Spice & Raspberry Wine
by sarAdora ~~~~~~~~~~
18 Months Earlier
I like being here this time of night - no one's crazy enough to be working out at this hour... except me. Got the whole place to myself. I can do reps, box, jump rope, bench press, whatever. Don't have to wait for somebody to get out of my way - don't have to... shit! I'm insane! I should be home, getting ready for bed. Better yet, I should be boinking some hot looking broad. I should be... doing anything but this. The handsome, muscular assistant director of the FBI groaned, counting off the pushups. "114...115...116..."
The gym was always dim this time of night, just enough light to see what you were doing, but not *that* dim. Eric Cleveland almost missed seeing her as she watched him work out. She was so quiet and had made herself so inconspicuous, she practically faded into the woodwork in a distant corner of the room.
At first glance, she was an ordinary woman with an everyday face and body - but he wouldn't swear to it. She was wearing baggy sweats and the ball cap covered her hair and most of her face.
She hid her secrets beneath loose fitting clothing. She didn't remember the last time she actually took inventory of her body parts - she had no need to - she knew what she looked like. The only mirror in her house was in the bathroom and it was a small one.
At this hour of the night, most folks were home and in bed. I should be home, she thought.
What you should be doing, her conscience barked, is your nightly workout!
I can skip a night.
No, you can't! This is the only damn thing that keeps you sane!
I know, she sighed. But I do like watching that hunk work out. That's definitely good for my sanity, she grinned. He's one helluva good looking hunk of Fibbie, if you ask me. And watching those muscles move and his skin sweat... he's the best thing I've seen since...
Go over and say hello. Get busy doing your exercise routine and you can get a better view of that rock hard body.
No, I don't think so. I... you know it's been a long time since I... uh, since I... He *is* a beaut!
You're such a jackass!
She watched the big man go through his paces. He pumped iron, boxed, did countless reps of one exercise after another and used a variety of the gym's machines. When he stretched his arms behind him and she got an eyeful of his chest muscles expanding and contracting, her eyes grew wide. When he stopped to take a sip of water, she swallowed along with him. When he wiped the sweat off his brow, she licked her lips.
I bet he's nice. Wouldn't you like to get to know him better?
Yes, she admitted, but it's not going to happen. Once he gets to know me and finds out about... he'll back off. Men don't really like me. Sighing heavily, she finally turned to leave.
"Not nice to leave without saying hello, goodbye, it was nice staring at you for the last hour and a half," a deep voice rumbled.
She jumped. The voice was right behind her.
Her hand went to her mouth, stifling her cry. Up close, he was even bigger than she realized. Adrenaline shot through her, both excitement and fright making her skin tingle.
He took a step back and spoke softly. "Did I frighten you? I'm sorry. That wasn't what... are you okay? I'm not going to hurt you."
She relaxed slightly. His voice was deep and husky and she was drawn to him. She could be wrong but on the surface, he seemed like the kind of guy who was too polite to insult you... or ignore you. It was probably okay. If not... she knew what to do. She took a deep breath, inhaled the smell of him, and nearly fainted on the spot. He smelled of sweat and testosterone and something else, a good something else. A smell she hadn't realized was so good, so...
Say something, you ninny. Her conscience was in rare form.
"I... I... beg your pardon," she whispered.
"Beg my pardon?" Eric gave her a rare smile. "For watching me work out? I'm flattered, Miss...?"
"A pleasure to meet you, Miss Morgan," he offered his hand. "I'm Eric Cleveland. What brings you to the gym at this hour?"
"It's not Miss Morgan," she corrected, clearly flustered to be so close to him, but remembered to take his hand. "Morgan is my first name. Morgan Woodehouse, Eric Cleveland. I mean, Mr. Cleveland."
He looked at the woman and wondered why she was so nervous. "It's Eric, and you're here at this hour because...?"
"I... I generally work out late in the evening," she replied, still a little nervous he was standing so close to her. "I was running a little later than usual tonight and you were here working out, and... I usually have the gym to myself and... thought you might not want someone else working out while you're working out and...I didn't want to interrupt and... I..."
Abruptly, she stopped talking, finally aware that she was babbling.
"I don't mind sharing the exercise floor with you. There's plenty of equipment; we could have..."
"Oh no," she protested. "I... I never... um."
The light finally went off in Eric's head. She's uncomfortable around men. Wonder why? he thought as he surreptitiously inspected her. Not too tall, not too short, five feet, five or six, really pretty face, maybe 110 pounds, would like to see the rest of whatever is under those baggy sweats.
He didn't want to alarm her further, took another step back, and was careful not to touch her. "If you want to go through with your exercise routine, I'll stand back here... out of your way."
She started to protest.
"I don't like the idea that I've kept you from your regular routine. He gestured toward the center of the room. "I'm finished. Help yourself."
Morgan really wanted to work out. She had excess energy that needed an outlet and she was feeling hyper. "Will... will you be leaving now?" she asked, half hoping he'd stay, knowing there was no reason why he should.
Eric sensed her nervousness but was unsure if it was his presence or his possible absence that caused it. "What would you prefer?" he asked quietly.
The hour was late. If she worked out, she'd have to leave the gym later than usual and that bothered her. She had two choices. Skip the workout or take a chance and exercise while he watched. She bit her lip, indecisive.
He made the decision for her. "I'll stand back here while you work out, then I can escort your to your car. How does that sound?"
"You would do that for me?" she asked, surprised at his offer. "I don't know you. I'd feel like I..."
"I'd like to do that for you. Will you let me?" He spoke softly, looking into her eyes, trying to assure her with his calm presence.
"Thank you. I think I'd like that, too." Turning, she headed for the treadmill.
Eric leaned against the wall in the back of the room and watched her. When the hell did I develop a soft side? Christ! I've turned into a wuss.
And she's not the type of woman that normally attracts you, his head voice taunted.
No, she's not. She'd probably be easy to intimidate. Don't need a woman like that in my life.
She's a lot prettier up close.
A real beauty, especially when she smiles.
After 15 minutes on the treadmill for her warm-up and a few sips of water, she was beginning to perspire. He thought the sweat suit probably covered a body she didn't want anyone to see - he wondered if she was out of shape by FBI standards.
His mouth dropped open when she stripped down to a spandex halter and shorts, quickly revising his opinion of her body. Now that's a very nice package, he smiled, openly admiring her well endowed charms. A *very* nice package.
He also admired the effort she put into jumping rope, and then watched her slip to a mat to complete 20 push-ups. He pursed his lips when she collapsed on the mat, obviously breathing heavily, but silently applauded her when she forced herself to do 5 more push-ups. She rested briefly and then tackled a set of 25 crunches, and finally, 25 squats. She was a little unsteady on her feet and perspiring heavily as she bent over from the waist. Briefly, she rested her hands on her thighs, then took several more sips of water. Her last routine included the stationary bike, which she rode at a decent pace for 10 minutes. Finally, she returned to the treadmill and walked at a moderate pace until she cooled down.
Morgan momentarily forgot that Eric was watching her. Once the endorphins kicked in, she was in another world. She hadn't exercised in a long time but was determined to get back to where she was before the "incident." Her heart was pumping like crazy, her lungs ached, and her flesh tingled from her exertions. She knew she had a long way to go but she was getting there. The important thing was that she was alive and loving every second of sweat and muscle ache and heaving lungs!
Wiping the sweat from her brow, she pulled her sweats back on, took her keys from her pocket and headed for the exit. Eric stood as she approached, startling her.
"Oh! I forgot you were here." She looked sheepish. "I... I'm sorry. I didn't... I beg your pardon, Mr. Cleve.. Eric."
"There you go, begging my pardon again," he grinned, giving her an admiring glance. "That's a decent workout routine you have. Do you do this often?"
"Almost every night," she answered. "Just getting back into the routine - have a ways to go - but..."
"You're doing very well," he complimented her. "Where are you parked? I'll walk you to your car."
It had been a long time since a man asked to escort Morgan anywhere. And she was attracted to the soft-spoken, muscular man. She led the way to her car, her keys in hand - in a defensive grip.
"Do you work in the building?" she asked, sneaking a look at his face.
"Yes, do you?"
"Mmmm," she smiled. "Thank you for walking me to my car. Goodnight," she waved as she drove off.
He waited in the parking garage until she drove away and then headed out. He didn't know why he wanted to see her again, and he especially didn't know why he hadn't just ignored her and gone on with his life, but he did know he'd be back at the gym the next night.