“You’re worthy of being chosen, fought for, and loved. Remember that.” – Mark Groves
“You dragged me out of the comfort of my apartment for this?” I cocked an eyebrow, my eyes shifting between him and the large building he was parked in front of. After Ethan threatened to forcefully throw me over his shoulder if I didn’t cooperate, I grudgingly agreed and followed him out to his car – no idea where he was taking us.
“Yes.” He replied, unbuckling his seatbelt and getting out of the car to walk around to my side. Opening my door as well, he looked at me expectantly.
“Are you serious?” I asked in disbelief, picking up my step so that I was walking next to him.
He brought me to a gym.
A fucking gym.
Following him as he led us through the revolving door entrance, I asked, “Are you trying to tell me I’m fat?”
Ethan twisted his head just enough to be able to shoot me a glare, before handing the receptionist a card. “You ask too many questions.”
When the receptionist was all done checking us in, she handed him back his card and told us to go ahead. Trailing behind Ethan as he led us towards the back of the room, my eyes scanned the surroundings. The place was large and heavily equipped with workout gear. However, unlike your regular LA Fitness gym, this place only had two or three treadmills and stair masters. Instead, they had an unnecessarily large amount of weight-lifting workout equipment and punching bags.
“What is this place?” I found myself asking.
“Did you skip your morning coffee or something?” Ethan retorted, setting his black duffle bag on the ground once we reached a set of red mats in the back.
“No.” I scowled, folding my arms across my chest. “Did you skip your morning yoga?”
“You don’t typically ask such stupid questions,” Amusement laced his voice as he dug around inside the duffle bag. “It’s a gym McKenzie. Where people work out?”
“And you’re typically not such an ass.” I scoffed, hands on my hips.
“Looks like we’re both full of surprises today.” He glanced up long enough to flash me a smile.
“Put these on,” Ethan instructed, handing me a pair of red boxing gloves. I hesitantly took them from him, staring at them as if they were a foreign object. I was about to protest, but one look at hiss face and I knew better.
I managed to get the left glove on with no issues, but when it came to the right one, I looked constipated trying to put it on without the use of my other hand. “Here,” Ethan chuckled, taking my right hand and helping me adjust the strap.
“Now what?” I asked stupidly.
“Now you hit me.” He deadpanned, standing in front of me.
“I’m not going to hit you, Ethan,” I said breaking eye contact so that I could focus on taking the stupid gloves off.
And he said I was insane.
“Stop.” He took two steps forward, closing the distance between us and readjusting the gloves on my hands.
“I’m not going to hit you. You could get seriously hurt.” I scowled, balling my hands into fists inside the gloves.
“I told you to hit me.” He smirked, taking in my reaction. “I didn’t say you were actually going to get a successful hit in.”
When he put it that way, now I definitely wanted to try and hit him. “Oh –” My lips tugged upwards, and I chewed the inside of my cheek to stop from smiling. “You’re on!”
“No more,” I said, making no move to get off the floor where I was currently laying on my back – eyes closed.
“You give up that easily?” Ethan asked from somewhere above me, stifling his amusement.
“That was hard!” I opened my eyes with a scowl, trying to find the will to get up. I underestimated the amount of work that goes into boxing. I always wanted to take a class but ended up putting it off because I couldn’t bring it in myself to go alone.
“You’re just not used to it.” He shrugged, plopping down next to me.
I propped a hand under my chin, rolling on my stomach. “Do you come here often?”
“Often enough.” He replied, eyes focused on the wall behind me. It was clear he didn’t want to talk about it, and I wasn’t going to push. I figured, he would tell me when he was ready.
“Come on, let’s go get some food.” He said after a while, standing up.
“I’m not hungry.” I frowned, getting up so that I was now sitting cross-legged.
“You need to eat.” He tilted his head to the side, voice low and serious.
“I do eat!” I huffed.
“Come on.” He offered me his hand, leading us out of the gym and back to his car.
The car ride was quiet for the most part, with the exception of the engine and the soft music playing in the background. After a few more minutes in silence, I finally asked, “So what’s going to happen with the Nowak account?”
Ethan briefly glanced at me before returning his attention to the traffic on the road. “I’ll be handing all of her business personally from now on.” He replied.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled, pulling my bottom lip between my teeth nervously.
“It’s not your fault.” He shook his head, eyes focused straight ahead.
“Has anyone ever told you you’re too nice?” I scowled. “Of course it’s my fault! If it weren’t for my psychotic outburst, you wouldn’t have to take on this extra work.”
“McKenzie,” He sighed, pulling into the parking lot of a local burger joint and shifting the car into park before turning to face me. “It comes with the job title. Granted, I don’t think anyone else would have the balls to tell Sabrina to fuck off, but apparently, it happens.” My lips tugged upwards on their own when I saw him crack a smile.
He didn’t wait for my reply before getting out and opening my car door, leading us inside the restaurant. It’s pretty busy for a Tuesday night, and we followed the hostess to two empty stools at the bar. After handing us a menu, she left but not before smiling at Ethan one last time.
The action didn’t go unnoticed by me, but when I looked up at Ethan, he didn’t seem to be paying any attention. Instead, he was hungrily scanning the menu. “She was totally checking you out.” I nudged him.
“And?” He asked, arching his eyebrows.
“And nothing,” I replied matter of factly.
“Are you jealous, Cupcake?” Ethan leaned in so that our faces were only inches apart.
“No!” I snorted, my voice coming out unusually high-pitched. Picking up the menu so that I could avoid eye contact, I began scanning the food they had listed.
The bacon cheeseburger sounded really good.
“Good.” I saw Ethan nod from the corner of my eye, a teasing smile plastered on his face. “I’ve only got eyes for one girl.”
“Poor girl.” My lips curved to one corner, and my heart swelled.
After devouring everything on our plates, Ethan paid for our food and led us back to the car. We were driving in comfortable silence when we passed by an Oberweis ice cream parlor. “I want dessert!” I declared, leaning my head back on the seat’s headrest.
I may have underestimated just how hungry I was earlier.
“You’re just full of demands tonight.” Ethan rolled his eyes playfully before directing them back to the road.
“What street are we on?” I asked, choosing to ignore him and screwing around in my seat trying to look for a street sign.
“Dempster, I think.”
“There’s this really good bubble tea place on Dempster.” Twisting in my seat again so that I was now fully facing him, I smiled brightly. “Can we please go?”
He shrugged with an easy smile, inputting the name of the place into the GPS.
“I cannot believe you got a smoothie,” I repeated for the third time that night, shaking my head.
“And what’s wrong with my order?” He rolled his eyes playfully, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips.
“You can get that anywhere!” I clicked my tongue. “You don’t go to a bubble tea place and get a fucking smoothie. You just don’t.”
“Right –” He snorted with a laugh. “Like your French Vanilla Coffee order is any better?”
“Ridiculously right,” I smirked in triumph, closing my lips around the purple straw of my bubble tea. “This is so good.” I moaned in delight when the rich flavor hit my tastebuds. I don’t care what Ethan says. This right here was heaven in a cup. It was the perfect combination of sweet, with a hint of bitterness from the coffee flavor.
“Do you have to do that?” He narrowed his eyes in my direction.
“Do what?” I asked innocently, licking my lips.
“You know what.” He shook his head with a sigh, although I didn’t miss his smile. Meanwhile, I tried to suppress a satisfied smile of my own.
“We’re here.” Ethan declared after a few more minutes, pulling into an empty parking space in front of my building.
“Thank you for today.” I sighed, stealing a nervous glance in his direction.
“You’re welcome, Cupcake.”
Reaching for the door handle, I stopped when my fingers wrapped around the handle. “Stay with me tonight.” I found myself saying over my shoulder.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, McKenzie.” He said, watching me with curiosity.
“Why not?” My voice flattered, and I quickly tried to mask it up by clearing my throat.
“Because,” He sighed, running a hand through his hair. “You’re vulnerable and I don’t want to make you feel any pressure.”
“Pretty conceited of you to assume I’m inviting you up for sex.” I snorted, my turn to roll my eyes.
“I know that. It’s not about the sex, McKenzie.”
“Then what’s it about?”
“It’s about the fact that you need to figure out on your own where you want this to go.” His expression was a mixture of a frown and defeat.
“I just... I don’t want to be alone.” I admitted, looking out at the passing cars. Sure, I wasn’t alone and I had all of my family and friends who I know I could call, but at night... that’s when all the demons came out. Being around Ethan, I felt comfortable being myself, but most importantly – I felt safe.
He made me feel things I thought I would never feel again.
Ethan scanned my face, watching me with curiosity. “Let’s go.” He finally said after another pause, turning off the ignition and coming around to my side. He wrapped his arm around my waist firmly as I led him up the stairs, the mere action sending warm tingles throughout my body.
He brought along a calming sense of security I didn’t know I needed until now.
That night, for the first time in months, I fell asleep almost instantaneously with Ethan’s body heat seeping into my back and his arm securely wrapped around my waist.
Some fluff for you guys because the last couple of chapters were pretty heavy!
What do you guys think is next for Kenzie and Ethan?
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