Chapter One – Reese
“There he is,” I stopped in my tracks and Donna almost plowed me over. “That jerk.”
“When are you going to forgive him?” Donna asked with impatience and indifference. Didn’t she even care about how he’d treated me at World Championships? “That was, like, months ago.”
“Never. I will never forgive him.” I stuck my nose in the air and kept walking, not even waiting for her to keep up. The nearly empty fifteen thousand seats of the Bercy Arena had stopped intimidating me hours ago, and the floor of the arena was staged similar to every gymnastics competition I’d attended all my life. The only thing that had changed since Donna and I excused ourselves to the locker rooms and returned to the floor was that the Russian men’s gymnastics team had arrived. Ugh.
Team USA had arrived to the arena along with other teams, most of whom were amiable and excited to become reacquainted. The Olympic Games were times of celebration. Sure, we were competitors, but we could appreciate each other’s talent and accomplishments. My only exception was the men’s team of the Russian Olympic Committee.
Dmitri Volkov was the cockiest, most arrogant, most talented jerk on the ROC. He’d also made me look like a complete fool during World Championships last year. He’d embarrassed me on international television and had never even come close to apologizing.
The smirk on Dmitri’s face when he noticed me enter the arena told me his taunting was far from over. I was determined to make him pay for what he’d done. In a non-violent, ladylike way, of course. I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize my eligibility, but I wasn’t going to let him get away with what he’d done either.
I would not let his sensual brown eyes draw me in again. His thick, playfully tousled light brown hair, which I swear he highlighted in a salon or something, was not going to tempt me to run my fingers through the strands again. I would not get perplexed by the sculptured upper arms and washboard abs that showed through his jersey as if the shirt had been painted on. No, he was not going to distract me again just so that his girlfriend could beat me on the balance beam. I wouldn’t make that mistake twice.
Two could play at this game and we were standing on the largest stage in the world of sports. The stage that was set every four years in preparation for the most talented athletes across the globe to convene in the competition of a lifetime. We were at the Summer Olympics in Paris. If he wanted to play games, he’d come to the correct place. This time I was determined to win.
Chapter Two – Dmitri
“Ooh, she is going to skin you alive,” Mikhail said in a low voice through the side of his mouth. “Look at the daggers flying out of her pretty blue eyes.”
“Those pretty blue eyes can see themselves right back out of this arena,” I answered, wondering why we were keeping our volume down since we were the only two guys within earshot who were speaking Russian. Even if she were close enough, Reese wouldn’t understand what we were saying. “They are not going to distract me again.”
“Like that poster on the ceiling in your bedroom?” Mikhail teased. “That was very nice of the International Olympic Committee to produce posters of the Team USA women’s gymnastics team just so that you could have something to fantasize with before bed each night.”
“Pity they all have leotards on,” I confirmed with a smirk. “Other than that, yeah, the poster looks great on my ceiling.”
“You’re a sick man, Dmitri.” Mikhail held up his fist for me to bump knuckles, which I did, willingly, in a show of solidarity. “You ever gonna ask her out again?”
“Heck no,” I said with a gasp. “Like you said, she would skin me alive. She will never forgive me for what I did.”
“Yeah, that was stupid, Lokh. You deserve anything she dishes your way and more,” Mikhail said. “Might as well just chain you to the balance beam and let her take some shots.”
“Throw away the key to those chains,” I said with an exaggerated sigh, knowing that blonde beauty could tie me up and hold me hostage and I would gladly embrace Stockholm Syndrome.
“I don’t know, man, I wager she’ll kiss you by the end of the Summer Games.”
“Why would I want to take that wager? It would be to my benefit for you to win. I’m sure I can find a way to kiss her.”
“No, not you kiss her. I’m wagering that she’ll kiss you. Meaning she has to take the initiative. If you kiss her, you lose. If she kisses you, I lose. What do you say?” Mikhail held out his hand to shake.
“Let me get this straight, I have to somehow trick Reese into kissing me without me making the first move?” I asked.
“What’s the wager?”
“A pollitra of vodka,” Mikhail said.
“Vodka? Have you forgotten we’re at the Summer Games? If we got caught with vodka we’d be kicked out of here and I won’t win a gold medal, or a date with Reese.”
“Okay, so make it a hundred-dollar bill.”
“Where am I going to get American currency?”
“Maybe from your American girlfriend,” he said with playful sarcasm.
“She is not my girlfriend,” I mumbled. “I thought we just established that.”
“So, make friends with some of the guys on Team USA and tell them you need to get your hands on one of those hundred-dollar bills. Tell them it’s for a wager. Americans throw around baksy like it’s not worth a loaf of bread.”
“They can buy a hundred loaves of bread with a hundred dollars in America,” I said.
“Must be nice,” Mikhail said, more wistful than I’d considered. Micky’s family barely scraped by while mine had enough extra that they planned to send me to college in America. I hadn’t told Mikhail that yet. I was waiting until after the Games.
In that moment I made it my goal to give Mikhail the baksy, win or lose. All I needed to do now was secure myself a hundred-dollar bill. Oh, yeah, and kiss Reese Arnett. I was pretty sure swindling a hundred off some gullible athlete from Team USA would be the easier of the two feats.
Click here for more chapters in Meet Me at the Summer Games
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