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Her legs ached.
Shifting her focus between the rocky trail and the thin material of his running shorts a few feet ahead of her, Lucinda questioned herself. Had she gone out too fast for such a long run? More importantly, had she failed to attract his attention?
Why was he running so goddamned fast?
Although she had to keep an eye on the trail so she wouldn't stumble, she decided she wasn't moving too fast for a training run; she was in great shape, even for her standards. It was too fast a pace to maintain a conversation, though, with him zig-zagging over the rocks, just a bit too far ahead. They had started out in the group at an easy pace, and talked together for an hour while running over the forested trail. But at the boulder-strewn clearing, he had bolted ahead, and she had to press on to keep up.
When the trail, turning soft and wide, moved back under the Doug fir, Ben slowed.
"I love that section," he said. "Was that too fast?"
"No," she said, breathing heavily.
"Oh, I'm sorry," he said. "I get carried away. It's beautiful, isn't it?"
The scenery was beautiful, yes. At this altitude, the green and blue of the trees jutting into the sky were remarkably crisp and vibrant. Below, the ivory-wood earth tones of the weathered snags and ancient, bent half-trees casted shadows onto the rocks and sand. It was incredible.
But Ben was beautiful, as well. It was a strange paradox, where even the nerdy distance runners were exponentially more beautiful than they should be. All the cardio and raging hormones kept them healthy, youthful, sexually vibrant, and horny. And although Lucinda rarely admitted it, she fit squarely in that category.
At twenty-five, Lucinda was starting to realize she had spent too much time working the last two years since her MBA, and not enough time dating. As Manager of Thompson Athletics, Portland's premiere running shoe store, she had accomplished a lot in a short time. But what she really wanted was to work for Nike, or perhaps Adidas or Columbia Sportswear. She had applied where she could apply, and talked to people she thought she needed to talk to, but she couldn't yet break into that exclusive level of corporate marketing. In the meantime, she led a marathon training group that met twice a week out of the running store, and she did what she could to network, which is how she ended up running on Mt Hood with an old friend and three attractive men.
Lucinda and Ben were both breathing full and heavy when they stopped, pausing where the trail crossed the path to the Lodge to walk in small circles with their hands on their hips, grimacing and smiling. It was a full two minutes later when George jogged into view, followed by Allyssa and Mack. Lucinda and Ben, having caught their breath, were chatting easily about nothing in particular, stealing glances at each other as they both cooled down in the alpine breeze. The other three approached, George and Allyssa a bit more winded than Mack.
"Who's up for a beer?" Mack asked, fist-bumping Ben.
"Let's meet in Govy," George said.
"Do we want to try the pub in the Lodge?" Allyssa asked.
"No," Ben said. "The Lodge has the same food and beer, but it's overpriced. It's mostly for tourists and honeymooners renting rooms. The brewpub in Govy is just as good, and it's on the way back."
All five of them walked into Mt Hood Brewing Company in Government Camp and asked for a table outside.
"It will be just a minute," the waitress said. "Can I get a name?"
"We're the Timberline Trail Running Club," Mack said. After she nodded and jotted it down, he raised a conspiratorial eyebrow to the others, "If we sound official, we'll get special treatment."