Maggie Abbott believes that everything should be accompanied by an orgasm. Paying the bills. Grocery shopping. Standing in line. Walking the damned treadmill. Working out at the gym proves to be quite a thrill for her when a Djinn of Italian descent takes over as her personal trainer and lover. Not that Adanto hasn't already been in love with her for seven hundred years. How romantic can he make going to the gym? Can he win her heart as he works her booty? Will the odor of sweat and determination perfume their encounters, or will he end up forever bound to a heavy piece of obsolete exercise equipment Maggie abhors? In a time when magic lanterns are no longer strewn about for princes and thieves to find, and the Djinn race has all-but-disappeared from the world of humans, Maggie finds that all her wishes can come true--as long as she is on that blessed treadmill.
Maggie hated using her credit card. Hated it. It seemed as if every time she got the thing paid down, something happened in her life that called for an immediate payment of more dosh than she could swing between paydays. She called it her “five-hundred-dollar card” because that was the amount she usually had to spend.
Today as she looked over the contract at the local torture facility—or gym, in layman’s terms—she wanted to spout out a stream of sarcastic remarks that would probably send the Bambi-esque guest co-coordinator into a tizzy. Sarcastic remarks about the membership being only four hundred dollars. Such a savings over the regular fee she was getting. And she got a free t-shirt. Holy crap, I’m just the fortunate one, aren’t I?
Maggie liked her curves. She had boobs, hips and junk in her trunk, and it all pulled together quite nicely. The roundness of her belly was sexy, not unflattering. Men always gave her a double-take. Real men who liked real women, that is. Problem was, the older she grew, the more real challenges of having high cholesterol, higher than normal blood sugars and family history of heart disease and morbid obesity became. Two bachelor’s degrees and one Master’s wouldn’t do much for her if the shadow of ill-health followed her the way it had her parents and grandparents. Yep, I have the bod and the brains, but not the genetic predisposition
As smart as she was, she felt…
Welcome to my nightmare.
Doctor’s orders were to lose forty pounds by eating leafy greens, lean proteins, limited fruit, no sugar or refined white flour products--and by moving. Moving. Before the desk job she looked the same, but had been able to walk a flight of steps without becoming breathless. Now she could afford a gym membership, but could barely manage a stroll around the facility with Bambi.
The small blonde Bambi who had signed her up politely introduced her to the tall dark-haired Bambi for the gym tour and then went back to her pile of fluffy towels
Maggie’s right hand twitched from signing that credit. Dark Bambi looked more like a babysitter than a trained demonstrator. Maggie felt short, squat and old alongside her. She bit her lip.Feelings of inadequacy do not have a place in my life. Rinse. Repeat.
“I’ll show you the big machines first and take you around the weight room after. ‘k?” Dark Bambi was way too perky. And young.
“Fine. I’m more of an exercise bike person.”
“Well, we have lots of those. But let’s start with this.” Bambi stopped at a large free-standing treadmill with so many buttons and switches it reminded Maggie of the navigation consul on the bridge of Star Trek’s USS Enterprise.
“Beam me up.” Maggie studied the various and seemingly endless settings for the machine.
Bambi didn’t get the joke. She fired off the instructions for usage. “This is a state of the art electronic walking device that can measure your heart rate, calories burned, blood pressure, impact on your joints and so much more. You step up onto the sides, set your speed and incline, attach the electrode clips to your two pointer fingers, then press ‘start.’ Put your feet on the belt, which will move really slowly for about ten seconds. Then you’re off and running.”
“Off and running. Right.” Maggie stepped up onto the treadmill. It enveloped her like a Mini-Cooper. “Where’s the steering wheel?
Dark Bambi didn’t crack a smile. “Do you need further instruction?” She checked her cell phone as it whirred to life at her waist. “Excuse me, I’ve got to take a call from the office.”
“No, I’ve got it. Gym opens at five in the morning, right?”
It was too late for a reply. Dark-haired Bambi already had her cell phone to her ear and sauntered off, her young Lycra-clad ass swaying provocatively.
Maggie rolled her eyes. Firm young flesh hasn’t got a thing on experience.
She studied the bells and whistles on the treadmill control panel. Where’s the “on” switch? A bright green button dead center of the panel flickered on as if the machine had read her mind. She leaned over to speak to the person sweating a few feet away from her. “These things are motion activated?”
The response from the fellow gym member was an exhausted, but polite, smile.
Like that tells me anything. Maggie pushed the button. The treadmill hummed and the belt began to move. She stepped onto it and took a few hesitant steps. Zero incline at a crawl. She could manage that.
The LED display flashed white, then letters formed. W E L C O M E M A G G I E.
Clever. Very clever. Someone back there programmed the machine to say “hello” to me.
The screen flickered a second time. New letters appeared. I L O V E Y O U.
Maggie burst out laughing. She turned to the man next to her again. “Some advertising, huh? I love you. Jesus.”
The man wiped his brow, giving her the oddest look. He turned off his machine and fled. Maggie felt insulted by how quickly the guy left the area.
She looked down at the panel of her own machine again. New words were forming. T H A N K Y O U F O R B E I N G H E R E.
“You’re welcome, I guess.” She bit back a chuckle.
The panel changed again. D R E A M S D O C O M E T R U E.
Maggie snorted. Lucky I don’t have a mouthful of coffee right now. My dreams are too weird to come true. “You don’t know my dreams, Bambi—or whomever it is running the LED panel.” Great…I’m speaking to a treadmill. “Quit shouting. Can’t you type using lower case letters?”
The LED display flickered.
She switched the machine off.
Trying not to look as though she ran from a fire, Maggie left the building as quickly as she could. Not only was it unfamiliar ground, it was now getting way too personal. Talking treadmills. Christ. I just paid four hundred bucks for talking treadmills.