Out of bounds the summer.., p.17
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       Out of Bounds (The Summer Games #2), p.17

           R.S. Grey

  At practice that day, she walked up and mounted the beam, nailing the Mitchell turn that would help contribute to her high start value in Rio. Her tight, slender body was made for the balance beam. She used her flexibility to her advantage, performing skills most gymnasts would never even try. She bent forward and touched her hands to the beam for a standing split, tipping her leg another inch higher in the air and then dropping it low to continue her choreography.


  She reacted to my voice, stilling for a moment; she hadn’t realized I was watching her. She recovered quickly, flipping forward into an Arabian, landing, and connecting it to a wolf jump. Her body was constantly in motion. Her toned arms stretched overhead, and I watched her chest rise and fall under her blue leotard. Her back arched and her knees bent as she propelled herself into a back handspring-layout-layout. She was light on her feet, barely touching the beam between skills. She landed gracefully on the other side and a small triumphant smile dotted her lips. Then, she was off, slipping easily into the next skill.

  It’d been weeks since she’d arrived in Seattle and her beauty on beam still never ceased to amaze me. I’d never watched someone like her before. Her long legs were mesmerizing and when she dismounted, stuck her landing, and looked to me for direction, I realized I had nothing to say. I was speechless.

  I swallowed and turned without a word. She didn’t need my praise; that confident smile said it all. She and I both knew there was a pile of gold medals waiting for her in Rio.

  “That’s it!?” she called as I walked away. “No critiques?”

  I ignored her and kept walking so she wouldn’t see the smile I couldn’t stifle.

  Chapter Twenty-Three


  The more Erik ignored me, the more intensely I craved his attention. I didn’t know if it was the hot tub incident or the phone call with his grandfather, but the last few days leading up to Rio, he didn’t just overlook me, he seemed to have forgotten I even existed. I stole glances at him in the gym, expecting to find him staring back at me, pining as much as I was, but that wasn’t the case.

  I’d had plenty of time to think about it (considering we hadn’t fought in days), and I decided he knew exactly what he was doing. He was treating me like I was just one of the girls on the team. He split his time evenly between us, not giving me a minute more, and that was the root of the problem. Had he been neglecting my training or ignoring my questions, I could have called him out and demanded he give me equal treatment—but no. He watched my routines and critiqued us all with cold indifference. It was driving me fucking insane.

  He’d seen me naked! I’d baked him croissants! I’d endeared myself to his extended family! It wasn’t fair that I was the only one boiling up inside. I needed to know I wasn’t alone. I needed one sign that he cared, something that told me he hadn’t completely forgotten about me, something I could hold on to in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep and visions of him hot and sweaty after his run replayed in my mind.

  “Seems like you and Erik have worked out your differences,” Molly said, kicking her feet up on the coffee table beside me. “Just in time, too, considering we leave for Rio in two days.”

  I shrugged.

  “I mean, he’s been acting normal in the gym,” she continued. “No fire and brimstone.”

  I closed my eyes and let my head fall back against the top of the couch. Was it so wrong that I craved his cruelty? His tongue lashed like a whip when he was angry and yelling, but I’d grown to like the pain, if only to serve as proof that I stood apart in some way to him.

  “Where are the other girls?” I asked, aware of how quiet it was in the house.

  “Rosie is on the phone with her parents and Lexi is out taking her ballet class.”

  I nodded. “Where’s June?”

  “Up in her room, I think.”

  A knock sounded on the front door.

  “Not it!” I exclaimed.

  Molly groaned and tossed her ice pack onto the coffee table before standing to answer the door. I figured it was Lexi, home from ballet, but then I heard Erik’s deep voice on the other side of the threshold.

  “Tell Brie to dress for yoga and meet me out front in five minutes.”

  She turned to glance at me over her shoulder. “Uh, Brie…”

  “I heard him.”

  I was conflicted. I’d just finished dinner and had been working up the energy to head up, shower, and slip into my pajamas. I was exhausted from practice and the last thing I wanted to do was take a stupid yoga class, but I’d spent the last hour whining to myself about getting individual attention and now it was staring me in the face.

  I pushed off the couch, ignored my aching muscles, and took the stairs two at a time. Most of my clothes were already packed for Rio, but I pulled out a black sports bra that matched my favorite pair of yoga pants. The straps were thin and crisscrossed over my shoulder blades, offering just enough support that I didn’t need to pair it with a tank top. I tossed my wild hair into a braid and didn’t even bother glancing in the mirror. I wasn’t trying to win any pageants.

  I tossed a t-shirt on for the ride over and then trotted back down the stairs. Molly was sitting on the couch, scrolling through her phone.

  “Good luck,” she called as I pulled the door open.

  “If I’m not back in an hour, call the cops.”

  She laughed as I stepped out onto the porch. Erik was sitting in the driver’s seat of his truck, waiting for me with his gaze focused out through the windshield. I took in his profile, inhaling the smooth skin across his hard jaw. There’d been stubble there in the gym earlier, and for some reason the fact that he’d shaved since then sent a shiver down my spine.

  He didn’t offer any greeting when I slid into the passenger side; he just shifted into drive and pulled away from the guesthouse.

  “I could have called for a ride,” I said, chancing a glance in his direction.

  His brows were tugged together in thought, but he didn’t offer any response.

  “…or I could have waited for Lexi to get back with the Jeep,” I continued.

  Silence filled the cab of the truck. Clearly, he didn’t feel like talking.

  “What a pleasant chauffeur I have today.”

  I crossed my arms and stared out the passenger side window. Erik, meanwhile, sat like a brooding statue. I’d straddled him right where he sat, on that seat. I’d felt how hard he was. How can so much have changed since then?

  The yoga studio he picked for me was down the street from Seattle Flyers and when we pulled in, Erik parked beside the only other car left in the lot. I wanted to ask where the other people for the class were, but he wouldn’t have answered me anyway. I followed him into the small building, immediately hit with the smell of lavender coming from the diffuser on the check-in desk.

  Behind the counter, a brunette sat working on her laptop. When she noticed us walk in, a wide smile spread across her full lips.


  Oh boy, she was really glad to see Erik—so glad, in fact, she pushed off her stool and rounded the counter to wrap him in a tight hug. Surprisingly, he didn’t pull away. He’d hug her, but he couldn’t even talk to me. Very mature. When she pulled away, she kept her hand on his arm as she turned her gaze to me. Her beauty punched me in the gut.

  “You must be Brie! I’m so honored to meet you. I’m Kira.”

  There was no sense of annoyance as she reached out to hug me as well. She obviously wasn’t threatened by my presence as much as I was by hers. She oozed sensuality. Though she was tall and toned, there were still curves to her—and I mean curves. Her black tank top was tight, doing a wonderful job of enhancing her already killer body, and her legs went on for days. Her long brown hair hung over one shoulder, but as she directed us to the cubbies beside the studio room where we could stash our shoes, she swung it into a loose bun on the top of her head. A small tattoo came into view on the back of her neck. The thin calligraphy ra
n down her spine, disappearing beneath her tank top, and I had the sudden urge to pull her top down to see where it led. Jesus. If Erik wasn’t planning on going home with her, I was.

  “Just slip your shoes off and then head into the studio,” she said with a smile. “I’ll bring in your mats.”

  I furrowed my brows. “Mats? As in two?”

  She laughed, flitting her dark gaze to Erik and then back to me. “I convinced your coach to take the class with you. Private lessons can make it hard to relax, and I have a feeling Erik could use an hour of yoga just as much as you.”

  That wasn’t part of the plan. He was just supposed to drop me off and then leave.

  “So you’re staying?” I asked him, curious.

  He shrugged but kicked off his shoes, giving me all the answer I needed.

  I glanced back to Kira. “Well I hope your class is going to be extra relaxing.” I winked. “I don’t think I could open his chakras with a crowbar.”

  She laughed, a light sound that filled the small room. “Seems she knows you pretty well already, Erik.”

  He shook his head. “Hardly.”

  His response might as well have been a slap to the face. My cheeks flushed with embarrassment as his hand hit my lower back. He pushed me in the direction of the studio, not as a form of connection, but because he genuinely wanted me out of his way. Brilliant. This will be so fun.

  The studio was dim, lit with twinkle lights around the perimeter of the room. Of the four walls, two were completely covered in mirrors, one was painted black, and the other had floor-to-ceiling windows leading out to the street. Loose, sheer curtains hung over the windows, hiding us away.

  “Wow, it’s hot,” I said, pulling my shirt away from my skin to get some airflow.

  “It’s a heated studio,” he said, meeting my eye in the mirrors. “It should be over 90 in here.”

  “90 degrees?” I groaned as I headed for the set of cubbies lining the black wall. I pulled my t-shirt overhead and wrapped my silenced cell phone inside it. When I turned, Erik was accepting a black mat from Kira.

  He unrolled it in the center of the room and Kira dropped the one for me a foot away from it.

  “You should probably give him more space than that,” I said, walking toward them.

  She laughed. “This is good. I prefer students to feel the energy around them. You’ll hear each other’s breaths and it will help each of you in your own practice.”

  I was pretty sure the lavender essential oils had gone to her head. I’d never be able to relax with Erik that close to me.

  And that was before he took his shirt off.

  Which he did.

  While I watched his reflection in the mirrors.

  His tight muscles coiled and stretched across his back as he stuffed his shirt into the cubby beside mine. When he glanced over and noticed me watching him, I pulled my gaze away so quickly I nearly pulled a muscle in my neck.

  Kira told us we’d start our practice at the top of our mats with our hands by our sides and our eyes closed.

  She hit play and soft music started streaming through speakers around the room.

  “I want you both to take a big breath and hold it in…” She walked around us, floating around the room so that with my eyes closed, I could never be quite sure where she stood. “Suck in a little more breath and then slowly exhale.”

  I followed her instructions, aware of Erik’s breath beside mine. I stretched my arms out wider and bumped into his hand. He moved away faster than I could.

  “The point of this practice is for you to learn to trust your body. Usually in yoga, we keep our eyes open while we work through flows, but today, I’m going to challenge both of you to keep your eyes closed as much as possible.”

  She led us through another set of breathing exercises, and I felt woozy standing at the top of my mat. With my eyes closed, I was disoriented. The heat was already getting to me and we hadn’t even started. That’s a good sign.

  “Brie, you know how to use your body. It’s powerful and strong and beautiful, but if you don’t trust it, then all of that goes to waste,” she continued. “Inhale again and slowly fold over to touch your toes, keeping your eyes closed.”

  She walked around us. I could hear her feet on the soft floor as she stepped up and slid her hand down my spine. I kept my eyes closed as goose bumps bloomed down my arms. She massaged my muscles, soothing the pain she was causing by pushing my chest closer to my shins.

  “Good Brie,” she said, stepping back. “Now, keep your eyes closed and rise again. We’re going to work through a few sun salutations and you’re both going to break a sweat. If at any time either of you needs to open your eyes or go into child’s pose, I encourage you to listen to your body and let it lead your practice. However, when you hit that wall and you think you’ve had enough, I want you to take a deep breath and push yourself just a little further.”

  The music picked up, mixing with her words as she continued pushing us through poses.

  “Exhale. Lower. Inhale. Up dog.”

  With my eyes closed, I could feel Erik’s presence next to me more than ever. I could hear his heavy breaths. I could sense him standing strong beside me, working through the poses in time with me. Kira led us through another flow and beads of sweat started rolling down my arms, sliding across my stomach and dropping onto my mat. I peeked my eyes open to see them starting to pool below me, proof of my body’s exertion.

  “Good, step or hop to the front of your mat. Inhale. Halfway lift. Exhale.”

  We made our way back to standing at the top of our mats and she continued talking, swiveling around us and adjusting our poses. Her hands were so sure on my body, confident of where to touch and where to guide.

  “Too often, we rely on our sight to lead us through life. If we close our eyes and cut off that sense, we have an urge to reach our hands out and feel for our surroundings, but you two know where you are. Feel your body as it roots down through the ground for mountain pose. Lift your arms overhead, inhale, and then fold down again.”

  We worked through a few more flows, moving in time with our breaths. I focused on Kira’s voice, lost in the way it mixed with the music. I was starting to sweat even more, heavy drops rolling across my neck and chest. I was breathing hard, holding each pose until I thought my muscles would give out. The heat was killing me, but it felt good. Invigorating.

  “Good, hop or step back to the front of your mat. Root down. Inhale. Rise, and now, finally, open your eyes.”

  I inhaled a breath and blinked my eyes open. My gaze immediately found Erik’s in the mirror. He stood at the top of his mat beside me. I watched a drop of sweat as it rolled over his pecs, down across his tight abs. He held my gaze as his chest rose and fell with his breaths. His eyes were narrowed, watching me as Kira told us to breathe and settle into our sight again. The only thing I cared to settle into was Erik. His dark hair was damp and a few strands stuck to his forehead. I wanted to brush them away and kiss the spot, taste the salty moisture coating his skin.

  I wasn’t ready to look away by the time Kira told us to fold back over and hug our knees, but I followed her instructions anyway. We worked through the same sequence of poses we’d done with our eyes closed. She walked around us, adjusting as she saw fit: tilting our feet wider or twisting our arms into the correct positions, but with Erik, her hands always lingered a moment too long. She glided her hands down his back, using her palms to help twist his chest open more during warrior two.

  “Good,” she soothed, pushing him another inch toward the mirror. Her hands looked so comfortable on his skin that my stomach started to twist as if someone was reaching in and wringing out my insides.

  As we continued working through the rest of the practice, I tried to focus on my own movements, but the temperature in the room kept growing hotter and hotter. My yoga pants stuck to me like a second skin, my sports bra was drenched, and my breathing was heavy and loud.

  Kira came to stand behind me as w
e finished our final pose. Her hands glided across my skin, stretching my arms out so I had to sink lower, my thighs shaking with effort.

  “Good Brie,” she whispered. Her breath skimmed across the back of my neck, sending a shiver across my shoulders. Her hands tightened around my arms. I met her eyes in the mirror and she offered me a small, knowing smile. Did she know I hated her hands on Erik? Was she aware of the goose bumps her touch elicited?

  “Do you feel how strong you are?” she asked, moving back to assess us both. “Your bodies never failed you. Even without sight, they knew what to do. They carried you through your practice and I want you to take that knowledge with you when you leave this studio.

  “Now fold down and take a seat on your mat.”

  It felt good to sit, to rest and let the heat consume me even more. I glanced back up to Erik in time to see him reach for a towel and drag it across his forehead. It didn’t help much; we were both drenched.

  “Keep falling, using your core to slowly guide you down until you’re lying on your back. We’re going to do a simple spinal twist before we’re done.”

  She instructed us to bend our right knee and let it fall gently over the left side of our body.

  “Stretch your arms out in a T and let your right ear rest against the mat. You should feel a gentle stretch in your spine.”

  Erik was on the other side of me and my hand hit his forearm as I adjusted into the pose. He tensed but didn’t move it away, and I inhaled a shaky breath, hyperaware of the skin-to-skin contact. Though I was facing away from him, I swore he was watching me in the pose, staring at the rise of my chest as another bead of sweat dripped down my sports bra. My skin was on fire. I wanted to turn over my shoulder and find out if he was watching me, but I resisted the urge.

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