Mike wrapped up his afternoon kickboxing class with what his students – mostly moms who’ll run off to pick up kids at school in just a few minutes — often referred to as paid torture: lots of abs drills. They all complained, but it was always good-natured bellyaching. Whenever their whining became too much, he’d lecture them about strong core muscles while making them hold an extended plank position. Those were the classes that usually came with the most thank-yous at the end.
“Normal girls do not have six pack abs.” Mike paced the room, checking form, as they counted out loud, holding a Pilates pose for one-hundred beats. He glanced at the one guy – a relative newcomer, attending only three weeks – and added, “Or guys.” The new guy beamed at him and winked. Great, he thought sarcastically. He already had to fend off one of his regular girls, if this guy got it in his head to flirt, Mike might have to bribe Ash to switch classes again.
He looked away, pacing back to the front of the room as the class reached ninety. After counting down the last ten beats with them, Mike clapped and said, “Great job everyone. Don’t forget to drink a lot of water, and don’t go out in this weather until you’ve cooled down completely.”
He’d hoped he’d imagined that wink, but as soon as the class put their mats away and started to clear out of the studio, the new guy approached Mike, cornering him against the alcove that housed the stereo equipment for the studio. “Hey,” new guy said, “thanks for a great class.”
Mike nodded, only sparing a brief glance so he wouldn’t give the man the wrong idea.
“I’m Kellan.” He held out his head.
Raised better than to blow off a friendly gesture no matter the reason, Mike nodded and shook Kellan’s hand. “Thanks for coming, Kellan.”
“Are you done here?” Kellan smiled. Mike suspected he was going for shy, but Mike thought it more predatory. Of course, a large part of that was likely fueled by the fear that this guy would out him without even knowing for sure if Mike was truly gay. “Can I buy you a coffee? Or… something?”
Mike frowned, but forced himself to soften the expression as he met Kellan’s hopeful gaze. The man was easy on the eyes, strong muscles, dark hair, and piercing, hungry eyes. He’d been nice so far, too, but he was no Crank. Mike had left behind his one-night stands without a second thought the moment he first kissed Crandall.
“Sorry, man, but I make it a rule not to go out with my students.”
“It’s not like you’re teaching high school.” His smile broadened, teasing and playful.
“This is still my business, and I prefer to keep everything professional.”
“You never break the rules?”
As Mike debated the best response, he was saved from answering by Bria bouncing up beside him. She slipped one tiny hand into the crook of his arm and patted his biceps with the other. “Fun as always,” she said.
“Thanks Bria.” Not just for the compliment, but for the interruption. Not that he expected it to be that easy. Bria had often been more persistent than Kellan, and every once in a while, she’d try again. Mike doubted this was her saving him from Kellan as much as it was her staking her claim. As Mike extricated his arm, Kellan’s gaze shifted between Mike and Bria, his expression going dark and disappointed.
“Yeah,” Kellan said, “I see. Whatever.”
“You two have a good night,” Mike said. He turned his back on both of them, returning his attention to the stereo equipment that really didn’t need any more from him. Any excuse in a storm, and hopefully they’d both take the hint because he didn’t have the energy to remain polite about it much longer.