Bridal Boot CampMeg Cabot
First published in the US in 2019 by Avon Impulse,
an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
First published in Great Britain in 2019 by Piatkus
Copyright © 2019 by Meg Cabot LLC
Excerpt from No Judgments copyright © 2019 by Meg Cabot LLC
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
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An Excerpt from No Judgments Chapter One
About the Author
Also by Meg Cabot
I tried not to stare at the guy who stood in the back of the room, but it wasn’t easy, first because he was the only guy in a room full of women, and second because he was fit.
Not just fit, but hard, not an ounce of fat on him. He obviously worked out. He had shoulders that looked as if they’d been carved from slabs of marble, and his biceps were sick: round and thick and darkly tanned. He was clean-shaven with a head full of nicely curled dark hair, and his workout clothes were crisp and clean, though they’d seen some wear.
But he’d laid out a spin mat instead of a yoga mat, so something was off. The guy knew his way around a gym, all right, but not a spin or yoga class.
So what the hell was he doing in bridal boot camp?
It was obvious my clients wanted to know, too. They were eyeing him like he was a pumpkin spice latte on the first day of fall. Even Lauren, who was engaged to one of the most highly regarded NFL prospects out of the University of Florida, couldn’t take her eyes off him.
Meanwhile, her mother, Connie, was glaring at me. She wasn’t paying a hundred grand for two hundred guests to chow down on surf and turf over at the Cascabel Hotel just to have her daughter get thirsty for some new guy at the gym and cancel the wedding a month before the big day.
I knew I had to do something, and fast.
“Hey,” I said, sidling up to Biceps as he checked his cell for messages. “What class are you here for?”
“Uh, yoga,” he said, lowering his phone. “This is six o’clock yoga, right?”
I knew it. He was in the wrong class. Just my luck. At least the way my luck’s been running lately.
“No,” I said. “We only have a six o’clock yoga class here on Wednesdays. This is boot camp.”
“Bridal boot camp,” Lauren added, her blue eyes glittering with either malice or delight—with Lauren it was always hard to tell. “To get in shape before your wedding.”
“Or a wedding you’re attending,” Connie said, flashing her daughter a look of warning. “You don’t actually have to be getting married yourself to be in this class.”
“You’re not getting married, are you?” Anna asked in her heavy Cuban accent, sending a hopeful glance toward Biceps’s left ring finger. I wasn’t the only one who’d noticed it was conspicuously absent of jewelry.
“Uh, no,” Biceps said, looking adorably confused, especially as Patrick, the only other male in my class (he was marrying Bill, his longtime partner, in a beachside ceremony at the Sandy Point state park in August), chose that moment to burst through the door from the men’s locker room.
“Sorry I’m late, girls, you would not believe the traffic on the Circle—wait one second. What in the name of sweet hunk of man meat do we have here?”
I could have sworn Biceps began to blush under his tan.
“Uh,” he said, slipping his cell back into his gym bag. “I looked online and it said there was a yoga class here at six—”
“There is.” I was beginning to feel sorry for the guy—and one reason I’m such a popular trainer is that I’m known for not taking pity on anyone, especially clients.
But Patrick and the rest of the ladies were staring at Biceps as intently as if he was a gazelle who’d wandered into the middle of a lion’s den. A pretty built gazelle, but still.
“Yoga’s only on Wednesday nights,” I said. “And every morning at eight.”
His dark eyebrows constricted. “I can’t make Wednesday nights. Or mornings. I work eight to four every day. I’m a deputy with the sheriff’s office.”
I could almost hear the ripple of ecstasy that swept through the ladies—and Patrick—at his words. A male first responder—and one with extremely pronounced triceps—in our gym? It seemed too good to be true.
Given my luck, I knew it would be.
“Then what are you doing here?” I asked, lowering my voice so the others couldn’t hear. “I know they have a state-of-the-art gym over at the sheriff’s department. And you obviously use it. You didn’t get those lats sitting around doing paperwork all day.”
He glanced down at his own shoulder as if to see what I was talking about and then, adorably, blushed again.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Well, I lift.”
Yeah, no shit, Sherlock. What did he lift, boulders?
“I was involved in a, um, incident,” he went on, his voice as low as mine. “And the sheriff—you know Sheriff Hartwell, right?”
I nodded. Everyone on the island knew Sheriff Hartwell. In addition to having cut crime in half since being elected—not that there’d ever been much crime on Little Bridge Island in the first place, aside from the occasional illicit drug use and fishing violations—the sheriff also gamely rode in an evening gown on a float in the gay pride parade every year, even though he himself was hetero. This made him beloved not only to the Patricks of the island, but also the Laurens and the Connies, too.
“He gave me a disciplinary action,” Biceps went on. “And part of it is that I have to start taking yoga, in order to curb some of what he calls my, uh, male aggression.”
I raised my eyebrows. The male part I liked—more than liked. I welcomed it with open arms. It had been eleven months since Pete and I had broken up (not that I was counting), and I hadn’t had sex since, despite my best friend Jenna’s insistence that I needed to get back into the game.
And I’ve been trying. I really have. I’ve kept up with my hair appointments—highlights and lowlights once a month on my shoulder-length bob, so I look like the natural blonde I’ve never been—and spray tans and mani-pedis every two weeks. I watch what I eat—no processed carbs, refined sugar, or excessive alcohol. You’d think I was the one about to get married.
But who would I marry, anyway? When you live on a two-mile-by-four-mile island, you can’t exactly count on Tinder to meet people, since you’ll most likely see your date the following morning at the grocery store or coffee shop, making for an awkward situation all around if things haven’t gone well.
And with me they almost never g
o well, because I’m not settling for just anyone anymore. I want the real thing, the whole package, the made-for-TV-movie rom-com. I want it all.
That’s why the aggression part this guy is describing . . . well, that part I’m not so thrilled with.
“What kind of incident?” I asked. I didn’t need some psycho cop in my gym, especially in bridal boot camp. Standing ten feet away was Bettina, the mayor’s wife, who was trying to tighten up her arms a little before her niece’s wedding in Tampa so that she could do the chicken dance without jiggling.
“Oh,” he said, blushing more deeply, if such a thing were possible. “It was just—It was stupid, really. A misunderstanding outside the Circle K. I was in my squad car and I’d pulled over so I could get a cup of coffee and came out to find what I thought was some mope going after my partner, Chrissie. So I drew on him.”
I sucked in my breath disapprovingly. “Your gun?”
Biceps stiffened. “No. No way! Just my Taser.”
“Oh, well, that makes it so much better.”
He winced at my sarcasm and had the grace to look even more embarrassed. “Yeah, I know . . . it was dumb of me. But you know how it’s been lately. People aren’t big fans of cops right now, and I really was in fear for my life. Well, Chrissie’s life.”
I had a ton of questions. Like why hadn’t his partner, Chrissie, drawn her own Taser if she’d been in such a dire situation?
And who bought coffee at Circle K? Everyone knew they served much better coffee at Island Coffee Queen, or even Starbucks, for God’s sake.
But before I could ask any of these things, he went on. “Anyway, the guy turned out to have only been a concerned citizen—and a decent one, at that. He’s not pressing charges or anything. But Sheriff Hartwell says I have to take yoga in order to learn how to deal with the stress of the job, figure out how to breathe, and all that mumbo jumbo.”
“It’s not mumbo jumbo,” I said. I was used to people—especially men—with Biceps’s attitude. I respected what the sheriff was trying to do. “People have been practicing yoga for literally thousands of years. It’s almost universally accepted to promote health and relaxation. You know a lot of insurance companies pay for it now as a form of rehab for PTSD and after accidents?”
He looked surprised. “Really? I didn’t know. No offense, it’s just that some of the guys have been ragging me a little for having to take a—”
Fortunately Bettina interrupted before he could dig himself a deeper hole.
“Pardon me, Robbie,” she called from over by the weight rack, “but is this class going to get underway soon? I have the Red Cross gala at eight and I need to get home in time to do my hair—”
I nodded and said, “Yes, of course. Everybody who hasn’t already grabbed a mat, grab one—a yoga mat, not a spin mat—as well as two three-pound weights, a ten-pound weight, and a heavy ball. We’ll get started in one minute.”
Turning to Biceps, I said impulsively, having made a split-second decision against my better judgment—which Jenna always reminds me never works out well, “I think I can help you. Well, teach you how to breathe, anyway. Right now your fitness regimen is only lifting weights, right? You don’t do anything aerobic?”
He looked defensive. “Isn’t lifting weights aerobic?”
“No,” I said. “It’s good,” I rushed to assure him when the defensiveness grew. “It’s great for you, actually, but it’s clearly not helping much where you need it right now. This class will. I know it’s called bridal boot camp, but it’s really just a general aerobic fitness class, with a little yoga thrown in. It should meet your sheriff’s requirements. What’s your name?”
“Ryan Martinez,” he said, holding out his right hand.
“Hi, Ryan,” I said, and stretched out my own hand. “I’m Rob—Roberta—James.”
“I know,” he said, as my slim hand disappeared into his own warm, massive one. “I saw your picture on the website. You’re the owner.”
“Co-owner,” I corrected him. “But yeah, I am.”
I couldn’t help noticing how clear and focused his hazel eyes were as he looked down at me . . . and the electricity that seemed to shoot from his fingers into mine as he squeezed them. If this happened to all the ladies he met, it was a mystery how he’d stayed single this long.
If he was single. He could be shacking up with his partner, Chrissie, for all I knew. He certainly seemed to have a thing for her, considering how protective he was of her.
Which was exactly how guys in rom-coms always were of their girlfriends.
“Great,” I said, dropping his hand, my fingers still tingling from the contact. “Let’s get started. You’ll need to switch out the mat you’ve got there for one of those blue ones in the corner. What you’ve got is a spin mat. You’ll need a yoga mat.”
He looked sweetly perplexed. “There’s a difference?”
“Big difference,” I said with a wink. “You’ll see in a minute.”
Then I leaped to the front of the room and switched on my iPhone. The pulsating beats of Rihanna’s latest soon reverberated from the speakers in all four corners. I began doing deep knee bends, my back to the mirrored wall behind me.
“Everyone, meet Ryan,” I said, raising my voice to be heard over the music. “He’s going to be joining us today.”
The catcalls and sly greetings were immediate. “Hi, Ryan.” “Welcome, Ryan.” “Ryan, can I have your number?”
“Come on now, ladies . . . and gentlemen,” I said. I felt jazzed but slightly nervous, considering I’d done this routine a thousand—maybe ten thousand—times before. I knew it was because of my newest class member. He was clueless, but undeniably cute. “Leave Ryan alone. You know the drill. It’s time for your favorite thing in the world . . . squats! As many as you can do in sixty seconds. On my count. And . . . GO!”
He tried to keep up.
I’ll give him that. He really tried. We lost him somewhere around the thirty-minute mark—and the class was only forty-five minutes, including cooldown—while doing planks. He could probably bench his own body weight, but he couldn’t plank. He didn’t have the core strength.
This was pretty common with self-trained weightlifters. They went for exercises that would give them those all-desirable flashy six-packs—and the glimpses I got of his when his faded black tank fell away from his body showed that his were mightily attractive—but they neglected ones that would actually help stabilize and strengthen their core.
The other girls in the class—and Patrick—smirked playfully at Ryan as they effortlessly held their poses . . . but not too much, out of respect to his job. He was a first responder—and a gorgeous one—so that had won him a lot of points in their eyes.
When the exercise portion of the class was over, and I gave everyone permission to sit on their mats, he collapsed in a heap on his, sweat pouring from his dark, curly mane.
“Jesus Christ,” I heard him mutter as he looked around at all his classmates, none of whom had broken more than a light shimmer of perspiration, including Bettina, who was more than sixty pounds overweight and had barely hit her water bottle. His was empty.
But Bettina had been working out with me for two solid years. She could hold a plank for half an hour and not raise her heart rate above resting.
“Okay,” I said, turning off the music. “Let’s have a quick talk about nutrition before we leave for the night. How has everyone’s diet been this week? Anyone have any questions for me?”
Lauren raised her hand. Lauren always raised her hand. At five foot two and a hundred pounds, Lauren was technically underweight, but she’d talked her parents into allowing her to purchase a ten-thousand-dollar wedding gown that was a size too small (it had been on sale, marked down from nineteen thousand dollars), and so she felt she needed to lose an inch around the waist to fit into it.
Even thinking about it made me feel crazy. I loved weddings—which was why I held the class every year during wedding season.
at I did not love was how nuts weddings made some brides—such as Lauren—get.
“I was so bad,” Lauren said with a simper when I pointed at her. “I ate four bananas this past weekend.”
“Bananas aren’t bad for you,” I said. “As I’ve stressed repeatedly, fruit is very, very good for you. If you have a weight-loss goal, you might want to restrict your fruit intake to before two o’clock in the afternoon so you have a chance to burn the calories off by the evening. But once again, fruit is a great form of nutrition.”
Lauren nibbled her lower lip. “But what if you eat it in a smoothie? With ice cream? And chocolate syrup?”
“Oh my God, Lauren!” cried Lauren’s mother. “How are you ever going to fit into that ridiculous dress that you made us buy if you keep drinking chocolate shakes? Even with bananas, you know those aren’t good for you!”
“You see?” Lauren cried, flashing her blue eyes at me. “You see how she treats me? I should elope.”
“Who else has a nutrition question?” I asked, wishing Lauren would elope, and sell her stupid, overpriced, too-tight dress on eBay.
Anna raised her hand to confess that she’d eaten beans, and I had to assure the group once again that beans were a nutritious and healthful component of any diet and everyone needed to stop being afraid of beans, despite what they might have heard from certain websites or doctors on TV.
Then Patrick raised his hand to snarkily ask if vodka was also a nutritious and healthful component of any diet, and I knew we’d descended into post-workout bridal madness. I told everyone to put their mats and weights away, then hit the showers.
As he was limping painfully toward the doors to the men’s locker room, having hung up his weights and mat, I couldn’t help asking Ryan, in a playful voice, “So will I see you at yoga tomorrow night?”
“Oh,” he said, swinging that clear-eyed hazel gaze on me. I felt another electric shock, but tried to hide it by bending to sort the weights. “No, I thought I mentioned—I can’t make Wednesday nights. I have a, um, thing.”
Behind me, I heard Patrick, who’d been putting away his weights, begin to whistle the tune to the song “Anchors Aweigh”—his snarky way of suggesting that Ryan was in Alcoholics Anonymous, which everyone on the island referred to as Anchors Aweigh, and which everyone also knew met Wednesdays at six o’clock in the basement of the Lutheran church.