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       Out of Bounds (The Summer Games #2), p.1

           R.S. Grey
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Out of Bounds (The Summer Games #2)


  The Summer Games: Out of Bounds

  Copyright © 2016 R.S. Grey

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, including electronic or mechanical, without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

  This book is a piece of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

  This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return it to the seller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

  Published: R.S. Grey 2016

  authorrsgrey@gmail.com

  Editing: Editing by C. Marie

  Proofreading: Jennifer at JaVa Editing

  Cover Design: R.S. Grey

  Cover Model: Joseph Cannata

  For Natasha

  Prologue

  Brie

  Scalding water seared my skin. I should have reached back to turn the shower nozzle colder, but I hesitated. My muscles ached from my workout and for the moment, the pulsing heat offered a sweet escape from the mounting soreness. I hunched forward another inch and let the water drip between my shoulder blades and down my spine. I lathered a loofa with body wash and dragged it down across my neck and breasts, easing the tension from my body as I squeezed my eyes closed. It’d been another long day in the gym and I had new bruises to show for it.

  It was the beginning of summer and the Olympic games were right around the corner. I had nothing to look forward to but days spent in the gym, sharpening my skills for Rio. For the last few years, my life had followed the same routine: I woke up early, scarfed down breakfast, and caught the 8:00 AM bus that stopped a block away from the tiny one-bedroom apartment I shared with my mom. Thirty minutes later, the bus would drop me off across town in the ritzy area of Austin where wealthy families could afford the exorbitant fees for gymnastics classes. I’d carve out a spot for myself in the gym and spend my day training in solitude, too advanced for even the elite level classes. I didn’t mind though; it was easier if I kept to myself and focused on my own skills. At the end of the day, I’d ride the bus back home and crash, too tired to worry about anything other than nursing my aching muscles.

  It was monotonous to say the least, but that day had been slightly different, made interesting by the announcement made by my coach, Igor, in the middle of my floor rotation. He’d pulled me aside and I’d focused on his grim expression. I’d barely comprehended his words the first time, but when he repeated the news, I stilled.

  “Coach Winter was hospitalized last night. He won’t be the head coach in Rio anymore.”

  Coach Winter was the most famous women’s gymnastics coach in the Unites States, a household name even to those who didn’t follow the sport. He had filled the head coach position for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team for the last thirty years, shaping young gymnasts and helping them win gold for their country. He’d been there for the Athens games, the London games—all of them.

  I’d only worked with him a few times. His gym was an hour north of Austin and I didn’t have the means to drive there every day for workouts. Still, it had always been known he would be coaching me for the games in Rio.

  “The USGA has already appointed a new coach to fill his spot,” Igor continued.

  My eyes widened at the news. “So soon?”

  He nodded.

  “Is it you?” I asked, hopeful.

  He shook his head. “Erik Winter, his son. Turns out, you and the rest of the team will leave for Seattle to train with him for a month before you head down to the games.”

  The news had come as a shock, considering there were already plans in place. The rest of the team and I were expected to train with Coach Winter at his gym in North Austin for a month leading up to the games. We were expected to stay on his property and fly out to Rio from there. Now—suddenly—we were going to Seattle to train with his son? A coach I’d never met?

  I turned around and let the hot water run down my chest, dipping the loofah down across my stomach and thighs. I closed my eyes and tried to recall facts about Coach Winter’s son, but I came up blank. Truthfully, I hadn’t even realized Coach Winter had a son. During the few times I’d been around him, he’d never once mentioned him.

  Erik Winter.

  I replayed the name in my head as I washed off and stepped out of the shower. I wrapped myself up in an old towel. It smelled like lilacs—the same scent my mother had washed our clothes in for the last twenty years—but my eyes caught on the fraying edges. Soon, we wouldn’t be able to ignore how threadbare it was.

  My mother was still at work so I had our bedroom to myself. I tightened the towel across my chest and fired up the ancient laptop we kept on a small desk beneath the window. The heavy curtain was drawn, keeping out the light; it was better that way. The view of the dilapidated apartment complex and our less than savory neighbors was better left to the imagination.

  The internet browser was already pulled up on the computer as I took a seat; I’d been looking at my bank account the night before and had forgotten to close the tab before heading to bed. Even though I tried to avoid it, my eyes still caught on the account balance frozen on the screen: $467.32.

  I closed the tab, ignored the dread filling my stomach, and typed Erik’s name into the Google search bar. I was curious about my new coach.

  It wasn’t hard to find information about his gym, Seattle Flyers. It was one of the most well-known training facilities in the nation. There were articles highlighting Seattle Flyers’ rise to notoriety, the gymnasts Erik had coached, and the type of training one could expect at his world-class facility. Yet, there was hardly any information on Erik himself.

  I gathered from a Wikipedia page that he was 29, unmarried, and an ex-gymnast. Beyond that, there was nothing.

  I clicked over to the images page, expecting the same result, but sprinkled in among photos of his gym, I found a single professional headshot dated back a few months. I clicked to expand the image and the moment his face filled my screen, my gut clenched and I tightened the towel across my chest. I’m not sure what I’d been expecting—maybe someone more similar to the grizzled Soviet-era coaches I’d had growing up—but the man I saw staring back at me made my stomach clench and my heart pound a heavy rhythm against my breastbone. I let myself linger over his features, inhaling his ink-black hair and sharp jaw before settling on a pair of blue eyes that seemed to reach right through the computer screen and see me, alone and naked, still wrapped in my towel from my shower.

  Shit.

  I exited out of the page so fast I nearly broke the mouse, and then I stared at the blank computer screen, trying to slow my heart. When I blinked, I could still see the remnants of his face burned into my vision. His appearance was shocking, unnerving. I tried to shake away the feeling, repositioning myself on the chair and adjusting my towel.

  Igor had explained that I needed to book a ticket for Seattle, that I would be leaving in two weeks to train with Erik, but after seeing him, I wanted to protest. Surely they’d made the wrong choice. He was too young, too handsome, too much.

  Voices outside the apartment window drew me out of my thoughts and I loosened the fist I had clenched in my lap.

  What does it matter that Erik looks like that? A coach was a coach, and if the Gymnastics Association had picked him to take over for his dad, then I’d trust them.

/>   As if to further drive home that point, I had an email waiting for me in my inbox from a representative of the Association. There was an information packet attached that was generic and short. It outlined where we would be training in Seattle and what kind of accommodations Erik would have for us. I skimmed through the packet briefly; the only detail I paid close attention to was the date and time I was supposed to arrive in Seattle.

  June 29th at 2:00 PM.

  I looked up flights to Seattle-Tacoma, and the only options that fit the itinerary were completely out of my budget. Way, way out of my budget. My only option was to book the earliest, cheapest flight of the day, which would put me in Seattle at 8:30 AM. I booked the early flight and then clicked the hyperlinked email address I’d found in the information packet. My hands shook as I typed, though I tried to convince myself they didn’t. This would be my first interaction with my new coach and for some reason, I wanted to come across as mature and confident. I wanted to impress him.

  To: EricWinter@SeattleFlyers.com

  From: BrieLWatson@Gmail.com

  Subject: Early Arrival

  Hello,

  My name is Brie Watson and I look forward to training with you this summer. I’ve just received word about your dad and I’m very sorry to hear he is sick. I’ve only had the honor of working with him a few times, but he is a wonderful coach. I’ll keep him in my thoughts, as well as you and your family.

  I know you must have a lot on your plate, but I just read the information packet and saw that I am scheduled to arrive at 2:00 PM on the 29th. Unfortunately, the only flights still available are in the morning, so I will be arriving to your house earlier than expected, around 9:00 AM. I hope that’s not too much of a problem.

  Looking forward to working with you,

  Brie

  Chapter One

  Erik

  I woke up ten minutes before my alarm was set to go off. 8:20 AM—early, and yet I felt like I was running late as I tossed the blanket aside and stood to stretch. My head pounded. The fourth beer at the bar the night before had been a mistake; the shots had been plain stupid. I could blame it all on the girl sleeping in my bed—the brunette beauty I’d met at the bar. She was wild, loud, and drunk, shoving drinks in front of me like she was hoping to take advantage of the situation. I’d let her; I’d gone to the bar to get drunk so I could escape the anxiety mounting inside. The girl sleeping on the opposite side of my bed had proved a good distraction—a loud distraction.

  She’d been at the bar to celebrate her birthday. Or had it been her bachelorette party? I blinked and wiped away sleep from my eyes just before my gaze landed on the crinkled sash lying on the ground beside her dress. She’d worn it the entire night, and when I reached down to pick it up, I sighed. BIRTHDAY QUEEN.

  I dropped the sash back onto her dress and cleared my throat, hoping she’d stir in her sleep. Nothing. The sheet barely covered her naked body, and while I could appreciate her supple curves and the fact that her breasts were nearly spilling out from the top of the sheet, I wasn’t looking for round two. I walked closer and patted her shoulder.

  “Hey…” I realized I didn’t know her name. “Birthday Queen, wake up.”

  Still nothing. If anything, she fell deeper into sleep. Christ. I turned and headed for the bathroom, purposely leaving the door open as I brushed my teeth and ran the faucet. I splashed water on my face and tried to will my headache away. You’re not hungover. You didn’t drink too much last night.

  I made as much noise as possible as I got ready for the day, but by the time I’d finished, she still hadn’t moved.

  Fuck it.

  I headed down to the kitchen for coffee, too tired and hungover to worry about her. The newspaper from the day before was still sitting on the island where I’d left it untouched. The paper had hand-delivered it, ensuring I saw my name and photo splashed across the front page. It was just a local Seattle paper—hardly the New York Times—but it was intimidating.

  New Winter for Summer Games

  Gymnastics giant steps down during health scare, son vaults into top job

  I turned my back to it as I reached for my old coffee grinder. It chopped beans just fine, but it sounded like a spaceship with a blown muffler. I let it run for a few seconds longer than necessary, nearly blowing out my eardrums in the process, and then I listened for any sort of stirring from upstairs. Nada. I should have checked her pulse.

  I didn’t usually need one-night stands to wake up and leave at the crack of dawn, but it was a big day. I needed her gone before the rest of the team showed up in a few hours.

  The team.

  Five girls.

  Five teenage girls invading my space for the next month in preparation for the games in Rio.

  It was an idea I hadn’t quite wrapped my head around. The position as the head coach of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team had been uncontested for the last thirty years. My father had held the job for a year longer than I’d been alive and now here I was, poised to take over for him whether he liked it or not.

  My father’s medical leave had come as a shock to everyone in the gymnastics world. The team had already qualified for the games, competed in Worlds, and developed relationships with my father, but when his heart had put him in the hospital, the committee had been forced to scramble to replace him.

  I wasn’t their first choice, but in the end I was the best choice. I had experience in both training as an Olympic athlete and coaching Olympic athletes. My gym in Seattle was the best place to train on the west coast and on top of that, I already had the infrastructure in place. I had a guesthouse and a small gym on my property where the girls could do their early morning workouts. For practice, we’d convene in my Seattle gym where they’d have uninterrupted time to work on their routines for Rio.

  For one month, I’d push them harder than they’d ever been pushed, and they’d hate me for it, but in the end, I knew they’d come back from Rio with gold.

  “There you are.”

  I turned to find Birthday Queen posing on the last stair wearing one of my shirts as a dress. Property of U.S. Men’s Gymnastics Team 2004. She must have dug deep into my dresser to find it; that thing hadn’t seen the light of day in years. She pinched the shirt between her thumb and forefinger and pulled it away from her body.

  “Were you really an Olympic gymnast?” She seemed surprised by the notion. “You don’t really look like you have the body type.” She dragged her gaze across my broad chest, down over my sweatpants. “You’re really tall.”

  I’d heard the same thing my entire life. I shook my head, staring down at the words on her shirt before turning back to the coffee grinder. “No. I wasn’t an Olympic gymnast.”

  My answer probably confused her more, but I didn’t feel like explaining it.

  “Listen, I’ve got to head into town for a few errands…”

  “That’s cool,” she replied, unfazed. “Want to get dinner or something later?”

  I thought of the team.

  “Dinner probably isn’t an option for a few months.”

  “Months?” she asked, confused.

  “Listen, do you want me to call you an Uber or something?”

  She finally understood. “No, it’s cool. I’ll have my friend come pick me up.”

  She spun on her heels and headed back up the stairs, presumably to change back into her clothes and stuff my old t-shirt back into a drawer, forgotten once again. I made two cups of coffee, poured hers in a Styrofoam cup, and set it beside a granola bar. After I made sure she’d see it on her way back down the stairs, I reached for my own cup of coffee and the rolled-up newspaper I’d been avoiding.

  It was a cold morning, foggy and dark, but the slight chill in the air woke up my senses as I stepped out onto the porch. I nearly reached back inside for a jacket, but I took a few sips of the coffee instead. It warmed me from the inside out as I leaned against the wooden banister and pulled the thin rubber band off the newspaper. I knew it wouldn’t do m
e any good to read it—thus far, I’d ignored every article and news story they’d aired about me—but this time curiosity won.

  I whipped open the paper and found the article staring back at me. I folded down the bottom half of the page where they’d blown up a photo of me from my time as an elite gymnast, then started from the first line of the article.

  With just over a month remaining before American athletes pack their reds, whites, and blues and head southeast toward Rio de Janeiro, a handful of Olympians are suddenly gathering in the northwest. The emergency summit is U.S. Gymnastics’ response to the surprise announcement of perennial coach Filip Winter’s indefinite leave of absence for an undisclosed medical condition. At a press conference Tuesday, the committee revealed that Winter’s son Erik, 29, would not only be taking the reins in Rio, but would also be hosting the newly inherited team at his Seattle-based gym during the weeks leading up to competition.

  “Obviously changing leadership so close to the Olympics is hardly ideal,” committee President Sandra Bixby said. “However, I have the utmost confidence in Coach Erik Winter and I look forward to seeing the team grow together in Seattle.”

  Contrary to the committee’s words of support, sources indicate many gymnastics insiders were unhappy with the selection.

  “It’s nepotism, clear and simple,” said one ESPN pundit. “The man’s father runs the program for 30 years, steps down, and within a day his son’s got the job? What is this, North Korea?”

  Contrary to allegations of familial favoritism, it soon became clear that the largest source of opposition to Erik Winter’s appointment is actually his ailing father. A source close to the family made it clear that the elder Winter lamented his son’s “inexperience” and described him as “smart, but ultimately a quitter.”

  The scathing words come from a man who is no stranger to success. Filip Winter competed in the 1964 Olympics, leading a Swedish team to all-around gold. Subsequently, he immigrated to the United States to open a training center in Austin, Texas. Since the 1970s, Filip and his wife Sarah have consistently produced Olympic-quality athletes year after year. This list includes Erik, although he was forced to retire and withdraw from the Olympic team in 2004 due to a chronic shoulder injury. Perhaps it was Erik’s decision to retire that kicked off the decade of iciness between father and son.

 

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