Perched backwards on the edge of the platform, heart thumping, Tyler raised his arms over his head. With the adrenaline flowing, he didn’t even feel the ache in his back that had kept him awake half the night. He tried not to think about the fact that the whole world was watching, and closed his eyes.
Just another day at the pool.
“Ready?” Aiden asked again.
Their heels hung over the side, ten meters above the glistening surface of the pool as they took identical starting positions. The fear burned in Tyler’s chest and what-ifs ricocheted through his mind before he could silence them. I’ve done this a thousand times. It won’t happen again. It was a fluke.
“One, two, three—go.”
Tyler bent his knees and exploded up off the platform, straightening his legs and folding his body forward at the waist in the pike position. As he and Aiden fell in unison, he put his arms above his head and straightened out in plenty of time to slice into the water with as little splash as possible, his body vertical, bruised toes pointed painfully.
They plunged into the pool, and Tyler flipped upright and swam to the edge next to Aiden. He hoisted himself out and hurried over to the showers on the wall behind the diving platform, ignoring the twinges from his toes as adrenaline flooded him. I did it.
His first Olympic dive was in the books.
It had felt like a good one—and the crowd certainly thought so, if their enthusiastic applause was any gauge. He chanced a smile at Aiden, who nodded, a smile briefly lifting his full lips. Aiden reached out his hand and they slapped their palms together lightly
Eyes closed, Tyler stepped under the warm water. As he turned, his shoulder brushed against Aiden’s, sending a delicious shiver up his spine. God, how he wanted to wrap his arms around him and feel his powerful body from head to toes, press their lips together and…
What else is new?
With a rueful chuckle under his breath, Tyler opened his eyes and stepped out from under the shower. This is the Olympic Games. Focus.
Five dives to go.
# # #
Five days earlier
“Penny for your thoughts. Or a nickel, I guess, since they don’t make pennies any more.”
Aiden glanced away from the bus window, his pensive expression disappearing under the mask of a smile. “Just thinking. Aren’t you sitting back there with the swimmers?”
“Nah. Too rowdy for me.” Tyler plopped down next to Aiden, jostling against him slightly as the bus turned. He knew Aiden probably wanted to be alone like usual, but Tyler wanted to share this experience. Not that Aiden ever said he wanted to be alone, but the only time Tyler saw him outside the pool was when they travelled to competitions. “But I can go back if you want.”
“No, of course not. Don’t mind me. Can’t shut my brain off sometimes.”
“But this is still supposed to be fun, right? Can’t we worry about the competition after the opening ceremony?”
“Yeah, of course.” Aiden shrugged. “Besides, there’s nothing to worry about. We’ll do our best and whatever happens, happens.”
Tyler pushed away a flicker of irritation. He knew they shouldn’t get their hopes up, but he still wished Aiden had more confidence in their partnership. “Yeah, but we at least have a shot at the podium. We’ve been diving really well. Don’t you think?”
Aiden nodded. “Yeah. Like I said, we’ll do our best.” He gazed out at the jubilant crowds.
“I guess this is old hat for you now.”
“No way.” Aiden’s smile seemed real this time. “This may be my second Olympics, but I don’t think it’ll ever get old.”
It was on the tip of Tyler’s tongue to ask why Aiden had seemed so sad a moment ago—as he often did when he thought Tyler wasn’t looking. Of course, little did Aiden know that Tyler watched him every chance he got. He knew it was a hopeless crush, but he couldn’t help himself. “Aiden—”
“Yoooooo!” Mike Grantwell had ventured up from the swimmers’ party at the back of the bus. No one would dare break training and drink before their competitions, but the energy of the Games provided a natural high.
“Hey, Mike.” Tyler raised his hand to return Mike’s high five. I thought you guys were skipping the ceremony. Aren’t you competing tomorrow?”
“The backstrokers are, but the rest of us have a few days. Thank God. No way I’m missing this.” He motioned to the packed streets. “Look at all the hot chicks.” He winked. “You two are gonna clean up in the Village. I swear, you guys are brothers from another mother. You sure you’re not related?”
“We’re sure,” Tyler answered. They’d heard it a million times since their coaches paired them up six months earlier.
“I can barely tell you apart.”
“That’s because you’re an idiot, Mike.” Nathalie Bourbeau piped up from the seat in front, but there was no venom in the insult. “So, how many swimmers does it take to screw in a light bulb?”
Mike guffawed. “How many?”
Nathalie shrugged. “We don’t know yet. They keep getting electrocuted.”
Beside Nathalie, her partner Audrey giggled, and they all laughed. Mike waved his hand. “Yeah, yeah. You divers are just as wet as we are.”
“The difference is we’re smart enough to towel off before changing light bulbs,” Nathalie replied with a wink before she and Audrey returned to chattering in French.
As Mike was called back to rejoin the swimmers, the bus neared the stadium, winding its way through downtown Toronto. The streets teemed with people, many waving Canadian flags and wearing red. With each block closer, Tyler’s pulse increased. He was about to walk into the opening ceremony of the freaking Olympics as part of the home team. He took a deep breath. “I don’t know why I’m so nervous.”
“Because a billion people around the world are going to be watching?” Aiden ran a hand through his dirty-blond hair and put on his red cap. “We’re all nervous. But this is the fun part.” He nodded toward the looming dome, which was open to the balmy night. “Look, we’re here.”
Tyler put on his own cap over his light blond hair and they filed off the bus to join their other teammates in the bowels of the stadium, where the Parade of Nations would begin. As host nation, Canada went last, and some of the other countries had already taken their lap. The athletes gathered as more buses arrived, filling up the area. The din of the crowd’s cheers above them hummed in the air.
In their matching uniforms, Tyler mused that he and Aiden really could be brothers. At five nine they were both tall for divers, which made them a natural fit as synchro partners. Aiden’s shoulders were a bit broader, but they had similar body types—muscular, yet lean. Their only major physical difference was the blue of Tyler’s eyes, while Aiden’s were a dark brown. They both even had dimples in their cheeks when they smiled. As Nathalie put it once, they were “très Abercrombie.”
But Aiden’s real smiles were few and far between, and once again Tyler found himself chewing over what was bothering him. Of course their partnership had been the last thing either had expected, and Tyler knew he couldn’t fill Greg Lewis’s shoes. He’d tried his best, but Aiden must be wishing it was Greg with him at this Olympics.
Little Nathalie nudged Tyler with her elbow, grinning. “Can you believe it? We’re really here! We did it!”
Putting thoughts of Aiden aside momentarily, Tyler slung his arm over Nathalie’s shoulders and gave her a squeeze. They’d trained together in Montreal for three years before Tyler had gotten the call to go to Calgary. At twenty, they were the youngest members of the team, and Tyler was very glad to have Nathalie with him.
She frowned and lowered her voice as she tucked a dark curl behind her ear. “What is it?”
Before he could answer, she raised her eyebrows. “Wait—three guesses, and the first two don’t count.”
Smiling, she shook her head and leaned in to whisper. “Don’t worry. Your secret’s safe with me.”
Tyler knew that was true, and pressed a kiss to her cheek as officials called for attention and the athletes clustered together in groups, with the veterans and flag bearer taking the lead. When Canada was announced, the roaring in the stadium reached a fevered pitch, rolling over them like a wave. In this moment, standing next to Aiden, Tyler had never felt more proud. It took everything in him not to reach for Aiden’s hand.
As the athletes ahead of them began walking up the concrete ramp, Tyler took a deep breath and touched Aiden’s arm lightly. They all wore long-sleeved red jackets over khaki pants, but Tyler swore he felt a bolt of electricity where they touched. “Thank you.”
Aiden blinked. “For what?”
For being the most incredibly smart and kind and sexy man I’ve ever met, even if you’ll never like me in the same way. “I don’t know. For everything. I’m so glad I’m here with you.”
An emotion Tyler couldn’t identify flickered across Aiden’s face. “Me, too.”
Then they were marching, and even though deep down Tyler felt Aiden was only being nice, he wanted to believe it. The crowd screamed as they entered the stadium, cheers and love echoing in the warm night air. As he grinned and waved, Tyler let himself be swept away with Aiden at his side.
Copyright © Keira Andrews
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