The summer games settlin.., p.9
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       The Summer Games: Settling the Score, p.9

           R.S. Grey

  Michelle tapped my shoulder and I turned to find my drink waiting for me on the bar. We paid and wound back through the crowd, trying in vain to find the group Nathan had promised would be there. We tried the dance floor, curling around the perimeter of jostling bodies without luck.

  “Let’s try the second floor,” Michelle said, pointing to a set of stairs in the corner of the room.

  That was where we ended up finding them; they were sitting at a long table, three drinks ahead of us and loud enough to prove it. I’d nearly passed by them without notice, but Nathan had shouted my name.


  I turned and watched him stand to greet me on uneven footing. He smelled like liquor when he pulled me into a hug, but I smiled and introduced him to Michelle. Her smile was wide and genuine—clearly she was interested—and in an instant I felt like a third wheel.

  “Michelle quiero mucho dance,” I said, hoping my broken Spanish would be close enough to the Portuguese translation.

  Nathan arched a brow and held out his hand.

  “Should we?”

  Michelle’s big brown eyes widened behind her mask. “Oh, but I just got my drink.”

  I rolled my eyes, took it out of her hand, and took a long sip. “There. Problem solved. Now go.”

  Nathan wrapped his hand around her waist and led her back to the stairs we’d just climbed. Without him there, I didn’t have a real connection to the group, and even if I had hopes for recognizing someone, with the masks on, it was nearly impossible. I found a seat at the end of the long table just as everyone held up small shot glasses. The girl closest to me slid Nathan’s over and nodded.

  “Are you a friend of Nathan’s?” she asked, eyeing my dress.

  I shrugged. “Sort of. I’m here for the games.”

  She smiled. “Same here.”

  Maybe I’d have recognized her, but she was wearing an emerald green mask that covered most of her face, save for a pair of red lips.

  “Okay!” a guy down the table shouted, drawing our attention back to the task at hand: shots. He held his glass in the air, sloshing a bit of Fireball Whisky over the side. “Here’s to winning gold, and drinking it too!”

  “Cheers!” everyone called back as they tipped back their shots. I sniffed the glass and wrinkled my nose. My limit for the night had been one drink, and I already had two in front of me. If I started in on shots, there was no way I’d be a functioning human in the morning.

  The shot was a good icebreaker though, especially since they didn’t notice me slide mine down the table untouched. Mask Girl and I got to talking and she introduced me to a few other people in the group. Names were too hard to hear over the music, and even the ones I did hear didn’t stick to memory. With the masks on, it wasn’t like it mattered anyway; we could have been anyone.

  The table prepared for another shot and I glanced around for Michelle. I’d assumed she and Nathan would dance to a few songs and then head back up, but they’d been gone long enough that I wondered if they were even still inside the club. I pulled my phone out of my purse, secretly hoping for a text from Freddie. Nothing.

  How hard was it to reply to a text?

  The table clinked their shot glasses together and I stared at my phone, willing the text bubble to pop up.

  “CHEERS!” they shouted as I started typing out another reply. I was breaking the rules by texting him again, but I was too lonely and bored to care.

  Andie: I wish you were here.

  I had barely slipped my phone back into my purse when it buzzed again. I pulled it out with a shaky hand.

  Freddie: Be careful what you wish for.

  I read the message twice before I realized my heart was racing with the shock of his reply. Did that mean he was in the club? He’d come after all? I twisted my head around, looking for him, but he wasn’t on the second floor, as least not from what I could see.

  I hit send on a message that told him where I was, but it wouldn’t go through. I’d been able to send a text just a minute earlier, but now the cell reception decided to turn spotty. Perfect. I tried again and then glanced around our table. He wasn’t on the second floor. I shoved my phone into my clutch and stood from the table.

  “I’ll be back,” I promised the group, though no one seemed to notice my departure.

  My first idea was to go down to the mask shop, but he wasn’t in the crowded room. I stood by the door, watching people filter in and out and trying to spot his tall frame. I tried to text him again from that spot, but my phone still wouldn’t cooperate.

  I walked back into the club and stood just to the side of the dance floor, spinning in a circle. I glanced up to the second and third floor balconies. There were plenty of people hanging over the railing, shouting, dancing, and drinking, but none of them were Freddie. I drew my gaze higher, up to the ceiling of the club. I hadn’t realized it before, but it was made of glass. Thousands of pieces of shattered glass fragments pieced together like a puzzle. My broken reflection stared back at me. I looked like a lost red devil in the center of the room. While everyone else moved and danced and drank, I stood frozen, trying to find someone I had no business looking for. It was in those fragmented pieces of glass that I first found him reflected back to me, dressed in black, masked, and walking up behind me.

  There’s a sensation that comes with shock. That fast flood of endorphins that riles your senses. Your stomach twists and your hands shake and your heart beats so fast that even you aren’t sure who is controlling it: you or him. That’s how it felt when Freddie stepped up behind me in the club. His hand pressed against my lower back, skimming against my bare skin.

  I closed my eyes, listened as he whispered hello in my ear, and fell into the kind of madness I’d avoided for so many years. For so long, I’d lived in the confines of my regimented life, but now I was in Rio, and Freddie still had his hand on the small of my back.

  Inviting him to the club had been a mistake, but he was there and I wasn’t going to say no.

  I wanted to taste madness.



  ANDIE WAS A red temptress standing alone in the club, and I wanted to devour her. Her dress was nothing, some fabric tied behind her neck and little else. No bra. Bloody hell. Her back was completely exposed and as I walked closer, I dragged my gaze down her spine, getting my fill of the tan skin I wasn’t allowed to touch.

  I’d spent enough time memorizing her body to recognize it, even behind the mask. She was beautiful. Blonde hair hung loose across her shoulders, silky and long. Gray eyes and long lashes stood out against the red lace. I didn’t stop myself from touching her back. She was looking up, watching me in the mirrors when I stepped close and whispered hello.

  “You look beautiful.”

  She didn’t reply. She twisted around and faced me, dropping her gaze from the ceiling so she could meet my eyes. There was a darkness there that she usually kept hidden. Her playful, cheeky smile was tucked away. Instead, her full lips held the promise of a smirk—the kind that told me she and I wouldn’t be spending the night as friends.

  “Do you need a drink?” she asked, eyeing my empty hands.

  I nodded and led us to the bar. It was crowded—the whole place was, really. I stayed close to Andie, tucking her into my side so I could feel her body there beside mine. She didn’t protest, though I could sense a stillness inside her, a fight over whether she should let this happen. I didn’t give her enough time to think it over.

  “Is anyone waiting for you?” I asked after placing my order with the bartender.

  She shook her head but kept quiet, eyeing the bottles of alcohol behind the bar.

  “Do you want to have a dance?” I said, though I prayed she’d say no. I hated dancing in front of other people. To me, if you did it right, dancing was intimate and raw—something better reserved for private rooms and dark corners.

  She shook her head again.

  The bartender slid my drink across the bar and I took
the glass in one hand and Andie’s arm in the other. I led us away from the bar before she could ask where we were going, and I found the first flight of stairs that could lead us toward a place I wasn’t sure we were ready to find.

  The second floor was packed with annoying drunk tourists and locals, so I kept hold of her and took her up another flight, all the way to the top floor. There were no questions or protests from Andie. When we were nearly up the second flight, I glanced back to find her eyes on me, confident and curious.

  “I haven’t been up here yet,” she said, eyeing the space tentatively.

  The music was still as loud as it was on the first floor, thanks to speakers blasting in every direction, but the crowd had thinned enough so that it wasn’t hard to find an empty spot.

  They’d used tinted bulbs to cast the space in red light. The other floors had been dark, but this was different, red and smoky and intoxicating. The fragments of glass were closer than ever. When we sat and I pulled Andie to the soft leather seat beside mine, I glanced up and took us in from above. My gaze caught on her thighs. Her dress had ridden up when she sat, and she was trying to tug it down, to no avail. I smiled and turned back to her, leaving the mirrors for later.

  “Want a sip?” I asked, holding my drink up to her.

  She shook her head and took a pull of her own drink. It was after that, when she’d swallowed and worked up the confidence, that she turned to me with a question.

  “Why are we doing this? We should go back down with the others.”

  She sounded resolute in her decision and yet she didn’t move. I had my hand wrapped around her waist and I tugged her closer, pulling her into my side.

  “Just a bit longer,” I said, studying her eyes behind her mask.

  The entire time at the gym, I’d been wholesome and restrained. I’d helped her work out and I’d kept my distance as much as possible. It’d been painful at times, and I’d left feeling more frustrated than I had in years. I had contemplated staying home and letting Andie run off to the club by herself, but I wasn’t that selfless. I knew that the second she walked in, she would never make it back out alone. I should have let that happen. It might’ve made life easier on the both of us, and yet there I was, stealing her away to the third floor and dipping close to whisper against her hair.

  I knew I’d done the right thing by showing up. I’d only been there for half an hour and I’d already seen the full effect of Andie in her red dress. The bartender had bobbled the bottle when he’d passed over my drink. Most blokes on the stairs had tripped as they watched her slide past. There was a guy, even then, who kept his eyes glued to her from across the room. He was leaning on the balcony railing, too far away for Andie to notice, but I did.

  “I meant what I said earlier about you being territorial,” she said, turning to face me. I caught a whiff of her perfume and it was enough to distract me from the bloke leaning on the railing.

  “I’ve actually never been that way,” I said, meeting her gaze behind her mask. “In the past, I mean.”

  And that was the truth. In other relationships, there’d been no threats, no insecurity concerning the future, but Andie was a wildcard. We couldn’t make each other promises because there was nothing to promise. We had moments, tiny, stolen moments that felt wrong more than they felt right. She wasn’t mine and she never would be; I knew that and I felt that every time she was around me. That’s why I was territorial, but I was also careful, because Andie was a wisp of smoke; if I tried to grasp her too tightly, she would slip through my fingers. My only hope was to keep the fire burning.

  “Do you miss your brother?” she asked, changing the subject so suddenly I had to take a moment to collect my thoughts.

  “Do I miss him day to day?” I asked. “No.”

  She tilted her head and waited for me to continue. I loved that she was willing to listen, but I hated that she was fixated on that topic.

  I relented, staring off at a patch of leather sofa past her shoulder. “The worst part is, sometimes I want him to be alive again, not so that he can have his life back, but so that I can have mine.”

  The words sounded twisted when said aloud; I hoped the music would make it impossible for her to hear them.

  “You really don’t have to marry her,” she said, reaching out to touch my hand. I’d been fisting it in my lap without realizing it.

  I shrugged. “Why are we talking about this?”

  “Because I’ve tried to keep my distance from you and yet I’m sitting here, starting to have feelings for a man who is about to marry someone else. How is that possible? Why am I even here right now?”

  I leaned forward and dropped my drink on the table in front of us.

  “You’re here because I want you to be.”

  She inhaled a shaky breath.

  “Look up,” I said, tilting her chin back so that she was forced to see her reflection in the shattered glass. Like a good girl, she did, and I followed. She watched me in the mirror as I slid my hand up her thigh, pushing her red dress higher.

  “Do you feel how fast your heart is racing? How badly you want me to lean in and drag my lips across your skin? Across this delicate patch of skin right here?”

  I swept her hair aside and pressed my lips to her neck. She shivered against me but her eyes stayed locked on the ceiling.

  I could see the outline of her breasts, heavy and bare beneath her dress. They’d fit perfectly in my hand, fill up my palm and then some. I pressed another kiss to her neck and her nipples pebbled, begging for my mouth.

  She turned then, maybe to push me away or maybe to beg me closer, but I didn’t give her the chance to speak. I leaned forward and crashed my lips against hers, hungry with lust. I gripped her waist with one hand, and dragged my other hand up her neck, winding my fingers in her hair. She was shocked for that first second, frozen against me as her pulse beat a wild rhythm. Her hands pressed against my chest to keep me away, but in the end, they worked to pull me closer. She fisted my shirt and kissed me back, hard.

  With her caged against the leather couch, I kissed her like I’d never have another chance. The music from the club drowned out our moans, but I could feel her pulling me closer, pushing me to take the lead. I dragged my hand up her bare back and she shivered against my touch.

  She leaned against me and I felt another ounce of resolve melt away. I reached up to untie the black ribbon keeping her mask in place, but she pulled away and shook her head.

  “Leave it on.”

  There was a darkness in her that I didn’t want to test. I left her mask and trailed my hands down her back to grip her tiny waist. I waited for her to tell me to stop, to end the night right there. She skimmed her finger along my chin, studying my features. Her eyes followed her hand as it burned a path across my skin. She leaned forward and pressed a quick kiss to my lips—a soft, tentative thing that was over before I could close my eyes.

  “Tonight, I don’t want to us to be Andie and Freddie.”

  The tone of her voice plucked at my heart.

  She pressed her lips against my neck and hid her face against the collar of my shirt.

  I shook my head and cradled her against me. “We don’t have to be.”

  And I meant it. We were alone in that corner with a black leather couch to make our own. No one noticed my hand sliding up her dress and no one glanced over when my fingers skimmed along her upper thigh, right past the silky material barring me from her. She pressed her lips against mine and dug her fingers into my arm. As I dragged my thumb across her clit, her moan was so soft I could hardly hear it. I wanted to reach up and rip the speaker off the wall, anything to make the sound of her pleasure easier to hear.

  Maybe it was the masks or maybe it was Rio. There was something in the air, the promise of pleasure that made it impossible to stop.

  “You’re the one I want. You,” I whispered to her, airing the truth, even though it meant we’d both be hurt when reality found us again.

  Her mouth p
ressed against mine and I tried to contain her, to keep her there on the couch. Every time I brushed my thumb across her, her hips lifted to meet me. She was soft and beautiful and wet. I held her down, hiding her from the dark club as I slid a finger in and out of her. Even if someone did look over, they’d see nothing but our legs tangled together. It was the best I could do. There was no stopping myself. She knew I was a greedy bastard; there was no point in trying to convince her otherwise—not when she pulled my bottom lip into her mouth and bit down hard enough to make my blood burn.

  “I want to come,” she begged.

  I kept one hand between her thighs and palmed her breasts through her thin cotton dress. Her nipples were pebbled, begging to be licked. She filled my hand and then some, so full and sexy I wanted to throw caution to the wind, push her back onto the couch, and lap her up until I’d tasted every delicious inch of her. She was so bloody beautiful, pressed against the couch with red, swollen lips. It wasn’t enough though; I wanted to see all of her. I needed to feel the silky skin beneath her dress.

  I needed her dress gone.

  I needed my mouth on her skin. Her stomach. Her thighs.

  I needed to bury myself inside of her until her back arched and her toes curled.

  But the words came.

  Of course they came.

  “We shouldn’t be doing this.”

  She whispered against my skin and still, I tried to pretend I hadn’t heard her. I wanted to keep her caged there and swirl my thumb over her clit until I felt her come. I wanted to see it and hear it and then see it and hear it again. Over and over and over.

  But she pulled away. I straightened my mask and her fingers pressed against her lips, feeling them as if she was in shock at the fact that they were still a part of her. They weren’t, not really. They were mine. I pulled her hand away and stole one last kiss to prove it.

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