Amber Greenaway clicked down the list of her e-mails as she polished off her third donut that morning.
“Girl, if you don’t lay off those donuts, you’re going to become one.”
Amber looked up from her computer to find Benita, her best friend, and assistant, standing in the doorway grinning at her. Sticking out her tongue before dramatically announcing, “I can’t help it, Benita! You know I crave sweets when I’m stressed and this latest mess with Mr. Johnson’s accounts has created enough stress to choke me twice.”
Benita came in and sat down with a sigh, crossing her legs. “I know Chica, but all that sugar isn’t good for you all the same. We aren’t getting any younger and we have to do everything we can to stay healthy.”
“I know, my health food nutcase, friend,” Amber said with a laugh. She knew Benita was just trying to look out for her. Benita’s father had died when she was a teenager because he hadn’t taken care of his diabetes as he should have and so Benita had become a worrier when it came to the health of those she cared about.
“Hey, I know just the thing, Amber. They just opened a new gym… fitness center… health club… not sure which it is, but it looks very upscale. Anyway, it’s only a couple of blocks down from us, so you should check it out. It’s called ’Rook’s… something or other…I think,” Benita said with a thoughtful look on her face.
“Me?” Amber pointed at herself as she gave Benita, who nodded, an incredulous look. “Girl, you know I hate to sweat, so why would I go to a gym and sweat on purpose? Why don’t you go? You’re the one having the exercising fad going on right now, not me.”
“Excuse me, but I already belong to a fitness center, me and Mom, she hooked me up,” Benita informed her with a teasingly snooty sniff. "So, along with my Pilates I play tennis twice a week there at lunch, thank you very much.”
“That explains why you’re always late coming back from lunch,” Amber said with a groan before banging her forehead on her desk.
“Yes, it would,” Benita agreed before throwing her head back and laughing. “Nevertheless, I know how much you love, love, love that skirt you’re wearing, and you were the one who walked in this morning grumbling about how tight it’s getting.”
Amber pouted as she sat up to look down at the skirt she had on. It was blood red and she’d paired it with her favorite black blouse and black peep-toe stiletto pumps. This morning though, she’d barely been able to zip it and she hated that Benita was right, as usual. Looking across the desk at her friend, she whined, “Yes, I’ve put on a few pounds but… the gym, Benita?”
“Yes, the gym! You’ll have a-rockin' body in no time because you’re far from fat, you just need to tone what you have a bit as I did,” Benita encouraged excitedly as she stood up and ran her hands over her hips. “Think about it, you’ll feel better because your skirt will fit better…”
Amber sighed, running her hand along her thigh as she stared at her skirt. “I do love this skirt.”
“Exactly! Not only that, but it will give you a chance to stare at gorgeous half-naked men instead of the old fogies we see every day in need of an accountant. It’s a win, win situation,” Benita said as she sat back down.
The idea of watching half-naked men work up a sweat does sound good, Amber thought with an internal sigh. I haven’t had a boyfriend for almost a year now and the closest I’ve gotten to a bare-chested man in that time was in a magazine, in an advertisement for men’s boxer briefs. Blast Benita for being right.
Amber poked another piece of donut in her mouth as she stared at Benita defiantly. Just because she’s right, doesn’t mean I have to tell her she’s right.
Benita raised an eyebrow.
After chewing and swallowing, Amber huffed and agreed, “Fine, you win, I’ll go.”
Laughing Benita stood up and left Amber to her pouting, her desk full of paperwork, and her now empty donut box.
Five o’clock came much too early because Amber knew Benita wasn’t going to let her off the hook. She figured Benita might just drag her down all the way to the new gym by her hair if she had to.
“Hey, are you headed out now? Don’t forget to stop by the gym, it doesn’t close until ten!” Benita called on her way out the door.
Yep, I was right. Amber thought with a huff. “Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten!” Amber yelled back. Sighing, she trudged out to her car. After throwing her stuff in the back seat she climbed in, closing the door behind her. Gripping the steering wheel, she whined, “Why? Why did I agree? I hate sweating, I hate exercise too. All I have to say is the men better be tan, muscled, and… worth me having to sweat. If they’re all pasty white, fat, and flabby I’m leaving!”
With a nod of agreement of her own statement, she headed off to the gym. In less than five minutes, she was walking into the very fancy gym called ‘Rook’s Fitness Center’. Looking around in awe, she had to admit it was nothing like the picture she had of a gym in her mind. The foyer was carpeted and there was a huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling. She honestly felt like she was walking into some elite hotel instead of a gym.
“Hello, ma’am,” a woman said from behind her. “May I help you this evening?”
Amber turned to look over at the blonde woman standing behind a long and tall counter. Clearing her throat, she said, “Yes, well, I…”
The woman laughed. “It’s okay, we get the awed look a lot. Mister Hawkins never does anything halfway. Trust me though, you won’t find a better place to get into shape than here. Now, what’s your name?”
“Amber, Amber Greenaway,” Amber answered absentmindedly as she studied the painting behind the woman.
The painting was almost as big as the wall itself and showed a huge castle with rolling hills of green behind it. In front of the castle was a black horse with a rider sitting on him in full armor. All you could see was the rider’s face was his eyes and they appeared to be glowing red. It should have been creepy, yet it wasn’t, and it drew Amber in, making her curious as to who it was supposed to be.
“Okay, Amber, I just need you to fill out these papers, then I can issue you a passkey and locker. Oh, and I’m Bailey.”
Bailey’s words brought Amber from her trance-like state. Shaking off the feelings she felt as she had stared at the picture, she turned her attention back to Bailey and stepped up to the desk. Pulling the papers and pen across the counter, she quickly filled out the questions and handed them back to Bailey.
After taking her payment for the membership, Bailey handed Amber a card. It had her name along with the date, a three-digit number, and a swipe strip.
“Okay, so that pass key opens all the doors here, plus your locker. Here’s your paperwork, it tells you all the things offered here, plus the rules of membership. Now, let me just page Julie for you and she’ll show you around. I’m guessing that’s all you want tonight, to look around, by how you’re dressed?”
Looking down at herself, Amber shrugged and said, “Eh, I had no plans to join a fitness club when I went to work this morning but my friend just had to point out I was eating too many donuts!”
Bailey laughed. “Yeah, I’ve got one of those friends too, but I don’t think I’d survive without her.”
“I probably wouldn’t survive without Benita either,” Amber agreed. “I’ll also admit, begrudgingly, that my skirt was a bit tight on me this morning, but… I hate to sweat!”
“We’re girls, it’s probably in our DNA to hate to sweat… unless of course, it’s running down some hot man’s chest.” Bailey leaned forward then and whispered, “Just wait until you see Mister Hawkins, his chest is…” she gave a dreamy sigh, “…there are no words to describe its awesomeness, you just need to see it. Although, his brother’s chest isn’t too bad either.”
“Mister Hawkins, he’s the owner?”
“Yeah, but he’s young, maybe thirty,” Bailey told her. “Anyway, enough about him. Oh, there’s Julie now.”
Amber turned to watch as a young black-haired girl practically danced down the hallway. In a cheerful voice, she asked, “Bailey, you rang?”
“Yep, got a new one you need to show around, please,” Bailey said.
“Sure thing. Come on, newbie, I’ll show you the locker rooms first,” Julie said as she pranced away.
All that energy, where does she get it, and can I get me some? Amber though before slightly turning to Bailey and asking, “Is she always that chipper?”
“Yep, pretty much,” Bailey agreed.
Moving swiftly, to catch up with Julie, she found her waiting outside a door. As she pointed to the box next to the door, she said, “This is the locker room, swipe your key here.”
Amber did s she was told and watched as the doors slid open, sliding into the wall.
“State of the art, so awesome,” Julie mentioned with a grin. “All the doors around here are like that. You don’t have to worry about getting hit by a door like at the last place I worked at.”
Amber just nodded and proceeded into the room, looking around.
“Okay, so the first two digits of the number on your key is your locker number which is… fifteen, so this way,” Julie mentioned as she walked around the corner and pointed at locker fifteen. “Here it is, easy, so let’s move on. Now, there’s a sauna, a steam room, and massages are offered. We also have a snack room where healthy snacks and drinks are served, with a dietitian on hand if you want to know how to make some of them at home. As far as exercise, we have the usual things here like weights, treadmills, exercise bikes, but we also offer a few classes.”
“Oh, what kind of classes?”
“The usual I guess, Pilates exercise and yoga, aerobics. We also have an indoor swimming pool, or an outdoor one if you prefer, along with an outdoor track for those who enjoy running. Mr. Hawkins is also working on getting a physical therapist for those who need that,” Julie answered as she led the way out the door and further down the hallway. “Oh, so let me show you the indoor swimming pool, it’s the biggest one I think I’ve ever seen.”
Going all the way to the end of the corridor, they turned left. Julie swiped her own passkey, and the doors opened into a huge room with a pool. There were quite a few people inside and Amber noticed that not only was there a lifeguard on duty, but also a woman who looked to be giving swimming lessons to a young girl.
“Wow, do they give lessons here too?”
“Yes, we do. Do you swim?” Julie answered, turning to look at Amber.
“Ah, well, yeah, just not very well. I can float and that’s about it because water and I have an agreement, I’ll stay out of it and it won’t give me nightmares,” Amber told her with a fake shudder. She truly didn’t mind the beach, sometimes anyway, but she’d never cared much for swimming pools with their chlorine stench.
Julie laughed as they walked out. “You're funny! Okay, well, if you’ll notice, all the doors are labeled with what’s behind them, so it’s actually pretty easy to find your way around here.”
Amber looked at the doors as they passed back by them, this time taking notice of what their signs read.
“Also, Pilates class is offered three nights a week at seven, yoga is two nights a week at seven. Aerobics is offered five nights a week at six.”
“No day classes?”
“Well, yes, but I was going by the way you’re dressed and assuming you work during the day. So, I assumed day classes were out,” Julie pointed out as she glanced over.
Amber laughed and said, “Yeah, guess that makes sense.” She yawned. “Oh, excuse me! I need to get home, but I’ll be back… I guess.”
“You guess?” Julie questioned as they stopped in front of the large counter where Bailey was.
Bailey laughed. “She doesn’t like to sweat.”
Amber shuffled uncomfortably as Julie stared at her wide-eyed.
“Oh,” Julie murmured.
“Um, so, I’ll just be going now, and I’ll see you tomorrow,” Amber stated, embarrassed because she felt like Julie was one of those who loved to sweat. Then she hightailed it out of there like her skirt was on fire!