Chapter Three – Reese
“What is Dmitri Volkov doing talking to Cooper Thomas?” My gaze was drawn to where our men’s team was fumbling around organizing gear and getting acquainted with the space that we’d be hanging out in for the next several weeks. Dmitri and his fellow teammate—I couldn’t remember his name—were shaking hands and smiling and clapping each other’s backs with my teammates. Like they were old chums. Disturbing. I couldn’t help moving closer.
The Bercy Arena was decked out in flags from every nation represented at the Olympics plus sponsorship advertisements, a large square mat for the floor exercises, thicker mats on the platforms for each apparatus, chairs and tables for judges, audiovisual equipment, chairs surrounding the perimeter, and dozens of workers who all seemed essential for pulling together an event this large. Thankfully the male gymnasts on Team USA weren’t far from us.
“Where are you going?” Donna hissed through clenched teeth but followed along.
“I want to see what he’s doing,” I answered, intent to confront Dmitri.
“Volchara, what’s up, dude?” Cooper took Dmitri by the arm in a half-hug, and they clapped each other on the backs.
“Volchara? Seriously?” I snorted a sarcastic laugh. “Is that your nickname?” I had no idea what Volchara meant but I wasn’t going to embarrass myself and ask.
“Well, hello there, beautiful.” Dmitri turned to me with his crooked smirk and captivating eyes. Darn it. Why did he have to get under my skin? He reached forward as if to tuck a lock of hair behind my ear. “You’re looking lovely as ever.”
“Don’t touch me.” I took a step back and narrowed my eyes at him.
“I wouldn’t dream of touching you,” Dmitri said in a sultry voice. There were snickers around the group of guys.
“More like he can’t stop dreaming of touching you,” his friend said from behind a fake cough. There were more snickers from the guys. I was morbidly embarrassed.
“Well, that’s the only way he’s ever going to touch me is in his dreams.” I folded my arms across my chest and huffed.
“If that’s the case then I’m looking forward to tonight,” Dmitri said, then faked a yawn. “Is it bedtime yet?” All the guys laughed.
“Ugh!” I turned with a flip of my ponytail and stomped away from him and his disgusting comrades. Oh yeah, those were my teammates. Traitors.
“Sweet dreams, darling,” Dmitri called out amidst more laughter.
I didn’t even turn around to give him the satisfaction of seeing my reaction.
Chapter Four – Dmitri
“So, which one of you is the wealthiest guy on the team?” I turned to the group and rubbed my hands together in exaggerated anticipation.
The guys from Team USA looked around at one another and most eyes turned to Cooper Thomas. “Me, I guess.” He lifted his hand in a half wave. “Why?”
“Micky and I have a little wager going.” I pointed to Mikhail. “But neither of us has any money, so we were hoping one of you would be willing to donate a—what do you call them? Benjamin Franklin?”
“You want me to loan you a hundred dollars?” Cooper lowered his hand.
“No, I want you to give us a hundred dollars,” I said. “But you need to hold on to the note until one of us wins the bet.”
“What’s the wager?” I could see the gears in Cooper’s head turning and I was sure he’d take the bet once he learned of our plan.
“Micky thinks Reese Arnett will kiss me before the end of the Summer Games.”
The jeers and taunts and laughter erupted around the group.
“Fat chance of that,” one said.
“Good luck, dude.”
“How are you gonna swing that?” another asked. “She hates you.”
“Shoot, I bet he can kiss her by the end of the day,” one of the guys said.
“That’s the thing, though,” I said. “I can’t instigate the kiss, or I lose. She has to kiss me.”
“What if she never kisses you?” Cooper asked.
“Then you keep your hundred dollar note and we head back to Russia empty handed. No girl, and no money.”
“Other than the gold medals that will likely be draped around your neck,” one guy grumbled.
I threw my arm around his shoulder. “None of that negative thinking. Any one of you could beat me.”
“If you break an arm or something,” one guy said. “We all witnessed your all-around scores at Worlds, remember?”
“Eh, that was so last year.” I waved away their compliments, knowing they were right. My starting value on every apparatus was higher than anyone else. I would have to fall or step out of bounds to lose.
“You’re more likely to win the gold than to win the hundred bucks,” Cooper said. “But I’ll get in on your wager. The Summer Games just got a little more competitive.”
I gave him another half-hug handshake and a smile. Yeah, this was going to be fun.
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