He gave her one of his trademark drool-worthy, cocky grins. “I expected to have the place to myself, but I’m cool with sharing.”
Her stomach fluttered, and dangerous electrical charges zipped into all her woman parts. The gym seemed to shrink because of the sheer magnitude of the man. Not only that, why did he have to smell so damned good? All spicy and delicious and man-edible?
A normal red-blooded woman would kill to be in Jessie’s Nike’s. But not her. No matter how much her erogenous zones were high-fiving each other at the sight of the star.
“I prefer to work out alone.” She returned her dumbbells to the rack. “Come back in an hour, and I’ll leave early.” It would mean losing valuable training time, but she’d make up for it with a run through the resort’s wooded paths.
“No can do.” He dropped his bag to the floor next to another bench, knelt and unzipped it, and tugged on his gloves. “Next Quinn Sawyer movie starts shooting in three weeks. Got to bulk up the muscles.”
From where she stood, those thickly corded arms and broad shoulders didn’t need any more definition. And the six-pack of abs his T-shirt accented didn’t have an ounce of fat on them. Blake Johnston might not be a real Marine, but his awesome physique was not the result of movie magic.
Jessie turned slightly to the right when he stood in front of her. “And I’m training for a fire department physical. Although I need every minute I can clock in this gym, at least I’m willing to compromise.”
He regarded her with piercing green eyes, his transfixing gaze traveling from the top of her spiky, short brunette hair all the way to her sneakers. “From where I sit, you can afford to compromise. You’re in great shape.”
Her heart rate accelerated, and a rush of sound beat volumes of blood in her ears. Quinn Sawyer—no, Blake Johnston—thought she had a good figure?
“Maybe for a come-on. Not for a four hour grueling test of strength to get into the fire academy,” she said, looking away.
Her leg reflected in the gym mirror, and she grimaced. All these months after she’d been medevacked stateside, she still couldn’t stand the sight of the jagged scar marring the right side of her thigh. Though a constant visual reminder of all she’d lost in a matter of seconds, her strenuous workout routine forced her to dress in shorts to keep cooler.
He held her eyes in the mirror, his face a mixture of intelligence and understanding, before he locked his gaze onto her taut, puckered skin. A slight tic jumped in his jaw.
“I see,” he said. “But that doesn’t change the fact that your mother assured me I could use the gym before it opened.”
Jessie’s face burned, her ears scorching. Embarrassed, mortified beyond belief. After the multiple surgeries to save her mangled thigh, she’d inspected the damage alone. Only then had she broken down, grieving the loss of the symmetry of her formerly strong, lean legs. Still, she didn’t want Blake’s sympathy.
She struggled to regain her stock badass attitude to counter the pity in his voice. “My mother was mistaken.” Jessie sucked in a long breath, willing mental ice to flow through her veins.
He crossed his arms. “You need to check the contract your father signed when I booked the resort. What I want, I get.”
Though she doubted seriously that he’d act on his threat, Jessie didn’t want to risk upsetting her dad. Slowly, ever so slowly, she released the air in her lungs. With each long second that passed, her cheeks cooled and her pulse rate returned to normal. “Wow, I had no idea Action Hero Quinn Sawyer was such a prima donna.” Jessie hitched her right hip and tucked her fist into the crease. Pain shafted through her muscles, tearing her nerves, shredding through her ligaments. She ignored it. “Maybe I should alert your adoring fans.”
He relaxed his stance, loosening his muscles with the grace of a panther sneaking up on its prey. “That would definitely breach the terms.” Blake tightened his weight gloves with a smooth succession of Velcro zips. “Can’t let that happen. Would hate to lose my hero creds.”
Her breath caught in her throat. Why did it sound like he was joking around instead of being serious? She refused to play his game. Instead she opted to put him in his place and force him out of her space. “Pretending to be a hero doesn’t make you one,” she said.
He closed the mere inches between them and leveled his eyes on hers. “What makes a person a hero to you?” he asked, his voice dark and dangerously tantalizing.
“Dodging real bullets, not fake ones.”
He briefly broke eye contact, then cleared his throat. “I may not dodge real bullets, Jessica Sullivan,” Blake said. “But I know what it takes to build a hero from the inside out.”