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"You do push-ups like a girl," Axel says, crossing his broad arms over his chest.

I let out a groan and drop down to the yoga mat, the backs of my hands resting on the ground beside my head.

Who invented this exercise, and how can I get a word with them?

"Isn't it surprising that I, Whitney Carmichael, a biological female, do push-ups like wait, what? A girl?" The sarcasm in my voice is as thick as fresh Vermont maple syrup.

Axel rolls his eyes. "That's not what I meant. Let me demonstrate again." He gets down onto the cold, firm sand, not even bothering with the mat. After a few seconds, he glances back at me with a frown. "Are you even watching?" He waves a hand in front of my face to get my attention.

"Yes, of course," I lie, pretending like I wasn't staring at his biceps.

He nods and gets down on his hands again, kicking his feet back into the proper push-up position. He does about seven in a matter of seconds, arms pumping up and down with ease.

"There," he says, brushing his hands together and creating a cloud of sand. "You try it."

I plant my hands firmly onto the mat again and kick my legs back behind me. I shift my feet and move my arms closer together, making sure my hands are directly underneath my shoulders. I hear him let out a breath behind me.

"You're still doing it wrong," he says.

I drop to my forearms, my body exhausted from holding itself up, and give him the simplest solution. "Then help me."

He gets down on the ground next to me, a playful sparkle in his eyes. "Well first, Whitney, your arms are too close together." He wraps his hands around my forearms, forcing me to widen the gap between them. "And...your back needs to be completely straight."

A strange feeling courses through my body as his fingers dance against my stomach and push my core upwards. They slip underneath the hem of my shirt for a moment, brushing my bare skin.

"There. Pretty sure you're capable of the rest."

I bend my arms down and back up again, feeling the strain on my chest. The first few tries mimic his form, but by the fifth push-up, I'm inventing some combination of a plank, push-up, and belly flop.

He sighs, digging his fingers into his forehead. "Let's not waste any more precious time." He orders me to get up and then asks, "Do you know what a burpee is?"

I stifle a snicker at the name. "A burpee? What kind of dumb name is that?"

"Oh yes, because I invented the exercise," he says. I laugh again, unable to control my immaturity, and his face softens. "Alright, looks like you're gonna make me work today."

He jumps up and does a complicated series of motions that consist of some half push-up and an awkward jump squat that ends with him standing before me again. I stare at him wide-eyed in the dim light of the evening.

"Hold on a second," I say, holding up my index finger. "You decided that since I suck at both push-ups and jump squats, it'd be the perfect idea for me to try them together?"

"I was hoping the whole would be more impressive than its parts," he reasons, but even he looks like he knows I'm going to disappoint. "Let me break it down a little further before you give one a shot."

When his series of detailed demonstrations end, I keep a vivid mental image of how this "burpee" works and attempt it myself. Surprisingly, I don't fall over on my face, but by the third one, my thighs and arms feel like they're on fire, burnt out from all the squats, lunges, and planks I completed before Axel came up with this brilliant idea.

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