Fighting to Win (The Elite Book 1)

BOOK: Fighting to Win (The Elite Book 1)
8.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
Fighting to Win
The Elite - Book 1
Nicole Flockton
Back Cover Copy

J
ulia Ashland walked away
from Mitch Osborn when a scandal rocked her world following the diving world championships. Now she’s face to face with him again at the biggest event of the year – the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Not only must she fight her attraction to him, she has to fight to prove she earned her position on the diving team.

Mitch Osborn is the darling of the swimming world. Competing at his third Olympics his focus is on increasing his personal gold medal tally not rekindling a relationship with Julia—the woman who publicly humiliated him with another member of the swim team.

Now thrown back together at the Olympics, will their competitive nature’s take hold or will they be fighting to win each other’s hearts once more.

C
opyright
© 2016 by Nicole Flockton

Cover Design: Jennifer Greeff - More Than Words Promotions & PR

Model Photograph :
Fotolia.com
© Voyagerix

Background:
Fotolia.com
- © volff

Editor: Julie Sturgeon CEOEditor.com

1st Edition

All rights reserved.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons living or dead is purely coincidental. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people.

Dear Reader

T
hanks
so much for reading Fighting to Win. The idea to do an Olympic themed story popped into my mind out of the blue. Once the idea hit I couldn’t let it go and “The Elite” series was born.

T
he characters
in this book come from my imagination, they’re not based on any particular real life person. I’ve taken some artistic license with this story.

I
hope
you enjoy reading about Mitch and Julia!

1


N
ow
.”

One word, and like the elite athlete she was, Julia Ashland obeyed her coach’s command.

Breathing deeply, she kept her eyes focused on the timing clock affixed to the wall at the other end of the swimming arena. She wiggled her toes, the diving platform rough against the bottom of her feet, before arching her back, arms stretched wide as she fell into the abyss below.

Legs straight
.

Toes pointed
.

She smoothly brought her arms directly above her head and hit the water with the precision of a bullet piercing a target. The shock of the cool pool water washed over her as she sank from the momentum of her dive.

A couple of strong kicks turned her from hitting the bottom to heading back to the surface.

Adrenaline pumped through her veins as she stroked to the side of the pool. Hefting herself out, she walked over to the table that held her chamois.

Now came the nerve-wracking bit—her coach’s critique.

Mick had been with her for so many years that she shouldn’t get worried about his comments. Unfortunately, she did. Even though the dive she’d executed was a warm up. A basic swan dive. A dive she’d done a million times. She felt like she’d nailed it. Mick would still find something to comment on, no doubt about it.

Arch your back more.

Your fingers weren’t touching.

Your big toe was out of alignment
.

Little things, but every one so important in the grand scheme of competitive diving. Those tiny imperfections could mean the difference between getting an 8.5 score and getting a 6.5. The difference between a gold medal and silver medal in the Rio Olympics. Probably the last Olympics she’d attend; at twenty-four, she was considered in her prime.

Last year, riding high after a gold medal performance at the World Championships in Russia, she’d been a favorite to win gold at Rio. Now, after the scandal, her chances of winning any medal was slim.

“Good job, Julia. Your left foot turned out on entry, and it caused a small splash. Probably would’ve cost you five-tenths or six-tenths of a point. I want you to go back up and do it again, and then we can start working on the dives you’ll do at the Games.”

And there it was.

Even though she thought her dive was perfect, Mick had picked up on an imperfection. His keen eyes were the reason she won gold last year. The fact he was still standing on the side of the pool, encouraging and helping her after everything she’d put him through meant the world to her.

“Okay.”

He walked over and laid a warm, encouraging hand on her shoulder. “Relax. Let your muscle memory take over. You know these dives. You overthink, you become tense, which hampers the natural fluidity needed in diving.”

“I know, but after the accusations, I have to make these dives perfect. I can’t give anyone any doubt that I earned my scores fair and square.”

“And you will. I believe in you.”

So even if she had to do her dives over and over and over again, she would. Her focus was on the hope that thirteen days after the opening ceremony of the XXXI Olympic Games, she’d be standing on the podium receiving a medal. Any color would do, but gold would be even sweeter.

She pictured the moment as she climbed back up the ladder to the ten-meter platform to perform the swan dive again.

This time her foot wouldn’t turn out.

A
t Houston’s George Bush International Airport
, Julia had to stop herself from pinching her arm. When the news that she’d supposedly bribed the judges at the world championship hit the Internet, she never thought she’d be here.

She’d fought long and hard to clear her name. After an eight-month investigation, USA Diving Inc. had found no evidence and therefore closed the case, finding in her favor.

Of course, the governing body couldn’t find anything because she hadn’t done it. She would
never
do something like that. But the damage had already been done. All it had taken was an anonymous note sent to a sports reporter to start the fire. Even now, there were whispers whenever she walked out onto the diving platform. Mud stuck regardless of whether you’d been cleared of all allegations.

The mystery remained as to who accused her. After the Games, she would get to the bottom of it and make the person pay for almost derailing her career.

The scandal had cost her personally too. Her heart still ached over what she’d had to do. But even though it hurt worse than losing a medal, it had been the right thing—her only option.

She glanced over to where the swim team mingled. Mitch Osborn, with his six foot eight frame, stood a head taller than the rest of his teammates. Sporting a buzz cut like he always did before a major competition, Mitch was still the best looking guy on the team, even from behind. He had the perfect swimmer’s physique: broad shoulders, narrow waist, and obligatory six-pack. Every girl’s dream, and for a while it had been hers. Even though his eyes were hidden from her view, she knew his blue irises were shining with excitement.

His shoulders lifted as he laughed at something one of the guys said. From her vantage point, he looked happy and relaxed. He looked so good in the team’s official traveling uniform. Yes, her decision had been the right one.

“I’m so glad to see you here.” Julia heard the words mere seconds before she was engulfed in a big bear hug.

She didn’t need to turn to see who had commanded her attention.

“Drake, put me down.” She laughed at his antics.

He dropped her to the ground, and she turned and stood on tiptoes to kiss his cheek. “It’s good to see you, too. How’s your knee?”

Immediately Drake stiffened, She’d obviously hit on a subject he wasn’t keen to talk about. Something she was very familiar with.

“Sorry, don’t answer that. How have you been?” she asked instead.

“Good. Training hard. Like I’m sure you’ve been doing. Like we all have been doing for the last few months.” His brows furrowed, and she braced herself. “Just like my injury, I know you probably don’t want to talk about what you’ve been through. But I want to say that I never thought you did what they accused you of.” He glanced across to the swim team then lowered his voice. “And I have a feeling I know why you did what you did to Mitch, even if that idiot hasn’t figured it out.”

Her stomach clenched. Perhaps she hadn’t been as convincing as she thought she’d been. Although it had been enough to finally convince Mitch they were over.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“If I didn’t like you so much, I’d be pissed at the way you hurt my best friend.”

Julia squeezed his arm, silently begging him to stop. She didn’t want to relive one of the darkest points of the last twelve months. She glanced over in Mitch’s direction again and caught him watching her and Drake, a look of disdain in his gaze that shredded her heart.

It wasn’t a look she was used to seeing from him. Though, after what she’d done to him, it was a look she earned.

Urgency laced her voice as she turned back to Drake. “Please don’t say anything to him. The Games are too important. But thank you for believing me.” She inclined her head in Mitch’s direction. No doubt Drake knew exactly where his friend stood. “It might be best if you moved. Hope to see you around the athletes’ village.”

Never one not to take a big hint, he gave her another quick hug. “You’ll definitely see me at the village. And I’ll be watching from the stands.”

“No, don’t do…that,” she finished, but it was too late. Drake had already gone. The times Mitch watched her at the regional competitions were bad enough. The last thing she needed with these stakes was a tie to her ex-boyfriend still in the audience.

Her nerves couldn’t handle it.

2

E
ven with his
noise-canceling headphones and the mindless chatter from the sitcom he was watching on the small television screen, Mitch could still hear the drone of the plane’s engines.

He hated flying.

Only one person had known of his fear and she sat on another plane heading for the same city. The last time he’d traveled internationally, Julia Ashland had held his hand throughout the long flight, her presence and touch grounding him. At the time, he thought if he had to die in a plane crash, at least he was dying with the woman he cared about next to him.

Mitch shifted in his seat, his legs stretched out in front of him. One of the perks of being the team’s star swimmer, he got the bulkhead seat so he didn’t have to sit with his knees around his neck. He could’ve flown business class if he’d wanted; one of his sponsors had offered him the money to upgrade. The press tried hard to suggest he thought himself superior to everyone else, so he’d declined. In reality, he would give anything for his teammates. Except maybe one.

God, he hated the press.

Mitch shifted again. Maybe he should take a walk. He pulled his headphones off.

“Dude, would you sit still? I’m trying to sleep.”

While Drake was his best friend and he loved him like a brother, he didn’t want to die sitting next to they guy.

“I’m just trying to get comfortable.”

“You’ve been fidgeting worse than a dog scratching at a flea bite the whole flight. What gives?”

There was no way in hell he planned to let Drake know about his fear of flying. Although you’d have thought by now his friend would’ve picked up on his apprehension, considering the amount of times they’d flown together.

“How did you get on this plane, anyway? Mitch asked, hoping to deflect Drake. “Shouldn’t you be flying with the rest of the track team? Don’t they leave in two days time?”

Drake shrugged. “Yeah, but I asked to go early.”

He’d never asked to go early to a track meet before. Drake was always the guy who arrived at the last possible minute to catch his plane and inevitably forgot to pack his toothbrush. “Why don’t I believe that?”

“I’m wounded that you’d think I’d have an ulterior motive than other getting familiar with the track before one of the biggest events of our lives.”

“You just gave yourself away, dude. So, what’s the real reason you’re sitting on this plane next to me?

“You’re my best friend and you’re my roommate at the Games. Why wouldn’t I travel with you?”

Seemed like they both had issues they didn’t want to talk about. Even though the disagreement was keeping Mitch’s mind off the fact they were suspended a few thousand feet above solid ground in a metal machine, he knew his friend wasn’t going to answer his question. He could force the issue, but truthfully he appreciated having Drake sitting beside him, especially after seeing Julia again.

Julia.

A name that shouldn’t hold any power over him, yet it had enough pain to bring back the sting of her betrayal. Julia wrapped in Brett Hunter’s arms on the front page of the sports section. It had taken everything in him not to punch out Brett at the next swim meet; only the knowledge that his chances of competing in his third straight Olympics would be over if he did had stopped him. Taking out a teammate who stood a good chance of getting a medal wouldn’t be good for his career.

In the end, Mitch gritted his teeth, buried his hatred for the other man, and concentrated on making sure he achieved the times needed to get on the team. Every time he saw Brett, Mitch resisted the urge to ask him how Julia was. He didn’t think he could handle hearing anything about their relationship.

Although, if they were spending time together, they were keeping their relationship low profile. He hadn’t seen a picture of them together for a few months. Unlike his and Julia’s relationship, which seemed to appear on every gossip site and in every major paper.

The Golden Couple of the aquatic world, they were dubbed. They both hated the moniker.

Then the articles went from talking about marriage to speculating whether Julia’s influence had rubbed off on him. Had he bribed his fellow competitors to throw a race so he remained at the top of the USA Swimming National Team?

It sucked. He’d believed Julia’s innocence whole-heartedly. Defended her in the papers, an action his coach hadn’t been happy with.

At the end of the day, it hadn’t mattered. Julia used the medium that was tearing her apart to tear his heart out.

Yet against his better judgment, he asked the question that had been burning in the back of his brain since he’d seen Julia and Drake together at the airport. Asking now, before arriving at the Games, would be better than stewing over it.

“What were you and Julia talking about?” Mitch was pleased to note his voice hadn’t wavered when he’d said her name.

“Nothing much. I just said it was good to see her. She looked good, don’t you think?”

She looked more beautiful than the last time Mitch saw her. And the fact he’d noticed pissed him off. He knew he’d be seeing her again at these Games. Had figured that the first time he clapped eyes on her would be the hardest. That first time was over now. Julia would now be just another athlete at the Games. The adrenaline rush of being at the biggest event of the year should push any lingering feelings for her so far out of his mind, he could talk to her the way any teammates talked to each other. Not as a couple who had once been on the verge of taking the next step in their relationship—that is, until she’d ripped apart their dream with harsh words and even harsher actions.

Yes, this was definitely what was going to happen the next time he saw her—a casual hello and he’d walk away.

“I didn’t take much notice.”

“Bullshit. I saw you watching her from the corner of your eye while we were waiting to board.”

“So what if I was. It makes no difference. What we had is over. The most important thing in my life now is the next few weeks and standing on that middle podium, hand over my heart as the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ plays over the sound system.”

The more he kept saying those words, the more chance they had of coming true.

“You go right on believing that. But remember, there will be athletes from all over the world converging on one place. You know what happens at the Games. Julia’s good looking. I wouldn’t be sure—”

“Shut the fuck up before I make you.”

Drake laughed, which only annoyed Mitch more. “Yeah, she doesn’t mean anything to you at all.”

Mitch pulled his headphones back over his ears, effectively blocking any further conversation. He tried to concentrate on the show he’d been watching but the vision of Julia laughing with someone who wasn’t him wouldn’t go away.

It was going to be a long Olympic Games.

BOOK: Fighting to Win (The Elite Book 1)
8.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney
The Twyning by Terence Blacker
Through the Flames by Jerry B. Jenkins, Tim LaHaye
Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti
Lost Worlds by Andrew Lane
100. A Rose In Jeopardy by Barbara Cartland