I wanted to slap that jerk across the face. What was Jordan doing? Trying to prove a point? Was this how he felt when I flirted with other guys? Because this wasn’t cool. I felt a tiny bit responsible for encouraging him to flirt with Chelley, but I didn’t think he’d take things this far. By the time we reached Beijing he’d probably either replace me as his partner or propose marriage to my best friend. Best girl friend anyway. Jordon was my best guy friend. Okay, my best friend, period.
Too bad he didn’t think of me as more than a friend. His response to me putting my hand on his knee was proof of that. Instead of lacing our hands together, he doubled down on his flirting with Chelley.
They mostly talked about skating and shared ideas for improving their skills. Jordan made it a point to include me in the conversation as much as possible, but he and Chelley got more and more comfortable with one another.
Chelley was almost two years older than us and in her freshman year of college. She was also beautiful and confident. With long, golden hair and royal blue eyes, she was the epitome of the girl-next-door all grown up. I couldn’t compete. My fire engine red hair was curly and unruly and required work to tie up into a bun that was acceptable enough for cameras and media appearances. I didn’t stand a chance against her. What was I thinking setting them up?
Not that I should care. Jordan was just my pairs figure skating partner, not a potential boyfriend. He didn’t see me as anything more than that. Even if I did try to flirt with him or suggest we date, our chemistry could be compromised if he didn’t reciprocate my feelings.
Wait, I didn’t have feelings beyond friendship for Jordan.
Then why was I so upset by him flirting with Chelley? Why was I jealous? I should want him to be happy.
Taking matters into my own hands, I feigned sleepiness and rested my head on Jordan’s shoulder. As I predicted, he wrapped his arms around me and pulled me close, helping me get more comfortable. He almost seemed to welcome my snuggling, as he should. We were, after all, inseparable. Did that mean we were meant to be together as more than friends? Or was this more like how twins would be closer than best friends but obviously not in a romantic way?
Did I want us to be like twins? Or was I interested in more? Was he? Sometimes it felt like Jordan was just waiting around for me to figure out that we belonged together.
Me resting in Jordan’s arms drove Chelley to don headphones and stick a pillow behind her head. Jordan tucked his pillow against the window, and we adjusted my pillow so that my head was practically on his lap.
“This doesn’t count as sleeping together, does it?” I asked playfully, settling into place.
“I hope not,” he said. “Kinda hoped our first time would be a little more private than this?
“Our first time?” I stilled at his implication but added some humor to lighten the moment. “Planning to join the mile-high club?”
“Nah.” He shrugged and settled onto his pillow. “Like I said, I want more privacy.”
I didn’t know how to respond to that, so I just didn’t. Both of us were a long way from having a first time with anyone, much less each other. I’d barely even kissed any guys. They didn’t often get more than a few dates before either they got sick of having Jordan around all the time, or I started comparing them to Jordan. None of them measured up. I wondered what it would be like to kiss Jordan.
Those were my last thoughts before my mind quieted to the hum of the jet engines and I relaxed into his arms.
Twenty-three hours was a long time to be stuck together on airplanes. With three stops, plus layovers, the entire trip was more like forty-two hours. We were exhausted by the time we stumbled into the Beijing Daxing International Airport and took a shuttle over to the Olympic Village.
That woke us up. The Olympic Village was legendary. And different for each host city. With twenty residential buildings and over two thousand beds, the Olympic Village in Beijing was just like it sounded: more like a village than a hotel.
The complex had every possible amenity required for an international army of Olympic athletes. Dozens of cafeterias, weight rooms, medical facilities, hair and nail salons, a yoga studio, swimming pools and hot tubs.
The big draw for meeting up with other athletes was the ski lodge. At least that’s what people called the big room with the central fireplace. There were pool tables, ping pong tables, dart boards, and a small restaurant on each side of the room that resembled bars but with health food instead of alcohol. People could order juices and smoothies and sweet potato fries and wraps while sitting around little bar tables exchanging phone numbers with members of the opposite sex.
Rumors flew about hook ups and secret rendezvous and there were apparently hundreds of condoms available for the taking. Jordan and I were a little young for that. Plus, like he’d said, this wasn’t exactly the private environment either of us would want for a first time. I kind of wanted to wait until marriage for my first time, and that was many years from now.
Still, it was fun to watch the dynamics, and talk with friends we hadn’t seen since Nationals, or Worlds, or people from other teams and other countries.
I caught site of Gil Snider again and gave him a shy little wave. He smiled and winked at me then turned his attention back to the gaggle of girls surrounding him. I didn’t stand a chance compared to all of them.
Then I caught the eye of Thomas Lamb and I stopped short. He was looking right at me from where he was leaning against a wall beam made of some exotic wood that curved up to a cathedral dome around the central fireplace. Floor to ceiling windows on either side of the beam drew the eye away from the lone figure that he was, almost camouflaging him in plain sight.
I noticed him, and he noticed me. He raised his eyebrows seductively and his eyes roamed down my body and back up. I could almost see his imagination piercing right through my parka and skintight leggings. Might have to reconsider that waiting for marriage thing.
I knew the minute Jordan saw Thomas flirting with me because his hand flew to my waist protectively. Or possessively. Jordan was either jealous of Thomas or threatened by him. That or overprotective of me.
Thomas didn’t seem to let Jordan’s closeness deter him. He barely glanced at my partner’s connection as he pushed himself away from the wall beam and headed our way.
“Good evening, Lara,” Thomas said in a sultry voice, completely ignoring Jordan. “Congratulations on Nationals. Loved your triple toe loop. Smooth landing.”
“Thank you.” I tucked a lock of my hair behind my ear, ignoring Jordan’s not-so-subtle squeeze to my waist. “Congratulations on your win, also. You’re so… fast.”
Thomas leaned closer to speak softly. “Some would say I’m… too fast.”
“Who would say a thing like that?” I asked with a giggle.
Thomas glanced briefly at Jordan then met my gaze again. “Can I buy you a juice? They don’t have anything stronger than that around here.”
Not that I was old enough, but I didn’t point that out. “Sure.” I ignored Jordan’s sorry attempt to grasp hold of the waistband of my leggings to hold me back from walking away, and I followed Thomas Lamb over to the little restaurant.
(As always, feedback is greatly appreciated. -Julie)
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