Stoking the Fire (Salus Security #1) - Teodora Kostova

Chapter one

“I still don’t get why I had to come,” I say as I scan my guest pass. The doors swoosh open, and we walk inside the gym. “I have a perfectly good gym membership of my own.”

Adri gives me a look. “Which you never use.” I open my mouth to protest, but he talks over me. “My seventy-six-year-old grandmother is fitter than you, Zach.”

“Come on, Adri, look at this perfect body.” I run a hand down the length of my torso, waggling my eyebrows.

He bites his lip against a smile. “Slim doesn’t mean fit, Zach.”

I huff but follow him into the main hall, hastily tying my hair back into a messy ponytail. A few curls still escape the hairband, but I know from experience that it’s impossible to fully tame my hair, no matter what I do, so I let them be.

The gym is very utilitarian, nothing like the one I pay steep membership fees for. There are treadmills alongside one wall, people already running on them even though it’s barely after 8 a.m. Fatigue washes over me just thinking about cardio right now, my head still pounding from all the alcohol we consumed last night. How Adri manages to be so perky this morning is beyond me.

“We’ll start slowly,” he says, pointing at a pair of stationary bikes.

I sigh but don’t argue. We climb on the bikes, and since there’s no music in this gym, I put my earbuds in and select a playlist. The music blares in my ears and I quickly turn the volume down. As I start pedaling on the easiest setting, I look around. The gym is not fancy but doesn’t lack equipment. Exercise machines are clustered together alongside all walls, and there are separate areas for weight lifting, yoga, and even a boxing ring with a punching bag hanging beside it.

A punching bag that’s being heavily assaulted right now.

I focus my gaze on the man currently beating the shit out of the poor bag. He’s at least six-foot-five, with dark wavy hair cut short and naturally tanned skin. Tattoos peek from underneath his short sleeves, covering most of his muscled arms. His gaze is focused on the bag, his sharp features tight with concentration. Every jab he aims is precise, landing on the target with a heavy thud. The way he moves is hypnotizing—long limbs extend with power and grace with every punch and every kick at the bag. Sweat drips from his face along his neck and down his collarbone.

I can’t look away.

In fact, I think I need a closer look.

I jump off the bike, giving Adri the thumbs up when he eyes me curiously, and move on to a CrossFit trainer closer to the boxing ring. I climb on it and start moving, but my eyes are fixed on the man in front of me. Up close he’s even more impressive. I notice the tattoos spill down his legs, too, an intricate design on his thigh peeking from under his shorts. I wonder what other tattoos he’s hiding under the sweaty clothes.

My cock’s already at half-mast just looking at him. But when his eyes land on me—directly on me, as if he knows I’ve been watching him—I get instantly hard. Dark, expressive eyes follow the lines of my body as I halfheartedly move on the machine. When they land back on my face, there’s fire in them that was absent before.

I’m used to guys checking me out and appreciating what they see. But this… this is not appreciation. This is raw hunger that makes my stomach flip and my dick get even harder.

Someone taps my shoulder, nearly making me fall off. I yank the earbuds out and glare at Adri.

“What are you doing?” he asks, folding his arms.

“Exercising? Isn’t that why you dragged me here at the break of dawn?”

“It’s nearly nine!” His eyes follow my line of sight and his mouth forms an ‘oh’.

“Shut up,” I say before he can comment on my particular brand of exercising.

When he looks at me again, laughter is dancing in his hazel eyes. “I bet it’s uncomfortable exercising with a hard-on.”

My face heats, but I decide not to indulge him. I feign annoyance when I say, “Was there anything you wanted?”

“Just checking to see how you’re doing.”

“Now that you saw I’m perfectly fine, maybe you should find someone else to annoy.”

He blows me a kiss and, with a final glance at the man I’m lusting after, walks away.

When I turn my attention back to the