So Over You(4)

By: Kate Meader

A pang of envy bit into Isobel’s heart, but she breathed it away. She wasn’t looking for the love her sister had found with Remy, but she wouldn’t say no to the obvious fireworks that lit up their bed. Not that anything like that would be happening in this godawful club.

Excusing herself, she headed over to the bar set off in an alcove, determined that this would be a one-drink-and-done kind of night. A plastic-encased menu listed the cocktail options: Vesna Driller, Vesna on the Beach, Vesna Slap ’n’ Tickle . . . you get the idea.

The bartender, who was cute in a swipe-right kind of way, caught her eye.

“Hey,” she said, pinning on her I’m-dateable-let’s-practice smile. “So what’s in the Vesna Bomber?”

“Vodka, grenadine, and passion fruit,” she heard behind her in a tone that could freeze a Cossack’s ball sac.

Here we go. She turned, the first thing that popped into her head skipping her filter and landing right on her tongue. “Sounds girly.”

Okay, so no one would ever describe Vadim Petrov as “girly.” Before her stood the most masculine streak of cells to ever grill Isobel’s retinas, and she lived in a world teeming with machismo.

“Thought you hated vodka,” she said.

“I do.” A negligent wave of his hand said this was all beyond his control. Who was he, a mere multimillion-dollar spokesman, to counteract stereotypes about Russians?

The gesture might have been casual, but his stare was anything but. “I was sorry to hear about your father.”

“Oh. Thanks.” It still gnawed, less a sharp pain now, but a constant awareness of the void. Clifford Chase had been driven, difficult, and demanding. He’d expected great things from his favorite daughter, so her failure to make a career in the pros had strained their relationship.

She missed him like crazy.

Vadim had lost his own father about eighteen months ago. She opened her mouth to offer similar condolences, but they got stuck in her throat with all the other things she longed to say. He’d had a strained relationship with the elder Petrov, a billionaire businessman with rumored ties to the Russian mob, and a man who didn’t want Vadim to play hockey in the United States. Better he expend his athletic energies for the glory of Mother Russia. Sergei Petrov got his wish—after Vadim’s visit to Chicago all those years ago, his son enjoyed a star-making turn in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Isobel might’ve had something to do with that.

The silence sat up between them, the tension expanding. Vadim seemed to be expecting her to say something, so she happily obliged.

“How’s your knee?”

Not that. His eyebrow raised slightly. “Improving.”

Tiptoe around his ego. “There are some special drills you could do to help with your speed. Get you back to how you were preinjury.”

“I’m sure the team will do what is necessary.”

“Yes, we will.”

Gotcha! That eyebrow became one with his hairline.

She cleared her throat. “Moretti has assigned me to give you personalized attention. We’ll meet for an hour before each regular practice and work on your skating.”

Now that injury had forced her out of the game, coaching was all she had left. This morning Dante Moretti, the newly hired Rebels general manager, had appointed her as a skating consultant with one charge: get Vadim Petrov into good enough shape so they could qualify for the play-offs in two months. She’d planned to drop this knowledge on the man himself after tomorrow’s team practice, but hey, no time like the present.

Now she waited for his predictable explosion.

“There is nothing wrong with my skating,” he grated.

“There’s always room for improvement,” she said with unreasonable cheer. Kill the boy with happy. “Right now, you’re placing too much weight on your uninjured leg and it’s thrown off your motion. We’ll focus on—”

“Nothing. I can work with Roget.” The regular skating coach.

“He doesn’t have time to give you the extra attention you need. It’s typical for teams to hire consultants, especially for players who are underperforming.”

And there was that famous Russian scowl. Poor ol’ Vad was a touch sensitive about his diminished capacity since that knee injury had sidelined him for half the season. Having battled a career-killing injury herself, she understood what he was going through. The doubts, the questioning. The fear. But, unlike her, he was in a position to get back to full strength as a pro. What she wouldn’t give for a similar opportunity.

He snorted. “You are not just any consultant, though, are you, Isobel? You are a part owner of the team. You are Clifford Chase’s legacy. And even after his death, you are getting your way.”

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