Mac clocked out of the discount store for the last time a little after two o’clock. He had hours before the start of his first training shift on the floor, but he knew he’d get to The Gym early. He was way too keyed up not to.
Plus, Jem was working a double today. Again. Mac detoured through Taco Bell and grabbed both of them lunch before heading over. It was a little frivolous to spend ahead of his paycheck, but the car had a full tank of gas and it seemed more important to find a way to thank Jem than to hoard his pennies.
He settled the food in the kitchen and sent a text. Mac wasn’t used to casually texting anyone, but Jem really didn’t allow for formality. Within twelve hours of moving in, Jem was gifting him sheets and towels; within two days Jem had picked him up a guitar stand from a thrift store.
“I have no furniture.”
“Correction: now you have a guitar stand.”
“No one’s ever bought me a guitar stand before.”
And Jem had kissed his cheek before spinning away and calling, “I’ll expect to hear you play one of these days, roomie!”
It made Mac a little uncomfortable, but Jem didn’t allow for that, either.
A few minutes later the outer door opened and Mac started spreading out their meals.
“Ugh! Seriously, I can’t take it. Tell me it’s at least five.”
“Sorry. It’s not quite three.”
“I’m going to die of boredom.”
“You can’t. Then who will train me?”
Jem’s eyes lit. “In the dismal drudgery of working a normal job, I almost forgot! You’re mine tonight, all mine. And you bought me lunch. Trying to butter me up, Mac?”
“You haven’t even seen me flirt yet. Just wait.” Jem pulled his share of tacos toward him. “How did you do it? How did you work at that store without murdering anyone?”
Mac shrugged. “It’s what you do. What’d you do before this?”
“You wouldn’t believe. I nude modeled for a while, which pays well but isn’t steady work. One of the guys in the class started paying me for private modeling sessions, and you can about imagine where that went.”
“Well, he could have been okay, I guess, except one day I showed up and he was like, ‘Oh, don’t mind five of my closest friends. We’re all gonna sketch you tonight!’ and I decided that was not really the job for me. I also worked flipping burgers for a few weeks, making pizza, taking tickets at a movie theater, pulling espresso, and my personal favorite, changing oil.”
“You did not.”
“Oh, I did. My nails looked terrible!” But that was a throwaway line, and Mac had spent enough time with Jem now to know it. “Actually, that wouldn’t have been quite so bad, I don’t think. But the professor I’d done the modeling for came in with his car one day and complained about me—they really frown on you taking up as a pro with the artists, you know—and got me fired without cause. Nice, right?”
Mac shook his head.
“But it all worked out, because the Professor called me like three days later and here I am. Anyway, you nervous?”
“Yeah. I don’t know. Coach still thinks I can do this, so I guess I’ll try.”
“Well, you can’t screw it up as badly as I did, so at least there’s that.”
“Screw up on the floor?”
“I was terrified of women, Mac. Like I didn’t even make eye contact with women I was so afraid one of them would want me to touch her.”
“It was really that bad?”
“Put it this way: halfway into my second training shift, the Professor pulls me off the floor, drags me up to her office, drags Coach from his office, and makes me go down on her for the rest of the shift. Three hours I spent with my face all up inside the Professor, Mac! Well, Coach gave me little incentive licks to his dick every now and then, but most of the time I was trying to figure out how to breathe and perform cunnilingus simultaneously.”
“Cunnilingus.” Mac snickered.
“Shut up! It was traumatizing!”
“Well, no. No, it wasn’t even that uncomfortable after the initial leap. I mean, once you’ve gone there, it’s not a thing, but that first few minutes? I thought I was going to faint.”
“Jeez, Jem.” Though that actually sounded a lot like the way he’d felt about sucking Coach’s dick the first time. “After that it was okay?”
“It was touch and go. But now? So not a problem. Now it’s kind of fun, playing with women.” Jem paused. “I take it you’ve gone down on a woman before?”
“Well, good. Because it seriously took my jaw a few days to recover and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.” He grinned and finished his tacos. “You gonna crash in the office again?”
“Uh. I figured I’d drive back to the house. I mean, I’d pretty much be in Coach’s way, so—”
“You’d rather drive to the house and sleep on the floor, then drive all the way back here. Yeah, sure. I mean, obviously he knows you’re in the building because he’s got notifications that flash on his phone every time someone swipes their card more than an hour outside their scheduled shift, but if you want to explain to him later why you didn’t bother to even knock, sure, go for it, but wait until I’m there so I can watch.”
“He’s got notifications on his phone?”
“You know that’s kind of creepy, right?”
“This is the first time he hasn’t been stuck with me in a week. I don’t want to—impose.”
“Please. I was a wreck the first three weeks of my training. I didn’t want to sleep unless Coach was in the room.”
“I don’t know,” Jem said, like he was actually thinking about it. “He made me feel like someone had my back, for the first time in my life. It was like I spent twenty-one years breathing at ten percent, and all of a sudden I could take these deep breaths and I didn’t want to be apart from him. It was fucking embarrassing. And I couldn’t stop doing it.”
Mac studied the wrappers for his tacos. “You think he wouldn’t mind?”
“If he needs you to leave, he’ll tell you. You may as well knock and see. You can always go home if you can’t use the office.”
Which sounded so normal and sane. Even though it wasn’t.
“I know that feeling,” he said, glancing up. “I know what you mean. I don’t like it, but I don’t think I’ve been able to sleep in years as well as I did on Coach’s couch last week.”
“Coach and the Professor hire two types of people: the broken ones, and the whole ones. They need the whole ones to keep everything moving, but I’m pretty sure we’re the ones people keep coming back to see. Anyway, I gotta go. He’ll probably be happy to see you, especially since he totally knows you’re here.”
“Creepy. Hey, where do they sleep? Do they live here?”
“There’s an apartment across the hall. But I’m not sure either of them really sleeps.” Jem saluted. “See you later, trainee. Thanks for lunch.”
Mac took his time cleaning up. Then he showered off the discount store and pulled on the only clothes he owned that Jem considered suitable for one day of training. (“One day. And you’re on your own with Lupe about those shoes.”)
He almost backed out, but Jem would make fun of him later if he did that, so he forced himself to knock on Coach’s door.
Sure, go right in. He pushed open the door and walked over to the desk, where Coach was watching him approach. Coach laughed.
“Twenty dollars. The Professor thought you’d knock, I told her you wouldn’t.”
“Is it really true you can see when we get here early?”
“It’s really true. Hey, Mac.”
“Hey, Coach. I’m not trying to interrupt or—or get in the way—”
“You done with the store?”
Coach reeled him in and looked up at him. “Good. If you want to sleep, go right ahead. Don’t disrupt the mats, okay? I’ve already got that set up for Jem later.” Coach raised an eyebrow. “You didn’t tell him, right?”
“No. I don’t even know what I would have told him, but I didn’t say anything.”
“Good. I’m so excited.” Coach kissed his forehead. “Get some sleep. And no, my office is not open for naps for everyone on staff. But for you, today, it is. All right?”
“Yeah,” Mac said, feeling both relieved and disappointed. He tried not to think about what that today meant, not that it mattered.
Mac turned away, scouting the mats, where blankets were laid out, and towels, and a huge bottle of lube. And gloves. He contemplated what all that meant as he lay down, but as usual the warmth and weird safety of Coach’s office stole over him, making everything seem less important. During a brief fantasy of leaving The Gym after his shift later, going to the house, and sleeping as long as he wanted, Mac fell asleep.
* * *
“Stop looking so cute. Mac, wake up. You’re late for work.”
Shit. He sat up, blinking. “Jem? I’m late?”
“Not that late. Come on.”
Mac cast a glance over at the mats, but another blanket had been thrown over everything.
“I know,” Jem said. “Looks like Coach is planning to have a good time later while we poor working stiffs are downstairs, trying to do a job.”
“Poor, poor working stiffs,” Coach said, not looking over. “Train our boy well, Jem.”
“Oh, you know I will. C’mon, Mac. Did Coach tell you your clothes arrived?”
Jem laughed and grabbed his arm. “Yeah, they’re down by your locker. You’ll be lucky if Lupe hasn’t already opened the box.”
Everything was still a little fuzzy. “Did you call me cute?”
“Did you think I hadn’t noticed you were cute? Please.”
He followed Jem out of the office and down the hall. Sure enough, Lupe—dressed for her shift—was tapping one golden tennis shoe against his box.
“Happy Christmas, sugar. Open up.”
“Um. Okay.” Mac slit the packing tape with his car key and started pulling out clothes. But he’d seen the order go through, and this was definitely more than he’d bought. “I don’t think this is actually mine. I mean, I got like two pairs of pants and three shirts, so—”
“Then Coach went back in and added stuff after you left,” Lupe said. She pulled out a package of underwear. “Like this, for instance. The man has good taste. But where are your shoes? That’s what I need to see.”
“He did the same thing for me when I started here. I was wearing the worst clothes, you can’t imagine. Coach sat me down and made me look at every page in that catalogue and pick out the things I actually wanted, no matter how ridiculous.” Lupe dug out the bag with his shoes and nodded. “We’ll work on style later, but these will do.”
“I didn’t know that,” Jem said.
Lupe pointed a finger at him. “No, there aren’t pictures.”
“Hey, I wouldn’t have asked. Give me some credit.”
“Anyway, let’s get you dressed, Mac. I don’t get you until Wednesday, and this is what you’ll be wearing—” She picked out a pile of clothes (including, he blushed to see, a red jock strap). “You can wear whatever you want the rest of the week.”
“Uh, thanks, Lupe.”
“Shower. Clothes. Work.”
He rolled his eyes, bundled up a random assortment of interchangeable work clothes, and went to the showers.
Behind him, Jem said, “Was that the first time you ever wore what you wanted to wear?”
“First time I did it in public, anyway. And I still don’t know how he had the gall.”
“Coach is magic.”
Lupe snorted, but didn’t disagree.
Mac had no idea what all that meant, but the realization that he was about to start his first shift on the floor basically eliminated all other thoughts from his head.
Sex gym. Right. Holy shit.
* * *
Jem spent a surprising amount of time actually showing him how to work at a gym. They went over the machines, the common issues with the computers in the treadmills and ellipticals (“When in doubt, restart, I swear”), and the safety practices for the weights machines. He touched a little bit on the basic cleaning and maintenance that all staff was responsible for, and told him that Punky would go over it more in depth tomorrow.
As more clients started to show up, Jem switched over to client-staff best practices, starting with “don’t get territorial.”
“Clients have their favorites, we have our favorites, but you can’t let yourself start thinking like a client owes you their time. You might play with someone every day for a week, and then next week they’re on to someone else. It’s the job, okay?”
“Okay.” Mac considered it as they checked over supply cabinets. “Does that really happen? I mean, that people get attached to clients?”
“Oh, Mac. Listen, you spent last week training with Coach, right? Don’t you feel a little more attached to him than you did to whoever trained you at the store?”
It sounded rhetorical, until Jem nudged him.
“Yeah. Is that the same, though?”
“Not exactly, but it’s definitely similar. You aren’t selling these people toilet paper and frozen dinners. You’re selling them your attention, you’re selling them an experience, a connection. Maybe it’s just for five minutes, maybe it’s for an hour, it doesn’t really matter; for that amount of time you give them the part of you that only exists in The Gym. The better you are at compartmentalizing, the better you’ll be at the job.”
“Huh.” Which probably made sense, though he’d have to think about it more.
“Let’s double-check all the cabinets in the private rooms. The sooner you know exactly how they’re laid out, the better.”
The private rooms were a cross between a doctor’s office and a hotel room. They had beds, but Jem showed him that the beds could be stripped in about five seconds and transformed into massage tables. There was a sink in each room with foot-operated water, and three different bins for garbage, bodily fluid waste, and recycling.
“Wow,” he said. “This is quite the setup.”
“Does the day staff know about these rooms?”
“Sure. We turn them over at the end of the night so they look like rooms for private massages and make sure all the cabinets stay locked. Same with the cabinets on the floor.”
“The Gym has a secret identity,” Mac murmured, looking around, trying to see the room as a place where no one had sex. “Interesting.”
“Speaking of interesting, let’s go shop for clients.” Jem pressed a palm to his chest. “No touching for you. That orange badge is your shield. If anyone asks, you can tell them you’re still in training. You are strictly a voyeur, Mac.”
Jem flashed a cheeky grin. “Hey, you could sound a little more excited about it.”
“It doesn’t—bother you? That I’m about to watch you, you know, with clients?”
“I don’t mind an audience. Does it bother you?”
Mac shook his head. “I kind of feel like it should, but it doesn’t.”
“Good. Easier that way. Let’s go.”
The first client who requested Jem’s service was nothing like Mac expected. She was short, with close-cropped blond hair and a mischievous grin.
“Oh, training. Please tell me you have time for a spanking, Jem.”
“For you, Amanda, of course I do. This is Mac. Mac, Amanda.”
They shook hands (sure, just a casual meeting, here at your local neighborhood sex gym), and Amanda grinned.
“He’s adorable.” She rubbed her hands together. “Well, when? I’m on edge, Jem. My in-laws are in town, two of the kids are sick, and I’m crawling out of my head!”
Jem reached out to thread his arm into hers. “How about now?”
“Thank god. I should really get home soon, but ugh. In-laws. Tell me you don’t have in-laws.”
“Bite your tongue!”
Mac followed them back to a private room (one of them already had the little light lit overhead that meant it was occupied), and took up an awkward stance just inside the door.
“He’s shy,” Amanda said.
“He’s respectful. It’s very charming. Do you have requests?”
“Just your ass, Jem. You’re the best, you know. You’re my absolute fave.”
“Aw. Don’t try to tempt me over to the dark side, Amanda. I’m onto you! Mac, come closer. Sit here.”
He sat at the edge of the bed, which they’d left as a bed, and almost choked when Jem dropped his pants and bent over next to him.
“Oh my god, your ass. Gimme, gimme, gimme.” Amanda rubbed and kneaded Jem’s ass like it was the purest pleasure of life. “You sure you don’t want to marry me, Jem? I would so make it good for you. And you could totally have boys on the side.”
“Your husband would not be pleased.”
“He’d have to get another wife, though I guarantee there’s no woman in this place with an ass as firm and luscious as yours.” She grinned at Mac. “Tell the truth: Jem’s ass is amazing, isn’t it?”
Jem giggled. “Don’t put my trainee on the spot, it’s rude.”
Amanda’s hands framed Jem’s butt like a picture. “I mean, look at it. Look at it. Ugh. I love this ass.” A second later she pulled back and smack. “Yes, mm.”
The first time, Mac jumped. When she kept going, he pretended to be fascinated by the laces of his new shoes. Then she really got going and he snuck a look at Jem’s face, but Jem put his head down and pushed back, presenting his ass even more for Amanda to spank.
“Oh, babe, you are fucking incredible.” She rubbed up against him and reached around. “I love how you stay so hard for my hand, Jem. Most of them can’t do it, even the straight guys. You have a gift.”
“I do like your hand. Is that it? Don’t tell me your arm’s tired already.”
She laughed and slapped the side of his ass, still rubbing against him. “So insatiable. I’m good.” She stepped back and rubbed him harder, and shit, oh shit, his ass was pink. Mac was pretty sure he could see handprints, but maybe he was making that up.
One final slap, and Amanda pulled Jem’s pants back into place, gently tucking him in. When he straightened up and turned, she kissed his cheek.
“Thank you. I’m all tingly now.”
She waved at Mac. “I’ll see you around, rookie.”
Mac couldn’t actually form words, but he did manage to wave back as Jem led him from the room. He was relieved when they retreated to the locker room, where Jem sat him down on a bench and took up the facing spot in front of him.
“She spanked you.”
“She didn’t even get off.”
“Well, she probably got off after we left. Amanda’s private.”
“She got off on spanking you?”
Jem grinned. “You really are adorable. Is that the most extreme thing you’ve ever heard of?”
“No. No, but—I mean—I guess I thought—” He shook his head. “I thought, you know, she’d want you to have sex with her after.”
“I think she just really likes spanking. And her hubby’s super dominant, so he doesn’t go in for her spanking him. You don’t have to look for him, by the way; he goes strictly for the ladies.”
Mac’s jaw dropped. “Wait, her husband comes here? To The Gym?”
“Sure. They have a couples membership. I didn’t see him downstairs, though. He’s probably at home with his parents, can you imagine? I bet she’s texting him right now to tell him she’s getting off without him. Most of the time I think they get a babysitter so they can come here on date night.”
“Whoa, that’s—” What was it? Freaky and bizarre and totally insane.
“Cool, right? I hope if I ever settle down it’s with a guy who thinks The Gym is a really good date.”
Mac shook his head. “I did not think of this as the kind of place married people would go for fun.”
“Why not? Married people invented it. Anyway, you good?”
“Yeah. Yeah, but—did you actually like that?”
“I don’t mind spanking.” Beat. “Okay, fine, I actually enjoy being spanked.”
“Is that why you could, uh, you know. Stay hard?”
“I learned almost everything I know about spanking from Coach. Seriously, I’m pretty sure there’s some kind of pavlovian thing where someone tells me to drop trou and bend over and my dick gets real excited. It’s all about the conditioning.”
Too much information. Or, possibly, not enough.
“You might get a level three someday, young grasshopper,” Jem intoned. “And you, too, will experience the joy of spanking.” His voice switched back to normal. “Until then, if someone asks you for something you aren’t trained to do, you tell them you’re so sorry, but you’re not allowed to do that yet. Easy peasy. Most people will know you’re new, and they won’t even ask, but if they do.”
“Okay. All right.” Mac hesitated. “I’m not sure I could stay hard being spanked like that.”
“It definitely helps to find it super sexy. But you know, you get better at staying hard with practice, I swear, just like anything else.”
“Right, yeah, just like anything else.”
Jem winked and stood up. “Come along, trainee. Let’s see who else needs our service tonight.”
“Your service, you mean.”
“Oh no. No, there are people who won’t even approach me when I’m training. The people who do definitely get off on you watching.”
“Silly boy. Come on.”
So he was already part of this, even if he wasn’t allowed to touch or be touched. Mac couldn’t decide if he thought that was cool or strange.