Instead, I drifted in, working myself up for any sort of physical activity. To the right, legs jutted into the air before slowly lowering again. Upon closer inspection, it was a yoga class of clearly advanced students, because they went right back into a handstand.
That wasn’t for me.
A group of five men and women followed a bulky lady out through a back door, each with a weight in one hand and a jump rope in the other. That was probably a class of some sort, like boot camp or CrossFit or something. To the left, way in the back behind a setup of medicine balls, more weights, and padded mats, another set of double doors stood open. Soft light fell through, illuminating the person who stood just in front of them.
A shock of butterflies ripped through my stomach as I noticed the large, well-built man in loose sweats and an unzipped sweatshirt. His torso was nude. My tongue nearly stuck to the roof of my mouth as I feasted my eyes on that impeccable slice of pec and six-pack heaven.
Kieran was just as defined as he was built. The man was a legend.
No, Alexis, he’s a god.
He turned his head, glancing around, like he was doing something mischievous, before he reached the doors. He grabbed first one side, then the other, exiting the gym and closing the doors behind him.
Instead of drifting to a stop and turning around, like I definitely should’ve, my stride lengthened and my speed increased. Something in me wanted to see how he liked being stalked. How he liked thinking he was alone, doing his own thing, when someone was watching him from the shadows.
Besides, I had a burning need to see what someone like Kieran got up to when he thought no one was looking. Was he like a normal person, or did Demigods lead more extravagant lives?
He knew all there was to know about me. Time to turn the tables in this little power play and get what I wanted for once.
I got to the double doors and did as Kieran had done, inspecting my surroundings to see what was what. The desk was out of sight from his area, and only two people were taking a break from their machines, patting their face dry or slugging water out of a bottle. Neither one glanced my way.
Some of the fatigue lifted as stealthy excitement coursed through me. I cranked the handle, surprised it wasn’t locked, then pulled the door open a crack so I could peer inside. Light filtered down through a glass dome high overhead. A walkway led right, flanked by a banister with nothing but air on the other side.
Confused, I slinked in and closed the door behind me, staying near the wall. A shout echoed up from below, followed by a spattering of laughter. A splash of water drowned them out before another burst of shouts and laughter took over.
The walkway to the right curved around the banister to a small landing. From there, the walker could either continue on to the other side, a walkway similar to this hugging the wall across an open chasm, or go down a wide stairway to the floor below.
Speaking of the floor below…
I took a couple steps forward and peered over, listening for any sounds of possible pursuit. I didn’t want to be caught unawares, which might lead to someone trying to teach me to fly by throwing me over the banister.
My eyes widened at the layout below me. It was a course of some kind, with ropes and scaffolding suspended over water, each item an obstacle, dumping the athlete into a safe water landing should they mess up.
“Go!” someone shouted.
A horn blared and a large electric timer hanging at the end of the course started rolling numbers.
A guy with lean muscle and the flowing elegance of the truly athletic practically danced across a series of raised round steps, all spaced at odd distances, each of the surfaces at a different angle. The man made it through quickly, his hands barely raised at his sides to keep his balance.
He scampered up one of the carpeted scaffolding platforms, jumped across empty space, and grabbed a rope hanging in the air. He swung to another platform before climbing onto a log balanced lengthwise on a metal rail about ten feet above the ground.
My mouth dropped open as I watched him roll through the air toward a floating island hovering at the end of the rail. It was like watching a real-life Mario Bros. character run, jump, and parkour his way to the finish flag.
When he reached his destination, a cluster of guys clapped off to the side, keeping pace along a walkway that would eventually pass right under me. I spied Kieran at the center of the crowd, his height matching the others’ but his physique setting him apart. His focus was entirely on the man struggling to stand dizzily and move on to the next obstacle.
Somewhat fascinated and also let down that he wasn’t doing something more exciting, I pushed back from the banister and hurried toward the stairs. Once there, I edged out enough to see that they were now staring at the athlete as he climbed up a rock wall, made of real rock. The obstacle partially blocked their view of the stairwell, so I skulked toward the hidden side and hurried down, hoping their entrancement with the athlete would keep them from noticing me.
Once at the bottom, it was easy to scamper to the opposite side of the obstacle course, ducking from one large structure to the next. A splash made me pause, my heart in my throat. There was no way the athlete would get out on my side, was there?
As the onlookers clapped and shouted encouragement, I caught a glimpse of their bodies moving back toward the beginning. It was time for someone else to go.
Between two large pillars, I saw the fallen competitor climb out of the water with a delicious display of back muscle. Once up, he shook his head with a smile.
“Let’s see you take that wall, Thane,” he shouted, running his hand through his hair while laughing. “They made it ten times as hard.”
I hated how intimate I was with that rough, sexy voice.
“I got this,” Kieran said.
“Hit it,” someone shouted.
“Hold on, let me reset the timer,” someone else said.
I snuck forward until I noticed some steps leading up to a viewing platform. I hesitated, knowing I should stick with the lower walkway, where it was easier to hide behind the large obstacles. At the same time, I wanted to see what he could do. An obstacle course seemed so mundane. It didn’t seem like something a Demigod would waste his time on. Unless impressing his minions and pumping his already massive ego was what got Kieran’s rocks off. Probably.
Without another thought, I climbed the steps and hurried to the bench by the wall. I was now about halfway between the lowest floor and the upper walkway connected to the gym. The course opened up in front of me, and I had a perfect view of Kieran stripping his gray sweatshirt off before tossing it aside.
The V of his upper body reduced into his sweats-clad, trim hips. He swung his arms, and his large biceps grabbed my attention like a hypnotist at a magic show.
The newly wet guy draped a white towel across his shoulders and joined the others waiting for Kieran, some with sweatshirts and some with bare torsos. All the guys moved and stood with a lethal, toned grace.
“You ready?” one of them shouted.
Kieran nodded, and the horn blared.
He started forward, faster than a mere human, running across the round pedestals like they were even and flat. At the platform in no time, he climbed the rope hand over hand, his ease of movement staggering. Up on the log next, he wrapped those long arms and legs around it before rolling, holding on while spinning through the air like it was a normal mode of transportation.
The side of another obstacle blocked my sight, but the whooping of his buddies as they moved along the walkway made it clear he’d landed on the floating island. I edged out to the side so I could watch him run along an uneven surface, scale a bending wall, and then launch himself at the rock wall that had beaten the other athlete.
Glorious muscles popped out along his frame as he reached and strained for hand- and footholds, making his way up the sheer face. Moisture glistened along his perfect back.
My body was aching so badly that I almost didn’t notice the movement from the other side of the room.
Shock and fear coursed through me. It was Mountebank Iams, his brow furrowed. He held a file folder, and nervous butterflies fluttered my stomach. Did he have my results?
I pushed back a bit, losing sight of Kieran as he made it to the top of the wall, turned with one hand gripping the tiny ledge, and swung himself out of sight.
“No way!” yelled the guy who’d fallen into the water earlier. “I thought for sure that one would knock him down.”
“Pay up.” Another one put out his hand before they noticed the newcomer.
A shiver collectively went through the group, their postures and expressions changing at the same time. Whereas before they’d been relaxed and loose, now they were wary and on guard. They turned to the mountebank as a group, their backs to Kieran, who’d moved on to another part of the course.
“No one is allowed through here when Demigod Kieran is working out. You know this,” one of the guys said, the tallest of the group, with bronzed skin and huge arms.
I grimaced and pushed back toward the shadows.
“He asked that I bring…certain results”—the mountebank’s pause was smug—“as soon as they were in. And believe me, he’s going to want to see these.” He held the file folder close, clearly not intending to offer it up to the peons.
The mountebank had better check his attitude, or he’d end up facedown in any one of the many pools of water around here.