Authors: S. Ann Cole
Tags: #Amazon Copy, #February 4
Here goes: I weighed 290 pounds. And I’m not talking pounds of muscle mass. I’m talking fat. Flabby, jerky fat.
In all my twenty-eight years, I’ve only ever slept with two chicks. A stripper I overpaid to murder my virginity in college, and my wife. Yes, I know,
I hated exercising. I loved eating. Despite Sienna’s suggestions that I shed some pounds, all I did was lie about going to the gym. Having a bombshell like Sienna Sullivan as my wife, I became complacent. Yanked the wool over my eyes. Disregarding the fact that she wasn’t happy with our union to begin with. Selfish bastard that I was.
Maybe if I wasn’t a workaholic I would’ve paid more attention to the fact that we hadn’t had sex in almost six months. I traveled a lot, she socialized a lot, and each time we got some time together, she either had a headache or was on the rag.
, shouldn’t I have seen this coming?
Now, I know what you’re thinking right now: “
Uh, this is not what I signed up for. I like my billionaires ripped, with tattooed brawns and an infamous, well-experienced dick; reticent, but bossy. My lady boner just shriveled up and retreated.
I’m sorry. Sorry you’ve been spoiled by that Grey dude with the whip and the nipple clamps and the helicopter lifestyle. Not only can I
fly a helicopter, I also don’t own one, and I don’t think my fat arm can rise high enough to crack a whip. But I
assure you that my pathetic story gets better. So stick with me. Don’t abandon me just yet.
“Mr—Mr. Van Der Wells?”
Something was happening. Not exactly sure what, but the panicked urgency in my P.I.’s tone told me something serious was going down.
I could no longer see him. I could no longer see the monitor. I could see nothing at all. Nothing but blackness. In my chest, my heart constricted, as though it was being squeezed tight in a fist. Stopped pumping. Stopped beating. Just like my brain, it shut down completely.
I clawed at my chest, trying to dig inside and revive my inactive heart. Before long, my hands fell lax, and I could no longer feel them, nor my feet. Next, I was falling. Falling. An icy chill flowing through my veins.
And then there was nothing.
I had a heart-attack.
Don’t despair, I didn’t die. Obviously.
Sienna Sullivan quite
broke my heart. Alright, alright, I’m being dramatic. My wife’s affair was merely a small contribution to my near-death scare. The main reason, as warned by my doctor, was, of course, my weight, lack of exercise, and unhealthy eating. To prevent future attacks, I was advised to hop on a strict diet and a workout routine,
Whether or not I chose to heed those warnings meant life or death for me, but truth be told, the idea of chomping on a celery stick made me
to have a heart attack.
The second I was released, I filed for divorce.
After hearing the news, mom cut her Paris excursion short to spend some time with me.
By spending time, I mean coddling me, annoying the hell out me, and perennially forcing me to eat the same bland “healthy” crap she used to force Dad to eat.
Oh, Dad died from a heart attack two years ago.
I know, I know. That alone should have scared me straight into getting my shit together. But here’s the thing, I didn’t have a reason to care if I lived or died. I no longer had Sienna, which meant I had nothing. Sienna had been everything I wanted and more. I woke up, worked, and lived for her. To be honest, a part of me hoped she’d fight the divorce. She didn’t. She scrawled her signature on those papers without protest, hurt, or hesitation. Didn’t ask for a thing. The whole process over in about five minutes. She was
And that…that was just depressing as shit.
As I’ve been doing for the past couple of months following the heart attack, to appease Mom, I begrudgingly ate the insipidly healthy, all-organic breakfast she prepared for me, before slinging my gym bag over my shoulder, kissing her on the cheek, mumbling that I was heading out for the gym.
for me, was actually Pete’s Pastry.
Every morning, instead of the gym, I went to Pete’s and had a
breakfast to erase the taste of my mother’s rabbit food.
Mind on a warm, sugary cinnamon roll, I whistled as I trotted through the lobby.
“Good morning, Mr. Van Der Wells,” the concierge chirped at me.
I nodded, whistling all the same, stomach grumbling for something sweet, something deep-fried, something greasy.
“Morning, Mr. Van Der Wells,” greeted the ever-chipper doorman, tipping his hat at me as held the door open.
In acknowledgment, I tipped my imaginary hat right back at him, stepping out into the noisy, bustling, fume-filled air of New York.
Just outside the door, I paused a moment, warring with my conscience. Go left for the gym, or go right for Pete’s Pastry.
, my conscience screamed.
, my stomach growled.
Someone bumped into me from behind, sputtering out an immediate apology. I turned, my gaze falling on the offender.
“Oh, hey, Mr. Van Der Wells!” She beamed at me, light, cheery, and bouncy as always.
Charlotte was the sixteen-year-old daughter of Raymond Cooley, a billionaire investment banker.
The apartment building had only two penthouse suites; one inhabited by me, and the other by the Cooley family. Our families got along well—well, except for Charlotte’s mother.
“Hey, Little Lotty,” I muttered, before turning right, Pete’s winning the war.
Charlotte bounded up to my side, stretching one arm across her chest and pulling at it with the other; I assume as some kind of warm-up, seeing as she was covered from head to toe in fuchsia workout gear. Her voluminous blonde hair was held up in a ponytail by fuchsia hair-tie; a fuzzy fuchsia sports-band around her head. “You’re going for a run now?”
“Nope,” I clipped, jerking at my gym bag. “Off to the gym.”
She began stretching her opposite arm across her chest. “No, you’re not.”
At those words, I stopped short, turning slightly to look down at her.
I shouldn’t have. I should have kept walking. Men on this side of town knew by now to hold their head straight and squeeze their eyes shut whenever they saw Charlotte Cooley coming. Like I said:
. But I looked, and found myself staring a little too long.
Hell and damnation
, what the hell is wrong with me? She was
for Christ’s sake.
Sixteen, yeah, but an early bloomer. In
sense of the term. Not even Sienna Sullivan had a rack that perfect. Charlotte was half-Brazilian on account of her mother, so trust me when I say she had some
“Excuse me?” I ask, stamping the guilt, stifling the pedophilia in me.
Twinkling sapphire eyes laughed at me. “Your workout gear is a facade, and that gym bag is a prop. You’re not going to the gym, Mr. Van Der Wells. You’re going to Pete’s Pastries.”
Biting the inside of my cheeks, I stared at her for a moment, asking the question with my eyes.
How do you know that
“I run in the mornings.” Bending one leg behind her, she pulled it up and inward, so her heel pressed against her shapely ass. I made the effort to keep my eyes on her
this time around. “On my way back, I always stop at the newspaper-stand outside Pete’s to get the day’s paper for Dad. You’re always there, trying to be inconspicuous in the corner seat just behind the window. You spend approximately one hour and seventeen minutes at Pete’s each morning, letting Gloriel think you’re at the gym working on your health.”
“You make it a habit of yours to nose around in people’s lives?”
She switched to stretching her other leg. “As a matter of fact, I do. When I grow up, I want to be a spy.”
“Interesting career choice,” I mused. “Well, you busted me—not that it’s any of your business. Now if you’ll excuse me—”
“Run with me!” she suggested, lit up at the prospect.
.” I moved around her and resumed walking, quickening my steps.
She caught up with me. “Why not?”
“Because I’m allergic to anything athletic.”
“No. And I have no inclination to.”
She was pensive for a few, and I hoped she would run off and leave me to my thoughts of chocolate-drizzled donuts. Why did she want to run with a miserable old blob like me anyway?
“I know what your problem is,” she said suddenly. “You view exercise as
, instead of something fun, so the mere thought of it exhausts you before you even begin.”
I shot her a side-glance, but didn’t respond. Hoping she’d take that as a hint to leave me alone.
“Exercising is what you make it, Mr. Van Der Wells,” she went on. “If the thought of it makes you break out in sweats before setting a foot on the treadmill, then that’s because you’re doing it all wrong. The thought of working out should
you. You should view it as your personal playtime. And there are
many different ways to ‘play.’ You don’t have to be in a gym bench-pressing a hundred pounds. ‘Gym’ doesn’t have to be literal. Just find a fun sport. Tennis? Swimming? Jogging?”
I can’t out-walk her, she’s blabbing on right there on my heels.
“Running is most everyone’s favorite. It’s liberating. There’s no stress to it. You don’t have to try to keep up with anyone. You set your own pace, take your own path. There’s no perfect way or right way to run. You just
With an impatient sigh, I stopped walking and dug out my wallet. “Look, can I pay you to leave me alone?”
“How about we make a bet?” she countered. “Run with me, just this once, and if you like it, you pay me fifty bucks. If you hate it, I give you fifty bucks and promise never to bother your donut-stuffing face again.”
Exasperated, down to the tips of my sausage fingers, I turned and stepped into her, staring down my nose at her, aiming for intimidation. Yet her gay sapphire eyes just laughed at me. Far from intimidated. “I don’t need to make a
with you, little girl. I’m a multi-billionaire, and you’re a tween on an allowance. Save your fifty bucks.”
She rocked forward on her toes and bounced back on her heels, still warming up. Due to our closeness, however, each time she rocked forward on her toes, her distractingly tempting rack brushed up against my chest. And I know I’m going to hell, the deepest, darkest, pit of conflagration, for wanting to tear that fuchsia sports bra off and ravish her right there.
“A true businessman,” she starts in an admonishing tone, “respects the value of a dollar, no matter how wealthy he might be. Whether it’s one-dollar or one thousand dollars, he never passes up the opportunity on a
. Every dollar is respected by a
Although we lived in the same building and sometimes ate Sunday dinners at the same table, I always tried to keep an
distance from Charlotte, for obvious reasons. I never had a conversation with her long enough to find out what I’m finding out right now: She
. Worse than a tick on a dog’s ear.
Why on earth was I letting an all-pink teenage girl rile me?
When I did nothing but glare down at her for a full minute, she prompted, “So, what’s it going to be? Are you gonna be a true business man and run with me for fifty bucks, or are you gonna be a punk-ass fraud and waddle down to the donut shop to stuff your face with lazy cops?”
It’s official, she got to me. The annoying little wasp stung me. Pressing a finger to her chest, I pushed her back an inch. “You’re on.”
At this, her face lit up, and she bounced and clapped like the little girl she was, immediately dishing out warm-up instructions.
We warmed up on the walk to the park, which wasn’t bad at all, to be honest. My joints popped and cracked, but I loved how
they felt afterward.
At the park, Charlotte advised I start off by power-walking. We power-walked for about fifteen minutes before graduating to light jogging. This had me wheezing in no time, and I stopped and rested three separate times before we wrapped up an hour later.
Even though all I did was power-walk and light jogging, Charlotte was right, it was freeing. My lungs opened up, and it felt as though I was breathing fresh air for the first time. I had a definite pep in my step as we walked back home, sipping cool bottled water. For the rest of the day, at work, I could feel a huge difference. Less tension.
Wanting that fresh and freeing feeling to last, I paid Charlotte fifty bucks every morning to run with me—which she gladly accepted and stuffed in her fanny pack. A lot more than a monthly gym membership fee, but I didn’t care, because no gym had Charlotte Cooley there. And this girl was a
. Sometimes I questioned whether I was running because of running, or I was running because of
. She’s sprightly, mouthy, pushy, and exasperatingly inquisitive. Her high-spirited disposition affected mine in such a powerful way she would never come to know. Morning runs with Charlotte were the highlight of my days.