Read Home to Hellas (The Challenge Series) Online

Authors: Stephanie Beck

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Home to Hellas (The Challenge Series)

 

 

 

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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

Home to Hellas

Copyright © 2013 by Stephanie Beck

ISBN: 978-1-61333-512-3

Cover art by Mina Carter

 

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work, in whole or in part, in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.

 

Published by Decadent Publishing Company, LLC

Look for us online at:

www.decadentpublishing.com

 

 

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Home to Hellas

 

The Challenge Series

 

By

Stephanie Beck

 

 

~Dedication~

 

For my sister, who searched for love until she found someone who touched her heart.

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

They needed a new travel agent. Jenn grabbed her bag and stretched, still tight from the closed quarters of the last ten hours. The “spacious” seats put her shoulder to shoulder with two giggling coeds. Next time she flew, she’d pay extra for an upgrade, no matter what the booking agent advised.

She slugged the tote over her shoulder, tired but excited to be traveling again. A new crop of young, eager basketball players emerged from the airport bathroom already dragging their bags. Their excitement reminded her of her first trip abroad. The summer-long extension program always drew a crowd of women ready for adventure. She’d been looking for one her first trip, and hoped to find it, this, her sixth time.

“Come on, ladies,” she called when the young coeds lingered near the restroom. “Let’s go find our beds.”

“Beds?” the young leader of the pack, an Amazon named Chelsea said. “You mean the bars.”

If the girl possessed a filter, she didn’t think to use it, even when it mattered. If Jenn had her way, the lippy coed would have stayed home, but Coach Natalie had overruled her, so Coach could deal with her. Jenn wanted her pain pills, a sip or two of good wine, and somewhere to crash until morning.

After Natalie tried getting a little too close during their last trip to Europe, Jenn gave her role model and happily lesbian boss space. She didn’t want to lead her on or let bad feelings grow.

“Well, ladies, we’re heading to our bunks. The women’s college we’re staying at is predominantly into rowing, but they’re trying to build a basketball program,” Natalie said.

“But the important question,” Chelsea said, “is how close is it to the clubs?”

Coach laughed, as much a party girl at fifty as she had been at forty-two. “We’ll find them, don’t worry. Let’s find our beds for the night, and we’ll be out rocking first thing.”

Jenn headed for the doors. Her knee ached like a bitch and the cranky looks from the girls were getting old. She should have either stayed in the program or let it go. Jumping in at the last minute created conflict. Maybe supervising college kids during wild weeks in Europe belonged to people with more patience. She for sure didn’t enjoy their crappy attitudes.

People from all over milled around the airport, many of them heading toward the exit. Noise ebbed and flowed, overwhelming, tiring. She regretted making the trip already, and they still had a month to go.

London after dark presented entertainment of all kinds—kinds Jenn had already witnessed. She hated feeling jaded about the city, but exhaustion weighed. A small bus waited, from the same company they’d used for years. She breathed in the smoggy air with renewed hope she’d see a few of her favorite spots and people. Clubs changed every year, but like her, many students stayed on after graduation and joined the staff.

“Let’s get going, girls,” Jenn called when the group continued to drag. The pack, including Coach walked arm and arm, chattering together. They weren’t going to bunks. She cursed herself for not exchanging for Euros before she left the States but had planned to do it first thing in the morning. She crossed her fingers that she could find a cabbie who would take American cash or credit cards. No partying for her.

She stepped aboard and waved at the young man at the helm. For a split second, she savored the silence. Feminine giggles soon broke it. Jenn plopped into the front row and set her bag on the empty seat next to her. She enjoyed the company of most of the girls on the team but would like them better in the morning.

Natalie slid into the seat behind her, a wide grin on her face. “This is great. I love London. It has an energy…it’s grand. We’re hitting a small pub on the way to the bunks.”

Jenn didn’t roll her eyes, through sheer force of will. “I’m cutting out. My head is pounding and my knee aches like crazy.”

“You’re too young to act like an old lady. At least have a drink with the team. It’s good for morale.”

Morale did need a boost, although she still wanted to go to bed. “Fine. One drink and then I’m getting a cab.”

Natalie patted her arm. “Good girl.”

They’d missed the worst of the traffic, so made good time through the city. Natalie stood in the aisle and held up her hand. The talking died. Jenn might not always love the way her boss worked, but her composed, energetic presence had gained the respect of the women and made her a wonderful coach.

“We’re going to stop shortly for dinner and a few drinks. Nothing wild, ladies. We’ll save dancing and sightseeing for another night. Dinner is on me.”

Despite her fatigue, Jenn perked up a little. The pub served awesome pies. The hearty Brit food reminded her a lot of the fare served back in her mom’s kitchen in Iowa. Basic, hot, and yummy—perfect after a long day. The bus slowed and finally stopped in front of a bustling bar.

The younger women filed out, cheering and calling thanks. Chelsea brought up the rear, but stopped at the two front seats. When she waved and bowed, Natalie winked, the light flirting something Jenn intended to ignore. At twenty-two, Chelsea was no green girl, and if Jenn didn’t have to hear or watch, she’d live and let live.

“You too, Jenn,” Chelsea said when she hesitated.

“Thanks.” She grabbed her purse. “I think you’ll like it here. The food is great.”

She could ignore the relationship and be friendly to Chelsea—at least in small doses. Her knee jerked when she put weight on it, but she maintained her balance by holding onto the seats. She hopped toward the stairs and waved at the young driver.

“Have fun,” he said. “I’ll be within a block or two when you’re through.”

She limped down and reached for the rail, but before she could grasp it, a force from behind set her off balance. Her knee pulled to the side and her elbows and palms took her weight at the bottom of the stairs.

Natalie caught her before she slid to the cement. “What the hell happened?”

Jenn gingerly tested her left leg, but tears burned before she took a step. Natalie propped her up with her shoulder. Even though Jenn wanted to pull away, she held on for fear of falling.

Chelsea looked down from the top of the stairs, wide-eyed. “What happened? She was doing fine. Did her knee go out again?”

Her reinjured leg ached but Jenn couldn’t be sure Chelsea had pushed her. The younger woman’s eyes oozed exaggerated worry, but Jenn saw calculation and meanness as well.
The bitch did it
.

“Give me a hand with her,” Natalie commanded.

The bus driver hurried to help her to a seat. Jenn trusted him more than she did Chelsea. Coach rolled the leg of her slacks up and whistled.

“Not good, kid. It’s already blowing up. Let’s get you to the doc.”

Jenn shook her head and pulled her bare leg away. “Not here. I know what’s wrong with it, and there’s nothing they can do. I already have pain and swelling meds. I can get ice. End of story.”

“Are you going to be able to handle the workshop?” Chelsea asked, again wide-eyed.

The driver looked at her like she was the devil. He’d probably seen her in action. Not knowing Chelsea’s motives and having no proof beyond her intuition, Jenn held her accusations.

“No,” Natalie said. “There’s no way. I’m sending you ahead. We have two more stops before we get there and loads of paperwork waiting in Athens. You’ll be able to recuperate and get some of the busy work done.”

Dorian Logo lived in Greece—their final destination. Jenn had played basketball with his eldest daughter while in college. She adored Augusta, but had ended up spending more time with her father. He knew how to treat a lady. Jenn had expected to feel more herself by the time she arrived there.

They never maintained their relationship past the few weeks she visited. He worked too many hours and loved his homeland too much to leave. Though she’d nearly put off the trip, she had been looking forward to his company.

“I can do that,” she muttered.

“Good. You’ll be a face for us there. The Greek money troubles affected the club we work with. We need to make a good impression on new management.”

She hadn’t heard about a management change. Maybe she would have time to get back on her feet and feeling well before facing Dorian…if she even did. Relieved to have a backup plan, she relaxed, thinking of three weeks alone in Athens, enjoying the food, icing her knee, and getting her head back on straight.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

Jenn hobbled on borrowed crutches through the same airport she’d landed in the last six summers. The first time she’d been eighteen and embracing the Mediterranean soul. Her parents enjoyed traveling and had taken her other places in Europe, but they’d never made it to Hellas.

Memories of them soured her positive mood. Her father had died weeks before her high school graduation. She wished she’d been able to take her mother to Greece, but she’d lost her as well, the past Christmas. Her mother would have loved it.

Her knee ached after the long trek to the counter. She’d stowed her pack across her back, helping with balance, but even with the crutches, she struggled. In the past, she’d found Greek people to be very kind, if she asked for help. Being outgoing this time around didn’t fit in her mindset.

“Well, well, well.” A deep, accented voice came from her left.

She spun to find the man she’d both longed and dreaded seeing.

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