The summer games settlin.., p.29
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       The Summer Games: Settling the Score, p.29

           R.S. Grey
 

  “Have I ever not shown up ready to compete?”

  He frowned. “No.”

  I pushed off the sink and reached for my bag. “Then let’s go.”

  CHAPTER FIFTY

  Andie

  I FELT A change the second the plane took off. I stared out the window and tried to convince myself that Freddie and I could make it work, but my hands still shook with nerves.

  Kinsley and Becca didn’t have doctor’s appointments to get back to, but they flew home with me anyway. Becca was anxious to see her husband Penn, and Kinsley swore she didn’t care about missing the closing ceremonies. She said the closing ceremonies were basically just the start of the final rounds of the debauchery the village was known for. As a married woman, she said she’d rather be there with me for my appointment.

  “Can I get you anything?” the flight attendant asked with a gentle tone. Half the plane was already asleep; I was one of the last stragglers clinging to the night. I shook my head and adjusted in my seat to get comfortable.

  I slept for a few fitful hours, but it was the kind of sleep where when you woke up, you weren’t sure if you were ever out at all. I’d been thinking of Freddie when I’d closed my eyes, and when I opened them a few hours later, he was still on my mind. The plane was dark and Kinsley was snoring gently beside me. I wanted to jostle her awake and have her convince me that things would be okay. Instead, I felt for one of the magazines she’d stuffed in her seatback pocket. I turned on my dim overhead light and tilted it away from Kinsley so it would only illuminate the magazine on my lap.

  It was a trashy tabloid, something Kinsley only ever had when she was trying to kill ten hours on a flight. Two pages in, I saw my first glimpse of Caroline. They had done a whole four-page spread about her stay in Rio. They highlighted her “Olympic Fashion!” and blew up a photo of her walking into her hotel. They speculated about who she was using as a wedding coordinator and which top designer she’d commission to create her custom gown.

  I crumbled the magazine up and shoved it back in the pocket, disgusted.

  “Ma’am, are you still doing okay?”

  The flight attendant was back and I needed her to leave me the fuck alone. I nodded again, and then I turned away and flipped off my overhead light. I felt sick and I wanted to reach for the vomit bag no one ever uses, but it was dark and I couldn’t see it. Instead, I squeezed my neck pillow to my chest and stared out the window, willing the nausea to pass.

  By the time we touched down in L.A., there was no denying reality. Freddie and I were separated by 6,299 miles. I’d looked it up. Not to mention my injury, his family, Caroline, a blackmail wedding, and now a baby. A baby. Fuck.

  A car took Kinsley, Becca, and I straight from the airport to Central L.A. Orthopedic Group. I slipped on a baseball cap in an effort to hide the dark circles under my eyes, but the receptionist didn’t mention them. She was practically vibrating in her chair, staring up at us with wide eyes.

  “Barbara! Did you see!?” she bellowed to the woman working behind her. “We have three gold medalists in the office today!”

  By the time I was turning to find a seat, there was a short line of fans formed to the side of us with their iPhones and pens at the ready. I put on my best attempt at a genuine smile and let Kinsley take the lead with them. Luckily, the nurse called me back for imaging right away, before my facade could crack.

  “You must be so excited to get back home,” the nurse said as she walked me to the x-ray room.

  I glanced over at her.

  “What with all that craziness in Rio,” she continued. “I tried to keep up with it, but every day they were reporting something new. Your name was, uh…everywhere during the games.”

  My stomach rolled as she ushered me into the dark room. “Yeah, I guess I am glad to be back.”

  After my x-rays, they led me into the doctor’s office and promised I wouldn’t have to wait too much longer. I nodded as I settled into the leather chair across from his desk. There was a TV perched in the top right corner of his room, set to mute and showing news about the Olympics Games.

  “Freddie Archibald, three-time Olympian and a member of Great Britain’s swim team, just broke his world record in the 200-meter freestyle earlier this afternoon,” the closed captions read. “This race brings him to five gold medals for the 2016 games, and ups his all-time medal count to 21.”

  The footage showed Freddie as he walked to the podium, took his start, and dove into the water. I’d been with him less than twelve hours earlier, and the way my body ached as I watched him race made no sense. Maybe it was because I was tired and he hadn’t called or texted me since I’d left. A part of me had hoped there’d be a message waiting for me once I walked off the plane, but there was nothing. Maybe it was because I knew the magic we felt was bound to Rio, and that the odds of me ever seeing Freddie again were slim to none. Or maybe it was the fact that they were highlighting footage of Caroline in the audience, jumping up and down and cheering Freddie on during his race. They flashed a little banner beneath her that read “Caroline Montague, Frederick Archibald’s Fiancée.” I wanted to throw up as they shoved the camera and microphone in her face. It was Sophie Boyle doing the interview and she gushed about how excited she was for Caroline and Freddie. I tried to watch Caroline answering, but my phone vibrated in my purse, magnified by the silence in the room.

  I reached down for it in my purse and nearly dropped it when I saw a text from Freddie waiting for me.

  Freddie: How did the appointment go?

  That’s all. How did the appointment go? Five words that were innocuous and gentle and thoughtful, and yet I hated every syllable. How was I supposed to flip through magazines and turn on the TV and see Caroline splashed across every page and every channel and pretend that it was okay? How was I supposed to handle small talk when what I really wanted to do was pick up my phone, call him, and shout that things like appointments and races and “how was your afternoon” and “what did you eat for dinner” didn’t fucking matter.

  Fuck.

  I was crying and I was so sick of crying. With my luck, the doctor was going to do that two knuckled knock on the door soon. I didn’t want to be a blubbering mess while he tried to talk to me about my wrist.

  I couldn’t do it. I opened his text and read it over again, feeling more angry than dejected.

  There were things Freddie and I needed to talk about, none of which included him asking me about my appointment. I didn’t want to see his name pop up on my phone unless it was him announcing that he had found some resolution for the Caroline dilemma. The little banter, the small talk hurt too much. They were empty words and I told him so. I typed out everything I’d been thinking since I’d left Rio. There’s no way this will work. You’re a million miles away. What if Caroline IS pregnant and what if it IS your baby? Caroline will never let us be happy. The world will never let us be happy. Every magazine and newspaper and TV show is reporting your engagement to her. How could this possibly end well for us? And then I capped it off with a final text.

  Andie: For now, I need to focus on my wrist and my career.

  It was as solid as a breakup. I’d completely come to terms with the fact that Caroline had won. Unless she got hit by a meteorite, she wasn’t going to let Freddie and I be together. So what was the point of ignoring the inevitable?

  The doctor knocked just as I’d slipped my phone back into my purse.

  “Ms. Foster?” he asked as he strolled inside.

  I took a deep breath. It was time to focus on something other than Freddie.

  KINSLEY, BECCA, AND I spent three days in L.A. before we flew to New York to meet the rest of our team for a Good Morning America interview. We were scheduled for a week-long tour around the United States that I’d been looking forward to like a death sentence. Kinsley pushed me onto the plane in L.A. and once we landed, there were cars waiting outside the airport to whisk us directly to the studio. I needed sleep, a shower, and a decent meal, but th
ere was no time.

  Right before we went on air, Becca handed me two espresso shots.

  “Because you literally look like death,” she said with a laugh.

  I downed them like water and within a minute, I knew it’d been a mistake. I was already nervous enough to go on live TV. I didn’t want to talk about Freddie. I hadn’t responded to his text messages, though I’d read every single one.

  ...please don’t do this…

  …give me time…

  …just give me something here…

  He still hadn’t gotten a handle on Caroline, which meant there was no reason to respond.

  As the hosts announced us and we walked out onto the stage to patriotic music, I thought I’d have a heart attack. I took a seat beside Kinsley and tried to contain my nerves.

  In the end, I thought I’d answered the questions normally, but Kinsley and Becca wouldn’t stop making fun of how jittery I’d been. I pulled off the fake eyelashes the makeup team had made me wear and scrubbed the makeup off my face.

  “It’s Becca’s fault!” I said. “She gave me enough caffeine to kill me.”

  Becca laughed. “Well you can thank me later. This week is going to be insane, so I suggest resting up and staying caffeinated.”

  She wasn’t kidding.

  After our interview with Good Morning America, we did a fan meet-and-greet. Immediately after that, we flew to Washington D.C. where, over the next few days, we were honored with a special dinner and a parade around the capital. I shook the President’s hand and tried not to say anything inappropriate or gushy to Michelle Obama.

  During the parade, Kinsley leaned over and nudged me.

  “Make sure to soak this all up while you can. These moments are once in a lifetime.”

  I stared out over the crowd surroundings the streets. They were all waving small American flags, screaming and shouting as we drove by on top of a fire truck. There were little girls wearing jerseys with my number on them, crying as I tossed candy and necklaces with tiny soccer balls hanging off like charms. I soaked in the moment, trying to smile and wave at every fan who was there to support us, and yet all the while, a part of me was 6,299 miles away in Rio.

  Every chance I got, I’d check my phone for messages from Freddie. I craved his messages as much as I hated them.

  …I miss you…

  …I’m off to London tomorrow and I’ll be meeting with my lawyers right away…

  IT WAS FOUR days after I’d cut off communication that he called me. I was alone, in my shared hotel room, and I glanced down to find his name flashing across my phone’s screen. I knew it would only make matters worse if I answered it, and yet I couldn’t resist.

  “Andie?” he answered in shock.

  My name, spoken from his lips, was enough to make me tear up.

  “Andie?” he asked again when I didn’t speak up.

  “I’m here,” I said, hearing the sadness in my voice.

  “I can’t believe I’m finally talking to you.”

  I inhaled a shaky breath and tried to pull it together. I knew I only had a few minutes before Kinsley and Becca returned to our hotel with food from a diner down the street.

  “How are you?” he asked, so desperately hopeful that I had to answer, even though I hated the small talk.

  “I’m good. I watched your final race today,” I said, staring up at the popcorn ceiling. “Well, not live obviously. We were visiting one of the children’s hospitals in D.C. and they were playing the footage from a few days ago.”

  “It was a good race,” he said; I could hear the exhaustion in his voice.

  There were so many questions I wanted to ask him. How’s London? How’s Georgie? How’s that sixth gold medal feel around your neck? Did you go to the closing ceremonies? Have you talked to Caroline? Have you thought about me as much as I’ve thought about you?

  “Freddie, I—”

  “Andie, hold on.” I could hear him talking to someone in the background, but I couldn’t tell who it was. “Give me a second,” he told the other person.

  The hotel door opened with laughter as Kinsley and Becca entered the room, arms overflowing with takeout.

  “I hope you’re hungry!” Kinsley said, dropping two to-go containers at the bottom of my queen bed before glancing up and realizing I was on the phone. “Oops!” she said, covering her mouth.

  I shook my head and mouthed, “It’s fine,” before slipping into the bathroom and locking the door.

  “Freddie, are you still ther—”

  My question was cut off by his own statement. “Andie, I’ve got to run. I’ve got a meeting with my PR team in the morning and my lawyer wants to go over a few things.”

  “Oh, okay right,” I said, meeting my own sad reflection in the mirror.

  “Yeah, I’ll try and reach you la—”

  His sentence cut off.

  “Freddie?” I asked, to no reply.

  I stared down at the black screen. It’d taken four days to get a thirty second phone call. Four days of watching Caroline’s face splashed across every magazine, TV, and news story I stumbled upon. Four days of watching her dip into wedding boutiques and baby boutiques around London. Four days and all I had to show for it was a thirty second phone call.

  It wasn’t enough.

  I missed him so much and the more days that passed, the farther apart we felt. Thirty seconds couldn’t sustain me. Thirty seconds wouldn’t reassure me that he and I would work out. Thirty seconds was nothing.

  “Andie, are you okay?”

  I’d sunk down to the bathroom floor. Could they hear me out there?

  I inhaled and swiped at my cheeks, trying desperately to get rid of the evidence. I couldn’t keep crying over Freddie. I was really fucking sick of crying over Freddie. This was supposed to be the best week of my life and I was sitting on the bathroom of a five-star hotel where the towels were warmed and the soap was designer, and I was crying about stupid Frederick Archibald and his stupidly beautiful face.

  I felt something hit my butt and I turned to find a piece of paper they’d slid under the bathroom door.

  CHAPTER FIFTY-ONE

  Freddie

  MY FIRST NIGHT back in London, I started unpacking my things, amazed that I’d been able to bring so much shite with me across the ocean. I worked my way through a pile of stuff sitting on a chair in the corner, but paused when I caught a glimpse of red lace peeking out from the very bottom. It was the red mask Andie had worn to Mascarada. I’d pocketed it on our way out of the club. She couldn’t wait to take it off and had nearly tossed it in a bin, but I’d caught it first.

  It was beautiful and she’d looked beautiful wearing it. Caroline had done her best to taint that moment in the club, but she couldn’t erase the memories we’d made on that leather couch. I’d had Andie under my thumb in the dim lights and if I closed my eyes and ran my hand over the red lace, I could still feel the lust take hold.

  I picked it up off the chair and cradled it in my hand. The red lace was torn in one corner and the black silk ribbon was crinkled, but other than that, it was no worse for wear.

  “I know Caroline is faking the pregnancy and I’m THIS close to proving it!”

  That’s how Georgie entered my room, with an accusation and a tone that warned me not to argue. I turned from the chair to see her standing with her hands on her hips in my bedroom doorway, no smile, no nod.

  I shook my head. “I just went over it with Dave, Georgie. She’s shown me the ultrasound photos, and records from a legit doctor in London. And we can’t do a paternity test until she’s a little further along in the pregnancy. I’m meeting with him again tomorrow but—”

  She wiped her hand down her face. “You aren’t listening! You told me to keep tabs on her, and I’ve been doing just that. I think she’s faking the whole thing.”

  “Do you have proof?” I asked, hopeful.

  “No, but—”

  I turned back to continue unpacking, but she whipped around me and
jumped between me and my suitcase. “I lived with Caroline in that suite for the last few weeks. We avoided each other at all costs, but I was always there when she sat down to go through her emails in the morning.”

  “So?”

  “So…” She smirked. “I hovered in the kitchen, pretending to drink coffee, and secretly watched her type in her computer’s password for nearly a week before I finally had it figured out. When I was on the plane today, I logged in and took a look around.”

  I dropped the red mask on top of my suitcase and let my lungs fill with hope. “Georgie, what’d you find in her email?”

  She held up her hands to slow me down. “It’s not proof of her faking the pregnancy, but it’s definitely fishy. I rooted around her deleted emails—thank goodness Caroline is too dim to know how to properly use Gmail—and I found an email exchange between her and that ‘legit doctor’ in London. She sent him £100,000 and they’re supposed to meet tomorrow for coffee. How weird is that?”

  I dropped the red mask on top of my suitcase and took a deep breath. For the first time since the pregnancy announcement, I sensed a chink in Caroline’s armor.

  “£100,000?”

  She nodded excitedly.

  “How’d she send it?”

  “PayPal! To his personal email address!”

  I nodded, thinking. “G, I admit that sounds suspicious, but I need some kind of concrete proof of wrongdoing. If we go public with stolen emails, she’ll probably just reveal that the money was more of her philanthropy, some donation sent to Doctors Without Borders or UNICEF. Besides, hacking someone’s email is probably illegal.”

  “Who cares if it’s bloody illegal? So is extortion!” she shouted.

  “I know.” I leveled my gaze on her. “Which is why I want you to go and stake out that coffee shop tomorrow. We need to figure out what’s going on between them. I know I said no cloak-and-dagger, but—”

 
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