The summer games settlin.., p.5
The Summer Games: Settling the Score, p.5R.S. Grey
“Andie, yoohoo! Earth to Andie.”
I glanced up to find Kinsley staring at me over the back of the couch. Becca sat beside her, flipping through TV channels at a rate that made my eyes water.
“Becca and I found this really good Netflix documentary series about baby arctic whales, and if we start it tonight, we can probably finish all the episodes before we head back to L.A.”
She seemed really excited about the prospect, but there was no way I was joining them. I was putting the finishing touches on a sandwich in our condo’s tiny kitchen, and instead of replying, I took a giant bite and offered her a vague head nod.
“Wait. Why are you dressed like you’re going out?” she asked, narrowing her eyes.
Becca turned back to assess me as well and I swallowed down the glob of peanut butter lodged in my throat.
“Oh. Well.” I glanced down at my jean cutoffs and a cream, off-the-shoulder blouse. “Because I am.”
Kinsley threw up her arms. “But Liam will be over here soon, and you are supposed to be our little baby beluga.”
“I thought you loved whales,” Becca added.
They knew I had a love for whales and they’d likely picked the series because they thought I needed cheering up. They assumed I was upset about Freddie’s betrothal, but I couldn’t have been further from upset. I didn’t need to mope around our condo like my love life was over, because in fact, it was just getting started. I’d received an invitation on Facebook to a poker night hosted by a few members of the Portuguese men’s soccer team, and there was no way I was going to pass up that opportunity. They were all tall, tan, and ridiculously handsome. I hadn’t played poker in years, but I figured I could skirt by on luck long enough to find a replacement for my Rio boy-toy. I mean, what isn’t cute about two soccer players in love? Nothing, as evidenced by Kinsley and Becca’s storybook romances.
“As fun as the documentary sounds, I think I’m going to go out.”
They frowned in tandem.
“Look, I don’t expect you guys to understand. You’re both married, and well, boring.”
“Hey!” Becca said.
I threw them an apologetic smile. “I mean, it’s the truth. If you guys were single, you’d be coming to this poker night with me.”
“Not true,” Kinsley argued.
I laughed. “Right. Let’s see. Remember when you broke the rules to date Liam Wilder even though he was your college soccer coach?”
Becca burst out laughing, but Kinsley turned and narrowed her bright blue eyes on me. “That was different.”
I shrugged. “It just seems strange that you’re so adamantly against me going out and meeting a cute guy here when you both have had your fair share of fun.”
Becca hummed in thought. I knew I was making a valid point.
“I just think I should get the choice to make the most of being in Rio.”
Kinsley nodded. “You’re right. But just so you know, you’re gorgeous, Andie. And I’m not just saying that because I like you. You could be betrothed to a million Freddie Archibalds if you wanted to be.”
I shook my head. “Thanks for your confidence in my polygamy skills, but really, I’m not even thinking about that—him—any more.”
“And if you want to go out and have fun, be my guest, but I’m not going to stop being overprotective of you. I made a promise to your mom that I’d watch out for you while we’re down here.”
“My mom called you?!”
Kinsley shot me a glare. “Christy has me on speed dial.”
Of course. I should have known.
I grabbed my small clutch from the dresser in my room and then slipped on my favorite pair of brown leather flip-flops. When I walked back into the living room, Kinsley and Becca stared up at me, assessing my outfit.
“You’re wearing a bra right?”
I rolled my eyes.
“And underwear? Are they your own this time?” Becca asked.
I ignored them and walked to the door.
“Stay safe. Text us and don’t stay out too late. We have an early practice tomorrow.”
“Wow you really have been talking to Christy lately,” I teased over my shoulder just as a knock sounded on the door. As anticipated, Liam stood on the other side with a bag full of takeout clutched in hand. He’d just showered and his hair was damp and mussed up a bit. Kinsley had definitely gotten lucky with him. I smiled and stole a handful of French fries as I sneaked past into the hallway.
“Hey! Wait. Aren’t you watching the documentary thing with us?” he asked.
“No, unlike you losers, I actually have plans.”
“Stay safe!” he shouted as I leaned forward to press the elevator call button.
Staying safe wasn’t really hard to do. While Rio at large had issues with crime, the village in contrast was secure and locked down after 8:00 PM. Athletes were free to roam as they pleased. The Portuguese guys were assigned a condo two buildings down from mine. The breeze from the ocean picked up my hair and blew it every which direction. I twisted the long strands in a low bun to keep them from sticking to my lipstick. I’d kept it simple in the makeup department. I still had a tan from outdoor practices back home, so I didn’t have to worry about foundation. I’d swiped on a subtle shade of red lipstick and mascara, and felt confident as I rode the elevator up to the third floor.
The noise from their condo could be heard even before I stepped off the elevator. I double-checked the Facebook invite and confirmed that the rowdy, bass-filled condo was the one I was supposed to be heading toward. 312. I offered a soft knock on the door though I knew it would go unheard. After another try, I turned the handle and stepped inside, surprised by the butterflies that swarmed my stomach as I entered.
Though the music was blaring, the condo was far less crowded than the Rubik’s Cube party had been the night before. There were a few guys in the kitchen mixing up a batch of sangria in a cooler on the floor. They waved me in and pointed to the living room where the rest of the party unfolded before me.
The soccer guys had pushed all the furniture aside to make room for three poker tables. I was running a little late, so the first two tables were already full of people drinking and talking and waving at me as I passed. I slid through the gaps in the chairs and headed for the last table where four empty chairs were waiting to be claimed.
I was about to take a seat when a hand reached out to grab my arm. I turned over my shoulder and came face to face with a tan, smiling guy I recognized from the Facebook invite. I couldn’t remember his name, but he was definitely on the Portuguese national team.
“Hey,” he said warmly.
He looked handsome, but it was hard to tell with the throwback green visor on his head—a prop for poker night. A few other guys around the living room had them on as well.
“Hey. I’m Andie.”
He shook my hand and did a poor job of concealing his gaze as it slid down my body.
“Andie Foster,” he said with a smile. “I was hope to having you here.” He spoke in choppy English with a thick, seductive accent.
He pulled my chair out for me and took one of the open seats beside me.
“I’m Nathan Drake.”
My brows rose in shock. Nathan Drake was a popular name and though I hadn’t noticed him at first—probably because of his visor—I’d definitely seen him on a few commercials; he was a heavily sponsored European soccer player in the same stratosphere as David and Liam.
My reaction to his name made him smile wider, revealing a pair of perfectly straight teeth and a single dimple that rimmed the edge of his lips. I was staring there as he spoke up again.
“You have done poker playing before?” he asked.
I shook my head. “Not recently, but I’m hoping I can keep up.”
I glanced around the table to check out my competition. Poker was a wise choice for an international party, as the game could be played primarily with universal hand signals and gestures. Fortunately, no one seemed like
Our table was split evenly between three girls and three boys.
“That is Tatiana and Sarah,” he said, pointing to two girls across the table. “Eric and Jorge.” I waved and smiled as he introduced everyone I’d be playing with for the next few hours. The majority in attendance were Portuguese athletes, but Eric was an American rower and Tatiana was a Russian diver.
Nathan started shuffling the cards. “We will starting soon. There is a few people still to arrive.”
“Sangria estará pronto em breve!” cheered the guys mixing the fruity wine in the kitchen.
They started passing out small cups filled with the concoction as more guests filtered inside, filling the empty seats. The sangria looked good but smelled like equal parts brandy to wine, so I politely declined a cup. Kinsley, though overbearing at times, was right about our early morning practice; I didn’t need to be throwing up liquor while we did our workout.
“Sabe Frederick?” Nathan asked. “The swimmer?”
I pulled my attention from the room and glanced over. Nathan was beaming over at me, proud of himself for something.
“Um, yeah I know him, sort of. Why?”
He smiled wider. “He’s coming. Is the guest special for the evening.” He hesitated through the sentence, trying out the words for what seemed like the first time. Freddie was going to be a special guest?
My gut clenched at the thought and I stood from my chair like someone had lit a fire beneath me.
“What is wrong?” Nathan asked, staring up at me.
I shook my head and frowned just as the front door opened again. One of the British swimmers I’d seen in the food court walked in with Freddie right behind him. Everyone greeted them excitedly, but my heart rioted in my chest at the sight. He could slip on a pair of jeans and a gray Henley t-shirt. He could put a baseball cap on and pretend like he was Freddie, not Frederick, but I knew better. He had a certain charm about him—a faultless charm he was fully aware of—and when he glanced across the room and leveled me with his dark gaze beneath the rim of his hat, I knew it’d be a hopeless cause to try and get over him by flirting with a few soccer players.
There was no getting over him.
I wasn’t surprised when he slipped past open seats at the other tables and made his way toward me. I wasn’t surprised when he stopped at the seat beside mine, standing a foot away and stealing my comfort, my resolve, and my senses as he pulled the chair out from the table. I tried to focus down on the green felt, but it was no use. I still caught a whiff of his cologne—or maybe it was his body wash; I couldn’t tell. It was subtle but strong, and I found myself wishing for a stuffy nose so I wouldn’t have to keep smelling it. We get it. You’re a duke and you smell divine. Did he need to keep rubbing it in?
“I should have expected to find you here,” he said with a smirk I couldn’t see but knew was there. “Poker definitely suits you.”
“Oh yeah?” I said, finally turning to face him. MISTAKE. It was much easier to put up a barrier against Freddie when he wasn’t sitting inches away from me, smiling like the devil himself.
“Yeah, you’ve got quite a good poker face,” he continued.
I tilted my head and tried to get a good look at his eyes under the brim of his hat. Who was he trying to hide from in that thing? There wasn’t a person in the room who didn’t know who he was.
“Why do you think that?”
“You seem wholly unaffected by me.”
I smiled, glad I at least appeared that way on the outside.
He smirked. “Are you?”
It was a textbook example of dry British banter with just a tinge of good-natured provocation, but rather than giving him the satisfaction, I decided to go on the offensive.
“Congrats on the betrothal,” I said with an arched brow. “Caroline’s really pretty.”
The blow clearly found its mark as his jaw tightened. “She’s just a friend.”
“A friend that you’re engaged to marry,” I reminded him.
“My family set up the betrothal. It wasn’t any of my doing.”
I shook my head. “Clearly I don’t understand your archaic English traditions. To be honest, I didn’t even realize betrothals were still a thing. In America, we like to be in control of our own destinies.”
His light brown eyes met mine beneath his cap and for a moment I thought I caught a glimpse of the real Freddie, not the teasing London playboy, but a man faced with a future he might not want.
He opened his mouth to speak just as Nathan slapped the deck of cards down on the table in front of me.
“Everyone is here! Ready to play?”
I HADN’T BEEN into the idea of poker night. I’d told Thom to bugger off a half dozen times, but he’d guilted me into attending with a sob story about how he “used to do this sort of thing with Henry all the time.” He’d have moaned on about it all night, and I didn’t want to hear about how my brother had been ace at poker, so I grudgingly accepted with strict terms: we’d go for a little bit, Thom would play a few hands, and then I’d get back to the flat and rest up. I had an early morning workout and I was still a bit jetlagged from traveling halfway around the world.
Of course that plan was tossed out the window as soon as I walked into the flat with Thom and spotted Andie across the room. She was standing up, looking a bit peaky, like she was ready to bolt at the mere sight of me. Maybe I should have given her space, but I didn’t. I slipped past a few blokes and made my way toward her table.
Our banter was easy, her presence was welcome, and though it’d surprised me to hear her speak of Caroline, I’d ended the discussion quickly. I didn’t want to talk about her, not when Andie was so close.
She enthralled me. I sat watching her out of the corner of my eye as Nathan passed round the cards and went on about the rules. It was dull, but I nodded along and watched Andie, taking in her delicate features and the hair pinned just at the nape of her neck. The pale shade of blonde reminded me of the summer sun. Her shirt fell off her shoulder closest to me and there were a slew of freckles dotting her tan skin there, just at the top.
“Freddie, if you keep trying to look at my cards,” she said, “I’ll have to ask someone to switch spots with me.” She kept her focus on her obscured cards, but I could see the smile she was trying to hide.
“Right.” I pretended to glance over my cards. “I was just wondering if you play poker often?”
Everyone was taking their time arranging their hand and assessing their odds, but it wasn’t bloody rocket science. I’d been playing poker for years and I didn’t have to concentrate hard on the game. I could play and focus on Andie; the two weren’t mutually exclusive.
“No, actually,” she replied. “I like to play games of skill, not luck.”
I nodded. “I’m afraid it’s not my strong suit either. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve.”
“And where do you keep your spades and diamonds?” she asked with a soft smile.
Her smiles never lasted long enough. She was back to focusing on her hand, worried over the cards that had yet to be overturned, but I wanted her attention. I leaned closer and whispered in her ear.
“What if you and I have our own little wager?”
Her brow arched with curiosity, though she kept her focus on her cards. “Like a side bet? I didn’t bring any money.”
I nodded as I rearranged my cards. “Nothing serious. Just some fun since we’re both novices.”
She didn’t answer right away and when I glanced over, I found her eyeing me suspiciously, as if she was trying to see through my disguise. I watched as she brought her full bottom lip between her teeth, mulling over the bet, and for a moment I was worried she’d say no.
“I’ve not known an Olympian that was afraid of a little competition,” I taunted playfully.
“All right, you’re on Mr. Viscount of WhateverItsCalled. What are we playing for?”
“We both have to workout, so I propose a ‘turf war’ of sorts. If I win, you join me in the pool tomorrow, and if you win, I’ll join you on the pitch.”
She titled her head, still inspecting me as if she’d find my true intent written across my features. I arched a brow and she reached out to shake my hand.
We shook on it and I didn’t let go until I was good and ready.
“I hope you packed a bikini.”
“KINSLEY!” I SHOUTED through the condo. “Did you happen to pack an old, 1850s style bathing suit in your suitcase?
“What?” she shouted back.
I groaned. “Never mind.”
She poked her head past my doorway, but I didn’t bother glancing up; I knew she’d have judgy eyes.
“Jeez, it’s a mess in here.”
She wasn’t lying.
I’d systematically removed every piece of clothing from my suitcase and tossed it aside after a quick inspection. I was trying to find something to wear down to the pool. I’d packed two bathing suits, both of which were bikinis, neither of which I would be caught dead wearing around Freddie—who was, by the way, either a card shark or a lucky beginner. Or the devil. I still hadn’t decided.
“Why do you need a bathing suit?” she asked.
The Summer Games: Settling the Score by R.S. Grey / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes