Chapter Nine – Reese
I was still flustered the following morning after Dmitri grazed his fingers across my cheek and tucked a loose tendril of hair behind my ear. Dang he smelled good. And those eyes… I forced myself out of my irrational thoughts of pulling his face closer and getting lost in a long, sweet, tender kiss.
He was the enemy! Enough swooning over the jerk who had destroyed my chance to earn a gold medal at Worlds. I would not let him draw me in again.
So why was I going out of my way to watch his finals in the team all around? I wasn’t even required to be here today. I could have gone back to the Olympic Village after practice, and no one would have been the wiser.
But Donna had to see Mikhail compete and she needed me with her. Her words, not mine. Was I secretly excited to see Dmitri again? Maybe.
“This goes against everything inside me to cheer for the Russian guys instead of Team USA,” I said to Donna as we took our seats in the spectator section of the Bercy Arena. We wouldn’t even see our team compete until the third rotation from where we were sitting, and chances are by then Donna will have insisted we move to get closer to Mikhail and Dmitri.
“Doesn’t really matter,” Donna dismissed my concern. “Team USA will probably win the team all around anyway. Dmitri’s the only guy on the ROC who’s over-the-top phenomenal. The rest of the Russians are just mediocre.”
“I’d say they’re a little better than mediocre, but I get what you’re saying,” I said.
Our predictions were just about spot-on. Although Dmitri’s individual scores were substantially higher than everyone else’s, the Russians took silver right behind Team USA. I hoped we were able to pull out a similar win the following day.
After the competition was over, Donna hurried us down the stairs so she could be waiting for Mikhail when he came out of the locker room. I felt like a middle schooler with my bestie waiting for her crush. I would not admit that I was waiting for mine.
Maybe we were regressing to our childhood since neither of us had attended public schools. As soon as we were identified as good enough to someday qualify for elite gymnastics, we started homeschooling. Most athletes did. There just weren’t enough hours in a day.
We didn’t have to wait long. As if the guys were hurrying to leave the locker room in order to be with us, Mikhail and Dmitri came through the doors with wet hair and barely dry enough from their showers to have gotten dressed.
I didn’t want to think about Dmitri without clothes on. Darn it. I couldn’t help thinking about Dmitri without clothes on. I shook my head to clear the inappropriate thoughts.
His shoulders seemed to relax, and a cheesy smile formed on his face, softening his features and causing a slight lift to his lips. My gaze involuntarily shifted from his mouth to his eyes and back again.
“Hi, Reese.” Dmitri’s greeting was almost soft enough to qualify as a sigh. “Glad you could make it to my competition tonight.”
“Your floor routine was impressive,” I responded, just as breathless. “And those rings—” I stepped forward and squeezed his bicep lightly. “—Your arms are… wow. I can understand now why all the guys call you an enormous wolf.” His silly nickname, Volchara, made more sense after watching him on the rings. The way he lifted his fingers so that the judges could see that his wrists weren’t resting on the ring made the muscles in his shoulders bulge in ways I didn’t realize was possible.
Dmitri leaned closer and practically whispered in my ear, “Maybe for Halloween you should wear a Little Red Riding Hood costume.”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” I teased him back, loving the way his breath on my neck sent shivers down my spine.
“I can think of a dozen reasons I would love to see you in that costume.” Dmitri’s cheek was so close to mine that we brushed against one another, his lips dangerously close to mine.
I will not kiss Dmitri Volkov. I will not kiss Dmitri Volkov. Oh my gosh, I was probably going to kiss Dmitri Volkov. His lips were right there.
“There you are,” a lilting Russian voice sang out, breaking the bubble that Dmitri and I had been temporarily living within. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”
Stepping away from Dmitri, I was confronted by my arch nemesis. Kira Zykina. How is it that every time I get close to Dmitri, she shows up? As if her arrival was part of their plan to throw me off my game. Great. Just what I needed. A repeat of World Championships.
No way. I wasn’t going to let them win this time around. I squared my shoulders and lifted my chin. “Looking for me?” I played dumb. “Do you need some pointers on your double layout? Because I can definitely give you some suggested improvements.”
“Not you, silly.” Kira wrapped her hands around Dmitri’s arm muscles. “I came to congratulate my boyfriend on his silver medal. Although he deserved the gold.” She pouted her obnoxiously bright red lips and smoothed down his shirt.
Dmitri pushed her away gently but insistently and stepped closer to me.
“Gosh, I wouldn’t know what that was like,” I said with sarcasm dripping from my voice. “To deserve the gold medal but have to settle for silver.”
“Oh, that’s right.” Kira patted me on the head like I was a little girl. “You still think your little slip off the balance beam was because Dmitri kissed me. Usually, we wait to kiss until after the competitions, but he just had to congratulate me on how well I’d competed. Isn’t that right darling?” Kira turned to Dmitri with a sadistic smile.
Dmitri pinched the bridge of his nose and grumbled something in Russian then wrapped his arms around my waist. He turned to the Russian goddess and said through clenched teeth, “Kira, I do believe you’ve met my new girlfriend, Reese Arnett. She’s one of the best gymnasts on Team USA.”
Chapter Ten – Dmitri
Curse Kira Zykina! I wanted to scream. Reese and I had been centimeters away from our first kiss when Kira so rudely interrupted us. With my arm wrapped around Reese’s waist, I pulled her a little closer and glared at Kira, willing her not to mess this up for me.
“Wow, you move on quickly from girl to girl,” Kira said, then pouted her full red lips. “I thought our time together last night meant something to you.”
“Last night?” I gawked. “I saw you for two seconds when we passed each other in the hallway.”
“But the look in your eyes told me everything I needed to know.” Kira reached out and ran one finger down my arm seductively.
“Chto ty delaesh’?” I demanded in Russian, taking a step back and brushing off my arm. “Ne lez’ kuda ne prosyat!” I wanted to know what the heck Kira was doing and told her to stay out of my business.
“Don’t tell her what we did?” Kira responded in English. “Why? Are you and Reese exclusive now? You know I don’t mind sharing you with all your other girlfriends.” Her seductive voice made me cringe.
“That’s not what I said, and you know it,” I insisted, also switching back to English. “I don’t have any other girlfriends.”
“I was your first?” Kira batted her eyelashes and smiled sweetly as if she was flattered. “Wow, I had no idea. You seemed so… experienced.”
“You know what—” Reese pulled herself from my arms and backed away. “I’ll let you finish your lover’s quarrel. We are definitely not exclusive. We are not anything.” She hurried away, quickly getting lost in the crowd. Darn it!
“How dare you!” I glared at Kira and switched back to Russian. “That crossed a line. Do not mess up my chances with Reese again. You know darn well I’ve never done anything with you except kiss. Forget ever doing that again.”
Kira stepped closer and wrapped herself around my waist. “You don’t mean that, my Volchenok. You love kissing me.” She always called me her tiny wolf as if that was going to endear me to her. What man wants to be called tiny?
Grabbing her shoulders, I shoved her aside with just enough force to make her stumble. “Don’t touch me,” I said in English, being sure anyone close enough to have seen her brazen attempt to seduce me could hear me reject her. “And stay away from my girlfriend.”
I lifted onto my toes and scanned the crowd, hoping I might find Reese from a higher vantage point. She was nowhere to be seen. Great. Now what?
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