Sunday, August 25, 2013

Monday Moves

With the figure skating season quickly approaching, I thought I'd start doing something new on Mondays. Instead of Music Monday, I'm starting a new series called Monday Moves where I share skating moves that I live for. Today's featured move was part of Madison Chock and Evan Bates's 2011-12 jazzy Chopin free dance. Check out the beautiful lunge by Evan followed by a gorgeous split lift:


Friday, August 23, 2013

Sergei POV Scene - Forever


This Sergei POV scene from LIFE ON THE EDGE has a MAJOR spoiler in it, so if you haven't read the book and don't like spoilers, this is your flashing-light, raging-alarms warning to stop here :)

Spoiler space
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This scene doesn't need much setup. You'll know as soon as it starts where it takes place in the book ;)

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Tonight was the night.
I opened the small blue velvet box and brushed my thumb over the sparkling diamond. In just a couple of hours, Emily would be wearing this ring and we’d be one step closer to sharing our lives forever.
If she said yes.
My stomach knotted, and I closed the box and slipped it into my jacket. If she wasn’t ready to make this commitment, it wouldn’t change how I felt about her, but I’d never wanted to hear the word “yes” so badly.
I checked my duffel bag one last time to make sure I had everything for my planned setup. With the bag carefully in hand, I locked up my apartment and made the short drive to Em’s townhouse. The absence of her car meant she was still at the grocery store, where she’d said she was headed when I’d talked to her earlier. So far, all was going according to plan.
I rang the doorbell and Aubrey answered. Her brow creased as she looked at my duffel. “Did I miss a big development in yours and Em’s relationship?”
“What?” I stammered.
“Your bag. You planning on spending the night?” She moved aside so I could enter.
“Oh! No, that’s not… that’s not what the bag is for. I brought some stuff for dinner to surprise Em.”
“She’s still at the store.”
“Yeah, I wanted to get here early to set up,” I said as we climbed the steps to the living room.
“Well, you go to town. I’m heading out in a few minutes, so I’ll be out of your way.”
She went down to the kitchen, and I went in the opposite direction up the stairs to the terrace. We hadn’t had snow in a couple of days, but a layer of it still blanketed the wrought-iron furniture and the wood planks and railing. I pulled a towel from my bag and wiped a clean circle on the table.
Reaching into the bag again, I took out the Lyrics book and flipped to the page I’d marked. Em’s heart was going to stop when she read the lines I’d highlighted. My own heart beat faster reading them.
I would love you more than life
If you’ll come and be my wife
I placed the book on the table along with four large lavender-scented candles. Em’s favorite body lotion had the same scent, and the sweet smell made me feel warm despite the cold evening. Moving around the table, I set about decorating the railing with a line of smaller candles. Once Em came home, I’d have to sneak away to light them all.
As I prepared to leave the terrace, I sprinkled a handful of rose petals in a path from the door to the table. I needed to get downstairs since Em should be arriving soon, so I did a quick survey of the patio and hid my bag in the cabinet in the hall.
I heard a car door slam as soon as I reached the living room. I shed my jacket and laid it on the sofa, patting the pocket with the ring. Hurrying to the door, I opened it just as Em stepped onto the porch. Her eyes lit up with a curious smile.
“Did I tell you the wrong time?” she asked.
I took the bag of groceries from her slender arms and kissed her lips softly. “I just couldn’t wait to see you.”
She gave me a return kiss on the corner of my mouth, tickling my skin. “You are so sweet. Do you mind waiting for me to change before I start dinner?”
Perfect. This would give me a chance to put the rest of my plan into motion.
“Not at all. I can chop, slice, peel, whatever you need me to do.”
We went into the kitchen, and Em handed me a cutting board and the vegetables she’d bought. I had to keep from smiling too big as I watched her move between the counter and the fridge. She had no idea what the night would bring. I imagined us like this every evening, preparing dinner and just being together. It was a dream that could soon be reality.
If she said yes.
Em pecked my lips before she jogged up the stairs, and I set down the knife and zucchini. When I heard her bedroom door click shut, I wiped my hands and raced to the living room. My pulse galloped as I transferred the ring box to my pants pocket. The plan was almost complete.
I took the stairs quietly and crept onto the dark terrace. The patio came alive with a soft glow as I used the lighter I’d stashed to ignite the candles. Em was going to absolutely love this. There was no way she could say no in this setting, hearing the things I planned to say to her.
That’s right. Keep thinking confidently.
I left the patio door partly open and snuck down to the level below Em’s bedroom. I was banking on her noticing the open door and going outside. My fingers clamped around the velvet box in my pocket, and I paced back and forth in front of Aubrey’s room. Em should be emerging upstairs at any moment.
Her bedroom door squeaked, and I froze mid-pace. If she didn’t come down the stairs in a few seconds, she had to be on the terrace.
One… two… three…
No sign of her.
I took a deep breath and went up to the top floor. The door was open wider than I’d left it. I moved forward and spied Em on the patio with the book in her hands. My throat became even drier, and I swallowed a few times before stepping onto the terrace.
Em looked up, wide-eyed and speechless, and I gently removed the book from her grasp and set it on the table. Taking her left hand in mine, I dropped to one knee and gazed up at her. A pink flush colored her cheeks, and frosty breaths escaped her parted lips. I fought the desire to wrap her in my arms and kiss her to warm those luscious lips. There would be plenty of time for that after I put the ring on her finger.
I squeezed her hand and thought of all the words I wanted to say. It was a nervous jumble in my head. I drew in another long breath and just started talking, “When you walked into my life, I felt an immediate connection to you. I thought it meant we were destined to work together, but it was more, so much more than I ever expected. One minute you were a friend, and then the next, I couldn’t stop thinking about you. I wanted to be with you every minute of every day. I wanted to know everything about you. I wanted to hold you in my arms and look into your beautiful blue eyes and tell you how you’d stolen my heart.”
Her eyes glistened, and my throat tightened. I had to pause before continuing, “Since we’ve been together, those feelings have only grown stronger. I can’t imagine being with anyone but you. You have so much passion and love in your heart, and you understand me like no one ever has. I don’t think there are enough words to describe how much I love you.”
Tears broke my voice, and I had to pause again. “I know we’ve only been dating a year, and we haven’t exactly had a traditional relationship, but I don’t see those as reasons to wait to take this step. I feel like I’ve waited all my life for this moment.”
I pulled the box from my pocket and let go of Em’s hand for just a second as I removed the ring. Grasping her hand once more, I held up the ring and looked into her eyes. My heart pounded against my chest.
“Emily, will you marry me?”
Tears trickled down her cheeks as she stared at me. I tried to see past the moisture in her eyes, to find a hint of what her answer would be. She still looked stunned.
The longer the silence stretched, the harder my pulse raced. “Em, you are so precious to me,” I said, thick with emotion. “Please say you’ll spend the rest of your life with me.”
She stayed motionless a few more agonizing moments before the shock in her eyes melted into pure happiness. She fell to both knees and touched my face, and my breath hitched.
“Yes!” she gasped.
My heart ballooned with more love than I’d ever felt.
She said yes!
I sealed my lips to hers, and she cried with joy into my mouth. It spread through me, filling me with overpowering elation and desire. I didn’t want our kiss to ever end, but we both eventually needed to breathe.
“We’re getting married,” I said, marveling at how incredible that sounded.
Em grinned and nodded enthusiastically. “We’re getting married.”
I couldn’t tear my eyes from hers. I couldn’t get enough of the love and the excitement in them. My mind reeled as the significance of the moment became clearer. This amazing, perfect woman was going to be my wife. We would never be apart again.
Em reached for my hand that held the ring and laughed with surprise. “Oh! I guess I get this now.”
“Why don’t you stand up first? You must be freezing down here.”
“Let’s both stand up. You’ve been on one knee long enough.” She laughed again.
We stood, and she placed her palm over mine. I slid the ring onto her finger and watched her smile gleam as bright as the diamond. The setting was simple with a solitaire stone on a platinum band, but it was classically beautiful and elegant. Just like Em. I knew it was the perfect ring for her as soon as I’d seen it in the jewelry store.
I brought her hand to my lips and softly kissed her finger. “Forever.”
She circled her arms around my neck and whispered, “Forever.”

****

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Music Monday

In this week's Music Monday, I'm listening to a couple of classical pieces I definitely want to use as skating music in a future book. I can already envision the programs!

The first piece is Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun by Claude Debussy. He also composed Clair de Lune, which Emily and Chris skated to in EDGE OF THE PAST. There's something so beautiful about this work, the way the music starts so calmly and then rises and falls with such emotion. It's very ethereal!

Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun by Debussy

And a bonus video of Adam Rippon's performance using the music at the 2013 Gardena Spring Trophy (LOVE this program!!):


The second piece of music I plan to use is Symphony No. 3 (Organ Symphony) by Camille Saint-Saens. I especially love the Poco Adagio movement. It's so rich and passionate and made for skating!

Organ Symphony by Saint-Saens

And more bonus video! Here's Jeremy Abbott skating to this piece at the 2010 National Championships. One of the most brilliant performances I've ever seen:

Friday, August 16, 2013

Sergei POV Scene - The Talk


This Sergei POV scene finds him in a much better emotional state than the last one :) Big spoilers in this one, so I'll leave some extra spoiler space if you haven't read LIFE ON THE EDGE yet!

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This scene is another one that's not in the book. It takes place during 2002 Nationals. If you recall, Emily and Sergei attended a cocktail party (separately since they couldn't be seen as a couple in public) at the end of the event, and then Emily left with Aubrey to let loose at the competitors' party. This scene shows where Sergei spent his time before drunk Emily showed up at his hotel room :)

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I left the cocktail party still going strong and went down to the hotel lobby, squeezing past the skaters headed to the competitors’ party. Emily was hopefully already there, safely away from Viktor. When he’d approached her at the reception, I’d had to use every ounce of self-control not to step in and tear him apart. If I saw him near her again, he wouldn’t be so lucky.
In the midst of the skaters buzzing through the lobby, Emily’s dad sat with his laptop, quietly typing. I’d been wanting to talk to him one-on-one without Emily's mom around, so I quickly took advantage of the opportunity.
“Doing some work, Jim?”
“Trying to catch up on email. The internet’s faster down here.” He looked up from the screen. “Party over already?”
“Not yet. I was just ready to relax a little.”
“I don’t blame you. You’ve had a rough couple of weeks.”
“Yeah, it’s been pretty crazy.” I anxiously shoved my hands in and out of my pockets. “Are you really busy or do you have a few minutes? There’s something I’d like to talk to you about.”
“I can take a break.” He clicked a few keys and shut the laptop. “Why don’t we get a drink next door?”
We walked to the neighboring sports bar, and I chose an isolated corner booth. I couldn’t have anyone overhearing our conversation. We made small talk until our beers arrived, and I took a long sip as I readied to make my speech.
“So, what’s on your mind?” Jim asked.
I set down my glass. Jim was so different from my own father. Patient, even-tempered, easy to talk to. I was much more comfortable around him even though I’d only known him a few years. But my tie suddenly felt very tight around my neck. I’d never had to talk to him about a matter this important.
“I wanted to speak to you during the holidays, but obviously my plans were all changed. You’ve been very supportive of Emily and me, our relationship, from the beginning, and I can’t thank you enough for that. I hope you’ll be just as supportive when I ask…” I sat up straighter and cleared my throat. “I want to ask Emily to marry me, and I’d very much like to have your blessing.”
Jim peered at me over his wire-rimmed glasses and slowly scratched his chin. “Marriage is a big step.”
“It is. But I know Emily is my future, and I hope she’s ready to take that step with me.”
“There are still some uncertainties with your situation. If Em and Chris don’t win gold at the Olympics, I imagine they’ll skate four more years. What would happen with the federation? You’d have to go public with your relationship if you plan on getting married.”
I'd anticipated receiving these kinds of concerns from him, and I'd had lots of time to think about them during my time in Moscow.
“I would talk to the federation and explain everything. If Em and I are engaged, they’d have to see the seriousness of our relationship. There wouldn't be any reason for them not to support us.”
“Well, logically there wouldn't, but we both know they don't always do things that make sense. What if they say you have to make a choice – that you can’t be both Em’s coach and her husband?”
“I’d do everything in my power to keep them from making that kind of demand, but if it reached that point, there’s no question what I’d do. I’d find a new coach for Em and Chris. Because not being with Emily…” I shook my head. “That’s not an option.”
Jim took a drink and gave me another pensive look. Was he thinking of more obstacles that might arise?
“Do you want to get married right away?” he asked.
“I’d marry Em tomorrow, but I’m sure she wants a traditional big wedding. And I want her to have everything she’s ever dreamed of.”
He smiled a little. “I don’t know if I’m ready to think about walking my little girl down the aisle.”
“This was probably the last thing you expected to discuss tonight.”
“That’s for sure.” He chuckled and drained more of his beer. “But being serious, all I’ve wanted for Emily is for her to be happy, to find someone who treats her with respect and like a true partner in life. And I’ve seen you do all those things. Even with the nature of your working relationship, being her coach... it hasn't been an issue off the ice between you. You've proven you can handle both roles. You’ve proven you can be trusted with her heart.”
I swelled with emotion and could only tip my head slightly to him. “It means a lot to me to hear you say that.”
He was quiet as his blue eyes sharpened with intensity. “Do you promise to always be there for her? To be the person she can depend on the most?”
I nodded more vigorously. “She’s everything to me. I will be there for her and love her and protect her every day for the rest of my life if she’ll have me.”
“Well, I think she’s going to give you a positive answer.” Jim paused and then extended his hand toward me. “And I would be proud to have you as part of our family.”
I swallowed the lump in my throat as I firmly shook his hand. “Thank you, Jim.”
“When are you going to propose?”
“Soon after we get home. I’ve had the ring since before I went to Russia. I wanted to do it on New Year’s Eve.”
“You know I have to tell Laura about this.”
There was a reason I hadn’t gone to both Em’s parents to ask for a blessing. I fully expected her mother to say she was too young to get married and we hadn’t been together long enough. I didn’t want her influencing Em’s decision.
“Yeah, about that…” I rubbed the back of my neck. “Can you give me a week to propose first? I’m afraid she’ll call Em and blow the whole thing.”
“Are you saying my wife acts first and thinks later?” He smiled.
My voice stuck as I hesitated to answer.
Jim laughed. “Don’t worry. I’ll hold off on telling her. Just let me know when I have the okay.”
I grinned. “Thanks, I really appreciate it.”
Now I just had to ask Em the big question. Nervous energy gripped me just thinking about it. I knew how she felt about me, and we'd talked vaguely about our future together, but what if she wasn’t ready to make this commitment?

****

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sergei POV Scene - Regret & Sorrow


Sergei looks so sad :( This scene from his POV is one that was not seen in LIFE ON THE EDGE. It occurred at a pivotal juncture in his and Emily's relationship. Read more about it after the spoiler space....
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After Emily found out the truth about Sergei's past, she didn't know if she could trust him, and she shut him out as she tried to figure out her feelings. This scene takes place during that time.

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The strong aroma of coffee and the sound of the barista calling out orders was the same, but the cafĂ© felt entirely different without Emily sitting across from me. I’d shown up every afternoon that week, hoping she’d stop by, only to be disappointed every day. She said she needed time to think, but if I could get her face-to-face outside the rink, she’d have to see how much I regretted lying to her.
The front door swung open, and my hope diminished a little more when I saw Chris and not Emily. He spotted me and came over to my table.
“If you’re waiting for Em, she’s headed home.”
My shoulders dropped, and I raked my hand through my hair. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.”
Chris sat in the empty chair. “You really screwed up, man.”
“I’m aware of that.”
“Why didn’t you just tell her the whole story from the beginning?”
I looked down and traced the rim of my cup with my thumb. “I didn’t want her to know I’d made such a stupid mistake.”
“So it was a pride thing.”
“No, it was more…” I paused and shifted in my seat. “She has really strong values, and what I did goes against everything she believes in.”
Chris's brow wrinkled. “Yeah, she goes to church and all, but it’s not like she’s some judgmental person. You should know that.”
“I know she’s not judgmental, but I’m sure it's changed how she sees me...” I rubbed my forehead. “It doesn’t matter now why I kept it from her. What’s important is how do I keep from losing her?”
“Well, you’re gonna have to prove she can trust you. And I suggest you do some serious groveling.”
“I’ve left a ton of messages. She won’t talk to me.”
“You have to think of something that will really get her attention, something she can’t ignore.” Chris rose and shoved his hands in his pockets. “And can you figure it out soon? I don’t like seeing Em so miserable.”
“Believe me, I’d do anything to make her smile again.”
“Good luck,” Chris said and went toward the counter.
I stood with my coffee and grabbed a lid for the cup on my way out. No use hanging around there if Emily wasn’t coming. During the drive home, I thought about what Chris had said. Saying “I’m sorry” over and over hadn’t worked. What could I do that would be more meaningful?
When I reached my apartment, I tossed my keys on the coffee table and they landed next to the Lyrics book. I picked it up and flipped through the songs, reading all the notes I’d written to Emily. Line after line of heartfelt emotion inked on the pages. She’d loved them so much. My chest tightened, and I looked up at the photo of us that sat beside the TV. Would reading my notes remind her how much we belonged together? I was haunted by the look in her eyes when she’d run out of my apartment. It had felt like she’d lost all faith in me, like she didn’t even recognize me.
I remembered a particular song that had lyrics about being sorry, and I searched the index for the page. I read the words a few times and got a pen from the kitchen to highlight them. Should I include a note? I took a notepad and sat with the pen poised above the blank paper. Again and again I tried to start writing, but I made only frustrated scratches on the pad. Nothing felt powerful enough to describe my regret.
I decided to forego the note and let the lyrics express my feelings. Heading back to my car, I made the quick trip to the florist on Main Street. After looking at a variety of flowers, I selected one deep pink rose and placed it in the book, marking the song of apology.
When I pulled into Emily’s parking lot, I was glad not to see her car. I wanted to leave the book and let it speak for itself. That way I was still giving her space while also showing her how sorry I was.
I set the book on the doormat and climbed back into my car. This had to work. The more time that passed without Emily speaking to me, the more I feared she was slipping away.
Whatever I had to do to prove myself to her, to make her believe in me again, I would do it. Emily was the greatest gift I’d ever been given, and the thought of losing her strangled me inside.
I could not let it happen.

****

Friday, August 9, 2013

Sergei POV Scene - First "I Love You"


I've been working my way through LIFE ON THE EDGE and thinking about all the moments that I want to explore from Sergei's POV, and I knew from the beginning that this was one of them. As always, if you haven't read the book and don't want to be spoiled, then you'll want to stop here... and pick up a copy of the book ;) For those familiar with the story, I'll set up the scene below :)
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This scene takes place in Tokyo after Sergei leaves the nightclub. He and Emily had just done some discreet flirting and had agreed to meet in his hotel room. This was an important night in their relationship. I hope you enjoy the scene!!

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The large Japanese bouncer bobbed his head at me as I exited the nightclub, and I gave him an enthusiastic nod in return. Dashing through the light rain, I raced across the street and through the glass doors of the hotel, hoping I wouldn’t be stopped by any coach or official looking to schmooze. I couldn’t think about anything except Emily and the fact that she would be in my room in a few minutes.
Once in the elevator I inhaled and exhaled a deep breath. I’d thought about this night so many times, but I hadn’t planned on it happening now. I wasn’t expecting to see Emily at the club, but there’d she’d been, looking so gorgeous it had physically hurt not to touch her. When she’d been on the dance floor, my eyes had followed every tantalizing movement of her body. I wasn’t much of a dancer, but I would’ve given anything to be out there with her, feeling the sway of her hips against mine.
The elevator opened, and I hurried down the hall and swiped my key in the door. I turned on the desk lamp for just a bit of light and then shut the curtains on the rainy night. Emily had hung out in my hotel room in Salt Lake City, but I’d sensed she wanted to take things slow. The vibe tonight had felt different, though. There’d been so much heat between us that the sweltering temperature in the club hadn’t been the only thing making me sweat.
I paced between the bed and the dresser, buzzing with anticipation. It had been a long time… a very long time… since I’d been with a woman, but I couldn’t rush this. Emily hadn’t dated much, so this would probably be her first time. I wanted to do this right and show her how much she meant to me, how deeply I felt for her. I had to take care of her and give her everything she needed and deserved.
Take care of her, I thought and touched my back pocket. Pulling out my wallet, I checked to make sure I had protection. I would never be careless again. Shoving away thoughts of the past, I put the wallet on the nightstand and resumed pacing.
A swift knock came from the door, and I took another long breath. Get a grip… don’t rush it…
I opened the door, and Emily stared back at me with expectation in her big blue eyes. A surge of desire crashed over me, wiping out all thought. I swallowed Emily in my arms and pressed my mouth to hers.
She squeezed my biceps hard as I led her further inside and deepened our kiss. Raging need clenched my whole body, but I forced myself to pull back and take a breath. Sweeping Emily’s hair from her shoulder, I gently placed my lips on the curve of her neck. Her skin was sweeter than anything I’d ever tasted, softer than anything I’d ever touched. She was going to feel so incredible bare against me.
I lifted my head and brushed her lips with mine. “I want you so much.”
Her nails dug into my arms, and I tightened my hold on her. As we fell into another long, hot kiss, I slipped my hands under her blouse and around her waist. Inching upward, my fingertips caressed her silky skin. I wanted to touch her like this everywhere. Her breathing came quicker, and I brought my hands up to hers, entwining our fingers. Never breaking our kiss, I turned us slowly toward the bed.
“Sergei, I’m…” Emily said breathlessly. “I’ve never…”
I kissed her tenderly. “We can take it slow.”
She gazed at me with conflict clouding her face. “I’m sorry, I can’t.”
Disappointment doused the fire inside me, and I took a small step back to give my body space to untighten. I should’ve been more patient. She needs more time.
I reached out and combed my hand through her hair. “It’s okay if you’re not ready.”
She sat on the bed, her head down. “You don’t understand.”
“Then talk to me.” I slowly knelt before her.
She looked up at me and paused for a moment. “I’m not going to be ready anytime soon because I’m waiting until I’m married.”
Another wave of disappointment hit me, but I didn’t want Emily to see it or feel it. While I collected myself, she continued, “I know it’s old-fashioned and seems ridiculous to a lot of people, but it’s something I feel strongly about. I should’ve told you this before. I just had no idea how or when…”
She bent forward, and her long curls fell around her face. She wants to wait until marriage. I let that idea settle for a minute. We hadn’t been together long, but I knew in my bones I’d be the one marrying her. There’d never been anyone else who filled my heart like she did, and I couldn’t imagine my future without her. Waiting until marriage wouldn’t be easy considering how she drove me wild every time she was near, but I would do anything for her.
I took her hands in mine. “Em.”
She raised her eyes, and I became doubly sure of my feelings. I couldn’t live without looking into those beautiful eyes.
“I want to be with you in every way… so much,” I said. “But if this is what you want, then I’ll respect that.”
“You’re really okay with this?”
I couldn’t help but smile a little. “It’s not my preference, but I can deal with it.”
“Are you absolutely sure? You might feel that way right now, but if you think it’s going to be an issue, I need you to tell me now before we get even deeper into this.”
There was no issue. What I felt for her now wouldn’t ever change, of that I was certain. I might not be able to show her how intense my feelings for her were, but I could tell her.
I moved next to her on the bed. “I’m sure,” I said, cradling her face in my hands. “Because I am absolutely, completely in love with you.”

****

Next up will be a brand new scene not included in the book - one where Sergei is feeling absolutely devastated. You might be able to guess at which point in the story this scene takes place ;)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Music Monday

I have to thank my friend and fellow Astraea author Kelly Martin for inspiring my idea for this Music Monday. She was watching a Family Ties marathon yesterday, and that got me thinking about one of my favorite couples in TV history - Alex and Ellen. I was so in love with their chemistry. Their theme song was "At This Moment" by Billy Vera and the Beaters, so this week I'm featuring two versions of this song - the original and the remake by Michael Buble. Both come with fun videos!

The Billy Vera and the Beaters version used on Family Ties

The Michael Buble version used on So You Think You Can Dance (with dancers Kathryn McCormick and Jakob Karr)



Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sergei POV Scene - Boston Nationals


I had to take a break from the Sergei POV scenes to work on some FIGHTING FOR THE EDGE stuff, but I have a new one here to share with you! This is a "never before seen" scene from LIFE ON THE EDGE. If you haven't read the book and you don't want to be spoiled, you'll want to stop here ;) If you don't mind spoilers, feel free to read on!
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This scene takes place at the 2001 National Championships in Boston. After Emily and Chris's victory, Sergei didn't celebrate with them, so how did he spend that time? You'll find out! Quick note: his conversation is in Russian but of course written in English here :)

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I shut the hotel room door and loosened my tie. I should be downstairs in the restaurant celebrating with Emily and Chris and their families, but I couldn’t be around Emily. Not tonight. Not after the passionate way she’d skated and how emotional she’d been atop the podium. When I’d held her in my arms backstage, it had killed me to let her go.
Part of me had wanted to stay downstairs to see if Drew would join the party. I was curious what exactly was going on with Emily and him. After they’d been inseparable in Paris and he’d sent her those flowers, I assumed they were more than friends. But I saw the way Emily still looked at me. She hadn’t been able to forget what happened between us either. All the time we’d spent together, the kiss at the cliffs… I should’ve put it all out of my mind, but instead I was holding onto it like a lifeline.
As I dropped my jacket and credential badge onto the bed, my phone vibrated in my pocket. I pulled it out, knowing exactly who the caller would be.
“Good morning,” I answered, referring to Moscow time.
“I hope you have good news this morning?” My mother’s cheerful voice rang clear. “I could hardly sleep, wondering how Emily and Chris skated.”
“They skated better than they ever have.” I sat in the chair next to the window and stretched my legs over the ottoman. “And they won the title.”
“Sergei, that’s wonderful! I know how much you wanted this for them. You’ve worked so hard.”
I smiled at how proud she sounded. She called after every competition to ask about my students’ results, and she was always supportive, regardless of the scores.
“It was a great night. I’ll send you the videotape so you can see it. The crowd was so loud I couldn’t hear the music at the end.”
“You must be getting ready to celebrate. I won’t keep you.”
I stared at the quiet, empty hotel room. “I’m pretty beat, so I left Emily and Chris with their families.”
“Sometimes I worry you work too hard. You need a life outside the rink… so you can meet a nice girl.”
What if I’ve already found the perfect girl inside the rink?
I hadn’t been able to talk to any of my friends about Emily because they were all fellow coaches. My mother was probably the only person I could tell. It might feel good to talk about it out loud after months of arguing with myself in my head.
“I actually did meet someone,” I said.
“You have? Tell me all about her!”
Visions of Emily filled my mind, and I rested my head against the chair. “She’s beautiful. And it’s not just the way she looks. It’s... the person she is.”
“She sounds very special.”
“She is. She’s sweet and smart and so talented. And we have a lot in common. She loves to read as much as I do.”
“You’re a perfect match,” she said, and I could hear her smiling.
I sighed and rubbed my hand through my hair. “Not exactly. There’s one big problem.”
A pause hung over the line. “She’s not married, is she?”
“No,” I said quickly. “Nothing like that.”
“Then what is it?”
I tapped my fingers on the arm of the chair. “The girl is Emily.”
Another few beats of silence followed before she spoke, “I see how that might cause some problems, but coaches and skaters get involved all the time. Many of them get married even.”
“That’s true in Russia, but it’s a lot different here. Our federation doesn’t want coaches and students dating. It’s a very strongly implied rule.”
“Oh. Well, that does make it more difficult.”
“It’s so frustrating because if Emily wasn’t my student, I know we could have something more…”
“Sergei, please be careful. You’ve made such a good life for yourself there, and I’m so proud of you. I don’t want you to lose everything.”
She sounded genuinely afraid, and I couldn’t blame her. She’d had to watch helplessly as I’d lost my chance to skate at the Olympics, all because of my bad decisions.
“I won’t let that happen,” I said as I worked the knot on my tie loose. “I just don’t know how to get Emily out of my head.”
“Maybe you can’t be together right now, but she won’t always be your student. Your time can still come.”
I thought back to Paris and seeing Emily kissing Drew outside the hotel. My jaw clenched, and I yanked the tie from around my neck. “I can’t expect her to wait for me, and there will be plenty of guys interested in her. There’s already one.”
“If you’re meant to be together, it will happen, no matter how much time or how many people come between you.”
I wanted to believe life worked out that way, but there were too many unknowns. Someone could swoop in and steal Emily’s heart, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.

***