Her nose wrinkled. “What does that have to do with anything? I’m trying to argue the point that he’s not jealous of Sawyer.”
“I never said he was.”
“But you want him to be.” Val was confident she was right. It was maddening.
“I want to know if I’m right about him. I want to know if he’s trying to sink me. I want to peel back that top layer and see what’s underneath.”
“We’ll see,” I said, walking past her toward the door.
MADDOX STOPPED MIDWAY in an inverted sit-up and sighed. “You’re joking.”
“Nope,” I said, heading straight for the women’s locker room.
He let his back fall flat against the bench he was sitting on, his legs bent and his feet firmly planted on the floor. “Do you want us to hate each other?” he said, looking at the ceiling. “I’m getting the feeling that you do.”
“You’re not far off,” I said, pushing through the swinging door.
After removing my workout clothes from my small duffel bag, I shimmied my navy pencil skirt over my hips and unbuttoned my light-blue blouse, and then I switched out my C-cup for a sports bra. It was amazing how one piece of fabric could take me from modest curves to the build of a twelve-year-old boy.
The room lined with lockers and motivational posters didn’t smell like the mildew and dirty sneakers I’d expected. Bleach and fresh paint dominated the air.
Maddox was finishing his sit-ups while I made my way to the closest treadmill, my Adidas making squish noises as each foot pressed and lifted from the rubber floor. I stepped up onto the belt of the machine and threaded the bottom of my white FBI T-shirt through the safety clasp.
“Why now?” he said from across the room. “Why do you have to be here during my lunch hour? You can’t work out in the mornings or the evenings?”
“Have you seen this room before and after hours? The equipment is full. The best time of day to get a full workout without dodging sweaty bodies is at your lunch hour because no one wants to come in here while you’re here.”
“Are you going to ask me to leave?” I asked, looking at him over my shoulder.
“You mean, tell you to leave?”
His eyes poured over my tight leggings as he thought about that, and then he left the bench for the double bars before lifting both of his legs nearly chest-high. If he worked out like that five times a week, it was no wonder he had an eight-pack. Sweat was dripping from his hair, and his entire torso glistened.
I pretended not to notice as I pressed the button to start the treadmill. The belt moved smoothly forward, the gears causing a familiar shudder beneath my feet. Placing earbuds in my ears, I used the music to help me forget that Maddox was behind me, perfecting perfection, and increasing the speed and incline of the treadmill helped, too.
After a few laps, I pulled one earbud out and let it hang down over my shoulder. I turned to look at the wall of mirrors on my left and spoke to Maddox’s reflection, “By the way, I’m onto you.”
“Oh, yeah?” Maddox said, puffing in the background.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“I’m not going to let you do it.”
“Do you really think I’m trying to sabotage you?” He seemed amused.
“I already told you no.” After a short pause, he was standing next to the treadmill, his hand resting on the safety handles. “I know I made a negative impression on you, Lindy. Admittedly, it wasn’t unintentional. But I’m motivated to make agents better, not tank their careers.”
“Agent Sawyer has a history in our squad that you know nothing about.”
“It’s not my story to tell.”
“You’re not allowing him to speak to me because of someone else’s story?”
Maddox shrugged. “I just like to get in his way.”
“Your tantrum in my office after Agent Sawyer left was you getting in his way. Right.”
Maddox shook his head and then walked away. I started to put my earbud back into my ear, but he appeared at my side once again.
“Why am I the asshole for keeping a fuckstick like Sawyer away from you?”
I pushed a button, and the treadmill came to a stop. “I don’t need your protection,” I puffed.
Maddox began to speak, but then he walked away again. This time, he pushed through the door of the men’s locker room.
After eight minutes’ worth of stewing over his attitude, I hopped off the treadmill and stomped into the men’s locker room.
Maddox had one hand on the sink, the other holding a toothbrush. His hair was wet, and he was covered only in a towel.
He spit, rinsed, and then tapped his toothbrush on the sink. “Can I help you?”
I shifted my weight. “You might be able to charm the brass all the way up to the director, but I’m onto you. Don’t think for a second that I don’t see through your bullshit. I’m not going anywhere, so you can stop whatever game you’re playing.”
He dropped his toothbrush in the sink and walked toward me. I stepped backward, quickening my pace as he did. My back hit the wall, and I gasped. Maddox slammed his palms against the wall on each side of me just above my head. He was inches from my face, his skin still dripping from his recent shower.
“I promoted you to supervisor, Agent Lindy. What makes you think I want you gone?”
“What do you want me to say?” he said.
I could smell the mint on his breath and the bodywash on his skin. “I want the truth.”
Maddox leaned in, his nose tracing my jaw. My knees nearly gave way as his lips touched my ear.
“You can have whatever you want.” He leaned back, his eyes falling to my lips.
My breath caught, and I braced myself as he moved closer, closing his eyes.
He stopped just short of my mouth. “Say it,” he whispered. “Say you want me to kiss you.”
I reached up with my fingers, sliding them down his rippled abdomen, smearing the beads of water until I touched the top of his towel. Every nerve in my body begged me to say yes.
“No.” I pushed past him and walked out the door.
I climbed back onto the treadmill, chose the fastest setting, and replaced my earbuds in my ear, changing songs until something screamy began to play.
Forty-five minutes later, breathless and sweating, I slowed my pace, walking with my hands on my hips. After my five-minute cooldown, I showered and then dressed before pinning my hair into a damp bun.
Val was waiting for me on the other side of the skywalk. “How did it go?” she asked, genuinely concerned.
I continued to walk toward the elevators, and she kept pace.
I tried my best to keep my shoulders and expression relaxed. “I ran. It was great.”
“Yes. How was your lunch?”