The summer games settlin.., p.33
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       The Summer Games: Settling the Score, p.33

           R.S. Grey
 

  “Yikes.” I smiled and pulled her close. “Where do you think you’ll get that kind of cash?”

  She kissed my chest and shrugged. “Maybe I’ll ask Caroline to help me forge some bank documents.”

  I smiled. “Too soon.”

  She laughed. “Then let’s stop talking and get to the things we really want to be doing.”

  I slipped my hand down her stomach and watched as she inhaled a shaky breath. Her smile slipped and her nostrils flared. Just like that, she was mine…for good.

  EPILOGUE

  Andie

  “FREDDIE! HAVE YOU seen my cleats?!”

  I threw a pair of stilettos aside and then pushed a few dresses out of the way to look in the back corner of the closet. There were heels and flats and sneakers, but my team cleats were nowhere to be found. I didn’t even bother looking over on Freddie’s side of the closet; it was always immaculate. I had no clue how he kept up with everything. My clothes and shoes usually landed somewhere in the vicinity of the closet, but hanging things up at night wasn’t a priority when I had Freddie Archibald waiting for me in bed.

  “Have you already looked in the kitchen?” Freddie asked, tipping his head into the doorway and offering me one of his trademark smiles.

  I rolled my eyes for extra emphasis. “Of course I looked there.”

  It was a lie, but his smile was so confident and I wasn’t going to give in that easily. He loved being right and I loved pushing his buttons. I stood up and swept past him to get out into the hallway.

  His hand reached out to grab my waist to block my path. “Where are you going?”

  I stared past his shoulder. “To grab a granola bar.”

  I could see his smile widen out of the corner of my eye. “You just had breakfast.”

  “Did I?” I scrunched my nose. “Hmm, wasn’t very filling.”

  His hand tightened around my waist. “We both know you’re going to have a look for your cleats in the kitchen.”

  I turned and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “Don’t be silly. I really, really want a granola bar.”

  With that, I wrestled myself out of his grip and took off to the kitchen as fast as I could. If I could get them in my bag before he saw them in the kitchen, technically he wouldn’t be right.

  He shouted after me as I rounded the corner and I saw them sitting on the floor near the kitchen island, grass-stained and untied. I lunged for them and threw them in my bag, glancing up just in time to see Freddie standing in the doorway.

  “Find them?”

  I patted my bag. “They were in here the whole time.”

  He arched a dark brow. “Were they?”

  I smiled, proud. “Yes, Archibald; you’re not right all the time.”

  He pushed off the doorway and strolled to stand in the kitchen. (I swore it looked like he was gloating, though he had no reason to.) I watched him fill my water bottle and then reach into the pantry for a granola bar we both knew I didn’t want.

  “Here you go,” he said, handing them both over to me.

  I averted eye contact and grabbed for them before offering a deadpan, “Yum.”

  I was running a little behind so Freddie offered to drive me. He reached for his keys and I slipped on my sneakers. Just as we were walking out the door, he laced his fingers through mine.

  “You’re sure the cleats weren’t in the kitchen?”

  I could see the devilish glint in his eyes, the small smirk he was trying desperately to squash.

  “Positive,” I lied.

  He nodded and his smirk widened. “That’s a shame. If they were, I was thinking of having you pay for it later.”

  “P-pay…”

  My stomach dropped with anticipation as the meaning behind his sentiment sank in.

  “I guess you still could?” I offered. “I mean, even though the cleats were in my bag.”

  He laughed and then reached up to cradle my neck so he could press a quick kiss to the corner of my mouth.

  “First we have to get you to your game.”

  I smiled. “You’re able to take me?” I asked. “I thought you had a meeting with the construction team for the swim club?”

  Since the Olympics, Freddie had been in no rush to jump back into the limelight. He took time off before deciding his next move would be to open a swim club for the underprivileged in central London. His foundation had partnered with Nike and they were due to break ground on the project in a week.

  “I had the team move it to another day. I couldn’t miss your final.”

  I smiled and popped up onto my toes to plant a kiss on his cheek. “We should go out with Georgie and your mum after the game to celebrate.”

  He peered at me out of the corner of his eye. “Brilliant idea. I have a feeling there will be a lot to celebrate.”

  “WE BELIEVE, WE believe, we believe in ANDIE!”

  “We believe, we believe, we believe in ANDIE!”

  The entire stadium was on their feet for the final seconds of our game. Fans were chanting behind me. Arsenal’s offense was making their way down the field so I stepped out in front of the goal line and watched as the ball made its way closer to me. I’d been bored, waiting for this moment for 89 minutes; my teammates had owned the field and I hadn’t touched the ball once. Now, in the final seconds of the game as the other team got desperate to even the score, maybe I’d actually get to play my part.

  I rolled out my wrist, testing it out of habit. It still gave me trouble every now and then, but nothing compared to how it’d felt during the Olympic Games. I bent my knees and loaded my weight onto the balls of my toes. I had to be light on my feet, ready to leap at a moment’s notice. The ball slipped down the field, closer and closer.

  “WE BELIEVE, WE BELIEVE, WE BELIEVE IN ANDIE!”

  Arsenal’s left-side striker moved the ball across the field and wove through defenders. She broke away and instead of crossing it to a streaking teammate, she reared back and rocketed the ball for the net. It was low and headed to the right. In microseconds my body reacted, throwing itself into the calculated trajectory of the ball. It ripped through my hands but hit my chest with a heavy thud and I wrapped myself around it. Seconds later, the shouts from the crowd finally sank in. The game hadn’t been called yet, but I knew we’d won. I could let go.

  My teammates were there, pulling me to my feet and throwing themselves against me. I laughed, too full of adrenaline to register the excitement. It was the final game of the Women’s Champions League, which meant I’d made it through my rookie season with my new club undefeated. They’d announce us as the league champions, and more than likely, there would be a giant trophy waiting for us after the game wrapped up.

  “You did it, Foster!” my teammate Sasha shouted before throwing her arms around me. She was a tiny thing and the best striker we had. It was because of her that we had our only point on the board.

  “You killed it out there.”

  She laughed. “Yeah, well hopefully we can give you some more wiggle room next time.”

  I slung my arm around her shoulders. “I’ll remember you said that.”

  We walked in tandem toward the center of the field. Both teams were congregating there, shaking hands and offering pleasantries to one another before Arsenal’s coach led them off the field. We always stayed in the center so our assistant coach could lead us through some quick post-game stretches.

  I glanced back to the stands to look for Freddie and Georgie—a habit I’d acquired after my first game in London. The day after I signed the contract with the team, Freddie announced that he’d purchased season tickets in the front row on the sideline. I’d laughed as he held up the printed tickets in the kitchen, too excited to wait for the official ones in the mail. They had private boxes in the stadium that would have afforded Freddie more privacy, but he’d shaken his head and insisted the sideline was where he wanted to be. And he had been. For every single home game, Freddie and Georgie sat in those seats.

  In the beginning
, their mom had joined as well, but soccer really wasn’t her thing. She pretended to like it for my sake, but after seeing her squirm on the sidelines in her cashmere sweater, Freddie and I had freed her of the obligation. “Too gritty for my taste, though you are very talented and quite pretty in your uniform, dear!” She was happy to stay home and clip out details of the games from the newspapers. We’d flip through the clippings together over tea on Sunday mornings. Oddly enough, I realized growing up with Christy and Conan Foster had perfectly prepared me for life with a dowager duchess.

  Usually after my games wrapped up, Freddie and Georgie would wait for me to finish stretching and we’d meet out back of the stadium to ride home together (with a pizza in tow), but when I glanced up into the stands after the game, their seats were empty.

  I knew they’d both planned on attending the game; Freddie had confirmed it in the kitchen just before we’d left.

  “I have a feeling there will be a lot to celebrate.”

  Apparently not, since he and Georgie hadn’t even waited for me. All the other fans were still lingering in the stands, but Freddie and Georgie’s seats were glaringly empty.

  “Why the long face, Foster?” Sasha asked from beside me. We’d moved on to a new stretch and I hadn’t noticed.

  I rolled out my neck as our assistant coach continued to lead us through a few final stretches. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off, though. Not only were Georgie and Freddie gone, the rest of the stadium hadn’t budged. Normally fans cleared out quickly, anxious to beat the crowds, but not that night. I glanced around to check out the other side of the stadium and everyone was standing up, angled toward the tunnel that led to the locker rooms as if they were waiting for something to happen.

  “Do you know what’s going on?” I asked Sasha.

  She pressed her lips together and averted eye contact, a universal sign for ‘I know something you don’t know.’

  “Not sure.”

  I laughed. “Seriously, what’s happening? Are they going to do the trophy ceremony early?”

  She turned away and kept stretching, determined that I not see her face.

  “Sasha!” I said, trying to get her to turn toward me, but then I saw him.

  Freddie. Walking out of the dark tunnel. Half cloaked in shadows and then gloriously lit under the stadium lights. He was wearing a fitted navy suit with brown leather oxfords. He was clean-shaven and his thick chestnut-brown hair was styled back with a smooth wave. I’d gotten used to how devilishly handsome he was day to day. At home, he usually walked around shirtless in a pair of sweatpants that had seen better days. I’d roll out of bed and find him in front of the stove, flipping pancakes, eggs, or bacon. He loved cooking breakfast and I never got tired of watching him from my perch across the kitchen island.

  Home Freddie wasn’t the version I saw walking toward me from the tunnel. This was a smooth, refined version of the man I loved. A version that made my hands shake as he continued walking toward me. The stadium erupted when they saw him, and I started to walk toward him with my hand pressed against my heart. I was trying to force it to calm down, but it was too late. Once I caught a glimpse of the line of people trailing out of the tunnel behind Freddie, the first tears were already falling. Kinsley, Liam, my parents (in their summer whites), Becca, Penn, Georgie, and Freddie’s mom; each of them trailed out after Freddie, smiling and waving as I shook my head in disbelief. I hadn’t seen my mom and dad in a few months, and I hadn’t seen Kinsley and Becca in twice as long. Moving to London and leaving them behind had been one of the hardest things I’d ever had to do, but it’d been worth it.

  I locked eyes with Freddie when we were only a few feet apart. My heart kicked up a rapid beat and he smiled wider. I shook my head and asked him what was going on. As soon as he reached me, he pulled me into a tight hug and I inhaled his clean, sharp scent. It was the smell that brought me peace at the end of a long day. It was the smell of a man who was supportive, and loyal, and loving. He bent to kiss my cheek and then he pulled back to look at me. His warm brown eyes assured me that everything would be okay.

  My family and friends were around us then, circled up and watching from a few feet away as I completely lost it in a fit of tears.

  “I can’t stop,” I said with a laugh and a hiccup.

  Freddie smiled and bent forward to wipe a tear from my face. “It’s okay.”

  “You look cute!” Kinsley shouted.

  “Dang, girl!” echoed Becca.

  I laughed and then inhaled a shaky breath as Freddie took a knee before me on the turf.

  Oh my god.

  “Andie Foster…”

  Oh, Jesus I could hardly hear him over the sound of my sobs. He took my hand and pressed his lips to the center.

  “The first time I met you, you asked me for my knickers…” Everyone around us laughed, but my hands shook and my heart beat wildly. “But you took my heart instead.”

  I inhaled a breath and shook my head. I couldn’t do it. He was kneeling there, staring up at me with earnest eyes and an open heart, and I couldn’t wait for him to finish. I knew how much he loved me; he showed me every single day. I knew he wanted to spend his life with me; he told me whenever he got the chance. I knew he and I were a perfect pair. We loved going for runs in the morning right after breakfast. We loved teaching and coaching one another. Freddie had greatly improved my skills in the pool, but teaching him to kick around a soccer ball was all but hopeless. We loved trying new recipes, subsequently failing, and then hopping in a cab to the nearest restaurant. We loved hanging out with Georgie and going to pubs with friends. We’d sit across from each other, laughing and talking, he’d glance over to me and I’d reach out for his hand, and it was enough. It didn’t matter where we were, Freddie and I were in it together. His struggles were mine. My triumphs were his.

  “In those first few weeks,” he continued, “you made me work for every smile and every word. I had to fight for you to give me the time of day, but even then, I think I knew I was fighting for my future wife.”

  I crumbled to the turf and threw myself against him. He was in the middle of his proposal and I was sure the words he was about to say were beautiful and compelling, but I didn’t need them.

  “Yes,” I whispered against his neck. “Yes. Yes. Yes.”

  He laughed and wrapped his arms around me to keep me against him. “You didn’t let me get to the good part.”

  I turned and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “This is the good part.”

  EPILOGUE TO THE EPILOGUE

  (BECAUSE I CAN)

  Andie

  FREDDIE AND I both agreed that we wanted a low-key destination wedding, preferably somewhere tropical.

  Georgie was an early advocate of the plan. “Yo quiero mucho rum y shirtless hombres” were her exact words on the subject. I hope she takes her maid of honor duties more seriously than her Spanish lessons.

  Coach Decker retired after the games, and Liam replaced her as head coach of the Women’s National Team. Kinsley took a break from her club team in Los Angeles, as she and Liam are expecting their first little soccer prodigy (!!!) this summer.

  Becca responded to Kinsley’s news with just one text: “Umm, looks like we might have two soccer prodigies in the making. SURPRISE.”

  Two weeks after the Olympics, Caroline sued Freddie and Sophie for libel and defamation. After losing the case, she was forced to pay for court costs and legal fees. She then checked herself into a hospital retreat for exhaustion. (Who could blame her?)

  One week into her stay, she was arrested for biting a nurse who refused to sneak her extra Tramadol. After posting bail, she fled the country and subsequently announced her engagement to some prince living in Dubai.

  I pray for an invitation every time I open the mailbox.

  Acknowledgments

  Thank you to all my readers, especially the Little Reds. I know there are so many books to choose from these days, and I don’t take it for granted that you al
l chose to spend a day or two reading mine.

  XO, Rachel

  The Summer Games continue with another standalone Olympic romance…

  When twenty-year-old Brie Watson comes face to face with her new gymnastics coach just weeks before Rio, the boundary between work and play is blurred.

  When the flame is lit, let the games begin.

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  What started out as a joke— seduce Coach Wilder—soon became a goal she had to score.

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  • A face that makes girls weep – check.

  • Abs that can shred Parmesan cheese (the expensive kind) – check.

  • Enough confidence to shift the earth’s gravitational pull – double check.

  Not to mention Liam is strictly off limits. Forbidden. Her coaches have made that perfectly clear. (i.e. “Score with Coach Wilder anywhere other than the field and you’ll be cut from the team faster than you can count his tattoos.”) But that just makes him all the more enticing…besides, Kinsley's already counted the visible ones, and she is not one to leave a project unfinished.

 
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