“I’m a klutz. I would take us both down if I tried to shake while moving. Sayer Cole.”
I grinned at her when she told me her name. “A very pretty name for a very pretty lady.”
She blinked at me like she didn’t understand the words I was using and then tilted her head to the side and looked at me consideringly. “Yours is kind of unusual. I’m not sure if it’s the red hair or not, but you really don’t look like an Orlando.”
I turned my machine off as well and let her get away with changing the subject in a very lawyerly way. “I know. I think my folks should have gone with Harry so I could cash in, on the whole royal ginger thing, but no. My dad was a recruiter for a few different sports teams when I was younger, so we moved around a lot. All of us kids have names of cities. Mom won’t confirm or deny that’s where we were conceived, but I have a brother named Austin and a sister named Phoenix. Most people just call me, Lando.”
I waited a second to see if she would elaborate on her own interesting moniker but when she just continued to watch me without saying anything we lapsed into an awkward silence. I was going to tell her it was nice to meet her and tell her I hoped she enjoyed the facilities when she suddenly shook her head and gave me a rueful grin.
“It doesn’t matter how fast or how long I run I can’t seem to get away from the things chasing me, but it was nice to have a little company while I tried.”
I crossed my arms on the safety bar and leaned towards her. “I’m kind of in the same boat.” I arched both my eyebrows up. “Boy trouble?”
I couldn’t explain why I was pressing her, but there was something about her that tugged at me. She seemed very put together, almost polished and practiced in a way that made her seem untouchable, but there was a hint of vulnerability in her bright blue eyes that was begging for any kind of basic human connection.
She shook her head slowly and reached for a bottle of water that was by her feet. “Not a boy at all. A man. A man that is in all ways of the wrong kind of man, but that doesn’t matter because I still have a crush on him.” She made a face. “A crush. I’ve never had a crush on anyone in my entire life and I have no idea what to do with it, or with him.”
She sounded baffled and adorable. I just wanted to hug her and ask her if she needed a friend. I ran my hands over my damp hair because I wasn’t blessed with ice water in my veins like my new companion and did sweat when I ran.
“In my experience as long as he treats you right and appreciates you then no man is the wrong kind of man.” I winced as my own advice kicked me in the balls.
A man that put himself in danger and risked his life because he was a protector, a hero, well, that wasn’t exactly the wrong kind of man, but it was wrong for me because I was unable to get my head around caring about someone and losing them again. My heart just wasn’t up for it even if the rest of me was all on board.
She must have seen the battle waging inside of me on my face because she reached out a hand and put it on my shoulder and squeezed. She didn’t come off as the touchy-feely type, so my distress must have been pretty evident to this beautiful stranger.
“You’re right. He’s not the wrong kind of man at all, but that doesn’t keep me from being the wrong kind of woman.” She let her hand fall and took a step back. “It was really lovely to meet you, Lando. I hope I get to see you around again.” It was her turn to lift her eyebrows up at me. “And I hope you figure out your boy trouble, because the chances I’ll figure out mine are slim to none.”
She walked away and I was going to head over to the free weights and see if the clanking of metal on metal could get my head out of Dom’s pants and off his lips when my phone rang from the pocket of my track pants. I knew it was my mom by the ringtone and if I let it go to voicemail, she would more than likely show up at the gym to check on me. I was close to my entire family, so it wasn’t often that I didn’t check in or keep them updated on what was happening in my life. Ever since Dominic Voss walked into my office just a few short days ago, I hadn’t been doing anything I normally did.
I touched the screen and put the phone to my ear and changed directions so I could head up to my office and talk to her without the noise in the background.
“Hey, Ma. What’s up?”
“Your father and I got a new financial advisor to handle our retirement since your dad is set on buying an RV and touring the world. He’s handsome and single. I gave him your number.”
I sighed and flopped down in my chair. I loved my mom, but she was desperate for me to finally settle down and be happy. She had a habit of handing my phone number out to any male she encountered that had a good job, was reasonably attractive and single. She didn’t bother vetting if they were gay or not, which had led to more than one awkward conversation my father had to smooth over on her behalf.
“Ma.” I rubbed a hand over my face and blurted out, “I met someone.” I immediately wanted to take it back as she squealed into my ear, but I had always been open and honest with her and it was like the truth was just looking for an excuse to escape from somewhere deep down inside of me.
She was jabbering so fast and at such a high-pitched octave I could barely understand her. “What’s his name? What’s he look like? What’s he do for a living? Is he close with his family? How long have you been seeing him?”
I let the rapid-fire questions bombard me until she wore herself out. I sighed and told her, “He’s a client, Ma, and a cop.”