It's that time of the year, when I find myself caught up in the excitement and drama of competitive ice skating. This year the stakes are higher because of the upcoming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Months of training and sacrifice culminate in a grueling event played out in front of millions. As an observer, I can only sympathize when a favorite falls short for one reason or another. There's no predicting the outcome, no matter how well you think you know the athlete. Like any sport, there are too many variables involved, and one can only hope that years of training and nerves of steel help your candidate rise to the occasion.
Several years ago I wrote a story about such a man, one who dreamed of standing on the podium at Sochi, Russia with a gold medal around his neck. Emory Lowe has been on my mind a lot lately, so much that I've decided to revisit his and Nik's story. I'm only at the plotting stage, but that's always the first step in my storytelling. In the meantime, enjoy a snippet of Enforcing Emory.
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.
Emory gave Tom a reassuring hug and climbed the stairs to his bedroom. After toeing off his running shoes and tossing his jacket on a chair, he slouched on his fluffy pillows. Closing his eyes, he recounted the conversation he and Nik had exchanged, convincing himself that there was a good possibility the guy was bent but so deep in the closet, he didn’t even know it. Or he might just be a decent hetero who didn’t mind hanging around the gayest boy on the block. Too bad, he thought, imagining the hard body underneath the sweatpants and tight T-shirt.
He’d always had fantasies about hockey players, but they never gave him a second glance. Some of them had actually insulted him on a few occasions, so he kept his distance and tried to set his sights on other, more approachable men. The problem was the gay guys he knew from high school were now in college, and the ones in the skating community were already paired off. Not to mention his grueling schedule. Between finishing up school and preparing for Nationals, he hadn’t had time for any kind of social life. His last hookup had been a quick grope in a restroom that had left him completely dissatisfied.
It seemed everything was on hold until after the Olympics, which were being held in Sochi, Russia, this year. Deep in his heart he expected to medal, but regardless of the outcome, Emory decided he would turn pro after the event and get his college degree online. By then, he’d be ready to leave home and manage his own life. He wanted to get into costume design, since he was hooked on colors and would have a steady clientele if he catered to fellow skaters. He would know which outfits worked best, and it seemed like a good outlet for channeling his creativity off the ice.
He hoped his new coach would allow him to repeat the short and long programs that had won him the Olympic spot. The Romeo and Juliet piece wasn’t a problem, but the Lady Gaga medley could be. When people had heard the lyrics of “Born This Way” coming through the loudspeakers, there had been some tittering in the stands, but everyone had settled down as he won them over with his intricate footwork, Russian split jumps, and perilous hydroblading, along with perfectly landed quads. His final I-spin had wowed the spectators and the applause at the completion of the routine had been simply unreal. Would the Olympic judges respond in the same way? He’d heard often enough that they were prone to give higher scores to skaters who stuck to the classics, but if he gave them the best of both worlds, wouldn’t it be just as good? His short program would highlight the classical, and his free skate would provide an edgier contrast. Privately, Emory felt that stepping into the twenty-first century was long overdue.
He realized he was asking for the impossible. Pioneers were rarely successful on their first try and usually bore the brunt of society’s disapproval; however, Emory didn’t know any other way. He refused to change to give himself any kind of advantage. They would have to take him just the way he was born.
He fell asleep and woke up to a growling stomach. According to the clock by his bed, it was time for lunch, so he took a quick shower, threw on an old T-shirt and jeans, and headed to the kitchen to see if his mother had left him anything to eat. She was also at work, his younger brothers were in school, and the house was eerily silent.
There was a note on the fridge telling him there was leftover pot roast plus a bunch of cold cuts and cheeses if he’d rather have a sandwich. After making himself a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches, he grabbed the bag of Doritos, stuck a liter of Pepsi under his armpit, and, fully loaded, headed to the living room to catch the last fifteen minutes of The Talk while he stuffed his face. Rob Lowe was on the show, and he soaked up the actor’s beautiful face, wishing they were related somehow. That would be so cool, but he knew his family name wasn’t that unusual, and the last time he checked his genealogy, there was no sign of Rob.
The doorbell rang and he put aside the bag of chips, wiped his mouth, and went to see who it could be. Nik was standing there, looking apprehensive as hell.
“Is it all right to come in?” he asked, looking over Emory’s shoulder as if to make sure Tom wasn’t standing there with a shotgun.
“No one’s home, and even if they were, Dad knows you’re coming over.”
“He was okay with it?” Nik asked dubiously.
“He squawked for a bit, then settled down when I told him you were straight and didn’t plan on fucking me on the dining room table.”
“Just kidding,” Emory said with a naughty grin. He took Nik’s hand and pulled him inside and shut the door.
“Did you really say that to your father?”
“No, but I could have,” Emory teased.
“Shit, if I said something like that to my dad, he’d probably knock out all my teeth.”
“That’s slightly over the top, isn’t it?”
“So he’s a big homophobe?”
“Most men from that part of the world are.”
“Yeah, I heard that on the news.”
“He’s no different from the rest of them.”
“I don’t know why the USA is planning on sending an Olympic team over there if they have no respect for human rights.”
“It’s bullshit. Good thing I’m not president.”
Nik smirked. “If you were in charge, all the Olympians would be dressed in pink.”
Emory’s eyebrows shot up. “What’s wrong with pink? It’s very flattering.”
They headed into the living room, and Nik’s eyes lit up when he saw snacks laid out on the coffee table. “Can I have some?” he asked, pointing at the chips.
“Sure,” Em said, handing the bag over. “This way we’ll both have ass breath.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Nikolai remarked. He stared at Emory, who looked back at him, still grinning. “You’re having way too much fun with me, aren’t you?”
Emory barked out a laugh. “I can’t help it,” he said. “You’re easy.”
Nik grabbed Emory in a headlock and squeezed. He whispered in his ear while Em struggled to break free. “You’d better watch it when you go to Russia. I’d hate to see your pretty smile get knocked off your face by some jerk who can’t tell the difference between a joker and a queer on the prowl.”
“Let go of me, you brute,” Emory squealed, squirming to break loose.
Nik hung on but loosened his grip enough so Emory could stand. They ended up pressed against each other’s chest, and being almost the same height, their hips aligned perfectly. Emory could feel the beginning of an erection pressing against his own swollen cock, and they stared at each other without saying a word. Nik shoved him away roughly, muttering something in Ukrainian Emory didn’t understand. He made a mental note to try to remember the words, so he could look it up on Google Translate. Running trembling fingers through his disheveled hair, he inhaled a shaky breath and put his best game face on. Time enough to contemplate what just happened when he was alone and his body wasn’t humming with need. Did he really feel something, or was it just wishful thinking? No, he shook his head; that hard bump pressing against him wasn’t imagined. If Nik was straight, Emory would eat his jockstrap.