In spite of his brain’s decision, need still pulsed in his groin. He’d have to opt for a cold shower this morning.
Swallowing, he grabbed a bottle hanging from a hook on the wall. “See you tomorrow?” he asked, spraying the bench behind her with a fine mist.
Jessie peered at him over her shoulder, and he looked up to avoid getting caught ogling her fine bottom. Recognition flashed in her eyes and pink stained her high cheekbones. “Only if you plan on showing up an hour earlier than today,” she said.
Inwardly he groaned. So much for sleep. “There’s a cocktail party for the guests tonight. Could end late. Besides, we have a deal. Remember?”
Jessie smirked. “If you think I’m going to make this buddy system easy on you just because you’ve agreed to give Constanza a walk-on in your next movie, then you thought wrong.”
“I’ll be there,” he said. Though he’d need a protein shake followed by a double shot of espresso to make it. “And I’ll bring kettle balls.”
“Beats the heck out of bringing just your balls,” she said.
He stifled a laugh as she exited the gym. No one had talked to him like that in years. And the sass was a refreshing change from the vapid suck-ups he’d been dating. Still, he wouldn’t act on this attraction. Not when he’d shared a cocoa with her concerned mother last night and had heard her story about her good-natured daughter becoming a bitter woman. Even now Blake identified the pain she was feeling, and he didn’t want to be the next person to add to the shitpile of cards she’d been dealt.
In two weeks, he’d be in Burbank on the set filming the next Quinn Sawyer movie if the powers-that-be accepted his conditions. Seducing this fierce, beautiful woman could not happen no matter how much she turned him on. Plus, he’d promised Jessie he’d help her friend. That meant concentrating his energy on making everything he’d set in motion fall into place, or he’d lose more than his movie career.
He wouldn’t be able to look himself in the mirror if he failed to deliver.
Still, keeping things platonic between them would be a hell of a lot harder now that his randy hormones had been activated.
“I talked to my Mom last night.” Jessie swung a kettle bell between her legs, then hefted it shoulder height. “She thinks you’re a nice young man. Ordered me to stop pressuring you to follow my schedule, especially after you promised to give Constanza something cool to do after he leaves rehab.” Though she’d never admit it to Blake, Jessie was glad her mother had set aside her emotional kid gloves and replaced them with her regular mom mitts.
Blake cranked his kettle ball. “Good. Then we’re back to our regular o’dark thirty shifts tomorrow.”
She continued swinging her kettle balls, distracting herself from the agonizing stabs attacking her outer thigh by watching Blake match her rep for rep. His body—sheer male perfection in low slung black gym shorts and a sweat dampened T-shirt that clung to his pecs—moved with a fluidity that mocked her attempts to keep pace.
“Or we could keep this schedule and test the great Quinn Sawyer’s endurance.” She’d taken a Sullivan Oath of Honor to behave, but goading Blake was the most fun she’d had since the bomb exploded.
“Do you ever sleep?” he asked, finishing his reps.
“I used to sleep soundly in a sand pit. Lately…” She stopped herself before she let the truth slip out. Nightmares, a solid case of post-traumatic stress disorder, disjointed memories of the blast and the horror of the aftermath crawled into her head at night. But she couldn’t piece together everything that had happened.
“Lately you’d rather torture movie stars,” he said.
There was a hint of understanding that underscored his words. It was as if he realized that she’d snap if he offered her yet another pithy encouragement.
She’d had enough of silver-lining bullshit from people. The truth was, the clouds blackening her soul hadn’t begun to be acknowledged. Everyone had rushed to make her feel better instead of letting her feel at all. But she couldn’t change the fact that she’d survived an IED explosion that had taken so much more from the other members of her team. Nor could she stop blaming herself despite the medals and commendations she’d received. And she couldn’t pretend she hadn’t been changed when the evidence carved an ugly reminder down her leg.
A genuine respect grew within Jessie for the man behind the movie star, because he recognized her need to just be.
“Yeah, something like that,” she said. “What the heck, I’ll cut you some slack. I wouldn’t want to piss off my mother.”