Last time, you met Austan from my Bending Willow Trilogy. His character lives and breathes soccer. He used to play college soccer until he blew out his knee; that’s when he was recruited by the CIA and became an undercover NCS operative. In Eyes of Light, he wins Suvi’s heart as he teaches her soccer moves in her backyard and then tricks her into playing on his indoor team.
I love watching soccer. I only played one year as a kid and my team was so bad that I overheard a parent from the opposing team say, “They shouldn’t be called the Strikers…they should be called the Strikeouts.”
Anyway, thank goodness Austan’s character is in no way related to me. Here are clips of amazing soccer moves that could all be done by Austan. He’s that cool.
Here’s an excerpt from the first book when Austan and Suvi play in the indoor soccer championship. That sounds cooler than it is. In reality, the indoor soccer arena is a nondescript warehouse that stinks of sweat and only has a few bleachers for diehard family and friends. But I tell you what, I love indoor soccer. You’re out of the weather; there’s cool music playing; and they only get 1 minute halftimes. The games are fast and furious (no lollygagging like in outdoor).
Rock music blared over the sound system as Austan gathered his team into the box for a pep talk. They were ahead by one and this game was vital—the deciding match for the indoor soccer championship. As the referee blew his whistle, Austan put his hand on top of his teammates’ and said, “Let’s do this.”
The team roared “Win!” and scattered into their positions on the green artificial turf. He jogged over to midline, noticing when the other team opened the door to their box and streamed onto the field.
“I’m not ignoring you,” he said to Suvi. She threw him a smirk, and he hurried to explain. “I’m waiting for Blondie up front to leave you alone and double-team me; then I’ll pass to you.”
Before she could retort, the ref blew his whistle. The other team passed the ball and Austan rushed to intercept. Watching his man’s waist as he dribbled, Austan cut him off and slammed him into the wall. He kicked his leg out, deflecting the ball to Marcos, who moved it up to Bernie. His midfielder kicked off the wall to him and the other team converged, leaving Suvi unguarded. She’d been racing up and down the whole game, hardly touching the ball; the few times she got it, Blondie on the other team promptly made a steal.
Bringing the ball between his legs, Austan executed a perfect rainbow, flipping the soccer ball up from behind and over his head to Suvi. The goalie ran forward, but she beat him, kicking the ball in for a goal. She screamed and ran back to midline amidst cheers.
Austan chuckled. That would teach the other team not to underestimate his girl. Under pressure, she choked, but if he could get her the ball undefended, she had a couple tricks up her sleeve.
Taking a deep breath, he turned his back to the opposing team and muttered, “They won’t let that happen again. Next time do a Maradona and sink it. They won’t expect that from you.”
Suvi’s eyes narrowed as she caught his subtle jab. He loved her competitive spirit. So far this season she’d made six goals. The speed with which she had picked up the game amazed him. She really would be an exceptional asset when trained; her ability to learn and blend in was astounding. Drinking her in as he turned to the ref, Austan worshipped her lithe body in the white spaghetti-strap tank and shorts that showed off her long, sexy legs. Her beauty was a bonus.
The whistle sounded, and the other team kicked. Number four, the opponent’s star player, moved the ball up, faked past the defense, and scored. As the players lined up and waited for the ref to resume play, Austan called back to Fred and Pedro to tighten their defense. This team wasn’t shabby.
He motioned to Suvi to take the ball, and murmured, “I’m going in this time; hang back for a pass back, then do a Maradona to the left. Got it?”
She stuck her tongue out and tapped the ball to him as the ref blew his whistle. The other team swarmed; Austan passed back to Marcos, who took off up the right lane and passed to Bernie. With some fancy footwork, he got it back to him as Suvi dropped back. Austan feinted and dribbled up the middle until three defenders shut him down.
Glimpsing Suvi’s red hair in his periphery, he pushed the ball back and became a pick as she feinted left with a Maradona and kicked with precision. Her aim was true, but the goalie deflected the shot. Austan followed, colliding with the keeper as he forced the ball into the net. Screams erupted as they sprinted back to midline. They were up by two now with 1:11 left on the clock.
Adrenaline pumped through him as he caught up to Suvi. “That still counts for you. An assist is as good as a goal.”
“Shut up, Ronaldo. Don’t let hot shot number four get by you again.”
He laughed as the shrill whistle resumed play. Within a minute, it was over. His team won by two, clinching the league championship. As they clapped hands and grabbed gear, he took Suvi by the waist and pulled her into a triumphant kiss. He felt her smiling beneath his lips as he caressed her damp skin.
She laughed and pushed away. “Stop it! I’m all gross and sweaty.”
“What do you mean?” he teased, pulling his dripping shirt away from his skin and wiping his brow. “This is sweaty!”
“All right then. Stop kissing me with your gross, sweaty self. Come on. Let’s get out of this stinky place.”
He pulled her once more to his lips, making her giggle. Taking her hand, he led her from the box, high-fiving the others as they made their way out into the drizzly night and got into his Tacoma. He glanced over at Suvi and lifted his brow. She was the most beautiful, nice girl he’d ever met. Sure, there’d been others who matched her outer beauty, but they were cold, heartless tramps. Suvi had an inner warmth and depth that was refreshing.
“Good header at the end, Ronaldo,” she teased.
He chuckled and took her hand. “You did good too, baby. Maybe I’ll start calling you Mia Hamm. Seven points for the season; that’s not too shabby.”
“Thanks to you,” she laughed. “You set me up every time. They were your points.”
“Nah,” he protested, “You earned each one.”
“Whatever,” she said with her adorable smirk.
So what’s your sport of choice? Could you give Austan a run for his money? Or would you be more comfortable in the bleachers watching? If so, I’ll share my Peanut M&Ms with you (unless you’re allergic to peanuts–then you’re on your own). If you haven’t read Eyes of Light yet, now’s the time. It’s only 99 cents right now to celebrate the release of Hands of Mercy this month–January 26th! Yippeee!