Out of bounds the summer.., p.3
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       Out of Bounds (The Summer Games #2), p.3

           R.S. Grey
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  “But where’s the oven?” I asked, spinning in a circle.

  “Oven?” she asked, letting the refrigerator door fall closed.

  I nodded. “I like to bake.”

  She laughed. “Well, unless you can work with a hot plate, I think you’re shit out of luck.”

  A screen door slammed in the distance and I glanced out the kitchen window in time to watch Erik walk down the steps of his back porch. The sun cut across his features, making him stand out against the green backdrop even more. His black hair and black shirt seemed out of place there, as if he didn’t belong in such a pleasant place. He was heading toward the hangar to work out, a water bottle clutched in his right hand. The scowl I’d seen an hour earlier was still there, furrowing his dark brows and flattening his smile into a straight line. He looked lost in thought, maybe still thinking about the girl who’d just left.

  I tilted my head in his direction. “Does he have an oven?”

  Molly’s eyes widened. “I’m sure, but I think he prefers his privacy. It’s been made pretty clear that we aren’t allowed to go into the main house.”

  He hadn’t told me that rule. He’d barely uttered a word to me at all.

  “I guess you need your privacy if you’ve got the Tinder Train rolling in every night.”

  Molly laughed just as a throat cleared behind us. I spun around to find June standing at the bottom of the stairs, eyeing us with disdain. She must have arrived while we were out exploring the property. Her lips were tugged into a thin line and her brown eyes were narrowed; she looked just as bitchy as the last time I’d seen her. Her pin-straight black hair was tugged into a severe bun on the top of her head and her arms were crossed tightly across her chest.

  “I don’t really think it’s appropriate to discuss Coach Winter’s love life.”

  I shrugged. “If he brings women back here for us to see, it’s sort of fair game in my opinion.”

  She tsked as she strolled into the kitchen and pulled an apple off the counter. “I just don’t think it’s befitting of members of Team USA to gossip like schoolgirls.”

  June was seriously hard to figure out. In the few times we’d been around each other at competitions, she’d seemed like a stuck-up asshole (for lack of a better word) and so far, she wasn’t going out of her way to change my opinion of her.

  “I just wonder how he befitting so many dates into his schedule this close to competition,” Molly joked, trying to break up the awkwardness between June and me.

  I wasn’t quite ready to throw in the towel though. I didn’t want to live with a girl I hated for an entire month; we’d drive each other insane. I shifted angles to try to get her out of her shell a little bit, to show her I wasn’t the enemy.

  “Did you have a good flight?”

  She nodded.

  “Where did you fly in from again?”

  “Montana.”

  I made out like that sounded interesting. “Do you like it there?”

  “No.”

  “Have you trained with Erik before?”

  “Coach Winter,” she corrected.

  “Right. Coach Winter,” I said with a small smile.

  “No, I haven’t, but he’s the best coach in the country now that his father is on medical leave, and I for one don’t plan on taking my time here for granted.”

  With that, she bit into her apple and walked out of the kitchen.

  “I think that went well,” Molly said once June had trotted upstairs and slammed her bedroom door closed. A second later, loud classical music spilled down the stairs.

  I laughed. “Despite the fact that I just rolled my eyes so far back into my head I’ve gone blind, yeah, I think it went well.”

  After I regained my sight and Molly stopped laughing, we got to work heating up a lunch of chicken and asparagus. I was starting to crash from my early flight, so I rooted around the kitchen for a coffee pot, confused by the prehistoric model sitting in one of the cabinets. I brushed off the dust and plugged it in; it took me nearly thirty minutes to figure out how to turn the damn thing on, and once I had two cups of coffee, they had the consistency of burnt mud.

  “Cheers,” I said, clinking my mug against Molly’s. “Don’t actually drink it though.”

  She sniffed the top of the mug.

  “Just inhale deeply and hope you get some caffeine through your nasal passages.”

  “It doesn’t seem so bad.” She tipped back a sip and promptly spit it out all over the table. Most of it landed on our food (thanks Molly) but a few ambitious drops landed on my face.

  I wiped my eye as she collapsed into a fit of laughter. “That’s the shittiest thing I’ve ever tasted.”

  “I told you not to drink it!”

  After cleaning up her mess, I pushed our coffee mugs to the other side of the table and took a bite of chicken. It tasted like cardboard, but I was too ravenous to care.

  “Tomorrow, we’ll go pick up a better coffee pot,” she said.

  I nodded. “Sounds good. When do you think Lexi and Rosie will get he—”

  I’d barely formed the question when the front door of the guesthouse whipped open. Luggage flew inside the door, followed by a few duffel bags, a pillow, a jacket, and then finally, like a tornado, our final two teammates arrived: Lexi and Rosie. Yin and yang.

  Lexi led the way into the house wearing bright blue spandex yoga pants and an off-the-shoulder tank top that read, “I’m too sexy for my shirt”. Her black hair was piled up on her head in a messy bun, her bright red lipstick looked as if she’d just reapplied it, and she was wearing enough rings on her fingers to cut off circulation. In sharp contrast, Rosie followed after her with wide eyes and nervous energy. She wore a white polo tucked into ironed khaki shorts. Not only was she the shortest girl on our team, at seventeen, she was also the youngest. Even beneath her dark brown skin, I could make out her flushed cheeks.

  “Guys, first off,” Lexi said. “Our coach is fucking hot.”

  She dropped her final bag by the door and blew a stray piece of hair away from her face.

  “Second, how far do you think we are from the closest nightclub?”

  Chapter Three

  Brie

  My career in gymnastics started in ballet. At the ripe age of three, my mom enrolled me in my first class. She said it was because I already had an affinity for dance, though I actually think it was because the ballet studio had free classes for toddlers on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

  For four years, I danced my little heart out, and for four years, I walked out of my ballet class and passed the gymnasts practicing on the other side of the building. A glass partition separated me from them, but I’d lean close and smudge the glass with my nose. Whereas the ballet studio was quiet and stuffy, tinted in a pale pink hue, everything in the gym was loud and painted in color—bright leotards, bright mats, bright smiles. I’d watch the girls tumble across the floor, tipping into back walkovers and back handsprings. They’d finish and get back in line, giggling with friends, and I found myself longing to be one of them.

  I was seven before I yanked on my mom’s hand and pointed through the glass.

  “I want to do gymnastics.”

  She laughed. “But Brie-bear, you’re so good at ballet!”

  I shook my head as I watched another girl tumble across the floor.

  “Yeah, but…” I pointed again, hitting the glass with my finger. “I want to do that.”

  It had taken major convincing. My mother had dictated that if this was truly my decision, I would need to walk into Mrs. Perry’s ballet class all on my own and announce to everyone that I was quitting. She assumed I wouldn’t have the nerve, but I called her bluff. Even to my young ears, the word “quitting” sounded abrasive, which is why I ended up marching up to the front of the class and announcing my formal retirement from the art of ballet.

  I wished my dance mates au revior, shed my ballet skirt, and took the mat for my very first gymnastics class. It took five minutes for me to fall in
love with the sport.

  By gymnastics standards, I’d started late. At seven, I might as well have been a ninety-year-old geriatric taking the mat. For reference, Dominique Moceanu competed in the Olympics when she was fourteen. FOURTEEN. Some kids are still wearing Velcro shoes at fourteen and she was winning gold for her country at the Atlanta Summer Games.

  I didn’t let my age stop me though; I worked harder than every girl at my gym, and by the time I rang in my fourteenth birthday, I was competing at the elite level. An injury kept me out of the 2012 Olympic games in London, but two years later, I won all-around gold at nationals and then went on to place first at the World Gymnastics Championships in 2014 and 2015.

  I’d proven my skills on the second biggest stage with back-to-back golds, but the Olympics were a level apart. Winning gold at Worlds put me in the spotlight within the gymnastics community, but winning gold at the Olympics would make me a household name. I wanted to be a household name. I needed the perks that came with being a household name: sponsorships, endorsements, commercials, photo shoots. My mom and I would never have to worry about money again.

  “Do you think Erik is still coming?” Lexi asked, leaning forward on the couch to get a better angle on her toes. She’d just finished painting mine bright red and now she was working on her own.

  “Of course he’s coming,” June said from her perch across the room. She’d put as much distance between herself and the rest of the group as she could without actually leaving the house. “He said we had a team meeting today at 2:30 PM, so he will be here.”

  “Maybe he’s just running late,” Rosie said, giving him the benefit of the doubt.

  “June, you can scoot closer, we don’t bite,” Lexi said, patting the couch cushion beside her. The four of us were all sitting hip to hip, squeezed on the couch like Tetris blocks.

  June turned her nose up at us. “I’m fine.”

  There was a clear line in the sand—the four of us vs. June—even though it made no sense. Besides Rosie and Lexi, none of us had trained at the same gym. We had all seen each other at competitions and had made an effort to get to know each other during the Olympic trials. June was wholeheartedly uninterested and mildly annoyed with our presence, as if we were warts she couldn’t quite rid herself of. She probably viewed us as her competition and was scared to get too close. Does she think we’ll poison her cereal or something?

  “So what does the room sitch look like upstairs?” Lexi asked.

  “I’ve got my own room,” June said, butting in just as Molly opened her mouth to speak. “It’s just easier that way. I like order and routine.”

  “Right-o,” Lexi said, tilting her head toward me. “I’m assuming you and Molly are bunking together?”

  I nodded. “Which leaves the last room for you and Rosie.”

  Rosie smiled. “That’ll be fun, Lex. I’m a really quiet sleeper and I’m very clean.”

  “Fine. I dumped my boyfriend before I left anyway, so it’s not like I’ll need much privacy.”

  “Privacy for what?” Rosie said, genuinely curious.

  “Phone sex.”

  June nearly gagged on her tongue and Rosie’s cheeks turned dark scarlet.

  I couldn’t help but laugh as Lexi assessed us. “What? Am I supposed to dance around the subject with you guys? Do I need to give anyone the talk?”

  I laughed and held up my hands to show I was in no need of “the talk”, but I couldn’t speak for the rest of my teammates.

  “So you’re single now?” I asked, trying to change the subject for Rosie and June’s sake.

  “Yup, and just in time for the games. What about you guys? Boyfriends, girlfriends?”

  June and Rosie shook their heads, but Molly did a teeter-totter thing with her hands. “It’s not serious or anything, but the host family I’ve been staying with has a son.”

  A son?!

  Too many questions flooded her at once.

  “Is he hot?” I asked.

  “How’s the sex?” Lexi chimed in.

  “Does he like to read?” Rosie asked.

  June sat quiet in the corner like a sack of potatoes.

  Molly sighed dreamily. “I don’t know about the sex part. We haven’t gotten that far.”

  Lexi groaned, but I laughed and nudged Molly, offering up a gentle smile.

  “Who cares?” I said, trying to deflect. I wasn’t trying to virgin shame anyone, just like I wasn’t judging Lexi for having phone sex. We’d all come from different backgrounds.

  Lexi glanced at me. “You’re not still a virgin are you?”

  I shrugged. “No, but it’s been a while since I’ve dated anyone.”

  I stared up at the ceiling and avoided eye contact with Lexi. My sex life was dotted with awkward encounters and short-lived romances. I hadn’t had much time for dating in the last few years; I found it easier to keep most guys at arm’s length. It was more comfortable that way; I could focus on training and didn’t have to worry about messy breakups.

  “But you’re so pretty,” Rosie said with a smile.

  Lexi nodded. “Yeah, you look like Natalie Portman or something. You’ve gotta be some guy’s type.”

  “Well actually—” Molly began to speak, but I reached over and pinched her thigh hard enough to make her stop. “Hey! I was just going to agree that you were pretty.”

  I blushed. “Oh.”

  “What’d you think she was going to say?” Lexi asked.

  “Nothing.”

  Molly chuckled. “She thought I was going to mention Erikwejroweriyertheoirhtioehrt.”

  My hand covered her mouth, turning the second half of her sentence into gibberish. “It’s nothing. Molly thinks I look like this girl Erik—”

  “Coach Winter!” June interjected.

  “—slept with last night.”

  Lexi’s brow arched. “Innnnnteresting.”

  It wasn’t interesting.

  “Do you think he’s cute too, Brie?” Rosie asked.

  I pretended like my toe nail polish was smudged and bent down to fix it.

  “She’s avoiding the question,” Molly said with a laugh.

  “He’s our coach. We shouldn’t be discussing whether or not he’s cute,” June chided.

  I ignored her. “Objectively, there’s nothing not to like about him, but he’s just sort of…” I couldn’t put my finger on it. “Frustrating.” I nodded. “He’s definitely not my type.”

  Lexi nodded. “So then what is your type exactly?”

  A knock sounded on the front door of the guesthouse and June hopped up to answer it.

  “Speak of the devil,” Molly said, elbowing me in the side.

  A slow-spreading blush crept up my cheeks as June whipped open the door and Erik walked inside. I avoided glancing up at him as June started to suck up, thanking him for our wonderful accommodations and for his generosity. He gave us a hot plate, June. Cool your jets.

  “Good afternoon,” he said, addressing the group as he came to stand at the front of the living room. He was a few feet away from us and I swore I could smell his body wash. Unless Molly uses mountain fresh scent too.

  The team offered up greetings, but I kept my gaze locked on the coffee table in front of him. Until my blush subsided, I didn’t want to chance meeting his eyes.

  “Have you all settled in?” he asked.

  “Yup. Everything is great,” Lexi said with a cheery tone. “Just for kicks though, in what direction would we find the closest mall?”

  Rosie cut in. “Yes, we’re settling in just fine. This place is so pretty.”

  “Let’s say we set out to the north,” Lexi continued. “Would I hit a J. Crew or the Canadian border first?”

  He ignored Lexi. “We just need to go over a few ground rules and then we’ll do a light workout before we break for the evening.”

  Seriously? A workout on our first day? Couldn’t it wait until the morning? I groaned under my breath and Molly giggled.

  “First off, Brie, w
hen I’m talking, you don’t talk.”

  My heart dropped as I flipped my gaze up to him. His statement—aimed at me—finally gave me enough courage to acknowledge him, but the second his blue gaze hit me, I felt like he’d stabbed me in the chest. He’d showered since I’d last seen him. His black hair was still damp and the shadow of facial hair was gone, replaced with smooth tan skin.

  His domineering presence suddenly felt suffocating in the small space, and I slumped back into the couch.

  “I wasn’t talking,” I argued with a tone I didn’t quiet recognize.

  I’d never talked back to a coach before.

  His brow arched. “Excuse me?”

  I folded my arms over my chest, protecting myself.

  When I didn’t reply, he continued.

  “Second, no arguing. I’ve invited you all into my house, so I understand that you might consider our time here to be informal and relaxed. However, I am your coach, not your friend, so let me repeat myself: when you’re here or in the gym and I ask you to do something, I want you to do it the first time.”

  What an asshole.

  “Third, no friends at this house. You’re here to train, not to party.”

  I thought of his friend from that morning, the pretty brunette with the wistful smile. In a matter of seconds, my embarrassment from being singled out transformed into defiance. My hand was in the air before I realized what I was doing.

  “Brie?” he asked, his tone cool and calm.

  “So the no friends rule,” I started, tilting my head to the side. “Does that mean the woman who left this morning was an assistant coach or something?”

  I thought I registered surprise in Erik’s bright eyes, but he covered it quickly. He took a step forward and bent low so his eyes were level with mine. I pretended his hard stare didn’t affect me, nudging my chin an inch higher. I had no clue what I was doing. Molly elbowed my ribs, trying to warn me, but it was too late. I wasn’t this girl. I didn’t question authority or talk back to my coaches. I usually slid into the background, too focused on my end goal to worry about shit like this. It’d been simple in the past though; my coaches showed me the same respect I showed them. The relationships were mutually beneficial, but Erik would be different; I could already tell.

 
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