I smiled, climbing out of the car and watching her drive off.

I took a deep breath, the weight of the messenger bag below my hip heavier with a phone that wasn’t vibrating. I brought up my wrist, rubbing my thumb over the scar and wincing at the pain I forgot was there.

Looking down, I saw the new tattoo and let out a grateful smile, thankful for the reminder.

Non Domini. No masters.

Clutching the strap of the messenger bag, I entered the building.

“Keep going! Keep going!” Tate barked, swinging her arms back and forth like a machine.

I sucked in air—in and out, in and out—until I thought I was going to die.

Holy shit. This wasn’t fun! This wasn’t even on the same planet as fun!

But I needed to work off some steam.

I’d seen Jax on the field today, training the incoming lacrosse team, looking sweaty and angry and sexy, but when I’d finished my day, his car was already gone from the parking lot. It was stupid to want to cry over something so silly, but I was in knots.

He was ignoring me.

He could be busy or worried about his father, except he’d found time to come to practice but no time to call or shoot me a text?

Little shit.

I grunted, the anger fueling my muscles.

All three of us, including Fallon, were lined up side by side, doing step-ups as if the devil were chasing us, on the wooden staircase at the Mines of Spain.

My heart pounded like a mammoth beast stomping across my chest, and sweat drenched my stomach, face, and back.

And my ears! My fucking ears were sweating.

“I hate you both,” I gasped, jamming up the step with my left, my right, and then back down. Again and again and again and …

Fuck!

“Come on,” Fallon bellowed. “Faster! It’s good for the ass!”

“My ass likes BodyPump!” I roared, my legs shaking more each second. “In an air-conditioned room with music and fans and a smoothie bar nearby!”

“Don’t be a pussy!” Fallon’s temple dripped with sweat.

“Keep going.” Tate held the stopwatch. “Just one more minute!”

“Oh, God,” I groaned, gritting my teeth. “Nachos and truffles and ice cream, oh, my. Nachos and truffles and ice cream, oh, my.”

“What are you doing?” Tate demanded.

I swallowed through the dryness in my thick mouth. “It’s what I say when the going gets tough at the gym,” I breathed out. “It’s motivation. Nachos and truffles and ice cream, oh, my! Nachos and—”

“Truffles and ice cream, oh, my!” they joined in as we all simultaneously picked up pace. “Nachos and truffles and ice cream, oh, my! Nachos and truffles and ice cream, oh, my! Nachos and—”

“And we’re done!” Tate exclaimed, cutting us off and smiling through her exhaustion.

Everyone collapsed, relief washing over our tired bodies as our heads bobbed with each breath.

I was too tired to move. Too tired not to move. My legs bent up and then straightened, uncomfortable. My chest ached with the heavy exertion, and I leaned back on my elbows, finding myself getting nauseated, so I leaned back up again and over my knees, trying to get my heart to calm down.

I was out of shape. Note to self: Need to do more cardio.

We all sucked down the rest of our water, and I was glad they’d told me to tuck a hand towel into the back of my shorts. There was sweat everywhere, so I wiped off my stomach—bare in its sports bra—and my face, arms, and legs.

“So, do Jared and Jax have any idea where their father is?” Fallon threw her towel down and grabbed her water again, looking at Tate and then me.

“I’m sure if anyone has any idea it’s Jax?” Tate spoke up and then glanced at me.

I shrugged, feeling a little lost. Jax was tough when it came to his father. He didn’t tell me much, but I soothed myself with the fact that he and his brother probably didn’t tell anyone much of anything.

“You know I’ve never agreed with my father’s business,” Fallon started, talking with her hands, “but this is one instance when Jax should’ve just let him take care of it.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

She pinned me with serious eyes. “My father offered to deal with him. Jax said no.”

“Deal with him?” Tate repeated. “As in …?”

“As in,” Fallon inched out, “set him up with a new pair of cement shoes and go for a walk at the bottom of Lake Michigan.”

My eyes bugged out.

By the way she’d confided, I knew it embarrassed her a little. Now I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to meet her father.

“Jesus,” Tate mumbled, leaning back on her hands and looking to the ground.

“Well”—I cleared my throat—“I’m glad Jax said no, then.”

“Are you?” Fallon looked at me, amused. “Chickens always come home to roost, and your boyfriend is always one step ahead of everyone else.” She picked up her towel and threw it over her shoulder, looking at me pointedly. “He doesn’t disagree with what my father wants to do, Juliet. He simply wants to do it himself.”

I spent the rest of the afternoon doing a great job of distracting myself. I completed my lesson plans for the last week of tutoring and then went swimming in Madoc’s pool with him, Fallon, Tate, and Jared. They ordered pizza for dinner, but I excused myself to do laundry.

I needed to leave.

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