Chapter 7: The Knot
Zoe took care in choosing her running clothes today. She put on a baseball cap and doubled-up her shirts. Trevor is meeting her, and she wants to look more appealing than a sweat balloon. Zoe shouldn’t care what Trevor thinks, but she does. She wants him to find her attractive. And she thinks he wants her to want him, too.
On the trail, Trevor meets her at mile-marker three, near the wooden benches and water fountain. He looks good, even in workout gear. It probably took him two minutes to get dressed, compared to her thirty. So unfair.
Three older women with bicycles are huddled near him. They all look like they could be related to Zoe’s mom, Marcy. They’re laughing at something he said. He can talk to anybody, can’t he?
When he sees Zoe, his face brightens. Does she look like that when he sees her? The thought makes her blush.
Trevor says goodbye to the ladies, then he and Zoe continue up the path.
“Three Marcys,” she says about the women. “Did they give you the numbers of their single daughters, like my mom?”
“What if they did? Would you be a little jealous?”
She looks straight ahead and lies, “Not at all. I’d wish you luck.”
“I wouldn’t want it. At least, not with them.”
With other men, she’d only hope a statement like that was a reference to her. With Trevor, she knows it is. There’s no guessing. His interest is genuine. Mature. Real.
And it’s scaring the crap out of her.
Another flame of red rushes her cheeks. Maybe he’ll think it’s the heat.
She runs a little faster, then suddenly a jolt of pain cracks through her calf. She gasps, reaching for her leg.
“What is it?”
“I think it’s a cramp,” she winces.
He drapes her arm over his shoulder, leading her to a patch of shade beneath a tree. “Have a seat.”
She wishes there was a bench nearby. “I don’t like sitting on the ground.” She hobbles over the grass and dirt. “It’s a weird thing of mine.”
He could’ve given a snarky response. But instead, he peels off his shirt and lays it down on the ground.
She should have stopped him. She really should have. Because the muscles that are beneath that shirt are nothing but bad news for her. And now she’s hyperventilating as well as cramping.
“Sit,” he says firmly.
She does, her head tipping back from the pain. He extends her leg, puts his hand on the bottom of her shoe, and pushes some of his weight onto the balls of her toes, stretching the muscle in her calf.
“What are you doing?” she cries.
“I used to get cramps while playing soccer in high school. You may have overheated. Just relax and breathe.”
She probably is overheating. Doubling-up her shirts was a bad idea after all.
He eases further into the stretch. And in a short time, the knot in her leg starts to loosen. But a new knot is forming, one in her throat, as she feels his hands delicately knead her calf.
“How’s that? Getting better?” he asks.
No, she wants to say. Sure, the pain in her leg is getting better. But she can feel a current moving between them, a tingling sensation that’s radiating from his hand through her leg.
And the knot in her throat, like a stale pretzel, she can feel that, too.
Why does he have to be someone that her mom introduced her to, someone caught up in this bet? Why does he have to be so easy to talk to, so interesting, funny, and kind? Why does he have to make it impossible for her not to like him?
And why-oh-freaking-why does he have to look so good with no shirt on?
Zoe lowers the brim of her baseball cap in defeat.
“Hey.” His handsome face peeks into view. “You okay? Is it more than just a cramp?”
Yes, it’s way more than that.
She looks up at him. “No. What you’re doing is really helpful. Thank you. I’m starting to feel better.”
Several minutes later, they’re back on the path, walking at a gingerly pace. A bicyclist rings a bell at them while passing, then another. Someone shouts hello. It’s the women who were with Trevor earlier.
“The three Marcys.” Zoe waves as they ride by. “They missed the show. My cramp. You with no shirt on.” She smiles when he looks away sheepishly. “They definitely would’ve given you their daughters numbers if they saw you shirtless.”
He says nothing to this, and she decides to let the teasing go.
They start talking about other things. He tells her about a challenging project he’s facing at work, and an engineer who’s making his life more difficult. She tells him about her uncle’s health issue, and how her family is rallying around him for support.
They talk about the warm weather, vacations, and favorite drinks to have while on the beach.
Soon, the intersection comes into view where they’re supposed to part ways. They fall quiet as they approach it.
Trevor breaks the silence. “How long does the bet with Marcy last?”
“What do you mean?”
“How long until I can ask you out on a date? A real one. Dinner, wine, cloth napkins, a server with a European accent.”
Zoe doesn’t know what to say. A knot works its way into her throat again. The fear of falling in love.
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Read Chapter 1 of The Bachelorette Blogger.
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Available next week…
Chapter 8: Collision