So Over You(5)

By: Kate Meader

She understood she’d have to get used to slings and arrows, accusations of using her father’s name and her position as owner to get a coaching gig. But that last dig about getting her way? Said as if she had done that before.

“I know what I’m doing, Vadim.”

“Do you?” He leaned in, using his height to intimidate. It sort of worked. “You can no longer play at the pro level, yet you insist on playing games. With me. And not for the first time. Once your selfishness screwed with my career.”

“That’s not what happened.”

“Isn’t it? Three years—” He cut off, his anger a cloud that practically stung her eyes. “All because you put me in your crosshairs, Isobel. Well, forgive me if I would rather not trust my professional future to you.”

Her cheeks heated furiously. Of course he would see it that way. She had been young, immature, more sheltered than the average eighteen-year-old. All she knew was hockey. It was her life, and then Vadim had skated into it, and she’d seen something else. Her eyes had opened to beauty and passion and—hell, she’d been a teenage nightmare.

He stood close enough for her to view rings of blue fire around his irises and a smudge of pink lipstick tinting his jaw. It was hard being Vadim Petrov.

Regularly bombarded by photos of him in magazines and on billboards over the years, she wanted to think it was easier to look at him objectively now. As a perfectly formed machine of mass and muscle. As a chiseled Renaissance sculpture that was cool to the touch. She wanted to think it, but she remembered too much about the last time she had been this close to him.

Apologizing for how it all went down would make things easier.

Well, not exactly easier.

They had to work together, put aside their differences for the sake of the team. But she didn’t like his assumptions about how she’d landed this job. Or maybe she didn’t like that she half agreed with him.

Doubts that she had right completely on her side put her on the defensive. “These late nights at the club will have to stop.” She curved her gaze around his broad shoulder to the ever-increasing line of women waiting to sit on his lap. “You’re going to need your sleep for the extra practice you have to put in.”

He didn’t respond to that, but if he had, it was easy to guess what he’d say. What every athlete would say.

I know my limits. I know what my body can take.

Athletes were consummate liars.

He leaned in again, smelling of fame, privilege, and raw sex appeal. Discomfort at his proximity edged out the hormonal sparks dancing through her body.

“Does Moretti know that we have history? That you are the last person I wish to work with?”

Before she could respond, someone squealed, “Vadim!” A blond, skinny, buxom someone, who now wrapped herself around Vadim in a very possessive manner. “You said you’d be back with a dwinkie!”

A dwinkie?

Drawing back, Vadim circled the squealer’s waist and pulled her into his hard body. “Kotyonok, I did not mean to be so long.” He dropped a kiss on her lips, needing to bend considerably because she was just so darn petite! Not like big-boned Isobel, who could have eaten this chick and her five supermodel Playmates for a midmorning snack. A group of them stood off to the side, clearly waiting for the signal to start the orgy. And Vadim clearly wanted to give it, except he had to deal with the annoying six-foot fly in the sex ointment.

Why did the lumberjack hotties always go for twigs instead of branches? Did it make them feel more virile to screw a pocket-sized Barbie?

Yep, feeling like a schlub.

But he didn’t need to know that. All he needed to know was that she had the power to return him to competitive ice. This was her best shot at making a difference and getting the Rebels to a coveted play-off spot. Vadim Petrov and his butt-hurt feelings would not stand in her way.

“Do you need to talk about it, Russian?”

She infused as much derision into the question as possible, so that the idea of “talking about it” made him sound a touch less than manly. Big, bad, brick-house Russians didn’t need to talk about the women who’d done them wrong.

“There is nothing to talk about,” he uttered in that voice that used to send Siberian shivers down her back. Now? Nothing more than a Muscovian flurry.

“Excellent!” Superscary cheerful face. “Regular practice is tomorrow at ten, so I’ll see you on the ice at 9 a.m. Don’t be late.”

Pretty happy with her exit line, she walked away.

Far too easy.

A brute hand curled around hers and pulled her to the other side of the bar, out of the sight line of most of the VIP room. She found her back against a wall—literally and figuratively—as 230 pounds of Slavic muscle loomed over her.

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