luke muttered something and rolled onto his side.
“Am I in trouble?” Tom asked. He walked around the couch and, lifting Luke’s legs, slid his six-two frame into the space beneath them. Gently, he kneaded Luke’s feet and up over the back of his legs.
“Mmm,” Luke managed and twisted himself to look at Tom. He smiled as Tom continued to massage his legs. “Depends how long you keep that up.”
“I’m sorry,” Tom offered. “He was gutted.”
“Dumped the day before Valentine’s? I would be too.” Luke turned onto his back and looked up at Tom. “He say why?”
Tom shook his head. “No. I’m not sure she knows why she did it either from the sound of it.” He ran his hand up inside the leg of Luke’s jeans and stroked his fingers through the hairs on Luke’s leg. “Tony said she just said they’d grown apart and she’d fallen out of love with him and it was time to call it quits.”
“Sorry,” Luke said. “Me hanging around you in front of him was probably a bad idea then.”
Tom shook his head. “He was fine. Like I said to him it was work. I mean you paid for a trainer.” He shrugged. “Though I’m not really sure why.”
Luke sat up and shuffled back against the arm of the couch. “Because as you said, it’s work. I don’t expect you to come home and start on programs and designing me a nutrition sheet when you’ve been doing it all day. There are other things you or we could be doing.”
Tom’s interest was piqued. “Other things? Anything in particular?” He gave a cheeky smile.
“I wish. I’m shattered. Maybe if you’d been home an hour ago or I’d been out drinking and dancing then—“
“Yeah, sorry about that. He needed to chat and then we had a few pints. Time got away from me.”
“It’s fine. I got the texts and the voicemail before I’d left the house so you are forgiven.”
Tom rolled his thumbs firmly against Luke’s calf. “Good.” He met Luke’s eyes and gently lifted his lover’s legs from off his lap. Getting onto his knees, he moved forward across the cushions to position himself between Luke’s legs. “I’ll have to make it up to you.” He leaned over Luke and gently stroked his cheek before moving in for a kiss. He rocked forward, pushing his body into the space between Luke’s thighs. Tom nuzzled his nose against the side of Luke’s and slowly pecked a string of kisses over his mouth. Gently, he teased at Luke’s lip, nipping the plump flesh carefully before settling against Luke and capturing his lover’s mouth in a deep kiss.
Luke rested his hands on Tom’s back and pulled at Tom’s shirt until he was able to slide his hands beneath the material. Tom smiled into the kiss as Luke dragged his fingers over his skin and pressed them against his shoulders.
“I love you,” Tom whispered, breaking the kiss for a moment. He looked deep into Luke’s warm brown eyes.
Luke teased his fingers in the back of Tom’s hair. He didn’t say anything, simply leaned up and kissed him, then encouraged Tom back down onto the couch. Luke lifted his hips and raised his legs, squeezing Tom’s waist as he held onto him, deepening the kiss as he teased Tom’s mouth for entry with his tongue.
Eventually, they parted. Luke gently ran his fingers over Tom’s chest, fingering the buttons of his shirt.
Tom kissed Luke again. “Do you want your present now or in the morning?”
Luke looked up at Tom through sleepy eyes and then glanced at the clock on the wall. It was getting on for one in the morning. “That’s easy. You know I won’t be able to sleep wondering what it is.”
“True.” They’d been together for eighteen months, living together for three. He knew everything he needed to about the man he loved, and yet, sometimes, he still found himself being surprised and finding new reasons to love Luke even more.
Tom planted a firm kiss on Luke’s mouth, then slid off the couch and to his knees beside him. Taking his wallet from his jeans pocket, he opened it and unzipped the change pouch. Positioning himself on one knee, he then took Luke’s hand in his.
“Luke Adams,” Tom started. “Will you do me the honor of—“
“Wait,” Luke said. He sat up properly and shook his head. “Are you… Is this… Is this going to be a joke and you’re actually asking me to get a puppy with you or raise a potted plant together or—“
Tom pressed his finger to Luke’s lips to shut him up. “Will you marry me?” He held up a silver band and gently ran his thumb over the space he hoped the ring would sit on Luke’s right hand.
“I… Are you sure?”
Tom nodded. He was sure. He was in love and settled and he wanted to love and be with Luke for forever.
An enormous smile spread across Luke’s face and his eyes shone as he slid to the floor beside Tom. “Yes,” he said and wrapped his arms around Tom’s neck. “God, yes.”
Tom pulled him close and breathed in the sweet smell of his lover. He relaxed into the hug. He loved the feel of his lover’s body in his arms and pressed firmly to him. Eventually, he pulled away and took Luke’s hand in his. Carefully, he pushed the ring onto Luke’s finger, relieved he’d got the measurements right.
“I love you too,” Luke said warmly. “I know I don’t say it as much as you, but I do.” He wrapped his hand around Tom’s, the silver ring catching the light as they looked at it together. “I really do.”
“I know you do.” Luke might not realise it but he showed Tom every single day how much he loved him. How he looked at him, touched him, kissed him.
Luke squeezed Tom’s hand and pulled him into an open-mouthed kiss. “How the hell am I going to get to sleep now?” He laughed as he sat back against the couch. He twisted the ring on his finger.
“I think lots and lots of hugs and kisses will do the trick.” Tom grinned and got to his feet, pulling Luke with him. Their chests bumped together as they found their footings. “So, you coming to bed Mr Valentine-Adams?”
Luke grinned and pursed his lips as he considered the joining of their surnames. “I could get used to that.”
Tom pulled him close and kissed him again. “How about next year?”
“Next year? Really?”
Luke looked at the ring and nodded. “Okay. Let’s do it.”
Tom smiled and kissed Luke on the cheek, pressing his face to Luke’s as he hugged him close. “Happy Valentine’s day.”