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Off Limits
Author: Lola Darling








"One more round everybody, just stick with me!"

I tuck my hips and rest my hands on them, elbows sticking out in my best imitation of the toned and tanned woman on my flatscreen TV. When Suzie Steel does this move, she looks like a rockstar posing in front of her adoring fans. Me? I'm rocking more what looks like an awkward chicken dance.

This is why I don't go to the gym. I'll stick to embarrassing myself in the private of my own home, thanks.

"Knees bent, remember, and stick that butt out. Now, we're going to try a modified squat here. As you come out of each one, I want you to rotate those hips—remember, rub it in!" she calls with a gleeful smile as she demonstrates the move, which will no doubt set my ass on fire, yet looks effortless when she does it.

I grit my teeth and join her in the next set.

"Yes, ladies, right there. Circle those hips, rub it in good."

It takes all my concentration not to burst into laughter, especially given how uncoordinated I feel to begin with. Rub it in. Yeah, okay Suzie.

"Better sore than sorry!" she adds with a painfully cheerful grin as I dip into the next set of squat-stand-rotate. My thighs ache, and my ass, sure enough, burns like hell.

I'm going to regret this when I have to haul said ass to work in less than an hour. Especially given the heels I’ve chosen to wear today. But hopefully, if I can keep this up for the next couple of months, I might be decently toned in time for the summer. Lazing on the beach looking even remotely as svelte, flat-stomached and sexy as Suzie Steel—despite the fact that she's at least twenty years older than me—will be totally worth it.

Right, Chloe, a little voice at the back of my head interrupts the daydream. Like you're going to have time to relax on a beach. Or anywhere, for that matter.

I suck in a deep breath and hit the next squat hard, trying to force that voice out of my head. Okay, true, I've been a little overworked for the last . . . several years. And yes, last summer I basically forgot to take a vacation. And yes, I backed out of going to my best friend Heather's summer beach house not once, but three times.

But this is a new year. New me. Look, I'm even rocking this whole working out thing.

"Five more reps, ladies! Excuses burn zero fat per hour, remember that."

I narrow my eyes at the screen and bend my knees again, my thighs shaking with effort. "I'll give you excuses, Suzie," I mutter under my breath. Okay, so rocking it is an exaggeration. More like staggering through it like an ungainly imbecile. But I’m doing it! That’s what counts, right?

God, how many more days of this?

“Your ass isn’t going to tone itself when you sit on it,” Suzie says, as if she heard me thinking. Damn her. “Come on, with me, last two reps now. And rock those hips, shake it out, now rub it in.”

This time I really do let an unladylike snort escape as I rock my hips in motion with hers. Honestly, I love Suzie’s workouts, but the cheesy one-liners kill me at times. Maybe that’s the point? Distracting me from the hellish pain that is my ass right now?

“Aaaand, done. There we go, how do you feel?” Suzie asks the screen with a painfully sincere, huge smile.

I glare at her. “Like death warmed over in the microwave,” I mumble, leaning over to stretch my legs as best I can.

The video leads me through a few cool-down exercises, and I follow for as long as I can before the clock catches my eye. Crap. I’m going to be late if I don’t jump in the shower now.

I shut off the video with a sigh.

Hmm. I do feel a little more awake than usual, though. None of that post-exercise endorphin high that the girls at work talk about getting at the gym—to be honest, I’ve never experienced anything post-workout besides the crushing urge to lie in a hot tub—but I am kind of proud of myself. I woke up an extra hour early for this and everything.

Today is going to be a good day, I tell myself as I step out of my sweaty yoga pants and into the warm embrace of my shower. I can just feel it.


My brand new Louis Vuitton heels clack on the marble floor of our office as I scroll through my Blackberry, typing addendums to my schedule as needed.

9:30 a.m. – meeting with boss.

10:15 a.m. – meeting with my client.

11:20 a.m. – meeting with Cheryl from accounting to talk about invoicing issue.

12:13 p.m. – leave to hit bank in time.

12:30 p.m. – lunch with Martha—mental note: make sure to ask how her son is doing, and also if she’s had a reply about the Daniels’ case?

I’m still adding notes when I nearly stride right into the glass door of the meeting room adjacent to my boss’s office. I smooth my Armani skirt with one hand, hoping nobody in the hallway noticed that slick move, and then I push through the door into the room.

Paul’s not here yet, which is good. Tardiness is one of his personal pet peeves, so I always try to arrive at least a couple minutes ahead of schedule for our catch-ups.

Which is why I’m surprised when, after five minutes of me shuffling the files I’ve brought with me around, there’s still no sign of him emerging from his office. I check the delicate gold watch around my wrist subtly.

Or so I think.

“Hope I’m not detaining you from anything more important,” my boss’s familiar voice interrupts just as I look at the watch. Most people would freak out to hear him say that—Paul Greaves has a way of setting even the partners on edge, and not just because his father founded his law firm fifty-some years ago.

But I’ve worked alongside him long enough by now to know his moods. He’s not annoyed. There’s an almost playful smile hanging on his mouth, which is mostly hidden behind an XL cup of Starbucks.

“Just worried you might have triggered the apocalypse is all. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this late,” I reply, a hint of teasing in my voice, considering it’s only two minutes past the hour.

“Yes, I believe the end is nigh. My end, anyway, if this morning’s headache is anything to go by.”

I frown. “Are you feeling okay? We can reschedule if you’d like; I have an opening tomorrow morning, or—”

Paul waves an impatient hand in my direction. “Good lord, you sound like my daughter. I’m fine, it’s just a headache. Nothing a few mugs of this won’t cure.” He hefts his Starbucks with another smile, though this time, now that I’m watching closely, I can see the faint wince behind it.

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