Book Title: Getting It Back
Author: Elizabeth Harmon
Release Date: March 2016
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions
In this second-chance romance, a former top men’s figure skating champion is willing to risk everything for a comeback–except a new start with his long lost love.
An unexpected phone call from the man who broke her heart offers Amy Shepherd an opportunity to return to the work she loves, training elite figure skaters. Except it’s just one figure skater: Him. Can she finally forgive and forget?
Figure skater Mikhail “Misha” Zaikov once had it all: medals, money and the adoration of millions. But a devastating injury put an end to his career and his romance, leaving him with nothing but regret over what could have been. His last chance to re-join the world’s top skaters is now. And there’s only one person who can help him: Her.
On Russia’s unyielding ice, Misha must reclaim what he’s lost while facing off against a talented young rival and risking further injury. But Amy soon discovers Misha’s much bigger challenges lurk off the ice. And she’s determined to keep Misha whole and healthy, even if doing so ends his shot at the gold.
Don’t miss any of Elizabeth Harmon’s Red Hot Russians. Pairing Off and Turning it On are available now!
What hit him first was the smell of the place. Every rink had it, from the ramshackle Bachatsky Ice Palace where his father had once coached him, to elite facilities catering to the best in his sport. It was a cold musty smell, tinged with sweat and damp rubber that was crisp and exhilarating at the same time. To Misha, there was no better smell in the world.
Boys’ loud voices and the thump of heavy skates pulled from feet and dropped on the rubber-padded floor filled the lobby. Beside the front door was a trophy case filled with hockey hardware, and overhead, more banners celebrated Shackleton hockey. A dark-haired woman wearing a hooded sweatshirt that read “Shackleton Ice Hawks,” came out of the front office.
“Hi Amy, welcome back. Here’s your class roster. And I see you brought a friend.” Her curious gaze lingered on his red skate bag with white Cyrillic lettering. “I’m Margaret Carlson, rink manager.”
“Misha’s a good friend, who will be helping demonstrate moves for the class today. He was the men’s bronze medalist in Lake Placid.”
“No kidding? I don’t follow figure skating, but I’m sure the little ones will get a kick out of having him here.” She turned to Misha. “Do you still compete?”
“Retired now, and taking some time to decide what’s next.”
“Know anything about hockey?”
“Some,” he said. It was played on ice, with sticks. That was about the extent of it.
“I’m always looking for officials for our adult leagues, if you’re interested.”
He wasn’t, but smiled and nodded anyway. “Thank you. I will keep it in mind.”
Amy looked over the pink sheet Margaret had handed her. “Fifteen. That’s a big class.”
“A couple of the girls are brand new, but most have some experience and are preparing for one of the Basic Skills tests.”
Beginning skaters typically progressed through a series of levels, though his early training had been much less orthodox. He peered over Amy’s shoulder at the roster. Thought it was sometimes hard to tell with American names, it seemed that all of the students were girls. “No boys?”
“They’re all on this side.” Margaret jerked her thumb toward the right side of the lobby, where hockey players congregated around the large, glassed-in rink. The smaller rink on the left side of the lobby was empty except for the Zamboni resurfacing the ice. “You’ll be teaching over there.”
The left rink felt a bit neglected. There were a few wooden benches rather than bleachers, and the U.S. Figure Skating banner tacked to the opposite wall drooped on one corner. But the Zam had finished its work, and the surface looked smooth. He and Amy set down their skate bags. “At least they don’t make you teach on gouged up ice,” he said.
“They’re nice here, even if figure skating is kind of the red-headed stepchild,” she said, taking a well-worn white skate from her bag, and removing a blue terry-cloth soaker from the blade.
“Nothing wrong with redheads.” He gave her shiny ponytail a playful tug, liking the silky feeling of her hair between his fingers. “Why don’t any boys like to skate?”
“People tend to see figure skating as a sport for little girls. There have been a few boy figure skaters, but they seem to quit by high school. One of the girls in my class is from a family that’s very involved with the rink, and if I recall, one of her brothers was pretty good.”
“And now he plays hockey?”
“Probably.” She laced her boots and took hold of the rink board, bending low to flex her knees and calves. Misha did the same, sneaking glances at the way her stretchy black skating pants clung to her tight little ass, as she went through her warm-up sequence. When she finished, she grabbed her clipboard and glided gracefully out to the center, while Misha remained behind the boards, gazing at the expanse of milky white ice.
The doctors had told him that he could still skate after the surgery, which was true, though not in the way he had. His body moved differently, small pains lasted longer than they ever did before. His reduced flexibility made skating elements that had once come easily much more difficult, and moves he’d struggled with before, he couldn’t get back at all. If only he’d lost the desire as well. But the Lake Placid bronze had only whetted his appetite, and just before the pain became too much to ignore, he’d been skating the best he’d ever skated. Some skaters didn’t reach their potential until well into their twenties, and he felt like he’d been close to reaching his.
Now he’d come full circle, back to being a visitor at an unassuming rink, much like the places Ilya had coached, never lasting long because of the drinking. And the ice was calling to him in a siren’s song he couldn’t ignore. It was time. He took a deep breath and stepped onto the ice.
His right foot detected the familiar slipperiness, and he shifted his weight to middle of his blades, gaining his equilibrium. “Show the ice who is in charge,” his father would shout at him, which was something of a joke, as they both knew. The ice was in charge, and a misstep or badly placed toe pick could trip up a champion as easily as a beginner.
He stroked down the rink’s long edge, knees bending, picking up speed, as he circled the rink, going faster and faster. When he felt comfortable, he leaned into the forward outside edge of his left blade, and swung his right leg back. Launching himself into the air, he spun counterclockwise, one and a half rotations, before coming down in a sure-footed landing, gliding backward on the outside edge of his right foot. The axel was the first edge jump he’d learned and it had always been his favorite. He followed it with standing and sitting spins, and then picked up speed again for more single and double jumps.
Misha felt strong and in control, and he thought about trying a few triples. His body seemed to be crying out for the challenge, but the sight of Amy standing in the midst of her pylons brought him back to the reason he was here. He skated over to join her.
“I knew it,” she said, when he reached her side. “Fifteen minutes on the ice and it’s like you never left. It’s in your blood.”
She was right, of course. Trying to deny this part of himself had been more painful than facing his own limitations, and he was grateful to this beautiful woman for recognizing that the ice was the medicine he really needed. He skated behind her as she traced a serpentine pattern along a blue hockey line, with a thick black marker. “What is today’s lesson?”
“I’ll start by going over basic things like posture and balance for the new girls, but even the more experienced can benefit from practicing. Then I’ll teach glides and stops to the newbies, and I’d like you to work with the girls preparing for their tests on edge rolls, three turns and Mohawks.”
“Will your class have a competition at the end?”
She looked appalled. “Not at this level! That would discourage them. It’s more important that they try their best.”
He grinned. “Which is why Americans learn to feel good about themselves, and Russians learn to be champions. We start competing right from the start.”
Amy frowned. “It sounds cruel if you ask me. I mean, it’s great for the kids who are naturally talented, such as you. But the kids who aren’t, get discouraged.”
“It isn’t cruel. It only gets students used to competing, so it feels natural when they have to do it for real. But this is your rink, and your class, so we do it your way.”
“I appreciate that.”
“You are wrong about one thing, though. I wasn’t always best skater. There were lots of others who had more natural talent. I just wanted it more.”
The question startled him and the answer was far from simple. “Because being best on the ice helped me forget what I didn’t have off it.”
Amy skated in front of him, shifting smoothly from her inside to outside edges, as he skated backward, mirroring her movements. Their bodies fell into the mid-tempo rhythm of the pop song playing on sound system, and the music wrapped around their spontaneous dance which felt intimate, though they weren’t even touching. Being on the ice felt right. Being on the ice with her felt more than right. He took her hands, and swung her into a wider curve, his gaze not leaving her face. “How come you never skated with me in Delaware?”
“I was busy.”
He scoffed. “You found time to watch football, which you don’t like, but not to go skating, which you love?”
Amy offered a sheepish smile. “All right, I admit I was intimidated. The only reason I ever told you I’d been a skater, was so you would have confidence in me as an athletic trainer. It wasn’t necessary for you to see me in action.”
“But it would have nice to spend time with you in my favorite place.” He grinned. “One of my favorite places.”
Her laugh echoed crisp cold air. “As I recall, we spent plenty of time in that favorite place.”
Quirky settings. Loveable, if imperfect heroines. Gorgeous men with hearts of gold. Contemporary romance author Elizabeth Harmon loves them all.
A graduate of the University of Illinois, she has worked in advertising, community journalism and as a freelance magazine writer. She feels incredibly blessed to have a career that allows her to spend her days imagining “what if?” and a loving family that keeps her grounded in the real world.
An adventurous cook, vintage home enthusiast, occasional actress, and entry-level figure skater, Elizabeth makes her home in the Midwest, where life is good, but the sports teams aren’t. She loves to hang out on her front porch, or at her favorite local establishments, enjoy good food and wine, and talk writing with anyone who will listen.
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Thanks for being part of my cover reveal. Getting It Back comes out April 4, 2016 and I hope everyone enjoys Misha and Amy’s story.