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After an explosive locker room confrontation with his Russian rival ends in the most intense sex of his life, American pairs skater Dev Avira is distracted to say the least. Heís worked for years to have a chance at Olympic gold, and he canít let himselfóor his partneródown. Playing cat and mouse with the steely and smoldering Mikhail Reznikov is the last thing he needs as he prepares for the biggest competition of his life, but they canít keep their hands off each other as the Games approach.
Dev soon learns that beneath Mikhailís arrogant and aloof exterior is Misha, a passionate man who warms Devís heart and scorches his bed. Theyíre both determined to win, but for Misha his freedom could be at stake if he and his partner take anything less than gold. Who will stand atop the podium? And can secret lovers from different worlds make a life together once the competition ends?
This gay sports romance from Keira Andrews features enemies to lovers, two alpha men, sequins, and of course a happy ending. Content previously published as novellas Cold War and Holding the Edge.
I had the pleasure of reading Keira Andrews "The Winning Edge." A brilliant love story between two male figure skaters. Having always been a fan of figuring skating this story was a thrill for me to read.
The author goes in-depth of what life is like behind the scenes of figuring skating. How the decisions of two male figure skaters who fall in love must hide because not only could it hurt their careers and the careers of their partners but could cause major issues in one's country.
It gave me joy to see that against the odds the characters of Dev and Misha realized that what they had was special enough to be with each other. Although they had to hide their love, their first concern was for the people they cared about. They loved each other fiercely but also cared and loved their friends and family just as much.
Throughout the story, I was amazed and inspired by not only their characters but also by the supporting characters that Keira wrote about. The love and support that was given to both Dev and Misha was heartwarming and brought out the most outstanding support system that I have read.
This story is definitely worth the Gold Medal in my opinion.
December: The Grand Prix Final
Dev reached for his partnerís hand, and he and Bailey glided onto the ice wearing matching bullshit smiles as a voice announced: ìIn second, and winners of the silver medal, representing the United States of AmericaóBailey Robinson and Dev Avira!î
Thunderous applause filled the arena, and flashbulbs popped as they took their bows and waved to the cheering Japanese crowd. Dev wished he could soak in their love and choke down the acid bitterness currently lodged somewhere around his sternum.
Smiles still firmly in place, he and Bailey hopped onto the carpet surrounding the podium where the gold medalists waited in all their sequined and red-feathered glory. Leave it to the Russians to make their Firebird costumes as literal as possible. Kisa Kostina, not a bleached-blonde hair out of place, beamed as she bent to air-kiss Baileyís cheeks.
Devís jaw clenched as he shook Mikhail Reznikovís hand. He hated himself for the skitter of electricity when their eyes and palms met. Mikhailís lips curved briefly into an approximation of a smile. At thirty-one, with his short dark brown hair sweeping over his forehead, his steel-blue eyes, his broad shoulders and lean, tall body, and his truly spectacular ass, he was stupidly handsome.
Dev and Kisa exchanged air-kisses before he helped Bailey step onto the second tier of the podium. He took his place behind her and waved again to the audience while the third-place Canadians skated out to take their bows, followed by more air-kisses and handshakes. Although Dev and Bailey genuinely liked the Canadian team, this ritual was so painfully fake. They were all here to win, and there was only one satisfied team on the podium.
And satisfied the Russians certainly were. With his regal air, Mikhail was one of the most pompous, egotistical people Dev had ever met. He was the king of the pairs world, and he damn well knew it. Sharp-eyed Kisa was the ice queen, and together they were a perfect, humorless match. They kept to themselves off the ice, always civil but never friendly.
How Dev would love to see Mikhail Reznikov brought to his knees. He ignored the flare of desire in his belly at the other implications of that thought and refocused his attention on his resentment of Mikhailís place on the podium.
The Grand Prix Final was the last international competition before they all returned home for their national championships in late December and into January. Olympic teams would be determined, and then on to the Games in Annecy in February. Since he was seven, Dev had dreamed of winning Olympic gold. He was so close he could taste it.
The officials presented flowers and medals, and Dev played his jovial part. Being on the podium here meant they were among the best of the best, yet the silver medal hung around his neck like an albatross. He knew he should be grateful for what he had, and proud of everything he and Bailey had accomplished. And he was. But second place wasnít good enough.
He wanted to win.
As the all too familiar ìHymn of the Russian Federationî played, Dev watched the flags rise to the arenaís rafters. Just once, he wanted the Stars and Stripes to have the middle position. Sure, he and Bailey had won plenty of competitions. They had narrowly missed making the last Olympic team, and that disappointment had fueled them. Theyíd dominated American pairs skating ever since. Three-time national champions. Winners of multiple Grand Prix eventsóincluding Skate America, Skate Canada, NHK Trophy, and the Cup of China.
But theyíd never beaten Kostina and Reznikov. Every time they faced the Russians, they came up short. They were the reigning world silver medalists, and even though theyíd worked endlessly on their artistry and connection and edges and transitionsóit was never enough.
It wasnít as if the Russians werenít good. Dev could admit they were amazing, particularly on the technical side. They were three-time world champions, and when they were on, they were unbeatable. But tonight Kisa had fallen on their throw Salchow and theyíd lost unison on their side-by-side combination spins. Yet they still won by eight points. Eight! Sure, Bailey had put a hand down on their side-by-side triple toes, but it was a minor error. It felt like the judges had decided Kostina/Reznikov were the winners before any of the pairs even stepped on the ice.
The crowd cheered as the anthem ended, and all the skaters squeezed onto the top of the podium for photographs. At five-ten, Dev wasnít the biggest of the male pairs skaters, but tiny Bailey only reached his shoulder. Mikhail stood a good three inches taller beside him, because of course he had to be better in absolutely everything. Dev grinned for the photographers and held up his silver medal as he fantasized about elbowing Mikhail off the back of the podium.
The torture continued as the teams posed for more photographs on the ice with their flags. Then it was time to circle the rink for a victory lap. Dev and Bailey stopped to hug a few fans, including Amaya and Reiko, two young women who attended almost every competition around the world. Dev had no idea how they afforded it, but he was always grateful to see them in the stands.
Reiko handed him a stuffed elephant. The elephant was the state animal of Kerala, the Southern Indian state where his parents had grown up before immigrating to the US, where Dev was born. Heíd mentioned once in an interview that his good-luck charm was a tiny elephant pendant carved from jade that he wore during every competition on a silver chain, hidden beneath his costumes.
Ever since, fans had given him elephants in every imaginable form, from dolls to statues to goofy hats. He loved every single one, and his mother collected them in what she called the Elephant Room back home in Belmont in the Boston suburbs.
He kissed Reikoís cheek. ìThank you, sweetheart. Hope weíll see you in Annecy?î
She bounced. ìOh yes! We would not miss this. And we love new costumes!î
ìGlad to hear it!î Dev grinned.
After NHK theyíd scrapped their initial costumes, which didnít quite capture the darkly romantic tone of their Jane Eyre long programóofficially called the free skateóset to the score from the 2011 film. Now Dev wore navy trousers and a button-down silk shirt with a simple white cravat, while Baileyís navy dress with delicate white embroidery at her wrists and around her neck perfectly set off her auburn hair, which she wore twisted into a braid wrapped around a knot. Dev had grown his thick black hair a little on top, where it curled in what he liked to think was a rakish fashion.
Reikoís smile gave way to a frown. ìThe results not correct. You and Bailey are true winners today. Everyone thinks this.î
Amaya nodded vigorously.
ìThanks, guys. We love you!î Bailey gave them another hug before they skated on.
After yet more photos, they finally escaped backstage. Their coach, Louise Webber, walked them to the dressing rooms. Louise had been a pairs skater herself in her youth, although sheíd never gone past the national level. Now in her forties, she was still in amazing shape, which she attributed to her ìAsian genes.î There wasnít a streak of gray in her short black hair, and while she often said Bailey and Dev would give her wrinkles when they didnít follow instructions to her satisfaction, none were in evidence.
Dev just wanted to get back to the hotel, but there was still the mandatory press conference to contend with. ìIs this over yet?î
ìYou did your job out there. The rest of it is out of your hands. Iím proud of you.î Louise gave them both a squeeze. ìDonít let it get to you.î
ìIím not. Itís fine. Iím fine,î Dev insisted.
Bailey snorted. ìUh-huh.î She patted his hip before disappearing into the womenís dressing room. ìSee you in a few.î
Of the six teams that qualified to compete at the Grand Prix Final, the three who didnít make it to the podium were long gone. In the menís dressing room, the Canadian, Roger Jackman, was already zipping up his hoodie and stuffing his feet into his sneakers.
ìHey, man. I gotta call my wife back home. The babyís due any minute now and I want to catch her tonight before itís too late. Or early. Iím so fucked-up with this time change. Donít rush getting changed, okay? I need a few extra minutes. See you in the press room.î
ìSure, no problem.î Dev held out his fist. ìGreat skate tonight.î
Roger bumped him back. ìYou too.î He shrugged. ìWhat are you gonna do, right?î
As Mikhail strode in, Roger hurried out, tapping his cell phone. Dev sat on a bench and unlaced his skates. From the corner of his eye, he watched Mikhail peel off his black bodysuit festooned with shimmers of burnt orange and red. Several feathers floated to the tile floor. Underneath he wore a black tank top and boxer briefs that clung to his narrow hips and muscular thighs.
Swallowing hard, Dev quickly stripped off his costume and transferred it to a garment bag. Wearing dark boxer briefs as well, he reached for his track pants, but found his attention drawn back to Mikhail. The arenaís locker room had been gussied up with several wardrobe racks and a bank of makeup tables with mirrors and chairs. Still in his underwear, Mikhail went to one of the mirrors and leaned close.
The ego on this guy. It wasnít bad enough that Mikhail had to always winódid he have to parade around the dressing room half-naked? Still, Dev had to swallow hard as traitorous desire seared in him. Mikhail steadily met his gaze in the mirror, and Dev jerked his head away, cheeks hot. Stupid! The last thing he needed was to get caught lusting after this asshole.
ìDonít worry, your guyliner isnít smudged,î he snarked before glancing over.
In the mirror, Mikhailís brow furrowed, but he said nothing and pulled a lash from his eye.
For some reason this refusal to engage lit a fuse to the anger simmering in Devís gut. ìYou know, you could lighten up once in a while. We get it, youíre an artiste. So tortured andÖRussian. With your flailing arms and your nines for Performance and Execution even though you just go through the motions. You always get nines, and I bet you did tonight, despite Kisa cleaning the ice with her ass on that throw. You guys even fall artistically according to the judges.î
Mikhail straightened and faced Dev. His gaze raked down Devís body and back up. Nostrils flaring, he asked, ìYou have a problem?î His accent was fairly thick, but his earlier years training in Connecticut gave him a strong command of English. ìTalk to the judges. We donít control them.î
Dev barked out a laugh and took a step closer. ìWe both know your federation has the judges in its pocket. Skating has always been about politics, and no matter what scoring system they bring inóit always will be.î He shook his head. ìWhy am I even getting into this?î he muttered, more to himself than Mikhail. He headed toward the bathroom. ìForget it.î
Mikhail stood unmoving, and maybe Dev meant to get a little too close and knock his shoulder. But he definitely didnít intend to end up slammed into a locker with Mikhail gripping his arms, his eyes blazing and face twisted. Devís skin burned where Mikhail touched him.
ìYou think itís so easy for us? You know nothing. Nothing!î
Dev shoved against Mikhailís chest, but he didnít budge. Fingers curling in Mikhailís tank top, Dev struggled to focus when he wanted so much to rip the cotton away and feel Mikhailís pale skin. ìCry me a river! You win everything just by showing up. You could drag Kisa around by her hair for four and a half minutes and youíd be golden.î
ìPoshel na hui,î Mikhail spat.
Dev had been around Russians long enough to translate. He gritted his teeth. ìFuck you too.î
Their harsh breathing filled the air, fingers digging into each otherís skin, bodies so close andó
They were kissing, mouths open and teeth clashing, tongues battling as they rutted together. The metal of the locker was cold against Devís back, but everything else was fireódesire pumping through his veins, and the unstoppable urge to get closer, closer, closer. He moaned raggedly as his brain tried to connect with his body.
What am I doing? Stop!
His body ignored him, and he spread his legs as Mikhail jammed his thigh between them. They were both already hard in their underwear, and Mikhail groaned as Dev grabbed his ass and ground their hips together. Dev hated him so much, but he couldnít stop touching. His hands roamed over the hard angles of Mikhailís body, and he panted into wet, messy kisses. Mikhail clutched Devís hips and thrust their cocks together.
Anyone could walk in. Stop! I hate him! Wrong, wrong, wrong!
The scattered snippets of thought only made his pulse roar louder, and his balls tightened already, his body desperate for the release. They jerked together, and Dev could only give in to the madness that had taken over.
When Devís orgasm ripped through him, his shout was muffled by Mikhailís palm slapping over his mouth. Mikhail hunched over as he rubbed against Dev in a frenzy, his quiet little gasps warm and wet against Devís neck. He came silently, shuddering with the pulses of his release. Devís body hummed with aftershocks, and he closed his eyes, breathing hard through his nose since Mikhailís hand still covered his mouth.
Then the heat vanished, and Dev opened his eyes. Mikhail backed up across the dressing room, shaking his head slowly, eyes wide. Dev was frozen in place against the locker, his briefs sticky, and his arms hanging at his sides. They stared at each other as the seconds ticked by.
ìGentlemen?î a manís voice called, accompanied by a sharp knock on the door. ìWeíre ready for you in the media room.î
They leaped into action, yanking on clean underwear, street clothes, and shoes in a blur of movement, not meeting each otherís eyes. Dev made it out first, and he smiled and made his apologies to the officials, following them to the press room. Sweaty and sticky and in desperate need of a shower, he tugged on his fleece and felt exposed even though it wasnít as if there were wet spots on his track pants.
In the press room, the other skaters sat behind a long table on a raised dais. Kisa waited in the middle with the Canadians on her left and Bailey her right, everyone seated in their medal positions. On the rows of chairs in front of the table, the media, coaches, and various event and federation officials waited. Dev avoided looking any of them in the eye as he took his seat.
He couldnít avoid his partner, and he smiled in what he hoped was a low-key, completely normal way. His mouth felt raw. Jesus, do I have beard burn? Baileyís brows knitted together, and she reached up and straightened his hair. Shit. His hair.
Everyone knows! Itís flashing all over me in neon letters. Neon and all caps!
Breathing deeply, he struggled to unscrew the cap from the bottle of water placed on the table in front of him. It took two tries, but he got it, and gulped. His heart pounded so loudly he was sure everyone could hear it.
ìEverything okay?î Bailey murmured.
Under the table, she squeezed his thigh. ìWeíre almost there. Just thinkótomorrow we leave Kyoto and get to sleep in our own beds again. At least for a few weeks.î
With a rush of affection, he took her hand. If there was one thing he could count on, it was having Bailey beside him. He exhaled and concentrated on her familiar warmth.
Mikhail entered the room, head high and shoulders back, his hair artfully swooped over his forehead. He managed to make warm-up pants and his red Russian team jacket look like Armani. Expression calm, he took his seat next to Kisa. While Dev wanted to crawl out of his skin with a mess of emotions from shock and anger to a shameful craving for more, Mikhail Reznikov appeared utterly unaffected.
Dev had never hated him more.
ìThe good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.î
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