Joshua nods slowly. “I see. If you’re special, then I should get Dom for you.”
“Dom?” I asked, confused.
“What was your name?”
“Amelia Tate, but…”
Joshua smiles wickedly and reaches for the phone. I swallow, feeling a strange urge to beg him to put the phone down. Joshua talks for a moment, exchanges a dark laugh with the person on the other end of the line, and then he hangs up.
“Dom will be your trainer. He says you’re to meet him in the free weights area, but you’re not to begin your workout.”
He presses a button and the barriers into the gym slide open. I just stare at them, horrified by the sight even though it’s exactly what I said I wanted. “What happened to ‘no one gets in unless they’re a member’?”
Joshua just grins at me. “Dom must agree with you. You are a special case.”
I don’t like the way he keeps saying special. I wish I’d just gone along with Joshua and filled out the form in the first place.
Crap. Too late now.
I go through the barriers, find the changing rooms and store my things in a locker, and then head out into the gym in my leggings and a sweatshirt. The free weights section is easy enough to find. Most people are working out by themselves, earbuds in, focused on themselves and their reps. No latex fetish gear. No bare bottoms being paddled. No woman in thigh-high leather boots wielding a whip.
It seems… normal. Wow. After psyching myself up so much, I’m kind of disappointed.
“I said, what are you?”
The sudden yell makes me jump.
“I can’t hear you, Kevin. What are you?”
A woman’s shrill voice is coming from among the workout machines on the far side of the room. I take a few steps sideways and see a tiny woman in a black Dom Fitness hoodie and black leggings standing with her hands on hips. At her feet is an enormous muscled man in a singlet and shorts. His body is shiny with perspiration, making his muscles stand out. He looks like a professional body builder except for the fact that he’s cowering at this woman’s feet like a frightened puppy.
The trainer barks, “Everyone! Tell him how pathetic and weak he is.”
Everyone nearby jeers and shouts. “Pathetic! Weak!”
The man on the ground puts his arms over his head and groans, as if he can’t bear it. How can he allow himself to be subjected to such treatment? I don’t understand why he doesn’t grab his towel and leave.
“You couldn’t lift a kitten with those noodle arms, could you?” the woman barks.
Kevin shakes his head rapidly. “I couldn’t, I couldn’t. I’m so pathetic.”
The trainer draws herself up to her full height, which isn’t very high, and folds her arms. “If you make it to thirty pull ups, mistress might decide that you’re not a complete pathetic waste of space.”
The man gulps with sudden gratitude and scrambles up. As fast as his prodigious muscles can manage, he begins doing pull ups.
“Thirty!” the trainer exclaims a few minutes later. “You may get down now. Kneel.” She points to the spot between her feet, her expression still severe. The man obeys her slavishly, gazing up adoringly at her as he sits between her feet. She maintains her ferocity for a moment longer, and then breaks into a smile.
“Well done, Kevin.”
Kevin beams like a kid on Christmas morning. “Oh, thank you, mistress, thank you.”
The trainer looks up sharply and sees me staring at them, and snarls, “What are you looking at?”
I turn quickly away and grab a barbell, doing a few bicep curls while my mind races. What the hell did I just witness? Kevin actually pays for that pint-sized firecracker to talk to him that way?
I’m still lost in thought and doing reps when a wall of man enters the room. He’s six feet four or five, with enormous shoulders and a chest so broad you could use him as a surfboard. His sweatpants cling to his muscular thighs and I can see the tracings of his abs through his tight black T-shirt. Across the front of the T-shirt is printed DOM in tall white letters.
He’s holding the clipboard I refused to fill out on the front desk. I swallow.
Dom scans the gym, sees me, sees the barbell in my hand, and his eyes narrow. I quickly put the weight back and then turn to him innocently, as if I wasn’t doing anything but waiting for him like I was told to. As Dom strides closer, I see that his brown eyes are flecked with gold. His hair is thick and short, and he has a close-cropped dark beard. His mouth is firm, and his jaw looks like it’s been hammered out by Vulcan.
Dom stops in front of me and just stares at me for a long time, like he’s never seen such a sorry excuse for a trainee in his life.