The T-Guides V1
Stephen is embarrassed about the top surgery scars bisecting his chest but wants to gain muscle. So why not lift in the middle of the night when the gym is empty? That’s the plan, at least until a friendly, muscled gym bro, Ryan, shows up night after night, giving him training tips and advice.
For Ryan, lifting weights started as a way to wind down from his mentally-taxing job. Now it’s practically his religion and he spends more time at the gym than his house. Training Stephen is a great excuse to avoid going home. Not that he has anyone to go home to.
A friendly wager between them sparks something more. But can each man bulk their heart up enough to embrace love?
“A Gym Rat’s Guide to Love” is a low-stakes steamy M/M romance with a trans masc MC. It is a standalone novel with a happily ever after.
Publisher: Independently Published
Heat Level: 5
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay, Transgender
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Meet Cute
Word Count: 30000
Setting: USA, Oregon, Portland
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
At a bit past midnight, the gym was empty except for the lone employee manning the desk.
Steffen paused outside the locker room, giving a longing glance at the Men's room door and biting his lip. Now that he'd had top surgery he'd really wanted to change at the gym. He'd dreamed about it. But still he'd changed at home. Next time he'd work up the courage.
The free weights were separated from the rest of the gym by a glass wall. Steffen set down his bag and water bottle. Time to get to work.
The bar alone was forty-five pounds, so to play it safe he didn’t load any plates for his warm-up set. By the end of the fifth press, his arms already shook and burned from the effort, and the scars on his chest pulled with each movement. He racked the bar and sat up, taking a swig of water before setting a timer on his phone for his rest.READ MORE
The timer on his phone beeped. He shut it off and lay back down on the bench for another rep.
According to the book he’d been reading on weight lifting, he should have added weight plates, even tiny ones, before the next rep, but the way his arms felt he thought that might be a bad idea.
He took time to make sure he was properly positioned, going down the checklists he’d memorized from the videos. Hands wide, back against the bench, bar above his eyes - not as important to the lift, but for resetting the bar after. He took a deep breath, and lifted the bar off.
Sweat stung his eyes already.
"One," he huffed out. Remember to breathe.
His shirt already had sweat patches and the palms of his hands were rough from gripping the bar. He should buy some gloves, but gloves were expensive and he was still paying off his surgery.
He’d read through the basic barbell training book carefully and watched many YouTube videos over the last few weeks of recovery, but now that he was here it was a lot harder to stay in good form than he’d realized it would be.
He lowered the bar to his chest for the next rep, but then his arms refused to lift. He shook with effort as he struggled. His muscles burned, but the bar barely raised an inch off his chest.
A shadow moved between him and the lights overhead. “Need some help?” a man asked in a low voice.
Steffen’s face burned, half with shame and half with exhaustion. “Yes, please,” he huffed.
On one hand he was embarrassed that the employee had found him like this on his first time at the gym, on the other he was just glad for the help.
Strong hands and arms came into his field of vision, reaching over him for the bar. “Now, press up with me. I’ll assist,” the man said.
Blowing out a breath, Steffen nodded and tried one more time to push the bar up. This time the bar lifted easily, although Steffen suspected that the stranger had done most of the work. The bar racked into place with a satisfying clang and he sat up, turning to thank the employee…
Only it wasn’t the employee from the front desk. This man had natural blond shaggy hair that fell around his ears, and a kind smile that showed a dimple on one side and sparkling green eyes. Even through his button up and slacks, Steffen could make out the bulge of his muscles.
Steffen stammered, unable to get any words out. Why did he always meet the cute guys at the worst possible times? Finally he managed to spit out, “Thanks a lot.” Panting and still shaking, he waited for the guy to make a jab about how weak he was. To his surprise that comment never came.
“No problem.” The guy winked at him. "Always happy to help out newbies. First time at the gym?"
"Is it that obvious?" Steffen covered his burning face with his hands.
"No big deal. We all have to start somewhere." A hand clapped Steffen's back. "I'm Ryan by the way."
Steffen offered Ryan a wan smile to go with his hand. "Steffen," he said.
"Nice to meet you." Ryan's hand engulfed Steffen's and he squeezed lightly.
"Oh, you must want to use this." Steffen stood up and shuffled aside, barely remembering to grab his water bottle.
"You really should think about getting some gloves."
"Yeah, I know." Steffen took another swig from his water bottle.
“Don’t overdo the water, either.”
"Thanks," Steffen mumbled.
Ryan gave Steffen a thoughtful look. “You know, I think I saw a lighter bar around here. You should try that for the bench press next time." He walked over to the corner where two more barbells stood upright, propped in a metal holder.
Steffen trailed after him, curious despite himself. “I thought they were all forty-five.”
Ryan grabbed one that was a bit thinner around, angled it down to look at the end, nodded, and then pulled it out to show it to Steffen. “The standard one is, but this one is for women’s competitions. It’s only thirty-five pounds.”
Steffen flinched. Had Ryan figured it out? Steffen folded his arms across his chest, dangling his water bottle from one finger to try and look casual. “Do I look like a woman to you?”
Ryan shrugged, straining the buttons on his shirt, and propped the bar back up. “No, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. You gotta start somewhere.”
"Oh, yeah, of course." Steffen gave a shaky laugh. He was being paranoid.
"Have you done your squats yet?" Ryan asked.
Steffen shook his head. "Not yet."
"C ‘mere and let me see your form." Ryan carried the barbell over and set it up on the squat rack.
"I'm sure I can do more than that," Steffen blurted out.
"Yeah, of course, but you want to start light on a warm-up set." Ryan ran a hand along the bar. "And you need to get your form right before you go on to higher weights. Now, come do one and let me see your form."
"Why are you helping me?" Steffen said, setting his water bottle aside on the bench.
"You're cute," Ryan said, winking at Steffen. Mid step, Steffen stumbled over his own feet and almost fell. Was this handsome gym rat really flirting with him?
Ryan continued, offering Steffen a hand up and a smile, "Plus, I like helping. Weight training is my hobby and I like seeing new people get the most out of it."
"I appreciate it." Steffen held on to Ryan's hand a moment longer than he really needed to before letting go.
Steffen stepped under the rack and put his arms up next to shoulder to grab the bar and winced as the movement pulled at his scars. He still had trouble putting his arms up.
"No, stop." Ryan put a hand on the bar. "Are you hurt?"
"No," Steffen stepped out from under the bar so he could properly look at Ryan. "I had surgery recently." He rubbed his chest, hoping Ryan wouldn't pry.
"You should probably stop for tonight then, if it’s hurting you." Ryan shooed Steffen out of the way and stooped under the bar, laying it across his shoulders and grabbing it perfect squat form. He squatted down, the movement straining his khaki dress pants and button up shirt.
"After one set?" Steffen scowled. This gym membership was expensive, and he wanted to get everything he could out of it.
"Look, if you hurt yourself, you'll be set back way more than one night's work." Ryan stood back up from his squat and set the barbell back into place.
"Sure, I get it." Steffen gathered up his water bottle and bag from next to the door.
"I usually finish up around now, but I'd be willing to stay late and give you some pointers next time you're around." Ryan flashed Steffen a quick smile.
"I'd planned on it, yeah. In two days, to give myself some recovery time.”
"Great!" Ryan's grin widened and he grabbed his bag from the corner. "I'll see you then!"COLLAPSE