The smell of chalk permeated the air and my stomach quivered at the first intake of the aroma into my lungs. It was a distinct scent, and taste, to a gymnast, practically part of our food groups, difficult to explain to anyone not involved in the sport. Similar to baby powder, but chalkier smelling. Muffled music blaring through the speakers, a spring board rebounding, and the sound of uneven bars ricocheting as they’re released, grabbed my attention. It was music to my ears. The kind of sound that got my adrenaline moving and my pulse thumping, beckoning me to drop everything and wrap my hands around the bars or feel the spring floor beneath my bare feet.
Taking another deep breath, I exhaled, unable to hide my splitting grin. My heart was ready to explode. Finally, I was where I was supposed to be.
Glancing around the empty lobby, I wasn’t sure where to go, but the window to my right showed a view of the huge facility. It was completely deceiving from the outside…cue the anxiety. Intimidation definitely hit hard in that moment.
Gymnasts, both male and female, were scattered about, white chalk dusting their skin. I could see not just one, but two floors, three sets of uneven bars, and seven balance beams, along with two vaults. There was also a tumble track, various equipment for men, and a high bar with a foam pit and resi-mat, a huge mat on top of a foam pit used for practicing softer landings. Farther back were a bunch of doors. I had no idea what they were for, but I was curious to what they led to.
Even my parents seemed to be in awe of the gym, if their wide eyes were any indication. A shiver shot down my spine and goose bumps coated my arms in enthusiasm, as a rush of adrenaline began beating through my veins at the sight before me.
The sound of a slamming door from behind me shook me out of my trance, compelling me to look over my shoulder. My parents followed the sound and I spotted a tall, fit man. With his hands on his hips, his eyes surveyed the lobby and connected with my parents’ before trailing down and locking with mine, his narrowing gaze holding me in place. All the air left my lungs. His powerful presence demanded attention, and without a doubt, he had all of mine.
Never in my life had I seen someone so unbelievably gorgeous. There was no other word I could use to describe him. His commanding eyes made me think it was possible he could be a coach, but no coach I’d ever seen had been so attractive. Come to think of it, none of them had ever been under the age of forty without a potbelly and receding hairline. This man was solidly built and full of muscle.
A silent breath escaped my lips as he stalked toward us with power and poise. My heart nearly hurdled into my throat as I stared like he was some sort of Adonis. Dark stubble dusted his square jaw, full lips that begged for attention, straight as an arrow nose. Combined with inky black hair and olive skin with golden undertones, sweet baby Jesus, the man was perfection.
Crossing the room, he extended a hand.
“Frank, it is good to see you again.” His forearm flexed, the veins signifying the muscular strength he wielded. It was incredibly difficult to tear my eyes away as he gave my father a firm handshake. He was absolutely, drop-dead gorgeous. Avery would call him fucking hot. My best friend loved to add “fucking” to the beginning of everything.
This was my dad’s friend, and he owned this place. Interesting. He looked like he was fresh out of college, no more than twenty-five max. Dad didn’t have very many young friends I was aware of—I could count on one hand the friends I had met who were younger than him. They typically had graying hair, crow’s feet, and overworked, aging skin. The complete opposite of what was standing right in front of me.