Claire LeMay is at the top of her game—she’s head coach for a top gymnastics facility in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her gymnasts winning awards for her outstanding choreography. Now her biggest challenge is to coach alongside the man she’s avoided for three years after rejecting his offer of coaching under his command at his club in Ottawa, Ontario.
After sinking every penny of his inheritance into his state-of-the-art gymnastics facility, Justin Black has achieved his dream. But even with hundreds of members and well-trained coaches, when Claire’s presence invades his space, he realizes she’s the one thing that’s missing. Clueless about why she didn’t accept his earlier job offer, he is determined to discover why she turned him down.
Will they be a rebound romance, destined to repeat the same old routine, or can they choreograph a new one?
Claire’s nervousness grew a hundredfold as Shelley parked their rental car in the lot adjacent to the gymnastics facility. A couple of months earlier, Claire’s peers at National Championships had voted her Canada’s best choreographer after her gymnasts had won choreography awards. She should be ecstatic about being asked to offer her expertise for Canada’s female Olympic hopefuls. Instead of elation, however, her gut churned with an ever-increasing sense of dread.
Inhaling a deep breath, she reached for the door handle just as a black convertible roared into the lot with the top down and rock music blaring. Claire’s stomach did a somersault and sank to her toes. Heaven help me.
Her grip on the handle froze, and she turned to Shelley.
Her best friend cocked an eyebrow at her. “What’s with the deer-in-the-headlights look?”
Claire let the breath whoosh out of her lungs. “I can’t do this.”
A colleague for nearly as long as she’d been a friend, Shelley rolled her bright green eyes and nudged Claire’s shoulder. “Yes, Ms. Claire LeMay, you can.”
Claire eyed Justin Black as he stepped out of his vehicle and pressed a button on the key fob in his hand with a sharp movement. The top lowered back into place, and he slammed the door. Her heart stopped when he turned and she viewed him head on. He’d always reminded her of the main actor from a popular TV show, where the kid crash-landed to earth and had super powers. With those soft brown eyes and thick dark hair, not to mention the muscles that bulged under his clothing, he’d been her hero once upon a time. She knew better than anyone the raw power he had, for she’d known him as a competitive gymnast and then later as a lover.
Butterflies flitted around her insides in full force. Ridiculous. She’d seen him numerous times in the last three years. Somehow they’d managed to avoid direct communication, even when their athletes were in the same rotation at competitions or attending technical meetings. They’d both smile and interact with those around them in a façade of interaction she figured they could win an Academy award for. Everyone thought they got along great. But behind the fake smiles, Claire had always left exhausted, wishing she wouldn’t have to see him again.
No such luck, given their professions. Today would force them to coach together, even communicate, since they were running the camp together.
Claire took a deep breath. She would focus on the task at hand, burying her apprehension the way she always did. Doesn’t matter that he knows all the right places to touch to drive me wild. Doesn’t matter I know how to satisfy him. She frowned. Those days were long gone, and thoughts of a relationship gone sour weren’t going to help the situation.
Her heart beat at a rapid pace, and a flush stole over her body. How can he still affect me this way? She watched Justin’s taut ass as he strode to the front doors of the building and disappeared inside. Still such a fine backside. She gave her head a shake. What’s wrong with me? She didn't think about his backside—or any other part of him—anymore.
Shelley’s voice broke into her thoughts. “That man has a fine ass.”
Claire snorted in disgust. “Why are you looking at his ass?”
“Weren’t you?” Shelly smirked.
Claire sighed and faced her friend. “I’ve been so damn busy preparing the gym back home for my departure that I didn’t have time to think about what it would mean to be working with him.” She gestured toward the gym. “In his facility.”
“You mean distracted yourself so you wouldn’t have to think about it, and now here we are.”
Claire pursed her lips together and narrowed her eyes at her friend.
Shelley’s voice softened. “Concentrate on what you do best. Ignore him on every other level. Think of him as just any other man.”
Claire folded her arms over her chest. “Easy for you to say. You didn’t have a relationship with him.”
“And from what you used to tell me about sleeping with him—I’m sorry I haven’t had the pleasure.” Shelley squinted at the building, then returned her attention to Claire. “I could keep him busy this week, then you wouldn’t be tempted.”
Claire’s mouth dropped open in shock, and she smacked Shelley in the chest with the back of her hand. “You wouldn’t?”
Shelley held her hands up in a gesture of peace. “Trying to lighten the mood a little. Besides, I heard he was seeing someone from the club. I’m not into stealing a taken man.”
Claire sighed in resignation. “You know, I was looking forward to visiting Ottawa again. It’s such a beautiful city. Kind of sorry I’ll miss Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill. But...” Her voice trailed away, relief stealing into her consciousness that she hadn’t managed to arrive in time for Canada Day celebrations after all. They would only have reminded her of who she used to spend the holiday with, and she didn’t need a bumpy trip down Regret Road, thank you very much.
Shelley squeezed Claire’s shoulder. “This is one week, and you’re being paid to do what you love. Surely you can stand his presence—for the money, if not the kids.” Shelley’s tone gentled. “Unless you still love him?”
The question goaded Claire into action. “No,” she snapped, forcing her door open. She jumped out, threw her gym bag over her shoulder, and slammed the door.
Shelley got out and looked at her over the top of the car, crossing her eyes.
Claire fought a grin.
“Maybe you two will get a chance to talk this week,” Shelley said. “Clear the air.”
Claire narrowed her eyes. “There’s nothing to talk about.”