Home > The Long Game (Game Changers #6)

The Long Game (Game Changers #6)
Author: Rachel Reid

 


Chapter One


   July


   Shane had never wanted anything so badly in his life. His goal was right in front of him, and nothing would stop him from reaching it.

   “You wish, Hollander,” called a hoarse voice behind him.

   Shane felt like his chest was going to explode, but he huffed and pushed himself harder, refusing to give up. The pounding of sneakers on the trail and of Shane’s own heartbeat almost drowned out the laughter behind him. Shane tried to ignore it all as he focused on the trail exit just ahead.

   Suddenly, Ilya was right beside him, drenched in sweat, T-shirt balled up in one fist. Ilya winked at him before speeding past him like a cartoon character. Shane grunted in frustration and tried to catch up, but Ilya’s long legs and seemingly superhuman stamina were making it impossible.

   Ilya reached the end of the trail first, arms raised in victory. Then he collapsed on a grassy patch at the edge of the small parking lot.

   Shane stumbled over to him, gasping and swearing. He put his hands on his knees as he waited for breathing to stop being painful.

   “Fuck,” he wheezed, “you.”

   Ilya flopped onto his back, shaking with laughter. He mopped at his forehead with the damp shirt he was holding. “I almost let you win.”

   “Liar.”

   “The view was not bad. From behind. Almost worth staying there.”

   Shane didn’t know how his boyfriend was able to speak in full sentences. “Shut up.”

   “I like those little shorts.”

   Shane laughed, but it sounded more like a steam engine puffing. “Thanks.”

   Ilya pulled himself up to rest on his elbows. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back, rolling it gently from side to side. His hair was soaked, curls sticking to his face and neck, and his chest glistened with sweat. The crucifix he always wore around his neck was resting on his shoulder.

   Shane dropped to his knees beside him. “I hate that you can outrun me like that. It doesn’t make sense.”

   Ilya opened one eye. “Maybe you should eat carbs.”

   “I eat healthy carbs.”

   “You eat nothing.”

   “You smoke.”

   “Almost never.”

   “You had a cigarette last night.”

   “How do you know?”

   “I have a nose.”

   Ilya booped the tip of Shane’s nose. “A cute one.”

   Shane tried to glare at him, but he couldn’t keep it up. Not when Ilya was smiling at him like that. Instead, he gently adjusted Ilya’s crucifix, moving it to rest in the middle of his chest.

   “So you like the shorts, huh?” They were a shorter style than the basketball ones he usually wore to work out in. Something new Shane was trying. His hair was longer than it had ever been too. He’d grown it out during the playoffs, and Ilya had protested when Shane had suggested it was time to get it cut. He’d let Shane shave his terrible, patchy excuse for a playoff beard, though.

   Ilya traced the hem of one leg of the shorts where it was pulled tight against Shane’s thigh. “I think your dick would rip right through these if you got hard.”

   Oh wow. Yikes. Shane glanced around. They were the only ones in the parking lot, which was secluded by thick trees on all sides, but they were still in public. “Let’s not test that here.”

   Without warning, Ilya grabbed him and rolled them both until Shane was on his back, Ilya stretched out on top of him, grinning down at him.

   Shane shoved at his sweaty chest. “You’re disgusting.”

   “We are both disgusting.” Ilya dipped his head and kissed him, quickly.

   “Enough,” Shane said, though he didn’t sound like he meant it. “We should go home. Shower.”

   “Fine.” Ilya sprang off of him, then offered a hand to help Shane up.

   “You’re just full of energy,” Shane grumbled, taking his hand and allowing himself to be hauled up.

   “I can think of ways to use it up,” Ilya said.

   God, Shane wished. “We have that call with Farah soon.” He started walking toward the car.

   Ilya sighed heavily behind him. “Why do we need this call?”

   “Because she’s our agent and it’s her job to, like, check in on us.”

   Ilya had signed with Shane’s agent last year, after parting ways with the Russian agent he’d had since he’d been a teenager. He’d wanted a Canadian agent, and Shane couldn’t recommend Farah Jalali highly enough. On top of being a great agent, she’d been nothing but supportive when Shane had told her he was gay two years ago.

   “We could tell her, maybe,” Ilya said.

   “Tell her what?”

   “About us.”

   “What? Today? Now?” Despite the summer heat, and his blood still churned up from the run, Shane suddenly felt icy cold.

   Ilya shrugged easily. “She probably knows already.”

   The panic alarm that lived inside Shane started blaring. “Why would she?”

   “We are together at your cottage. You are gay. I am hot.”

   “It’s a bit...soon. We should talk about it more. Figure out how to word it and—”

   Ilya was gazing at him with a mixture of fondness and exasperation. “Is not complicated. And if she does not support us, then she should not be our agent.”

   Shane chewed his lip, considering the undeniable truth of that. “She’ll support us.”

   “I know. So we tell her.”

 

* * *

 

   The shower they’d taken together had lasted longer than was strictly necessary. As a result, Shane was still struggling into his T-shirt when Farah’s FaceTime request lit up his phone. Ilya was only wearing underwear.

   “Should I answer?” Ilya asked, picking up Shane’s phone from the dresser.

   “No! Get dressed!” Shane snatched the phone and accepted Farah’s request. Her face filled the screen, elegantly put together as always.

   “Hi, guys,” she said cheerfully. “Or, hi, Shane, anyway.”

   “Ilya’s here. He’s just...” Shane trailed off, momentarily distracted by Ilya’s low-slung shorts and bare torso.

   “Hi, Farah,” Ilya called out.

   Farah smiled, probably used to dealing with idiot hockey players by now. She was only about ten years older than Ilya and Shane, but seemed twice as mature as they’d ever be. “Hi, Ilya. Are you guys having a nice summer?”

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