Playing the Field: Victory Lap

Playing the Field: Victory Lap by J.M. Snyder
At 33, Josh Helton isn't exactly on top of his game. Overweight and out of shape, he's content with his lazy lifestyle until he starts having chest pains.

That wakes him up. After a hard look at his life, he realizes he isn't where he wants to be. His body needs work, and his love life does, too. Ditching his abusive boyfriend is just the beginning. Josh takes up running to get fit, and promises himself he'll run the annual Richmond 10K.

It's on an early morning jog that he meets Chad, a sexy bicyclist who's everything Josh has always wanted in a guy. But Josh isn't confident in himself any more ... so it's up to Chad to make the first move.



As he neared the athletic building, he heard giggling and thought of the women on their bikes. Water splashed, more laughter, a locker slammed shut. He ducked into the breezeway and saw them, three pretty women in their late twenties, hair tied back, long legs and arms bared for summer. They wore tight biker’s shorts and loose tank tops, and their Keds were well-worn and dusty from use. The three of them crowded around the building’s only water fountain. One held the button down while another drank from it; the third held her friend’s hair back out of the way so it wouldn’t get wet. The laughter came because the one with her finger on the button kept letting go, stopping the flow of water just when her friend tried to drink. “Crissy, stop!”

Josh paused at one end of the short breezeway and leaned over, hands on his knees, to wait out their antics. The women saw him and giggled more -- this close, they sounded like a bunch of turkeys gobbling to each other in a language he couldn’t quite understand. “Stop,” the one said again, nodding her head in Josh’s direction. “You’re getting me all wet.”

That set them off again. Josh rolled his eyes and waited. Finally Crissy held down the button long enough for her friend to drink and the ladies switched positions. Then it started up all over again. Seriously? he thought, watching them. Can’t I just get a quick sip and be on my way?

Before he could ask, a door squealed behind him and their friend exited the men’s room. “Hey,” he said to Josh. When he biked past, Josh hadn’t had a moment to really look him over, but now ... sweet Lord.

Six five, maybe, very tall. Not slim really, but lean, arms and legs thick with muscle. He wore Bermuda shorts and a T-shirt with the sleeves ripped off, a baseball cap clamped down backwards over dark, wavy hair, and a pair of wraparound, iridescent sunglasses hid his eyes. But the cut of his jaw, the set of his mouth, the hollow of his throat ... everything Josh could see only made him want more.

Hoping his voice didn’t really sound as high-pitched and squeaky as it did to his own ears, Josh limited his response to, “Hey.” Anything more would have turned into an invitation to go back inside the men’s room for a quick fuck.

Yeah, right, he berated himself. A guy like that isn’t interested in your fat ass.

Only he wasn’t fat anymore, was he?

The guy looked at the water fountain, then back at Josh. “Come on, girls. Can’t you see he’s waiting to take a drink?”

One of the girls gave Josh a seductive smile. “You look hot to me.” Her friends squealed with laughter, and she pressed the button to activate the fountain. “Let me hold it down for you.”

“Kelly, seriously?” The man groaned and turned to Josh. “I’m sorry, man.”

“It’s cool.”

As Josh moved toward the fountain, the ladies backed up to let him use it. At the last moment, Kelly moved out of the way, too, casting a hard look at the man with them. “Party pooper,” she mumbled as Josh bent to take a quick drink.

When he leaned over the fountain, one of the girls let out a loud wolf whistle that echoed through the breezeway. Another said, “Mmm, baby,” and her friend added, “Sexy butt.” Josh felt his face burn and he dipped it under the flow of water to cool it off. Was this how women felt when men catcalled to them? Part of him wanted to like it, but part of him couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there.

Their male friend muttered, “God, you’re worse than a bunch of construction workers.”

“Guys like it,” one woman said. “You would, too, admit it. If we were a bunch of hunky dudes instead of your sister’s friends.”

“Shut up,” he growled under his breath.

But her words caught in Josh’s head and stayed there like a thorn, jostling as he moved but refusing to work itself free. If we were a bunch of hunky dudes ... did that mean what he hoped it meant?

Like you stand a chance with him, he reminded himself.