Dorian has been working his whole life to make the Olympic gymnastics team and win that elusive all-around gold medal. Just because he’s the youngest, shortest and not the most socially savvy team member shouldn’t warrant all the teasing—bullying, really—he has to endure, especially from Jules Gardner, the former Olympic bronze medalist and current teammate. He’s had a crush on Jules for years, but Dorian isn’t going to let Jules get in the way of his goals, no matter what.
Jules, on the other hand, loves to mess with Dorian’s head. It’s fun, like a cat playing with a mouse. Seducing him is even more entertaining. But Jules’ personal coach, Coach Harper, doesn’t believe in pulling any punches when it comes to Jules winning. When Coach Harper begins pushing Jules past the boundaries of good sportsmanship, Dorian realizes something more sinister is going on. And Dorian is the only one who can rescue Jules’ gymnastic career from utter destruction. (M/M)
Dorian stared into his locker for a moment, eyes not taking in the shiny metal, his outfit folded neatly at the bottom. If only he could feel like he belonged. He’d long given up on that, but that didn’t mean he didn’t still long for it when the guys laughed and joked behind him. After a second, he stirred to life, pulling off his USA jacket and tossing it onto the bench behind him. He reached for his uniform, but paused, hand closing around it, as Jules passed behind him.
“Hey, shrimp, you look a little tense,” Jules said, and it wouldn’t have been enough to provoke Dorian, but when Jules’ hands landed on his shoulders, he snapped.
He turned faster than Jules probably expected, if the way his eyes widened was any indication, and shoved him back against the lockers with a strength deceptive of his size, but he was an Olympics gymnast after all. Jules hit the lockers with a slam that shuddered the entire row, and Dorian’s upper arm pressed to his throat in a second.
He didn’t get much further than that, though. Within seconds, both Carey and Adrian yanked him back, surprise in their eyes, but Dorian didn’t care.
“What the hell are you doing?” Carey demanded, but Dorian ignored him.
“Don’t touch me,” he snarled at Jules, yanking his arms free from Carey and Adrian’s grips.
Mitya glanced up from his place on the bench but didn’t comment, arching a thick eyebrow and then returning to his own business. Dorian turned back to his locker as Jules blinked and exchanged a glance with Carey. Both Carey and Adrian were watching him closely, probably thinking he was going off the deep end.
“Relax,” Jules said seriously, frowning at him slightly. “I was just trying to help you out.”
Dorian didn’t reply, glaring at Jules. All he could think of was the other night, Jules kissing him, Jules laughing at him, him sitting alone at the end of the table at lunch. The other guys on the team still watched him.
“What the fuck is your problem, dude?” Carey asked after a second. “You can’t just go around hitting teammates.”
Dorian knew that. He knew that the stress was getting to him and he had to find a better way to get rid of it. His team probably thought he was going a little crazy. He felt like he was. It was all too much pressure, and with Jules constantly on his last nerve, he wasn’t sure he could make it through the rest of the week.
He’d never felt like this before at any of his other competitions. It somehow felt as if all his hopes and dreams were riding on this, on the Olympics, and it would either make or break him. It didn’t help that Jules was always around, confusing the hell out of him. What did Jules want with him anyway?
Everyone was still looking at him as he glanced up, feeling like a cornered dog, as if he had done something wrong and not Jules, who had provoked him. There was no way out of it, though.
“Sorry,” he muttered a second later. He forced himself up from the bench. “Just trying to get through this week.”
Carey and Adrian frowned, exchanging a glance. Jules watched Dorian without a word as he turned his back on them.
“Yeah, well, keep your issues to yourself,” Carey said, turning back to his locker.
Dorian didn’t speak another word the entire time in the locker room and was the first one to finish getting ready. He strode down the hallway to the arena. He could hear the rumble of the crowd already before he even entered. At the door, he paused, taking the moment to himself.
He hated to admit it, but Jules was right. He was stressed. He was worried. He was just a few events away from something he’d wanted since he was six years old and he’d first watched the Olympics with his parents, hunkered down in their cramped living room with furniture from the seventies. He’d begged them to let him stay up to watch the men’s gymnastics, and he hadn’t been disappointed. Since then, it had been all he’d dreamt of.
Now it was finally here, and he only felt as though he was about to collapse under all the pressure. He was only nineteen. The urge to cry welled up inside of him unexpectedly as he stood at the double doors. There was so much pressure to do well, to not have wasted the last ten years of his life. The emotions welled up inside him, a lump in his throat as he told himself to stay calm.