For this week's Sweet Saturday Sample, I'm giving a sneak peek at my WIP Edge of the Past, the sequel to Life on the Edge. In this book, Emily and Sergei travel to Russia for a competition and Emily meets Sergei's parents for the first time. This scene captures her first encounter with Sergei's father:
“You are Emily,” a thick Russian voice said behind me.
I whirled around and found a middle-aged man peering at me. My blank stare prompted him to continue, “I am Sergei’s father.”
Of course! I saw it then in his strong cheekbones and slightly crooked nose. Since Max didn’t like to be photographed, Sergei hadn’t been able to show me any pictures of him.
“I . . . I didn’t think you were coming so soon. Anna said you couldn’t leave work, that you were very busy at the plant,” I babbled, so caught off guard I didn’t think to speak in Russian. He probably doesn’t understand a word I’m saying.
Indeed, his eyes narrowed and he appeared to be concentrating hard. I realized I hadn’t offered a handshake or a kiss or any greeting, but the time for that seemed to have passed.
“Sergei and his mother here?” He scanned the lobby with his piercing green eyes.
“Restaurant,” I said in Russian and pointed to the large arched doorway. Now I’m using sign language, too.
Max picked up his suitcase, which matched Anna’s, and walked toward the dining room. My legs took a moment to move, but I soon trailed after Max’s tall figure. He had the same posture and long stride as Sergei.
Max found the table where my parents, Anna, and Sergei were seated, and Sergei shot to his feet. “Papa.”
My parents and Anna rose, also, with matching looks of surprise. Anna asked Max a question in Russian that I vaguely understood as, “You were able to leave work?”
I couldn’t decipher Max’s mumbled reply, but he still wasn’t smiling. His stern face didn’t look like one that easily smiled. Anna swept her fingers through her long graying hair and cleared her throat. Sergei had a habit of clearing his throat whenever he was anxious.
“This is Emily’s parents,” she spoke slowly. “This is Sergei’s father.”
After handshakes were done across the table, Max looked at his watch. “Competition start in few hours?” He glanced at Anna then Sergei and me.
Anna’s mouth creased into a frown. “Emily’s partner was hurt, so they don’t skate.”
Max gave her the same confused stare he’d given me in the lobby. Anna switched to Russian and patted her right shoulder. In turn, Max grunted and spewed out a frenzy of agitated Russian that I couldn’t follow.
“What’s he saying?” I whispered to Sergei.
He didn't answer me. His cheeks had reddened, and the color was spreading down to the collar of his dress shirt.
Anna and Max continued to converse while the rest of us watched in uncomfortable silence. Finally, Max shifted his suitcase to his opposite hand and nodded to us.
“Good to meet you. Long on train, so I rest. Have good night.”
And with that farewell he left. Anna gave us an apologetic smile, and I sensed that was something she was used to doing.
“He work many hours. Very tired,” she said.
Too tired to even give his son a hug? He’d barely acknowledged Sergei’s presence in the room. The bad car accident Max had been in a year ago obviously hadn't made him appreciate his family more.
“We understand,” Dad said. “Traveling is always tiring, especially after a long day at work.”
Mom’s eyebrows were still raised as she returned to her seat. I stayed standing and tapped Sergei’s arm. “Can we talk for a sec?”
I led him away from the table to a quiet spot near the entrance. A couple of Canadian ice dance coaches passed us, and we swapped brief hellos. I retreated further into the corner and looked up at Sergei.
“What was your dad angry about?”
Sergei rubbed the back of his neck and let out a frustrated sigh. “He wasn’t happy that he left work and now you’re not skating.”
I laughed dryly. “So, now he has something else to hold against me.”
“No, it’s not you.” Sergei touched my cheek. “He doesn’t even know you. It’s just him . . . and the way he is.”
“When you said he’s not a ray of sunshine, you weren’t joking. He didn’t even shake your hand.”
“He’s never been good with expressing emotion.”
“I’m sure glad you got your mom’s personality.” I tugged on the end of Sergei’s purple tie.
He smiled and wrapped his arms around me, but I felt the tension in his body. What else could go wrong on this trip? With two days left in St. Petersburg and three more in Moscow, I was almost afraid to ask that question.
What more will Emily and Sergei have to endure in Russia? It doesn't sound promising!
If you haven't read Life on the Edge, you can check out the story of how Emily and Sergei fell in love here!