Here's the final installment of Emily and Sergei's first meeting! If you haven't read the first two installments, you can find Part I here and Part II here.
Sergei excused himself when a parent asked to speak to him, and I watched them talk near the boards. It was the first time I could get a long look at Sergei without him catching me staring, although I’d probably gawked a little too long in the first moments of our meeting. When he’d turned around and I’d seen his electric-blue eyes, the only thing I could think was, Whoa.
And it wasn’t just his mesmerizing eyes. He had a gorgeous smile, neatly cropped golden brown hair, and that slight stubble that always seemed to make guys hotter. Plus, he’d been incredibly nice so far, and he didn’t appear to be scary-intense like a lot of other coaches. Of course, he might just be putting on a good introductory front.
Aubrey waved to me as she rounded the rink and headed my way, and I met her at the edge of the bleachers. She glanced from me to Sergei, who was still in deep conversation.
“How’s it going so far?”
I led her further away from the ice and hushed my voice. “You said he was good-looking. You didn’t tell me he was OMG smokin’ hot!”
She laughed. “I guess he’s not my type.”
“Well, he needs to not be my type either if I’m going to work with him every day without drooling all over.”
“Hey, at least you’ll have something nice to look at while you’re working your butt off.”
Sergei and the mom parted ways, and I shushed Aubrey as Sergei approached us.
“Sorry about that,” he said to me. “Hi, Aubrey.”
“Hey, I’ll let you guys get back to it. Come find me before you leave, Em.”
She started to walk away, and I called after her, “Did your mom remember the video camera?”
“Yep, she’s got it with her.”
I turned to Sergei. “I asked her to tape our first few lessons so my parents can see them. They’d like to drive down and meet with you on Saturday if you’re free.”
“Sure. I teach a group class in the morning and I can meet with them after.”
“Great.” I bobbed my head. “Just a warning that my mom can be pretty intense and will probably interrogate you.”
He chuckled. “Thanks for the warning. I’ve had to deal with some very extreme parents over the years, so I’ll be prepared.”
“She’s not like a crazy skating mom or anything. She doesn’t micromanage my skating, which is great, but she’s very protective.”
“Well, I’ll be sure to address all her concerns. If you feel like this is the right place for you, then I’ll do whatever it takes to convince her that you should stay.”
I smiled at the intensity in his deep blue eyes. It was the good kind of intensity – the kind that made me feel like he was already in my corner, willing to fight for me on this new path I was taking.
“So, what comes next?” I asked.
“I want you to get a feel for skating with a partner. We’ll start with some very basic exercises.”
I followed him onto the ice, and he took off his fleece jacket and stored it behind the boards. Whoa popped into my head again as I saw what he’d been hiding underneath. His lean muscles filled out his gray T-shirt perfectly, and the short sleeves showed off his biceps. His arms weren’t beefy but just solid enough for me to tell he worked out.
I quickly turned away and zipped up my own jacket. This rink was colder than my home club. And right now it was probably better if Sergei didn’t touch my bare arms and shoulders. I needed to get more comfortable with him and all his hotness before we started too much skin-on-skin contact.
Sergei glided over and stopped in front of me. “The first basic is stroking… hand-in-hand crossovers. There’s a certain way the guy holds the girl’s hand that’s not the traditional way you’d think of.”
He moved closer and took my left hand, and I got a whiff of his woody cologne. Jeez, he even smelled really good.
He showed me how to curl my fingers toward my palm, and he gripped the back of my hand with his fingers clasping my wrist. His hand had warmed since I’d shaken it earlier.
“This is the first hold we’ll use. There a few different ones I’ll show you later.”
I nodded. His grip felt very strong, very secure. I concentrated on that instead of his piercing eyes gazing down at me. My pulse was already racing enough from the anxiousness of wanting to prove myself.
He led me into the flow of the skater traffic moving clockwise around the rink, and we faced forward side-by-side, slowly building up speed until Sergei said, “Ready?” and we switched to back crossovers, Sergei’s hand still locked around mine. I watched our feet, making sure I stayed in sync with him and kept the same pace. The last thing I wanted to do was trip and look like an idiot.
With each circle of the rink I felt more comfortable with the timing of our stroking, and I noticed Sergei’s grip never wavered. As we slowed down and returned to facing forward, he held on to my hand. This was definitely something that would take some time getting used to. I’d been skating alone all my life with only my thoughts to keep me company. I realized how nice it might be to always have someone beside me, going into battle with me.
We worked on the crossovers a bit more plus a few other fundamentals over the next hour. Sergei’s patience was evident right away as he carefully explained every movement he asked me to execute. When the hour was up, I wished we could keep going, but I knew Sergei had a lesson with a novice girl who was also looking for a partner.
“So, has this solidified your dream to be a pairs skater or will you leave here and never return again?” Sergei smiled.
I laughed. “You can’t scare me away that easily.”
“I’m glad to hear that. There’s a lot more I’m looking forward to showing you tomorrow.”
“I’ll be here. We have two hours tomorrow, right?”
“Yes, Courtney won’t be here, so you’ll have her slot.”
“Awesome.” I bounced lightly on my skate guards. “Thank you again fitting me into your schedule and helping me start from scratch. I know it won’t be easy finding a partner for a newbie, so I’m going to work above and beyond to get where I need to be.”
“Thank you for the opportunity to work with you. I’m excited to start from scratch. This way, you’ll learn everything my way and I won’t have to break you out of any bad habits.” His smile grew a little wider.
My cheeks grew warm, and I hastily dropped to the bleachers to take off my skates. “I like that you put a positive spin on it. I think there’s too much negativity in our sport.”
“I agree. Negativity will not be tolerated in my camp. Learning is done best in a positive environment.”
Okay, Sergei had to have some big flaw that I was missing. No coach could be this amazing. Was he going to suddenly turn into a jerk once we got into hard-core training?
He sat beside me and set his hand gently on my shoulder. “We’ll find the right partner for you, Emily. It might take a few tryouts or we might find a match on the first one. Either way, I see unlimited potential in you.”
I looked up into his encouraging gaze and came to a firm conclusion. He really was that amazing.