With only a week left until Running Off the Edge will be published, I’m posting the first chapter of the story below. I hope you like it!
Here’s the blurb one more time:
After the knee injury, Liam O’Connor, the former gold medalist, is no longer able to compete at the Olympics. He’s in Sochi as an assistant coach for another male figure skater and hopes to avoid Eric Lanney as much as possible.
Meanwhile Eric is back to compete for gold in pair skating, but is that the only thing that will be important to him? Maybe when the former lovers meet again in Russia, they will both learn that a gold medal isn’t the greatest prize you can win at the Winter Olympics.
And here’s the first chapter:
Liam looked around the mayhem that was the Olympic Village. People seemed to be going in every possible direction, and at least half of them apparently felt the need to bump into him along the way.
“How did I let you talk me into this?” he asked the woman responsible for him being in Russia at all.
“I told you that I’m not letting you lie in bed and cry into your ice cream for months and that you’re going with me.” Paula shrugged, pulling her hat down over her ears. “There might’ve been shouting.”
Liam nodded. “Yeah, sounds about right. Still, maybe my bed would have been a better choice after all.” No crowds. No cold. No reminders all over the place about what might have been. Liam switched from his right leg to the left and tried not to wince.
“As if you weren’t going to be glued to the ESPN broadcasts. This is better, trust me. Now shut up and tell me where we’re going. This map is useless.” Paula threw the piece of paper at his chest.
“I’ve got it,” Liam said after looking at the map and then at the surrounding area. “Come on.”
They moved through the crowd and finally found the sign pointing them to “Hall B2” where there was going to be an orientation meeting for the whole US team in about fifteen minutes.
“So,” Paula started, not looking up from her phone. “What do you think, should I go say hi to Eric when we get there, or should I let him do the work and find his mother?”
Liam loved Paula for a lot of reasons, and one of them was how she handled the whole Liam-and-Eric situation right from the start to the bad falling out and beyond. She made sure to keep in contact with Liam through the years, and a few months ago, she was the one who came to his apartment and told him to get his shit together. She made him an assistant coach on her team and dragged his ass to Sochi. He knew that Paula was giving him an out right now, a chance to avoid Eric that much longer. But there was no use in prolonging it; they were going to meet at some point, especially since the entire skating team had rooms on the same floor at their hotel. And it wasn’t like Liam was ever going to be ready.
“You should definitely make him work for it,” he told her. “Comes with mom privileges.”
Paula smiled at him and nodded. “Fine by me.”
When they came in to the big auditorium, it was already half-full, and it took them a long moment to locate Neil.
“Hi, Coach, hi, Liam!” Neil’s legs were bouncing, and Liam looked pointedly at the big coffee cup in Neil’s hand. “Hey, don’t judge, I’ve been awake for eighteen hours.”
“I’m not saying anything.” Liam sat down next to him. For all intents and purposes, he should probably hate Neil at least a little. The youngest guy on the skating team, Neil took — earned, was given — a place that up until about six months ago Liam saw as his own. And that was a bitter pill to swallow, no question about it, but in the end, Neil was a really nice, hard-working, and talented guy, and Paula was a great coach. They both deserved to be here.
And Liam just had to suck it up.
“You better not be, or you’re not getting your own,” Neil said and took out the container from beneath his seat. There was a cinnamon latte for him and a double espresso for Paula.
“My man.” Liam inhaled the sweet smell of his coffee. Next to him, Paula was taking back all the bad things she’d said to Neil in the past.
“And what can I do to earn such approval, oh mother of mine?” came from behind them.
Oh. Here we go. Liam clasped his hands around the coffee cup before he made himself look up. Eric was hugging Paula and laughing at something she said, and God, he looked so good. Liam hadn’t seen him in four years. He was guilty of watching every damn competition Eric was in during that time, but television makes you look different. And in Eric’s case, television just made him look more serious, older. Now he wasn’t performing, and he was completely relaxed, grinning. He reminded Liam of the boy he once knew and fell in love with. It almost made Liam forget the last four years.
Almost. Because the moment his eyes landed on Liam, Eric’s smile lost all its warmth and turned into a polite, public one. Liam wondered how his own face looked right now.
“Hi, Liam. Hi, Neil.”
A nod. Not even a handshake, just a nod. It wasn’t supposed to hurt that much anymore, for God’s sake. Get it together, O’Connor.
“Eric.” Liam nodded and then leaned out of his seat to look at the woman standing behind Eric, the other half of their skating duo. “Hello, Andrea.”
“Hi, Liam,” she said, smiling at him, and he wished he could offer her a sincere one in return. “It’s good to see you.”
“Thank you.” And because someone somewhere decided to give Liam a break, the speaker decided to start the orientation.
“Hello, ladies and gentlemen, my name is Richard Walker, and I’m the coordinator of the US team for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Please, let me tell you about the upcoming events and arrangements, and then there’ll be room for questions.”
And he took off, covering everything from the opening ceremony to the menu preferences. Then there was time for the usual safety speech, and after covering all the typical points, Walker looked down at his notes and set them aside.
Liam would bet he knew what was coming.
“I was also obligated to remind you to respect the laws of the country that’s hosting us right now, regardless of your personal feelings.”
“Only for a millionth time,” Liam muttered, but Neil wasn’t keeping it quiet. He stood up.
“So it’s a no for gay sex on the podium, then?”
Half the room laughed, and Liam shook his head, amused. He punched Neil in the thigh lightly and grinned at Neil’s wink. When Liam turned to Paula, though, he saw Eric’s face and the way he was looking at him. It was a look Liam remembered well, and it wasn’t a good memory. But before he could say anything, tell Eric off once and for all, the short, blond guy from the bobsled team shouted, “Name the time and any other place, cutie.”
The room burst out laughing once again, while Neil turned red and sat down quickly. Walker patted the microphone to silence them all.
“Gentlemen, please.” He picked up his notes again. “Let’s just focus on the competition, okay? Remember why we’re here.”
“We’re not the ones bringing this stupid damn topic up again and again,” Liam said quietly so that only the few people next to him could hear it. Neil nodded his agreement. Liam purposefully didn’t look in Eric’s direction.
Running Off the Edge is coming out on February 7th from MLR Press.
It’s out! You can buy it here: MLR Books