Excerpt: Chapter 1
I double-checked to see if I had everything ready. Then I checked again.
Massage table set to be loaded into an Uber, massage oil (several kinds) packed up and carefully bottled so I could fit it into my holster, snacks for when I inevitably wound up exhausted halfway through the day from doing so many massages back to back. Okay. I took a deep breath. I was as ready as I’d ever be.
It had been a few weeks since I had received that call from the Firemen, one of my city’s local football teams. The call told me that I was going to be one of the officially contracted massage therapists for the team for a few months until the season ended while one of the regulars they worked with was on maternity leave. The day had come, and I was finally heading down to the stadium, and I couldn’t believe how nervous I was.
This was partly because I knew these guys would be used to world-class rubdowns, and yeah, I rated my skills pretty highly, but I wasn’t sure my kneading and pummeling was that good. I hadn’t even been certified for a year yet. I paced up and down the apartment a few more times, trying to work off the excess energy that felt as though it was flooding through my veins. Okay, I could do this. I could totally do this. Frank, one of the Firemen’s star players (and one of my favorite clients), wouldn’t have hooked me up with this opportunity if he didn’t think I could do this.
I grabbed my phone and dialed Natalie’s number. I had twenty minutes before I needed to leave, and I knew hearing my best friend’s voice would make me feel better.
We hadn’t had much of a chance to talk since I had landed this gig – our schedules just didn’t seem to sync up. We could barely manage a quick “hello,” let alone hours on the phone with each other. I missed having her in my life – not being able to see her in person was bad enough, but not being able to talk either seemed torturous. I needed a gab session with her, but that wasn’t going to happen now. But I’d take what I could get. The phone rang a couple of times, and then she finally picked up.
“Hey,” she greeted me, a little sleepily. “How’s it going?”
“I didn’t wake you up, did I?” I laughed a little and rolled my eyes. I had known Natalie for long enough to understand that the last thing she wanted was to be woken up before she totally had to be out of bed. Sleeping in was her favorite hobby.
“No, you’re good,” she assured me. “I was already up and making myself a coffee anyway. Hey, it’s your first day with the Firemen today, right?”
“Yeah, that’s right,” I replied and nodded, even though she couldn’t see me. I was confirming as much to myself as I was to her, because I still couldn’t quite believe this was actually happening to me. It was more than a dream gig: it was the kind of steady money I could rely on for months. And I got to work on some of the hottest men in the city. It was about as good as it got.
“I’m so jealous of you,” she sighed. “Getting to rub up on a bunch of sexy football players every day? For work? I still don’t know how you managed to swing that one, Pro.”
“Oh, good luck, I guess,” I said and shrugged modestly at myself in the mirror. “Oh, and one really helpful client.”
“I could use a few of them. Any chance you can send him in my direction?” She suggested playfully. “So, you excited?”
“Nervous as hell,” I admitted. “But I know it’s going to go fine. They wouldn’t have contracted with me if they didn’t think I could actually do this.”
“That’s the spirit,” Natalie replied encouragingly. “So, what are you up to tonight? Anything to celebrate your first day on the job?”
“Not tonight. But on Friday I have something planned. So yeah, I guess you can say I’ll be celebrating,” I said, feeling myself smiling. I had all but forgotten about the fact that I was heading out with David to cap off my week. Since practice and more intensive training was starting for him and the rest of the Hulks (the city’s other professional football team), we wouldn’t be seeing each other as often. Now that she’d made me think about him, I couldn’t keep the goofy-ass grin off my face. That was the effect he had on me.
“Oh yeah?” I guess she heard the glee in my tone, because she was instantly groping around for more details. That’s my girl! “With who?”
“Uh…” I hadn’t actually told her much about David and me, not wanting to jinx it, but I figured we were far enough into things now that I could talk about him with her without putting a curse on the two of us. Not that there really was an “us” yet.
“You remember that football player I bumped into coming out of that bar?” I reminded her, knowing I was being vague. I didn’t remember how much I had told her, but whatever I had told her, I highly doubted she’d have forgotten. I mean, we had stalked him online together over one of our phone sessions.
“Yeah, I remember him,” she replied with a laugh. “Pro, how could I forget The Mountain? It’s not like you bump into famous athletes on the street and play kissy face with them. It’s not like you hang out with them like every day. Well, now you will be, but…”
“So, yeah. Him.” I was grinning wider when I remembered everything that had happened after I had saw him at Frank’s party. I didn’t kiss and tell, but if I did, Natalie would have gobbled it up because it was so damn good.
“So you’re going out with him? Like a real date?” I could hear her gossip sensors lighting up as her voice got louder. “With David “Meat Mountain” Fleischberg from the Hulks?”
“Actually, we…” I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tell her. I still didn’t want to jinx it, but I knew I had to boast about my newfound relationship, especially to my oldest friend from back home. I couldn’t hold it in anymore. “We hooked up the night of the party. And we’ve been kind of dating since.”
“No way!” She sounded wide awake now. “That’s awesome! How long has that been going on? Since that party? Why is this the first I’m hearing of it?”
“I just didn’t want to say anything too soon,” I replied with a long sigh. “You and I hadn’t really talked, and really, I was worried about screwing things up, somehow.”
“Yeah, I get that,” she said softening her tone, and I knew with a warm rush of affection that she really did get it. She was my best friend, after all, and the two of us were so much on the same page, it sometimes felt as though we were of one mind.
“So, am I going to get any of the details?” She was eager to hear more, but I wasn’t quite ready for that yet. Everything that we’d shared together was still a little too personal, a little too intimate, to be discussing it with anyone else, even Natalie. That just wasn’t my style. I like to keep private things private.
“I don’t think so,” I replied. I glanced at my living room clock, and I started checking for the tenth time that I had all my bottles and my oils packed and ready to go. I was running out of time. “I want to keep it just between us, at least for now.”
“Oh, you’re no fun!” She teased me. “Come on, you’ve been hooking up with a hot football player, and this is the first I’m hearing of it. The very least you owe me is a little bit of the juicy stuff. Is it at least good?”
“Oh, it’s good,” I replied at once, not having to think about my answer. Because it was – it was so damn good. Even just thinking about the last time we’d seen each other made me warm all over! He’d come to my place on the pretense I was going to cook him dinner, and the two of us had ended up hooking up right there in the kitchen. The memory was getting me completely distracted from the job I was meant to be heading out to.
“Next time you call, I’m getting all the damn details,” she half-ordered, half-warned me. “Is that clear?”
“Clear as day, ma’am,” I replied with a playful edge to my voice. Maybe I’d parcel out a little bit of dirt next time. “You want to call me tomorrow? I’m going to be worn out after working all day and whatever it is I’ll be down to tonight.”
“Yeah, of course,” she agreed. “And I’ll try to come up with something even half as interesting as everything you’re getting up to right now.”
“I know you’ll find something,” I replied, looking at my watch now. David had purchased it for me a week or so earlier, and I still didn’t even want to know how much a thing like this must have cost. He had told me that money wasn’t an issue for him, given that he’d been a professional athlete for a touch over 15 years, and his minimalist lifestyle – or so he said – for a player of his caliber, that was probably true.
“Good luck with your first day at work,” she said with a yawn. I could hear her coffee machine percolating in the background, and smiled at the sound of it. The sound reminded me of the last time I had gotten to go home for a visit and stayed with her, which had been way too long ago.
“Thanks, Natalie. Love you, talk soon.”
“Love you too.”
As soon as the call ended, I ordered up an Uber. They’d be here in eight.
I went about gathering the last few bits and pieces I was going to need for my first day on the job. I knew I could have gone around and around my apartment another dozen times and still be worried I’d forgotten something. But I had to leave, so I needed to let it go and start moving my gear downstairs.
David had offered to sneak out of practice early. He wanted to come down and help me load all my shit into his SUV and drive me to the stadium, but I had turned him down. It was sweet, but I was going off to his rival team in order to start working for them. It seemed a little off. I knew I could ask for a lot from this man, but even I felt like that was a step too far. Plus, David took his football seriously – leaving the Hulks practice early to chauffeur me around was a big sacrifice that I didn’t feel comfortable with him taking for me.
Besides, I likely would have ended up distracted with him around, and no matter how enjoyable that distraction might have been, I had shit I needed to get done today. And it would make it all the sweeter when I got to see him next. I was sure that we would find a way to work out the stresses of the week on each other, in the best possible way.
I still couldn’t believe we were actually seeing each other. If you had told me that the guy I would be dating (if what we’re doing can be called dating) was someone like David, I’d have checked you in for treatment. Just a few months after I moved to the city, there was some dude I ran into on the street after I got blown off by my date. And that very same guy was a well-known, super sexy football player – the kind who women stole looks at whenever the two of us were out together! It seems crazy.
But here we were. Somehow, for some reason, David had chosen me, and I was beyond the point of questioning it. Yes, my insecurities sometimes reared their ugly heads, but I was getting there and actually beginning to believe him when he told me I was beautiful. I glanced at myself in the mirror and smiled; even on my worst days, I was well aware that I wasn’t bad at all.
I grabbed my portable massage table and hitched it up under my arm, and quickly checked myself in the mirror one last time, though it was a little late to be doing adjustments to my hair and make-up now that I had an unwieldy table tucked beneath my arm. I had pulled my hair all the way back and stuck to minimal make-up – massage oil had a way of getting onto your face and ruining any carefully-constructed eye look you might have spent a hell of a long time putting together. I thought I looked pretty good, but maybe that was just the glint in my eye knowing that I was walking into a gig that would solve all the money problems I’d been suffering from since I came to this city. Yeah, that was probably it.
The Uber arrived as I got downstairs, and I helped the driver pack my things into the trunk. Then once everything was packed, I was ready to go. I climbed into the front seat with the driver, drew another long, deep breath, and watched as we pulled away from my building and towards my first day with the biggest client I’d ever had – an entire football team!