Olympic figure skater Emory Lowe falls in lust the moment he lays eyes on his new neighbor, hockey player Nikolai Vetrov. On the surface, Nik is a typical badass enforcer, intimidating and dangerous, on and off the ice. The only son of Ukrainian immigrants, Nik has been groomed from childhood to fulfill his father’s dreams of seeing him in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Igor guides his son toward that goal with a controlling—and abusive—hand, steering him clear of anyone who might ruin his chances.
Although Emory is the US National Figure Skating champion, he’s in-your-face gay, and his audacious persona rubs Nik and his family the wrong way. Raised by supportive and loving parents, Emory is Nik’s polar opposite in every way but one—his desire to succeed. Underneath the fluff and glitter beats the heart of a fierce competitor, and this side of Emory’s personality begins to close the distance between the two athletes.
While the attraction is one-sided in the beginning, Nik finds himself responding to Emory’s flirting. But before the incongruous pair have a chance at any sort of relationship, they must survive the pressures of career, separation, and most importantly, Igor’s ruthless homophobia.
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
“JUST MY fucking luck,” Tom Lowe muttered as he stood in front of the screen door.
“What’s up, Dad?” Emory asked, taking his eyes off the TV for a second.
“A bunch of fucking communists are moving into the neighborhood.”
Unable to resist that intro, Emory threw off the afghan he’d been huddling under and went to stand beside his father, watching the commotion going on outside. A small group of men and women were clustered around an oversized U-Haul truck parked across the street. Tom was still an inch or so taller than his firstborn and at least sixty pounds heavier, but it was easy to see the similarities between the lanky teen and his father. The shock of dark hair and deep-set hazel eyes were exactly the same, as was the habit of biting their lower lip in concentration.
Emory quickly zeroed in on the platinum blond who could have easily passed for Thor’s twin. “Shit,” he whispered in awe, “I’d climb that comrade in a second.” The guy in question was carrying several large boxes, and his bulging muscles were easily visible under the tight T-shirt. “Look at those biceps.”
Tom gave him a sidelong look of disgust. “Emory….”
“Just saying, Dad.”
“Dealing with your orientation is one thing, but listening to you drooling over a guy is another matter entirely. And furthermore,” Tom added, turning back to watch the progress across the street, “don’t even think about hooking up with anyone who speaks with an accent. If ya gotta be gay, pick some white boy to do the nasty with.”
“I meant American!”
Emory shook his head before heading back to his cozy spot in front of the TV. “You’re too much,” he muttered, grabbing the remote. “A gay-friendly bigot. It doesn’t even compute.”
“Love is hard enough to manage without throwing culture and religion into the mix.”
“How do you know they’re not like us?”
“They’re not speaking English, or were you too caught up in that young man’s body to notice?”
Emory smirked. “I got brain freeze after seeing those arms.”
Tom shook his head. “You’re going to give me a goddamn heart attack one of these days.”
“Relax, Dad. I’ll keep my homo ass on our side of the fence.”
Tom spun around and walked toward Emory, who held his breath, waiting for another pearl of wisdom to drop out of his father’s mouth. “Leave your theatrics on the ice, do you understand? This isn’t the right neighborhood to be flouncing around like that Gaga person you idolize.”
“I’m not the only one who loves Lady Gaga,” Emory said defensively.
“Yeah? I didn’t notice anyone else skating to her stupid music.”
“Not true,” Emory countered. “And that stupid music helped me clinch Nationals.”
“Whatever,” Tom muttered.
“What are you two arguing about?” Darlene Lowe asked, wiping her hands on a blue terry cloth towel. She walked through the archway separating the living room from the kitchen, where she’d been putting the finishing touches to the pot roast.
“Dad’s pissed off that we’re being invaded by Putin’s minions.”
“How do you even know they’re Russian? Are they waving a flag or something?”
“Listen to them,” Tom bellowed.
“Tom, you only speak English. How can you tell what they’re speaking?”
“I can hear nyet and da. Isn’t that Ruskie for yes and no?”
“Yup,” Emory concurred, pointing at the coaches sitting beside the ice skaters in the kiss-and-cry area of the current European Ice Skating Championship he was watching. “Those people say it all the time.”
“See,” Tom said triumphantly. “I told you they were a bunch of pinko bastards.”
“What’s a pinko?” Emory asked, distracted again by the new word.
Darlene frowned at her husband, who didn’t seem in the least bit repentant. “It’s an old-fashioned term used to describe a socialist.”
“Socialists, my ass.” Tom plopped down beside Emory. “It’s what they used to call commies back in the day.”
“No, that’s not right,” Darlene clarified. “Commies were red, capitalists white, and socialists a combination of the two, thus the word ‘pinko.’ This really isn’t the kind of history lesson to be teaching your son when he’s just signed with a Russian coach.”
“What’s wrong with the local coach he’s had all these years? Em wouldn’t have come this far without her help.”
That particular question had been asked and answered several times since the subject had been broached, but Tom still clung to the misconception that anything American was always preferable. Taking a deep breath, Darlene tried to explain. Again. “Jane is the one who suggested he spend some time with a new coach if he goes to the Olympics. She’s taught Emory everything she knows. Now it’s time to bring in some fresh input if he hopes to medal in Sochi. Yuri Misalov is one of the best.”