Olympic Gold Medalists Kate Peterson (U.S.) and Alexei Petrova (Russia) haven't seen each other in eight years--not since their teenage affair ended after Alexei was forced back to Russia. But in the here and now, they're about to be reunited at the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California.
Kate's agreed to participate in the Torch Lighting Ceremony because she's on the verge of losing her eyesight to a mysterious illness, and she can't afford the experimental surgery that could restore her vision. With a little luck she just might land an endorsement deal at the Olympics--her only shot at funding the surgery.
Alexei's living in the States now, where he's made a fortune selling "himself". He's also made enemies with a U.S. senator who wants him deported. But his plight becomes secondary after he runs into Kate at the Olympics. Clearly, she's hiding something, and he's shocked when he finds out what.
Once Alexei learns of Kate's illness, saving her becomes his top priority--but will he save her only to be forced, once again, from her life?
Please note: This is a novella. Approximately 35,000 words (132 pages). Also contains the bonus short story SEPARATE WAYS.
Sandra is an award-winning author with eclectic tastes. She writes in a variety of genres such as paranormal (mostly time travel and reincarnation), contemporary, and suspense. Her books often push the envelope and step outside the boundaries of conventional romance. She lives in the U.S. (west coast) with her husband, two kids, four dogs and one very temperamental feline.
Kate felt like a dismissed child. Overwhelmed by a sudden urge to escape, she stopped just outside the restaurant’s entrance. “Alexei...” She started to speak and her voice wavered. “I know you’ve got business to attend to,” she added, avoiding his cobalt-blue eyes. They were captivating and dangerous, capable of uprooting a girl from her good senses. “It’s not far to my hotel. I can walk.”
“I’m sure you can.” A persuasive strength coated his vague words.
“The call sounded urgent.” She stopped, and hesitated briefly before inspecting his tall, athletic physique. His blazer looked like it had been poured over his powerful shoulders. The mesmerizing teenage boy had grown into a striking, robust man—one who now wore cashmere overcoats and fancy European tailored suits.
A black limo rolled up. She stepped back, too flustered to care about getting in someone else’s way.
Who was Alexei dissing over the phone? Was it her? It must be so, the conversation had started out about her. She didn’t deserve to be treated this way. Dinner was his idea. Not hers. He was right, though. She did know the score. He had ignored her letters because he wanted to. She was good enough to sleep with and that was it. Nothing more than a teenage tryst.
Disillusion reeled inside Kate’s head and stole her breath away. She propped a steadying hand on the car. Alexei cradled his arm around her shoulder, opened the vehicle’s door and urged her inside.
“Wait...” She used the doorframe for leverage, but it had little influence over Alexei. He swept her into the car with capable skill. The door swung shut, trapping her inside a much too tight compartment with Alexei sitting way too close. Close enough to radiate sensual energy that was intense enough to drive her crazy.
“You look pale. Are you sure you’re all right?” His fingertips trailed over the edge of her face. Chills coursed through her in electrifying waves.
Kate laid her purse on the seat and inched some space between herself and Alexei.
Be strong. One moment of pleasure with Alexei was not worth the pain it could bring their daughter. He’d already rejected Katya once—when he ignored Kate’s letters. She couldn’t risk that happening again.
“I can’t do this.” She scooted toward the door and secured the handle in her hand. “Call me tomorrow, okay?” Her suggestion was half-hearted and it came on the heels of her flinging the door open and scrambling out of the other side of the car.
Instinct pushed her to run, but her legs dragged as if they had weights attached. The idiot in her wanted to look over her shoulder to see if he had gotten out of the car, but she didn’t dare. A single come-hither glance from Alexei could send her back into his arms.
Kate hurried along the sidewalk, telling herself she could cover the distance—two blocks—and disappear inside the building before Alexei caught up to her.
“Katya...” His voice carried on the brisk night air, and she trudged on. Closing in on the US Residence, the quicksand-like tension bogging her legs eased.
Turning up the sidewalk entrance, her dignity started to return. As long as she couldn’t see him, she wasn’t in danger of his charms.
The car pulled up beside her, engine purring. It wasn’t him. Couldn’t be him. She heard no door closing, just Alexei calling after her with that name.
Fear stiffened each muscle and every nerve, freezing her like a statue. Their daughter was tucked away inside the hotel before her, and Alexei was mere steps behind. Kate was the only thing standing between them. If she didn’t get rid of him pronto, things could get ugly.
Move. She commanded, but the icy sidewalk slicked her feet right out from under her. Kate fell to the ground in a blur of slow-motioned terror, landing on her butt. The pain rippled out in waves but it was quickly overshadowed by her head bouncing off the frozen walkway.
Ouch, flickered through her mind just before everything when blank.
Coming to, Kate’s first conscious insight was the scent of Alexei’s intoxicating aftershave crowding around her like a fog. After a few seconds she realized where she was—on the cold, hard ground with her head in his lap.
Sitting up, she clamped her hands on her head and muttered, “No...no...no.”
“Katya, are you all right?”
“Yes. I’m fine,” she said, wincing.
Alexei hopped up as quick as a Pop Tart jetting out of the toaster. “Here,” he said, extending his hand toward her. She scrutinized it with caution. “Come on. I’ll escort you to your suite.”
She slipped her hand in his and leveraged herself off the ground. “That’s not necessary.”
He clasped his fingers around hers, but she slid free. Alexei chuckled. “Come now, Katya. Let me be the gentleman that I am.”
She had to get rid of him, and she was done being cordial. She wouldn’t risk Katya suffering the same fate that she had as a child.
Kate knew a thing or two about being an unwanted child—and none of it was good. Ugly labels haunted her still. Like undeserving, unsuitable, unloved. She’d heard and felt them all as a child, having been abandoned by her own father at the age of three.
Damned if she’d let the same fate befall Katya.
A pair of steps backward aided her in convening the courage to send him on his way. “Shouldn’t you be going?” She stopped at the main entrance, reaching for the door behind her. “Don’t you have some business to attend to?” Simplicity and the voice of reason sugarcoated her tone.
His mouth gaped open into a slow grin. She gave him a hard stare and hoped it said, don’t follow me. Seconds passed and Alexei stayed put. Bold courage moved Kate inside.
Quickening her pace, she hurried for the elevator. Alexei wasn’t following her. He couldn’t be. If he was, she was doomed.
The elevator doors opened. Kate’s heart thumped and thudded against her chest, squeezing the air from her lungs as she stepped inside. The doors closed, eclipsing a distant and silhouetted figure of Alexei vanishing inside the limo.