“Will you yell and call us maggots?”
“Ah no. That’s not my training style,” Mitch said with what he hoped was a friendly smile.
“But this is boot camp, that’s what they do isn’t it?”
He shook his head, smile firmly in place and stepped closer to the wannabe maggot. “Not sure who they are, but we don’t,” he reassured and the man looked disappointed. “Look, I’ll yell, I’ll encourage, but I’m not going to call you names.” He shifted his weight as his cell vibrated an incoming message in his pocket. He usually left it in his office but this wasn’t a usual day. “Let’s get started on the treadmills.”
Two minutes later he had the group walking at a moderate pace to warm up, had answered a dozen questions, and was regretting answering his phone an hour ago. A cry for help from a sick trainer had him out of bed and pretending he hadn’t been out half the night drinking and dancing as he took a fitness boot camp through their first session. He chugged some water as he took a few steps away and checked his phone. He grinned at the text from an unknown number, realising immediately who it was from.
He tapped out a quick reply, managed another before he was interrupted.
“Woo! I’m pumped! What next Mitch?”
“Let’s wait for everyone before we move on,” he yelled back as he sent the next one and hoped Max was as quick to respond as she had been. He wanted to ask her what she wearing to bed, offer to join her… he swore under his breath at her teasing response and resisted the urge to tell her he had what she needed. Instead he signed off and shoved the phone away until later.
“All right maggots, are you ready to get sweaty?”
After the early morning boot camp Mitch’s day continued to unravel. Two more trainers called in sick so he had to scramble to get them covered. A couple of the machines hit their maintenance hours and had to be closed down. Then one of the training rooms was somehow double booked so it was another scramble but this time for space.
It was closer to ten hours than eight before he was even able to think about calling Max. He shut his office door and scrolled through to her number, a cup of lukewarm coffee before him.
“Are you always up at dawn yelling at people then?”
“Well hello to you too,” he replied with a laugh.
“Sorry.” Max’s laugh was low and husky and Mitch wondered if she was still in bed.
“No and are you still in bed? Did I wake you?”
“Yes and no,” she said with a sigh and Mitch thought he heard the rustle of fabric. “What was your no?”
“No I’m not always up yelling at people.” He bit back the urge to ask what she slept in. “I filled in for another trainer, I wouldn’t have been out late drinking if I’d had that scheduled.”
“It’s hard adulting sometimes though I wouldn’t imagine you keep in shape by drinking at clubs either.”
“All things in moderation,” Mitch said with a glance at his coffee cup. “I promise I’m not counting calories or judging what you eat and drink.”
“Probably for the best.” He could hear Max’s grin. “I eat far too much chocolate and ice cream and I would stab anyone who tried to come between me and cake.”
“Consider me warned. And also armed with knowledge of your weakness.”
“Oh I didn’t think of that. I think a little quid pro quo is in order now.”
Mitch’s laugh was low and a little dirty. ” Yeah, no. I’m not giving my secrets away that easily.”
“No fun at all,” Max accused with a huff. “Or are you giving something else away instead?”
“Ahh, what are your thoughts on dinner?” He pulled his schedule closer, he had no clients scheduled and paperwork could wait.
“Oh I’m a big fan, enjoy it nearly every day, but…”
Mitch’s grin at her playful tone faded as he waited for her to finish. “You’ve already had it?” he said hopefully ignoring the fact it was far too early.
“No, it’s just…” she trailed off with a sigh. “Can I be bluntly honest with you?”
“I wish you would Max, I’m not into those sorts of games.”
“Okay well, the truth is I’m not looking for a boyfriend Mitch.”
“Plus there’s the whole Mitch and Max, mix and match thing, its just too cutesy.”
“It is?” Mitch had no real idea what she was talking about.
“It is. Or the m&ms, Just no,” Max said firmly so he agreed.
“Right. No m&ms.”
“What would work for me would be to have all the benefits of a relationship without the relationship.”
“Well sex obviously.”
“Obviously,” Mitch echoed.
“Maybe someone for those awkward family dinners. And since I’m dreaming, someone to bring me coffee when I wake up,” she finished with a soft laugh.
“Sounds like you want a friend with benefits,” Mitch said. “That’s not such a dream.”
She made a soft humming sound. “Kind of but not really.”
He waited for her to say more but there was only silence. “Max you’re going to need to give me the dummy guide, mansplain it for me.”
“I barely know you Mitch,” came the quiet reply.
“True. And if you choose you don’t have to know me or even see me again. But, you instigated this for a reason. I saw you toss all those other cards and still left you mine because I felt something and I think you did too.”
“Maybe I was bored,” she challenged.
“Feel free to hang up any time sugar,” Mitch shot back then let his head drop back as he cringed. A minute passed, then two and he could still hear her breathing.
Her annoyed, “This is ridiculous,” broke the silence. “I go to bed when you get up, our schedules will never harmonize. What’s the point?”
“If today is any indication, I’m usually in bed when you go to bed. So maybe that’s the point? We don’t know each other. I don’t know what you want and you don’t know what I want.”
“So? You want to make lists and compare?”
He laughed gently at her sulky tone. “If you like. But I was thinking dinner and a conversation might be easier?”
“Told you I had a vacancy anytime you need it,” he reminded her of their texts at the start of the day.
She laughed softly, “Yeah you did. I’ll cook if you bring dessert.”
“Whatever you want,” he promised.
“Oh no, you have to choose. Since you’ll have to eat whatever I cook, it only seems fair.”
Mitch grinned at the excuse but decided not to call her on it. “Something with fruit then,” he said and managed not to laugh at her muffled groan.
“Like I said, your choice,” she said brightly. “I’ll text you my address.”
His phone beeped and he checked the message. “Got it. See you soon.”
He quickly cleared his desk and shut down his computer as he made another call.
“Quick question for you Dee. Where can I get the most decadent chocolate cake in the next hour?”