Writing Leap into the Dark was a fun and steamy adventure. Please read the first chapter and let me know what you think!
Making new friends is easy, it’s not killing your old ones that’s hard.
Jade arranged the mats for the private group that was coming in with a sense of pride. Her Parkour gym, Leap, was the physical manifestation of a long-held dream. The last two years she had spent getting established had been a rollercoaster of success and struggle. Finally, she was making a steady profit.
For her, Parkour wasn’t only a job or a way to make a living, it was a way of life. Something amazing that she loved sharing with anyone with an adventurous spirit. It was an out of the box way to look at the world in which you learned not just how to overcome obstacles but to do it with flare.
Jade’s phone buzzed, letting her know someone had come in the front door. She pasted on a smile and jogged to meet her newest students. The hilarious Southern lady she’d spoken to on the phone said she and her friends were looking for something fun to do together every week. She planned to take them through the basics of Parkour, Mountain climbing, and maybe the trampoline if they had time.
The five women were an interesting mix of people, ranging the spectrum of body shapes and sizes. A woman came towards her with a big smile, teased up red hair, and a tshirt with the words, ‘Namaste, y’all’, printed in glitter. Jade had to hold back a laugh at the unique image she pulled off flawlessly. Something about the sunny personality that exuded from this woman’s pores reminded her of the person she’d spoken to on the phone.
Making a guess, she held out her hand. “Are you Val?”
“That’s me.” Her southern accent was unmistakable.
“These are my girls.” Pointing to the closest woman, she smiled. “The tiny one is Pixie. To her right is Tari, Cami, and my best girl, Jojo.”
“You just say that because she knows where to buy all the clothes that glitter,” Pixie teased.
Jojo winked and struck a regal pose. “A drag queen without sparkle is like a flower without scent.”
Jade laughed. These were definitely an eclectic mix of women. Pixie looked like her namesake, though she was probably the same height as Jade. The woman had blonde hair and a much more delicate build. The tall, elegant woman next to her, Tari, looked like a runway model hired to display the yoga gear she was wearing to perfect effect. Cami was a medium tall, curvy woman with bright purple hair who stood arm in arm with the African American drag queen. Jojo was impressive, her top a sparkly riot of color. She topped over six feet, and had muscles that impressed even Jade.
She gave them her best professional smile. “It’s a pleasure to meet you all.”
“Oh my god, you’re Jade!” Jojo squealed. Jade blushed.
Now and then, people recognized her from the ‘Parkour Warriors’ TV show. She had been on the show for almost six years but hadn’t become a featured contestant until year three.
“I’ve watched every single one of your episodes. You are one badass bitch.” The way the woman snapped on the last word made her laugh.
“Yeah, that’s me. I’m glad you liked the show.”
Jojo turned to Cami and grabbed her hands. “Seriously, you don’t recognize her? She’s Jade, the tiny one that kicked the asses of all those guys on that show. She’s like, part monkey, part Hercules.”
The purple-haired girl turned with wide eyes. “Oh my god. I loved w-watching you. You put that big, trash-talking muscle-head to shame. What was that, in the semifinals?”
Trash-talking wasn’t usually a part of the sport, so Jade knew the event she was talking about. Sometimes new competitors tried to make a name for themselves by hamming up for the camera. Luckily, the fans of the show wanted nothing to do with drama like that.
They preferred to focus on possible love connections or stories about overcoming difficulties. They had loved to drag out the video of the injury that ruined her Olympic chances. They would praise her for overcoming adversity. No one had ever understood how painful it was to be reminded of her unrealized dream.
“Yeah. He didn’t believe that muscles, when they’re too big, are a hindrance in Parkour.” To do well in the sport, you had to be strong, but there was a balance that most people didn’t understand.
“I don’t think too many muscles are ever a problem.” Pixie waggled her eyebrows.
Jade shook her head. “Well, it’s not the muscles, so much as the mass that comes along with them. A lot of the challenges require you to hang by your fingertips, and there is only so much strength you can build in your hands.” They were veering way off topic. “So, Val told me you all are interested in a more non-traditional workout. What made you guys think to try here?”
“Well, Pixie and I,” Val gestured between herself and the small blonde woman, “we’ve recently had babies. We were talking about wanting to get a couple of baby pounds off.”
Jade looked over at the two women with surprise. Sure, maybe they were a little softer around the edges. But there was no extra weight on either woman.
“She said something where our men could hear and they thought it would be a good idea to take us down into their gym.” Pixie laughed. “I don’t mind watching my man lift those heavy weights. But after about ten minutes, I was bored out of my mind.”
Cami laughed. “So then I started teaching them p-pole dancing. It is wonderful exercise. But since the only poles we have are at a strip club or in the m-middle of the Clubhouse, our men would interrupt and we got distracted.” The woman had a slight stutter, but no one seemed to notice. Her eyes sparkled with mischief. “One night when we were w-watching that Warrior show, Jojo suggested it would be fun to do something like that.”
Val spoke up. “So I looked around, and I found this place. I didn’t have any idea you were on that show.”
“Yeah. I was on pretty regularly for four years. When Eric, the co-owner, and I, won the team competition over in Japan and got that big payout, we decided to open up this gym.” Jade gestured around the large warehouse area. “I still do competitions if they’re local, Eric travels anytime he gets a sponsorship or finds a way to finagle it. But I prefer doing Parkour more for fun than for competition. I enjoy teaching others.”
“That’s fantastic,” Jojo said. “I hope I don’t sound like a crazy person, but do you think it’s a good workout routine? Some of their men thought it would be a fun waste of time.”
“Oh yes, it’s definitely a full-body workout. Today, I’m going to run you through a couple of the basic activities we teach. We offer several styles of training here. If this is going to become something regular, then you can either focus on one thing, or cycle through the different activities we offer. Any of them will build your stamina and strength.”
She didn’t think any of them needed to lose weight, but a woman’s self-image was a funny thing. The group followed her from the front, into the first area she had set up with a couple of easy portable obstacles.
“We’re going to start with some basic Parkour moves. I’ll teach you the most efficient way to get over obstacles. Then, if you are interested, I can show you some moves you could learn to give it a little more flair.” Jade gestured up to the far wall. “Over there we have mountain climbing, with courses from absolute beginner all the way up to extreme difficulty down at the far end.”
“Oh my god you have your own P-Parkour Warrior set-up in here!” Cami bounced on her toes with excitement.
“Yes, the majority of the space is taken up by the obstacles that you see on the TV competitions. We try to switch those up about every four months to give it variety. The harder ones are over the foam pits, but we still ask that you be careful and get supervision, or a harness, before trying them. We also have a large trampoline at the far end.”
Pixie clapped her hands. “Are we going to try that?”
“Sure. We offer gymnastics classes for the little ones, but nothing like any of the more structured student gyms have.” A sense of pride filled Jade as the women explored the different areas for a few minutes.
She and Eric had designed this place themselves from the ground up. It was the size of three small warehouses, side by side, with long foam pits that were able to be covered or opened, depending on the obstacles that were over them, and what kind of safety was needed.
“This is a lot more impressive than I thought it w-was going to be.” Cami had her hands on her hips. Her eyes were wide as saucers. The women looked ready to start, so Jade moved them back into the open area she had set up.
“All right, if you guys are comfortable, how about we get started on some stretches?”
Pixie and Tari pulled off their long sleeve t-shirts to expose the sports bras underneath before lining up with their friends on the mat in front of her. Jade started them off with some simple leg stretches.
“Stretching is critical when you are doing Parkour. You’d be surprised how many muscles will thank you for it afterwards. Most people don’t realize that as we get older, our bodies settle into a routine. Once the exploration and learning we do in childhood is done, our muscles get set into patterns because we repeat the same motions over and over. So, if you don’t get yourself properly stretched before we start, you’re going to be hurting tomorrow.”
Jade led them through her usual warm-up routine and was pleasantly surprised at how flexible they all were. She caught sight of some gorgeous artwork on Pixie’s shoulders. Unable to resist she moved closer to get a better look. When she could finally get a good look at Pixie’s shoulder, the depiction of an adorable fairy entranced her. The color and details were astounding. The watercolor effect on the shading wasn’t unusual, but the mixture of the intense detail on the outline made her think she knew who the artist was. The hyper-realistic depiction of a screaming demon on the woman’s other shoulder was a shocking contrast. It looked so real Jade could almost suspect a photo transfer rather than a tattoo.
Those contrasting styles could only be achieved by two men whom she had been virtually stalking for almost two years. Excitement bubbled in her stomach as she wondered if Pixie might have met her celebrity crushes. Would it be rude to ask? If she kept herself in check and didn’t fangirl too hard, then it shouldn’t be an issue. She could wait till the lesson was over. They were done stretching, and it was time to start running them through the courses. It would only be another hour, then she would have her curiosity assuaged… Nope, she had to find out if she was right.
“Pixie, I hope you don’t mind me asking. Do you have a tattoo from both Hannibal and Ink?” Jade knew her voice was pitched a little too high, but she couldn’t help it. Those men were the Michelangelo and Van Gogh of the tattoo world.
Pixie’s light laughter filled the room. “How did you know that’s who did my tattoos?”
It was their work. She knew it! “Oh, you have no idea how much I love their work. I think I’ve studied every one they’ve done that is out there on social media.” Joy bubbled in her stomach. “Hannibal’s mixture of soft and hard lines and insane amount of details makes it look like the tattoo could float right off the skin. I don’t think there’s anyone in the country who can match his style. The demon woman on your shoulder had to be one of his.”
“It’s a Banshee.” Pixie smiled.
“Oh, that’s awesome. Is it like an angel demon thing?”
“Yes, exactly.” The woman tilted her head. “What about my Fairy? How did you know Ink did it?”
Jade shrugged and shook her head at how silly she was being. “There’s maybe four people in the United States, who do work like that. He has a gorgeous watercolor style that feels soft, but then uses sharp line work that keeps it from looking blurry. All of his artwork has a touch of fantasy made into reality. When you add in the fact that the subject isn’t something that could have actually been a picture that was transferred into a stencil, you’re down to like two people in the US who could have done it. Put the two tattoos together and the fact that we are in Denver, well, it seemed obvious to me.”
Jojo crossed her arms and smiled. “Sounds like you know a lot about tattoos.”
“You know how you watch the Parkour Warriors show? Well, I love all the tattoo reality shows. Doesn’t matter if it is about coverups or who is the best artist, I can’t get enough of them. I might also read blogs and the magazines.”
Jojo laughed. “You’re a tattoo superfan.”
“You could say that.” Jade blushed. “When we set up shop here, I was excited that Dark Ink was so close. I’ve always wanted to get a tattoo from both of them. But they are not cheap. I’ve been building my business for the last two years, but I finally put aside enough money to get my name down on their list last month. I have my initial consultation appointment with Hannibal this week, but they couldn’t schedule the actual work till later.” It would be almost five months before she would have the finished products on her skin, but it would be worth it. “I can’t wait. Seriously, to meet someone with talent like that is going to be a treat. It would suck to find out that they are actually jerks.” She knew she was fangirling and tried to pull herself together. “Well, enough about my celebrity crushes. How about we get started on the fun part of the lesson?”