Authors: Jackie Ivie
Tags: #paranormal romance, #vampire assassin league, #short story, #vampire romance, #anthology
“If I’m going to work with you, Rafaele, I need some basics. You’ve got a great physique. You’ve obviously worked hard to get it. I’m trying to nail down how. That way I can figure out what we need to reach your goal, odd though it is.”
“You really think my physique is great?” He tilted his head to one side to ask it and gave that devastating smile again.
Lenna dropped her gaze. Looks like she had one of
clients: a trainer’s bread and butter. Narcissistic. Gorgeous. Fit. Young. Light on the I.Q. Great looking on posters. Lost in a conversation after the word ‘hello’. Every trainer had stories on how dense some of their hottest clients were. She’d never joined in - not just because she was a loner, but mainly because she’d never had one. Until now.
“Would you answer the rest of what I asked, please?”
“You asked me something?”
“How did you get so fit?”
“Oh. I worked.”
“Exactly. With what size weights and how many reps? And for how long?”
“I work on a ship. I am…uh…a sailor.”
“You’re a SEAL?”
“I do not understand.”
“A Navy SEAL. You know, Special Forces.”
“Oh. No. I’m just a sailor.”
“I didn’t think sailors were your size. Normally.”
“Then…how did you get so big and muscular?”
“Oh. That. I handle the heaviest weights. The anchor chains. Cannonballs. Ropes. It is an all day job. Sometimes most of the night. And I climb a lot, securing rigging. I’m very adept at it.”
“I’m trying to understand. What kind of ship are we talking?”
“A Spanish Galleon…uh…taken from the Spanish Main. It required a crew of fifty. We were but eighteen.”
A Spanish Galleon…from the Spanish Main. What the heck was that?
He was still talking. She had to focus.
“…and more than my share of the chores. Much more.”
“Okay. That explains the muscle. But you take in a lot of calories. Do you lean more toward protein or carbs? Have you tried the Paleo?”
“It’s based on the Hunter/Gatherer philosophy. Meats. Unaltered grains. Some vegetables. That sort of thing.”
“You are speaking of food?”
Dumb it down, Lenna
. “Right. Food. What do you eat? And how much? Portion size?”
“I ate whatever got cooked, as did everyone. And portion size? I do not know what measurement you want. I got the lion’s share. Does that help?”
This was going nowhere fast. Lenna pulled in a breath. “Let’s move on, shall we?”
“How solid are you on this goal?”
“You listed that you want to ‘lean out’. Lose weight and gain definition. As I see it, you’re perfection already. We’ll do the fat evaluation test next, but I wouldn’t lose more than five pounds if I were you.”
“Did you say perfection?”
. Narcissism might be this guy’s creed. Not without reason, either. She had to remember that. Mister Rafaele Something-or-Other from Spain was a chick magnet of the highest level. He had to know it. He had mirrors. And probably legions of females to assist him with remembering it.
“Don’t move, okay?”
He gave her that smile again. Perfect teeth, too. But maybe they just looked that bright because of his swarthy skin tone. Lenna walked slowly around him, visually inspecting lower legs, thighs, glutes, lats, deltoids, biceps, triceps… The guy was perfect. He had major earning potential. He could make her reputation, guaranteeing her a client list with major financial clout.
Things were certainly looking up. First the diabetes and now this: a champion body builder with model looks. She’d have to brush up on posing routines: vascular, muscular, general. She’d hoped he handled repetition well. She’d have to practice with him a lot. And wow. That sounded good enough to create goose bumps all over her skin.
He’s narcissistic, Lenna…and not very bright
The thoughts helped mute some of his impact, even if it did feel like electricity was humming in the space between his skin and hers. Lenna finished, reached the front of him again, looked up. He was watching. Her heart faltered the moment their gazes locked. She had to look away, or lose herself in really dark depths that pulled her up and into them. Dangerous territory. She had to keep this impersonal. Professional. Businesslike.
“Miss Hendershott? It is Miss Hendershott, isn’t it?”
Lenna swiveled to face a woman in her mid-forties, who needed to spend more time at the gym. She looked vaguely familiar, but not enough to trade names. She might have been addressing Lenna, but she had her eyes solidly on Rafaele behind her.
“Can I help you?”
“I just want…an introduction.”
“You already know me.”
“I’m speaking of the absolute god behind you. Where on earth did he come from?”
“He’s my newest client. We’re handling a consultation. If you’ll excuse us?”
“You’ve got to let me get a photo first. And call my girlfriends over. Girls!” The woman started jogging toward the foyer where quite a few women were congregated.
Lenna grabbed up her bag and walked to the hall, trying to look like she wasn’t escaping. Rafaele was keeping pace easily, as if guarding her back. She could feel him. The hall was deserted, as was the waiting area. Deserted, and rather clinical, with its plaid-covered chairs, slate topped tables, large potted plants, and coin-operated foot massagers.
“What are we doing?” he asked.
“Didn’t you hear her? She’s going for reinforcements. You’ll be mobbed. I can’t have that on my conscience.”
“You’re probably used to being chased. But, I—. Let’s just say it’s a new experience. And I don’t like it.”
“Where can we go?”
The tanning rooms.
Where the doors lock.
Lenna walked briskly down the hall, rounded the corner, opened the first door she came to, waited for him to enter, shut and then locked the door behind them. This was a pure mistake, but her mind wasn’t in control at the moment.
“What is this place, please?”
She turned on the switch, putting muted lighting into the room.
She’d selected one of the doubles. Lenna walked around one tanning bed, shut the far one, and then dropped her bag onto the top window where it was flat. Her folder followed it. What the hell was she thinking? The situation wasn’t just a mistake. It was solid danger.
She straightened and took a deep breath, before easing it out. She was a professional trainer. Certified. Bonded and insured. Regardless of the surroundings, she’d keep it impersonal. Stick to her regimen. Do the pinch test. Follow up with bone density rating. Calculate his fitness based on the formula: [(4.95/Bone Density)-4.5]100=Body Fat. She’d guess him at 10.7. An easy 10.7. By the time she’d finished, the woman and her friends might have given up the hunt.
Lenna cleared her throat. “It’s a tanning room.”
“Tanning?” His voice was at least an octave higher.
“Yes, Rafaele. Tanning. As in, ultra-violet light. I don’t think you’ll need it except in spots. It’s not that bad. I only do short sessions. No reason to flirt with skin cancer and premature aging.”
If a guy with a bass-toned voice screamed, that’s what he did. He followed it up by slamming his back into the wall beside the door, his eyes wide and frightened-looking. His action sent a shelf crashing to the floor, spilling little sample bottles of tanning oils and candles and assorted other goodies. Lenna almost giggled.
“I have to leave. I must leave! Now!”
“You have a problem with tanning beds?”
“I can’t be around sunlight. You don’t understand. I have to go
“You’re allergic to sunlight? No problem. Calm down. We’ll do a spray tan.”
“It’s not that! It’s—. Ah! I must leave!”
He slammed both hands into the walls next, putting fist-sized holes into sheetrock while another shelf toppled.
“Wait! Look.” Lenna went to the wall, bent, and pulled both plugs out. “They’re off. Everything’s unplugged. It’s okay? See? You’re safe.”
He sagged slightly, and then looked really unsure and embarrassed and that made him even more handsome to her. And that just wasn’t possible.
Lenna lowered her voice to her businesslike tone. “I’ve never met anyone terrified of tanning beds before. I’d better put a little note on your chart.”
“This is not a good idea.”
“I know. But I had to get you away from the attention. We were about to be bombarded with women. Crazy older women. Potential cougars, if you know what I mean.”
“I will take your word for it.”
“It probably happens to you all the time. You’re a walking, talking, breathing, chick magnet.”
“I do not understand. It doesn’t sound pleasant.”
“Come on, Rafaele, give it a rest. Every guy likes being chased by women. It’s probably number one on their fantasy meter.”
“Not mine, I assure you.”
Lenna opened her bag and pulled out her fat caliper. “You ready yet?”
“We’re moving on to the next phase of your consultation. The fat evaluation. I use the pinch test. A BMI reading isn’t accurate for someone your size. If I use it, you’ll register as morbidly obese. I can see for myself, that’s untrue.”
“What should I do?”
“Come away from the door, and stand nicely. And don’t interrupt me.”
“And what will you do?”
Lenna started toward where he’d moved one step from the door. “To be perfectly accurate I should take a reading in fourteen areas. Some trainers utilize readings in twenty-one spots. I find that a bit much. Tonight, with you…I’m thinking I’ll just take three. I’m going to pinch the flesh behind your right tricep, midway between your armpit and nipple, and the front of your right thigh.”
“You will touch me…in these places?”
“That’s why I brought you in here, Rafaele. It’s part of the job.”
“My other choice is out there with your new fan club.”
Lenna stopped mid-step to absorb the lurch of her heart at that little vulnerable sound. Something warm and encompassing flooded her breast, moving outward until it reached the ends of her fingers, the tips of her toes. She’d never felt such a thing.
Man! Was this a bad idea. He had that right.
She was going to touch him?
Rafaele tensed to withstand it, every bit of him primed for, needful of, thirsting over that exact thing…and he’d been doing so well, thus far! He didn’t know how to act around a lady. The women he’d frequented back before this afterlife, well…those women weren’t ladylike at all. They’d been lustful and greedy, grabbing for him before he’d untied his crotch ties. He’d liked to believe their words that such haste was due to the man and not his full wallet, but he wasn’t that naive.
This Lenna wasn’t remotely like the women he’d frequented at Port Royal. No…his mate was different. Beautiful. Lithe. Graceful. Extremely well-formed and dressed to show it off. She was everything he’d dreamt for a mate. All those decades…and here she was. The one. Everything on him amplified what that meant, and yet nothing on her reacted. Every moment in her sphere altered him, touching parts of him he’d never known existed. She was bringing this undead creature back to full physical sensation. There wasn’t any doubt over that. Long dormant portions of his body were flaring to life, primed into weight and heft and irritation, regardless of how he worked for control. She made his frame taut, his loins heavy, and his heart react as if such a thing were possible.
The old Rafaele de Jesus y Santiago would’ve had her on her back in one of these half-shell bed-things the instant she locked the door. That man hadn’t learned self-control. He hadn’t needed it. Women were havens in an unforgiving world. Softness in an ocean of hard. Lushness in an existence of squalor. Purveyors of pleasure and fulfillment after months of hardship. Containers of delight ready to grip a man and milk the ecstasy from him. A woman offered hours of delight, took the edge off loneliness, the sting from useless existence. He’d never turned a woman down. Weeks at sea primed a man to leap without thought; jump without reason; dip without discretion.
Rafaele’s mind plagued him now with images, overwriting those he’d known. Lenna’s lips locked to his; her curvaceous legs entwined about his hips; long, slender fingers roaming his chest. His torso. His backside.
Madre de Dios!
Rafaele clenched his buttocks, earning more sensation he had to struggle with. He wasn’t going to be rash and quick, with regard for only his own pleasure. No. Not with Lenna. He wanted her fully. Completely. Sensually. Melding with her to become one. A joining worth over three hundred years of time. Every caress.
She pulled at the skin at the back of his right arm.
Rafaele jerked into statue-stiffness, holding onto physical need beyond scope. Beyond reason. Beyond leashing. She was playing with fire, and he was unable to stay her. Everything on him wanted it. To an unbearable degree. And worse. It was obvious in these sports shorts they’d procured for him.
She walked around to his front again, putting sweet-smelling hair right beneath his chin while she looked across at him, her eyes centered approximately mid-chest. And then she trembled.
Rafaele narrowed his eyes. Waited. And saw the slightest quiver score her again. Elation roared through him, creating an answering tremor through him. She moved then, tilting her head upwards, taking more time than necessary, before her eyes met his, and widened, putting bottomless blue depths within his reach. Rafaele felt his canines respond without the invite. And then he had to fight that, too.
“You may have to take your shirt off.”
The words came through a loud ringing, affecting his hearing. It took a moment to decipher what she said, and then he had to tamp the instant uptick of intent that went right to his groin, too.