Home > Quit Bein' Ugly (The Southern Gentleman #3)

Quit Bein' Ugly (The Southern Gentleman #3)
Author: Lani Lynn Vale

 

PROLOGUE


The path to inner peace begins with four words: not my fuckin’ problem.


-Carmichael’s secret thoughts


CARMICHAEL

 

I was really fucking giddy.

Like, so much so that I was practically bouncing my way through my day.

Tonight, I would be going out on a date with Croft, and I literally could not contain my excitement.

“What’s with that look on your face, girl?” Raleigh, my good friend and a fellow teacher, asked.

I looked over at her.

Not even the shitty kids that I’d just had to deal with could ruin my high.

“I have a date.” I paused. “With your brother.”

Raleigh made a disgusted face. “Gross.”

I rolled my eyes and picked up the stack of tests that I would need to take home and grade tonight.

“I’m excited,” I said and looked at her. “This isn’t going to make things weird between us, is it?”

She snorted. “No. Not unless you decide to kick him to the curb because of who his sister is.”

I scoffed. “I like you more than him. If he made me choose between the two of you, you’d win hands down.”

Raleigh fist-pumped the air. “Score!”

We laughed as we walked out to the parking lot together. “Are you going to the gym tonight?”

She was already shaking her head. “No, tonight Ezra and I have a date for the first time since two-a-days started. We are going out to eat and grabbing some drinks one final time before practice and school officially starts. That means that I have to go get my toes done and my lady parts waxed before I go.”

I wished I could go do that.

But I had to teach a class tonight before my date with Croft.

“That sounds heavenly,” I admitted. “What sounds even better is the idea of getting my toes done and having a pampering day. I don’t think my toes have seen my favorite nail salon in months.”

“You should go with Camryn and me some time,” she urged. “We’re always down for pedicures.”

After making plans to meet the next time that she needed them done, we went our separate ways.

My drive to the gym was short.

Gun Barrel, Texas wasn’t a huge town. But, on one side was the school, and the opposite side was the gym that I co-owned with my brother, Flint.

Flint, who was going on his own date tonight and had begged and pleaded for me to cover the class so he could take his girl out. I’d agreed before I’d agreed to the date with Croft, so I was not reneging on the deal.

Plus, it would get me a couple of slices of cake from my favorite place in town that was only open to the people that made reservations months in advance.

Arriving at the gym, I made quick work of changing out of my work clothes and changing into a pair of tight booty shorts, ones that were extra bright pink and sparkly, and a cut-off t-shirt that showed off my toned arms but didn’t hug my slightly pudgy belly too tightly.

I was just pulling out the equipment that we would need to use when the gym started to fill up with our patrons that came at this particular time.

I was so busy with getting everything ready for the workout that at first I hadn’t noticed that Croft had arrived.

I might have noticed if he’d arrived alone and gone to his regular spot.

But he hadn’t arrived alone.

He’d arrived with a woman.

A woman that was practically clinging to his side, looking intimidated.

I frowned as I saw her place her hand on his arm to get his attention. Once she had it, she didn’t take it off. She left it there with a small smile on her face as she leaned into him and said something.

Something angry and ugly reared its head inside of me, and I realized that it was jealousy.

I was jealous of her hand on his arm.

He was my Croft, not hers!

I quickly turned away, busying myself with pulling out the kettle bells.

It was when I was picking up the fourth one and a half pood kettlebell—yes, you read that right, pood—that he finally made his way over to me.

With her scampering at his heels like a well-trained dog.

“Carmichael,” Croft said as he grinned at me. “How was your day at work?”

Before I could answer, the girl that was stuck to Croft’s ass said, “Croft. It’s rude not to introduce me.”

I felt my eye twitch.

“Oh, shit, sorry, darlin’.” Croft gestured at me. “This is Carmichael. She and her brother own this gym. She’s a local teacher at the high school. Carmichael, this is Karen. Karen is new to our firm and our city, so I thought I’d bring her around and show her all the good places.”

Karen.

What a fitting name.

That was the name from hell. Also, it was the name that some of the funniest memes were using.

“Hi, Karen.” I held out my hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”

She looked at my hand and wrinkled up her nose.

I looked down to see that there was chalk on my outstretched hand.

“Oh, sorry,” I said as I wiped my hand on my shirt then once again held it out to her. “That’s going to be a usual thing, though, if you continue to work out here. Chalk’s kind of a necessity.”

“I don’t really do the whole sweating thing all that much,” she said, still ignoring my hand so I dropped it. “I just really wanted to come with Croft here. He’s so fun.”

Croft gave me an apologetic look that clearly said, “Sorry.”

I rolled my eyes and said, “Well, if you work out, you’re going to sweat. It’s inevitable.”

“Oh, I don’t sweat.” Karen shook her head.

My eyes once again went from Karen to Croft, and I gave him a bug-eyed look before saying, “Well, that’s cool.”

I didn’t believe her.

Either she didn’t sweat because she didn’t work hard, or she didn’t sweat because there was something wrong with her.

I was hoping for the ‘something wrong’ thing.

That would make my day better at this point.

“Do you need any help?” Croft asked.

I pointed to the last two kettle bells.

“If you can grab those.” I gestured to them. “And put them on the floor somewhere, that’d be great.”

Croft did as asked, leaving me with Karen.

I went to the whiteboard and started writing down the warmup while Karen admired the man that I was going out on a date with later that night.

“God, he is so sexy,” she cooed. “Oh, Croft! Look at your muscles!”

“Oh, Croft,” I mimicked to the whiteboard. “Look at your muscles.”

“Did you say something?” Croft asked as he came up to my side.

“No, nothing,” I replied.

I ignored him and went back to work, finishing up writing the warmup and then talking to the various other people that came into the gym to work out with me today.

“All right, everyone!” I called out once it was time for class to start. “Everyone grab a foam roller and spread out!”

Of course, everyone spread out and followed directions. Everyone but Karen that was.

She pulled up a spot directly next to Croft, who had a long wingspan and was sure to whack her if he stretched out fully and sat down.

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