A/N: I said I wasn't going to post this, but I did it anyway because after a pile of rejection letters for my sci-fi/fantasy novels I need to get back into the swing of writing something fun whose first chapter isn't designed to be public consumption for literary agents. If you read Some Kind of Serendipity, this is set in that world and will include a bunch of those characters. If you haven't, you won't know who those characters are, but it can be read as a standalone.


A chance for Britain!
The last time that Great Britain boast a gold medal in football during the Olympics was in 1912 despite being tied with Hungary for most gold medal Olympic victories overall. This year, however, for the first time in over a hundred years looks like it could bring success to the British national team thanks in large part to the dynamic duo of Arsenal teammates, the Belfast-born goalkeeper Carey Ahearn (51), who's been phenomenal in the preliminaries with only one goal in four games, and young star forward, Arthur Bailey (21), who may not be putting up expected numbers but has definitely stepped up and begun creating magical plays.

To: theghostsofsalem
Cc: thatgeorgiapeach
From: prayersforpriest
Subject: Rio
Sale—
Your tix are at will call. Text me when you land and be prepared to watch my Brazilian babies kick British behind.
Max A Million

Rafael Correa ( Rafa86)
ArthurBailey carey_me_home better be ready for Brazilian domination #TeamBrazil #RiOlympics

Carey Ahearn (carey_me_home)
Rafa86 all talk, no action #BringItOn #TeamGB #Rivalry

Kanani Kapuana (Kanani_Pahala)
Good luck ArthurBailey wish I could be there :* #TeamGB

To: chazandstpatty
From: theghostsofsalem
Subject: Brazil v your peeps
Chazzercise,
Heard you were in the neighborhood (thanks for telling me you ass)
Brazil v GB pitch side seat...(cuz I know people)
Be there or be square (make no mistake you already are)
Sale

Text message from Chaz to Salem
Chaz: I officially luv u
Salem: As if you didn't before ;)


"Are you seriously reading a book during the semifinal match between Great Britain and Brazil? Seriously?" Georgia demanded, wedging her face between Salem and his way-to-brightly lit iPad screen.

Just when I was getting to the good part.

Salem frowned up at his exasperated friend, eyebrows raised and eyes trained on the tiny wisp of a girl decked out in red, white, and blue across from him.

Georgia was American. About as all American as a girl could really hope to get right down to her blue-eyed, curly blonde locks, and medium build. Like a stockier, shorter, decidedly less fake version of Taylor Swift with considerably less talent as far as Salem was concerned, though you'd never hear him say such a thing if he wanted to live to see another day. Either way, Georgia (from Atlanta, Georgia, which was about as unfortunately as it came as far as names went) did drank beer, enjoyed tailgating, and actually believed that baseball was a sport worth watching. She could shoot a shotgun, drive a stick shift, and down a hot helping of hamburgers, fries, and a milkshake and still manage not to chip her alternating red, white, and blue nail polish or dirty her gaudy American flag maxi dress.

She was that special and that patriotic.

Not to say that Salem wasn't, but he also didn't really like soccer (and yes, he'd call it football until the end of time because he was American even if he was surrounded by pretentious Brits and an assortment of overexcited Brazilians). It was unfortunate since his close friend and former boyfriend, Maximilian Priest, had finagled seats within spitting distance of the action during what appeared to be a high octane, highly anticipated event. Salem just couldn't get into it.

Salem quirked a pierced eyebrow at the girl and replied with a touch too much sarcasm, "Seriously. And Sin's about to go off on Boyd because he nailed him against a tree during a mission after a like six month long break up then had a total freak out about it being a mistake, but Sin disagrees because he's still in love with the dolt. Now, can I read their argument and consequent make up sex sequence? Please?"

Charles Beck (aka Charlie…aka Salem's best friend) looked over at them at that, tearing his eyes away from the action on the field to smirk at the pair of them. The California surfer boy look alike child star turned future Brad Pitt had grudgingly escaped the set of his London prime time teeny bopper supernatural soap opera to peruse the Rio de Janeiro Olympic scene in the guise of cheering on his fellow countrymen. Really, Salem thought he just needed a break from all the gossip monger paps in London who were much more concentrated on juicy Olympic Village drama to care about a lone London film and television star.

"Are you reading In Company of Shadows again?"

Yes, Salem had a slight obsession with that book series and might be the tiniest bit in long with Sonny and Ais, the series' writers. Whatever, if anything could keep him happy in sweltering heat amidst an angsty crowd of thousands it was a hearty, lusty helping of Hsin Vega and Boyd Beaulieu's sexscapades.

"Interludes," Salem sighed happily, beaming serenely at Charlie who only rolled his eyes in response. "Why? Did I miss something important?"

"Are you kidding me?" Georgia demanded in tandem with the shake of Charlie's head and his impassioned, "No."

Salem waved a pointed hand in Charlie's direction, and Georgia clipped him on the back of the head. "You may look like a cherub but you're certainly no angel, huh?"

"I'm a deviant," Charlie remarked with a barbed smile.

Salem frowned at Georgia, "You totally just ripped off Mulan. You know that right?"

Georgia rolled her eyes while Charlie grinned, dutifully reciting, "'You may look like a bride, but you will never bring your family honor!'"

"This is why we're friends," Salem smiled at Charlie who just rolled his eyes and returned to watching the game, genially sipping his watered down Coca-Cola while Georgia fumed.

"This is the semifinal game between two of the greatest football countries in the world!"

Charlie scoffed at that, and Georgia tossed him a hard look that he pointedly ignored. Salem glanced between the two of them, bemused, flicking off his iPad and leaning back in his seat, eyebrows raised, awaiting her explanation patiently.

"Don't you get it? The winner of this game goes onto the gold medal match to play Argentina, and the loser goes off the the bronze medal match against Germany. If Britain wins, it'll be a shot to win their first gold medal in 104 years. It'll be monumental."

He blinked at her, still not quite getting her issue with him. "Okay…but you're American so…"

Charlie broke out into laughter while Georgia sighed like she'd never met someone so dumbly clueless in her entire life, but Salem wasn't too broken up about it. Georgia tended to have a flair for overdramatic that made even Charlie uncomfortable, and he worked with actors and divas all day, every day. If he thought she tended towards the ridiculous, then she most certainly did.

"They're my adopted country," Georgia remarked pointedly. Salem's eyebrows rose higher. She sighed and continued, "You know, because I'm going to school there."

Salem rolled his eyes, "Yeah, your undergraduate degree in business management that's ending this year. What are you gonna do? Move there?"

Georgia pursed her lips and raised her eyebrows, giving him a look that clearly begged the question 'what do you think?' Honestly, he'd thought that after spending a year hiding out from her mother's ultra religious, Southern Baptist family across the ocean for three years that she'd buck up and move back to Atlanta, at least to hold her dying father's hand as he battled lung cancer in Northside Hospital. He'd thought she'd take up a graduate degree at Emory in something like finance or business and help him develop the small time computer company he'd been tinkering with on and off since he'd started up at MIT two years ago. He'd thought Georgia would get over herself and this selfish desire she had that tended to make everyone's lives infinitely more difficult as she seemed to genuinely believe the whole world revolved around her.

It didn't.

…but Salem thought that some days it might as well.

Like with this Rio trip. Her idea. Salem's appreciation for sports was limited to…basketball? Maybe? Trampoline on special occasion. Horseback riding alternatively because the fuck watching thousand pound animals jump over poles as tall as him. But Max who was a photography major at Westminster University had taken a summer internship with a sports magazine doing photojournalism that had dragged him all the way to Rio where Georgia had followed out of pure curiosity, dragging Salem along like a lapdog and siting his on again off again boyfriend, Jesse, as a reason to drag his sorry ass from Boston to Brazil. Charlie had just come to escape the glitterati and save Salem from himself. That was friendship.

Also her idea? His upcoming year long sort of sabbatical in the UK, taking class towards his computer engineering degree and abruptly ending his internship with Apple.

Also her idea? Adopting a dog only to hand it off when she realized she couldn't afford one.

Also her idea? The three bedroom penthouse in Westminster she couldn't afford, which had forced both Maximilian and his boyfriend, and soon Salem to live there too in order to afford rent.

Selfish.

Cocking his head and leveling Salem with a warning look, Charlie effectively shut Salem up without a word, and Salem kept his opinion on Georgia's decision making to a minimum. Rolling his eyes and raising his hands, Salem chose instead to reply, "Whatever. I still don't understand why it's so imperative I watch Great Britain possibly to bronze, silver, gold, or nada. I mean, they win, they lose, it has no bearing on my life or yours unless you unwisely bet money you don't have on this game."

Georgia glared at Salem who blinked up at her innocently, "I don't appreciate you subtext." Salem shrugged, and Charlie snickered but answered with, "Arthur Bailey."

Salem nodded, still woefully confused, "Sounds like a pretentious British name. Kind of 'Charles Beck.'" He teased Charlie, his voice warping into a clipped faux British accent. Charlie stuck his tongue out at Salem but smiled in genuine amusement, completely unconcerned with his friend's commentary. Charlie tended to be easygoing like that, almost as much as Max but Max tended to lean more marijuana-induced mellow than the straight up kind of chill that Charlie exhibited. Georgia, on the other hand, just seemed put out and exasperated with the whole thing.

Charlie patted her hand, "Relax, G."

Salem pursed his lips and nodded with feigned seriousness. Georgia pointed a candy cane, red and white striped figure at him, "Willfully ignorant."

"Yes. That's it." Salem rolled his eyes but sighed in acquiescence, "Fine. I'll bite. We're all into this crap because of Arthur Bailey. And Arthur Bailey is?"

"The new Cristiano Rinaldo," Georgia sighed.

"Who?"

Now even Charlie shot him a sideways look. Georgia blinked stupidly at him, "David Beckham?"

He paused, thinking that one over, "The dude who married Posh Spice?"

"Oh my God," Georgia threw up her hands.

"Yeah? And what do you know about soccer, Georgia?"

"More than you."

Okay, so she might have a point about that.

Charlie tried a different approach, "He's like the Sidney Crosby of football." Yeah, thay didn't help. Charlie noticed. Georgia groaned. Salem shot Georgia a dirty look, and Charlie tried again, "Babe Ruth?" That's definitely baseball, right? Quirking an eyebrow, Charlie took a moment to puzzle it out before snapping his fingers and declaring, "LeBron."

"Oh." Georgia threw up her hands in the air like she'd given up on him, and Salem nodded thoughtfully, "Okay. Like child sports star prodigy. A little clearer."

"Georgia," Charlie brandished a hand in her direction, "and a great deal of the females in the crowd are here to watch because of Arthur Bailey. Eighteen. Half Sioux, half Brit. Plays for Arsenal, a London based football team in the English Premier League and has since he was sixteen."

Salem raised his eyebrows, "Sixteen? Is that legal?"

"Not anymore. Sixth form college is mandatory now, but Bailey just missed the cut off," Charlie airly waved a hand. "The point is he's—"

"Gorgeous," Georgia gushed, slumping in her chair and high fiving a woman grinning wolfishly beside her.

Looking at the two of them oddly, Salem nodded, "Right."

Charlie sighed, "That too, but I was aiming for 'talented.' Unbelievably so. Number 21. The forward running there."

He pointed, and Salem caught sight of the deeply, naturally tanned soccer player a moment before the ball ended up in his feet, which was where Salem raised his eyebrows as the crowd rose in excitement, cheers growing deafening as he faked out the defender, moving smoothly around them. He passed to a teammate, thick mop of dark hair streaming behind him as he flew towards the goal, maneuvering around the defense and midfielders to reach exactly where he wanted to be.

No one even saw it coming.

A quick pass back up the center, then a kick up ahead towards Bailey that took on air, and without even turning to look, Bailey jumped and used his head to propel the ball just passed the reach of the goalkeepers fingers and into the back of the net.

In a second Bailey's teammate where on him. The crowd went wild. And even Charlie was on his feet clapping and cheering. Georgia happy danced. And Salem sat between them, utterly confused. Looking back at him, Georgia waggled her eyebrows while Salem raised his own in response.

"See?" Charlie nodded sagely, "Talented."

Um...okay, Salem would admit to sexy because even from distance Salem could tell the soccer player's body was some kind of glorious Roman statue, all toned muscle, a mix of aristocratic and Native American bone structure, and that shaggy mop of inky sex hair that just begged to have fingers run through it. But Salem was definitely holding out on talented. After all, if Charlie had seriously compared him and LeBron, then Salem was underwhelmed since LeBron was the size of Sasquatch and therefore was no more impressive than a fish breathing underwater.

Salem pursed his lips and nodded, "He gets paid to play like that."

Georgia gaped, "Arthur Bailey is a national fucking treasure. Shut your mouth."

"I thought that was Penelope Dearly," Salem whisper-yelled to Charlie.

Charlie smirked, "Her too."

Sighing and face-palming, Salem rolled his eyes, "Fine. Arthur Bailey is a sex god." Charlie and Georgia raised their respective bottled beverages in wordless agreement. "We won?"

"We won." Charlie nodded.

Salem rolled his eyes, "All is right with the world."

"It would be without the sarcasm," Georgia glowered.

He shrugged, "I'm not a miracle worker. Correct me if I'm wrong, though. They—these sports clubs management teams—spend millions upon millions to make sure their players can well play at elite levels and maintain basic vigilance during these games, right? He's special how? Aside from his supposedly stunning good looks?"

"Some people just have natural talent," Georgia remarked cheekily. "Like you and your smartness."

"Me and my smartness?" Salem repeated, appalled.

"She means you and your genius level IQ, how you're the next Steve Jobs, Tony Stark, Bill Gates hybrid."

"Sounds good, but can I do it without the terrorists kidnapping me and holding me hostage with my own weapons. Or a depressing movie about how my only accomplishment was my technological advances that my company then totally fucked up upon my deathbed by simply tinkering and reissuing preexisting hardware with little to no software improvement or advances? Please?"

"What are you whining about?" A thick Cajun drawl interrupted him, and Salem turned, grinning.

"Maxi! Get any good shots?"

Max beamed at Salem, allowing the change of subject, "A few."

Maximilian Priest was a cool as a cucumber mix of contradictions. A Haitian-American, New Orleans born Cajun with dreadlocks and chocolate skin who'd left the roost for photography school in Paris before transferring to London for his postgraduate degree. A dedicates Southern Baptist who was also openly gay and frequently reminded Salem of the rather less flamboyant version of True Blood's Lafayette (the still-breathing tv show Lafayette not the ten feet under one from the books). And a Republican pothead who supported the war on drugs, votes against pot legalization, and thought Obama was the antichrist.

They'd met in New Orleans during Marti Gras during one of his visits home and spent a week drinking, dancing, and sleeping (in the most platonic sense). It had, apparently, bonded them for life, a lot deeper than a whole four years with his high school buddies who'd flipped when he'd confirmed he occasionally dated guys—okay, maybe more than occasionally. Still, Max and Salem had gotten along famously from the start and had only grown stronger with time and distance.

"We won," Max grinned. Charlie high-fived him, and Salem groaned, rolling his eyes. "I gotta go take a couple shots during post-game interviews for Veronica, one of the sports journos. I'll meet ya'll at hotel bar, oui?"

"Of course," Charlie beamed, throwing his arm around Salem's shoulders. "We'll be the ones watching the game highlights and talking about the UK's chance of taking gold." Georgia laughed delightedly, and Max tried to hide his smile contrary to the impish one Charlie blatantly shot him.

Salem grimaced, "I hate you."

With a touch too much delight, Charlie replied cheerfully, "Oh, I know."