WORTH THE WAIT

Worth the Wait by Karla Doyle

When personal trainer Sam bumps into his favorite former client, their chemistry reignites instantly. Leigh is everything he pictured in his sometime-down-the-road woman. Sexy, funny, independent, mature—in more ways than one. He never cared about their age gap, he just wasn’t ready to get serious before. He’s ready now. But when his prior playboy ways come back to bite him in the ass, it’ll take more than sizzling sex and charm to convince Leigh to stick around.

Leigh’s life is humming along according to plan. Her custom bakery is thriving. Her daughter is a well-adjusted ten-year-old. Romance is the one area that’s lacking. Completely. Until the universe fulfills her request for some hot lovin’ and puts Sam in her path—for a second time. Sam gives her exactly what she was missing, and more. Maybe more than her well-structured life plan can handle…

Contemporary Erotic Romance • Older Woman/Younger Man • 67,500 words • © Karla Doyle, April 7, 2020

Very Personal Training Series—Book 2
Characters were introduced in Body of Work, though each book may be read as an individual story, without reading the earlier books in this series.

Standalone Novel • Happily Ever After • No Cliffhanger • Linked Series

ISBN: 9781777156817 (ebook), 9781777156800 (print)

Very Personal Training Series

WORTH THE WAIT

CHAPTER ONE

LEIGH

Leigh jogged across Dundas Street, waving a thank-you at the rare gentleman who’d stopped to respect the pedestrian crossing. Another minute and she’d have given up and turned back to her shop. She had three-dozen cupcakes to transform into superheroes, a double-layer, red-velvet cake to bake, and an appointment with a bridezilla before this day ended—and it was already two-thirty. But first, she needed a coffee.

Correction, she needed somebody else to make and serve her a coffee. A big fancy one with a triple shot of eighteen-percent cream and a generous dose of sugar. Every minute of her day was allotted for something specific. This minute, along with the next five, were scheduled for coffee. The schedule kept her sane. On busy days like today, so did a big fancy coffee.

She pulled the door and stepped into Bean There, blinking as her eyes adjusted from the bright, June day to the coffee shop’s interior lighting. A couple more blinks and the darkness morphed into shadowy outlines of tables and chairs, dotted with midafternoon patrons—one of whom was looking her way. Intently.

Leigh checked over her shoulder, ready to apologize for blocking somebody’s path, but saw only the door. Maybe she’d been wrong, maybe the lighting had played tricks with her vision and he hadn’t been staring in her direction.

She glanced at the guy again while walking toward the counter. Nope, she hadn’t been wrong.

He was definitely watching her. Maybe she had flour in her hair or a smear of icing across her t-shirt. Whatever the reason, she’d take it, because the guy staring from under the low brim of his ballcap had the best shoulders and arms she’d seen on a man outside the gym. The body of a hot younger man. And, oh god, he was smiling.

Something about him pinged on her radar. More than raw attraction, there was a sense of familiarity. Hard to know for sure while her vision was still muted. The fact that she couldn’t see any features above his sexy, smiling mouth didn’t help either.

He’d probably been in the bakery with some equally young fiancée, checking out wedding cakes, and had smiled at her out of recognition. Or, since she’d been cursed with one of those faces that never lie—and his good looks and the blip of attention he’d given her had initiated a pleasant tingle to the south—he was simply amused by the cougar drooling over him.

Regardless, no more ogling. But, oh boy, his sexy grin was a keeper for later.

“Large vanilla latté with whipped cream and cinnamon, please. To go.” She poked at a handful of coins while the coffeehouse barista prepared her order. A total ruse, she’d brought exact change plus a fifty-cent tip, as always.

The money gave her something to focus on. Her peripheral vision still worked though, and it was in overdrive, thanks to ballcap guy’s muscle-filled, army-green t-shirt. He was yummier than the dessert coffee she’d ordered.

And he was leaving. He stood, slapped his male companion on the shoulder, and disappeared from her subtle sightline.

She exhaled slowly, smiling politely when her cup of comfort landed on the counter. Back to reality.

“Hey, Leigh.” A deep, friendly voice slid into her ear from behind. “Haven’t seen you in a while.”

She knew that voice from the gym—or house of pain, as she’d once renamed it, thanks to her former personal trainer’s rigorous sessions.

“Hey, Sam,” she said, turning—and nearly dropping the five-dollar latté when the source of the deep voice came into view.

Hat. Army-green t-shirt packed solid with muscles. Handsome, smiling face, which she could now see more of than just his mouth. Sam was the guy.

She’d only seen him in gym attire, not in street clothes. And never wearing a hat. She wouldn’t have thought he could get hotter than he’d been at the gym. He could. He absolutely could.

“Got it?” He still held her hand where he’d caught it and the fumbled takeout cup, saving her drink and preventing a giant, sticky mess.

Which had her mind conjuring other sticky messes she and Sam could create. Sexy ones. Not a good train of thought with the object of her lusty infatuation looking into her eyes.

“Yes, I’ve got it now, thanks,” she said, finding words that wouldn’t get her in trouble. “I didn’t recognize you without your gym clothes.” Heat flooded her cheeks as Sam’s smile stretched into a wider grin. “As in, wearing clothes other than your gym clothes. Obviously, since I’ve never seen you naked.” So much for finding words that wouldn’t get her in trouble. “Well, I didn’t make this awkward at all, did I?”

“Not one bit.”

That should have been the end of it. They should be exchanging polite goodbyes and going their separate ways. Only he didn’t say goodbye. Nor did he let go of her hand.

“Are you rushing off to somewhere, or do you have a few minutes to sit and catch up?”

Zero minutes, that’s what she had. Negative minutes, actually. Yet the words that came out of her mouth were, “Sure, yes.”

“Great.” He released her hand, then placed his at the small of her back, using the contact to guide her toward a booth at the back of the café.

Maybe she’d stepped through some crack in reality and this wasn’t her neighborhood coffee shop, but an alternate version. One where a hot young gym trainer wanted to spend his unpaid, personal time with a woman at least a decade older.

“So, what’s new, how’re you doing?” he asked after sliding onto the opposite bench. “Still hitting the gym a lot? Because you look fantastic. As always.” He couldn’t be flirting, he was just being nice. Because he was a nice guy. A nice, super-hot, too-young-for-her guy.

She fiddled with the cardboard sleeve circling her cup. Dared a glance across the table and found him smiling at her. A genuine smile, or one damn good facsimile thereof. Either way, it warmed her more than the coffee she sipped.

“Nothing new with me, everything’s good, and yes to working out regularly.” She toyed with her cup, contemplated. If he laughed in her face, so be it. What was a little more embarrassment in the grand scheme of things? “I miss seeing you at the gym.”

“New trainer not kicking your ass hard enough?”

“I don’t have a new trainer.”

His eyebrows rose, then his gaze drifted lower, over every inch of her body not obscured by the table. “I know I said it already, but you look great. You definitely don’t need a trainer anymore.”

“Thank you.”

“That’s one of the things I’ve always liked about you. You know how to take a compliment.” He leaned forward and folded his arms on the table. “Confidence is a sexy thing.” His gaze tracked her tongue as she licked a spot of whipped cream from her lips. “So is watching you drink that coffee.” He’d just called her sexy, after complimenting her physique.

This was officially the best coffee break ever.

“I find confidence sexy, too,” she said, meeting his eyes straight on. “I like it when a man knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to go get it.”

“I’m glad you feel that way, Leigh.”

Apparently, she’d used up her allotment of boldness and flirty banter, because she didn’t have a comeback. Nothing she could actually say, anyway. The only words in her head were, Let’s go to my place and get naked. And those were staying put.

“How’s the new job working out?” she asked, directing conversation into safer territory. “What’s it been, five or six months?” Such a ruse. She knew exactly how long he’d been missing from her gym.

“Six, and they’ve flown by. It’s great. Brian’s got an amazing setup going. Clients are loving it.” Sam shifted to dig his wallet from deep within the front pocket of his jeans—damn lucky wallet—then pulled a business card from the worn leather. “Stop by sometime and I’ll give you a tour.”

“Are you trying to lure me away from Iron Works to Focus Fitness? Is that ethical?”

He relieved her of the coffee cup, then pulled her hand toward him, halfway across the table. “Whatever it takes to get you there,” he said, slipping the business card into her palm.

“Anything to snag a client?” Hopefully he’d missed the breathy quality so evident to her ears. From a simple, innocent touch. She needed to get laid soon. Any sex would be better than no sex at this point.

“I don’t want you as a client, Leigh.”

Music and the buzz of voices wove together in the background, disappearing as her pulse pounded harder and faster in her ears. Sam’s hazel eyes twinkled and his smile accented the perfect, square jaw she’d wanted to touch since their first personal training session. God, that jaw. That face. That body.

She probably had drool trailing from the corner of her mouth. But she couldn’t feel her face—only her hand, where he continued to tease her skin with soft strokes. And her clit, where all the sparks he’d created were headed.

A loud, startling ringtone jerked her from her Sam-induced trance.

“Shit, sorry,” he said, withdrawing his hand to pull his cell from a back pocket. One glance at the screen and he answered with, “Hey, man.”

This was her chance to save what little composure she had left. She waved at him, shuffled along the bench to escape, but he reached across and caught her wrist. Shook his head. Nodded toward the spot she’d just vacated. As if on command, she slid back to her original place in the booth.

“Yeah, I can cover that, no problem. I’ll be there in fifteen. Hope she’s okay.” With that, Sam pushed the phone aside and focused on her. “I wouldn’t have answered that, but Brian’s girlfriend hasn’t been feeling well and I knew he might be calling me to back him up at Focus.”

Leigh had never been formally introduced to Brian’s girlfriend, Cassie, but she’d said hello to her at Iron Works plenty of times. That was before Brian had resigned to open his own fitness studio. And taken Sam along with him.

“It’s nothing serious, I hope?” she asked.

“Me too. If anyone deserves a happily ever after, it’s those two.”

“Do you believe in those? In happily ever afters, I mean?”

Sam leaned back, fingers laced behind his head, the casual position making his biceps pop in a dangerously distracting way. “If you’d asked me that a year ago, I would’ve said hell no. After seeing Brian and Cassie together, the way they click and the sacrifices they were willing to make for each other when they weren’t together…yeah, I’m a believer.”

Wow. And simultaneously, ugh. “You’re going to make some young woman very happy one day.” She scooped her cup off the table and shimmied out of the booth with relative fluidity, thank goodness. “I’ve got to get back to work. It was great to see you, Sam. Good luck with everything.”

SAM

Instinct beat down the reaction to follow her out. A woman in that big a rush to get away needed space, not a tagalong.

Sam forced his butt to stick where it was planted and watched Leigh’s ass sway as she cut around the tables, en route to the door.

She looked fantastic. The strictly male part of him appreciated the view. The professional part took pride in it.

She’d been a member at Iron Works for over a year, doing classes and cardio five days a week before approaching him at the desk about personal training.

His schedule had been packed, but he’d made room for her. As much time as she’d wanted. Hadn’t taken long for him to see the changes in her physique. Increased muscle tone all over, making her ass even better than it’d already been. With her dedication and work ethic, she hadn’t needed the quantity of training she’d bought. And had continued to buy.

He probably should have cut her loose, but he’d enjoyed the time with her too damn much. Not just for the opportunity to admire her hot body and pretty face up close. He’d enjoyed talking with her too.

Leigh had brains, a sense of humor and maturity. The whole package. She also had a kid. One she talked about frequently. And yeah, at the time, it’d spooked him.

Then he’d packed it in at Iron Works and gone to work for Brian at Focus Fitness. While he hadn’t sat around pining over Leigh, she’d always been there, in the back of his mind. A what-if? Questions should have answers, one way or the other. Seeing her today brought that nagging what-if back, placed it front and center in his brain.

He stepped out of the coffee shop and headed toward his truck. Walked right past it and crossed the street, mid-block. He had to get to work, but he wanted a look at Leigh’s bakeshop first.

An eye-catching sign hung over the door. Short’n’Sweet was written in black lettering on a bubblegum-pink background, with the words custom bakery in smaller letters beneath. Cute name for a business, especially since it described the owner perfectly.

No sign of her inside as he walked past the shop’s large front window. Probably for the best. He didn’t have time to go in if she’d waved at him. And if she hadn’t, if she’d looked at him as if he were a creepy stalker, that would’ve sucked too. Majorly.

He made a mental note of the business hours and circled back to his two-door Sierra. Drove to the gym on autopilot, thoughts of Leigh filling his head along the way. Her easygoing laugh. The way her dirty-blonde hair shone, begging him to find out if it was as silky as it looked. Pretty face that gave away much more than her words.

He’d seen the way she looked at him all those months ago at the gym. The attraction had been there, yet she’d never come on to him. Not directly and not in any playful, joking way that might’ve been intended as a hint. Even after he’d flat-out asked if she was single. Either she hadn’t taken his hint or she’d chosen to ignore it.

Today had been different. Different was good.

“Thanks for doing this,” Brian said as Sam stepped through the door of the warehouse-turned-gym. “Cassie insisted I go to work this morning. Didn’t want me to cancel client appointments when she just had a stomach ache.” Clouds descended on the big man’s face. “When I called to check on her, she said the abdominal pain had gotten worse. So bad she can’t stand straight. I never should’ve left her alone.”

“Stop beating yourself up and go home.” Sam gestured toward the door. “I’ll handle everything on this end.”

“I don’t know how long I’ll be gone. Her regular doctor can’t get her in, so I have to take her to the hospital. No telling how long that’ll take. I might not get back here tonight.”

“I’ve got you covered, now get going.”

Brian nodded, grabbed his keys and wallet from a drawer beneath the counter, then headed out like a man on a mission.

Covering Brian’s evening clients would mean postponing the visit to Short’n’Sweet, since Leigh’s bakery closed at six. He’d waited this long to make a move, one more day was no big deal. Until he pictured her face, the way she’d checked him out at the coffee shop, before she’d recognized him. The way her face had lit up when she did. The desire in her eyes each time they touched.

He made his way to the changeroom. Swapped his clothes for a club t-shirt and sport pants, shoving his thickening cock to one side in the process. Sport pants hid chicken legs and weak glutes, not hard-ons. No more thinking about Leigh while he was on the clock. Piece of cake.

Cake. Bakery. Leigh.

This was going to be a long, hard night. Emphasis on hard.

* * * * *

SAM

With less than half an hour to spare, Sam found a parking spot up the street from Leigh’s shop. Covering Brian’s schedule had stretched from Wednesday afternoon into evening, then all day Thursday and most of Friday. Not that Sam blamed the guy for wanting to be by Cassie’s side, but man, covering Brian’s client appointments as well as his own had made for a couple of long-ass days. When his friend had shown up at the gym unexpectedly a while ago, Sam hadn’t declined Brian’s offer to take off.

He pocketed his keys and repositioned his hat while walking up the street. Waiting to see Leigh had given him time to think. He’d hooked up with single moms before, but he’d never wanted to add Leigh to that list.

Oh, he wanted to have sex with her. Had since day one. Spending several hours together every week, month after month, had allowed him to get to know her. The more he’d learned, the more he’d liked her mind and sense of humor as much as her shapely body.

Hadn’t taken him long to realize she was relationship material, a sometime-down-the-road woman. Not somebody he’d been ready for back then. Now, though… Maybe it was time to check out that road.

He pulled the door and stepped into the bakery. Warm, sugary-scented air surrounded him, making his stomach groan. No sign of Leigh or any other adults, only a kid sitting on a stool behind a diner-style counter, with a sketchpad balanced on her lap. Whoever she was, the little girl didn’t acknowledge his presence.

Until his stomach growled again, longer and louder than the first time.

“Better give that thing a cookie,” she said, pointing toward a covered tray on the counter without giving him a glance.

“No thanks, I’m good.”

The girl paused whatever she was working on and looked up, squarely meeting his gaze. “Don’t worry, they’re free.” Totally deadpan. Saucy kid.

“All right.” He lifted the clear glass dome and plucked a cookie from the tray. “Thank you.” He bit off a third of the cookie to be polite, then inhaled the remainder because it was the best damn cookie he’d ever tasted.

The little girl continued watching him as he swallowed the last bite. “Guess you’d better have another one.”

“I think you’re right.” The second cookie went down as fast as the first. He wasn’t usually one for sweets, but if the kid turned her head, he could devour the rest of the batch in about sixty seconds.

Based on the girl’s smirk, she read minds in addition to drawing pictures. “I can get your order,” she said, setting her sketchpad aside and sliding off the stool. “What name is it under?”

“I haven’t placed an order yet.”

“Then I’ll get my mom to help you.”

“Actually, I’m here to see Leigh.”

“Same thing,” she said while walking to a door at the rear of the room. She pushed the swinging door open a crack and called, “Mommy…customer.”

At Leigh.

“You’re Lennox?” he asked when the girl hopped back onto the stool.

“Yup.”

Shit. All the times Leigh had referred to her kid, she’d either said “Lennox” or “my ten-year-old”. She’d never said daughter, and he’d always assumed son.

“Can I help y—” The voice sweeter than any cookies stopped short, as did the voice’s owner. “Sam. Hi. What are you doing here?”

“Hey. I came to buy something.” Smooth opener, not so much. Her kid—her daughter—being here had thrown him off his game.

“Okay.” Leigh’s gaze shifted to the girl, whose full attention had already returned to her drawing. “Honey, would you go in the back and keep an eye on the timer for me?”

“Sure, Mommy.”

Leigh patted the girl’s head as she passed. Alone with him in the front of the store, Leigh wiped her hands on an apron that was obviously utilitarian, not decorative, and came around to his side of the counter.

“You have a daughter,” he said.

“I do.”

“I always figured you had a son, because of the name.”

She shook her head, her lips curving into a shy smile. “From the beginning, we planned to use my surname as the baby’s first name, regardless of gender. It’s not a typical girl’s name, but if you knew Lennox, you’d see that it suits her.”

“I’m sure.” Nice response, idiot. Man, he was rolling on the suave today.

The we planned in Leigh’s statement had thrown him for another loop. She’d never been married, he knew that much. He’d assumed her pregnancy had been an accident, or the product of a now-defunct former relationship. Her explanation made it sound the opposite of accidental.

He’d done way too much assuming where Leigh was concerned.

“So,” she said, fidgeting with her apron. “Tell me what you’re interested in and I’ll show you what I can do.”

He choked on a laugh, at which she shook her head. “Sorry. What can I say? I’m a guy, you’re hot, and that was one perfectly dirty offer.”

Another head shake came his way, then she turned and leaned over the counter to retrieve a large binder. “I’m afraid you’ll have to settle for checking out my cupcakes and cookies.”

Jesus, that ass. He tilted his head, angling for a better view. “I had your cookies when I came in and they were amazing. Gotta say, so are your cupcakes.”

Her head jerked in his direction, catching him in a full-blown, wide-eyed ogling of her backside. “Were you just—” Pink flooded her face and she shook her head.

He shrugged and grinned. “Yeah, Leigh, I was.”

Another binder landed on the counter as she straightened and faced him, one eyebrow raised, arms crossed over a pair of nice, full breasts. Damn, that spunk. So cute. And hot. With her kid in the next room, meaning he needed to behave. Wasn’t going to be easy.

LEIGH

“If you weren’t you, Sam, I’d think you were hitting on me.”

“You’d think right.” He winked, of course. Typical Sam—sexy, playful, charming.

What woman was immune to that? Certainly not her. “Uh-huh. What are you really here for?”

“You.”

And she’d thought today couldn’t get wilder. The bridezilla from Wednesday hadn’t had a single complaint about her engagement-party cake when she picked it up. A last-minute order she shouldn’t have agreed to, but couldn’t afford to turn down, had fallen into her lap. Then Tim had called, asking to take Lennox to the cottage to celebrate the start of summer vacation, meaning Leigh could work on that rush order until the wee hours, guilt-free. Now Sam was standing in her store, claiming to be here for her. Whatever that meant.

But God, look at him. Broken-in jeans rode low on his trim hips. A black, V-neck t-shirt showed off his hard, muscular upper body. The same olive-green cap he’d worn in the coffee shop completed the sexy-young-stud look. His smile and comments made her stomach do backflips on top of the somersaults that’d started when she pushed through the kitchen door.

The coffee shop had been a coincidence. This meeting was intentional—and entirely Sam’s doing.

“I would like to buy something too.”

A business transaction. She could work with that. “Okay.” She flipped one binder open. Attempted to reclaim her normal, businesslike posture, even though his innocent flirting had made her hotter than the ovens in the kitchen. “What’s the occasion? Wedding or engagement?”

“Neither.”

“Haven’t found your happily-ever-after girl?”

He chuckled. “Not since Wednesday, no. Still looking.” Totally teasing her, but it was her fault, she’d initiated the topic.

“Birthday? Graduation? Getting the guys together to watch the fights?”

“Nothing like that.” He moved closer, covered her hand on the book. “Something small and simple for a friend. Maybe a box of those cookies your daughter introduced me to?”

“Oh, well…” She kept her eyes on his face, but it didn’t help her concentrate on baked goods. Hard to do with his fingers stroking her hand, as he had in the booth at the coffee shop. “I don’t actually sell those cookies. I don’t have anything pre-made and ready to buy. Less risk of waste.”

“I can’t imagine they’d go to waste.”

“Me either, since I’d probably eat all the leftovers rather than throw them away. Then they’d be going to my waist.”

“That wouldn’t be all bad. You’d need to hire me again, meaning I’d have an excuse to spend time with you regularly.”

She ought to pull her hand away and laugh at his innocent flirtation. She didn’t. “How soon do you need the cookies for your friend? I’m going to be baking tonight anyway, I could make you some, if you don’t mind waiting a couple of hours. Not actually waiting around, of course. That’s not what I meant. You could come back later to pick them up. Or in the morning, since it’s Friday and you probably have plans.” Great, she’d become a rambling mess. From a simple touch. She really needed to work on that getting laid soon plan.

“Or I could wait, hang out with you. We can talk while you bake. I’ll help, if you tell me what to do.” His eyes drifted to the kitchen door, then back to her face. “Unless that’s a bad idea with your daughter here?”

“She won’t be here. She’s spending the weekend with her dad. He’ll be here to pick her up any minute.”

Sam trailed his fingers up her arm, sending sparks racing along her skin. “Is that a yes to hanging out?”

“It’s Friday night. Don’t you have a date?”

“I don’t know, Leigh, do I?”

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