The summer games settlin.., p.14
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       The Summer Games: Settling the Score, p.14

           R.S. Grey
 

  “Glad you can have a laugh at my broken heart.”

  “All right, ease up. Just because she doesn’t want to come to dinner doesn’t mean you can’t figure out some other way to spend time with her.”

  I arched a brow. “What do you mean?”

  Over lunch in the food court, he laid out his diabolical plan. It was simple, but brilliant, and for a moment I was concerned that Thom had missed his calling as a Disney villain.

  “You don’t think she’ll tell me to piss off when she shows up?”

  He reached out and cupped my chin. “Wivva face like that?”

  I jerked out of his grasp and punched his shoulder.

  He laughed. “Text her, mate. Let’s see what she says.”

  I grabbed my phone out of my pocket, stood up, and threw my workout bag over my shoulder.

  “What?!” he protested. “You aren’t even going to tell me how she responds?”

  I flipped him off, stuffed my trash into the bin on the way out of the foot court, and tried to decide what exactly I should text Andie. It wasn’t until I’d stepped into the gym that I’d settled on something simple and easy.

  Freddie: Thom and I are having a party at our flat later.

  An hour went by and she hadn’t responded, so I texted her again.

  Freddie: I want you to come.

  Andie: Sorry, we have our second game tomorrow morning. I can’t go out.

  Freddie: I’ll have you in bed—your bed—by 9:00 PM. Swear.

  Andie: Can’t.

  Freddie: I already phoned the Queen and let her know you’ll be in attendance.

  Georgie called then, jarring me out of the conversation with Andie. I ignored the call and let it go to voicemail. A second later, she phoned again. Persistent little bugger.

  Georgie: ANSWER YOUR BLOODY PHONE.

  I deleted her text and instead, replied to Andie.

  Freddie: I’m in flat 1120. Come over round 7:00 PM.

  Andie: Jeez, now I get why we had to formally declare independence from you guys.

  I laughed.

  Freddie: See you then.

  Andie: No you won’t.

  Freddie: 7:00 PM.

  I turned my mobile off and tossed it into my workout bag before she or my sister could reply. After I’d gone through my afternoon workout, I ripped my sweaty clothes off and checked the clock on my bedside table. It was already after 5:30 PM, which meant I didn’t have long to shower and get ready before Andie arrived. Her message said she wouldn’t show, but something told me she was having as hard a time staying away from me as I was from her.

  I showered quickly, lathering body wash over my tired muscles before rinsing them clean. I hadn’t paid attention to the status of the flat when I’d first walked in, but I knew Thom wasn’t always a shining beacon of tidiness. I frequently found his boxers in the dishwasher, and his drinking glasses in the laundry pile. After I hopped out and pulled on a white shirt and jeans, I stood in the living room, horrified at its current condition.

  “When did you get in?” Thom asked from his perch on the couch. He hadn’t been there when I’d arrived back home, but he’d managed to create a mess since then. He sat there, munching on crisps with his feet up on the coffee table. A pile of wrappers surrounded him on the floor and when I glanced over into the kitchen, the sink was full and nearly overflowing with our dishes.

  “She’s nearly going to be here.”

  He flipped the channel on the telly, less than concerned. “Who’s that?”

  “Andie, you twit. Remember the plan?”

  “Right, that. It’s only 6:00 PM.”

  I ripped the remote out of his hand. “And what comes after six, you wanker?”

  He tossed the bag of crisps aside. “Fine, what do you want me to do?”

  I put him to work tidying up the flat, starting with the area near the couch. I washed the dishes as quickly as I could, layering them into the dishwasher in tight stacks. I wiped down the counters and took the rubbish out to the chute in the hallway. When I went back into the flat, there was a distinctive smell I couldn’t get rid of. I went round to the neighbors, begging for a candle or air freshener. A few English girls down the hall had a candle they lent me in exchange for an autograph. I lit it as soon as I returned and marveled at the ability of two grown men to spoil a brand new flat in only a few days.

  “Thom, Jesus. My room doesn’t smell like this. What do you do out here when I’m gone?”

  He held his hands up in innocence. “You know I have a weakness for tuna. And sardines are some of the best sources of—”

  “Sod it, I’m starting to think this was a mistake.”

  The place smelled like a fish market and there was no changing it. I gave up and went back to work tidying up. By the time she was due to arrive, I’d completely forgotten about dinner. My stomach growled, letting me know how much it didn’t appreciate not being fed on time.

  “Mate, do me a favor: will you order something from the food court? I doubt Andie will have eaten and I’m starved.”

  “Anything in particular?”

  I shook my head. “No, but she’s got a match early tomorrow, so something with lots of protein.”

  He went off to his room and I reached for the supplies I’d picked up in the shop on the first floor. They had a small selection of birthday decorations—for the few sad sods who had to celebrate while they were competing in the games—but hopefully it would be just enough to convince Andie not to turn around once she opened the door and discovered I’d lied.

  “Oh, and mate—don’t you dare bring back fish!”

  CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

  Andie

  “ANDIE, YOU’RE IN the way. I can’t see the movie.”

  “Well maybe that comes with the territory when you decide to watch a movie in my closet. Isn’t there a better place?”

  Becca rolled her eyes up at me from her spot on the ground like I was the crazy one. “We can’t very well watch it in our closet—it’s full of cute clothes that can’t get wrinkled.”

  “Why do you have to watch it in a closet at all?” I demanded.

  “It would be sacrilege to watch The Notebook under the glare of the harsh Rio sun,” Kinsley said while drying her tears with one of my shirts.

  Becca nodded. “Plus, this makes it feel like we’re at the movies.”

  “Well I really need to find something to wear,” I said, trying to hold my towel up while also maneuvering around them. The closet was already small, and with the two of them trying to use it as their own personal movie theater, there was no hope for me.

  Kinsley groaned dramatically. “Pause it, Becca. We’ve missed the last five minutes.”

  “Yeah, I’m confused. Did they time travel, or were they old people the whole time?”

  I flipped on the light overhead and the two of them hissed and covered their eyes like zombies seeing the first light of day. “Jesus! Rookies these days,” Kinsley said, reaching past me to try to turn the light back off.

  I held my hand up with a firm, “NO!”

  They sat there, wearing their matching onesies as I tried to rifle through my clothes above their heads. I pulled out a light blue dress and held it up to the light.

  “Not cute,” Becca said.

  “Nuh-uh,” Kinsley agreed.

  I shoved it back on the rack and reached for another one.

  “Worse.”

  Becca nodded. “So much worse.”

  “Wow, film and fashion critics. You guys are very talented.”

  They sat quietly until I pulled out the next dress. It was black and short with spaghetti straps that crisscrossed in the back. I’d worn it so many times that the cotton-blend material had grown just soft enough to feel like pajamas. It was the perfect casual black dress for a party I still wasn’t sure I’d be attending.

  “Winner winner, chicken dinner,” Kinsley said as I held it up to my body. It was even shorter than I remembered.

  “Where are you goi
ng?” Becca asked, fidgeting with the unicorn horn on her hood.

  “Out,” I answered, turning to walk out of the closet in pursuit of my black strapless bra.

  “Out out?” Kinsley asked. “We have a game in the morning!”

  “No. Not out out. I’m staying in the building.”

  Actually, odds were I’d be staying in my room. All day I had gone back and forth on whether or not I wanted to attend Freddie’s party. I wanted to see him and I wanted to make the most of my time in Rio, but I knew it wasn’t a good idea to go. Even if there was a room full of people to buffer the tension between us, that also meant a room full of people to blab to Sophie Boyle.

  “Did you shave? Because that dress is really short…”

  I turned to to find Becca and Kinsley lying on their stomachs at the door of the closet. They were watching me get ready with their heads propped up on their hands and their legs up in the air. They looked like the two kids at the slumber party that you only invited because your mom made you.

  “Yes,” I said, reaching down to confirm. “My legs are smooth.”

  “But your hair…are you going to leave it like that?”

  I’d blown it dry after showering and put it in a loose braid down my back.

  “Kins, you’re literally dressed like a frumpy unicorn. I don’t need any more input on my appearance.”

  “What about your makeup?” Becca asked, kicking her feet back and forth.

  I was five seconds away from murdering the both of them.

  I turned to Becca and smirked. “Guess what? At the end of that movie every—”

  “No!” Becca yelled. “Don’t ruin it.” She shot up off the floor, cradling her laptop.

  Kinsley trailed after her, but she paused at the door and glanced back at me. “Should I even ask where you’re going?”

  I shook my head. “I wouldn’t tell you if you did.”

  “Will you be having a…jolly good time?”

  I smiled and turned away. “Maybe.”

  “I hope you know what you’re doing, Andie.”

  I glanced down to the dress in my hand.

  Yeah, me too.

  I EXPECTED THERE to be music blaring on the eleventh floor, but when I stepped off the elevator, the hallway was quiet. I gripped my phone—the only thing I’d brought with me—and counted each room number I passed. 1101. 1102. Freddie was staying in 1120, and by the time I’d made it to his door, my hands were sweaty and my nerves were shot. I leaned forward and pressed my ear to the door, heard nothing, and cringed when I glanced down at the time. 7:01 PM. Who shows up at a party right when it’s just getting started?? For all I knew, I’d be the first one to arrive.

  I walked past the door a few paces, trying to think of a plan. I could go linger around the gift shop for a few minutes and then head back up, or I could—

  The door to his condo opened.

  “Don’t worry, mate. She’ll show up,” Thom called over his shoulder right before his body collided with mine. He’d been stepping back, not watching where he was going and I’d just turned around, also not paying attention.

  “Blimey! I’m sorry,” he said, reaching out to steady me before I tumbled to the floor. “Told ya, mate!”

  I glanced down the hallway. Could I still make a run for it? Thom’s hand was on my arm, but I could yank it free with a few well-placed judo chops.

  “What’s going—” Freddie’s sentence cut off when he stepped into the doorway and saw me standing there with wide eyes and cold feet. I really wanted to bolt, especially when his brown eyes assessed me from the doorway. He was wearing a cheeky smile across his freshly shaven face, and there were a few strands of brown hair that had fallen down across his forehead. More than anything else in the world, I wanted to step forward and brush them back.

  Instead, I clenched my hands by my side and nodded. “Well, this has been fun. I’m going now.”

  He laughed then, a beautiful sound that made my toes curl inside my Converse.

  “C’mon,” he said, reaching out for my hand. “Thom’s just ordered food for us. He’s headed to go grab it right now.”

  Well it’d just be rude to leave without eating, so I let him usher me in and told myself I wouldn’t stay for longer than four or five hours, or eternity. It was whatever.

  “So this is our place,” he said, extending his arm to encompass the small living room that looked identical to ours. Really everything was the same except for…

  “What’s that smell?” I asked, pinching my nose. “Is that tuna fish?”

  His smile fell. “Thom ate a tuna sandwich for lunch and the bloody thing’s soul is now haunting the whole place.” He let go of my hand so he could walk to the coffee table and pick up the candle burning there. “Here, this should help with the exorcism.”

  I laughed and shook my head. “Really, it’s not bad. It just smells like my meemaw’s house.”

  He smiled quizzically. “What is a meemaw?”

  “Nevermind.”

  “Right, well. I’ve kept my room closed off, so it’s not nearly as bad in there.”

  I quirked a brow. “Subtle.”

  His smile widened.

  “Oh, just come in here and slip under my covers to escape the smell of tuna! Oh, take off those clothes, the odor clings to the fabric!” I mocked. “Is that how you usually do it?”

  “I quite like when you take the piss out of me,” he said, stepping closer.

  I held my hand up to stop him.

  “Wait. Where’s Thom gone?” He had apparently slipped by me during all the madness. “And wait, where are the other guests? Am I seriously the first person to get here?”

  He rubbed his chin. “Right, well, about that. Like I’ve said, Thom’s gone to get the food. And, well, it’s set to be a small party.”

  I frowned. “How small?”

  “Well…quite.”

  He dropped the candle on the kitchen table and whipped around the corner to grab something sitting on the counter. He held it behind his back as he walked back toward me, and then when he was just a few feet away, he lifted it up and slipped it around his head. A bright red paper party hat, sized for a five-year-old, sat sideways on his thick brown hair.

  I burst out laughing.

  “And look, here, this is for you,” he said, handing me one of those cheap paper party horns you blow at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

  “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

  “I promised a party,” he said, stepping forward and holding the party horn out for me to take. “Here’s the party.”

  I shook my head, grabbed it, and blew. A sad “wooooo” sounded from the end before it rolled back toward my mouth.

  That sad, weak sound made the dam burst; we couldn’t catch our breaths for what felt like an hour. We laughed until tears filled the corner of my eyes and even then, I couldn’t stop.

  “Why’d you make up a fake party?” I asked, wiping beneath my eyes.

  “To get you here.”

  That one sentence sobered me up fast. His brown eyes met mine and I watched his wide smile slowly fade into a flat, nervous line. “I knew you weren’t keen on dinner, but this is different. This is an intimate soirée.”

  I dropped the party horn on the couch and took a shaky breath. “It’s cute, but it’s still not a good idea, Freddie. You kissed me yesterday in the middle of the training center. What if someone had taken a photo of that?”

  “So what if they had? I want to be with you. I want to be kissing you.”

  He’d come to stand directly in front of me, leaning down so his gaze was level with mine. His hands gripped my arms, so strong and powerful I couldn’t have pulled away even if I’d tried.

  “I’m putting a stop to my betrothal, Andie. I’ve already talked to my mum and Georgie. It was all a sham and I should have seen that from the beginning. I just need to talk to Caroline and explain that I’m not going to roll over and marry some girl I don’t love.”

  “Good.” I no
dded, unable to pull my gaze from his mouth. “I want you to be with someone you can love.”

  His eyes fell to my lips.

  “What if I want to be with you?”

  My gut clenched. “I’m currently…unavailable.”

  The edge of his mouth perked up like I’d just declared a challenge he couldn’t pass up.

  He bent forward and cradled my neck in his hand, bending low to whisper in my ear. “You didn’t appear to be unavailable the other day.” I dug my fingertips into his forearms and tried to form some kind of coherent response, but choppy stutters weren’t enough to deter him.

  “Freddie…I-I…”

  He took my earlobe between his teeth, just gently enough to tilt my world. I squeezed my eyes closed.

  “Tell me you don’t want this.”

  Obviously, I couldn’t. I wasn’t that selfless. I wasn’t even a little selfless. I needed Freddie so much my body hummed, and desire surged through me in time with the beat of my heart.

  Stop.

  Thump.

  Walk away.

  Thump.

  This won’t end well.

  Thump.

  Who.

  Fucking.

  Cares.

  I turned and crashed my lips against his.

  “Fuck,” he hissed.

  He gripped my loose braid and pulled me closer, tugging me flush against him. I could feel how hard he was. This was it. This desire tainting the air between us would finally see the light of day. I dug my fingers into his powerful back and he picked me up, forcing my legs around his waist. I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him, hard.

  The front door opened then; I could hear Thom’s voice out in the hallway. I broke my mouth from Freddie’s, expecting him to drop me, but he took three steps into the bedroom off to the side of the living room and kicked the door shut behind him.

  His bedroom.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

  Freddie

 
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